New York in December – Everything Else

Having been to New York on a few occasions now, we have a pretty solid routine, but we do enjoy adding one or two new experiences on each trip.

We were up early enough on the Saturday to get to the Westfield World Trade Center as it opened – mostly because we wanted to get the classic shot at the entrance that everyone gets for Instagram before it got crowded. This was our first visit – the architecture is incredibly impressive but I think I enjoyed the walk through Tribeca more than the mall. We spent very little time here once we’d got our shots, and quickly scuttled up to SoHo for some shoe shopping.

Of course we took a trip up the High Line – we could see parts of it from our hotel room and it frequently looked packed full of people, so we again took advantage of our jet lag to get there early for a gloriously peaceful walk. We saw some beautiful art on this visit – “Agora is a group exhibition that looks at the role of art in defining, creating, and using public space” – and I particularly loved the light installations like Somos 11 Millones by Andrea Bowers (above) and Marinella Senatore’s Give Your Daughter’s Difficult Names (below). It would have been amazing to see them at night.

We had a quick wander around Central Park, but this was peak Christmas Vacation and the crowds were insane. The relative calm of Greenwich Village and SoHo had lulled us into a false sense of security and we completely underestimated how busy the whole of Midtown would be. After battling through the hoards in Central Park, I had the brilliant idea of going down 5th Ave to see the Saks window display – no chance. It was a scrum.

The crowd briefly parted for me to see a bit of the store front, and that was enough for me so we ducked down towards Rockefeller Center. Even crazier idea, as seemingly everyone in New York was also headed this way to see the tree. The last time we saw the tree, it was deserted so to see it so crowded was a little stressful.

We retreated south and spent the rest of our trip in Chelsea and Greenwich, which included stumbling across an insane Christmas tree display, which I think was something to do with The Standard

… and saw some slightly more upscale Christmas decorations on Bleecker Street.

I also found my new favourite store on Bleecker – The Mask Bar, which stocks dozens of Korean sheet masks. It was heavenly and the perfect end to our trip.

New York in December – where we ate

Staying in Chelsea meant we had some of the best eateries on our doorstop, and on at least one of the nights, we spent a good half an hour weighing up options.

For our first night, we walked over to the next block to the Meatpacking District location of Dos Caminos for some amazing Mexican food. The small guac and chips was huge, which made me glad that I only ordered a small plate (chicken taquitos which were amazing). I hit a wall pretty early that evening after our long flight, so couldn’t manage dessert which I’m very sad about as the Mexican hot fudge sundae looks incredible. We really liked the atmosphere in the restaurant and we were really tempted to visit again on this trip.

Our first full day featured a crazy amount of walking (10 miles) and I can’t remember stopping to eat lunch. I do remember wanting to have some kakigōri (Japanese shaved ice) from Bonsai Kakigori in Canal Street Market. I wanted this so much that I made us do something we would never normally do – wait for the place to open. And how were we rewarded? The freaking store didn’t have any ice. WHY!? I’m still angry about it.

After wandering all over SoHo and Greenwich Village, we popped back to the hotel to drop off our shopping, and for Husband to research some shoes he wanted to buy. After buying said shoes, we stopped by Dough Doughnuts on W 19th Street to pick up a snack for later. Although they were very good doughnuts, they weren’t the best doughnuts of the trip…

Dinner that night was just around the corner from our hotel at Bare Burger 8th Ave. Aside from the fact we were sat at high stools (I hate high stools!), this was a great meal, although we ordered way too much and had to waddle back to our room. So good.

Day two featured even more walking (16 miles!!) and again, we didn’t stop for a ‘proper’ lunch, but we did stop for my favourite doughnuts in New York – Underwest Donuts. We found this tiny little store on our last trip and I was overjoyed to eat the most delicious doughnut in such an un-expected location – a car wash!

This was the day we struggled to make a decision for dinner as is so much choice, but I lobbied hard for the Meatball Shop which turned out to be one of the best restaurant decisions we’ve ever made. These guys do meatballs, and they do them well – different types of ball (even meat-free!) matched with different sauces, supplemented by a great selection of sides. I could eat here every day for the rest of my life and not get bored. The staff were wonderful, and helped out with menu recommendations which was definitely needed as it’s surprisingly hard to decide on a meatball combination!

