The 2011 Canadian GP – Sunday

Sunday 12th June 2011

If I could sum up today in one word it would be wet!

Used to the British GP held in British summertime we went well prepared (or so we thought) with waterproofs, hats, an umbrella and a poncho …yet somehow we still got soaked to the skin!

The morning was drizzly and the support vehicles getting stuck in the mud kept the crowd entertained. We covered up well and we remained dry, albeit cold as the rain stopped. It was really strange listening to conversations around us – there were some big F1 fans but also some that didn’t have a clue about the sport – all they knew was that F1 is cars that have four wheels racing around a track. I don’t know if it was the rain but the atmosphere wasn’t as good as at Silverstone – I guess there are home drivers and teams when racing in Britain.

As for facilities, there were quite a few food stands by the back of our grandstand and we were lucky to have a proper toilet block (presumably built for the olympics as they were next to the lake) near us. There weren’t that many merchandise stands or displays at the track (or at least I didn’t see them), I guess that is due to lack of space! I didn’t realise quite how many lakes are in and around the circuit.

So the race itself. It started behind a safety car due to how wet it was and it was an eventful opening stint; sitting at the hairpin is brilliant as there is jostling going on lap after lap there. Hamilton & Button met on the same piece of tarmac on the start finish straight forcing Hamilton to retire, and Button got a penalty for going too fast behind one of the safety cars, putting him plum last. He started his charge as the rain started up again and was red flagged.

 

A lot of people got up from the grandstand and went and sheltered but we stayed where we were for the majority of the red flag, scouring the sky for any sign it was going to stop raining. Huddled up we kept relatively dry for a surprising amount of time, eventually getting damp around the edges. I thought I’d been at Silverstone in some rainstorms (2008 anyone? 1998 also stands out in my mind) but that was nothing like the amount of water that fell on Montreal. I honestly thought we’d gone all that way and we weren’t going to see a race as the sky was just black as far as the eye could see. When the rain eased off marshals and circuit officials gallantly tried to clear some of the water, but it was a loosing battle as once more the rain would start up again.

Finally the sky started to brighten up and there was hope of a restart. I had a spare jumper in my bag and as the rain eased off I changed into it – the t-shirt I had on under my waterproof jacket had got damp at the bottom which had soaked upwards! So although my waterproof hadn’t let water through, it had come up from the bottom soaking me anyway.

As you will have seen at the time, it was a great race. If I remember rightly (and I might not as its hard to keep up with the race when you’re there, so combined with my memory and who knows what I’ve remembered!) Button was back to last after tangling with Alonso and had an absolute stormer of a race to not only claw his way back up the grid, but to catch Vettel and capitalise on his mistake on the last lap to take the win. All through the race we were cheering Button on, along with the Force Indias and Lotus Renaults, but I didn’t actually think he would be able to win! It really made sitting out in the rain worthwhile.

After the race ended we all went on the track and we made our way down towards the pits. The straight between the hairpin and the final chicane at the pit entry didn’t feel that long, but that was probably because it was so exciting being on the track! A crowd was by the wall of champions but we still managed to get quite close which was surreal. As we were exploring the start finish straight, an even heavier downpour started, so it was lucky the race had ended, or it would have been red flagged all over again! Peering over the pitwall we could see the cars in parc ferme – if I ever get to attend a race with paddock/pit lane access I definitely want to wander down to see what is going on there! A few million pounds worth of cars, all parked waiting to go through scrutineering.

A row of security guards were soon coming down the start finish straight to get spectators out so we couldn’t spend very long watching the pack up process, or get any further down the track. We returned to the hotel wet and tired, intending to get a hot shower and go experience more of Montreal. In the end we couldn’t face going back out in the rain and ordered Dominos pizza to be delivered to our room (what did people do before the internet and online ordering of food?). It was a good job as I fell asleep mid pizza!

Montreal on qualifying day

Saturday 11th June 2011

After the free BBQ at the hostel on Friday night we were amazed to see breakfast was also included in the price of our room, and a lovely breakfast buffet was laid out in the dining area of the communal room of the hostel.

Fed and watered we headed to the track, expecting it to take ages but it was really quick. We walked a couple of minutes to the metro station, found the yellow line that the track is on and a few minutes later we were there! We followed the rest of the F1 fans from the metro station to the gates of the track. Room to track was less than half an hour, so anyone thinking of going to the Canadian GP make sure you stay at Montreal Centrale!

I’ve already written about the day at the track in my post The 2011 Canadian GP – Saturday, so I won’t go into that again – but as I keep banging on about the weather this sums up me & Jay:

Jay was cold

..while I got sunburnt!

