And home

Twelve meetings later and I’m homeward bound. Four days, three states, twelve meetings. Not a bad effort!

London feels balmy in comparison, a nice thick blanket of cosy fog covering the city and a practically tropical ten degrees forecast for Sunday. 
Now for a weekend of flat hunting and then it’s one week until the annual creative conference where I’ll be presenting concepts for the next six months of work so no rest for the wicked. 
But first, sleep. 

And so to sushi

I left the office and walked out in the bitter cold. I could either go back to my hotel and order room service or I could brace the cold and walk two blocks to a busy sushi restaurant. 

I took my life in my hands and walked. It was possibly colder than anything I’d experienced. I walked with only my eyes exposed and even my eyeballs were cold. 
Getting to the restaurant, it was New York busy but luckily I secured a seat at the sushi bar, sat down and ordered a hot saki.  
Now that I’m mature (yikes middle aged?) I don’t care about eating alone. It used to be the thing I dreaded the most but thankfully with maturity and the invention of smart phones, it no longer matters. 
Surrounded by New Yorkers, it’s fair to say the noise level was loud. Compared to sushi in London a couple of weeks ago, a very different experience but then again perhaps I was just extremely tired.
Full of sushi and fading rapidly I headed out to Rockefeller Plaza. I walked the eight blocks to go to Banana Republic to see if I could find something for Letad. 
I was so tired the shopping was surreal and when I finally made it back to my hotel, I collapsed in a heap. 
Only one more day to go. 

Another cold day in Manhattan

Wednesday, four more grueling presentations scheduled and a couple of catch up meetings at the office. 

I left the warmth of my hotel reluctantly and discovered it had snowed overnight. Despite that, it felt slightly warmer (I was deluding myself) and as there was a queue to get a taxi, I decided to walk the ten blocks or so to the first meeting. 
Of course halfway there it seemed colder and I questioned my logic!
Many hours and lots of talking later and I was done. At least that part of the day. I set off back to the office to catch up with my New York counterparts and decide whether I could face going back out in the cold. 
I haven’t been shopping and I haven’t had sushi. A New York catastrophe!!
What to do?

Bentonville… Finally!

What a different experience. I actually made it to Bentonville this time and while my total time on the ground in Arkansas was 23 hours it was mission accomplished.

I stayed in a lovely hotel, the 21C Museum which was part hotel, part art gallery, the wallpaper printed with flies. Interesting and surprisingly effective. 

I checked in and ordered dinner. Oh room service, the novelty! 

I asked what the soup of the day was. Cole Fire soup was something I’d never heard of, a local delicacy perhaps? It was in fact a vegetable and upon closer questioning, it turned out to be cauliflower…

Cole Fire soup (think southern accent) was delicious and I was asleep by 9pm local time in a blissful king size bed as soft and delicate as a cloud. 

Ten hours later, having slept to midday in London (unheard of for me) I was ready to roll. And with a successful meeting done (the first of about fifteen) I was back at the airport heading to New York. 

It was very cold in Bentonville. 17 degrees Farenheit (minus too many degrees celcius to bear thinking about) and as flights were being delayed and cancelled, I was rushed to the gate. The flight (with all eight passengers) was ready to leave early. It was get out or get stuck. 

We sat on the ground for a while as the plane de-iced and then we pushed back from the gate.

New York bound. 

Looking Like Pizza

Towards the end of my ten hour flight to Dallas, light refreshments were served, American style. 

Individual deep dish pizzas were plonked steaming in front of each passenger and like lemmings, they tucked right in. 

I was quite hungry but I looked at the people and I looked at the pizza and I had a revelation. They looked the same!

That’s it. This year’s cleanse starts on February 15th. 

The time has come. 

Return to Bentonville

And so it appears I am on my way back to Bentonville. 

For those who recall the disastrous pre Christmas trip, I have to admit I’m not exactly looking forward to it. And the weather in New York (part two of the itinerary) is forecast to be minus eight degrees Celsius. Is that even possible?

Of course I have an ominous tickle in the back of my throat. Is it psychosomatic? 

And my driver has a filthy cold and keeps sneezing so I’m getting paranoid about germs. 

Back on Friday, weather permitting!

Transatlantic Sobbing

It seems like every time I fly, I end up in floods over a tear-jerker of a movie. 

How can I forget watching Red Dog on a flight back from Australia. After Red Dog died (apologies if you haven’t seen it) I was a wreck for the remaining twelve hours of the flight. It was one of the most poignant films I’d ever seen. 