We decided to skip dessert here again – although their ice cream sandwiches were tempting – because I had my eye on a different prize. Chip NYC were in the Gansevoort market when we visited although I think they’ve now closed that branch to move to a bigger location in the West Village. I have never had a cookie like it, and I doubt I’ll have anything like it again. Crunchy on the outside, gooey on the inside and just absolute perfection. We visited just before they closed so they only had a couple left – I had Funfetti and Husband had White Chocolate Macadamia but they bake different cookies on different days.

So of course, we had to go back the following afternoon to try more of their menu. I mentioned earlier that I don’t wait for things to open; well, neither do I queue for food. But for Chip cookies, I would queue for an hour. We actually only queued for 15 minutes and were rewarded with warm, doughy goodness (a hot fudge sundae, and a strawberry cheesecake). We found a ledge at the back of Gansevoort Market to perch and try not to make a terrible mess of ourselves with the gooeyness (we failed).

The cookies were a pre-trip home treat, but we had also treated ourselves to a proper breakfast on our final morning – something that has become a bit of a tradition for our final mornings. We had intended to visit Chelsea Market more over the course of our three day trip, but the whole place was constantly over-crowded. Sunday morning was gloriously quiet however, so we stopped by our favourite brunch location – Friedmans. We were a little too far away from our usual location in Hell’s Kitchen, but fortunately they have a small store in Chelsea Market so I was able to order my favourite – eggs with style.

Now, how can I get Deliveroo or Uber Eats to fly over some of those meatballs?

Starbucks Reserve Roastery – New York


I wouldn’t normally review a Starbucks – I will happily admit that I visit Starbucks a lot (they have the best mochas) but they’re all essentially the same and mostly indistinct. However, a Roastery opened up in New York a few weeks before we visited which is very different to the average store so I thought I’d get a blog post out of it!

The Roastery in New York is the fourth store to open globally, with two further sites planned. It’s located next to Chelsea Market on 9th Avenue, right opposite our hotel, so I had assumed we’d visit on a couple of occasions. It’s huge, with many websites reporting on the 23,000 square footage, three separate coffee bars, a bakery, a scooping bar, and plenty of merch to buy. All this, plus the roastery of course – where coffee beans are roasted on site in very fancy industrial equipment.

Every time we walked by it, the queue snaked around the block, controlled by bouncers on the doors. I don’t know if it was because it had only been opened a couple of weeks but it was crazy. However, one morning we were up early and we noticed that there was no queue, so we popped in to see what the fuss was about.

As soon as you get through the heavy wooden doors, I was overwhelmed. There is so much going on, but I saw the main bar directly in front of us, so aimed for that as a place to start. The main bar seems to involve a lot of confusing equipment, but this is where you get your standard Starbucks drinks. They serve Princi pastries which all looked delicious, so in addition to our normal drinks – a latte and a mocha – we added a chocolate brioche and blueberry muffin to our order.

I then had a heart attack when the total came to $28. Holy crap, this had better be good.

Things then got very chaotic as we waited for the drinks, and it took about 15 minutes for them to come out. There are an insane amount of staff milling about (with ridiculous, almost patronising uniforms – think Peaky Blinders meets Get Out) and whilst many people would enjoy the buzz that this creates, it was too much for me. In the time we waited, the place had started to fill up, and we realised that despite the size of the building, there really wasn’t very much seating around. I sent Husband off to see if there was additional seating down at the “Experience Bar” (fortunately there was, and it was quieter).

The Experience Bar is where to go if you want something unusual – glass bottles full of coffee heated by complicated lamps, flights of espresso with different flavours. Above this is the third bar called Arriviamo serving cocktails – this was closed when we visited (understandably as we were there early) but looked pretty interesting, if not expensive.

And of course, there’s a lot of merchandise, although I think they need to pare it back a bit. As mentioned, I visit Starbucks a lot so have a few re-useable cups which are light enough to carry in my purse but I couldn’t find anything like that here – there was a lot of high end products, elaborate coffee kit, even things unrelated to Starbucks, and I found it quite frustrating.

