Thursday, October 20, 2011

New York - Day 8

Day 8: Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end
Monday, October 3rd

... and so also this trip :( Fortunately, our shuttle didn't leave the hotel until noon (which also happens to be check-out time), so we had plenty of time to do the last bit of packing, and go for a last walk. Lars wanted to head up to Columbus Circle, as he hadn't made it up there earlier, and Henni and I both wanted to visit Times Square one last time (this is why we travel so well together - we often decide we want to do the same thing, independently of each other!)

Due to an amazing coincidence, we arrived back at the hotel at the exact same time. I'd just mentioned to Henni, how weird it would be if we saw Lars approach the lights while we were standing waiting to cross, to which she answered, "And there he is!" I thought she was joking at first, but nope. Funny :) (yes, I'm very easily amused ;) )

We got ourselves checked out and entertained ourselves in the lobby with the Friends quiz book Henni had bought earlier in the week. Unlike most Friends quizzes, this one was actually challenging enough that we couldn't answer every question... we could still answer most of them, though ;-)

The 3-hour wait in Newark was as boring as always (I know it's not the main airport of New York, but it still never ceases to surprise me how utterly DULL it is), but the Friends quiz helped speed that time along too (all in all we got through questions to 7.5 seasons during the trip ;) ), and thankfully everything about the flight home went completely smoothly, and we even landed almost an hour earlier than scheduled due to a heavy tailwind! Won't find me complaining :) Even less so when Henni and I took a side-trip to the ladies on the way down to the bagage claim, and by the time we got out again, Lars had managed to pick up all 3 suitcases, and there was nothing left for us to do, but go out and grab a cab home :-D

All in all - an excellent trip! I'm only sorry it couldn't've been longer.

New York - Day 7

Day 7: A Day of Disappointments
Sunday, October 2nd

I know that heading doesn't sound terribly optimistic, but thankfully the disappointments weren't as bad as they could have been, so it wasn't like they ruined my day or anything ;)

Our very last full day in NYC :-( Once again, I had fallen head-over-heels in love with the city, and was definitely not ready to go home the following day! We were determined to make most of the day though, and fortunately the day dawned bright and clear with nary a cloud in the sky. Excellent! We'd wanted to visit the High Line Park and this seemed like the perfect day for it.

Funny aside about the High Line Park - Jennet had suggested it when we were in NYC last, but somehow we just never got around to seeing it. Then when we were planning the visit this time, Lars told me, "Oh, by the way, there's an old railway that has been turned into a park - I really want to see that!". Ehh... yeah honey, I know. It was on our list last time too. "Oh! I never knew!". *g*

Anyway, the weather was indeed perfect for a walk up and down HLP, and we all enjoyed the quaintness of it - even if Lars did grumble that some of the switches were all wrong, and obviously just there for show ;) - and had great fun discussing how a similar park would work out in Copenhagen.

After we'd reached the end of the park, we decided to split up and go our separate ways. Lars wanted to finish up his trainspotting, and funnily enough Henni and I weren't too keen on joining him for that, so we went up north to visit the Met and American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) instead. They were both part of the CityPass (I can highly recommend the CityPass to tourists! We got to go on the Circle Line, visit ESB, MoMa, the Met and AMNH for just $80. The top of the Rocks was also included, but we didn't have time for that)

Unfortunately, the Met is where I encountered my first disappointment of the day :-( Irina had taken me there on my last visit, and it was one of the highlights of that trip. I'd told Henni about it, and really wanted to show her some of my favourite paintings from that visit. At that time they were all in the visible storage, so naturally we headed straight there... only to discover that practically all the American paintings had been moved to the American wing, which was currently closed in preparation for a new exhibition opening in January/February of next year. Noooooooo!!!! :-( I'm pretty sure Henni didn't mind too much, as she didn't know what I was going to show her anyway, but I was hugely disappointed, and promptly sent off a text message to Irina, lamenting my misfortune ;)

Ah well, the visit wasn't a total waste as we headed off to the European paintings instead, and were once again reminded that while neither of us is too fond of modern art, we do love the classics! Especially Monet :)

Museum walking isn't the best activity for my leg though - and especially not on the last day, after a full week of walking! - and as we still wanted me to be able to do a tour of AMNH, we cut our visit to the Met short, and walked across Central Park to AMNH - buying lunch at a street vendor along the way, and eating it in a shady spot in Central Park. I LOVE that we've been able to sit outside and eat in OCTOBER!! :-) ). This time we managed to find both Belvedere Castle and Shakespeare's garden, so at least we got to see some of the things we wanted to in Central Park.

Henni and I each had our different agendas for the visit to AMNH. She wanted to see Rexy and Dum-Dum (yes, she's a fan of "Night at the Museum" as well ;) ), and I wanted to see the American mammals, as I had missed out on getting a photo of the brown bears when I was there last, and wanted to recify that.

Moving from the top down, we found both Rexy and Dum-Dum where they were supposed to be, but when we got to the hall with the American mammals, it turned out that half of it was closed off for restauration!!! I couldn't believe my (lack of) luck, and rushed through hoping that it was the other half... But no such luck, the brown bears were closed off, and no photo was to be had this time either :-( Phooey!

Once done with AMNH we decided to head back to the hotel early, in order to pack before dinner. On the way back in the subway, I realized that I actually really wanted to go to just one more bookshop (I think I couldn't believe I'd bought only 3 books! ;-) ), so we consulted our map, and discovered there ought to be one on Columbus Circle, which was right on our route back anyway. So we got off the train, and went into the mall at Columbus Circle... only to discover that the bookstore I had marked was one of the Borders that had closed!!! Of course I knew that some of the Borders in NYC had closed, but I also knew it wasn't all of them yet and thought I'd done my research properly and crossed off the ones that had closed. Obviously I either hadn't been thorough enough, or I had just missed that one. No matter what, I was out of luck, and both Henni and I were starting to find it just a tad too funny that pretty much everything I had set out to do today had been a disappointment :-/ It's a testament to Henni's excellent company and New York's charm that I still considered it a good day regardless ;-)

Oh, and Henni did offer that we could go to one of the Barnes & Nobles instead, but I have to admit that at this point I had run out of steam, so I was fine with just heading back to the hotel - via Starbucks of course ;) I had a peppermint mocha, which most of all tasted like liquid After 8 - not a bad thing at all ;)

Monday, October 17, 2011

New York - Day 6

Day 6: Africa and Brazil
Saturday, October 1st

Our second-to-last full day :-( Time is running short all of a sudden!

