New York part three - tattoos, Central Park, fake Louis Vuitton and the Lion King
Day four - Tuesday
I let the bloke have a lie in and go to investigate Broadway tickets. There are some red steps in Times Square where you get half price ones but I don't know what the deal is. The information guy says the tickets for the night time shows go on sale at 2pm - the queue opens at 1pm. Think I can't really be bothered queuing up for an hour and decide it's going to be best booking tickets online, which we do when we get back to the hotel.
Have a walk around the area and make the mistake of taking a leaflet from some guy from a place that buys gold. Suddenly I'm surrounded by a load of men saying "are you selling? I'll give you the best price" and similar things. Run away and back to the hotel.
Get the bloke out of bed and go to Central Park. The weather is amazing, as it has been all week. Freakishly warm - almost T-shirt weather. We have a great time walking round, watching squirrels, listening to singers, looking at monuments, people watching. We stumble on a photoshoot with loads of drag queens in ball gowns and get some amazing photos.
Have luck in the Boathouse. Gorgeous restaurant overlooking a little lake. Glad I booked it - the maitre d is turning people away who don't have reservation. We're seated on the wooden decking where we have a nice view across the water and people rowing in bashed up old boats. Food-wise, the crab cakes are amazing.
Afterwards we go for a drink in the waterside bar and the bloke throws bread into the lake so he can see the fish who come to the surface to feed. They are enormous, colorful carps, some of them at least half a metre long. The bloke wonders wistfully what would happen if he came back with a fishing rod.
We go on to strawberry fields - the moment opposite the Dakota, where John Lennon was shot dead. In every guide book it says it will always be frequented by someone playing a guitar and singing John Lennon songs. That's just what we find.
It's getting cold so we go back to the hotel for cocktails. Then it's a short walk to the Minskoff Theatre, where we take our seats to watch The Lion King. As a rule the bloke hates musicals, and as we enter, he's not sure if he'll enjoy it. But it's amazing. The costumes are so intricate and the music is really chilling. For me, it's great - I'm reliving all the stuff from the animation that I grew up with. The words from the script pop into my head before the actor says them, coming from a strange forgotten part of my brain.
But why did I not notice before that the only characters with an English accent are the evil death-plotting uncle Scar, and the comedy lackey bird servant Zazu?
Still buzzing from the performance we wanter back the hotel for yet more cocktails and food. We sit down in the restaurant and discover the room service menu is better so we leave and go back to our room to order something.
Day five - Wednesday
Wake up to the first day of bad weather. Raining a bit and grey skies. So instead of our planned trip to the statue of liberty we decide to go and check out China Town and little Italy.
China town is a bit of a let down. Guess we were expecting something a bit more like the one in London, with the golden arches and everything. Go into the buddhist temple at the end of Canal Street and light an incense stick and watch a bit of a religious service that's going on. The huge golden buddha in the temple is very impressive.
Go to the shop and buy matching jade charms for me and the bloke, featuring our animal signs. Mine - the monkey, his - the snake.
Have a real China town experience - buying a fake Louis Vuitton bag. All along Canal Street you'll see Chinese women asking you if you want to buy fake designer bags, Tiffany jewellery, rolexes, etc. If you say yes they'll take you off round the corner where you either go into another shop or meet a man who gives you a laminated card showing you the wares he's got for sale. You then tell him which one you want while he looks shiftily around him before going to get it for you.
That's exactly what we do, and it stresses the poor bloke out no end. "If this goes wrong, I'm going to be very upset with you," he tells me. It did feel like we were doing something really bad though, like we were buying drugs, or something.
The bloke is so nervous he even barters the guy up instead of down with the price. In the end I got it for 160 dollars, which might sound like a lot, but it's a good copy of an 1,500 euro bag, and it is real leather. The whole thing was a pretty funny experience which we laughed a lot about later.
After we both calm down a bit we go to check out a tattoo studio on Canal Street with Broadway and the bloke decides to get something done, an eight-pointed star. They tell us to come back at 6.00pm so we go to check out Mulberry Street and Little Italy
Get pizza at one of the traditional-looking little restaurants and then stop off for a drink at the Mulberry Street bar. it was a favorite with Frank Sinatra and has been used to shoot scenes for the Sopranos, Donnie Brasco and many other mafia-type films.
Back on Broadway we find an amazing t-shirt shop called Yellow Rat Bastard. It even has Tokidoki stuff. The bloke goes a bit mental and picks up about 21 t-shirts. Good job we brought two massive almost empty suitcases.
Go back to get the bloke's tattoo done. The guy who does it, Shay is an a great artist - his studio is full of painting of skulls which he's done himself. When the bloke takes his top off he spots his HR Giger tattoo (the artist behind the designs for Alien) and says he's also got some of his work tattooed. The bloke tells him about his favorite tattoo artist - Robert Hernandez, and shay pulls up his sleeve to show us a piece done by the man himself - a scary face.
While I watch the bloke get his done, decide I would like a tattoo, but don't know what. "Just make sure it's meaningful," says Shay. The noise of the tattoo gun is a bit unpleasant, but the bloke only winces a few times.
We tell Shay we're getting married next year, and he reveals he's also engaged. He's from Israel so is doing one wedding there and one in New York. We wish him a happy wedding and go to leave.
Before we do we're invited to the tattoo shop's Halloween party. One of the staff has got his septum pierced especially and he's going to paint himself red and stick horns and prosthetic fangs on so he can come as the devil. shame we're flying home on Halloween so will miss the fun. There are 30 bottles of white wine sitting on the till that they've just bought - looks like it's going to be an amazing party.
On the way out we check out the art gallery, where the tattooists display their paintings and sculptures. They're all so talented. Looking at shay's skull like demon things, it's clear he's been majorly influenced by Giger. My favorite though is a mixture of photography and painting - it's a little girl standing in front of a spooky house, and there's an evil old woman looking out of the window at her.
back at the hotel we have a few cocktails in the bar then go to check out the best burger in NYC. It's at the burger joint - a tiny diner behind a black curtain in the posh Parker Meridien Hotel. Queues can often be round the block for it apparently but we've left it until the end of the day (11.00pm) so we manage to get in and get a seat.
We order the works - burger with everything on it. It really is the best burger I've had in my life. I don't even like burgers really, but I eat every last morsel.