nw3 to nyc

Observations on moving my family across the Atlantic


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Not quite Damien Hirst

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Could be, though? Actually it’s the tea display in Argo Tea. I went into their Flatiron branch (just off 23rd Street and 5th Avenue) on a hot afternoon recently. I love tea. Have I said that before? So when it’s hot, I actively look for new and obscure iced tea varieties. I was excited at the sales pitch, where the nice man let me smell the tea, with a waft of the lid to exaggerate the effect. All very dramatic with their Damien Hirst inspired wall display and the wacky tea based cocktails. I tried hibiscus and apple. Verdict? Just like drinking a cheap squash from the 1970s. Not good. Sorry, Argo, but I won’t be back. Shame. Loved the spots.

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The Bronx is Burning

More like I was burning. It was so hot today, nearly 30 degrees on the unofficial first day of summer in New York. We were intrepid and headed up to the far northern end of the 6 line, way up in the Bronx, to visit Orchard Beach. This is a wide arc of sand just off Pelham Bay Park, which is New York’s largest park. It’s nothing like its posh cousin, Central Park. It’s a bit more like Epping Forest than Hyde Park, if you like a London comparison. I think every resident of the Bronx and us decided to visit the beach today, which is Memorial Day.

In the UK you got a bank holiday today too, the usual end of May one that coincides with a week off school. Here, Memorial Day is huge. It’s ostensibly about remembering those who served their country, but in reality it’s a day off with an excuse to go to the beach if it’s hot, or take advantage of the vast amounts of sales going on in the various large department stores.

I’m not sure I’d recommend Pelham Bay Park as a tourist destination. It could do with a bit of TLC, a lot of litter clearance and more taxis. It is a long way out and if you want to get anywhere, you have to use the bus. Most of the time the buses are air conditioned to chill factor minus 100 but today, packed to the gills with mostly nearly naked beach goers, it was sweltering. I was hot. Very hot. Poor J, he ended up in the luggage rack, there was so little room to move. E held on to a pole for dear life and I did wonder if one of us might end up going through the windscreen there were so many people at the front of the bus.

The beach was pretty good and long enough at 1.1 miles to compete with the Brooklyn Bridge in length and volume of people on a busy day. When it was originally conceived in the 1930s it was known as the New York Riviera. It has a once grand pavilion, complete with tall columns and a certain art deco feel. But now, it’s unloved, boarded up and pretty much falling apart. What a shame there’s been no investment in it. Although to be honest, I think the New York Parks Department should spend some money and focus on sorting out the toilets first because they are awful.


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The popularity of Peppa

My favourite episode of Peppa Pig is when Daddy Pig takes his book about concrete back to the library and sheepishly says “I may have had this for rather a long time.” To which Miss Rabbit, the librarian (and jack of all trades) responds after scanning the book and getting a loud alert sound, “Daddy Pig, you’ve had this book out for ten years!” Daddy Pig reddens in embarrassment and Miss Rabbit says “That’s alright, just don’t do it again”.  No fierce librarians in Peppa land.

This makes me and E laugh every time that we play the English DVD of Peppa Pig episodes. I had thought we had left this behind literally and metaphorically but with J reaching nearly two and a half, he has discovered the wonderful world of Peppa and I have gone back in time six years.

I share this because I take E’s Peppa Pig ball to the playground now. J loves it. And this has become a passport to conversations that start “where did you get that ball, X loves Peppa Pig!”  This is where I open my mouth, clearly demonstrating I am British and I am in. I am very popular. The ball is positively antique but here it is worth as much as one.

I have discovered that Peppa Pig is shown here but is dubbed with American voices! Why? Are the English voices that hard to understand? I don’t think the lovely Morwenna Banks would agree – she of the Mummy Pig and Miss Rabbit voices and partner of British comic, David Baddiel. Looks like I’ll be playing that ancient DVD for a while longer, I don’t think J would understand why Peppa is suddenly accentuating her Rs and replacing her Ts for Ds. And I don’t fancy it either.


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S is for Scarecrow and Socrates

Scarecrow is the name of the new installation in the Socrates Sculpture Park in Queens. It’s by a Lithuanian artist called Zilvinas Kampinas and I’m quite obsessed by it as I can see it every day from our apartment. I watched them install it and last week we visited it when it opened to the public on 11 May.

More bonkers art, I’m afraid. It’s two S-shaped curved lines of high metal poles stuck in the soil. On top of each pole is a metal ribbon which is attached to its opposite number. Bit like a washing line. But lots of them. And they move. The vibrate in the wind and make eerie sounds, like a load of pigeons has descended. They catch the sunlight beautifully and when the morning sun catches them in the morning, it’s a lovely sight to start the day.

I like it so much, I’ll be back. And they have a great bubble ice tea place on the way from the subway station, so even more reason to go.

See what you think:

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Hey, Popeye!

First time at Sotheby’s yesterday. They have their global HQ on York Avenue at 72nd Street, so not far from where we are in the Upper East Side. They had a public preview of over 400 lots for their contemporary and impressionist art auction that started last night. I’m still amazed you can just walk into these places for free and check out all this amazing art that’s for sale. They produce lavish catalogues and let you have them for free too.

The best work on sale is Jeff Koons’s Popeye statue. It is made of mirror polished stainless steel with transparent colour coating. Made between 2009 and 2011, it is one of an edition of three. The colours are incredible, it’s so shiny and bright you can’t help but smile at the look of sheer delight in Popeye’s face as he opens his tin of spinach. It’s been beautifully staged and the shadows thrown between a row of six Andy Warhol pictures just look great. This will be auctioned on 14 May.

Koons’s orange balloon dog sold at Christie’s in November 2013 for $58 million. It’s way bigger, but gives you an idea of how much money his work commands. The Whitney is doing a Jeff Koons retrospective which starts on 27 June, so I’ll definitely be going to that.

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Munching in Madison

Madison Square Park is a new favourite area of New York for me. It’s right next to the Flatiron Building off 23rd Street and 5th Avenue. It plays host to outside art installations, a very popular branch of the burger selling Shake Shack and a great playground for toddlers.

But today, just outside the park was a new outside food venue featuring all sorts of different food vendors. It was packed today, as New York basked in some unusual sunshine.

Eat at Mad. Sq. Park

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had just eaten lunch at the ever fabulous Eataly nearby, so wandering round it with a full belly wasn’t ideal. But is was packed with office workers seeking new and exciting lunch options. My favourite was the exotic cannolis. I have a bit of a thing about these little hard tubes of pastry filled loveliness and it’s the first time I’ve seen them with different fillings. So I bought 6 to try them out. Chocolate and mint; pistachio; and original with gooey cream and chocolate chips. Yum. Check out Stuffed Artisan Cannolis to find out more.

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