Borough Market – oh YUM!

Our friend stephen took us to the Borough Market and no suprises, we loved it.  It’s a cross between our Central Market and a very good farmers’market. There were lots of stalls presented by the food maker (all those delicious farmhouse cheeses, game pies, breads, preserves and jams, meats, dairy) and few fruit and veg stalls. A few importers turffles, spices, amazing coffee. And lots of stalls serving food to eat on the spot: curries, paella, roast pig, juices, coffee and general fresh deliciousness.


There’s been a market on the site for a thousand years they reckon. And as it’s on the main road to the first ever bridge over the Thames into London, that would make sense. It’s evolved in the last 200 years to have several sections – a Victorian-era covered market, stalls and buildings tucked under the railways arches, a newish atrium section with a demonstration kitchen and lots of seating, and then even more stalls outside: these ones were cooking and serving lunches to the squillions of people that arrive at lunch time.


We couldn’t even get into Monmouth Coffee, so wide is its reputation for serving GREAT coffee, but we found a sunny terrace on the Wine Wharf, where we breakfasted and watched traders and tourists, guides and girls guides, school kids and chefs, and cyclists and black cabs squeeze past. Then into the fray. The fungi from France were the draw card of the day but not for tasting; we did enjoy the Piedmontese cheeses washed in Barolo and packed  in the pressings. I nearly wept at the berries – white currants, people,white currants!  And raspberries that we could afford, even with the tragic Australian dollar. The first truffles were there too.



Time, eels, all wounds

Greenwich is gorgeous. Fabulous architecture (Wren! Jones! Hawksmoor!). Beautiful park, full of Tudor romance and history. The prime meridian of course, and the home of Harrison’s chronometers. And the village has a lovely feel. We’ve ambled through the park and visited the National Maritime Museum, and the Old Royal Naval College.

We found the Vintage Fair by acident and watch marvellous swing dancers swirl and swoop in the shadow of the Cutty Sark. We’ve trained one local barista to make a cortado worthy of our attention, and started our first coffee loyalty card at the exellent cafe at the local art house cinema. Time for some pix.


Tim and the 24 hour clock at the observatory

Tim and the 24 hour clock at the observatory

Two out of three ain't bad

Two out of three ain’t bad

Blackheath Hosp for a blood test. Not signage we are used to seeing!

Blackheath Hosp for a blood test. Not signage we are used to seeing!

And music for the days? Mmm. Well, as we are wandering every charted Street, and sailing every reach of the Thames, here’s Britten’s setting of Blake’s poem London, which gets depressing, so just enjoy the music.


Countdown to departure

Yoicks! Thirty hours to lift off! Lists to make, library books to return, audiobooks to down load. Destination this time is one great city: London.

We’ll start in Greenwich, then cross the river and stay near Regent’s Park. And I want to spend lots of time on the river, or at very least, understanding the river. All suggestions and inspirations welcome. 

It would be too easy to start our play list with The Clash “London Calling”.  But I think I’ll play THIS on my iPod when we land. 

See you all in the UK. 


Food (only one pic)

Things we ate along the way and loved

Canadian bacon
Lamb osso bucco with green apple gremolata
Corned beef hash
Slow smoked brisket barbecue – so good we went back
Lobster omelette – without the lobster
French toast made with the lightest brioche, and roasted apples
Braised pork cheeks with green papaya salad and sticky rice
Olive oil and rosemary gelati
Palm sugar gelati
Every thing at Eataly
Roast garlic and sourdough toast
And a marzipan mouse



New York City Marble Cemetery

Continuing our habit of finding little known historical sites, today we visited the New York City Marble Cemetery.

When I saw it on a map, I rather imagined Mediterranean-style above ground mausoleums-in-marble-of-every-hue.


It is the opposite – 256 vaults of marble are below ground, and the lawned block above is has very few memorials. Each vault is own by a family, and is marked by a square ‘lid’ of marble with the vault number engraved upon it.

