I fell in love with Williamsburg as soon as I arrived. A total contrast to the glass skyscrapers and noise of Manhattan, it was nice to walk along streets where you could see the sky again (not just the tip of it!). After dumping the cases at the hotel I headed to the Brooklyn Art Library. Along the way I passed quirky shops and cafes and classic American cars. Artistic graffiti decorated building exteriors and there was a general mellow hipster vibe to the place, confirmed by my sighting of a group of people sitting playing music on top of a brightly painted bus.
|Hipsters on a bus|
My visit to the Brooklyn Art Library was one of my favourite parts of the trip. Multicoloured sketchbooks lined the shelves and vintage merchandise was dotted around the place. Large tables were set out in the centre of the room, allowing you to sit and browse through the sketchbooks, with chilled out music playing in the background. After being issued a library card (and checking if my sketchbook was there just now – it wasn’t – the 2013 ones still in the tour van heading to their next destination) I headed to a computer at the back where I scanned my card and chose a theme. The library assistant then brought me a sketchbook matching my chosen theme and a couple of random ones he thought I’d like. Gemma came back with me the next evening and we were given lots of sketchbooks to look through. I could have sat for hours browsing. Some of the artwork is truly amazing. You can see one of my favourites on the digital online library here: Niall Eccles amazing 'Things Found Under Car Seats' (I also loved Rip Harrison's sketchbook but he doesn't appear to have digitised it- shame, as it was impressive!!)
|Brooklyn Art Library|
|A selection of Sketchbooks|
The cafes, restaurants and bars in Brooklyn have a lot of character and atmosphere. One of my favourite places was Gutter (which we spent ages trying to find after a tip off from one of Gemma’s work colleagues). This was a traditional American bar with a bowling alley attached through a glass screen. The guy behind the bar looked very American: long hair, red cap, black vest top revealing lots of tattoos. We sat at the bar having a drink, waiting for our bowling number to pop up on a screen. The bowling was great fun (even although I lost) and the bowling shoes were so comfy (they didn’t rub my blisters) I was tempted to steal them to wear for the rest of the trip.
|Strict bowling rules|
|Gemma in action|
Other highlights of Brooklyn: finding the most amazing traditional Italian restaurant behind our hotel – it was packed with families and looked like something out of the Godfather, ornate decoration, old fashioned pay phones on the walls when you walk in and the food was amazing!; walking through the Jewish part of town where everyone was in traditional dress – this was like going back in time; seeing the Manhattan skyline at dusk in the distance; browsing Sugartown Bookshop and walking to Greenpoint in search of Cafe Grumpy (from the tv series Girls).
|Jewish part of town|
|Manhattan skyline in the distance|
If I return to New York I’d definitely stay in Brooklyn again – it’s cheaper than Manhattan (and easy enough to commute on the subway) and I loved the arty vibe.
My plan was to include a bit about the Greenwich Village walking tour in this post but I think I'll save that for another post...