9 February 2020

Flying High... KLM Royal Dutch Airlines!

The journey back to Beijing, China takes long enough, choosing Birmingham Airport once again made getting to airport a lot easier. Making use of KLM's short connection from Birmingham to Beijing through Amsterdam allowed me to arrive in China without any delays. Sorry, Birmingham Airport really needs to step up those international direct flights! Get it direct BHX! Go!

Check-in had me shocked, one of the Passenger Services Agents had a foul look on his face! His KLM/Air France colleague apologised profusely for his unprofessional demeanour, she checked my bag in without any issues and apologised further even when it wasn't her problem. Proceeding towards the security checkpoint at BHX meant I had to say goodbye to my parents, with those farewells in order I proceeded through security. I was pleasantly surprised how streamlined the process was, I passed my compliments onto one of the security checkpoint officers. The previous December I chose to fly from Manchester Airport, the security checkpoint before departures was an utter mess compared with Birmingham's stress-free pre-departures security check. Manchester should take several pointers from Birmingham's operation, for that I was impressed! Fair play BHX, but we need more direct long haul flights! OK!

Tracking the inbound flight that would be coming from Amsterdam revealed a slight delay, I wasn't worried because the airline had to honour our tickets if we missed our connections. I got speaking to a fellow KLM passenger who was also going on to China from Amsterdam, she appeared to be quite worried but I reassured her in Chinese that there wouldn't be any need to worry. I didn't need any beverages that afternoon before my flight because I had to be focussed, I could wait for the flight over to Beijing, China that evening. With a boarding gate announced it was time to proceed further before boarding would be commencing. The inbound KLM flight from Amsterdam had arrived with enough time to spare, it would make the time up in the air and it was only a short flight. Taking to the skies, we were served a sandwich box with either a hot or cold drink. I asked if the refreshments would be complimentary because Aer Lingus Regional charged me! KLM had me sorted over to AMS!

After touching into Amsterdam's gargantuan Schiphol International Airport, my KLM City Hopper flight taxied to the dedicated stands for their smaller European based aircrafts. My Beijing bound KLM Royal Dutch Airlines flight would be boarding within thirty minutes after the Birmingham flight had fully disembarked. We were bussed to the nearest drop-off point that led to connections and arrivals, I for one ran for my life towards the escalators that led to the international concourses. Confirming with some fellow Beijing passengers in Chinese I had the confirmation I was going in the right direction! Thankfully I arrived at my gate with plenty of time to spare, the boarding process was quite lengthy so I took some time to marvel at the amazing photo opportunity I was bestowed. My aircraft was being prepared for the flight to Beijing from Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. Yes, KLM's new bluey livery impressed me! 

Bluey? I had shown the KLM 'Bluey' series to my former homeroom kindergarten class, they loved the adventures that the little KLM jet experienced during the cartoon. My Boeing 777-200 wasn't the Dreamliner that was originally scheduled, I took that change in my stride because I couldn't change that factor. I had tweeted KLM well before my departure date to see if the aircraft change was correct compared with the reservation details I had on my Trip.com account. Boarding for me came around, I patiently waited for the economy cabin to board on this China bound flight I didn't want any drama to arise. Luck was on my side, my Beijing seat was on the bulkhead row and better still the seat next to me to the left was empty! Taking off on-time, my KLM Royal Dutch Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Beijing would only take nine hours! If truth be told, I was content with the flight time! I was excited to experience the in-flight entertainment and customer service during the flight. 

I had completely relaxed into my bulkhead seat, I had plenty of room to not feel restricted during that long haul flight. I didn't have a seat-back screen so I took out my screen from in-between the seat to the right hand side of me. I browsed through the film titles to see some seriously good contenders for that Beijing bound flight. Choosing to watch 'Pulp Fiction' was the one for me, I waited for the meal service to begin before I started my film. I had enjoyed a lot of rich home cooked food at home in England so I chose the oriental option for my meal. The attentive KLM crew passed through the cabin with the first drinks service of the flight, they spoke English excellently and always had natural looking smiles on their faces! Not being a fool I had opted for a few red wines because the connection between flights had been quite rushed, again it was nice to relax into my seat onboard KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. Let's get to China! 

Getting into my film, I absolutely loved my economy class meal, I even ate the salad and I never ever eat the salads provided onboard a flight! Pulp Fiction was a really twisted 90s film, I really enjoyed watching it! Half way through the flight I went to the rear galley to ask the cabin crew if they accepted photos to be taken with passengers, they were very gracious but due to company policy they had to decline my request. I respected their response and for the company policy in place, overall the cabin crew that were on board my KLM flight from Amsterdam to Beijing were really friendly and attentive. Morning came around with the final service of the flight, I enjoyed some caffeine and the cooked breakfast option was much appreciated. I felt that the services offered were exceptionally good for present day economy class. It felt like such a relief to finally arrive into Beijing's Capital International Airport, my two week holiday had come to an end with those three long flights! Dank u, K!

Ik hield van KLM!

Joseph Harrison

8 February 2020

Birmingham, England: After Hours!

Going back to Birmingham is always something for me, it's where I studied for three years during my time at University College Birmingham. Wanting to swerve those Boxing Day shoppers I saved my Birmingham for the the nighttime. Spending my well earned coins from China, I stayed at a nice hotel for the night. Enjoying my Caribbean food before the night took full effect! 

After spending a lovely evening with my brother, sister-in-law, niece and nephew it was time for me to return to Birmingham. I had been conservative during my hometown visit, the drinks consumed during Christmas Day hadn't given me any hangover. Checking into my Hotel Indigo room, I felt like I had graduated all over again! My room faced my previous halls of residence, looking over that student halls gave me the truth that my life had progressed and then some! I don't want to sound arrogant but I have worked hard to get to where I am. Enjoying my room, I already had breakfast ordered for the next day! In my minds eye I was going to keep it cute, planning a walk into town for some food at Turtle Bay then maybe a few drinks at the Loft Lounge? Getting ready I did some surfing on a certain social app that I use in China, some individuals were rather ungracious but I don't suppose 我不再是英国人了吗? 我不知道? No!

Why did I stay at the Hotel Indigo? The appeal of Broad Street wore off pretty quick during my university stint after my first semester, it just wasn't safe during those twilight hours. Since I returned from China to spend a night out in Birmingham's city centre during August 2017, I saw some stark changes that were not for the best! Having lived across from the Cube, it had always been somewhere nicer to look towards, but as a student I could never afford that kind of price tag. Making my reservations before I flew out to New York, I knew I had made a good choice to be away from Broad Street for the night. The Travelodge might be for some but not for me, I don't want to sound like a hotel snob but since I saw security on the door during that 2017 overnight trip to Birmingham after time in China, I was shocked to the core! Nevertheless, I got ready for the night ahead with much anticipation for the night. Keep it together, it's just truth, the Hotel Indigo served something better!

