Karine and I left at about 9am from the Greyhound station in downtown Montréal. After our stuff was loaded onto the bus, I stepped outside and held on tight to Fred for as long as I could bear to. The people on the bus watched us laughing and crying and hugging and then I stepped back onto the bus wearing dark glasses and buried my face in a packet of tissues. When I emerged, we were moving through my last Montréal morning and I tried to take it all in so I wouldn't forget.
We had planted ourselves in the very first seats on the right so we could enjoy the best views; of the beautiful scenic country between Montréal and New York City; of the rain that came down so hard that the road disappeared; of our grumpy bus driver swerving slightly as she focused more on sending text messages than on the highway....
I'm not even sure what time we arrived in Manhattan but it was at least a couple of hours later than planned due to insane traffic. We found that there were no trolleys at the Port Authority and I'm sure we entertained a few bystanders as we coaxed the suitcases containing my life up the escalators to the taxi rank. Sweet comical choreography...
Our cab driver was quite a character! Karine soon discovered, to her delight, that he spoke French and she was so relieved to speak in her mother tongue after a whole day of only English with her poor old monolingual friend. Despite not succeeding in luring us out to "Party! Party! Party!" or to offload some of his party drugs on us, he got us to Greenpoint safely and for only $30 or so.
It was dark and pouring with rain when we arrived. By the time we got the bags up to the fourth floor we were tired and hungry 'lil things and decided to get some pizza delivered rather than attempt to navigate the neighborhood in search of restaurants. I mention this because it was some of the best pizza I've had. Unbelievably good.
Thursday morning and the sun was pouring in through the windows. I woke up when K slipped out to get coffee and bagels and then saw the floors - see previous post. I think the first thing we did after breakfast was discover the roof - again, see previous post. Then we walked through Greenpoint and down into Williamsburg to see what we could see. We saw lots of Polish bakeries, little boutiques and bookstores and beautiful green parks. We made sure to drop by Beacon's Closet, recommended by the wonderful Kristin of Modern Nostalgic. I bought a dress... (pic by K)
Just wandering around Williamsburg was wonderful. The chicken caesar salad we shared for lunch was mouthwateringly good and the coffees enjoyed along the way were great. I wasn't quite so keen on the green cheesecake we ordered but people were friendly and the buildings were interesting - I was starting to think I could happily call this place home too...
Later in the day I happened to spot a gorgeous dog and as usual, I couldn't resist moving closer to say hi and get a puppy-fix. The dog wasn't terribly responsive but I sat down next to him for a rest anyway. Karine came and sat too. Then the dog's owner appeared and was very friendly. As soon as her dog saw we'd been approved by her he was totally ready for some affection! Fin's owner was artist Betsy Kelleher who had some fascinating stories to tell about the art scene in Williamsburg. It also transpired that she had been very close friends with a bunch of artists in Montréal years and years ago, particularly a Pierre who, as fate would have it, was a friend of Karine's and owns the gallery she exhibited in just a couple of months ago. Betsy told us that she's always had a feeling she would reconnect with Pierre somehow in Williamsburg and so she did. Thursday ended with a bottle of wine, Patti Smith's Dream of Life and leftover pizza.
Friday was a different sort of day altogether. One of those days you know you'll laugh about ....one day. It was raining and Karine suggested we go look at the H&M store 'a few blocks' south of Prospect Park. The plan was to catch a cab down there - which we estimated, based on our $30 ride from Manhattan, would be around $6 or $7. From there we'd walk through the park if the rain eased up, take some pictures, have lunch at some gorgeous cafe and head up to the Brooklyn Museum.
We started well.... walked through the rain down to the Williamsburg bridge where we dropped into the Brook Farm General Store that Brittany had told me about. From there we walked east in the direction of the park, all the while looking for cabs to flag. Neither of us had actually twigged at this stage that yellow cabs are a Manhattan thing - the only cabs in Brooklyn are those that have dropped someone off and it seemed that most didn't know the area too well.. We found one eventually and asked him to drop us down at the H&M, just below the park.
Forty dollars later we climbed, fuming, out of the taxi and stood facing a monstrosity known as Kings Plaza. Knowing that you're not where you want to be and knowing that it's costing a fortune to get there is awful - being completely helpless to do anything about it is a nightmare! And there we were, at the entrance to a giant shopping mall, aka Hell. We had a crappy lunch in a Chinese place, had a quick look in the H&M and in Macys but neither of us was in the mood for mall shopping. All we wanted was to get out and be cleansed by fine art at the museum!
Trying to leave was an interesting exercise.. after being called to by several guys near the front and told something about "taxi free zone" (?) that I didn't understand, we headed straight back into hell to ask the girl at the information desk. She told us the guys out the front were unregistered drivers and not to go with them. She pointed us to a car service operated by the mall itself and said we could trust them. Our driver told us he'd get us up to the museum for $25 flat and we could finally relax. It was after 3pm already.. We leaned back while our driver told us his life story, all the women, all the children he'd had - knowingly and otherwise - and shared his philosophy. He told us if we had Jesus in our lives, nothing else mattered. He told us that if we were as beautiful on the inside as we were on the outside, we were queens. And then he threw in some advice about men for good measure. Karine whispered to me that perhaps he was the reason we'd found ourselves so far out of our comfort zone, in shopping mall hell. I might have said he was an angel. And it was true - his name was Angel and he got us safely to the museum for $25 and lifted us right up out of the blues.
From the museum we decided to walk the ten or fifteen blocks to the nearest G subway station, which was great. It was nice to walk through different areas and see how the houses, the people, the restaurants and shops differed. On the subway there was a guy wearing a small piece of fabric draped across his muscles and he leaned towards us, staring. I was trying so hard not to laugh. I didn't dare point my camera at him; some people don't need encouragement!
After all our adventures and misadventures, both of us were pretty stuffed at the end of the day. There was a little restaurant very close to the loft that had a nice look. But the fact that it was completely empty at 7pm on a Friday night didn't bode well and nor did the pungent smell of cleaning fluid and the giant video screen above the tables. We walked back out and thought we could google a good place to eat. I kept seeing reviews for the 'Fireplace' that we'd left though - several saying they'd had similar first impressions but that the food was wonderful. So back we went... we had a beautiful meal and our gorgeous waitress, not long arrived from Poland, was a treasure. We ended up getting another meal from them another day to take back to the loft which was just as good and this time we were looked after by a girl from Bulgaria who was so sweet and promised to find us on facebook...
Saturday began with a divine omelette at Ella's organic cafe on Bedford. There were lots of little street stalls scattered around and run by some interesting characters. I bought a few little presents for people and we wandered in to a cafe we liked for some more of their good coffee. Afterwards we dropped in to the Art Library to visit the sketchbooks that are part of the Sketchbook Project that both of us had participated in. I wasn't sure if our sketchbooks were there in the room or on tour but it was nice to see the place in person. It was in a nice area with a lot of converted warehouses and cool art spaces.
I loved the 'Rapture' signage and we went to look at the store - a little vintage place with lots of old treasures. I bought an old photograph that I find so beautiful... I wish people would write on the back of pictures more often so i could have some details... but the mystery is also sweet. I haven't got the scanner set up yet but here:
We finished Saturday with a trip to a small gallery located much further off the beaten track than google maps revealed.... and then 'home' to these incredible views and our last night in beautiful Brooklyn.