My bits were lost, but now they are found

I used to have a friend called Percy Verance, but as I get older I wonder if I’m moving to a new Irish friend called O’Sodit!

Or is it just that suppliers don’t care about customers – maybe that’s why the first syllable of customer sounds like cuss!  But today I found Percy again!!!! And I’m a happy chappy.

Bought a wooden two drawer filing cabinet from that well known Brazilian jungle supplier. Good price – and delivered within 3 days. Extremely well packaged to protect in transit. Unpacked, and with considerable effort and the always present assistance of the boss, we managed to slide it up the stairs to our office. (With associated bruises!) Unlocked it and looked for the bits to finish the cabinet – feet and handles. Nowhere to be found. No instructions anywhere. Went back through the copious packaging. No bits. Drawers don’t come free from the cabinet. So no bits!!!!!! O’Sodit!
Followed the “if you’ve got a problem” guidelines on the supplier website – simply said call the manufacturer on this number. Called – eventually got answer machine – left request for replacement parts alongside order and contact details.
A week and a half later – nothing!
I’ve got a free moment while the boss is doing kitchen things. Think I’ll go back to the jungle again to see how to raise a complaint – maybe I should look at the reviews to see if anybody had a similar shortage. There are around 30 reviews – quite mixed – but one of the oldest said – “couldn’t find the parts – BUT EVENTUALLY DICOVERED THEM TAPED TO THE INSIDE BACK OF THE CABINET BEHIND THE DRAWERS”. But I thought I’d checked that. Put the flashlight on my phone – and yes, on peering in on hands and knees, there are bags taped to the back. But impossible to get my hands in to access them. Tried poking with a metal bar – but not long enough. I’m going to have to get the drawer out – but how – looks like there are plastic locking levers on both sides. Tried both levers up, only one side seems to loosen. Tried both sides down – only one side seems to loosen. Tried and tried – but not getting both sides to loosen. Getting close to frustration again. Hang on – shouted Percy, don’t listen to that impatient Irish voice – why not try one lever up, and one lever down. And sure enough the drawer came all the way out!!!! And I pulled my bits out.
Five minutes later, feet and handles on. And Allan is very happy – ‘cos he found his bits, and especially ‘cos he found Percy again.

But sometimes O’Sodit does prove an interesting outcome – in an Italian restaurant we like, on Thursday for a quick lunch – beer, coffee and starters come quite quickly and are just what we wanted. Then time drags on – no mains – and time drags on (car park limit getting closer) – we do listen to Percy – and time drags on – apologies from the waitress (still got just under 25 minutes to get the car out) – and time drags on – apologies from the manageress and promise that we’re next out of the kitchen – and time drags on – around an hour just waiting for the mains – five minutes to move the car. O’Sodit!!!!!. Stand up to head out – Pam gets her purse out to pay for what we had (she’d promised to buy lunch that day). The Manageress comes rushing up, apologising, and says you don’t need to pay. So we left celebrating our Irish friend just a little – although we’d rather have had lunch!

I guess we have to know a little of each of Percy Verance and O’Sodit.

HAPPY EASTER!

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When Autumn leaves begin to fall …….

September 2015 – and in less than a fortnight we embark on our big holiday for the year – and it’s back to Florida for all the (early) Halloween celebrations in the Theme Parks.

Autumn, the season of mellow fruitfulness – and perhaps a time for reflection.

Almost three years since I retired, two and a half years since we moved back to England and into our new life in Milton Keynes.  And as Pam said the other day, when we sat in our home in the Isle of Man, we never imagined the way our life would change after the move over here.  And now we say so often that these are the best times of our lives.

It’s been a manic time – with new house, new location, lots of exploring, lots of hither and thither.  But now we’re perhaps finding a more settled pace of life for us – rich and fulfilled, but less manic.

Having said that – this month of September continues to be hectic and fulfilled – three live concerts (two in London), and a cinema live transmission of Rocky Horror Show charity evening.  On top of that, I’m doing some voluntary IT consulting with a local charity, and, as a Parish Councillor, I’ve got five meetings this month.

I should comment on the London concerts as they are important to us and have become quite a strong feature in our life. Now that we are within easy distance of London, an hour by car or 30 – 40 minutes by train, we’ve taken the opportunity to go see all sorts of concerts ranging from D-Day celebrations in the Royal Albert Hall to the kind of show we saw on Saturday – a small, quite intimate cabaret venue called Crazy Coqs, just off Piccadilly.  When we were on the IoM we never understood the range of this kind of small cabaret that was available.  Yes, we flew over a few times specifically to see our NYC friend Scott performing, but now we seem to be going to more and more of these small show.  Why?  Well for a start, West End shows are expensive, whereas these concerts and smaller events are not.  But far more than that – these are FUN!  And far more personal.  Perhaps you hear more personal tales from the performer.  Perhaps there is more interaction with the small audience.  We get a chance to see the reach and range of the performers – and trust me, it can be very very varied, even from a single performer.  This is a far more intimate environment, often with quite demonstrable emotion.  And we see big show tunes being performed, or long lost songs cut from a show before the opening, or songs from / about the performer’s life.  We hear clever, tricky, fast, complicated songs.  And we meet people and chat!  These are wonderful evenings and we come away with a smile on our face.

