4 August 2014

Sir Basil Thomson

adapted from Wikipedia:

Sir Basil Thomson (1861–1939) was a British intelligence officer, police officer, prison governor, colonial administrator, and writer.

After studying at Eton and Oxford (a university career cut short by depression) he secured a cadet position at the Colonial Office, where he assisted the Governor of Fiji from 1884, but was then invalided back to England after contracting malaria. He returned to Fiji after his marriage, and then on to Tonga.
Back in Britain, he was admitted to the bar in 1896. Instead of becoming a barrister, Thomson accepted the position of deputy governor at HM Prison Liverpool, then as governor of Northampton, Cardiff, Dartmoor, and Wormwood Scrubs prisons.

In June 1913, Thomson was appointed Assistant Commissioner "C" (Crime) of London's Metropolitan Police, which made him the head of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) at New Scotland Yard. When World War I broke out in 1914, the CID found itself acting as the enforcement arm for Britain's military intelligence apparatus: while the newly formed Secret Service Bureau (later known as MI6, the Secret Intelligence Service), and the intelligence arms of the War Office and the Admiralty, collected intelligence on suspected spies in Britain, they had no arrest powers.

One who he interrogated was ‘Mata Hari’, the Dutch exotic dancer later to be executed by the French as a spy. In 1916 she was taken off a ship sailing from Spain to the Netherlands at Falmouth as a suspicious person and brought to London where she was interrogated at length by Thomson. He refers to this in his book Queer People.

In 1919, while remaining Assistant Commissioner (Crime), he was appointed Director of Intelligence at the Home Office, in overall charge of every intelligence agency in the country, but in 1921 he fell out with Lloyd George and was asked to resign. The reasons for this remain mysterious.

He started writing in 1894, beginning with a book about his experiences in Fiji, South Sea Yarns. His book, Queer People (1922), covers his time at the CID and during the First World War.

Life in 1914: part one

(corrected text from Internet Archive, download PDF)


LIKE most Englishmen, I read of the murder at Sarajevo without a thought that it was to react upon the destiny of this country. It seemed to be an ordinary case of Balkan manners, out of which would proceed diplomatic correspondence, an arrest or two, and a trial imperfectly reported in our newspapers. It did have the immediate effect of postponing a ball at Buckingham Palace on account of the Court mourning, but that was all. During the postponed ball on July 16, so petty were our preoccupations at this moment that when a message came in that Mrs. Pankhurst had just been recaptured under the Cat and Mouse Act. I thought it worth while to find the Home Secretary and repeat it to him. A few days after the murder I met von Kühlmann at luncheon. He can scarcely at that time have expected a rupture of relations, for in talking over Dr. Solf, with whom I had been associated in the Pacific, he said, “He has climbed high since you knew him, and some think that he will go higher still (meaning that he would become Chancellor). He is coming to London in August, and I shall write to him to arrange a meeting with you.”

A few days later England began to feel uneasy. I overheard a certain Under-Secretary remark at luncheon of his constituency, “Well, all I can say is that if this country enters the War there will be a rebellion in the North of England.” He left the Ministry when the moment came, and has now disappeared even from the House of Commons. I think that we all had at the back of our minds a feeling that a European War on the great scale was so unthinkable that a way would be found at the eleventh hour for avoiding it. A staff officer in whose judgment I believed remarked that if this were so he would emigrate, because he knew that the day was only postponed until Germany felt herself better prepared for the inevitable war. There were, in fact, no illusions at the War Office. Some day the story that will do justice to the services of Lord Haldane in those very critical weeks will be written. The plans that had been made during peace time were all ready; the names and addresses of the known German spies were recorded. We could only wait for midnight on 4th August. I was actually in the Tube lift at Gloucester Road on the stroke of midnight, and I remarked to the liftman that we were now at war. “Is that so?” he replied, with a yawn.

