Sunday, 4 March 2012

Hello Brooklyn - Day Eight - Saturday 11 February

On Saturday we woke up surprisingly not hungover and intrigued to go explore our surroundings a bit more by daylight. We had an itinerary all planned but before we left we grabbed a bagel from the hotel's free continental breakfast. I might have had a bit more to eat but I was saving some room for our first stop of the day: the Brooklyn Flea Market.

I had actually wanted to go to Smorgasburg really, but it's closed in winter. However their website suggested visiting the Brooklyn Flea's food vendors instead and we figured, hey, why not. Skylight One Hanson was actually only a relatively easy walk from our hotel anyway.

It snowed as we walked along Atlantic Avenue and we saw some interesting stuff on the way, including a giant metal chicken!

Giant Metal Chicken on Atlantic Avenue Brooklyn New York

For background information on why this made me completely giddy you must firstly submit to the genius that is The Bloggess, then read this particular post (which is, I think, one of my favourite blog posts ever) and then finally have a look at this Facebook page. All will become bewilderingly and awesomely clear. And before you ask, someone has already posted a photo of the Brooklyn Beyoncé on the Facebook page. I checked.

Shortly after our giant metal chicken sighting, we arrived at the Brooklyn Flea. Turns out Skylight One Hanson was indeed the tall building we'd seen repeatedly on the skyline since we arrived in Brooklyn the day before. I'll be honest, from some angles we'd thought it looked rather phallic.

Skylight One Hanson Building on Skyline of Brooklyn New York

Not so from inside (thankfully), where it was actually rather stunning.

Interior of Skylight One Hanson Building at Brooklyn Flea Market New York

Not sure where anything was, we decided our best approach was to just wander around and look at stuff. There were a lot of weird and wonderful things for sale, as well as, to be perfectly frank, some utter tat. It was actually more expensive than I'd anticipated too. I'd figured the prices would have been around the same as my favourite vintage shop in Belfast, where most of the revamped clothing is around £10-30, but the only dress I'd seriously considered at the Flea was $85 (around £55). A bit steep for my liking, especially for something second-hand and actually pretty flimsy looking.

However clothes were not the main attraction for me; I was looking for the food vendors. There had been a meat seller of some description and a mini cupcake seller by the main entrance, but I was not in the market for meat-based products and, even in spite of my love of cupcakes, I wasn't in the mood for mini ones after my Baked by Melissa experience the day before.

We wandered down to the lower floor and, although we did find some food vendors, they only seemed to be setting up for the day. I must admit this irked me a little. The website had said it all kicked off at 10am and it was already after 10.45am when we got there. I guess maybe you have to wait a bit longer for most of the food vendors to set up but it would have been helpful to know that in advance to stop us wasting our time. As it was I could only walk past the empty Dough stall (one I had particularly been looking forward to) and onward through the rest of the Flea.

In the end, to be honest, I didn't think much of the Brooklyn Flea. My only purchase was a (very cute) ring for my friend with a tiny little tea cup and saucer on it. Apart from that it just wasn't my kind of thing. Whether my opinion had been tainted by the much-anticipated food vendors not being open yet, my general "new is always better" attitude or even the rain outside, I don't know, but it was the one thing we did in New York that I wish we hadn't bothered to add to our itinerary. The Yorkshireman felt the same.

With only a kitsch ring to show for our morning thus far, we left the Flea and I demanded that we go to the Dunkin' Donuts I'd spotted nearby. If Dough were not going to meet the needs of my mid-morning sweet tooth, I'd find someone else who would! Also, I'd only had one cup of coffee so far that day and that's just not enough for an addict like me.

It was still snowing lightly outside so we sat in Dunkin' Donuts while I enjoyed my caffeine and sugar hit and we overheard the strangest conversation between three women sitting beside us.

Seemingly they were all frequent shoplifters and were discussing the audacity of the NYPD for arresting them for it. One of them, referring to her theft of 30 lipsticks, solemnly said, "I mean, I hadn't been arrested in 13 years. 13. Years! You think they'd cut me a break for that, but no, they arrested me!" Her friends agreed that this was totally beyond the pale. We tried not to laugh in case they shanked us but I did consider submitting it to Overheard In New York.

Bemused, we left and started walking back up Atlantic Avenue. We called into Walgreens and I picked up some Butterfingers and Mini Hersheys for people back home.

