Friday, August 29, 2014

Beautiful NYC

Well the amazing musical Beautiful really summed up our whole experience in NYC. We have had a sensational time, completely action packed and in many ways quite exhausting. I write this on my flight to Phoenix Arizona – a 5-hour plus flight from Newark New Jersey, and I think this is the longest I have sat in one spot since we left.  Each morning in NYC I have woken and literally hobbled to the bathroom, my feet totally stressed out and tight. It was great doing a yoga class at the famed Jivamukti Yoga Centre near Union Square yesterday, to stretch and move my muscles in other ways. I had, prior to the class stood in line for 2 hours to get a ticket to the hottest how in town, Beautiful. It is one of the only shows on Broadway not to offer any discounts, and their rush tickets, all 8 for each performance, are standing room only. Luckily I was rewarded, many others in the line were not! Following yoga I spent the afternoon shopping and walking around, skipping lunch, and ended up totally exhausted before the show. I did however manage to pick up some bargains at a Neiman Marcus Rack store - a bit of power-shopping at its best.  A quick bite and a couple of chardonnays at a bar across the road from the theatre and I was ready to go. Standing room was all allocated and the view was pretty good, back row of the mezzanine. My neighbours were young actors, living in NYC hoping to make it. They had seen Jessie Mueller, who plays Carole King in On a Clear Day, and they said although it was a flop, she was it’s only saving grace. I knew I was in for a treat, it was the only show I was dying to see, and she didn’t win the Tony for best actress for nothing.

The show began with Jessie (Carole King) on stage alone singing So Far Away, and wow, she was magnificent. And it just kept getting better and better. The whole production, the cast, everything was amazing, it was quite an emotional experience. I very much love King and Goffin tunes, and the show is really a reminder of how many iconic, fabulous numbers they penned. I was so happy to be standing, at least I could bop and dance. I really can’t pick a favourite, though loved, loved, loved, Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow, Chains, Take Good Care of My Baby, One Fine Day, Natural Woman and Up on the Roof.  All day long I’ve been humming Pleasant Valley Sunday, the show was really special, all the songs were stunning.  And Jessie Mueller – what a STAR – I am so glad I saw the original with her – un-F’ing-believable!  If anyone is going to NYC go and see it – pay the $170 if you have to, but do yourself a favour! It I think has been the highlight of the trip for me in many ways – I cannot rave enough.  Oh and the set and cozzies, to die for too!

The show certainly capped off a fantastic week in NYC.  We have done the sights, eaten amazing food, some very cheap – from holes in the wall (Johnie’s and Los Tacos, and an amazing dining experience at Junoon, a Michelin starred Indian restaurant – all very upmarket and divine. We’ve been to the PGA golf, Rob went to the US Open and to see the Mets, and we’ve loved living in a neighbourhood – Harlem, so much better than a hotel downtown. Our hosts, Janet and Tom were lovely, we got a tour of their renovated Brownstone (we had the basement) and Janet, who is a food, wine and travel writer, left us a divine (and very expensive) bottle of bubbles, which is one of the best I’ve ever had. The local bakeries were wonderful – the best red velvet cupcake (sorry Magnolia you ain’t in the league) was from Make My Cake, and the most delicious danishes from Lee Lees in Harlem both in our neighbourhood, and the best muffin and cake from Levain . So far the trip has been tremendous – so many highlights, all of the things on our list have worked out – and those that didn’t (mainly shopping things) will be met in other cities still to come.

So next stop Phoenix Arizona, and specifically Scottsdale – lots of golf courses for Rob, and nice shopping and pool time for moi.  And I might just get my aching calves massaged, though by the time this flight is out, I’ll be ready to go again!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Elvis, Opry, Bluebird & the Apple

Well greetings from the Apple, that is the Big Apple.  The trip continues to be action packed and my feet and occasionally head are aching.  We arrived in NYC on Thursday afternoon following 3 days in Nashville.  And yes we managed to continue on the Elvis trail, this time visiting RCA Studio B, where Elvis and many other notable music luminaries recorded - Waylon, Ray Price, Dolly Parton, The Everly Brothers, Roy Orbison - the list goes on.  It was a fascinating insight into the business in Nashville, albeit old-school.  We passed many other studios, Reba's, the studio the wonderful Patsy Cline put down some of her hits, all clustered in within a few blocks of one another.  We visited the Grand Ol Opry with some big name acts - Carrie Underwood, Trace Atkins and a cast of many, but it was Wednesday night that we had our big quality music night - at the famous Bluebird Cafe.  I was extremely fortunate to secure tickets for both shows - these tickets are hotter than Tennessee summer days, but my planning and good luck rewarded us.  The first show - In the Round, is a number of singer-songwriters who play songs and tell stories - it was fantastic.  The stand-out performer for us was Joshua Scott Jones, great songs and a good sense of humour! We stayed for the second show - an acclaimed songwriter called Victoria Shaw who has written for many performers including Garth Brooks.  She was joined by some other great song-writer/performers - it was a fantastic night but oh dear, way too much vino.  And the Bluebird was fantastic - great to go somewhere with good wine, and importantly music.  It is a tiny venue, coupled with featuring in the hit show Nashville, it makes getting tickets even harder - but well worth my late-night date with my computer last week. I finished off the frantic fit-all-you-can-in trip with some power-shopping, sightseeing, and photos.