This time it was a bloody Richard Curtis so-called feel good film called About Time. Bill Nighy (whom I do rather like but who always plays the same character) inevitably dies and that was it, cue tears. It was a fairly stupid time travelling plot but that didn’t seem to matter and I did love “A Time Traveller’s Wife” after all. Sucker!

I blame it on altitude. What else could it be?

And so now for a Woody Allen film to lighten the mood. 

Only another seven hours to Dallas. 

Adventure in Enfield

Day two of cycling in London and we decided to ride to Enfield in North London to have coffee with the dad of Letad. 

It was ten miles to get there and so bright and early on Sunday morning, we carried the bikes downstairs and carefully eased our aching bottoms on to the saddles. 

It seemed that having ridden to Stoke Newington the day before had awoken some muscles and things were fairly painful. 

Still off we went and made our way through North London enjoy the ride especially down a nice hilll past Manor House although realising that it wouldn’t be much fun on the way back.  

We made good time and arrived in an hour. Even the Duchess hadn’t slowed progress much. 

We spent a nice couple of hours eating the speciality of the house, a delicious lemon drizzle cake before it was time to head back. 

Ouch! It hurt getting back on and it was less than appealing to ride home but off we went. 

The traffic was much busier as London had started to wake up and despite the appeal of riding in the bus lanes, it must be said that London double deckers are really big. We were stuck behind three of them and only a fool would overtake them. Oh well, it seemed like a good idea at the time!

There was a long slog up the Camden Road but finally we made it to Kentish Town and it was a downhill coast. 

A little slower to get home and then the icing on the cake, carrying the bikes upstairs. 

Mission accomplished. Twenty miles done!

Bike Riding in London

Bike riding in London is a new and exciting adventure only to be undertaken by the very brave or the very foolish.

As we were flat hunting, we decided it would be a great idea to do it by bike and so set off from Chalk Farm to Swiss Cottage and on to South Hampstead.

That was all very nice with the exception of the Swiss Cottage intersection which required careful navigation.

Arriving in South Hampstead it seemed we had missed the estate agent by five minutes (they don’t wait around for long) and so it was off to our next destination, Stoke Newington.

We set off up a long, slow gradient towards Hampstead Village, I had plotted the route on the iPhone which unfortunately didn’t take hills into consideration. Halfway up Fitzjohns Avenue, we stopped for a breather. The Purple Duchess was proving to be quite heavy and fitness levels needed a little improving.

Off we went and before long we were whizzing down through Gospel Oak and Dartmouth Park. Past the never-moving flat and on to the Holloway Road. From there it was past hundreds of Arsenal supporters heading to the match, through Highbury Corner and off to Stoke Newington. 

We made it and had a quick cup of tea before heading to our next viewing. The now familiar routine of Saturday flat hunting. 

Four hours later, we made it back to Chalk Farm, lugging the bikes back up the stairs and collapsing upon arrival. 

Flat hunting had been fruitless and while bus dodging is not the most relaxing of pastimes, London by bike is a great way of exploring the city. 

Fifteen miles on the Duchess and my bum really hurt!

Friday in Paris

5:30am and I was up. The birds had been singing for half an hour as they were lulled into a false sense of Spring by the unseasonably warm winter but time to get up, I was off to Paris for the day. 

It all sounds rather glamorous and I do like to travel however I was going to a trade show so not quite as glamorous as I would have liked. 

Still, a nice Mercedes to take me to St Pancras and then off on the Eurostar to Paris, can’t really complain can I?

Two and a half hours of travelling backwards and we arrived at the Gare du Nord. I bought a ticket and then was off to a huge convention centre on the way to Charles de Guallle so not really Paris after all!

Four hours of walking around the Maison Objet trade show later, I decided to head back into the city. I’d gathered a lot of research and my time had been well spent. 

With a couple of hours before my Eurostar, I decided to walk to Rue Montorgueil, a pedestrian area in the second arrondissement where I stayed in 2010. 

Paris felt grittier than it had then. Perhaps because it was January and not June but it seemed dirty, grey and cold. I walked down the Boulevard St. Denis where a number of old, ropey prostitutes lined the pavement. 

It was a far cry from the summer days when I skipped around in a light summer dress feeling free. Still, it’s one of my favourite streets in Paris and was worth the pilgrimage. 

And so after a quick look around it was time to head back to the Gare du Nord and get the train back to London.

I was exhausted and by the time I got home, I felt like I’d run a marathon. The only thing to do was have a bath and an early night. 

It’s a shame Eurostar is so expensive, it was so much easier than flying and a weekend in Paris is always appealing, gritty or not!