Friday, 14 December 2007

Blowing this coconut stand

So, today was my last day in the office for 2007. I’m taking the last week off before the office closes for Christmas to fly to London and visit friends before heading ‘oop north’ to spend a week with my family in Yorkshire before heading back to NYC in time for the New Year blow out, although I am not sure I will make any plans. I’m quite bah humbug when it comes to New Years Eve. It’s one of those evenings where high expectations of a good night out pretty much guarantee a mediocre evening, plus the over-priced nature of the festivities always makes me feel a little resentful, especially as it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact my best New Years Eve was probably one of my cheapest. I’ve yet to beat the year I spent in St Ives with 7 gal pals back in…hmmm, I’m not quite sure….I think it was 1998. I probably killed a few brain cells that night which is why my memory of it is spotty.

St Ives is a small, pretty seaside town on the north coast of Cornwall and on New Years Eve it seems that the entire population gets dressed up in costume and hits the town. Everyone, young and old, joins in the fun, you meet so many people. You also don’t have to pay fees to get into the bars and the prices seemed to be pretty much the same as usual. I highly recommend it if you ever get the chance to go. We had a grand old time.

I’ll be flying off to London tomorrow, several hours ahead of the severe winter storm that’s heading to the north east of the US this weekend. Leaving a week early means missing the office Christmas shindig, but to be honest it’s a bit of a lame effort compared to the fun parties I’d got used to in London, since it’s usually combined with the annual general meeting!! Can you believe that? We work our arses off all year and how are we rewarded, -certainly not with bonuses I’ll tell you that for, literally, nothing - with a pigging meeting. Hmph!!

Christmas parties in London were an entirely different state of affairs; they were typically themed costumed parties with vodka ice statues and all that jazz. I remember one year the theme was underwater and was held out at some place in the depths of Fulham. It had a courtyard where they’d put a giant inflatable octopus – unfortunately you couldn’t go outside and jump on it – with the interior decorated like the sea bed. A few of us from the department went the simple route with our costumes and dressed as deep sea divers – all in black with snorkels and flippers. It didn’t take us long to start drinking vodka down our snorkels. As the party degenerated into a drunken haze I spent a good hour fending off the attentions of an amorous client – not a client of mine, I might add – who was dressed as a yellow submarine - a concoction he’d made from cardboard boxes – who chased me around the party trying to snog me under the mistletoe. Fortunately for me his costume was so big it prevented him getting within 3feet of me. As you can imagine we were always a bit worse for wear in the office the next morning, and the last one in had to buy bacon sarnies for the team.

Anyway, who knows what I will come back to at the office in 2008 since rumours abound of significant redundancies come the first week of January, which is not great at all, but we’ll see. I’m not going to let it mar my trip, although I am going to try and be careful with money. No rampant spending sprees in Top Shop for me this year. Fortunately I don’t have to shell out on a hotel since Miles has kindly offered to let me stay at his lovely Kensington pied á terre while I’m in London. Fabbo!!

I’ve only stayed at a hotel in London once before; it was a few years ago with my friend Kimberly. I was staying with her that year and on the Saturday I arrived (on the red eye) we had a 9.30pm dinner reservation with a pile of friends at
Locanda Locatelli, a restaurant which at the time one of the ‘in’ places to dine according to my in the know friends, but which I remember being extremely unimpressed with, especially the service, we were halfway through our mains – this was around 10pm - when the wait staff started putting the chairs on tables around us.

Tsk!! Talk about making us feel unwelcome.

Anyway, since Kim lives on the fringes of London, beyond the reach of the tube, she typically ends up hot footing it off to Marylebone to catch her last train come 10.30pm, but neither of us wanted to cut the evening with our friends short, so we decided we’d stay at a hotel for one night.

