Sunday 27 October 2013

New York - Day 10

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New York - Day 10

Day 10 signalled the end of our time living it up in Midtown Manhattan, we were moving to the Southern tip of the island within the business district. We packed.... well Mike packed I shoved everything in my suit case much to his horror!

We had a couple of hours spare before we had to check out so we went and looked for the newest Cake Boss patisserie just passed Hells Kitchen and gorged on cream horns, peanut butter and chocolate cupcakes and large coffee’s! - Making the most of the last few days!

So much cake, so little time!

Mike being the lovely guy that he is then pushed me two miles just so we could buy the make up my youngest sister Nicola asked us to find. We found one of the two shops in New York that stocked the brand and Nicola was a very happy bunny as we’d managed all but one of the products she’d requested.

We got back to the Manhattan Club hotel picked up our “much heavier than when we arrived” luggage and caught a yellow taxi to the Millennium Hilton Hotel opposite the World Trade Centre plots. Our room was spacious, clean, with a humongous queen size bed with city/river views and a mini bar that we avoided after looking at the prices - £5 for a can of Coke anyone?

After we’d settled in we decided to wander around the financial district and see if we could catch another boat ride included in the New York City Pass, but after lunch I had a complete toddler-esque melt down. Exhausted and in a great deal of pain I ask Mike if I could go home for a nap! How rock and roll am I?!?

My nap turned into an epic 5hr full stop kip, whilst Mike went out and continued to wander the city alone. When I eventually woke, we watched a beautiful sunset over the Hudson, got a take away from Chipotle - a fresh and healthy range of Mexican taco’s, fajitas and burritos, and watched a pay per view movie - White 

Sunset over the Hudson River

Once the movie had finished I went back to sleep and didn’t surface until 12hrs later!! BOOM!

L x 

New York - Day 9

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New York - Day 9

By day 9 in New York I was exhausted! My pain level was going through the roof so we decided on a less intense day. We were up early as always so we picked up some giant Jumba Juices for breakfast and wandered through Central Park to the American Natural History Museum (again included in the New York City Pass).

Much like The Met you need an entire day dedicated to the Natural History Museum, we had three hours! We whizzed around as many displays and floors as possible, my favourite parts of the museum were the Mammal Halls, there were so many animals I’d never even heard of!

I have no idea what these are!

The Hall of Ocean Life was spectacular with a 94ft long model of a blue whale hanging from the ceiling and all manner of underwater creatures displayed beautifully around the hall.

This photo does not to justice!

Lastly I was very excited by the Dinosaurs; the mighty skeletons of all different types were an impressive sight although I had a thankful moment that they are extinct!

Dino - Note the size of the people!

After a whole morning at The American Natural History Museum we were due to meet a family friend of Mike’s for lunch.

We met up with Rob whole lives between the UK and New York depending on his partners work as a theatre and film Producer/Director. We met at Hotel Edison where they have a very casual diner in the foyer. 

We lunched on huge sandwiches (that took away most of in a doggy bag) and unlimited coffees.
In the 8 years Mike and I have been together I had never met Rob. I was excited to talk all things theatre, TV, movies and celebs but Rob was hilariously clueless in film stars and mentioned “that Sarah girl” from Sex and the City film, or was it TV? Lol! Of course he was talking about Sarah Jessica Parker and casually chatted about meeting Lynn Redgrave and Julie Andrews at the Tony awards! We had a really lovely relaxing afternoon!

After lunch we decided we’d book tickets to see Avenue Q at the New World Stages Theatre on West 50th Street. When we got to the theatre we were offered tickets between $70-$90 and as we were deciding the box office clerk suddenly said “Unless you come back for 20/20” we found out that 20/20 was a post Summer discount scheme were you can see 40 off Broadway shows for $20 each if you queue at the theatre 20 minute from the show - bonus!

So we went back to our hotel to start packing as we were moving to our last hotel the next morning got some frozen yogurt before the show at got back to the New World Stages at 6 to be in with a good chance of tickets (which sell on first come first served basis) there were only 5 people ahead of us and we got chatting to a young actor who was waiting for his dancer fiancé. Sadly when 7pm came round the dancer still hadn’t appeared and one of the rules of 20/20 is that all parties attending a show should be present at show time!

