Thursday, July 30, 2009

Staggering Misconceptions

After a fantastic weekend with my cousins, we drove back to Niagara Falls, spending another night at the Sheraton enjoying a spectacular view. We headed off to New York City on Tuesday morning, and eight hours later we were back in one of my favourite cities in the world. Breakfast in Niagara, dinner in Times Square - who ever would have thought I could say I had done that?!

We had lots of plans for sightseeing over the next couple days. We decided to go on a bus tour of New York today - the kind we have taken in Savannah and Boston on trolleys, the sort that give you an idea of the layout of the city, and where you might like to head back to. We wanted a hop on hop off tour - so that we could stop if we wanted. There is no shortage of choice, and if you walk through Times Square you will be accosted on all sides by people on commission offering any number of tours as you walk through there. In fact, when I put one of the chaps off, saying we wanted to think about it and we were just off to have a coffee, we found him waiting for us when we left Starbucks. I did not choose his tour.

In the end, it was the Grey Line tour we chose, and I was surprised to find it less expensive than the ones I had taken in before. We had a great time in the morning, touring round the downtown area, through Soho and Greenwich Village. We got off at Ground Zero, and I was thrilled to see how they are coming along with rebuilding (sensitively) a site that holds so much emotion. Watching it rise again will be a real pleasure, a testament to the fact that hope, faith and tenacity will always triumph over evil.

Eventually we found ourselves at the South Street Seaport, and decided to hop off there. And it was there that I had my very first New York hotdog. Being the sort of (obsessive compulsive) person I am - hot dogs from a road side stand hold little appeal. But I had heard that New York hotdogs were something very special - and indeed they were! For $2 each we had a delicious lunch - a hotdog that was definitely the very best I have ever tasted.

The South Street Seaport has quite a lot to offer, and there was a lot to see . I was also tempted by one of my favourite ladies’ wear shops and dragged my husband and son in to have a look. Sadly I found nothing, and as we went to leave, the crush of people by the doors told us that it was definitely raining - so hard that you really could not even think of going outside.

After some time (and lots of thunder and lightening) we rushed back to the first bus on our tour we could find. We were so grateful to be warm and dry we did not question where it was going. Somehow we had “hopped on” to a bus on the Brooklyn leg of the tour, but by the time I realised it was far too late. Brooklyn? Did I really want to go there?
I have to confess, I always wondered how Victoria and David Beckham could possibly have said their son was conceived there. I grew up being told it was not the place to go.

Well, it was a delightful surprise. I had obviously taken my impressions of Brooklyn from people who had never, ever been there. There is a Botanical garden in Brooklyn, with twelve hundred varieties of roses and sixteen varieties of magnolia trees, among other things. Their public library is more beautiful than any I have seen in England (as are most public libraries in America) and they have an avenue of trees and grass that rivals any I have seen in Paris. At the gates of Prospect Park, you will find a very close second to the Arc de Triomphe, a memorial to those lost in the Civil War, who won the war for the Union. Gates reminding me of those in Green Park in London flank the entrance. There is so much more to Brooklyn than I ever imagined.

How many other places in the world do I have misconceptions about? As we returned to the familiarity of Manhattan, I reflected on how a sudden rainstorm took me right out of my comfort zone and into a place I was incredibly mistaken about. I’m really glad it did - and I’m thrilled to say I hope I find myself back in Brooklyn again very soon!

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