How to Use the New York Subway

We had few days in New York earlier this year, and then a wedding in Connecticut (that in my head I can’t stop pronouncing the c, as in Connect-icut). Let me just start by saying in the nicest possible way, nothing in that country makes sense. We first realised this when it took us two wrong trains and about 10 dollars wasted trying to work out how on earth to use the Subway.


Manhattan Web

  1. The Precedent – Forget everything you know about European city metro systems. You’re used to London, Paris and Madrid where all the trains stop at all the stations, platforms are normally colour coded per line, so all you have to worry about is getting one in the right direction.
  2. The Map – You arrive, you want to get out there seeing stuff as soon as possible! So let’s find out how to get there. This one is a mish-mash of numbers and letters and on the map we had we didn’t even have the end stations of each line to help us out. The Manhattan Island main section works on a very simple Uptown / Downtown system. Go Uptown to go North, and Downtown to go South.
  3. The Route – The numbers and letters show which trains stop at which stations, ie., the 1 stops at all of them, so is the Local train, but the 3 stops only at a few, so is the Express train. So not only have you got to find a route where you can change trains to get to another line, most times you have to go out of your way to reach your hotel.
  4. The Entrance – There are sometimes separate entrances for Uptown and Downtown, and really they are not very well marked. We found them quite difficult to find because there isn’t anything big and glaring alerting you to the fact that there’s a station here. One that we found was basically a door next to a big office building with the Subway markings on the wall rather than stuck out so that you know it’s there. The older ones that go straight down off the street tend to have two yellow lights on the entrance, but still you can walk past two or three without realising that that’s it, because nothing actually says “Subway”.
  5. The Ticket Machine – If you’re in New York for a day or two, buy singles at $2.75 each. If you’re there for a few days like us, get a MetroCard from a booth, it was about $30.00 for seven days and well worth it!
  6. The Platform – Find your platform, which is a challenge because it’s a maze of pillars, not nice spacious tunnels like in Europe and the A stops on this platform except for weekends when it stops over there, and the 2 stops on this platform unless it’s after 9pm when it doesn’t stop at all… And crap like that.
  7. The Train – The newer trains are equipped with an electronic display to show where you are and what the next station is, great! If you’re lucky you’ll find a busker, or a beggar, it’s generally quite quiet too, we didn’t see any trains that were too busy – but we weren’t travelling at rush hour and we were going to the tourist areas so probably this didn’t give us a true picture of the trains themselves.

The Skyline – a beautiful disused Subway track converted into a park

And then you’re off the train. Going back to The Precedent – New York doesn’t seem very proud of its subway. The European metro seems to be more like a brand. You see no end of “Mind The Gap” tat in souvenir shops in London, and the art-nouveau Paris Metro design conjours up romantic images of the wide leafy streets leading up to the Louvre or the banks of the Seine.

It certainly looks like the Subway’s Golden Age has been and gone in New York. While many stations retain the old mosaic street number markers on the platform, and the pillars spaced evenly are evident of the might of the city above, it seems that the Subway system has been forgotten in recent regenerations, he needs a lick of paint, improved lighting, signage and passenger information, especially for tourists. But he’s so integral to this city, work it out and he’s your best friend.


#100happydays Days 28 – 34

Day 28 – A lovely sit down in Gran Electrica in Brooklyn after a long but beautiful walk by the sea. Food was lovely but it was the sit down that really made me happy!

Day 29 – The Staten Island Ferry is free, and a lovely way to see the city skyline and the Statue of Liberty from up close. I was happy that it was free!

Day 30 – You already know that I’m rubbish with my hair, but today I managed to wear it in plaits, and they stayed in for most of the day!

Day 31 – We move on to New Haven, so as I throw my Subway ticket away, I remember how lively it was. There were always people bustling about, and remembering the previous day where at 34th Street Station I was watching a boy solve a Rubiks Cube at lightening speed while a busker played The Beatles Here Comes The Sun while the rain pounded the streets above.

Day 32 – Finally a sunny day! Perfect to explore Yale University. After the previous day’s pouring rain it was wonderful to have a walk around in the sun.

