Monday, 11 October 2010

To market, to market... to market...

What a day! Great weather lifts the spirits. At the moment, I’m sitting in my bedroom feeling inspired… Generally inspired. Inspired to cook and dance and travel (among other wonderfully creative things) and I think it’s all due to a bit of “fresh air and sunshine”.

This morning (after a respectable Sunday lie-in) Justin, Alanya, and I headed to East Finchley’s High Road to explore the French market.  I get the impression it takes place a few times a year.  It’s not very big, but there are plenty of samples and we came home laden with cheeses, bread, and jams (raspberry and rhubarb).  After dropping the goodies off, we set off in the opposite direction in search of a farmers market. 

The market itself was small, but I tasted a ginger cider (delicious) and bought myself a King Cheddar cheese toastie and fresh apple and raspberry juice for lunch.  The greatest discovery, however, was the grounds in which the markets were held.  Avenue House is surrounded by beautiful gardens and something of a forest walk.  If I hadn’t known better, I would have thought we were a good few hours out of London exploring the grounds of a grand old manor… Or something. 

The weather, as I mentioned, was incredible.  Unseasonably warm and not a cloud in the sky.  We sat on the grass, in the sunshine, drinking tea…  All this with the added beauty of scattered autumn leaves.

Feeling the day was not yet over (well, it was only 1:30 in the afternoon), we decided to continue with the market theme and caught the tube to Liverpool Street and walked to Brick Lane.  The atmosphere there was infectious.  Food, antiques, vintage clothing… We explored and indulged in vegan peanut butter and chocolate cupcakes. 

I feel that I’ll be making a few trips to Brick Lane during my time here.  And on those occasions I will make sure that I get my cash out before arriving at Liverpool Street station.  The lines for the ATMs are insane, beyond insane.  Littered with hipsters.  And although I had experienced that 5 years ago on my first visit to Spitalfields Market (also in the area and absolutely worth a visit… or ten), I had forgotten.

After a few hours we made our way back to the station and then set off home.  I’m now waiting for Josh to get home from work so that he, Justin, and I can indulge in French cheeses and bread. I hope he hurries back; I’m feeling quite hungry!

Sunshine-induced positivity and love, Jules xx

Saturday, 9 October 2010

London calling...

Back to blogging! Apologies for my hiatus, it’s been quite a month (and a bit), but I’m here sitting in my very own bedroom in East Finchley, North London and ready to write again.  Let me give you a brief run down of my last two days in New York before we carry on...

Our last two days comprised of an awful lot of walking, shopping, and eating.  We saw Next To Normal with Marin Mazzie. What an incredible show. Such an emotional experience.  I wouldn’t have complained if there’d been one scene in the second act to give me a brief respite from sobbing (also allowing me to wipe the mascara off my cheeks), but it’s a small criticism. 

On our last day we went to MoMA and to the top of the Rockefeller Centre. You can get a combined pass and it’s well worth it!  We had been warned off scaling the Empire State Building on more than one occasion due to cost and crowds, and besides, if you go to the top of the Empire State Building you can’t see the Empire State Building… And it’s a fairly impressive view!

I had my last dinner at our local Thai restaurant and spent the evening cramming things into my suitcase and chatting with Josh.  After little-to-no sleep, I jumped a 4am cab to the airport, bid a fond farewell to the city of New York, and made my way to London (via Chicago).
Just briefly, avoid flying American Airlines where possible.

That said, I made it to London safe and sound.  The next month was a blur of job hunting, auditions, dinners, drinks, house hunting, a terrible cough, Christmas carols, bad hair days, good hair days, markets, shopping at Primark, and general revelry!

And now here I am. In our house (although part of first floor is still a building site) and employed to teach six singing classes (although they’re all on one day, so a couple of days working elsewhere wouldn’t be bad for my sanity! Anyway, I’m working on it).

I have seen Caroline O’Connor’s cabaret -The Showgirl Within, the 25th Anniversary concert of Les Miserables at the O2 Arena, and Deathtrap.  All of these, for their own reasons, rate with some of my favourite theatrical experiences.  Les Mis in particular.  I still can’t quite believe that I was there.  They were spontaneous musical theatre tears, the likes of which, I’ve never known.

So, I’m here.  London is my home for the time being.  So far my days have ranged from intensely frustrating, to some of the best ever… Real life. Stay tuned for semi-regular updates of life in this city.

Sending some (long overdue) love back to you at home, Jules xx

PS. I promise, there will be pictures as soon as I have faster Internet! 

