New Year, New York: Leah’s Big Apple Adventure Part 3

New Year, New York: Leah’s Big Apple Adventure Part 3 | She and Hem

Welcome to the third part of Leah’s American adventure! Confused? You can read Part One here and Part Two here.

J&V

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New Year, New York: Leah’s Big Apple Adventure Part 3 | She and HemNew Year, New York: Leah’s Big Apple Adventure Part 3 | She and Hem New Year, New York: Leah’s Big Apple Adventure Part 3 | She and HemNew Year, New York: Leah’s Big Apple Adventure Part 3 | She and HemNew Year, New York: Leah’s Big Apple Adventure Part 3 | She and HemNew Year, New York: Leah’s Big Apple Adventure Part 3 | She and Hem

Thursday, 17th December

Today I moved house for the last time. My final stop was Bowery Street in Nolita (which stands for North of Little Italy- apparently a made up area name created to spark gentrification: it worked!) The area is a strange mixture of grittiness, art galleries and high end clothing stores. I wasn’t sure about it at first, but I really loved it in the end. I stayed at the Bowery House, which is a re-purposed hotel which served as temporary lodgings for soldiers returning from WWII. A couple of friends stayed here a few years back and described the cabins as deluxe “chicken coops”, each cabin having just enough room to fit a single bed and storage of essential items. The cabins also feature wooden cross hatched slats over the empty ceiling space. It’s a great cost effective way to stay in Manhattan and is fine for anyone who doesn’t want to spend too much time in their room.

I’d signed myself up for a Free Tours By Foot tour of the Lower East Side, Nolita and the East village that afternoon. The rain was really heavy and I managed to arrive uncharacteristically early so took the opportunity to take shelter, order French Toast and drink copious amounts of coffee. As I waited in the rain for my tour guide, I wondered if I was the only one silly enough to show up for a free tour in heavy rain. Luckily, one other person (a Canadian girl) was foolish enough to honour her commitment and the tour went ahead with our inimitable tour guide, Dante Salerno. It was an awesome and very informative tour and we learnt about the immigrant communities who moved to the area, the punks and finally the hipsters (or yupsters). The tour included a trip to the site of CBGB, famed hangout of the Ramones, Blondie, and Talking Heads. We also caught a glimpse of the site of the world’s first underground park, the Lowline– a plan to use solar technology to shed light on an historic trolley terminal on the Lower East Side.

The soggy tour was followed up with an educational visit to the Tenement Museum (learning about the fates of a German and Italian family who lived in the building we were shown around). In the spirit of No Sleep till Brooklyn, I went straight to a highbrow variety show type thing at the magical McNally Jackson bookstore. Playwright Annie Baker and novelist Lynne Tillman gave a fascinating talk on the powers of inanimate objects, read from their and others’ work and made me miss my university days. On the way home I went to the excellent Joe’s Pizza (our tour guide had said it was the best pizza in NYC) and got invited to a party on Ludlow Street. Though it may have made more entertaining reading, I decided that going to party at a pizza queue acquaintance’s pad probably wouldn’t have been one of my better ideas. Instead, I ate my pizza slice and retired to the coop.

New Year, New York: Leah’s Big Apple Adventure Part 3 | She and HemNew Year, New York: Leah’s Big Apple Adventure Part 3 | She and HemNew Year, New York: Leah’s Big Apple Adventure Part 3 | She and Hem

Friday, 18th December

Today I got up super early to go on a pilgrimage to Orange, New Jersey to see where my grandmother was born. Fun fact: I am 1/4 American (I can already picture my family collectively rolling their eyes at this claim, but it is technically true). Though my great grandparents were both Cornish, my mum’s mum was born in NJ and moved to Cornwall when she was eight years old. Though I never heard it, apparently she retained her American accent until she was in her 40s. How cool is that? Anyway, I found out that Orange is only 20 mins or so from Penn Station so I set off on a photographic odyssey, hoping to capture a slice of Americana. There was time for a nose around Little Italy before catching a ride to New Jersey.

Orange didn’t disappoint and I managed to cause a bit of a stir by being white and owning a camera with a prominent lens. A few friendly locals came to chat to me about soccer (oh dear)! It was quite a run down, industrial city but really different to just about anything I’d seen before. Most of the houses were pretty dilapidated but this added to Orange’s charm- it looked as though it might have been quite a swell place to live 90 years ago and I felt pretty emotional when I saw Granny’s childhood home on Watchung Avenue.