After rummaging around the internet for hotel availability I found out that, the usually pricey, One Aldwych, a lovely hotel perfectly located close to Covent Garden and very convenient for the ice skating at
Somerset House, had an internet special. I emailed Kimberly who gave it the thumbs up, so I wrote to them from my work email to reserve us a room.

Now, I make a point of mentioning that I made the reservation using my work email address because, by default, my work email adds my job title to the end of any message I send, a job title that by UK standards is rather fancy, but which is actually fairly run of the mill in the U.S., where everyone and their dog seems to be a Vice President of some such. However my job title does include the word ‘Partner’, a pretty meaningless sobriquet where I work, whose only benefits are: a guaranteed 4weeks vacation (pitiful really compared to Europe, but a definite improvement on the 2weeks that I started on); a yearly medical and a business card guaranteed to impress the hell out of any compatriots who are of an age to have grown up with the likes of L.A. Law or Ally McBeal, American shows where all anyone seemed to care about was being made Partner. These shows made a lasting impression on the British public that being a ‘Partner’ is something pretty special, not in all cases, although I think I’m right in thinking that being a partner in a law firm still actually means something. It’s just not the case in marketing.

We got to the hotel around 5pm on Saturday afternoon, and as I signed the registration card I noticed they’d pre printed it with my business information, information they’d clearly taken from the footer of my email. The staff were also very deferential, except we couldn’t help noticing a lot of nudging and giggling going on among the all male staff behind the reception desk – seriously there were like 6 of them – and a lot of pointed glances in our direction. We appeared to be the source of their amusement and, in fact the seemed to be almost wetting themselves in excitement at prospect of two women sharing a hotel room*.

Clearly they thought they had a couple of power lesbians from New York on their hands. My only regret was that I wasn’t dressed the part in a nice black pant suit and heels, but looked like an utter scruff in the jeans I’d travelled in.

If I hadn’t been so utterly jet lagged I would have grabbed Kimberly and given her a big snog to give those giggly boys something to really talk about. Men eh!! They’re such simpletons at times!!

Anyway, I’m all packed up and ready to go first thing, you should see my suitcase, it’s teensy. It’s hard to believe I used to lug suitcases full of stuff over, however after one back pain too many I gave great thought to the clothes I would pack, double checked to ensure I am not inadvertently carrying any weapons – nope, not unless an eyelash curler counts - radio active materials, poisons or infectious substances. I’ve checked in online, topped up my Oyster card for travelling about London. I’m done and dusted. All that’s left to do is get the taxi to the airport.

However there were a couple of things I didn’t get to do before I left this year: I didn’t get to go ice skating with Tel Aviv in Bryant Park, due to the aforementioned preferring to keep his bones intact. Spoilsport!! And I also didn’t get to take some photos of New York getting it’s Christmas on, which is something I keep intending to do every year, as I think NY does Christmas bigger and better than most places I’ve been to, however I never seem to find the time, so instead I did my usual and snaffled a few from flickr which I’ve shared with you below (thanks to the photography skills of keithmaguire, thegirlio, lickyoats and redxdress).

I’ll be offline for a few days while I’m in London, but wherever you are I hope you are having a lovely time, festive or otherwise. Fish xx

*Did I mention the hotel only had double beds? It was no matter to Kim and I, we’re two straight women who’ve shared a bed on many an occasion without any such temptation for a bit of slap and tickle.

I can usually take or leave Adam Sandler comedies....

...but this trailer, which Tel Aviv sent me this morning, had me laughing out loud. Largely due to the similarities between TA and Adam's character, especially the accent. Adam nailed the accent :-) I hope the movie turns out to be as much fun.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Two tunes in one week

I don't usually post multiple songs in a week, but I LOVE LOVE LOVE this, as much as I enjoy the Adele song. Soooo just settle back and relax ladeez and gentlemen and enjoy a little (dramatic pause) Lupe Fiasco and Superstar, in the shops in January.

That last bit was my DJ impression. Radio1 are going to be pure knocking down my door ;-)

Chile Trip: Part 5 - Glaciers & Stuff!!