We dropped our car back, had a quick bite at Tootsie's, then on to our flight to La Guardia bound for NYC.  Everything went smoothly and before we knew it we were in Harlem, our home for the next week.  We were met by our host Janet and shown to our apartment - the basement in their brownstone, too cute and ever so central.  We dropped our stuff and headed out for dinner - to a Harlem establishment - Patsy's, a pizzeria that's been around since 1933.  It was a hike - about a 30 minute walk through the projects and interesting part of town that Harlem is.  And we were rewarded with yummy calamari, pizza and tiramisu.  Tired and with another 30 minute plus walk ahead of us, we got a cab back home to our door on 132nd street.

Friday morning we were up early and off again, this time with a leisurely walk towards downtown, through Central Park.  Although threatening to shower, it was warm and slightly humid.  We walked down to Rockefeller Center, Radio City Music Hall and all importantly Magnolia Cupcakes on Avenue of the Americas.  I must say however cupcakes worldwide are ruined by my new found love of the Dark Horse cupcake in Queen Street Melbourne - far more superior than anything we sampled at Magnolia.  I will go back and try again just to be sure though.

Onwards and upwards we checked out a few other things we needed to - tickets, trains to NJ for the golf, and visited Battery Park, the 9/11 memorial, and walked around town.  We then headed to Greenwich village for dinner, where we continued the old-school tradition and had a divine Italian dinner in a restaurant that's been there since 1918 - Montes.  The NY cheesecake was sublime and the best we've ever tasted, and the tiramisu was pretty damn good too!  Subway home and a bottle of French rose from a new fancy wine store in Harlem, and we hit the hay to be ready for our busy Saturday at the golf in NJ.  Loving NYC, and especially glad we decided to stay in Harlem - not a tourist in sight, no touts to wake up to, just lots of swearing and partying all night long from the projects - but hey we are in Harlem, and I'm looking for the rose in Spanish Harlem!

(NYC part 2 and three to come - and the Barclays Golf round up from Ridgewood, Peramus NJ to follow when I have some energy and more wine!)  PS apologies for typos and spelling

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

TCB - Elvis, Memphis and More

Well if I said I was tired before I left a few days in the air didn't help.  The flight over was good but didn't sleep as much as I would have liked.  We arrived at LAX at 8.30am and I was a little disappointed I didn't book the connection to Nashville which was at 10.30am (though these days one must thank their lucky stars for their next breathe after flying!)  Instead we were on the red-eye so we had booked a room at the Travelodge near the airport for a half day.  Well that turned out to be a stellar idea.  Not only did we see that preferred flight to Nashville disappear from the departures screen while waiting for our bags, we got to have a shower, snooze, swim and sun-bake without the stress of a missed flight.  And a nice club sanga from the adjoining restaurant Dennys was perfect.  Not so perfect was the flight to Nashville  however - still as tired as tired can be, but could hardly sleep, except of course in the last 15 minutes of the flight when I suddenly went out like a light.

Arriving in Nashville at 5am local time feeling like a zombie was not ideal but hey when I'm on holiday every minute counts.  We picked up out car - all very casual - we had a compact but the guy said for making us wait "if you see anything else you like out there in the lot - just take it", so we did.
Next stop Tupelo, birthplace and childhood home of Elvis, but via the Natchez Trace Parkway - a National Park of some importance and definite beauty. We saw Bambi's and wild turkeys by the dozens - many turkeys walking across the road in front of the car, where Rob discovered the origin of the term "you turkey!"  Despite that it was only two days ago, I find myself having to stop and think what we did, we've done so much and had such little sleep since we arrived.  Driving through the national park we passed many historical monuments and natural wonders - a camp area from Trail of Tears, waterfalls, and many Civil War monuments and battlefields - Shiloah being one of the most significant. And lots of little Southern towns. We had to drive out of the park to find brunch, with nothing really open because the day of rest is still obeyed in these parts of the South. So some crappy fast food, but with some town characters to amuse, the Tennessee drawl fabulous, we weren't complaining.

We finally hit Tupelo early afternoon and visited the Presley family home, which was the first of many Elvis pilgrimages we have made since arriving.  Driving to Memphis later in the day, after a nap we headed down Main Street, and then Beale.  Having visited Beale in '87 - wow it's changed, touts and tourists, so we went wandering about town.  I spied a 50s hotel sign, only to find out it was the Lorraine Hotel, the very place the Martin Luther King was assassinated.  Amazing place, we could feel the history.  We ended up for dinner at a place nearby which was fabulous, and with only a beer under our collar we headed back to our hotel.  We were so tired therefore an early night was needed so that we could take in the Monday schedule of Graceland and Sun Records.  Sleep was something that was so needed and also to fuel us for the big Monday Elvis pilgrimage!

Monday up and at 'em - the schedule: breakfast; Graceland; Sun Records; Dinner!
Nothing let us down - we had the best time at all, so much so I will describe in my next post. But we love Memphis - the people are divine, the service is genuine and more than we  could ever expect at home - we feel so spoilt! Graceland and Sun Record were unbelievable and so interesting, and so sad too.

We really believe in the TCB philosophy of Elvis and the town - they have taken care of us!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Onwards & Upwards - 50 here I come

Today I am feeling every minute of 49 years, 11 months and looking down the barrell of 50.  But the good news is tomorrow morning we are up and away, on the next adventure, with my 50th birthday celebration in Palm Springs - a mid-century city for a mid-century gal, still a month away. As my favorite woman Lynne says "I'm working my fingers to the bone", and with a house still to prepare and bags to pack, it looks like it's going to be a long old evening.
But looking forward to the bright lights, the music, the food and the fun - USA and Mexico, here we come!