New York in July – what we did

Having established that New York in July is hot hot hot, you’d be forgiven for thinking that being a very pale cold weather addict, I wouldn’t want to do very much.  In reality, we actually managed to pack loads into our short stay, and were out every night which is most unusual for our trips.  I very quickly gave up putting make up on as it just melted off, my feet are still broken, and I ruined a pair of shoes, but we powered through to have an amazing holiday.

What did we get up to, other than walking, shopping, and eating (which I’ll cover off later):

Saturday night – The Container Store
OK, OK, a bit of a slow start to our trip.  We landed at 2.30pm, raced through security onto the LIRR, and we were all checked in by 4.  Such an efficient start to the holiday!  We had assumed we wouldn’t have much time on our first night so hadn’t planned anything, but I knew I needed a Mint Mocha Frap from ‘my’ Starbucks so I took Husband over there first.  We then wandered down 6th Avenue, spent about an hour in The Container Store, before grabbing some dinner and getting back to the room.

Saturday night looking at bins and then getting caught in a rain storm – what an epic life.

Sunday night – John Oliver
The perfect way to end a day wandering around Midtown was watching John Oliver at the CBS Broadcast Center.  So amazing.

Monday afternoon – The Big Sick at the Alamo Drafthouse
This was our first trip to Brooklyn, and we didn’t get to see much but what we did see, we loved.  We took the East River ferry which was so easy, cheap, and fast.  Much more enjoyable that the subway.  We alighted at DUMBO and walked the mile or so to Fulton Street, which ordinarily would have been delightful but it was just so freaking hot so we didn’t really enjoy the walk.

Thank goodness for the air con at the Alamo Drafthouse.  I have been mildly obsessed with seeing The Big Sick for a while, mostly because I adore Kumail Nanjiani. Admittedly, we could have seen the film in Manhattan, but c’mon – it’s the Alamo Drafthouse!  Once we’d figured out how to order food, we had cocktails, a giant bowl of popcorn, warm pretzels.  The legendary service they offer was absolutely perfect and WHY CAN’T WE HAVE THIS IN THE UK?!?!?!

The film was pretty damn perfect as well.  I want to see it again!!

Monday night – 1984
I was a bit nervous to see this as reviews really laid it on thick with the warnings – people fainting, getting into fights, graphic torture.  Not really a fun evening.

I didn’t need to be worried – I found the entire thing boring and unnecessary.  Everyone else around me thought it was great though, so maybe it was just me.

Tuesday Morning – The High Line
I’ve been on the High Line three times now, and each time has been cold, windy, and featured dead wintery plants.  This was the first time that we’d been with the plants and trees in full bloom and it was glorious.  There’s still a bit of building works around it, and parts of it were incredibly busy, but I loved it as always.  Truly my favourite part of New York.

We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around Greenwich Village and Soho which is my favourite part of Manhattan.  We did consider going to the Whitney but it was insanely busy (do New York galleries every have quiet periods?).

Tuesday night – Macy’s fireworks
We ummed and ahhed about what we’d do on 4th July.  I’d trawled the entire internet for a rooftop bar to watch the fireworks from but they were either sold out or ridiculously priced.  Everyone online said it would be an absolute nightmare to go down to the East River to watch, so up until the very last minute we weren’t going to bother.

I’m glad we did.  We filed up the on-ramp onto the closed FDR drive about an hour before the show and managed to get a spot right in the centre of the five barges loaded with fireworks, although some of the view was blocked by a couple of street signs – we were stood directly below a sign for exit 9.  There were thousands of people on the freeway if not more, but 95% of people were lovely and very respectful of everyone’s personal space.

The main problem was trying to get back to the hotel once the fireworks were over as we had to walk down the freeway to the next exit, which was 12 blocks away from where we wanted to be.  It took us about an hour, and my step count leapt to 34,000 steps for the day.  I was shattered.  No regrets at all though – the fireworks were very pretty, and it was a great experience.

