Friday, March 16, 2007

NY - Breakfast at Tiffany's Smith's

The beginnings of this, my second visit to New York started off on a somewhat debaucherous note. During the bus ride from the aircraft to our hotel it became apparent that there was a common goal among some of us - to have a big greasy breakfast at an all-American diner in downtown Manhattan.

Myself, another Australian girl (Natalie) plus three of the cockpit crew jumped on the subway and before we knew it we were seated at a 'classy' diner/bar/establishment by the name of Smith's Bar perusing the greasy alternatives for brunch. All three of the men (Canadian, American and Kiwi) decided two jugs of American beer would be the perfect accompaniment to our artery hardening meals, this suggestion was met by an encouraging response from the two of us girls. The amber ale cascaded (a little too easily) into our glasses and sure enough it was indeed an excellent addition to our late morning feast. It wasn't long before the liquid gold started to drape a relaxing blanket of impaired judgement over me, but alas I had to put an end to the bender and pull myself together - it was essential I was of sound mind for the very important purchase of a fascinator for the upcoming Dubai races. I knew the address of a little hat shop near Greenwich Village that sold beautiful hats, and my intuition told me there was the perfect number waiting to be bought back to Dubai with me.

Smith's Bar - a rather bold statement

Natalie and I walked through the streets on the way to our destination, we were frequently distracted by gorgeous little boutiques and funky vintage shops - it was a much softer side to New York that I was seeing this time. People were sitting on park benches talking, playing board games, laughing and eating in the unseasonal warmth of the day. I felt like I was in one of those places where I wanted to look at everything but my eyes couldn't move fast enough! We entered the gorgeous little hat shop and the first thing I noticed was a sharply dressed lady with snow white hair seated inside on a stool wearing a black top hat.

introduced herself with exaggerated hand gestures and a very thick New York accent before making quick work of placing a number of fancy feathered, felted and netted alternatives on my head in the quest to find the right one to wear with my race day outfit. Natalie and I couldn't stop giggling at Dolores, who was small of stature but certainly not of personality. She had so much character we could have sat there for the rest of the afternoon while she entertained us and lead us around the shop (literally) by the hand, describing each of the one-off pieces on display and getting us both to try her favourites on. Natalie fell in love with a big floppy Sienna Miller-esque hat, parading around the little shop in the jaunty piece with extremely positive reviews from her fans (ie me). Apparently this hat was an example of how they start off, before any bells and whistles (or hat bands for that matter) are added. It wasn't long before I was walking out of the store holding a round black hat box, quite satisfied with my (sober) decision.

The beautiful Ms Dolores

Natalie and I then met up with one of the pilots which we had farewelled at breakfast. We strolled around the suburb marvelling at how hot the day was (easily around the 25degree Celsius mark), a world away with what was to come three days later when JFK airport would be closed down following a winter storm, leaving 5" of snow and ice across the Big Apple. How lucky to have visited on such a summery day, despite swealtering in our layers of winter woolies, I can't wait for my next date with New York - I think I might have just fallen in love this time!

Friday, March 09, 2007

A date with Picasso

I arrived back this morning from a delightfully relaxing trip to Dusseldorf. It was my first time to this German destination and just like my visits to Hamburg and Munich I found Dusseldorf to be just as beautiful. I had done a little bit of research before leaving Dubai and was planning on seeing a Picasso exhibition that was showing in one of the major galleries. After some hesitation at setting off to my destination using public transport by myself (where all the names for stops and lines sound freakishly similar to my Australian ears - ie Handelszentrum, Kaiserslauterner, Lierenfeld Betriebshof) I was lead to the big gallery by a very friendly local girl who saw me nose deep in a map of the city while I was waiting at the train stop. As luck would have it she worked at the police station right next door to where I was going, so she kindly took me from the train to the underground and then a short walk to my date with Picasso.

The exhibition presented a collection of works which Picasso produced in the last decade of his life. I spent a blissful two hours getting lost in the frenzy of abstract shapes and bright colours in his canvases. It made me remember how much I enjoyed my days at university studying works like his.

Once I had finished catching up with Picasso I walked through the narrow back streets, going into some of the cute boutiques with funky nic-nacs where I bought some chocolate wrapped in the cutest paper - little red strawberries and cursive running writing in German (who knows what it says!), and some other little pieces for a friend of mine at home who needs some cheering up at the moment. While I was waiting on the street for my train to arrive I bought some yummy blueberries and bananas from a big open-air fruit stall, I have great designs for those blueberries - am thinking of making some brulee perhaps. I still had a few minutes to spare before my ride came along to take me back to reality so I bought a small mountain of pomme fritte, with a big dollop of creamy mayonnaise on top and a miniature sized fork. I sat outside the stall, in the warmth of the sunshine on one of their park-bench tables with several beautiful older ladies seated around me who were delicately consuming their hot chips, dressed so impeccably in their burberry-checkered trench coats and matching bags, with coiffured hair combed perfectly into place.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Crazy-town Karachi

International Flight Attendant. Before starting this job I had some romanticised ideas of this job title and knew that along with the more glamorous aspects there had to be some less than fabulous sides to it as well. Yesterday was one of those not so glossy days, where the entire crew were pushed to their limits - both physically and metaphorically.

It was meant to be a simple turnaround. Leave Dubai in the afternoon, drop passengers off in Karachi, pick new ones up, land in Dubai, clock off at 11pm. Well things appeared to be flowing perfectly until we had touched down in Karachi and were informed by our captain that the previous aircraft needed some engineering attention before taking off again so we were going to give the crew ahead of us our plane and we would wait for the other aircraft to be fixed and then take it back to Dubai. At this stage the wait was calculated at being around the 4 hour mark (it was 8pm at this point). A few groans and sighs were expended and we were then lead by ground staff through Pakistan's humble airport to the crew lounge which consisted of a sub-arctic air conditioned room, no windows and four lounges for 15 crew. Shoes were kicked off, hair was uncoiled and some made a beeline to the cold spring roll and hot beverage buffet. To pass the time many of the girls perused the airport's retail outlets, stocking up on high quality pashminas at bargain prices. For reference, leather jackets are exceptionally cheap in this neck of the woods as well (roughly $A80) however on this occasion none of us were in the market for such goods, circa 1980.

The clock kept ticking, and the early morning hours were beginning to turn us slowly into sleep deprived bed-hungry beasts, not too dissimilar to Michael J Fox's transformation in Teen Wolf. It was fast becoming clear that the four hour wait was a modest estimate and at 3am we were making the best use of our delusional state of mind and entertaining grand illusions of an escape back to Dubai by camel-back. At 5am the ground staff announced that the aircraft was good to go, and we would be taking the empty aircraft back to Dubai with no passengers. Hurrah! We bounded up the stairs to our mother-ship and we each grabbed a seat in the front cabin and the sound of electronic footrests raising up infiltrated the tropical air. Before reaching the fully inclined position there were shrieks of horror and a chorus of arm smacking - the aircraft was infested with mosquitoes! The main door had been left open the entire 9 hours on ground for the engineers, and the little blood sucking insects had clearly taken a liking to the indulgence of 'flying' in one of our premium cabins.

Despite the humid conditions we all grabbed blankets and covered up from neck to foot in an attempt to ward off the critters. I wasn't content with leaving my head exposed to Malaria so I tore away the velcro attached chiffon scarf from my work hat and tucked it into my blanket, draping it over my head. Yes, some may have laughed but I certainly wasn't going to take any chances!