Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Big Apple 4

Today we took the F-line south into Brooklyn where we wandered around the middle-class, listed Brooklyn Heights, filled with beautiful brownstone homes and a mellow atmosphere. We walked along the massive steel Brooklyn Bridge to the financial heart of NYC - the heavily-policed Wall Street with its gleaming concrete, steel and glass skyscraper canyons and reflected in silence at the empty cavern of the former World Trade Center.

From there we walked to Battery Park, took one look at the long queues and decided against getting a boat to the Statue of Liberty - preferring to gilmspe her highness from the Hudson River promenade. Chewing on salt pretzels, we strolled the promenade alongside the Wall Street district where city workers jogged or power walked in their sneakers and expensive sweat pants and vests during their lunch break and remarked on the large number of Indian financiers.

Onto Tribeca and its row upon row of expensive loft apartments to trendy and busy SoHo with its expensive wholefood stores and boutiques, where we lunched on vegeburgers, french fried and green salads and shopped in American Apparel and APC. Toward nightfall, we made it to Greenwich Village with its coffee bars crammed with NewYork University students and were struck by how little public drinking there is in NYC. Bars are less ubiquitous than in London and coffee houses are more packed out at night.

We ate the best pizza we've ever had at Lombardi's in Little Italy - America's oldest pizzeria, established in 1905. According to their website:

"Lombardi's was originally a grocery store, but it soon became a popular stop for workers looking for something to take to work for lunch. Gennaro started selling tomato pies, which were wrapped in paper and tied with a string, and the many workers of Italian descent would take them to the job site. Most could not afford the entire pie, so it was often sold by the piece. There was no set price or size, so you asked for whatever lets say 2 cents would buy and you were given portion of what was equal to the amount offered."

We ate an 18-inch thin-crusted pepperoni and black olive pizza and drank moreish Brooklyn beer (M) and non-alcoholic root beer (me). We saved dessert for a dessert bar called Room 4 Dessert on Cleveland Street, which we'd first read about back in London in Wallpaper magazine. Sitting in a dark, narrow room more akin to an intimate cocktail lounge than a restaurant, we rested our weary feet and indulged in a glass of layered on grapefruit liqueur, chesnut puree, foam of pomegranate and dried, powdered coconut. Then I had a tasting plate of assorted miniature white, black and milk chocolate desserts and M had a tasting plate of assorted pear-based treats. It was all very glamourous and hedonistic.

Although I am loving New York City, I am also feeling a little underwhelmed by it. Perhaps this is more to do with the fact that NYC does and can not ever live up to its own legend as built up in the movies, in literature and in the photography of NYC I love so much. I miss the history, the winding streets and the architectural diversity of London. I miss the fact that in London we have numerous big parks, each with its distinct personality, and that the modern art scene is more comprehensive. In London, we have more smaller, independent art galleries that show a greater eclectic range of work, and London's Tate Modern receives twice the number of annual visitors than MoMA.

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