New York, love it or hate it?

Before we came away, we were told you either love or hate New York. So now it’s time for us to tell the truth…….but first, the story of the drive from the hotel to JFK.
Before we went away, John and Matt looked into hiring an American muscle car. Thank goodness we didn’t, drivers are all bonkers in NYC and the only competence test appears to based on how frequently you use the horn! Our driver was one of the best – tooting for no apparent reason, driving over kerbs and along walkways, cutting up other drivers and refusing to let an ambulance past. We arrived at JFK, both shaken and stirred!
Now let’s talk about JFK – disorganised and no free wifi, hence no blog, but a great burger bar called Shake Shack. 
Arriving at Heathrow was heavenly- no queues and smiley people, it’s good to be home. Matt wondered what all the green stuff was, a lengthy explanation of grass and trees followed. We haven’t seen much of either recently and it made us realise how lucky we are (not the usual response to Heathrow and the M25, we know). The car even started despite John’s prediction of a flat battery. It came as a shock that he’s not psychic after all.
‘Love’ is too strong a term to describe our relationship with New York. We would go back, and have a list of things we’d still like to do. We’re just in no hurry to do them!
We’ve met some lovely, helpful people but they were in a minority. Most New Yorkers came across as rude and unhelpful. Courtesy is not their strong point – there are even signs on the subway attempting to encourage it! Bill Murray is quoted as saying the thing he likes most about New York are the people. He believes New Yorkers are misunderstood because no-one realises how kind they are and he’s probably right.
John’s favourite thing about New York, other than peanut butter, was the abundant sound of V8 engines.
Kim’s was the way you could stand at major intersections and the grid system gives you clear views in all four directions. Of course, to do this you are risking death (probably involving a V8) so it’s not a recommended activity! The Frick frog probably would have come first but she’s still sulking about that!
Matt just advises that you don’t do baseball, the rest is OK! This seems a bit of an understatement from someone who had to be prised out of every Nike store we passed.
That’s all from us until the next big adventure, we hope you’ve enjoyed our story x

Pizza, at last!

Our final NYC lunch was in Global Kitchen, tucked round the back of the Plaza, and Kim and Matt finally got to eat pizza in NY. We have discovered cheap, tasty eating on our last day!

It’s still hot and humid here, so we are all ready to come home. In fact we are so tired, we’re camped out in the cool of the hotel lobby, 2 hours early for our taxi,

There will be one final NYC post from us before we get on the plane whe we’ve thought about our likes and dislikes – think of us as your local Michelin Guide!

The story of Prometheus and the Goat via The Plastic Ono Band

Our last day saw us killing time until we leave for JFK at 6pm. Culture, we thought, after fighting everything back into suitcases and checking out.

We did what has become our usual trek through Grand Central Station and continued our journey to the Rockefeller Plaza and MOMA. This was our first experience of the Plaza and it was beautiful.

The highlight of the Plaza is the statue of Prometheus recreated in the Lego Shop. I bet you can’t tell which one is real



MOMA kept us entertained for a couple of hours. The Yoko Ono exhibition was everything you would expect, John and Matt refused to play the ‘what’s the best thing you’ve seen?’ Game. So here’s Kim’s – the Picasso Goat which could keep the Frick Museum Frog company



The Bray review of pastrami on rye

Apart from John’s desire to visit Katz’s, we were commissioned, by Focus RM, to see if their pastrami on rye is better than M&S.

Katz’s may be a classic but once in a lifetime is probably enough. It was a £15 sandwich that took all of us to eat and, even then we couldn’t finish it. That’s all from our gourmet review. Invoice for sarnie on its way to you, Ken


Top Tips from ‘Angel’

1. Baseball is not a sport. It is a chance for people to get together and socialise! If you must do baseball you support the Mets not the Yankees

2. Never go to The Bronx – it is a scary place to be
3. Never walk with your map out – you’ll be pickpocketed
4. Be focussed at all times. There is no room for ditherers in NYC
6. Take the subway to Bedford Ave in Brooklyn for the best meatballs ever
7. Never, ever visit NY in July or August – the weather is ‘soupy’
8. The subway is for wimps, you can walk everywhere- just be fast
9. It is illegal to sound your car horn in NYC and carries a $500 fine. A previous Mayor tried to enforce the ruling and the city ground to a halt so he gave up
10. You can legally walk around NY naked as long as you are not handling food!

