Thoughts and ramblings of an ageing, music loving, Sci-Fi geek…

The Big Apple, the Iron Lady and a Double D

It may sound like the title of a bad detective novel but I’ve recently had the most amazing two and a half weeks. For a long time I’ve held back from doing certain things, travel being one of them. Partly due to cost, partly due to anxiety of the unknown and I don’t find it all that fun travelling on my own, such things are generally better as a shared experience.

So I promised myself I’d say yes to doing more things but didn’t imagine it would turn out to be quite so crazy.

And by saying yes to a mad idea or two I ended up doing a week in New York followed by trips to Paris and Zurich, all first time visits and all in the space of two and half weeks.

I passed up the opportunity to go to New York some years ago but not this time and not to go and see Gillian Anderson perform in A Streetcar Named Desire which I missed in London for a variety of reasons. I admit I’m not a big theatre goer, go now and again and concerts have been more my thing but as they get more expensive and there’s fewer bands I want to see it’s something I’m slowly appreciating more and already have a couple of plays lined for later in the year.

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But back to the mad plan. Tickets for the play were booked almost a year ago, ideas brewed and evolved, hotel and flights booked and it ended up as an 8 nights trip. However things didn’t get off the best of starts with the flight being cancelled almost as I was getting ready to leave for the airport. Panic!! And those that know me will realise I don’t do panic very well.

Thankfully by the time I was on the phone to someone I’d received a message that we’d been transferred onto a flight just a couple of hours later. Phew.

The flight was actually pretty good and they even let us in to the country. Yay! Our hotel was just off Times Square and I mean just, as in a few yards round the corner. It was a great location for getting around but I wasn’t prepared for the constant noise. It’s definitely the city that never sleeps.

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Without going in to every detail all the main tourist things were covered; went up to the 102nd floor of the Empire State Building at night which was amazing, climbed to the top of the Statue of Liberty, took boat trips, wandered around central park, toured Radio City Music Hall, had the most amazing breakfasts in the deli next to the hotel, went to a baseball game at Yankee Stadium, had the biggest and best pizza in a real Italian American restaurant well away from the tourist areas, braved the subway at night, walked the Brooklyn Bridge three times (fabulous at night) and enjoyed a riveting performance from Gillian in the play. You get the idea from some of the photos here.

 

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The one thing that affected me most I think was the 9/11 Memorial site. I remember watching what was going on that day at work. I didn’t know anyone who was there but I was surprised at how emotional I found being there. It is a striking place they’ve turned it into, lots of trees and the sound of water running into the pools. A very poignant reminder of a terrible day.

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For the first few days the weather was pretty bad though with low cloud and rain and I was worried we wouldn’t be able to do the Empire State and a few other things but towards the end of the week it improved and then my other friend brought the really good weather for our last few days. Thanks for that.

Had so many great experiences there in such a short time but did I fall in love with the place? No, I don’t think so. I really liked some aspects of it but it’s such a busy, full on, in your face place it’s not really me. It was great to be there, I really enjoyed it but it was also nice to be able to step away from it at times, get lost in central park, find the quieter streets to walk down or a park to sit in with an amazing ice cream. I will go back as there wasn’t enough time to see and do everything and it gave a taste of other areas to explore.

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The days flew by and all too soon it was time to leave. Thankfully no problem with the flight this time but there was barely time to unpack and repack before part 2.

A few short days at home and it was off to Paris. Part of this mad plan was to go and see David Duchovny (yes, him out of the X-Files) in concert in Zurich (and get a meet and greet ticket). Why Zurich I hear my few readers shout? Well, couldn’t get to London because of New York, Paris was out as originally we were going to be flying to Germany for Fedcon but Zurich was accessible from Germany and the day after the event there finished so Zurich it was and the opportunity to see somewhere new as well.

The Fedcon bit of the trip regretfully was cancelled but my friend suggested I go to Paris first and she would show me around and we’ll go to Zurich from there. Now my experiences with France haven’t been the most positive and I’ve never been to Paris before but in the spirit of doing new things why the hell not? Let’s give it a try.

