USA 2016 Travel Diary: My adventures in crossing the Brooklyn Bridge

One of my biggest regrets during my trip to New York was not spending more time in Brooklyn. See, my Dad mentioned to me before that crossing the Brooklyn Bridge was in his bucket-list. Of course as his daughter and trip planner it was my job to squeeze that bit into our busy NYC schedule. And that’s all the thought I actually gave about Brooklyn, which I later discovered was a huge mistake.

Here’s the thing about me: I have a lot of travel-related entries under my own bucket-list, but oddly enough I don’t really have many that involve the USA. Actually, I do have one: Go on a food and jazz trip at New Orleans. That’s about it.

I haven’t been to the States in nearly ten years, and my attention has been focused on travel plans in Asia lately. I didn’t get to list down many travel to-do’s related to the US as the years went by. Add to that the sudden nature of this trip and I felt like I came unprepared.

I certainly was not ready for the way that the old-world charms of the tiny tiny bit of Brooklyn that I saw swept me off my feet. (And that includes the Brooklyn Bridge, mind you.)

I think a lot of people cross the bridge starting from the Manhattan side, but we did it in reverse. Alighting the subway from York Street Station, we were lucky to get a chance to walk around DUMBO for a bit as we headed towards the direction of the Front St & Water St intersection.

You’ve probably seen this iconic shot of the Manhattan Bridge before, taken at DUMBO of course. How perfect would this shot have been had I taken it in the evening? The bridge would’ve been lit up, as well as the Empire State Building framed right in the center. Another one for the to-do list!

DUMBO means Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, and this neighourhood is known for its art scene and its variety of 19th & 20th century industrial-style buildings. It is also the fourth richest community in New York because of the number of tech start-ups in the area. A lot of New Yorkers say that living in Brooklyn is cheaper, but that’s not the case if you live in the very expensive DUMBO area!

Getting ready to cross the Brooklyn Bridge, my Dad and I decided on a pizza lunch at Front Street, within the Fulton Ferry District. It was either Grimaldi’s (the iconic pizza place that draws tourists from the world over) or Juliana’s beside it.

In reality, Juliana’s belongs to the former owners of Grimaldi’s: Patsy & Carol Grimaldi. They decided to retire from the food business so they sold off their interest in Grimaldi over 10 years ago, but I guess they missed making pizza. They opened up Juliana’s, named after Patsy Grimaldi’s mother, to mark their return to the game. And right beside their old place too!

According to the Internet, the lines are shorter and it’s less busy over here at Juliana’s, but the pizzas are apparently better. Or so they say. When we got here at an early lunch hour of 11 o’clock, we were seated right away. The restaurant was pretty much at full capacity already so we got lucky. It’s easier to get seated anywhere when there’s just two of you anyway!

I love the simple vibe this place offers, but I wouldn’t necessarily call this a good hang-out place. It’s full of people all the time so it can get a bit loud. It’s also really busy so it’s not exactly a relaxing place, but the servers were super friendly. 🙂

In any case, just one glance at the menu shows how much variety this place offers. Pizzas, pastas, calzones… We came here for pizza however, and were in the mood for a classic so Margherita it was! Juliana’s is one of the three or four establishments in the whole of New York that the state has allowed to have an in-house coal brick oven for baking their pizza. I was excited about that little tidbit.

What’s all the fuss about coal oven pizzas anyway? Well because coal ovens are so hot, it cooks the pizza dough quickly and perfectly, giving it a crisp outside but a nice and tender center.

The pizzas in Juliana’s are made on the spot, so I felt like it took a bit longer for our pizza to come out than usual. But boy oh boy! You get a thin crust pizza with a crunch and that signature foldable consistency New York Pizzas are known for. There’s also just enough tomato sauce to give a tang and not weigh down the pizza slice. You also get a mild savouriness from the mozzarella, and a kick of earthiness from the basil. Oh, and some juiciness from the mushrooms! (We added that as an extra topping.)

Here at Juliana’s you can order only a whole pizza, and no matter how good the pizza was I couldn’t eat more than two slices. They were pretty big! My mind wanted to, believe me haha! After my Dad had his share we still had enough to take out for dinner. (Not a fan of cold pizza but I still liked how this tasted.) When we stepped out of the restaurant at around 1 o’clock… Whoa! What a line!

Tummies full, my Dad and I continued our little walk towards nearby Fulton Ferry Pier. This might be one of my favourite places in the whole of New York. The feeling of staring out at the Manhattan skyline from here is pretty amazing. I suppose it brings new meaning to the phrase “one of the best ways to see Manhattan”, except you’re not actually in Manhattan this time around.

This place is historic because it’s the site of the first ferry service between Manhattan and Brooklyn, but how romantic must this place be at night too? The abundance of eateries in this area make it a perfect date place. You can take a short but sweet ferry ride from Manhattan to Brooklyn since this is a pier after all, and then enjoy a lovely little evening staring across the water with a snack in hand! 🙂

The buildings of Manhattan look like Transformers from this point of view.

