nw3 to nyc

Observations on moving my family across the Atlantic

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Hey, Duke

Because it is so cold still, I continue to try and to find new and interesting things to do indoors with J, who is now 2 and 3 months. I’ve taken him to the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum a couple of times now. It hosts free toddler classes but they are in Harlem. The actual museum is on 91st Street at 5th Avenue, where it is housed in the enormous, grand mansion that was originally built for the philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie. It’s a beautiful site undergoing massive renovation and is due to re-open later this year. In the meantime, it has moved its educational activities to a modern space on 110th Street overlooking the north end of Central Park. The contrast between the two locations couldn’t be any more stark. Even at 91st Street, 5th Avenue is smart and the park well used. Go up another 20 or so streets and you are in Harlem proper. It feels different and looks different with the large, daunting correctional facility looming over the newly refurbished playground in the park.

This end of the park is also home to a huge statue of Duke Ellington. I am embarrassed to confess I only noticed it today – not sure how I missed it as it’s got to be 30 feet tall. He stands proud on the north eastern corner of the park, in the middle of a roundabout. He stands next to his piano and looks like he’s commanding the traffic going down 5th Avenue. Underneath the plinth he stands on are a number of naked ladies who hold him in place.

I’m sure in the summer it looks good, with the trees in their full green finery, but ultimately this isn’t a great area and not one you’d see any but the most dedicated music enthusiast visit. It’s not one you’d want to hang around in, anyway. Here are some pics from three different vantage points, whilst I was trying not to be run over or lose J; they should give you an idea of the size and setting and to save you the trip.

duke 1









Duke 2









Duke 3







Duke 4











































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Bonkers in Brooklyn

I, like many people of my generation, would often watch Eurotrash on a Friday night and titter at Jean Paul Gaultier and his straight-man sidekick, Antoine de Caunes, as they were spectacularly rude and offensive but in lovely French accents. Well worth looking up on YouTube for a blast from the past. It made the designer, Jean Paul Gaultier a household name; it’s hard to believe he is now 60 years old.

Why this trip down memory lane? Well, Gaultier has an exhibition on at the Brooklyn Museum showing an extensive retrospective of his work. It’s an hour long trek from here involving three subway trains (one extra to avoid the steps with the buggy) down to Brooklyn, but helpfully the subway stop on the 2/3 line is right outside the museum. A relief in the pouring rain today. I wrote about the museum a while back, where someone had removed the entire front staircase from the grand facade and stuck a glass monstrosity on the front, but I’ve decided that’s OK, because it’s buggy friendly and the atrium is great for toddlers who like to run. A lot.

The exhibition is fabulous. They have, as you would expect, all of the mannequins wearing frocks, which are all very elaborate and mostly bonkers. But what’s unusual here is that they have used projectors to beam a face onto the heads of the models and they really look like they are talking, breathing, blinking. It’s quite unsettling. Even more unsettling is the model of Gaultier himself as he rambles on in French and English on a podium all by himself. Most of his designs are crazy, s&M style and over the top, but some of the craftsmanship on the frocks is incredible.

Have a look at my pics and see for yourself. It finishes on Sunday, so if you’re in New York for half term, be adventurous and go.

Jean Paul Gaultier talks animatedly

Jean Paul Gaultier talks animatedly

Ladies chatting

Ladies chatting

Medusa gone wrong?

Medusa gone wrong?

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Farewell, White Bear

I was very saddened to read of the closure of the White Bear pub in NW3 earlier this month. The New York Times told me about this yesterday. It’s not a pub I liked a lot, but it is in a lovely location and it’s sad when pubs close. I loved the Holly Bush, the tiny, rickety old pub round the back streets of Hampstead. God I miss a decent pint. Here beer is all craft beer and imported bottles of Stella etc. There are a lot of sports bars, with loud TVs showing sport I barely understand and gassy horrible beer. We have a British gastropub, the Jones Wood Foundry, nearby but I think I’ve complained here before – that they keep the London Pride too cold and that’s just wrong. One of my friends recently told me about visiting another favourite pub of mine, the sticky floored Ship in Soho. Lucky thing. Reminded me about the lovely beer there too. Homesick now.

