There were 2 main reasons for us to get over to the UK. We had Jackie's cousin Louise's wedding in Bath and we also wanted to spend a bit of time with Jackie's gran who was about to reach the ripe old age of 90. We made the most of it by catching up with other mates and ended up being away for 3 weeks in all.
It began with 3 nights in London which was lots of fun. Quite strange to arrive at Heathrow (and London) at the start of our time away. For quite some time arriving at Heathrow was always the end of a holiday and we'd be rushing back to our flat and straight into work. We couldn't resist celebrating St Patrick's Day, firstly at the parade through Central London and then at an Irish Pub close to where we used to live in Cromford Road. Plenty of Guinness and I can confirm that I had a headache the next morning which I think must have been a bit of jetlag.
The rest of our time in London was spent enjoying a few old haunts, with meals at the Churchill Arms, Belgo's, Wagamammas and Curry Royal. We walked from Hyde Park Corner to Embankment and also around our old neighbourhood of Putney.
|The Churchill Arms|
Next, we set off on a train to Cheltenham where we spent 3 relaxed days with Jackie's gran. Lots of catching up, good food at home and an expensive but enjoyable meal at a trendy hotel called 'The Hotel'.
Rob fetched us the next day from Bristol train station and we then had 4 days with him and Annette in Bath. The UK had been experiencing some decidedly chilly and 'unseasonal' weather and in Bath this remained so. We ventured out a few times; dressed as polar explorers.
|A walk along the canal from Bradford on Avon|
We then drove off in Shetland (Rob's obedient vehicle) and made our way up to Shropshire for lunch at the Red Lion, in Forton, with Judy and Robert. My pork chop (sourced from a pig that lived nextdoor) and hedgerow jelly was spectacular and the ales on tap were superb. After our meal we drove off into the snow and on to Ludlow, where we'd be spending the night at a B and B. Ludlow has become well known as somewhat of a gourmet destination, with plenty of down-to-earth pubs, fancy restaurants and foodie-type markets. We found this to be true and tried a few local hangouts. The Church Inn is a great beer venue, with about 10 ales on tap and an extensive list of original pies. The Queens, where we ate dinner, was full of character and a great promoter of regional fare.
|Lunch at the Red Lion|
|The view over Ludlow|
|Lovely morning for a walk down to Ludlow Castle|
After breakfast and a short walk the next morning we continued up through North Wales, into even more snow. The poor little Welsh towns seemed to have just thawed out after a few days of extreme cold and snow. We were catching a ferry from Holyhead to Dublin and made it with about 20 minutes to spare. The trip across was relatively calm and took less than 2 hours. Simon (my mate from university) picked us up and we made our way across to his place, where we spent 2 nights. Great to catch up with Simon and Lorraine and meet 'little' Toby for the first time. Seems that he has Simon's genes. We explored Dublin a bit, had a great pub lunch and also a posh dinner at a Pakistani restaurant in Ranelagh called Kinara Kitchen.
|On the way up through North Wales|
|Our fast ferry to Dublin|
A ferry back to Wales and then a fairly lengthy drive, and we were back with Rob and Annette in Bath. We had Louise and Jack's wedding the next day, and even though there was still a significant chill in the air, it was a great function, with some fun family photo's.
Rob and Annette dropped us off at Heathrow the next morning and we flew across to New York. We arrived late in the evening but could just make out the familiar sights of Manhattan on way our to Grand Central Terminal on the airport shuttle. Stepping off the bus and looking up at Grand Central was quite surreal and very impressive. We walked about 2km's and found our accommodation, the Vanderbilt YMCA which we chose because of it's great position at a budget price (by NY standards).
|Arriving at Grand Central|
After brushing my teeth, and gazing out the bathroom window the next morning, I noticed that there was what seemed to be a very popular place to get something to eat. A constant stream of locals in business-wear washed into the place; and then filtered out a while later coffee and bagel in hand. This became our morning ritual and by day 4 I was sounding like a local, shouting egg, bacon and cheese on a plain toasted bagel from somewhere in the mass of early morning life.
We had planned to explore NY on foot as much as possible and day 1 saw us doing exactly that. We caught the Metro down to Brooklyn and made our back into Manhattan over Brooklyn Bridge. We turned North from City Hall and walked up to Chintown which is probably about as close as you can get to time travel at the moment. Exactly like the shops, smells and noise that you'll find on streets all over China. Friends of ours had given plenty of advice on restaurants to visit and first on the list was Inoteca, a small Italian wine bar. We were first in, just after they opened their doors at midday, and had a few glasses of wine and some super food. We continued on with our walk, possibly a little more lethargic but with plenty of noise and good humour. We walked up through Union Square and on to the famous Flat Iron District where, after taking in the buildings and goings on, we walked into the second of our must visit eateries - Eataly. An unbelievable warehouse of all things Italian, with a couple of restaurants to choose from. We started at the vegetarian but I ended on a high with a prime-rib sandwich worthy of special mention. THE PRIME-RIB SANDWICH WAS SPECIAL. There was, of course, a little more wine, and the rest of the evening carried on in the same vein.
|The view of Manhattan from Brooklyn|
|Some interesting architecture|
|The Flat Iron Building|
The rest of our time in New York went by in a blur. We caught the Statten Island ferry, visited Ground Zero, took in sunset views from the Rockefeller Building, wandered around Central park, scuttled around the Museum of Modern Art, did a bit of shopping, dodged people in Time Square and did a lot more eating and drinking. One of the highlights, when it comes to food, was a visit to EN-Japanese, a top-end and very trendy Japanese place (as you might suspect from the name of the place). It certainly didn't disappoint. An amazing mix of flavours and textures prepared by absolute gurus in an open kitchen.
|The deck on the top of the Rockefeller|
|The peace of Central Park|
|On your marks, get set, go|
|A glass of wine at Eataly|
We both thoroughly enjoyed visiting the Big Apple. It has an unbelievable energy about it and there is something for everyone. The choice of restaurants, shows and shops is never-ending. I must say though that I found a lot of the people quite unfriendly and almost robotic but that's to be expected in such a busy and populated city. Jackie said I was full of &^%$.
Our overnight flight back across to Heathrow tired us out a little but we still had a bit of energy and made our way to Tooting Broadway and Paul's place. He got home from work in the afternoon and we drove off to Hertford and Kev and Sue's place. Hertford was home for the last 6 months or so of our time in the UK and it was great to get back. Dinner was excellent as expected and we had a sleep of mammoth proportions. Before our flight out the next day we visited Abby and she cooked us a wonderful farewell lunch. A great way to end a busy but fantastic time away.