Thursday 24 November 2016

NYC Diaries: Day 7

Here it is, the day you've all been waiting for: the seventh and final instalment of the NYC diaries.  Brought to you by me via the travel journal I kept during a trip the Man and I took to New York over half term.  We had a pretty terrific time and because I like to collect my memories, I wrote down a lot of our experiences, partly to blog, but mostly to scrapbook and because I enjoy it.  And here is the result: the incredibly wordy and yet still unbelievably edited down version of Day 7...

Our last day in NYC dawned and we got up sensibly to pack up our belongings. We tidied round and had to leave our little home away from home.  But not before we clocked a couple of selfies in the big mirror.

Better when there's two of you.

Although a bit of practise may be required.

I will miss the apartment's little kitchen area with its lovely table top, island and doors flung open to the patio to let in the morning sunshine while we breakfast. None of that on this morning however: we had to leave by ten and so set off with our luggage for the subway station, in search of luggage storage and some brunch. However, when we got to the subway it was so rammed that we doubted our ability to crowd onto the train with our excess baggage and so opted to hit Saraghina for brunch and try the subway later outside rush hour. Plantastic.

With the abandoned subway behind us, we arrived at our local Italian bringing the holiday full circle. We stowed our bags behind the counter and sat inside this time. But for nostalgia both ordered the same as last time. Nostalgia and yummies. So avocado on toast with radish and an egg sunny up for me it is then. And it was even better than I remembered with the avocado mashed and mixed with lime and chill, more like guacamole, and the egg fried to perfection with a runny yolk.

Back to the subway for take two and it was bye bye Brooklyn. Once we hopped out in Manhattan, the Man found us a luggage storage place to stash our bags (4 floors up in the least reliable-looking lift you can imagine, where we exceeded recommended occupancy on every journey!) and we headed to Grand Central Terminal.

I love Grand Central Terminal! We had booked onto a tour to learn a bit about its history and we had half an hour to ourselves first to wander, and take some pictures. Actually, we almost missed the tour as we were waiting in the wrong place, but the Guide had waited for us which was very kind, as we clattered over and apologised.

The tour was about 90 minutes and very interesting: the lady clearly knew her stuff and loved sharing it. We had a little ear piece each so that we could hear her over the bustle: the station was full of people coming and going, doing underwear photoshoots(?) and wedding shoots(??).

Tour facts acquired as follows:

Grand central station was originally established when New York was a city at the tip of Manhattan. It was built by the Vanderbilts amid farmland as a stop on the railway line they had purchased.

New York got bigger and engulfed the station. Noisy and smokey steam trains were gradually prohibited from entering the city until they had to stop at Grand Central, which stopped being a station and was rebuilt all fancy as Grand Central Terminal. Swishy!

The light bulbs don't have shades or covers because when they were put in, electric lights were a classy novelty and the designers didn't want people to mistakenly assume the lighting was gas.

The famous astrological ceiling is actually backwards. The painters blamed the designers (Italian?) and vice versa for looking at the diagram the wrong way. In the end, the owners never acknowledged that the constellations are back to front: they said it was intentional to do the view as God sees it: from above the stars looking down.

The station fell into disrepair and became a total dive until restoration began in 1991. As the ceiling was cleaned, it's beautiful azure blue was revealed and so a little square was left unpolished so that everyone would be reminded not to let it happen again. The little square is almost black with dirt and cigarette fumes.

The statue on the entrance outside was designed by a Frenchman who then refused to come and see it in place because the Americans and their idea of art made him sad. Poncy Europeans!

There are only entrances on three sides of Grand Central Terminal, as apparently when it was built, it was thought no one would want to enter from the south side as the people who lived there were too impoverished to use the train. And the rich elite didn't want to have to look at them.  Another win for society then.

After the tour, we had worked up a thirst. We toured the extensive food court in the basement but nothing jumped out at us. So we got tea in a beer shop in the terminal. Obvs.

A chance glance in the window of a gift shop then led to the acquisition of a new pair of socks each. Mine are purple knee-highs featuring flying unicorns with rainbow wings. The Man's are a more manly black, but feature tacosauruses (picture a stegosaurus but with a taco for a body. See? Genius).

