Travel Thursday – 9. The best business trip you have been on

Business? The only business travel I have done is within UK cities and although its fun seeing different places (given the chance) I abhor staying away overnight when I need to. I love doing it when I want to. I think every trip abroad should really count as business as I always feel so inspired when I return.

However, the closest to an exciting business trip I’ve had were the months I spent in New York to go to writing school. (unfortunately tax man said it doesn’t count as I was learning a new trade).  I’d been back and forth for many years so the place wasn’t new, it’s just the excitement of learning and the opportunity to write every day. Also, it’s exhilarating to be surrounded by writers and artists and the only place on earth where I felt I belonged.

Still, I’ve kept my New York life with me by completely changing the balance when I returned; the priority is to write and the rest of my life just fits tightly around it.

Travel Thursday: 8 Your funniest travel experience (you had to be there)

It’s not one incident as such, but I’ve often said the best trip I’ve had for just having a ball was my time in Italy, travelling through the northern cities. (The best trip otherwise is Vancouver, eclipsed recently by Vancouver mark 2)

I met loads of people and we just laughed from the breakfast to turning in and had many standing jokes.

You had to be there but….I’d been teasing that I was going to have a McDonalds despite being in my culinary heaven. I find one in Florence and made sure I got back on our bus before everyone else so I could leave the empty cup at the front for all to see. Like I say, you had to be there but the McDonalds tasted a hundred times better than what we have.

Another time I got locked in a garden in the early hours and my companion (I was  young(er)!) and in the end the police came to let us out. I sheepishly escaped in a taxi after flashing my UK ID.

I’m mortified to get a standing ovation at breakfast as everyone had realised I hadn’t come back to the hotel at night but instead crept in at dawn.

The funniest time though, was when we were all at a wine tasting at 11.30 in the morning. This is a wine tasting where sensibly, we actually drink the wine.  I came out having bought 2 bottles and promptly dropped the bag in the courtyard. Everyone was ahead of and it just seemed such an apt moment,we literally all fell on the floor laughing.

The lovely people replaced my bottle.

It’s just the best week of laughs I have ever had and I’m still in contact with one of the lovely ladies I met on the trip.

Travel Thursday:Your most emotional travel experience (positive or negative!)

For me, every trip is emotional, travel is what I strive for. All my other loves are in my daily life but travel I have to wait for so there are always tears of joy at some point.

If I had to pick one time, it’s the first time I travelled to New York on my own. I’d been visiting a friend in Florida and tagged a four-day weekend in NYC on to it. I was petrified at first (first I was afraid, I was petrified etc etc). I checked into my hotel (won’t name) and felt I was in a brothel. I have no idea why I decided to stay mid-town, I really don’t like the hustle and bustle of 42nd St and Times Square and ordinarilly avoid at all costs. I think I was thinking it would be safer.

Also I couldn’t get into the what was going to become my regular haunt, Chelsea Star Hotel just above West Village and over looking the temple of New York, Maddison Square Gardens so after checking in and wondering if my luggage was going to be in my room when I returned, I stepped out into the sultry July day and walked the 10 blocks to Chelsea Star, who thankfully booked me in for the next day. Better than that, they put my mind at ease about staying at my hotel for one night as they knew them well.

On to the emotional bit, as if being in New York – and alone – wasnt enough, on my walk back up town, there was a spring back in my step.

I remember waiting with a throng of people  to cross the road, as I did, I looked up to my left towards Hudson River and there was a gorgeous sunset – like there’s any other kind.

I remembered there and then how lucky I was to live this life and be able to travel to all the places I have. And burst into tears of joy.

I always remember that moment if ever I’m on  a trip that isnt quite going to plan. Some people live their whole life and don’t get to travel to just one of the places I have, just one time. I’ve been dozens of times and love every single second.

Travel Thursday: Your most enjoyable journey

It has be the ride from New York to Washington in 2008.

In my mind, it’s the home of the best TV programme ever made, West Wing. It’s about 4-5 hours bus ride which I chose over the train as I felt I would see a lot more along the way making the journey part of the adventure.

This is my (delayed) birthday adventure for the year where I go to a city for the first time and everything got ticked off on route:

We drive through New Jersey which I love, I always feel like Jersey is real America and certainly the heartland of rock ‘n roll.

On the radio, I hear ‘Holiday’ by Madonna as if I wasn’t already in holiday mode. Then the clique American radio bands – guaranteed to hear on the radio – John Cougar Mellencamp and fittingly for Jersey, Bon Jovi.

To top it all, the young women in front of me had a little laptop and she’s watching the last every episode of, you’ve guessed it, West Wing. I had my radio in my ears but of course could follow every scene, I’m sure she didn’t mind me looking over her shoulder.

I arrived in Washington even more hyped up, fittingly as the city is preparing for President Obama’s inauguration.

The story unfolds here

Travel Thursday 5. Your favourite restaurant you have visited

Wow this is tough! I judge ‘best restaurants’ to be those I’ve had the best time in, not necessarily best food, expensive or Michelin stars. Still, there have been so many, especially in New York. I’ve eaten at the Waldorf on Christmas day and had countless great experiences. If I had to choose one eating experience then I choose the one that I enjoyed during one of my ‘top 5 days ever.’

In brief: San Francisco 2007, to celebrate my birthday, the first time I go away for my birthday rather than have my traditional party. It’s the Sunday before my birthday; I go to Little Italy, always a favourite place in any city.

In SanFran, it’s the North Beach neighbourhood. Instead of placing me at the side somewhere, they seat me right in the middle. I have the most unrushed brunch and my love for Eggs Benedict starts right now.

I read most of the Sunday Times magazine feature on Paul Weller, going back to his home town, Woking. This was the first day I appreciate Paul Weller’s music, perhaps because I’m in such a good mood, but I’ve bought and loved every CD since. I go onto have one of the most perfect days ever including walking over Jack Kerouac’s ‘star’ outside a gorgeous book store. From then on, every time I have Eggs Benedict, it reminds me of both Paul Weller and San Francisco.

I have no idea what the place is called but its right by the church on the square. One day I’ll find out.

North Beach

Travel Thursday. 2. The worst/most disappointing place you have visited

There have been a few dissapointments although all the fantastic visits more than make up for it. In any case, Paris may not have done anything for me but it doesn’t mean I won’t go back, one day. So this will surprise many but my biggest dissapointment is Dublin.

Back in 1997,  I popped over for a few days with a Dubliner boyfriend, the plan being he’ll catch up with family while I be a tourist. Well I must have stuck out like a tourist because I was stared at wherever I went. I’m sure Dublin has changed a lot in the last 14 years but the staring (ignorance not racist I know) coupled with four days of constant rain means I’m not going back to find out. Not even Oscar Wilde heritage or Guiness is going to make me!

Travel Thursday: Your all-time favourite place visited

Based on the most visited place for me over twenty years, it has to be New York.

The NYC you don't see; one of my favourite views, across Central Park to my neighbourhood

 Two years ago, I didn’t consider it a place I visited but my second home. I know (knew) New York better than I do London, or anywhere else I have lived. It was the first place I wanted to visit as soon as I could, never having had any interest in going to some beach on the Med and sitting still. Still don’t.

I have seen the world since then – well the parts of the world that I wanted to see, and then some. But it all started with this craziest, rudest, busiest of cities where I’ve always felt most at home.

But that’s the past, next week on Travel Thursday, most definitely, I’ll move forward!

Weekly travel post ideas for Ian Braisby blog