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Posts Tagged ‘new york’

Just back from my latest trip to New York, it was short and sweet but as ever, it did not disappoint! Here are some highlights:

  • Sleeping

    This time I took a break from my usual hotel on Park and 28th and moved to the 373 hotel on 5th avenue. I had heard that the rooms could be a little small, but I can honestly say this is my new favourite – why? Well the location is incredible. Every day or night when I’m navigating the streets home I just have to point myself at the majestic Empire State building and POW! I’m home 🙂 I got a very cute room on the top floor (9th floor), and it was the perfect size for me – yes, perhaps cosy, but how much room do you need? And I get a killer view. The had welcome packs of biscuits, coffees, teas and a stack of cute bathroom stuff. Reception chaps were SO friendly, I would highly recommended this place.

  • Eating

    Every time I got to NY I am bowled over by the availability of every type of food you can ever imagine. I can’t quite get used to it. This time higlights included a ridiculously amazing salad from Chop’t, mouth-watering perogi, borscht and banana cream pie from Veselka in the East Village. Oh and I also picked up packets of Almond, Raspberry and Prezel M&Ms from Walgreens to bring home with me 🙂

  • Relaxing

    Of course I was there primarily for work, so to kick back one evening a friend took me along to “Yoga to the People” in the east Village. Wow, this was an amazing experience. Stretching, releasing, sweating, all within a few cms of our neighbours in neat yoga-matt rows, and all to music with the frequent noisy exhale of “ahhhhhhh” or “haaaaaa” or “eeeooooowww” or “prrrrrrr”. These people know how to let go. In a city as “on” as New York, now I understand how people let it goooooo… LOVED it.

  • Playing

    Since it’s nearly Halloween, I was excited to be invited to a proper American Halloween party! A friend and I got ready at hers – me in my ipod dress with nurse accessories and a black devil tail (it was what I grabbed when packing), her in her home made cat outfit, then we headed over to a loft space in Brooklyn which had been converted with black partitions, coffin, cobwebs, blood splattered shower curtain and horror films projected onto a giant screen on loop. We drank spooky punch and chatted to Watermelons and Super Boy and Clowns and two boys called Colin, danced into the early hours, escaped to the roof to stand around smoking cigarettes and planned trips across the world with strangers. Just as things started to get fuzzy I clambered into a cab and pointed at the Empire State building – take me home (by 4am)

  • Werid and wonderful

    Being halloween I was lucky to experience the wonderful sight that is the annual Halloween Puppy Parade in Tompkins Park. This is the collision of two of my favourite things – dogs and fancy dress – and it was the most blissful hour of my weekend, walking round cooing and laughing and playing with adorable dogs of all shapes and sizes, dressed up in all imaginable fancy dresses – I saw fire dogs, taco-pups, yoda, iron man, turtles, cats, birds, insects, the pope-dog, ET, super-pooch, corgi and fried… the list is endless. I had to get dragged away.

Aside from the highlights, it was only 3 days but this time I packed a lot in and some of the best moments were spend alone in the city just wandering, exploring, having a cup of tea in a deli watching the characters of the city go about their daily lives. It’s my seventh time here and each and every time I love it even more!

