Wandering in New York City

We decided to walk from the bottom of Manhattan up to Central Park.

The weather was clear and bright, we were still on UK clocks, so after a 6am breakfast in Westway diner (614 Ninth Ave) we hailed a cab and set off.

There was some confusion when we tried to explain to the taxi driver where we wanted to go. I wanted to start at ‘The Charging Bull’, so we gave the street address, which he didn’t recognise. I remember being caught out by this before – in London, a black cab driver knows every street in London, but in NY, you sometimes need to give directions. Eventually he worked out we wanted the “Wall Street Bull” (even though it isn’t on Wall Street) and we were taken to the right place. He was then quite chatty, and suggested we walk across Brooklyn Bridge.

Although we have visited New York many times (we used to live here – though that was about 20 years ago now, which I find slightly scary) we have never walked on the Brooklyn Bridge. (We did most other things, and visited the World Trade Centre and Liberty Island about 1,000 times, because all our UK visitors always wanted to go there.) So, we set off. We walked past Seaport, and after a slight David-detour, we found the pedestrian access to the bridge. It was still early, and lots of keep-fit types were running across the bridge, looking very intense with their fitness apps and running gear. We tried to keep out their way, and wandered across. Brooklyn Bridge has some of the best views of the island, so was worth visiting just for the photo opportunity. Though some people do take an incredibly long time composing their photos, even when it’s just taken on a phone (just saying).

We then walked up the island, through the different districts. I love doing this, as you get a real flavour of the cosmopolitan place that is New York City. Past City Hall and Foley Square (very like city of London) through China Town, into Little Italy, up through NoHo, to the Flatiron building. Then we got hungry, and went back to a very crowded Westway diner for lunch (everyone else was eating breakfast). According to my phone, we walked 18km.

 

 Lafayette Patisserie is a nice place to stop. I hope you like the hat. It got a surprising number of comments, all from Husband, all derogatory. Have put ‘new hat’ on Christmas list. NY is cold though, you need a hat.

 

 

 

 

The next day we walked the length of Central Park. We could have spent hours in there, wandering around, it’s huge. In the past we have taken a boat out on the lake, or visited the zoo, and when the kids were young they used to climb over the Alice in Wonderland statue. It brought back lots of memories. (And was 15km.)

My last day, we decided to walk across the island, to see Roosevelt Island. On the way, we passed a large glass window, into a large room with about 20 dogs, and a girl throwing a ball for them. It was a doggy day-care centre. I’m not sure Kia would be impressed, but it looked okay actually if you have a sociable dog.

We walked past the United Nations Building, which I remember as a completely different building, so think I must’ve labelled some old photos wrongly. It all looked rather foreboding, with lots of security.

We also saw a giant inflatable rat, which the unions put outside buildings that they deem to have bad working conditions.

We saw Queensboro Bridge, which goes over Roosevelt Island, but doesn’t stop on it. There was a cable car, but I hate cable cars and refused, absolutely, to go in it. Husband was understanding. In return, I went into Home Depot with him (used to be his favourite shop when we lived there. It’s full of man-stuff). We walked passed Carnegie Hall, along E59th, along the bottom of Central Park. We bought coffee and bagels for lunch.

I flew home the next day. I love New York City, it’s a city you can visit many times, and usually find something new to discover, or an old memory to revisit. There’s always lots to do, shows to see, galleries, museums, restaurants….but best of all, I think, is simply to wander around.

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Thank you for reading.
You can follow my blog at: anneethompson.com

xxx

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New York in November

 

The day after Thanksgiving is an excellent time to arrive in New York. The fares are cheaper, you miss most of the shopping frenzy, and everywhere is beginning to get ready for Christmas. New York decorates very beautifully for Christmas.

Husband was working in Manhattan, so I joined him for a few days. I needed to get home in time for multiple Christmas Fairs (great time to sell books) so I decided I would keep to a slightly late English clock. This worked brilliantly, as New York at 6am is fantastic. You can wander along empty streets, all the shops are shut (am not a shopper) and there are enough diners open so eating is easy (I am an eater!)

