Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Happy New Year!

Our first night at the hotel was “enhanced” by the fire alarms going off in the hotel just after we’d decided to go to sleep!  The false alarm of course heralded a convoy of very loud vehicles from the New York Fire Department!


We then had several well spaced public address messages in the hotel to tell us all to ‘stand down’.  Oh what the hell – we only live once, you have to laugh!


Yesterday morning we were up and out at our favourite breakfast place at 7:30 (body clock problems!). Then it was a quick visit to Grand Central Station to find city and subway maps (Subway not Metro as we called it last time).


We popped up to Times Square to see the preparations for New Year. Here’s Doug with No 1, Times Square (where the ball drops at midnight) behind him.


They have already sectioned a lot of it off ready for the celebrations.


The Christmas lights are all over the city but not as we know them in the UK.  Trees are lit rather than lots of overhead decorations.


One World Trade looks fantastic now that it’s been topped out and finished at 1776 feet.  From the trade centre site we made our way to Battery Park where we met up with a queue for the Statue of Liberty tour which was 1/3 mile long!  With the temperature at freezing point and the wind stripping the heat out of our tender British heads we decided to give it a miss ……..


…… and take shelter in O’Hara’s bar (which sat next to the Twin Towers and survived).


In the afternoon we went on a shopping spree in Downtown Manhattan – here’s Doug outside the New York Stock Exchange.  (As we’re coming back by sea our weight limit isn’t an issue now, so shop we did!)

Going out last night to a few bars, chatting with the locals has given us a change of plan:  One sensible New Yorker said that it was “suicide” to go to Times Square for New Year – “why stand in the freezing cold with a million strangers for seven hours, where you can’t drink and you can’t pee, just to watch a ball drop!”  So, we’ve  taken the hint and we’ll spend the time having some fun with the super friendly locals somewhere. (Survival is all about adaption).

Anyway, now is our chance to send our very best wishes to all our family, friends and readers for a great New Year ahead.  The message coming out of the TV at the moment is “Be Brave in 2014”.  Lets all go with that one!


Love and best wishes to you all!

(Picture supplied by our great friend Marcy)

Monday, 30 December 2013

New York–New York!!

We arrived at Heathrow Terminal 4 this morning after a cold start from Sussex.  Our Delta flight to New York was to prove a good one.


James (looking at his most exited!) at Terminal 4.

Lunch on the plane turned very “first class” for us when one of the stewards (Phil) brought us Champagne…………..


……… cheers! ………


…….. and cheers again!   …………


……. and a wonderful selection of niceties, together with proper cutlery and glassware.  The other passengers were very put out!


We had to show you a close up!

As we say:  it’s not what you know but who, and a little bit of ‘liaison’ can go a long way.  We had a great flight and lots of laughs with the cabin crew – they were a wonderful bunch.  Later on in the flight we even had a “is there a doctor on board?” announcement when a passenger was take ill – there were three doctors on board actually, so we were all in safe hands if we did but know it.

Landing at JFK Airport it was lashing with rain and we had a pretty bumpy few miles on our approach – we hoped the pilot could see more out of the window than we could.  Taking the ‘Air Train’ from the airport and then the Metro we arrived safely at The Lexington Hotel, very tired, very happy but in need of a cup of tea.


A weary traveller on the ‘Air Train’.

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Christmas in Paddington / New Year in ?

We had a peaceful and relaxing Christmas day – choosing to spend much of it on our own ………


………. enjoying a cosy Christmas lunch on board ‘Chance’ ……..


……. before going walkabout.  The Edgware Road was as busy as any other day of the week!


Although when we got to Marble Arch things were a little quieter.


Boxing Day saw us heading back to Packet Boat marina, with a cold but tranquil cruise along the Paddington Arm.  Thankfully the canal was clear of debris from the storm a few days earlier but the towpath users were not so lucky.


One towpath user was doing what he probably does every day – and just twenty feet away there’s a notice (in seven different languages!) telling him not to feed the birds. Oh well.