I then discovered a bakery not on my list, Betty Bakery, and of course had to buy a vanilla cupcake to try. All cupcakes are eligible for the title of World's Best Cupcake. Betty's wasn't the world's best, but it was actually very nice. The frosting was sweet and smooth, and although the cake was a little dry for my liking it tasted homemade. Very nice indeed, although their pies looked absolutely gorgeous and I wish I'd had time and space to try a slice of one of those too.

A few doors down we stumbled upon a Salvation Army thrift store. At home we call them charity shops and the Yorkshireman likes nothing more than a good rummage through a charity shop in search of hidden treasure. Unfortunately for him they had closed off the second floor, which was where they had all the menswear, so we left empty-handed.

We then decided to veer off Atlantic Avenue, since we'd seen it already on the way to the Flea, and wandered up Bond Street. Strangely enough we then stumbled upon a Goodwill thrift store. This one was huge! We both looked around for quite a while. I found some things I wanted to buy but I knew we had space constraints with our luggage so I left them on the rails. The Yorkshireman didn't find anything here either but we agreed it was one of the most impressive charity shops we'd seen.

We wandered the streets a bit more and stumbled upon the "Love Letter to Brooklyn" street art by Stephen Powers (aka ESPO) that we'd seen on one of our favourite New York blogs, We Heart New York.

Love Letter to Brooklyn Street Art by Stephen Powers aka ESPO Brooklyn New York

Then eventually we found our way back to the MetroTech building, as we were off in search of some more show tickets at the TKTS Booth there. There was a longer queue at this one than we'd faced at the South Street Seaport one on Wednesday, but that wouldn't be difficult really. There were really only about 20 people ahead of us this time and the line went quickly.

As we moved up the line, we discussed our options. I'd really wanted to see How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying but Harry Potter and Blaine from Glee had both left and the protagonist was now being played by Nick Jonas. We hadn't forgiven Jonas (to be said with a slight hiss) for ruining the otherwise wonderful 25th Anniversary Concert of one of our favourite ever musicals, Les Misérables, with his irritatingly over-earnest, High School Musicalesque performance as Marius. I mean, I know the character of Marius is a whiney wuss anyway, but Jonas took it to a level where I had no empathy with him whatsoever... even during Empty Chairs at Empty Tables, which was just unfathomable to me. Michael Ball he is not.


We'd hoped to see Rock of Ages but there were only discounts for the matinee the next day and we already had something booked for the same time. In the end we decided that if the tickets were less than $70 for How To Succeed, we would attempt to overlook "the Jonas factor", but otherwise we would go for Sister Act.

When it was our turn at the window we discovered How To Succeed was going for more than our limit, so Sister Act it was. The tickets were $70.25 each and we were to sit in row J of the Orchestra section. Mission accomplished.

We then had a decision to make. You see, our itinerary said we should be heading over to Flatbush Avenue to a bar called Ocean's 8 at Brownstone to watch the New York Rangers play the Philadelphia Flyers at 1pm. However we'd grown very fond of the Flying Puck after our last two visits and quite liked the idea of being surrounded by fellow NY Rangers fans. After a rather dull morning we came down on the side of familiarity and headed down into the subway, Manhattan bound.

Emerging at Penn Station everything was just as we had left it the day before. We bounded into the Flying Puck and made our way to the table we'd sat at last time. This time one of the servers asked us straight away to move to a table for two. We looked around in disbelief at the mostly-empty bar, looked at her strangely and then said, actually, we would sit at the bar - we wanted to watch the game and if we sat at a table for two, one of us would be facing the wall, not the TVs.

At the bar we ordered our beers (the only thing I didn't really like about the Flying Puck was the lack of beer selection - Coors Light was the lesser of several evils) and since it was lunchtime we also looked at the menu again. We both ordered burgers, the Yorkshireman's covered with chilli and mine with bacon, cheese and caramelised onions.

My burger was so good. It was funny because the day before we'd been watching the "The Best Burger in New York" episode of How I Met Your Mother and now I thought I'd found mine. Move over Shake Shack, this was the real deal! The problem with burgers in the UK is that you're never offered a choice on how they're cooked. I personally like my burgers like I like my steak: medium, with a perfect line of pink in the middle. Here they're all just brown and chewy. The Flying Puck's burger was perfectly medium, wonderfully tender and so juicy. Yum!

The hockey was pretty awesome too. The NY Rangers won 5-2, including a hat-trick from Ryan Callahan, my favourite non-goaltender Ranger. And what was especially cool was that people actually threw their hats on to the ice in celebration.

After the game, we paid our tab and let the subway carry us back to Brooklyn. There was a few hours to go until the Broadway Theatre had demanded our presence, so it was time to go and have a real New Yorker experience in the meantime. Yes folks, we were off to the laundromat.

