Monday, 17 January 2011

USA - New York, New York

I caught the Amtrak train northbound from Rocky Mount, North Carolina to Penn Station, New York City.

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As I dislike flying immensely and the fare was only $65 (I'm making the most of my student discounts before my student ID card expires in February), I was delighted by the opportunity to be able to stretch out a little and perhaps even get some work done on the 9 hour journey.  Unfortunately for me I hadn't counted on getting a little travel sick from all the bumping and swaying of the carriage so grading my students' papers was completely out of the question. Instead I watched a few movies on my Ipod and had a huge afternoon nap.  I had 2 seats to myself and no one sitting behind me so reclined the seat and sprawled out :-)

I arrived at Penn Station about about 9:30pm and after collecting my checked luggage, my hosts hailed down a famous NYC yellow taxi and we headed the short distance to the East side where they live opposite the United Nations Building. Their apartment is slightly bigger than mine in London but with 3 adults sharing the space I tried to be considerate with how I unpacked and stored my belongings (not any easy task for me... I'm not good at living out of a suitcase or backpack. I usually just dump everything out and make a pile).

This being my 5th visit to New York City, I didn't have a wish list of 'must do' things.  Instead over the next 3 days I went with the flow and was delighted with the outcome. I had amazing pancakes for breakfast at the Penn Club with great company, ate roast duck on an exploration of China Town, quesadillas and Corona at a fab Mexican restaurant, Thai green curry and even New York style pizza before taking in the amazing dance at the show Billy Elliot.  I explored the shops around Times Square, got overwhelmed with Macy's and bought my first pair of Gucci shoes at DSW.  I even managed to squeeze in a special guided tour of the United Nations building which let me see the Security Council and the General Assembly.  This was awesome and was about an hour and a bit long.
 A street in New York (can't figure out how/why the picture is rotated wrong)

 Photo I took on the tour of the UN Building  of the General Assembly

Photo of the Security Council

Close up of the tapestry on the wall of the Security Council


UN Building

DSW deserves its own paragraph. This store is huge and has thousands of pairs of designer shoes marked down to crazy prices.  And when googling them, I just discovered they have an online store. The prices seem much higher than what they are in store but there are still bargains to be found. If you're in NY do not miss this store.  It is in Union Square which is a lovely spot to visit anyway.
Map of Directions to DSW

I caught an overnight BA flight from JFK to LHR and arrived home about 2pm on Sunday. After lugging 60kg of luggage through 2 tube lines I deserve a medal!

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

USA - Grand Ole USA

Despite the multiple flight cancellations which delayed my travel plans by 6 days and shortened my overall trip by days, I made it to the U.S. of A from London for Christmas. And what an indulgent time I have had here.  Combining late morning starts with luxurious afternoon naps has enabled me to catch up on copious amounts of sleep and has helped to reduce stress. It wasn't long before I was confused what day of the week it was... a tell-tale sign that I had settled into V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N mode. Good times with good friends has been the order of the day.  I've shopped beyond my heart's content (well my suitcase's actually) and have additional luggage to take back to the UK with me at the end of the week.  Shoes, clothes and pretty home accessories are the order of the day as not only are they much cheaper here, the stores are more accessible.  No need to catch the bus or tube and lug bags around here when the giant stores have parking right out front :-)

The snow from London followed me to North Carolina and late on Christmas night the storm came through dumping over 10 inches of snow.  It looked so beautiful and apparently was record setting amounts in some areas - poor old Roxboro had snow on Christmas Day for the first time in over 100 years.

The back yard... the cars are buried. Luckily we had use of the 4 wheeled vehicle to check on a friend's cat.

I've journeyed back town to my 'hometown' of Sanford to catch up with friends.  Although the trip was an overnight one, the time spent with them will always be too short. One of the perils of being a global nomad is the naked fact that you have to say goodbye to often to too many good people.  Whilst I come away so pleased to have spent time with my friends, my heart always feel a little more broken each time I leave once again.

American cuisine still shocks (and often surprisingly delights) me. On this brief visit alone I've been able to set my lips around some fried turkey, Red Lobster biscuits (the best!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!), Chick-Fil-A strawberry milkshake, grilled pimento cheese sandwich, versions of Pilsbury dough creations, Xmas M&Ms, fantastic Chico's salsa (restaurant in Rocky Mount), Hagan Das dulche de leche icecream (I know you can get it in the UK but I have a hard time finding a store that regularly stocks it), hint of lime tortilla chips and tonight we're off to the Outback restaurant to celebrate Jo's birthday so no doubt a Sinful Sydney Sundae will be added to the list.

Tomorrow I'm off to Jo's school for either the day or part of.  She wants me to see her class and meet the kids that she's told me so much about.  Then Wednesday I'm Amtraking north to New York for a few nights with more friends before starting work again next week.  Oh how time flies by so quickly.  I haven't yet considered new year's resolutions. I spent the last day of 2010 in bed sick as a dog although arose briefly at 11:45pm to let of fireworks (shhhhhhh, wasn't us). I do know that there are some great adventures planned already and I am excited to working/learning alongside my students :-)