The trip back was gloriously peaceful – even if the smoke did get in James’ eyes occasionally.  One delightful diversion on our journey was that we were greeted by blog readers Sue and Mike on nb ‘Tricia Helen’ who were moored up along the way. We hadn’t met them before but we stopped for a pleasant few minutes chat before moving on. Nice to meet you both and we forgot to wish you a Happy New Year.


Blue must be “in” this year.


Decisions, decisions.  (he turned back!)


As we turn onto the Grand Union canal at Bulls Bridge the sweet sight of the Nestle factory tells us we’re about an hour from home.


After a cold but lovely cruise back from Paddington we turn from the G U into the Slough Arm – then it’s immediately right into Packet Boat.  Being a windless day we were able to reverse into our berth without incident, after which it was a quick loading of the car and a drive back to Sussex.

The last couple of days have seen us enjoy a great evening with our neighbours Nigel and Michele yesterday and also getting suit cases packed ready to travel to New York to celebrate New Year.   

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Christmas 2013–London

Before getting onto the important part of this blog an “unplanned event” happened at 1:30 this morning.  ONE OF OUR ROPES SNAPPED!


The wind was horrific and ‘Chance’ was moving about something awful.  All of a sudden there was a load ‘crack’ and you know darned well that you’re going to outside in your pyjamas in a matter of moments (that’s if you’re wearing any!).  Once outside it was obvious that the rear rope (and the steel cabled bicycle lock) had broken and the only thing holding us from being on the other side of the basin was a slack safety rope which James had put on in case of just such emergency (he has his uses!).


Pulling the boat back into the quayside with the safety rope was hard work due to the force of the wind, but we got there.  It was obvious that we were not going to able to hold ‘Chance’ on our own and sort out another rope.  That’s when an angel appeared out of nowhere and became last nights’ hero for us.


After much struggling in wet, windy and dark conditions the three of us managed to secure another rope and we were then able to battle through the rest of the night without too much else happening. All ended well.


We’ve only got daylight pictures of the rats nest of knots we concocted to hold us safe, as no one had free hand to take any photos of the rather comical looking (but rather more serious) situation at the time! 


The last picture goes to the spare ropes we dug out at 2 o’ clock this morning in case they were needed at short notice.

Now the important thing:- It’s Christmas tomorrow, and we would just like to sincerely wish it to be a GOOD ONE for all of our readers / followers / friends / family and to the hero who helped us last night.  We hope you are all safe and happy with whatever you’re doing.  We shall have a quiet day on ‘Chance’ as planned. ENJOY and be safe.

Monday, 23 December 2013

A wet weekend (but never mind)

The weather has been dreadful this weekend – the rain didn’t stop on Saturday ……….


………. but the cleaning of Merchant Square around the canal basin continued unabated with the ever enthusiastic staff power scrubbing the walkways in the pouring rain. In contrast we spent most of the day warm and dry in ‘Chance’ before going out to the West End for some company in the evening – some amazingly interesting people in publishing and the art world to chat to.


Sunday was a better day – the wind was still strong but for most of the day it was at least dry.  We took advantage of a visit by James (another one!) on fuel boat “Archimedes” as we were getting low on diesel and going the full hog by buying coal and kindling as well. 


Most of Sunday was spent quietly on board and relaxing in front of our own Christmas fireplace.


In the evening we couldn’t relax any longer so it was out on the town again but with an early return “home” this time.  The borough of Vauxhall’s blue Christmas tree looks very splendid.


This morning (Monday) we’re battening down the hatches for the impending storm.  The wind is very strong, and increasing, this lunchtime and “Chance” is rolling well with the wind howling through the buildings straight onto us.  We will only be blown to the other side of the basin if the ropes snap so we’ll not go far!

Friday, 20 December 2013

The Capital at Christmas time.


We’ve recently received a great photo of “Chance” taken from high up in St Mary’s Hospital by a friend who works there (and who keeps a careful eye on our comings and goings when he can!).