Mike and I got our 20/20 tickets saving ourselves a maximum of $140 and were guided to the theatres basement. Within the New World Stages venue there are several small auditoriums showing all different shows with bars and merchandise stalls in the middle of it all.

We had great seats and waited for the madness to begin! If you’ve not heard about Avenue Q you’re in for a uproarious evening watching an adult puppet musical! With songs like “The Internet is for porn” and “Everyone’s a little bit racist” and a full on puppet sex scene it is not a show for the easily offended or embarrassed. We loved it - make of that as you will!

By the time we came out of the show we were starving and wandered home looking for somewhere to eat we were getting closer to the hotel when eventually I suggested Hooters which was conveniently situated opposite our hotel! Hooters is, of course the restaurant where the waitress’ are in skimpy orange shorts and tight white t-shirts plus it’s a sports bar to boot!

In my wisdom I thought - “Boom! Girlfriend points - Ker-ching!” but I will warn you now that it you are remotely having a fat day do not go to Hooters! All of the girls are gorgeous and tiny! Luckily despite my every widening waistline I wasn’t feeling too down on myself and all the girls and bar staff were lovely!

Mike had a huge spicy burger and I went for fish tacos which were very tasty. I had to laugh at one point when Mike commented that he couldn’t read the slogan on the girls t-shirts.... Yes, Mike it was the slogans you were looking at! I couldn’t blame him at that point I was starting to look rough with pain, tiredness and all the naughty food I was eating - but I did not care - I was making the absolute most of the wonderful city I was learning to love a little bit more with everyday!

L x

Sunday 20 October 2013

New York - Day 8

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New York - Day 8

Day 8 was an incredibly hot (33c 93f) with over 80% humidity! Mike was not at happy boy! Even at 8:30am as we chugged on huge and tasty Jumba Juices’ Mike of course still had to push my ever increasing arse around - my boy was struggling.

At 9, most of 5th Avenue was still closed but we wandered into Trump Towers where there was a coffee stall. What can I say about the infamous Towers? Built by Millionaire Donald Trump... well it is exactly what I expected; pink marble floor to ceiling, gold fixtures, fittings and elevators and the foyer was a Trump trading room where you can buy all of Mr Trumps books, clothing range and even Trump Champagne - class all the way ;).

We were booked in to go on a NBC studio tour, on the way we saw The Today Show being filmed (UK This is the equivalent of This Morning in the US) outside the Rockerfella Centre.

It was September 11th so the show, among many, were remembering the events of that fateful day 12 years ago. As we walked around the city we saw many churches holding special services in memory of the fallen and even many of the shops cleared windows to place tributes too.

NBC (National Broadcasting Company) is where Saturday Night Live (SNL) and the Jimmy Fallon Show are filmed, but it has also been the home network for shows like F.R.I.E.N.D.S, The Voice & Ironside.
Our two tour guide’s Ariel and Carmen were warm, welcoming and as all tour guides are in New York - bloomin’ happy! We went into the SNL studio where the girls asked who wanted tickets to the show... and then shot us down by telling us there was a 3 year waiting list!

From one tour to another we walked to Radio CityHall where we met Joyce and Emily our next hosts. Radio City is another Rockerfeller marvel built in the Great Depression as was the Rockerfella Centre. Known as the “American People’s Palace” it’s a huge 12 acre plot that over 3 million people come to see it every year. 

Radio City Hall Foyer

Radio City Hall is beautiful, a real place of opulence and old school glamour, even the restrooms are decked out in original art deco furniture! Unfortunately we were not allowed to take any photos of the magnificent auditorium, which, at the time of our visit, was being set up to house America’s Got Talent for the series final. It is truly one of the most glorious theatres I’ve ever seen. Before we left we had an intimate Q and A with a world famous Rockette and had our photo’s taken with her too!

Art Deco Loos!