我在北京吗? 不,我当时在英国伯明翰! Let me translate for those who don't speak or can't read Chinese. Was I in Beijing? No, I was in Birmingham, England! I had reserve culture shock because the amount of Chinese students who passed me as I made my way to Turtle Bay had me feeling as if I was back in China already! Feeling hungry I knew where my tea was coming from that Boxing Day evening! Having already tweeted Turtle Bay to see if they were open the day after Christmas, they replied with an answer that suited my plans fully. Ordering the mutton curry with rice with dumplings on the side, I opted for a deliciously refreshing rum punch cocktail. Turtle Bay, Birmingham was subdued during that Boxing Day evening time, that suited me just fine. Snatching Wi-Fi within Turtle Bay was much appreciated because my China Mobile sim wouldn't be any use for 4G in Birmingham that night! I enjoyed my food, all good!

Experiencing serious reverse culture shock whilst back in Birmingham, I had such a complex about my safety because everywhere I have been to in China has been safer than safe compared with the UK. I tried to keep it in my head that I knew this city well but somewhere inside my psyche I didn't know the Birmingham that existed in the present day moment. Aside from those side thoughts I carried on with my meal, the flavours impressed much because I had never been able to find Caribbean food in China, something that I wasn't going to compare or feel any reserve culture shock because I still had my rice! Casting my back to 2014, I had been invited to the opening of Turtle Bay's Birmingham location. A lot had happened in my life since 2014, Birmingham life was no more for me but four years on I still make it my best to return when I come back to England. So, Turtle Bay, thanks for the food and it's great to see your Caribbean food still being served in Birmingham! Irie B!

Going off grid, I went Southside to be within Birmingham's Gay Village and Chinese Quarter. Listening to those conversations I sensed a strong Hong Kong contingent had continued to call Birmingham their home, along with the growing Chinese, HK, Taiwanese and Macanese student population calling Birmingham their student home! Recognising the snacks from the window of the many Oriental convenience stores definitely gave me a sense of China! Heading for the Loft Lounge for the first drinks of the night I embraced not having any mobile data or Wi-Fi, I was going to observe and enjoy the night with enough money on my person it was fine! Enjoying my first few pints of Corona, little did I know at that point would a virus with the same name be ready to kick off once I would get back to China! No, I no idea that my Corona beverage had any link to an epidemic! No longer keeping it cute, I migrated to the Village!

After downing a few pints of cider, I felt as if I was in an almighty time warp that transported me back to my university weekend nights out! Things were quiet to start off with, as the night progressed it was time for the cabaret show by Miss Marty and Miss Penny, from the corner of my eye I was not mistaken, I saw that Rupaul's Drag Race UK star Sum Ting Wong had snuck into the Village Inn next to the DJ booth! Bringing yet another Birmingham Chinese connection that night, would there be another one before the morning? Amongst the music and the growing partygoers, I saw a rather handsome Oriental looking guy, he happened to be from Harbin, China! I couldn't imagine how it would fell to be in a club in a foreign country where people actually interact with each other, putting their phones away! Truth! Enjoying a few more pints, I got into the groove a little more before I got a taxi back to my hotel. My life has progressed, I have moved on, I wouldn't want to go back! Done B! 

Graduated, Never Forgotten!

Joseph Harrison

7 February 2020

2019: My Hometown Glory!

Flying across the Atlantic Ocean to reach mother England was no mean feat, being back on British soil felt amazing during that December 2019 moment! My six day stay would flash past me, I had one special human to meet that I hadn't seen before that pre-Christmas visit. Bilston thought it had me back, not on my living life did it have me back! Bring on my hometown glory, B!

My journey to reach England had started in Beijing, China after my United Airlines flight left for Newark New York Airport. After spending seven days in the states of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, it was time for me to board my Dublin bound Aer Lingus flight, that would allow me to connect with my Birmingham bound flight with Aer Lingus Regional. Taking to the skies on my final flight of the day, the Irish Sea passed by quickly, before I knew I could see the Welsh coast that bordered England. The rolling countryside looked immense from up above! As mentioned before, I had never truly appreciated the beauty of my own country, the harsh concrete views that left me in Jamaica, NY couldn't be any different compared with the picturesque rolling landscape that I marvelled at as my flight neared Birmingham Airport. Was I excited to be going home? Yes B, I was feeling very excited indeed!

Touching down at Birmingham Airport a few minutes later than scheduled didn't matter to me, seeing the apron and terminal building once again made me feel like I was growing closer to home! The Ryanair flights had my inter-terminal bus waiting for such a long time, those jokes made on Aer Lingus had come back to haunt me. Making my way into the terminal building I knew that I didn't need to worry about baggage reclaim because I only had carry-on bags. Immigration also wasn't needed, I simply walked back into the UK through a door that allowed passengers from both Republic and Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands, Sark and the Isle of Man. Finding my brother wasn't difficult, he hadn't been waiting in the car park for long after I had surfaced from arrivals. In hand with a can of cider and a bacon sandwich it was a great Brotherly reunion! As we drove back to the Black Country it gave us the perfect opportunity to catch up! Yes, it felt amazing to be back in England again! Go!

Rightly so my American adventure had been about food and drink from the very start, so my English sector wasn't going to be any different with Christmas on the cards! Leaving food out of the equation for the time being, we made a quick visit to my parents house to see how they were and for me to say 'hello!' Making it across the road to see my maternal grandparents was the best, its always great to see them after I spend the majority of my time working in China! They were doing good and at least in 2019 there wouldn't be any shocks or surprises, as the previous year I secretly flew back from India for Christmas! I wasn't feeling the jet lag to badly at that point, I wanted to stay awake for as long as possible before going to sleep properly. Being back in Bilston felt good, it's a place that doesn't have much life but its home and family ties remain tight in that Black Country town. Next time I will try best to arrive at night like 2018.

Supermarket shopping in China isn't mundane for me but it doesn't completely offer me the comforts of home, needing to pick some pre-Christmas shopping, me and my brother went to the local TESCO supermarket in Willenhall. For me it was like Christmas had arrived early, seeing the aisles laden with familiar foods with packaging that had only slightly changed since my last visit, it was visual treat nonetheless. I wanted some Walker's Crisps and some BabyBel cheese's, abroad its only 'Lay's' and BabyBel cheese in China can get quite pricy! One thing I really appreciated about having lived in China for almost five years at that point was the prices were so much lower in the Middle Kingdom! I wouldn't fancy doing my weekly shop in one of the big supermarkets in England, I'd go to ALDI and in Shanghai they are opening more ALDI's! I'll stay in China, at least more ALDI's will be opening soon! Not hating on my hometown nor the prices in the supermarket, it was nice to have some familiarity.

Before August 2018, going home was normal, but after my niece Orla was born that changed everything entirely! Going back the previous year in December 2018 allowed me to spend time with her during her first Christmas. Not long after I got the call that I was going to be an uncle for the second time, 2019s visit was made even more special because I got to see my nephew Owen for the first time since he was born earlier on in the year! At first Orla was like 'Who on earth is this person?' But throughout the week spent home, Orla became more comfortable with me and I got to see her free-styling to some Grime music, she's not all that bothered with nursery rhymes because she favours the melodies of Stormzy! Owen melted my heart, his infectious laughing had me thinking about why I had travelled around the world to see him for the first time! Every mile flown and ounce of jet lag was worth seeing those HB Babies!