Day 33 – This was the wedding of one of Daniel’s friends to his beautiful American fiancée. Daniel did the Best Man’s speech and absolutely nailed it! Every day he makes me so happy but after that I couldn’t stop smiling.

Day 34 – A last look at Nueva Yorkcito before getting on the plane home. I’ve spoken so much more Spanish than English, and although the US is an English speaking country I’ve actually never visited it with English natives. For me I associate it only with speaking Spanish, and that much practice has made me very happy indeed.

Daffodil Gardens

I snapped these little lovelies in my Mom’s garden this morning. It’s beautiful weather at the moment, and the daffodils are beaming! It’s my Mom’s first proper Spring in the house, so the beds were full of daffodils, light and bright and welcoming. Days like this make me wish I had a garden, I love her house – it’s got that real vintage character, beautiful gardens and it comes alive when we are all there together. Hollywood, Worcestershire is worlds apart from the noisy and throbbing US namesake, being in the countryside is wonderful (I couldn’t do it permanently), walking next to fields, with horses, and village shops!

But then I get home to the heat of the city and I see the sun on the balcony and the little Indian family having a little picnic in the park and I love my flat and I put the daffodils that I picked in my Mom’s garden in the vase and I sit back and enjoy the heat after the horrible rainy Winter and I hope that this Sunday afternoon lasts forever.

daf - Copy



Random Moments of Delight

A Very Vague Bucket List

31st January

January is an interesting month, it makes you think about what you’ve done in the past year, and what you want to do in the next. I’m going to be 31 this year, and I’ll be getting married when I’m 32. My Mom was something like 20 when she got married, and I know that times change – more university years, more careers, general attitudes to sexual freedom have changed so much – but I feel old doing this at this age.

Big stress, drowning in detail, or kick up the back-side

Big stress, drowning in detail, or kick up the back-side

I bought a wedding magazine today, by accident. Haven’t opened it yet. The Mexican one was a mistake as well, waiting in the queue at the supermarket just flicking through, and before you know it it’s in the trolley! We’ve got potentially five weddings this year as a guest, all over the world (well, UK and USA). Everyone is more or less our age so it’s kind of the right time to do it. But I’m very, very aware of age creeping up. And if I didn’t want children I’d probably be OK with it. So right, this morning I was thinking about a Bucket List, or a Life Plan but I don’t even know what I’d put on it. I’ve bought a house and met the man I want to spend the rest of my life with, so then we get into the details. So here are some short, medium and long-term goals.


  • Get settled in the house we have bought
  • Concentrate on getting recognised at work
  • Enjoy New York
  • Start getting my weight back on track
  • Training for this 10K run in March 2014


  • Getting healthy and slim for my wedding
  • Plan a beautiful Anglo-Mexican wedding
  • Decorate the house we have bought, in that truly international style that shows our travels and our roots
  • Re-vamp my work wardrobe
  • Visit my friend in Australia


  • Visit Moscow (my travel dream since I was very young)
  • Save for a future, not just a holiday
  • Stay healthy for a long life together with my Danielote
  • Stay happy

Modern Role Models – Biggest Loser USA

Another series of The Biggest Loser started a couple of weeks ago, on Sky Living we are on season 12 of the US version – The Battle of the Ages. I was glued to Season 11. It really inspired me, if these people can run – at 300lbs – so can I. I don’t often “Like” public figures on facebook but Courtney, Irene and Hannah really touched me. They kept so confident and so positive through the whole process and while I’m happy that Olivia won I really think one of them should have got the prize for their attitudes.

Biggest Loser Season 11 – Courtney

So, I “Like” their pages and it keeps me going. I lost about 35lbs a few years ago, and happily I’m still hovering between my goal and about 5lbs over. It leaves room to eat, to enjoy my life. It was hard, and I started from a really, really low point in my life. But here we are 3 years later and I’m happier with myself – no, ok I’d love a flatter stomach and thinner thighs but I know I’ll never get there. I started running at the gym. Not loads, just 20 minutes run-walk – if they can then so can I.

