Memoirs of New York City Brighton Beach
It's a warm spring day and I am standing on a beachfront promenade, called "the boardwalk," watching the gulls dip and soar over the gentle waves. In the distance, an oil tanker slowly makes its way toward the harbor, and to my left a group of pensioners -- elderly men -- some with medals bearing the Hammer and Sickle of the Soviet Union on their lapels, joke and argue as they play cards or checkers under the roof of an open pavillion.
I turn, and behind me, the young waiters and waitresses stand under the umbrellas in front of the promenade restaurants and coffee houses, waiting for customers. I spell out the Cyrillic letters: PECTOPAH. With my limited command of the Russian language, I know this is pronounced "restoran." I sound out "MOSKVA" on the awning - "Moscow," I murmer. I tell my friend, "We'll have lunch there."
No, I'm not in Odessa - on the Black Sea. The body of water is the Atlantic Ocean and I'm in "Little Odessa," the latter-day nickname for the community of Brighton Beach, in the borough of Brooklyn, New York City. But the ambiance is Russian, or, more correctly, reminiscent of the former Soviet Union. For many who lived or vacationed in Odessa, in the Ukraine, the ocean is a reminder of better days.
In the 1970s, more than 90,000 immigrants from the Soviet Union entered the U.S., and about 12,000 settled in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, New York. Here, they joined relatives, friends and friends of friends who had preceded them and settled in the waterfront community on the south shore of Brooklyn. Connected to the rest of the city by four subway (elevated in south Brooklyn) lines, these immigrants made new lives for themselves. Many prospered and moved out of Brooklyn, but were quickly replaced by the trickle of immigration that continues today.
Although many come from Russia, many others came from Ukraine, Georgia, Uzbekistan, and the other Central Asian former Soviet states. Linked by the Russian language imposed on them by the rulers in the Kremlin for many years, they are comfortable in an environment where most stores have Russian signs, most people speak Russian and the familiar foodstuffs are available to them.
Visitors to New York City can taste, smell and hear the Russian presence. Bakeries and coffee shops, redolent with sweet pastries, fresh bread and Rolls, seem to be on every block. The cafes on the promenade serve "native" meals and desserts, and the conversations are in a language unfamiliar to most Americans. I have been here many times before, and every once in a while I try to eavesdrop on the conversations. However, since my command of the language is limited, this is a difficult task.
I brought a friend from overseas with me on this weekday to show her a tourist attraction too few tourists know about. We boarded the NYC subway system's south-bound D train at 42nd Street and the Avenue of the Americas (6th Avenue to most New Yorkers). After crossing under the East River, the train took us through Brooklyn, at one point emerging from the tunnel and climbing to an elevated structure. We got off at the Beach 6th Street, the Brighton Beach stop, and walked down the steel stairs to the sidewalk.
We were on Brighton Beach Avenue. The New York Aquarium and Coney Island were within a 10- or 15-minute walk, but we wanted to see Little Odessa by the Sea. Most of the signs on the stores are either bilingual or only in Russian, in the Cyrillic alphabet. Walking along the avenue, we stopped at M&I International Foods, at 373 Brighton Beach Avenue, famous for gourmet foods. Entering the store, we were treated to sights and smells that stimulated our salivary glands, including sausages, cheeses, meat and poultry, caviar and chocolate, and crusty fresh breads. Service was informal, and the women behind the counters, with starched lace hats and uniforms, handed over "tastes" to help their customers make their selections.
Within the three or four blocks of concentrated shopping we passed several night clubs and restaurants, including the popular Restoran National at Number 273. Some of the clubs are said to be patronized by the "Russian Mafia" - criminals who entered the U.S. and established crime "families" here - but we see no sign of anything unusual, nor is there anything other than a friendly greeting when we look in to see the ornate decorations. Later that day, the tables would be filled with heaping platters of food, carafes and bottles of wine, and rich. Every night in these "Russian" clubs was like New Year's Eve and a birthday party, wrapped up in one celebration.
Small shops, indented into the storefronts of larger retail establishments, will remind visitors who have been to Moscow of the Arbat, a street where kiosk vendors offer an incredible assortment of merchandise. In addition to these small business establishments, Brighton Beach street vendors also sell everything from used electrical appliances to new clothing.As we walked, we saw a sign in English and Russian, marking the headquarters of an organization of disabled Soviet World War II veterans, and on other buildings, we noted signs offering discount airline tickets to or from almost every city that was once behind the Iron Curtain. Other storefronts and second floor offices advertised English lessons, driving lessons, assistance with immigration problems and assistance in obtaining U.S. citizenship.