Before long it was time to collect our bags, exceed the maximum occupancy of the rickety lift, and get a cab to the aeroplane station. We flagged one down on the street with excellent flair. The traffic was busy but it was still kind of cool to glide through the Manhattan streets and see the skyscrapers loom overhead through the sunroof.

Especially once the Man figured out that you could switch off the mindlessly absorbing prattle of taxi TV.

We went through a tunnel to leave Manhattan and enter what I think was Brooklyn. Traffic was bad, but the driver promised to get us to the airport by 4:00 even if he "had to drive like a crazy person"

To be fair, he did get us there on time and his driving wasn't really crazy. And thus commenced our final holiday experience: first class flights home. If you have to go back to reality, go back in style. The Man used all the Avios he had accrued throughout the year, traveling for work, and was able to book us first class flights home for just the cost of taxes.

So we entered JFK and went to check in at the private first class check-in desk, so you don't have to queue. Once we had checked our bags, we were not only escorted to the fast track security, but taken to the front of it. Apparently if you travel first, you don't do queueing.

When booking our tickets the Man did a ton of research to make sure we could maximise the experience, as let's face it, this is probably the only time I will ever get to fly first class. So he knew what to expect, but most of the treats in store were surprises for me!

If you're going to treat yourself, it seems that the BA flight from NYC to LDN is a pretty flagship route. This is emphasised by the fact that airport has its normal lounge, its club world lounge (for business class and Club World types) and then an exclusive first class lounge called the Concord room.

They greeted us at the entrance, offered us newspapers, promised to call us when we needed to go for our flight and said that we could dine in the lounge before our flight. (Complimentary, of course). The lounge was plush and hushed with only a few people scattered about among the armchairs. It was so exciting, in no small part because there was an open bar and nibbles everywhere!

I acquired a glass of wine for us each and also helped myself to breadsticks, white chocolate and macadamia cookies, almonds, cashews, apple cider and all the Green Triangles from a bowl full of quality street. How fabulous!

Having polished that off (I think of them as appetisers) and sent the wine the same way, we found a table in the dining area and were brought menus by a waiter. Oh, and a wine list on an iPad, so we opted for another glass of the white. It helped to soak up all the appetisers.

We browsed the menu while our bread basket arrived and then I ordered lobster bisque with a crispy wonton, followed by cod over a bed of tomato chickpeas with crispy polenta; the Man laughed and ordered the same. Great minds!

The little bread rolls were delish as another appetiser and also as an accompaniment to the bisque which was creamy and warming. And lobstery, I suppose. The wine went down very nicely and so did the cod which just fell apart. I wolfed it all down with immense satisfaction. We decided to share a dessert and had pumpkin pie cheesecake with maple ice cream, raspberries and crushed ginger nuts and two spoons. So many flavours of autumn, it was absolutely lovely.

The Man mused that first class isn't really how the other half live, however. Because the other half have private jets. So really, first class is for riff raff.

I like being riff raff.

Once we'd cleared our plate, our flight was announced and it was time to board. On the way out of the lounge, I plundered the quality street bowl again; they'd topped it up and there were more green triangles. Good service!

Again, no queueing for us and we sauntered to the desk. Actually, at this point, the slightly harassed-looking chap on the gate eyed us suspiciously and asked where we were sitting. I don't think we look very first class, darling. More like chancers and queue dodgers. However, once we waved our magic tickets at him, we were shown onto the plane.

An air steward showed us to our seats, and oh my goodness, what seats! There are only twelve, all forward facing and with masses of space. Again, the Man's research had come into play as most of the seats are singles, meaning that if you want to talk to someone, you have to holler across the aisle. However, we were side by side, but with a little blind we could draw if we wanted to! I hung up my jacket in my seat's individual wardrobe (???!!) and as I was settling in to get comfy was asked by the cabin crew if I would like some flight pyjamas.

