Bookgrrl’s survival travel tips in San Francisco and New York



It’s a restroom, not a toilet

Cities have a downtown area, or civic centre, not a CBD.

Be prepared to add milk to your coffee or to leave it for a while before you drink it- the coffee is served HOT.

Beware of HUGE portion sizes and order small.

Try not to check your phone all the time, especially when in the subway or emerging from one- it’s been known to be whipped out of your hands.

Ulmon have a great app City map pro which you can download the city in which you are travelling, and you can search it while you are offline or not connected to wifi. Thank you so much to Fiona for showing this to me.

Have no sense of direction? Use a compass, or if it’s a sunny day, check shadows on the sidewalk. This is especially good if you are travelling by subway and you emerge with absolutely no idea which way to walk. If you have an idea of the intersecting streets, you may find you are walking only a block before you realise your mistake and have to turn back.

Wifi abounds in most cultural institutions such as museums and libraries and in some cities like San Francisco, in their downtown area have it available for free. Good to check for locations of shops- I found that there was a Converse store in downtown San Francisco not far from where we were that day.

There and back again #blogjune


Master BG is perusing the Lego instructions for the Hobbit Lego purchased in New York from FAO Schwarz.

We arrived back yesterday and due to time differences and jet lag, I have not been able to blog every day.  I will be resuming transmission tomorrow,  with a couple of posts to make up.

Thank you America

One last walk down 5th Avenue on a rainy day, I am finally getting a sense of where I am.

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I don’t want to leave, yet I am missing my kids and I cannot wait to feel their arms around me. It is with these mixed feelings that we depart for JFK.
I never thought I would ever get a chance to visit New York, or San Francisco. It was all I ever hoped for and more-now I know what it is like to descend into the muggy subway on a warm day, to see the Golden Gate Bridge shrouded in fog and to see the manhattan skyline at dusk. I’ve eaten bagels, pretzels, tasted a knish, and sipped cocktails.
But what made the trip even more special was the people. I had the chance to meet so many friendly and hospitable people during our travels.

Our air bnb hosts were lovely in San Francisco and Brooklyn.

Thank you to our Brooklyn neighbours Jenelle and Bill for their hospitality and for letting us order something to be sent to Bill’s place of work. Your advice on getting a car ordered to take us to the airport was spot on!

I had a great time at the Popfests and meeting the nicest people, such as Becky, Lauren, Ashley, Olive and the indiepop kids from DC. We also got to meet Phil, a musician who was also a librarian who worked at the New York Public Library, which was really cool, and Gary, who led us through Manhattan on an amazing night to remember.

It was also an opportunity to spend time with the Bart and Friends extended family, which included the Zebras and their friends and family, which was wonderful. Much bonding occurred over drinks and common interests were found. Sharing an apartment with Scott, the Bart and Friends singer and his partner Fiona was also a highlight-getting to know them after knowing them for so long was great.

But it was also the anonymous people who made the trip special-the park ranger on Liberty Island speaking passionately about the benefits of immigration, friendly sales assistants wishing us well on our trip, ground staff at JFK ensuring we had good seats on our flight back.

So thank you America. It was a blast.

Manhattan Transfer


How could you ever get tired of a sight such as this? With the days in New York lessening, these are some of the moments I tried to capture.

Statue of Liberty

With the New York Pass, we took a ferry to Liberty Island. It’s an impressive monument, popular with domestic and international tourists alike.

911 Memorial
In the middle of downtown, with a massive building site next to this, people are silent. The trees rustle as the public pay their respects.

Shopping for New Yorkers tends to involve buying online, and getting stuff delivered. However you do learn a lot about a country through their stores.
Macy’s is insane. Like Myers on steroids, with a patriotic twist.


Where you can make your own mini figs, a wall of Lego bricks, and a chance to find those really obscure Lego sets that your local toy store no longer stocks.

FAO Schwarz

I am sure this exists for guilty parents and for parents who have never quite grown up. This was the most amazing and comprehensive toy store I have seen since Hedleys in London. You can build your own bear, build your own muppet and yes, play on the piano immortalised by Tom Hanks in Big. There were a couple of kids playing on it when we were there, but were soon pushed off by a man in his thirties wanting to play chopsticks.

Central Park

Rather than take the subway sometimes we cut across Central Park. The windiness of the paths make me lose direction, and I am constantly arguing with Mr BG where we are exactly. He’s usually right.

The New York Accent

Hearing it is another reminder that I am here. Whether it is from a sales assistant at Macy’s, an information desk attendant at MOMA, or in a lady asking for directions in the subway, it is music to my ears.

New York public library

The Rose Reading Room is still closed, but it is still a cool place to wander around. I manage to sit down at a table for a few moments and dream. I check out the children’s section and happen upon story time.

2014-06-05 10.27.33I go for a wander into the Genealogy Room and feel as if nothing has changed in the library for years.

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You’re the tops Manhattan.

