#100happydays – day 46

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(Writing retrospectively as bubbles replaced blogging for the remainder of our trip…)

Day 3 in the big city began with birthday cards and a bit of a lie-in. We were finally on New York time and Antonia was catching up with me in birthday candle quotas (Happy Birthday darling gal!)

We started the day by walking (since we were so good at it!) through Gramercy and the Garment District to the fabulously authentic Empire Diner in Chelsea. There we ordered our own body weight in carbs and revelled in the company of purple-clad ‘Ray Charles’ who sat sipping cwoffee at the counter. The granola parfait was delish, the buttermilk pancakes purely sinful and the Hungry Bear breakfast was a heart attack waiting to happen, but we committed to the cause and ploughed our way through one of the the best breakfasts I’ve ever had. 

Continuing our week long theme of walking, we then explored the much hyped High Line park, built on a disused train track running north through Chelsea to the Garment District. Underwhelmed by all of the concrete and barren trees, we did however enjoy the birds’ eye street views and the pop art print stalls along the route. As Londoners used to picnicking in palatial greenery all year round, our visit to the High Line forced us to concede that we are in fact ‘park snobs’.

Our walking tour continued with a trip to Carrie Bradshaw’s stoop (it was mostly under tarpaulin with all the glam gone!) and the Friends’ apartment building (where we joined a mini queue of European tourists all vying for the same photo). The rain then made its debut appearance in our New York adventure and forced us to seek shelter (and more carbs) in the Magnolia Bakery. 

Having exhausted our enthusiasm for the West Village we then hailed a taxi to Pier 78 (much to the confusion of our taxi driver…I’m guessing very few of his fares take a boat ride in the rain) and boarded the City Sights Boat Tour. Feeling soggy, we did most of our sightseeing from the lower deck but did brave the choppy winds and downpour when we passed under the Brooklyn Bridge and circled the Statue of Liberty. Iconic landmarks with wind swept hairdos do NOT for good selfies make, but we tried our best nonetheless!  Back on dry land (but not feeling particularly dry!) we caught the shuttle bus to Times Square with the intention of doing the Upper Manhattan bus tour. But, as was typical of our experience of navigating our way around the city, the lack of clear signage and the blank expressions on New Yorkers’ faces when quizzed for directions, made finding the right bus stop impossible. So once again, despite protests from our swollen feet, we ended up walking to the American Museum of Natural History on the Upper West Side. There we snapped shots of the most significant filming locations from the Ben Stiller movie franchise, all the while looking for our next cup of tea. 

After an exhausting day out west, we decided to head back to the twinkling lights and trendy bars of the Financial District. It took a while (and the help of a friendly local) for us to buy the correct subway fare but sparing our blisters and avoiding the Manhattan traffic felt like mini victories. After a quick detour down Wall Street to rub the bull’s balls for luck (as is customary!) we found an inviting bar that served appetising appetisers and good quality Kiwi wine. Sorted! There we got quite tipsy; tipsy enough to later think that limboing under the subway barrier was acceptable behaviour. 

Back in Mid Town and in a bid to maximise full value from our NYC sightseeing pass, we headed (lightheaded!) to the Empire State Building’s 86th floor observation deck. By this time it was almost midnight and the alcohol coursing through our veins did very little to warm us up at that height. But even with the low cloud cover, the views were spectacular. Another huge tick in the box for us and for NYC! 

 


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#100happydays – day 45

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 Another day, another dollar. We began our morning with brewed teas in Starbucks. Turns out, brewed tea is not tea as we know it (and thankfully the lovely Starbucks staff swapped our green herb infused cups of hot water for English breakfast tea when we realised our mistake). We then walked to the Flatiron district to admire one of the most beautiful buildings we’ve seen yet, the Flatiron. It was, like, tooooootally awesome!

On the recommendation of a friend back home, we headed to a quaint little eatery in a quiet corner of Gramercy when we enjoyed the real deal NYC brekkie, Eggs Benedict. “You want house fries with that?“, the waiter asked. Chips for breakfast, surely not! But it worked and was delicious.

In a bid to explore as much of the city on foot as possibles (and to burn off the Eggs Benedict!) we then walked the length of Lower Manhattan. Through Greenwich, Soho and Tribeca we marvelled at the incredible high rises and the beautiful brown stones as we inched closer and closer to One World Trade Center.  

In the Financial District we were surprised to find that you can actually loose sight of New York’s tallest skyscraper with so many others blocking the view. We walked the entire perimeter of One World Trade Center with our heads bent upwards before joining the queue for the 9/11 Memorial Museum. Once inside, we lost almost three hours of the day. The Museum is beautifully designed and utterly huge. Around every corner is another new exhibit, each one slightly different from the last but no less interesting or moving. We hadn’t planned to spend so long in the Memorial Museum but I’m glad that we did. It felt like an important part of my New York experience.

To lift our somber mood after leaving the museum, we stopped for tea and cake before walking down Wall Street and ticking another ‘must do’ off our New York itinerary. We then found ourselves on the waterfront and realising that we were a little late to catch the last sightseeing cruise of the day, we opted instead to ride the Staten Island Ferry. We then spent the next hour happily snapping photos of Lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty as we rode back and forth across the Hudson.

