Archive for December, 2010

Snow Day and Space Dinosaurs

Following the Boxing Day “Snowpocalypse” we were a little snowed in on Monday, so we had a chilled out day in the apartment. Not much to report there apart from continuing oven issues, even with Teia showing us how to use it, we can’t light it ourselves … fail!


On Tuesday we decided to brave the 30 inches of snow outside, the plan being Grand Central Station, Barnes and Noble, Tiffanys, FAO Schwarz (for Olivia’s birthday present), then the Guggenheim museum.

Our first stop was Grand Central Station and we did the typical touristy taking of photos before heading towards 5th Avenue to go to Barnes and Noble. (After 3 days of planning to do this I am SO happy to finally have something to read!) While having a quick sandwich lunch in “FoodWorld” we decided that 10 blocks to FAO Schwarz and Tiffany’s wasn’t really fair on Hannah and her bad knee, so we went back to the subway to go to the Guggenheim. After (slightly inaccurate) directions from a helpful passerby who saw us pull out our map we found it, and also discovered that entry was $18 each, although Liz and I were still keen to go, Modern Art isn’t really Hannah’s thing, so we agreed to go another day when she was doing something else to save her paying that much for something she wasn’t overly keen on to start with. We decided to go to the Space Dinosaur Museum (American Museum of Natural History) so we ventured across a snowy Central Park to get there. Arriving in the crowded entrance we discovered that it was also expensive, but since it was something we were all keen to do, out came the credit card. We were quite shocked to have to pay extra for the “Journey to the Stars” show, but again, all wanting to see it we didn’t have much of a choice. We quickly realised that we had left ourselves nowhere near enough time to see everything, so we split up to look at all the dinosaurs that we each wanted to, then met up again to go to the Planetarium. The show was really cool (and narrated by Whoopi Goldberg!) maybe not $8 worth, but still good. After the show we wandered around the various space exhibits and then realising that we had about 20 minutes left until closing time. I was keen to see the rocks and minerals and the gemstones so taking the map I hurried over to the other side of the museum to see them… it was REALLY far. By the time I got there, pausing briefly to take more photos of the MOST AWESOME CHRISTMAS TREE EVER! (Photos are in the photostream on the right – it was decorated with origami dinosaurs), I only had 10 minutes left before closing time, but I managed to see everything I wanted to, and to take lots of pictures of rocks and minerals… like mother like daughter… at least there weren’t any for me to collect and take home! Heading back to the main entrance to meet the others I also found an amazing photography display with some really stunning pictures of birds, I also managed to detour through the Hall of African Mammals which I wanted to see. All in all, a brilliant whistle-stop tour of the museum, but we have all agreed that it needs revisiting when we are back in New York in June.

As the museum closed we headed down to the very busy subway to catch a train back to Brooklyn. After dinner in the apartment we headed out to Peaches for a few drinks and then to Wine Therapy for one drink before heading back home through the snow.


Christmas Day and Boxing Day

We stayed in on Christmas Day so there is not really much to report. Lunch was a bit of a disaster as we weren’t able to light the oven so we jointed the chicken and pan fried the breasts. We tried phoning the owner to ask how to light the oven, but she was out and didn’t answer her phone. We watched Die Hard and the girls went out later on for a drink, but I didn’t really fancy it so stayed in.


