Saturday, October 4, 2014

Back to Blighty and My New York Bucket List

Wow, it has been AGES since my last post!  I think my enthusiasm for writing about living in NYC has come to end, which coincides well with the fact that I am leaving next month.

We are being relocated back to the UK for a couple of years and I must admit I am ready to leave the city.  I have made a great life for myself over the past four years and it will be sad to leave some parts of it behind, but overall I am ready to leave New York.  I'm sad to be leaving the US, and know we will be back one day, but I am really looking forward to being close to the friends and family I left behind in England.

That said, I have six weeks left to enjoy the city and my outlook is much more positive since I found out we were leaving!  There are certain things that I want to do before going back to the UK and here is my Bucket List of the 10 things I want to do before I leave New York:

1. Visit the MET-I know, it's disgusting that I haven't been in 4 years. Please don't judge!
2. Visit MOMA-As above
3. Go up into the crown of The Statue of Liberty
4. NBC Studio Tour and meet a Rockette
5. Go to the Top of The Rock and have a drink in Sixty Five at The Rainbow Room
6. Get the cable car over to Roosevelt Island
7. See The Book of Mormon on Broadway
8. Volunteer at The Natural History Museum for Halloween
9. Eat in as many vegan restaurants as I can - I think it will be slim pickings in the UK by comparison
10. Get Vegan sushi from 'Beyond Sushi' at Chelsea Market

I will let you know how I get on and fingers crossed I will get them all done before I go back to the UK!




Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Croton-on-Hudson - A perfect day escape from NYC

If you are looking for a day out, Croton-on-Hudson in Westchester County is a great place to visit. About an hour away from Manhattan, by car or train, this beautiful village is the perfect place to escape to when you want a break from the city.  We drove, taking the scenic route along the Hudson River, which is a lovely drive once you get into the countryside.

Croton is a beautiful place, with lots of state parks and woodlands to visit.  We went to Croton George Park, which is also home to the New Croton Dam.  The Dam is definitely worth seeing, the views from the bottom are quite something, but the most spectacular views are from the top.  We enjoyed the short hike up there through the forest trail, and the views overlooking the reservoir were amazing.  
New Croton Dam
Stunning views across the Croton Reservoir

View from the top of the Dam

After taking in the view we decided to explore some more of the hiking trails in the park.  Although not extensive, there are a couple of good hour-long walks, one of which follows the river.  Apart from getting slobbered on by some uncontrollable dogs, it was very pleasant walking through the woods.  You forget that you are only an hour away from the city and it is the perfect place to relax and enjoy the quiet.

We left the park around lunch time as it was getting very busy.  There is a vast area for picnicking and lots of families were setting up for the afternoon.  I prefer my countryside quiet, so it was time to head off and find some lunch.

There was a street fair when we visited, so the area was quite crowded and it was difficult to find parking.  We eventually found a spot and went to the 'Justin Time Cafe' on Grand Street (http://dinejustinthyme.com).  It was more of a bar/diner than a cafe and had lots of salads, sandwiches, burgers, wraps and a few vegan options for us to choose from.  We both went with the California Veggie Burger Wrap which was filling and tasty.  The service was good, it was a great spot for a casual lunch and we would go back if in the area.

We had a great day in Croton, it's a lovely day trip and we would definitely go back.  There is much more to explore in the area, and in Westchester county in general, making it a great escape over the summer.    For more information on Croton George Park and the dam, visit http://parks.westchestergov.com/croton-gorge-park

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Eddie Izzard is a 'Force Majeure' in NYC!

Eddie Izzard is one of my favourite comedians and I was very excited when I found out he was performing at the Beacon Theatre this month.  I love it when British comedians come to New York as they often play at much smaller venues than in the UK.  Back home comedians are as popular as any musician and can fill venues the size of Madison Square Gardens.  I prefer smaller, more intimate venues for live comedy as I think much of the visual humor can be lost if the performer is a tiny dot in the distance.

It was my first visit to the Beacon Theatre and it is a beautiful venue.  Our seats were pretty good and we had a clear view of the stage.  When Eddie came on there was thunderous applause and within seconds everyone was laughing as his antics.

He is such an unusual performer.  He is very visual and although his jokes are more intellectual than most other comics, his biggest laughs come from the characters he creates whilst telling a story.  The first act was hilarious, with a new twist on the famous 'Death Star Cafeteria' skit and some great historical satire.  It always fun watching a British comedian with a US audience as some of the jokes are lost in translation.  I'm sure this would be true of a US comedian performing in front of a UK audience, sometimes we just don't get the jokes!  The British have quite a unique sense of humor and Izzard was quick to make it funnier when the audience wasn't always quite with him.

