Archive for the ‘New York’ Category

Farewell to Liberty

Saturday, May 5th, 2007

Well, it was our last day in New York for this trip. We had packed the night before, we had to extend one of the suitcases to get everything in, and John said we were officially full and Maria was not to buy anything else. We took all the cases down to John’s offices and left him to work while we set off on the best free ride in NY. The Staten Island Ferry. Great views as always.

Staten Island Ferry

I always love the view of downtown as you come back. We’ve seen a sailing ship hanging around this area several times, it always looks incongruous.

Downtown skyline

We then strolled along the Hudson to the Winter Gardens and a final trip to Godiva and Ciao Bella (the green apple sorbet was lovely). I think we are taking back enough chocolate to open our own tuck shop.

Ciao Bella again!!

We then walked accross town to the Borders on Broadway. We passed Ground Zero, there has been significant progress on the foundations, the whole thing is scheduled to be completed 2010. We look forward to it.

Once we were in Borders, Maria seemed to forget all about the ban on any further purchases. (Mind you, as we found out when we got back to John’s offices, so had he.) We also found the coffee shop at Borders stocks the doughnuts from the Doughnut factory, so we could have a last one of those (I think we might have to go on a diet once we get home).

We were a bit upset to find we had all three seats filled in our row on the plane, while all the other rows had an empty seat. Maria noticed one row where there was only one person, so she and I moved so that we could be a bit more comfy. The trip home was OK, took a while and we didn’t sleep (John did, we heard him snoring, despite the fact we were 2 rows back and the other side of the plane), still we had a quick kip when we got home so everything should be OK.

Nice trip, but good to be home. Maria and I need to settle down to some work now, it’s not long until the Festival. My next trip out will be the Nottingham Tennis Open, we’ve got tickets for the whole week.

Moods and beads

Thursday, May 3rd, 2007

We decided (well Maria decided) we needed to go to Moods the fabric warehouse today. Maria can get ultrasuede for about $25 -$35 a yard as oposed to the £2.75 a 9in square back home. Well worth doing.

We took the bus up to 34th Street and then the cross town shuttle to 5th Avenue. We then walked up to 37th street and that’s when Maria realised 5th Avenue is where the streets change from East to West and the numbers start at 1. Maria knew Mood was at 225 37th, but couldn’t remember whether it was East or West. Either way a heck of a walk. Luckily John could check for us on his computer at work and then text. It was West. So we walked and we walked and we walked… Of course this is garment district so we were passing lots of little designer shops, accesories and bead shops. We walked past the first 4 bead shops but couldn’t resist by the 5th. Maria bought several beads she’s intending to put round the necks of bears back home. I really liked a lovely W with crytals and rhynestones around it, Maria was mean and refused to get it me, she said I’d fall over I hung anything else around my neck.


We eventually made it to Moods, took the lift to the 2nd floor (which is really the 1st, Americans call ground floor 1st) and walked down the stairs to the basement (which is really the 1st or ground floor depending) and found the ultrasuede. It was pretty hard getting Maria past the silk fabrics. Moods is enormous, the photo shows just one aisle out of about 6 aisles on the one floor. There are 3 floors!!

Fabric choosing at Moods

We then took the crosstown book back to 2nd Avenue and walked a few blocks down to Borders, our first visit on trip to a decent bookshop. I think we will be going back tomorrow. We have to pack tonight and move all our bags to John’s office in the morning. We are then flying back home tomorrow night. I’ll be quiete pleased to get back home and have a rest.

On Top of the Rock

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2007

 I’ve been on top of the Empire State Building and Maria had been on the World Trade Centre observation deck, before 9/11, but we heard that they’ve opened up an observation deck on top of the Rockerfeller Centre, so Maria and I decided that’s where we’d go today. We used the last of our time on the tour bus to get us up to 49th Street, the ticket was valid until 10.30 this morning. We made our way to 50th, where the entrance was and seeing the queue stetching for nearly a block, we thought about giving up the idea. However we found out it was in fact 3 tour groups and we managed to get our tickets and jump ahead of most of them. We also got an audio guide, very clever, it was a palmtop computer with a GPS system in it so it could always tell which way you were facing and offer you appropriate commentary.