From Radio City we went to Central Park! We stopped in a little cafe’ for lunch then started to have a wander but It. Is. Huge! 778 Acre’s of huge! You can see why New Yorkers and tourists love the city haven it has become!

We found the Belvedere Castle and the Carousel but the heat was so intense we decided to take refuge in The Metropolitan Museum ofArt (The Met). As you all know by now I’m a history geek so I loved it! We had three hours at the Met but this was nowhere near long enough, you could plan a whole day dedicated to the astonishing collections, and we’ve agreed that when we return to the Big Apple we’ll do just that!

Just some of the beautiful art at the MET

We returned to Central Park where we found the famous boathouse, (featured in the movie 27 Dresses) on such a sunny day it was picturesque but all the boat’s were being put been put away for the day - muchos sadness as I was desperate to have my own chick flick rom com moment, Michael rowing me around lake, me parasol in hand - pure cheese!

The Central Park Boat House 

Sadly as we came upon the Central Park Mall as beautiful as it was, the evening was drawing in there were gangs of teenagers and groups homeless people hanging around. I suppose this is something that happens every day in every major city in the world but it was a tad unnerving, especially when police cars started patrolling the length of the Mall up, down and back again.

The Mall

After all the walking Mike was hot, and very hungry so we stopped at the Brooklyn Diner - an obvious favourite with the rich and famous with hundreds of golden plaques etched with their names dotted around the place. I enjoyed my first Lobster Roll whist Mike went for Mojito flavoured chicken - both amazing and a scrumptious end to another fabulous day in New York.

Lobster Roll - Amazeballs!

L x 

New York - Day 7

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New York - Day 7

After a week in New York, I was finally used to the accents, used to the madness of the yellow taxis and size of the coffees. So what else could we do to make ourselves at home in the Big Apple? Go on TV - of course!

Our hotel was 5 minutes from the studio/theatre where the David Letterman Late Show is filmed. So, after a quick Google, we found that if you go to the theatre at 10am, you had a chance of sign up for tickets BUT there is an extensive waiting list, so we were not too hopeful. Much like the lottery you’ve got to be in it to win it so we went along anyway.

The production staff were lively, chatty and incredibly enthusiastic about.... well everything! Firstly they loved our accents (we got that a lot during the trip!) then they sadly they found out we live in Essex  and they started shouting “Shut Up” and “Well Jel” across the studio, they were so impressed I’ve been to the infamous Sugar Hut in Brentwood and I think we made some new friends despite our tedious link to Towie (The Only Wayis Essex - UK TV show). We were told to call the team in an hour’s time to see whether we had been successful.

To kill time we went to have a look around Columbus Circle and just had to have a look in the renowned FAO Schwartz. If you’ve not heard of FAO, have you seen the Tom Hanks film Big? It’s where Hanks’ character plays the giant piano with his feet! I didn’t have a go because knowing my luck I would slip straight on my arse and break it, and since it’s worth $250,000 I was not game enough to even try!

Also in FAO they have the actual Zoltar fortune teller machine from Big so excitedly both had to have a go on that! I got a romantic one and Mike, a success fortune which you can all read below.

In FAO Schwartz they have a huge sweet pick and mix section, a build your own Muppets Puppet workshop, massive Lego displays and a whole floor dedicated to babies and toddlers, it’s a New York landmark that the world has enjoyed since 1856.

Next we visited Bloomingdales; featured in F.R.I.E.N.D.S and the movie Splash, it is another of the cities crowd drawers. We had a look inside but I hadn’t realised just how high end the stores would be! I was worried leaving a finger print on a $600 handbag would result in a forced sale! The stores and all their products were beautiful but I wasn’t going to buy anything until..... We found another Magnolia Bakery and HAD to have another red devil and chocolate butter cream cupcake - yum!!

Bloomin' lovely

Better than any designer handbag!

We finally spoke to the staff at the Late Show and low and behold we won tickets! We were told to dress smartly, avoid bright clothing and to be there by 2:30pm (Yes, the late show is actually filmed at tea time!).