Admittedly nobody in this season is standing out for me at the moment, but it’s only been two weeks. But we’ve already had a stupid argument about game-playing within the Middle age group, so already I don’t like them. The Young ones are hard-done-by as far as I see too, the Middles are out to attack them because they don’t respect them because they are younger. I think that’s an awful attitude to have, you are all there for the same reason and to that end it makes no sense to be like that. Courtney, Irene and Hannah and everyone else in Season 11 were united, they all knew that their end goals were the same and voting decisions were made by effort put in rather than anything else. Bob is still there but Gillian is gone, and there are two new trainers, Anna Kournikova (of-not-really-winning-anything-in-tennis-fame) and Dolvett somebody – which is a shame because I liked Brett and Cara.

It’s the girls in these programmes I aspire to be like, strong-willed women who finish what they start, not the girls in magazines with flat stomachs that are ridiculed when they reach a size 12. I do understand that weight is purely subjective, you might be only 115lbs and still want to be thinner – and that’s ok. That’s ok until you reach an unhealthy situation. For example, 105lbs is within a healthy range for my height but I’d never want to be there – I’d look skeletal. I want to be on the chubby side of normal. So why are these thin women in magazines the image role-models for young girls? But I remember being young, at 20 years-old that’s what I wanted to be. If you’re always on the chubby-side of your friends, and you’re thrown into a new situation at work or uni, you do want to make the best of how you look, and being thin and beautiful is all you can think about. At school at 15 it’s even worse – I was always just in the middle then I discovered Naj in Year 8 and it all ballooned from there (Naj was the name of the corner-shop by the bus stop). At 15 girls are so horrible to each other, if you’re not wearing your hair a certain way, or colouring in your school tie or rolling your skirt up then you’re nobody. Even worse if you’re clever. I was branded all the names : weird, geek, freak.

Feeling good in Mexico after losing 35lbs

Feeling good in Mexico after losing 35lbs

There’s always going to be that expectation, to be that ideal perfect proportions, with clear skin and shiny hair. Apparently though, there are cultures that praise the fat girls, small island nations like Nauru, Jamaica and Tonga, or in Africa like Mauritania. In a lot of these places being fatter is associated with wealth and fertility, being able to feed your family, so girls are fed-up as children to marry better on the social standings. Most of these countries are still living quite a simple life, without the infiltration of Western popular culture where being thin is a sign of famine and illness. How does this happen? How can the idea of food turn from a symbol of wealth into a symbol of “laziness”? I’m sure back in the 1700s in the UK it was the same as these modern-day nations, feeding up to marry off. Now we are lazy we eat and eat until we start to crack, mentally and physically.

Commissioner Goodell & Jerry Jones Are Women Haters!


I am really angry about this, so I’m reposting. I am considering filing a discrimination law suit against the NFL and the Dallas Cowboys! As we prepare to be awed in our new AT&T Stadium, the Home of the Dallas Cowboys, where we hope they can stop drooping calls and passes this season! I get this email. The NFL completely markets and caters to men and are so incredibly discriminatory in their business, advertising and basic principles, yet I am still a NFL, Dallas Cowboy season ticket holder and a die hard fan. I am annoyed to say the least at this new level of discrimination. NO PURSES that are not clear. Men can stuff their saggin pockets and their cargo shorts, but some women do not use pockets because they are not very attractive and show bulges. So, Jerrah has agreed to get the following beautiful and very expensively-made…

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Cheesecake Factory

Cheesecake Factory Birmingham, AL

So, completely off topic, I was talking to my friend the other day, the question was : What would you do if they built a Cheesecake Factory in Birmingham?

The answer is probably not repeatable here, it basically involved giggling, shouting and having to go there every day. Where would you build one in Birmingham? Going by US standards you’d build it at Star City, Merry Hill or some other out-of-town entertainment centre. But I think it really would make a killing in on the canals, or on the top floor at Selfridges. It’s too yummy to think about!

You see these things on TV, but never think you really will come face-to-face with a slice of cake that’s bigger than your head! The drink we could have shared and the cheesecake itself we were still eating the next morning…

Here’s my reaction to it all in Macy’s rooftop Cheesecake Factory restaurant in San Francisco. Displaying the classic “oh-my-god-what-have-i-done” face.