Wednesday, 5 December 2012

"I Live in the Plaza and I Love it. All That History. All Those Stories."

My treat to Mum was the highlight of the weekend, and I treated her to Afternoon Tea at the Plaza Hotel just off of Central Park. Being a huge F Scott Fitzgerald fan (I recently read 'May Day' - the novella - which was brilliant!) I couldn't think of a more fitting celebration of Christmas and our reuniting than to do a Mia Farrow/Robert Redford, and indulge ourselves in finger sandwiches and scones galore. I have always wanted to go here, ever since studying the Great Gatsby in Lower Sixth. To my surprise, my Mother (the sneaky genius that she is) had turned the tables and made it my treat, as a late celebration of my 18th in the summer.

I was serenaded by both the piano player and the whole of the Palm Court and received a personalised menu AND free cake - I was in my element! To top it all off, the Lobby featured a tree in celebration of the new 'Great Gatsby' film that's coming out in 2013, and had dedicated it to their 2nd Patron - Fitzgerald himself.

We walked around Central Park, stumbled across many a Christmas fair, and ate far too much, and it was the perfect way to end my trip - I couldn't have imagined anything more perfect than losing myself in New York city before heading back to Blighty. Despite the price (prepare yourself if you intend to treat your loved one in true Gatsby style...) I would recommend this in a heartbeat for a Christmas present. A truly special experience, but book in advance! I cannot stress this enough - the holidays are so busy and you may need to book up to a month in advance to find your ideal time and date.

Being posh (what one does best)

Merry Christmas from the Plaza!
Amongst the shopping and the soaking in of the city, my departure from the States after 2 and a bit months was imminent, and Sunday night saw us flying back to London Heathrow and landing in rain, fog, and the cold which seemed, well, perfectly fitting. Coming home has thrown a bucket of feelings at me that I am trying to deal with, but I'm mostly trying to process that the first leg of my Gap Year is over!

Being in America was the most incredible experience, and being part of the Bissinger's family down in Houston was perfect. NYC was the cherry on top, and started in Washington/Baltimore was brilliant. I am continually asked what the highlight of my trip has been, and I just don't have an answer - it was all fantastic. My British feet, while they are now firmly grounded in the UK for the next month or so, are definitely itchy and I can't wait to fly to India in just over a month! Thank you for an unbeatable time America, I will miss your pancakes, your politics, and your charm very very much. Maybe see you again soon. But here's to the experiences we've shared, and to the future.

And to a very British Christmas, and India!

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

New York and Back to Blighty.

Bye Houston :-(
For the first time, I am blogging from my teeny village on the outskirts of Essex due to my being home in England as of 9.30am yesterday morning. On Thursday I sad my somewhat weepy goodbyes to Houston and its lovely people, its blue skies and unfailing sunshine, and the family that I have lived with for just over two months, and I headed on a plane to Newark. I left behind 70+ degrees F and landed in 38, which was a bit of a change.

Donning my long-awaited winter coat, some thick wooly tights, and my almost-over-the-weight-limit-but-not-quite suitcases, I jumped in a yellow cab and headed into Manhattan like some kind of dreamy halfway point between leaving America for England on the coming Sunday. As the car pulled over the Holland Tunnel, I caught a glimpse of both Lady Liberty and the Empire State and it felt oddly like coming home. Having been to NYC last April, I knew what to expect, yet the feeling of the city can not be paralleled. It's a concrete-and-glass kind of beautiful, and I adored it. Christmas was in full swing in the city with the Rockerfeller Christmas tree having been lit the night before we landed. The shops had their window displays out, only to be matched with ridiculous opening hours for the Holidays; Macy's is open from 8am to 11pm, and Times Square Toys'R'Us is open 24 hours a day without closing. Madness.

I couldn't help but compare my two trips, anyone for another annual trip next year? 16 year old me/18 year old me would be thrilled.
I met my Mum at our hotel, conveniently located opposite Madison Square Gardens and just a ten minute walk from Times Square. Our reunion was emotional to say the least but it quickly dawned on me that nothing had changed, and we headed out for the evening. My main love of NYC is the way that I could happily spend a few days just walking around admiring the city, and for the second time, I found that (for Mum and I at least) most roads lead to Times Square, Central Park and the shopping heaven that is Fifth Avenue. We spent the weekend eating and shopping our way around Manhattan, visiting just a few tourist hot spots (Flatiron Building, Union Square, Brooklyn Bridge) but avoided the rest having done them last Spring. Have lots of photos to illustrate my points - my next post is one of importance (duh duh duh)!

Brooklyn Bridge - the devestation from Sandy was evident on the Seaport sea front. Shops boarded up and smashed in, complete with a 'National Disaster Team' lorry.

Enjoying the walk across the bridge..

Rockerfeller tree!

Times Square is one of my fave places. Fact. And not just because I almost walked into Snoop Dogg on Thursday night.
Ice Skating in Central Park.
Flat Iron building.
In Grand Central.
We frequented 'Andrew's Cafe' for breakfast on our mornings, as well as grabbing a Starbucks coffee to go, and I have never had such a wonderful breakfast - apple and cinnamon pancakes, complete with maple syrup and bacon. The breakfast of (British, middle-class) gap year-ers, right? The price was definitely affordable for even the more budgeted travellers.