It was New York’s second non-sectarian cemetery, founded in 1831. And no one knows how many people are interred here – a disgruntled employee apparently burned all the records in the 1850s. The famous people are known: James Roosevelt has been buried there twice, President James Munro was in his son-in-law’s vault for a long time, and there’s a vault containing the mortal remains of the well-known merchant with the glorious name of Preserved Fish.

It is still used, but rarely, as many families have ‘forgotten’ or lost track of their vault – few have changed hands since 1850.

It is beautiful, peaceful, and though seldom open, it’s one of those special green places that give the neighbourhood a feeling of space.



Brooklyn Navy Yard

You know I love history. And stories. And old buildings.

When I heard there was a naval yard from the Revolution still operating in New York City, I was on to it.

Turns out the history of the Brooklyn Navy Yard is pretty revolutionary. For a start, it’s tucked into a bay that you almost don’t notice, where Walloon settlers first landed in the 17th century. And it used to have an island. And a major hospital for naval veterans. And it’s where Sweet n Low is packaged and where both Flight of the Conchords AND Boardwalk Empire are filmed!

Let’s get oriented first:


Yes, I’m talking about that A in the grey area that’s 500 acres in Brooklyn. 500 acres looking at Manhattan.

We found Turnstile Tours had a Tim-friendly bus AND great access to the site, so we spent the afternoon with Cindy, Doug, John and Roger, exploring the site and hearing these great stories.

Don’t worry – I’m not going to relate every one! The Navy Yard’s fantastic museum at Building 92 can do that better than I can.

Cue the montage:


So there are still six dry docks here, the oldest from the revolutionary war. They are used today for ship repairs: ship building per se ended in the 60s. During the Second World War, 75 000 people worked here over three eight hour shifts. That’s 25 000 people clocking on as another 25 000 clock off. The streets near around the yard teemed, yes teemed, with life, servicing the yard, feeding the workers, outfitting the sailors.

Benny and Betty Eisenstadt had a cafeteria nearby that operated round the clock until the ship building wound down after the war. With business dwindling, Benny looked for a new thing, and bought a tea bag making machine. Betty had always thought sugar bowls in the cafeteria highly unsanitary and suggested he package sugar instead. Yep, now you know who to thank/curse when you use/fidget with those packets. Well, Benny went on to package single serves of ketchup, soy sauce, jam, you name it, it’s his fault. But in 1957 he and his son Martin came up with Sweet n Low, and made millions. The packaging business has operated from within in the Navy Yard since the early 60s, when the yard closed.

So the revolutionary future? It’s having a pretty vibrant regeneration and is becoming home to a range of businesses and services. The Eisenstadts have been there for ages. Their neighbour, Kings County Distillery is, it turns out, the oldest distillery in New York State, having been founded three years ago. Yep, 2010. Those pesky prohibition laws about making stuff were still in place until then! The distillery tour and tasting is hilarious – even if you don’t drink bourbon.

Other businesses that have moved in, renovating great buildings, and recycling these amazing spaces include a company making solar powered street lights, and Steiner Studios.

On the roof of a really big six-storey building is an enormous vegetable garden that’s part of the Brooklyn Grange Farm network. And we spied beehives on the roof of another building.


And the island? Here it is in the late 19the century – it was dredged away as the ships being built got bigger and bigger.


And our soundtrack? It has to be the opening number from On The Town – not only my All Time Favourite Musical, but if you look carefully you’ll see it’s set in this very naval yard. Which I hadn’t realised ’til right now. Coincidence? Serendipity?



“We’re off to New York”, we cry, but we really mean Manhattan, that long, treasure-laden island with the most recognisable skyline in the world.

We know about Central Park, Greenwich Village, Empire State and Chrysler Buildings, and myriad other places from movies, news, song, all sorts of sources.

To some of us, it’s the Emerald City; to others the heart of the Evil Empire.

But Brooklyn. We know the name, and maybe that it’s east and south of Manhattan, probably because that beautiful bridge points in that direction. It’s takes up a lot of Long Island (which it shares with Queens) and has even more neighbourhoods than Manhattan. It has the second largest arts museum in the US, a 500acre park designed by those democratic landscapers Vaux and Olmstead, the famous boardwalks and amusements of Coney Island, and is the setting for most things by Neil Simon.

