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The day started a little early for me, but I had managed a decent amount of sleep.  I made a proper move in getting up just as the sun was coming up over the Manhattan skyline.  From the 23rd floor of the Hoboken apartment I was staying in it was a sight to see as the sky slowly changed colour and the reflections of the buildings switched around.  Keen with the camera as I am it was 60 photos later that the camera was put back down.

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After that the first order of the day was to change the flights for Sunday.  There had been a fire the previous day that badly affected Chicago’s airports and with the offer of a free change of route we wanted to take American Airlines up on that offer.  It took a little bit of time but thanks to Twitter is was organised and a potential stress point was avoided.

What now awaited was a bit of time in New York City itself.  This was likely to be fun as fate had dealt a rather pleasant turn of events for this trip.

The rest of today was going to be a list of firsts

I was born just south of London and as a result have been familiar with London traffic for a long time both from observation and from direct experience. However none of that prepared me for the reality of New York traffic. Sure I had seen it on the films and even seen it for real during a previous visit. However previously I’d just been a pedestrian, this time I was experiencing the traffic from the perspective of being in a car. I have a new found respect now for anyone who drives in New York. At no point has any film I’ve seen shown the reality of the experience. I’m pretty sure that many drivers in the UK would end up going nowhere for possibly hours. Like anything, the residents are used to it. For me, well it was certainly part of New York I didn’t know, am glad I experienced, but was equally glad I didn’t have to be behind the wheel!

The whole purpose of heading into the centre of Manhattan was to see a bit that I hadn’t done before, and to meet up with another friend. It’s always odd how life is able to throw a curve ball from time to time, and with this it certainly had. A curve ball is probably the wrong term for this, given that it was a turn of events that while totally unexpected, had evolved a few weeks previous. I’d been exchanging emails throughout the year with another friend I had made at the ranch a year previous. The summary of this most recent exchange had results in what could only be described in a ‘no way’, ‘way’ for about 6 emails as we discovered that we would both be in New York at the same time. We both had busy schedules and with delays, traffic and other things, there wasn’t a lot of time to catch up, but it was a nice opportunity. It was just somewhat odd to travel several thousand miles to meet up with someone a few hundred miles away under normal circumstances.

Sadly it wasn’t long before we were parting ways and heading back to the apartment. However en route there was the chance for another first. I’m used to popping into the supermarket and buying a bottle of wine or a beer with the rest of my shopping. I’d never bought alcohol in the US other than a bar. The idea of having to queue up and purchase a small bottle of beer for lunch separately is somewhat alien. What also felt bizarre was that this one small bottle, even though it wasn’t high volume in terms of either alcohol or quantity, still had to be put into a brown paper bag. This brought about some very odd feelings. I think the fact that it was just one bottle actually made it worse. For me, having never had this, it reminded me again of the films and how there is an equivalency in my mind of the brown bag and drinking on the street. The other thing that I felt odd about was that with the beer in a brown paper bag, no one would know what was in there, apart from the fact that it was alcohol. With just one bottle, it could be anything; a single bottle of beer would probably not be what most would think was in there. The other thought that crossed my mind was what happens when people buy larger quantities, maybe for a party. My mind developed an image of very large brown paper bags with super reinforced bottoms.

Back home and with my shame ridden bottle of beer finished on the balcony overlooking the traffic mad Manhattan, it was time to get ready for the premier event of the day. I don’t say this to diminish anything that had gone before. Meeting friends etc was all good and I wouldn’t have swapped it out for the world. Tonight though was a chance to do something that most people from outside the US, possibly even within the US would have a chance to do. I was having a presidential dinner. Now it wasn’t in the company of any US President, past or present, though we did see President Obama’s motorcade heading in the other direction on the way to the meal. This was a meal that executive chefs at the Whitehouse would have prepared over the years for various presidents and their guests.

The event was raising money for MS and made about $50,000 on the night through the ticket sales and the silent auction. I would have loved to been able to bid on a number of items, but the reality of having flights, limited luggage and living in a different country to where most of the auction items were based limited me. I did my best though, putting in a bid for a New Jersey Devil’s signed puck. In the end I was outbid, but it was something I would have been able to fit into my case, and by chance they are the ice hockey team I support, having seen them play on my previous trip.

The evening was entertaining, informative and enjoyable. There was good company at the dining table. The retired chefs had amusing stories, provided an insight into the realities of working in the Whitehouse and the meals provided were excellent. I have always enjoyed current affairs and politics, so to hear some of these background stories was a treat and despite having studied this academically, I was still able to learn new stuff.

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The starter was a Bartlett Pear on a garden salad. This included cheese squares and other bits added to the salad. This alone could have been a meal in itself. The cheese complimented the pear perfectly, and I wish I knew what cheese it was. I’ll see at some point if the font of all knowledge (Google) will be able to tell me.

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My main course was baked salmon. Again this was a beautiful meal. I could have gone for the chicken or the vegetarian option of a mushroom based main, but I’ve always felt that salmon is a dish that can be done very plainly far too often. This was an opportunity to enjoy it done very well and I wasn’t disappointed.

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Desert was a chocolate based meal, which was nice, but to be honest I had enjoyed the first two dishes so much, it was just a desert. Given my sweet tooth, that is saying something.

The night was done and we had a relatively early start in the morning. Getting back to the apartment it was time to get ready for the morning before heading to bed.

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