Affairs with London

Waffles for breakfast with lashings of maple syrup? Don’t mind if I do…

Mom and I went out separate ways on Monday morning after breakfast. Mom to John and Maureen, and I’ve just realized that I have no cooking clue as to where that actual is… *frowns* Myself to Wandsworth to meet up with my darling friend Chrissi who relocated here a year ago and my dearest friend Daniela who flew in from Berlin for the week. So special and so lucky am I to have such supportive friends. We three girls haven’t been together for just under three years so this was indeed a special time. We headed out by taxi (which might I add is pretty cool these days, booked via an app and automatically deducted from your account – great). Anyways, we ventured out to the National History Museum to the Butterflies Sensational exhibition and this was just so lovely. Hundreds and butterflies all shapes sizes and colours flitting and fluttering around you. Chrissi and I both took on passengers for the trip. I really did feel all light and airy-fairy after that and I would highly recommend that as a quick outing or date spot.

Off to a small wine and cheese cafe and we three were finally having the long awaited wine and gossip session we’ve been waiting to do and is just not the same over Skype.

That night we tarted ourselves up with what we could all throw together from our suitcases and went to a speakeasy called NightJar. Now, this place was intriguing. Live jazz and cocktails so creative they literally blew smoke and all served in various ways from tea pots to iron owls or wooded boxes. A wonderful night out and really what I needed.

My affair with London as I am now calling it has been adventure after adventure and I must say, I have really missed this place. So great to be back that it almost feels like home. I am so excited to see what’s in store for the remainder.

Dancing… #Clrglondon14

World Champs kicked off for me only on the last two days and in those last two days I think I’ve probably gone through every emotion possible.

This mad, money making rat race cream of the crop gets even more mind blowing and extravagant than the previous year if you can believe… The glits and the glam, the talent and the tension is honestly something that you really need to mentally prepare yourself for.

We danced out hearts out and I’m pretty sure our feet raw, and man oh man I had almost forgotten that incredible feeling you get when you walk out onto the worlds stage, dance and then THAT feeling of utter accomplishment when you take your final bow.

On a personal note, I also remembered one of the reasons why I retired when I did. The immense pressure is something I do not miss, which is funny, because I don’t ever really remember feeling the pressure when I was a fully fledged competitive dancer. Stepping out and away from it then returning is like throwing all your emotions into a pot, sprinkled with age and hindsight then leaving said pot to simmer. The problem with leaving anything to simmer is that it does eventually get hot and while I am so loath to admit this to the world, Um, well the 5 of you that actual do read my rantings… I did have a full on melt down the day before and those tears just streamed.

This was an amazing adventure and not many can say they reached the top but daaaaaaaam I’m so glad it’s over – well, until next year I guess.

So begins England

After a rather disappointing BA (British Airways) flight the full weight of the Easter holiday season, in it’s hysteria began. Thank goodness for the book I had I keep me entertained while doing the two step shuffle in the boarder control lines. Not even the UK passport holders had it easy breezy.

Right, so I’m pretty good with the underground and what not but first order of business was to main line caffeine and find my hotel and second family. Phone almost dead, coffee in hand, back pack, dress bag and hold luggage – ya, just picture it. I thankfully only had a short brisk walk from paddington station to the very quaint Saint David Hotel. My lodgings for the next few days…

Another coffee and a quick “I have arrived” message to my specials in SA, then Mom and I were off to Kent. 38min by train but bloody far out, we were off to visit my moms cousins and his lovely family… I think that means second cousins to me or some such family tree antics. The last time we all saw each other was the last time we were here for tea with the queen, some 8 years ago.
Champagne, coffee, cakes and pastries and of course the mass photo shoot with the usual giggles and blue steal poses.

Afternoon turned into evening and dinner, by the time we got back home to our respective hotels I was so ready for bed. Sadly, a good nights sleep was apparently not on the cards for me, with a “proppa chav” fight breaking out down on the street, with thee most colorful language ever. Smashing of bottles and shouting profanities that would put fight club to shame.

Dancing antics to follow….

World Champs.

7 years ago I, along with 8 others from our studio, the Duncan Studio of Celtic Dancing, qualified as a team for the World Championships. Today, 7 years later I join another group of amazing talented dancers from the studio to dance in the 2014 World Irish Dancing Championships in London.

