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Q is for Queens

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Whilst we were visiting New York City last summer we only ventured into Queens twice.

The first time was landing at JFK Airport which is situated in Queens, and we did see a little part of Queens as we got on the bus to the City.

We were able to see some affluent areas, but also a number of areas which appeared deprived. However, these could be just the perception of our own version of what a deprived area looks like where we live.

The second time was via the subway as we went to a New York Mets game on our final night in the Big Apple. The Mets play at Citi Field in the Flushing Meadows Park.

It was only a short walk from the subway stop to Flushing Meadows.

I’ve mentioned this in a previous posting. None of us knew anything about baseball but we’d decided we wanted to try and experience as much of the American culture as we could.

This included American sports. Ideally we would have loved to catch some NHL hockey whilst on our adventure, but we were there in the off season. So, baseball was the only sport we could experience during the month of August.

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P is for pancakes

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I love breakfasts in New York City.

My favourite breakfast of all time is pancakes, bacon and maple syrup.

I have this breakfast at home quite a lot as my husband is the best at making pancakes the proper way, just like in the States.

So, my first morning in New York City we found a diner near to our hotel. I was amazed that diners are open at 6am when we ventured out, but they were and we weren’t the only people up at that time in the morning.

I couldn’t resist ordering pancakes for breakfast. I was adamant that I would experiment with food while we were aware and come out of my comfort zone. But I just couldn’t resist pancakes and coffee.

However, I was not prepared for the size of the pancakes that I was served. Huge, and I mean huge in that they completely filled the plate and there were three of them.

Three giant pancakes, lashings of bacon done just the way I like it and smothered with maple syrup. As I am typing this I can vision it myself, and my mouth is watering.

What a delicious start to my stay in New York!20140403-234333.jpg

O is for Other Things

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MY NEW YORK ADVENTURE A-Z BLOGGING CHALLENGE

There are a couple of things to bear in mind when visiting the Big Apple.

The food is very cheap, and I have already marvelled at the “all you can drink” coffee that gets refilled for as long as you sit in a diner/restaurant, but what I didn’t mention is tipping.

The waiters/waitresses are paid minimum wages which is really low and they rely on tips to pay their bills (or so I have been told).IMG_5376

We always put a tip of between 10% and 20% onto the food bill no matter how good/bad the food was. The reason being as above, but also because the staff in New York were always so friendly, polite and helpful. If you need tips to pay the rent then of course you will be polite, but nevertheless it was a fraction of the normal food bills we have on the rare occasion we dine out in Manchester.

Prior to going to America I was told a few stories (surprisingly by people who hadn’t actually travelled over the Atlantic so no doubt were confusing  their facts with television). One story was that New Yorkers hate us British.

That may be so, but in no part of my five days in the City did I experience anybody being rude to us. In fact I found the opposite. Whenever we stood on a street with our map in front of us trying to find our next destination, every single time a New Yorker would stop and ask if they could help us.

Let me tell you if you were standing with a map open in Manchester you would be ignored and would end up having to ask for directions. As for London? – well the folk in London would never notice you as they never look up from the ground to make eye contact with anyone. And yes, I have experienced this in London where the code on the underground is to stare at the floor.

Secondly, I cannot stress enough how important it is for you to make sure you have decent, comfortable shoes for walking around in. I didn’t fully appreciate how large New York City is and how much walking we would do, and I got blisters, sore heels and swollen feet. Thank goodness for the Nike shop who kitted me out with trainers that felt like I was walking on cushions.

Finally, plan your days. We didn’t end up doing half of the things we wanted to as we misjudged how much we could fit into a day.

But for anybody reading this who hasn’t been to New York yet – I am really jealous. It is fantastic, the most exciting city I have visited so far on my journey and I will certainly be back there to see her again.IMG_4777 - Copy

Nine Eleven Memorial

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Everybody remembers where they were the day those two hijacked aeroplanes flew into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre. September 11, 2001.

I’d not long been in a new job after having my second son when my boss ran out of her office and told us all that New York was being bombed.

We gathered around her computer (only senior staff had the internet on their PCs back then) and watched /listened (depending on how close to the desk you were) to the atrocities that were happening across the pond.IMG_4828

As I listened in horror all I could think of was thank goodness it was thousands of miles away.

My boss then looked into all of our eyes and told us all to go home, spend time with our children and that the office was closed for the rest of the day. She was a remarkable leader.

I collected my young sons and did what most people did that afternoon.

I sat and watched the news, trying to explain to my five year eldest son what had happened in New York.  Together we spoke about all of the children who had lost their parents, and parents who had lost their children in those few minutes.

So, nearly twelve years later it felt surreal standing next to the foundations of where those towers used to soar. I wasn’t thousands of miles away now. I was right there, standing in the middle of a massacre site.

As I looked up into the sky I tried to imagine what it must have been like on 9/11 and what it must have been like for those thousands of people who were caught in the towers and had no way out.IMG_4848

It’s difficult not to visit the memorial and not think about those images that are forever photographed into my mind of the towers on fire, the people hanging out of the windows and those who felt that there was nothing else left other than to throw themselves out from the windows.