During the last couple of days we’ve just been relaxing and not done a great deal.  Yesterday evening we had a terrific thunder storm in Paddington, after which we went out to the West End and unwittingly got caught up in the chaos caused by the drama at the Apollo Theatre.  There seemed to be a lot more emergency vehicles than was reported on the news and there were an awful lot of streets either closed or restricted because of the incident.  Thank goodness it wasn’t any worse.


We ventured out this afternoon, firstly to one of our favourite pubs, The Chandos near Trafalgar Square, for a late lunch.  As we walked from Piccadilly tube station we found Leicester Square very busy with shoppers and its Fun Fair. 


After lunch we took a walk up Charing Cross Road on our way to Liberty’s.  James was fascinated by this shop display of cuff links.  


The main entrance to Liberty’s is uniquely and traditionally displayed as a florists shop.


The window displays are very striking ………….


……….. and it’s just a fabulous building to shop in.


Catching the bus back to Paddington this evening, Oxford Street was a ablaze with its Christmas lights (this is Selfridges) and busy with shoppers …………..


…….. and, back at Paddington Basin, ‘Chance’ was also ablaze with Christmas lights – well almost ! – we do try.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Windy but wonderful.

Starting off early from Packet Boat marina this morning we headed “London way” and arrived at Paddington Basin at 10:30 to find two spaces available.  Wonderful, and a bit of a miracle to say the least!


Entering the basin it suddenly got very windy but after getting tied up safely and a very much needed wipe down (of ‘Chance’!) we went walkabout this afternoon to get some exercise.  Taking a bit of a detour from the basin we crossed the bridge at Little Venice, taking in this gorgeous winter view of LV and the gardens beside.


Kensington was next on our itinerary, to get a last bit of Christmas shopping, and then onwards past a very impressive Royal Albert Hall in the twilight ……….


……….. until we arrived at the (temporary) Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park.  It was clean, well presented, busy and expensive but then it is London and it is Christmas.


The ice rink was an impressive affair and very busy.


Getting back to the basin this evening the wind had increased  – the picture belies the fact that we’re being buffeted by the most incredible wind which is being funnelled onto the sides of the boats by the high buildings.  We’re unable to tie in very tightly and, with the strong gusts, the boat’s rolling so much it’s difficult to maintain one’s balance. What we need are stabilizers like “Aurora”!

That said, we’re not  complaining.  Indeed we’re lucky to get a space which means we can spend the week here and enjoy Christmas in London, catching up with as many people as we can.    

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Windsor Wonderland.

We drove up to Packet Boat marina early this morning and, despite the rush hour traffic, and a minor accident which held us up for 20 minutes, we got to ‘Chance’ at 11 o’ clock.  With the stove lit, Taff rail and Dodger put on and water tank filled by lunch time, we decided to drive the twenty minutes to Windsor in the afternoon.


We’ve been hoping for the opportunity to see the Castle’s Semi State Apartments which are only open for a few weeks at this time of year.  These apartments are used by the Queen to entertain her official guests and as we’d visited the castle less than a year ago we could use the same tickets to visit the castle again free of charge.


The moat surrounding the Round Tower (built by Henry II eight hundred years ago!) is beautifully presented these days as a garden.


“Engine Court” is dominated by scaffolding at the moment as the lead roofing is being replaced.


It was a gloomy and dank day today so the flash went off on this pic. (making the atmosphere look worse than it was).


From the castle’s terrace there’s a good view of Eton to be had – even on a gloomy day.


Looking down into the Lower Ward it was eerily quiet with very few visitors to the castle today.  The planes, coming into Heathrow every 90 seconds, were flying right over the castle.


Down in Windsor town centre the Christmas decorations make it very obvious where we were!

We had a great afternoon visiting the Semi State Apartments but sadly, as is so often the case, we weren’t allowed to take photos.  Most of the area was either badly damaged or totally destroyed by the fire of 1992 but, with the wonderful restoration and rebuilding, these rooms are exquisite and better than the State Apartments themselves.  They’re well worth a visit.