Now how this all came about was 100% my Mother (who is our dancing teacher) and her devious ways…
“It would be so special if you and Jonathan were to come out of retirement and join the team… Jonathan said he’d come dance if you do”. *seed planted* and I willingly agreed, I mean who wouldn’t?? London Town and winter sales, yes please! Unbeknown to me, Susan in her devious ways had approached and given the exact same seed planting speech to Jonathan who then also agreed! Ba-da-bing, caught, hook line and sinker.

And so began the late night and all day Sunday rehearsals. The endless debates about everything from stocking grades, hair pieces (yes, I shall be donning one of them 2 Min noodle bun wig things). What shirts the guys will be wearing and on what freaking count do our arms go up!!! *inside joke, snorts*.

Bla bla fish paste – I’m totally freaking out!

Gone are my competitive dancing days when nerves were never an issue for me but now find myself having random day dreams that are nothing short I terrifying.

What if I get injured?
What if I miss my plane?
What if I don’t get injured, don’t miss my plane and forget my dress! Aaaaaaaaaah. Day dreaming sucks – takes a deep breath and imagines already being with my incredible team.

Now, most of these young talent dancers have already been at the champs competing in the solo rounds – putting SA on the map once again! When I say, imagining being with my team calms my nerves I’m really not kidding, these guys are pro’s and after so many months of blood, sweat, blisters and tears I’m missing my 2nd family.

So, on a personal note, I’d like to thank my amazing teacher and Mother for her devious ways. The countless efforts she has put in with us all, all the late nights spent organizing with all the other amazing parents. Happy to not have my inbox bombarded anymore. Haha!

To my team, I love you all and I am so completely honored to be up there with you! Here’s to owning it up there! Fired Up!!!!

The borough, Manhattan.

The train ride into Manhattan each day has quickly become my bed. I had every intention of using this hour of quiet time to blog or read but with all the early starts and late nights that dam rocking sensation kept lulling me to sleep. Sleeping or snoozing for an hour on a train kind of knocks you for six when you now have to go full swing into the madness that is the Manhattan business borough *no the for yawns*. So stock standard each morning when mom and I emerged from the grandness of Grand Central we’d go straight across 42nd street to the famous grand central cafe for a coffee before we start our excursions falling instep with all the locals – HA! We don’t even wait like the tourists do for the lights to change when crossing the street *learning fast*.

To date we have explored pretty much everything in Downtown and Uptown Manhattan my favorite few places being Times Square which is so major because its the junction between Broadway and Seventh Avenue so there’s this mix of restaurants, entertainments, clothing stores (that are 5 stories and stay open till 2am!!!) and it is totally insane at night. I mean it’s bright and colourful and busy and nonstop flashing in your face during the day but at night it turns into this illuminated wonderland that becomes (if even possible) more crowded. To give you an idea of how many people bustle in and around I came across a survey done in 2011, Times Square is the most visited tourist attraction in the world with over 39 million people visiting annually and approximately 300,000 people passing through daily! Mother F, they weren’t kidding when they said daily. 20 minuets in and I was ready to running klap the next person who walked into me the only problem being that I would land up klapping the whole of Times Square. So what did I do? I stood in the middle of the road while the traffic light was red and took pictures without fools getting in the way of my shots. A boer maak a plan neh!

Exploring Central Park was divine and by far a lot quieter. Well I’m a tourist and it is winter after all but you really do feel like you’ve left the madness of the city because you can no longer hear the streets only birds. We actually sat down for tea / lunch / holiday eating all the freaking time… and we’re joined by about 10 fat little finches. Not shy at all flying right up to my plate to peck at my bagel.

Central Park is 843 acres or 3.4 km’s and I think we only walked about 1 km while following little pathways that wound around a pond taking pictures of all the almost blossoms on the trees and daffodils starting to show themselves – so relaxing to just wonder around. I did feel like tripping a runner after my tea / lunch / stuff my face session out of jealousy and guilt. There are so many runners and foreign nannies pushing strollers. My best view of the park was from the top of the Rockefeller building, Top of the Rock as the locals say.

Apparently the views from the top of the rock are better than the Empire State building and they were… Scary being so high up, those of you who know me know that I’m not a fan of heights especially when there is no protective glass or boundary. I now understand why NYC has so many jumpers – my God those buildings are high! The cars looked like the size of my baby toe nail and I couldn’t make out a single person on the streets! Yikes!