 

We mainly ate at Westway Diner, 614 Ninth Avenue. It has a plaque up, saying it is the birthplace of the Seinfeld series, but mainly it’s just a great New York diner. I got used to this when we lived here, and I love coming back, and slipping back into the easy routine of eating whenever I want: comfy booths, constantly topped up coffee, huge portions of comfort food, fast service. Nowhere in the world does pancakes, bacon and maple syrup quite like New York. Or cinnamon bagels with cream cheese. Or waffles with bananas and pecans. Or blueberry pie and cream. Really, I come to New York just to eat.

The decorations are good too though. As I said, 6am is the best time, as later there are queues of people lining up to see the displays in the big shops. Saks on Fifth Avenue, Macy’s, Bloomingdales, Cartier – not places I would enjoy entering, but beautiful displays for Christmas. Outside, the Salvation Army ring handbells and collect money for charity. Even the banks make an effort.

There are lots of little parks, with Christmas markets (not that they call them that – they are keen to remove all religion, so they are “Winter Markets”. But everyone knows they are for Christmas.) I especially liked the one in Bryant Park. Early morning, you can wander round, looking at all the wonderful stuff which is great to look at, but you wouldn’t want to actually own it, and no one hassles you to buy.

People are very friendly in the mornings – lots of cheery greetings from the bin men (and homeless people)! New York generates a lot of rubbish, so there seem to be piles of it awaiting collection on every street. You can also, if bored, play a fun game of “spot the rats”.

The main thing to remember in New York, is to look up. At street level, many of the buildings look like boring offices, but several storeys up, they have wonderful carved facades and decorations. Husband assures me this is because when touting for work, architects make models, which are viewed from above, so all the fancy bits are where they will be seen by prospective buyers but are never noticed when the real building is actually built. Not sure if that’s true or not.

You should also visit Trump Tower. Whatever you think of the man or the politics, you have to agree that his tower has the cleanest, fanciest public washrooms in New York. And finding public washrooms you want to use is quite hard in New York.

We also popped into St Patricks Cathedral. They have a Nativity scene, which includes a dog. Not entirely sure this is at all accurate, but it’s sweet to look at. There is also a sign, assuring you that if you donate money, you will receive more in the future. Am sure this is not accurate and was slightly shocked by the gall of it. But it’s a nice building to visit.

We stayed at the Four Points by Sheraton, on 40th between 8th and 9th. It was a great position for seeing things, as it’s just down from Times Square and an easy walk from Westway diner. However, it is not the nicest area. You can do a Google search for ‘safe places in New York city’ and there is a map, which shades areas according to how safe they are. Our hotel didn’t score too well – which, as it’s behind the bus station, sandwiched between the Probation office and various sex shops, was understandable. However, whilst I wouldn’t have walked outside after dark on my own, it was fine. And the hotel inside was clean and comfy.

Unfortunately, there is an Apple shop, and Husband was keen to look. Apple shops are very boring, and have a weird queue system, whereby the very long line of people are ordering the new iphoneX, and if you want to buy anything else you have to ask the man in the red fleece, who will put you on a list. However, if you write a blog, there is hours of fun to be had, making every display model look at your blog – which does wonders for the number of views you receive in a day! (But don’t tell anyone, is probably not very ethical.)

 

We decided to walk from the bottom of Manhattan to the park. I’ll tell you about it in a later blog. Why not sign up to follow my blog, then you won’t miss it. anneethompson.com

Thank you for reading.

Here are some more displays, for those of you who like pretty Christmas stuff!

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Christmas is coming, and books make great gifts. So much nicer than yet another scarf for Aunty Joan… So, why not buy one of my books? Available from an Amazon near you.

  

 

xxx

The Charging Bull in the Financial District

Here’s something to think about. I popped to New York (husband on a work trip) and while there I went to see the sculpture of a charging bull in the Financial District. It’s big, raging, and impressive. It has also caused some controversy.

Apparently, bulls have long been associated with the stock market. A rising trend in the markets is known as “a bull market” and a falling trend is known as a “bear market”. Which is why you tend to have The Bull and Bear pubs situated near old markets in the City of London. The Charging Bull, however, was meant to signify something else. Charging Bull was sculpted by Anturo Di Modica in 1989. It was after the stock market crash of 1987, and he wanted to create a symbol of the “strength and power of American people”. The bull is twisting and turning, full of unpredictable energy and strength. I like it.