Henni and I had tickets to "Lion King" at 2pm, so we had to be slightly more aware of the time than we had on previous days. With that in mind, we attempted to get a head start, and made our way towards MoMA at a reasonably early hour. The weather was lovely, so we ended up just walking all the way there - getting a second glance at Rockefeller Center along the way. I would have loved to visit Top of the Rocks, but guess that will have to wait until next time.

Unfortunately MoMA wasn't really our cup of tea :-/ Neither Henni and I really 'get' certain forms of modern art, and unfortunately these forms were most prevalant at MoMA. Most of the paintings just left me thinking, "If that's art, then I've got a bunch of scribblings to sell to somebody!"

There were a few things I liked - they had one of my favourite Van Goghs, which was nice, obviously.

And they also had a series of black-and-white paintings, which looked like chaos up close, but a park when you stepped back a bit - that was cool!

But most of them were either ugly or just plain weird - like these three white paitings with red/green/blue boarders. I understand what the artist was doing, but it just seems somewhat fraudulent (for want of better word) to call them "art".

So as a whole, we weren't terribly impressed, and I'm really glad we got in with the CityPass, or we would have felt like we'd wasted our money.

From MoMA we headed down 5th Ave to Grand Central Terminal, as it wouldn't be right for Henni to visit NYC and NOT get to see that ;) Besides, we'd lured her with tales of the pancake restaurant there, and of course she wanted to visit that ;) But it's rather amusing - last time I frequently went to GCT simply by travelling with the subway so much. This time we actually had to PLAN to go there, and walked to get there! Just goes to show what a difference it makes to go sightseeing with somebody rather than on my own.

After lunch it was time to head back to Times Square and pick up our tickets for Lion King (we'd bought them as 'will call' to ensure they wouldn't get lost in the mail) - on the way we stopped by "Theater Circle" as I'd promised to look for a CD for Dad, and Henni wanted to look for a DVD that's utterly impossble to get in Denmark (success on both accounts - yay!) I also ended up buying something for myself, as they had sheet music for pretty much any musical you could think of! Daaaaaangerous store for somebody like me!

I had really been looking forward to seeing "The Lion King", as I'd heard so much about the costumes and the staging, but here afterwards I actually hardly know what to say about it. YES, the costumes were amazing - unlike anything I'd ever seen before (I especially loved the giraffes and the birds), and the choreography was fantastic - they'd done a wonderful job at studying the animals and getting people to move like them. But once that was said and done, had been noticed and admired... I have to admit to it being a bit of a disappointment. I loved the cartoon when I was younger, and had hoped the stage could bring it 'something extra' - but it didn't. So while part of me was absolutely fascinated by the stage show, another part of me was slightly disappointed that it couldn't live up to my expectations, and wish we had gone for something unknown instead. Ah well, you can't win them all.

The performance ended around 5 o'clock, and once again we could see that our timing had been impecable - it had been raining while we were in the theater and had obviously just stopped, but we didn't get a drop ;) We made our way back to the hotel via first Starbucks (Strawberry and creme - yum! I find myself really missing Starbucks now! We don't actually have them in Denmark... although I guess it's just a matter of time ;) ) and then a "Digital World" shop, where I'd seen they had suitcases for sale (it is of great interest to me how good for sale come in different 'combinations' in Denmark and elsewhere. I wouldn't expect a shop in Denmark to sell cameras, iPads/iPhones... and suitcases!). One of our suitcases' handle had broken on the way to the US, meaning we couldn't use the wheels any longer, but had to carry it everywhere - not good enough! And as suitcases in general were 50% cheaper in the US, we figured we might as well buy one there, and then leave the old one behind. I'd gone in a couple of days earlier to ask for a price, and had been quoted the (to me) extremely reasonable $90, but we'd been on our way somewhere, so I didn't buy it at the time.

Since we had to do our packing tomorrow, I figured it was time to get one, so I went in and found a couple I thought looked nice, and as one was obviously better than the other, I asked for the prices again (for some reason, none of them had pricing info on them). The following - rather surreal* - conversation ensued
Him: "This one is $110, and that one is $120."
Me: (still cheap, but not as cheap...) "Oh? I was here the day before yesterday and was told that this one (pointing at the cheapest one) was $90."
Him: "What time did you come?"
Me: "Evening - around 6ish."
Him: "You asked me then! Okay, I give it to you for $90."
Me: "Excellent! Thank you."
He proceeded to open up the suitcases and show us the lining, and the cheapest one looked really cheap - scruffy and used - so I had almost decided to get the more expensive one, when he pulled out another one which was OBVIOUSLY the best of the lot. Clearly better quality, lighter to carry, and looked heaps newer.
Me: "How much for this one?"
Him: "For you, I give you any of these for $90!"
That means I got at least $30 off - possibly more. I don't know why he'd give me such a discount, but you definitely won't find me complaining! ;-) So now we've gotten a cool new suitcase, curtesy of NYC :)

* I know that's not Adam Hill's definition of the word 'surreal', but for someone absolutely USELESS as haggling, it seemed that way to me to get something cheaper without even asking!

One restaurant Lars and I had both had as a MUST on this visit was the Brazilian Grill on the corner of 8th / 48th. We'd been there for their BBQ last time, and had both eaten until we were fit to burst. SUCH good food, so we'd both insisted on going there again, and fortunately Henni was perfectly keen too, after having heard us rave about it for pretty much two years ;)

Fortunately it completely lived up to our expectations. All the meat you can eat, and all really well prepared - yummily tender and moist. My only regret was that I couldn't eat as much as I'd have liked, because YUM!

We pretty much rolled home after that. Good thing we didn't have that far to go ;)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

New York - Day 5

... in which I am verbose. I have pictures though! (*bribebribebribe*)

Day 5: Why Using a Crutch is A Good Thing(Tm)
Friday, September 30th

Henni and I matched!!! Now we really look like tourists ;-)

Henni and I were going to "do" 5th Avenue, so we wanted to get up early and get a head start with the queues at Empire State Building... yeah, that didn't happen ;) But fortunately it turned out to not be an issue at all. I have never met a nationality as considerate of people on crutches as in the US! Let me explain...