Next on my agenda was the MET. The Metropolitan Museum of Art baby and I almost ran the last block of Central Park dragging my Mother along to get there! I got such a fright when I rounded the corner and saw all the renovation scaffolding, I would seriously have been mortified if it was closed! A 5 year old whirlwind of a tantrum would have ensued big time.

Each touristy thing I’ve been to I has kinda left me feeling a bit like Ebenezer Scrooge being that I kept converting back to Rands and at some places feeling a bit ripped off but not here, here I was more than happy to pay the 25 Dollars (which I think is very little for what you get to see actually) and I could have spent days in this place. Funny, I’m not by any means religious and no amount of staring at the millions of Jesus and Mother Mary Renaissance paintings could turn me BUT each museum I have been to throughout the world has always made me feel like I’m in a holy place or my holy place and the MET – Wow, the MET is everything I wished I could have been talented enough to become and how the world has been shaped. No amount of books or googling can teach you what you learn from the great art from the ages. And please not just drawing and painting but sculptures, architecture, carpentry, printing, textiles, lighting gosh just about everything!

I spent 3 glorious hours in here and it wasn’t enough. I felt like I was running from room to room trying to see everything I could but the MET is just too huge and we were on limited time unfortunately but I can’t wait to go back and do it all over again! I bought the most stunning book on all the Art in the MET and devoured it in one sitting. Bliss!


Yankee Stadium

While standing around in the 9/11 line (not queue because apparently queue means cute – aaaw that’s so queue, really? WTF!) Anyways, in the line we were chatting about ice hocking and baseball and some old man next to us pipes up “You could go watch a baseball game, the seasons starts tonight”. OMG! *eyes as big as saucers* I have always day dreamt about being in New York during the Fall and seeing a baseball game where I can drink Budweiser out those big blue plastic cups, eat hotdogs and roasted nuts that I would buy from those vendors who walk up and down shouting “peanuuuuts, get ya peanuuts”. That night we booked tickets for the Wednesday game which would be the New York Yankees vs the Boston Red Sox! Not getting on the glorious Fenway Park tour in Boston became a distant memory because what could be ether than watching the Red Sox and the Yankees at the Yankee Stadium??

Secretly I will tell you that the Yankees are my 2nd team after the Red Sox but only because I really like the uniform, the crisp blue stripes on white is far nicer than the grey and red of the Red Sox aaaaaand the legendary Babe Ruth’s monument is at the stadium. My 2nd cousins all thought we were mad and should rather have booked to see a basket ball game but I really have no desire to see that, it’s either baseball or ice hockey for me!

The Yankee Stadium is in the Bronx so yay me I get to say that I’ve been to the Bronx now too! I learnt earlier on in the week that if I need directions it’s a lot easier to find and ask a NYPD officer because they are thee most helpful and pleasant people in New York (flutters eyelashes and smiles sweetly) We asked a group of 3 of them in the subway which train to catch to get to the Bronx and which street to get off at and the one proceeded to ask me if I had a gun. Shit, I didn’t know what to answer…. Is it a trick question or is the Bronx really that bad? He started laughing to which I relaxed and proudly stated that I’m from South Africa and not scared of anything. They were all charming and even indulged me by posing for a picture. Hehe, I swear I must have looked like I had something stuck in my eye the way I was fluttering them lashes.

The stadium is world class and we were so amazed at the entire experience. The crowd control is perfect, we didn’t stand in a line for longer than 5 minuets for ANYTHING, not even the restrooms. Hey? Ya, there’s an entrance, rows and rows of nice clean self flushing toilets, rows of basins and the exit on the opposite side! Ingenious I say! In and out in one flowing motion. There are miles all round of vendors that don’t just sell beer, hotdogs and merchandise but, and I kid you not… Pizza, chicken nuggets, Thai, Asian, Japanese, NY Grill which is steak and specialized sausage, Standard Beer bars, World Beer bars and then the normal hotdogs an peanuts. How’s that for service! My eyes goggled at all of this. But wait there’s more…. a 2nd inner row of portable vendors selling pretty much the same… Now I get why there are no lines – there’s so many options so everyone is catered for.