So was our breakfast worth $28? Hell no. I found the whole thing quite stressful, too busy, and entirely unnecessary. The Princi pastries were nice and I’d love the regular stores to start selling them, and Husband noted that his latte was delicious, but my mocha was tasteless and really not worth whatever they charge for it. As we sat with our drinks, a member of staff came around offering sparkling water which got topped up, so that was a nice touch. The furniture was beautifully made, and I lusted after the wooden chairs, and it definitely felt like we were in a more luxurious store, but is all this a good reason to visit?

I don’t understand why people would queue for this store, especially not in the depths of a New York Winter – I just don’t get why you need a bigger and way more expensive version of a Starbucks. I can’t see that the staff from the Google offices opposite would visit this every day (or maybe they would, maybe I’m wrong) so I guess they’re relying on tourists like me visiting for the novelty value.

If you are in desperate need for a Starbucks (and there’s no queue) go in and have a look, but be prepared to spend some $$$. If there is a queue, turn around, cross the road, and get your latte from the regular store opposite. Then sit in the window and shake your head with incredulity at the people willing to queue up for the Roastery, as you sip smugly on your significantly cheaper drink.

New York in December – where we stayed

I love spending time in Greenwich Village and Chelsea, so as we were only going to be in NYC for three days, we treated ourselves to a hotel in the area rather than staying in our usual hotel in Midtown. I can’t remember where I saw it first, but I have fantasised about staying in the Maritime Hotel, pretty much opposite Chelsea Market, for a very long time. The iconic porthole windows, the sophisticated decor – it was my dream NYC location. Once we had booked our flights, I started obsessively scouring the internet to find the best room price, and stumbled across Tablet Hotels who had a great sale on, so my dream was finally being realised.

The first thing that you notice when you get to the hotel is the amazing scent – the lobby area smells beautiful. I don’t know what it was, but every time we walked through, it made me happy. I love a well-scented hotel.

The lobby doesn’t just smell good – it also looks stunning – dark wood, warm lighting, gorgeous furniture. They have a very pleasing aesthetic, very hyggelig. We didn’t get a chance to experience the restaurant just off the lobby during our trip, but it was shortly about to close for renovations so perhaps we should have been visited. The problem is that there is too much choice for where to eat in the area.

We had a standard room (called Superior on the website) which was a pretty average size for New York (by that, I mean small) but that’s just to be expected. Having just experienced exceptional Texan hospitality at The Archer in Austin the month before, my expectations were sky high so the room and service did leave me a little underwhelmed. Perhaps I was judging them too harshly but I just wanted a little more more than what was on offer. I’m hard to please when it comes to hotels.

Those porthole windows though.

I will say that we slept well every night in a very comfortable bed, and I really appreciated the bathroom stocked full of my favourite Co Bigelow toiletries. Every room faces the same way, so you’re guaranteed a good view and we spent ages just watching the world go by. You can see the High Line in the distance which was super helpful when deciding when to visit – Saturday afternoon was rammed, whereas we couldn’t see anyone on it Sunday morning.

I didn’t get any good photos of the room, but they look exactly as they do on the website – that same dark wood and blue colour scheme with really unusual decor on the armchairs. They could easily have gone too kitsch with the theming, but they pitched it just right.

We were on the 10th floor so weren’t bothered by any significant noise. Apparently, on the lower floors you can sometimes hear noise from the club below the hotel but all we heard was classic New York car horns.

Taken from the High Line – I asked Husband to run back to the room to wave at me. He said no.

It truly is in the best area of Manhattan. More blogs will follow which will cover the rest of our trip, but I loved every second of being in Chelsea. Restaurants, shops, nightlife – whatever you’re into, Chelsea has it with the benefit of being away from most of the tourists (Chelsea Market aside, which I still adore but was constantly busy). When I visited NY for the second time in 2015, spending time in Chelsea made me finally “get” the city. This was where I fell in love with it and is the reason why I keep going back. Just sorting through photos is giving me wanderlust again, and I’ve only been back home for three weeks.

Why can’t I live in New York?

Flying on New Year’s Eve

Back in November, I noticed that the prices in the Virgin Atlantic Black Friday sale were good.  Crazy good.  So good that I found myself unable to say no, so booked a little trip to New York for the bit between Christmas and New Year. We initially wanted to go from the 27th to 30th December, allowing us to be back home in plenty of time to go back to work, but we left booking just a smidge too long so the dates we wanted sold out.  Always a good lesson – if you see flights you like, snap them up.