New Year, New York: Leah’s Big Apple Adventure Part 3 | She and HemWhen I got back to NYC I found out that MoMA was free on Friday evenings so I joined the hoards of other cheapskates in some art appreciation before being traumatised by how busy it was in the gallery. If you go to New York, I’d recommend paying the $25 and looking at some art in relative tranquility. That said, I did manage to concentrate on the Jackson Pollock exhibition before I fled in terror, breathing a sigh of relief as the subway car rattled across the Brooklyn Bridge on the way to Bogota. As you might have guessed, Bogota is the name of a restaurant in Park Slope as well as the capital of Colombia. I was reunited with my Brooklyn buddy who had rejected my sentimental idea to go for Korean barbecue and opted instead for South American fare. Sentiment aside, my first foray into Colombian cuisine was excellent, as were the mojitos and the Brooklyn beer (it had to be done). Nash entertained me for large swathes of the night by impersonating JFK/Mayor Quimby and teaching me how to say haaaaabo-side (harbourside) in a Boston accent. After bidding a tearful farewell to Slinka and Mr Whiskers, I demanded a lesson in yellow cab hailing from a real life New Yorker. It turns out you just stand in the way of oncoming traffic and raise a finger. Fun fact: Nash once played softball with Matthew Broderick.

To be continued….

….but in the meantime why not follow Leah on Instagram xx

New Year, New York: Leah’s Big Apple Adventure Part 2

She and Hem | New Year, New York: Leah’s Big Apple Adventure Part 2

Welcome to the second part of Leah’s American adventure! Confused? You can read Part One here.

J&V

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She and Hem | New Year, New York: Leah’s Big Apple Adventure Part 2She and Hem | New Year, New York: Leah’s Big Apple Adventure Part 2

Monday, 14th December

Today has been a day of travel and no friends. I was a little nervous about today as I know that I can be a bit incompetent when it comes to anything practical. I’m pleased to report that I have managed to make it to Boston in one piece, having navigated the New York subway, an Amtrak train, the T (Boston subway) and my way to my Airbnb, located on the dreamily named Wonderland metro line. Acquiring friends has been less successful: I temporarily befriended a very obese man on the train by delivering his rubbish (trash) to the bin (trash can) on a number of occasions throughout the four hour journey and I have made acquaintances with a Brazilian couple staying at my Airbnb. Having made a token effort to be sociable and in the process forced to watch That 70s Show, I ventured outside to a convenience store where I found some pretty questionable pre packaged baked goods. I had planned to go and eat crabs alone, but I always find venturing out tricky when you arrive in the dark and don’t know the neighbourhood. From my brief trip outside, it did feel pretty safe (it’s an Hispanic neighbourhood in East Boston). I retreated to my room as there was good wifi and I felt like watching a movie and getting an early night to compensate for the work Christmas party/mosquito deficit.

She and Hem | New Year, New York: Leah’s Big Apple Adventure Part 2She and Hem | New Year, New York: Leah’s Big Apple Adventure Part 2She and Hem | New Year, New York: Leah’s Big Apple Adventure Part 2She and Hem | New Year, New York: Leah’s Big Apple Adventure Part 2She and Hem | New Year, New York: Leah’s Big Apple Adventure Part 2She and Hem | New Year, New York: Leah’s Big Apple Adventure Part 2

Tuesday, 15th December

Today, I followed the slightly pretentious (and excellent) Wallpaper Guide to Boston almost to the letter. Their 24 Hour sections are usually really good and take away the often debilitating tyranny of touristic choice in a big city. I took the long subway ride to Columbus Avenue, dreaming of eggs over easy in a classic American diner. Unfortunately, the cardboard boxes lining the windows of Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe shattered my breakfast dreams and I walked away, heartbroken and hungry (it did look as though Charlie’s was undergoing a refurb so you should totally check it out if you’re in Boston in 2016)*. Dusting myself off in the beautiful Boston sunshine, I headed to the JFK Presidential Library & Museum, a library visit always guaranteed to enliven the senses. As well as looking spectacular on the outside, the museum was very inspiring and brought to life everyone’s favourite dreamy American president (and Boston native). After seriously considering a career in politics and befriending a German physician who gave me an apple, I headed to Cambridge to visit the MIT Visual Arts Center for some challenging installation art. The current exhibition is Rosa Barba: The Color Out of Space, comprising films, sculptures and text. I was delighted to enter a room filled with mini projectors and multilayered text (mimicking the appearance of a celluloid projector). The showstopper was a series of images of stars and planets projected through coloured glass panels with voice over reflections on the nature of the universe.