And that is perhaps symbolic of the way our life is now heading – instead of the big, expensive event, we are enjoying the short, rich in value event.  Instead of long-haul complicated holidays to favourite places, we are now increasingly focussed on shorter, more local breaks to new places (with less travel!).

The one constant in all of this will continue to be our relationship with our friends (Foolish or otherwise).

So, with not too many regrets, we see our late September departure for good old Orlando may be our last. (Although hopefully Joy will go back in the future).  We are looking forward to the trip and have lots planned for it, including friends, alcohol, new experiences.  (And yes, I say may be, but will never say never again!)

Cases will no doubt come out early next week – cats will become unsettled – we’ll be checking paperwork yet again – and then the day to lock the doors and head for Heathrow will be upon us.  And I’ll keep you updated.

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Connections

Don’t ya just hate WordPress – why do I never learn my lesson – I almost finish a long blog in WordPress – swith Windows to do something else, come back to WordPress …. And it’s locked and I can’t enter / edit / save / do any flipping thing. Why oh why didn’t I write the blog in Word and then simply cut, paste and publish!!!!!

Anyway, Connections – make them, cherish them, and they can enrich your life.

Several weeks ago, we planned a Saturday trip to London this coming weekend – rail fare is ridiculously cheap, and we wanted to go back to Camden Market and to Gilgamesh – a wonderful and quite unique Pan Asian restaurant in the Market that is definitely a family favourite. Camden and the Market is a very bohemian area – multi cultural and full of individual quirky shops on the main street, and a wide variety of retro, vintage, Goth, etc stalls in the Market. The Market is physically in the old Stables alongside Regent Canal – these were the stables for the horses that pulled the canal barges. It’s a great place to explore and find things that you never knew you needed up till now! And Gilgamesh is a massive place, wonderful design, with a kitchen that is somnetimes used by Masterchef to put their amateur chefs into as part of their “working in a professional kitchen under pressure” experience. It’s a trip we always enjoy! We’re looking forward to it.

But suddenly, yesterday, because of Connections, our trip becomes enriched, more enjoyable, and, what’s more, full of the craic.

How? Why?

I’ve mentioned before, our great dear friends, Moira, John and Caoimhe Walsh. We first met them through “connections” with our cruising / Disney buddies, the Ship of Fools. The Ship of Fools came together collectively on a 2005 Disney Cruise from California to Florida through the Panama Canal, and although the group has shrunk since it first came together, it has stayed in touch virtually and physically for nearly 10 years. M, J & C travelled with some of the Fools on a Disney Cruise some time later and immediately became part of the Fools. We have shared many happy times together, in London, at home, in Ireland, in Canada, and in the US, and feel that they are simply our extended family.

In 2007, we spent a few days in Dublin with Moira, when we went to see Josh Groban. We had a fun trip, and made a new “connection” at dinner in a Temple Bar pub when we met Moira’s sister Mairead and her daughter Ciara. A fun evening was had by all – our introduction to Boxty!   We’ve kept loosely in touch since then – Joy with Ciara on Facebook, and us following Mairead’s interesting and entertaining (and enlightening) blog of travels (sometimes intersecting with other Fools) and life insights, but we’ve not met since then.

Suddenly yesterday, Joy receives a text from Mairead – she and her husband Dennis will be in London this weekend as Dennis is on a course. Moira, sitting in Canada, had suggested to Mairead that since we often go to London, why doesn’t Mairead contact us and see if we can meet up. Various texts and e-mails later, yes – sorted. Mairead is going to join us in Camden for lunch in Gilgamesh on Saturday.  We’re delighted with this.

Connections – make them, keep them, cherish them – they can enrich your life.

Update and photos on Saturday!

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A (almost) Halloween adventure

Our Autumn 2014 jaunt to the US is over, and we’re fully back to normal now (including visits to Swimming Pool / Gym). Even ordered a new double oven as the door on our main oven doesn’t close properly.

