Monday, January 31, 2011
Sunday, January 30, 2011
Originally uploaded by andrewkist.
American TV cracks me up.
For one thing, I had forgotten how intense the Food Network can be - but that addiction was never really too far away. Second of all, the infomercials are amazing. Just yesterday I saw ads for pyjama jeans - so called because they look like denim but are made of pyjama fabric and the ad ASSURES me that I can wear them anywhere, anytime. Riiiight. Then there was the little reusable press-stud snaps that you stick on to the bottoms of your jeans so you can hem them effortlessly (so you can wear your pyjama jeans with heels OR flats). Genius. But ever the glutton, my favourite ad is the chef basket. It looks like a lobster pot made of chicken wire, and it has so many uses - its handles never get hot, so you can handle it straight out of the pot, with no fear of burning yourself. You can cook pasta in it, you can steam veggies in it, and it all folds flat and stores in a drawer. Inspired.
Such silly TV viewing conjured up quite an appetite, so it was very timely that we visited Mario Batali's "Otto" enoteca pizzeria last night. Don't ask me where it is because I just followed like a little duckling. K told me the neighbourhood but I forget. We had dinner with a couple of Aussie friends in from London, and a few of their relatives/friends. It was great - we just ordered a heap of different dishes and shared them. We had a fennel salad, plates of cured meats, some pastas and pizzas, washed down with some lovely red wine.
Walking back through the streets to find a taxi home, I was really grateful for my new, long down-filled winter coat. NY is still recovering from a really heavy snowfall the other day, and a winter chill is still in the air. Just as the food coma overtook me, I fell into bed and a fabulous deep sleep. Love it.
Statue of Liberty
Originally uploaded by Pragmatic1111.
Ok so I've been back "home" 24 hours and already it feels like the best decision I've ever made.
My flight was on time yesterday and even though I wasn't sad about leaving London i still felt weird about going through Heathrow. In fact I was so distracted that I picked up all my stuff off the security conveyer belt EXCEPT my bright pink carry on suitcase! I got a few minutes away before I realised how lightly I was travelling and by the time I got back to security, nobody had even noticed my abandoned suitcase. I'm not sure how I would have been able to explain myself had they decided to detonate my stuff. Ugh.
I flew over on a BA flight and I don't think I'll ever do it again. K tells me that no trans-Atlantic flights offer good TV services but honestly, it feels positively archaic when the airline tells you that they're screening movies in two cycles. You have no control over the stop-start of whatever you want to watch. As it was, I half-watched "The American' with George Clooney (yawn) and half of "The Kids Are Alright" with Annette Benning. Otherwise I was drinking red wine to try and drown out the noise of two young baby girls who were seated behind me. Ugh it was really annoying but what's the point of getting annoyed at babies on planes? The air pressure blocks their little ears and they can't help but get distressed by it. I just wish they could be a bit quieter when distressed, that's all. I'm so mean, I know.
But I got to NYC and all was well. I settled in to K's place and slept like the proverbial dead. This morning we got up and went to a diner not far from K's place, for some breakfast. I was craving some rye toast and it proved totally worth the effort to go to the restaurant for something to eat. After that I went across the street and chose a queen size bed to store in the new apartment that K and I have rented.
The flat is really beautiful, I have to say. The bathrooms are dated but the rest of the place is bright, airy and perfectly suited to the two of us. K has an ensuite bathroom and mine is the main bathroom, so we worked really hard to scrub both rooms today and make them something that we're going to be able to use every day. My bathroom walls were so filthy - mostly dust really - but when I was done, I was really pleased with the result. My bedroom is quite spacious too and I think when I finally get my furniture in there, and my luggage unpacked, things are going to be really great.
Photos will follow of course, when things are in their places and we're a bit more settled. We move in on Tuesday - my new bed & mattress included - so the new NYC lifestyle will really kick in then!
Thursday, January 27, 2011
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Saturday, January 15, 2011
Saturday, January 08, 2011
Thursday, January 06, 2011
Wednesday, January 05, 2011
There is something really great about getting off a plane and knowing exactly where you're going. I love being able to stride past the jet-lagged masses to the luggage carousel, fetch my bag without smacking something with it (accidentally or on purpose), then exiting the airport terminal through the one door that takes you straight to the end of the taxi queue.
There are only three airports in the world that give me these experiences each time. The first is
The second is
And last, but by no means least, is La Guardia Airport in
So you’ll appreciate the irony of how relaxed I was, when I landed at La Guardia on 31 December, arguably one of New York City's busiest party days of the year.
