This intersession was spent in Brooklyn, one of the boroughs of New York City.
In all honesty, the prospect of staying in “the hood” chilled me to my very core, but we left planning to the last second, booking the apartment less than 24h before we left. I was expecting a dingy flat in a neighbourhood filled with people that look like they could eat you up for breakfast. I was mostly wrong, mostly.
With some chocolate from Duane Reade, the only corner shop that stocked more than Hershey bars, this happened! Put some hot chocolate on a double boiler, add milk, stir until it’s all dissolved and the result is this incredibly indulgent drink that warms you to your very core!
The apartment itself was stunning. for $40 a night between us, it was an absolute bargain. Having a bed of any description, after sleeping on a creaky bunk for two weeks feels like a cloud. And don’t even get me started on real showers. The real bonus, however, was the fact that we’d have a kitchen and could cook food for the first time in five weeks! The neighbourhood itself was pretty sketchy, however. The sort of place that you wouldn’t want to walk through alone at night. But we did.
This was breakfast for the first day – the sketchiest pancakes I’ve ever made, no measuring cups, cylinders, just a little bit of everything in a bowl. Plus syrup.
Brooklyn is a fair way away from the hustle and bustle of central manhattan. It’s had its fair share of rough times, but we got to find gems in the borough, one of which is Williamsburg. In a similar fashion to many areas of East London now such as Shoreditch, Hoxton and Brixton, once rough, now the hipster capitals of their cities!
There was such a different vibe from the whole place, everything was smaller and weirder, there is a complete change in pace compared to the city – no yellow cabs in sight but everyone cycles and longboards; I was home.
The first thing we saw when we hopped off the Subway was this junk shop. These are about a dime-a-dozen in this district, but we decided to give it a look. Inside were these two huge bins filled with old photographs.
Christmas, birthdays, graduation family shots, scenery, everything! It was really surreal being involved in so many different people’s lives, to be privy to all these different moments in time. Some were absolutely beautiful, and made you wonder why someone would ever let it go. Others had lovely messages to a loved one or a family member, like a picture of this woman to her lover during the war.
I looked at this one picture, and asked someone who I thought worked at the shop for the date. He was deaf. What proceeded was a really odd moment where I shrunk back in my awkwardness and aversion at the whole thing, and his genuine attempt to communicate with us, despite our lack of sign language knowledge. I expected him to get on with it and just leave me alone when he found out I couldn’t sign, but he kept going, making a real effort to get across what he was trying to say. He was super knowledgable about all the photographs, and was probably a master photographer back in his day. He then proceeded to show us how he knew it, bringing out the camera that took the picture and showing us how to use it. I didn’t manage to get the make or name, but it was shot “from the hip”, as the viewfinder worked quite like a periscope, and had two of them, for shooting portrait and landscape
Lunch that day was a small Italian on the corner of bedford. It was amazing. The first healthy meal I’ve had out in five weeks. I’d had pizza the night before, and admittedly, it was delicious, but in a greasy, carnal fashion. This had considerably less meat, but the combination of fresh mozzarella and basil leaves was a good antidote to all the America iI’ve ingested. To top it all off, every pizza was $10, so we got half and half. Life was good.
If you’re ever in a new big city., check out whether they have a TimeOut, it’s a great way to discover cool things to do. It recommended a place called Mast Brothers – an independent chocolatier that specialises in dark chocolate.
The first thing you notice is the, near overpowering, smell of melted chocolate. Caustic to your nose, initially, then gives way to a warm sweetness that leaves you begging for its source! I have never paid so much for a bar of chocolate in my life, and I’m not sure I will ever again, but my gosh it was incredible. It was 72% with hints of maple – ravishing
This was the coolest urban outfitters I’ve ever seen. It was in this derelict building along with some other independent brands. There were a few floors littered with the usual UO affair, but at the top was, amongst other things, a photo booth! The results were spectacular!
Just behind was a bar, which led to a further section on the roof. Not the best rooftop bar I’ve seen (that being the Abbey Tavern in Kentish Town) but it had amazing booths. A small problem with NYC is that you’ve got a lot of vertical competition to get a good view in from the roof.
I’ve really tried hard not to climb the empire state building. I don’t really know why, but something about having to pay to climb a building really gets to me. Besides, you’re gonna get a much better view of manhattan from outside it! I’ve yet to find somewhere to see the sun rise – maybe next time, After spending almost the whole day in Brooklyn, we crossed the Williamsburg bridge into manhattan. It was absolutely full of cyclists, skaters and long boarders, graffiti and stickers – such an odd image set against the clean and sterile backdrop of downtown. The views were incredible, however, and you got to see all the cool art on the rooftops as you climb over. Shopping in the city is pretty dire. There’s not a Sainsbury’s in sight. Instead, you have lots of “delis” and grocery shop equivalents. They’re usually pretty small and contain sweets,, snacks and beer. Any actual food is hot, from a deli counter, or tinned – you have to look far for fresh ingredients.
However, we were really lucky and managed to find a nice Chinese deli which did the trick! It’s still cheaper to cook food than to eat out in the city, it is just a lot more effort. This came out at around $9, but having to walk by Five Guys, Wendy’s, and a myriad of other fast food eateries on an empty stomach because of it was no easy feat. In the UK, machines like this would be like £1-2, but $.25?? Crazy! Safe to say I had a fair few goes, but couldn’t even touch the high score!
We hung around union square for a while to see all the street kids. Loads of people were hanging around this huge space, skating, dancing and playing hackey sack, and they were amazing! I’d pay to see stuff like this.
The feel of this intersession break was just so different to that of the last. Less of the deer-in-the-headlights tourism, more relaxed, taking the day as it comes. Yes, I didn’t leave the house until around 2 and didn’t really have much to show for it at the end of our ridiculously long day. No majestic landmarks of complex itineraries ticked off either. But it was a lot more relaxing than trying to go all out.
It’s also a lot more fun when you explore with other people. Logic tells me to get up at 4 to take the metro over to the west side and catch the sunrise over manhattan, return, crash for a few hours and then leave before everyone else wakes up and hit everything the city has to offer as it’s the only way to make the trip “worth it”. One thing that made this break particularly fun was getting to know other colleagues who I’d never normally run into, and the collective discovery of new places and experiences is definitely better, shared.
This was a holiday.