We grabbed a large Bud light in giant blue cups (whoop whoop) a dog which came in a cool little Yankees branded box and went off to our seats. The view, like all major stadiums gives you that instant inhale of breath that’s just at the top of your chest and your mouth drops open and Wooooooow! After I finished jumping up and down like a 6 year old and taking umpteen photos I sat to eat my now cold dog and started noticing little things like the sides of all the seats are branded with the very striking Yankees logo. There are NYPD officers everywhere and enough stadium staff to fill the field and all the vendors are in Yankee clothing only the colours are switched around – white stripe on blue and quite literally the majority if the stadium was all in Yankee attire. I had been warned not to wear my Red Sox top and when I asked a fellow supporter later why they weren’t wearing their Red Sox stuff I was told that “it’s not wise to take chances”.

The atmosphere was vibrant and positive and I swear I almost wanted to become one with the crowd all cheering and jeering but aside from just clapping I just watched and tried to take everything in.

It was freezing when the sun went down and the wind started up so after getting my hotdog & peanuts from one of the walking vendors *in my element now* I went in search of another Budweiser and hot chocolate for my Mom. I got all the way to the front of the line and realized that I didn’t have my ID on me (you get carded every time you buy a drink) thankfully the guy next to me stepped up and brought it for me 🙂 This was very sweet until the conversation took a turn to can I have your number. Eish buddy better luck next time.

The Red Sox won of course and I am so totally amazed that I got to go to a game and see these 2 teams, I feel like if I pinch myself I’ll wake up…


We Will Remember, 9/11.

We dedicated our 2nd day solely to Ground Zero and the 9/12 Memorial. I think most people on the planet know where they were when the towers went down… I know where I was and even though I had absolutely no connection at all with America or anyone American I can remember and I will never forget that day nor this day.

We pre booked our Ground Zeros tickets online – which supposedly gives you a set time and helps to avoid queues, Whatever! this was not the case as we stood waiting and queuing for about 2 hours. (There are no public restrooms so unfortunately its your bad if the need strikes). Before entering you are searched and security checked in true USA style – that was fine by me…. Them NYPD uniformed officers are so easy on the eyes and there is really something yummy about that uniform. We all love a man in uniform but those blues are smart man!

Once inside I could not help but think about all that was under my feet and the facts that were given. Over one thousand people are yet to be identified just by some small DNA miracle. The devastation that was once all here… just the thought of all that had occurred where I stood gave me the chills.

What you sees when you enter looks like a simple office park and just to the side the only tree that survived, the stalwart pear tree now known as the survivor tree. Then the North and South Pools cleverly placed to cover the 7 story crater holes that were left once the crumpled steel and concrete was removed. These vast pools give a haunting perspective of the shear size of the buildings bases. The pools are framed with wide counter top type looking steel carved with all the names of the deceased from New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. Underneath this the water starts. A thin singular silver pipe that splits into hundreds of single streams and then unites and cascades over 4 stories into the base of the huge shallow reflection pools made to reflect the sky to remind us of the vacancy above. Then down a smaller hole thats to dark to see into. It’s beautiful, timeless and raw really making you look at this beautiful memorial in a very viscerally light. The whole point I guess.

Bone chilling.

We moved on to the Memorial Museum and that just finished me off. I can understand that this unfortunate event is now part of Americas and indeed the worlds history but to have an exhibit of things like shoes, bits of steel from the towers, a window from one of the planes, letters from loved ones and pages and pages of those still missing and yet to be identified is just going to far. Exploiting the human emotions and especially mine is just not cool… I’m not sure what I was expecting I think I wasn’t expecting anything actually – how can you when you’ve been faced with the reminder of the devastation literally just an hour before!?!

It was the “Missing” photos that got to me first. They are plastered randomly along the one wall starting at the entrance and steadily increasing in numbers more and more until there is no wall space left, just hundreds of happy smiling faces of peoples loved ones that were all obliterated. I felt like a fool crying my eyes out – “Deep breaths Megan and don’t look at the faces”. So I continue to read the newspaper headlines I already know and once again stare at the pictures that shocked the world all the while thinking how cruel to make money off this tragic day and that’s when I rounded the corner and saw a letter written by a young child to his Missing Mother… I was sobbing again, I couldn’t help myself, it’s just so sad. Senseless waste of life. I left and walked to the new architect site.

I was relieved to know that most of the money received from Ground Zero and the Memorial Museum goes to different funds or charities that have since been set up of which there are many and can all be googled.