Seeing my Brother and Sister-in-Law with their growing family was beautiful to witness. Being called an Uncle felt great, as Brother's we may not have seen eye to eye as children but as adults I couldn't be more of his achievements and accomplishments made as a Dad! Enough of that sentimental language, it was time for us to prepare for Christmas! I had given Orla her Christmas present the previous year in monetary form to go towards her first passport and the rest for savings. Owen didn't understand what all the fuss was about Christmas, regardless of him not knowing I gave his parents the same monetary amount that I had given to Orla the previous Christmas with the same amounts to be spent on his first passport and then for savings. Having known a lot of people my age in China that haven't ever travelled outside of their country, my niece and nephew were going to have passports with the intent to travel during their early years as me and my brother had done! Yes!

Christmas Eve was such a treat, I got to see my two aunties and cousins again after almost one year! The day was full of laughter, food and drinks and truth be told everybody was in good spirits because truthfully speaking, Christmas can be a really stressful time! I had really loved seeing the Christmas decorations in America during my week long stay, to be at my grandparents house to see the same tree decorated with the usual ornaments was priceless, to be within that cosy and comfortable environment was again worth every mile flown and every ounce of jet lag suffered! I didn't want a lot for Christmas, all I wanted to do was spend time with my family, eat delicious home-cooked food and drink lots of wine! I did ask for a few things, I asked for Jonathan Van Ness's new autobiography. For the Christmas week all I wanted to do was relax and have one night out in Birmingham before going back to work in Beijing.

The festive period at home was great, everything was enjoyed in good measure and it was immense to see everyone in my family again. I had a lovely Christmas during the latter part of December 2019 but since I have returned two years consecutively, for 2020s festivities I'm looking to spend the time in another country. Going home was the tonic that I needed, its always a grounding experience and since living in China I always feel a deep sense of 'reverse culture shock' but as time goes by its lessening. Being able to see my niece and nephew made my year, feeling like I have something more to love has given me a new sense of feeling. We can't choose our family, for that I'm glad because I wouldn't change any of them for the world because they wouldn't want to change me all the same! Saying goodbye never gets any easier but technology keeps us in contact still. From arriving into BHX to seeing my niece dance to her tunes, the week was worth the distance. 我们回家吧!

英国的圣诞节!

Joseph Harrison 

3 February 2020

Flying High... Aer Lingus!

Flying high for the second time, it had only been one week since I had arrived into Newark Liberty International Airport with United from Beijing! Making my way from Long Island City to JFK's Terminal 5 allowed me to have brunch with a missed sister friend! Going green to the Emerald Isle with Aer Lingus, my New York JFK flight to Dublin would be my first with the airline. 

My American adventure had come to an end, all packed, I found myself all checked out of my Local NYC Hostel. Heading over to Sandords Astoria for brunch with my sister friend, we worked as Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse superstars during 2012 at Newark Liberty International Airport during my work placement. Picking up where life had last allowed us to meet in person, we looked forward to the future! Real talk resumed, from the bottom of my heart it was just the best thing to see Fiorella again after our parting! With our brunch enjoyed and future Miami plans confirmed it was time for us to say goodbye one more time, stepping onto my JFK Jamaica bound Subway had to be the one! The JFK Air Train had me on the right track, seeing the different aircrafts and airlines had me living because I love aviation! Terminal 5 came around, heading for the check-in, it was time for Ireland! I was so excited to see my first nephew! Yes!

Checking in at the Aer Lingus check in counters allowed me to clock the nature of the New York JFK based passenger services agent, I knew the way the communication would be with that NYC and NJ chat. Checked in with no complications I passed through the TSA checkpoint without any issues. My side of T5 at JFK didn't have any immigration checkpoint, for that reason it made sense that Aer Lingus pre-clears passengers bound for North America before they depart the Republic of Ireland. Checking the flight through an online flight tracker allowed me to see when my Aer Lingus EI108 flight arrived as the inbound Aer Lingus EI109 service from Dublin to New York JFK. Seeing my green and white aircraft turn into the gate gave me the excitement that I was making my home to Birmingham Airport, England via Dublin. Not needing immigration clearance to enter the USA, the inbound passengers disembarked quickly, going onto collect their luggage! Aer Lingus made good choices!

Pushing back on-time, soon enough my Aer Lingus Airbus A333-300 had taken to the skies bound for Dublin's own international airport. Flight E1108 certainly served humour from the flight deck, those reindeer jokes were amusing to hear, nowadays pilots don't usually makes jokes during their announcements. Things were done differently on Aer Lingus, soft drinks were complimentary whereas alcohol beverages were available for a selected price. Wanting to have something nice to drink, I purchased two small bottles of red wine to accompany my chicken curry. Drinks were served early on into the flight, keeping to my blogging protocol I kept my drinks grape based for the meal. The meal itself tasted good, I liked that a small tub of ice cream that was served on the tray. I made a good choice! Overall, the meal choice was a good one to make! Would I be having a few more wines? Sorry to say EI but I chose to save my coins.

The flight from New York JFK to Dublin was under six hours or so, I wasn't bothered with full length films because I sensed that I was going to spark out at some point after the meal service. Choosing to watch short comedy's and drama's was what I did during that Ireland bound flight. Starting off with some 'Friday Night Dinner' then I enjoyed 'The Great British Bake Off', if truth be told it was nice watch a few short television shows from the comfort of my Aer Lingus economy class seat. The in-flight entertainment on-board my Aer Lingus flight Dublin stood to be new with a very modern design. The whole cabin itself looked like it was either brand new or had just been refitted. My meal was tasty, wine was just and the entertainment kept me occupied throughout my flight from New York JFK all the way across the Atlantic Ocean to Dublin, Ireland. My week in New York City, Newark and Philadelphia had been mad crazy, to sit back and relax for that flight was bliss! It was home time!

Ireland is famous for having two airlines, one has been slammed for its treatment of its crew and has a cold 'no frills' model. I chose not to fly with Aer Lingus's questionable flying Irish cousin, I chose Aer Lingus for its convenient transatlantic connection with their UK network. Back to the cabin crew, my Aer Lingus crew that looked after our flight to Dublin from New York JFK were friendly and approachable. After I found that I didn't have any earphones to watch my programmes with, I asked one of the crew members before departure if she could help me with my earphone situation. One of the other crew members also advised me that I buy two drinks in order to not miss the drinks service before the meal was served, that advice had me ready for my blog worthy shot and the second bottle of wine helped relax me into the flight after my hectic NYC Subway from Astoria to JFK's T5 via the Air Train. Much better! Thanks!

Half way through the flight I made my way to the frontward galley to see if any crew were about, I always ask politely for a photo with the cabin crew on any long haul flight that I fly on. I always keep in mind that different airlines have different policies and that some crew can be camera shy, I wouldn't want to be asked anything out of the ordinary if I was in their shoes! The crew on-board my Dublin bound Aer Lingus flight were chatty and even laughed about a joke I made about their 'no frills' Irish flying cousin. One of the crew kindly accepted to take a photo with me, I thanked them and took my orange juice back to my seat to continue watching 'The Great British Bake Off'. They had mentioned the company were in the process of changing their name badges to just feature their job title and first name, one of the crew had said to me that some passengers take it upon themselves to investigate on social media. Why would anybody want to do that? A, I wouldn't do that!