So, how was the holiday:

  • It’s a heck of a long trip to get there – even though we hotelled at Gatwick the night before, and the nine and a bit hour flight to Orlando was relatively painless with reasonable food (hint: take some decent headphones, as the ones supplied in herd class are pretty poor and we gave up watching movies ‘cos we couldn’t hear the dialogue – whereas we bought $69 Sony noise cancelling headphones for the flight back and they gave great sound) – but we were exhausted by the time we got to Disney – we had planned to go off-site to do a brief shop before settling in, but ended up doing a small expensive shop for breakfast goodies at the Resort shop.
  • We stayed in a studio at Disney’s Old Key West Resort – this used to be our home DVC resort when we owned DVC points – we hadn’t been back for 4 years – but it was as if we’d never been away – the studio has 2 queen beds (very comfy), a small kitchen facility (fridge, microwave, toaster, coffee perc), a spacious bathroom with step-in bath / shower, and a pleasant balcony with two chairs and a small table. OKW is the original DVC resort and by far the most spacious – the studio is a very large room. We requested accommodation in the Turtle Pond area – quite a distance from the main check-in / shop / restaurant / takeaway / boardwalk / pool / boat to Downtown Disney – but with it’s own pool and counter service snacks / drinks. The Turtle Pond pool is a great size – we were normally down early morning and it was deserted – great for leisurely lap swimming and laying out in the sun. But because it’s a distance from the Hospitality House area, we didn’t use the facilities there – we’d intended to take the boat to Downtown Disney but didn’t – instead we took the regular Disney bus service to Downtown, as well as to all the park locations. We loved our Old Key West home just as much as always – apart from the hike up stairs to the 2nd floor ( 3rd floor in US terms).
  • It’s worth saying that we had read numerous comments about Disney budget cut backs and therefore service getting poorer. We saw absolutely no signs of that. In fact, OKW was extremely well maintained – even with folk out power spraying the pool buildings, or leaf blowing, or gardening as early as 7am. The transport infrastructure (we’re told Disney has the second largest bus system in North America (after NYC)) is phenomenal. The seasonal decorations in the parks are phenomenal and highly imaginative (for instance pumpkin carvings which reflect where they are located – such as the fire hydrant carving by the fire house,, or the Ichabod carving in Sleepy Hollow – even bronze statues of characters replaced by seasonal versions). And the enormous amount of construction work going on – whether it’s at Downtown Disney, or the Magic Kingdom hub – with rides such as Maelstrom and Backlot Tour closing down permanently for immediate development on new attractions.
  • To car or not to car? When you stay on property with such a great Disney transport system, it’s a real question as to whether you want to rent a car. But we did, as always – used it far less than we used to (only had to fill it with half a tank of petrol / gas before taking it back). Hint: if you’re on a take it back full of fuel deal, make sure you fill to the top and as near to the airport as poss – I ended up getting charged just over $9 a litre for 2 litres as I’d filled up at Disney and probably not to the max. But we think having a car is essential – even though we used the Disney buses to and from all attractions, we did want to go shopping a few times, to go offsite for meals several times, and to visit our favourite town Celebration.  And I do enjoy driving around in Orlando – we know the roads so well that we “get” the necessary lane disciplines.
  • Firsts?
    • We’ve never been during the Halloween season, admittedly early in the season – which actually meant things were generally very quiet compared to normal. The parks are spectacular at Halloween – the rich, Autumn colours are everywhere, and as mentioned above, the imagination involved is spectacular. Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party – great fun, spectacular night-time parade including the Headless Horseman, wonderful fireworks (Hallowishes), amazing amounts of trick-or-treat candy handed out (and all decent branded stuff), and an unbelievable number of MNSSHP visitors in glorious costumes (although there were some examples of people who were simply not suited to dress up as their favourite Disney character).
    • EPCOT’s Food and Wine Festival – amazing to see just how much effort Disney puts in as you walk round the World Showcase passing architecturally appropriate cabin after cabin representing so many different countries and offering great hot food and different beers / wines / liqueurs. All reasonably priced and all very tasty – we tried loads of different foods and drinks – loved the German beer with a hint of grapefruit.
    • Disney’s Festival of Fantasy Parade at the Magic Kingdom – one of the best parades we’ve ever see in Disney, especially the marvellous metal mechanical dragon flaming fire out above the crowds. But it was a stonking hot afternoon, and we were in the FastPass area on the inside of the roundabout at the hub – blazing sun, burning hot pavements and no shade.