Seriously: they hand out pyjamas! I hesitated for a second, not because I didn't want them, but simply to give my head the chance to process flight pyjamas. Then I yes-pleased enthusiastically and was presented with navy BA jammies embroidered with a little "First" logo and tied up with a ribbon. Obviously I also needed slippers to go with these and a fancy washbag full of little sample size moisturisers and creams and serums. Unpacking the washbag and trying not to squeal in an undignified way filled the time until the complimentary champagne and the personal greeting that the cabin crew came to give us. It was really aimed at the Man as the frequent-flier and ticket-booker extraordinaire, but it was still very cool.

We had to finish off our champagne before take off, but the crew very kindly took our order for a kir royale each as soon as we were in the air, because the idea of being without champagne for a few minutes is clearly almost intolerable.

First class: where it's perfectly normal for the flight crew to ask you if you have enough champagne. And perfectly normal for your response to be "yes thanks" because you have SO MUCH CHAMPAGNE.

Whole most of the rest of the cabin opted to sleep after take-off, we did no such thing. It turns out you get three course meal on board the plane too, so we perused the menu and ordered and then watched excitedly as the cabin crew expertly converted my chair area into two seats facing one another over a table.  Complete with white table cloth, salt and pepper shakers and ranks of cutlery.  The man and I were able to dine opposite one another restaurant style which was awesome: seriously, who knew they could do that? 

I started with spicy Hong Kong-style soup before moving onto chicken and mushroom pot pie with mash and gravy. Really good gravy.  In fact, really good pie all round. The Man had a salad as I think he was flagging a bit. He even had to decline a pudding, but I was undecided between the hot chocolate and cookies, or the chocolate and forest fruits mousse dish when the cabin crew came to take our order.  While I dithered over the decision, she offered to bring us both and two spoons.  The Man being utterly defeated, he declined, but I stepped up to the plate and said I'd have both desserts anyway.  A good choice as the mousse was so creamy and light, encased in a chocolate shell and full of juicy berries.  I slurped down my hot chocolate but couldn't quite manage all the cookies.  Must have been all those Quality Street.

We took selfies and dinner selfies and pyjama selfies and one of the cabin crew took a picture for us which was very kind. Actually, none of these photos are brilliant, but the Man pointed out that he didn't care. He's not looking for a perfect photo: just a reminder of a lovely moment that says hey, we were here and we did this and it was wonderful.

I popped to the loo and gossiped with the lovely cabin crew who looked very kindly on the fact that we were getting a massive kick out of First Class. The nice lady who brought me two desserts asked if I had enjoyed the chocolate mousse; there had been a spare and so the flight crew had been able to share it. I agreed that it had many yummies. I thanked her for letting me have double pudding and said that I only couldn't finish the cookies as I had also had a three course meal at the airport immediately before this meal. She laughed and asked if I still wanted waking for breakfast, as that would be in about three hours: midnight NYC time, but about 5:00am London time. Emphatic yes: if the food is free (complementary, I know) and delicious, then I am eating it! Even if that means getting up after three hours in the middle of the night to eat breakfast before landing. Necessary. I will just make sure I digest harder.

There was so much to experience: dinner, cocktails, films, pyjamas, sleeping in a bed, breakfast... And only eight hours!

The nice lady flight attendant said my husband didn't want waking for breakfast. (His capacity for food being smaller than mine. Or perhaps his determination to maximise his capacity for food) I explained that the Man wasn't my husband, but my partner. I later realised that my boarding pass had a typo and said Mrs Smith, so I wonder if the flight crew thought we were having an affair. Salacious!

We were the only people there it seems getting a massive kick out of first class. I can't imagine being blasé about the experience; some passengers went to sleep as soon as the plane took off. Seems a bit sad: why pay thousands of pounds to nod off?

While I got into my jammies and played with my shiny new washbag, the flight attendants converted my seat into a bed, reclining the seat flat, adding a little mattress over the seat and footrest, topping the lot with a quilt and making sure I had all my pillows. Lovely! So I snuggled in for a kip.

I slept well. It was lovely! I woke up at about ten to midnight NYC time. It was dark on the plane and I regretted checking the time on my phone as part of me was saying bedtime but my better self knew it was almost time to get up and have breakfast. I decided I might as well put myself in London time and so when midnight rolled around, I switched to 5:00am and the cabin crew started serving breakfast.