I was surprised at how long he was on stage. The set was two hours long and although the second act wasn't quite a good as the first, the whole show was brilliant.  The audience seemed to love him and everyone was laughing throughout the show.

It was a great night and felt on a real high after leaving the theatre.  If you are in the area I would highly recommend getting tickets if you can.

Eddie Izzard's 'Force Majeure' is playing at The Beacon Theatre until 18th May and tickets start at $50.  More more information and to buy tickets, visit http://www.beacontheatre.com/events/2014/may/eddieizzard.html.



Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A Trip to Amish Country

Last weekend we drove to Pennsylvania to visit Lancaster county, home of one of the largest Amish communities in the US.  I was very excited to make the trip as I didn't know much about the Amish way of life and was keen to find out more.

It took three hours to drive from NYC and was obvious when we had reached our destination as there were an abundance Amish shops and attractions.  Also, I didn't realise that in the Amish culture people are not allowed to own or drive cars, instead they use a horse a buggy.  It was very surreal seeing so many of these on the road and to see horses parked outside banks and shops.  

The area was very busy and the local restaurants serving 'Smorgsboard' (a type of buffet served family style) were all full, so we settled for soft dough pretzels and a slice of shoo fly pie in a nearby store. The area is known for these foods, and they were both delicious, especially the pie.  

With our bellies full, we headed to 'The Amish Village', a local tourist attraction. The village includes a traditional Amish house, one-room school house, a small farm with animals and shops.  

The house at the Amish Village
The Amish Village
We signed up for the full experience which included a guided tour of the house and a bus tour of the local area.  The house tour was led by a lovely Mennonite lady, who was Amish until she was 25.  She explained how the Amish live without electricity, the clothes they wear, education, customs and how they live their daily life.  

As a teacher, I was particularly interested in their education system.  The Amish only attend school until the 8th grade when they are then considered old enough to work. School takes place in a one-room school house with children of all ages learning together.  



Amish School House

Traditional Amish Classroom
The Amish village was very interesting. I learnt a lot and gave me a sense of what Amish life might be like, it was almost like going back in time.  

Next, we went on a bus tour of the local area.  Lancaster county is beautiful, lots of rolling hills and countryside.  It reminded me very much of England and other parts of Europe, which is apparently why the Amish settled there in the first place.  The tour was quite basic, the guide pretty much just pointed out Amish people, farms and homes, but we enjoyed it.  You could probably drive around the area yourself with a decent map if you didn't want to pay the $20 per person.  We did stop of a small Amish farm with miniature horses which was worth a visit, especially if you have young children.  

Adorable miniature horses! 
After the tour we headed for our accommodation for the night, we were staying in a Caboose at the 'Red Caboose Hotel'.  Unfortunately, we didn't stay long because the rooms were awful!  I only put this in here so you don't make the same $150 mistake we did.  We ended up staying in a Clarion hotel down the road which was much nicer and cheaper!  For dinner we went to the Iron Horse Restaurant and had a lovely meal where the food and service were both excellent.  Check out http://www.ironhorsepa.com for more information.

I very much enjoyed my visit to Amish country and learnt a lot about their way of life.  I know there is much more to it that I saw in a day, but I very much admired certain aspects of their culture, especially their work ethic and the notion of leaving everything better than you found it.

For more information on the Amish Village and bus tour please visit http://theamishvillage.net.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Finding my rhythm with the cast of STOMP!

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to spend the afternoon with some of the cast from the hit show STOMP.  I volunteer at an after-school program in Hells Kitchen and they came to visit the children for a very special workshop.

The show is very unique in its concept as the performers use everyday objects to make music.  Anything goes, from brooms to basketballs, bin lids to match boxes, the creativity of the show is amazing.  Dance and theatrical performance are incorporated to make this a one of a kind experience.

Our STOMP experience started with a performance from the cast using only match boxes, followed by a clapping and stamping routine, throughout which the children could barely contain themselves.  It was brilliant!  We were then given an opportunity to ask questions and find out about the physical aspects of being a performer.  It was interesting to learn how grueling the show can be and what its like getting on stage every night.

Next, we were taught the opening sequence of the show and got a chance to do some stomping of our own!  It is as hard as it looks, and took us a good about of time to learn the first 6 bars.  The children loved it, they were so engaged and worked hard to master the steps.  We then split into two groups, each with our own STOMP performers, and learnt some rhythmic clapping.  We put the two sections together and practiced our routine.  It was so much fun with everyone cheering and clapping when we managed to get it right!

I was surprised at how physical it was, and by the end of the session we were all a bit sweaty and our hands hurt from clapping.  The cast must be extremely fit and talented to do that for nearly two hours per show, multiple times a week!