We arrived to the Empire State Building (hereafter ESB) at around 10:45am and were relieved to see that the line through security wasn't terribly long and it moved swiftly, so it took no more than 10-15 minutes before we were through the first hurdle. We'd bought a CityPass ahead of time, so that took us past the second hurdle without even having to stand in line! Third hurdle was standing in line to get to the lift that would take us to 80th floor - they took one look at my crutch and sent us through the "fast track lane" (which would ordinarily have been an extra $20-25). Interesting lift by the way - went directly from 2nd to 67th floor and counted in tens for that duration. Quite possibly the fastest elevator I've ever been on. Fourth hurdle was standing in line to get to the lift that would take us from the 80th to the 86th floor - once again they took one look at my crutch and sent us to the front of the line so we could just walk straight on!

Not that the others had to wait long - look at all these elevators!!! And those were just the ones on ONE side of the hall!

I think I've mentioned this before, but I do sometimes feel a bit of a fraud when I get all these perks based on my crutch. I don't view myself as handicapped, so it somehow feels wrong to accept privileges reserved for the handicapped. It wouldn't kill me to have to stand in line with all the "normal" folks. But then I stop being silly and start being awesome! (sorry! I couldn't resist. I do love HIMYM :-D Aaaanyway...) No, I might not need a crutch in my everyday life, but whether I like it or not, I am handicapped. My right ankle has only 10% of the flexibility it should have had. I've done city sightseeing with and without a crutch, and it makes an INCREDIBLE difference to have one. I'm actually able to walk around for more than just a couple of days, without ruining my leg in the process. Sure, it might be a privileged problem that I use the crutch for holidays rather than everyday life, but on those holidays I'm not just using the crutch for fun, I actually do need it. It makes the difference between going to a museum one day - resulting in being stuck in a hotel room or a Starbucks the next; and going to a museum one day, while still being able to walk across Brooklyn Bridge on the next! So yeah, looking at it objectively I'm definitely not a fraud for using a crutch. Looking at it subjectively though... Let's just say, I'm working on it ;-)

But I digress majorly! Henni and I finally made it all the way to the top, and immediately agreed that it was well worth the cost. The weather was nice, and the view absolutely amazing! I'll let these photos speak for themselves

The three antenna mark Times Square. The building to the left with the green roof is right next to our hotel :-)

I never really realized it before I went up the ESB, but lower Manhattan looks really cool! Block after block of "low" buildings (low for Manhattan standards anyway), and then suddenly - bam! Wall Street and the surrounding areas with its 90+ story buildings.

There were a few too many people for us to really be able to stand and take it all in (although I know it could have been much worse), so once we'd made it all the way around we figured we'd seen what we came for and made our way back down again (once again being sent to the front of the lines...) and were ready to head up 5th Ave to go SHOPPING! :-) I'm really glad I got to go up ESB though - it was one of the things that I never got around to doing last time, and which I'd pretty much regretted ever since, so yay for crossing something off my list :-)

Straight from ESB we went up 34th street as Henni had spotted an Esprit shop she wanted to have a look around. I wasn't counting on buying anything myself (I seldom buy clothes when off on my own) but stumbled across a gorgeous dress that was taken down from $90 to $23!!! The price was right, and once I tried it on, I knew I had to have it ;-) Henni and I also found some sweaters we really liked, and as they were 40% off if you bought three, that was a no-brainer also... especially when we knew that the prices were already almost 40% off what they would have been in Denmark! (Esprit is funny like that - it shows prices in several different currencies, so when shopping in Denmark you can really see how much cheaper it would be anywhere else... and when shopping in the US, we can see at a glance how much we save, and be more inclined to buy things that way ;-) ). So I got a gorgeous pink dress and a lovely red sweater and had to accept the fact that I'd now bought more clothes than I'd bought books!!!

In fact, I think having an ereader has seriously put a dampener on my book-spending! Even in the giant Barnes & Nobles on 5th, I ended up only buying a single book! (I know! I was shocked too! Especially because that's where I bought 6(!!) last time!) I was rather tempted by this Berenstein Bear display though :-)

Unfortunately I couldn't remember exactly which ones my parents already had, so I ended up not getting any of them. I love that they're still available though! I grew up with those! Dad went on frequent work trips to the US when we were young, and he'd always bring at least one Berenstein Bear book home for us :-)

Oh, I have to say I was less than impressed by their Nook salesperson though. I'd found a couple of books I wanted, which they didn't have as physical books, but only as e-books. Alright, I know the Nook app for the iPad isn't available outside the US, but perhaps they had a desktop app like the Kindle does? I went to ask, explaining my situation - asking if Nook ebooks could be bought outside the US and whether I'd be able to read them without a Nook e-reader.
"The Nook color is a brilliant e-reader..."
"I'm sure it is, but I'm not interested in purchasing a Nook, I want to know if I can purchase the books even though I don't have a Nook?" (In other words - I want to spend money here! Perhaps not as much as you'd like, but I still want to spend money in your store!)
"You can't read Nook books on the Kindle - you'll need a Nook e-reader."
"I know I can't read them on the Kindle, but I'm not interested in buying a Nook. Is there an app I can download so I can read it on my computer?"
"There is an app for the iPad."
"I know, but it's not available outside the US. Is there any other way I can read the e-books?"
"The Nook can be purchased anywhere in the world with a credit card with a US billing address."
(GAH! I don't HAVE a US billing address, and besides I DON'T WANT A NOOK!!!)
"Does that go for the books as well? Do I have to have a US billing address to buy those off the website?"
(A question that couldn't be answered with "you need a Nook" - he literally paused for a bit.)
"I.... don't.... know... I can recommend buying the Nook color here in store though."

*SIGH* I'm sure Nooks are fine, but I already have two e-readers (three if you count the iPad), and am really just interested in the BOOKS rather than another gadget. I've since discovered that Nook books are in epub format, so it should be fine, but after this run-around I can't be bothered to even register - besides, they might still require the credit card with an US billing address :-/ Guess B&N isn't terribly interested in becoming an international chain. That's fine... turns out that Amazon has the books too, and cheaper! But if they start lamenting the fact that they're loosing customers to Amazon... well, I can give them a clear example of why!

