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New York: Brooklyn and Queens

Thursday, July 30, 2009
Still in New York, Jules Lund and Catriona Rowntree headed in different directions and Jules had a good look around Brooklyn, the city's most populous borough, and Queens.

Brooklyn Bridge

The two boroughs are linked to Manhattan by the famous Brooklyn Bridge over the East River and even though it takes just 20 minutes to walk across, unlike locals, most tourists never make the trip. The 1825m bridge was the longest steel suspension bridge in the world when completed in 1883.

Not long ago, those who lived in Manhattan rarely visited friends in Brooklyn, and vice versa. How things have changed. Brooklyn has come into its own with new buildings, parks, restaurants, hotels and live entertainment venues at a Manhattan-like pace. It's now a buzzing and very 21st-century destination.

Jules learnt a lot from proud local and official Brooklyn Borough historian Ron Schweiger. One of his sayings is "Brooklyn — where New York City begins". He has taken walking tours of the borough for years and you probably won't ask a question he is unable to answer — particularly if it's about the famous bridge.

A Slice of Brooklyn Pizza Tour

These great bus tours were started by Tony Muia, a proud native Brooklynite. He's been showing people around for more than 30 years. It all began when visitors complained about not being able to find a decent pizza. Well, Tony knew where they were and blended sightseeing and great pizza stops. The flamboyant guide's motto is: "Manhattan? Fuhgettaboudid".

He takes his bus along tree-lined streets of brownstones, to Coney Island's historic amusement park and boardwalk, million-dollar homes along Shore Road, Trump Village where Donald Trump's father made his fortune, and the history of pizza from Italy to Brooklyn. Tony will also tell you about some famous Brooklynites — it's a font of talent!

Countless movies have been filmed in Brooklyn, including Saturday Night Fever, Scent of a Woman, The French Connection and many more. Tony and his DVD player work together and as you reach a location you watch the clip that ended up in the film.

On the 4.5-hour tour you'll have two sit-down meals. At Grimaldi's you will tuck into a blackened, thin-crusted Neapolitan pizza. It was a favourite haunt of Frank Sinatra, and if he couldn't pop in for a pizza, he would have one delivered to his hotel.

The next food stop is at L & B Spumoni Gardens. Its thick and saucy square slices have been served since 1939, and people travel from across New York for them.

Jules loved Tony's tour — it was fun and cultural and he would recommend it to anyone. Tony also runs Christmas lights tours and a neighbourhood tour.

Williamsburg

Home to a thriving art and music community, Williamsburg has many ethnic enclaves, including Germans, Hasidic Jews, Italians, Puerto Ricans and Dominicans. It's a magnet for young people moving to the city. You'll see loads of fashion tragics, uncut beards, bohemian-types in vintage clothes and thick-rimmed glasses, moving from coffee shop to record store. Former factories have been turned into eclectic shops and restaurants and it's a buzzy and cool place.

Five Leaves Cafe

Sadly, Heath Ledger didn't live to see his planned project, Greenpoint cafe, come to fruition. With funding from his estate, Five Leaves is finally up and running. It has nautically themed decor with a bar shaped like a ship's prow. It's open from 8am until 1am and serves affordable food with an Australian twist.

Queens

The second most populated borough, Queens is still struggling to find a tourist niche. It doesn't have Manhattan's bright lights and buzz or Brooklyn's charm, but, despite an ill-founded reputation, it's not a concrete jungle. It has loads of open space, gardens and urban America's largest beach.

It's the most ethnically diverse neighbourhood in the world. Almost half of its 2.2 million residents were born outside of the United States and around 150 nations are represented there, with more than 130 languages spoken. Not surprisingly, that has resulted in Queens being a culinary hotspot.

In Astoria, it's Greek and Egyptian. Jackson Heights offers Colombian, Argentinean and Uruguayan. Flushing boasts Chinese, Taiwanese and Filipino. Sunnyside is Irish, Hispanic and Korean, and so on.

Wherever the residents are from, the one thing that unites them is their baseball team, the Mets. They play in a new US$800 million ($971 million) stadium, and there's no shortage of fanatics to fill it. If you're there between February and October, you can watch them in action at Citi Field.

Location

The New York boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens.

Cost

A Slice of Brooklyn Pizza 4.5-hour tour costs about $91, including pizza and soft drink. Tours run on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday from 11am.

New Yorks Mets games are on between February and October. Entry is from roughly $14.

Prices correct at July 30, 2009.

V Australia has return fares to Los Angeles with connections available to New York City.

Fares to LA from:

  • Sydney $1041
  • Melbourne $1049
  • Brisbane $1052
  • Adelaide $1333
  • Perth $1650

The fares are available for a limited time only so log on to www.vaustralia.com.au for further details.

For further information

V Australia
www.vaustralia.com.au

Ron Schweiger
Borough historian
Office of the Brooklyn Borough President
Brooklyn Borough Hall
210 Joralemon Street
New York NY 11201
United States
Ph: +1 718 802 3700
Fax: +1 718 802 3778

A Slice of Brooklyn Pizza Tour
www.asliceofbrooklyn.com/pizza.html
tony@asliceofbrooklyn.com

Grimaldi Pizza
19 Old Fulton Street
Brooklyn NY 11201
United States
Ph: +1 718 858 4300
www.grimaldis.com

L & B Spumoni Gardens
2725 86th Street
Brooklyn NY11223-3507
United States
Ph: +1 718 449 1230
www.spumonigardens.com

Five Leaves Cafe
18 Bedford Avenue
Greenpoint
Brooklyn NY 11222
United States
Ph: +1 646 510 6467
www.fiveleavesny.com

Citifield Stadium
12301 Roosevelt Avenue
Flushing NY 11368
United States
Ph: +1 718 507 8499
www.mets.com

Visas: Most Australians do not need a visa, providing they have a machine-readable passport with at least six months validity after the departure day, have a round-trip non-refundable ticket and do not intend to stay longer than 90 days. From January 2009, Australians need to complete a pre-travel authorisation at www.cbp.gov/esta.

Electricity: 110V to 115V at 60Hz. Outlets take two-parallel, flat prongs. Australian visitors will need a US adapter and converter.

Time zone: GMT-5.

Currency: American dollar.

International dialling code: +1.

America Over Easy!

If you are planning a trip to the US, we've found a great book with lots of useful information: America Over Easy! It has an excellent fold-out map for road trips and information about things to do and see along the way. Available from New Holland Publishers and at book stores ($19.95 RRP).

User comments
Sooz, If you can't find a tour group consider going on your own (especially with the low fares and what's left of summer) and feel free to discover this magic city on your own. You will be safe and travelling alone you will meet many people if you are open to the experience. (And save tour costs as well!) I lived in NYC years ago and have just returned from a 10 day visit. I could barely bring myself to leave. I was told by one of the local women it is safe to walk the streets in Manhattan til about 11pm and to avoid early morning eg 6am. Be sure to do one of the Bus Tours (like Gray Line) which goes for two days (start your tour at 1pm and as it goes for 48 hrs from when you first get on the bus you can squeeze a third day out of it) and after that get the NYC City Pass which you have 9 days to use. You will have more than enough to do and won't miss out on any commentary. I missed out on those cool looking bars becaue I was on my own but that was the only thing. Enjoy!!
i wanna go to new york who wants to come with me I am 45, single and want a slice of the big apple. What is a good tour for the single ?

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