Okay, it seems I'm going to tell the tale backwards, so we'll dismiss the last few days where nothing has worked, work has been oppressive, the weather cold, the tech still all stuffed and me labouring under two colds and the flu. Contrast this to the lass who leapt off the plane, did two enormous Hills Hoist filling loads of washing (all out of the silly blue suitcase which is still smaller than what most Americans consider carry-on, nobody can roll clothes like me now, packed so firmly I got two cups and a snow globe home), caught up on tv (no Grimm or Supernatural, grrrr) then the next day dashed off at the crack of to get my hair done, job interview, a hasty lunch of sushi, a dash to Target at Broadway where I shucked the posh and pinching togs for comfy jeans, brilliant new boots (sadly wrecked since I had to water the garden last night in them, the front door was stuck, the sun was setting fast and I'd been warned something horrible had been spilled in my wellies in the laundry so watering in my office duds it was, what a joke) and the warmest, fluffiest socks it has ever been my joy to own. Oh, those socks. It was a wrench to get them off that night.
But anyway, The Avengers. Yay. Sadly, or perhaps it's for the best, you're being spared my immediate post show squee. It wasn't all that, but it was more than I might have hoped, and personally, I could have enjoyed more snark and less alien invasion but I'm so not the demographic they make these films for so my needs and wants are neither here nor there, and must they completely trash the area around my bustop, or at least, the bustop I kept using to transfer from uptown to downtown (good old 101) in my travels. So many times, and not enough, I toddled past Grand Central Station and stood in awe under the Chrysler Building. So it was a bit of a wince to see them smashed up in ways I never usually care in the slightest (wipe Sydney from the map? Go ahead, make my day).
But basically, we ticked all the Whedon tropes, beloved though they are, as the bitchy band of misfits finally come together to avenge the ordinary man (the most important, always, in Joss' work, and I love his sentimentality) and close the hellmouth, I mean wormhole. Loki was as campy as anything, but I was right, Mr Hiddleston would have made a far better Iago. Here, at last, we have the proof. I liked the reverent irreverance, achieved only by someone who truly loves his subject (see also Sherlock and Doctor Who), and that was kind of sweet, too. You can just feel how much fun Joss was having, it's hard to begrudge him anything (except, maybe, more snark, less splosions, but, you know, I'm a girl, and what do I know?). I loved Scarlett as the Widow. Best Buffy ever. Oh come on, you were thinking it too. Could she have been any Buffy-er? Like, really? And Hawkeye? Twixt sitting through MI twice on planes, I may be kindling a little thing for Mr Renner.
So yes, that was fun. Alas, the holiday screeched to a dead stop there.
Although, truth be told, the wheels started wobbling on my last day in Seattle, where, apparently, it was exceptionally rainy, not just ordinary rain, though it still doesn't excuse the complete lack umbrellas for sale in that fine city - by the time I found one I was soaked to the skin. Nor does it excuse the cinemas all being shut in the middle of the day (when that's the only time they play non teen films out here). I should apologise to the Starbucks there for the fine Saxon words being dropped when my tablet seized up, but nope, I'd had it by then.
I did end up at the AC/DC exhibition, if only because the Burke museum, the destination of choice, was far too far for someone as cold, wet, tired and confused as I was (but not as confused as the Seattle bus drivers who had no idea where they were going, when queried). Oh no, I did brave braces of rug rats to see the otters, in the pouring rain, and I didn't think my otter thing could ever be dampened, but the rain that day managed. It was like aw, drip, shiver, sneeze, enough.
So, yeah, AC/DC. I was kinda 'home now, please' at that point anyway and so it was warming to see a couple of old Countdown clips to start off with. I'm so ancient I remember the first time Jailbreak was screened on Countdown. Another clip included a cut to Sherbet, and I resisted the urge to scream out 'Daryl, you spunk!' as was required, lest I startle the few Seattlites who'd also sought refuge in the museum. All that Countdown, and me without my tinsel. Heh. The old posters amused, as did the old photos. Never a huge fan, but they have been part of the backdrop of life, and it was fun to see emphemera of times long since gone, posters for venues long demolished, bands long since gone. Sigh.
Well, that cheered me up. So it was one last rain soaked glimpse of the old girl, my beloved Space Needle, then onto the monorail (Monorail!), my preferred mode of transport while in Seattle, and straight into the Lush shop for more bathbombs and an hour in a steaming bath before my last night in the bar, good food, great company and, gods, yes, a hot toddy.
Oh, how I miss my friends, and that bar, and that hotel. A grand time was had, indeed. This was the hotel that offered me an upgrade, and I thought they said ensuite, and, being far too used to three star English establishments where en suite means a sink in the corner, I said yeah, gimme plumbing, which would have been a sterling investment anyway, but, no, they meant suite. A suite! I've never had a suite before. Whoo. And it was posh, well, posh enough for me. The best bath tub ever, a bed so soft I fell out of it (cause it gave way in its squishiness), down quilts and pillows, a fluffy robe, two enormous tvs, one in the bedroom, the other in the lougne room that had a couch, a desk so formal looking one felt one ought to be signing important documents of state (like the rendition orders for really annoying celebrities - snerk) and a table upon which many a breakfast was had - yes, I did room service as well!!!