In the evening we headed into Montreal to meet up with our friends. On our way we passed what quickly became one of my favourite streets in the whole wide world – a display from MINI! Jay eventually got me away from it and we met up with the rest of our group. We went to Crescent St and it was absolutely packed, I haven’t seen anything like it! There were several small stages set up with live music and all the pubs were jam packed, as was the street, all to do with the F1. We had a great night 🙂

MINI Countrymans

MINI Countryman

Crescent St, Montreal

A Day of Two Halves

Friday June 10th 2011

Our last morning in New York and we finally had pancakes for breakfast 🙂 we found a cheap bagel place just off Times Square that did this stack of pancakes for something like $4. If I do go back I’m eating here every morning!

We stayed close to Times Square and got some souvenirs to take home.

A trouble free run back to the airport and we were ready to take off for Montreal. Bad weather causing planes to be in wrong places meant we were delayed a bit but nothing like our friends who were flying the night before in those thunderstorms. Their delays were that severe that they ended up hiring a car and driving through the night to Montreal! Amazing how time makes you forget bad experiences, I remember having issues with the airline (American Airlines) and vowing never to fly with them again, but I can’t remember for the life of me why I was so angry!

I couldn’t believe it when I saw our plane when we finally boarded – it was a tiny tiny jet! About 15 rows long and 3 seats I’ve never been on a plane that small. I have also not experienced fear when flying like it – I was convinced we were going to die! I have no idea why a small plane freaked me out so much, you could hear every noise and I think that put me off. If you’re going to be so illogical that you think your plane is going to fall out of the sky, then why was I perfectly fine on the huge monster of a jumbo jet that we flew over the Atlantic in? 8 hours in the sky in all those tonnes of metal was alright by me, but 1 hour at the most in a lighter, more nimble plane was almost too much. If I could have got them to turn the plane around I would have!

Anyway, I stuck my Robbie playlist on loud, turned the volume up a bit, closed my eyes and clutched the seat arms as if my life depended on it! An hour was soon over and we were landing in Montreal. There is a cheap bus from the airport to the city so we found that easy enough and were soon on our way. My nerves hadn’t quite recovered from the flight, so a bus hurtling along raised, curved motorways with bridges seemed to be the scariest bus journey I’ve been on – I was definitely glad to get to our hotel! And I definitely don’t want to be on the race team at work!

I’d spent ages looking for somewhere to stay in Montreal, and eventually plumped for a private room with en-suite in a hostel near to metro station, Berri-UQAM that is only a stop or two from the track. This proved to be a good idea as it meant we knew where to get off the bus from the airport and gave us an easy way to get our bearings. Montreal Centrale was a good choice – our room was much bigger than a normal hotel room, and cost the same for the 3 nights as a normal hotel would do for 1! Although not the most modern or stylish room, we had everything we wanted and needed. Thankfully the hostel wasn’t too noisy, although it was busy.

We were also lucky that the staff were understanding – it took us ages to check in as I discovered I’d left my purse with my cards in the safe in the hotel in New York! So I had no way of paying and Jay didn’t have enough in his account for the one card he had with him. Expensive mobile phone calls to New York to check they had my purse followed, along with frantic transferring of money online into the account Jay had a card for, and eventually we were sorted!

Also an added bonus of the hostel was that they organised plenty of events for the people staying there – including a free BBQ on a friday night! So we had some food there seeing as it was free, before heading out to explore a bit.  The city had a real party atmosphere, and we hadn’t even made it to Crescent St which seems to be the main party street.

You can’t really tell in this next photo but I am wearing a strappy vest top whilst Jay has a hoody on – this summed up the weather in Montreal. I was just right and Jay was freezing, he definitely preferred the heat of New York!

Intrepid, World Trade Centre and Broadway

Thursday 9th June 2011

We weren’t about to make the same mistake two days running and so headed straight to the Intrepid Museum. It was absolutely fantastic and I’d recommend it to anyone (well anyone remotely interested in sea, air or space). The aircraft carrier was huge – I’ve never seen anything like it. I won’t bore you with all the photos but they are on my flickr if you want to have a look!

Intrepid

Intrepid Aircraft Carrier

Loads of planes were out on deck so it was definitely good that we didn’t get in the afternoon before – it was hot enough first thing! Seeing the planes up close was great, and it was brilliant to be able to go into the aircraft carrier and see what it was like on the bridge and in some of the sailor’s quarters.

Harrier

The Intrepid Bridge

Several planes as well as the other displays were in the hangar, inside Intrepid

Also at the museum is a Concorde and submarine – you had to pay extra to go on Concorde and being on a budget that meant we couldn’t do that. The ticket price included entry to the Growler submarine but the queues were huge but we’d already spent hours on the aircraft carrier so decided against it, but I would love to go back, especially as now I think they’ve got a space shuttle!

Concorde

After dragging ourselves away from Intrepid, we took the subway down to the Financial District to visit the World Trade Centre. I’m so glad we did, it was very strange to think about the awful events of September 11th, as Ground Zero could have been any other building site. Obviously it’s not and it was interesting and moving to visit the temporary museum around the corner. We watched the 10th anniversary programs on tv avidly a couple of months later, as it was all so fresh in our minds.