Where Harry met Sally

Top of John’s ‘To Do’ list was a traditional Deli established by the Jewish immigrants from Europe. the famous Carnegie Deli had been recommended by a friend, however it was closed down last month for having an illegal (un-metered) gas supply. There are only a few old school Delis left in the East Village, so despite the despite the heat and humidity, that’s where we headed, to Katz’s as featured in that famous ‘When Harry met Sally’ scene. First we tested the rest rooms in the cool and calm of Bloomingdales (or Blooming Expensive as Matt referred to it) and then headed into a very different part of NYC.

It was amazing how the neighbourhood changed only one block back from Broadway. It quickly became quieter and a lot more run down in places although we did find one complete road where all the shops sold just light bulbs.
We found Katz’s Delicatessen, were each given a ticket on entry and were warned not to lose it. If we did, there was a $50 charge. The famous Pastrami on Rye was ordered and it became clear why we needed a ticket each. We had to queue in different places for sandwich, salad, drink and dessert. Each order was added to a ticket which was handed over when we paid on leaving. Essentially, we were booked in and out – a neat way of keeping track of occupancy rates. It’s a very popular venue with the walls covered in pictures of all the famous people who visit. The place was heaving and it’s difficult to describe how it works other than hygiene laws may well have closed it in the uk.


Next stop was the Strand bookstore, back on Broadway, with a Pret opposite! It is a real haven for book lovers (Strand not Pret) and claims to be the largest bookstore in the world.
It’s been really hot and humid today so it was the subway back to the hotel from Union Square, which looked the place to be. John was tempted to join a game of chess, but that would have meant missing the complimentary bar at the hotel, or that was his excuse!

Brooklyn Bridge to Harley Davidsons

via a GoPro outlet with a lovely guy called Angel who should have been our tour guide from day 1!

A successful subway trip saw us in Brooklyn for a walk back to Manhattan across the bridge. It was nice to get out of the city and see the island from across the East River. There was a feeling of space that has been missing despite the tour of Central Park.


We looked in the library (very pro-American) and then strolled through a nice residential area to Brooklyn Heights and along the promenade where the view of Manhattan from the bridge was fantastic, and put our aching feet into context. When seen from a distance, it’s a stupidly long way from Battery Park to the Rockefeller Centre!
A swift stop to try some frozen custard and then a walk over the famous bridge took us back into Manhattan by City Hall and the Woolworth Building (yes, it was built by the Woolworths we all knew and loved) which is beautiful and photos don’t really do it justice.


Both the wealth, and egos, behind some of these fantastic buildings is astonishing.
The heat and humidity are proving a challenge today so we found ourselves in an air-conditioned ‘geek’ outlet where we had a lovely chat with Angel who, with his local knowledge, would have been great to meet on our first day. We are in the USA so obviously our next stop was a Harley Davidson dealership, and yes you guessed it………..we couldn’t resist and brought a cup of tea.

Good job it’s not gas…..

John is fascinated by all of the vent stacks around the city liberating steam into the atmosphere and has been asking various people what it’s for – you know what he’s like. Apparently it’s the NY steam system which carries steam under the streets of Manhattan as a means of heating or cooling buildings. The system is old and leaks badly so wherever there is a leak, Con Eddison erect an orange and white stack to vent the steam and then walk away. Every street seems to have one or more!

Tomorrow, John may be telling you all about the Fire hydrants!! We’re off to prise Matt away from a TV for dinner before deciding if we can face a trip down to Brooklyn Bridge or call it a night at 8pm. We feel we ought to make the most of our time here but our feet are fighting back!

Wot, no breakfast?!?!

Those were Kim’s words when she realised we had to head straight for Central Park for today’s bike tour. A 9am start, 1.5 miles from the hotel wasn’t very well thought through. As Kim had done all the bookings, she only had herself to blame.

Our cycle tour was lead by Joel, a wannabe actor and didn’t it show. The tour was informative but hammy and delivered at about 100 miles an hour. The sun shone and the park was beautiful. The tour finished with a visit to Strawberry Fields and the ‘Imagine’ memorial. It’s interesting that, although this is where Lennon was assinated, Yoko still lives in the Dakota building opposite. It is also interesting that the real estate value of the park makes it too expensive for Donald Trump to buy if it ever came up for sale ($300bn). It would be good to see a lot more of the park at a more leisurely pace but we are are starting to feel a bit walked out. We’ve worked out we’re averaging a good 10-15 miles a day, which is fine for Matt but hard work for the rest of us.

John became hero of the day when he spotted a great place to eat, just a few minutes walk from the cycle hire. We sat on the sidewalk, had a leisurely brunch, watched the world go by and almost felt like locals as we asked for the check when we had finished.