Landing into Dublin Airport with time to spare, it was nice to be closer to home but with one flight to go I needed to keep on moving! Disembarking after one of the ground crew had messed up trying to fit the jet bridge with the aircraft door. Making moves toward my Birmingham gate, I noticed outbound passengers who had just been pre-cleared before boarding their USA bound transatlantic flights. Passing through immigration at Dublin Airport was super easy, for that moment before Brexit things were rather informal. After clearing immigration it only took me a few minutes to find my ground level gate. The jet lag had hit me hard, the overnight flight was comfortable but I didn't feel like sleeping all that much. I could tell something wasn't quite right, I knew my Aer Lingus Regional EI3264 flight to Birmingham was delayed. It was due to the late arrival of the aircraft from the previous flight. 100% right!

Sensing that boarding was going to happen within the next five minutes I waited at the opening of the stanchions, my previous airline experience told me the gate agent was ready to allow us to board the bus. Within about ten minutes, myself and the rest of the passengers were bound for the awaiting Aer Lingus Regional EI3264 flight. Dragging my hand luggage up the aircrafts own stairs was something that I didn't want to do! Within five minutes the doors had been closed, my propeller plane soared towards the Irish Sea, finally I was on the way home to see my family in time for Christmas 2019! Making our descent slowly into Birmingham, the scenery looked so picturesque, I had never appreciated the beauty of my own country properly until that point! Landing smoothly into Birmingham Airport, things hadn't changed one bit! As we were being bused to the terminal, Ryanair had come back to haunt my jokes whilst on-board that Aer Lingus flight! It was no joke! Home time for sure!

Aer Lingus, Go Raibh Maith Agat!

Joseph Harrison 

NYC: Rockefeller Center, Times Square & Broadway...

My final night in the 'Big Apple' would set my full packed trip on fire, the very same afternoon I hadn't long stepped down from my Philadelphia coach! Negotiating my price in the heart of Times Square had to be done, I promised my students something from New York City! Before my Frozen Musical show on Broadway there was one sweet reunion left! I had missed Valerie a lot!

Leaving my Megabus behind me, I bounced over to Times Square to snag some souvenirs for my students. Finding some fridge magnets I brought out my China negotiation skills, the guy was playing me for a fool! No, I got my price and moved onto McDonald's in the heart of Times Square. Watching the million lights whirl past as the billboards advertised anything and everything felt surreal. I was back, it felt correct once again! Zipping back to Long Island City, I practically raided the corner stores, I wanted all of their candy! Freshening up and packing before heading back into the city, I was already on a mission, clearly that mission hadn't ceased since my United flight had landed the previous Saturday! Getting myself together, it was time to take the NYC Subway back into Manhattan for the final time, well for that trip anyway! The Christmas lights weren't going to wait for me, neither my friend Valerie! 

Going back down memory lane, I got lost a little bit within the crowds and telling the truth, my phone signal started to falter. Within the maddening crowds I found some calling to use my Chinese language skills, the rules pertaining public order were being taken very serious by the NYPD that evening, I paid attention. Catching the magnificent Christmas tree below the Rockefeller Center had me feeling all kinds of feelings, it had been some serious time since I had that 2012 Christmas Eve moment! The ambiance was typically tourist, I loved every second whilst I was in the zone, not paying any mind to the cameras or the excitable passersby who all wanted a slice of the NYC action during that pre-Christmas moment! Our phones were not working! Myself and Val had worked together during 2012, seeing her face after those years I could say she looked more beautiful! Getting to spend some time with my favourite Filipina was like magic! Our meeting was brief yet so lovely!

Saying goodbye to Valerie wasn't easy, I had to make my show! Thankfully I was able to use my maps to walk from our Pret A Manger hangout to Times Square. I felt very fortunate that I was able to see one of my forever Hallmark Aviation/Virgin Atlantic sisters, the next day would allow one final reunion. During that meeting we spoke about life and if truth be told I wasn't to entertain certain people because they only made the effort after I had landed into Jersey! Anyhow, the mesmerising lights of Times Square had me feeling those 2012 nighttime vibes! One million lights amazed me in that moment, I felt very blessed that I was able to see Times Square during the daytime and then in the evening, time had been pressed but that NYC landmark had got my timekeeping skills operating fine! Times Square had not slowed down, I had waited so long to stand in that moment, I savoured that moment! Get it, Times Square! 

Had things changed? Not one bit, I appreciated the vibe but I wasn't going to get caught up in the hype. Times Square had been one of the first places that I had visited during my first days in 2012 after moving to New Jersey for my work placement. I had returned independently, I hold no bad feeling toward one of the girls I had visited Times Square with but time had ousted the negativity with the other individual. It was a full circle moment, for that reason I paid attention to the lights and sights that played out in real time motion. My show would be starting very soon, I say goodbye to Times Square before making my to NYC's St. James Theatre. The week long experience had been intense, memorable and damn amazing, to have gone down memory in so many senses and to conclude things in the heart of Times Square's dazzling lights felt correct once again! I had one more meeting with Times Square, that would be after the show, the 7 train had my back! I'll be seeing you soon, TS! 

Taking my seat on the last row within the central mezzanine level at NYC's St. James Theatre, I waited patiently for Disney's Frozen on Broadway. I had originally wanted to see Disney's Aladdin fly its magic carpet but Frozen proved to be more economical, Elsa persuaded me to let that original musical choice go! I hadn't been to the theatre in such a long time, I think the last time I saw a show was in London during 2014? That show was the green themed, Wicked! Why had I not been to the theatre in such a long time? Let's just say in a certain Asian country their isn't much call for etiquette or appreciation to give the performers the applause that they deserve! Saving my coins, I travelled to NYC to see Frozen, I was ready to sing-a-long with those famous tunes from the film! Singing during the show by the audience was prohibited! Lights down, curtain up, my love for the theatre returned naturally! E, just let it go! 

The show started with the usual pace, references from the film had been written in well and other filling stories blended the key numbers together. The first songs played out nicely but I was ready for 'Do you want build a snowman?' The show was easy to follow but I was waiting for 'Let it go', sure enough before the intermission that anthem was belted out with energy and spirit! The second half of the show impressed me with its inventive storyline, seeing a show that was originally a film gave me the sense the writers had to add a little substance to the stage version. With the finale nearing and Frozen 2 already in cinemas at that moment, it was really interesting to see Elsa turn the stage into a series of autumnal colours! With the cold no more, those greens and brown tones definitely teased another Frozen stage show to be debuted in the future! With the songs of the musical in my head, I made it to the NYC Subway, a sadness filled my heart as I realised my trip had ended! Oh! 

Never Let Go! 

Joseph Harrison 

28 January 2020

South Street, Philadelphia: After Hours!

Taking it down to South Street in Philadelphia had to be done, I was ready for all kinds of shenanigans to take place that night! The weather was bitterly cold but South Street had its nighttime game on fire! I was mad hungry, ready for some Philly cheese-steak goodness at one of South Street's eateries! Bob & Barbara's opened my eyes to a new kind of drag! P, let's get it!

