Macy’s Day!

A final belated blog post from our amazing holiday.

Boxing Day was much like any other week day in NYC, it is not a US public holiday so everyone is back at work with shops open, banks open and offices back at work.  Nevertheless the marvellous Macy’s had a ‘One Day’ sale so off we went. Macy’s was full of shoppers……..Mr and Mrs L went their separate ways for ease of the shopping experience.  I went up to the 9th floor and started from there……Mr L soon ducked out as too busy for him and coffee held more attraction!

Macy's New York

Macy’s New York

First bargain bagged was a new work bag I need for work.  Working across 2 sites means I carry a lot of paperwork etc around with me and my current bag is quite heavy and has given me a bad shoulder so I need something lighter and easier to carry.  A lightweight leather slim Samsonite bag seemed to be a perfect answer, also seemed to be a reasonable bargain with price reduced from $200 to $99.99……still a lot of money so I hummed and haa’ed a bit before thinking ‘sod it, I’ll buy it’……..and then when I went to the till there was a further price reduction due to the one day sale and it was half price. So bingo, first bargain bagged at $54.83 – Mrs L was well pleased!  Next stop was ladies fashion bargains on the 5th floor.  I was very moderate here and only purchased 1 jumper and a 2 sweater dresses……..could have been a lot worse but for travel and luggage restrictions.

Friday was a glorious day with solid blue sky and sunshine, and warm in the sun at 13c which meant my fur coat (my only coat I had with me) was somewhat warm!  We walked across from 6th Avenue to 11th Avenue to find the High Line walk which was another highly recommended ‘to do in NYC’ from Mr G.

The High Line Park

Map of the High Line Park

The High Line is a 2.33km/1.45 mile linear park built on an elevated section of the disused New York Central Railroad spur which was called the West Side Line.  The High Line Park runs from 34th Street, down through the area known as Chelsea, to Granesvoort Street which is 3 blocks below 14th Street.  It has been transformed from a disused railway to a stylish park with natural planting and areas for sitting and relaxing and has no doubt transformed this slightly more neglected area out on the west side of NYC.

High Line Park

High Line Park

We had a wander down Granesvoort Street, an area known as the Meatpacking District, and back up to 14 Street and finally picked up the subway on 6th Avenue back to our hotel to collect luggage and await our transfer to JFK Airport……time to go home 😥

Last local beer at JFK!

Last local beer at JFK!

PS steps walked Boxing Day = 19,383 / 14.12km.  That makes a total of  90,944 steps walked in our 4.5 days in NYC which is 67.1km / 41.7 miles = weary legs for Mr and Mrs L!!

Advertisements

Merry Christmas

Mr & Mrs L selfie - Central Park

Mr & Mrs L selfie – Central Park

We have had a good Christmas Day here in NYC.  The day started with room service – Mr L went out to get yoghurt, fruit and granola pots, pain au chocolat, and orange juice to go with our bottle of fizz.  Breakfast in bed and presents started our Christmas Day.

Christmas present from Mr L

Christmas present from Mr L

For the first time since arriving, we saw blue skies, the sun and the tops of the skyscrapers. The streets were fairly busy with pedestrians and cars, 5th Avenue was particularly busy and especially so around the Rockefeller Centre ice rink and Christmas tree, and also around the Bergdorf and Goodman store and it’s amazing shop windows.

Much of NYC must have also been in Central Park as that was busy too.  It was a perfect day for a walk.

Central Park - looking towards the ice rink

Central Park – looking towards the ice rink

Central Park - looking towards 5th Avenue

Central Park – looking towards 5th Avenue

Unlike the UK, NYC does not come to a halt on Christmas Day.  The subway and buses were all running on a Sunday timetable, the yellow cabs were aplenty too.  We took the subway to Spring Street and found Balthazar’s, a restaurant highly recommended by Mr G.  Again, amazingly busy but we got a table after a fair old wait and the food was worth it so no complaints.

Freedom Tower seen from Spring Street

Freedom Tower seen from Spring Street

Our Christmas meal tonight was booked at a French restaurant on W55th and 5th Avenue, Benoit.  Sadly the Maine lobster salad starter was all gone……my choice of the tuna was not good……raw tuna!  The mains and desserts were excellent though.