Monday, 30 August 2010

That place just over the Brooklyn Bridge...

Having a quiet night in after an emotional, theatrical experience… more about that in my next post, though. You may have noticed that my blogs are becoming shorter.  This holiday is wrapping up, and while I’ll be sad to leave, I’m ready for my next adventure.  Still, not getting ahead of myself, so here’s a little about Saturday.

The day began with brunch in Williamsburg, still one of my favourite places in New York (even after considerable exploration).  We ate at a cafĂ© called Fabiane’s and I had incredible baked eggs with spinach and hollandaise and an amazingly light baguette. 

We spent about two hours perusing boutiques and the Artists & Fleas Markets, which were pretty awesome.  No purchases were made, which is fortunate for my purse and luggage weight limit.  I could have emptied and filled these respectively.

The plan was to make our way to Brooklyn Bridge Park and walk across the Brooklyn Bridge.  Unfortunately the C train was running on the F train line (this was completely unsigned, by the way) and we ended up in Manhattan instead of Brooklyn.  We emerged from the subway station into the light, and with the help of Google maps and the remarkably handy iPhone compass found the bridge we were looking for…

The day was oppressively hot, the sun burned and the air offered no relief.  Not even a hint of breeze.  Looking up at the bridge, we mentally prepared to cross it… At one point, Josh suggested walking half way over and then back, as we needed to make our way to midtown after the trek.  We glared into the sun covered bridge and then past it to Pier 17.  Due to the subway error we’d had to walk quite a distance so we decided just stop there for a brief moment to have a drink and replenish ourselves before carrying on.

Pier 17 seems like it was lifted from the Gold Coast in 1991 and transported to New York to serve forever as a reminder of all things tacky.

However, entering the air conditioned building provided instant relief and all thoughts of making the cross evaporated as we sat on the balcony a restaurant eating burgers and looking out at an excellent view of the Brooklyn Bridge.  We could see from where we were that there was not a patch of shade on the beast and the sun was, quite frankly, vile.

Decision made, lunch eaten, Christmas store perused, we wandered up through Seaport (which was buzzing with life) and caught the subway to Times Square where we bought our tickets to Next to Normal (for Sunday evening).  The next hour or so was spent purchasing touristy things like ‘I (heart) NY’ t-shirts and Yankees caps and attempting to get rush tickets for a Saturday evening show…  We couldn't get tickets to anything and took it as a sign to save our money and take our tired, sundrenched bodies home.

We spent the rest of the night reading and writing, not a bad way to end the day.

Boundless love emanating from the red couch, Jules xx

Sunday, 29 August 2010

In a New York state of mind...

Friday… This is when I started thinking about where I was three weeks ago, when I was just getting ready to leave Brisbane.  It’s amazing how much can change in three weeks.  Thoughts, feelings, attitudes, beliefs, opinions… Teeth.  I guess, when one second can change everything, a period of three weeks actually consists of 1 814 400 potentially life-changing moments.  That said, a lot of things stay the same too.

I started to feel, as I moved towards my last weekend in New York, that even though it feels like I’ve been here for a minute, it also feels like I’ve been away from home for…  Well, to prevent myself from sounding even more over-dramatic, I’ll just say… A really long time.

And that’s more than enough musing on the passage of time.

On Friday, we continued our (brief) tradition of eating breakfast at home.  First stop was Bryant Park where we went to have a look around the New York Public Library.  Mostly, we wandered aimlessly for a while, until we found out that the original toys that inspired A.A Milne’s Winnie the Pooh stories were on display in the children’s centre.  So we took the time to visit Pooh Bear and his pals.

We made our way down 5th pausing at a few stores (including another Barnes & Noble… Obsessed with books).  We were on our way to Central Park when we decided we should buy ourselves some Pret sandwiches and have a picnic.  And that’s exactly what we did.  We found a pretty, shady spot overlooking Bethesda and sat eating our lunch and reading our new books.  Perfection.

We set off to explore, wandering past the boathouse, and down to a body of water where people sail their model boats.  We saw part of an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm being shot and stopped to look at statues of Hans Christen Anderson and Alice in Wonderland.

Exiting the park we bough soft-serve from an ice-cream truck.  I had sprinkles and Josh had choc-dipped.  We ate these on the steps of The Met so we could feel like we were in Gossip Girl.  (Yes, it was very important that we did this).  Onward up Museum Mile we found The Guggenheim and then went back in to view a really beautiful part of the park, which I found out (again, post-visit) is the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Resevoir.  We stood for a while overlooking the massive expanse of water as the sun went down over the buildings on the opposite side of the park. 