The credit of the discovery of the German spy organisation before the War was entirely due to a sub-department of the War Office, directed by officers of great skill. They had known for some time that one Karl Gustav Ernst, a barber in the Caledonian Road, who was technically a British subject because he was born in England, was the collecting centre for German espionage. All he had to do for his pittance of i a month was to drop the letters he received from Germany ready stamped with English postage stamps into the nearest pillar-box, and to transmit to Germany any replies which he received. Altogether, his correspondents numbered twenty-two. They were scattered all over the country at naval and military centres, and all of them were German. The law in peace time was inadequate for dealing with them, and there was the danger that if our action was precipitate the Germans would hear of it and send fresh agents about whom we might know nothing: it was decided to wait until a state of war existed before arresting them. On 5th August the orders went out. Twenty-one out of the twenty-two were arrested and interned simultaneously; one eluded arrest by embarking for Germany. Their acts of espionage had been committed in peace time, and therefore they could not be dealt with on the capital charge. The result of this sudden action was to drop a curtain over England at the vital moment of mobilisation. The German Intelligence Service was paralysed. It could only guess at what was happening behind the curtain, and it guessed wrong. Ernst was sentenced to seven years' penal servitude for his share in the business, and, seeing that he was a British subject, the sentence cannot be called excessive.

The curtain had dropped not only for the enemy but even for ourselves. How many of us knew during those first few days that trains were discharging men, horses, and material at the quays of certain southern ports without any confusion at intervals of ten minutes by day and night; that an Expeditionary Force of 150,000 men was actually in the field against the Germans before they knew anything about its existence? Von Kluck has recorded somewhere his surprise when he first found British troops in front of him. After the Armistice he is reported to have told a British officer that in his opinion the finest military force in history was the first British Army, and that the greatest military feat in history was the raising of the second British Army.

Our great dread during that week was that a bridge or a railway arch might be blown up by the enemy and the smooth running of mobilisation be dislocated. Most of the railway arches were let to private persons, of whom some were aliens. On 5th August I went myself to the War Office to find a General who could be vested with power to turn these people out. There was a good deal of confusion. Every Head of a branch had left for the field that morning, and their successors were quite new to their jobs. At last I found my General, and while I was talking to him it grew dark and there was a sudden peal of thunder like an explosion. He said, quite gravely, “A Zepp!” That was the state of mind we were all in. That same night my telephone became agitated; it reported the blowing up of a culvert near Aldershot and of a railway bridge in Kent. I had scarcely repeated the information to the proper authority when the bell rang again to tell me that both reports were the figments of some jumpy Reservist patrol.

Who now remembers those first feverish days of the War: the crowds about the recruiting stations, the recruits marching through the streets in mufti, the drafts going to the station without bands, the flower of our manhood, of whom so many were never to return, soldiers almost camping in Victoria Street, the flaring posters, the foolish cry “Business as Usual”; the unseemly rush to the Stores for food until, under the lash of the newspapers, people grew ashamed of their selfishness; the silence in the 'buses, until any loud noise, like a motor back-fire, started a Zeppelin scare? Who now remembers the foolish prognostications of experts how the War would result in unemployment and a revolution would follow; the assurance of certain bankers that the War would be over in six months because none of the belligerents could stand the financial strain for longer? We have even forgotten the food-hoarding scare that followed the spy scare during the height of the submarine activity, when elderly gentlemen, who had taken thought for the morrow, might have been seen burying biscuit tins in their gardens at midnight for fear that their neighbours should get wind of their hoard and hale them before the magistrate.