But enough about that. I wasn't seriously bothered at the time, so Henni and I just shared a laugh at his expense and moved on. Next stop - Rockefeller Center and the Swarovski store there! :-) Both Henni and I had been saving up for a nice figuring, so we were both stunned and rather disappointed to discover that their selection was surprisingly small for such a large store, and they had nothing either of us were even remotely tempted by :-( Unfortunately, that went for all the Swarovski stores we visited, so for the first time in ages, I didn't get a new Swarovski figurine for my collection :-( Fortunately that doesn't mean I didn't still get a Swarovski souvenier from NYC, but more about that later ;-)

Our trip up 5th Avenue also included a visit to New York Public Library (loved the Rose Room and found heaps of books to check out in the gift shop ;-) ), a delicious lunch from a street vendor (much better food and greater variety than what you'd find in Denmark! A lot more of them, too) which we ate in Bryant Park, and a quick walk through F.A.O. Swartz (unfortunately they didn't have the things I was looking for, so I didn't buy anything there).

By this time my legs were yelling at me pretty loudly to GO SIT DOWN ALREADY!!!! so Henni and I decided to walk over to Central Park and find a place to sit down and enjoy an ice cream and our books :)

I have decided that if I ever spend any length of time in NYC, I'm going to rent a bike and spend at least a couple of hours biking around Central Park. I'm sure it's a lovely place, but my visits there have mainly been tainted with frustration, because I can't find my way around! The maps are few and far between, so though we knew exactly what we wanted to see (the carousel, the fountain, Belvedere Castle, Cleopatra's Needle, H.C. Andersen and Strawberry Fields), our guidebooks were less than useless in showing us where to go, and as time was short, we ended up giving up after having seen the first two - vowing to return on a later date to look again. We wanted to cross over to the west side to catch the train back to the hotel, but it turned out that that was a lot easier said than done, because the main access road was blocked in both directions! We finally found somebody who could tell us that we could cross the barrier down by 72nd street, but for a while there we'd started to worry that we'd have to backtrack all the way back to 5th and be terribly late in getting back to the hotel! We got rather curious by all the people walking on the other side of the barrier though, and finally couldn't stand it any longer, so we walked up to them and asked what was going on - there was a Black Eyed Peas concert in the northern end of Central Park that evening, and the barriers were to lead the audience in the right direction and keep everybody else away ;-)

Finally we managed to get out on the street and find the nearest subway to get home - fortunately we didn't end up being late, and we even beat Lars getting home!

That morning we had told him all about our experiences at "Ellen's" the day before, and had told him that we'd like to go back, but whether that was for lunch or dinner was completely up to him - we realized it might not be his cup of tea as he's not really into musicals and showtunes. He'd thought it over during the day, and now said that since we'd promised him they had good food, he'd like to go! :-)

So after having rested for a bit, we headed out again to what ended up being my favourite dinner of the entire trip! :-) The food was terrific (I had a lovely Mexican salad with beans, tomatoes, pico de gallo and guacamole, Lars had the biggest steak I've ever seen), the atmosphere just as good as on the previous day, and best of all - they had a birthday party for a group of pre-teen girls, who kept requesting songs by Lady Gaga and Katy Perry, so there was music Lars could enjoy as well! Although, I will have to admit I can never think of "Telephone" exactly the same way any longer, after having seen it done there :-D

But a great time was had by all. I asked Lars afterwards if we'd been right in telling him the food was good, and he basically moaned "Yeeees!", so we were all good there ;-)

Friday, October 7, 2011

New York - Day 4

Day 4: My New Favourite Place in NYC
Thursday, September 29th

Thursday morning the weather looked reasonably okay, so we decided to head over to pier 86 and the Intrepid, as that was something Henni, Lars and I all wanted to see. Admittedly, Lars perhaps just slightly more than us girls, but we were still keen enough to go.

For those of you who don't know, the Intrepid is an old hangar ship which was retired from duty in 1974 and now serves as an air, sea, space museum. Lars was fascinated by the ship's history itself, whereas Henni and I were more taken by the flag bridge and the living quarters.

I think, for me, the highlights of the visit were seeing Henni squee over all the Top Gun references (she's a huge fan ;) ), meeting an honest-to-God retired Intrepid pilot(!!!) and getting a tour of the 'secret' submarine docked right next to the intrepid.

You definitely cannot suffer from claustophobia if you want to work in a submarine!

Once done with the Intrepid, Lars headed off to catch the train to Connecticut, so he could add yet another state to his list (and one I haven't even been to yet! I've still got three more than him though ;) ), and Henni and I walked over to Pier 83 to get some lunch before going on a sightseeing cruise on the Circle Line - we figured this would be an excellent way to sightsee AND rest my leg at the same time ;)

And it was definitely worth the price! The tour guide was amusing (if, perhaps, a bit frustrated by all the tourists who spoke very little English, would come aboard and talk LOUDLY among themselves (so loudly that I was tempted to ask them to quiet down, as I couldn't hear the tour guide), and kept standing in the lanes despite being told MANY times to keep the lanes clear for safety reasons. Seriously, what IS it with people? I'd be too embarrassed to stand back up after I'd been told just once. If you think I sound ever so slightly frustrated myself, you'd be right - and this was only one 2-hour trip - I can't even begin to imagine what it must be like to cope with these people day out and day in! But I digress), the rest nice, and we got some terrific photos of the Statue of Liberty and both Manhattan and Jersy City coastline.

Alas, when we were about half way the sky suddenly turned ominous...

... very ominous...

And before we knew it, there was a proverbial downpour which unfortunately lasted for the rest of the trip, but which fortunately turned into a drizzle as we exited the ferry, so we didn't get too wet as we made our way back to Broadway and my personal highlight of the entire week:

Ellen's Stardust Diner!

Okay, so you have to be a special type of person to enjoy this place - it's definitely not for everybody - but Henni and I both LOVED it! The atmosphere, the singing, the waiters and waitresses, the milkshake...