This must be our most minimalist alcohol Christmas ever – the cost of beers and wine is colossal so consumption has had to be modified!  Beers at $10, a glass of wine for $12……expensive.

Last day tomorrow so packing up and checking out first thing before hitting Macy’s and their Boxing Day sale.

Steps today = 18,848 / 14km.

 

Wet, Wet, Wet

Relentless rain all day…….the heavy rain today makes the damp drizzle of the past 2 days almost pleasant!

Too wet to walk anywhere any distance this morning so we headed off to the New York Public Library just up on 42nd and 5th Avenue – so not too far to walk but we got absolutely drenched as we waited to cross Madison Avenue when a coach turned right through a big puddle…..lovely!!  NYPL is one of NYC’s classic style older buildings.

New York Public Library

New York Public Library

Completed in 1911 the library now houses world-renowned collections in the humanities, social sciences, and fine arts – and provides free and open access to all. The Astor Hall is host to a fabulous Christmas Tree, and upstairs in the McGraw Rotunda is an amazing mural ceiling and 4 huge murals portraying the written word from Moses and his Tablets to the modern day newspaper.  There were 2 exhibitions we wanted to see – one called ‘Over Here’ detailing WW1 and the fight for the American mind; the other was called ‘Public Eye’ on 175 years of sharing photography – brilliant exhibition.  We also met Patience and Fortitude, the 2 lions who sit outside NYPL (a quiz question on QM2 which we got wrong).

Patience and Fortitude guarding NYPL

Patience and Fortitude guarding NYPL

image

Still wet post-NYPL so we rode the subway.

Bright and cheerful subway entrance

Bright and cheerful subway entrance

We took the Q line all the way down Manhattan, across Manhattan Bridge to Brooklyn and across to Coney Island…….it was raining even harder there so we switched lines and got the F line back up to 59th Street just by Columbus Circle.  Drizzle now, so an improvement, and there was a Christmas Market here just at the South end of Central Park.  We had a wander through and I found a neat item which Mr L said he would buy as my Christmas present……….

We wandered back to our hotel via Bloomingdales and 5th Avenue – still raining!  Saving Macy’s for Boxing Day.

Christmas Eve dinner was at the trendy Breslin Bar in the Ace Hotel on West 29th – great bar, food average and alcohol exceedingly overpriced……..but there again eating and drinking is very expensive here in New York.

Happy Christmas Eve everyone x

PS 16,542 steps / 12.4km walked today

Walking in the Rain

It has rained all day again……..much like yesterday afternoon with fine rain making us soggy and low cloud obscuring the tops of Manhattan’s skyscrapers.

We had to get help to sort out our metro tickets for the subway but once bought we were soon on our way to Downtown to visit the 9/11 Memorial.  There was a moment of mild alarm on the subway when we realised we were on the express train to Brooklyn……as we sped through stations we wondered whether we would actually stop anywhere near where we wanted to alight! Fortunately we did stop at Fulton and from there it was a short walk to the 9/11 Memorial.  The site has been transformed since we were last here and is now a beautiful space with 2 huge black pools set in the footprints of the original north and south Twin Towers.  Thirty foot waterfalls cascade into the tools, each then descending into a centre void.  The names of the almost 3,000 people who lost their lives are inscribed in bronze parapets around the pools.  The new Freedom Tower, One World Trade Center, is the main building of the new World Trade Center complex.  It opened in 2014 and with 104 floors is the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, and 4th tallest in the world.  Sadly my photos today do not show the Tower as low cloud obscured the view.

Freedom Tower - WTC (Wikimedia Commons photo)

Freedom Tower – WTC (Wikimedia Commons photo)

Another subway trip to Canal Street so we could pick up West Broadway and find The Odeon, a restaurant recommended by Mr G.  We turned left up West Broadway and got all the way up to Houston Street before accepting we should have gone the other way!!  Mr L wanted to get the subway again but Mrs L thought that walking was better…..The Odeon was worth the walk, excellent pastrami sandwiches with fries and a beer.  We needed to walk even more after that high carb lunch!!

We walked all the way up Avenue of the Americas, aka 6th Avenue, back to our hotel on 42nd Street stopping on the way to do some NYC shopping.

Car parking in 6th Avenue

Car parking on 6th Avenue

NYC's 'Boris Bikes'!