    • Magic Bands / FastPass+ – worked very well for us after the minor issue on the first night when my newly set-up Magic Band didn’t appear to be enabled to charge our dinner bill to it, so I had to head back to Reception and get it rebooted. We did and probably still do have a thing about prebooking restaurants and rides so far in advance, (losing some spontaneity) but it did get us onto rides like the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train almost straightaway, whereas the standby queue was over an hour – I should say that having done SDMT once, we don’t need to do it again – very little special Disney personalisation of a simple train style coaster ride. Hint: don’t know whether it’s likely to be a permanent thing, but the week after we were there, Disney has stopped standby access to Toy Story Midway Mania and to Be Our Guest lunch – only allowing FastPass+ access – it will be interesting to see how they move forward with this approach.
    • Dinner at Be Our Guest – we’d done lunch there, which was fun but more of a pre-order at the check-in, fast food type of experience. Whereas Dinner is a full-on restaurant table service experience, where you’re led to your table holding an illuminated Lumiere candlestick – great food.
    • Longhorn Steakhouse – never been there before but enjoyed the food so much (in a restaurant on the 192) that we went back another time to one on I-Drive – and it was just as good. Owned by the folk who own Olive Garden, it’s a very standard product in each location – but very very tasty, very welcoming and very reasonably priced.
    • Outlet Mall on South Apopka Vineland – we usually go to Premium Outlets at Lake Buena Vista, but get very frustrated trying to find a parking space it’s so busy. But this location has all the outlet stores we like with full product ranges (apart from the Disney Outlet, Character Warehouse – which was tiny with very little product) and copious empty car parking space.
    • Lenny’s Clam Bar and Restaurant in Howards Beach, Long Island, where we dined with Steve and Melissa on our last night before flying home on the short daytime flight from JFK. This was a real family Italian restaurant with lots of celebrity connections.
  • Memories?
    • The Manservant in the Haunted Mansion who was hovering behind Pam’s shoulder, gently rubbing his hands together – and scaring the proverbial out of Pam when she realised he was there.
    • The Dapper Dans – heading out of the Liberty Square area towards the hub, but who stopped to give me a short barbershop chorus, before continuing.
    • The family from Philadelphia who we kept meeting at the bus-stop, on the bus, and who we found out were staying in the same 38xx block as us. Lovely family with two incredibly polite, quiet boys.
    • The waitress, Becky, in Be our Guest who asked where we came from in the UK – I said a place with the same initials as Magic Kingdom. She said Milton Keynes – which she knows through having a cheerleading friend in Milton Keynes. We’ve ended up Facebook friending Becky, and look to dine at her table again next year.
    • The food and drinks at the EPCOT F&W festival – delicious.
    • The parades – spectacular.
    • The Celebrate the Magic son-et-lumiere on the front of the Magic Kingdom castle. A great favourite. The crowd going OOOOOH! when Idina Menzel starts singing Let it Go – and the crowd singing along.
    • Great meals, especially our last Disney night sitting at the high bar in Flying Fish – that is a truly splendid dining experience. And then we got a bus to Extra Magic Hours in the Magic Kingdom, arriving right in the middle of Wishes fireworks. And finishing our great Disney trip with another Celebrate the Magic, and then the glorious Electric Light Parade.
    • Spending time with friends – several days with Jamie and Jenny in Magic Kingdom and Epcot, and then a brief dinner with Steve and Melissa on Long Island.
    • The wonderfully peaceful swimming and sunbathing at Turtle Pond.
    • Walking into the Magic Kingdom on our first morning – seeing the Halloween colours as we came off the bus – watching the rope drop opening ceremony with the Town Mayor and all the characters coming in on the steam train to the station verandah.
    • Just how much effort Disney puts in to keeping it fresh and new – and the amount of construction going on. It will be great to see what changes are in place by the same time next year when we go again.
    • JetBlue – flew with their Extra Space option up to JFK – as always a great comfortable flight, no hassle with luggage (Hint:  you can check-in bags at Disney resorts as long as you do it more than 3 hours before your flight – BUT!!!!  watch that they actually check you in properly – I ended up with 2 boarding passes for Pam and 1 for Joy, but I wasn’t checked in!).  JetBlue do great snacks and drinks (didn’t charge me for my beer), and have large screen live TV entertainment – really god.  Oh yes, and free wifi for Joy.
  • Value for money? Yes, we rented points this year for OKW – when we sold our DVC points, we were convinced we’d not be back, ass the cash option for booking OKW looked so expensive. But, we found renting points was a very affordable route to staying there. (And indeed we are booked for the same time next year, but paying cash direct to Disney for a great discount price that includes Dining Plan (and we’ve worked out that’s real additional value) and a cash credit for spending on-site – a magnificent deal).
  • Lessons? Don’t wait till you’re there to buy trainers to wear in the parks – it can work, but when it doesn’t, it can be very uncomfortable – take familiar comfy shoes!!!!!

