Sunday, August 31, 2008

NYC - Day Seven

Got Metro tickets again for all day rides. Got the bus to 27th street and a flea on a small parking lot that Roz on Flickr told us about. Got a few small things including badges and buttons. One made of tin says "Monroe" and another for "March Of The Dimes". Hazel bought a few things including a set of metal keys. Also a frying pan shaped rattle thing with a clowns face on it.
On the ground i found a lucky chinese cracker with some lottery numbers on so better buy a ticket just incase! Also some unfranked 33cent stamps.
Traipsed around the Greenwhich Village and SOHO areas in the heat and popped in a few shops to cool down. Bought some things in the MOMA Desing shop. Hazel got a small round metal mirror and Archie bought a book with just pictures for pointing at in foreign countries to aid translation.

Couldn't find Printed Matter. We asked in a bookshop but they didnt know. Rivals I expect and wanted it kept a secret!
Fed up and tired from aimless wandering we got the bus backCentral Park and got pizzas from our favourite deli near Columbus Circle.

Archie fed the squirrels and had fun throwing them acorns and bits of pizza crust.
Terroible buskers nearby with ballerina puppet. They didn't draw much of a crowd and left as dusk fell.
Wrote 15 postcards. Nice to get back to the air conditioned room in the hotel and have milk and cookies before more Flapjack on Cartoon Network and bed.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

NYC - Day Six

So HOT! Still Deaf! Feet Ache!
Still we are off again on the tourist trail to get METRO all day bus passes - a bargain at 7 dollars, so we can jump on and off buses and tubes as much as we like all day.
Had to get them from hellish hot muggy underground station at Columbus Circle from a machine.
Had a nice relaxed breakfast in the hotel - fried egg sandwiches and real english tea. Real cups and saucers not these plastic pint pots they give you everywhere else.
Got bus to Grand Central station to see the huge space inside.

Another bus to Lower Manhatten . Some helpful locals showed us what bus to catch. We explained we were going to Battery park. "Where?" To Battery Park we said in our plummy english accents. We pointed to the map. "Oh, The BAYYTERREEEEE!"
Eventually the bus seems to stop so we get a tube the rest of the way which isn't as bad as we imagined. The stations are hot but the trains are relatively cool and not that crowded. Got out at one stop before the park just incase we vanished down some branch line and ended up in some weird suburb.

Battery park is packed full of tourists all queuing up for tickets or for the ferry. The line must have been a mile long! Our hearts sank but we joined the Q anyway as we were determined to see Liberty and Ellis Island.
Thankfully the Q's were moving along at a steady pace as people fainted and were dragged away by relatives- more room was made. Also we were enteratined by some amusing buskers, mostly playing steel drums or ukulele's. One actually made up a song about me as I licked my ice-cream. The very colourful jamaican explained he would be in England soon and the Queen needed some black poeple in the Royal family.
Have to endure the metal detectors and the searching of hats and bags etc. Crazy!
Liberty island seems a bit ironic after all this. It's packed and you can't go up into the statue anyway- not even into the base and museum unless you book online three days in advance! I ask you!
Still, we take the obligatory silly photo with silly hat and have a drink under a shadey tree and look out at the panorama before us.

Get ferry back to Ellis Island but too hot and knackered to go ashore so stay onboard with all the teeming huddled masses.
Walk to Ground Zero which is nearby - a sobering hole in the ground that they are still filling with scaffolding and concrete. Ready by 2012 it says. Even the postcards of Manhatten have ghosts of the twin towers on them. I don't suppose they will go until something is built in their place.
Get bus all the way back to Central Park for picnic with pizza and quiche bought at friendly deli. nearby. Yum! Sat by rocks watching joggers drinking our iced de-caff coffee and iced tea. Chocolate cake for pudding.
Amazing buskers again. Two black guys doing break dancing and acrobatics with a fine line in patter. "The more you give - the more we get!"

The Blue Man Group

The most wonderful show ever. You must go and see it if it plays near you. Hopefully they will tour U.K. and Europe at some point.

New York City - Day Five

Pretty traumatic breakfast in a local deli/cafe the next morning. Found it hard to be understood and everything is such a rush! My tea didn't have milk in and Hazel's iced coffee was hot!
Incredbly HOT outside and muggy. Walked to MOMA which wasn't far from hotel - luckily they were just opening at 9:30 so didnt have to Q. I got in as a senior (over 65 ) all three of us cost 45 dollars. It was worth it though - great Dali show about his involvement in films including the Disney collaboration that I'd not seen before. Alos a show about prefabricated buildings which carried on in a yard outside with full size buildings to wander round in.
The "Wunderkammer" show was a little dissapointing being mostly prints and very little of the "collections" we expected.
Nice to see a couple of Ray Johnsons in the "Art & Music" show. lso Wallace Berman and other essemblagists.
Full of ART we left for some lunch and got pizzas to take away and ate them in a little square( well more of a triangle) just off Broadwayin the middle of traffic chaos and noise of throbbing city. Aarggh! the noise! Even partially deaf it was quite overwhelming!