Wednesday Morning – Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum
I wasn’t particularly interested in visiting Intrepid but Husband has wanted to go for years so it was only fair that we visited.  My review – there weren’t enough seats and it was weird being on an aircraft carrier.

He really enjoyed it and I got doughnuts afterwards so that’s all that matters.

Up next – food!

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver – live taping!

When I was in New York a couple of months ago, I scored tickets to the live taping of Samantha Bee and it was awesome.  I would have loved to have seen John Oliver as well, but I was only there from Wednesday to Saturday and he films on Sunday so it was not meant to be.

For our July trip, we would be there on a Sunday but I was convinced there wouldn’t be a show as it was 4th July weekend.  But hooray – there was!  It was the same CBS Broadcast Center as Sam Bee, same booking, same waiting process but with a couple of crucial differences.

The first difference – Last Week Tonight tickets ‘sell’ out almost immediately (Sam’s didn’t) so plan in advance.  They make the tickets available at 3pm EST on a specific date, so for me, it meant I had the laptop ready at 8pm London time 3 weeks before the show I wanted to see.  You have to enter postcode and phone number, and for those not in the US, they suggest entering zeros (ten 0’s for the phone number 000-000-0000 and five 0’s for the zip code 00000).  I was worried this would be problematic, but it didn’t cause me any issues.  Only enter your details once as they say they’ll disqualify you if you do.

10 minutes after they’d been released they were entirely sold out, so you need to be ready to book exactly on 3pm EST.  There apparently is a standby line on a Sunday but they “frequently do not have space” so I wouldn’t want to risk it.

They advise that they’ll get back to you within 5-7 days but I didn’t hear at all so assumed we didn’t get the tickets (fooled again!).  Just as with Sam Bee, I got the email confirming I had tickets at about 11pm the night before the taping – YES!  I had to reply that I still wanted them, and got into a little email conversation with them on Sunday morning about whether I’d been before – I can understand wanting to see it again, but it’s so great that they discourage this so more people have the opportunity to go.

Anyway, after my 6am email chat, I throughly read the email which I recommend doing as there are a lot of instructions.  They suggest getting there no later than 6.15pm, but if you get there at that time, I very much doubt you’ll get in.  I was being smug and decided to get there for 5.30 but the queue was already halfway down the block so I did have a little bit of anxiety (I walked straight in for Sam Bee).Our names were checked off the list and we followed the queue of people through security and into the waiting room where the same woman as before told us the rules – no photos of John, switch your phones off, use the bathroom now, no leaving the studio once you get in – and after a short wait, we were led into the studio.  I got a bit disorientated going through the Center, but according to Wikipedia, they’re both filmed in the same studio.  We sat over on the left side, 4/5 rows back and had a great view.

After a quick warm up from the excellent Craig Baldo, John came out and answered a few questions.  He was brilliantly funny from the outset, and although he’s obviously still very British, he definitely has more of an American vibe in his confidence (if that makes sense?).  I wish I’d asked him if it was difficult to pronounce words in the American way – he said “math” at once point, and pronounced “aluminium” wrong. Surely painful for a Cambridge alum.

Just as with Sam Bee, everything was filmed in one take (other than one segment where he stumbled a bit over the script) and the clips were all shown as they are on TV, except for one additional clip which we saw in the TV version later.

As you can see in the top photo, a third of the set was curtained off and we didn’t know what was behind it but everyone in the studio hyped us up for it.  And when the curtain came down, everyone in the audience just lost their minds – this was the episode where John revealed they’d bought 5 presidential waxworks at an auction, and we were then shown the ‘trailer’ for his Warren G. Harding film.  I was torn between watching the video and watching John who was almost in tears from laughing so hard.

And then it was done – it felt super quick, and we were soon filing out past the terrifying waxworks.  Seriously, the Bill Clinton was the most freakish thing up close.