The day ended with a stroll through Boston Common, some giant frogs and a walking tour. I was a little dubious as the only tour available had guides dressed in 18th Century garb, but it was actually really good to learn more about Boston life and those awful colonial Brits. At the end of the tour, I went to the Cheers Bar with an Australian girl called Izzy. It was good to visit but a bit of a rip off. All was forgiven when I caught sight of Marky Mark on the TV in the bar. Mark Wahlberg? In Boston? What could be more exciting?! After listening to me drone on about New Kids on the Block/The Funky Bunch/90s pop for some time, amazingly Izzy agreed to accompany me to The Barking Crab (tagline: “We think everyone should have crabs!”) and we donned our super touristy crab bibs and ate crabs and drank rum late into the night. Thanks to Jo (of She & Hem fame) for the crab recommendation. The crab bibs made it feel like I was in a 90s American movie and the location on the beautiful harbourside provided dazzling views of the lights of Beantown. Fun tip: an apple a day keeps the doctor away.

She and Hem | New Year, New York: Leah’s Big Apple Adventure Part 2ny13

Wednesday, 16th December

I was excited to return to the bright lights of NYC, realising that trip time was slipping away and there was probably enough things on my wish list to take up a few months. I boarded the express train to Washington and marvelled as small town America glided by. We had to change trains due to a power outage so ended up on a slow, local train rerouted to Grand Central Station. Though I arrived later than anticipated, I absolutely love it at Grand Central. It’s so so beautiful and awe inspiring yet similarly busy and stressful, which elicits a strange feeling of serenity coupled with panic. Part of me wanted to stay for hours taking photographs and the other part wanted to get out of there as quickly as humanly possible. Unfortunately the stress of people colliding with me and my heavy suitcase won out and I made a hasty getaway.

I arrived at my home for the night as the sun was setting. As I wheeled my suitcase along the city streets it dawned upon me that I was in New York City, maybe that’s what being in Manhattan does to you. Such a realisation was followed by a sudden pang to get back to Brooklyn (I get attached easily) so I checked in at the Jane Hotel (a former residence for sailors with cabin-like rooms and staff are dressed as bellhops!) and jumped on the L train to Williamsburg, an area scathingly described by my Park Slope residing buddy as “a shanty”.

I went to the achingly cool Nitehawk Cinema where you can order food (themed to the movie, no less) and cocktails right to your cinema seat. The last time I had experienced such a wonder was at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Austin, Texas. Unfortunately, I was very very “tired and emotional” and was ejected from a screening of The Aristocrats for supplying minors with alcohol (they were only a couple of years younger than me). Anyway, I digress. Though I had a great time, I think I would get very annoyed with all the food/drink serving interruptions if I’d actually cared about the film I was watching. Not that I didn’t enjoy Trumbo (with my Communism 101 Sandwich and The Driver cocktail laced with Gosling’s Rum), but it didn’t set my world on fire. I still wish we had a Nitehawk in Bristol. The bar was also magnificently cool.

To be continued….

….but in the meantime why not follow Leah on Instagram xx

*Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe closed permanently in 2014 after 87 years of sandwich related success. Worst news –  Jo 

New Year, New York: Leah’s Big Apple Adventure Part 1

She and Hem | New Year, New York: Leah's Big Apple Adventure Part 1

Happy New Year everyone!

We are kicking off 2016 with something a little different! Our glorious friend Leah (pictured above, smiling) likes to go on adventures and, like any good friends would do, we have spent an unreasonable amount of time pressuring her into writing about them for us! Until now we have failed to convince her to do so but imagine our excitement when she decided to embrace her inner Carrie Bradshaw (sorry, Leah) and write about her trip to New York for us! Hoorah! Over the next few weeks we are going to be posting Leah’s NY diary, which should help us combat those January blues and, potentially, leave us all a lot poorer once we’ve inevitably booked flights to America so that we can follow in her footsteps. Fun fact: Leah is really good at both writing and adventures.

Enjoy!

J&V

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She and Hem | New Year, New York: Leah's Big Apple Adventure Part 1

I’m going to New York City to see a boy. That’s right, I’ve fallen in love. Not with the boy (though he is pretty dreamy) but with New York. Having spent five days there in the hazy summer of ’05 and my whole sentient life soaking up the city in sight and sound, I know it intimately and not at all; New York is the teen crush I’ll never grow out of. A few weeks back, an octogenarian New Yorker mocked me for fawning over her accent: I’ve got it bad. It’s my first solo trip anywhere and I’m terrified and excited in equal measure. Will my British accent and claims I live in a castle be enough to buy me some friends? Will I meet She & Hem’s exacting standards? Probably not, but I shall try my very best.