Walked a couple of blocks but decided to get yellow cab to Empire State Building as we begato flag.
HUge Q's for tickets and touts hussling for tours outside. I couldn't face a 2 hour wait in line after JFK so went off on my own. Hazel and Archie bravley waited and awarded prize of stunning views form top which these photos don't even come near to reproducing.

Meanwhile I had gone in search of the Morgan Museum which I'd been told was good. It took me ages to find but eventually went inside and paid my 8 dollars ( senior over 62 ) but all that was on was a small exhibition of Philip Guston's drawings and the Guttenburg Bible. Most dissappointing.
I walked miles then towrds East Village in search of a mail artists apartment on 3rd street.
Found a nice hat on the way for 15 dollars. It was so hot I was afraid of getting sun stroke! Also found a nice junk shop wich had a few records to sort through. Nothing for me though. Eventually found John Evan's place but sadly he wasnt in.

Spoke to one of his neighbours in gardens opposite . She said she didnt know him but then she didnt know many of her neighbours despite living there for years.
The walked to Laffayette Street and bought a tin robot for ten dollars in a toy shop. I asked about the Blue Man Group theatre and the lady serving said I was walking the wrong way. Eventually found it and sat outside with a Blueberry and Cocoanut Smoothie to wait for Hazel and Archie. They eventually tuned up an hour later.
The Blue Man Group show was amazing. Thank you Angelica ( who sent us the tickets )funny and an assualt on the senses. The first four rows had to wear plastic raincotas and hoods to stop them getting covered in paint!
Had photo taken with one of the Blue Men afterwards in the foyer. Archie bought a T-shirt and cap with the money that Jonathan & Syl. had given him.
Taxi home for showers and rest our weary bones.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Boston/NYC - Day Four

Jonatha drove us to the station and we managed to park nearby.Caught our train to NYC at 11:05 and waved bye bye to Jonathan and to Boston (Syl was at work ).
The 4 hour journey went by quite fast as we gazed out of the roomy carraige window at the passing scene- along the coast of Mass. and Conneticut.Passed fishing villages and holiday homes and yellow sandy beaches. We ate some interesting chunky sandwiches that Hazel bought at the station food court. The tuna and salad was nice but the goats cheese and slimey mushroom was rather disgusting!

Rhode Isalnd , Newport and New Rochelle. Names to conjure with. Jonathan said the journey would be rather dull but to us it all seemed fascinating.
Eventually we arrived at Penn. Station which was an underground hell hole and incredibly hot and sticky. Thankfully above ground it seemed much fresher and we hailed our first yellow NYC taxi to the hotel on 57th street.
The Holiday Inn turned out to be huge and we had a great room on the 15th floor though the view was just of another sky scaper opposite. We had a king size bed that about 5 people could sleep in. No bed for Archie though and we had to order a fold up one which was delivered later.

After unpacking we ventured out to Columbus Circle nearby and Central Park for an afternoon stroll. What a fantastic oasis in the middle of the city. It was packed full of people doing all kinds of running , walking, jogging, skateboading, buggy pushing, you name it- they were doing it! Playing baseball, having picnics, walking the dog (where do they keep all these big dogs?). It was good to get away from the noisy hub-bub of the streets.
Some great busker including Lenny Hoops who you can see in the YouTube stream at the side.
He was handing out hula hoops and teaching children and grown ups to hula hoop and then played the bongos, gong, shakers and trumpet. We bought a CD and DVD off him both of which are excellent.
Watched some baseball pitching and catching while a tramp nearby picked his scabs surrounded by his bags.
We moved to a safer spot when we realised he had Tourette's Syndrome. Stood on the same big boulders that the Beatles stood on for a photo shoot on their first historic visit to New York in the 60's.
Lots of people in rickshaws and horse drawn buggies. The strong smell of horse's douvres pervading the air.

We walked quite way and so it took ages to traipse back to the shops and resturants to find something to eat. Eventually found a cheap Italina Cafe that some pizza and pasta. I had a sickly tomato slop which was very oily.Hazel and Archie plumped for the Tuna Melts which came with crisps and half a gherking for some reason!
Not a great choice but it got better. back to the hotel for showers and watch some crappy TV prgrammes. 200 channels and nothing on! I shall never be rude about British TV ever again! Our favourite was the cartoon Network and Flapjack which was hilarious.

