Red Hook is an escape from New York's anxiety. It feels to me like Brooklyn, the West Coast, industrialism, and nature collided and made their own little world. Although there's more to Red Hook than the water, this is a waterfront only tour:
- Take a walk down Coffey Street until you reach this small pier and park. Bring your fishing pole, not your bathing suit.
- Walk a block over to Van Dyke and visit a little flower shop called Saipua. I walked by before opening day, and even without flowers it is an enchanting place. Instead of a wall, there's just a little ledge separating the sidewalk from the shop. Step over it for wonderful soaps, cards, flowers and dog petting.
- About a block down from Saipua yet another world unfolds. Follow signs for Steve's Key Lime Pies until the big arrow turns you left. Stop for a chocolate dipped keylime pie on a stick and get lost in bliss. You should get at least two napkins so as not to make your dining companions uncomfortable with melted chocolate lips.
- Turn right from Steve's to peer into little workshops along the pier. Step inside Flickinger Glassworks where the workers will take a break from the kilns or the office to tell you about what they are doing with a mixture of pride and self-deprecation.
- Walk back down the pier and turn right into Liberty Sunset Garden Center, where (according to their website...I'm cheating a little here) 'you can find 20-foot Yucca trees, elephant ears, water lillies, a collection of exotic cacti and tropicals, and much much more'.
- Continue through the garden center through a walkway teeming with Portland-like foliage....
...until you reach the home of my dreams: The Waterfront Museum. It was built in 1914, and re-purchased for a dollar in 1985 by the present owner. When I visited he was the only one there, and he told me about the delapidated state it was in back then. It took him years to clean out the 300 tons of mud inside and restore it to it's original condition. After telling him I always dreamed of living on a boat, he told me that he and his family HAVE lived there for almost twenty years.
-Once you're done getting lost in someone else's life, go get food for your own. Right behind the barge is Fairway, a super supermarket located in a big warehouse. Fruits, vegetables, cheeses, cured meats and everything else you could want abound, along with a New York rarity- free samples! Shop until you are dizzy and broke, but save a little money to get a snack and eat in the outdoor, waterfront dining area.
- Finally, before your milk spoils and your eggs go bad, follow the abandoned train to the next pier where you can see more people at work painting and making things, while your mind flits back and forth between getting those groceries home, moving to Red Hook someday, finally visiting the Statue of Liberty (you can't help but stare at it from the pier) or maybe just jumping on the big cruiseship in the distance.
Be safe on your long journey home and visit again soon.