New York – Manhattan – Greenwich Village – Street Art

Posted in Greenwich Village, Manhattan, New York State, United States of America with tags , on January 16, 2017 by gannet39

Some snaps from the street when I was wandering around Greenwich Village in August 2015:













New York – Manhattan – Greenwich Village – Bleecker Street

Posted in United States of America, New York State, Manhattan, Greenwich Village, Bleecker Street on January 15, 2017 by gannet39

Bleecker Street runs through the centre of Greenwich Village. There are heaps of interesting shops along here. These are a couple of my favourite foodie ones.

Faicco’s Sausage Shop (Intermediate A), 260 Bleecker St, right next door to Murray’s Cheese Shop below.


As the name implies, this is the place to come for your Italian-style deli meats.


And other key Italian ingredients.


I had the Italian Special sandwich (with Prosciutto, ‘Cappy’ (Coppa) Ham, Soppressata, Mozzarella, Lettuce, Tomatoes and Red Peppers, phew!) which was pretty damn good (B+).

It was way too much for one though so a lucky tramp got the other half.


On a recommendation I had a bottle of Manhattan Espresso Soda which was better than I thought it would be (B).


Murray’s Cheese Shop (Intermediate A), 254 Bleecker St,, right next door to Faicco above.

A temple to cheese with an impressive range of varieties on offer, and a multitude of other exotic deli items.

I tried the ‘Murray’s Melt’, basically a toasted cheese sandwich on plain white bread. It involves a secret recipe apparently (B). Back home we would add a bit of Henderson’s to make it Yorkshire Rarebit but I couldn’t detect any added sauce.


Other places nearby I wanted to check out but didn’t have the time or stomach space are Kesté Pizzeria at 271 Bleecker St and Pasticceria Rocco at 243 Bleecker St.

New York – Manhattan – Chelsea – The High Line

Posted in Chelsea, Manhattan, New York State, United States of America on January 14, 2017 by gannet39

Chelsea is the district to the north of the West Village and the Meat Packing District. There weren’t that many food places on my hit list here but Chelsea Market is worth a wander.


The Cull & Pistol Oyster Bar, inside the market is worth checking out for reasonably priced lobster and oysters.

I came with Tom and his little boy to walk along the High Line; an old overhead railway line that has been converted to a pedestrian walkway.

You can take an uninterrupted stroll in pleasant surroundings from W 14th, near Chelsea Market, to W 34th street.


The route is lined with art instillations and plant displays all along the way.

At various points you can get views of the streets below…


…which have also been beautified with street art.


Lonely Planet lists it as one of the city’s must-do attractions which is a perhaps a bit of an exaggeration, but it certainly beats walking along a street. It’s worth doing if you’re in the area though, and of course it’s great if you actually live here.


The Empire Diner at 210 10th Ave, is a good place to stop off after a long walk. They have a diner style menu but it’s quite upmarket now with prices to match. It’s worth checking out just for the beautiful 1930s art deco building it lives in and the classic interior.


We also had a drink at The Park at 118 10th Ave which has a really nice garden area with trees interspersed between the tables. The steaks are supposed to be good but we were already full.

I’m sure there are many other good places in the neighbourhood, these are just my brief observations.


New York – Manhattan – The Meatpacking District

Posted in Greenwich Village, Manhattan, Meatpacking District, New York State, United States of America with tags , on January 13, 2017 by gannet39

The Meatpacking District is a small neighbourhood of about eight blocks sandwiched between Chelsea to the north and the West Village to the south, though technically I guess it’s part of Greenwich village.

The area has undergone rapid gentrification in recent years. In the 80s it was associated with drugs and prostitution, but in the 90s the yuppies and hipsters moved in and by 2004, it was “New York’s most fashionable neighborhood” according to New York magazine. I remember going to a fantastic club here back in 2006 and I presume it’s still a nightlife hotspot. This time though my visit was in the evening rather than late at night.

The Standard (Advanced A-), 848 Washington St,

This hotel has a roof terrace bar with fantastic views of the downtown skyscrapers, the River Hudson with Jersey on the other side and in the distance, the Statue of Liberty.


It’s very popular with a young and trendy crowd and is a great place to watch the sun go down. A Negroni (B), served in plastic glass, cost me €16 in 2015.


Hogs & Heifers (Advanced A-), 859 Washington St,, NOW CLOSED

This is (was) a classic New York dive bar. If you’ve seen the film Coyote Ugly you’ll have a good idea of what goes on. The barmaid uses a megaphone to abuse customers who don’t buy enough drinks or to howl like a banshee in accompaniment to the hard rock soundtrack.


What to drink when you’re in a dive bar? We settled for tequila shots and cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon, quite possibly the worst beer ever made.