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Just had an insanely busy work trip to New York. An emotional, challenging, inspiring and full week of strategy meetings and presentations as we look forward to a year ahead in increasingly difficult market conditions. We created visions, brainstormed, creative problem-solved, … all sorts.
One of the key things that came out of the sessions was a constant need, in the face of change (which these days is so normal within organisational structures and working practises), to be able to work smarter and make informed decisions more quickly and easily. It’s an area that I’m learning about all the time with various training programmes, books to read on leadership and change. An area that I need to master as potentially more complex issues land on my plate than ever.
And so it came to the end of my work week in NY and my ‘day off’ in the Big Apple. I went over to the chocolate box area of Williamsburg to have brunch and a good old chin wag with a great friend and colleague of mine (who is also facing the same challenges over the year ahead).
We poured out our learnings and observations of our past week over bottomless coffee in mismatching crockery and eggs an toast, and intermingled “work stuff” with our usual chatter of hopes and fears, reflections on past losses, and dreams for the future. She had undergone some major life changes down to personal circumstances in the past year and one of the things we had talked of previously, she had acted on.
She had got a brand new (and first) tattoo.
We’ve both discussed this previously, coming from an initial place of getting memorial tattoos for lost loved ones and then moving into something deeper for us both, and she has gone right ahead and got one. And it looks beautiful.
It was a bold move, it’s big, it was painful, and my friend had a few concerns that she needed to work through ahead of getting it. Including the question “but what will it look I’ve when I’m an old lady?”
Luckily she asked the right person, her mum, who responded with the exceptionally wise words “you’ll look like an old lady… with a tattoo”.
And herein lies the most important and simplest life lesson that we took from last week. Don’t over complicate the issue with crippling analysis and worry, what if? What if? What will I look like if? What will happen if? What will they think if? It will be as it will be, simple. What will I look like at 90 with a tattoo. I’ll look like a 90 year old and I’ll have a tattoo. That’s it. Nothing more. Deal with it and get on with it.
It was kind of profound.
We then went to the water for me to catch the ferry back to Manhattan and I took a photo of my beautiful friend and her amazing tattoo that holds important memories, meaning and values, and will still be there in 60 years. And that’s it.
And I’m going to look at this photo throughout my year and remember to make clear headed decisions when I need to, and to avoid analysis paralysis to just get on with it.
And I’m one step closer to getting my own tattoo…
Girl with rosé tattoo

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I was browsing the net, looking for something “alternative” to do in New York on my free Sunday, thinking I should really start to use my time to get under the skin of some more interesting things in the city, away from the obvious tourist trail. I stumbled across an event called The Accomplice, and the idea of “interactive theatre”. It didn’t give much away on the website, but something about it captured my imagination. So I signed up.

Seaport New York

Sundown at Seaport

The day before the event, I received a call on my phone. I had just walked out of my hotel and was heading south on Lexington. The strong New York accent on the end of the line told me I had to meet him at the corner of Houston and Pearl, near Seaport, by the playground. I was to write it down and then burn the message. There I would await further instructions.

Accomplice clues

First clue

What followed, I am not technically allowed to say, in fact I should really destroy this blog post, however, I think I may be allowed to divulge that it was approximately 3-4 hours of hillarious, strange, intriguing and fun exploration of the finanical district and china town meeting some crazy characters along the way, piecing together clues and watching the story unravell. It was brilliant!

Frog in a bag

The Frog Drop

I was in a group of around 10 people and we bonded pretty quickly over a beer in a nearby bar (our first clue led us there), we were then walking all over the place unravelling the mystery and following the strange plot. We had to approach complete strangers, identify those who were part of the mystery, pick up a live frog and deliver it to a drop spot. We ended up in a basement bar for the finale, which was fabulous. It was just like The Game, but without the blood.

Highly, HIGHLY recommended.

One of the best parts of an experience like this is chatting to your fellow experiencees afterwards and piecing together just what had happened!

So, reeling from the fabulousness of that experience, and chatting to a colleague in the NY office, I was then told about something else, which was possibly even better! Sleep No More.

I had never heard of this before, but the two days between being recommended and going along, I heard small snippets of information – not enough to give me the full story (as noone wanted to spoil it for me)- but enough to start to become slightly terrified about the experience. The idea is that this is completely immersive theatre. But a bizarre, creepy theatre.

Ticket to the hotel

Room key for the McKittrick

So we went along on Wednesday night and were admitted to the ‘long-time abandoned’ McKittrick Hotel – the setting for the night. You “check in” and are given a card, which then determines when you can be allowed into the rooms. You walk down really dark coridoors into a 1930’s style velvet bar, smoky with a band and absinthe shots and champagne cocktails served. The actors in the bar are setting the scene. Creepy, already. Then you are called to enter the depths of the hotel.

The rest is up to you, and again, I don’t want to give too much away, only to say that the scenes are acted out throughout the hotel and you are truely part of the experience. It’s entirely up to you where you go and what you see, and, as they tell you in the lift on your way up to the rooms, “fortune favours the brave”, you are meant to explore, be nosey, get up close, do your own thing, and enjoy. You wear a mask to identify yourself as audience and allow you to drop your usual inhibitions.