NYC’s ‘Boris Bikes’ – citi bikes and an Annie

Mr L stocked up on Levi 514s (his favourite jeans) from the excellent Dave’s.  TJ Maxx didn’t have much but Mr L did get himself a ‘pet’ (new carry-on size suitcase to replace his other one which has a broken handle) – not as nice as Miss A’s ‘pet’ though!  I bought myself a couple of new jumpers at bargain prices, one from Century 21 and the other from Marshalls.

NYPD's latest transport!

NYPD’s latest transport!

Todays walking steps have surpassed yesterday’s – 19,477 steps / 14.5km compared to 16,216 steps / 11.8km yesterday…….weary legs now so dinner was at a nice little Italian just over the road from the hotel.  Tomorrow’s forecast is for more rain…….not having much luck with the weather so far this trip.

Arrived Brooklyn, Transferred Manhattan

Cases were packed and left outside our room before midnight Sunday night ready for collection and transfer to the Brooklyn Terminal. Our information sheet informed us that we were due to dock in Brooklyn at 6.30am Monday morning.  Mr L decided it was a good idea to be up and get out on deck and watch us steam by the Statue of Liberty and around the bottom of Manhattan to the Brooklyn Terminal. The alarm was set for 5.30am and we were up and dressed and out on deck by 5.45am – it was still dark………and we were already securely berthed. I got my first photos of the iconic New York skyline, this time with the new Freedom Tower in the shot. I also got a nice photo of the Statue of Liberty. Made the early start all worthwhile!!

Time for an early cuppa and pre-breakfast snack – 6.30am was still a bit too early for breakfast, even for Mr L!

Final packing of our hand luggage done and back to our favourite Chart Room to wait until it got light so I could take some more NYC photos and await a suitable time for breakfast. The photos in the dark are more impressive than the photos at first light as it is somewhat grey and hazy this morning.

Statue of Liberty from QM2

Statue of Liberty from QM2

Early morning view of Manhattan from QM2

Early morning view of Manhattan from QM2

We then had to gather in the Queen’s Room and await our disembarkation time of 10.15am and the joys of getting through US immigration, collecting luggage and finally clearing customs. We did not get called to disembark until 11am as there were delays in the Immigration Hall of the Terminal. At least we were able to wait in comfort in the Queen’s Room and once through to Immigration we were through and out in 45 minutes so not too bad overall; Mr L still moaned though. Our pre-booked cab collected us at 12md to whisk us off to our hotel. There was little ‘whisk’, more a slow crawl out of a fairly run down Brooklyn and across the Brooklyn Bridge which had a lane closed, hence the slow journey.

We are on the 15th floor of The Westin which is on E42nd and 3rd. Our room is modern and spacious with a view of the Chrysler Building from our room window…….a bit of a Fawlty Towers seaview view in that you have to crane your neck a bit, but we can see it!

 

Chrysler Building from our hotel window on 15th floor

Chrysler Building from our hotel window on 15th floor

Once unpacked and again ‘connected’ to wifi we went out for a couple of hours in the drizzle and fought our way through shoppers on 5th Avenue before heading west and back down 6th Avenue, completing our loop by walking down W47th – the centre of Manhattan’s very Jewish diamond district. There were some amazing diamond stores, strangely Mr L was not overcome by a great urge to buy Mrs L a diamond or two!!

Dinner choice tonight is an American Diner burger……..burgers and beer at Jackson Hole made a change from the fine dining of the past week.

Galley Tour

There was an opportunity for guests to have a behind the scenes visit to the Britannia Restaurant Galley on Saturday morning. Mr L opted to watch the Crystal Palace vs Manchester City football via satellite link in the Golden Lion Pub whilst Mrs L joined the galley tour queue.

It was a fascinating tour. The Britannia Restaurant galley is the biggest and busiest of all the QM2 galleys. It is floor to ceiling stainless steel and spotless.

Britannia Galley

Britannia Galley

Britannia Galley

Britannia Galley

We entered through the scullery area and then into what is called the ‘garde manger’, otherwise known as the cold larder where all the cold appetisers, salads, cheeses etc are prepared ready for serving. These dishes are prepared and stored on ‘jack racks’ which are wheeled into tall larder fridges.