Summary – a truly great steaming hot family holiday – but tiring!

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There and back (with 5 different beds in 9 days)

Why oh why don’t I learn lessons – I’m supposed to be an IT professional – and I’ve done this many times, yet I keep forgetting that (I don’t know why) I may be halfway through a wordpress blog when I lose it all, so I’ve taken to typing up in Word and then cut and pasting. And I did it again – well into the second day of the trip and it vanished up its own origin.

 So, Word is my saviour!

 I usually do several updates to the travel blog as I go through a trip, but this was so busy, especially the lifting and shifting, that I didn’t get round to it, so this is beginning to end!

 

Day 1 – Sunday – although we were due to fly late Monday morning, we decided to drive down Sunday afternoon (avoiding the potential chaos of M1 / M25 on a Monday morning) and stay overnight at the Marriott near Heathrow (we got it on Marriott reward points). A bit of pottering around on Sunday morning – rubbish to the tip etc, and left around 1pm so that we could listen to Elaine Paige as we drove down. Easy journey – just over an hour – roads not busy – overcast but dry. Easily found the hotel. Spacious car parking and we were able to park near reception. Pleasant check in – especially being offered sweets / snacks from the big sweet tin (things like swizzles, mini Twix, etc). Nice room. Pam and I went for a brief swim – small but adequate pool – a couple of families and a couple of solo swimmers – very relaxing. Still only around 3:45 – main restaurant closed although bar does food, but not till 6 – so we decided to pop over to Windsor – easy 10 minute drive staying off the motorway through Datchett which is very pretty. Still got sandbags outside some of the properties quite a distance from the Thames – reminders of the massive February floodings. Cold and a bit damp as we got to Windsor – pleasant Bella Italia meal about halfway up the hill beside the castle – only problem was that the door didn’t close properly and let quite a chill in. So either me or a chap at the next table kept popping up to “put the wood in th’hole”. Drizzling when we came out so back to the car passing the dais for the march-past when the Irish President visits on Tuesday. Pam and I had a nice large glass of wine in the busy hotel bar, reading magazine / book. Then TV and sleep.

 

Day 2 – Monday – hadn’t slept vey well as room was quite warm. Up early and off to T5 long stay car park – again no need to go on Motorway. Bit of a circular journey as we went round a large roundabout area trying to find the car park ‘cos that’s where satnav said it was. Realised it was just beyond the roundabout – only hassle was that ANPR failed to recognise me – so quick conversation with guy at end of the help button to confirm that we were prebooked. Very very busy car park, but found space and then were quickly on shuttle bus. Quickly through bagdrop and security. Then Wagamama – no waiting – table overlooking the tarmac. Decided to wait till 9 before ordering as Pam and Joy wanted main menu items – Yaki Soba for them, and Pastrami Hash and Eggs for me (a bit spicy) – but very pleasant and set us up well for our travelling day – and no pressure to eat and leave. A bit of shopping – reading stuff, snacks / sweets / drinks, and then some chocolates for Moira – then down to the shuttle to the C satellite. Flight left on time – always longer going out than coming back – just over 7 hours. All dozed quite a lot. Full flight but not many kids. JFK immigration and baggage claim wasn’t bad – and soon in our Dial 7 limo to the Grand Hyatt – not a bad run into town. Hotel checkin was easy and we’re in a 32nd floor Club room – better than the last room there – bathroom is much bigger. Unpacked a few things and then went out for some air and something to eat – beginning to drizzle a bit – went into O’Donohue’s Irish Pub – 4:30 so just beginning to get busy. Great comfort food for tired travellers – really enjoyed it. By the time we left it was buzzing and crowded – and raining outside. So back to the hotel –  Club Lounge for cheese and biscuits, while Joy went straight up – TV and then bed. A good day.

 

Day 3 – Tuesday – woke at a decent time – weather looking fair – breakfast in the club lounge – always good. Strolled down Park Lane South towards Union Square – quite a long walk – had a pleasant Starbuck’s break en route. When we got to Union Square, we grabbed a cab to Bleeker Street in the Village for our Village Food and Culture walking tour. Very pleasant by now. Gradually met up with the rest of the party. And then our guide, Curt Upton, came along with water and brochures for everyone – our second Foods of New York walking tour – and again, very very enjoyable – great guide – funny and informative – really good stops – again an eye opener as to the area and makes us want to stay there sometime. Enjoyed chatting with the rest of the party. Even got a BIGCHEESE t-shirt from Murray’s Cheese shop. Thirsty at the end so went for macarons and coffee in Sugar and Plumm. Cabbed back to the hotel and chilled out for na while before heading out to the Richard Rogers to see Idina and Anthony in the new musical by the Next to Normal writers, If/Then – a tremendous show about choices – Idina was in tremendous voice – we were in 2nd row and really loved it. A really moving show. Got autographs and photographs afterwards (of course). Hungry – so found another Irish bar – very satisfying – apart from Joy’s coke being spilt on her. Midnight – bed!

 

Day 4 – Wednesday – Club breakfast again – then Bath & Beyond for Joy – Blooming Nails for acrylics for P&J while I did Starby’s nearby. Then cab to Macy’s for wedding present for Heather and AJ – lovely Swarovski crystal heart – then in-store Starby’s for all three as we were peckish. Cab back up town – matinee show of Rodger’s and Hammerstein’s Cinderella with Carly-Rae Jepsen and Fran Dreschler – could have been a Brit panto – transformation scenes were very good – show was good but not one we’d rave about. Joy stayed on for photo at stage door with Carly-Rae. Dined at Palm (as always) – a great New York restaurant – very tasty – and very expensive – but loved it. I took shopping bags back to hotel while P&J sat on the bleachers in Times Square. Met them at the Imperial Theatre for the new production of Les Miserables with Ramin Karimloo, Will Swenson, Caissie Levy, and Andy Mientus – spectacular – really enjoyed it again. Loads of autographs / photographs afterwards – even autographs from the children -Gavroche, Cosette and Eponine. Glad we went to see it again. Pam walked back to the hotel while J&I stage doored – then we cabbed back. Tired – bed!

