New York

The other weekend a bunch of us went for a trip to New York. New Haven isn’t too far away so we parked up and got the train into Grand Central.

We saw buskers by the Brooklyn Bridge.

Then we walked round Chinatown.

And stopped for dim sum in an authentically Chinese restaurant where a woman shouted “YOU TRY NOW, YOU TRY NOW”… whilst shoving small plates of miscellaneous at us. Terrifying.

We got fancy ice creams after.

We looked round a Chinese sweet shop, I decided I wasn’t brave enough to try anything because the candy was next to dried fish and I couldn’t tell which was which.

We walked to the 911 Memorial which was kinda depressing actually, a gaping void of depression.

I got some great tasteful earrings.

We took a walk around Central Park.

And we took a ride on the carousel.

Then we strolled down 5th Avenue

Browsed around.

Saw the Empire State Building.

And that was our chilled out day in NYC.

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A Weekend In Northampton MA

We kicked off last weekend on Friday night with a trip to Fiddler On The Roof, if you’re a regular reader you’ll know I have a small obsession with Fiddler On The Roof and watch it every Christmas but sadly it’s never on the stage because… well it’s old isn’t it? But I saw it advertised in the paper and thought meh… something to do.

Because it was at a high school I wasn’t expecting it to be very good, I’d never been inside an American school before and jeez let me tell you it was NOT like an English school, everything was shiny and modern, clean and well kept, there were flags everywhere… although perhaps they aren’t all like this because Kim was lamenting the fact that she didn’t go to this nice high school. Anyway the play was amazing, nothing like English high school plays, they had an orchestra, moving stage parts etc. So it was well worth a trip.

On Saturday we drove to Northampton in Massachusetts for a visit.  Northampton has a reputation of lesbian capital of America and is a very liberal college town.

 

So once we’d parked up we stopped for a little breakfast and got our bearings.

There’s quite a few murals and art about the town and as far as we could see, one sort of main street where most of the shops were and it was busy with free Tibet demonstrations (I swear). Northampton also had a lot of beggars continually asking you for money.

So we browsed the shops for a bit.

There are lots of unusual shops in Northampton, we went in to a hippie fair trade type shop where an overly attentive earthy/crunchy looking shop assistant harassed our every move trying to tell us which under privileged part of the world everything came from and why it was so expensive (e.g. woven from blind nun’s hair in Uganda, notice the fine detailing) until we carefully backed out of the store. “I think she was gay” said Kim confidently to me… well no shit we’re in Northampton.

  

Then we went into an indoor market place with a mishmash of different shops, I had to be torn away from this tasteful nightlight.

But I did rediscover bath beads, what ever happened to these? I remember them being popular when I was a kid, you put them in a hot bath then they go all melty and release bath oils into the water, you just never see them anymore. Kim didn’t even know what they were! Savage. I insisted on buying a ton of them.

Then we went into a two floor shop full of knick knacks and odd things. It reminded me a bit of a shop in Devizes called the Emporium, most Saturdays my childhood best friend Rachel and I would walk into town with our pocket money (one whole pound, thanks Mum) and browse the Emporium for new weird stuff like inflatable chairs, notebooks with furry covers, incense sticks and other fad 90s products.

I enjoyed having a good snoop around.

Briefly entertained the thought of buying this and getting it out when people ask if I’m from England… no I just got this magic spray.

We went to a hot tub rental place, you show up and the whole place looks like a Japanese onsen, and you can rent private hot tubs but they’re pretty high tech, the whole thing empties and filters every 12 minutes, there’s towels, drinks, you can pick your own music to be played in your little room (“Ohh Elton John!” said Kim… um… or not). It was so busy in there and we hadn’t booked, “we can fit you in for half an hour” they said and we thought hmm… bit short but OK. Turns out, half an hour is a perfectly adequate time to be in a hot tub, I think if we had gone for an hour my body would have cooked, Jesus it was hot in there. In the end we chose relaxing spa music.

After hot tubbing we walked down the street to a hippie tea shop where you had to ring a little bell when you were ready to order. Also I discovered why we have chairs after sitting at a small floor table with miniature cushions on the floor… what is one to do with their legs? It was busy so there wasn’t really a good place to put them… the whole thing had an air of being designed by someone who had never met a human before. As soon as a couple left their table and chairs to go pay I swooped down on it like a vulture declaring to Kim “I insist upon chairs!” They had hundreds of green teas and Chinese Turkish-y type teas but only one kind of Earl Grey… haters.

For dinner we had some Mexican food which was pretty nice, there’s a distinct lack of Mexican food in the UK so I usually get to try something new when we have it.

Then we discovered the mother of all toy shops, my god it was brilliant, when we came out I realised we had spent an hour in there playing with things. One part of the store was busy with a yo-yo tricks class given by the staff to about 20 kids and parents. There was loads of great toys I remembered and a ton of new ones I hadn’t seen before.

