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Forty One Hours in New York

March 22, 2014

I’ve been very grown up and boring of late but just occasionally I do something completely mad. In the middle of October my weekend plans fell through at short notice. I was frankly a little disgruntled especially as it meant I would have no excuse to avoid some necessary but dull housework. However I’m a big girl so I got over it and decided to make a virtue of necessity. I planned a quiet and economical weekend involving watching the contents of my Sky box, reading in bed and sorting out my disaster area of a home but like all the best laid plans…

I was still grumpy on Wednesday morning when an old school friend texted me on the train to work to suggest a trip to New York for the weekend. I considered this for approximately ten seconds. The sane part of my brain said you cannot go at less than 48 hours notice and you can’t afford it. The insane part had asked my boss if I could have Friday off before the sane part knew what it was doing and as if by magic my credit card had leapt from my handbag, I had acquired an ESTA, booked flights and a hotel. These things do happen sometimes.

My colleagues looked on in awe as I produced a large checklist in order to deliver a big product a day ahead of schedule, deliver my parents to Gatwick on Wednesday evening to catch their flight to Rome and get myself to New York by midday on Friday. Some people swear by Microsoft project or use their PRINCE 2 training. I have the control freaks spreadsheet and a checklist. It works for me. I also know what motivates my colleagues I needed some of them to do things for me early so I bribed them with the promise of industrial quantities of Reese’s Pieces on Monday! This turned out to be a very effective technique.

I was on the 7am train on Thursday and in the office well before 8 to begin my campaign of action. By 6pm Thursday I had completed part , delivered the required product and then hastened home to begin part two. Between then and bedtime at 9:30 I managed to buy dollars, borrow a holdall, print all required paperwork, pack, prepare my hand luggage, buy my lottery tickets, eat dinner, put petrol in the car and air in the tyres, book parking at Heathrow and bath.

Five hours later the alarm shrilled and I had to get up, throw my clothes on, collect S and head for Heathrow. We were both surprisingly energetic considering how little we’d slept and the unholiness of the hour.

All seemed very smooth until the pilot announced there was fog in Brussels and we’d just lost our slot to land. Did I mention this trip to New York was via Brussels? Obviously all sane people travel a few hundred miles in the wrong direction when taking a short notice trip. Frankly when you book with 36 hours notice you have to go on the flights you can get. Anyway it was always going to be a tight transfer of an hour and ten minutes and it was suddenly very tight. S and I both went pale, imagining being in Brussels having missed the morning plane. All my research on Wednesday suggested that if this happened we’d have to return to London and catch a fight at about 3 pm. As our flight home was 9am on Sunday this would waste precious hours in New York.

It was a nasty hour. Neither of us could focus on anything. Just before landing a nice stewardess informed us it would be fine – United and the airport knew we were on our way, they would expedite the transfer and we would make it. I had visions of racing through an airport the size of Schipol but mercifully Brussels is a small airport. Even so with 40 minutes to get from flight to flight we still ran. We made it in twenty minutes from seat to seat including a second security check and passport control. I became one of those passengers who are jumped right to the front of the security queue! The gate had already closed when we arrived but they’d held the flight for the incoming flights. We were still almost last to board but it turned out the connecting flight from Frankfurt was even later.

The flight was pretty much as you expect a long haul flight to be and we’d got our breath back by the time we landed at Newark just after Friday lunchtime. Passport control had the most fantastic view of the Manhattan skyline and I was mesmerised.

S and I dumped our belongings in the hotel and hurried to Central Park to walk in the autumn sunshine and pleased our inner five year olds with a ride on the carousel. It was fab and $3 jolly well spent.

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I saw the Bethesda Fountain and admired the Fall colours.

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Then we walked down 5th Avenue and our next stop was the Empire State Building. The Empire State Building was everything I remembered and more. The view of New York in the dark was just perfect.

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We finished our day with a fab pizza in Little Italy and in my case a sorely needed glass of red wine.

Saturday began with a trip to the Statue of Liberty on a boat. We were lucky. The sun shone and the sky was blue and the boat trip on the Hudson was splendid. It was one of those magic moments you can scarcely believe are true.

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After lunch S went to her gig and I explored New York on foot. I found two yarn shops. Downtown Yarns in East Village and Purl in SoHo but less pleasingly neither had what I wanted sadly they were too high end and non wool yarn tends to be towards the lower end.

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I also went to New York Public Library to see the real Winnie the Pooh. This pilgrimage to see a childhood hero made me very happy indeed.

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There was also a fascinating exhibition The ABC of it: Why Children’s Books Matter. I’d not known that would be there but it was an added bonus. Many of the books were unfamiliar as they were classics on that side of the pond rather than mine but others were old friends. There were original Eric Carle illustrations and some of my favourite books.

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There was shopping in Macy’s, Walgreens and Barnes & Noble. I bought a raincoat that actually fitted, two new pairs of jeans, several tops, a cardigan, a jumper and two pairs of trainers binning the pair I was wearing as walking in New York had finished them off. Less excitingly I also bought a large quantity of Naproxen. You can only buy 9 at a time in the UK and it is very expensive. I bought 60 for less than 9 would cost me in London and it is so good for muscular pain. I left Heathrow with 6kg of luggage and returned with just under 14kg which I thought was impressive considering the short stay.

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Sarah finished her gig and we watched the skating at the Rockefeller Centre before heading off for dinner at Ellen’s Stardust Diner. A friend had recommended it to us and it was well worth the queue to get in. I had proper American Mac Cheese. Then it was time for bed with an early flight home in the morning. Getting up for work on Monday morning proved to be slightly effortful…

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This wasn’t my first visit to New York but it was the first for many years. I loved renewing my acquaintance with old places and visiting new ones. I walked miles and slept very little. From first take off to final landing I was away for 61.5 hours via London, Brussels, New York and back to London again. It was the most amazing weekend. I’d forgotten the sheer joy of an act of madness and exploring a place.

I’ve got to work on my budget and find a way to travel more because I enjoy it so much. I am also insurable now and who knows how long that will last. I should make the most of it while I am.

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