Most of the waitstaff are aspiring broadway actors, and the entire concept of Ellens is that they'll take turns singing and providing the atmosphere in order to get some exposure. Apparently it works, and most of them were very, very good. But more than just being good singers (which wouldn't have been enough), they were also extremely charismatic, and knew how to get the audience involved.

I won a straw there ;-) One of the waitresses sang "As Time Goes By" and stopped to ask if anybody knew which movie had made that song famous. I shouted out "Casablanca!" and was awarded one of their (completely ordinary) straws ;-) As she came over to hand it to me, she discovered that I was singing along, and so made sure to get me to sing into the microphone, so I can now claim that I have sung on Broadway ;-)

(I know it's not the best photo ever, but we didn't get much notice, so I'm just grateful that Henni thought to grab the camera at all! I certainly didn't have the wherewithall for it.)

Henni and I both felt we had to leave FAR too soon, and were in complete agreeance that we HAD to return for a meal - lunch or dinner depending on whether or not we could convince Lars to come along too ;)

New York - Day 3

Day 3 is short, but day 4 too long to pair up with anything, so this'll just be short 'n' sweet (hopefully ;o) )

Day 3: Movie Magic
Wednesday, September 28th

Wednesday morning Henni and I jumped on a train to take us downtown to Lower Manhattan. Once again I was struck by the difference between the tube in London and the subway in New York; in London, hardly anybody offered me their seat when I entered with my crutch - instead they furiously ignored me. In New York, I barely had time to enter the carridge before somebody stood up to let me sit. I had not expected this to be the case, but was quite interested to discover that as a rule New Yorkers are more curteous to the disabled than Londoners are. Interesting.

Anyway, once downtown Henni and I went on a shopping and movie-sightseeing spree :-D Henni really wanted to see the street from "Sex in the City", so we went there first (and felt somewhat sorry for the people who actually live there, as they obviously feel rather pestered by tourists - we didn't exactly feel bad, as we were behaving decently and just walked past, but we could easily see how it could be a nusiance), and then made our way back to the corner of Bedford and Grove Street for the Friends building. I was quite amused that I was actually able to spot it from almost a block's distance... possibly I watch that series just a tad too much? But whom am I kidding?! There's no such thing as "too much" Friends ;)

We walked back up to Union Square via Scholastic (, I even managed to find the pub where we had lunch last!), and spent a lovely couple of hours first browsing in The Strand (still wish there was one of those closer by!) and Barnes & Nobles there and then relaxing over a cup of chocolate/coffee at the Pret a Manger nearby.

Once my legs felt remotely up to it again, we made our way home via 5th Avenue, past the Flatiron Building, as Henni really wanted a photo of that. I would have taken heaps too, if it wasn't for the fact that I did that last time, and it really hasn't changed much since ;)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

New York - Day 1 and 2

Day 1: Zzzzzzzz
Monday, September 26th

FINALLY the day had arrived. Other than my trip to NZ, I honestly can't remember when I've last looked this much forward to a vacation - without even being able to say exactly what it was I was looking forward to, because I don't think it was any one, specific thing - it was just returning to NYC and getting to share it with Henni this time around.

SAS recommends that you arrive 3 hours before departure for flights to the US, so we met up shortly after 9am, and very quickly got very bored with waiting for noon and our boarding time to roll around. Fortunately each of us came prepared - we'd all made film quizzes for the others, and were able to while away some time filling those out. Still, Copenhagen Airport isn't the most thrilling of airports to wait in (although it DOES beat many... it's one of the best in Europe, I've just been there too often - it's HEAPS better than Newark, that's for sure!), and besides, we wanted to be on our way already!!! But isn't that always the case...

The flight was completely uneventful (eventless? ;-) ) although I was quite unimpressed by the movie selection :-/ Guess I'd gotten spoiled by Air New Zealand ;), and we even arrived to Newark a tiny bit early! Here I was once again somewhat befuzzled by the beurocrats I've so far encountered there and their reaction to my crutch... After having waited in line for the passport security check for quite awhile, we finally reached the front of the line where a lady told us which counter to go to - there was still a bit of a line for each counter, but only about 4-5 people. She chose this time to send me to the front of the line - because after having waited for 20 minutes, she felt I should be spared waiting 5 more minutes I guess? Well, I do appreciate the sentiment, but a tad less so when Lars wasn't allowed to join me, despite the fact that each household only fill out one customs form and therefore had to approach the desk together. He tried to explain this to her, but no doing, so I went ahead and explained it to the lady at the desk I'd been sent to - and was told to go get him anyway! Go figure ;)

Anyway, we made it through without either of us being refused entry to the country, and because the line had been so long, all of our bags had made it to the carrousell by the time we finally got there - always a good thing!

Like last time, we decided to take the train to Penn Station NY, and then walk the remaining 14 blocks to the hotel to get a bit of a feel for the place straight away. Once at the hotel we checked in and got ourselves sorted (fortunately we'd gotten rooms just across the hall from each other :) ), and then went out to find some dinner. Henni isn't as used to travelling as Lars and (especially) I am, so she was pretty much dead on her feet at this time. We did manage to get her to join us at "Sombraro" - the Mexican restaurant just down the street - though, and the food helped give her a second wind, so she was up for a quick walk past Times Square before we made our way back to the hotel and straight to bed!

(apparently I HAVE to have 'deer-in-headlights' eyes when at this restaurant. I give you this from 2009 for comparison :-/ ).

Day 2: Construction sites, restoration sites and chocolate!
Tuesday, September 27th

The weather forecast for our week in NYC had looked questionable all along, so when we woke up Tuesday morning (far later than I had feared, thank you very much! I actually managed to sleep almost to 8am!) to bright sunshine, we decided to go right ahead and get some of our 'outdoor' plans out of the way.

After a quick breakfast we jumped on the train down to World Trade Center to take a look through St. Paul's church (which we'd missed out on last time) and see how far they'd gotten on the new World Trade Center.

But basically Ground Zero is just one big construction site, so apart from being curious to see how far they'd gotten in two years, I didn't find it terribly interesting, and we quickly moved on southwards.

... through the World Financial Center, which had indoor palm trees! Am I alone in finding that just a tad odd? Looked cool though!