I can’t believe I’ve been lucky enough to get tickets for the two best talk shows on TV.  I love New York!

Virgin Atlantic Upper Class

I am not ashamed to admit that flying Virgin Atlantic Upper Class is one of the best holiday experiences I’ve ever had.  We were incredibly fortunate to be in a position to upgrade both to New York and back, so were able to check out the view from an Airbus A330 and Boeing 787 Dreamliner (my favourite plane), as well as sample cocktails in both the Heathrow and JFK Clubhouses.

Check in at Heathrow was a bit stressful – we didn’t use the Upper Class Wing, and joined a bit of a scrum at the normal check in which felt like it took forever.  The “private security channel” wasn’t actually worth it as it was going slower than the main security line, but it does look as though they’re in the middle of renovating that area. By the time we got to the Clubhouse, I was a little frazzled.

A Clubhouse that was rammed, but we managed to find a quiet spot next to a window.  I remember Rach talking about the spa, so went over to get an appointment – they had one spot left for a Bumble and Bumble reconditioning treatment which would be cutting it a bit fine for my flight, but I was assured that it wouldn’t be a problem.  Whilst waiting for my treatment, we had some breakfast and I wandered about to see what else the Clubhouse had to offer (we weren’t actually given a tour when we got there).  There’s a deli area, bar, pool table, half-finished TV room, and the most gorgeous tiles in the bathrooms.  I might have taken a photo for bathroom renovation inspiration.

The hair treatment itself was free so I’m not complaining but… The two women in the salon before me had insanely long hair which they were getting straightened and curled (each, not both at the same time obviously), which meant that my appointment was 10 minutes late.  It was a great treatment and my hair felt gorgeous afterwards, but Husband was waiting for me as I left the salon because our flight was already on it’s final call.  We almost had to sprint to the gate, which of course was the gate furthest from the lounge, so all that nice relaxing was ruined!

Our experience at JFK was a million times better, starting with the dedicated check in desk in a quieter area of the airport (although security still took an age).  The JFK Clubhouse is a smaller lounge, but I loved it as it didn’t feel busy at all.  We sat in a sofa pod where I almost fell asleep because it was so comfortable and just so quiet.  The service was impeccable, and we felt truly looked after – that might have been because our waiter checked up on us frequently to make sure we were stocked up on cocktails. It was almost a “thank you, Linus” situation.

I ended up having the same Bumble and Bumble treatment as before, but was able to enjoy it this time as I didn’t have to rush off afterwards.  I really don’t think my hair has ever felt or looked as good.  Not only that, but the luxurious Clubhouse showers were an absolute godsend after walking round a hot Midtown all day.  The flights were amazing – I mean, how could they not be when there’s a bar on board? The Airbus was a little older, a bit scuffed and chipped with the 1-2-1 configuration.   Husband preferred this – the seat dividers were higher than the newer 1-1-1 layout on the Dreamliner so he didn’t have a nosy American peering at his dinner (unlike our second flight).  The Herschel amenity kits are very cool so we now have two different Herschel toiletry bags each, and I of course kept my Virgin Atlantic PJs.  The salt and pepper shakers might have found their way home with me as well.

I tried the lie flat bed  on the Dreamliner for about 45 minutes, but it was just too hot to sleep with the duvet so I sat up and kept watching TV.  I did nap for a bit longer, but I was absolutely roasting and I only had a sleeveless top and thin leggings on – I didn’t dare try the long sleeved PJs as I think I would have melted.  It was a shame that I couldn’t make more of the bed, but the chair was just as comfortable.

The main negative from the whole thing was that the flights were only 6/7 hours long – I could have stayed on there for hours (I’ve just checked the price on the longer Miami flight – yeesh!  That’s not going to happen).

Oh, and the scrambled egg was the most hateful thing I have ever eaten – I don’t know why I thought they could make decent eggs on a plane.