 

Day 5 – Thursday – last club breakfast – checked out, getting one minor item removed from bill – no hassle. Hotel Doorman grabbed us a cab big enough for our three cases and us. To Penn Station. Cab Driver dropped us off convenient for the Long Island Railroad entrance. Tickets from the ticket office (senior rate for me). Waited till train platform announced – went for elevator down to platform – and turned out it was the lady train conductor in the elevator with us – she chatted with us on the train as well – very nice lady. 55 minute journey – we do like travelling by train in America. Dead on time into Wantaugh and Steve was waiting on the platform for us – no elevator so had to carry bags down long flight of stairs. Steve immediately into tour guide mode – so showed us the original Wantaugh Station with a carriage there beside it, then off to Jones Beach for a boardwalk stroll – definitely not Joy’s thing. Spectacular beach – very fine smooth sand – two big bathing stations at either end – we walked along to one – it was being refurbished – but looked spectacular – quite art deco – Pam and Steve were permitted to walk up the stairs to see the pool area. Back to the car and a drive round to a waterside / marina area with several restaurants – nice lunch – during which Steve asked if my trousers were straight or tapered ‘cos they would need to be rolled up when we went for our Chinese Foot Massage (which we knew nothing about). Took us to Serenity – he got a great welcome from the boss on reception and she managed to fit all four of us in – inside to a very dark, soft music area – couldn’t even see the chairs – but eventually sat down, shoes and socks off, on stools – and the torture started – very nice at first – feet into a bowl of warm gel stuff – then the massage started all over – we were fully clothed – neck, shoulder, back and head massage sitting on the stool, then moved over to recliner chair – blindfold masks and pleasant music in headphones while everything else was massaged – felt like she was using a file at times – even massage on inner thighs (oo er missus). Then suddenly she’s putting socks and shoes back on me and we’re being escorted out to reception where the masseurs stand with you to get their tip. All paid for by Steve. Quite an experience. Back to Steve’s house, very nice open plan lounge / kitchen area – nice estate. Steve had got flowers for our bedroom for us. Lots of chat and nibbles and then Steve started preparing dinner waiting for Melissa to come home. Nice steak dinner but big portions and we couldn’t finish – neither could Melissa. Lot of chat, then early bed. It has to be said that Steve is definitely an energetic driver!!!!!

 

Day 6 – Friday – not a great day for Steve and his Crohn’s disease. Took us out to Planting Fields – an arboretum and historic house – the Coe Estate – very interesting – clear demonstration of how Americans invented their history – a house built in European style with everything including pictures of family and individual men and women all purchased in Europe! Great scenery all around – some lovely houses. Steve took us over to Northport and we lunched in Tim’s Shipwreck Diner – great lunch. Back to Wantaugh and I collected our car at Hertz – a Toyota Highlander. Back to the house – a rest then change clothes for Pam and I to go out with Steve and Melissa. Joy stayed home and watched TV / used wifi, while we went to Museum Row to the Charles Lindbergh Aviation Museum on what was Mitchell Field, for an evening called Flights of Wine – a wine and food evening around this great museum of Long Island’s contribution to aviation. Very little local wine – but copious amounts of both food and wine, and a little jazz as well. Very nice evening. The highlight was probably one of the Museum Guides taking personal interest in us and telling us, and showing us various exhibits, about the Lunar Landing module, including seeing the LEM that would have gone up as Apollo 19 had Apollo not been cancelled by that time. He was very interesting. Back home, with Melissa in particular saying the evening reminded her of why she used to like getting drunk! Deep sleep in the massive bed.

 

Day 7 – Saturday – bagel breakfast and a bit of messaging – from Denise suggesting hotel was not great and to and from Grumbo – he came as far as New Jersey last night – agreed that he will come to Steve’s, and we agree to stay. Took around 90 minutes for G to arrive. Lots of chat and gift swapping. We left them with Steve and headed over to the Wedding Party hotel, the Ramada Plaza – rooms not ready so we sat in lobby lounge area and chatted with Pete and Denise, Sofiya (one of the bridesmaids who we have met before), and AJ’s family. Very pleasant. Eventually got room around 3 – ground floor and not too bad – very much what you’d expect for a mid price hotel. Wandered along to the restaurant for a snack – just reopened under new ownership a week ago – a Sonoma Grill – food was great, and local beers were good! Rested for a while till we met up with G&D. They’d gone from Steve’s to meet up with Sandra and Mark at a local Mall – Doris and Sandra had gone shopping and Grumbo and Mark had gone to a bar. Grumbo drove us out to a local Olive Garden – about 45 minutes wait, and I managed a Blue Moon beer. Food was OK – starters and main courses – then headed back to Hotel as Steve had said he might come out there when he got back from seeing the Prairie Home Companion Radio Show being broadcast from NYC – we chatted till just before 10 but Steve was a no show.