Lunch on the promenade/boardwalk could be an all-day affair, so I tell my friend that unless she has something else to do, I'd like to sit and watch the passing scene. She is already reading the menu and ignores me. Customers around us are ordering soup, hot and cold entrees, pastries and coffee. Many are working their cell phones, eating and smoking at the same time. (We're outdoors, so smoking is permitted.) Like the other patrons, we watch the pedestrians on the boardwalk - many still donning the native clothing of their former homes.
Women with side-laced high shoes and hair tinted with metallic colors push folding strollers with small children. Older couples or singles walk slowly, the men with hands clasped behind their backs and the women clutching purses large enough to hide an encyclopedia. Many of the older men wear medals or small replicas - our waitress tells us they are proud of having served in the war. However, most of the young men and women are wearing the same unisex casual clothing preferred by young people around the world.
I order fruit soup - a cold, refreshing brew made with several kinds of fruit and cheese blini. My companion orders a "house" salad, even after I warn her she will receive a huge portion of cold vegetables, with dabs of sour cream and caviar. A basket of warm rolls is put down in front of us and a dish of butter is placed on top of the basket. Our waitress advises us to wait until the rolls have warmed the butter, and we do. A pot of coffee comes without asking, and we are set for a leisurely lunch.
Three women in colorful coat dresses come by, accompanied by a man wearing a pair of baggy pants, a tunic and the square, brimless hat worn by the Uzbeks. Following them, we see two women with Asian features dressed in trousers and matching collarless blouses. Olga, our waitress, is informative - yes, the first group are Uzbeks. The two women following them are probably from Kirghiz, near the Chinese border. And the three boys kicking a soccer ball down the boardwalk? She smiles. One is her son, a student at a local high school. He is trilingual, she tells us with a grin - he speaks English, Russian and hip-hop. He waves to us as he scoots by.
We finish lunch at about 3 p.m. I pay the check and we head for the elevated station on our way back to Manhattan. The Aquarium and Coney Island will have to wait for another day. I drop my friend off at her New York City Hotel and she thanks me for hosting the tour. "That's the closest I may ever get to Odessa," she tells me, "but I feel as if I was there."
New York City Hotel Rooms™ Since 1998
Why Book at New York City Hotel Rooms
Hotel and Travel News
How well do you know the foods of the world? Take our national dish quiz to find outFriday the 3rd, 2020
Are you hot stuff or just cold leftovers? Find out in our food and travel quizathonA francesinha (frenchie) is a speciality of Porto, Portugal (pictured), but what is it?A crisp, almond-flavoured biscuit for dipping in a fortified wineA meat-free version of a croque monsieur, with grilled cheese...
Trekking to Everest base camp – by climbing the stairs at homeFriday the 3rd, 2020
Virtual expedition team ascends 5,364 metres over five days in indoor mountain climbing challenge April in Nepal usually means thousands of trekkers trudging up to Everest base camp. This spring the mountain is free of crowds but the trekkers are still trudging – up stairs, back steps, even up...
A new form of house music: Berlin clubs livestream DJ setsFriday the 3rd, 2020
It may be under lockdown but the techno capital is still banging – in kitchens worldwide, as Berlin clubs unite so fans can party at homeWith bars, nightclubs and restaurants closed to slow the spread of Covid-19, nightlife in Berlin, was expected to come to a halt. But no, the beats are still...
Why ‘can I get a refund?’ is travel's biggest issue: Coronavirus Q&AThursday the 2nd, 2020
Customers are all asking the same question of an industry in freefall. As one tour operator says, how firms respond will shape whether or not they have a futureFor the past two weeks we’ve addressed several questions in our Q&A but increasingly readers want to know the answer to just one:...
We're taking the kids camping – in the living roomThursday the 2nd, 2020
Campers and open-water swimmers are coping with lockdown by going wild in their own homes and gardens. Are you doing the same? Share your virtual adventures at #guardiantravelsnapsDesperate times call for creativity, and for cooped-up outdoor enthusiasts that means attempting to conjure up a...
10 of the best places to revisit after lockdown: readers' travel tipsThursday the 2nd, 2020
Some places stand as monuments to recovery, others inspire our readers with their beauty – or the wisdom of the ancientsTen years ago we were at Epidaurus, and each took turns to descend to the orchestra and read from Sophocles or Euripides – among the wisest writers of all time. It’s been...
