Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Review: My Kind of Town - New York

The first organized baseball game was played in 1855 on what Hoboken field?
What five boroughs make up New York City?
What are the three bridges in New York City that make up the acronym, BMW?

Where can you find answers to this interesting trivia? You could try google. Or, you could ask your knowledgeable tour guide.

My Kind of Town New York is a boutique car tour company that provides customized tours by drivers who are actually licensed tour guides. You can ask to see any site, from the Brooklyn Bridge, to the Dakota apartment building where John Lennon was shot, to department store Christmas window displays along 5th Avenue. And you can ask all the questions you want . . . in the comfort of a Mercedes SUV. Cost for this comfortable, informative, one-of-a-kind tour experience can be as little as the cost per person for a Broadway show. Tours can accommodate up to six guests for as little as four hours or for as long as one day.

On December 6, 2008, my parents, my sister, and I enjoyed an eclectic tour, which included a few sites in Hoboken, New Jersey (such as the Elysian baseball field, where the first organized baseball game was played in 1855), to the still-unfinished St. John the Divine cathedral in Harlem (construction began in 1892), to an amazing nighttime cityscape from the vantage point of Brooklyn Heights.

Our tour guide, Jamie, claimed our view from Brooklyn would be the most stunning. He would know, as he is a native of Brooklyn Heights. A "Pizza Bagel" he calls himself, referring to his mixed Italian Catholic-Jewish upbringing. All tour guides in this eight-year-old company are New York natives--and New York experts. The tour company's owner, James Smythe, founded My Kind of Tour New York to share his love for and knowledge of New York with visitors.

Complete with historical commentary, Jamie showed us the Helmsley building, the Wolworth building, and the holiday lights around Columbus Circle. We drove over the Manhattan Bridge (and got views of the Brooklyn and Williamsburg bridges--AKA BMW) and experienced a bathroom pit stop at an authentic Brooklyn pub.

The highlight of our tour would be the Christmas lights in Dyker Heights, a traditionally Italian neighborhood in Brooklyn. Some may claim the inflatable Santa-covered lawns and fully decorated facades are a bit garish or gaudy. We Westerners claim they are charming and a prime example of New York spirit. "If you're lonely here [in New York City], it's your fault," explains Jamie. "People really come together here. You just can't duplicate it anywhere else."

You also can't duplicate our tour. Even during our four-hour experience, we made itinerary changes. Our initial focus was Christmas lights, but we gradually veered toward more historic and authentic sites. And with the authentic sites came candid conversation as Jaime shared with us where he was on the morning of September 11th and what he did for the next six months to survive the chaos and destruction.

We left that night with a better respect, understanding, and appreciation for New York city, for its residents, and especially for Jamie. I especially felt like New York City was a bit more mine.

Visit the website for My Kind of Town New York to learn more about the unique tours you can experience on your next trip to New York City.

(By the way: The five boroughs of New York are Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and the Bronx)

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