It could have been easy for the memorial fund to just make the site some sort of tourist circus ground with selling merchandise etc.

The ground is anything but that. It is a respectful place of rest for those souls that perished on that fateful day.

It was refreshing to visit it and for it not to be exploited as a tourist attraction.

Firstly, it is free to enter and the only money you are asked for is a voluntary donation which gives you a wrist band in return. That is all. All money raised through donations is given back to the Memorial Fund.

The site of the two towers is very peaceful even though there are crowds of visitors. Everybody is probably thinking the same thing that I was. What was it like being there on that fateful day?

I felt a long way from home when I was standing beside the South Tower reading all of the names on the stone surfaces which surround the imprint of the Towers foundations.

Listening to the water falling into the foundations also adds to the serenity of the moment.

SURREAL.

MOVING.

NEVER FORGET.

 

Thank you

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Before I begin today’s blog entry, I’d just like to thank everybody who has visited my blog in April, and especially those who have written comments to me. It means a lot that so many people have been in touch to say that they are enjoying these posts either people who have been to New York City, and those who are going in the future.IMG_2023

I’m currently recovering from surgery which I had at the beginning of the month which is part of the reason I signed up to do this.

I knew I would feel slightly down about recovering from surgery as I am such an active person. But, every day has given me enjoyment as I can recoil to my fond memories of August 2013.

Writing is the one thing I truly enjoy doing, my number one hobby and it makes it even more worthwhile when I know that somebody has read something of mine and decides to spent their time in sending me feedback.

Thank you.

Best Wishes

Sarah

Northern Scribbler

Mad Men meets the Mets

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MY NEW YORK ADVENTURE A-Z BLOGGING CHALLENGE

Two very different subjects to be discussed in todays blog for the letter M in the April A-Z challenge.

MAD MEN

Think late 1950s/early 1960s New York and a certain television show set not only in that era but on the legendary Madison Avenue. The characters Don Draper, Pete Campbell and Peggy Olsen will spring to mind if you are a big Mad Men fan like myself.Mad Men

The Mad Men are tailored to perfection and adored by their women both in the office and at home. They work hard, play hard and drink even harder. It’s hard not to love each character as although some of them are plain male chauvinists, you can’t help but feel compassion towards them as they show the audience their flaws. That’s what makes a great television show I suppose.

Being a fan of the show meant that of course I booked a place on the Mad Men Tour in New York City. Whilst  husband and son adventured around Central Park Zoo I took part in this tour which I’d booked when I first found out that we were going to New York.

The tour guide whose name I can’t even remember met me outside one of the swanky Central Park hotels. He informed me that there should have been a party of ten people also taking the tour but they’d had to cancel. So, it was just the tour guide and me.

Anyone who knows me will know that I spent the first twenty minutes checking out the route that we were going, and making sure that this “tour-guide” wasn’t some crazy psycho who was going to lead me into the Waldorf-Astoria and drag me into one of the suites where I would be bound and tortured.

It was in fact a tour of some of the hotels which featured in Mad Men, and ended at the Blue Oyster bar in Grand Central Station where the guide bought me a beer and we chatted about acting and screenwriting. Not sure it was worth the $45 that I paid but I was certainly glad I went on it.

When I think of Mad Men I think of the glitz and glamour of working in Sterling Cooper Pryce Draper advertising agency.

METS

Then I think of the Mets. Tight pants, fat arses, overweight men swinging a club about trying to hit a ball on a large field which let’s face it, it’s really just fancy rounders isn’t it?

We’d never been to a baseball game before so before we left the UK we’d already bought tickets to see the New York Mets.

The Mets are the professional baseball club based in Queens, New York.

One thing that amused us is that the stadium is on the flightpath from La Guardia airport (well we presume it is that one). Planes were taking off every couple of minutes which amused us as we sat there cacking ourselves watching these massive silverbirds flying over the top of us.

We didn’t really understand what was going on, but we joined in anyway. We were amazed by the different goodies that were for sale and were brought around by various vendors. You didn’t need to get up off your seat for anything (apart from using the toilets). There was a beer guy, a hot dog guy, crisps guy, candy floss guy and a popcorn guy. I bet there were other goodies guys in the stadium too (it was a big stadium).

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L is for Liberty

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MY NEW YORK ADVENTURE A-Z BLOGGING CHALLENGE

When you think of New York then images from the big screen automatically spring to mind.

The Manhattan skyline, the flurry of yellow cabs, Rockefeller Plaza and of course Lady Liberty overlooking the spectacular city, or the Statue of Liberty as she is most commonly known as.

The statue’s full name is Liberty Enlightening The World and she was given to the Americans as a gift from their French neighbours in 1886.IMG_5149

She’s had more film credits than Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep combined, and she still attracts millions of visitors every year.

She was certainly right up there on my wish list of places to visit whilst in New York.

For as long as I can remember I’ve always wanted to see the Statue of Liberty as she defines New York City to me.