The lift was fantastic, once the doors were closed the light dimmed and the lights in the lift shaft came on, then you realised the lift in fact had a glass ceiling. We raced up to the top at a frightening speed.

There are 3 levels of observation decks, the lowest is surrounded by glass walls but the top 2 are pretty open. I wanted my photo taken On Top of the Rock but it was rather a hair raising experience. It was rather windy and Maria had to snap a quick photo in between grabbing me to stop me being blown over the edge. Still we managed to get a picture looking downtown towards the Empire State Building.

Wilbeary on top of the rock

And of course one looking uptown towards Central Park.

Wilbeary on top of the rock

The Top of the Rock is only 70 floors, so not as high as the Empire State and nothing like as high as the World Trade used to be, but it seemed pretty high to me.

Looking down from the top of the rock  Looking up at the rock

We had a bit of a mooch around the shopping complex under the Rock (Maria spent some money of course) and then decided to walk up to Central Park and then perhaps make our way over to Bloomingdales. Remember how I was saying yesterday that each neighbourhood has a distinctive smell? Well the southern end of Central Park certainly does, it smells of horse manure. Probably (in fact certainly) because of all the horse drawn carridges carrying tourists around the park. I was quite pleased to move on.

Horse drawn carriage in Central Park

Bloomingdales was a bit of a trial, I managed to talk Maria out of several T-shirts, (I mean $99 for a black T-shirt!), but she succumbed to a skirt. It is rather nice, a green, scrunchy, floaty, tye dyed thing with a jagged hem and some tiny sparkly sequins scattered over it.

Maria then fancied some doughnuts, but Penn station was way off our route home and we were both shattered. So we headed home. Maria then had a moan at John over text messages about her lack of doughnuts. So he very kindly told her about the doughnut factory near the bially shop. She really must have been desperate because despite the fact she’d taken her shoes off, off we went again.

The doughnut factory was fantastic! So much to choose from.

Wilbeary at the doughnut plant

We settled for some cinnamon and apple, some fresh strawberry, some strawberry jelly with peanut butter glaze and some chocolate (chocolate doughnut, with molten chocolate middle, chocolate glaze and finished with dark chocolate sprinkles). Mmmmm…..

ps. when he got home John told us there was a Krispy Kreme in the Rockerfeller Plaza (where we started), still we’d never have discovered the Doughnut Factory if we’d bought there, and I’m sure Maria’s legs will evertually work again.

Feeling yucky

Tuesday, May 1st, 2007

We lost internet connection in the apartment last night so despite the interesting day and lots of nice photos I couldn’t post. Just as well perhaps ‘cos I wouldn’t have had much to say today. Maria woke up feeling yucky and didn’t want to go anywhere, I talked to her about ‘mind over matter’ and not ‘giving in’ but we still spent the day in the apartment, watching films,and generally mooching around. It wasn’t until John came home we went anywhere, even then it was only next door to the Beer Keller. Mind the food and beer were good.

Yesterday we had the scariest bus ride of our lives (I bet that’s what did for Maria). We went on the Grey Line Tour Bus (Maria bought a 48 hour pass, there’s half of that gone to waste). There are 3 parts to the tour, the Downtown Loop, the Uptown Loop and the Brooklyn Loop. We decide to do the Brooklyn Loop since we’d never done that before. To get to Brooklyn you have to cross the East River. We crossed on the upper level of Manhattan Bridge. Until you have gone across a high bridge ,upstairs on an open top bus, at speed, near the edge of a bridge where the rail does not come all the way to the top of the bus you don’t realise how harrowing a bus ride can be.


 Brooklyn looks very different from Manhatttan, for a start the ground is sandy while Manhattan has the shist rock (enabling it to build high).


There is a strong Dutch influence to the building, so you get lots of brown brick walkups (no lifts) with stoops. This is the sort of area Barbara Streisand and Neil Diamond grew up in.