Premium economy just doesn’t compare though, so now I’ve just got to hope that the upgrade gods smile on us and I get to experience it all again.  What an absolute joy.

New York isn’t New York without you, Love

2017 has so far been the year of trips across the Atlantic – St Pete Beach, New York, Miami and this past week, back to New York again only this time with Husband.  He felt a little jealous of my solo trip in February, so we took advantage of a Virgin Atlantic sale and booked up for July.

Hot.

Humid

4th July weekend.

I’m pleased we got to experience a different side to New York as we’ve only ever been when it’s been freezing cold, but New York in July is insane, particularly when they’re celebrating 4th July.  Every other person was wearing a Stars and Stripes t-shirt, shorts, dress, hat.  And then there was the Macy’s fireworks celebration.

They do love their independence.

We genuinely had a great time and managed to power through the oppressive heat to try some things we hadn’t tried before which I will be blogging about with my usual level of detail once I’ve got through my stack of photos.

June Things

Is it time for the second instalment of my monthly things already?  But I’ve barely done anything all month!

June has whizzed by, with my downtime spent mostly online researching my next holiday (New York, very imminently).  So what else have I done (*scrolls through Instagram and my bank account…)

My Garden
At the end of May, my Mum very kindly tidied my garden and planted some flowers, so I spent June worrying myself over them – are they getting enough sun, too much sun, are they thirsty, have I drowned them?  It’s a lot of pressure.  I have been rewarded with some gorgeous roses however, and am very much looking forward to adding to my garden at the Hampton Court Flower Show next month.  Is this middle age?

Reading
My Kindle was getting old and tired, ironic considering it’s named after my favourite robot from Humans, Odi who was also old and tired, so Husband kindly bought me a new one which I have named Mischa.  This month has seen me read a few blah books, and a couple of good ones including Eddie Izzard’s memoir and The Portable Veblen which I’ve been meaning to read for a while.  If you want to see what else I’ve been powering through, check out my Goodreads shelf on the left side of my blog.Footloose at Liberty
Watching the Backyard Cinema showing of Footloose at Liberty was everything it should have been – sand, deckchairs, excellent company.

Family Time
My Mum was in charge of my adorable nice one Saturday, so asked if I’d like to join them for some shopping in McArthur Glen in Swindon, which is pretty much my favourite shopping centre in the UK, so of course I said yes.  Driving the tiny blond one around in a one of those Little Tikes cars was so much fun – she’s such a joy to be around.  
The Election
I don’t understand this country.  I really don’t.

You really can’t dance here, man

I hope that one day, I’m asked where’s the weirdest place I’ve watched a film (a common question), because after this week, I’ll be able to say in a sand filled room on the fourth floor of Liberty.

I haven’t really got into the whole pop-up immersive cinema scene.  I’ve seen friends get all dressed up to see Star Wars or Back to the Future and thought “meh, seems like a lot of effort to me”.  I love comfort, so sitting on a rug on the floor whilst straining my neck to see the screen doesn’t scream fun for me.

However, something about the Backyard Cinema screenings at Liberty appealed to me. It might have been the Miami theme (considering my recent visit), it might have been that it was being held in my favourite store, or it could have been the brilliant selection of films.  We’ll never know.

The whole summer, Backyard Cinema is based at the Mercato Metropolitano in South London, a place I have yet to visit but looks amazing.  They’re showing some absolute classics there – new and old, children’s, comedy, action – all sorts.  And as a little offshoot to their summer season, they set up shop in the Disappearing Store on 4 at Liberty.  
Tim and I got tickets for Footloose, and I really do recommend seeing Footloose with him as he is a world renowned expert on all things Ren McCormack.  The last time I watched it with him was at the Prince Charles Cinema at one of their overnight PJ parties, and I shamefully fell asleep midway through.  I’m not sure if he’s forgiven me for that.

