‘I didn’t know that I would love you like I do
I didn’t think that I was ready to…’
Beautiful Thing by The Pierces
I really didn’t think I was going to fall in love with New York the way I did, but from day 1 it felt as though I had somehow come home. So much so that I literally cannot deal with people who think it’s ‘just another big city’. I’m not going to prattle on about Manhattan though, much as it wowed me; I want to focus here on East river livin’.
We stayed in a really cool, albeit expensive, hostel in Long Island City called The Local NYC. There is also a bar inside called The Local NY to keep it really simple. We had a couple of gripes to do with being on the ground floor and the smokers talking outside our window all night, but nothing a glass-of-wine-induced-coma can’t fix. The staff were awesome and the whole place is set up to be quite sociable with huge communal areas and group activities/recommendations. The bar also conveniently sold pain-au-chocolat and coffee in the morning so breakfast was sorted.
Long Island City is quite industrial so can feel a bit soulless but if you make your way to the river there is a bit more life. Be sure to stop at Cyclo Vietnamese on 47th for authentic Vietnamese coffee (my favourite) and delicious steamed pork shumai (dumplings). We literally ate here twice in one day and then again later in the week after a disastrous trip to China Town.
If you keep heading west down 47th you will reach Gantry Plaza State Park, home to the iconic Pepsi Cola sign, as well as the park’s namesake gantries (as pictured) which frame the spectacular Manhattan skyline and play host to community events including free weekly live music. The park seems newer than it actually is and has an incredible children’s playground, sporting facilities, and a dog park. Fishing and crabbing is also allowed on Pier 4.
A stroll down the river and the park merges into brand-spanking new Hunter’s Point South Park. This park seems to be a popular place to work out as well as just take in the views. There is a thriving cafe and clean public toilets, conveniently located right by the pier for the East River Ferry, a great little city ferry that takes you from Manhattan as far as Governor’s Island.
We took the ferry all the way to Brooklyn Bridge Park, which is another well-situated multi-purpose public space with awe-inspiring views of downtown Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge. The bf was happy to stop awhile and watch a local basketball game at Pier 2 in the huge sports arena and we even stumbled across sunbathers on a man-made beach, while kayakers negotiated the waterways.
The purpose of our journey downstream was to visit the weekly Smorgasburg event which we had briefly dropped into the previous day at it’s Saturday Williamsburg location (between LIC and Brooklyn). We were initially thrown off the scent by the number of weekenders barbecuing their own food along the riverside, but a large banner pointed us in the right direction to the multitude of street food vendors at Pier 5. Heaven.
Another place worth a trip to is the Brooklyn Night Bazaar. This seems like it would be a fun place to take a date as it includes: 2 bars; a number of food stands; live music; market stalls; arcade games; pool and table tennis; and black-light (aka glow-in-the-dark) mini golf. It was actually smaller than I had expected and therefore probably only worth visiting once or twice, but it was a pleasant and relaxed experience, if not a little expensive (for the activities).
I also discovered that there is an old-fashioned style bowling alley in Brooklyn called The Gutter, which seems like it would be a fun place to hang out, and I’m ashamed to say that we did not visit the Brooklyn Brewery this trip.
I really appreciated the number of green open spaces along the East river (those views!) and the feeling of community which is often missing in metropolitan areas; the feeling that I too could make a home here.