Boston - Day Three

Sadly Sylvia had to work today so it was up to Jonathan to entertain us and show us the sights of the harbour area and the historic Freedom Trail. I was still deaf in one ear so everyone had to shout at me.
Following a red line in paint and brick on the sidewalks we follwed it to various locations , including the statue of Paul Revere, his house and a church where they signalled by lighting a torch in the belfry to say the British redcoats were coming.

We walked along jetties and sat and watched the fishermen doing their daily fisherfolk deeds. A long walk over a bridge to the other side of the harbour to see the "Old Ironsides" boat in a dry dock. The usual paranoid queueing for the metal detector and frisking before were allowed to enter the site and then told to "clear the decks" by sailors as soon as we set foot on it! We saw most of "Old Ironsides" from the outside whilst a huge paying tour went onboard. Cheapskates like us were shown the door. We took refuge in the shop and took advantge of the rest rooms. Hazel bought a small metal Redcoat with smirking face and a presentation replica of a bit of lead shot made from some alloy.

Had a nice ferry ride from a pier nearby , all the way back to where we started out which saved our legs thankfully. Nice views of the boats and the city skyscrapers etc.
Jonathan found a good mexican resturant where we had lunch of fish and chips and cole slaw.
Then to the old part of town where the streets are cobbled. Saw the thinnest house in Boston and another very old cemetary where more patriots city forefathers were buried.
In a couple of trendy shops we bought some postcards and some chinese kite prayers? Useful for collages when I get home. Archie bought a small plastic hamster for Audrey for looking after Wilf while we are away.
Back through the park to see the infamous duckling statue and the swan boats.
Back to the underground car park to drive through Cambridge, Harvard Squares and MIT along the leafy banks of the River Charles.
Then to Jonathans local "The PLough & Stars" for a pint of draught Guinness I had promised him a year ago. Nice to meet some regulars and the friendly irish barman David who made us very welcome and even treated us to free drinks!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Boston - Day Two

After breakfast we wandered down to the local convenience store to see how it differed from ours. Jonathan said it was nothing special but it seemed fascinating to us as we scrutinised all the different packets and cans. The person behind the till probably thought we looked very suspicious! In the end Archie bought a CLIF candy bar with a picture of a man hanging off a cliff on the front and a packet of M & M's which we can get in U.K. but he just fancied some.

Syl stayed in to look out for our lost bag which would be delivered anytime over the next few hours. Jonathan drove us miles along freeways lined with car rentlas and ubiquitous Dunkin' Donuts etc. We went off a side road in Essex to a nice old antique store called the White Elephant. It was lovely and cluttered and we had a good rummage. Hazel bought a metla whistle with U.S.A. stamped on it and a long gadget that looked like a cross between a potato peeler and gimlet? I spotted a record which we bought for Sylvia for staying at home and missing out on all the fun. It was Popeye songs from the 60's I imagine - nice gaudy cover of the spinach eating sailor.

Then to a coastal resort called Gloucester for a wander in the town and a lovely pizza in a resturant that Jonathan cleverly spotted. It was delicious - cooked in a proper pizza oven. Then to Mystery Train records to browse the hundreds of bins full of old records tapes and DVD's. They even had 78's. I didn't find anything though spotted an original copy of Sgt. Pepper with cut out moustache and badges intact for a measly ten dollars.

Then a long drive through picturesque Massachusettes through villages called Manchester and Bolton etc.
Sadly our wretched bag had still not arrived by three so Jonathan volunteered to stay at home to give Sylvia a chance to drive us to her favourite duck feeding lakes in nearby Cambridge.
It was very windy so didnt stay that long. Hazel got quite upset by the bag incident but luckliy when we got back the bag had arrived so that cheered her up. We had a lovely meal cooked by Sylvia to celebrate the prodigal bags return!
Were able to change our clothes and clean our teeth properly and give the presents we had bought for Jonathan and Sylvia. So the day ended very happily.

Boston - Day One

Horrendous flight and arrival. Not the best introduction to America - stuck in customs and passport control for two hours in dungeon in oppresive heat at JFK. We had to push passed the huddled masses to get to our connecting flight to Boston in time. We needn't have run or dumped our bag so hastily as the connecting flight was an hour late. Our bag went off on a little detour of its own and we didnt get it back until 4-30 the following day.
Lovely at last to be greeted by Jonathan and Sylvia at Boston airport holdig up an A1 card they had sprayed through a stencil. Then the baggage claim fiasco. They gave us some complimentary over night kits with a toothbrush for a midget, a bar of soap for a dwarf and a white T-shirt for a giant. We had left Manchester at 10 in the morning and it was now 7-30 in the balmy Bostonian evening.