I began to think in those days that war hysteria was a pathological condition to which persons of mature age and generally normal intelligence were peculiarly susceptible. War work was evidently not a predisposing cause, for the readiest victims were those who were doing nothing in particular. In ante-bellum days there were a few mild cases. The sufferers would tell you gravely that at a public dinner they had turned suddenly to their German waiter and asked him what post he had orders to join when the German invaders arrived, and that he, taken off his guard, had clicked his heels and replied, “Portsmouth”; or they would whisper of secret visits of German aircraft to South Wales by night and mysterious rides undertaken by stiff guttural persons with square heads who would hire horses in the Eastern Counties and display an unhealthy curiosity about the stable accommodation in every farm that they passed. But in August 1914 the malady assumed a virulent epidemic form accompanied by delusions which defied treatment. It attacked all classes indiscriminately, and seemed even to find its most fruitful soil in sober, stolid, and otherwise truthful people. I remember Mr. Asquith saying that, from a legal and evidential point of view, nothing was ever so completely proved as the arrival of the Russians. Their landing was described by eyewitnesses at Leith, Aberdeen, and Glasgow; they stamped the snow out of their boots and called hoarsely for vodka at Carlisle and Berwick-on-Tweed; they jammed the penny-in-the-slot machines with a rouble at Durham; four of them were billeted on a lady at Crewe who herself described the difficulty of cooking for Slavonic appetites. There was nothing to be done but to let the delusion burn itself out. I have often wondered since whether some self-effacing patriot did not circulate this story in order to put heart into his fellow-countrymen at a time when depression would have been most disastrous, or whether, as has since been said, it was merely the rather outlandish-looking equipment and Gaelic speech of the Lovat Scouts that set the story afloat.

The second phase of the malady attached itself to pigeons. London is full of pigeons - wood pigeons in the parks, blue rocks about the churches and public buildings and a number of amiable people take pleasure in feeding them. In September 1914, when this phase was at its height, it was positively dangerous to be seen in conversation with a pigeon; it was not always safe to be seen in its vicinity. A foreigner walking in one of the parks was actually arrested and sentenced to imprisonment because a pigeon was seen to fly from the place where he was standing and it was supposed that he had liberated it.

During this phase a pigeon was caught in Essex which was actually carrying a message in the usual little aluminium box clipped to its leg. Moreover, the message was from Rotterdam, but it was merely to report the arrival of an innocuous cargo vessel, whose voyage we afterwards traced.

The delusion about illicit wireless ran the pigeons very hard. The pronouncement of a thoughtless expert that an aerial might be hidden in a chimney, and that messages could be received through an open window even on an iron bedstead, gave a great impetus to this form of delusion. The high scientific authority of the popular play, The Man who Stayed at Home, where a complete installation was concealed behind a fireplace, spread the delusion far and wide. It was idle to assure the sufferers that a Marconi transmitter needed a 4horse-power engine to generate the wave, that skilled operators were listening day and night for the pulsations of unauthorised messages, that the intermittent tickings they heard from the flat above them were probably the efforts of an amateur typist: the sufferers knew better. At this period the disease attacked even naval and military officers and special constables. If a telegraphist was sent on a motor-cycle to examine and test the telegraph poles, another cyclist was certain to be sent by some authority in pursuit. On one occasion the authorities dispatched to the Eastern Counties a car equipped with a Marconi apparatus and two skilled operators to intercept any illicit messages that might be passing over the North Sea. They left London at noon; at 3 they were under lock and key in Essex. After an exchange of telegrams they were set free, but at 7 P.M. they telegraphed from the police cells in another part of the county, imploring help. When again liberated they refused to move without the escort of a Territorial officer in uniform, but on the following morning the police of another county had got hold of them and telegraphed, “Three German spies arrested with car and complete wireless installation, one in uniform of British officer.”

Next in order was the German governess, also perhaps the product of The Man who Stayed at Home. There were several variants of this story, but a classic version was that the governess was missing from the midday meal, and that when the family came to open her trunks they discovered under a false bottom a store of high explosive bombs. Every one who told this story knew the woman's employer; some had even seen the governess herself in happier days: “Such a nice quiet person, so fond of the children; but now one comes to think of it, there was a something in her face, impossible to describe, but a something.”