Also it was a good excuse to try the Eurostar which I’d not been on before either. Another first. You get the theme here?

I made it to Paris, met my friend and headed to a cemetery, as you do. The Père Lachaise Cemetery to be precise. A very interesting, large, mostly peaceful and relaxing place to wander around. Visited Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde, Chopin and Edith Piaf among others before heading to more central areas and seeing Notre Dame and having a general wander about. A nice introduction.

Notre Dame and the Seine

Notre Dame and the Seine

Unfortunately my hotel only had me down for one night rather than the two I’d changed it to but quickly sorted that out however the next day turned out to be a public holiday. We hadn’t been aware of this and found that it was rather random what was open and what wasn’t. Started with a wander around some lovely streets eating croissants from a local bakery then headed to the Louvre which was open. I was impressed with the large Egyptian galleries and saw the other obvious exhibits which, shall we just say, I found less impressive. I don’t see why the Mona Lisa is considered to be such a remarkable painting, clearly I’m missing something but I’ve seen it in person now.

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Walked along the Seine to the Musée d’Orsay which was one of the places closed unfortunately so headed towards the Champs-Élysées and walked up to the Arc de Triomphe and then over to the Eiffel Tower although no time to go up it. And that was about all there was time to see. Doesn’t sound like much but in between was a lot of walking, talking and taking in things along the way. Ended up in a very nice French Indian restaurant.

Would I go back? Yes. There are places I’d still like to visit and it was a very positive experience. It was invaluable having someone to show me around for my first visit, explaining how the metro works, good ways to walk etc and I’m very grateful to my friend for giving up her own holiday time to do so as I don’t think I could have, or indeed would have, done it on my own. But thanks to that introduction many anxieties were overcome and I think going solo in the future could now be a possibility.

Do you need to be told?

Do you need to be told?

So that was Paris in a nutshell but no time to stop, it was up early the next day to catch the train to Zurich.

Sitting on the top level of a very comfortable double decker TGV train gave a great view of the countryside we passed through and bang on time we arrived in Zurich and had a quick wander around before finding where we were staying and where thankfully they let us weary travelers check in very early.

The venue for the concert was just a few minutes walk away and we arrived in plenty of time for the meet and greet which was well organised and although the meeting was brief I’ve finally met David Duchovny! Having already met Gillian Anderson previously.

The concert itself was, how shall I put it?, fun, interesting to see but he’s really not a singer and his dancing is far more exuberance than skill but it was infectious and I like the CD. The only negative to the whole evening from my point of view was that we were only allowed to get one thing signed and unless you’d taken something of your own, that was the promo picture they handed out. The CD was given to us on the way out. I’d have preferred to get the CD signed and in other cities he’d signed both so that was a bit disappointing but I like my photo and did I say I’ve met David Duchovny? Maybe I did.

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The next morning we headed to Kunsthaus Zürich, The Museum for Modern Art and had a lovely surprise that it was free entry that day. My friend was looking for something very specific which unfortunately they didn’t have on display but there was much to appreciate including some very large Monet paintings.

But it was soon time to head back. A nice wander through some of the older town and along the river, a quick Starbucks, say goodbye to my friend who was going back to Paris and then catching the train to the airport back to a rainy England and work.

I suppose we only had a small taste of Zurich so it’s hard to get a proper impression but it seems like a very nice place.

Nice place, not enough time to do it justice.

Nice place, not enough time to do it justice.

It’s taken a while for it all to sink in but it’s been such a great, and tiring, time. I’ve seen some amazing sights, been to some very interesting places, enjoyed great company and pushed myself to do lots of first time things. Was it such a crazy idea in the end? Maybe a bit but a very good crazy idea.

Other notable achievements ticked off included having a Starbucks and McDonalds in each country. Not sure if that’s something to celebrate but it was interesting to see the differences in each.

And there is still more to come in a few months. Can’t wait.

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