We arrived at the studio to see a huge queue going around the block, luckily one of the ushers saw us and took us in to the waiting area for special accesses, away from the crowds. After a pep talk where we taught how to laugh, were warned not to “whoop!” and told to have lots of fun, we finally went into the very cold studio. 

We won the chat show lottery! 

We had a great view, we were not allowed to take photos but as you can guess I was very excited! 

After a warm up guy did a few jokes and being introduced to the Late Show House band (who were amazing!) David Letterman came on and did a little warm up chat with members of the audience; David is a complete pro after 39 years on American TV!

Finally the show started and the first guest was actor Billy Crystal, he was hilarious! Promoting his book “Still Foolin' 'Em: Where I've Been, Where I'm Going, and Where the Hell Are My Keys?” and after a long comedic and film career the whole time he was talking all I could think of was his character Mike Wazowski from Monsters Inc!

The next guest was Sheryl Crow who is tiny, and despite being 51 years old looked younger, slimmer and generally better than my 29 year old self! She sang her latest single completely live and I’m now a fan, she was superb!

After the show we got talking to an usher who asked whether we had booked our trip around the show, and when we told him that we had only rocked up this morning, he swore and couldn’t believe it - we felt rather smug!

As we’d finished recording The Late Show and it was only 5:30pm, we decided to head over to the Rockefella Centre in time for Sunset.

Mike and the mighty Rock!

The Rockefella Centre is in the heart of Midtown, opening in 1930 after being built by 40,000 New Yorkers during the great depression. 850ft from the streets you can go to the “Top of the Rock” for a 360º view of the city.

Empire State Building and the 9/11 Tribute Beams

A tip for fellow disabled people is DON’T go to the rock at sunset in a wheelchair! You will have to fight or argue with people to see the view. It was packed! I had all but given up and just told Mike to go fill his boots and take loads of pictures. Luckily a security guard saw me trapped in the middle of the crowd and started moving people round so that I could have a few minutes overlooking Central Park and the spectacularly lit up Empire State Building. After about three minutes I could hear people huffing, puffing and comments like “it’s unfair she get’s priority” so I graciously retreated indoors where we managed some great photos from the large and very clean windows so “ner” you grumpy tourists!

L x

Saturday 12 October 2013

New York - Day 6

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New York - Day 6

Monday Morning in New York was gorgeous; hitting 29c (84F.) We caught a water taxi from Pier 84 in Midtown which took us all the way to the business district where, of course, the Twin Towers once stood.

Whilst we were on the taxi boat passing Lady Liberty we spotted a Mini (as in the car!) cruising down the Hudson, a fellow passenger who has lived in New York for 15 years hadn’t seen anything quite like it.

A Mini on the Hudson River
As we docked by Battery Park there was an announcement that a guy called Rob was offering a walking tour called Footsteps to Freedom, which was, yet again, included in the New York City Pass. We joined the tour and Rob was a fantastic guide - humours, happy and friendly, you could tell he was passionate about history and the city it’s self.

Statue of Liberty

We went all through the financial district including Wall Street, the customs building, the Wall Street Bull & Trinity Church. My favourite part was St. Pauls Chapel, also known as the miracle church. Situated a few metres from the World Trade Centre site, when all the surrounding buildings were damaged and had all their windows blown on 9/11, St. Paul’s was completely untouched with all its original windows intact.

Tributes inside St Pauls

St. Pauls became a hub and refuge for all the rescue workers during the after math of 9/11. Firemen would sleep here, volunteers would cook and look after them and all the tributes and messages of support and love would be posted at St Pauls - I’m not a fan of religion (and the subsequent wars that go with it) but the work of the staff and volunteers was incredible.

From St. Pauls we headed to the World Trade Centre to see the tribute centre and the memorial pools. The pools are the biggest man made water features in North America, each an acre in size. I have to admit I was very nervous about being there, I am so emotional at the best of times and what made it worse was that, with only two day’s until the 12th anniversary of the tragedy, there were relatives and friends laying flowers and flags as tributes to the fallen. After about 20 minutes I asked Mike if we could leave without seeing the Tribute Centre - I don’t think I could have handled seeing that.

