Thursday, 29 May 2008

Having a Hissy Fit and Losing My Travelling Mojo

Hubby wants me to tell you about the little hissy fit I had this afternoon when we couldn't find anywhere to stay in New Haven. I went in to one hotel which had rooms for $80 (the limit that hubby has set us... what more can I say, The Holder of the Purse Strings is back) but it gave me the heebie-jeebies even with (or perhaps because of) its claim to fame of having the oldest hand-cranked elevator in America. Then we went to the Marriott, but the rooms there were $209 (and that's $129 over hubby's budget...) so we drove out of town a bit to look for a motel as they are usually much cheaper (and oh so lovely...). We pulled in to the forecourt of one motel and promptly turned round again as even hubby admitted it didn't look very nice. When we got to the road hubby turned to me and said "Which way shall we go?" and I replied "AAAAAAAARRRRRGGGGGHHHHHHH. I don't care! I don't want to be driving around at 7pm looking for a room. I don't want to do this anymore. I don't want to travel round New England for the next two weeks. I don't want to go to Australia. I don't want to go to South East Asia. I WANT TO GO HOME!!!!!" Hubby took it upon himself to turn right.

So, if anyone finds my travelling mojo I'm actually not sure whether I want it back right now. Perhaps you could keep it in a safe place for me til I calm down and maybe tomorrow everything will be lovely again when we are looking round Yale University at all the pretty buildings. Hubby says I need to go to the Library there as that will make me feel much better. I'll let you know.

Leaving New York

Today we left NYC. Hubby told me a couple of days ago that there is a song by REM which contains the lyrics "leaving New York's never easy". I assumed this meant that it was hard to tear yourself away from the city (and its shops) however, we discovered that what Michael Stipe meant when he sang the song was that it's difficult to find the I-95 which takes you out of city and in to Connecticut. We took at least three wrong turns in the desparate search for this darn road, but we got there in the end.

The first stop on our second American road trip of this round-the-world adventure was Greenwich, Connecticut. Apparently Paul Newman and Martha Stewart both live there but we didn't see either of them in the two hours we were there. We sat in the park and ate lunch in the sun (lovely weather at the moment) and then had a wander round the fancy shops (see photo of hubby in front of aptly-named restaurant), had a drink in Starbucks (of course) and then hit the road. Typically we chose rush hour to make the next part of our journey so it took about two hours to drive 40 miles along the coast to New Haven, home of Yale University. And this is where I have to start a new blog posting to enable you to fully appreciate the situation...

Monday, 26 May 2008

Two Trips to Brooklyn and an Afternoon in the Park

Saturday afternoon hubby and I made our first proper visit to Brooklyn, just across the water from Manhattan. Despite having visited NYC approximately 12 times each we have never made it that far. When we first emerged from the subway station I must admit I was a little worried that hubby had brought me to a place where I wouldn't be very happy. But a left turn here and a right turn there and we were in a much more salubrious area with shops and all sorts of things that were pleasing to the eye, with ne'ry a hobo in sight. After finding a fab deli where we had lunch and a very sweet cake shop where we shared a cupcake we came to the conclusion that we could live in Brooklyn - see how easily pleased we are? Some of the houses in Brooklyn are absolutely stunning so when we have a spare $3-4million we might buy one and move there. After admiring said houses we walked along Riverside Promenade and then down towards the Brooklyn Bridge under which can currently be found the Telectroscope. You may have heard of this marvellous feat of engineering whereby a huge two-way telescope has been buried under the Atlantic Ocean with one end at the Brooklyn Bridge and the other end at Tower Bridge in London. It allows people in NY and London to see each other simultaneously. And if you don't believe me, have a look at the website:

See! So, hubby and I duly queued up to have a look at London and its strange people.

Having recovered from the shock, we then got the water taxi around the bottom of Manhattan and up the other side to the Greenwich Village stop. It wasn't until we'd actually got on the boat that I remembered our last boat journey and began to regret the decision to "live life on the edge" by choosing to travel by water rather in the confines of the subway, safely ensconced under thousands of tons of earth and concrete. I announced to hubby that once we have finished this globetrotting adventure I'm never travelling anywhere by sea or air ever again. It's just not natural.

Our second trip to Brooklyn occurred the following day when we paid a visit to The River Cafe for a sumptuous and wallet-thumping brunch (remember I told you a few postings ago that we've given up backpacking for the more expensive past-time of "flashpacking"?) But you really can't beat the service, the views or the food (although hubby was a little disappointed and confused by his parsnip soup.)