We ended up with 28th to 31st December instead, which meant we’d be flying back home on New Year’s Eve.  It also meant that the return flight was with Delta – not ideal, but we were still able to use the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at JFK so it wasn’t all bad. Both planes were A330s.

We flew out on VS3, departing Heathrow at 8.50.  We don’t live that far from the airport but I still made Husband get up stupidly early so we could get to the Clubhouse as it opened.  I’d be damned if I wasn’t going to get myself a spa appointment this time (like last time where I was left sorely disappointed).  I manoeuvred a sleepy Husband through an empty Upper Class security lane (praise the lord!) and we made it to the lounge about 10 minutes after it opened.  It was so peaceful and empty – I could only see 8 passengers including us – so that spa appointment was mine.  Husband managed to get himself booked in for a haircut as well.  I paid for a manicure which actually wasn’t that great because the product they use is appalling but to their credit, they have now refunded me.  Still enjoyable even if it did start to chip the following day.    

We sauntered down to the gate at about 8am – gate 22 again, which is a pain in the neck to get to as it’s pretty much 15 miles away from everything.  I always seem to get gate 22.  Upper had just started boarding, so we walked straight onto the plane and got settled in.  We had the usual reverse herringbone seats with 1-1-1 configuration, and we had picked 3A and 4A so were facing the back of the middle row.  I’ve read a lot about how people hate the reverse herringbone, but I still enjoy the seat.  This one seemed fairly well maintained, with all the buttons still shiny and new.  I got a purple Herschel amenity kit this time which pleased me greatly (I love purple).

We were served lunch at about 10.30 which felt way too early to be eating a three course meal.  I had the soup which was delicious, followed by the chicken but I skipped dessert as I wanted to get some sleep.

The last time I few Upper Class and tried to sleep, I could not get comfortable. This time was much better and I slept for hours, only waking up when we hit a lot of turbulence and just in time for afternoon tea.

I was a little confused as I thought this was supposed to be the big fancy afternoon tea by Eric Lanlard, so was a little underwhelmed when this arrived on my tray.  This wasn’t quite what I was expecting, tasty though.  

We landed at JFK at little earlier than schedule, but were then stuck on the plane for 30 minutes as they couldn’t get the air bridge to work.  The ground crew moved it to the front, moved it to the middle, moved it back to the front repeatedly for about half an hour.  The captain asked all the passengers to sit back down as he had no idea how long it would take, and at one stage, they were talking about getting old fashioned steps up to the door.  They managed to get it working eventually, and once again having Global Entry got us through immigration quick as a flash.  

On the way back, we left Manhattan a little earlier than planned as it had just started raining so we thought we’d head to the Clubhouse rather than find something to do.  We checked in at the Delta One check in area with a classic grumpy Delta member of staff (all Delta staff seem grumpy), and she advised us where the Sky Club was.  Ha, as if we’d go there when the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse was available to us.

I love the JFK lounge.  It’s so quiet, the showers are amazing, and the staff are generally excellent.  The ability to have a shower and get changed into clean clothes is my favourite thing about using the lounges.  They still have Bumble and Bumble hair products in the showers even though they seem to have got rid of the hair salon from the spa. I had been looking forward to a hair treatment this time round, but had a wonderful 15 minute facial instead. I wish I’d paid for a longer one.

There was one bit of irritation – they’ve put in this god-awful “B8ta” pop-up, and the staff seemed more interested in chatting with the B8ta staff than checking on customers.  We weren’t as looked after as we were in London.

The Delta flight itself was pretty much the same as our Atlanta experience.  The seats were a little old but still comfortable, the staff were welcoming, and I got hammered on two cocktails (I really should know my limits).  It did get incredibly and uncomfortably hot in the middle of the trip, but other than that, fairly uneventful.  Well, after the fun of take-off

This was our New Year’s Eve flight and we were greeted by flight attendants wearing 2019 glasses.  I thought that might be the limit of their celebrations – we were leaving at 7pm EST so I couldn’t figure out when our midnight would be.  One of the staff explained that they shift to London time as soon as the flight starts, so we would be leaving New York directly at midnight GMT.  We started taxiing at about 6.55, and five minutes later, the flight attendants ran through the aisles with party blowers screaming “Happy New Year!” before running back to their seat for take-off.  It was actually wonderful – I had a tear in my eye.  That might have been down to the cocktails however.