I decided to be a lady of leisure and so while my bed turned back into a chair, I reclined it and broke my fast while still pyjama-clad and with a David Attenborough documentary to watch.

I started with the smoothie: lime, coconut and banana, and then opted for the onion tart with two poached eggs, mushrooms and roasted tomatoes. Initially they said they'd run out, but then the flight attendant popped back to let me know they'd found another one, so all the win! I washed this down with a tea - they brought me a proper cup and saucer and teapot all spread out on my tablecloth, and I finished with an apple and cinnamon pastry. Perfect.

The end of the flight rolled round with inevitability. The Man woke in time for a quick pot of tea before we landed, a few minutes early at Heathrow. We scanned our passports, collected our luggage, found our waiting cab and journeyed home.

Good bye New York. For now
Kisses xxx

P.S. If you are fascinated by this saga, and would like the full collection of radish facts, you can find Day One here, Day Two here, Day Three here, Day Four here, Day Five here and Day Six here.

Wednesday 23 November 2016

NYC Diaries: Day 6

Unexpectedly, as if from nowhere, I bring you Day 6 of the NYC diaries.  This is an extract from my travel journal which I kept during a trip to New York with the Man during October half term.  I like to journal when I travel as it's great scrapbook material, and then blogging it helps me match up photos and gives me a chance to share the experience.  However, mainly I write it for my own amusement, and because it's lovely to look back on happy times and reminisce, and as such I make no apology for the intense and clearly unnecessary level of detail. If you want to catch up with previous days, they're linked at the end, but for now, here's Day 6!

Radish Fact of the Day: Citizens of Oaxaca in Mexico celebrate the Night of the Radishes (Noche de los rábanos) on 23rd December as a part of Christmas celebrations. Locals compete to carve a large type of radish up to 50 cm long and weighing up to 3 kg into religious and popular figures, buildings, and other objects, and they are displayed in the town square.

This will be the last Radish Fact of the Day as the Man is still not enjoying them. I thought we might have a Radish Quiz tomorrow but he didn't want to do that either. Strange.

We had a lazy morning; it was nice to read in bed and the Man made tea and it was cosy. The weather looked promising with some sunshine peeking through the shutters.  It was his turn to do a bakery run as I made another round of tea, and he returned with a rich bounty indeed! A blueberry and ricotta danish, a muffin and two slices of banana bread! We split the Danish, had a banana bread each and saved the muffin for later. All washed down with a cup of tea and a perusal of the delights Central Park has to offer in the trusty Lonely Planet.
We set off to get the A train up to 81st street, or around there. We climbed out of the station to a sunny-ish day and strolled the park as the sun oscillated behind clouds, teasing us with the occasional flash of warmth.

We loitered on a bench overlooking the boating lake for a bit, before deciding to walk around the lake and then go boating. Yay, boating! The lake, incidentally, proved very picturesque with some pleasing autumnal colours and glimpses of sunshine.  Prime self-timer selfie opportunities.  If you can get your partner to cooperate and be a good focus point.

  On our walk, the Man spotted a couple of little tortoises sunning themselves on a rock which protruded from the lake. (Or were they turtles? Hard to tell. They looked like tortoises but can tortoises swim?) The park is alive with wildlife, predominantly chubby, very blasé squirrels who rummage around vigorously in the leaves searching for their autumn hoards and cramming nuts into their mouths, but also lots of sparrows splashing in puddles, ducks and geese, and even the odd rat put in an appearance. Classy. But tortoises were a treat.