Garde Manger - Jack Racks in cold larder

Garde Manger – Jack Racks in cold larder

The ‘hot press’ area is where hot dishes are prepared to order and kept hot until collection by the waiter. A final check for heat, quality and presentation before being whisked away and served to the guest.

Hot Press area

Hot Press area

The pastry section of the galley is where all the desserts, pastries, petit fours are made for the whole ship. There were some amazing cakes being prepared as well as hard sugar creations – the photos do not really do these magnificent creations justice.

image

image

For each Britannia Restaurant sitting (there are 2 each evening at 6.30 and again at 8.30) approx 1100 meals are served in an hour.

The Executive Chef for QM2 is a chap called Nicholas Oldroyd from Yorkshire who heads up a multinational Culinary Brigade. The team of 160 chefs are under the supervision of the Executive Chef, Executive Sous Chef, and 4 Chef de Cuisine – they all paraded through the restaurant at Saturday night’s dinner, an impressive sight.

Provisions are loaded at each major port of call and stored in storerooms located on Decks A, B and 1 where there are 21 refrigerated and frozen rooms for all food and beverage storage. We were given these interesting statistics – for a typical 7 day transatlantic crossing the following quantities of food are consumed:

Fresh fruit and veg. – 50 tons
Meat – 12 tons
Poultry – 8 tons
Fish and seafood – 13 tons
Cheese and dairy products – 2 tons
Sugar – 2 tons
Fresh milk – 5000 gallons/20,000 litres
Eggs – 32,400
Flour – 4 tons
Rice – 2 tons

Sea Days

Sea View

North Atlantic Sea View

The liner sails on relentlessly across the North Atlantic with little to see other than sky and sea. The Captain has steered us on a more southerly route to avoid the worst of the storm up around Iceland. The wind strengths on Tuesday were mostly Force 5-6, increasing to Force 9-10 overnight on Wednesday night , and then settling again by late Thursday. Thursday was fairly foggy and the promenade deck was closed most of the day because of the windy conditions. Mr L missed his walk. Friday was a glorious day with sun shine and calm conditions. Somewhere around Friday’s location is where the Titanic went down – not sure I needed to know that! Saturday was calm with Force 4 winds but heavy rain and mist in the morning which eventually cleared to a reasonable day.

We have filled our days with going to Illuminations and listening to the excellent Ken Walsh give talks on matters pertaining to US Presidents – Ken Walsh is a retired White House correspondent who now makes a living by writing books and giving talks.  The Illuminations lecture hall is also turned into a planetarium at certain times of the day so we also went along to two different planetarium shows. There are numerous other activities to get involved in during the day from Bridge classes, iPad lessons, flower arranging to name but a few…….we passed on these as well as the line dancing and ballroom dancing classes – we are not Strictly material!! There are also coffee meets each day for independent/solo travellers, and ‘Friends of Dorothy’ meet each afternoon in the Commodore Club. Shopping in the Grand Lobby, complete with the largest Christmas Market at sea on Saturday.

There are quizzes in the various bars throughout the day, great fun and good opportunity to meet and pair up with fellow travellers. We have not been winners but neither have we walked the walk of shame by coming last.

We took ‘afternoon tea’ in the Queen’s Room on Saturday afternoon, a daily tradition where we were served little sandwiches (crusts cut off of course), followed by delicious scones with jam and clotted cream, and then a selection of cakes – all washed down with copious cups of tea. Whilst we were eating the band played and people danced – a very genteel way to pass an hour.

Our last formal dress night was Saturday night and so for the last time Mr L donned his tux and Mrs L popped on her ball gown. Drinks with new found friends in the Chart Room was followed by yet another superb dinner in the Britannia Restaurant and then off to the Masquerade Ball with our masks. The final stop before bed was the Empire Casino……but no big wins on our $10 spend on the slot machine!

Our last day at sea was spent going to educational talks, walking around the ship, visiting the Bridge Viewing Gallery and watching how the QM2 is ‘driven’, afternoon tea in King’s Court, doing a quiz with other cruisers, playing Candy Crush (Mr L is back playing this silly game too!), pre-dinner cocktails and our last excellent dinner in the Britannia Restaurant served by the wonderful Ramiro, our waiter from the Philippines. Ramiro has been working on QM2 for 7 years and generally works 9 months and then has 2 months off.