Saturday, 26 November 2016

Work, play and Autumn's spectacular show

Every year in November since 2009 I have worked at the ATP World Tour Finals - the top 8 men pro tennis players in the world in singles and doubles battle it out in the season finale at the O2 Arena in London. 

It's a full on 8 long days for us and we have always stayed nearby in Greenwich so that our journey to work each day would be traffic free and quick. 

Most days I accompanied the Presenters who I had to make up each day and we would take the Thames Clipper river boat from North Greenwich Pier to the O2 as it was super fast - only 5 minutes journey time to be exact! 

It was a perfect way to start the day - and the only daylight and fresh air we would see until the following day! Luckily for us most days were beautifully sunny and unseasonably mild which we made the most of in those precious few minutes between the walk from the hotel to the pier, the journey and the few minutes walk to the entrance of the O2 the other side.

Every day would be pretty much the same apart from the last day - the final day - when our day started at midday.

The length of the working day is mostly dependent on how long the matches are and fortunately for us, Andy Murray beat Novak Djokovic in two sets and got us off air at a reasonable time. 

A fantastic finale ending an amazing season of tennis. 

After that long stint of work, it's always good to be home again and to be able to enjoy the continued good weather. This year the autumn colours have been particularly stunning and have lasted for a good few weeks. 

I have only had one day of the day job this week at the Westminster Studio and during my break in the early evening watched the changing light over the River Thames as the sun went down. I always find it very uplifting and cannot help but photograph anything that catches my eye. (As you can imagine I have taken a lot of snaps too numerous to post on here.)

The rest of my week off has been taken up with walking my dog in the local park and enjoying the last of the autumn colour before all the branches are bare and winter sets in.

I think it's time for HQ to start planning another holiday .. perhaps a little Caribbean jaunt again next spring? How predictable! Anywhere warm and sunny by the ocean to wash away the winter blues.

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Another week in New York ...

I never get tired of New York. I have been countless times and there's always new things to see and do. Buildings get demolished and new ones go up in their place - restaurants come and go, shops change - the whole vibe of the city has altered over the years as it becomes more gentrified but for me it still has loads of energy and is one of my favourite cities to visit.

During the past five years I have been fortunate enough to work there for two weeks in late summer and tag on a few days to play afterwards. This year the work was elsewhere (see previous post) so I had a whole week to enjoy New York City uninterrupted with my New York 'family' and friends.

Since Brexit the value of the Pound has plummeted making everything just that bit more expensive in the US. Luckily for me I didn't really need to buy anything so it was a matter of a little browsing and the odd purchase of items not available in the UK or local products which were cheaper anyway. It meant more time to do other things. I had also just acquired a brand new camera and I was intent on learning more about it and taking pictures at every opportunity. 

The week started with a 'Debate' party - we had home cooked chilli, cocktails and yummy desserts while we watched Trump and Hillary battle it out in their last debate before the US election. It was great to catch up with friends and meet new ones and the sight of the waning moon over Queens was quite spectacular.

I was hoping to get the time to go out to the very end of Long Island to visit Montauk but to get the best from it I will probably make more of a destination out of it next time, so the decision was made to visit Coney Island in Brooklyn instead which is much closer and easily accessible by the subway system. I can't believe I had never been before. It took about an hour to get there from the centre of Manhattan and was relatively quiet given the time of year so a very pleasant experience walking the boardwalk (it's in countless movies) and taking in the fresh sea air. 

We ate lunch at Ruby's Bar and Grill (although Nathan's is most famous for hot dogs) and grabbed a coffee before our return journey at Whalburgers also famous for being owned by Mark Wahlburg and his family.

I could more than fill this page with things we had to see and do but instead will give you a list of places we enjoyed this trip. Click on the highlighted links for more info.

View from Robert Restaurant
The Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) next to the Time Warner Center - my favourite exhibition was Crochet Coral Reef - TOXIC SEAS which is on until January 22nd 2017. On the 9th floor is Robert Restaurant open for lunch and dinner which has great views of Broadway meeting Central Park at Columbus Circle - recommended! Reserve in advance for a table by the floor to ceiling window.

The Lambs Club - located in the theater district and where we had dinner and cocktails (Moscow Mule in a copper cup - left) before seeing Les Liaisons Dangerueses with Liev Schrieber and Janet McTeer at the Booth Theater.

Black Barn - located in the Gramercy area on East 26th Street - we had a 'girls birthday lunch' celebration - great fun and scrumptious food and wine.

City Winery, Soho area - for intimate music and good food and wine. We saw J D Souther, an American singer-songwriter and his Norwegian girlfriend, Ida Jenshus who performed a couple of numbers with him.

Roberto's Restaurant, Bronx - an authentic Italian restaurant in the real Little Italy. Great atmosphere and good food.

Boulton and Watt - East Village .. where we had French toast and berries for brunch (yum) and spent a few hours in the district checking out the boutiques and stores. The area is home to the NYU campus so has a young and vibrant vibe. It still has a gritty edginess of the old New York which I like and hope never disappears. Apartment buildings with exterior wrought iron fire escapes are still there along with one-off shops, street and wall art in constant renewal.

Maison Kayser - French cafe restaurant with several locations in the New York City area. Authentic French cuisine with a patisserie next door for goodies to take home. We went to the Upper East Side for lunch - I had tartine saumon fume with French bread on the side - magnifique! We bought baguettes and pistachio madeleines to take away for later.

Dick Hyman and Bill Charlap play jazz
We were also fortunate enough to be invited to a jazz concert at the Rockland Community College Cultural Arts Center near Nyack NY. We saw Dick Hyman and Bill Charlap play the most amazing jazz piano together. At almost 90 years old Dick's fingers are as dexterous as anyone half his age - and Bill is almost half his age! What an inspiration and a talent!

Sunset behind the Time Warner Center
The weather was amazing for the time of year - starting with 2 days of 28C (82F) then cooling down with a little rain on one day but mostly beautiful mild early fall weather. I saw a different sunrise and sunset every day and was in awe of how beautiful they were. I never quite understand why people say any particular place has the best sunsets - they are all splendidly beautiful and unique.

New York is never really a vacation in the true sense of the word but it has the best energy and many happy memories for me and I find it very uplifting. It was a week packed full of things to see and do - I'm missing it already. Next time I'll try to make time to squeeze in that trip to Montauk and the Hamptons! 

Oh .. and how could I almost forget to mention the mandatory shopping for make-up at Sephora for all things bright and beautiful! It's a sickness you know .. can't get enough of those those pretty colours and gorgeous palettes ....

#newyork #manhattan #sunsets #restaurants #music #streetart #brooklyn #bronx #makeup

HQ flew Virgin Atlantic from London Heathrow to JFK