We were given flip flops before we went into the room because they had filled the whole place with sand, sadly not Liberty print flip flops which was my only criticism.  There were about 20 deckchairs set up with little tables full of sweets and popcorn, and we were given a drink when we arrived.  It was so satisfying to sit in the deckchair and feel the sand between your toes.  Made me really nostalgic for Surfside.  I really can’t think of a better place to watch a film.  They did such a great job with the staging, and I’m tempted to visit their main location.  I’ll definitely keep checking in with them to see what new experiences they come up with.

Also, I became obsessed with the Liberty cushions.  Damn, they’re pretty.  Possibly just a wee bit outside my price range however…

Returning to Surfside, FL

A few months ago, Mum decided she want to treat me and my brother to a ‘do-nothing’ holiday, and asked my opinion on where we should go.  The first place that came to mind was Surfside, Florida after falling in love with it last year.

I knew my Mum would love it – she’s a sun worshipper, loves the beach and a bit of shopping, but ultimately looks for peace and quiet on her holidays which is what Surfside excels at.  Fortunately, she adored it as much as I do and is even making some plans to return next year.  My brother and sister-in-law equally had a wonderful time, and my little niece took to Florida like a pro, strutting round the place with her sunnies and beachwear.

We stayed at the same(ish) hotel as last year as well – the Grand Beach Hotel – but instead of staying at their beachside property, we chose the sister building across the road.  Because there were six of us, we ideally wanted the three bedroom suite that could only be found at the West building which was a bit of a shame as we would have loved a balcony overlooking the ocean.  There were definitely benefits though – as it was smaller, the second hotel is much quieter and we hardly ever saw anyone else.  It also meant that we had the rooftop pool to ourselves most of the time so it felt much more exclusive.  Never a bad thing.

There aren’t any catering facilities in the West building so you have to plan ahead, but that didn’t cause us any problems at all – it’s slightly closer to the shops in Surfside so we were in the Publix and CVS every day (I think I actually went to Publix three times on one of the days – I bloody love it).  The main hotel is barely a two minute walk, so when we weren’t sunning ourselves on the roof, we were in the palm garden or eating quesadillas in the restaurant.It was pretty damn hot most of the time, but once again we beat the weather with only one tiny storm making us change our plans.  Last year, I read an insane amount of books, but I was so dedicated to relaxing this time round that I couldn’t even manage to hold my kindle.  I am genuinely struggling to remember how i filled 8 hours in the garden – it was next level ‘do-nothing’.

We did all the usual things on this trip again – South Beach, Aventura Mall, dinner in Bal Harbour and on Harding Ave – with the only new location being Dolphin Mall where I bought a bright pink Kate Spade bag from Bloomingdales which was such a ridiculous bargain.  I felt bad about dragging the poor Uber driver out so far as it was a bit trafficy in Hialeah, but he wasn’t bothered at all.  As is now tradition, we went up to the rooftop bar at the Grand Beach on the last night for some cocktails under the pinky glow of a Miami sunset – there was a glorious breeze and I once again wondered if I should start paying the lottery so I can give up work and just be on a permanent vacation.  Curse you Surfside – you make it so easy to dream about running away from my mortgage!


Until next time (which might be next year, the way plans are going at the moment!)

May Things

Wow, it has been a while.

For a bit of a kick in the butt, I’ve decided to follow a lot of other bloggers and post a monthly review, because then I’ll at least have one post a month.  Hopefully, this will get me back in the habit of regularly writing though.

No real format here – I’m just going to pick five things of note each month which I might have already blogged about or not, but definitely memorable for good (or not so good) reasons.  Let’s get started with May 2017.