It was utterly amazing. Like nothing I have ever experienced. It was dream-like and although I was apprehensive I found that I let go of all my fears and became inquisitive like a child again. I was happy to be immediately separated from the person I went with and went on a unique 2 hour journey. An adventurer in a 5 storey hotel, each room a mystery, each coridoor leading to another scene. Padded cells, graveyards, bars, surgeries, living rooms, washrooms, offices, ballroom, boudoirs… following actors around the huge spaces as I chose, witnessing murder, orgies, love affairs, fights… and the grand finale, shocking.

At the end I was somehow led, almost as if by an invisible force, back to the smoky bar where I found my friend and we stared at each other wide-eyed and with grins on our faces. What just happened?! That was…. amazing!

We had to leave the McKittrick. We had to get back to the East Side, find a bar, drink some beer, and reflect!

I’m addicted. Interactive, immersive, exploratory theatre. LOVE it. It spun me around, shocked me, touched me, scared me. Invigorating for the senses and baffles the mind. Go, just go. You’ll either love it, or hate it, but you won’t forget it!

So, back in the UK and I’m hungry for more. I’ve been told I have to go to Fuerzabruta next, so have just bought tickets as it’s back in the UK for 6 weeks only this December/January – perfect timing!

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I was up bright and early yesterday, 6am on a Saturday (very early for me). I had a bus and a plane to catch. 24 hours later I was dancing to some hot soul tunes at an underground cafe in Greenwich Village, holding a bright green drink and thinking that I really should get home to bed. The city that never sleeps had beaten me.

I’m back in New York, having moved my trip back a week due to Hurricane Sandy, for work, and getting my slither of ‘down time’ on my arrival weekend. On landing in JFK there were random piles of snow, which gave away the unusual weather fronts that have been battering this shore, and the air was strangely warm. Or at least I thought so, I was in my tshirt whilst the locals were all wrapped up in puffa jackets and woolly hats!

Of course the sensible thing to do would be to have a short power nap at my hotel before heading out, but I could feel tha adrenalin rush of just being in the city. Just knowing that I’m in a hotel when New York is waiting for me outside is too much to bear, so I changed tack and decided to try and beat the jet lag by just staying up as long as I can.

Darth Vader TinI love walking the streets of Manhattan. I play the Green Man game, following him as he blinks at every corner. Weaving my way through the grid. How long will he guide me along Madison until he flings me off down a cross-street? So I walked. I headed to the New York Cake & Baking Distributor on West 22nd to purchase some food colouring ready for my Rainbow Cake. This place is insane. It has every kind of cake shape tin, cookie cutter, food colouring, cake embellishment and baking gadget you can possibly imagine. I was distracted by the aisles of amazing stuff. I think I got off lightly with only buying one more thing than I intended – a space rocket cookie cutter WOW.

Empire State Building and Broadway marketsMy next shooping mission was my ritual knicker shop, working my way back up to chaos central – 34th street and Broadway and over to Victoria’s Secret. This place is a knicker-and-glitter disney land. It’s so pink and so glittery and so sickly. But I just love their pants. So an hour or so later (and a queue longer than the one at immigration…) I emerged with certainly more than I intended. Enough knickers to stay 2 weeks!

After a quick change (wonderwoman style) back at the hotel I decided to walk the 24 blocks (!) down to the Village where I was meeting an old bellydance friend and her fiance for dinner. They took me to a “Vegetarian Soul Food” restaurant called Red Bamboo, and we ordered huge plates of fake meat. (Not)Chicken Wings, (not) satay sticks (not)beef thai curry (not)Chicken sandwich. It was really tasty but sent my head into a spin. It looked like meat, it kind of tasted like meat, but it wasn’t. My head was not computing and I felt like I was eating some kind of science experiment. A delicious one, though.

Cafe Wha musicianThen we rolled around the corner to Cafe Wha. THis place rocked. It was an underground jazz/funk/soul joint. We ordered cocktails and watched the warm up act – one of the funniest (and most outrageous) comedienes I have ever heard in my life, just gutted I can’t remember her name… THEN came the music which was incredible – really funky covers from some of the most talented musicians and singers, so funky the place was jumping and we were all up on our feet dancing into the early hours.