After play time we went to a semi-famous bar, The Tunnel Bar which is in – you guessed it – a tunnel that used to be part of the train station.

It was a martini bar and had a lot of cocktails which were excellent however… because it was a tiled tunnel it was so so noisy, you could hear everything echoed a hundred times!

On Sunday we went for a walk on a trail by Smith College (which looks pleasant but deathly expensive).

And then we visited the arboretum which happened to have a spring bulb show on.

It was beautiful, all the greenhouses had a certain smell that reminded me of my old Saturday job in a tropical garden centre by my old house. I loved that job, I got twenty pounds a day and walked from greenhouse to greenhouse watering all the plants followed by the owners old bulldog terrier called Stella who liked a little cool down with the hose when she was hot.

Because of the bulb show it was packed with people and we all inched around the walk ways stopping to read labels, sniff flowers and resist poking the cactuses… cacti? Cacti sounds right…

After that we went for brunch in a diner made out of old train carriages.

Then we drove home. Incidentally, this is my favourite spot to drive past in Connecticut, isn’t it good?

Then it was time for grocery shopping and then relax with a cup of tea for a spot of reputable reading.

 

Merlin Bird ID

I got a great app a couple of months ago on my iPhone called Merlin Bird ID.

Moving to the USA all the wildlife is different so I didn’t really know what anything was called and we have a bird feeder in our garden (or yard) but I hardly knew any of the birds that came to it. Enter the Merlin Bird ID, it works in every country, you just register your email and it’s all free. It’s been designed by Cornell University and you download the packs for your area e.g. North America, UK etc. When you see a bird you log where you saw it.

The date you saw it.

You select the size of the bird.

Then you pick what colours the bird is.

Then you select what the bird was doing.

Then the app guesses what bird it was you saw, it shows you photos and gives you a description you can hear clips of the bird song etc.

It also has a function where you can upload a photo of a bird and it will guess what it is if you don’t want to go through the selection stages. I’m not exactly a bird watcher but it’s been really nice to know what all the new birds in the garden have been since I’m not used to them. It’s a shame I didn’t have the app when I lived close to the Norfolk Broads because there were so many unusual birds there. I’m hoping there’s a similar app for plants so when the spring comes round again I can find out what else I have in the garden and what our trees are.

Hop River Trail

Kim and I went for a nice walk last week down the Hop River Trail.

The trail follows a river and an old railway line that isn’t in use anymore.

There’s some wildlife along the trail like chipmunks and red tailed hawks but it’s a popular walk way so I think that scares off most of the animals.

There’s a lot of little waterfalls along the trail draining into the river.

Parts of the trail still have old railway sleepers on it.

We parked at Bolton and did about 6 and a half miles out Vernon way and back.

Then we went to try the ‘best’ fish and chips in the area… they were good but not the same as England… English fish and chips has a stodgy quality that isn’t quite reached here. They did have malt vinegar for the chips though which isn’t popular in the USA – no one seems to put vinegar on their chips.

So that was a nice Saturday… until my poor car Ruby decided to flash the check engine light, doom!! $$$$

A Super Sonic Day

The snow thawed out (yet again) and on Wednesday we got a freakish sunny day, it was really really warm, my car was 80f (26c). I got home from work and sat in the sun with the cats saying “oh my god kitties, do you remember a time when there was no snow?”. If they did they were keeping very tight lipped about it.

And as the weather was so nice and it was pay day for me, Kim and I decided to drive to Manchester (the CT Manchester, not the north of England) and try out somewhere I’d wanted to go for ages: Sonic.

Sonic is a drive-through fast food place where you can either just go through the normal drive-through like McDonalds style OR you can park up in little bays and study the menu, which we did. Then you press a button to order through an intercom. We got hot dogs and those old fashioned thick milkshakes with the cherries on top.

And then your carhop brings your food out to your car on roller skates! I felt like the Flintstones only my car didn’t tip over from the weight of dinosaur ribs. Kim wasn’t that excited but I was thrilled. When they give you your food they say ‘Have a super sonic day!” Heheee. What a novelty. After dinner we went to Old Navy and ended up spending quite a bit, oops. Thank goodness we get paid fortnightly in America.

Valentines Day & Stuff

Valentines day has been and gone for another year. This year was a little interesting, Kim and I exchanged gifts but I thought I’d push the boat out and carve one of our trees (romantic!). My Dad told me what sort of knife I’d need and it arrived… it was a bit bigger than anticipated and it was the type that’s illegal to carry in the UK and locks open (perfect for carving trees or stabbing people!).  So I got it through in the mail and decided to open it away from Kim so she didn’t get creeped out (What did you buy me for Valetines Day Darling? A knife!) only then I couldn’t figure out how to shut it again! Luckily all was well, the tree is now carved and I have the tools for a moonlighting career as a mugger.

I got Kim this classy card.

And got a singing pug one in return which I think is a fair trade.

The day before Valentines Day we went to a Japanese drumming show only they’d decided to pair up the traditional drumming with a light show, dancers and hover boards… slightly less traditional haha.