Feeling it was time to rest, we caught the subway from Lexington back to Bryant Park.  We sat for a while and then went to have a few drinks at an open-air bar in the southwest corner of the park, aptly named, Southwest Porch.  The wine was less than perfect, but the atmosphere absolutely made up for it.  

After having my ID checked by a bartender much younger than myself (a good laugh was had), Joshie and I found ourselves a swinging seat, the kind you might find on a front porch… Hence the name of the place.  So we sat with our drinks, compulsively swinging, and catching a glimpse of our future…  (Apparently, in the future, we’re sitting on the porch swing together and I’m testing Josh on musical theatre trivia).

Not realising how late it had become (around 10pm), we went to Times Square to take some pictures of the lights and have some dinner.  We ate at Junior’s where we both started falling asleep at the table.  So, once again promising to eat less tomorrow, we fell onto the subway attached to one iPod and made our way home.

Lots of love, Jules xx

You're my Coney Island baby...

It’s Saturday night and I’m sitting on the red couch wearing my new Yankees cap.  It’s excellent.  It might be my new writing cap.  Now, where were we?  Thursday…

Thursday morning was exciting and joyous, my external hard drive arrived safely from Australia and I was able to set up my pretty new laptop.  The sky was blue, summer had returned, and the day was off to a good start.

We had breakfast at home and headed off on the epic journey to Coney Island.  You would think two people who recently travelled from Australia to the US could survive a train journey of less than two hours without feeling the need to call it epic, but it’s surprising how quickly you adjust to not needing to travel far to find your entertainment.  Anyway, after a lengthy wait at the station before our destination we finally arrived and exited our subway carriage to air that smelled like a mix of the ocean, rubbish, and public swimming pool.

The seaside carnival atmosphere is really concentrated to about two blocks and a pier, but it is crammed in there so tightly and with so much enthusiasm it feels like its own little solar system.

First stop?  Nathan’s Famous.  Some post-visit research has told me that this is the home of a famous, annual hotdog-eating contest.   This year’s winner ate 54 hotdogs and buns in 10 minutes.  That sounds horrific.  All that aside, this place seems to have earned the “famous” part of their name, having been a Coney Island institution since 1916.

Josh and I ate cheese and bacon dogs, medium (or enormous, depends how you choose to look at it) lemonades, and shared chilli cheese fries.  They, unfortunately, list the calories next to the items on the menu board.  Let’s just say we were both somewhat disgusted with ourselves, but not so much as to miss out on this atmospheric culinary experience.

After lunch (and having made the decision not to eat again for at least the next 24 hours), we went for a walk along the pier.  Here the air smelt of the sea and only that.  The sun was hot, but as we walked further out over the water a slight breeze rose.  We sat and took it all in, looking at the numerous locals fishing and throwing about nets for catching shellfish.  The water was glittering, it was in actual fact, a perfect day.  However, gazing from an expanse of ocean to the shoreline, the lure of the carnival atmosphere was too strong to resist.

We had promised ourselves rides on the ferris wheel and the famous Cyclone rollercoaster.  And that’s exactly what happened next.  The Wonder Wheel, which opened in 1920, is a ferris wheel that has carriages that swing in and out as the wheel goes around.  It was scarier than I expected.  We squealed a bit and gripped at the cage around us… All in all a reasonable adrenalin rush!

After the Wonder Wheel we wandered around Luna Park and ate some fairy floss (or, cotton candy, in this instance).  Coney Island is home to two amusement parks, the one where the wheel is and Luna Park.  They are each about half a block in size.  The Cyclone is an attraction all by itself and not a part of either park.

Now, this rollercoaster is classic.  It opened in 1927 and runs yearly from May to September.  It looks like the kind of rollercoaster you see in cartoons and books.  It’s so old and rickety and that’s kind of what makes it scary.  That and the constant run of steep drops.  The rollercoaster is set on a narrow block and it kind of feels like you’re wound up on the first incline and then unravelled for a few violent minutes.  We exited with exclamations of “Wow, ouch!” but we also agreed that it was totally worth it!

So we took some time to sit by on the boardwalk to let our heads settle again.  To one side we looked out upon a typical American beach scene, to the other we could watch as people on the boardwalk ambled by.  One guy came past sporting an interesting accessory… There, casually draped around his neck, was a massive snake.  A real one. 