She and Hem | New Year, New York: Leah's Big Apple Adventure Part 1She and Hem | New Year, New York: Leah's Big Apple Adventure Part 1She and Hem | New Year, New York: Leah's Big Apple Adventure Part 1She and Hem | New Year, New York: Leah's Big Apple Adventure Part 1She and Hem | New Year, New York: Leah's Big Apple Adventure Part 1

Friday, 11th December

“You’re going to New York City… On… Your…Own?” My palms became so sweaty that I feared I would fail the fingerprint scan at Newark Airport. The incredulous tone of the man welcoming me to the USA got me thinking, was this the most ridiculous idea ever conceived? Was I the first person to venture to the Big Apple alone? Aren’t we all essentially alone? “Ummm….yes?” I offered, memories of last night’s work Christmas party conga line and the accompanying headache fresh in my mind. After a few more probing questions and a sigh of relief to my response about leaving the country in ten days, I was through security with a vague sense that I’d failed and that I wasn’t really good enough to be in America. It was time to seek out a friend, a prize with which I would be rewarded after doing battle with a tram, train and subway. I was nervous and excited but mainly so so sleepy.

Saturday, 12th December

I awoke at Nash’s apartment (a self styled “hell hole” that wasn’t actually all that bad) with a cat in my face. It had identified me as an outsider and was willing to stare me out until I confessed. I had met Nash in a Trick Art Museum on Jeju Island, South Korea in July and liked his sarcastic sense of humour. We went for French Toast and pancakes at a diner in Park Slope, a leafy area of Brooklyn where he lives and I did my best not to comment on how cool and like a movie set everything was (everything was super cool and like a movie set). It was an unseasonably warm, bright December day and we decided to do a spot of people watching in Prospect Park before checking out the wonderful Brooklyn Public Library and the awesome Brooklyn Museum. I was particularly excited to see an exhibition on Coney Island, a favourite stop on my post university road trip around North America. Later on I would rave about pizza BY THE SLICE and hope that I wasn’t becoming too annoying a house guest. I took myself off on a photography walk while Nash finished some work (in his spare time, he’s a grad student at NYU), aiming for the gritty industrial port. I couldn’t stop beaming to myself as I took it all in, catching sight of the Statue of Liberty in the distance, marvelling at the beautiful Brownstones, the festive decorations and the ubiquity of the stars and stripes.

She and Hem | New Year, New York: Leah's Big Apple Adventure Part 1 She and Hem | New Year, New York: Leah's Big Apple Adventure Part 1She and Hem | New Year, New York: Leah's Big Apple Adventure Part 1 She and Hem | New Year, New York: Leah's Big Apple Adventure Part 1 She and Hem | New Year, New York: Leah's Big Apple Adventure Part 1She and Hem | New Year, New York: Leah's Big Apple Adventure Part 1

Sunday, 13th December

I have been savaged by mosquitoes. In New York. In December. On the plus side, it’s another gloriously sunny and mild day in Brooklyn and those sights ain’t gonna see themselves. Why don’t we have delicious French Vanilla coffee in Britain? Maybe we do and I’ve never noticed. After a leisurely (pronounced leez-ure-ly) start, I decided to embark upon the Lonely Planet walking tour of Brooklyn Heights: more beautiful brownstones and incredible views of the iconic Manhattan skyline. I also took in Truman Capote’s house (I think I was looking at the right one) and Jane’s Carousel before wandering around the super cool and elephant free DUMBO, which stands for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass. After reading about the resurgence of poetry as an art form in the New Yorker a couple of months ago (I’m so cultured), I managed to seek out Berl’s Poetry Shop. Unfortunately, it was closed! I finished the day strolling up the magnificent Columbia Heights, the street on which my Brooklyn buddy grew up. Fun fact: Nash’s parents once rented a studio in their house to the author Norman Mailer.

In the evening we decided to take a trip to the super cool and super stunning BAM Rose Cinemas to see Chi-Raq, the new Spike Lee movie. We arrived early so had time to make a detour to one of my buddy’s favourite barbecue restaurants, The Smoke Joint. It was packed so we sat at the bar, I confused the beautiful bar staff with my strange accent, we ate Southern Sandwiches, drank Margaritas and enthused about pickles (well, I did). It had a really cool vibe and we shot the breeze about American/British cultural differences for so long that we managed to miss the beginning of the movie. After watching Chi-Raq (which I would give 8/10, btw) I would also like to say hooray for the enthusiasm of American moviegoers. My amazed reaction to high fives at mediocre jokes in Wedding Crashers in ’05 came flooding back. Fun fact: as a child, Nash once went to the baseball with Spike Lee. Apparently he (Spike Lee) was “like 5’1” and really mean”.

To be continued….

….but in the meantime why not follow Leah on Instagram xx