Well Brooklyn Bridge was beckoning us already, but before we set off to do any sort of conquering there was first the important matter of dessert! The Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory has been on my radar since before we came to Brooklyn so we stopped by to get some treats. The shop is a bit of a landmark in this area since it now sits in a refurbished fireboat house that is actually the oldest in Brooklyn.

The crowd extends out onto the side of the shop on a regular basis, so we had no choice but to line up for this one. I was expecting a lot, given the fact that it’s so highly regarded.

Looking at the menu, I’m glad they don’t try to have too many flavours at once. To me, that means they try to maintain the high quality of the flavours they do have. And that is the secret to why they are so well-loved. We ordered the first two things that caught our attention: Vanilla Chocolate Chunk and Butter Pecan.

At first taste I already knew I was going to love the Vanilla Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream (on the right). It’s a classic blend of luscious and creamy vanilla ice cream with big chunks of Callebaut dark chocolate scattered all over, but oh my goodness it was heavenly! The chunks of chocolate melt in your mouth alongside some of the best vanilla ice cream I’ve eaten in a while. Meanwhile, the Butter Pecan Ice Cream is a nice caramel-flavoured ice cream laced with molasses. Fresh pecans add depth in flavour and lots of crunch. It was the sweeter flavour between the two, but still delightful.

Absolutely unforgettable ice cream at an unforgettable place!

Now we’ve procrastinated our trip across the Brooklyn Bridge enough. After dessert, we were more than prepared to make the trek back to Manhattan. We retraced our steps and looked at the signs pointing us to the direction of Brooklyn Bridge. You’re going to walk past the Cadman Plaza Park on the way to the bridge’s walkway entrance. If you’re feeling nervous about the direction you’re heading, Google Maps is always a big help.

The pedestrian entrance to Brooklyn Bridge is at Cadman Plaza East. Eventually you’ll spot this sign below:

Obviously you’re going to head into the walkway above the automobile lanes. You’ll spot some fellow bridge-crossers on foot or on bikes in the distance. You can actually rent a CitiBike if you don’t feel too confident about your bridge-crossing capabilities on foot, but my Dad and I are pretty good at walking. If you want to cross the bridge at a relaxed pace, allot an hour so you can stop and take photos along the way.

Brooklyn Bridge is a suspension bridge with towers made out of limestone, granite, and cement. The materials help make its neo-Gothic architectural style shine even more, and I really love how medieval this bridge feels. I think it’s my interest in old, historical things talking. However you can’t deny its stark contrast to the very industrial-looking Manhattan Bridge on the the other side.

The closer to the middle of the bridge you get, the more people there will be. Remember to keep to the pedestrian lane so that you won’t accidentally get run over by bikers (or joggers for that matter). Not all bikers are as cool as this guy. When he noticed me snapping photos in his direction, he gave me a peace sign and a smile. Too bad it was right around the time I was already lowering my camera!

The cables that run from the tower to support the bridge decks look like a spider’s web from this vantage point. From further out though, and from the sides, the cables look a bit like a fan. Getting to look at the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges everyday for almost a week made me realize I actually like bridges. 🙂

I thought crossing the bridge wasn’t tiring nor was it difficult. It’s actually more difficult navigating the crowd! The weather was sunny but it wasn’t hot, thankfully. It took us maybe 30 to 40 minutes to get across even though we did stop a lot to take pictures, but that might be because my Dad and I just naturally walk fast. The bridge is approximately 6,000 feet long, or roughly about a mile, so technically it’s not that long. (Especially if like me you’ve experienced running 10+ miles in an hour or so, this will be really easy for you.) Don’t let it intimidate you!

I know a lot of people cross this bridge everyday, and to New Yorkers the experience might already be so commonplace, but I thought it was a lovely way to appreciate this marvelous city from another light. The cityscape has as much diverse character as the mix of different people that inhabit New York, and I think that’s one of the best features of this place. May it never lose that.

My Dad and I walked a record-setting 21+ kilometres this day (which is a high for a vacation haha!) but it didn’t feel like that at all. Walking around Manhattan and DUMBO is always such a pleasure because you see a lot of different sights everyday. But to end a trip on a high note, it’s nice to have this specific memory of beautiful New York City etched into my mind. And once again, I wish I could come back during sunset. 🙂


Juliana’s Pizza

19 Old Fulton Street,
Brooklyn, New York
Hours: Sun to Thurs 11:30AM – 10PM / Fri & Sat 11:30AM – 10:30PM / CLOSED FOR STOKING 3:15PM – 4PM
Contact Nos: (01) 718 596 6700
Website | Facebook | Instagram

Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory

Fulton Landing Pier
Brooklyn, New York
Website | Facebook | Instagram
Contact No: (01) 718 246 3963

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