Top 10 budget beach hotels and B&Bs on Mexico’s Pacific coastWednesday the 18th, 2015
Enjoy ocean views from rooftop bars or just step out and get the sand between your toes. From Mazatlán to Pochutla, here are 10 charming beachside escapesMexico’s Pacific coast, more than 1,000 miles of it, is renowned for its beaches, as well as the resorts which have attracted Hollywood...
Top 10 budget beach hotels, guesthouses and hostels on the Yucatán peninsula, MexicoMonday the 16th, 2015
Well-known and deservedly popular for its jungle, coast and ancient ruins, the Yucatán peninsula can be a pricey place to stay – unless you pick one of these brilliant budget hotels and hostelsOn the surface, this mid-size hotel in Cancún’s hotel zone is pretty unremarkable. The...
Top 10 budget beach B&Bs in the SeychellesMonday the 26th, 2015
The Seychelles islands of Mahé, Praslin and La Digue may be known for their luxury resorts but there is also a great selection of family-run, more affordable guesthouses just as close to the archipelago’s famous, world-class beachesFor a room with a five-star view, Colibri is hard to beat....
Top 10 budget beach guesthouses and B&Bs in South Africa's Western CapeMonday the 5th, 2015
From Cape Town and its peninsula to the Garden Route and the West Coast, the Western Cape is a dazzling part of South Africa, and its beachside accommodation doesn’t have to break the bankTop 10 budget beach stays in Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal Continue reading...
How to fend off your conspiracy obsessed relatives during the holiday seasonTuesday the 24th, 2019
When Uncle Ted has a few drinks and starts screaming that the world is flat, have a few tactics ready to counter his bizarre rantsIt’s the holidays: time for eggnog, ironic Christmas sweaters, and interactions with relatives you’d avoid like the plague if you didn’t share DNA.Perhaps in...
Forget Bali, I found bliss in the blandness of a chain hotel | Emma BrockesFriday the 18th, 2019
Four days spent alone in Florida pushed me to the limits of boredom. But it was just what I neededI was in a chain hotel 20 miles north of Orlando for meetings that would last, on and off, for four days. This was not a holiday resort. Outside, the rain was bathwater warm, the pool windswept and...
Spain road trip: Granada to AlmeríaWednesday the 7th, 2019
The Alhambra marks the start of a drive taking in historic cities, a river valley and mountains – and ends in Almería’s spaghetti western desertGranada is dominated by its mighty Moorish fortress, the Alhambra. Book ahead and visit early, at its least-crowded, and then spend the afternoon...
French leave: fun places to stay on four routes to the south of FranceFriday the 19th, 2019
With the annual summer dash under starter’s orders, we suggest how to turn a schlep into a road trip, staying in treehouses, chateaux and cool hotels en routeFrom the north-west ferry ports (St Malo, Cherbourg, Caen, Le Havre) down the west of France, via Nantes and Bordeaux, to the south-west...
Coast through summer: 10 itineraries for the UK seasideSaturday the 6th, 2019
Get beach ready with our week-long planners to 10 glorious seaside spots, covering everything from secluded coves to surf lessons, boat rides and places to stay Continue reading...
Turin city break: the best music, restaurants and cultureWednesday the 3rd, 2019
Electro music fans are heading to Turin for this weekend’s Kappa Futurfestival, but this also one of the best cities in Italy for culture and affordable restaurantsWithout Turin, Italy would be a totally different country. It was pivotal to the unification in 1861 and served as the first...
Tarifa holiday guide: the best activities, bars, restaurants and hotelsSaturday the 1st, 2019
This beach town in the far south of Spain, only a windsurf away from Africa, mixes a surfer vibe with excellent nightlifeIt’s the most southerly town in mainland Europe, only 14km from Africa across the Strait of Gibraltar. It’s a 1,000-year-old walled labyrinth with a youthful party scene...
Arctic adventure: a photography tour of GreenlandFriday the 20th, 2019
Our readers’ photo competition winner travelled to Greenland with small, specialist tour operator Wild Photography Holidays. His images reflect threatened landscapes and remote communities Continue reading...
Making a song and dance: the simple things keeping people goingWednesday the 1st, 2020
A daily street bop, a singing Facebook group and a free Rick Astley gig – how people are staying cheerful in the coronavirus crisisCoronavirus – latest updatesSee all our coronavirus coverageAs the coronavirus crisis continues, people up and down the country – from local communities to 80s...
Government clashes with Travelodge after homeless told to leaveWednesday the 25th, 2020
Chain urged to reverse decision to remove families and key worker guests over coronavirusCoronavirus – latest updatesSee all our coronavirus coverageMinisters have clashed with the Travelodge hotel group after it emerged it gave homeless families and key worker guests just two hours to leave...
