First on our list this morning was a subway ride to the Williamsburg district of Brooklyn, a hipster district centred on Bedford Avenue, and home to artists and students. There’s none of the glitz of Manhattan here, instead low rise apartments and small, suburban shops along tree lined avenues.
There wasn’t too much for us to see yet it provided us with an opportunity to observe day to day local life in this New York suburb. We wandered down to the water and had a pleasant stroll through the East River State Park before moving on to Union Square to find the Strand Bookstore two blocks away on Fulton Street. If time had allowed I could have happily spent all morning in there, family owned since opening in 1927, it has 2.5 million new, used and rare books said to cover an area of 18 miles if spread end to end! Staff are knowledgeable, bookshelves line floor to ceiling and assistants climb step ladders to access out of reach volumes for customers to peruse.
Leaving the bookstore we continued on foot to Washington Square to see how the arch looked in daylight and without its Christmas tree from earlier in the week. Pressing on, we crossed Sheridan Square towards Greenwich Village. We loved the vibe of this bohemian leafy neighbourhood with its angled streets filled with upscale boutiques, endless coffee shops and wine bars stretching out along Bleeker Street. We sipped cappuccino’s sitting in the window of Amy’s Bread watching life pass by outdoors. A fire engine stopped briefly outside the cafe and we noticed a plaque ‘In memory of our brothers ………. (5 names) 9/11, Ladder 36, Little Italy’. It really touched my heart reading this, but how beautiful to have a memorial plaque on the side of the vehicle from the station of those affected.
The roads in Greenwich follow the historic pathways of the early Dutch settlers before the grid system was introduced for the rest of the city so here you can walk along gently curving avenues adding to its charm. Continuing, we walked through West Village into SoHo (South of Houston Street) which was also attractive, then took the subway back to the hotel for a short rest.
Feeling refreshed, we were ready for more sightseeing so it was back on the subway out to Fort Tryon Park in northern Manhattan, home to The Cloisters, an annexe of the Metropolitan Museum of Art devoted to the art and architecture of medieval Europe. It was a pleasant but fairly steep 15 minute walk up to the museum through the park but shuttle buses are available if desired. Entrance is by ‘pay what you wish’ and the ticket also allows entrance into the main MET museum which we planned on visiting later. As well as viewing the church like artefacts, the building itself is absolutely stunning with its stained glass windows, and it feels as if you have been transported back in time walking through marble pillared cloisters adorned with plants and stepping out onto the wide terrace overlooking the museum gardens and Hudson river.
Leaving The Cloisters, we then headed along to Central Park (96th St W) to take some photos just as it was going dark. Walking alongside the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis reservoir (renamed in her honour in 1994 as she enjoyed jogging along its paths) there were splendid views of the nighttime Manhattan skyline. Continuing, we passed the Baseball playing fields, Belvedere Castle and the Turtle Pond which was frozen over in places.
Near the park lies the main building of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and on Friday’s it stays open until 9.00 pm allowing us plenty of time to explore several galleries in this most beautiful of buildings. We especially liked the reconstructed Wall St. bank facade and the sections on furniture, but of course the MET is vast and it would be impossible to see everything in one visit so hopefully we’ll be able to return one day.
We were feeling hungry and in need of a rest so we jumped on the subway and headed back to our favourite Shake Shack in the DUMBO district. We thought it might be crowded being 8.30 pm on a Friday night but it was fairly quiet and we even found a window table overlooking the twinkling lights of Brooklyn Bridge to enjoy our juicy burger and fries.
The original plan had been to head straight back to the hotel after dinner but seeing the bridge illuminated and looking so attractive we felt the urge to walk across once more for a night time experience. It was very cold but we were warmly wrapped up with scarves, hats and gloves and we so enjoyed walking across at night, mesmerised both by the lights of Manhattan and of the car headlights. Completing the bridge walk we returned to the hotel by subway for a well earned drink!
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