And today, Memorial Day in the USA (a combination of Remembrance Sunday and a Bank Holiday in the UK), we spent a large chunk of the afternoon in Central Park with pretty much the entire population of NYC. Unlike the weather in the UK, this weekend has been a scorcher here in the city. As hubby said, "You know how the Brits go to Benidorm to get some sun? Well, this is clearly where New Yorkers come." As always in this wonderful country, there were plenty of people-watching and people-listening opportunities for those of us with eyes hidden behind sunglasses, and flappy ears twisting and turning at ten-to-the-dozen. Much fun,

But, but, but! Even better than all of the above. We found the other Magnolia Bakery shop near Central Park and THERE WAS NO QUEUE! Excuse capitals, but I have to show you how excited I am. I bought 4 cupcakes. Remarkably restrained I'm sure you'll agree. If hubby hadn't been there I'd probably have bought a lot more. But he reminded me that I already had a choc chip muffin and a peanut butter brownie in my bag so 4 cupcakes was probably more than enough. Humph. Spoilsport.

Saturday, 24 May 2008

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Overexcited Audience

Friday afternoon hubby and I made a return trip to The London Bar. It was quite brave of us really since yesterday we made off with one of their pens as a souvenir and in an attempt to recoup some of the money we had paid out for afternoon tea, but we wanted somewhere nice to meet our friend Gordon who is over here for a week. Gordon was kind enough to bring some contact lenses over for me, which was a great relief as I was down to my very last pair. So we met Gordon and, later, his (slightly the worse for drink) friend Ted who was very excited to be making his first visit to NYC – “like a kid in a toy shop” as he put it. Spent about 3 hours chatting and catching up – it was great for us to see a face from home after nearly 19 weeks. But even better, we actually saw our first “celebrity” since arriving in NY where we expected (wrongly, as we have since found out) to be practically tripping over them. Jean-Paul (JP) the maĆ®tre-d from The F-Word was working in The London Bar – top marks to hubby for spotting him, there’s a career at Hello magazine waiting for him (hubby, not JP) when we get back to the UK.

After saying goodbye to Gordon & Ted we went to the cinema to see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. As we have often found to be the case over here in the USA, we were more entertained by the locals than the film (although the film wasn’t too bad.) Hubby put his finger on it when he said that the longer we spend out here the more obvious it becomes just how reserved us Brits are. The audience was so excited to be watching the new Indy film, there was lots of clapping and cheering, and that was just for the previews of upcoming films. The films they obviously liked the look of got a round of applause (Kung-Fu Panda; Hancock) whereas they stayed pretty quiet for those they didn’t like the look of (Australia). Imagine the whooping that occurred when the actual film started. There was some whooping just for the screen saying ‘LucasFilm Ltd’, more whopping at the first sighting of Indy’s fedora hat, and a large amount of whooping and clapping at the first sight of Indy himself. There was plenty more clapping throughout the rest of the film, and each time hubby and I grinned at each other and said ‘Only in America.’ We just don’t get that excited in the UK, do we? Or if we do, it’s never in public.

On our way back from the cinema we stopped for some dinner at A Salt and Battery, a UK-style fish and chip shop. I had v nice fish and chips while hubby went for the sausage and chips option. Yum! Afterwards, as we walked back to the apartment at about 10.45pm I was fantasizing that perhaps the Magnolia Bakery (as seen in Sex and the City) might still be open and perhaps, finally, I would be able to try one of their famous cupcakes. Hubby and I have walked past the shop on several occasions only to find a large queue outside, and we don’t do queues. I was very hopeful that the hip and happening people of New York City would have better things to do so late on a Friday evening, but no luck. The queue was longer than ever, stretching around the corner of the block. Their cupcakes must be out of this world and I am DETERMINED to try one before we leave. They open at 9am. Would it be too sad to start queuing at 8.30am, like the Harrods’ sale?

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Jam then Cream, or Cream then Jam?

You may have already gathered that hubby & I long ago gave up the notion of “backpacking” on this round-the-world adventure, and have replaced it with what we like to think of as “flashpacking”. Today’s flashpacking event was a trip for afternoon tea in Gordon Ramsay’s place at The London Hotel, here in NYC. We had to make do with a visit to the bar area as the restaurant insists on jacket and tie for men. Hubby has only just got himself a pair of trousers after losing the legs (possibly as long ago as Mexico) to the only other pair he had. While hubby may have been happy to borrow a jacket and tie from the concierge, I happen to have highly honed sense of shame and couldn’t bear the thought of sharing a table with someone who might have been wearing a dreadful mismatched outfit.