Past and Future

World Trade Centre Tribute Pools

Feeling a bit delicate we went back for a walk around Battery Park and found somewhere to get a hotdog for lunch, then made our way to Pier 17 where there is a shopping complex and a few restaurants and cocktails bars.

On Pier 17 almost all of the stores are private businesses so there were lots of unusual clothing, art and gift shops, including a year round Christmas store! Mike bought me an unusual new handbag featuring New York land marks, it sounds tacky but it is certainly not!

After shopping we headed to The Sea Port bar and had incredibly strong mojito’s! By half way through the trip my pain levels were starting to increase so the cheeky cocktails became soothing and medicinal, as well as damn right delicious!

Next we bought tickets to a 90 minutes sail on a Clipper City boat. The boat was 158ft long with masts and rigging 120ft high, it was a gorgeous old looking thing and unlike the jam packed boat trip earlier in the week there were only about 20 other passengers. I was in my element, seeing the sights, sipping on peach sangria cocktails and soaking up the glorious sunshine.

Chillin on The Hudson
Moi and The Brooklyn Bridge

To board the boat you have to use a very steep ramp, I was quite nervous of Mike being able to control the wheelchair so I opted to walk on. The staff were fantastic and I had three of the crew holding me up whist and slowly walked the plank.

Mike was testing out every setting on his beloved SLR camera and just bought me cocktails throughout the trip (probably to keep me quiet), the trouble was when we had docked at the end I stood up and was very very very wobbly - although my pain levels were dampened my limbs took a life of their own!

After finally making my way off the boat (with a lot of help!) we went for a walk through Chinatown which was possibly one of the most uncomfortable times in my life!

I love visiting Chinatown in London, colourful, enticing and unique, but Chinatown in New York was intense. For one thing it’s a huge area which is slowly dominating and swallowing up Little Italy.  Initially I was overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle of it all. There were odd buckets of lord knows what on the pavements, fruits I’d never seen or heard of and there was an abundance of restaurants and Chinese “deli” shops. I was intrigued by the whole area but then begun to notice that people were staring at me quite intently, at first I thought it was because we were the only non Chinese people present at that moment but I soon realised they were curious of the wheelchair.

Intrigue soon became absolute fascination and groups of people were stopping to have a look, bending down to get look at my deformed “croissant” foot. As we moved further into the area I began to feel very uncomfortable and almost trapped, I asked Mike as to whether he was feeling and seeing what I was, or was I just being paranoid? Mike had noticed and found it all as odd and off putting as I did. It got to the point where we had trouble getting out as people just were not moving out of the way.

Once we had escaped Chinatown and recovered from the oddity of it all we made our way to Katz Diner, a New York institution originally called Iceland brothers when it opened in 1888. Katz is famous in the film industry as the movie When Harry Met Sally was filmed there when Meg Ryan’s character faked that famous orgasm.

A very happy Mike at Katz Diner
Many say that if you’ve not had a meal in Katz you haven’t explored New York! We shared an almighty turkey and pastrami sandwich and a Philadelphia cheese steak, Mike had also asked for two cokes and instead two giant family size tubs of coleslaw landed on our tray, we left with a well stocked doggy bag (feel free to ask for your left over’s to be packed up in most American restaurants).

Despite the meat and carb coma, we had yet again put ourselves in, we were not too far from The Big Gay Ice Cream store. I had originally seen the The Big Gay Ice Cream Truck on TV a couple of years ago but before we had come to the States Mike’s friend Elly (who spent a year in New York as an intern) said that it was a must try their desserts.

So, of course we HAD to go! After waiting in a queue that went out of the front door the walls were covered in Unicorns and rainbows with an unusual menu. I indulged in a salt and caramel cone with vanilla and caramel ice cream and unlike in other places at Big Gay they fill the cone with ice cream, sauces and toppings plus the put a plastic cone dish on each dessert so you never lose any precious goodies!

Katz Diner and Big Gay ice cream are at the bottom tip of the island and our hotel up by Central Park, Mike had a mammoth walk home to burn off all that food, in total he walked 11 miles! He slept well that night!