During the German advance through Belgium an ingenious war correspondent gave a new turn to the hysteria. He alleged that the enamelled iron advertisements for “Maggi Soup”, which were to be seen attached to every hoarding and telegraph post, were unscrewed by the German officers in order to read the information about the local resources, which was painted in German on the back. Screw-driver parties were formed in the London suburbs, and in destroying this delusion they removed also many unsightly advertisements. The hallucination about gun platforms was not dispatched so easily. As soon as a correspondent had described the gun emplacements laid down by Germans in the guise of tennis courts at Mauberge there was scarcely a paved back-garden nor a flat concrete roof in London that did not come under the suspicion of some spy-maniac. The denunciations were not confined to Germans. Given a British householder with a concrete tennis-court and pigeons about the house, and it was certain to be discovered that he had quite suddenly increased the scale of his expenditure, that heavy cases had been delivered at the house by night, that tapping had been overheard, mysterious lights seen in the windows, and that on the night of the sinking of the Lusitania he had given a dinner-party to naturalised Germans. When artillery experts assured the patients that gun emplacements in the heart of London were in the wrong place, and that even on the high lands of Sydenham or of Hampstead any tram road would better serve the purpose they wagged their heads. They were hot upon the scent, and for many weeks denunciations poured in at the rate of many hundreds a day.

The next delusion was that of the grateful German and the Tubes. The commonest form of the story was that an English nurse had brought a German officer back from the door of death, and that in a burst of gratitude he said at parting, “I must not tell you more, but beware of the Tubes in April (1915).” As time wore on the date was shifted forward month by month, to September, when it died of expectation deferred. We took the trouble to trace this story from mouth to mouth until we reached the second mistress in a London Board School. She declared that she had had it from the charwoman who cleaned the school, but that lady stoutly denied that she had ever told so ridiculous a story.

A near kin to this was the tale that a German officer of rank had been seen in the Haymarket by an English friend; that he returned the salute involuntarily but then changed colour and jumped into a passing taxi, leaving his friend gaping on the pavement. A good many notable Prussians, from von Bissing, the Governor of Belgium downwards, figured in this story; a good many places, from Piccadilly to the Army and Navy Stores, have been the scene. The best attested version is that of the English girl who came suddenly upon her fiancé, an officer in the Prussian Guards, who shook hands with her, but as soon as he recovered from his surprise the callous ruffian froze her with a look and jumped into a passing omnibus. Another version was that on recognising her German fiancé the girl looked appealingly into his countenance and said, “Oh, Fritz!” whereupon he gave one startled look and jumped into the nearest vehicle. This, it may be remarked, might have happened to any Englishman, for who would not, when accosted by a charming stranger under the name of 'Fritz,' have jumped into anything that happened to be passing? In some of these cases inquiry showed that at the moment when they were said to have been seen in London these Germans were serving on the Continent, and it is certain that all were hallucinations.

With the War, the Tower of London came into its own again. During the early months it began to be whispered at London tea-tables that the Crown Prince himself was languishing there (if languishing is the appropriate term for a person of his temperament). Later, when it became evident that he could not be in two places at once, the prisoners of distinction included several British peers and privy councillors. All these prisoners, who were at the moment adorning their several offices in free life, had been shot at dawn. These delusions may be traced to the fact that a few foreign spies were imprisoned in the Tower before execution.

A new phase of the malady was provoked by the suggestion that advertisements in the Agony Column of newspapers were being used by spies to communicate information to Germany. It is uncertain who first called public attention to this danger, but since refugees did make use of the Agony Columns for communicating with their friends abroad, there was nothing inherently improbable in the idea. In order to allay public alarm it was necessary to check the insertion of apparently cryptic advertisements. Later in the War a gentleman who had acquired a considerable reputation as a code expert, and was himself the author of commercial codes, began to read into these advertisements messages from German submarines to their base, and vice versa. This he did with the aid of a Dutch-English dictionary on a principle of his own. As we had satisfied ourselves about the authors of the advertisements we treated his communications rather lightly. In most cases the movements he foretold failed to take place, but unfortunately once, by an accident, there did happen to be an air-raid on the night foretold by him. We then inserted an advertisement of our own. It was something like this:

“Will the lady with the fur boa who entered No. 14 'bus at Hyde Park Corner yesterday communicate with box 29”

and upon this down came our expert hot-foot with the information that six submarines were under orders to attack the defences at Dover that very night. When we explained that we were the authors of the advertisement, all he said was that, by some extraordinary coincidence, we had hit upon the German code, and that by inserting the advertisement we had betrayed a military secret. It required a committee to dispose of this delusion.