Oh, and they had a kettle and posh teas and a proper fridge. At least in LA they had the fridge, even if it barefly functioned, and the best coffee in the US of A so I never really bothered with tea aside from a couple of cups of green tea, because the dratted fridge curdled my milk, and in New York, well, I went to the desk to ask for ice to keep my milk cold and they asked if I wanted a fridge. Well, if one is on offer, yes. So duly some guys in blue everals delivered a fridge. The problem with the Marcel though was the complete and shameful lack of power outlets so it was fridge instead of telly, my travel kettle instead of the bed light, and tea or interwebs, not both. Oh, and finding tea in New York. In Seattle they have tea shops, shops that sell tea, proper tea. In New York, three delis later I found some right on the top shelf in the health food section (but of course) and they had to get doddery old great uncle, much like the waiter in One Man, Two Guvnors, to shakily mount the folding stairs and knock a box down which kitchen tongs. And I had to ask great uncle to do this twice as the wicked maids at the Marcel shorted me on my tea bags, leaving me a token two one morning out of a packet of 25, tsk. I locked them up after that.
Nothing, of course, could beat that much needed and well timed cup of Earl Grey tea and the Inoteca, a cup of tea I praised so highly they brought me another, on the house. My abiding love to the boys at Inoteca. I'm not normally one for Earl Grey but I crave oddly flavoured teas when tired and hormonal and I'd just had a rough phone call, the night I had to miss Hugh Dancy, so I was drowning my sorrows in Earl Grey tea, watching New York walk, and jog, by, on my last night. Seriously, who goes out jogging at 11pm? Proof again that New York is as safe as kittens compared to my usual abode. I was like that cartoon of Gomez Addams, sitting up and waiting for the sound of sirens to lull me to sleep.
And New York? Sweet as pie. I mean, it's raining sideways (on park day, if you're wondering why I never got to the parks as planned) and the best they can charge me for the most wonderful red umbrella (I mis my New York umbrella) is $5.00. I mean, really? In Sydney you'd be lucky to get a cheap Chinese brolly for $20 on a sunny day. They guys in the shop even cut the tags off for me. New Yorkers were so sweet.
I had to leave all my umbrellas in the cities I bought them in. I like to think of it as karma. Oh, I know they'll not be there for the next person in their hour of need, but wouldn't it be nice if they were?
Okay, food. Inoteca on Third Avenue cannot be praised highly enough, not just for the food and service, but their warmth, kindness and charity. Old birds like me don't even get over the door in places like that here, let alone be made to feel part of the family.
You see, I landed in New York at 10:30pm that Sunday, a very long Sunday as I had the day twice over, and my google calendar wasn't having me arriving before I left, no sir (even though I did). So I asked where, in the city that never sleeps, could I get a feed (I had a packet of peanuts from the plane in my pocket as plan B, too used to landing in England in similiar circumstances). WEll, they said, the place next door closes in 45 minutes but you might...
So I whipped next door to the Inoteca, and they not only let me in, but fed me properly, with a pork belly ragu they had still going, and it was brilliant. Better yet, they only serve Italian wines, and I said I was unfamiliar, my local bottle-o limiting itself to southern hemisphere vintages (vintages, ha!) and so they lined up a wine tasting for me! Fruity dessert wines on the house. Oh yes, they even brought me out dessert, even though I was the only one there by then, and we chatted away, mainly about SF which I sadly didn't get to this time around. So there was chocolate gelato, and more wine, after that brilliant ragu, which I wolfed down, but I'd not eaten since I was over the Pacific so I was a touch peckish. In a later conversation with a New Yorker at LAX, getting wasted is a good cure for jet lag as it turns it into something you can deal with, and he must be right because I hit the ground running.
Inoteca on my last night, too, and other nights (when not suffering the effects of the dreaded breakfast sandwich but hey, I lost weight) and the fabulous bread pudding in that anglaise sauce, yum. Only the Sorrento's bread pudding with whiskey sauce came close.
Other foodie highlights include the red hot and spicy chowder at Ed's Chowder House when I went to see War Horse (again, yes) at the Lincoln Center. The staff were nice and the service swift. Unlike here where there is nowhere to eat near the theatres and if there is, and they're open, the service is sullen and glacial, here they set me up at the bar and I was done, chowder, dessert and drinks, in half an hour. The chowder was brilliant (I can't get it here) and the bread pudding very nice (yes, I tried it across country, it became a running joke with myself, and it seemed to be the dessert du jour) and a very nice beer, but not as nice as at the that French beer, Fischers, I think it was, that I had down in the Village that blistering hot day.
The other food highlight in New York was the curry I had, being lodged near the curry quarter in New York and desperate for one (it was the wet, cold day) and I found a place that was empty but for locals and it was brilliant. Despite the lurid colours (the curry came out so red I ordered a lassi to temper the food dye, but it came out red, too), but I need not have feared, no night spent itching and it was the best tasting curry I've had in ages, many subtle flavours to tease and delight. I said so and they gave me free rice pudding. Free pudding. A big hello to the Curry Leaf, you know the way to my heart.