Now, Di Modica wasn’t commissioned to make the bull, nor was he paid for it. He had the rather clever idea of making five bulls, and placing one in New York (for free) and hoping to sell the other four. As a self-published author, I can relate to his feelings – you just want people to notice and appreciate your talents, then you hope the sales will follow. (Not sure a book placed in a park would work as well though.) Initially, NYPD impounded the bull, but so many people liked it, they were compelled to return it to the street. There are now bulls in Shanghai and Amsterdam (which I assume were paid for). So Di Modica’s gamble paid off. Sort of.

The problem arose later this year, when State Street Global Advisors had a clever marketing strategy of their own (possibly inspired by the success of the Charging Bull). They commissioned Kristen Visbal to make a sculpture of the Fearless Girl, and they placed it in front of the bull. Now, the unleashed power and strength of the bull appear aggressive. The placing of the girl has completely changed the image of the bull. Di Modica is rather annoyed by this, and I guess as he owns the bull, he might come and collect it one day. Alternatively, I think he should make another sculpture – of a calling mother shouting towards the girl. Then instead of being a brave, ‘fearless girl’ she would look like a defiant, stupid child. But then that could go on forever, and probably Wall Street doesn’t want hundreds of sculptures, each one changing the image of the other. (Would make for a good exhibition though, someone should do it.)

Now, what I want you to think about, is this. One thing can very much change in the light of something else. I remember, not so long ago, when the news reports were full of fleeing Syrian refugees, and most people felt very sorry for them. People made big statements about the world needing to help, that our country should allow them in, famous people even announced that they would be willing to house a few families in their mansions. Which were all good, well motivated, human responses.

However, today my local authority is discussing plans to build lots of new houses. No one wants them. No one is discussing who will live in them (and probably it won’t be Syrian refugees, but it will, I assume, be people who do need houses) but no one wants them. Not in our fields, not where we walk our dog, not within sight of our house. You see, the view of meeting the housing needs of others changes. As perhaps, do people’s views about everything. Whenever we make a statement, we need to be aware that unless we see the whole story, our views are likely to change. The strength and power of the American people can look like an aggressive charge against a defenceless girl. And a brave girl can look like a naughty child being stupid. It depends what else is in the picture.

 

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Thank you for reading.
You can sign up to follow my blog at anneethompson.com.

 

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Christmas is coming, and books make great gifts. So much nicer than yet another scarf for Aunty Joan… So, why not buy one of my books?

  

 

xxx

Last Days in Croatia, and into Venice

We decided to hire a boat and sail around the little islands we can see from the coast and swim in places that aren’t full of other tourists. Family remembered our holiday in Malta, where they composed a song entitled “A Speedboat Driven by an Accountant”, so Husband decided to hire a boat with a skipper.

Had a brilliant day. The skipper (I never asked his name – isn’t that terrible) was a sports teacher during term time, and he kindly took us on a little tour. He told us that his grandfather has lived in the same small village his whole life, and has lived in six different countries : Austro-Hungary, Italy, Germany (under occupation), AngloAmerican, Yugoslavia and now Croatia. That is weird.

We stopped to swim a couple of times. All the water seems to be full of the ‘walnut sea jelly’ – a clear non-stinging jellyfish, but you get used to them after a while. The water is beautifully clear, and fish flash away as you swim. People who can dive (not me) dived from the side of the boat, and the skipper drove with enough speed for Husband’s hat to fly off (which was very funny. I never liked that hat.)

I felt inspired to write a short story when we got back (though not sure if this counts as ‘work’ – which I always give Husband a hard time about when we’re on holiday.)

 We spent the afternoon lazing around, then walked into Rovinj for espressos and ice creams. We looked around the market, and I saw lots of wonderful things to buy that I would never be able to transport home. I bought some lavender cushions – one for me, one for Mum. Not actually sure how I’ll transport them either, as my case was full to bursting on the way here.

Dinner at Tipico, Old Town again.

Last Day

The last day of a holiday is always a bit sad. Family hired kayaks.