I wasn't bothered with food in Philadelphia aside from the afternoon's find at Nick's Grille & Bar in the Old City, that all changed when I found Ishkabibble's on South Street. I had my sights set on one of their cheese-steaks ever since I put together a paid USA travel blog during 2014. Ordering one Philly chicken cheese-steak needed to happen, doing just that I lived for the pint-sized kitchen facing seating that gave me full views of the realness that went on around me. My sandwich was freshly prepared in front of me, I kindly moved up one seat to allow three fabulous ladies to sit together. Taking in the South Street during my Iskhabibble's visit gave me life! Choosing the original venue at 337 South Street allowed me to see how things went down up close and personal. I tucked into my sandwich, the flavours were immense, the extra cheese had me in food heaven again! The toasted bun was crunchy, so delicious!

Taking my time at Ishkabibble's was necessary, my Philly chicken cheese-steak was huge and I wasn't about to waste any of it! If the food wasn't enough, the clientele made me crease with laughter because they were straight up Philly! One lady had ordered three subs for takeaway, she openly ran her mouth about the freezing temperature that the shop was! The three ladies were on their way to the 'Trap Karaoke' event that was taking place across the road were dressed to kill, their hair and nails were on prey! For me it wasn't just about the food, I was soaking up every piece of realness! What in the hell was 'Trap Karaoke' anyway? I would be finding out eventually, that nugget of ratchetness needed to be uncovered! Needless to say, I devoured my Philly chicken cheese-steak but I couldn't finish all of it because it was absolutely huge! Loving Iskhabibble's, it had been well worth the wait since those 2014 days of Philly blog research. Philadelphia was giving me those food feelings!

Walking back into the cold, I was in search of Bob & Barbara's Lounge to see Lisa Lisa's weekly Thursday night drag extravaganza. I was early, unknowingly walking in the wrong direction I was able to see South Street from a very quieter side. Even though those establishments were closed it was still interesting to see the variety that South Street served on a daily basis. I saw shop windows that featured mannequins who were wearing next to nothing, serving all kinds of risqué lingerie and the rest. Having already eaten at Ishkabibble's a little bit before my bitterly cold walk, I didn't pay any mind to the other restaurants. South Street served difference, I had been drawn to this much talked about street after one of the former Rupaul's Drag Race queens responded to my tweet. Finding Bob & Barbara's was the only thing that I wanted to do, the cold was well below zero! Pulling myself together I turned around without any haste!

Getting back into the vibe of South Street during that freezing Philadelphia night, South Street still served something vibrant without things going over the top. Getting closer to Bob & Barbara's the shops along South Street ranged from tobacco shops to vintage antique stores, the antique store front window transported me to another world! My last night out had been in Jackson Heights, Queens where things went down a Latino path, I was walking along a very different street that served something totally different! Oh, I was ready to get my drink on but that had to wait, consulting with my Apple Maps on my iPhone, I only had to walk for a few more moments. My day in Philadelphia had been full-bodied, I had seen so much! No, 2012 me would never venture down to South Street let alone stay overnight! South Street's Thursday night vibe from the outside was quiet, I could sense that what would greet me down the street would be another story entirely. I needed a drink!

Stepping foot into Bob & Barbara's transported me into a film set, giving me all the feelings of a premium dive bar! I had asked Philadelphia native, Willam Belli for advice for things to do at night in the city. William suggested that I check out the drag show at Bob & Barbara's. Ordering a hot toddy needed to happen, giving me life and the assurance that I wasn't going to freeze, I allowed myself to enjoy the environment. The venue gradually became busier and the legendary Lisa Lisa could be seen walking around the bar, greeting patrons and making slick jokes. I couldn't wait for the show to begin, something told me the queens performing would challenge my thoughts about types of drag in the best way! Getting myself another couple drinks from the bar, sure the bar filled up before the show started. I wasn't bothered about getting a good seat, it was all about snatching views of the queens to tip them well, B!

'All I Want For Christmas' was served with a smattering of 'Toni Braxton' from another performer. The first two performers slayed the venue with their nerve and uniqueness, I lived for those early performances! Serving some Christmas inspired 'Ariana Grande' with all her Christmas finery, one of the performers with blonde locks and a Mrs Christmas suit knew what to do, she brought the house down! An ebony beauty graced the stage with a sultry rendition of a song that I couldn't recall, I tipped her favourably and even got a photo taken with her! The performer in the photo above didn't have to stand, she slayed the her number with ferocity. It was only necessary to have one of the queens perform a bit of 'Liza Minelli!' I got my drink on, enjoying several double vodka cranberry, I was having the time of my life, I got my life! The night was so good and the performers opened my eyes to drag queens who served it big time, serving it with something special! Philadelphia done right!

Send Me South!

Joseph Harrison

27 January 2020

Back To The Beginning... Philadelphia, USA!

Several years have past since that first Philadelphia moment, being back on the USA's Northeastern  coast I headed down from New York City see what was going on! Taking the Megabus wasn't planned, I wasn't stunting so needed to get to Pennsylvania's Center City within good time. Going back to the beginning was the medicine that I needed, sure I had rushed things in 2012!

Stepping down from my Megabus from New York City onto the pavements of Philadelphia's Center City streets, a sense of correctness washed over me. Snatching views of Newark Liberty International Airport on the way from NYC was magic, those memories will remain. Returning back to Philly had to be done, I had rushed around like a crazy fool during my first visit back in 2012. I gave Philadelphia's Old City the respect it deserved, taking time to appreciate the 18th Century architecture. My Starbucks Coffee that I had opposite the Megabus stop within NYC's Hudson Yards didn't satisfy my hunger pangs, I was going to revisit the Old City and Penn's Landing within good time, adding the quickness to my pace. Being back in Philadelphia felt great, I knew where I needed to go and with my hostel reservations made I didn't need to think about getting the train back like the first time. B, Philadelphia had me paying my dues!

Taking my time I headed for the Delaware River to find Penn's Landing, I had literally walked past this Philadelphia gem during my explorations within the Old City streets. Getting down to that accessible Philly waterfront area didn't take me hardly any time, acquainted with the waters that William Penn arrived in 1862. I wasn't interested by the origins of that Philadelphia landmark but after researching things, I stood in the same place that gave the state of Pennsylvania its name, but nothing else should be mentioned because that time period was questionable to say the very least. Leaving the crazy of New York City felt good, I would return the very next day. The crisp cold air that morning gave me life, the waters of the Delaware River glistening in the winters sunshine. Making plans for my then imminent UK arrival, me and my brother coordinated those airport pick up details whilst Penn's Landing served views for days! My third U.S state and city in one week! Yes, Philadelphia!

费城 knew that I needed to pay more attention with my culinary choices, I wasn't going to be endorsing any chain restaurants during that overnight visit! Nick's Bar & Grille caught my attention, serving Philly with an unassuming vibe I headed in for my first drink of the day. Taking my seat at the bar allowed to fulfil that 'All American' bar experience during that lunchtime. Going for a pint of craft cider had to be done, paying attention to the lunch time menu was the right choice to make! Cheese is no joke, I live in China right now and that dairy staple isn't cheap! Embracing my stateside location I ordered the meatballs and the mozzarella sticks, on the side I had a healthy serving of parmesan cheese for those meatballs! Soaking in the environment, I enjoyed my lunchtime treats, the cider went down nicely and the food tasted so fine! I knew that I was going to miss all that cheese! Nick's Grill & Bar served it right!