We landed in Heathrow earlier than scheduled, managed to get through immigration really quickly, and our bags were the first off the plane so we decided to visit the Virgin Atlantic Revivals Lounge for the first time.  It’s a small lounge but there was plenty of free seats when we got there, with a spa and showers.  If I was going directly to work, this would have been a godsend.  As it was, we were only half an hour from home so we just had a bit of breakfast which was served in no time at all – we only spent about 45 minutes in the lounge in total but it was just what I needed as I hadn’t had any breakfast on the plane.  The spa was tempting, but my bed was calling.

July Things

I started July in New York which was as wonderful as ever, continued with two average weeks, and finished with a week alone as Husband is away at a work trip.  He’s off in South Africa seeing giraffes and elephants, whilst I’m sat feeling sorry for myself on the sofa.

Hot, sweaty NYC
New York in the summer is a very different city to New York in winter, but we had an awesome time, as it evidenced by my many blogs on the topic.

Hampton Court Flower Show
Still feeling a bit jet lagged, I went to Hampton Court with my Mum a couple of days after getting back from NY.  Flower of the show this year seemed to be the echinacea which I had just seen on the High Line, so I needed some of those for my garden.  It was insanely hot and really crowded, but we did get to see lots of pretty flowers.  

Netflix
Guys, have you heard of this thing called Netflix?  It’s got TV shows and films… and OK so I’m very behind on this but with Husband away, I got myself a free trial.  I’ve started on Riverdale but have mostly been mainlining How I Met Your Mother.  I am so modern.

Treating myself (after a bit of pain)
I had some additional leave to take at work, so booked in an Elemis facial and Aveda hair cut last week.  Unfortunately, my two days of me time started with a horrific hour in the dentist chair – god lord, I have never experienced anything like it.  And it seemed relentless.  I felt really bad for bursting into sobs as my dentist went into overdrive with apologies, and I did make him feel quite guilty but it was just awful!

Fortunately, the facial and hair cut were 100% less stressful.  Very much needed.

A trip to Bankside
With Husband away, my Mum challenged me to find a nice, reasonably priced hotel in London so we could do a bit of shopping.  I found the Hilton Bankside which was super nice with gorgeous decor, and just behind the Tate Modern which is one of my favourite areas of London.  We spent the afternoon getting absolutely drenched, followed by a relaxing Bobbi Brown make-up lesson at Liberty, and then dinner in the hotel.  If you’re looking for somewhere reasonable to stay in London, I highly recommend it.  

New York in July – the everything else

We did a lot of walking during our 5 days in New York.  A lot.  But that is part of the reason why I enjoy the city so much.  Once you get away from the insanity in Midtown, it becomes an entirely different trip.

There was a bit of shopping – Husband had a spree in Uniqlo 5th Ave, and I spent an hour in Sephora 34th St which was BLISSFUL.  Window shopping was equally as fun, especially down in Greenwich and SoHo.I introduced Husband to Bleecker, although felt a little sad as I had just read a NYT article on how gentrification has devastated the street.  Bit of a downer.

4th July was fun though – a lot of residents had escaped the city to go to the beach, so there were some streets almost devoid of people.  It felt a bit like we had the place to ourselves.

A trip to the Too Cool for School shop ended in frustration as it was closed for the holiday but I felt a bit of deja vu whilst cutting down Jersey Street (above).  Just an average NYC alley, right?  And then I realised where I had seen it – it’s the street where Carrie got mugged.

I am a phenomenal dork.

From here, we wandered around Nolita, visited Le Labo and Grenson.  I was desperate to buy something but nothing grabbed me.  Loved the area though.

Walking around Brooklyn was fun as well, and we got to see Anish Kapoor Descension which made me feel really unnerved.

Just around the corner from the Skylight Diner (and from our hotel), we stumbled across a very polite protest against B&H Photo.  Always fun!