Breezing through the terminal to reclaim my baggage, I took my place at the end of the taxi queue and was ushered into a cab in a matter of minutes. Zooming towards the concrete jungle I chatted amiably with the taxi driver about the state of the city’s roads after the horrible blizzards. Sure enough snow was piled high along the sides of the roads – waiting until the next fleet of ploughs, or perhaps just a good drenching rain, could come along to clear them away.
On the day I arrived, K and her family were helping to strengthen the US economy at the outlet malls, so I let myself into her apartment and watched a couple of episodes of “Criminal Minds” – man, I love that show. When the family came home, we all got ready and had some pre-dinner drinks before heading out in the cold (but clear) night.
Dinner on New Year’s Eve was at a French restaurant called Millesime and it was just gorgeous. The follow-up Restaurant Review in the NY Times probably hasn’t hurt its reputation either (click here to read that). There were 10 of us at the table and I shared a lobster soufflé starter with K’s Mum and then enjoyed a tuna steak with a sauce vierge, plus a side order of potatoes cooked in duck fat (duh) as my main course. The duck fat tried to clog my arteries, but the tuna steak wouldn’t let it, so all in all it was a well-balanced meal. Sort of. Kate’s Dad took charge of ordering our dinner wines and they were so good. As with the rest of the silly season though, I totally over-indulged in the food and drink sensations, and basically put myself in a food coma by about 2am. In the midst of my blame spiral, I was cursing my enthusiasm for the punch-you-in-the-face red wine that Kate's Pa ordered - I think that's what finished me off.
The next day started with brunch and admittedly I was feeling pretty ill – though not as sick as K who had to go home from the brunch restaurant and sleep all day. Stupid gunky gems had invaded her and she looked and sounded pretty rotten. The rest of us stayed in the fresh air and headed into Bryant Park behind the New York Public Library (Breakfast @ Tiffany's moment, anyone?). We wanted to check out the little Holiday village they’d set up there and the outdoor skating rink that was still proving really popular. We then wandered in and out of stores on
Time really does fly when you’re having fun and this holiday proved it. I awoke on 2 January feeling much better than I had the day before, and ready to face a great day. Rain had already started to fall, which basically declared it a Museum Day, but I didn’t mind a bit. While K’s parents explored flea markets on the other side of the city, we met up with PL at the Museum of the City of
Later in the afternoon we called into a Mexican restaurant around the corner from K’s place and had a few too many margaritas but we needed to – how else to wash down the ultra spicy guacamole and salsa?!
Pouring myself back into a taxi, I bade farewell to P & K and headed for
See you soon, gang!
Tuesday, January 04, 2011
Mrs Gump may have maintained that life is like a box of chocolates but for my money, you never know what you're gonna get when you pack a suitcase a) drunk or b) hungover.
After the Boxing Day birthday lunch, I returned home to finish the last of my packing and then watched “Sister Act” on TV. I cried whenever Whoopie Goldberg and her choir of nuns sang, and again when Harvey Keitel finally got arrested. I have seen that movie thousands of times and never cried, so I’m totally blaming the red wine and general holiday gluttony for this one.
To be honest, I really should have known better than to over-indulge on this particular occasion, because I had been looking forward to the next morning (December 27) for ages. Not only did that date herald a move to my new sublet situation, it was also the day I was leaving for my
On the day in question I got up quite early and was mercifully spared anything resembling a hangover. That said, I did enjoy a breakfast of Nurofen and Diet Coke, so perhaps that helped.
After a quick shower and a last cleanup of the bedroom, my car service turned up on time to take me to my new (albeit temporary and sublet) home. Lugging all my suitcases down the four flights of stone steps and into the car represented the only cardio exercise I have done in months, so even though it nearly killed me it was probably worth it. While my fledgling biceps were still warm (or at least momentarily stunned), I then dragged a couple of suitcases UP three flights of stairs into my new place, before locking the door behind me and driving off.
The car then took me out to Paddington Station, where I paused for a coffee before taking the Heathrow Express out to the airport. I arrived 5 hours early which I’ll admit was not really my plan and in retrospect was both unnecessary and kind of ridiculous. I am not really sure what was going through my head when I booked the car so early. It was probably a combination of fear that the car wouldn’t show up (or else show up late), and my worry that the airport train would be late (or not running at all), which would all ultimately result in my being late to Heathrow and potentially missing my flight. Totally irrational fears when you lay them out like that, but when you’ve had a couple of madcap weeks like I have, perhaps I was really sensible in the long run.