So if you want to beat the jet lag, get your ass to Cafe Wha…

This morning I had plans to go to the Natural History Museum. There’s an exhibition called Creatures of Light, about the world of bioluminescence, which I really want to go to. I also fancy the “Night in the Museum” tour where you see all the exhibits from the film. But after an exhausted 24 hours yesterday and the hugely cash-zapping ‘cafe wha cocktail bar tab + knicker free for all’ of yesterday, I thought I’d trap myself in my hotel room and lock my wallet in the safe. New York’s still out there though, tapping on my hotel window. Oh, I can’t resist, it’s time to have one more round of the Green Man game…

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The first time I set foot on US soil was at Newark airport, July 3rd 2001. The airport was a culture shock in itself, with loud American accents all around, a brusque firing of questions at immigration and then sitting in the departure lounge waiting for our connecting flight to Seattle. I remember looking out of the window and in the far, far distance seeing the mighty silhouette of the Twin Towers. My heart jumped with excitement, I was in America, and would spend the next 6 months travelling this diverse and amazing country to finally find my way back to this incredible city.

Just under six months later, I arrived back on a Greyhound bus into the New York bus station. It was a cold, grey day and after 5 ½ months of backpacking I’d been to pretty much every major city on both coasts and a smattering in the middle and I was over big cities.

I’d seen the beautiful countryside of northern California, had my WOW factor arriving in San Fransico and seeing skyscrapers for the first time, loved the laid back of San Diego, experienced the neon madness that is Las Vegas, the sultry, sexy vibes of Miami… as well as countless others, LA, New Orleans, Chicago, Boston, Washington DC, Mephis, Buffalo… New York really didn’t seem to have much left to take my breath away. Oh, and did I say it was cold?

Anyway, it was 2001 and it was December, and a lot had happened since I’d been sitting in that departure lounge 5 months ago, it was now a pretty solemn time to be turning up on the doorstep and demanding to be dazzled by the “Greatest City on Earth”.

I spent around 2 weeks making my temporary home at a backpackers lodge in Chelsea. My time there crossed through both Christmas and New Year and slowly the city began to enchant me, as I explored the surrounding areas and slowly made my way up to Times Square, finding local diners that became regular haunts, visited all the “tourist” spots, and tentatively found myself in the lower parts of Manhattan, not really knowing or understanding where I was, but feeling the vibe and nationalities of the districts unravel as I passed by

Empire StateIt is a bit of a blur, looking back. I have memories – having Christmas dinner in the Galaxy diner (I don’t think it’s there any more), standing in the LOVE statue for a picture, shopping at vintage stores, going to Arlene’s Grocery and hearing an American accent calling someone a “w*nker”. Of course 9-11 was still fresh in the hearts and minds of the city and its people and I went to visit Ground Zero, standing on the deck overlooking the rubble and twisted wires, with all the flags and notices attached to the railings. Such sadness there, it was hard to imagine the towers as they were, the tiny silhouette still etched in my memory, I just got to experience the ghost of what was.

I spent NYE on Times Square, watching the ball drop. I remember thinking the ball was so small, and as the confetti rained down on us seeing all the policeman lined up, crying, as they saw their colleagues names (who died in 9-11) scroll across an electronic ticker.

It would be 10 years before I went back to the Apple.

Taxi to the cityLast year I had two trips, now for work, the first on my own. This was amazing. There’s something about flying to New York that is just “so cool”. Landing, grabbing your case and jumping in that cab straight to Manhattan. As you drive towards the island, seeing that skyline for the first time and gazing in awe just before you dive into the tunnel and then popping out on Manhattan, with high rise buildings all around.

That first trip last year I was by myself and really enjoyed the freedom that I felt in the city. Something interesting at every turn, almost impossible to get lost, and so much to see and do at every time of day or night. It’s such an amazing place to be alone, I feel so free there, able to just let it take me where it needs me to go.

I next returned in September, this time in a gang of work mates, some who were having their first time experiences, and some who had been before. So I got to witness it from another perspective, this time not being so excited about those “firsts” but more just relaxing into it and getting a chance to observe things at a slower pace.

9 months later, I was back, and this time it was like falling in love all over again. We landed into JFK on July 4th, perhaps the best time to get to NYC (although locals may not agree), almost 11 years to the day since I first landed in New York. Rolling out of the airport to our well-trodden taxi queue, the intense heavy heat of July pressed down on our clothes. It felt like Spain. Beautiful sunshine and intoxicating heat.

