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 …….