Back on dry land, and after acknowledging our dry throats, we found a cozy bar that was celebrating Happy Hour where we rested our weary legs and enjoyed a much needed stiff drink.

Our plans to then walk across the Brooklyn Bridge were put on hold when we found a branch of Abercrombie & Fitch advertising their 50% off sale. Yes please and thank you very much! Thereafter we discovered that the combination of beer drinking and shopping did our bladders no favours so we spent a frantic 15 minutes looking for a loo (Starbucks and 7 Eleven were both having plumbing problems…”sorry ma’am“…aaaaaaargh!). So in our collective desperation we dived into a dive bar and bought more beers (the irony!) just so we use the ‘restroom’. There we enjoyed a hilarious half hour of people watching in what felt like a true New Yorker’s hangout. There was a moose head on the wall, a ballgame on the TV and a small group of regulars sat at the bar (as well as signed bras stapled to every inch of the ceiling!)

By the time we finally found the footpath to the Brooklyn Bridge walkway, it was dusk and the New York skyline was twinkling with a million lights. We could not have timed it any better! The views were spectacular and despite our best efforts to catch them on film, we had to stop ourselves from trying and simply soak up the moment instead.

In Brooklyn we found ourselves a little lost as to where to go next. But after a short walk and quick scout about, we found a sports bar (yay!) where we met a friendly young bartender who was happy to tell us why Brooklyn is now so up and coming. After our 12 hour walking tour of Manhattan and Brooklyn, we felt we’d earned a taxi cab ride back to the hotel. The drive in itself was an interesting addition to our day. Crossing the bridge at night and zipping around the freeway around the edge of the island gave us a new perspective on the size and scale of this incredible city.  

Back on East 31st Street we found the cute little pizzeria we’d earmarked for dinner the night before. There we enjoyed the perfect ‘pizza pie’ and a generous glass of red before collapsing exhaustedly into our boudoir-chic sheets for some much needed beauty sleep. Goodnight y’all!

#100happydays – day 44

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We’re in New York City!! And I’ve been enjoying so many happy moments since we arrived that I’ve not had time to blog them all. But as it’s now 6am and I can’t get back sleep because I’m too excited about the day ahead, I thought I’d try to summarise the highlights of my first 36 hours in the Big Apple with my bestie.

Our hotel The Martha Washington, found blindly online, is boudoir-chic and perfectly central. We arrived mid-afternoon on Saturday and after unpacking, FaceTime with the kids and watching some ‘like totally addictive’ American TV, we headed out to explore our local neighbourhood.

The Empire State Building is a five minute walk away and I got some serious goose bumps when I saw it up close and personal for the first time. And as we headed north along 5th Avenue, iconic landmarks littered the way. We stopped off at the New York Public Library to buy a hot pretzel from a street vendor (I’ve always wanted to do that!), we peaked through the doors of the spectacular St Patrick’s Church and we squealed excitedly when we spotted the twinkling lights of the Chrysler Building. By the time we reached Time Square, I’d taken about 100 photos. In Times Square, I took 100 more! Wow, just wow.

Sunday was our first full day here and we had a packed itinerary planned. We began the day with a hearty breakfast in the chilly city before collecting our NYC Passes from a sprawling souvenir shop where we managed to avoid buying tourism tat, for now. We then headed down 34th Street where we were momentarily sidetracked by The Gap’s 40% off everything sale. Quality tees for $2 and capsule wardrobe classics for next to nothing!

We spent a happy half hour exploring Macy’s, the worlds’s largest store, before hopping on a sightseeing bus and heading south. Our tour guide was a true New Yorker, full of funny stories and (sometimes unintentionally hilarious) commentary as we oooed and ahhhed our way through the Flatiron District, Chelsea, the West Village and Tribeca. We both got goosebumps when we saw World Trade 1 and the vicinity of 9/11. A tiny chapel, just yards for the sight of the Twin Towers, miraculous survived unscathed when the towers fell around it and the faint sense of what it must have been like to have been on the ground that day was intensely moving.

Spotting the Statue of Liberty in the distance as we passed Battery Park, and then admiring the beauty of the Brooklyn Bridge were yet more highlights on our brilliant bus tour. I had to resist the urge to give our lovely tour guide a hug when we disembarked at The Rockerfeller Center. After spending over an hour with him (he sat right behind us throughout the tour and happily answered all of our questions), I felt as if he was my first New York friend! 

Our afternoon was spent marvelling at the impressive collection of Picassos, Klimts and Warhols at the Museum of Modern Art before we took an elevator to the 70th floor of the Rockerfeller Centre where the word ‘breathtaking’ doesn’t actually do the views justice. It was an experience I will remember for the rest of my life.  We rounded off our incredible day at Grand Central Station where we drank champagne cocktails at the Campbell Apartments. And this was just Day 1 folks. Happy moments overload!   

