Revisiting The Big Apple

It’s the time of year for reminiscing and after the year its been, a little dreaming will do us some good.

Last December David and I jetted over the Atlantic from Manchester to New York City. It was our first holiday abroad in over ten years, so we were a little nervous. The anxiety levels weren’t helped when our shuttle taking us to the airport was 40 minutes late and wouldn’t have arrived if David hadn’t complained! Thankfully another taxi driver stepped in and we arrived at Manchester Terminal 1 in time to check-in and get through the stressful security, which in reality wasn’t as bad as expected.

We traveled with Jet2 and the service we received I thought was decent, though being a budget airline there was no in-flight entertainment. The flight reached heights of 37,000 ft and took eight hours, which we whiled away by reading, eating a pre-booked lunch, writing about my observations and watching a Christmas film on my laptop. Looking back the eight hours flew by and before we knew it, we were looking out from the planes window onto a snowscape of Canada and north-east USA below.

The landing on American soil at Newark Airport, New Jersey was bumpy, with relieved passengers giving the pilot a round of applause as we touched down. Our first look of the New York skyline was of the Empire State building from the runway. We disembarked the plane to Frank Sinatra singing New York, New York! Cheesy!

We spent another hour standing in a queue for passport control. I felt that this was the most stressful part of the whole procedure, the last hurdle to US soil. Having taken digital shots of our finger prints and mug shots I finally got a stamp in my passport and we were allowed through. We collected our luggage and went in search of a Jet2 representative who had details of our shuttle to take us to our hotel in Manhattan.

We sat for what felt like an eternity with other holiday makers in the airports lounge awaiting shuttles to take us to our hotels. Finally David’s name was called and we were on our way! Newark Airport is about an hours drive from Manhattan and it took longer than this due to driving through the heavy traffic of New York City’s roads, and watching as every other passenger was dropped off at their flash looking hotels before we arrived at ours. We were the last to be dropped off at our home for the next six nights, The Redbury.

While we were thinking of going to New York we had been looking at staying at The New Yorker but after the collapse of Thomas Cook all hotel and flight prices doubled, so we had to search for another hotel. It was the room colour scheme of The Redbury that I liked and reading about its history, being a woman’s only hotel, that clinched it for me. The hotel has its very own restaurant, Marta which is where we went after check-in.

After stuffing our face with thin crust pizza, David and I donned our winter coats and headed out for our first foray on the streets of Manhattan. We took in the night-time views of the Empire State Building. Walked along a bustling 5th Avenue, watched a light show beamed onto the building of Sacks and Co, before heading towards the Rockefeller Christmas Tree. Our first night in New York was dazzling and we were eager to start on our itinerary the very next day!

After a comfortable night at The Redbury we made an early start come the morning. We walked two hours south towards the One World Observatory at the Freedom Tower, taking a pit stop at Washington Square in Greenwich Village along the way. One World Trade Centre is the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere at 1,776ft and we spent a good hour at the Observatory, enjoying 360° views of the city before visiting the Oculus and the 9/11 Memorial.

We found it easy to navigate around Manhattan and before we knew it we were at the terminal to the Staten Island Ferry, so we jumped on that to get free views of the Statue of Liberty.

For me the highlight of the whole vacation was seeing the Brooklyn Bridge. For years I’ve been in awe of the bridge’s history. Of the Roebling family and the tragedies that plagued them and of Emily Roebling’s determination to get the bridge completed even when the strength of the men of the family had failed. It felt like I was in a dream when I saw the mighty suspension towers draw closer as we walked towards them.

Once we’d crossed the East River we meandered around Dumbo (Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass), and took in views of the Manhattan skyline from Brooklyn Bridge Park. David snapped a photo of the Instagrammable Manhattan Bridge, and we shared another pizza, this time at Ignazio’s. As night fell, we bathed in the lights of the city, before we headed back across the Brooklyn Bridge on our two hour walk to our hotel.

After walking a mammoth 20+ miles the day before, we were tired and sore when the next day dawned bright and crisp. However, we ended up walking just as much but instead of walking south, this time we headed north, taking in sights such as Grand Central Terminal and the Chrysler Building.

Our itinerary for the day was to visit the American Museum of Natural History, famous for being where the Night of the Museum was filmed. We spent a good few hours walking the halls of one of the largest natural history museums in the world.

For lunch we headed even further north passed w110th street towards Tom’s Restaurant, made popular by Jerry Seinfeld’s 1990’s comedy series Seinfeld. It was very busy but we were accommodated and ordered burgers and fries which sated our appetite. It was nice to just sit down for a little while as my feet and back had started to ache from all the miles we’d walked.

For the rest of the afternoon we explored Central Park.