Ate dinner at Tutto Bene (ViaE de Amicis 16). They don’t have vegetarian options on the menu, but will cook them if you ask. Lovely table outside, friendly waiter, nice food. Though I was too warm to properly enjoy it (I think my seat was next to the kitchen window.)

We packed. Early start tomorrow to try and avoid delays at the border.

Drive to Venice

We left Lone Hotel at 5am. The night manager looked nothing like Tom Hiddleston (shame) but he did give us all a packed lunch, as we would be missing breakfast. Isn’t that nice? I’ve never been offered that before when we’ve had to check-out early. It has been a really good hotel, with lots going on and good facilities.

The border crossing was fine, no queues at all (unlike the 4 hour ones we saw later in the day when arriving.)

We drove to Italy and stopped at a service station. Not a good experience. We arrived the same time as several coaches, so the lines were horrendous.

Arrived at The Marriot Hotel, Venice about 9:30 am. The hotel is fairly near the airport (you could walk there if you don’t mind the heat) and there’s a bus into the city – €3 return ticket.

Venice is beautiful, you have to visit. So much to see and photograph. It was also horribly crowded. We stayed here about 10 years ago, and I don’t remember it being crowded at all (except for St Mark’s Square, which is always busy.) Not sure if we were just unlucky, or if the number of tourists has become a problem. It was possible to find alleyways that were less busy, but they were a long way from the main attractions. I will leave you with some photos – all you need to do in Venice is take photos and find a pretty cafe for lunch. Oh, and buy a mask of course…..

Thank you for reading. It has been a fabulous holiday, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about it. Always a shame to go back to real life, especially as the family all go back to their own homes and jobs.

Take care,
Love, Anne x

I normally write a post every Monday – why not sign up to follow my blog?
anneethompson.com

You can read the story I wrote after the boat trip here:
https://anneethompson.com/short-stories/other-stories/rainbows-in-the-spray-a-story-written-in-croatia/

Croatian Holiday Diary Continued…

Family holiday in Lone Hotel, Rovinj, continues at a relaxed pace. Each morning Husband greets the girl at the desk with a new phrase he has learnt in Croatian. She has real fear in her eyes when she sees us approach, but he feels he is making progress and learning the local language – despite no one understanding him. Ever. The best word to learn is thank you – which sounds like “Farla”. Today the girl at the desk replied, and said something which sounds like “Ooga dan dan” We think it means: “Have a nice day.” Husband plans to practise on various shop assistants.

 Last few nights we have eaten at Tipico Old Town, a cosy restaurant with an open kitchen, so we can watch them cook while we eat. They offer a couple of vegetarian options (and I recommend the stuffed courgettes!)

 

 

 

 

We hired bikes and cycled along the coast. There’s a gravel path, so it was hard going in places, but the views are fabulous. Lots of coves with local people swimming, and the cliff tops are a huge park, with trees and paths. There are climbers on the cliffs, boats on the sea, tiny islands, sunshine, pine trees…..lovely.

Drove to Restaurant Maslima for lunch. Sat under olive trees. Lots of mosquitoes in Croatia, so bring repellent. The pizzas were huge – I had a ‘mini’ one, which was normal sized, the others had ‘normal’ ones which were very large, and J chose a ‘jumbo’ one, which was the size of a table.

Menu also offered some nice looking drinks. Some were lavender flavoured – there are lots of lavender products here.  I chose a lemon and ginger one.

The picture in the menu looked lovely, and it was described as being Dalmatian lemon juice with fresh ginger……

 

What actually arrived was a glass of tap water and a sachet of flavoured syrup. Disappointing…

Decided to walk to a bay to swim. We walked a long way (all the bays were quite crowded). Found a nice empty spot and settled onto the rocks, then noticed the sea was FULL of jellyfish. Tiny transparent globs of jelly. Didn’t swim, went back to hotel pool.

I later learned these jellyfish are also called “walnut sea jellies”. They are native to America, and often transported via ship ballast. They reproduce rapidly, and cause huge problems to ecosystems as they eat plankton, which upsets the food chain for bigger fish. Big problem for fishing based industries. However, they do not sting, so later we swam quite happily in water infested with them. It’s a little odd swimming with jelly, but not harmful.