After soaking up the afternoon sun for a while, we decided to head home, that we’d probably had enough excitement for one day.  We rode our train back towards midtown, but when we got to Union Square, decided we should get off to have a look.  Neither of us had seen it yet.  So we wandered around the park with the intention of making our way home immediately after.  This brief stop turned into an extended exploration of Barnes & Noble… It is always dangerous for this duo to enter a bookstore.

We perused the shelves on all four floors of the store and emerged some hours later, having met up with Mikey as well.  Now, you may remember that earlier in this blog I said we had sworn off food for at least 24 hours.  Not so, apparently.  Josh, Mikey, and I made our way to Times Square and had an exceptionally touristy meal at TGI Friday’s.  What were we thinking?  When I move to London next week, I’m going on a diet of only miso soup… Too much American food!  (Not seriously though, no need to email me your thoughts on this one).

By now, it was about getting cold, so I decided I would make my way home.  The boys carried on exploring and I paused at the MAC store in Times Square to pick up some more make-up.  It’s just so affordable!  The assistant who was showing me the new range, put a garish shade of plum on my lips that totally clashed with my “I’ve been cavorting around an amusement park all day” ensemble, so I purchased some eye shadows and nail polish and took the subway back to Woodside.

Needless to say, I had a well-earned shower and slept very well.

Wish you were (all) here…

Love, Jules xx

Saturday, 28 August 2010

And Lady Liberty...

It’s Friday night and Josh and I just got home from a pretty massive day.  He’s playing a game on his iPhone and I’m going to tell you all about Wednesday.

In an effort to save money we had breakfast at home before heading out.  Now, the problem with having breakfast at home is that once we get to wherever we’re going we’re hungry again, kind of negating the original breakfast.  Anyway… It was cold and drizzly again so I dropped into H&M to buy a (purple) hoodie (the cardigan I brought with me wasn’t really cutting it) and then we ate again. 

So by now I was cosy and warm (and full of lunch) and ready to get on with the day.  We got on what we thought was an express train downtown.  While it bore the little red diamond of the express train we soon found out that it definitely was not an express train.  In fact, it was the strangest subway journey I’ve been on yet.  Very slow.  With lots of stops.  Nothing particularly unusual I guess, but my experience with the subway has been largely incident free so this was mildly unsettling.

You’ll be pleased, but most likely unsurprised, to know that we reached our destination safely.

We purchased tickets and passed through a fairly extensive security check before boarding a boat that would take us to see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

Our first stop was Liberty Island, where we spent approximately 30 minutes walking around and taking photos to prove that we were there.  She’s big, she’s impressive, and she’s surrounded by tourists.  The grounds are nicely kept…  And we learnt some interesting things about structure and design.  We found it an fascinating juxtaposition that a statue depicting liberty was placed on top of defensive military base, Fort Wood.  While it is no longer operational, there was a time (prior to 1944) when Liberty Island was both military base and vision of peace and hope.

So, after perusing and mocking products in the gift shop (while waiting for our boat) we caught the ferry to Ellis Island.

Our first stop was Cinema 1 where we watched a movie about immigrants and the process of immigration at Ellis Island.  It was interesting and moving and it really sets the scene as you walk out into the museum.

In the restoration of the building they have left some of the damages made to tiles and walls unchanged.  It really gives the place an eerie feel and you become aware that you’re walking the steps of the people who came to New York so many years ago. 

There was an excellent exhibition of photography taken while the building was left to decay between the years of being operational and being restored to it’s current state and there were awesome examples of graffiti left by immigrants who were kept overnight.  Through all of the halls of information and artefacts I couldn’t help but pause to read every excerpt of any personal account I could find.  I really found the whole experience very interesting.

At 6pm the security guards came around to tell people the museum was closing.  I’ve never been asked to leave a museum before.  We had to leave through a back staircase.  Interesting.  Josh and I decided that it would be quite easy to hide and stay on the island overnight if you wanted to…  But why would you want to?  It’s ghostly enough when it’s full of people during the day. 

Keeping this in mind, we boarded our boat to go back to Manhattan and I spent the trip watching different groups of people take photographs of each other.  I often wonder how many people in the world have me in the background of their holiday pictures.  Think about it.  It’s an interesting thought to ponder over, particularly with a bit of imagination!

We caught the subway home, had some of our local Thai, and did a bit of web-based job-hunting before bed.

Speaking of bed, that’s where I’m headed now.

Love from here to where you are… Jules xx

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Have you been inside the museum? We should go...