As you can guess we never took the subway but opted to walk everywhere instead. In total we walked over 70+ miles in six days of sightseeing. Everyday we saw something different. A 9 am appointment at Top of the Rock began our next day. Though The Empire State Building is taller than the Rockefeller, the latter has better views of the former and of Central Park. We spent a good hour viewing the iconic 360° views of the city from the Rockefeller.

For the rest of the day we walked along the streets of Manhattan and souvenir shopped. We visited the 1.7 mile former railway line, The High Line, now an elevated park with art work dotted about. A spur of the moment decision saw us taking a pit stop at Max Brenner’s Coffee Bar. I really wanted a warming, restorative coffee and we ended up ordering chocolate desserts as well!

The next morning was our last full day in New York City. It was also the only day that it rained! We walked an hour, dodging the puddles towards museum and air craft carrier, The Intrepid docked at Pier 86 on the Hudson River. David was excited to visit this iconic venue as he wanted to see the space shuttle Enterprise.

After lunch at 5 Napkin Burger, we decided to walk back towards Central Park to see some of the sights we hadn’t seen previously. It was a gloomy, wet day but we managed to see The Met, The Guggenheim and The Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir of Central Park before we were soaked through and called it a day.

The shuttle to take us back to Newark Airport was booked for 2 pm the following day. This didn’t leave us much time for sightseeing, so we walked up 5th Avenue, to see the Rockefeller Christmas Tree one last time before relaxing in the hotel’s lounge.

The shuttle thankfully turned up on time, we were the first passengers onboard. The next two hours were a reenactment in reverse of our arrival, picking up other passengers along the way. By the time we arrived at Newark Airport night had fallen. Check-in and security went smoothly. The waiting area wasn’t very large, so we stood around for an hour waiting for the call to board. Everything seemed to go swimmingly but once we had boarded the plane and got comfortable in our seats that was when David noticed a kerfuffle with the luggage. Suitcases were taken out of the hold and then put back. The pilot informed us that there was a discrepancy with the luggage paperwork. Then the suitcases were counted by hand and this added a one hour plus delay.

We left American soil with a strong jet stream behind us, cruising at 41,000 ft at a speed of around 700 miles p/h. With no meal provided for our return journey, David and I ordered runny pot noodles to sate our hunger. Again there was no in-flight entertainment so we watched another Christmas film. The flight duration wasn’t as long as the outbound flight and as we crossed time zones back to UK’s future time, we watched as the rising sun pierced the dark horizon.

We touched down at Manchester Airport after 8.30 am, tired after a stupendous vacation to New York City! I struggled to get through an automated passport control but thankfully after a few tries it recognised my face! Our shuttle to take us home was already waiting our arrival and dropped us punctually outside our home at 10 am, to a whingey Artie who couldn’t believe his eyes on our return. Think he missed us!

I’ve really enjoyed this walk down memory lane and I hope you have too? I’ve loved sharing some of our pictures with you! Our visit to New York City seems just like a dream now. In a time where our liberties have been restricted, reminiscing about past travels will get us through the dark nights of winter. And would we go back to New York? Absolutely! There’s still so much to see and do.

What vacation do you reminisce about?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

A Year in Film: July 2020

The list of films watched in July has equaled June’s tally of 16 films! Though its certainly been a mixed bag of movies! Let me know if you have watched any good films recently?

Extraction ✩✩✩

A black-market mercenary who has nothing to lose is hired to rescue the kidnapped son of an imprisoned international crime lord. But in the murky underworld of weapons dealers and drug traffickers, an already deadly mission approaches the impossible.

This wasn’t a bad film. Lots of action and suspense. I partcularily liked the on screen relationship between Chris Hemsworth and young actor Rudhraksh Jaiswal who plays the boy Hemsworth is fighting to save.

Advent Children ✩✩

An ex-mercenary is forced out of isolation when three mysterious men kidnap and brainwash the city’s children afflicted with the Geostigma disease.

I only really wanted to watch this again due to recently playing the PlayStation game, Final Fantasy VII Remake. It was nice to see the beloved characters fighting the bad guys (again), but there wasn’t much of a story.

Greyhound ✩✩✩

U.S. Navy Cmdr. Ernest Krause is assigned to lead an Allied convoy across the Atlantic during World War II. His convoy, however, is pursued by German U-boats. Although this is Krause’s first wartime mission, he finds himself embroiled in what would come to be known as the longest, largest and most complex naval battle in history: The Battle of the Atlantic.

If you like your World War Two films, then you will like Greyhound, with its moments of tension and threat. It is quite amazing how anything got through the North Atlantic with German U-boats on the prowl.

The Wrong Missy ✩✩✩

Disaster strikes when a man invites his dream girl to an island resort — but a previous blind date shows up instead.

I laughed at this film more than I expected. A comedy with no pretensions. Lauren Lapkus was hilarious as the bat-crazy Missy!