We walked down to Battery Park and had a quick look at the war monuments there, before making our way over to the ferry terminal to take the free ferry to Staten Island to give Henni a proper view of the statue of Liberty. I found myself taking very few photos, as it really hadn't changed much since last time we were there, but Henni's camera was just as busy as was to be expected ;)

Once on Staten Island, we took the train to Old Town station and then the bus back over Verrazano-Narrows bridge back to Brooklyn where we parted ways - Lars to go off trainspotting, and Henni and I to walk across Brooklyn Bridge for a scenic view of Manhattan coast- and skyline. Unfortunately, that wasn't quite to be, as the first half of the bridge was covered in plastic for restoration, allowing us pretty much only the view of what we could see straight ahead! Very disappointing :( But fortunately we walked on to discover that the second half of the bridge had not yet been covered (or had been finished already), so we got at least some of the gorgeous views I'd promised Henni.

Once across the bridge, we felt it was high time for some lunch, so took the train from City Hall to Wall Street, working under the assumption that all the fancy suits working there would have to get lunch too, so we could probably find something. Wall Street was partly closed off due to the demonstrations happening later that week (and on and off ever since, as far as I've been able to tell), so it wasn't nearly as busy as I had expected, but Henni still managed to get her photo of the stock exchange, and we had some lovely sushi in what we later discovered was the Trump Building!! That was worthy of a photo by itself:

(the food court was located in the small Milk Street Café to the left of the photo).

My legs were pretty much dead by this point, so I actually volunteered to SKIP a bookstore (GASP SHOCK HORROR!!!) and just take the train back to Times Square to rest a bit. Henni and I both really wanted to visit the M&M shop (amusing factoid - the new M&M shop in London is 50% larger than this one!! I have to go there when we visit London next!), and fortunately she ended up liking the place just as much as I do. We both agree that it's tacky in a good way, whereas Lars just thinks it's tacky! Ptttt to him! ;)

We grabbed a quick drink at Starbucks (tuxedo mocha frappochino for me - THANK YOU to whoever suggested that drink to me! Yummy! :D ) and headed back to the hotel where we met up with Lars (who had actually returned before us! Usually it's the other way around) and rested our legs for a bit before heading out to John's Pizzaria for dinner.

Here I discovered once again why I hate the tipping culture so much. The service was excellent, but where I in Denmark would have thought, "What great service!" here I instead thought, "Ch, he's reeeaally angling for a good tip, isn't he?". Cynical to be sure, but there you have it :-/ The food was great though, and don't worry, we did give him a decent tip :)

Thursday, June 16, 2011


Pinsesøndag startede allerede kl. 6:30 for mig i år... ganske vidst ringede mit vækkeur først kl. 7, men jeg vågnede tidligere, og tænkte at jeg lige så godt kunne komme op og i gang, så kl. 7:30 stod jeg i køkkenet i kirken sammen med Rita, Mette, Karina og flere andre for at lave mad til vores Gospelbrunch. Jeg elsker vores traditionelle Gospelbrunch, men jeg er lige ved at sige at jeg næsten nød timerne i køkkenet sammen med nogle af mine yndlingspersoner fra menigheden lige så meget! Vi hyggede os gevaldigt, og 'mange hænder gør let arbejde', så brunchen var klar da resten af menigheden dukkede op.

Jeg kan ikke sige præcis hvorfor, men jeg tror næsten at dette års brunch var den bedste OVERHOVEDET. Mystisk, for det er samme band og samme menu som altid, men der var bare en stemning jeg ikke har mærket lige til længe, og jeg var fuldstændig høj bagefter :) Breeze of Gospel har været vores "band of choice" de sidste 6 år, så de kender os nu, genkender folk fra år til år og ved hvad de kan tillade sig... som f.eks. at få præsten til at synge solo og sende opmærksomheden ned til de tre 'dansetøser' nede bagved ;-)

Det var helt fantastisk! Jeg er stadig oppe og køre over det, og glæder mig allerede til næste år!

Jeg droppede dog selve gudstjenesten, for Lars havde aftenvagter hele weekenden, og jeg ville gerne lige bruge bare et par timer sammen med ham inden han skulle afsted. Det var dog så pragtfuldt vejr, så efter han var taget afsted, besluttede jeg mig for at jeg ikke gad sidde indendørs hele dagen, så jeg pakkede mit strikketøj sammen, og tog afsted mod København, hvor jeg havde læst om en World Wide Knitting In Public event i Kongens Have. Jeg tænkte at det ville være et besøg værd selvom jeg ikke kendte nogen, og det havde jeg heldigvis ret i! Fælles interesse = instant samtaleemne :D

Jeg havde spekuleret på om jeg ville kunne finde gruppen når jeg nu kom for sent (det begyndte kl. 12, jeg var der først ca. halv to), men det viste sig absolut ikke at være noget problem! Det er trods alt lidt svært at overse 80+ personer der sidder på tæpper i en stor gruppe med deres strikketøj! Jeg fandt en plads lidt i yderkanten, og faldt straks i snak med dem der sad rundt om mig. De fleste kom sammen med venner, men eftersom det var blevet slået stort op både på og Facebook var jeg absolut ikke den eneste der kom alene. Vejret kunne ikke have været bedre (hvilket betød at min venstre arm var lidt rød da jeg kom hjem... så kan jeg lære at sidde stille i samme stilling i så mange timer! ;) ), selskabet var glimrende, og selvom jeg kun blev en 3-4 timer, nåede jeg at komme et GODT stykke videre med min vest.

Folk var blevet opfordret til at tage deres bedste/skøreste værk med, og der var en konkurrence for at finde det bedste stykke arbejde. Jeg fik en masse inspiration fra det, men der er ingen tvivl om hvad min personlige yndling var...

Er den ikke bare fantastisk! Nu vil jeg også have en! Den vandt da også en meget fortjent førstepræmie :)

Og nu har min vest et ærme og en smule af ryggen.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Horror that is Shoe-Shopping

Maria in the search of new sandals

Enters shoe shop 1

Maria: Crap! All shoes here have a 2-inch heel. Never mind!

Enters shoe shop 2

Maria: $200 for a pair of shoes? NO WAY!

Enters shoe shop 3

Maria: Crap! All shoes here have a 1-inch heel. Never mind!