This time, after we popped out of the tunnel onto Manhattan island, the first thing I noticed was that all the trees were in bloom. I have never been in NY in the summer and it’s so beautiful when it’s green. After checking into our hotel we immediately headed out to stomp the streets, the whole city was on holiday, lounging in the parks, relaxing in street cafes, promenading the avenue, slowing down just a little bit to enjoy the time off and the warm air.

It was magical. I started falling…

Trailer Park barWe walked for miles, window shopping, taking photos, asking policemen about where to watch the fireworks, laughing at their inability to understand our accents, getting iced coffee, which moved to sangria, people watching, loving the city.

We wound up watching the fireworks that night, pressed up against hundreds of New Yorkers, along the Hudson river. We were told not to go, told it would be too crowded and hot and we’d have to wait a long time. It was, all of those things, but it was brilliant, just to be part of it.

So we spent the next couple of days working hard during the day, then, after work, spilling out to spend as many hours again walking the grid, exploring amazing restaurants, crazy bars, dancing to eighties bands, meeting new people, eyeing up racks of beautiful clothes. We discovered Greenwich village and just for a few hours slipped into life there, pretending to be locals enjoying the scene, although our big tourist-giddy grins and English accents would have given us away.

Fluffer NutterSaturday was the day that thermometers soared to over 100 degrees, the morning was filled with peanut butter sandwich experiments and shopping, bags filling our arms, then we caught a train out to Brighton Beach. A huge sandy stretch with a long wooden boardwalk. We took a big sheet and lay down amongst the masses of rainbow umbrellas, listening to the shouts of Russian into mobile phones and people watching from behind our sunglasses – leopard print bikinis and arms full of tattoos. We ran into the water – a relief from the searing heat, the water taking our breath away, floating in a soup of people.

Refreshing but kind of surreal.

Brighton BeachWe lunched at Tatianas, a Russian restaurant with red while and blue bunting, tasting amazing Russian food – green cold borscht, one of the most delicious things I have ever tasted – so refreshing, followed by some kind of bowl of dumplings, could decide whether they were sweet or savoury. Slugged down with giant bottles of Russian beer.

Next, we walked the boardwalk towards the towering Ferris wheel and the madness that is Coney Island.

Coney IslandWhat a place! A fairground with an edge, the energy here is raw and wild. The heat was ridiculous. Feeling salty and sticky, we passed over our 6 bucks for tokens and rode the Wild River ride, hoping to get a dunking. After that we hooked up with new friends and went for a beer at a “Freak Bar”, attached to a Freak Show, I thought it would be a fun cultural experience to take a peek, and the tickets were only $5 a pop.

After sitting in the little dark theatre and watching a midget with no arms, a huge lady dancing with a snake, a guy with lobster hands, a sword swallower and a tiny lady swallow a balloon I started to feel a little uncomfortable with the whole thing, and glancing sideways at the gals, the feeling was replicated, we snuck out to escape back to the city.

Over the most delicious pizza in Little Italy that last day in New York felt apt, it was such a crazy and wonderful day and reflected all the amazing experiences that I’d experienced over my short 4 day trip, it was now time to move on, but I can honestly say I had fallen deeper in love with this city, all it’s quirkiness with delights and challenges on every corner. I’m lucky to have the chance to scratch a little deeper and let it intoxicate me further.

The trouble with taking a bite of a juicy apple is that it leaves you wanting more…

What a ride, what a city. I heart New York.

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OrangutansI’m all over the place in the next month – I have a week in New York with work, it’s going to be a great week, lots of work, and hopefully a lot of play as well. Then I’m back for a few days before heading off to Borneo for a wonderful adventure holiday and to see these chaps>>>>

HURRAH. Life is pretty good, but somewhere in there I have to get, erm “beach-ready” and “mountain fit” for the Borneo bit (we’re attempting to climb Mt Kinabalu, which is no mean feat). So with a hectic work and travelling work schedule, I’ve been trying to fit in my fitness regime. The gym has gone out the window, and I hear there is a fitness centre at the NY hotel, but seriously, is that going to happen?!? So I’ve had another idea. I’m smuggling Jillina in my suitcase. I’m quite into her Hip out Shape Up DVD at the moment -the short 20 minute bursts of dance work outs just about suit my time poor life and attention span!

