You can go home again if you lived in Brooklyn

TRAVEL Q&A

January 01, 1995|By New York Times News Service

Q: After 48 years in southern California, my wife and I want to "go home again" to Brooklyn. No travel agency brochure I've seen has that itinerary, but I believe there are small groups or even individuals who give personal tours of the borough. Can you help?

A: Maybe the first date you should put in your diary is the second Sunday in June (June 11 this year): That's when the annual Welcome Back to Brooklyn Festival is held along Eastern Parkway from Grand Army Plaza to the Brooklyn Museum. About 300,000 people from all over the city and country attend, according to the festival's organizers, the Fund for the Borough of Brooklyn, a nonprofit cultural group.

After that, the choices for touring your home borough are wide, and what follows is a partial list:

* Brooklyn Center for the Urban Environment, Tennis House, Prospect Park, Brooklyn, N.Y. 11215, (718) 788-8500, organizes 50 tours to different parts of the borough on weekends from March to December.

The tours, led by academics and specialists, range in subject matter from architecture to social and art history and nature. Among the more popular are "Neighborhood Noshing" outings that sample the enormous variety of ethnic foods the borough offers.

One recent three-hour tour of Sunset Park tasted the foods of the Caribbean, Central America, Mexico, Scandinavia, Turkey and China. Tours, which last two to three hours, are $7 a person.

* Louis Singer, 75 Henry St., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11201, (718) 875-9084, has been conducting tours of the borough for 26 years from a historical, ethnic and architectural perspective.

Some 200 tours a year are held under such titles as "The Brownstone Crescent" (visiting Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Park Slope, Clinton Hill and Fort Greene), "Fabulous Flatbush," "Jewish Brooklyn" and "Waterfront Brooklyn."

The tours, costing $25 a person for 10 people in an air-conditioned bus (minimum of eight people), last about six hours. For the $200 minimum fee, Mr. Singer will also conduct tours for individuals.

* The Brooklyn Historical Society, 128 Pierrepont St., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11201, (718) 624-0890, organizes about 12 walking tours a year of various neighborhoods in the borough, the fee for which is usually about $10 a person for nonmembers.

The next tour, on Feb. 4, is called "Exploring Brooklyn's Chinatown," on and around Eighth Avenue. Other tours will be announced in the society's newsletter and calendar, published three times a year.

* Big Apple Greeters, 1 Center St., 20th Floor, New York, N.Y. 10007, (212) 669-2896, pairs volunteer guides with out-of-towners with the aim of improving New York's worldwide image.

Since the organization was started in May 1992, it has shown off the five boroughs to 6,000 visitors from 44 states and 56 countries. Tours usually last two to four hours and are free, although visitors who enjoy the service can make a donation to the group.

Q: I have heard about a New York-based club that puts out a directory of kosher restaurants. Can you give me any more information?

A: The group you have in mind is the Kosher Club, which publishes a directory of more than 1,300 kosher restaurants, cafes, takeout spots, resorts, hotels and other facilities in the United States and abroad.

The directory covers Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, England, France, Spain, South Africa, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan and, of course, Israel.

It covers such subjects as the food offered, ambience, size, prices and hours, and gives the name, address, phone number and affiliation of the rabbi or certifying agency. A $49.95 annual membership in the club ($5 for additional family members) also brings discounts at 600 kosher restaurants, resorts and hotels, and discounts on car rental and travel, including packages to Israel.

For more information: the Kosher Club, 82-84 Genung St., Middletown, N.Y. 10940; (914) 244-1933; fax, (914) 343-4860.

Q: I plan to visit Valencia, Spain, in March for the festival of Las Fallas. Can you tell me more about it?

A: The fallas that give their name to the festival are very large painted and decorated wood or papier-mache figures depicting everything from politicians and movie stars to flamenco dancers and bullfighters.

Some 300 to 400 fallas, which can be up to 45 feet in height and weigh 8 to 10 tons, are erected in the streets of Valencia during the festival, to be held from March 12 to 19 next year. As many as 1,000 smaller fallas surround the larger ones, plans for which have to be approved by a festival commission.

The whole event is marked by parades, fireworks and music, with March 15, called the Noche de la Planta, seen as the festival's real starting date.

On that day the fallas will be paraded through the city on floats, accompanied by large crowds and bands. A variety of celebrations will follow, including an exuberant floral parade for the Virgin of the Helpless.

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