Ground Zero

What the World Trade Centre will look like rebuilt

Flag of Honor at the 9/11 Visitor Centre

This statue was on one of the anniversary programs we watched last September. She was left outside the fire station and became a focal point for tributes (if I remember rightly!)

We then decided to walk across the bottom of Manhattan to Brooklyn Bridge, this was like another world all together! The piers couldn’t be more removed from the swanky sky scrapers just across the road.

Pier 17

Pier 17

Pier 17

Not the best picture of Brooklyn Bridge!

We walked along the side of the river down to the park to look out to the Statue of Liberty; it was a bit too hazy to see her properly. Neither of us fancied a choppy, rammed boat trip out to Staten Island and Ellis Island but I think if I went back I would take the free ferry and plenty of sea sickness remedies!

Statue of Liberty (the little one in the distance ;))

As if we hadn’t walked far enough Jay convinced me to walk back to our hotel (at Times Square remember) via Broadway. I think he agreed to get on a subway when I couldn’t walk any further but somehow we made it all the way back. We stopped in a few parks on the way and I kept darting into air-conditioned doorways as we passed the shops. Thankfully it cooled down as a huge thunderstorm hit, which was just what I needed, finally I was at a comfortable temperature!

Walking up Broadway

I love free wifi in parks!

In another park, just as the thunderstorm rolled in. This is the natural colour of the photo, no editing required!

ahhh rain on Broadway

In the evening we walked to a few places to eat before settling on Famous Dave’s Bar-b-q, this was what I imagined when I thought of American eating establishments!

Famous Dave’s Bar-B-Q

Proper American diner style (or at least what it is in my head!)

English Girl in New York…

..in a heat wave doesn’t go well. This was the day I cried because I was so hot. But other than that a fab day!

Wednesday 8th June 2011

Red steps, Times Square

Times Square

I couldn’t believe how busy Times Square was first thing in the morning. People going to work in suits in the baking heat, the screens already lit up – Times Square is never dull! It really comes alive after dark but is a fascinating place at any time of day; I could have sat and watched the world go by for ages!

Instead we headed to the Hell’s Kitchen area for breakfast. We went into a place called Smiths that was almost empty and didn’t look great from the outside but their eggy bread with strawberries was gorgeous! Jay had the sort of style American breakfast I don’t like – crispy, streaky bacon with a chopped potato and pepper mix and fried eggs. He enjoyed it at least!

Breakfast in Smiths, Hell’s Kitchen

Sculptures near Central Park

We walked up Fifth Avenue to Central Park, spending several hours in the zoo! I loved the sealions, penguins and turtles, and although its quite small we managed to spend a lot more time there than intended. Unfortunately we missed the polar bear – I caught sight of it diving but Jay dragged me into the penguins first…by the time we came out the polar bear had been put inside due to the heat! I still haven’t forgiven him…

Penguins

Sleepy

Whilst in the zoo I forgot we were in the middle of a bustling city, it was only the sight of sky scrapers at the edges of the park that reminded me of the location.

Central Park

We walked back down towards Hell’s Kitchen to visit the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. This is where I’m a bit hazy. I know we walked around for ages trying to find somewhere to eat but were a bit late for dinner so most places had stopped serving until tea time. It was about 105+ degrees Farenheit (there was a sign on a petrol station) and that area is so open and barren for a city, there was no respite from the heat. I can’t remember what set me off but it was so unbearable that I cried my eyes out, plodding along! We finally found somewhere serving food – I was past it really but it was so nice to be in the cool indoors with a cold drink.

One way to park your car!

By the time we’d eaten and gone back to Intrepid we’d missed the last entry…which I think was probably for the best (we went back the next day when I wasn’t as tearful) so we went back to the hotel. I imagine Jay went back out while leaving me in the air conditioned room to recover for an hour!

In the evening we did a bit more exploring and went to find the Rockafeller Centre. Its amazing to see places in real life that you recognise from films! One of the things I love about New York is the buildings – so many different things to look at it. Modern skyscrapers like Trump Towers, the Chrysler building, Empire State Building, the thin wedge building – there’s such a variety. All summed up by this church and sky scraper.

Church

Rockafeller Centre

Back in Times Square we went in the Toys R Us – only in America would you have a ferris wheel in a shop, I’m sure of it! And a house sized dolls house in a shop! Unbelievable!

Ferris Wheel in Toys R Us

Barbie House in Toys R Us

Transformers

I not much of a shopping person so along with Toys R Us, the shops we spent the most time in M&M’s World, The Disney Store and Apple (I’ve never seen queues like it!).

And to prove bright lights work we ate our tea in Ruby Tuesday in Times Square!