On Valentines Day itself we went to a nice Italian restaurant in Coventry.

Worryingly before hand Kim presented me with this bottle of prosecco saying she’d got it for after dinner. She couldn’t understand why I was laughing or asking if she’d got me a hooker for Valentines Day… she just thought the name was fancy and French.

The snow is back and slowly thawing so we’ve made use of our movie passes a lot, we’ve seen a lot of serious films lately so we went to see Peter Rabbit and Early Man for some comic relief and they were both very good. We discovered a little cinema near us that we thought was pretty run down. It’s in a mini mall and when we went in it looked pretty scabby and the toilets were shut off with a sign that said they were undergoing major works… never a good thing. So we weren’t expecting much, we entered this tiny movie theater to find it full of comfy armchairs with electric reclining footrests – very nice!

The Spa At Norwich Inn

Kim and my 2nd wedding anniversary is coming up soon so we decided to have a little weekend away to celebrate. We went to a hotel just under an hours drive away (convenient!) called the Spa at Norwich Inn. Now this is Nor-Wich in CT not Norrich as the UK pronounces it where I used to live (just to confuse things). No one here seems to know why they say Nor-Wich but Not Green-Wich for Greenwich.

So on Friday once Kim and I were done with work we took the very short drive and checked in.

There was a ‘complimentary’ activity sheet which was quite sweet and kept us occupied.

Luckily we made it just in time for the “wine tasting” AKA drinking wine and eating cheese and grapes, which is just fine by me.

Then we went to check out the spa quickly before dinner, they had a fancy changing room with those electric code locks which no one over the age of 40 seemed to be able to work out.

There was a big vanity area with different products and blow driers etc.

And round the corner they had a big hot tub, steam room and sauna. These were all in the actual changing rooms so they were female/male only, whilst this is convenient for Kim and I, I couldn’t help but think it would be quite inconvenient for all hetero couples.

There was a heated pool, a gym (I didn’t step over the threshold obviously, lest my skin burn), a work out studio and a quiet room with magazines and big comfy chairs in.

Then we had a good dinner and some cocktails.

Now somewhere in the middle of the previous day it had seemed like a good idea to wake up at 6.30am for the ‘complimentary’ morning walk about the grounds.

It seemed like less of a good idea when it was cancelled because it was -7F (-21C) outside and Kim had managed to set fire to the sugar packets accidentally whilst making her coffee.

So in the end we sacked that idea and I took the executive decision to have breakfast at Starbucks, then we made it back in time to do meditation.

Then it all went a bit down hill. The meditation class was packed full and was what Kim would call ‘crunchy hippy’. The woman running it was talking about feeling the “power centres burst forward” and “invite your breaths to come into your lungs”. I started to feel overwhelmingly English and became slightly horrified at “give yourself a hug, thank yourself for being here”…. um… no…. I thought, as I peeked round at about 20 Americans lovingly hugging themselves with their eyes closed. “Take a minute to be inside your own body breathing”…. yeahhh… I’ve been doing just that solidly for about 29 years now, clearly I’m a pro meditator.

After ascertaining that regular meditation sessions are perhaps not for me, we went to get pedicures and Kim got a manicure and spent a gift voucher left over from her birthday (excuse my creepy stubby toes).

Then a spot of lunch and some more spa-ing.

Then we stopped for some afternoon tea which, bless them, they hadn’t got exactly right. The whole hotel had obviously tried to have a bit of an English theme and had called the restaurant the Kensington and the bar area the Ascot (Kim didn’t get it when I asked if we needed to wear a hat). We got very nice scones but they were served with whipped butter and marmalade… hmm… they tried. Also they didn’t have any earl or lady grey tea so I had hot apple cider… still…. why not?

They had a pianist to listen to which was nice.

That night we went for a ‘fancy’ dinner, at the Kensington no less, we got some fancy bread with a selection of fancy butter… fancy.

More cocktails.

And I decided to have some swordfish (which was jolly tasty) because lately I feel as though I am single-handedly diminishing the world’s chicken population. The next day we went to Mohegan Sun, an Indian casino which is literally 5 minutes away from the hotel.

It was pretty big, we only went for a look round because neither Kim or I really enjoy gambling. They’d obviously tried to go with an Indian theme which was nicely done, they even had a robotic wolf that moved it’s head (which is necessary for optimal gambling).

I found some pots in the Indian type shop that were made in the same village ancestry.com said my family is descended from so that was interesting. If all my distant relatives are making these then why am I so shit at art?

Then we mooched around the shops for a bit. The casino had a smoking section and I realised how long it had been since I had been in a building with a smoking and non-smoking section. To make up for this though the casino had strange futuristic toilets that coated the toilet seats with plastic and when you press a button a new layer of protective plastic rotates on! So I played with that for a bit, Americans seem to be deathly afraid that they can catch AIDs or something from a toilet seat and covers pop up everywhere you go out.

And then it was back home to the kitties.