Had a day in Pula. Huge Roman amphitheatre, which is very hot in the midday sun (just thought I’d mention that). There are some interesting chambers underground, where you can imagine the prisoners and animals being kept. There were also lots of pots. Not sure why lots of pots are interesting, but they seem to be a feature of Roman monuments.

Husband wears a hat we are all very rude about. Pula had a whole family, all dressed the same, all wearing same hats. Perhaps they get lost a lot and it makes it easy to identify them. We sent husband over to join them.

Pula also has Hercules Arch, which I was keen to see. Family led me to a variety of arches. The one I think actually IS Hercules Arch appears to be incorporated into a modern apartment complex.


Tried to have coffee and cocktails in a pretty square. Managed to have beers and nasty wine in a mosquito infested alley. Husband wished them “Ooga dan dan,” when we left. They looked confused.

Ate in Sareni Papar restaurant. This was great, if slow. Lovely stuffed peppers, served straight from the oven in a boiling hot baking dish. (Stuffed veg are, apparently, a feature of Croatian food.) Husband said “Ooga dan dan” to friendly waitress. She looked worried. Blokes drank 1L glasses of beer, sang all the way home (surprisingly tuneful) and then happily walked to the wrong hotel. A nice day.

Thanks for reading.
Take care,
Love, Anne x

PS. We later learned ‘Ooga dan dan’ does NOT mean ‘have a nice day’, it means something like ‘on, and on, every day.’ Explains why no one understood Husband, though I guess he gets credit for trying.

If you want to read the next instalment from my holiday diary, why not sign up to follow my blog?
anneethompson.com

xxx

 

Croatia – Family Holiday Diary

Met 9am for breakfast (if you missed my last blog, we’re staying in Lone Hotel, Rovinj). A young girl waited at the entrance to take room numbers, and Husband had used Google Translate so he could say “Good morning, room 463” in Croatian. Croatian with a strong English accent. She looked very confused. I apologised for him, and ushered him to a table.

Breakfast was another buffet – a huge selection in a gigantic room. But some food seemed a little ‘old’ – perhaps because we were fairly late getting there. Lots of food to keep our vegetarians fed though (which has been quite a challenge this holiday). There was also a very low table, at child height, full of cakes and pastries. A small boy was happily stroking everything. Clearly a nice idea, planned by someone who is not a parent.

Walked into Rovinj (15 minutes along the coast). Lovely town – old buildings scattered on a hill, stretching out to sea. It felt like an Italian town, and Son-who-knows-stuff told me that it was originally built by the same people who built Venice, hence the similarity. I loved it. It was full of tourist shops and cafes, but all around were signs of real life – washing strung high above the street, craftsmen working, fishermen. It has more of a soul than Ljubljana had.

   

Took bread and cheese back to the hotel and ate in the lobby bar. They have shiny black tables, and provide white marker pens, so you can doodle while you sit. Young children had drawn pictures, some people had written rhymes. My family wrote mathematical formulas (how sad is that?)

Everyone did their own thing for the afternoon. I ventured down to beach, and sunbathing daughter agreed to swim with me. Very stony beach, hurt feet. There was a lifeguard’s chair, but the only person near it was in a wheelchair, so I didn’t swim out too far. All the guests have been provided with room key cards and a towel card – so you can collect swimming towels when you need them. Both cards look very similar, which is causing some people problems. D, M, H, and J played Castles of Burgundy (a board game, so worth avoiding). R told me it’s French and they had to Google-translate the instructions. But that might have been a lie.

Walked to MaliRaj restaurant in Rovinj. It was down a narrow cobbled street, and someone had put tiny candles in the wall crevasses – very romantic. The streets are cobbled, and very slippery (I assume worn smooth by thousands of feet, but it is possible a grumpy old women sneaks out every night and polishes them, hoping to make tourists fall over.) The streets are also steep and uneven, so leave your heels at home.

Mali Raj is a fish restaurant – real, fresh, head-attached, caught this morning, fish. Some of my family have only ever eaten filleted fish before, so I could be a mummy again and show them how to remove fish bones – rather nice to be a mummy again, it doesn’t happen very often these days, usually it is them explaining things to me. Fifteen minutes into the meal, M announced he’d managed his first mouthful and it was very tasty! Dessert was pancakes with ice cream and sour cherries. Delicious. I popped to use the loo and peeked into the kitchen. Grandma was sitting on a huge chair, and they were passing her things to dry up. I like this place. At the end of the meal, they gave us grappa shots. Pretty foul.