We had a very lovely afternoon tea (well, I had coffee) served in the proper British fashion on a three-tier cake plate with crustless sandwiches at the top (egg & cress, smoked salmon, ham & mustard, roast beef & horseradish), scones in the middle, and 6 different cakes on the bottom layer. When we got to the middle layer, hubby and I piled the jam and cream on top of the scones (so much so that we had to ask the waiter to bring more), which was when I noticed that hubby layers his toppings in the order cream then jam, whereas I went for jam then cream. Hubby thinks of the cream as being like butter, hence it goes first with the jam on top, whereas I think of cream as the ultimate (and thus highest) topping. As Britishers, inventers of the afternoon tea, you think we would know which way round is correct, but we don’t. Does anyone know the answer to the correct way of applying jam and cream to a scone?

After debating which way was correct, we each continued to eat our scones in our own way. When we got to the bottom layer of cakes, I decided to let hubby eat both of the tiny little strawberry tarts as he loves them. However, I was forced to give hubby “the look” when he attempted to eat the first of said tarts in one mouthful. I wasn’t even looking when he made the attempt, but I knew it was about to happen as all the air got sucked out of the room as he opened his mouth to shove the tart in whole. Luckily I caught him just in time and I was saved from being embarrassed in front of the other afternoon tea-ers. Phew. A close escape. Hubby learnt his lesson and didn’t attempt it with the second strawberry tart, but he did decide to use up the cream that was left over from the scones by balancing it in a huge lump on top of the tart. I couldn’t complain about that though as I am a great believer in not wasting food.

This evening hubby went off to watch the Yankees play baseball while I went back to the apartment to watch the season finale (or "last episode" as we call it in the UK) of Ugly Betty. OOOOOO! What will Betty decide to do? Is it Henry or Gio? What would you do in her situation??

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Only in America, Part III

Currently running on tv over here are a series of adverts for a sandwich chain known as Quiznos. Quiznos has a special deal on $5 sandwiches and the adverts show a variety of people eating $5 bills, which is denounced as silly as they could have gone to Quiznos and got something much more filling for $5. OK, I hear you say, there's nothing particularly 'American' about that, there are stupid adverts all over the world. And, you would be right. But how many countries do you know where they would put 'Dramatization. Do not attempt' at the bottom of the screen to warn other would-be money eaters not to try this at home?!

Friday, 16 May 2008

Only in America, Part II

When we were at Brighton Beach the other day, we spotted this 'game' on the boardwalk. People were being encouraged to step on up and Shoot the Freak with a paintball gun for the princely sum of $20 for 5 shots. You may not be able to make out the 'Freak' in the photo, but he is there. Now, admittedly he did have a makeshift shield and he was wearing protective clothing but still, in a country that bans the importing of Eccles Cakes, how can it be legal to shoot at a human target?!

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Only in America: Part I

So, we were in Meyers of Keswick and we overheard an American lady asking if they still stocked Eccles Cakes. The lady working there told her that they no longer had them as they couldn't import them any more. Hubby piped up and asked why that was and was told that the US government has banned the import of Eccles Cakes! The shop lady didn't know why, she could only suggest that the government clearly thinks that they contain something that could kill people. Does anyone know what that could be?!

The American lady who was searching for the Eccles Cakes then turned to hubby and I for suggestions of alternatives from what was in the shop. She had her hands on a packet of Wagon Wheels, which we were happy to endorse. I also suggested Chocolate Digestives as being v popular in the UK; hubby suggested Fig Rolls (yuck), and we both warned her off the Garibaldi biscuits (although in hindsight they could perhaps be considered to be a freeze-dried version of Eccles Cakes). In the end she settled on a box of Mr Kipling's Battenburg Slices, which wouldn't have been our choice but each to their own. In our patriotic way we assured her that it was difficult to go wrong with a British biscuit.

A Trip to the Beach

Today we went to the beach. You can get to the beach on the subway in NYC; Brighton Beach is right at the end of the line, but it still only takes about 30mins to get there. It was v hot today so we were glad to escape the city, chill out by the sea and top up our tans which we are concerned are rapidly fading. We knew it was hot but, just as we are always naive over the strength of the sun in the UK, we didn't think we would burn and so didn't bother to take suntan lotion. Bit of a mistake because, even though we are already quite tanned, we still managed to catch the sun and hubby looks like "son of Zorro" with the marks left by his sunglasses and I look like someone who got overexcited on their first trip to Torremolinos.