The afternoon concluded with the kids performing their new routine with the cast.  They were great, and you could see how excited and proud they were to be up the stage.  It was a wonderful afternoon, the cast were so friendly and made everyone felt like a STOMP performer for the day!

The children were clearly inspired by the experience as they spent the rest of the afternoon banging bins, tapping on tables and making up their own STOMP routines.  I think we may see a few of them on stage in the future…...

For more information on the show and to get tickets, go to http://www.stomponline.com/index.html.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Living in a Snow Globe

This has been the worst winter I have seen in NYC since moving here over 3 years ago, and I think most people would agree that it's like living in a snow globe!  I have never seen so much snow and it seems that as soon as we get rid of one lot, another storm soon follows.  As we come into March I am hoping that we have seen the last of this arctic weather, but with snow showers forecast for next week it might be a while before I unpack my spring wardrobe.

Living in a freezing cold and snowy city can be annoying at times.  It takes forever to put on endless layers of winter clothes and very few people look glamorous in snow boots and giant coats that resemble sleeping bags!  Restaurants seem even smaller, as most places don't have cloakrooms, you end up sitting surrounded by piles of coats feeling even more squashed than usual.  It is also a nightmare trying to get anywhere as the snow makes travel much harder.  Add that to walking through endless piles of black mush and giant puddles, around huge piles of rubbish on the streets, and you can understand why New Yorkers hibernate for the winter.

That said, there is nothing quite like New York in the snow.  When it first falls everything looks magical, it's like living in a Christmas movie.  Even the ugliest aspects of NYC look better, the rubbish piled high on the road sides look like giant snowmen, and the city looks clean and white.  Over the past few months I have taken some snap shots of NYC in the snow and here are some of my favourite photographs.

Walking down Columbus Avenue from 81st Street

Entrance to the park behind The Natural History Museum
I also love walking through Central Park after it has snowed.  It is fun to watch people flying down hills on sleds and I always find it amusing to see people cross-country skiing in the city!

Central Park at dusk

Snow-covered trees in Central Park
Although I think New York looks great just after it snows, I am ready for the winter to be over and spring to arrive.  I just hope that it's not too far away!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

On Location Behind-the-Scenes Tour at TWC Studios!


Yesterday I visited the Time Warner Cable Studios, which is a temporary exhibit showcasing some of the cable providers most popular TV channels.  All tickets for the behind-the scenes tour were free for TWC customers, and I signed up online after they invited me via email.

On arrival you are signed in and given a 'backstage pass', which is also an individual electronic key linked to your email address.  Throughout the experience I swiped the pass to enter competitions and any photographs taken of me were available online or sent directly to me via email.

The first room of the studios is home to a huge electronic wall and ceiling that plays various clips from TWC TV shows.  There is also a wall dedicated to a live Twitter feed.  Whilst waiting for our tour we treated ourselves to a delicious treat from the 'Cake Boss' stand, which served an array of cakes and hot drinks.  Everything was complimentary and some people were really taking advantage of the freebies!  

Our tour started in giant elevator that took us up to 'The Tonight Show' Studio where you could chat with producers of the show and have your photograph taken with your favourite presenter using a green screen.  The photos came out great and you could almost believe I was chatting with Jimmy Fallon! Next we went to the ESPN Studio where you could meet a presenter of the show (I had no idea who she was though!) and try out as a sports commentator.  I then got my nails done in the TV Guide Network room before we went up to the next floor.

I watch the History Channel show 'Vikings', and enjoyed the re-creation of a battle scene using members of our tour group.  They were dressed up in period costumes and given swords and shields, it was hilarious.  Whilst they were doing this I had some interactive photos taken that looked like I was fighting with the stars of the show.  

In the 'Vikings' Studio
Finally, we ended up at the 'Game of Thrones' exhibition which was my favourite part of the tour.  I am a huge fan of the show and couldn't wait to have my photo taken sitting on the iron throne. They had various props and costumes from the set and even some dragon eggs! 
Props from 'Game of Thrones'
'Daenerys Targaryen' Costumes
However, the best part of this exhibit was being able to virtually 'Ascend the Wall'.  You stand in your own lift and put on virtual goggles and head phones.  All of a sudden you are transported into the ice cold 'north' and begin your ascend to the top of the wall.  There are amazing views all around you, you can see Castle Black and the endless snow covered mountains.  I felt as if I was really traveling in a lift, it was a very surreal experience.

We left the TWC Studios with gift bags containing some fun items, including ESPN headphones and  a Game of Thrones iPhone case amongst other goodies.  

I had a great time at the TWC Studios and hope it returns again next year!  For more information please visit http://twcstudios.com.