So a posting that’s somewhat out of place now that I’ve been back almost a month, but I’m going to finish this Chile write up if it kills me, if only to have a personal record of my trip, for when my memory completely fails me. Anyway, here goes.

Friday 16th November was our last day in Puerto Natales, so it was up early, yet again!! Early rising was definitely a theme of our trip, we were either on flights that left first thing, or on tours that departed at the crack o’ dawn. I think I get more sleep on a typical work day than I did on this holiday, but the beautiful scenery, company, Chilean wines and not having to go to meetings or analyse data all day certainly made up for it, so I can’t complain.

So as I said, it was up with the larks on Friday to check out of the hotel, store our luggage, before strolling down to the docks to catch an 8am boat for our tour of Bernardo O’Higgins National Park, Chile’s largest national park and inaccessible except by boat….or helicopter, but we were fresh out of those, so boat it was.

I had my concerns about the boat given my memories of the jalopy we’d taken out to Isla Tobago during our trip to Panama, which had ripped up seating, water all over the floor, and life jackets strewn about the cabin, but the cutter, the 21 de Mayo - assumedly named for the Battle of Iquique which took place on May 21, 1879 during the War of the Pacific between Chile and Peru. (Guess who knows how to look things up in Wikipedia) – was a nicely maintained wee water craft which, in addition to the sights – cormorant colonies, glaciers, seals and condors - promised complimentary tea and coffee and an intriguing sounding crumb sandwich. You can probably tell that I’m very easily intrigued, especially when it comes to food. I was looking forward to some kind of Chilean take on a crumb cake, however I was most disappointed when the aforementioned crumb sandwich turned out to be a corn muffin – where’s the crumb component in that eh - and not even a good one at that, it was hard as a rock!!

Thankfully we’d already had breakfast back at the hotel, so we didn’t require the crumb sandwich for sustenance, and I have to say that it was really the only negative aspect of the tour, well…that and the fact that the pushy elderly French people were there from the hotel, the ones Melissa loved so much. Ahem. As you can imagine she was just THRILLED to bits to see them pile onto the boat after all their shoving she’d endured at the hotel.

Anyway the tour is best told in pictures. After a few hours sailing along the Ultima Esperanza Fjord enjoying the stunning scenery - such as the cormorants which are the black dots you can see in the photo on the top left, the boat didn’t get very close to the cormorants so as not to upset them, and waterfalls, such as the one on the bottom left - and avoiding the French people who were clustered at the front of the boat, we arrived at the Balmaceda Glacier, a hanging glacier 2,035 m (6,674 ft) high, which has been receding for the last 15years or so, shame on us with our global warming shenanigans.

Can you tell how blue it is? The photo doesn't capture the colour especially well. It was freezing cold by the glacier, I’ll tell you that much. I was colder here than I was walking around in that extremely windy bay on the shores of Lago Grey in Torres Del Paine. I had my scarf pretty much wrapped around my head so that just my eyes peeped out. I had to hurriedly take my gloves off to snap a photo as I could only withstand flesh being exposed for a few seconds, but I suppose that goes with the territory with glaciers eh, being ice and all.

Or so I thought….

After admiring the Balmaceda glacier for 15minutes or so, we sailed around the corner and docked for a 5minute walk through 'a leafy forest of coigües and cinnamon trees' to the Serrano glacier. I dressed up in all my layers, only to find it was extremely warm and sunny and I had to strip down to my t-shirt and carry everything. Weird, because it was literally around the corner from the Balmaceda glacier. I suppose it was sheltered, being in a cove and all as opposed to open water. Anyway here are some pics...