Rewinding back to my first visit to Philadelphia, I hadn't done my research nor did I completely trust those streets. Taking some years of experience and with Newark recently revisited I had no issue feeling the true vibes during my Philadelphia comeback! Letitia Street within the Old City served everything, interesting eateries fronted the period features along that clean Philadelphia street scene. My morning with Penn's Landing had felt right, the lunchtime time finds from Nick's Bar & Grille were bang on the mark! Philadelphia during that 2019 moment stood as the right decision for me to have returned in the first place. My next moves were on the way, saying no to public transportation was the order of the day. Heading towards the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall gave me another first-time flashback! It was mad, I had the feeling that I wasn't going to get lost during my Philadelphia wanderings, I remembered a lot! I was ready for the night, the afternoon had even arrived!

After stopping for one cheeky pint of cider near City Hall, my next Philadelphia endeavour was to find the heart of Philly's Center City! Embodying every inch of my Samantha James personality, I found myself in the heart of Downtown Philadelphia. I had briefly seen that part town during my 2012 visit, as with the other elements I didn't spend enough time to pay full attention. Being dealt with a second chance gave me life, it gave me an appreciation for that moment as I stood in the heart of the city with the main government buildings and courthouse as my immediate location. I had forgotten my little black bag, make no mistake I needed that because I hadn't lost my phone since it stayed safe in that bag, scouring the shops along Chestnut Street didn't prove fruitful. I didn't find a replacement, but I was acquainted with such a sweet lady in passing, her gentle manner reminded me of my friend, Chanel. So sweet!

Let me recount my random act of kindness. Ever since I returned to Newark, NJ, I had been faced with full frontal scenes of homelessness. In China it's so rare to see those kind of sights, things are so different compared with the United States. The majority of the homeless people that I saw near Newark Penn Station basically pleaded with me to give them some money, my heartstrings were pulled at but somehow for two people they still found the resources to smoke rather than to spend the money on food, choices? Very that! In Philly, as I made my way towards City Hall I saw a man sitting on the pavement looking incredible down on his luck, something told me that I needed to do act upon my thoughts. Putting a one hundred dollar bill into his cup, I wished him a happy holidays. For once I didn't pass judgement, whatever he decided to spend the money on was his choice, the fact he never begged in the first place, that gave me the sense he wouldn't squander the money. Just be kind!

My final port of call during my return visit to Philadelphia had to be the 'Gayborhood!' I had mapped out my Philly day of exploration with a fine tooth-comb, my pre-trip research allowed me to maximise my time to see many parts of the city, that included the city's kitsch corner. Lined with quirky shops and doggy pampering parlours, the understated camp nature of Philadelphia's 'Gayborhood' made me feel very comfortable indeed. I wasn't looking for any drinks within that part of town, I was looking 'Giovanni's Room'. First time around I discovered a wonderful LGBT bookstore that doubled as a thrift store, all proceedings from the thrift products go to fight HIV-AIDS. Bagging two copies of my British 'Attitude Magazine' during my 2012 visit, I settled for a copy of 'Out Traveller'. I saw an ethnic Chinese patron, I asked if the prints were popular with the Chinese students? LGBT texts are hard to find in China!

Content with my mammoth day out spent in Philadelphia, I retraced my steps back to my hostel as I had found its location that morning. Choosing Apple Hostels for the night was the right thing to do, securing reservations at the Double Tree Hilton Hotel caused me many issues. Getting my passport and other items locked away was fine, if truth be told the staff at my New York hostel in Long Island City were much friendlier. The day had been full packed but the night was about to get crazy! Giving myself sometime to freshen up and to charge my phone was just the thing that I needed to get done. Taking my time, knowing the way around city and having patience allowed to see new and familiar sights within Philadelphia's city core. The night ahead was going to be fabulous along South Street, ensuring my accommodation was near that street was hard enough to execute, I had to make the best of the situation. Returning to Philadelphia was the right thing, yes it made my trip better!

Forever Philadelphia!

Joseph Harrison 

23 January 2020

NYC: Rollin' On The River!

Feeling very rough from the night before, only five mimosas brought me back to life! After pulling myself together I got back onto the NYC Subway towards Hudson Yards, I had something familiar to see through new eyes and with a certain show I needed to see those special piers. Finding room for two beers, making moves towards the legendary Stonewall Inn was right!

December was the month when I first discovered the High Line, an elevated walkway that used to be a freight rail line through the Meatpacking District. It felt like a lifetime since I first visited the High Line in 2012, nostalgia was all around me in that moment. Getting off the NYC Subway at 34St-Hudson Yards I was fronted by a sea of skyscrapers and construction. It was then I saw the Megabus, I used that chance sighting as fate because I was going to get the train to Philadelphia the next day. Following the Apple Maps on my phone I found myself a brand new entrance to the High Line. Walking onto the elevated train tracks gave me breathtaking views of the Hudson River, this new section of the High Line gave me maximum life! I was feeling all of those feelings that I had felt before during that first visit, some years later the sleek elevated walkway/park gave me so much more! The High Line had me speechless!

The fashioned wood benches and abstract garden space had me feeling every second of that New York City state of mind. Nothing could interrupt my thoughts or feeling in that moment, the wind blasted one freezing chill but New York's High Line gave me everything! When had the extension been built? I had missed so much during my absence from NYC and NJ! Getting one more chance to be with the High Line felt so good, being back within that riverside location felt correct! Taking every sight in like it was the very last time, I loved it! Walking so far I didn't see it as necessary to walk to the part of the High Line that I had seen before, I had many things to accomplish that afternoon, the sunset was mad early! As I walked away from the High Line back on street level I couldn't help but notice the office types gather together around televisions in some posh lunchtime hangout, it was the trial for impeachment for the current President of the United States of America! Perfección B!

Paris was not burning during that bitterly cold afternoon in December 2019, but the memories made during that period could be felt in the air. Located near Christopher Street and the Stonewall Inn stood Pier 45 & Pier 46 along the Hudson riverside. I strolled down Christopher Street Pier past the Marsha P. Johnson Memorial Fountain, one legendary freedom fighters for civil rights for the Transgender and Gay movement. The rainbows told me that Christopher Street Pier held the same as the street because of its LGBT reference and commemorations. If truth be told I lived for Pier 46 along the Hudson riverside. Taking my chosen photo was something of a task because I wanted to catch the piers in the sunset, so much had happened along those piers. I tried to figure out at the same time how the ballroom queens and working T-girls would walk and dance along the piers. The piers were serving Hudson River realness!