This is not a place to be unpatriotic; police, vet and Teamster paraphernalia covers the walls. Nor is it a bastion of female emancipation. The barmaids encourage female customers to dance on the bar with them and remove each other’s bras, which are then added to the huge clump hanging above the bar. You can see the goings-on in this video I took.


Apparently back in 1996 Julia Roberts danced on the bar here and left her bra. The owners calculate that 16,000 bras have been removed since the bar opened in 1993.

I have recently heard that Hogs & Heifers closed in 2016 due to the rent being put up. It wasn’t my kind of place by any means but it was fun to have experienced it while it was still around. Here are six more ‘bra bars‘ should you feel like you’ve missed out.

New York – Manhattan – West Village

Posted in Greenwich Village, Manhattan, New York State, United States of America, West Village on January 12, 2017 by gannet39

In August 2015 I stopped off in New York for six nights of holiday before continuing on to Mexico for four weeks of work. It was my third time here, the previous visit being nine years before in 2006, and the time before that sometime around 1991. I really love this city so I was very happy to be back.


As can be seen from my Google map, my priorities have changed a lot over that time from partying and hunting for rare vinyl to eating and drinking as well as possible.

I was also here to visit friends, all Londoners having a change of scene. They included my old flatmate Alex, who has lived in Manhattan for over ten years, and Tom and Karen who were in Brooklyn for eighteen months.

On all my visits, my main problem was finding somewhere cheap to stay so I was very happy to find this historical hotel on a shortlist provided by Guardian readers…

The Jane Hotel (Elementary A), 113 Jane St,

Completed in 1908, The Jane was originally intended as a hotel for sailors on shore leave. This is why it feels and looks very much like an old ocean liner with small cabin rooms and bunk beds.

It was designed by William Boring who was also the architect for the Ellis Island immigration facility. In 1912 it housed many of the survivors from the Titanic disaster.

The Standard one bunk rooms are truly tiny but are some of the cheapest in the city at only $99 a night (2015 price). The Captain’s rooms are larger and have terraces should you want more space. Bathrooms are communal but kept very clean and the Wi-Fi has a strong signal. Breakfast is not included but there’s a cafe in the same building (see below).

The Jane Ballroom on the ground floor is one of the best places in town for a night out and is very popular with the party crowd at the weekends, but it didn’t disturb my sleep. Overall it’s a great place to stay despite the tiny rooms.

Café Gitane (Intermediate B), 113 Jane St,

This chilled café is in the same building as the Jane, so it’s the easiest place to come for your breakfast. The food is decent but a bit pricey in my opinion. I had an Egg & Merguez Sausage Roll with Parmesan & Salad for €14.50 and Lavazza coffee for €3.75


Corner Bistro (Elementary B+), 331 West 4th Street,

Just a few blocks along the street from the Jane, this old pub that does one of the best burgers in town. I recommend the plain burger medium rare (A+) but not the fries which are pretty ordinary (C). You could have trimmings like cheese and bacon but I think they detract from the flavour of the excellent meat patties. The sell local McSorley’s ale (see my East Village post) but I’d rather have the Hoegaarden.


Obviously there are heaps of other great places in this historic neighbourhood but this is what I sampled in the brief time I was there. There’s plenty more to come…

Norway – Hvaler – Herføl

Posted in Herføl, Hvaler, Norway with tags on January 11, 2017 by gannet39

Herføl is another small island in the Hvaler archipelago, just to the south-west of Søndre Sandøy. Historically it marks the south-eastern limit of Norway’s border with Sweden.

It’s also home to the Ytre Hvaler National Park, most of which is in the sea and contains kelp forests and a cold-water coral reef, but it also takes in part of the island.

It’s a great place to go for a walk so one day we hopped on the ferry for the short trip over the fjord to Herføl marina.


A few people live on the island in pretty tradtional houses.


This is the cover of a well which is quite typical in Hvaler.


First stop was another Bronze Age cairn which interestingly was directly opposite the one we went to on Søndre Sandøy. Perhaps they could signal to each other from these high points.

It must have taken a lot of people a lot of time to pile all these stones up on the top of the hill.


We picked some wild Juniper berries here to garnish our G&Ts back home!


From here we walked to the southern tip of the island which is the national park area. The coastal landscape is stunning.






There are Trollgryter (pot holes) everywhere here.




Wild flowers and plants abound.




It’s quite a rugged landscape to walk over but very beautiful in its own special way.


We walked up to the warning beacon to get the view.



Here’s a video of the panorama at the top. We are literally standing on and looking over the south-east corner of Norway.

This was definitely a day trip to remember. The cobwebs were well and truly blown out!


This is my last post on Norway for this trip, off to NYC next!

Norway – Food & Drink – The Good Stuff!