We came round to Bethesda fountain and the sweeping staircases and iconic arches. It's a lovely spot where it meets the lake and people were pausing for a break and enjoying the weather whenever the sun broke from behind the clouds.
Having successfully circumnavigated the lake, we fetched up at the boat house to do some boating. We rented a boat for an hour and the Man took the first boating stint, I did the middle half hour and then he navigated us home again. We fully explored each corner of the lake, bravely hunting for ducks (as the Man sang "you think they're cuddly but I think they're sinister, ducks, ducks, quack quack, quack quack" which I believe he got from the Internet).
We also came right up alongside our little tortoise friends and one blinked at me and turned his head a bit. Busy day then. And what with the Canada geese mucking around and flipping themselves over backwards, there was quite a lot to look at. Every time they flipped they would bob to the surface panicking and flapping in great splashy surprise before immediately forgetting and flipping over again.
We made our way around the lake's perimeter attempting to get in the way of everyone's perfectly posed Central Park selfies and then after an abortive attempt at rowing the boat together, we sadly had to return our little vessel.

All that rowing malarkey generated some hungries so we did the NYC thing and got a hotdog. From a cart. A spicy one with ketchup and onions (I declined mustard and sauerkraut but the Man is unafraid and went all in) and it was absolutely. Blooming. Delicious.
We spent most of the rest of the afternoon strolling aimlessly through the park. We somehow ended up going in a circle and so made a more definite plan and decided to walk around the other side of the lake, where all the tourists had been taking their photos, passing the horses and carriages on the way. We clambered onto the rocks looking out over the water and sat in the sunshine, admiring the autumn colours in the lakeside trees which spanned a full spectrum from green to gold to vibrant red.

We left the park and went for a cuppa after that, and after exiting Central park, and failing to find anywhere for numerous blocks, we gave in and did Starbucks before riding the subway home.
Our evening plans involved food which is always marvellous, and more specifically Zenkichi. Zenkichi is a Japanese restaurant that I came across in my pre-trip research, which is located in Brooklyn (perfect) and did a tasting menu which suited our budget. Plus it was so cool!

When we arrived, we were shown to a little booth where we nestled in on two sides of our table. Then our waiter handed us menus and drew down a little bamboo blind that left us in privacy. It was lovely and adorable. There was also a button on the table to press if you needed anything but the waiter was attentive and we never needed it.

After almost no debate we decided to do the tasting menu, called an Omakase, which had eight courses and varied according to the season. The drinks menu was extensive and featured mainly sake, which is Japanese rice wine, numerous different kinds and most costing hundreds of dollars for a bottle. There was also a note on the back explaining that while they do serve champagne, they really don't recommend you drink it. Because sake. They also say that if you absolutely MUST have champagne, they take no responsibility for the way your palette and the flavours of the food may change, because the food is designed to be served with sake, losers. The menu didn't say losers, but I embellished as that was the implied tone.

We decided to try the standard flight of three sakes as neither of us had ever had it. Our waiter came to take our order and he was very friendly and informative. When we explained we wanted to try three sakes each, he recommended we upgrade to the premium flight as the standard had stronger rice flavours, whereas the premium was more fruity and suitable for beginners. Duly convinced we placed our order and waited.

Each course arrived quickly and efficiently which was nice but meant that we never got to ding the dinger for service. Each time a course arrived, the waiter explained what it was, which was both helpful and necessary as once the menus went away we instantly forgot what was in each course.

The first course was something of a surprise in that it was made up of 5 little bowls of things to taste. After a brief debate along the lines of whether this was actually five courses, we decided it was just one and tucked in. The waiter advised us to eat each little dish in a particular order to avoid flavour clash, and we duly followed his suggestion.

It was SO good. We had mushrooms in a chilled broth which had so much flavour and was one of my favourite things, a scallop, a persimmon, watercress and goji berry salad with tofu (another fave), tuna tartar and a lovely cream cheese that was infused with miso; this was the last bite and confirmed that the waiter's advice was sound as it had a very different texture to the other things and lingered. A great end to the assorted platter and a terrific start to the meal! 

We ate with lovely wooden chopsticks which we kept with us on their little rests and we both would like to use chopsticks more often as they make you savour the meal.

The sake turned out to be delicious. I was expecting something bitter, harsh and burning, like the feeling of drinking neat vodka, but the sake was smooth and delicious, much more like wine than I thought it would be, and with less acidity. Sake is served slightly chilled and is supposed to take on the warmth of your hands as you cup the glass and it's bouquet gradually develops. I spread my three sakes through the meal, but the first of the trio was my top pick.

