Friday 16 June 2006, 6:41 am

Right now we are on the New York Thruway driving from Utica to Buffalo. Mary has volunteered to drive so I can catch up on the blog.

Thursday June 15

Today we went into Brooklyn to visit our friends Steve and Sydelle Gansl. We started the day on the wrong foot by oversleeping, then continued awry as we got lost on city streets in Newark on the way to Staten Island. (I think the easiest way to get to Brooklyn without hitting a lot of traffic is over the Verrizanno Narrows Bridge, but I didn't count on getting lost.) (This is the last time I will look for directions on Google Maps ... Mapquest has always served me well.)

Sydelle was still able to show us lots of stuff in Brooklyn. We started by going to Coney Island to have lunch at the original Nathan's. We didn't walk around Coney Island at all; we just ate at some tables next to the street. I got a good photo that I hope to post later.

Sydelle told us lots of stories about "Little Russia." Apparently Russian immigrants settled in the neighborhoods around Coney Island and kicked out the bad guys that had been there previously. So now that area is pretty safe.

She brought us to two special places for views. The Promenade is a beautiful walkway on top of two levels of freeway along the Hudson River. Sydelle says it appears in the first scene of most Woddy Allen movies, and it did look very familiar even though we'd never been there before. There are great views of Manhattan and walking there with Mary was very romantic. Sydelle also brought us to the River Cafe, a restaurant underneath the Brooklyn Bridge. We had seen this previously when the guide of our Circle Line cruise pointed it out from the water. Since it is right underneath the bridge, the views of the bridge are pretty amazing. It's not just the underside of the bridge, but the smaller cables on top stand out in relief when viewed from underneath. There is also a dock there with plaques that describe and commemorate the bridge. There is also some poetry in the fencing around the dock.

Sydelle drove us past all the beautiful brownstones in Brooklyn Heights. Mary reminds me that we also saw some houses that were converted carriage houses.

We finished up the afternoon at a store called Amazing Savings" It is sort of like a Big Lots on steroids. Mary stocked up on lots of rubber stamps, paper punches, and crafty stuff.

Late in the evening they took us to the Sahara Mediterranean Restaurant. The owner is Greek, and our waitress seemed to speak mostly Greek. We were able to get by and order a large appetizer plate and chicken skewers.

We've heard New York described as a city of immigrants over and over since we've been here. Truly, we've found that the only people we can converse with here are other tourists. By and large, the shopkeepers and restaurant workers do not speak much English at all. It seems everyone just takes all this in stride. Our experience at the Sahara restaurant did not faze us at all.