Thursday, May 2, 2013

Mikus and the Big Apple

Visible: the Brooklyn Bridge, Manhattan and One World Trade Center, not yet finished but already the tallest building in NYC

When we finally admitted a family trip to New York City just wasn’t going to happen this spring, I decided to fly to Brooklyn for a weekend with Mikus, to spend some time with my sister and her husband. Mikus tagged along because Anna is his godmother and also because he still flies free… After an absolute disaster of a flight that included cancellation of original direct flight, cancellation of connecting flight warranting an overnight stay in Ohio, security questioning apple sauce pouches but missing a full water bottle, extreme turbulence, the hassle of traveling with a car seat and excessively rude attendants and gate employees (United Airlines), we finally arrived in New Jersey at 8am. (Yes, your mental calculations are correct, I awoke in Cleveland at 4:30am to carry a sleeping baby on a shuttle, through security and onto the plane at which point the sleeping baby was replaced by an awake baby.)

The early morning start did have its benefits, one of which was an early start to the sightseeing I craved, not having been in NYC since New Year’s Eve before Lauris was born. We started in DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass for those non-Brooklyn-ites among you) at the foot of the Manhattan Bridge, Brooklyn side. The Manhattan Bridge was opened to traffic in 1909, and was designed by Leon Moisseiff, who also designed the Tacoma Narrows Bridge (which collapsed the same year it was built – oops!). There are several parks along Brooklyn’s East River Shoreline and together they form Brooklyn Bridge Park, an 85-acre park that has revitalized 1.3 miles of post-industrial waterfront, including the historic Fulton Ferry Landing and two Civil War-era structures, Empire Stores and the Tobacco Warehouse. The Brooklyn Bridge Park – Main Street has been mostly cleaned up after Hurricane Sandy and the famous Jane’s Carousel was open for business.

Brooklyn Bridge and the almost-finished One World Trade Center, tallest building in NYC

The carousel was created by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company in 1922, and originally stood in the steel city of Youngstown, Ohio. In 1984 Jane and David Walentas purchased the carousel and began its restoration. After hand-scraping all 60+ years of paint off, the horses and carvings were painted as closely as possible to the original using old pictures and paint samples. Missing embellishments were replaced and mirrors reglazed, the mechanical system was fixed with new gears, motor and wires. From the forty-eight horses to the rounding boards and scenery panels, the carousel has almost all of its original parts and was finally unveiled September 2011. It was the first carousel listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

We walked a short distance to Jacques Torres Chocolates for hot chocolate and something for the sweet tooth. Mikus could not even finish the giant chocolate chip cookie that was almost the size of his head, and I devoured a few chocolates and the cup of what really was hot chocolate – thick, dark, melted chocolate. Anna & Andrejs really know how to spoil their guests!

On our way I noticed this “art” in a construction site, and then a few steps later Anna pointed out a piece by world-famous (but very anonymous) graffiti artist Banksy (see the picture below on the left, Banksy is distinctive for the stenciling technique used). Banksy was featured in the 2010 movie "Exit Through the Gift Shop" which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival and has won a few prestigious awards. I thought it kind of cool to randomly see one of his works of art on our visit, although I would not have recognized it if my sister had not pointed it out.

Then it was past the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory and the River Café (located on a houseboat moored close to the Brooklyn Bridge), both locally famous and also both closed for repairs after Hurricane Sandy. But Grimaldi’s, just a few short blocks away, was open for business with a line stretching down the block. Not in the mood for pizza, and with stomachs full from our stop at the chocolate shop, we continued on to Manhattan

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