The statue who shimmies
So she’s coming with me to the Big Apple, we’re going to dance together in the mornings.. or.. OK, maybe the evenings after work, or perhaps more likely when I return back from the pub after a beer. Ahem! Anyway, if I get sick of her I may also smuggle that bloke from the Zumba DVD as well, although I don’t want to freak out my hotel neighbours. We’ll see, at least if I can’t climb Kinabalu, I may be able to do a decent Saiidi hip drop at the top!

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So I’m clearing up my desktop on my laptop as I’m heading to New Orleans on a week long work trip, and I discover some musings I wrote whilst on ANOTHER work trip earlier this year to NYC… I’m popping them here as I have a Meanderings and Musings section, for all things “Adventure” that don’t quite fall into bellydancing…

**Written in a hotel room, round the corner from the Empire State, during a strange, sleep-deprived but caught up in the romance of the City, Carrie-style fantasy**

So it only feels appropriate, since I’m in a hotel room, with my laptop perched precariously on my laptop, that I have some kind of dialogue with myself via that laptop. New York City is… captivating, it’s not so much the hustle and bustle that you hear about, since there seems to be enough room for everyone, it’s the colours, with the whizzing past of the bright yellow taxis, the smells, Nuts4Nuts carts on the corner with that burnt sugar waft, the sounds, as broad New York accents mingle with the rattle on the pavement from the far underground passing subway train.
I’m entranced, I love it, I constantly glance up at the towering skyscrapers and the bright blue sky overhead. Those towers block out the sun for most of my walk and then the sun breaks through an illuminates the sidewalk, blasting strong rays of light onto the back of my retina, temporarily blinding me to the path ahead.

Wall Street

Wandering through the financial district


Each block presents a feast to the eyes, as I pass delis with large multi-coloured cakes bursting at the seams, tacky NYC stores with every kind of New York trinket available to buy, coffee shops, gilded banks, neon Irish bars, all cheek to cheek with each other.
And yes, the smoking manhole covers. You hear about them, you see them, and yet you still want to take a photo of them.
There’s so much to do here that my feet are killing me. 10 hours of walking around yesterday simply wasn’t enough. I still need to get back out there. I have to go to one of the city’s best kept shopping secrets (I would say, but it’s a secret) tonight after work, but it’s OK, it’s open until at least 10…. I want to go to the top of the Empire State Building, but that’s OK, it’s open until 2am. I need to have dinner – I’ve been recommended an amazing place a few blocks away (the feet are mentally counting the steps), and I just need to walk around a bit more (feet scream noooo), take some more snaps on my Blackberry phone, say a few more hellos to random strangers. Breathe in more Nuts4nuts smoke and look up at the towering giants a few more times before bed.

The Boat at Battery Park

The Boat and the Babe

It’s a place that I feel comfortable being alone. There were plans for Happy Hour drinks after work today that got cancelled this afternoon, but I’m happy to do my own thing instead. So many different people here, a lot of unidentifiable dialect and a Canon pointing upwards, it’s easy to feel like I’m one of the locals, and I like that.
The pace is fast, the energy is high when you’re talking to people, the taxis don’t wait for you, they just hurtle past at breakneck speed, but somehow it’s easy to go at your own pace along the streets, and spend that time observing life pass you by. It’s the spectacle that’s so intriguing and I don’t want to rush to get to my destination, when the destination is occurring all around me.

Dogs in the City

I just fell in love with a local..

Dogs. New Yorkers love their dogs. Perhaps that’s why I love it here. Yesterday on my stroll from mid-town to down-town I came across park after park. Mostly devoid of all greenery as Spring is yet to set in here. And nearly all parks without exception had a gated off play area. Normal for a park, yes, and the play areas were busy with people, sitting on benches and chatting with passersby as they watched their DOGS socialise, play, fight and chase each other. It was hilarious and I was captivated. It’s as if the city has decided that human children are not the way forward, it’s all about the furry, four-legged variety.

And these dogs come in all shapes and sizes – from giant, wooly, mountain sheep dogs, to tiny hairless rats of dogs, all with their own coats/jackets/doggy blazers, trotting alongside their owners, off to meet their friends in the park.
Bonkers but brilliant. I belong here.

p.s. There is a tenuous bellydance connection here – I met up with a very good friend who I used to dance with in Oxford – who is a New Yorker, still living it large in NYC – she took me to a delicious Middle Eastern restaurant and taught me how to tip on a credit card!!

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