Most boggling to me: there are TWICE as many people in Brooklyn than in Adelaide – and I mean the whole greater metropolitan Adelaide – and in an eighth of the space!

Time for a map:


Now see those squished place names between Williamsburg and Sunset Park. That’s our bit. It felt enormous as we hoofed about for five days. But now I know I can’t say “Oh Brooklyn, it’s fab” because I’ve only explored one tiny little pocket, in a pocket of the wallet of the courier bag of the set of luggage that holds this borough.

Anyway, as everyone knows, there’s only one way to learn NYC geography, and that’s to listen to Ella sing about it.


Bococa, or Caboco?

On a sunny day of high cirrus and high spirits, we crossed the Gowanus Canal (a draw bridge!) and went up the other slope to explore Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill and Boerum Hill. Or as the Brooklyn Alive! guide would have it “Bococa”. What is it with NYC and these locale contractions? Then again, 10 years ago we had a jolly good laugh at signs imploring people to come and live in Dumbo: it is literally on the map now! (FYI = Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass).

We rambled Smith St and Court St, again that appealing mix of neighbourly small business, old-fashioned business, new fashion business, hipster cafes, dogs, dogs and more dogs.

I was thrilled, yes thrilled, to visit La Casita, a much-loved and renowned yarn store and cafe. Much smaller than I imagined but, of course, perfect. There was the patchwork bench out the front, the lovely owner helping a customer with a cable needle problem, there were all the yarns I’ve only read about. And (prepare yourself for shouting) it was the first day OF THE NYC YARN CRAWL! OMG OMG! Can’t believe it’s on while I am here. So I bonded with everyone in the store, got my raffle tickets, free patterns and registration number. No matter that I didn’t make to the other stores that were part of the crawl – I’ve participated in an NYC yarn crawl! YAY!

Other favourites: Momofuku Milk Bar; By Brooklyn for local design; a nap in a pretty pocket park; Watty and Meg for American bistro classics and a fabulous Shirley Temple; watching FDNY take over Atlantic Ave with BIG trucks and tall men (braces, they all wear braces); the former South Brooklyn Savings Bank; the changing colour of the ginkgo trees; and the view of Manhattan from the promenade.

Montage time:



And it must be time for this little known classic.


The Other Fifth Avenue

We loved our Brooklyn neighbourhood. Our nearest ‘high street’ was a block away, through a much loved park and then a plane tree lined street beside the primary school.

Fifth Ave, Park Slope, is a real mix. Mostly three or four storey tall, small shop frontages but deep – and a surprising number of businesses with gardens at the back.

There’s a small but quality farmers’ market on Sunday mornings (there’s an enormous one up the hill at Grand Army Plaza but we didn’t get there.

We adopted Du Jour Bakery as our breakfast place – newish with great coffee from Brooklyn Roasting Company, fabbo egg dishes and corned beef hash and baked things. Vera and her staff adopted us back, remembering our coffee order and menu quirks from our first visit.

Across the street is a fabbo bistro called Juventino, accredited by Slow NY for all those good slow values. One wall was lined with food books and wine, the tables covered with pages of Larousse Gastronomique. We had a terrific dinner there, and went back for brunch on Sunday – the queues!! We opted for Monday brunch. Juan is one of those great people born to be in hospitality, great host and wanting to know about Australian food too.

Of course, there was an artisanal, organic gelati store (favourite flavour: olive oil and rosemary), a bagel store (with a separate window for people with dogs: pooches each got a dog biscuit too), beautiful plant and flowers store (beware, wandering puppy), and the authenik, colourful Rachel’s Taqueria (waitresses as highly decorated as the poster-objet laden walls and ceiling. And all this is just TWO blocks of a very long avenue.

But my Mecca on this other Fifth Ave was this:

And because we purchased superhero supplies, we had to take the Super Heroes Oath. So that’s the rest of our lives sorted out.