Now, it's January 2020 and I have just finished watching the first two seasons of 'Pose'. That legendary show took me by the hand, showing me the piers in the most artistic and raw fashion. The ballroom culture features around late 90s NYC on the brink of the HIV-AIDS epidemic. Intrinsically linked with the Trans advocate Marsha P. Johnson, the immediate area held significant to that community within New York City's rainbow population. Hopping back to that cold December 2019 afternoon, the fact those piers stood quiet gave an eery feeling, I had visited this area for that reason to understand more about a time that would have been my fight, looking back on their time its becoming parent this generation might have to fight all over again! Now I can visualise Blanca looking new house children along the piers and Pray Tell strutting along the same pier in his flamboyant get up! The piers near Christopher Street schooled me and Pose helped me put my visit into perspective! Serve B!

There's on bar that I had to visit, the Stonewall Inn was something that I didn't think about when I actually lived across the Hudson River in Newark, New Jersey! Getting myself from the piers before the sun had set, I propped up the bar with a beer to soak in that heroic NYC LGBT boozer! Claimed as a National Monument and U.S. National Historic Landmark, during one hot summer night in 1969 the patrons at the Stonewall Inn that night fought back after the police made another raid. I have seen bits of information about the riots and to see the people from the LGBT community fight back with such ferocity, their heated rioting did just the ticket to get the police off their backs to leave them to their fabulous everyday business! Those movements made on that summers night forged the way for New York City first Gay Pride parade on June 28, 1970. Truly, Lower Manhattan's truth has helped me study my hersory!

With the riots taking place in 1969, the escape of the ballrooms in the 80s and 90s must have felt like a holiday? Through the rioting and pride marches, the community worldwide stands together with venues such as NYC's Stonewall Inn. As I sat the bar I got talking to a lovely lady, she was part of the LGBT community and what we spoke about wasn't important it was just nice to meet a kind human being. That half day in Lower Manhattan zoomed past, from the new riverside views along the High Line's extended route to the 'Pose' worthy piers near Christopher Street, the day ended with a beer or two at the Stonewall Inn without any hiccups. Learning my herstory and recapturing Christopher Streets kitsch nature, it was like NYC Pride all over again, those years past had made things look more vivid. Taking the NYC Subway back to my Long Island City station had to be the one, the mimosas and beers had worn off, I needed to sleep properly before going to Philly. NYC kept on giving me more!

I Know My Herstory!

Joseph Harrison

3 January 2020

Jackson Heights, Queens: After Hours!

After waking up from one beautiful 'disco' nap, my explorations around Brooklyn had me feeling sleepy! I had faith in my pre-trip research, not drinking much since arriving into New York City I had only had a few ciders in Bushwick the previous day. Starting off in the hostel bar with a few Long Island's had to be done! My Korean roommate made great pre-drinks company!

Dressing in my best, I found myself a seat at the bar within my Long Island City hostel. I wasn't about to leave the city without having a few Long Island Ice Teas in that neighbourhood that was aptly named. Along with my Korean roommate from my dorm, we shared a few drinks before I headed out to Jackson Heights. The conversation was great, we spoke about languages and the Korean Peninsula as I had been to both sides of the DMZ. He was very interested about my time spent in Pyongyang because it's not cool for South Koreans to cross the DMZ borderline. It hadn't been long since my weekend of craziness in Seoul, that also made for good conversation. The drinks were going down nicely and I hadn't even made it to the Subway at that point. Turning things blue, I opted for one Blue Long Island Ice Tea! The night was still young at that point, my disco nap and pre-drinks had me ready! I was ready for Jackson Heights! 

Heading out of my hostel I headed for Court Square's 7 Train platform, taking the Subway towards Flushing to Roosevelt Av-Jackson Height Subway Station. I had made tracks the previous day to that area, half piecing together my route from my research and the previous day made things work somehow. Walking under the tracks gave me the sense for that colourful neighbourhood as the train crossed the tracks that were above me. I already knew where my drunk food would be coming from, that Colombian eatery had been found online after I had randomly googled photos of Downtown Newark. The Spanish writing on the shop front reminded me of my first ever Jackson Heights visit during October 2012, I had no idea about what kind of venues that could be found along Roosevelt Avenue in Queens, NY. Feeling thirsty I had my provisional driving license ready, I never need to carry I.D in China! Did I feel safe? Yes, I felt in-control and if truth be told the streets treated me well.

Finding 'Friend's Tavern' was easier than I had previously thought it would have been! Getting my I.D approved I made my way for the bar, ordering Corona's to begin with seemed like something sensible to do. Getting into the beats, everything was mad Latino and that was fine with me! Embracing the Spanish music and drinks had me on the dance-floor, living my best life of course! The clientele were mostly speaking in Spanish, the guys I was speaking to spoke English just fine. Going for my first margarita had to be done, I took my first taste to be greeted with a huge tequila kick! Loving the music some more I enjoyed that Jackson Heights nightspot to the fullest! The drinks kept flowing and if truth be told I was living for my own company, I enjoyed my night and that was the only priority! The latin beats and drinks at 'Friend's Tavern was all that I needed within that Queens spot. Another margarita, that tequila though!

Stepping out for a little bit, I made my way to 'Hombre's Lounge' to check out another Jackson Heights Latin Gay venue. Being a weeknight things were quiet but no quieter than 'Friend's Tavern' was. There was Spanish karaoke going on, getting my Corona seen off I made my way back to 'Friend's Tavern' for a few more beverages and a good dance on down! How my previous visit to Jackson Heights in 2012 had been during the daytime with no alcoholic drinks consumed, the Indian food enjoyed during that previous visit was equally as spicy like the talent during my boozed up 2019 visit. If I had visited at the weekend, those Latin go-go dancers would have impressed me much! Yes, for me to find such a venue that brought some different looks and sounds compared with my usual China nighttime venues. I enjoyed my last drinks before making my timely exit from 'Friend's Tavern', I had consumed enough drink and had danced for my life! Jackson Heights served fuego! ¿Comida?

I was hungry like nobody's business, tracking down 'La Abundancia' during my walk from the Subway Station gave me those Colombian cravings instantly! Greeted with straight up Colombian realness, apparently they didn't have any menu so I asked the lady to put whatever she thought tasted good onto a plate. Grabbing a can of 'Postobon Manzana (apple pop), how badly I needed something to balance the alcohol that I had just downed between 'Friend's Tavern' and 'Hombre's Lounge'. Finding a table within the empty Colombian bakery and cafe allowed me to dig into my packed plate. I was getting all kinds of flavours, the beans in gravy blended so well with the meat that was on my plate. Getting my rice fix was more than appreciated, along with the plantain that had been cooked to perfection, I was living my food fantasy in that moment of drunkenness in the centre of Jackson Heights, Queens! La mejor comida!

La Abundancia translates into 'plenty' in Spanish, I enjoyed my abundant Colombian plate of deliciousness! The music that was playing reminded me of Puerto Rican Reggaeton music, in that moment I loved the Latin American and South American vibe of that corner of New York City! After finishing my Colombian feast I made my way back to the same Subway Station that I arrived at a couple of hours before, getting the train back to Court Sq was surprisingly easy because I knew during early morning hour that my Colombian meal would keep me on the right track. The night definitely was a success, I didn't put myself in any stupid situations and best of all I didn't lose anything! Finding my hostel without any issues I had one of the best sleeps of the holiday, after that night my jet-lag disappeared! Jackson Heights gave me my NYC night out with a Latino spice! Let's just say the next day I needed five mimosas to bring me back to life! ¡La ciudad de Nueva York lo sirvió todo! ¡Gracias Q!