Course two was a trio of sashimi which were pretty good: tuna, some sort of bass, and some, um, other kind of fish. Excellent listening and attention-paying skills there, Smith. It was just too exciting each time more food came and I was trying to simultaneously eat it with my eyes and take a photo, and therefore listening got pushed out of the park.

It also came with a radish.

I'm not crazy, they're everywhere.

Fried oyster came next. This was not one of your insipid slimy things in a shell, this was two breaded and fried oysters, piping hot, served with a fried pepper, and urchin tartar sauce. So delicious (reminded me of eating conch in the Caribbean) and an absolute winner of a course. YUM.

Next came creamy, chilled fresh tofu with salmon roe and wasabi (which I tasted, and then avoided for the rest of the meal) which was delicate (wasabi aside) and quite different to the other dishes.

It's at roughly this point in the meal where you're a few courses in but it feels like more because the first course was really 5 mini courses in itself, and you're two glasses of sake down, that you realise that you don't know how many courses you've had or how many there are to come, and you don't care as long as they keep bringing you food like this. SO GOOD. I flipping love tasting menus.

Another favourite came next: blackened cod. Give me blackened fish any day, but this was so tasty, a layer of crisp flavour and lovely moist fish with a berry or two on the side.

By the way, the reason I recall this  in such detail is that once we got home, I looked up the menu on the Zenkichi website, screenshotting each course for posterity. Useful, otherwise this description would read "OMG SO YUMMY JAPANESE FOOD BEST OYSTER MUSHROOM MISO FISH YUM MISO"

At the risk of repeating myself, another favourite came next: the most divine pork belly. This is not something I wood ordinarily order but this pork was PACKED with amazing flavour, so moist and soft and tender, I don't think I even needed to chew. It was braised in a rich broth, according to the menu, and then alongside came half a soft boiled egg and a few vegetables.

On a side note, when a dish comes with Japanese mustard, this means yellow wasabi (that's what it tastes like) and is a cunning way to con the unsuspecting diner into eating wasabi again.

Wasabi-in-disguise aside, this dish was phenomenal and gets top billing from me. Along with the mushrooms and the oysters and the cod, obviously.

The final savoury course, because somehow we were there already, was snow crab, lightly seared salmon, and salmon roe served on a bowl of sticky rice and with a side of miso soup. Another course involving lots of little bowls then! Very tasty and kind of fulfilled my idea of what Japanese food is.

The last course was desert which we could chose from a selection of four. Craig went for grapefruit pudding (yuck) which was pretty cool because it was served inside a grapefruit. I sensibly opted for chocolate walnut pudding. Which was amazing: rich, chocolatey, moussey goodness topped with toasted walnuts that had all of the yums.

The sake was all gone, the food was all eaten, and having offered to treat the Man, my handy-dandy post office travel money card was refused frustratingly so he got "the check" (I insisted on reimbursing him later but it lacks a certain spontaneity somehow). We then had no choice but to waddle home to lie on the bed in a pleasingly full fashion.   Not a bad way to spend our last night.

Not at all.

Kisses xxx
P.S. If you are fascinated by this saga, or really want to know more about radishes, you can find Day One here, Day Two here, Day Three here, Day Four here and Day Five here.

Tuesday 22 November 2016

NYC Diaries: Day 5

Another day, another entry in the seemingly interminable NYC Diaries, otherwise known as that thing where I blog my travel journal from the trip I took to New York City with the Man in October half term.  We had an excellent time and I wrote a lot of it down at length, and now I am editing it slightly and posting it here. I know it's long, but I wrote it for me, and it's going to be lovely to look back on this and scrapbook it one day! Links to other days are at the end, but for now, here goes Day 5.
Radish fact of the day: The seeds of radishes can be pressed to produce oil and while this is not suitable for human consumption it is a possible source of biofuel.
 I woke at eight with the alarm but dozed for a bit. I got up to make tea when the need finally became overwhelming and we had a cuppa in bed. Sunlight was streaming in through the windows (yay!) and so I volunteered to do the bakery run so that I could enjoy the sunshine and get some neighbourhood pictures. The Man offered to make more tea while I did this before I got the chance to insist that he make more tea while I was gone.

