I DO ♥ NY

Surely there is nothing left to be said about New York that has not already been said. If I was to have a shot I would say this: imagine you had a painting on your wall and you looked at it all the time and then one day it swallowed you up and you found yourself smack bang in the middle of it. That’s what being in New York feels like. Totally foreign, yet somehow familiar. You find yourself making navigational decisions based solely on things you’ve seen on TV. Like when we first got here, Ryan and I were debating (read: arguing) about how to get up to Harlem. Ryan wanted to get a cab but it was raining so I figured that it would be a nightmare getting a cab. And then I caught myself; how on earth would I know that? My good friend Carrie told me, of course.

So we began in Harlem at the Apollo Theatre (and for those of you keeping score we caught the Subway: Mel 1 – Hoffy 0).  A friend had tipped me off that the Apollo was a great night out and it was. It began with a 10-year-old from Pennsylvania singing Home. Here I am, generally feeling skittish and excitable simply by being in New York City and sitting in the audience of Harlem’s most famous theatre, and this ten year old is onstage in the spotlight belting out a tune like she’s channelling Judy Garland. Unbelievable.

On Thursday night we saw Avenue Q, which is a puppet musical and it was as good as everyone said it would be. Incidentally, I also heard a bunch of words that I never thought that I would hear during in a musical including ‘schadenfreude’, which apparently means ‘joy in the misery of others’. That one understandably never came up in my German classes.

And just when I thought it couldn’t get any more silly, on Friday night we saw The Book of Mormon. I fought tooth and nail to get tickets to this show because it has won 9 Tony Awards (good for me, the musical buff) and because it was written by Matt Parker and Trey Stone of South Park fame (good for Hoff, the South Park fanatic). And I am so glad I did. I can’t ever remember laughing so hard at anything, let alone a Broadway musical. And the words I heard in that musical put schadenfreude to shame. I can’t repeat them here because I’m pretty sure my Dad prints these blog entries and shows them to my Grandma.

And as if politically incorrect puppets and singing missionaries were not enough, on Saturday at midnight I finally achieved a lifelong dream and dragged Ryan and Carlie off to see an audience participation version of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Hurrah! I donned my fishnets and my special RHPS shirt (yes, I have a special RHPS shirt, please don’t judge me) and we did our best to keep up with all the dressed up crazies shouting lines and singing along. Hoff even got an up-close-and-personal demonstration of the time warp dance (with special attention to the pelvic thrust) from a lovely young gentleman dressed up as Rocky. Some people have all the luck…

So after an all-singing, all-dancing and some-fishnets start to the week, on Sunday we injected a bit of testosterone back into the proceedings with an outing to New Meadlowlands Stadium in New Jersey for the New York Jets v San Diego Chargers. It was a glorious day for football and the first thing I noticed was how weird it was to be going to the footy with Ryan. Usually I go to sporting events in my #1 Ryan fan capacity so it was nice to actually enjoy it with him. And honestly, I’ve never seen him so excited. Except perhaps when we got married (or so I like to believe). And best of all the Jets won and we all got to give random stranger high-fives to the people sitting around us. Love it.

And for those of you that are understandably concerned that this trip might have all been about me feeding my serious musical habit with one brief respite of an NFL game, fear not, we did all the usual touristy things too – the Statue of Liberty (she’s green), the Empire State Building (it’s high), Wall St (not an actual wall), and so on. We also ate extremely well – burgers, Vietnamese, Cuban, Italian and a very interesting food tour of Greenwich Village, which included authentic New York pizza – I am happy to report that I have been perpetually full.

The last thing on our agenda was a hike out to Long Island for a NY Islanders v Pittsburg Penguins ice hockey game. We left it to Carlie to organise these tickets and boy did she come through with the goods – it went ice, bench, us. Unfortunately the home side didn’t come through for us on this occasion but nonetheless we had a lovely time speculating as to how exactly those players can actually stay upright doing what they do.

So now I’m sitting in our little apartment, surrounded by my bags and wondering how I am going to fit everything in my bags and feeling a little melancholy at the prospect of leaving this amazing city. Fear not – off to DC tomorrow so we can get our American history on… Goodnight from the city that never sleeps!

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OUR BUCKET LIST

“And after we’ve watched The Bucket List we must remember to cross ‘watch The Bucket List’ off our bucket lists…”

Stanley Tucci, Easy A 

We are so very excited about America.

It started as a casual hint dropped into the conversation by yours truly:

Me: So Hoff, you know how we’ve been planning to travel some more of Europe on our way home this year….

Hoff (wary): Yeah…

Me: And you know how Europe’s been around for about a billion years and it’s not likely to be going anywhere anytime soon…

Hoff (still wary): Yeah…

Me: And you know how you love it when I get these crazy ideas in my head…

Hoff (not so much wary, but kind of irritated now): Yeah

Me: What do you think about America?

Despite my obviously comprehensive powers of persuasion (as evidenced by the above), true to our usual indecisive form we argued back and forth for a while after that. It wasn’t until Ryan’s sister Carlie, announced that she was coming with us as far as New York and was ready to book flights (and could we hurry up already), that we took the plunge and locked it in. The fact that we could fit a New York Jets and a USC home game into the trip sweetened the deal somewhat for Ryan (the man has a fairly severe ESPN habit).

So this trip is all about our ‘life to do list’, which is a less morbid term for our ‘Bucket List’. Although also less catchy. I wonder if that film would have done so well if it was called The Life To Do List?Doubtful.