¡Bebidas, música y comida Colombiana!

Joseph Harrison 

2 January 2020

Brooklyn Calling...

Brooklyn had been part of my New York City days out during my 2012 year whilst I lived in New Jersey, but if truth be told I had so much more to discover within that borough of the city. Taking things slow, I knew that such a task needed two days to tackle the four segments that I wanted to achieve during my jammed schedule. From DUMBO to Bushwick, I was mad for it B! 

Going back to Brooklyn was something that I had wanted to do, during those pre-trip planning days I made sure that four parts of the borough would be explored and then some. Taking the train from my hostel a little later during that morning compared to the previous day, I headed for DUMBO. My GPS went crazy with my path but the views over the waters facing Manhattan were amazing, not being bitter but I had limited time so I wanted to get on with things! Going down the hill that crossed with Doughty Street had me facing the Brooklyn Bridge from a very different angle, the first time around I only walked across the bridge back in December 2012. Wanting to spend some time under the bridge, I mooched around the swish area that oozed something special with its restored vibe. I wasn't allowed to walk up-to the water because one of the sidings were being used for filming. Sure, the views were just ace B!

DUMBO looked so swish as I mentioned above, with the Brooklyn Bridge sweeping down in one direction and the class New York City style buildings sitting on ground level, it was such a darling NYC sight to see. DUMBO wasn't one of the places that I had originally planned to visit during that first part of the day but the Brooklyn Bridge Park had me using my time to reach, it was to be that DUMBO found me first. The morning was a chilly one indeed, finding a cute Italian looking restaurant along the parade of shops and restaurants below the bridge had to be done! The atmosphere of the place oozed Christmas in NYC, they had specials on winter spiced drinks so I enjoyed two mulled wines for good measure. Being only my second full day on the East Coast of America, the feeling to have seen so much already felt like such a blessing. I got talking to some ladies who were from England but their vibe wasn't what I wanted to be around. Finishing my wine, I moved onto to find Bushwick! Cider!

Taking what felt like three different trains I reached the artsy neighbourhood of Bushwick, known as the 'Bushwick Collective' for the warehouses and spray paint and graffiti street art that has caused quite a stir with people looking for a slice of an alternative New York City within Brooklyn. After remembered seeing Kiesza's music video to her song 'Hideaway', I had to see the colourful graffiti street within Brooklyn's Bushwick Collective. Getting off the L Train at Jefferson Street had me fronted by a hazy splash of colours, I loved it! Needing the toilet I found the Cobra Club and not being rude I stayed for two pints of craft cider. The alternative vibe of Bushwick made me feel as if I had transported myself to another world! Yes, it was trendy and I saw those preppy 'hot yoga' studios, getting it together I knew that I was just in Bushwick for the street art because it looked off the scale! Yes, Bushwick was superb!

Impressed by the nature of Bushwick as I walked within its collective state of art, I lived for the harsh contrast that the warehouses gave the immediate area. I sure thought that my Chinese artist friends would love to visit this part of the city for the photo taking and gallery visits. Art isn't my cup of tea but I appreciated the views and enjoyed witnessing the difference. Feeling thirsty once again, I found 'The Rookery' for another pint or two of delicious craft cider, it was holiday time and nobody was going to judge me for those choices! Taking my seat at the bar, the clientele weren't on my level for many reasons but I wasn't there to make friends. I ordered a grilled cheese sandwich with a side serving of tomato soup, no word of a lie it was the best decision made of the day! The Bushwick Collective part of my day was filled with colours and off the wall graffiti and delicious food and drinks. On the way to a friends for the night, Brooklyn would be continued the next day! Done!

So, call me crazy but I didn't know why I found myself awake at 3am in the morning, but nonetheless I got myself back onto the streets to continue my Brooklyn odyssey. Leaving my friends apartment in Jackson Heights I went for the biggest American breakfast at a nearby Denny's. With it still being like nighttime I finished my breakfast, got back out onto the street with the nearest NYC Subway station in mind that would take me directly to Coney Island. I already knew that the boardwalk at Coney Island wouldn't be lively, I was fine with that because I had never seen it during my time in 2012, it was somewhere that I just needed to step foot in, that was all! Arriving into Coney Island signified to me that the weather would be horrendous for the whole day, that wasn't going to stop me because I wanted to see everything! Grabbing a much needed boost, I went into Dunkin Donuts to refuel for the morning ahead of me.

Braving the crosswalk construction site as I walked across the road, I was fronted with a place that instantly reminded me of Point Pleasant Beach with a hint of Blackpool for good measure. During the rain I could imagine how this Brooklyn Pleasure Beach hideaway would be a getaway for the city people to have some fun on the rides and eat some seriously delicious yet unhealthy snacks. I walked slowly towards the promenade with an air of caution, I loathe seagulls and Coney Island's were the same size as dogs! The rain and wind did nothing to impress me during that promenade moment but it was the weather I was meant to experience in that moment. Even though the whole of the promenade was shut it did nothing to dampen my spirits even if I was getting soaked by the incoming showers, how had the weather been so settled the day before? I had sealed the deal with my third Brooklyn sight and with time on my side I wanted to revisit the Hasidic Jewish enclave along Lee Av next.

My timings were on-point that morning that I still had two hours before Gottilieb's Restaurant would be opening. Fearing not I took a walk down memory lane once again, finding Lee Avenue so easily it was such a treat to see the children take the Hebrew marked school buses as I walked towards my chosen avenue. The Kosher delicatessen's and bakers looked just the same, some had certain renovations that made them look more modern. Being Hanukkah lots of shops and establishments within that closely guarded neighbourhood stood closed. I caught glimpses of the children's clothes shops, how cute those Kosher clothes looked! Stumbling past 'Tiv Tov' reminded me of my August 2012 day of exploration, that was the first time I had ever walked into an ultra Jewish neighbourhood. Stopping for a hot chocolate and some marble cake, I wondered about the time that I still had until Gottilieb's would be opening! Oh, the rain!

I had a moment of madness, leaving Brooklyn for Hudson Yards 34st because I thought that the rain would subside, then I would be able to save some time by seeing the High Line. Coming to my senses I jumped back on the train to Marcy Av, thankfully by some miracle my Kosher feast could begin! I ordered a bowl of chicken soup that contained Matzoh balls and noodles. Going for a slice of the potato kugel had to be done, the pastrami looked divine so I had to have some within a rye bread sandwich. Needing a drink I chose carefully, wanting to keep it all Kosher I chose a can of Coke because that soft drink has always been known for being certified Kosher. I took my time, I honestly enjoyed every single bite of my sandwich and slurp of my Jewish penicillin. I had never tried potato kugel before that day, I had only just seen it on documentaries about Jewish life. The kugel tasted mad good! Thankfully I made the journey back to my hostel, to fall into a lovely disco nap! Yes!

Blinding Brooklyn!

Joseph Harrison