Posted in Norway on January 10, 2017 by gannet39

My trip to Norway in August 2015 was my first for nearly ten years and I was desperate to eat all the things I’d been missing. Fortunately, my auntie Gro, having fed me over many summer holidays, knows exactly what I like to eat.

Breakfast is always a good spread in Norway, It usually entails open sandwiches made with various kinds of sliced bread. Brød is the generic word for bread in Norwegian but it’s usually applied to brown bread, whereas white bread is called Loff.

Typically there’ll be a choice of ten to twenty things to put on your bread such as cheeses like Brunost (see last post) or Nøkkelost (white cheese with caraway and cumin seeds), and my favourite, sliced tomatoes with Norwegian mayo and chopped spring onion. I also love smoked or cured salmon (Røkt Laks or Gravelaks) with scrambled eggs. Another favourite is Kaviar (spreadable cod roe in a tube) paired with thinly sliced hard boiled egg. And of course strong coffee, cereals and various types of yogurt and milk.


On our first night staying at the summer house, Gro laid on a huge feast of Norwegian prawns, one of my favourite things in life and something you really must try if you ever go to Norway.



Many aficionados believe that seafood from colder waters has more flavour, which means that the North Atlantic Pink Shrimp (which we mistakenly call a prawn) must be one of the best, if not the best, in the world!


One of my first food memories, I was perhaps five or six years old at the time, is of my grandmother taking me down to the prawn trawler in the harbour and buying a bag of fresh prawns straight from the boat. It was a food epiphany for me, one of the first moments I began to properly appreciate flavour, and I have loved prawns and shrimp ever since.

Typically Norwegians eat prawns on slices of French stick, spread with unsalted butter and topped with mayonnaise. Sheer decadent pleasure.


My auntie soon followed this with another favourite meal; Frankfurter sausages, which are known in Norway as Pølser. These processed pork sausages are THE fast food of choice in Norway and have been since they were introduced from Denmark in the 1950s.

You can buy them just about anywhere, particularly from petrol stations, and they’ll be wheeled out at any excuse, for special occasions such as kid’s birthdays, or at football matches, or just as a snack between meals. I love them and will even go to Ikea just to eat the Swedish version, which isn’t as good obviously.


The speediest preparation is to simmer them, as is the case here, but perhaps the tastiest way is to grill them on a barbecue. You can put them in a sliced hot dog bun or more traditionally in a Lompe; a floppy flour pancake like a tortilla.

Most people will then just squirt on a bit of ketchup and mild mustard but other popular condiments (such as those in the picture above), are dried fried or fresh red onions or Rekesalat, aka prawn salad, the commercial version of which is just prawn, egg and mayo, although other versions exist.


Another joy best experienced in Norway is fried mackerel. One morning my brother went out fishing with my cousin and they caught about fifty! We were eating them for days but it wasn’t a problem.

On the evening they were caught, our Auntie Eva and Uncle Svein invited us round for tea and fried up a huge plateful of them with butter and parsley. We just couldn’t stop eating they were so good.


They were served with lovely floury new potatoes from their garden which were tossed in butter and dill, a very traditional preparation.


For dessert there was a huge bowl of strawberries from Eva’s garden. Typically these are sprinkled with sugar and lemon juice. Heaven!


Another popular dessert is Pannekaker med Blåbærsyltetøy og Rømme (pancakes with blueberry jam and sour cream).


Blueberries grow everywhere in Norway and I like to pick my own and just put them in the batter, as with this recipe.


It’s hard to get dark chocolate in Norway, usually my first choice, but I’m also very partial to a brand called Firkløver (four leaf clover). It’s a milk chocolate mixed with hazlenuts; a dangerously addictive combination!


The craft beer revolution has reached Norway as well. The Hvaler islands now have their own micro brewery called Kofoedbryggeriet.


The beer seems pretty popular with everyone.


The national firewater is called Aquavit (from Latin ‘Aqua Vitae’) and is typically drunk with seafood, and on special occasions such as Christmas. It’s usually flavoured with caraway or dill. The unflavoured variety is known as Brennevin (liquor) or Hjemmebrent (moonshine) if it is made at home. The latter was the cause of many a hangover in my youth!

The best stuff (pictured below) is called Linje Akavit, so-called because it has been put in oak barrels on a ship to Australia and has crossed the equator (linje) twice. The action of the waves, constant humidity and the changes in temperature are said to speed up its maturation. This practice continues to this day.


The Norwegians are of course great sailors and boozers and, like the British, they have sought out quality alcohols around the world. For example, when I visited Oporto I went to Krohn, a Norwegian port house that has been shipping sweet wine since 1865.

It was no surprise to me then that there is a Norwegian company, Haldenkanalen Cognac, sourcing good quality VSOP cognac, a bottle of which Svein was kind enough to share with us.


This is just a small selection of good things to eat and drink in Norway, I’ll add more to this post more in the future!

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