New York has become a real dilemma for us, some of it we love and other things have us desperate to come home,  which has prompted some entertaining conversations. It was summed up neatly by an Aussie we met in a queue on Friday – we thought we were speaking the same language but, quite clearly, we’re not.
Matt was in his element in 5th Avenue so he was left there while John and Kim went and did culture. We visited the Frick Collection which is a lovely little museum housing….the Frick Collection! Consisting of some amazing paintings, furniture and artefacts but the bronze frogs in the pond stole the show.

We don’t have a picture of the garden room because Kim was too busy trying to work out how to steal the frog. Not for her a Turner or Van Dyck, all she wants is a frog fountain! There was almost a tantrum when she couldn’t purchase one in the museum shop..

ps (for concerned grandparents): Matt arrived back at hotel safe and well

Only in New York.

There is a beautiful display of flowers outside many of the shops including the market next door, if you look closely can you see what is wrong with them?

The guy who prepares the bunches spray paints them the different colours, we’ve seen him do it even though when John asked him he denies it! I wonder if New Yorker’s really believe that chrysanthemums come in such vibrant colours?

New York Yankees vs Los Angeles Angels

We arrived 30 minutes after the game started to find the Yankees in the lead 6-0. Fairly quickly, we realised we didn’t have a clue what was going on and should have booked basketball instead! The game appears to be a mixture of rounders and cricket, with a rest every two minutes. On the plus side, we managed the journey without incident – that’s one train all the way! On the negative, the officials at the stadium came across as really rude. John spent several minutes muttering ‘welcome to New York’!

The Yankees won the match, although they play it again the day after so it might change. There were some very loud and interesting characters on the subway on the way back and we were relieved to leave the train before the fighting broke out.

Tomorrow is an early start for a cycle tour of Central Park

Shop until you drop

I We are not a family of shoppers but it feels like today has turned us into one. The day started simply enough with breakfast at the local deli before a wander around the Murray Hill market. The market was an eclectic mix of crafts, food and bric-a-brac stalls and went almost to the entrance of Grand Central Station.


Then we decided we had to do Macy’s and that was a mistake. Surely the largest store in the world could keep us entertained for an hour so we split up. 30 mins into that hour we had all found our way to the meeting point and decided the store was not a patch on John Lewis!
A brisk walk took us to The High Line, an old railway line which runs above the city, it’s been converted into a pedestrian walkway with plants growing in between the old tracks.


We experienced our first Peanut butter ice cream sandwiches which sustained us until we managed a late lunch in Chelsea Market.


It was a long walk back from W15th to E34th but the grid system made sure we didn’t get lost – a bit like Milton Keynes! We took time to look at the Flatiron building looking very impressive in the late afternoon sunshine.


It’s 6:30 pm, we have tickets for baseball at 7:15 and all we want to do is sleep……

Staten Island Ferry to Times Square

I bet you didn’t know you could do that!! Ok, you can’t but that’s how we spent Friday evening.

The ferry was not too busy so we were able to sit outside and watch as we sailed past ‘Lady Liberty’ and into Staten Island. 


A brisk walk through the terminal saw us back on the same ferry for the return trip. The mist was descending so views weren’t great but the Ferry’s free so we weren’t complaining 
A walk up Wall Street took us back for another battle with the subway, only three trains for the return journey which felt like success for us!
Despite feeling very weary, we decided Friday night was for Times Square. Slightly refreshed after a meal of cheese on toast with tomato soup, we walked to Times Square via Broadway and Macy’s (we must go in there before we leave). The ‘square’ appears to be one long road rather than a square. The generation gap became clear, Matt was in heaven whilst we were wondering what on earth we were doing there! Bright flashing neon lights, packed streets and weird street artists.  Would you get topless women in Trafalgar Square? A walk back down 5th Avenue took us back to the apartment. 



See Forever….

….well, a few miles depending on humidity!

After the emotion of 9/11, we were off to the top of the world! 1 WTC Observatory was our next stop (thank you, Sarah, for the tip). It is the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere and has recently opened a viewing platform on floors 100-102. The lift can take you up in 48 seconds which we agreed was blooming fast for a lift!
We have discovered that, apart from the museum, New York likes to keep you waiting and guessing. Not for them a simple queue that takes you to a lift, you have to join a number of queues, be herded through an exhibition and then, if you’re really lucky you can get in a lift. Obviously us English are far too impatient! The exhibition was a simple walk listening to stories from some of those involved in creating 1WTC as a symbol that the New York spirit wasn’t crushed by 9/11, in fact it brought New Yorkers together as community. The lift was very clever – very fast and ear popping. The visuals on the way up showed you how Manhattan has developed since 1776 and it would have been great if the journey had been slower to be able to take that in.
We arrived on 102 to be treated to another show before, ta da!, the curtains were raised and we were treated to the view. Luckily the skies had cleared, after earlier rain, which felt a little symbolic when we thought about how we’d spent our day so far! Finally we arrived at the viewing deck which was spacious and prompted a conversation/row ‘Shard, Heron Tower or 1WTC’. It was amazing but, for Kim, you cannot beat an aerial view of the Tower of London.


