Next stop on our New York adventure, Greenpoint Brooklyn. We were hosted by a group of boutique hotels, just across the Hudson River from Manhattan, which exude a hip, artsy vibe. The Henry Norman Hotel, Box House Hotel and the Franklin Guesthouse make up an offering of lodging options which put you in the middle of a hipster paradise with a relaxing and calm ambiance. We found the staff to be genuinely interested and concerned about our comfort and, after touring all three, it was obvious that they worked well together as a team. Most had come from larger brand hotels, bringing their experience to this, smaller, boutique concept, appreciating the family type atmosphere of their workplace. Their cheerful, attentive attitude did not go unnoticed.
View of Manhattan from the terrace
The interior of these hotels is designed by Brooklyn artist, Kip Jacobs. His colorful, funky, eclectic designs flood all three of the properties with upbeat patterns and shapes. You’ll see flowers, birds and the occasional 3-d printer addition to a wall-hanging. There is nothing standard about his design, marked by the upside-down lamps hanging from the Henry Norman Hotel’s hallways. I found myself smiling every time I turned a corner, discovering a new creation.
As a traveler who falls into the boomer generation, it was a refreshing choice to put ourselves in a young, family-oriented neighborhood. We walked the streets to nearby parks appreciating the varied styles of architecture with the old versus newly renovated homes. Brooklyn has always been a melting pot of diversity with ethnic segments throughout. Greenpoint still caters to the Polish influence where we saw the Polska Gazeta newspaper displayed at the local bakery. We also discovered a school, P.S. 34 Oliver H. Perry Elementary, boasting its First Polish Dual Language designation.
Brooklyn is made up of many neighborhoods including Williamsburg, Brooklyn Heights and Park Slope, as well as Coney Island’s beachfront and amusement parks, just to mention a few. Residents, priced out of Manhattan, have made their home in this borough, with the effect of home values rising along with the chic value. Greenpoint, to the north of the borough, might be relatively affordable but its home values are also heading north.
We found the area to be safe at night, with an abundance of restaurants covering a plethora of ethnic backgrounds. Our favorite spot for morning coffee was Syrena’s Bakery, around the corner from the Henry Norman. Feeling like locals, sitting next to utility workers stopping in for an egg sandwich or Danish, we eavesdropped on their banter about having worked on a recent Batman movie in the area. Marvel tapes a lot of its content, both movies and Netflix series, in this neighborhood, with execs and actors staying in the Henry Norman.
With subway stations within walking distance, all of Manhattan is just a few minutes away, however, the multitude of restaurants Brooklyn offers might keep you here a bit longer. Some of the cultural favorites are Calexico, named for the area just north of the border of California and Mexico; Raizes Churrascaria, offering Portuguese-Açorean Food with a New England flair (yes, we were offered New England Clam Chowder); and M Greenpoint for home-style Chinese. These are but a few of a long list of quality local fare just in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn alone.
Kip Jacobs artwork
We’ve visited Manhattan many times, with the occasional walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. This is the first time we actually explored a section of the borough and we were pleasantly surprised at the friendly, safe and upbeat experience.
Tip: To get around in and between boroughs, we purchased a 7-day Metro card ($31), which is good on the subway and bus lines for unlimited rides. This has always proven to be the best way to get around for us. However, for the first time in our experience, my card became “demagnetized,” apparently due to close proximity to my phone and credit cards. I also read that a strong magnet closure on a purse can affect them. When I took it to a station agent, he confirmed the problem but would not re-issue a new card on the spot. Mailing it in for a refund wouldn’t help me during the rest of the trip, however. In stations which had station agents, they would let me through, but most stations aren’t staffed so I was SOL. Keep the card in a pocket away from purses or wallets.
Don’t get demagnetized!!
Tip 2: For the first time we used Uber since we were bouncing around properties, lugging baggage. Fellow blogger, Steve Frick, clued me into a promotion with American Express which gave us a free trip from Laguardia to our hotel in Brooklyn (through the end of the year 2016). We were so impressed we decided to use them again within the city. Proved to be seamless, inexpensive transport.
Check out Part 1 of our NYC adventure and stay tuned for our next stop in lower Manhattan at the Millenium Hilton.