When we got back from the beach we had a wander round the shops (just for a change) in Greenwich Village and Chelsea. Hubby was so very, very excited when we made our second visit to Meyers of Keswick, a shop which sells foodstuffs imported from the UK. On our first visit, hubby availed himself of a bottle of Heinz Salad Cream for the princely sum of $5. Today, he was "jump up and down on the spot" excited to see they had bottles of Vimto in stock, and forked out another $5. Despite salivating over tinned Heinz Treacle Sponge Pudding and Chocolate Hob Nobs, I restrained myself for the sake of the chocolate cupcake which I had waiting back at the apartment. While we were in Meyers we overheard (and joined in with) a conversation which has prompted me to start a new "Only in America" sideline blog posting. So, please read the next post to see what the conversation was about.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Life in The Big Apple

I can't believe we have been here for a whole week! The time is just flying by. Thanks goodness we've got three weeks left cos there's no way I'd be able to fit all those shops in otherwise, not to mention the restaurants, cafes, Starbucks...

Last night we went to Yankee Stadium to see the Yankees (not the Mets, which is who I thought we were going to see - durrr) vs the Cleveland Indians. It was soooo much fun. Basically a baseball match seems to be just a big old eating, drinking and talking fest for the people there, with this little bit of sport going on in the background as a vague distraction. I spent most of my time watching all that was going on around me, although I did watch a bit of the baseball too. There's a great tradition whereby the "beer man" and the "dog man" walk round with crates of beer and hot dogs and you call out to them with your order and then, if you're sitting in the middle of a row as we were, you pass your money from hand-to-hand, person-to-person along the row and then your beer and/or hot dog gets passed back along. No one bats an eyelid at having to perform this task umpteen times during a game. If you happen to order a bag of peanuts you better be a good catch as they just get thrown at you from a great distance. In the UK I bet none of it would ever be allowed for health and safety reasons.

And then, an even better tradition which is just so amazingly funny, is the YMCA dance routine that the groundskeepers perform while raking the sand between innings. It was just brilliant, with the whole stadium singing, clapping and dancing along. You MUST look at this link on You Tube to see what goes on.

Brilliant. This is why I love America - the Americans have so much fun!

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

News from our political correspondent

Usually (as in 99.999% of the time) I have absolutely no interest whatsover in politics, as it is mightily boring. However, here's a hearty "huzzah" for jolly old Bozza! The delightfully-coiffed Boris Johnson, Henley MP, has become Mayor of London. The downside of this is that us Henley types were rather proud to have Bozza as our MP and now we will have to do without him. I've just read that his father, Stanley, would like to take over the seat, but I'm just not sure his hairdo is up to scratch. What do you think? For those of you unfamiliar with Bozza, he's the one at the top.

Interestingly, I've just read that Boris was born in New York, which leads me neatly in to my next blog posting...

Monday, 5 May 2008

Three Comedy Moments

Comedy Moment No.1
Hubby went to the toilet at the restaurant where we were having dinner on our last night in PdC. He didn’t tell me this straight away, but waited until we had finished our meal in order not to worry me too much, although had I ordered fish he says he would have told me sooner. In the gents were several pieces of salmon defrosting on top of the hand dryer. They were wrapped in clingfilm, so no worries from a hygiene point of view.

Comedy Moment No.2
Occurred at the same restaurant. Not long after we got there, a chap working at the restaurant asked if he could take our photo; we figured it would get reproduced in some delightfully tacky way and they would try to sell it to us later. Well, we were right, but never in a million gazillion years could we ever have guessed in what format said photo would be offered to us. Just after the end of our meal the chap reappeared clutching a bottle of Corona beer. In place of the normal label, there we were! Never in all my days have I seen anything so dreadful! And that’s saying something after the tat shops in PdC. He really tried to sell it to us by telling us it was genuine Mexican beer and a great souvenier of our visit, all for the bargain price of $10US. Unbelievable. We had spent part of the meal thinking of excuses to give when the chap came back with our lovely photo but all those excuses went out the window when we saw the beer bottle and all we could do was laugh. And, no, we didn’t buy it.

Comedy Moment No.3
Occurred in the check-in queue at Cancun airport. In front of us in said queue was an American family who all had very large suitcases. One of the girls had TWO very large suitcases, and I really do mean LARGE, one was maybe 3ft high and 2ft across and the other was only slightly smaller. She couldn’t even lift the larger one. Hubby started talking to them and mentioned how much luggage they had which was when they told us they’d only been on holiday for a week. Unbelievable. The girl with the two cases admitted she hadn’t even worn half of the clothes she had packed. She also started panicking when she saw the sign saying there was a 50lb maximum weight per item for two pieces of luggage (so that's 100lb in total!); she was taking stuff out of one bag and putting it in the other, then putting other stuff in her hand luggage and giving other stuff to her fellow travellers. Goodness only knows what she had in there. But best of all was her comment “They shouldn’t make suitcases so big if they didn’t want people to fill them”. To give her her due, she has got a point.