L x

P.S The Photo below is the light beams put up to be a tribute to the Twin Towers

New York - Day 5

In case you missed the previous New York blogs, please click the links below!

New York - Day 5

Recovered from my steak coma (See Day 4) we got up extra early, Mike humouring me agreed that we could go get an extremely early breakfast to eat... where else? but at Tiffanys of course!

Breakfast at Tiffany's

Donning a tea dress and Primark pearls, with a giant coffee and Pumpkin muffin in hand, no other tourists around and only few cars whizzing by I sat proudly outside the store having Breakfast at Tiffany’s, just like the movie, just like the beautiful and iconic Audrey Hepburn - I was very chuffed! I had to laugh when Mike came back across the road to show me the photo’s a film crew appeared with an actress dressed in a black dress, beehive and pearls for a Breakfast at Tiffanys commercial - what a sight - just for me!

As part of Day 4’s boat tour, we had heard that Sunday Mornings are the quietest time to visit the Empire State building and since we were out... earlier than most of New York, we wandered to see the grand tower.

City View
Statue of Liberty

1050ft Above the city streets and open 365 days a year The Empire State Building is a New York must see and is also included in the New York City Pass. For the past 82 years they’ve opened their doors 8am - 2am with observatories on the 82nd and 102nd floors where you’re able to appreciate the entire city from an amazing point of view. We also went round the 80th floor historical exhibit where the Empire shop is also situated; were we bought ourselves a tour book and a cheesy, tacky Christmas decoration!

New York

The Chrysler Building 

Day 5, Unofficially became “The Girl day” when we headed towards the New York Public Library. I was incredibly excited. As a writer/blogger and avid book reader the NY library was top of my list of sights to see.

The building its self; white exterior, a beautiful marble foyer, a book store and exhibition centre (currently showing the History of Children literature) but I was looking for one room - The Rose reading room. I had a glance but Mike told me to look down and wait until we got to the end of the hall and then I looked back - I was in awe! This was the second time New York had left me speechless.

Looking rather chuffed!

The Rose reading room is almost the size of a football field and beautifully lined with thousands of books, with Oak desks with green glass lamps, you only need to watch Sex and the City Movie, Ghostbusters or The Day After Tomorrow to see the library on film but it’s not the same!

Unfortunately, my ego almost got me in trouble! I personally am entered into the young persons’ Who’s Who and when I found a UK Who’s Who? Annual, I grabbed the book only for the whole shelve above it to start falling! Queue some urgent whispering at Mike to help me put it back in place - cringe!

So that I didn’t cause any more trouble we left the Library and chilled in Bryant Park, where many picnics were laid out on colourful rugs and an outdoor library was being made full use of. If only we could do the same in the UK, sadly there would oly be a lot of soggy books left!

The afternoon bought us yet another landmark - Grand Central Station. One thing that struck me was, the station was a lot bigger than I imagined it would be. It’s a stunning place; the main hall is bright, sleek and absolutely packed with people 24/7. Like the New York Library photos of Grand Central Station do not do it justice. Opened in 1831 a jewel in New York’s crown was almost demolished in the 1970’s and what a waste that would have been. Mike and I followed the audio tour around the station which has 68 shops and 35 eateries. After playing in the whispering corners we found that the stations Oyster bar is closed on Sundays L so we had lunch in a little diner called Juniors.

Outside Grand Central Station

The main hall

To continue feeding our Geeky minds we found one of the Midtown comic stores (Jen & Al - you jealous?!) where Mike indulged in several vintage comics for his collection and even I got excited over the Star Trek section... yes... I’m a Treky and proud!

After the historical tour of New York we decide on Italian for dinner in Hell’s Kitchen - a place called Amarone. With a small but very well executed menu Amarone is a lovely restaurant, very popular too so make sure to plan ahead and get a reservation. I had a seafood dish which was delicious, with fresh prawns, scallops and handmade pasta - simple but amazing!

We made our way back to the hotel so that Mike could rest his poor feet, at this point he was suffering with blisters and had even worn out his socks - poor thing! I on the other hand was just getting fatter - hey ho, we were having fun!

L x