 

Day 8 – Sunday – THE WEDDING DAY!   FB’d an early congrats to Heather and AJ while we were still in bed. Almost immediate feedback – come and join us for breakfast. Quick dress and along to the restaurant – but this was a $10 buffet provided by the hotel and it was awful. Chatted to folk again for a while and then left (without paying – ooh, we are awful!). Drove over to Port Jefferson – quite pretty – saw the big HOV (High Occupancy Vessel – car ferry!) heading off. Starby’s for a while – sitting in the window watching the world go by (and its dogs) – nice lazy way to spend a Sunday morning. Strolled around browsing in shop windows and walking along the seafront. Breezy – and with sand in the air. Drove back over to the hotel and had a light lunch in the restaurant – very nice. Then back to the room to get on our finery and do our faces (not me!). Joy and Pam stunning in their dresses, me in blazer and slacks. Chatted with AJ and his family again in the lobby before they headed for their limo – we got on the bus for the wedding but had a while to wait before we finally left – only 6 of us on the coach. Beautiful place when we got to the wedding venue. Champagne in the vestibule before we were taken through to the garden for the wedding (Grumbo and I managed a couple of glasses). A walk through the back gardens and into a tree enclosed garden with a small flower bedecked archway behind the wedding area. We were all given tine bottles of bubbles to blow. Roped off, petal strewn central aisle, white chairs on either side. Lovely processional for the arrival of the wedding party – bridesmaids (all in same dress but different colours, and Heather’s sister Amy with rainbow hair) entered to the theme from Jurassic Park. Heather looking spectacular. Lovely ceremony – administered by a judge (who looked like Robert Prosky) and who admitted he should have worn his glasses as he got AJ’s name wrong a couple of times – calling him Al. Included a mixing of individual sands as part of the ceremony. Individual personally written vows – AJ got quite emotional during his, despite the fact he told us he had no stress levels at all about the day. Particularly special ‘cos the weather was lovely and this was the venue’s first outdoor wedding of the year. Back indoors for cocktail hour while photos were taken. (Photographer was a spitting image for Billy Joel – and he knew it). Cocktails to start then free open bar (all night long) and copious buffet of all sorts of nice things – staff kept coming round offering more nibbles like mini beef wellingtons. An amazing amount of food. Then through to the main dinner area (more food??????). Heather and AJ had a table for two. Our table was close to them – us, G&D, Pete and Denise, Amy and fiancée Brom, and Gina and Jack, neighbours of P&D from their new house. Again a wedding party processional. Great host and DJ combo. Champagne toasts and speeches (from best man (AJ’s brother) and chief bridesmaid Amy, as well as from Heather and AJ. No father of the bride speech. Great food – salad, then choice of four main courses, coffee and wedding cake (very tasty). Great music – some Broadway stuff, some Disney stuff, some pop stuff. Pam and I danced early on – one of the first two couples on the floor. A couple of gay guys who were friends of Heather – brilliant dancers.  The wedding party mingled throughout the evening. A really wonderful evening! The wedding party were all going back on the shuttle bus, and Grumbo offered to take us back in the car which we gratefully accepted – all tiring. Back to the hotel and bed. Today was the main reason for the trip and was really enjoyable – a memory!

 

Day 9 – Monday – wandered down early to say our goodbyes / au revoirs in the restaurant – didn’t even try breakfast! Checked out then headed off early to get gas and then to go to the Airport Diner by Macarthur Islip Airport – breakfasting with Sandy and Mark, Steve and Melissa, G&D, and us. A very pleasant hour or so chatting. Nice diner. I picked up the tab. Realised I couldn’t find my phone. Went out to the car, opened suitcase and checked inside pocket of my blazer – no go! Perhaps left at Hotel – so after we broke up, we took the 15 minute drive back to the hotel – before going in, I opened the case again, and the phone had slipped out of the wallet pocket in my blazer and was staring me in the face – so all was well. Took the opportunity for a quick pee, and then asked Reception for suggestions as to where to go for a couple of hours – she suggested Patchogue – 10 minutes due South. So off we went – easily found it – strange little town – shops closed on Monday – a bit like a 1960’s time warp – although there was some investment going on in new offices / retail spaces. Strolled around – asked a couple of ladies where the sea front was (“Oh, I do love your accent”). Had a leisurely coffee and cookie break in a very nice coffee shop. Then wandered in the car down to the sea front – nothing to do there other than lay up in the car parks by the piers – so we did that for an hour or so. Beautiful view of the off-Island islands in the distance. Started to head back to Wantaugh but food a large supermarket so had a pee break then onto Wantaugh to hand back the car to Hertz – Steve met us and drove us directly over to the Fairfield Inn (a Marriott that I was paying for with Rewards). This was in Jamaica on Rockaway Boulevard – pleasant hotel but not a nice area to walk out into. Staff were very pleasant, room was very pleasant, and at 5 we wandered down to the restaurant – looked a bit utilitarian – staff canteen like – but actually service was great and food was very very tasty. Enjoyed it. Watched TV, then early to sleep as we had early rise coming up again.