The longest-lived of the delusions was that of the night-signalling, for whenever the scare showed signs of dying down a Zeppelin raid was sure to give it a fresh start. As far as fixed lights were concerned, it was the best-founded of all the delusions, because the Germans might well have inaugurated a system of fixed lights to guide Zeppelins to their objective, but the sufferers went a great deal farther than a belief in fixed lights. Morse-signalling from a window in Bayswater, which could be seen only from a window on the opposite side of the street, was believed in some way to be conveyed to the commanders of German submarines in the North Sea, to whom one had to suppose news from Bayswater was of paramount importance. Sometimes the watcher generally a lady would call in a friend, a noted Morse expert, who in one case made out the letters 'P.K.' among a number of others that he could not distinguish. This phase of the malady was the most obstinate of all. It was useless to point out that a more sure and private method of conveying information across a street would be to go personally or send a note. It was not safe to ignore any of these complaints, and all were investigated. In a few cases there were certainly intermittent flashes, but they proved to be caused by the flapping of a blind, the waving of branches across a window, persons passing across a room, and, in two instances, the quick movements of a girl's hair-brush in front of the light. The beacons were passage lights left unshrouded. The Lighting Order did much to allay this phase of the disease. Out of many thousand denunciations I have been unable to hear of a single case in which signals to the enemy were made by lights during the War.

The self-appointed watcher was very apt to develop the delusion of persecution. She would notice a man in the opposite house whose habits seemed to be secretive, and decide in her own mind that he was an enemy spy. A few days later he would chance to leave his house immediately after she had left hers. Looking round, she would recognise him and jump to the conclusion that he was following her. Then she would come down to New Scotland Yard, generally with some officer friend who would assure me that she was a most unemotional person. One had to listen quite patiently to all she said, and she could only be cured by a promise that the police would follow her themselves and detain any other follower if they encountered one.

Even serving officers were not immune. Near Woolwich a large house belonging to a naturalised foreigner attracted the attention of a non-commissioned officer, who began to fill the ears of his superiors with wonderful stories of lights, of signalling apparatus discovered in the grounds, and of chasing spies along railway tracks in the best American film manner, until even his General believed in him. Acting on my advice the owner wisely offered his house as a hospital, and the ghost was laid.

Sometimes the disease would attack public officials, who had to be handled sympathetically. One very worthy gentleman used to embarrass his colleagues by bringing in stories almost daily of suspicious persons who had been seen in every part of the country. All of them were German spies, and the local authorities would do nothing. In order to calm him they invented a mythical personage named 'von Burstorph,' and whenever he brought them a fresh case they would say, 'So von Burstorph has got to Arran,' or to Carlisle, or wherever the locality might be. He was assured that the whole forces of the Realm were on the heels of ‘von Burstorph,' and that when he was caught he would suffer the extreme penalty in the Tower. That sent him away quite happy since he knew that the authorities were doing something. The incarnation of 'von Burstorph ' reminded me of a similar incarnation in the Criminal Investigation Department many years ago. When one of my predecessors appeared to be blaming his subordinates for a lack of enterprise in the case of some undiscovered crime they would shake their heads and say, ' Yes, I recognise the hand. That is some of Bill the Boatman's work,' but “Bill the Boatman ' was a most elusive person, and he has not been arrested to this day.

On one occasion a very staid couple came down to denounce a waiter in one of the large hotels, and brought documentary evidence with them. It was a menu with a rough sketch plan in pencil made upon the back. They believed it to be a plan of Kensington Gardens with the Palace buildings roughly delineated by an oblong figure. They had seen the waiter in the act of drawing the plan at an unoccupied table. I sent for him and found before me a spruce little Swiss with his hair cut en brosse, and a general air of extreme surprise. He gave me a frank account of all his movements, and then I produced the plan. He gazed at it a moment, and then burst out laughing. ' So that is where my plan went! ' ' Yes, monsieur, I made it, and then I lost it. You see, I am new to the hotel and, in order to satisfy the head waiter, I made for myself privately a plan of the tables, and marked a cross against those I had to look after.'