Things weren’t so bad once I actually got to Heathrow. I was one of the first people to check in for my flight when the gate opened and by that time, the thunder & lightning storms in
The flight was uneventful, for which I am of course grateful. I didn’t sleep a wink because I was so excited to be visiting
Once I arrived at O’Hare I was shocked and annoyed to be part of the longest passport control & immigration queue I think I’ve ever seen. It took me nearly 90 minutes to get to the front, all the while three Italian tourists behind me invaded my personal space every time the line moved. They poked me with their jackets, kicked my ankles a few times, and the guy even tripped over my roll-along suitcase in his haste to get as close to me as he could. And just when I got to the front of the queue, a customs official appeared out of nowhere and opened a brand new line that the Italians rushed to join. Turns out they got to the front of that line and cleared passport control a good 20 minutes before I did. Bastardi.
Once I was through passport control and customs, I caught up with LH in the Arrivals Hall at O’Hare – she was so good to wait for me that whole time! We drove to Target to pick up some supplies and then headed back to her place where the adorable
The allergy tablets I’d picked up at Target helped me coexist with the two Persian cats that populate LH’s apartment. The cats (Simon and Norman) belong to LH’s room mate who was visiting his family in
Tuesday morning, after a wonderful sleep, we got up and headed into the city for lunch with my friend, Courts. We met in this little Lebanese diner in the
Speaking of lovely, LH and I spent the rest of the afternoon just wandering down
For our evening meal I decided I wanted to have a traditional
The next morning we were up early-ish and I had coffee with a friend Downtown while LH drove
Afterwards, I went along with LH and LA to see “The King’s Speech” at the cinema that is part of the bowling alley building. Hmm perhaps the bowling alley is part of the cinema building. Ugh whatever, you get the idea. The movie was fantastic and we all really enjoyed it. Funny because only the week before at Christmas, Gus the Wonderdog’s parents had asked me whether I thought Colin Firth was hot. I replied that I was certainly in love with him as Mr Darcy (in “Pride & Prejudice”) but I fell out of love with him when I saw his dodgy kissing in “Bridget Jones’s Diary” – good kissing is a selling point, you see. Having seen “The King’s Speech” I can certainly tell you that I’m back in love with him, kissing prowess aside. I think he is amazing in that film and I don’t know whether acting ability wins Oscars anymore but in Colin’s case it certainly should.
It was really nice to just hide out and do relaxing things in
Sleep came very easily that night and I remember getting up the next morning so relieved that the day’s social engagements did not start early. We headed to Ann Sather's in LH’s neighbourhood for a delicious brunch, including a takeaway order of the famous cinnamon rolls that I had been mysteriously craving for days. They did not disappoint.
In the afternoon we drove to the
Early the next morning it was time to farewell my sweet home
But hey, that’s a story for another time. Or at least for Post #3.
Bless me dear reader, for I have sinned. It has been far too long since my last posting. But we’re both here now and let me tell you, we have a lot of catching up to do.
I am not very good at telling stories in chronological order, I’ll admit. I start strongly but then I get bogged down in detail and take myself – and my audience – off on some ridiculous tangent that may (or may not) help enrich the original story. See, I’m doing it right now? ARGH.
The point of this particular divergence though is to explain how I’m going to approach our huge and essential catch up. In order to bring you up to speed on my life since we last met, I intend presenting my stories as a series of postings, prepared in the order in which the events happened. It will be a revelation for me, not least a rebellious departure from my usual style, but I reckon it will work. After all, I figure that if I wrote one bumper posting to wrap-up three weeks’ worth of activities, I risk leaving out fun and potentially important details from my anecdotes. As unintentional as those omissions might be, they would certainly irritate me – and nobody likes it when I’m irritated.
So let’s kick off this chronological story-telling exercise with a look back at the silly season; or as I prefer to think of it: Gab's First London Christmas.
In the lead up to Christmas, snow had fallen quite solidly for a couple of days, leaving the city paralysed but beautiful. I battled through the slushy weather; gingerly at first, and with growing confidence as the thaw began. Work itself slowed down as more people started their Christmas holidays. I left a couple of projects on my new year ‘to do’ list and at around 4pm on 23 December, I shut down my computer for the last time in 2010, blissfully aware that I would be on holidays myself until 5 January.