I don’t know when our next visit will be but we added some great standards to our New York routine.  We’ll definitely stay further south and explore more of Brooklyn.

And maybe take the subway a bit more so my feet aren’t left utterly broken.

New York in July – where we ate

We hadn’t aimed to eat at (mostly) entirely new places on this trip, it just happened by chance.  We’d hoped to have at least one fancy meal but the timings didn’t work out, and it was too hot to eat a lot of food but I would 100% go back to every place we visited.  Such great additions to our NYC favourites.

Saturday night – Dos Toros Taqueria
We’d eaten on the plane of course, but we couldn’t resist grabbing some tacos from Dos Toros Taqueria on 6th Avenue (well, Husband had a burrito).  The store was almost empty, but the tacos were delicious and the guacamole and chips were so good.

Sunday Brunch – Haven Rooftop
I spent so long trying to find the perfect brunch place.  It needed to be the right combination of unpretentiousness, location, and menu.  Haven Rooftop ticked all those boxes so I can now say I’ve eaten avocado toast at a rooftop bar – surely this is what every New York trip legally has to these days.

Ignore the fact my camera has focussed on the wrong meal

We were at the rooftop as it opened so almost had the place to ourselves.  We thought about having some bottomless cocktails, but wanted other drinks from the menu (mine had a crazy amount of booze in it).  The avocado toast with poached eggs was just what we needed, and it was so fun to sit above the spire of the church next door.

Sunday night – 5 Napkin Burger
John Oliver finished about 8pm, and we had a vague plan of grabbing a burger.  Naturally, my first thought was Shake Shack but then we saw 5 Napkin Burger  and thought we’d try it out.  It looked crazy busy but were seated straight away so I got to try their original burger whilst husband had the Avocado Ranch – he had gone avocado crazy on the first two days of this trip.  They were both bloody delicious.

Monday lunch – Alamo Drafthouse
We kind of gave up on meals on Monday – the burger had been so filling the night before – so for lunch, we had popcorn and warm pretzels whilst watching The Big Sick.  It was a crazy amount of butter popcorn.  It was a bit confusing to start with as we couldn’t figure out where to get food from, but one of the waiters came and explained it to us – write what you want from the menu on an order card, stand it up on the table in front, and they’ll come and take your order.  You can continue to do this throughout the film as they keep an eye on everyone and towards the end, the bill is dropped off at your table for you to pay.

Monday night – Five Guys
We got lazy and just had some fries from the Five Guys on our block after seeing 1984.  Again, I wanted Shake Shack but it wasn’t to be.

Tuesday random snacks
No proper lunch today as we wandered around Greenwich and Soho.  We had our traditional lemonade and sticky buns at Amy’s Bread in Chelsea Market which was perfect as always, and then we brought out the big guns.We visited Big Gay Ice Cream on our first trip in 2014 but it wasn’t ideal ice cream weather at the time.  This time round, it was about 30˚C so stunningly perfect ice cream weather.  I had Salty Pimp and Husband had American Globs as before – damn, I love this shop.

Tuesday night – NY Pizza Suprema
I have never had ‘proper’ New York pizza, so this was another one of those things I spent a lot of time researching.  There are a ridiculous amount of articles on the perfect slice, but many of them mentioned a place that was 2 minutes away from our hotel – NY Pizza Suprema.  I had to get rid of any preconceptions because honestly, it didn’t look like my kind of place from the outside but the pizza was AMAZING.  Nothing I’ve had before compares and just looking at this picture is making my hungry.

Wednesday snack – Underwest Donuts
I worried Husband by telling him I wanted to visit the Westside Highway Car Wash, mainly because we didn’t have a hire car so he thought I’d lost my mind.  This one was special – a tiny corner of the car wash has been converted into a little doughnut shop called Underwest Donuts and let me tell you – those doughnuts were so perfect .  There were too many to choose from – I had dark chocolate but I also wanted the espresso bean, and the maple waffle, the brown butter…  OK, I wanted all of them.  Why did we leave it until the last morning to try them out?It’s oddly satisfying to sit in a car watch amongst Magic Tree fresheners and washer fluid whilst eating doughnuts.  Truly the American dream.

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 try more.

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!