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A trip down Canal

Off to Chinatown today. I’m searching out exotic ingredients for a special Valentine curry. Yes, I know, romantic stuff. I like Chinatown, I like that Canal subway station has a lift and when you pop out on to Canal (the street) it’s like being in another world. It’s a Wednesday lunchtime, so not busy and there are only a few tourists around. There’s a calm about the place, with locals shopping, eating and walking with a purpose in the bitter cold. I am heartened by the great people in the Bangkok Center Grocery store on Mosco (yep, no w in Chinatown) Street and the masterful way they took my recipe and found almost everything I needed. I am brave and go into two Chinese bakeries and buy random nice looking cakes and buns with the hope of liking something new (and I do – I like Taro buns!).

And after a lovely trip out, I come across these t-shirts hanging from a tourist shop. Who would wear these?

Tourist t-shirts

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Sun, snow and sadness

I’m getting used to running in minus temperatures. It’s bloody hard to start with, but once you get going, you warm up a bit and with just my face exposed to the elements, I’m covered from head to toe. Running along the streets, it’s cold and sunless, despite the fact that I know it is a beautiful sunny day and not a cloud in the sky.  I pop out on to Fifth Avenue and breath a sigh of relief as the light returns and the pristine snow of Central Park beckons. It is lovely.

The 6 mile inner loop road used by runners is clear but the bordered by walls of snow. Vast swathes of the park are just covered in a blanket of white snow and everyone just seems quite happy. I run the bottom half of the loop road from north to south, all the way past the ice rink at 61st Street which looks great in this weather. Too cold to hang out at the reservoir for some stretching today, so I tootle back down to Fifth Avenue and the sun disappears in the shade of the tall buildings of Manhattan.

I pause at Park Avenue as I just miss the lights and am faced with a wall of photographers and TV cameras camped out in the central reservation of Park Avenue. What’s this? I quickly realise it’s the funeral of the actor Philip Seymour Hoffman. It’s not yet started, but the press are out in force, flanked by many NYPD officers. In the few minutes I wait for the lights, I see no one arrive but the anticipation is great and they clearly expect Hollywood stars to appear at some point to pay their last respects.

The lights change and then I’m off. It’s a surreal pause in my journey today, where sun, snow and sadness mingle together in the freezing streets of New York.

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What is it with the weather?

I still haven’t adjusted to living in a New York winter. I keep expecting it to just rain and be a bit cold. I’m sure it was like that last year, bar one snow episode. But this year, it’s all snow, freezing temperatures and a bit more snow. New York was on tenterhooks last week as the Super Bowl was due to be played at the Metlife Stadium across the Hudson in New Jersey. Jointly hosted between the states of New York and New Jersey, but mostly seemed to be about New York City, not New Jersey  at all; in fact, I can’t remember the name of the town where the stadium is located.

Bitter weather hung on for a long time and I got used to saying, ‘oh yes, it’s minus 10 today’, like it’s normal. I have become a weather obsessive, frequently consulting the weather app on my iPhone. I get excited when the app tells me it’s going to be above 0 degrees Celsius, ‘that’s quite warm!’ I respond. So by yesterday afternoon, as New York bathed in 13 degree weather and it was  sunny and really quite pleasant, I thought that’s it, we’ve turned the corner, no more snow.

Err, no. It appears that the Super Bowl was so powerful, mostly the advertising, that it got the weather to get warm enough to satisfy the players and the audience, melt all the residual snow and encourage me not to wear a hat yesterday. But all that lovely warmness stopped as soon as the game did last night.  When I woke up this morning it was white outside. Snow, lots of it, falling fast. We are due 8 inches today. It hasn’t stopped. Time to hunker down, it may be some time before my hat comes off again.