They promised the bag that evening but it never turned up so next day Sylvia phoned them and they said it would turn up before noon. Sylvia phoned again and they said it would be the afternoon anytime before 3 ! Blinkin' liars! It turned up at 4-30 and poor Sylvia had volunteered to stay in all day to recieve it whilst Jonathan drove us around various out of town sights like the White Elephant Store, Gloucester and Manchester which were far removed from their UK counterparts being tiny villages and towns on the Massachucetts coast.

Anyway, I'm jumping the gun a bit here as this wasn't until the next day.
In the meantime we had a nice look around Jonathan and Sylvia's interesting apartment and Syl cooked a delicious vegetable stew with pasta followed by cheese-cake. Then inflating the mattress for Archie and arranging the furniture to crash out after our arduous journey. Boy, were we tired and I was partially deaf due to the cabin pressure. Still am, 12 days later!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Hayward Gallery

The next day we had great fun at the Psycho Buildings exhibition at the Hayward Gallery. We took Graham along to get him away from the building works next door which was worrying him. Distractions such as these tiny rowing boats on the roof of the gallery. You looked like you could easily tip up or be washed over the edge but a very comical and weird experience. Not sure who the artist was though. Lots of interesting installations inside and on other parts of the roof - a big plastic bubble to go inside- a cinema showing poeple dropping girders into wet concrete etc.
Hundreds of dolls houses piled up like a village on a hill by that women who made the plaster cast of a terraced house in the East End. I'm terrible at names!
Afterwards we walked to the Tate Modern but it was like a giant creche- full of tourists and kids, so we didnt stay long. The other Tate is much more enjoyable if you want to look at art - on the Millbank.
Then to Jerwood Space which was rubbish but nice for a cool juice and a sit down. Archie won a badge completing a video game someone had invented,

Monday, August 11, 2008

London and South Bank

Just back from a few days in London , visiting friends and looking round some galleries and museums.
Missed the train we had booked tickets on but luckily our friendly cabbie Roy came back for us when he told his next customer our plight ( would have to wait an hour for next train ) and as luck would have it, she was going to Crewe and so we all crammed in the backseat.
The train wasnt as crowded as we thought so we did get seats and were in London by the afternoon.
After dumping our bags at our friends, Jane and Graham, we walked through Archbishops Park in Lambeth to the Tate on Millbank. Archie bought some delicious cake from Cooper's in Lower Marsh on the way and we scoffed in the gardens outside.
Inside was a performance? which involved some athletic souls were ran very fast through the large central gallery and vanished out the back every 59 seconds. It wasa work by Martin Creed who is infamous for his bits of blue tack and lights being switched on and off. Hazel said he came to MMU to do a lecture and it was the worst she'd ever witnessed - he just mumbled and threw pictures into a slide projector willy nilly.
Also on show was a small exhibition curated by one of Hazel's ex-students who seems to be making a name for himself but unfortunately Ive forgotten what it is!
We walked back over the Thames via Lambeth bridge in the drizzle and shletered for a bit in the Tradescant Trust Museum of Gardening- in the knot garden where Captan Bligh of Bounty fame is buried along with the tradesdcants and a few other notables.
Here we see Hazel and Archie posing by Blighs grave (above ).
Then to Jane and Graham's for a rest and an interesting experimental dinner of fish baked in orange juice and cracked wheat. Also cold cream of watercress soup.

Friday, August 01, 2008

What's Chores?

A day of chores in the garden we have been putting off for a while - blaming the rain and the heat and prevaricating round the bush, Today was ideal though- a partial eclipse to lure us into the garden with our buckets of water and bits of card with holes in. It brought us face to face with our long overdue tasks like fixing the gate so that it hooked onto a post and not just leant on a rotten peice of timber. Also a water butt was needed to collect the rain for Archie's sensitive venus fly-traps and bug eating stinkhorns ( or whatever they are called? ).
In the photo you can see a bathroom eye view of Hazel giving the newly fixed gate post a lick of paint. It look a bit better and pleasing on the eye when given an impressive wooden orb baluster and a small ceramic dragon to keep out unwanted cats and sellers of clothes pegs.
Hazel went to B&Q to get the plastic butt,the orb and some more varnish.
It didn't take us as long as we imagined. It helps to have the right tools handy and luckily Hazel had the foresight to charge up the electric screwdriver which made the job a little easier.
The down pipe from Hazel's workshop needed a trim to fit the new plastic butt and the hole was snipped with her tin snippers which didn't take long. The pipe juts out a bit but at least it will collect water now and Archie won't have to litter the back garden with buckets, saucepans and trays anymore.
It will be interesting to see how much water the butt will collect after a downpour like we had the other night.
The partial eclipse was very dull and cloudy weather made it impossible for any decent images on the card or in the buckets. Nevermind , we have a a new gate-post and a new water butt.
Sorry to all you americans reading this for the constant use of the word "butt" which we understand means something rather vulgar in your neck of the woods!