As I began to wake up, stirring from an unusually deep, long slumber, I noticed that my legs felt a little sore. I run more than 10 miles a week and do squats and deadlifts, too, so it's not unusual for my legs to get a good workout.
But this soreness the day after an outing around New York's Brooklyn and Queens was just a further indication of what I already knew: We put in quite a few miles during our guided walking tour with Pecora Verde.
The Italy-based excursion company launched in August 2013 with the goal of offering excursions that give tourists a different type of experience. Guides are residents in the locales in which they are leading groups. Specific tours are offered for off-the-beaten-path areas and can follow a scripted itinerary designed to take you into areas to see how the residents truly live in your destination. But with Pecora Verde's #outofthecrowd philosophy, you can also help to design your trip, your way through the "Special Services" program. Pecora Verde offers overland tours and cruise excursions throughout Europe primarily.
It offers three New York City tours as its only U.S.-based excursions so far. But Pecora Verde has plans in the works to expand its offerings. Maybe we should have slowed down a little for more rest during our tour of Brooklyn and Queens. By the end of the day, our guide, Kiara, had taken us on a 13-mile journey through two NYC boroughs that were new to us.
That's a half marathon worth of walking. Kiara says she does this route or something similar most days during a busy summer tourist season in the Big Apple. That is impressive. The native of Italy has been in New York for three years and has worked to learn many out-of-the-way nooks and crannies of the city in a bid to offer a unique experience to visitors, many of whom come from Europe to tour with her.
Mrs. In The Loop and I live in Central New Jersey and get to NYC quite often, but until this visit, it's always been to Manhattan. This tour showed us there is so much more to see in close proximity to the mass-tourism areas.
Here is what we did during our day with Pecora Verde.
We get off the train at Penn Station in Manhattan and meet Kiara, who leads us to the subway to start our tour. She explains what we are going to see, and we exchange a little bit of our personal background info with one another as we walk. The clouds overhead promise a bit of rain at some time, but we expect we might be able to get through most of the day unscathed. And it is warming up nicely. Our first stop is in Brooklyn. Just a 10-minute subway trip (or less), and it already feels like a different world.
The glimmering tiles give it away. Artist Susan Gardner's home stands out among the crowd of reddish brick residences on either side of her home in Boerum Hill. Gardner has bedazzled her domicile in a fantastic array of mosaics. She said she has lived in the home for more than four decades and started decorating the exterior on 108 Wyckoff Street just after 9/11. It's a sight to behold, sitting in sharp contrast with the other homes on her block.
We loop back and check out Love Lane, a one-block stretch between Henry and Hicks Street in Brooklyn Heights. The path was an ideal place for Dutch residents to take romantic walks. A true Lover's Lane from a bygone era.
About Dumbo? Well, it's a quaint neighborhood in Brooklyn. It's located Down Under the Manhattan Bridge. Wait that won't quite work, will it? It's Down Under the Manhattan Bridge, ummm, Overpass. Yeah, that's better. You can see the basic genesis of the name.
In Queens, we venture through Long Island City and to the waterfront, which again provides fine vistas of the skyline. Queens is more of a blue-collar city, not nearly as attractive as Brooklyn, but with certain charms. We are here to check out the famed Pepsi sign. Disclaimer: We are a devout Coca-Cola family, but that doesn't prevent me from stopping for a few pictures.
The attraction is a metal globe that rises 140 feet into the air and is 120 feet in diameter. It's a relic from the 1964/65 World's Fair and stands as a sort of Queens landmark. The legs are getting a bit weary now, for sure. But I refuse to admit it, determined to keep the spring in my step.
Our tour was over except for the subway ride back to Manhattan to catch out train at New York Penn Station for the journey home to New Jersey. Just in time, as I notice my ankles starting to get a little swollen from all the walking. One more glance at the pretty green trees and one last moment to savor the sounds of chirping birds before we leave Flushing Meadows, hop on the train and are transported back into the bubbling cauldron of humanity in Times Square.
Thanks for reading,
Travel fit! Travel happy!
In addition to its numerous overland tours and cruise excursions around the world, Pecora Verde has just cracked into the U.S. market. It offers three tours in New York City and says it is planning to add its #outofthecrowd experiences in Miami, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and select parks around the U.S.
The Brooklyn and Queens, Exploring New York's Hidden Treasures tour costs $90 per person (we were hosted by Pecora Verde for our tour).
What's not included: Lunch, drinks, subway transfers (we paid $11 per person to get around on the subway with our Metro cards).
The bottom line: This experience indeed gives you a different look and feel from crowded excursions on well-worn areas. You will walk a lot, so be prepared and wear comfortable shoes. The small-group nature means you can adjust your pace and schedule, which is a good thing.