Boxing day was pretty busy. We were out of the apartment by about 10ish and heading for Times Square to queue for tickets to see a show. I should mention that at this point we were quite excited about the few sparse snowflakes that were falling as we walked to the subway. When we arrived in Manhattan it was snowing a bit harder, but not put off by this we went to join the TKTS queue. After about 10 minutes we realised that it was just the queue for matinee tickets and we wanted to get an evening show. After consulting one of the staff there we were told to come back at 3pm for evening tickets. We headed towards 5th Avenue to do some shopping, via a coffee shop for bagels and coffee (hot chocolate for me). The first shop we came across that we had planned to visit was FAO Schwarz so we quickly headed inside out of the snow. We spent a good hour and a half there, looking around the various displays of toys. Including the Harry Potter section with the shelves labeled as the various shops in Diagon Alley, the Barbie table football and various demonstrations of toys. The highlight of the trip was definitely the big piano, a giant dance on piano where Lizzie and I joined the queue with loads of kids to have a go. It was great fun, and Hannah took some photos and a video which I will attempt to post at a later date. We realised that it was getting close to 2 and we wanted to join the tickets queue early so we headed back to Times Square to join the queue. It was really snowing quite heavily at this point so by the time we reached the front of the queue we all looked like snowmen, but with our tickets to Avenue Q in hand for that evening, we headed back to Fifth Avenue for the rest of the afternoon, our mission, snow boots for Hannah and maybe a computer as well as a trip to Barnes and Noble. Walking through the driving snow, we’re talking proper blizzard at this point, we did not manage to find any of the shops we were looking for, and after walking several blocks with time ticking on we decided to go and find the theatre and get something to eat before the show. Back in Times Square we stopped in a pharmacy for tissues for me and Liz and a knee support for Hannah and then in Foot Locker where we finally managed to find Hannah some boots, which look amazingly warm. Finding the street that the theatre was on, we headed into TGI’s for some supper. Everything was pretty expensive, so we all went for appetizers and shared a basket of chips. My nachos were so enormous that I couldn’t even finish them, so I was glad that I went for a starter. At this point we were vaguely watching the weather reports on the TVs above the bar, seeing reporters covered in snow in the middle of a blizzard – where were they? Times Square, oh that’s where we are! With 40 minutes or so to go until the performance braved the snow once more and set off in the direction that we *thought* the theatre was in, on reaching E 50th Street and passing the Rockefeller Center we realised that we were going the wrong way. Given the blizzard, this had taken us quite a long time and we had to practically run back several blocks to find the theatre. We eventually found it and got into our seats just as the music was starting. Avenue Q was excellent, I’ve wanted to see it for a while and I really enjoyed it and will probably be humming several inappropriate songs for a while. After the show had finished, we wrapped back up in our layers and headed back out into the snow. There were huge drifts in the sides of buildings and the strong wind meant frequent white outs as we walked along. Luckily, there was a subway station just along the street with trains to Brooklyn, so we ran in out of the snow and gradually thawed out on the ride back to the apartment. Getting off the train at Ralph Avenue we were greeted by a platform covered with snow drifts, which was certainly interesting given that we were 2 flights of stairs underground. Once we emerged onto the street we were faced with the reality of the snow without an army of people clearing it off the pavements as they had been in Manhattan. In places it was up to my thighs and it took us a couple of minutes to work out which way we were going. It is only 2 blocks to the apartment from the station but it must have taken us a good half an hour to do the walk, especially with poor Hannah struggling with her knee. Eventually we got back to the apartment and through the snow on the steps to find that the people staying downstairs had locked us out. We rang the bell, banged on the door and shouted and although we could hear them, they either didn’t hear us, or decided to leave us out in the blizzard. Luckily, on returning the night before Lizzie and Hannah had accidentally popped out the glass (plastic) in the door and knew that it was removable, so we popped it out and reached around to let ourselves in. Once in we slid the glass back in and headed upstairs to warm up and dry off, with the blizzard still howling outside.  All in all a very enjoyable day, although we were amused to find out that 30 inches of snow had fallen, and a state of emergency had been declared, while we merrily dealt with it as we went about our plans for the day.

