Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Saturday In The City, More Of Our NYC Vacation

Saturday, our second full day in the city, was absolutely perfect. We woke up nice and early, got coffee and breakfast at a little bodega. We walked up Clinton Street in Carroll Gardens, oohing and aahhing at all the beautiful historic homes. It was pretty quiet, family with strollers walking through the neighborhood, and cute little corners with the most quaint little shops. I felt like we were in a Woody Allen movie; was this really New York? The hustle and bustle I'd expect was calm, Saturday, day off as usual. 

We witnessed the greatest gesture on this side of town. Walking by Brownstones that had books and items, sitting outside, up for the taking. Maybe people do this all over the city, one home had a row of John Grisham and Tom Clancy books on the stoop, free for whomever wanted a used book to read. Another had two wool balls the size of a softball, sitting on a paper plate with a small sign "Free wool dryer ball" (which I'm guessing is used in place of a dryer sheet). In the more questionable areas around Prospect Park, later that weekend, we'd see nicely folded piles of clothes on park benches. Probably set out for homeless people, and those in need of fall clothing. Why take your stuff to Goodwill, when you can simply set it outside for someone to pick up on their commute through the neighborhood.

We continued north, our goal was to walk up to the Brooklyn Bridge, and walk across into Chinatown in Manhattan, wander up through Little Italy, and then farther north eventually to Central Park for the Global Citizens Festival, doors opened at 2pm, show started at 4pm. That was the plan. But we were learning from just the day and a half so far of our trip, nothing was going to go as planned. 

About two miles into our walk, the Brooklyn Bridge still feels forever away, but we're walked a little west to the water, and follow the river north. We found the most amazing place where families were at a large soccer complex at Brooklyn Bridge Park. Over 100 kids playing soccer, other kids walking dogs and playing games, parents and people everywhere. This soccer complex was so green and beautiful, bordered by water and with lower Manhattan in the background. These kids have it made, what an absolutely beautiful site it was. To them, probably born city kids, don't know any different. But to me, it's a world away from the soccer of my childhood. 

Alongside the soccer complex at Brooklyn Bridge Park, was picnic tables, permanent charcoal grills, a great spot for picnics and gatherings. We found a table to sit up my camera for a quick photo op (above). The sun was shining and we were in the fresh air of New York City. Close your eyes and ears, and you'd never be able to tell you're in New York!

Well, after talking to a park employee, the Brooklyn Bridge is another mile and a half north, but we'd just passed the Brooklyn Ferry, with routes to lower Manhattan, and the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge, a place called Governor's Island, and back to the park where we were standing. So why not get out on the water, for a fresh perspective, and save us the mile and a half, AND it was free! 

We stand in line with tons of people, mostly families and small children, waiting for the ferry. Finally, after more patient waiting, the ferry is off, and we head south west. Hmm... southwest? We were supposed to head one mile north to the Brooklyn Bridge. Next thing we know, we're pulling up to a small island, south of Manhattan that appears to have old Army barracks bordering the entire island. The ferry stops and everyone gets off. Wait a minute, this isn't where we're supposed to be. 

After talking to a few people getting off, they tell us there is an old historic carnival on the island and it's the last weekend of the festival. What the hell. Why not check it out, right? 

Little did we know, it was a vintage french carnival, FĂȘte Paradiso. Matt and I felt like we stepped into a time warp, French music playing, carnival employees all dressed in black pants, black and white striped tees, with red bandanas around their necks, and all super hip young kids in their 20s. Some of the rides, that were 80+ years old, were still functioning, as children hopped into the cars of a small roller coaster. It was so intriguing and terrifying at the same time!

My favorite was the carnival games with Charlie Chaplin and a semi nude flapper, with their mouths opening and closing, and the object was to throw the ball in their mouths. Of course many of the games were just for display, as was this one. The island, with the backdrop of lower Manhattan in the background, was lined with old Victorian homes, many empty, and old barracks, also empty, with this carnival in the middle, a beer garden, foods, and about a thousand people. It was so surreal.

Come to find out, the island is reserved for private parties, weddings, festivals, and events like this. For years, the city has been trying to figure out what to do with the space. Years ago, it used to be a coast guard station, hence the buildings that looked like barracks.

After a little more wandering, our perfect mistake of getting on the ferry turned out to be quite the adventure. We found a cute little gift shop, chickens in a large coop that were part of a project to get city kids out of the parked city to learn how to raise chickens as a summer project, more carnival stuff, people biking around the island. Running to catch the ferry to take us off the island, and into lower Manhattan, we were off, and back on track to head towards Chinatown.