Walked back through crowded streets full of music, dancing in the square, street artists.

Hotel Lone has lots of activities you can book. Tomorrow people plan to cycle, or kayak, or go to the gym. I might just sleep and read and eat ice creams.

Thanks for reading.
Take care,
Love, Anne x

If you want to read the next instalment of my holiday diary, why not sign up to follow my blog?
anneethompson.com

xxx

So, what do you think the world will look like in about 100 years from now? Will we have sorted the threat of religious terrorism? Will there still be poverty and famine in the world? And if technology has evolved, and we have driverless cars and bots doing all the manual labour, what will have happened to people’s jobs?

Counting Stars tells a story in one such world. I spoke to various people – scientists, economists, (even a toilet roll manufacturer!) and I asked : What will the world look like in a hundred years time? I then created that world. My rule was that everything had to be possible, even if it wasn’t probable. Then I wrote about a family, because whatever the future looks like, people will be the same. Adolescents will still be ignoring their mothers, and wives will still be moaning about their husbands.

Counting Stars has been described as “an intelligent thriller”. It will make you think. I hope you enjoy it.

Counting Stars by Anne E Thompson. Available from Amazon. The UK link is below. Thank you for reading. Ax

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_c_1_24?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=counting+stars+by+anne+e+thompson&sprefix=counting+stars+by+anne+e%2Caps%2C163&crid=1JGHX003E5O5L

xxx

The Drive to Croatia – Family Holiday Diary

Checked out of hotel in Ljubljana and drove south.

Stopped at Predjama Castle in Slovenia – a fortress built into a rock. Parking was an adventure (car parks in Slovenia rather more casual than in Austria). We paid (I chose to not look at price because Husband had decided we were going in anyway – due to the whole male/castle/compulsory visit gene, which females don’t inherit.)

However, having moaned about the castle in Ljubljana, I have to admit, this one was really interesting. They gave us portable recorded guides, which were brilliant as you could skip ahead to the bits that were interesting (like the torture chamber, and the secret tunnels through the rocks which meant that when the castle was under siege, they could sneak out to top up their food). All the boring bits could be skipped. The castle was not a happy place, but they have turned it into an interesting museum, with several rooms furnished, and it is well worth visiting. If you happen to be in Slovenia.

We didn’t buy sandwiches at the castle (a mistake) and decided to stop for food during the journey. Big row (which only families can have) about whether to go to a MacDonald’s in Croatia, or stop for food sooner. Nearly stopped at a supermarket, but this was strongly vetoed by J who objected to eating food bought from a shop with broken windows. I just love my family sometimes. We ate at a McDonalds in Croatia.

The border crossing had queues, but we were waved through with our EU passports (not sure what will happen when Brexit has happened). As we drove away, we saw miles and miles of stationary cars waiting to cross the border OUT of Croatia. Decided we would leave very early next week.

Croatia reminds me of Turkey. Lots of dusty agriculture.

We’re staying at Lone Hotel in Rovinj. It’s a contemporary hotel, with lots of art that I don’t quite understand. Family seem happy, though somewhat perturbed by glass wall in bathrooms. Husband, who knew about these in advance, had brought rolls of brown paper and Blutac (we have a mix of family and friends in various rooms). Family strangely unimpressed by his forward planning (especially J, who had been persuaded to carry it through three countries).

   

Dinner was in hotel restaurant. Very trendy, and very lacking in actual food. My “steamed tuna and avocado” was seared (raw) tuna with shavings of avocado. Tasty lemon and ginger sauce, but not exactly filling. Boys have offered to find future eating places for rest of holiday.

Family went to explore hotel’s night club (am sure they were pleased Husband decided to go with them). I went to bed. There’s a thunder storm, so watched lightning across the sea for a while. Tomorrow we’ll explore Rovinj.

Thanks for reading.
Take care,
Love, Anne x

If you want to read further instalments from my holiday diary, why not sign up to follow my blog?
anneethompson.com

xxx