That's me on the top left in my black and blue - I'm dressed as a bruise - Michelin Man stylie ensemble for the walk to the glacier. I'd stuffed my wallet and camera in my inside pocket which makes me look like I have lopsided pregnancy going on in that pic. It was quite a tricky walk and I was very glad I had on proper footwear, unlike many of the French people who had obviously gone with style over substance and were wearing puma like trainers or slip on loafers. Slip on loafers!!! I ask you, it's a wonder some of them didn't slip and fall on the rocks and plunge into the icy water. I think Melissa was hoping after one rude woman pushed past her as she was trying to climb the stairs to the top deck of the boat earlier.

Main pic is obviously the Serrano Glacier. Small bits kept falling off this one as we admired it, it wasn't half noisy. Bottom left pic is the glass of Pisco - Chile's national drink; Peru also lay claim to Pisco as their national drink - with a 1,000 year old ice cube made from Serrano glacier ice. The guys on the boat nabbed one of those floaty bits you can see above and used it for our drinks. So, now you'll know that if this particular glacier recedes it's because they nabbed one too many bits of it for ice cubes.

After the Serrano glacier we headed back to Puerto Natales, with a stop at an estancia for a late lunch, finally arriving back in town an hour later than scheduled at 6pm. 'Let's blow this coconut stand' said Melissa as we made a mad dash off the boat, and raced, like Linford Christie, back to the hotel - looking a lot like those mischievous penguins that we saw at Seno Otway - to grab our luggage and hot foot it to the bus station for the 6.30pm bus back to Punta Arenas - otherwise we'd have been on a 9.30pm bus and we wouldn't have got back to Punta Arenas until close to midnight. Fortunately we made by the skin of our teeth.

Four hours later we were relaxing in the bar of the Jose Nogueira hotel with a Pisco sour and a salmon ceviche in front of each of us. Delicious. Probably the tastiest food we'd had in Chile, since if we have one niggle it was that the food, although very fresh, was a bit on the bland side. Not so much as a bit of lemon on your fish. If you ever decide to go to Chile Melissa and I recommend taking a bottle of Tabasco in your suitcase.

Saturday morning we were up at 5.30am for an 8.25am flight back to Santiago, dressed in Santiago appropriate clothing, e.g. one layer and a jacket. Unfortunately when we got to the airport it was to discover that the plane had a technical failure and was awaiting a part from Santiago. We wouldn't be flying until 3pm at the earliest and were herded onto waiting coaches for the trip back to Cabos de Hornos hotel in Punta Arenas for a complimentary breakfast. The hotel guests who were enjoying their first meal of the day looked rather startled when we stormed the dining room.

Afterwards we left the hotel to wander around and I have to say it wasn't much fun wearing Santiago appropriate clothing in Patagonia, but our delayed flight was to the gain of the stall holders in the town square as we stocked up on lapis lazuli gifts for friends and family back home and then afterwards warmed up by touring the Sara Braun and Magellan museums before heading back to the hotel lobby to wait for our complimentary lunch - it was pretty decent food considering, a 3 course meal of tomato soup, pasta bolognese and fruit salad. To quote Melissa "this tomato soup is pretty good. I think this is one Chilean chef who found the spice rack." After lunch we were bundled back onto the buses back to the airport and happily this time we did get to leave for Santiago for one more night there before a 10.30pm flight back to New York.

We spent our last day in Santiago basically just killing time until we were ready to head to the airport. There wasn't much left to do, since we'd pretty much covered all the sights of the city in our first few days, but we did visit a lovely sculpture park that we liked a lot and took a few photos (below). All in all it was the trip of a lifetime and Chile is a country I'd definitely recommend visiting. Melissa and I certainly plan to return.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Adele - Chasing Pavements

Unfortunately there's no video available on Youtube, but this song is too good not to post. I cannot wait for her CD!!

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Escaping the pre-Christmas chaos

This weekend I decided to stay far far far away from the Christmas shopping madness after last week's Abercrombie and Fitch nightmare and joined a Saturday afternoon tour of the 'Best Exhibits' showing at the Chelsea galleries.