Enters shoe shop 4

Maria: Woohoo! Flat shoes! Okay, only 3-4 pairs, but still! Flat shoes!
Pair 1 - Too soft sole. Can't get fitted with a rocker. Doesn't work.
Pair 2 - Waaay too loose on my foot. Doesn't work.
Pair 3 - Okay, those are just ugly! Never mind.
Pair 4 - Those might work, but they're not terribly comfortable... I'll be back.

Repeat the above for the remaining 5 shoe stores in the mall - finally return to shop 4

Maria: Okay, pair 4 were the least horrible of all I found, and I really, really need new sandals! They've got to do.

Returns home - procrastinates going to the town hall for a couple of weeks. Meanwhile, the shoes are still in the bag from the store.

Maria: Right, okay I really need to get this done! Great, the town hall have actually entered the 21st century and I can apply for the authorization for a rocker online! Woohoo :D

Fills out the application. Under "why do you need a new authorization" writes, "Because my previous pair is 10 years old and literally falling apart on my feet."

Waits a couple of weeks for bureaucracy to run its course

Letter: Authorization granted!

Maria: Yay! Hang on... was that for a pair of shoes I own, or do I need to go out and buy some?

Searches closet - finds bag

That's right! Heh, I'd completely forgotten all about those!

Procrastinates for another week or two and then figures enough is enough

Phone: Ring-ring

Maria: Hello, my name is Maria. I need to get a rocker fitted on my shoes. I do have an authorization from the municipality. Can I make an appointment?

Stupid shoemaker insists on only being open while I'm at work. I end up having to take a couple of hours off to make the appointment.

Day of appointment

Maria: Keeping my fingers crossed they won't say I picked the wrong sort of shoes, because these are waaaay beyond the return policy!!! (Thankfully that's never happened yet - after 18 years I know which shoes will work and which won't ;) )

Appointment takes all of 5 minutes, with them making sure that they know it's the RIGHT shoe they have to put the rocker under and to do nothing about the left, because my right leg is shorter than my left anyway, so with the rocker, it all evens out.

A week or two later...

Door-bell: *doesn't work*

Door: Knock-knock.

Delivery-man: Hello, here are your new shoes. Please sign here.

Maria: Woohoo!!! New shoes!!! ... unfortunately, it is now September, and I won't be able to wear my sandals until next year.

... And this is why I hate shopping for shoes and always wear them until they are literally falling apart.

(For full disclosure, I'm currently waiting for the appointment (Thursday), so hopefully this year I'll actually get my sandals while it's still sandal weather!!! :D Don't ask me when I bought them though... *coughmarchcoughcough* )

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Australia Part 12 of 12

Part 12: Going home :-(
My least favourite part to write. I so loved every single minute of my vacation that I hated having to leave. New Zealand had once again come to be home to me, and leaving it/Australia to return to reality... well, basically that really was what it was - leaving my dream to wake up. Of course I couldn't wait to get back to Lars again, but apart from that... I would have loved to stay.

Thankfully I didn't leave Sydney until after lunch, so I had a very pleasant morning in front of me together with Anne and her family. We got up early, and after a nice breakfast, drove off to a nearby Plaza so I could buy my Swarovski souvenir. I hadn't been able to find anything in New Zealand, so this was my chance. And once I saw it, I knew exactly what I had to get - a small ladybug! See, Giana's nickname on Anne's blog is "Ladybaby", so this would be a perfect reminder of my stay with them! After hearing my reasoning, Anne decided that since Giana really wasn't a baby any longer, she should graduate to being "Ladybug" on the blog as well - very sweet!

(who's a mutual friend of Anne's and mine, and who met up with Anne and her family some years ago) had recommended I took the kids to get Krispy Kreme doughnuts, and since pretty much most of Anne's family wanted to meet me (I almost blushed at that - I mean... really!) we decided to kill two birds with one stone, get a bunch of doughnuts and gather everybody together for morning tea by the river.

Unfortunately no doughnuts were being made while we were in the shop :( That would have been fun to see!

The morning tea was really cozy. I loved the park, and everybody was just so friendly! Made it even harder for me to say goodbye - knowing that most of these people I'd probably never meet again. But they were truly of the race that knows Joseph.

We made the most of the situation, and got Anne's SIL to take this photo of all 5 of us.

And of course another one of just the two of us :-)

At 11'ish we had to call it a day, as it was a bit of a long drive out to the airport, and we didn't want to risk getting in late. Once again Anne popped on a Colin Buchanan CD (a different one), and we passed a very enjoyable hour driving to the airport while singing along :) Turned out that she had ulterior motives in introducing me to Colin Buchanan, as she and Ian presented me with the two CDs I'd heard to give to my nieblings as presents!!! I thought that was so extremely sweet of them! And was rather pleased on my own behalf too, as I'd told myself I had to look him up when I came home, because I'd love to introduce my family to his music. Voila! :D

Check-in went without any hassles, I had a DELICIOUS lunch at the airport (Anne, do you remember the name of the salad? I forgot again. And seriously, why is fast-food anywhere else so much better than in Denmark? Sheesh!), and then - unfortunately - it was time for me to say goodbye to my new-found family and go through security.

Saying goodbye was really, really difficult. Despite only having been with them for 2.5 days, I felt like I'd become a part of their family, and I'm not ashamed to admit I shed a tear or two as I stood in line to get through security. I've been blessed with many wonderful friends down-under, and it's such a shame they live so far away.

Thank you everybody, for making this such a fantastic, terrific, wonderfully blessed trip!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Australia Part 11 of 12

Part 11: Sydney City
Despite our busy day on Monday, most of us actually got up relatively early on Tuesday, and after breakfast, we headed off to the trainstation to take the train in to Sydney City. I figured that I couldn't be in Sydney without seeing the Opera House (designed by a Dane!) and Anne and her family happily obliged me :)

Doesn't she just look like an adorable imp?! :)

I was ridiculously excited to see the Opera House! I mean, I'd been to see it in 1991, but yet it felt an absolute MUST to walk past again - even if I did just want to walk up to it, take a photo and walk off again ;) I did discover that while it looks terrific from some angles - it's really, really ugly from others! At least IMHO.