 

Day 10 – Tuesday – 5:30 shuttle to the airport – very quickly there – not full – we were last to be dropped off and as there was building work at BA Departures, we were dropped off at BA Arrivals, but shuttle driver grabbed our cases and ran inside to show us the lift to Departures – very kind of him. We could have got the previous flight (an hour earlier) as they were still checking in – so will remember that for next time. A bit of snack shopping, and loo visits – then boarding and off a few minutes early. Again a fairly full flight. Very bumpy for a while as we flew up Canada. Hot breakfast which we all picked at. We were all tired so dozed on and off throughout the flight, and didn’t watch much on the video. I listened to a bit of “I’m Sorry, I’ll Read That Again” recorded in Milton Keynes, and the whole of the Nashville Vol 2 album (from the TV series) but couldn’t be bothered watching a film. Flight arrived on time – quickly through Immigration and bags were already arriving on the carousel. As we went outside a T5 long stay car park shuttle was just arriving, so we managed to grab that – found the car easily and were very quickly home via a milk stop at Asda.

 

 

Not as long a trip as usual – but very busy and very enjoyable. NYC was great as always. Steve tried to kill us with kindness (and with Chinese foot massage). The wedding was wonderful! What more could we ask.

 

Now to start serious planning for the next trip …….

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It sure has been a while, old friend

Yes, indeed – the last travel blog here was the start of another adventure, but it never got completed in the blogosphere – and neither did subsequent trips and adventures.  And in the middle, we’ve moved house and come back to England.  As I write, the packing for the next trip is going on, but I’m keeping at an appropriate distance as our rooms are generally smaller, and there really is only room for two in the spare bedroom with the cases and a floor full of clothes and gifts.

But I do find this to be a great way of recording memories – so today can be called the start of this holiday – just dropped the cats off at our lovely cattery (with its new koi carp pond).  It’s Saturday and in a while we’re off up town for pedicures, collect last prescription (glaucoma capsules for me), and a meal.  Cases will be packed – is it two or three cases – we’re only away for 9 days, but there are some lovely (and voluminous) wedding clothes and shoes, as well as more than a few gifts – looks like we’ll need the three cases.

‘Cos, yes, this trip is primarily about Heather and AJ’s wedding on Long Island, a week tomorrow.  We’re really looking forward to that, but as always, we’ve used the primary purpose as a reason to do other things as well – so a bit of theatre in Manhattan, a train ride, a short stay with friends, some exploring Long Island, and lots of unpacking.  Original plans were to drive down to Heathrow on Monday morning for our late morning flight to JFK, but you never know what the M1 / M25 will bring – so I decided to book us into a Marriott relatively near to Heathrow on Sunday night – probably means an extra 45 minutes in bed as well.  And we might have a swim there on Sunday afternoon.  And the good thing is that I’m paying for this on Marriott Reward points.  Great deal!

So – gradually things come together as always.  I look forward to spending the odd quiet moments keeping this up to date.  Who will we see – where will we go – what (great) food will we eat?  Let the next adventure begin!

 

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and we’re almost off again ….

Monday afternoon – the start of the fifth week since my retiral – interesting sky as I look out the window from the home office – bunches of low grey cloud but also lots of pink tinges from the setting sun.  Weather watching is important to us this week as we have a very early start on Friday for a 6:45am flight to Gatwick and then a late morning onward flight direct to Orlando.  Why is it important?  Because we’ve had previous experience of December weather which led to chaos as flights were cancelled all over the place – we eneded up flying out to Orlando a day late, and getting our luggage four days late.  But despite floods and snow and ice over the last few days in much of the UK, we should be OK at the end of the week.

It’s a relatively quick trip – 8 days – staying in Celebration near Disney again.  But it’s a crowded 8 days – meeting friends as always – Jennie and Jamie coming across from Clearwater, Moira and Caiomhe flying down for a couple of days from Canada, and Steve coming down for a couple of days from Long Island.

Since our cruise through the Panama Canal in 2005 when we became part of The Ship of Fools, I don’t think we’ve a holiday where we’ve not met up with friends – and that has really enriched our lives.

Some planning done, of course – a couple of things booked, of course – and cases more or less packed, 4 days in advance.

So – all is ready for our December Celebration of my retirement – really looking forward to it.

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