Archive for October, 2006

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.

Snow!?!

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.

Snowballs

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?

 Riding

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.

LoDo

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. 

 

48 types of cheesecake!

Monday, October 23rd, 2006

Well here we are. We woke up to find there had been a slight sprinkling of snow overnight and the temperature outside was  -3degC. Pretty chilly, glad I brought my hat.

Checked the weather forecast, set to be cold all day. Mind you the forecast for tomorrow suggested it is going to get warmer, with a high of 32degC!!! Yes we did check it was Centigrade not Farenheit. What sort of crazy place is this?

Since John didn’t have to report in for his conference until 5pm we thought we’d all have a little walk together. We are at the Grand Hyat between 17th and 18th Street  (the Americans do seem to have this fixation with grid patterns and road numbering) and that’s just one block away from the 16th Street Mall, 2 1/2 miles of road that has been pedestrianised, lined on both sides with bars, restaurants, shops and shopping centres. We walked to one end, to the Capitol building, there was a super view from the top of the steps, all the way to the Rockies.

Denver

I had been getting rather breathless, and no wonder, the air is rather thin ‘cos Denver is the Mile High City. The 18th step of the Capitol Building is 1 mile above sea level, that’s me sitting just above the bronze disc marking the spot.

A Mile High

There is a frequent free bus service that runs along the 16th Street Mall, with stops at every block, so we thought we’d take it to the far end and then meander our way back.

At the far end of the mall is the most wonderful bookshop. Borders has been relegated to second place in my and Marias’ estimation by The Tattered  Cover Bookstore. Not only does it have four floors of books it’s also full of nooks and crannies with tables, chairs, sofas… where you can browze to your hearts content while sipping a coffee (or in Marias case a hot chocolate) and tucking into a blueberry muffin.

 Tattered Cover Bookstore

We spent a happy half hour or so, but then John got restless, we will certainly be coming back without him. We then popped into the visitor centre to find out what Maria and I can do while John is working. They were VERY helpful and we came away with stacks of leaflets, we’d need 4 weeks not 4 days to get through it all. John is still having problems with his ankle so we took the bus back to where we started from and went back to the hotel to regroup and take stock.

Maria and I have booked a coach tour to the foothills of the Rockies and a visit to Buffalo Bills grave and Museum at Lookout Point . We’re also going to try for the theatre. John had rested a bit by now and we also fancied something to eat. Maria had spotted The Cheesecake Factory on the 16th Street Mall, we had heard about their fantastic selection of cheesecakes so we felt this would be an excellent place to eat. I don’t think John was so keen but when they offered him blackened salmon as the lunchtime special he seemed very happy. Denver is supposed to be the thinnest city in the US but I don’t know how. We had the SMALL lunchtime portion of meatloaf and we still couldn’t finish it. We shared a slice of Godiva Chocolate Cheesecake between the three of us and bought a slice of Kahlua Mocha Cheesecake to take out. It’ll be lovely this evening after a Ceasar salad from room service. John’s off to a Hawaiian Luau (I think that’s how it’s spelt) you should have seen his Hawaiian shirt!

Godiva Cheesecake

John had to rush back for a staff briefing and Maria and I strolled back (tryin to walk off the cheescake). Denver is a lovely city from what we’ve seen, wide open spaces, very clean and very friendly people. All in all a nice day, we shall have to go back to the Tattered Cover and of course The Cheesecake Factory, they do 48 different cheesecakes and we’ve only tried 2 so far.

First Class

Sunday, October 22nd, 2006

Well that’s it, last day in New York. We got up and packed this morning. I must admit I didn’t think it would all fit. We ended up with a suitcase full of just fur and ultrasuede. Then we checked out, leaving the bags in the luggage room and went off to do some ….. shopping. There are some truly good bargains to be had in Chinatown.

We stopped at Dim Sum Go Go for some dim sum. Last time we did this we just had their selection and we never did work out what some of them contained, so this time we made our own selection. Very nice. It’s a shame we weren’t staying a bit longer ‘cos this afternoon it’s A Taste of Chinatown. All (or a lot) of the restaurants set out stalls and you can get tasters for just $1. A great way to try new things, we were lucky to be there for one of these last year, had a great time.