The rest of the afternoon saw a walk through Battery Park and a trip across the harbour on the Staten Island Ferry as a way of seeing the Statue of Liberty without paying.
Interesting facts:
Battery Park was created from the spoil dug out from the original WTC construction site
The damaged sculpture, ‘The Sphere’ once stood in the original WTC plaza, after being recovered from the rubble of the Twin Towers it was relocated to Battery Park.

You can keep Kim quiet for hours if you put her in front of some water
Sorry, no photos from Ferry until we’ve worked out how to get the from camera to iPad

Remembering 9/11

Grand Central Station was our first stop after breakfast. It was pretty, clean and shiny and, of course, completely eclipsed by the Apple Store! The store is on one of the mezzanine floors and is as big as Clophill it must be open 24/7. Either that of the staff are very trusting and no-one steals the products….

The 9/11 memorial and museum was our next stop. Saying that we’d conquered the subway was a big, fat lie. We only had to travel down the ‘green’ line but we got on and off four trains to make a straightforward trip, it would have probably been quicker to walk!
The museum and memorial were well worth the journey. Before we’d got through the door, John had told us the story of Richard Rescoria. Born in Cornwall he was the fire officer responsible for Morgan Stanley and his insistence that fire evacuation plans were regularly practiced meant that 2700 people safely left the building before he went back inside, like so many others never to be seen again. We’d invested in a guided tour of the museum which was brilliant. The stories told, both sad and happy, together with the twisted remains brought the experience to life which was emotional and sobering.

The memorial is visually stunning but still tasteful and touching. If you’re wondering about the tree, it was planted in the original WTC Plaza and was found during the clean up. Named The Survivor Tree, it has been nursed back to health and stands as a symbol of survival. As I write, the tears  are streaming and it has been surprisingly difficult to put the experience into words.

King Kong, where are you?

Empire State Building at night ticked off the list but the monkey, along with the advertised saxophonist, were both missing! No sign of Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr reuniting either. It felt like commercialism at its worst but the views were fantastic. We missed seeing the sunset as we were ‘persuaded’ to do the NY Skyride first. It would take too long to complain about the scam but it generated a lot of muttering from us! Just to reassure you, Matt is alive and well, just missing from the photo having abandoned us at the first opportunity.

Wearily, collapsed into bed at 10:30 (3:30am in real time!) after discovering we only have a coffee maker, not a kettle!
This morning, NY is starting to look better. Kettle ordered from reception and breakfast in a local deli. We declined healthy oatmeal for scrambled egg, cheese and ham croissants, yummy! We’re off to find Grand Central Station before visiting the 9/11 memorial and museum and observatory at 1 WTC should Matt ‘I’m going for a run’ Bray ever join us! He is on the hotel treadmill rather than pounding NY streets – this is especially for Diane and Dot so they don’t call NYPD

New York Subway conquered…..

….. hotel finally discovered! We know we’re in the right city – yellow cabs, sirens and steam rising from pavements.

Flight was effortless and we’d recommend Delta -the safety video was hilarious and Oscar worthy, they kept plying us with food and drink and the entertainment selection was fab.
Our journey from JFK was traumatic. The queues at immigration were hideous – never again will we be smug when we sail through customs in the UK. The Airtrain from JFK to the subway was fast and scary – no driver and a steep drop down one side. As to the subway, what dippy system has gates that go both ways so you don’t know if you’re coming or going? A misleading map and poorly signed trains equalled a cheap but stressful ride. Customs and Subway officials grumpy and rude, locals in NY lovely and helpful. Taxi to be booked for the journey back, we think!
Hotel has a complimentary wine hour every evening so there go the plans for exploring for a while. We also have a huge room!
Tickets booked for the Empire State Building today which we shall do at dusk, drunk or not! Dusk feels a long way off……

Heathrow Snow Depot…..

The most amazing sight so far is the Heathrow Snow Depot, what do all those shiny trucks do for 360 days of the year? Anyway, we’re off to a flying start! Arrived at Heathrow with 50 mins to spare and, just as we got off the bus, Kim announced she’d left the travel docs in the car! Cue a panicky bus ride back to the car park for Kim with the lovely driver leaving early especially.

We were the last to check in and are now safely stowed in the plane.