There is a large Middle Eastern community in Brooklyn. We noticed one of the distinctive identifiers of the different neighbourhoods is the smell. As we travelled around on the tour bus we noticed how the smells changed,all pleasant but all distinct. I particularly like Chinatown. We left the tour bus around Time Square and wandered around Midtown, 5th Avenue area.


We finished up at Grand Central Station and did some shopping at the market, including some New York Strip steaks and tiramisu. Then we lugged all our shopping back on the subway.

Hopefully Maria will be OK tomorrow and we can go to the Top of the Rock (and Maria fancies Tiffanys).


Sunday, April 29th, 2007

We spent most of yesterday travelling. Before we set off from the Peabody we made one last trip to Lansky. Fatal. Bernard Lansky was there and he managed to sell a hat to Maria. How could she not buy something from Elvis’ personal tailor? Mind you it does look good. She says, having shook hands with Bernard she’s only 2 steps from Elvis ( and Johhny Cash etc. etc.).

We eventually caught our flight to Houston. It was only a dinky plane, about a 30 seater, but half empty so I got a seat to myself. It was strange to be flying further away from NY in order to get there, but there wre no direct flight and this was our best connection. In Houston we changed to a wide bodied jet and as we were boarding we were told we’d been given an upgarde. What with Maria and I looking at him with puppy dog eyes, John very kindly let us have it. The result was Maria and I had a lovely relaxed flight and John got off the plane all grumpy.

We’re staying somewher new in NY, we found an appartment hotel just off Soho in Lower East side. It’s only a few blocks away from the Holiday Inn we stayed at last time but the feel of the neighbourhood is completely different. As we go into Soho, it’s pretty trendy with lots of shops selling quirky and interesting things. Lots of clothes from young designers, great shoe shops (Maria had to have a pair of shoes, she says they are things of beauty, John says they are flip flops with beads) and shops with some great bags and jewellry. I think John is running a real risk going to work and leaving Maria near these shops with a credit card.

Going the other way, we end up in Lower East Side, a totally differnt neighbourhood. It contains the bialy shop we love (guess what we had for breakfast). Katz’ deli, where we bought some pastrami, corned beef and chopped liver for our tea. 

Wilbury ensuring that he gets the right pastrami at Katz's

The Pickle Guys, where we bought some pickles of assorted types to go with the pastrami etc. There are lots of other Jewish delis including one with a fantastic selection of salted and smoked fish, we got some lovely lox and cream cheese to go with our bagels for tomorrow.

We did a lot of walking today, including a trip to The Winter Gardens at the World Financial Center. Godiva chocolates, and off course the best ice cream in New York. Ciao Bella.

Wilbeary choosing his ice cream

The difficulty is choosing what flavour to have.

Wilbeary eating his ice cream

Tomorrow John is back at work and Maria and I are on our own. We thought we might take the tour bus. It’s years since Maria took it and I never have.


Holiday Inn Again!!

Saturday, October 28th, 2006

Well woke up early, glad we had packed last night. Quite sorry to be leaving Denver. John had been upgraded again, being the nice man that he is he said Maria and I could have his upgade. So we traveled back to Newark in style. The best bit was the warm chocolate chip cookie and milk about an hour before landing.

We had taken off about 3/4 hours late, although we made some of that up we still didn’t land until 6.45pm, our flight to Birmingham was due to take off at 7.00pm. we were really hoping they would hold for us. Guess what, instead of holding the flight, they in fact took off early. We missed our conection. I can tell you we were not best pleased.

The airline has eventually managed to book us onto the next flight, which isn’t until 7.00pm TOMORROW!! So they are putting us up for the night and feeding us. Guess where they’re putting us up. The Holiday Inn, Marias’ favourite hotel!!! Well actually the rooms not too bad, the furniture and decoration a bit tacky but we’ll manage.

The big worry was we’d miss Robert. he’s off to work in Northern Ireland for a couple of months. But the Maria remembered the clocks go back on Sunday, so all being well we should get back an hour or so before he has to leave.