The following are just some of the things we* have planned to do that we* look forward to crossing off said list:

  1. Go to an NFL game and partake in some pre-game tailgating in the car park (hopefully this is a less stressful experience than what we know as ‘tailgating’ at home. Less likely to result in an insurance claim too, probably)
  2. Go to a midnight screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show dressed in fishnet stockings (Ryan has already vehemently vetoed any notion of him dressing up like Frank N Furter for the occasion. Piker.)
  3. Celebrate Halloween in New Orleans (and preferably not cry in terror if I see anyone dressed up as King Kong like I did the last time I was in the US for Halloween… I was 18 months old but my dad has never let me live it down. I promise I’ll make you proud, Dad)
  4. Drive through Monument Valley
  5. See the Grand Canyon, because a) it’s one of the original 7 natural wonders of the world and, b) because apart from anything else we hear it’s hard to miss

*The more astute of you may have deduced that I use the term ‘we’, fairly loosely. Obviously Ryan will be humouring me for the duration of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and conversely the strategic nuances of gridiron will be a little over my head.

And the following is another list of things that I plan to try and do that I have determined are vital to an authentic US experience (after years of steady and relentless exposure to American popular culture):

  • Be invited to a frat party and drink beer out of a plastic red cup
  • Eat a hot dog from a street vendor
  • Pull up to a roadside diner and have a filter coffee and a piece of pie (actually if we can remember to pull up to the right hand side of the road and not the left I’ll count that as a win already)
  • Eat grits
  • Determine what ‘grits’ are (preferably before eating them… Or not… It really depends on what they actually are)
  • Participate in a flash mob
  • Go to school and campaign furiously for Prom Queen/Class President/Head Cheerleader

I have also purchased these sunglasses as I feel that they are perfect ‘American road trip’ sunglasses…

Hoff disagrees, he thinks they’re silly. But then again, he also refuses to agree to dress up as Louise to my Thelma when we’re driving through the American southwest so what would he know about American road trip fun? It remains to be seen.

And so after one last trip to London encompassing a couple of West End shows, a trip to the seaside and an interesting foray into the dark laneways of Soho where were saw (but did not have the opportunity to taste test) cupcakes with chocolate penises on them, we are finally USA bound. Hurrah!

AND I NEVER ATE A PIE (REFLECTIONS ON A YEAR IN WIGAN)

Hello everyone and welcome to my brand new and improved travel blog. Thank you for gracing my humble little ramblings with your electronic (and – be honest – slightly voyeuristic) presence.

First things first. Why, I hear you ask, is the profile picture of only me when this is quite obviously a blog about the travels of both myself and my lovely husband, Ryan. And the answer is simple…. We tried it with Ryan’s silhouette and frankly, his is a nose that should not be seen in profile if it can possibly be helped.

As the title implies, Hoff and I are coming to America and very much looking forward to letting our soul(s) glow there.

But before we get into that (and as we haven’t actually left yet) I thought it might be nice to do one last report from our home of the last 12 months, Wigan.

Hoff and I were chatting the other day and officially decreed that our decision to move to Wigan for 2011 was up there with some of the all-time best decisions we’ve ever made. It really has been an amazing year. Hoff has enjoyed his footy, I’ve enjoyed a lot of travel, we’ve made some amazing new friends and basically feel a little more worldly and well-rounded for the experience. Actually I feel more well-rounded in more ways than one – damn you hearty British fare…

There are definitely going to be some things I will miss about living here. For starters, when I move home I will not be living within walking distance of a thousand pubs (better for my liver, probably). And whilst the snow was a pain, it really was pretty. Finally, I still think the accent is really charming (when I can understand it) and I’m secretly disappointed that I haven’t picked up any of it whilst I’ve been here. I honestly don’t think I sound any different, me.

There are a number of things I have achieved since living here that I am quite proud of:

  1. I saw snow
  2. I have learned to drive a manual car (RIP dark blue 1998 VW Polo)
  3. I now participate in rounds of shots on a night out (as opposed to pouring them in a pot plant when no one’s looking)
  4. I ate a bite of Black Pudding

On that last one, whilst most Wiganers insist that “you have to try it, it’s not that bad”, I’ve found that a little prodding usually reveals that most of them haven’t tried it themselves either… Honestly. Any food item that has the word ‘congealed’ in its description is really not for me.

On the subject of food, I really have never eaten a pie which is a sin that more than one Wiganer has informed me is unforgivable. For those of you that live outside of Wigan, Wigan natives are known as ‘pie eaters’ and there is a distinct ‘pie motif’ about the town. Some people even have bumper stickers that say ‘no pies are left in this vehicle overnight’. The funny thing is, after consulting Wikipedia, I’ve learnt that Wiganers were originally termed ‘pie eaters’ because during a strike in 1926, Wigan miners were starved back to work before any of their counterparts in surrounding towns, therefore eating humble pie. It seems that the modern-day Wiganer has appropriated the term to reference the actual pastry, rather than metaphorical variety. I kind of love that.

So whilst I have missed family and friends (as well as dumplings and sushi*) very much whilst we have been living here, it really is bittersweet to be saying goodbye.

*Actual dumplings and sushi. Just in case anyone thought I’d left Siamese cats or similar back home named Dumplings and Sushi…. Not a bad idea though. Note to self…