Homeless Travelodge residents turned out on to streetWednesday the 25th, 2020
Families asked to leave hotels due to coronavirus, in apparent defiance of guidanceCoronavirus – latest updatesSee all our coronavirus coverageHundreds of residents of the budget hotel chain Travelodge, including homeless families housed there by local councils, have been turned out on to the...
Hotel thieves aren’t stealing toiletries – but framed art, TVs, a fireplaceMonday the 23rd, 2020
They’re putting the average shoplifter to shame by taking paintings and mattresses. How do they get away with it?Peter Greenberg knows all about frequent-flyer hotel thieves – and we’re not talking just towels and toiletries.The investigative journalist, better known to front desk managers...
Ski companies face huge financial hit after coronavirus shutdownThursday the 19th, 2020
Some skiers are still trying to make it back from the Alps after the weekend closures, while the industry is struggling after what was already a tricky season The ski industry is battling to cope with the fallout from the sudden shutdown of resorts across the Alps, where the season has ended four...
UK travel industry urges government action to forestall collapse of businessesWednesday the 18th, 2020
Current package regulations are not designed to cope with a global crisis of the coronavirus outbreak’s scale, sector leaders warnThe UK travel sector is calling on the government to make immediate changes to the package travel regulations to prevent “innumerable company collapses and the...
40 extraordinary places to stay in the UKSaturday the 14th, 2020
A special place to stay can make a holiday – but also break the bank. We’ve found 40 unique spots with bags of personality for £100 a room a night or less Continue reading...
My eagle-eyed winter wander around the Isle of WightFriday the 28th, 2020
The island isn’t only for summer holidays: the colder months are perfect for birding and walks along trails that will form part of the England Coast PathThe Isle of Wight is having a moment. That’s what conservationist Dave Fairlamb tells me as we eat homemade cake on a silver-grey afternoon,...
Five holiday regions of France you may not knowSaturday the 22nd, 2020
At more than twice the size of the UK, France has lots to offer beyond the Riviera and Loire valley, such as these lesser-known spots offering wild coasts, rugged hills and chateaux galore Continue reading...
My favourite family holiday: chosen by readersMonday the 3rd, 2020
Memories of summer fun and family adventures come flooding back to our tipsters as they recall halcyon days on the beach, under canvas and on the roadFamily holidays for us require three things: fantastic food, guaranteed sun and something different. San Stefanos on Corfu provides all three and...
Send us a tip on a destination you'd love to revisit in the future for a chance to win £200 towards a Sawday's stayTuesday the 24th, 2020
Tell us about a destination full of memories for you – that you’d love to return to once the Covid-19 crisis is overFirst of all, many apologies to readers who contributed to last week’s assignment on wildlife reserves, but we’ve had to postpone its publication given the Covid-19 crisis...
10 of the best places to visit in spring: readers' travel tipsWednesday the 18th, 2020
Enjoying spring is going to be difficult this year, but our tipsters know beautiful countryside and gardens where you may well be alone with naturePlease check with each site before travelling; many places are taking decisions on whether to close or remain open on a day-to-day basis. Continue...
Send a tip on a wildlife reserve in the UK for the chance to win £200 towards a Sawday's stayTuesday the 17th, 2020
Whether it’s a wetlands, mountainside, coastal fringe, forest or heath … share details of your favourite UK nature reserveAs with all attractions, some wildlife reserves may be closed during the coronavirus outbreak. Please recommend your favourites with a view to informing readers; we are...
10 of Europe's best converted and repurposed buildings: readers’ tipsFriday the 13th, 2020
All change! For train stations and factories that are now hotels and museums, and a flour mill serving as a roost for art lovers – and sea birdsA former tram power station in the Wola district of Warsaw now provides a home for the Warsaw Uprising Museum. What could have been a bleak, industrial...
Paradise Island JA Manafaru Maldives Transforms Into All-inclusive ResortThursday the 5th, 2020
Guests now benefit from an all-inclusive meal plan which offers a culinary journey of 7 restaurants and bars, complimentary experiences and premium beverages from 11am-11pm, as they embrace island life on the magnificent lagoon-ringed Haa Alifu Atoll at the northern tip of the Maldives.
InterContinental Hotels & Resorts Reveals Multi-sensory Experiences in Seven Cities Around the WorldWednesday the 26th, 2020
InterContinental Hotels & Resorts unveils some of the most authentic ways to experience New York, London, Dubai, Paris, Mexico City, Sydney and Shanghai, inspiring and redefining travel in some of the world’s most famous cities in 2020
Top Destinations to Visit in 2020Monday the 13th, 2020
At the beginning of every year, it’s great to have a look at the destinations that are making a statement for your next adventure!