The Germans, as we now know, had the spy-mania even more acutely. It became dangerous for Americans in Berlin to speak their own language: gamekeepers roamed the country armed to deal with spy motor-cars, and Princess Ratibor and several other innocent persons were shot at and wounded. Our own anti-German riots in which the shops of bakers with German names were damaged had their counterpart in the mob attacks upon the British Embassy in Berlin.

21 April 2014

Travel Guides

Based on information we've collected over many years of travel, these are our City Guides for the places we've been. They may not be iPhone apps or feature Dorling Kindersley cutaways, but they have the info you need to hit the ground running and get a good dinner on the first night, or get directions for places only locals normally go.

If you have any updates, comments or questions, let us know at the usual address, adamcreen@hotmail.com

12 April 2014

Paris Travel Guide


Eurostar from St Pancras
Standard Premier often available, with meal and drinks included

When arriving at Paris Gare du Nord, turn left and follow signs down to the Metro
You can join the long queue at the ticket office, or just carry on to the much quieter ticket machines about 100 metres further on


Holiday Inn Express, Paris-Canal de la Villette
great views over the canal basin, free breakfast, close to Parc de la Vilette & Cité des Sciences
one block from Riquet on line 7 or from Laumiere on line 5
there are supermarkets between hotel and each station, or for a larger shop, use the Monoprix at Castorama only 5 minutes away

Adagio Aparthotel Philippe Auguste
at Philippe Auguste Metro, turn right at top of stairs and cross pedestrian crossing and bike lane; the road in front of you is Rue Pierre Bayle, and the Adagio is at the top of the road on the corner

Tourist Cards

Travel card: Paris Visite
1, 2, 3 or 5 days (not 24 hour periods, but actual dates, can purchase in advance)
Metro, bus, RER, funicular at Montmartre, SNCF Transilien
small discounts at Arc du Triomphe and other sights
get Zone 1-3 as this covers everywhere apart from Versailles and Disneyland – it’s cheaper to buy separate tickets to those

best iPhone app: SNCF Transilien – gives real-time suggestions for travel routes

Museum card: Paris Museum Pass
60 museums and monuments free for 2, 4, or 6 days (Sundays usually free anyway)
You do not need to queue to go into the museum (well, only with other Museum Pass holders!)
It is not valid for temporary exhibitions, so if there’s something you particularly want to see, you may have to pay full admission anyway
Note that some museums are shut on Mondays and others on Tuesdays, so check carefully.

There is a “City Passport” which combines both of these, but is not as good value. It additionally offers a free Bateaux Mouches boat trip, and a Cars Rouges bus tour, which may sway you, but we didn’t find it worth it.

Tourist Information

There is a tourist office near Opera at 25 rue des Pyramides
Gare de l’Est has a small welcome centre, and so does Gare du Nord/Gare de Lyon


Les Cocottes de Christian Constant
135 rue Saint Dominique, 75007 Paris, 2 blocks from Eiffel Tower
fantastic tiny restaurant serving every dish in a Staub cocotte (ceramic dish) from starters to puddings, no reservations necessary or possible
opens at 6.30pm so for a drink beforehand pop into Le Campanella at the East end of the street


Paris Plages (riverside beaches), July to August
along the Seine, and at Porte de la Villette, near Metro Stalingrad or Jaures
café, dancing, lanterns, showers, deckchairs, petanque, pedalos

Eiffel Tower
Metro Trocadero and walk across Pont d’Iena, or one of the RER or Metro nearby
buy tickets online to avoid ridiculous queues, it’s definitely worth getting tickets to the top

Louvre Museum
Rue de Rivoli, Metro Palais-Royal–Musée du Louvre
The ultimate Parisian art gallery. There’s too much to see in a day, so plan your visit on the website and pick an artist or period to track down

Musée D’Orsay
1 Rue de la Légion d'Honneur, RER Musee d’Orsay or Metro Solferino
An amazing building, and an art collection split into the high art (Roman-style nudes) and the low art (Impressionism and working-class nudes)
Eurostar tickets give you 2-for-1 entry

Notre Dame Cathedral
Place Jean-Paul II, Metro Cité, RER Saint-Michel-Notre-Dame
free entry

2 boulevard de Paris, on Ile de la Cité, Metro Cité
A royal palace used as a prison during the French Revolution, with a recreation of Marie Antoinette’s cell

Bateaux Mouches boat trip
Boarding and landing are at the North-East corner of Pont de l’Alma

Sacre Coeur
Metro Anvers
A beautiful church at the top of a very steep hill! Climb if you want, or use a Metro ticket on the funicular, or take a bus to the top.