However we had a flight to catch, so we got our cases back, repacked them, adding all the additional stuff we’d bought and waited for the limo.

John travels so much these days he has Platinum Elite status with Continental Airlines and he was offered an upgrade. He very kindly gave it to Maria and me (he had a colleague from work who was sitting next to him anyway (small world isn’t it)).

So Maria and I travelled First Class!!! The legroom!! The space!! The service!! It’s the only way to travel!!

When we arrived in Denver John was rather grumpy, I don’t think he’d had a very good flight, so we very kindly didn’t go on about our flight. Wonder if they will upgrade him again on the way back, (and if they do will he give it to us again).

 

Walking over old ground

Friday, October 20th, 2006

Didn’t manage to post yesterday. I have to wait until John comes back from work, yesterday we were going out to the theatre, so there was no time.

We went to the TKTS offices in the morning to see what we could get tickets for. John really fancied Chicago and we were lucky enough to get half price tickets for it. TKTS is brill, we met some people at the show in the evening who had bought tickets that morning through their hotel, and not only had they paid full price but also a markup for the hotel. They ended up paying 3 times what we paid, for seats that were no better. Boy were they cross. Still at least they knew where to get tickets for today.

Anyway back to yesterday, after getting the tickets Maria decided she fancied going over some old ground, so we went to the World Financial Center, the Winter Gardens. Ciao Bella ice cream and Godiva chocolates, what more could you ask for? Well we got a free dance performance, at least we think it was a dance performance. There was music (sort of) and movement. To be honest neither of us appreciated it too much,

The Otani Garden Sophisticated Ladies If the shoe fits

We then walked down to Samantha’s and had a chicken parmigiana hero for lunch, we ate it in Battery Gardens. A real walk down memory lane.

Maria wanted to go to Mood, a fabric warehouse in the garment district. She always likes to visit for bargains. You never know what they’ll have but it’s always a bargain. It’s a bit of a sureal experience, Mood is on floor 3 of what looks like an ordinary skyscraper, looks just like an office block. Once you’re inside it’s an enourmous warehouse with rolls and rolls of fabric, on 3 floors! So you go upstairs for fur fabrics and downstairs for ultrasuede, all inside the middle of a building, so what feels like the basement is in fact the 2nd floor. Strange. Anyway we got some great bargains , including ultrasuede at $25 a yard, (measured by eye so it’s more like 1 1/2 yards).

Maria had talked about going to Penn Station for some Krispy Kreme doughnuts, but she was so tired from all the walking and it was 4.15 so she decided she didn’t want doughnuts that much and we went back to the hotel. By the time we got back John was just arriving and by the time we’d talked to Rob and Claire it was time to go to Broadway to see the show. It was great, the costumes seemed rather scanty to me but Maria and John seemed to appreciate it.

When we checked Marias’ purchases from Mood we found she had left some of her ultrasuede behind so today we had to go back. Luckily they had realised and put it to one side for her. Of course while we were there she had to buy some more, how she thinks she’s going to take it all back to the UK I don’t know.

While up in midtown of course we had to go to Penn Station and buy those doughnuts we missed yesterday.

After all that, all we were fit for was to go back to the hotel, buy a movie (The Prarie Home Companion), eat doughnuts and veg out. Tomorrow it’s on to Denver, we’ve heard it’s cold and they’ve had snow!!  

Wow!!

Thursday, October 19th, 2006

Well the day started much as yesterday, up and off for a walk to get bialys. Maria tries to kid herself she walks off the calories before she gets there, I’m not convinced.

Yesterday we happened to mention we might go up to Katzs for our lunch, so of course John got all upset ‘cos he fancied their pastrami on rye but he couldn’t get out of work to go. So Maria (always a soft touch) promised to pick some up for him and meet him for lunch. So after we’d passed through Chinatown and Little Italy (and got the bialys) we continued uptown into Lower East Side. It’s amazing how the neighbourhoods change so rapidly as you move from one block to the next. Lower East Side used to be predominantly Jewish but it seems to be in the process of becoming Mexican (with just a dash of Indian) so the Kosher shops are being replaced by Taco shops.