Back when I started planning this trip, and started considering going to Sydney for a couple of days, I asked Lars if he'd be okay with me staying away for a bit longer, so I could fit it all in. "Of course! But then you HAVE to go and take a photo of Nemo by the Opera House." ;-)

Proof that Anne and I were together at last!

We took the ferry across the harbour to Manly and had a lovely lunch of fish 'n' chips on the beach... even if we were accosted by some of the most fearless and cheeky seagulls I've ever encountered! Truely "rats with wings". No exaggeration, we had to be constantly on the watch to scare them away, or they'd come sit on our heads trying to steal our food! Mike had one land on him before we figured that one out! (I'd have squealed if that had happened to me, so I was very impressed that he didn't!) Once Mike and Giana finished their lunch they started running around to scare off the birds so the rest of us could finish our meal in peace. It mostly worked... except when they got carried away and ran so far away from the table, that they actually scared the seagulls back to us again ;)

Once back in Sydney harbour, and refreshened by a delicious ice cream (authentic unauthentic Danish ice cream. The chain is called "Royal Copenhagen", much to my amusement, since that's the name of our most expensive china brand!) we walked to the Queen Victoria Building for a quick look-around there. It's a gorgeous looking building, but the most fascinating thing of all was this letter that was displayed:

In case it's too small for the writing to be legible, it says:
On a suitable day to be selected by you in the year 2085AD would you please open this envelope and convey to the citizens of SYDNEY my message to them.
Elizabeth R.

I can assure you, it gave me a right thrill to read this! It was presented to Sydney in 1986 and nobody knows what is written! Okay, first of all, not a thing I would expect from Queen Elizabeth II!!! It seems almost too frivolous to be something she would do. Secondly, I'm insanely curious now! And chances are very small that I'll be alive to experience the reading of it. But absolutely fascinating. Such "scope for imagination" to quote our dear Anne.

That evening, Anne and Ian took me out for dinner at a local restaurant called "King Henry's Court". What a delightful, quaint place that was! It's located in an old church, and the restaurant itself is one giant giftshop, as it's filled with nicknacks of all possible imaginable and unimaginable sorts on all the walls - and everything's for sale! it would have been a very, very, VERY dangerous place for me indeed, if I'd lived any closer, because I found so many things I'd like! Too inconvenient to take with me in the suitcase though, which was probably just as well.

Dinner was very, very yummy, and the atmosphere terrific. I'm so glad I got to experience it :) But Giana completely stole my heart that night. I had to excuse myself briefly before the food arrived, and when I came back, she was sitting on Anne's lap, obviously in distress. "She just realized you were leaving tomorrow," Anne explained. How can a girl not melt when she hears that?! I gave her a huge hug, and sat with her snuggled up to me for most of the rest of the night.

Back home we sat down for a couple of games - both lingustic type games, which I can ensure you was rather interesting in a foreign language! I know my English is above average for a Dane, but my vocabulary is still limited when it comes to botanic words, and there are still times where the Danish words would jump out more readily than the English, so we had lots of fun playing with me occasionally shouting out some Danish word or the other, and Anne asking, "Oh, is that what [whatever] is called in Danish?". And Giana blew me away completely when she was able to give a proper description of Isle of Man - flag and everything! I certainly couldn't have done that at that age! Great fun! :)

Friday, May 13, 2011

Australia Part 10 of 12

Part 10: Scenic World
From Featherdale we drove straight up to Katoomba in the Blue Mountains to see the Three Sisters. It was a beautiful trip, but I've got to admit to struggling a bit to stay awake for all of it. Mike and Giana had asked me to sit in the middle (because they both wanted to sit next to me - hard to argue with ;) ) and at one point they had both fallen asleep, leaning against me. I could feel the effects of essentially having been up since 1am, so it was a bit of a battle.

It was COMPLETELY worth it once we arrived though! I hadn't been completely certain, but once I actually saw the Three Sisters again, I knew that I'd been there with my parents back in 1991 - quite funny to be back after such a long time :)

Ian, the kids and I walked down the steeeeeep steps to the first sister. It's possible to walk all the way down to the valley using these steps, but I'm really glad we didn't! The steps down were a challange because of my bad leg (which doesn't allow my foot to bend enough to walk down stairs properly - I basically have to 'jump' for every second step, which doesn't feel altogether safe on steps as steep as these), and the steps up were a bit of a challenge because I'm obviously not as fit as I would like to be ;) I was huffing and puffing big time by the time we'd made it back up to Anne again.

... Who, at this time, was able to tell us about the death of Bin Laden! She had wanted to post a photo of us to Facebook and had seen status upon status upon status mentioning his death. She couldn't get online to a reputable news site though to confirm, so ended up calling her mother. Yup - no hoax. So I'm pretty sure I'll always remember exactly where I was "when I heard".

I'm fascinated by the erosion of the sandstone under this tree! Giana didn't really dare stand under it for my photo, and I can't say I blame her!

From the Three Sisters we drove over to Scenic World for a better view of the valley. We took the railway down - and I do mean DOWN! It descended 206 meters in just 415 meters with an incline of 52 degrees in places! I WISH I could have gotten a photo of it, but by the time I realized that it was photo-worthy, I needed both hands to hold on to Giana and myself! It was a super-fun trip though! Made even more fun by the tour-guide playing the theme music from "Indiana Jones" as we drove ;)

From the bottom of the Railway, we walked across part of the valley to take the Cableway back up and ended the day by going on the Skyway across the valley and back again - fantastic view, and yet again a gorgeous waterfall :)

After a brief tour around Katoomba to see Anne's old haunts (she used to live there), we started the journey back to Sydney. I'd been a bit worried about the trip home, because when the trip out was such a struggle, how on earth would I be able to manage on the trip home, when it was dark outside? Fortunately that turned out to not be a problem at all, as Anne put on a CD of Christian children songs by Colin Buchanan and we ended up singing along to that all the way home. Most of the songs were Bible verses, so I already knew the lyrics, and thanks to them being children songs, the music wasn't too difficult either, so I had no problems singing along, despite it being the first time I'd heard the CD.

Actually, this turned out to be the creation of one of my favourite memories from Australia :-)

Once home Anne cooked a delicious dinner for us, but none of us lingered over it - we were all too tired! I'd been up for 19 hours at this stage. 9pm saw us all in bed and (mostly) fast asleep.