Friday, October 27th, 2006

Well we sweltered at the zoo yesterday, with temperatures in the mid 20s. Today we woke up to several inches of snow, and still more snow falling. Some parts nearby were forcast up to 24 inches, even we in Downtown Denver were due about 6 inches. Many roads in the mountains, including the one up to Lookout Mountain were closed, and it takes a lot of snow for them to close roads around here. Who can live with this sort of weather? It is supposed to start warming up again tomorrow, with the weekend back up to the mid 20s. Apparently perfectly normal for around here.

Maria was a bit of a wuss and refused to go out while it was still snowing and blowing a gale. So we just mooched around all morning, watching telly, reading etc. John finished at luchtime. There was a lunch he could have gone to, but it was optional and he said he’d had enough of smilling and being nice to people, so he’d take us to lunch instead. I wasn’t sure I liked the implication but the chili soup was lovely. We then went out to buy another suitcase (we needed one after all the shopping Maria had done).

Maria and John then tried to just go back and loll about (John claimed to be exhausted) but I’d had enough, all that snow was melting and I hadn’t had a chance to go near it. So we went out and took the Free Shuttle up 16th Street Mall, Maria remembered a shop she had wanted to revisit.


No, it wasn’t for shoes. It was a handbag. As John said she has loads at home, why did she need another one? He still bought it her.

It was pretty cold out, and in the distance the Rockies looked pretty well covered with snow.

Snow on the Rockies

I was glad to get back to the hotel and settle down by the fireside with a Cosmopolitan.

Fireside drink

Once we’d got comfortable, we were rather reluctant to move so we ordered some food at the bar. Would you believe what you see is 2 STARTERS. Plenty enough for all three of us to share.

A small snack

Then it’s back up to the room to pack. The airport shuttle is picking us up at 9.30 am. It’s going to be a long journey.

Lions and tigers and bears! Oh my!

Thursday, October 26th, 2006

We went to the zoo!!! The bus picked us up just outside the hotel and dropped us at the zoo gates, all for $1.50. Entry to the zoo was only $9.00. Excellent value. I didn’t know there were so many different animals. I could have stayed all day but after a few hours Maria started to complain about her feet. Zoos do involve a lot of walking but it was well worth it. Not just because of the bears (although of course they were the best bit).

These were some of my favourite animals.

Brown bear

 Polar bear Moon bear Lion Leopard Jaguar Bisson Arctic Fox 

You can even see me in this next picture. I was wathching the Moon Bear cubs. They sure do have a lot of energy.

Wilbeary and Moon bears

John has now finished the main part of his conference, although he still has some meetings tomorrow morning. This means he can spend this evening with us for a change. So at the moment I have no idea what we’re doing about tonights meal.

ps. Maria bought a teddy bear at the zoo. Am I not enough?!?!

The Foothills

Wednesday, October 25th, 2006

A quiet morning today, sorted through all our shopping and the assorted leaflets and guides we’ve collected and then popped out to buy Maria a hat. We’re booked on a Foothills tour of the Rockies this afternoon and the sun is rather glarring at this time of the year, so we bought a baseball cap. We also managed to find a rather nice buffalo charm for my collection.

The minibus picked us up at the hotel just before 1.00pm. There was already a lady on the bus, she was from London, and guess what she had a bear travelling with her. Her name was Jane and she was the Head Teacher of Highfield Primary School in Hillingdon in Middlesex. The bear was Harvey Bear,who apparently goes on trips with various members of the school. That was great, it meant Maria had someone to talk to and so did I. We picked up 2 more passengers, another lady from London (well Kent) who was a teaching assistant and a chap from Australia who thankfully was nothing to do with teaching. Our driver Mark was great and full of intereting facts. First stop was in Golden, at the Coors brewery, the largest single site brewery in the world. As well as the tour explaining how the beer was brewed we got to try some free samples. I started with a small tasting of Coors Light. Very nice indeed.

Tasting Coors Light

We also had a writband which entitled us to try 3 beers at the end of the tour. Maria and I decided to live life on the edge and went for a Zima XXX Hard Black Cherry flavour. Surprisingly nice, even Maria who doesn’t usually like beer enjoyed it. It tasted very strongly of cherry. Jane and Harvey stuck to a more traditional brew.