Bookgrrl, MOMA and the Guggenheim

If visiting the New York Public Library was No 1 on my list of places to go, the Museum of Modern Art was No 2.

The Met is a fantastic and comprehensive collection of art and I was overwhelmed by it. But as MOMA is more contained and has a clear collection directive, which makes for a day of Wows and tears. Art can make me cry, in a good way!

The space itself is expansive and the rooms on most of the floors flow in the same direction, allowing for a feeling of familiarity to develop with the layout. It wasn’t crowded either, which was no doubt due¬† to the fact it wasn’t school holidays or vacation time.


We started from the top and worked our way down, looking at the collection in a chronological fashion.

Highlights for me

To stand in front of Van Gogh’s Starry Night and soak it up all by myself (and the security guard who stood by it). I also wished at that moment for Master BG to be here, as Vincent is his favourite artist. There were some tears at this point.

To see Les Demoiselles D’Avignon by Picasso

To walk into rooms of Mondrian, Matisse and Picasso and not to squeal out in delight

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To stumble upon yet another art class to school students this time in front of a Matisse and to hear the teacher speak about his use of colour. It’s at moments like this I would wonder about moving to New York if I had a spare $10million or so.

2014-06-02 13.42.01And this was just the first floor.

Heading down to the next floor you are confronted by Roy Lichtenstein’s Drowning Girl, then we turned around the corner to see Warhol. In fact a lot of Warhols!

2014-06-02 14.00.30On the following floor, there was a design exhibition on Women in Design. It highlighted women’s contribution to design from the Art Nouveau period through to the present day.


While some of the designs were poster art and photography, a lot of it centred around the home. Modern kitchen designed for small spaces was included as well as crockery and furniture.

Needless to say we were blown away with the experience, and yet there was more to do. We were meeting friends for drinks in a couple of hours and we had time to spare. Could we…?

A mad dash uptown was undertaken to the Guggenheim. The building is itself an amazing work of art, in a town of amazing buildings. We arrived with less than an hour to closing and were lucky to get $3 off the admission price.

What was in our favour was no queues, and due to the lateness of the day, not a lot of people in the museum.
While it is an amazing building, there are a lot of challenges to it being used as a gallery space- it is circular and space is limited.


There is a room devoted to post-Impressionist art, but other galleries were closed for installations of new exhibitions due to be launched in the summer months.
The major exhibition was Italian Futurism, which was quite interesting, not least due to its latter incarnation being co-opted by the Fascists in the 1930s. The intersection of art used for political ends was quite interesting to explore. Mr BG also commented on its influence on Peter Savile, the graphic designer involved with Joy Division and New Order.
Two amazing museums in one day!

Bookgrrl about town #blogjune

This post was originally going to be entitled “Take me out to the ball game”, as we were planning on going to see the Yankees at Yankee Stadium.

We are sharing an apartment with Scott and Fiona and Scott is a huge fan of baseball. A group of 7 Australians and Gary, a New Yorker, whose house was commandeered for band rehearsal, met outside the Carlyle Hotel to head to the game.

However, the weather turned and it was decided that something else would happen.
In fact several things happened.


We visited the Brill Building, and in between the dozens of pedestrians hurrying home in the rain, snapped a few photos.

We went up to the View Restaurant at The Marriott hotel near Times Square to have a cocktail and check out the view from the revolving deck. We were luckily to catch a glimpse of the Chrysler Building as the sun was setting.


We watched baseball at a bar called Jimmy’s Corner, where heaps of photos and posters of boxers and celebrities adorned the walls. Eight of us were squeezed around a table drinking beer, and listening to jazz. It would have been the type of place I would have never even ventured into without someone with “the knowledge”

We saw the Bladerunner-esque Times Square en route to the subway.

We had Indian for dinner at 10.30 pm at a restaurant called Panna II on the lower East Side, where it was lit up like a Christmas tree. I recommend the Balti beef!

We then walked around the corner to our final stop, a bar that was a hangout for college students in the fifties and the decor had never changed. The wooden floors were creaky, and the air smelt of stale beer and popcorn.

My phone had died, so sadly no photos, but take my word, it was a place of character.

Oh what a night!

John and Beverly

John and Beverly got married today, atop of the Rockefeller Center.


They were so happy,  and we were so happy for them. We will appear in their wedding photos :-).
It was a fantastic day to be up and about in Manhattan. ..


Getting off at Central Station. ..
Checking out the view. ..
Visiting a gallery or two, followed by cocktails and a show :).

I could get used to this lifestyle, if only my feet would allow it!

Brooklyn Flea Market #blogjune

The opshop gods surely smiled upon me and granted me a flea market 3 blocks from our apartment. Or maybe it was simply the excellent planning of our room mates Fiona and Scott who found the apartment through airbnb :).

There are many sites for the Brooklyn Flea Market,  some undercover and some in the open air.  This was at a nearby school in their grounds,  and it was amazing.


Danish Modern abounded,  and the quality was incredible.