Christmas Eve… the day we decided to head into Manhattan for the first time. Leaving the flat at about 10.30am we caught the subway to the bottom left corner of Central Park. Emerging from the subway, I couldn’t help but feel completely dwarfed by the huge skyscrapers. At the edge of the park was a Christmas market which we wandered around briefly before heading into the park. It was a glorious day and we were all content just to wander, taking photos of anything and everything. We bought food from a vendor in the park (hot dogs and pretzels…yum!) and wandered…. for HOURS! Eventually we came across a map, and a man came up and started telling us about all the things that go on in the park year round (ice rink in winter, free outdoor shakespeare in the summer etc.). Looking at the map we realised that we had completely missed the ice rink and headed back down towards it. Hannah, probably the most sensible of us all decided to forgo skating and went for a wander while Lizzie and I headed down. It was really good fun, and just amazing to look up and see all the skyscrapers so close by. No cameras were allowed on the ice so we got the camera out for a while and took turns taking photos of the other from the sidelines. This was when it all went horribly wrong… coming off the ice to take over the photography, i caught my skate on the rough ice by the entrance and fell really hard. It really hurt, but was pretty funny. Before you ask, no, there is not a photo, Lizzie was too concerned for my welfare.  We switched and she had a similar fall later on, although had enough time to twist so she fell sideways rather than straight down like I did. After a while we got quite cold so handed in our skates and went to find Hannah. Wandering out of the park we decided to go to Times Square to look at all the lights (it was getting dark by this stage). After accidentally taking the subway in the wrong direction we eventually got there. It is difficult to describe if you haven’t been there and my photos don’t really do it justice, but it is pretty incredible. We hadn’t been there too long when we spotted the Hard Rock Cafe. Hannah said she loved it, and Liz said she had never been, so we headed across to check the prices. It was still pretty early (6pm) so there wasn’t really any queue to speak of, and we quickly saw that the prices weren’t too bad. We were seated very quickly and had a really nice meal, and a very yummy cocktail. 🙂 After a brief trip to the shop we headed back out into Times Square. The lights are so bright that it looked like daylight and we wandered around for quite a while just taking it all in. Most of the shops were still open and we went into a couple, including M&M’s World, which was heaving but pretty cool. By then it was getting quite cold and late so we found a pharmacy for arnica (for my skating bruises) and cold and flu remedies for Liz and headed back to Brooklyn for much needed sleep.

After our busy day of traveling on Wednesday, Thursday got off to a slow start. Our first mission, to find a supermarket and get food for the next few days. The owner of our apartment had recommended a good supermarket a few subway stops away, we looked it up on Googlemaps and decided that it didn’t look that far and that we could walk it. In hindsight, that wasn’t such a great plan, especially on the way back with all the bags. It was right at the far end of the street we are staying on…509 houses away! The best idea of the day was taking my rucksack on wheels with us, it definitely helped on the way home. Predictably on 23rd December the supermarket was busy, and faced with strange brands it probably took us longer than most. We eventually made it home at about quarter to 2 (having arrived at the supermarket at around midday) and Liz made us mozzarella and sundried tomato sandwiches on “bimbo” bread…yes, we bought it for the name! After lunch we discussed what we were going to do for the rest of the afternoon. We decided that staying in Brooklyn for the rest of the day was a good option as it was already past 2pm and we didn’t have much daylight left. After consulting our library of travel books (seriously!) we decided to go to Coney Island right on the coast. We knew that it would be mostly closed, but wanted to see it anyway. After a lengthy tube journey we wandered out into the cold, windy afternoon. Heading towards the beach, past the closed amusements and rides, as well as completely deserted car parks we were all reminded of the film Zombieland and I must admit that I half expected a zombie to jump out at us! It was quite bizarre how deserted it was, and we will definitely be heading back in June to see how different it is with people there. After a wander along the beach taking photos and recognising landmarks from the film Two Weeks Notice it was getting dark and even windier so we got back on the train. We got off at Park Slope to have a look around and ended up buying toiletries and sorting out phones for me and Lizzie as well as searching  for a restaurant. Our restaurant search proved slightly futile since most places seemed to be mexican and had lots of onions on the menu (Hannah is allergic) so we headed back towards a pizza place recommended by Teia (who we are renting from). This was a very good move, and we had delicious pizza cooked in a wood burning pizza stove before heading back to the apartment.