It’s about 11:30 on Tuesday night, Josh is reading my book on the couch and I’m sitting on the bed with his computer.  We’re listening to music.
I was woken up this morning at some unknown hour, possibly around 4am by a phone call from London.  My lovely friend Laura quickly realised I was in New York, not Australia and promised to call me back at a more reasonable hour.  She called at around 9:30am and the good news is, I have somewhere to stay for my first month in London.  That’s a relief, seeing as this time next week, I’ll be there.
So after that piece of good news, Josh and I got up and assessed the weather.  The autumn winds of yesterday looked like hanging around so we came up with a rainy day itinerary, got ready, and went to Aubergine for breakfast.
Our mission for the day was to hit the American Museum of Natural History, including the Rose Centre for Earth and Space.  When you get off the subway at 81st Street you walk straight into the lower ground entrance.  The suggested adult ticket price is $16, but we decided to pay $10 each…  Weird and a little awkward to tell them you don’t want to pay the full price, but we’re on a budget so it was worth it.
We spent a while in the Rose Centre learning about space and meteorites and finding out what our weight would be if we lived on the Moon or Mars or Halley’s Comet.  We walked along a timeline that ran for 3billion years.  Space was tiring, so after conquering the Hall of Planet Earth we went in search of the rest of the museum through a series of hallways, cafes, and the endless stream of gift shops.
We were enlightened on theories of evolution; genetics and gems; minerals and mammals from Africa, Asia, and North America.  We spent a lot of time looking at sea creatures and marvelling at the giant whale suspended from the ceiling… Still not sure what’s keeping it up there.  That was slightly disconcerting. We walked through a model rainforest and looked at the world’s biggest tree stump.  Finally, we made our way to the top floor to meet the dinosaurs.
The museum swallowed us whole and kept us entertained for a good 4-5 hours.  It’s such a remarkable building.  Unfortunately, the entrance hall was under construction.  I imagine it’s a very impressive room.  We chose to focus of seeing the animals today, but looking back at the map, we didn’t actually miss too much (just through our meandering).  Of course, it’s the kind of museum you could visit again and again if you really wanted to absorb every detail.  So much learning.
Afterwards, sitting in Theodore Roosevelt Park we made a decision to see another show, so we caught the subway 39 blocks south and bought $27 rush tickets to A Little Night Music with Bernadette Peters and Elaine Stritch.  So much excitement.
We had dinner at Chipotle, yes it’s a fast food chain, but I can’t believe I only discovered it today.  Basically, you purchase a burrito and then they pile any Mexican themed food item onto it, wrap it up in alfoil and hand it to you in a little basket.  I had chicken, rice with lime, black beans, mild salsa, sour cream, and cheese.  It was so delicious I nearly fainted with delight.  I need more.  I could eat another now… I’m making myself hungry.  I’ll move on.

Sitting on the steps of the Hilton Theatre (it’s unoccupied until Spiderman – The Musical goes up) we shared a ridiculous creation from Cold Stone, which is pretty much just like Cold Rock.  We had cake batter flavoured ice cream with sprinkles, brownies, and fudge mixed in.  I told you it was ridiculous.  And delicious.  

In the theatre we climbed the stairs towards the very top, to seating they clearly just decided to cram in around the follow-spot operators.  Still, I can’t complain, aside from a little (mocked) vertigo and some concern for Josh’s centre of gravity with regard to the low railing, they were perfectly good seats.
I absolutely loved this production.  It was so beautiful.  Everything about it.  Elaine Stritch was incredible and hilarious and Bernadette Peters was perfectly idiosyncratic (and therefore excellent)…  Everyone, everything was perfect.  Gush, gush, gush.  Aside from the fact that I want to play every female role in that show, it was just… I don’t know. I’m back in that awe struck place.  I loved it so much that I can’t articulate my view. 
It was both musically and visually beautiful with such clever characterisation.  I cried for half of the second act.  This time they were a mix of spontaneous musical theatre tears and tears of emotion… And I may also have cried due to the beauty of the closing image.  I’m spending half of my trip sitting in theatres crying.  I'm ok with that.
I was left in a daze afterwards, the last time I felt this way was after seeing Parade at The Donmar in 2007.
And here I am, basking in the afterglow of an amazing theatrical experience.
While it’s nice to sleep in comfort with a quilt and listen to the wind outside, I’m hoping summer returns before I leave New York next week.  I know all too well that I’m heading to the land of eternal winter (at least that’s what it feels like) and I’d like one more hit of sunshine… Please?
Love, Jules xx