I love these tours. I try to do them every few months or so, but I don't manage to do them nearly as often as I would like. There are a few groups that do them, but mostly I like to do the ones run by
NY Gallery Tours led by Rafael Risemberg. Rafael runs a Best Exhibits tour every month and for $20 - or $15 with an online coupon - he culls down the overwhelming number of exhibits showing at the 200+ galleries in Chelsea to his eight favourite picks. Usually I love 3 or 4 of his picks, hate 2 of them and feel ambivalent about another 2, but it's always 2hours well spent and since he's been running these tours for a few years he has good relationships with the galleries, so you get to find out the fun stuff like how much a piece costs. One time we even met one of the artists, C.K. Wilde, who creates amazing collages using currency, and got to ask him a few questions about his work. I like that a lot because the interpretation of the work is so subjective that you can only really know by speaking to the artist, but sometimes the galleries will tell you. You can see pieces here from the exhibition C.K. Wilde had at the Pavel Zoubok gallery, back in 2006, with another artist, Mark Wagner, who also creates collages using currency, although his preferred media is dollar bills. Unfortunately the photos don't give a true sense of how detailed and clever the work is, so if you have a chance to see his work, don't pass it up.

Anyway, this month my favourite exhibit by a long shot was Do Ho Suh's show Cause & Effect which is showing at the Lehmann Maupin gallery, 540 West 26th St.

In the back room of the gallery is the piece shown in the photo below, which I nabbed from the gallery's website. It's a tornado made of 100s, well more like 1000s, of interlocking plastic figures. The effect of the piece is amazing!! If you get a chance to see it, I highly recommend it.

Rafael reckoned it would sell for upwards of $400,000.

Fancy it for your living room? :-)

Here are other photos I nabbed from Flickr, taken by Sokref1 of the same exhibit with a bit more close up on the detail. The exhibit closes on the 22nd December, so dash on over soon if you are interested in seeing it up close.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Getting Old!!!

Phew!!! Just recovering from an ill thought out jaunt to Abercrombie on Fifth Avenue and 56th street.

What a nightmare!!!!!!!

I'm really not liking that store. It's jammed to the rafters with packs of twenty-something foreigners and tourists who either mill around aimlessly, or stand in the way of the door to ogle the half naked man having photos taken with shoppers [generally speaking I'm a brains over biceps type of girl, but lucky ol' me as Tel Aviv has both ;-)] or just generally get in the way of people like ME who only have an hour for lunch and are actually trying to buy something - that would be a t-shirt for my brother-in-law.

I was tempted to aim a swift kick at the ankles of a couple of them I don't mind admitting!!! Oh and the music, do they HAVE to play it that LOUD!!! I think I have perforated eardrums. Or spray so much cologne all over the place, less is more y'know Abercrombie and Fitchers, especially when it comes to perfume. When I finally stumbled out of the place - having struggled through the throngs to do one fruitless circuit of the store for the t-shirt - I smelled like a cheap gigolo!!


I HATE that store. Thank God for internet shopping. I was tempted to boycott Abercrombie altogether after that experience, but that would mean having to think up another gift for my brother-in-law and Banana Republic/J Crew were offering up little in the way of inspiration for an easily postable gift under $50 that would be suitable for summer in Australia - my sister and family moved to Melbourne yesterday - so I pushed my integrity to one side and coughed up $8 in shipping for a dark red trapper's gorge tee to be shipped to the comfort of my office.

It was worth every penny, but I'm boycotting them from now on!! My integrity firmly back in place now that I've bought my gifts ;-)

Photo: Tim and Trudy @ Flickr. Tsk, put some clothes on young man, you'll catch your death in this weather, don't you see it's SNOWING in New York today!!!!!! Brrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!!

P.S. I'll be finishing my final post on Chile as and when I can be bothered, I'm too busy with the Christmas prep right now. Bloggist prerogative ;-)