No, the laundromat is not the name of some underground club in the Meatpacking District - we were going to an actual laundromat. Including Washington DC and Boston, our trip was to be two weeks long and we were already one week in: we were running out of clean clothes. Me in particular, thanks to my inability to eat or drink anything without spilling at least some of it down my top. I'm classy that way.

There were two laundromats (can I start calling them laundrettes again now? I feel very faux American saying "laundromat") close to our hotel and we'd scoped each of them out on our walk that morning. The furthest one away was huge but seemed to have some kind of card system to work the machines - more complicated than putting quarters in a slot! So we opted for the one right around the corner from our hotel instead, Dirt Busters Laundry.

I was a bit wary in case these things don't work the same way they do in the UK but I needn't have worried. There was a machine at the back to give you change in quarters for the machines and they sold little boxes of laundry detergent and dryer sheets at reasonable prices. The Yorkshireman and I put our laundry in for a wash cycle and then nipped across the road to grab a drink. I quite enjoyed sitting on the plastic chairs at the front of the toasty warm laundromat, sipping my coffee and reading my book with the calming hum of the dryers behind me.

We emerged about an hour later, clothes clean, dry and freshly folded, and went back to our hotel room to get ready for our show.

By the time we caught the subway back to Manhattan and found our way to the theatre, there was only a short time until curtain up. However I had spied an old friend of mine in the vicinity and couldn't resist paying her a visit first. You may recall that on our last trip, Crumbs had claimed the title of my favourite cupcake in New York. It had also been hard to beat since, with only two contenders coming close to being as delicious. I hadn't intended to return on this trip but there it was, right in front of me. And we hadn't had dinner yet. It was fate.

I couldn't decide between two flavours and so bought both: a Happy Birthday cupcake and a White Hot Chocolate cupcake. The Yorkshireman decided to buy two for himself as well, which surprised me since he's not really into cupcakes. We didn't have time to enjoy them before the show, so we carried them in with us (eliciting a stern warning from a security guy that we couldn't eat them in the theatre... spoilsport). We found our seats easily enough and settled in for the show.

The show was great. I've watched Sister Act (as in the movie) about a hundred times and although I knew the score for the musical was different than the movie's soundtrack, I was pleased to see that the story remained pretty much the same. And also, the music was pretty good regardless. The songs in the movie obviously have a certain appeal because they're based on pop songs that you already know, but the original songs for the musical were equally and differently wonderful because they were unique and helped tell the story.

I've enjoyed other shows more (Avenue Q, Les Misérables and Wicked to name a few) but I would still recommend it highly. The highlights for me were the set (excellent throughout), Patina Miller's performance as Deloris, Carolee Carmello as Mother Superior and Sarah Bolt as Sister Mary Patrick, all of whom had fantastic voices and were wonderful comedy actresses.

In the end our hunger chased us out of the theatre in the interval to consume an illicit cupcake each on the street corner, amongst the smokers desperate for their own fix. I went for the Happy Birthday one and it went straight in as my favourite cupcake ever.

It brought me right back to when I was 11 years old and staying in Cortland, NY as part of a lets-take-the-poor-terrorism-stricken-children-out-of-scary-Northern-Ireland-for-a-break charity programme (with Project Children - belated thanks by the way!) and we had a celebratory picnic day thing. We all had cake and ice-cream, but this was no cake like we Belfast babes had ever experienced. Our birthday cakes back home, previously considered a wonderful treat, were now relegated to being merely dry sponge covered with sickly royal icing. This new wonder cake was moist and covered in creamy frosting. I've never tasted cake like it again... until Crumbs' Happy Birthday cupcake. It was just perfection. Also one of the cupcakes with the highest calories in the shop, but worth every bulging fat cell.

After the show had finished, we headed wearily back to the subway (trying to stay clear of the ever-luminescent Times Square) and back to Brooklyn.

Times Square at night from 49th Street and 7th Avenue

P.S. Check out the yummy billboard of David Duchovny in the photo above. You're welcome.

Back at the hotel our tiredness led to a brief but terse argument. In need of some space, I descended to the lobby at around midnight, where I read the news that Whitney Houston had died. How very sad. Also strange - the last time we were away Amy Winehouse had died. I'm not sure when we'll next go exploring the world but we'll be sure to give the celebrity world a bit of a heads up.

With my own frustrations now put into perspective, I went back to our room and climbed into the bed cave and fell fast asleep within minutes. Just as well really - tomorrow would be another busy one.

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