New York – Day 2
The plan for day 2 in NYC was to hit Brooklyn and hit it hard. This was to be our bar crawl day. We’d been to Brooklyn Heights during our last trip to New York and, although we were only there a few hours, we loved it and agreed there and then to return for a longer visit. In addition, we love the range of beers produced by Brooklyn Brewery. They are really getting a foothold in the UK these days and the quality is always great.
We jumped on subway F down to York Street and the plan was to head over to Brooklyn Heights Promenade. The first mishap of the day turned out to be brilliant! I took us in completely the opposite (wrong) direction to what we’d planned, but found the most amazing trio of street food trucks. We ordered drunken noodles from the Thai truck and fried calamari from the Italian truck. After the wait, we wandered down Jay Street, in the direction on the East River, in hope of finding a bench, a view or ideally both. WOW, we hit the jackpot on all counts.
The food was amazingly good, but the location we ate it at was truly gorgeous. The Brooklyn Bridge Park is somewhat new given it’s still under construction in certain sections, but what a great job they’ve done so far. A path meanders along the waterfront amongst landscaped grassy areas, rocky outcrops, sculptures, seating and even a public BBQ area. On top of that, you have a bar, restaurant, ice cream parlour, a fairground carousel, a water taxi pier, sporting areas and the constant and ever changing view of South Manhattan, the three iconic bridges (Williamsburg, Brooklyn and Manhattan) and the Statue of Liberty in the distance. This is a must visit area for all NYC tourists, especially the off-piste explorers…truly beautiful.
As the original plan had been to walk along the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, when we’d made it around the waterfront to the far end, we headed uphill and doubled back down the length of the elevated pedestrian walk. If I’m honest it was disappointing. We’d expected a vibrant promenade containing bars and restaurants, supplementing the great view. However, this was not the case. It was a short walk along a residential block, with not a bar or restaurant in sight and certainly no buzzing atmosphere.
The next deadline for the day was 6pm when Brooklyn Brewery opened its doors for their regular Friday night Tasting Room session. As it was already 4pm and we were expecting a lengthy queue to get in, we needed to cover the 5 miles to get across the borough in around an hour. That’s a tough walk, so we opted for the biking option. Citi Bike is NYC’s bike sharing system. We paid our $9.95 each for 24hr access to the bikes, unlocked our first pair and headed off in the general direction of Williamsburg. Biking in NYC is officially scary! We started off in quiet residential streets, headed onto busier roads with cycle lanes and then onto what felt like a multi lane highway, running parallel with the Brooklyn Queens Expressway.
Our initial 30min hire period was coming to an end, so we needed to find a bike station to switch bikes. It’s an odd system were you pay for 24hr access, but can only ride for 30mins before dehiring and rehiring bikes with a 2min period required between each session.
Whilst waiting, we decided to grab some water at a local store across the street. This was Park Avenue, Brooklyn, which is not the most salubrious of areas to say the least. What was funny was when the big black guy in front of Amanda, in the queue to pay, kept turning around and looking nervously at us as if he was worried we’d pickpocket his wallet…hilarious.
With a fresh pair of bikes, we headed up Carlton Avenue and onto Myrtle Avenue in search of quieter roads. No such luck. At least it was a straight Road, but we had to weave around parked vehicles, avoid traffic in both directions and pedestrians when it was necessary to abandon the road for the sidewalk. We finally made it to our destination, found a bar, let out two collective sighs of relief and had a great laugh.
The Craic is a small Irish bar on Driggs Avenue and, although quiet (we were the only punters), had a friendly feel and authentic charm. After a couple of brews, we headed towards our ultimate destination, but stopped off at Mugs Alehouse for one first. This was a busier place, but nowhere near as nice. It was okay, just less welcoming and a standard, out of the box, American locals bar.
We finally arrived at Brooklyn Brewery (75 North 11th Street), with around 10mins before opening, to find only a modest queue. A rather larger bouncer announced that the doors would be opening shortly and for everyone to have their ID out for inspection. What the hell, I’m nearly 50 and Amanda is approaching 40 and we need ID, which only one of us had, to get into the only place that was a ‘must do’ today…time for a bit of sweet talking or bribery! No need, I looked at the guy and simply said “does everyone really need ID?” and he casually flicked his head to indicate we could go in…phew. I’m not sure if it was the English accent clearly proving we were tourists or just that I look old, but hey, we were in that’s all that mattered.
The Tasting Room is simply a large open area, with wooden flooring, a few brewing vessels at one end and a bar at the other. In between, either side of the central aisle which was used to queue for the bar, were lines of communal tables and benches. It looked like an old cask store and had the feel of a Bavarian bierkeller. Being one of the first in, we traded $40 for 10 beer tokens, joined the queue at the bar and ordered two Brooklyn Brown Ale’s, which is our favourite American brew. The beer was great and the atmosphere grew and grew as the place filled up. As the research suggested, this is a very popular place to hangout after work on a Friday. We tried their Ace of Spades cask ale, which was nothing like a UK cask ale, along with Sorachi, Defender (brewed for the New York Comic Con each year) and American ales before finishing off back were we started with the Brown.
After spending our 10 tokens we headed to another bar where we had the same issues with ID. Amanda charmed the doorman this time and all was good. Then, we decided to head for the subway (rather than using Citi Bikes), taking the L train from Bedford Avenue back to Grand Central Station. It truly amazes me what effect alcohol has on your navigation skills. On one hand, we couldn’t for the life of us find the connecting subway line we needed to get back up to 7th Avenue. However, when we eventually found our way up to street level, we had no issues walking the mile (13 blocks) back to the hotel and our bed!
What a fabulous day of walking, biking and drinking (our Jawbone Up activity tracker confirmed we’d travelled the equivalent of 43,000 steps, which is 4 times the daily target!). Happy days.