We got the sanwiches (pastrami on rye and chopped liver on rye with pickles) and caught the bus downtown to South Ferry so that we could have our ride on the Statton Island Ferry (the best free ride in NY).

Guess who else was also riding the ferry!! HAGRID!!!! Hagrid!

Well Robby Coltrane, he was taking his children accross. Brill! He REALLY is a GIANT.

It’s a wonderfull ride and the views are amazing. There was a rather sureal experience when we saw an old fashioned sailing ship with the skyscrapers in the background.

Downtown skyline

We had heard that Bishop Desmond Tutu was being interviewed at Trinity Church tonight. Entry into the audience was available to anyone, and free, but numbers were limited and you had to apply for tickets. When we met John for lunch he had some good news. He had heard we had got passes. So we had to hurry back  to the hotel so as to be able to get back for 5pm for the reception before the interview. Maria was shattered, so we thought we’d take the subway, however we had to get out at City Hall and walk the rest of the way ‘cos someone had slipped at 14th street. They’d had to stop the trains and they were backing up. From the way Maria was moaning you’d think nobody had ever walked before.

Anyway, to cut a long story short we got back to the hotel, freshened up and got back to Trinity in time. It was well worth the effort, he is a tremendeously inspirational person and so self deprecating. It was a priviledge to see him.

Bishop Desmond Tutu

We then went back to Chinatown and (to the accompaniment of Maria moaning about being tired) found a nice restaurant to eat at. All in all a very exciting day (and the weather was lovely too) 

Wet, wet, wet

Wednesday, October 18th, 2006

You might not get much in the way of jet lag on the trip from UK to NY but you certainly wake up early in the morning. John set off for work and Maria and I lazed around for a while but we were still passing the shops in Chinatown as they were setting up for the day. Way too early for my taste. Still the bialy shop was open when we got there so we started the day with some garlic bialys, lovely.

We didn’t have anything in particular we needed to do, rain was forcast for the afternoon, so we decided to just set off and see where we ended up. In Chinatown of course. Being without John we weren’t for ever going up and down stairs but that’s only ‘cos we walked everywhere instead of taking the subway.

Chinatown is fascinating, everything sort of crammed in together.Chinatown

I think Maria must have some Chinese in her somehow, she loves red and so do the Chinese. She’s talking about doing a Chinese New Year display in her window at Patchings next year. I bet she ends up buying enough stuff to fill 2 or 3 windows.

We eventually ended up at South Street Seaport. A great place to view Brooklyn Bridge.Brooklyn Bridge We had a potter around the shops, very disappointed by Purple-icious, not very purple and way too tasteful. I hoped I’d be able to get something from the Haloween shop but it was just fancy dress costumes for humans, not much use to a bear. Still the Footsie Sock shop was fun and of course the Godiva shop is always worth a visit.

The rain had started at this point so we decided Borders was a good place to hang out. We took the Downtown Shuttle (still free I’m glad to say) to the bottom of Broadway and walked up to meet John for lunch at the coffee bar in Borders. After lunch John had to go back to work (well someone has to earn the money for us to spend) while Maria and I got an ENORMOUS armfull of books and settled down in a corner to decide which we could not do without. A couple of hours, several books and magazines later we decided we had better leave before we spent more than John earned.

By now it was pretty well chucking it down so we decided to take the subway, mind you it seemed to be raining almost as hard below ground as above (leaky roof (I hope)).

When we got back Maria had to change, thank goodness her bag is reasonably waterproof so I was OK. We then just vegged out for an hour or so, finishing off the Italian cakes from las night, and it was time for John to come back, Where did the day go?

I was still full from earlier, and it was still pouring, so I refused their invite to go out for tea. I was glad I had, they came back looking like drowned rats. Apparently the food was lovely (Italian) and the rain should stop by morning.