Tomorrow….Central Park, Ice Skating and Times Square

We arrived at the airport at 6am on Wednesday morning, still half expecting not to fly. At that point we were a bit early to check in, but 40 mins and breakfast later, we joined the massive Delta queue. It moved surprisingly fast and we headed straight through security. Surprisingly enough, the plane left pretty much on time and we landed in New York half an hour early. Passport control was SO much easier than we thought it would be, the guy I had just chatted to me about the trip, no scary searching questions at all. Once we had reclaimed our bags we found the AirTrain and started our trip to the apartment. Changing trains was slightly entertaining, as we had to buy a ticket and then fit through quite small barriers with our suitcases… only Liz noticed that there was a door that could be pushed open if you didn’t fit, so Hannah and I probably looked VERY touristy as we shoved our suitcases under the turnstiles. On the train we phoned the owner of the apartment… first problem, she had a meeting and wasn’t going to be back at the apartment until 6.30pm, at this point it was about 1.45pm so we then wondered what to do. We decided to get out at the right place and at least find the street in the daylight. As we were walking up the road from the train station we were getting increasingly uncomfortable with the whole situation, and feeling pretty vulnerable with all our stuff with us. We decided to find somewhere to sit, and Hannah said what about here, indicating what looked like a partially dark window, we peered in and it looked like a coffee shop so we decided that it was our best option. It really was, the guys that worked there were so nice, one came forward immediately to help us with our bags. They had tea, even though I think they thought drinking it with milk was a bit weird. They gave us some advice on where we could spend the next few hours once we were done there. One of them, Jeff, got out his tube map and marked for us all the good places to go in Brooklyn as well as giving us his number in case we needed any help or wanted to meet up at any point. We headed out of there towards the place they had recommended, two blocks away, that had lots of cafes and restaurants. We found one that he had recommended right on the corner and decided to try it. We then stayed there for the next 3 1/2 hours until we could get into the apartment. It was great, we will probably be going back. Once we got to the apartment the owner Teia was lovely, she gave us advice on the safest ways to walk since they shut down the streetlights as well as on the best places to get food etc. The apartment is lovely, I’ll upload photos soon. But most importantly its warm, which is great, even though New York is nowhere near as cold as we were expecting. Today we are going to go food shopping as the cereal and milk that we managed to get at the corner shop will not cover us for lunch as well as breakfast!

Packing…suitcase attempt 1.

So, today was the day where I decided that it was high time to attempt to put my growing pile of stuff into a suitcase. I went into the attic and retrieved a possible suitcase. I then managed to fit most of the stuff on the spare bed into said suitcase. Success! Upon going downstairs and announcing this to my mother however, discovering that I had packed the *small* red bag, she said that she didn’t think I had enough stuff…we will be reviewing the suitcase contents tomorrow morning. And, following the discovery of a few clothes on the airer, definitely choosing a bigger bag…I suppose a bag that is small enough to be hand luggage is a little ambitious for a six month trip.

Attempt 1… overflow and hand-luggage items to the right!

What is in a name?

For almost as long as we have been planning this trip I have been planning to create a blog to chronicle our travels. Lizzie has a much more in depth one (see link below), this will not be quite so impressive, professional looking or thorough, but will be updated with what we are up to and photos etc. It has taken me quite a long time to come up with a name, I’ve spent days looking for ideas to no avail…everything I thought of was either horrible or already taken. This morning I was bemoaning my lack of a name to Josh (Muggleton – my academic son) on Facebook chat, he made a couple of suggestions and then, giving up said something along the lines of, “Well, when you come up with something send me the link so I can read it instead of working, a little escapism.”. I thought about it, then told him he was a genius . . . he had no idea what I was talking about. I explained and he said I could only use it if I paid back his wonderful idea by posting regularly to aid his procrastination. Thus, I have a name for my blog…”a little escapism”…