Beyond Manhattan – Brooklyn
Off the plane at JFK, into a limo, into Manhattan, and back again. Is that New York for you? If so, you’re missing out on a whole lot of fun.
New York―only people from other places add the redundant word City―is one of the world’s most exciting travel destinations. For many visitors, the attractions of Manhattan Island offer enough (over)stimulation to keep busy for weeks. But what about the rest of the city? What lies amidst the mostly residential neighbourhoods of the outer boroughs, as the five sections of New York are known? A lot more than one would imagine.
A Slice Of Brooklyn pizza tour makes a fine beginning, but rushing through the delicious pizzas eaten on this now-famous excursion would be a mistake. Led by the charismatic Tony Muia, A Slice Of Brooklyn takes visitors around New York City’s largest borough, which many are surprised to learn was once the fourth-largest city in the US on its own before its amalgamation with New York. From chic Brooklyn Heights to renascent Coney Island and many places in between, the tour informs as it entertains…and then there’s the pizza itself as the object of veneration. First stop is Grimaldi’s, where flat Neapolitan pizza reigns supreme. Later on, thick and chewy slabs of rectangular Sicilian pizza are eaten at L&B Spumoni Gardens. A more exemplary Brooklyn-Italian restaurant it could not be; not even Steven Spielberg would dare create a place so cinematically stereotypical, with white stone walls punctuated by mirror-backed recesses in which stand white angel statues. Never mind the decor; the pizza is excellent. For dessert, the spumoni is a must. Spumoni, that wonderful Italian cross between gelato and granita, is made to perfection here. Try the pistachio; it’s incredible. A Slice Of Brooklyn also offers a seasonal Christmas Lights Tour taking in Brooklyn’s Dyker Heights Italian-American neighbourhood where local pride in decking the halls in Christmas decoration has been documented by more than one television program. The Christmas Lights Tour also brings visitors to an authentic Brooklyn pastry shop for cannoli and hot chocolate as a sweet treat along the way.
If not municipally, Brooklyn is still touristically a destination in its own right. Pizza may be a tasty component of Brooklyn’s history but it is by no means the only one. A stroll along downtown Atlantic Avenue will immediately reveal the cosmopolitan nature of this area where Middle Eastern food stores selling spices right from the sack just like in the bazaar back home stand next to Vietnamese restaurants and neo-cool hangouts like Floyd, a laidback neighborhood bar with an indoor bocce court. Manhattanites too cool to party on their own island effect the ultimate turnaround by constituting a reverse bridge-and-tunnel crowd looking to have a good time in Brooklyn’s many happening bars and lounges. Before a drink, however, eyes are opened wide at the Brooklyn Museum, home to the second-largest museum collection in the US (after the Metropolitan Museum Of Art in Manhattan) to see its excellent displays of world-class art. Unlike other museums with millions of objects in its custody, the Brooklyn Museum has as portion of its abundant inventory in glass storage for open viewing, effectively putting more of its collection on display. Temporary exhibits are very popular, as is the museum’s unique First Saturday, a monthly event in which the Brooklyn Museum basically throws a party to which everyone’s invited.