I spent the whole of the past weekend in Brooklyn, exploring. I was inspired by reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and decided I needed to go and walk the streets Betty Smith so evocatively described. I’ve been meaning to go to the Museum and the Botanical Gardens for ages, and so Saturday was planned as the day. Unfortunately the weather had other ideas – the rain that started on Thursday and put paid to my plans to see the free Black Eyed Peas concert in Central Park (cancelled for health and safety reasons – oh well, we found a bar with musicians who played Black Eyed Peas songs for us and barmen who plied us with cheap margaritas instead) stuck around until Saturday night, which rendered a visit to the Gardens impossible. However, Brooklyn Museum was a perfect choice for a miserable June afternoon, and so off I went. I am a bit of a museum snob…are we sensing a theme here?!…and I was prepared to be sniffy, but I must say, I found it absolutely wonderful. They have such diverse collections, displayed imaginatively around its impressive turn of the century building, and every floor holds something to surprise and delight. I was thrilled to find a stunning Boldini portrait, a genuine Egyptian mummy, a reconstructed Dutch house complete with period interior, Sam Taylor-Wood’s complete, haunting Ghosts photography exhibition, chronicling the moody walk across the moors from Haworth Parsonage to Top Withins, inspiration for Wuthering Heights, and breathtaking stained glass, amongst many other intriguing objects. I also bumped into Jenny and her sister, and we had a nice catch up in the cafe. Isn’t it lovely when that happens?
On Sunday I was back across the bridge, this time for fish and chips with two of my friends. We were so full after lunch that we decided to go for a nice long walk – the sun had come out and there was nary a rain cloud in sight. Wandering down leafy avenues of brownstones and streets filled with quaint Victorian shopfronts, we found ourselves entering the wild and very English feeling Fort Greene Park, which was teeming with locals enjoying the pleasant weather. I could just imagine Francie and Neeley Nolan skipping through here on their way home from school, or sitting on the stoop of one of the nearby brownstones, Francie reading a book and Neeley playing with his marbles.
There is a remarkably timeless feel about Brooklyn. I love its shady streets, its slightly rugged open spaces, its beautiful turn of the century architecture, its unique and interesting shops and its peacefulness. Sitting on a bench, watching the trees sway in the breeze along the solemn brownstone lined avenues, spreading a dappled sunlight along the weathered sidewalks, you could be in 1911, not 2011. It’s a perfect place to be on a sunny afternoon.