The neighbourhood was lovely on a Sunday morning; people out in their Sunday best, I suppose going to church, and I cheerfully good-morninged people in a way that you just can't in London.  I enjoyed looking at the beautiful Brownstone houses with their picturesque stoops: so many are decked out with flowers and autumnal decorations or wreaths, and quite a few pumpkins are making an appearance in anticipation of Halloween. Add in a few golden fallen leaves and you have the epitome of a New York morning in the fall.

Plus the bakery had fresh banana and walnut bread which for me trumped cinnamon rolls and was absolutely delicious.

After breakfast we set off to see a bit more of Brooklyn. The air had a nip but with a scarf and a pair of shades the sunshine was wonderful.  After a slight subway blip courtesy of yours truly, we emerged on the Manhattan side of Brooklyn bridge, with the structure in question towering above us. We, along with basically every other pedestrian and cyclist in the city, began our amble over to the other side.

As I said, the weather was glorious and treading the wooden boards of the walkway was just wonderful. Manhattan arrayed itself in gleaming towers behind us, framed in the mathematical regularity of the bridge's wires, and Brooklyn beckoned in front of us. We navigated other tourists, stray bicycles, street sellers and selfies (ours and other people's) on our way and watched Manhattan give way to water, and water give way to the park on the Brooklyn side. I think these panoramas from the bridge are my favourite of all the ones in New York.


Once we had crossed the bridge, we skirted back to the shore into the area known as Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass (or, somewhat unfortunately in my opinion, DUMBO). I'd never been down here before but the views were spectacular and we strolled the little waterside park, taking in the Manhattan skyline and the soaring structures of the Brooklyn bridge to the south and the Manhattan bridge to the North. Lots of people were out making the most of the autumn sunshine.


We headed along the shore to Jane's Carousel, an old fairground ride, almost one hundred years old, that has been restored and housed in a glass box by the side of the river. It too had tremendous views of the skyscrapers. At $2 a go, there was no way I was passing up a ride and the Man fancied it too, so we paid at the booth and were given little tickets each with a different carousel horse on. Crazy grey horse (him) and poncy brown horse (me, as the Man let me pick and poncy brown was funny).

The ride whirled and the music played and the horses went up and down and pictures happened. Amused. It was fun!

Sadly all things carousel must come to an end, and so we left the horses to find our next adventure. We were heading for Prospect Park but on the way passed the Brooklyn Roasting Company so we stopped inside for a hot chocolate and a coffee; no prizes for guessing which drink belongs to whom. It was basically hipster heaven with tons of artisan coffees, a bare, industrial, shabby chic vibe, upcycled, refurbed furnishings and beards. We conquered a sofa and enjoyed a sit down.

We took the subway to Prospect Park, after my second subway-reading malfunction of the day (two for two, good going Smith) and emerged into sunshine with a sweeping expanse of leafy green before us.

It was beautiful with lots of the leaves taking on a tint of yellow or orange, and wide sweeping paths laid out for cyclists and pedestrians with plenty of room for everyone. We wandered along taking in the views, coming across huge spreading trees and a lake smothered in green, and after a bit, we could smell the scent of hot food drifting on the breeze.
We followed it because, y'know, lunch.

Also because our vague wanderings were not actually vague, and the food market Smorgasburg was our destination. Smorgasburg is a bit of a Brooklyn institution and is made up of around a hundred street food vendors who set up stalls in the park on the weekend to feed hungry park wanderers and anyone in the general vicinity who fancies it. My research had told me it was usually busy, and this was the last one of the year before winter sets in.