Thankfully, we caught the ferry just as it was about to pull away from Governor's Island. Phew. It was beautiful, sunny, breezy, and you can't beat getting out on the water. Heading north towards Manhattan, we spotted the Staten Island Ferry to our left, and the Statue of Liberty off in the distance, (we'll save her for our next trip when we can go up to her crown).

We pull into Manhattan, right by the helipad for helicopter tours of the city, that would also be something fun to do our next trip, and we walk toward Chinatown. About a mile north, we finally get underneath the Brooklyn Bridge, and bam, we're in Chinatown. It felt like another planet. I loved the little stands all along the streets selling vegetables I couldn't even recognize, and park benches full of elderly Chinese women chatting. Men on street corners playing a cigar box looking guitar with a small amp, and the most delicious smells coming from all the restaurants.

For how slow and calm Brooklyn had been, Chinatown couldn't be more polar opposite. We're fast walkers and Matt's always the one that's ready to be in a rush to get where we're going, and I felt like we were a snails pace compared to everyone surrounding us.

Next thing we know, we're on a sketchy block and then arrive at Sara Roosevelt park, the dividing line it seems, between Chinatown and Little Italy. Our dogs are barking (already up to at least 5-6 miles and it's only half past noon). We scurry down to the subway and hop on a train to take us up to Central Park. No way we're going to walk all the way from Lower Manhattan up to the Upper East Side. "Ain't gonnn happen," as Matt would jokingly say in his southern accent.

Matt and I come out of the subway tunnel in the Upper East Side, and it's like a completely different city from the one we saw above us as we entered in Chinatown. A beautiful, clean, affluent area, with the most beautiful women walking up and down Park Avenue. Then we hit the line at Central Park's east gate, a few blocks south of the 72nd Street entrance, and it's hipster central. I go from feeling young and middle class on Park Avenue, to feeling old and chic compared to the hipsters in their made-to-look-tattered Urban Outfitter clothes.

We're shuffled into the park like sheep, by the thousands, and find our way to the big lawn on the north side of the park, the massive stage about 100 yards in front of us. We missed the memo on "no SLRs" allowed in the gate, and there's no way I can turn around and drop it back off at the apartment in Brooklyn. We are super sly, and wrap it up in my infinity scarf, and put it at the bottom of my bag, covering it with Matt's "just-in-case" scarf and sweater. Take that security guards, we snuck it in past you.

Finding our little place on the lawn, we're surrounded by so many people on beach towels. We patiently wait for the bands to start. The lineup, in the order we guessed, was Alicia Keys, John Mayer, Kings of Leon, and finally Stevie Wonder. Irritated at being really close to some drunk young kids that were just plain obnoxious, we hope for the hour to fly by, so we can get things started. Then, a miracle. Matt spots Kings Of Leon's drum set on the stage. No way they are playing first, right?

We decided if Kings of Leon play first, we'll leave after they play, and explore more of the Upper East Side. Sure, I have a secret crush on John Mayer, and I'd love to see him, but when the lines for food, water, and the bathrooms are all over an hour, and we're surrounded by 60,000 people, I can wait until the next time he's in town. And Stevie Wonder would be great to see too, but there's always next time.

Low and behold, Kings of Leon played first, and it was amazing. Introduced by the incredibly handsome Gerard Butler, they started the show with their new single. After a few songs, we moved up 50 yards to be closer to the stage. The last time Matt and I saw Kings of Leon, was a few years ago in Atlanta, they were amazing, and we knew they'd be just as good. Since they're Matt's favorite band, he was like a kid in a candy store watching them play.

KOL wrapped up their set, and we headed out just as Elvis Costello came on stage for a few songs while roadies cleared the stage. It was such a great festival, and I kinda sorta wish we would have stayed for a bit longer, but only having standing room or crowded lawn seating, and overpriced food/water, and nasty port-a-potties, I was ready to leave and hit up a pub.

Matt and I found the cutest little hole in the wall a few blocks away when we exited the park. Using the app "Around Me" with my iPhone, we found Trinity Pub. It's my kind of pub when there's Guinness sign out front and an Irishman behind the bar. A few much needed refreshments and chatting with locals were just what we needed.

Before we know it, the day is coming to an end, and it's time to retire for the night. We weren't really about making it a crazy late night, as I was on a mission to wake up to catch the sunrise in our neighborhood of Brooklyn, and capture the sunlight hitting the building just right. And that's exactly what I did.

More of that tomorrow. ♥

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