Stuber ✩✩✩

A quick-tempered cop who’s recovering from eye surgery recruits a mild-mannered Uber driver to help him catch the heroin dealer who murdered his partner. The mismatched pair soon find themselves in for a wild day of stakeouts and shootouts as they pursue violent criminals through the seedy streets of Los Angeles.

Another comedy I enjoyed, more silly fun to switch off too.

Amundsen ✩✩

Roald Amundsen was the first researcher to reach both the North and South Poles. The British explorer Robert Scott was hot on his heels on the trip to the South Pole 1910-1911. The discoverers were in a bitter competition with each other. Amundsen’s expeditions were largely organised and financed by his brother Leon. However, there was constant conflict and conflict between the two.

I wished this film had been better than it was. Amundsen sure was a man who continued to explore until his death. Inspiring story but a rather lackluster way of telling it.

National Treasure ✩✩✩

Benjamin Franklin Gates seeks a war chest hidden by the Founding Fathers during the Revolutionary War. He must find it before his competitor does and also avoid getting arrested by the FBI.

One of Nicolas Cage’s better films, full of action and adventure. Another movie to switch off to at the end of the day.

National Treasure 2 ✩✩✩

Ben finds that his ancestor was implicated in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, a president of the USA. Through the help of a clue in a diary, he ventures out to clear the name of his ancestor.

Perhaps not as good as the first movie in the franchise, but an enjoyable romp as Cage follows a trail to the legendary City of Gold.

A Street Cat Named Bob ✩✩✩

A stray ginger cat changes the life of James Bowen (Luke Treadaway), a homeless London street musician and recovering drug addict.

Knowing that poor Bob had recently passed away, I thought that we’d give the film based on his origin a watch. I really enjoyed the portrayal of struggling man meets cat whose presence actually helps save his life. A heart-warming tale of redemption and how animals can offer solace in the darkest of times.

Fight Club ✩✩✩

Discontented with his capitalistic lifestyle, a white-collared insomniac forms an underground fight club with Tyler, a careless soap salesman. The project soon spirals down into something sinister.

I’d seen many references to Fight Club in popular culture but never actually watched it. Rather bizarre in parts, I think it was a well made foray into the instability of mental health.

Hotel Mumbai✩✩✩✩

A hotel staff risks everything to keep its patrons safe during a terror attack, especially a British heiress, her husband and her infant.

I really enjoyed this film! It was full of edge of the seat tension and being based on true events made it all that more poignant.

Old Dogs ✩✩

Two best friends and business partners on the brink of finalising a huge deal are forced to take care of seven-year-old twins and get into a series of misadventures.

Not the best film of either Robin Williams or John Travolta. It tries too hard to be funny when its not!

Faster ✩✩

After serving a ten-year sentence, Driver sets out to avenge his brother’s murder while being pursued by a police officer and an assassin.

A rather forgettable film by Dwayne Johnson. That memorable neither David nor I could remember the plot.

Night at the museum ✩✩✩

Larry, a night security guard at the Museum of Natural History, gets some help from the exhibits who come alive at night to foil a robbery attempt of a magic tablet and proves that he is not a loser.

A staple family feel-good movie, always good no matter how many times you watch it.

Vacation ✩✩✩

Rusty Griswold plans a cross-country road trip with his wife and two sons in a bid to revive the lost ties between them. However, their trip turns into a series of mishaps for the family.

A sequel to the National Lampoon films, and if you like the humour of the first films then you’ll enjoy Vacation. David really enjoyed this film, more so than I did.

Corporate Animals ✩

An egotistical megalomaniac CEO leads her staff on a corporate team-building trip that involves a weekend of caving in New Mexico. When they become trapped underground after a cave-in, the group must pull together to survive.

Another comedy that tries too hard to be funny and ends up being the antithesis. Sadly a waste of an hour and a half.

Have you seen any films recently that you have enjoyed or disliked? Any recommendations?

Thanks for reading!

Christine x

The Weather Didn’t Deter Us!

A few weeks back David and I played hosts to my friend, Jennifer, who traveled from the USA. She stayed with us for two nights and voiced her wish to go hiking with David and myself. So, I planned a little tour of my favourite part of the Lake District, the northern fells.

Weeks before, the UK had been in the grip of a month or so long heatwave. However on the dawn of our little excursion to Cumbria, the day broke overcast with showers and winds of 50 mph forecast.

It was a 6am start. We breakfasted, packed the car and headed out of Liverpool by 7.30am. David drove two hours up the M6. As the day lengthened it became apparent that the predicted showers would be a predominant feature of the day, with heavy, prolonged incidents. Swathes of showers swept across the countryside, as we pulled the car into a free parking space alongside our first stop: Castlerigg Stone Circle.