Ruby Tuesday

New York, New York

A year ago today we went on holiday to celebrate Jay’s graduation, thanks to a generous gift from his parents. We went to New York for a few days before moving onto Montreal for the F1 race. I intended to blog about the holiday at the time, but with the Canadian GP coming up this weekend it’s reminded me that I haven’t ever got round to it!

Tuesday 7th June 2011

We flew to JFK with Virgin, and my first long haul flight went smoothly. I thought it would drag but it’s amazing how much time I can spend watching films and napping! We got the airport train and subway into Manhattan which was cheap and easy, but took ages to get to the Port Authority Bus Terminal, our closest subway.

View from the plane

Our hotel was only a couple of blocks away so once we headed in the right direction, it didn’t take us long to find it. Hotel 41 was the cheapest I could find in the area and was absolutely perfect for us. A comfy bed, wardrobe with safe, en-suite and lovely lovely air conditioning – what more could you ask for? The room wasn’t huge but I’d recommend staying there as we were happy with the service, particularly when I left my purse in the safe and they organised returning it to me once I was home!

We were keen to make the most of our first evening so went and explored a few tourist spots, in particular Times Square which was really close to the hotel. I couldn’t really get my head around actually being there, it felt like we were in a film set, not actually in New York City!

Times Square

Times Square

Aside from looking up in awe at skyscrapers and all the adverts in Times Square, we visited Grand Central Station and went up to the observation deck of the Empire State Building, which was absolutely breath taking.

Grand Central Station

Lobby in the Empire State Building

View from Empire State Building

View from Empire State Building

View from Empire State Building

We came across Bryant Park and spent some time relaxing there, taking it all in. I loved the atmosphere of the park; it was great to people watch all the locals making the most of their evenings.

Untitled

View from Bryant Park

Fountain in Bryant Park

As first impressions go, New York really made a great big impression on me! I hadn’t expected to like it (I don’t like London), but it was fabulous. It was hot, (which only got worse through our time there as they had a heatwave, and so it was something I really struggled with), but it was just about bearable on our first day! I also loved the free wifi in the parks and think it’s something that should be available everywhere!

All of my photos are on flickr – click here if you would like to have a nosey at them 🙂

It’s May on Tuesday?!

Looking at the calendar with the realisation that the fifth month of the year is upon us on Tuesday scared me a little – I have no idea how 2012 is zooming past so quickly but it is! I haven’t blogged much at all this year on here which is a shame but other stuff has got in the way! I do want to share some things I’ve been up to, originally I intended to proper blogs on them all but here’s the round-up…

This year I have started e-mentoring a couple of students through a project called Bright Links run by Brightside, an educational charity. Those two websites have some fantastic resources covering careers, student life, education, all sorts. I’ve found it quite nerve-wracking being a mentor, I don’t want to say the wrong thing but at the same time I don’t want to say too little, it’s hard finding the right balance. Hopefully the students find it useful and get something out of the project. Please feel free to share in the comments any mentoring resources you have come across that I might find useful!

In March I took part in two other STEM events; I acted as a career networker at The Big Bang Fair and battled it out in I’m an Engineer Get Me Out Of Here. Both were fabulous experiences; I really enjoyed getting to speak to students, hopefully giving them an insight into engineering and answering their questions.I was lucky to have enough time to get to have a look around the Big Bang Fair, it’s such a great event I’d recommend it to any family for a day out, there is something for everyone. I managed to come second in I’m an Engineer, which involved live chats with students and answering other questions they’d submitted through the site. I blogged about it for the engineering blog I’m involved in – developingengineers.com.

The main reason I’ve been so quiet is work has been crazy hectic, and when it hasn’t been I have been ill. All exercise plans have gone out the window and I haven’t been able to marshal as work was more than I could manage for a month! I might have mentioned before I suffer from ulcerative colitis and had a bad flare up just before easter. Thankfully only one afternoon was spent hooked up to an IV at the JR hospital whilst blood tests and an ultrasound were done. The result was steroids and the promise of more tests to try to determine if actually I suffer from crohn’s disease, which seems to essentially be the same illness, just attacking a slightly different part of me. The afternoon in the hospital came at the end of a week where my families lives could have been turned upside down but thankfully we got away with it – my sister’s boyfriend was knocked off his bike by a car and only saved by his helmet, my Grandma suffered a heart attack (both have since recovered) and my sister was offered a dream PhD in Sydney, Australia! And I thought all the drama was kept to Jay’s family!

Whilst I’m here I can’t not mention the Cotswolds Wildlife Park – we visited earlier this year for the first time & what a place! I’d love a season’s pass and go every weekend, there must always be something to see. I’ll leave you with my favourite photo – Jay and a lemur in the Madagascar enclosure.

Madagascar Walk Through Exhibit at Cotswolds Wildlife Park