Later that evening and very early the next day, I packed up most of my belongings in the bedroom I was subletting. I was alone in the house during this time; what with one room mate already back in
By the afternoon of Christmas Eve I was ready to relax and make the trip up to Marylebone to spend the following couple of days with Gus the Wonderdog and his parents. Laden with food, sleeping bag, and any clothes I would need to get by, I joined the throngs of people trying to criss-cross the city on the trains. Unfortunately I did not read the train station screen particularly well and ended up on a train to Woking instead of
You’d be proud of me though, cause I didn’t cry or stress or anything. I just figured that when the train got to Woking, I’d get off, change platforms, and head back to
Fast forward to Marylebone (my favourite neighbourhood), and I had finally arrived at Gus’s house with no real desire to head out again into the grey and fading day. Fortunately the girls had the same inclination to hibernate and we had some drinks, I roasted a chicken to eat cold the next morning for breakfast, and we all had an early night. Now that I think about it, I reckon we were all hungover actually. The pantomime – or more accurately the sheer amount of red wine we drank before, during and after it – had totally wiped us all out.
Christmas morning was a late one for me. The girls let me sleep in and I felt a bit weird about that. You know what it’s like when you’re a guest at someone’s house and you feel like you should at least get up when they get up, even if realistically you could continue sleeping forever? Well that’s how I felt anyway. When I say I slept in, it was only until about 10am which is not criminal, but on Christmas morning it is a bit weird. When we were growing up, J and I weren’t allowed to get out of bed on Christmas morning until the digital clock on the microwave read “7 dot dot something”. Naturally from about 5am onwards we would take it in turns to creep out of bed to check the time. We would do this in two minute intervals and we’d heartily wish that time would speed up so we could open our presents. At 7 dot dot 01, we would burst into Mum & Dad’s room to wake them up, to share the news that Father Christmas had been and they needed to get up NOW so they could see the bounty for themselves.
This year, Father Christmas didn’t visit me, but Gus’s parents were his agents of generosity and they bestowed upon me the latest Dawn French book, a fantastic striped scarf (to replace the one I shrunk trying to clean up after the great Starbucks spill), and a very cute little coin purse. I was mortified that I hadn’t bought them anything, but I honestly believed that we’d agreed not to do presents. I know I should have ignored that. Ugh I still cringe when I think about that.
The chicken & champagne breakfast that I had organised went down so well and I was really pleased that I’d insisted on having it. The roast chicken was tender and moist (ugh I hate that word), and when sandwiched on the yummy bread with herby cream cheese, it made for a satisfying but light breakfast. Overnight I had chilled some Laurent Perrier brut champagne, which was a dry and delicious accompaniment to the informal chicken sandwiches.
The girls and I were full of bravado about walking to our lunch venue but once we hit the footpath (and face-first into the cold air) we quickly abandoned that option. We hailed a taxi on
Taking my half-finished drink to the table with me, we exchanged our giant barstools for a low-slung dining table with large, equally-low plush armchairs. The table setting reminded me very much of the Mad Hatter’s tea party and the candlelight just added to the festive, cosy atmosphere. We enjoyed a set menu for our Christmas dinner. Ironically we all chose the same starter; the mixed mushrooms topped with a fried duck egg, then because I’m not a fan of roast turkey, for my main I chose the roast beef with all the trimmings. It was cooked perfectly and complemented the red wine we had ordered to accompany our meal. The whole menu was really delicious. I could not eat any of the cheese or chocolates that came next, but the peppermint tea I got helped to soothe my full but very satisfied belly.
Walking home from the restaurant was not an attractive option either really, as we were all lapsing into food comas. Once we got home, we all had a little sleep to help us recover from our gastronomic punishment and even though I woke up with a nasty headache (thanks I’m sure to the nasty mint julep & fabulous red wine combination), I headed back to bed around 10pm.
Come Boxing Day morning I was a bit more disciplined in terms of getting out of bed. I was aided in this endeavour by the fact that we were all expected at Putney before lunch time, to meet at my boss’s place and head to a nearby pub for his birthday. As our bus turned left from
After what I’d shoved into my body on Christmas Day, you’d think that eating would have been the last thing on my mind at the pub. Still I found room for yet more red wine and a pork belly roast (again with all the trimmings). Fortunately for my waistline, it was literally impossible for me to eat all of my meal. I just couldn’t fit it in. Ugh. Fast forward to more post-lunch red wines and then it was back to the bus to head home.