How Overtourism Killed Spontaneous Travel - CNNWednesday the 20th, 2019
Picture the scene. You're on vacation. You've had a slow morning wandering round, a long lunch and a stroll around the city. You realize you're near that gallery you've been meaning to visit -- so you walk over. Even five years ago, you could probably have sauntered in...
Construction Begins on Detroit's First Cambria HotelMonday the 4th, 2019
Choice Hotels International, Inc. (NYSE: CHH) and Koucar Management celebrate the official start of construction on Detroit's first Cambria hotel: the Cambria Hotel Detroit Downtown. Slated to open in 2020, the modular-construction, six-story, 158-room upscale hotel will become the...
Top Sunny Isles Beach ResidencesThursday the 31st, 2019
Sunny Isles Beach is a gem, with a far-flung Oleta River State Park, filled with outdoor activities opportunities, including jogging, hiking, kayaking, mountain biking, and much more, and world-renowned restaurants, bars, and clubs.
Tourism in the Balkans: Raising the Bar for EuropeMonday the 28th, 2019
Amidst relatively modest growth in visitor numbers across Europe during 2019, the Balkans region has been this year’s stand-out success story for the tourism industry. Ask anyone that has experienced the area’s rugged mountains, glittering coastline and UNESCO World Heritage sites...
Nashville the Most Expensive US City for Hotels, Survey ShowsThursday the 10th, 2019
Nashville is the most expensive city in the United States for accommodation, according to a survey by Cheaphotels.org, which compared hotel rates across 50 urban destinations.
Thousand Hills Golf Resort Joins Ascend CollectionWednesday the 9th, 2019
Located at 245 S. Wildwood Drive within the Ozark Mountains, Thousand Hills Golf Resort is just blocks from Branson's Country Music Highway 76, which features dozens of live-performance theaters, over 100 restaurants and many other family-friendly attractions.
Will 2019 Be Another Record Year for Montenegro's Booming Tourism Industry?Monday the 7th, 2019
Figures released in July pointed to 2019 being another boom year for the industry, with tourist arrivals during the first six months 20% higher than the same period last year. Hoteliers have continued to report exceptionally high occupancy during the remainder of the summer, particularly in...
7 of the Quirkiest Hotels You Want To Stay On Your Next TripMonday the 10th, 2019
Depending on the type of traveler you are, sometimes a hotel is just a place to rest after a long day of exploring the surroundings of your destination. For others, the right hotel is part of what makes the travel experience an interesting one. We have found some of the quirkiest hotels around...
Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas Features Underwater WeddingsMonday the 13th, 2019
Make a statement with an underwater wedding. Your altar is a coral bed, your rings presented in a white shell. Exchange vows with a dive-certified minister your witness, each moment captured by a underwater photographer.
Business Travel Surges in MallorcaTuesday the 12th, 2019
Palma Convention Centre managed by Meliá Hotels International presented its Activity Report for 2018 today, its first full year of operation after opening in April 2017. Over the year , the Convention Centre and Meliá Palma Bay Hotel hosted 226 events with 76,678 attendees,...
Saint Lucia Records over 1.2 Million Visitors In 2018Wednesday the 23rd, 2019
Saint Lucia has recorded its best performance ever in visitor arrivals, as it welcomed 1,218,294 visitors in 2018. That number represents a 10.2% increase over 2017, which was also a record-setting year for the island.
2019 Go-To List: Top Destinations To Visit In The Coming YearThursday the 27th, 2018
From Namibia to Tahiti, Australia to Italy, we have found some of the most talked about places that people will be traveling to in 2019.
Mexico and New York Are Top Holiday Destinations for U.S. Air TravelersMonday the 17th, 2018
ARC Data Also Shows Travel Increased to Many European Destinations
This Christmas, Italy Luxury Tours Offers an Exclusive Deal of Verona and Lake Garda Luxury TourWednesday the 12th, 2018
If you're planning to celebrate Christmas in Italy, Italy Luxury Tours is offering the best way to spend the most awaited holiday alongside Verona and Lake Garda. They are back with a great deal of 7 nights/8 days classical tour to Verona and Lake Garda.
Can the World Be Saved from Overtourism? - CNNThursday the 4th, 2018
Every week seems to bring new confirmation we've officially entered the era of too much tourism. There's been sand pilfering in Sardinia and Venice visitors threatened with fines for sitting down.