When you’ve grown up watching a lot of movies and television shows as I had, I used to dream of the day that I would get to strut around NYC and say hello to her. Who can forget how she came to life in Ghostbusters 2, she opened up the credits on New Jack City and was featured in Sex and the City several times over the series.

Oh Lady Liberty how I adore thee!

My dream of strutting around NYC faded when I had children quite young. My friends were going on holidays abroad and travelling when I was stuck at home raising a baby. For many years we could barely pay the rent and bills. Luxury for us was being able to dine out once a month. Holidays were certainly not on the agenda for many years.

The whole flying thing became a real issue too so I didn’t ever believe that I would see the Statue of Liberty, unless someone could drug me like BA Barracus in the A Team and get me on a plane that way.

So last year when the dream became a reality and those flights to New York were booked I felt like a child on Christmas Eve.

You can imagine how emotional I became walking from the subway at Battery Park station for the first time and seeing Liberty in the distance.

It felt like I was in slow motion. Husband and son walked ahead and I just stood in the middle of the crowds exiting the subway exits, staring into the distance with my eyes transfixed on this robed lady holding up her torch.

“She’s there, right in front of your eyes Sarah” I heard my inner voice tell me. I do believe there was a tear, and a quivering lip as I stared at her. Beautiful!

My dream like state was quickly interrupted by son dragging my hand and telling me he wanted a hot dog. Thats’ kids for you, they sure can spoil a moment.

I’ve had a lot of moments like that in the past ten years. You’ll read about the flying thing a lot because it really has been the biggest fear in my life that I’ve had to overcome. And, because of that being a factor for so long, well there are a lot of places that I want to visit before I am old and senile.

If you’d read my entry for E, the Empire State Building blog you would read how we were kind of duped into buying tickets for the Empire State Building which also included a boat trip to Liberty Island. I asked the vendor really clearly, “Can we get off the boat to walk around the statue?” He was adamant that yes we could.

Of course he’ll say that, he was on commission for the family tickets we were about to purchase. It was the day after when we took the boat ride, and that boat was stopping for nobody. The journey was “quick get the camera, quick get the iPad, quick the camcorder, quick the iPhone”.

That was probably my only regret from the trip. I wish we would have paid separately and got one of the boats that did stop as it felt a little rushed sailing past it.

But never mind, the lady will still be there when I visit again someday.

Next time I’ll stop by and say hello properly to her.IMG_5150

K is for Kids

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MY NEW YORK ADVENTURE A-Z BLOGGING CHALLENGE

Only one of my “kids” came to New York with husband and I last summer. The elder of my boys accompanied his grandfather to Ohio for a couple of weeks before meeting up with us for a family week in Vancouver, which was our third and final week away.

As parents we both agree that it’s very important that our children experience as many things that are offered to them as possible.

My eldest son was eight when he first went away with his grandfather to Ireland for five weeks. Then two years later he went to the USA with grandfather for four weeks. It was an awful time for me as I missed him so much, but that certainly wasn’t grounds to not let him go.

Some people don’t understand why I would let my youngish children spent such long periods away from home to go on holidays. I think a bit of it was implying that I was a bad parent for doing it, as I know of some parents who don’t even like their children going away with school for a weekend.

Of I only feel rest when my two boys are in their beds at home, but I love my children and I want them to experience everything they can, even if it means that I miss them dearly for periods of time.

They of course won’t appreciate all of the trips that they have been on already until they are older.

In New York I made sure that my youngest son did lots of different things, so that when he looks back in years to come, hopefully he will be glad he did them.

Things like dancing on the ‘Big’ piano in FAO Schwarz, cycling and horse drawn carriage transportation around Central Park, seeing the stone lions outside the New York Public Library (once we got home and watched Ghostbusters he understood why I made a big deal out of that), watching a baseball game, singing in Times Square, seeing the T-Rex in the Natural History Museum and then watching Night at the Museum when we got home and visiting the 9/11 Memorial Site at the World Trade Center.

Both my boys have been on many holidays and experienced a variety of cultures in their young lives. We’re not rich parents, we don’t have a fancy house, we have no savings but  we both agree that holidays are more important than having a pristine house, fancy cars or a conservatory like some people.

We’ve got plenty of time when the kids are older to spend a fortune on the house. As far as I’m concerned they are only young once and I would rather them have a culturally rich life and look back with fondness on the adventures that their mum and dad took them on, rather than how expensive the wallpaper in the lounge was, or the wooden floor being changed every couple of years.

Travelling was something that came late in life to me. I say late, I was thirty-three when I went on my British Airways fear flight.

Followers of my blog will know that I had a crippling phobia of flying for many years.

The best thing I ever did was investing money into a fear of flying course and a course of hypnotherapy sessions.

Life is certainly enhanced by travelling. The best times of my life are when I am learning about a new country, language or different customs.

With a trip to Egypt coming up later in the year, I hope to visit Sri Lanka, Thailand and maybe Australia one day.

I hope my kids continue to explore this beautiful earth that we live in when they are all grown up with families of their own.

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