There were long lines but a lovely atmosphere and if you could imagine a street food, you could probably find it. We did a lap of all the stalls to whet our appetites and then while the man opted for Japanese and chicken wings, I queued for tacos and tortilla chips at the Japanese-Mexican fusion taco place we had spotted at Chelsea food market. Yum!
The queue (or line in NYC) moved quickly and before long we were perched at the side of the path, picnicking along with everyone else and I was happily tucking into fabulous adobo chicken tacos. YUM. They disintegrated everywhere which made them taste better. In the interests of a full review, I don't really get where the Japanese part came in but I couldn't bring myself to care while stuffing my face with tacos and ultimately it sounds good to say Japanese-Mexican fusion so it works for me.
After lunch we peered at more food stalls before Craig pointed at a sign on the one opposite our picnic spot. It took me a couple of seconds to catch his gist, but when I see a sign that says hot-apple-and-ginger-cider, I don't need telling twice. So we had a lovely steamy cup of appley goodness each, warming on the inside and out. I had thought that particular stall, which was peddling Asian salad rolls, just wasn't very popular but when I got there it turns out that the reason there was no queue was because they were sold out of everything. They were having a good day!
We ended the afternoon strolling hand in hand round Prospect Park. It was lovely weather and I enjoyed just watching life, being there with the Man, and spotting curious pets.
It seems that New Yorkers are absolutely nuts for their dogs and even more so for dressing up said dogs. I have seen a dog in little red shoes (four of them, obvs), numerous dogs in knitted jumpers, a dog being pulled along in a little basket while the owner did the actual walking, and even someone taking their cat for a walk. Or even a climb as this particular cat was in Prospect Park scaling a statue and the owner was stood underneath holding the end of the lead.
We went home for a cuppa, necessary after a long day's rambling, but we were glad we had saved these outings for today as the weather had been pitch perfect.
After a bit of a chill we set out for some cocktails and our reservation at The Mulberry Project. We wondered through Chinatown and Little Italy, enjoying the atmosphere, the lights and the people dining at tables which flowed right out into the street. So we walked right past it and had to double back. The Mulberry Project is in an unmarked basement and it was only by hopping down the stairs and peering through the doorway that we realised where it was. We didn't need to worry about reserving a table! We were pretty much the only people there and opted to sit out in the garden, as the weather was mild enough. It was fun to sit and natter and we put away a couple of cocktails each and I dealt with most of a plateful of calamari. The cocktails were tasty: I had one with rum, pear, lime and ginger, and a second with tequila and orange and chilli. Other things too but I can't recall. Yum!
To round off the night we climbed the Top of the Rock. After a mishap involving us wondering around the network of arcades that make up just the lobby of the Rockefeller centre, we eventually asked and were told we could get tickets down in the basement. Which seemed counter-intuitive when what you want to do is get to the top of a tall building.
The observation decks on the 68th, 69th and 70th floors are open until midnight every day of the week, and it was surprisingly busy! NYC clearly loves its airport-style security so we queued up, avoided the souvenir photo opportunity and were guided by the extremely cheerful staff to the lift.
As we rode up the sixty-odd floors, we looked through the ceiling of the lift which was clear and we could see the lift shaft rising above us, illuminated with columns of blue lights and as we shot upwards, it seemed that the roof came down to meet us.

It was chilly up at the top and my skirt had a Marilyn moment or two, but my goodness what a view! Everything twinkling below us in a starry carpet of lights stretching away in all directions. It was wonderful to see: the skyscrapers dominated, filling in little squares of light in the darkness. It was hard to see the streets at all at the shadowy depths of the buildings' canyons, and Manhattan no longer looks like an island as the inky night time waters are lost amid the twinkling highways and buildings. The Man later said that this was one of his favourite things on the whole trip. We both agreed that the view is better than from Empire State Building. However, the Empire State Building is the one you have to go up. Because history.
Anyway, it was beautiful and we circulated the three levels enjoying the outdoor top floor for uninterrupted views, and the inside lower floor (a mere 68 stories) for warmth. Selfies were duly taken. And we got a particularly good view of the Empire State Building.
We descended the tower again just before eleven, pausing in the lobby for a quick selfie with a picture of Trump for purposes of comedy.
Then we rode the A train all the way home for a cup of tea!
Kisses xxx
P.S. If you are fascinated by this saga, or really want to know more about radishes, you can find Day One here, Day Two here, Day Three here and Day Four here.