Castlerigg Stone Circle was raised in the Neolithic period, about 3000 BC and overlooks the Thirlmere Valley south, towards Helvellyn and north to Skiddaw and Blencathra. You can read more about the circle here. Castlerigg is only 30 minutes walk from Keswick, but on a dreary July day we managed to find parking right outside, even at 10am!

From Castlerigg we drove the 30 minutes to Buttermere, where we would spend most of the day. On arrival, I was surprised at how quiet the village was. We even managed to get parking at the National Trust car park behind the Fish Inn, paying £8 for all day. From here we donned our waterproofs and rucksacks and headed for the planned hike to Wainwright, Rannerdale Knotts.

mapButtermeretoRannerdale

Rannerdale Knotts Walk

The walk to Rannerdale Knotts took us two hours through woodland and up hill. Once past Ghyll Wood the trail gained height quickly and from our viewpoint we could see the weather once again closing in. Low clouds, full of drizzly rain swept in and obscured any view of Buttermere and Crummock Water from the trig point.

The top was a bit of a scramble which (as you know) I don’t like. We managed to scurry across Rannerdale Knotts and even descended without slipping on wet stones. The walk though hindered by the rain was not ruined. We arrived, unscathed at our next destination: Crummock Water.

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Jennifer at Crummock Water

Crummock Water means the Crooked Lake and reflects the lakes shape. It’s 44m deep and nestled between Buttermere and Loweswater. The clear, cool waters make for a wonderful swim which I can vouch for as seen here.

After a quick lunch, we ventured to Buttermere and traversed the path towards the lake’s southern point. We passed the Lone Tree and even managed to walk through the tunnel, which I had never done before. Jennifer and I were hopeful of going for a swim, but the wind chopped waters and cold wind made me abandon this plan. Instead we enjoyed views of Haystacks and High Crag from the shore.

From Buttermere we drove the 30 minutes back towards Keswick, to visit my favourite lake of all, Derwentwater. We parked at the Theatre by the Lake and then walked the path towards Friar’s Crag.

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Jennifer and Christine at Derwentwater

At Friar’s Crag we enjoyed views towards Castle Crag, Catbells and Walla Crag. It was nice to share my love of Derwentwater with someone new.

We then headed into Keswick and sought shelter from the rain and wind in the restaurant of The Old Keswickian. We enjoyed a restoring meal of fish and chips before heading home. It was a fun filled day. One that I have enjoyed reliving for this blog.

Have you shared your love of a special place with a friend?

Thanks for joining in my reminiscence,

Christine x

The beginning of…

…my fortnight off from work did not go to plan! Monday morning dawned forebodingly as I found lying at the bottom of the finch aviary my beloved Romeo!

Romeo

Romeo

There was no indication that he was ill. He was a little quiet and fluffed up on Sunday but by the next day David and I were saying our farewells and burying him under the Pieris Forest Flame. 😦

The aviary did not seem to be the same after his little character had gone. Chocolate his mate was quiet and the other finches seemed to know of his absence.

Come Thursday, David and I took a trip to Clipsley Pets and Aquatics in St. Helens and acquired a new friend for Chocolate, a Bengalese called Fudge and a new member of the finch family, Pi, a Cut-throat.

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On Tuesday, I had the urge to cook something. I think it was to fill the void of sadness that Romeo’s sudden passing had left. So I merged a few recipes I found on-line to make a Curry Spiced Red Lentil Soup. The result was not unpleasant, though it could have done with a bit more of a kick. I fixed the recipe in line with this. If you don’t like spice/heat then reduce.

Ingredients

  • 1 litre of vegetable stock. I used reduced salt
  • 300g of red lentils
  • 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 small red chilli, chopped
  • One potato, peeled and sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • Tin of tomatoes, drained
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 2 tsp of curry powder, and one tsp each of cumin, turmeric and coriander
  • 100 ml of milk
  • 1-2 tbsps of olive oil
  • Optional: Some cooked basmati rice to serve

Method

  1. In a large saucepan heat the olive oil, then add the garlic, onion and chilli to the pan. Fry over a gentle heat till soft.
  2. Add the potato, tomato, tomato puree and spices to the pan and fry gently for another 5 mins, stirring regularly.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients, stirring well, then pop a lid on the pan and simmer the soup for approx 15 20 mins, or until lentils are soft.
  4. Pour the soup into a blender and blend at high speed till smooth and creamy. Alternatively, blend only half the soup for a chunkier texture.

I served with home-made wholemeal bread rolls.

Curry Spiced Red Lentil Soup

Curry Spiced Red Lentil Soup

At the start of the week the weather had been appalling, but nearing the weekend things started to look up! David had also taken Thursday and Friday off from work, so on Thursday we headed to Yorkshire Sculpture Park and the Tower of London Poppies… but that will do for another blog post!