Also fun was the Indian intellectual in the corner, sailing forth and loudly on his chosen topic of Indian cuisine, pointing out, quite rightly, what was Indian food like before the discovery of the Americas, with their tomatoes, potatoes, tamarinds, chillis, etc? Well, yes. Answers on a postcard, please. So, there you go, proper American cuisine at the Curry Leaf.
I was also treated to my favourite curry place in Seattle (the name escapes me, alas), but I dream of that butter chicken, nice chunky pieces, mmmm. It's all fantastic. Except the rose lassi. That tasted like a perfume smoothie. Oh well, stick with mango, that's what I should have done.
Amtrak, well, yes, but the huge french toast with the extreme raspberry sauce I find myself missing more than I ever thought I would, and the burger was good, I have to give them that. Oh yes, what was with the Shake Shack? They must have changed their oil or something because I could not manage their burgers any more, which was a tragedy for me (the whole idea was sunset at the shack in the park, then toddling back to hotel. Nup).
American portions, well, it was a good thing I was doing a lot of walking.
Chicago? The Palmer House brownies, which I was given at the end of the tour I went on (you must go on the historical tour of the hotel, eccentric, but fun). Oh my yes. They were wrapped up like my Aunt wraps up sandwiches when I'm catching the train back to Inverness, and they were a delight. Problematic, in the carriage (more on that later), but I did finally enjoy them from Colorado to Arizona. Yum.
LA? Slipping over the death march to find an open cafe, the greasy spoon we finally caught wasn't so greasy (at least, the burger sat and stayed), the not-Starbucks seemed to have all the special staff on the one shift, oh dear, but the hotel lounge was groovy, with a deliberate Bond villain lair theme (why, who knows?) and the oriental chicken salad was huge.
One night, after what turned out to be an ill considered chicken salad at the Grove (but the waiter was nice) I ended up just ordering a fruit salad and a tall glass of grapefruit juice at the IHop across the road (Chicken and waffles? Why??).
Yes, fruit. This time the waiter was so kind he bought me a second glass on the house. Always with the free stuff, America. So sweet. He was so kind, he could see I was tired. I tipped him well.
The other night I did dine at the O-Hotel, they of the divine coffee and proper litte danishes, exactly as we have at home, for brekkie. They get a lot of Aussies through the door so they were used to my foreign ways. They even had Bundaberg ginger beer at the bar. Blessed relief, and delight after a hot day in LA, because I was dying for one, and then there it was. Hoorah! The corn chowder was quite good too. They couldn't believe that's all I wanted but it was. No, wait, I think I did bread pudding again, with the coffee of the gods, and My Fair Lady playing silently on the screen at the bar.
Which brings me back at last to the slap up knees up at the Sorrento. Rather too pasted after a flight that was the only non chair kicking brat flight I took in the States, but now suffering with Chicago and LA colds, I arranged to meet the girls in the bar at the hotel, because it seemed cool (and warm) and it was. I had a lamb lasagne, bread pudding again - smirk, good wine, good company. It was so great. Even better, blithely charging it to my room, that night out still cost a lot less than a pizza slice and a coffee for two down at the Quay. A grand night out.
It's funny how there's so much Italian food over in America. It's considered so 70s and suburban here, unless you're having it reinvented in some celebrity chef den, and even then, keyword: reinvented. Ah well, comfort food from childhood, perfect.
It was funny in Seattle that friends offered Thai or Vietnamese, the go to staples here, and, in retrospect, a nice red chicken curry would have been just the ticket, but no, to a Cajun restaurant near Pioneer Square I hastened. I've never had Cajun food, and I was there to experiment. The gumbo was okay, albeit with frozen prawns and a touch too much white pepper. The aligator was off, luv, and probably a good thing too, because the Jambalaya sat like a stone. For a week. Oh dear.
Disappointing chowder in Seattle, too (straight out of a tin, I swear, or at least, it resembled fish bits in my mother's heavy white sauce, which again, hello childhood, but anything that reminds me of my mother's cooking is not of the good, generally speaking), which was sad 'cause I'd been waiting for that chowder (brilliant every other time) the whole trip. Never mind, the Sorrento more than made up for it with its treats.
Oh yeah, that cafe in Soho, with the homemade granola (and overly eagle-eyed crew memembers, somehow reading my slashy scrawls over my shoulder) - that was a treat, too. I think Soho beats the Sorrento in homemade granola, though the Sorrento's did come in a giant parfait glass, in my suite, with the fluffy robe, so, you know.
I know, how did I lose weight exactly? Eating anything with egg or cheese in it (and even the salads are eggy and cheesey) and enough walking to rub my feet raw and bloody. It doesn't look it, and I've no photos to record the occassion (do not get me started) but I am not ashamed in the number of walks I completed in my three (3) New York walk books (architecture, history, trendy). I cris-crossed that effin' island back and forth, from top to bottom, and at least now I hope I have some idea of the geography. If not the artsy Bauhaus photos to show for it, as hoped.
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