New York City

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.

 

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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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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J is for Jet Lag

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MY NEW YORK ADVENTURE A-Z BLOGGING CHALLENGE

Although I am blogging about my adventures in New York for this April challenge, this wasn’t the only place that I visited in the summer of 2013.

Connecticut, Boston, Toronto and Vancouver were also on the list of destinations that we would visit.

Sightseeing and meeting members of the family that I had never encountered before meant that it really was a three week adventure, rather than a holiday.

We used the transportation of cars and planes to carry out  our schedule. We flew from Boston to Toronto, Toronto to Vancouver and flew home from Vancouver which was an even longer flight than our Manchester to New York outbound flight.

With all of that flying, and all of the different time zones it was inevitable that jet lag would kick in at some point.

Now I had never experienced jet lag before, given that my previous flights were all around Europe and I think the longest flight I had taken was three hours.

Jet lag hit me like a baseball bat when I flew back to Manchester from Vancouver.

Thank goodness the next day was a Bank Holiday Monday as I felt absolutely dreadful. I felt like all of the energy had been drained out of me and the simplest task such as making a cup of tea felt like a real physical effort.

I couldn’t eat and remember my speech being affected too. It was the most peculiar thing. The energy drain only lasted 24 hours. This was followed by waking up in the middle of the night and being fully awake. In contrast to the afternoon when I could have quite easily fallen asleep at my desk.

At work I had our exam reassessment board a couple of days later and thinking I wouldn’t be able to get through it as I felt so exhausted.

Luckily the jet lag seemed to go after a few weeks. A small price to pay for having had the adventure of a lifetime.

I is for Imagine

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MY NEW YORK ADVENTURE A-Z BLOGGING CHALLENGE

Most people remember what they were doing when key historical events take place.

I was six years old when John Lennon was shot dead outside his apartment in New York City on December 8, 1980. I can recall that day as clearly as if it happened yesterday.

My elder sister and I had been picked up from school on December 8, which was unusual as we normally walked the short distance back to our house in Garstang.

My sister and I loved The Beatles. Our parents were both The Beatles fans so we grew up in a house which played The Beatles a lot. We were even allowed to borrow my dad’s vinyl’s, which was a big deal back then.

Big sister and I used to argue over which one of us would marry John Lennon. Typical middle child that I am, I was always willing to compromise and take Paul McCartney if I must. But we both idolised John Lennon.

That day, after school my mum took us to a shop in Garstang called Carrs which was a confectioners situated on the high street. Mum bought both of us an ice cream and as we sat in the back of her car she told us that John Lennon was dead.

My sister started crying. I was shocked, carried on eating the cone and couldn’t really understand what I was being told. I remember asking my mum whether this meant that The Beatles would never make any new songs?

Fast forward thirty-three years and I find myself standing by the John Lennon memorial inside Central Park, New York City.

The memorial is at the edge of the park next to the entrance which Lennon’s apartment, the Dakota Building overlooks. To get to the memorial the public have to walk through a green area called Strawberry Fields and then the memorial is ahead.

On the day that I visited this there was a man singing lots of old Beatles songs which just added to the atmosphere of the park. I told the tale to my son of how I found out about John Lennon dying and then we walked over to the Dakota Building.

It was a surreal moment, who’d have thought that six-year old Sarah sitting in her mum’s Vauxhall Viva eating mint choc-chip ice-cream would end up standing outside the legend’s home in the Big Apple.

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