We were an unwieldy but willing group of 10. Equipped with helmets, earpieces and walkie-talkies, our curious crew rolled through the heart of Brooklyn to get to know this blossoming part of New York City.
My sister arranged a bicycle tour for family and friends who converged from three countries to celebrate her birthday in New York City. It was a milestone birthday, but I’m not telling which decade.
To further add to our mobile melting pot of cultures from Norway, France and the United States, our fearless leader and bicycle tour operator, Felipe, brought his Argentinian roots and passion for all things Brooklyn to the tour.
Still grinning from Argentina’s World Cup win in the semifinals (we won't talk about the finals), his fun attitude and energy was infectious. Of course, he also might have been basking in the glow of entrepreneurial success. His company, Get Up and Ride, had just reached its two-year anniversary.
After a safety briefing and important tips like riding single file and staying as close together as possible, we set off to explore bike-friendly Brooklyn. My sister and I quickly learned the importance of his advice. Within minutes after our first stoplight, we momentarily lost track of the pack.
Lesson learned. Tour groups that ride closely together, stay together.
The tour traversed its way around scenic residential streets lined with canopies of trees, bakeries, beer gardens, restaurants and film production sets. I had no idea that Brooklyn, New York City’s most populous borough with 2.6 million inhabitants, had a thriving film industry. If you’re interested in week-long stunt training, Brooklyn has a school for it. We passed it during our bike ride.
Traveling the “hipster silk road,” what Felipe called one of our bike lanes, we saw a variety of colorful shops I’d love to revisit sometime. Smells of chocolate chip cookies from one of Brooklyn’s most popular bakeries and sawdust from new building construction filled our noses as we pedaled our way across the city.
Unique statues and graffiti murals are a reminder of the thriving art community in a city still etching its place in New York City.
While Brooklyn’s low rent might have first lured residents, a new thriving community with its own personality keeps them coming.
Our tour ended with a catered lunch at North Brooklyn Farms, a nice sunny patch of land delivering on the goal of transforming vacant lots into urban farms. In the background, history loomed in the form of the Domino Sugar Refinery, which closed its doors in 2004 after more than a century of life. We listened as construction to dismantle the property progressed. Multi-use development will replace the massive brick building.
A’alon from Thyme Squared served a gourmet feast fit for a group that had traveled more miles than us on our hour-long tour.
We drank sangrias and dined on sardine cakes, hummus, tzatziki, salad, grilled chicken and vegetables, gravlax (Julia Child's recipe used for this special cured salmon dish), and homemade focaccia bread. For dessert, crepes filled with farm honey-infused whipped cream and topped with blueberry preserves capped off a fruitful ride and meal. Too stuffed to eat his homemade chocolate chip cookies, we packed them to go. They were a dynamite treat by which to remember our Brooklyn experience.
Thanks to my sister and Felipe for helping us get better acquainted with the sights, sounds and smells of Brooklyn.
Looking back on Manhattan from its waterfront, it’s easy to see why people have flocked to Brooklyn. With a view as grand at the Manhattan skyline, ease of navigation, plenty of trendy restaurants and shops, and the energy of thriving entrepreneurs like Felipe and A’alon, Brooklyn is making its mark.