#100happydays – day 43

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My favourite Holloway hangout where sandwiches and service are second to none

I enjoyed a little but lovely happy moment today whilst waiting in line for my lunch. There’s a small and fairly unremarkable looking Turkish cafe on the Caledonian Road that, in my humble opinion, makes some of the best fresh sandwiches in North London. The cafe’s friendly and flirty manager seems to know everyone, if not by name by sandwich filling. And as I’m only ever in the area on a Tuesday (and because I don’t buy my lunch there every week) I’m always impressed by his ability to remember my order with perfect accuracy; chicken tikka with mint yoghurt on a poppyseed baguette with extra cucumber. Today the lunch queue was a long one and I found myself towards the back, sandwiched (chortle, chortle!) between an impatient man with a list that suggested he was ordering lunch for his entire office, and a trio of giggling, shrieking girls talking loudly to each other as they teetered on their heals. In the midst of my ‘should I stay or should I go?’ thoughts, my lovely Turkish ‘sandwichier’ caught my eye, gave me a wink and placed my freshly-made order on the counter, gesturing for me to step forward to claim my lunch. No one seemed to notice my unintentional queue jumping and I was in and out of the cafe in less than 3 minutes, thus arriving at work early and smugly satisfied, both nutritionally and logistically. How’s that for service!  

#100happydays – day 42

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Today was a fairly unremarkable Wednesday until I took the dog for a walk. The kids were at school and nursery so I was looking forward to some ‘chatter-free-no-need-to-referee’ time with just the puppy and my iPod. T’was not to be! We got about 200 yards down the road before Beano made a beeline for the bum of an enormous German Shepherd who appeared to be randomly weaving in and out of parked cars. I then spent the next hour or so doggie stalking (as I tried to work out if he was alone and lost or heading home like Lassie did), sweet talking a van driver to lend me his belt as a makeshift lead to guide the gargantuan beast back to the safety of my garden, googling the RSPCA (and being redirected to the local dog warden service), and trying to prevent my over-excited puppy from potentially pissing off our furry guest. I then had the dilemmas of what to give him to eat (the options were limited to Beano’s Turkey n’ Rice kibble or Lamb n’ Rice kibble…he liked the lamb) and where best to leave him while I dashed to school and back. After a short deliberation I realised the garden was my only option. The boys were just as excited by our garden-guest as Beano and it took all of my patience and powers of persuasion to convince them that no, we should not let him come inside, even just for “a little bit”. By 4pm I was beginning to panic, having not heard back from the RSPCA, Enfield Council or the Dog Wardens. I mentally began planning how to turn the playhouse into a makeshift kennel for the night whilst Reece offered to make flyers to begin mail-shooting the neighbours with. He loves a project! But my ultimate happy-cheesey-Hollywood-style-moment finally came when the dog warden arrived with the fairly distraught owners in tow and my canine squatter was reunited with his family. They were grateful, I was thankful and we all lived happily ever after…for today at least.



#100happydays – day 41

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IMG_7157I’ve really struggled to hone in on my happy moments this week. And after talking to a friend who pointed out how unlikely it would be to have 100 consecutive happy days in a row, I’ve been re-examining my compulsive need to blog about the mundane. Surely the marvellous is more interesting? I reached an editorial low when I realised that Tuesday’s happy moment was having tea and crumpets. And when the delivery of a new filter for my vacuum cleaner was the single most satisfying thing that happened to me on Wednesday, I decided enough was enough. Who reads this shit anyway?!

So, in a bid to reduce my daily to do list and to avoid blogging for the sake of it, my new approach to the happy days project is to only write something when I actually have something to write about.

Today was Mother’s Day and I’m feeling loved. At breakfast-(in bed)-time, Leo announced the day’s itinerary; “We’re having cuddles, lunch and dinner mummy”. I was given 9 cards including 2 laminated ones (apparently Mother’s Day card-making is a competitive sport amongst my lot) as well as the promise of unconditional day-long good behaviour (although her afternoon tantrum in WHSmith suggests that Niamh didn’t fully understand what she was signing up to).

I love the fact that my family are so tactile and so affectionate. Even Seb, my physical-contact-phobic 11 year old, has given me an (albeit fleeting) hug today. And as she cuddled up to me at bedtime, Niamh sweetly explained that she loved me, and daddy, and the boys, and Beano, and Elsa (of the Frozen variety). I asked her what it meant to love someone and she put it plainly…“to be best friends”. So I’m feeling very thankful for all of my best friends today. Happy moments aplenty!IMG_7142

#100happydays – day 40

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Truth be told I’m loosing momentum at this stage of my happy days marathon. Thinking of something new and unique to be happy about every day is turning into a bit of a chore, not least because most days I’m just happy to make it through to bed time! But with some very lovely things to look forward to in the next 60 days, I’m determined to keep calm and blog on, so….

Having noticed how sluggish and slow my runs have been of late (I’m attributing this to my metaphoric uphill climb to turning 40, after which point I’m told it’s all downhill from there on…), I’ve tried to include speed training in my running routine. And today’s 5k was my fastest of 2015 so far. Gotta love those endorphins!