It’s late spring and we’re on our way to Italy again. First, we made a stop in Brooklyn, New York to visit our son, who has been living on the east coast for several years. We used AirBnB to find a small and economical studio in a neighborhood not far from our son’s apartment in the Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood.
If you plan to visit New York City, Brooklyn provides great savings in both accommodations and restaurants. There are many fun neighborhoods close to the convenient subways that can whisk you into the city within 15 to 30 minutes. Depending on the neighborhood, you can usually find a wide selection of excellent food at half the price of NYC. After a day touring Manhattan, Brooklyn offers a slightly calmer and quieter ambiance that is a welcome change after touring the Big Apple.
But each neighborhood is quite diverse, and some are quieter and cleaner than others. Even though we picked a less manicured area, people were friendly and we always felt safe. For neighborhoods close to the subway, with plenty of restaurants and coffee houses, I would put Williamsburg, Cobble Hill, Greenpoint, Clinton Hill and Prospect Park at the top of my list.
During this trip to the big city, we decided to spend more time in Brooklyn to explore the area. One day, we explored the farmers’ market in Greenpoint, at the entrance to McCarren Park, which offers a generous open space for the locals. The market was not large, but the selection was good. Farmers travel from as far as Pennsylvania and the Hudson Valley to sell delicious fruit, including a wide variety of apples, vegetables, organic wines, artisan breads and pastries. After cruising the market, we took a nice walk on the park’s paths and ended up on a high hill with great views of the NYC skyline across the river.
Nearby Clinton Hill is a cosy neighborhood with elegant old mansions and tree-lined streets. Although the mansions have been converted to apartments and flats, most have been lovingly restored with small, landscaped front yards. You don’t need to walk far to find a small coffee house with fresh roasted coffee and tempting baked goods. Add to the mix some quaint restaurants and local stores to make this a very desirable spot.
For a change of pace, take the M subway to Brighton Beach and Coney Island. On a sunny spring day, the boardwalk was a refreshing change from the busy city streets. There was a fresh breeze as we walked along the beach and sampled Nathan’s hotdogs. Coney Island’s amusement park is still active with one of the oldest roller coasters and lots of newer rides for thrill seekers. They also have a small aquarium.
We walked down to Brighten Beach to find the Toné Cafe (265 Neptune Ave) for the freshest Georgian bread in town. By Georgia, I mean the country near Russia, not the state. They still make it the traditional way with a very hot brick oven. We took our bread and their special cheese to have a picnic nearby. We also took some home with us and warmed it up when we got home. It was just as tasty.
We made several trips into NYC and enjoyed the sites. But, we were always happy to return to Brooklyn for a quiet sunset on the roof or a cosy ethnic restaurant around the corner.