A few weeks ago I met Jenny on her new home turf and we went for a walk in a sunny but snowy Brooklyn. Our first port of call was Chip Shop, where we gorged ourselves on fish and chips and tea and had a wonderful time pretending we were in England. We then set off through the brownstone lined streets of Park Slope, headed for Prospect Park. Park Slope is a beautiful neighbourhood, filled with majestic Victorian architecture, well tended homes and sweet little boutiques and cafes. It’s a wonderful place for an afternoon’s stroll, and Jenny and I both had home envy as we peered in at the windows to the lovely rooms beyond those brownstone walls. Somehow, neither of our apartments managed to compete with such splendour!
Prospect Park is huge, and as we were there in January, it was also covered in snow, which gave it a blissfully serene, muffled quietness that made it feel like we were in the middle of the countryside rather than a stone’s throw from Manhattan. It is a much wilder park than Central Park, covered in trees and wooded areas, with lovely meadows and hills perfect for tobogganing, which plenty of people were taking advantage of, whooping and laughing on their way down. Jenny and I almost stole an abandoned toboggan we found to have a go ourselves, but I had just read Ethan Frome, and a fear of crashing into a tree and ending up miserable, querulous and paralysed gripped itself around my heart so strongly I couldn’t face it. So onwards! we went, finding ourselves crossing a little wooden bridge over a stream, passing through a tiny Narnia like tunnel, and arriving on the edge of a frozen lake complete with ducks and a beautiful boat house. Who knew Prospect Park had so much to offer? It even has a gaily painted Victorian bandstand, and though we were horribly lost by the time we found an exit, we agreed that we had had a very lovely walk indeed, through a place we both can’t wait to explore more of in the summer months, accompanied, obviously, by a picnic basket.
Not really knowing where we were, we continued walking along the edge of the park, passing the Botanical Gardens and a lot of fantastic art deco architecture on our way, and eventually, after wandering through a potentially dodgy neighbourhood where everyone only spoke Creole and stopping off in a CVS to ask directions, we found a subway, and both safely got back home again. What fun would a walk be without a little danger, anyway?! Brooklyn is such a diverse and wonderful place, with dozens of distinct neighbourhoods, hardly a chain store to be found, open spaces galore, beautiful architecture, individual boutiques and cafes, and spectacular views across the East River to Manhattan and beyond. It is also has a very calm, relaxed feel compared to Manhattan, and it is like taking a mini holiday whenever I take that trip across the bridge. It’s a shame that so many tourists never make it this far, because Brooklyn has so much to offer, and I hope I get to explore much more of it as the weather gets warmer and it becomes more bearable to be outside for longer stretches of time.
In other news, I was also in Brooklyn this past week, for a delicious dinner with a wonderful woman called Laura, who just so happens to be one of The Girls from Winnetka. We had the most fantastic time, and I was fascinated by what Laura had to tell me about her life, and that of the girls, and what they have discovered about the differences between their own generation and later generations of women through talking about their book and their experiences with others. As we talked, I considered just how much the expectations Laura’s generation faced haven’t really changed for women of my generation, and my recent rant about chick lit exemplifies that even today, like for Laura and her peers, a woman isn’t really considered ‘successful’ until she has achieved marriage. I’m going to expand on these thoughts on another post, but meeting with Laura also made me realise something else; the importance of multi generational friendships. Laura is in her (very early) seventies; old enough to be my grandmother. However, the fun we had was no different from the fun I have with friends of my own age, but the stories we shared and the knowledge and experience and wisdom I gained were infinitely richer. Since I have been in America, I have taken a ‘why not?!’ approach to most things, and this has paid absolute dividends; by pushing outside of my comfort zone and meeting people I would not normally meet, mainly through my blog, actually, I have widened my horizons and had some absolutely fantastic experiences. Laura is not the only wonderful friend of a different generation I have met; I have also had the pleasure to meet with Ellen, a dear reader of my blog who is not quite old enough to be my grandmother (I know she’ll smile when she reads that!) several times, and I so love it when we meet. We have such a wonderful time and really, the age difference doesn’t matter at all – friendships are friendships. So, something else New York is doing for me is opening my eyes to the benefits of stepping outside of societal norms. Anything and everything is permissible here; New Yorkers wouldn’t bat an eyelid if they saw a polar bear wandering down the street. I’m glad I’m living in such a liberal city. It’s making me more and more adventurous by the day, and I really am reaping the benefits.