Miami Trip
This deserves it’s own post, and is definitely my highlight of the month.  After a series of events and conversations, my Mum decided to take me and Husband, and my baby brother and his family to Miami, specifically my beautiful Surfside and I cannot emphasise enough how much relaxing we did.  It was perhaps a smidge too warm for some of us, but I spent most of the time lying in the palm garden not doing anything.  And the rest of the time shopping, which brings me to…

Sephora
What is a holiday without a trip to Sephora?  This isn’t everything that I bought – I also picked up some essentials like a million sheet masks – but I was really happy to find this Summer Hair Saviours kit – the Sephora at Aventura Mall has actually moved since I went last year, and is now much bigger so has more of these sets in stock.  The photo missing a couple of items that I’ve already used, but I’m excited to try the rest.  I love miniatures!

Eurovision
Once again, I failed to pick the popular songs.  I actually hated the twee-ness from the winning song – Eurovision for me needs high energy, bouncy, Europop and the Portuguese winner was the absolute antithesis of this.  Never mind.  My favourite was I Feel Alive by IMRI, and it has not left my playlist all month.

BFF Dinner
I have been an entirely crap friend of late, but I couldn’t miss celebrating the BFF‘s birthday, so we met for dinner at the National Theatre Terrace – what a great restaurant.  Once we’d actually found each other – for some reason, we both got to the table from entirely different entrances – and once we’d realised it was tapas and not just an odd menu.  I had deep fried veg with aioli which were so moreish, and delicious patatas bravas.  After dinner, we went for coffee and I had some very much needed chatty time.

Reflection
I didn’t really know how to title this.  Part of the reason for the time away is that May has become a tough month for us.  It was the first anniversary of my Dad’s death which is obviously something none of us will ever get over, so I took the day off work and had some time to myself to reflect.  I feel really close to my Dad when I’m outside as he loved nature, so I went for a long walk around the Pond on my own.  I felt it was the best way to mark the day.

I left my soul there, down by the sea

Our overnight trips to Brighton follow a well established routine:

Last weekend was much the same, with one excellent new addition.

We stayed at The Grand again, and took advantage of their renovations to get a heavily discounted sea front room.  We got such a great room – huge, with a separate dressing room and lovely bathroom.  It was bigger than my house, and the only (tiny) downside was the scaffolding at the front.

We could still see the sea!

The excellent new addition to our Brighton schedule is Befries on West Street, mere metres from our hotel.  Befries sells Belgian fries.  That’s it.  Doesn’t sound very exciting, but OH MY GOD, they are the most amazing fries ever.  Even more exciting than that, they offer a mad selection of dips and offered us as many to try as we wanted.Now let me see if I can remember what we had; Belgian mayo, curry ketchup, sate, Dutch mayo, frites sauce, Hannibal (an onion sauce), and one other which I’ve forgotten!  One of them tasted like pickled onion Monster Munch which went so perfect with the fluffy fries.  We actually only chose a couple of dips to start with, but one of the guys behind the counter convinced us to get more – they are such a friendly team and were so welcoming.

It’s definitely my new favourite place.

Which we’ll be going back to in a couple of weeks as we’ve decided to book another quick trip whilst the scaffolding is still up.   And to get more fries. YES!

Sticker Swaps Subscription – part 2

A couple of months ago, the lovely people at Stickers Swaps contacted me to see if I’d like to review their stickers subscription service.  They emailed again to let me know they’ve been making changes to the monthly mailouts, so wondered if I’d like another set.

I love the new packaging they have – very smart, with the link to this month’s stickers across the top.  They’ve also focussed their selection a bit – instead of lots of random stickers, they’ve decided to send 10 “featured artists” stickers, so the quality is maintained at a really high level.

There’s lots of great designs, like Emma Brett‘s skulls and Steve Hind‘s moka pot.  I picked out my favourite three which just happened to be from the same artist.

These very adorable burger, tomato, and Stay Puft man stickers are by Cocorino who also sells through his own Etsy shop.  His Instagram is full of great designs.

If you like what you see, use the code UNTOLD50 for 50% off the first month which can be used on any of their subscription options.

Thanks guys – am loving the changes!