 Sharing a beer with a friend

It was a bit early in the day for any more beer, so after a quick trip round the gift shop we headed back to the minibus and up Lookout Mountain and Buffalo Bill Codys’ grave. There’s a nice museum with some of his belongings and posters and pictures of him and some of the other famous people (like Wild Bill Hickok) who appeared in his shows.

   Buffalo Bill Wild Bill Hickok

There were bits and pieces, like dressing up clothes to keep youngsters happy. The clothes were a bit too big for me but I did manage to have a go in a saddle. Look rather good, don’t I?


Next to the museum was an observation deck with some stunning views.

 Lookout Mountain View

On our way back down the mountain we saw some excellent views of the Rockies. A fantastic drive even if Maria did have to close her eyes a few times when she noticed how sharply the mountain fell away next to the road.

 View of the Rockies

Our last stop was in the Red Rocks Park, where John had his casino night last night. At least we were seeing it in the daylight. The Amphitheatre made Maria go a bit green, but it is superb, and anyone who is anyone has appeared here (including the Beatles).

 Red Rocks Park

Then it was back to the hotel, to see John briefly. He was on his way out to a rather important meeting over a meal and a few beers at one of Denvers’ micro breweries, so Maria and I went down to the Fireside bar and had a couple of cocktails (called Sex on the Beach!! I didn’t know where to look) and some buffalo burgers. Lovely.

I’m looking forward to tomorrow, we’re going to Denver Zoo and I’ll get to meet some Polar Bears.


Tuesday, October 24th, 2006

Well it was Johns’ first full day, so Maria and I were on our own. Before we left England we had downloaded a walking tour of Lower Downtown (LoDo) the most historic part of Denver. It started at Union Station which is at the end 16th Street Mall, so we took the shuttle.

 16th Street Mall

We had to exercise a lot of self control not to just go into the Tattered Cover or the Cheesecake Factory. The station was very strange, attractive to look at, spacious and totally deserted. Apparently it only comes to life at the 2 ends of the working day, even the refreshments and the gift shop were closed.

The area was very interesting full of interesting shops, restaurants, micro breweries and galleries. A lot of the area was built around the end of the 19th century, a major fire destroyed a lot of the area and it was made compulsory to rebuild using brick, so as to minimize the risk of future fires.

Larimer Street

We were also on the lookout for some cowboy boots for Maria (shoes again) so we made frequent forays into Western style shops. The problem is Maria has a high instep so getting into boots is difficult at the best of times. In other words we were not successful. Shame ‘cos some of the boots were beautiful (pricy too). We also found some wonderful cowboy shirts, covered in embroidery and rhinestones. However as we felt the chances of either John or Robert wearing them is zero we rather reluctantly left them.

We made our way down Cherry Creek, it was the finding of gold in the creek that led to the founding of Denver. Across the creek we got a nice view of Colorado University with the Rockies (snow capped) in the background.

Colarardo University

We wandered through Larimer Square, once a very seedy area, full of bars and bordellos, but now a very trendy area, very much the hub of LoDo. We walked on through Writers Square. full of bronze statues, mostly of children.

Street sculpture

We also saw our first carved wooden Native American outside a tobaconists. Sooo American.

Tobacco shop

We had arrived back at the 16th Street Mall (somewhat further along of course) so we thought we’d pop back to the hotel and phone Claire, the 7 hour time difference does make it rather difficult to find a mutually convenient time. We met John in the lobby (they were on a brief afternoon break). He’s got a slightly longer break between 5.15 and 6 so we arranged to meet then to download the pictures from Marias’ camera so that I could write this post. Maria had a long chat with Claire (boy the pair of them can talk) and then we were off again. We had had enough walking so we decided to go to the Tattered Cover and hole up with a selction of books in one of their armchairs. Trouble is it was 5.15 before we realised and we had to rush back to the hotel without making a stop off at the Cheesecake Factory.

That meant we had to go out AGAIN. Mind you it was worth it, we bought a slice of lemon and raspberry and a slice of chocolate and raspberry, I look forward to having some after I’ve posted this blog. And Denver looked lovely in the dark.