The clothes were also great stuff, with decades from the fifties onwards well represenred.
I picked up a couple of things that will be able to be squeezed into my bag including a shirt for Mr BG, a surprise for Miss BG and a great tote.
The food was also great, including the most amazing donuts from Dough. Take my word that the lemon poppyseed glazed donuts were the best we tasted!
The local school had a bake sale to support their basketball team, and the Congregational church across the street had a couple of stalls and was selling soul food to locals.

One thing I did notice was the clientele of the market. It was very Caucasian, and middle class. Some of the stall holders were people of colour, but it was a very white crowd. Given the diversity of the neighbourhood in which the market was held, the flea market was a bit incongruous. It did reflect the increasing gentrification of the neighbourhood, which often comes at the cost of the incumbent residents who are gradually pushed out by rising rents.

Passport to Brooklyn

It’s the first day of June, the first day of #blogjune.

It is hard to encapsulate Brooklyn, as there are so many moods and aspects to it, but here goes.

On my way to get coffee (there is a tendency to overheat the milk when asking for a latte, but the local coffee shop does a good espresso)


Visiting the library and checking out what’s inside.

The inside is a bit traditional though…
Playgrounds are aplenty, and there are kids everywhere. Not just now, it was school time!

The kids are gorgeous and friendly and will ask you your name in a cute New York accent. Hello to Scarlett whom I met in a shop while she was playing amongst the clothing racks.

You can be in the midst of the city and still find something straight out of Ferris Bueller.


Gary had let Bart and Friends rehearse at his house and fed us bagels, coffee and organized a grill on his side porch. Jeremy managed the grilling.

Girls in cute dresses and cuter bags:-).


The real estate windows are always fun to look at :).


And the view is pretty cool too. xxx

No sleep to Brooklyn

Hello Brooklyn! We’re staying in Clinton Hill, about a 10 minute walk from Fort Greene park and literally just around the corner from my friend Jenelle, who loves here with her lovely husband Bill. We’re sharing an apartment with Scott and Fiona from Australia, who are also out for the popfests, also found through airbnb. It’s a compact apartment with a cute kitchen- I am definitely getting some ideas about remodeling our kitchen!

After a night of sound sleep, we tackled the subway. It’s not easy, and we ended up having to double back on one line in our effort to get to the American Museum of Natural History. But it was truly worth it!

The museum experience was pretty much on par- lots of kids on school excursions, and crowds galore. There was a reason for coming here, and it was all to do with the Catcher in the Rye

“The best thing, though, in that museum was that everything always stayed right where it was. Nobody’d move.”

There were some incredible exhibits on the origins of human life, and the meteorites on display were amazing to look at and touch. There were though, lots of exhibits of stuffed animals and other exhibits looked as if they had remained the same since Holden Caulfield had visited. There was something quite comforting about these exhibits, preserved in perpetuity thanks to the munificence of the many benefactors whose names adorned each exhibit.

We then walked across the road to Central Park. I never thought I would ever put that sentence together. It was magical.

Spring is a gorgeous time to see New York and Central Park looks so green and lush We stumbled cross a wedding taking place the groom, by the looks of his kilt and the sound of his accent, was Scottish! We were looking at the Belvedere Fountain, when I felt a wee bit overwhelmed about being in New York. It was something I never thought I would ever experience, and here I was with the amazing Mr BG.

Amongst the places we visited in Central Park was Strawberry Fields and the Imagine mosaic. There was a man with a guitar badly singing Let it be (a Paul song), followed by Imagine. People were milling about having their photos taken by the mosaic, upon which someone had left a bouquet of roses. It was a place where people could come and express their love and admiration for John Lennon. Or simply get their photo taken :).

We were heading to the Frick Collection, a museum of the private collection of Henry Frick, a wealthy Pittsburgh industrialist, whose New York mansion was constructed for the purpose of displaying his extensive art collection.

And what a collection! A self portrait of Rembrandt, two Vermeers, a Renoir and portraits of Sir Thomas More and Thomas Cromwell by Holbein, glaring at each other from opposite sides of a fireplace. But wait- there’s more! There is also an extensive art reference library and the house itself is amazing to behold, an example of how the other half lived and continue to do so in New York.

The entry fee also included a free audio tour, which was essential as every painting had no information displayed on the wall, merely a number. It was excellent. You could listen to the information of whichever artwork you fancied, or simply wander through and stand agog at the artwork.

There was also a small exhibition of bronze figurines from Renaissance Italy, many of them depicting Roman and Greek mythology. Master BG would appreciate these, I thought.

I miss my little BGs.

I had a chance to talk about them with Jenelle when we went out to dinner! It was lovely to catch up with Jenelle and Bill and see their apartment just around the corner from us. Over a huge dinner, we caught up with what everyone had been up to, jobs, careers, babies, and workplaces.

They also advised on where to eat and what was around Clinton Hill. It was great to see a familiar face and someone who hasn’t lost her accent either :).