Maison Européenne de la Photographie
5-7 rue de Fourcy, Metro Saint-Paul
The French equivalent to London’s Photographers’ Gallery, with a variety of exhibitions. Free on Wednesday evening.

Pompidou Centre
Place Georges-Pompidou, Metro Rambuteau
Great views from the top, a permanent collection of modern and contemporary art, and guest exhibitions

Institut du Monde Arabe
1 rue des Fossés-Saint-Bernard, near Pont de Sully, Metro Jussieu
A beautiful building, with exhibitions and displays from Arab cultures

Arc de Triomphe
Place de l’Etoile, RER line A and Metro Charles-de-Gaulle-Etoile
Always worth a climb in order to see Haussmann’s city layout of radial streets beneath you


Carrousel du Louvre
Entrance to this underground shopping centre is on the Rue de Rivoli, along the north side of the Louvre, next to the archways leading through to the Museum courtyard
Also has an international food court with good deals
Top shop: Delfonics, the best Japanese stationery - http://delfonics.fr/top.html?lang=en

83 Quai de Valmy, Canal St Martin’s West bank
Almost every craft, artist and design idea seems to be in this extensive design bookstore

La boutique Pop Market
50 rue Bichat, Canal St Martin’s east bank
A great gift shop, with lots of design ideas from France and overseas

Day Trips

La Défense
RER line A and Metro line 1 to Grande Arche de La Défense
This cluster of modern skyscrapers has its own charm, and is worth visiting as the equivalent of LA’s Downtown or London’s Docklands
When outside, you will see CNIT as a domed shopping centre to the North, and 4Temps as a block to the South. Both have lots of high-class shops.
CNIT has a “rest area” where every seat has its own power socket, so take your charger and replenish your phone while you chill.
To the East is a view all the way to the Arc de Triomphe. To the West is the Grand Arche, which sadly since 2010 has been closed to the public, but is impressive in its scale.
Restaurants nearby include our recommendations Vapiano and Chipotle, as well as many other cafes and international cuisine.

Palace of Versailles
get a ticket valid to Zone 4 or 5, and take RER C to Versailles Rive Gauche – the trains often have Versailles-inspired decoration!
There are 2 other stations using SNCF Transilien: Versailles Rive Droite (from Saint-Lazare and La Défense) and Versailles Chantiers (from Montparnasse) – all are within 10 minutes walk of the palace
Though it means an early start, if you can get there by 9am you will avoid the queues. Arrive after 11am and you will have a long wait. Though rucksacks are meant to be checked in, after security just show them to the cloakroom attendant and you should get waved through. Food and drink are not meant to be allowed but checking is perfunctory.
See the apartments first, which will take a few hours. In the gardens, there are cafes and toilets, on each side, just past the steps and the fountain, at the edge of the hedging.
If you have time after your visit, the town of Versailles has many interesting buildings.

Strasbourg Travel Guide

Getting here:
The direct train from Paris Gare d’Est is a TGV non-stop, taking around 2h20 and costing £35 second class, £60 first class, each way. The tram stop at the station is 3 levels down – check which platform takes you into town so you don’t go the wrong way!

Travel deal:
If there’s 2 of you, get a Trio ticket from the ticket machine. This lasts 24 hours from first validation, for 3 people, on all the buses and trams. It costs €6. That’s right, only €6 for 3 people!
For one person, there is a €4.10 ticket called Alsa+ which does the same thing.

We’ve got three for you, which you choose depends on how adventurous/cheap you are!

Hotel Hannong, 15 Rue de 22 November
A luxury boutique hotel, which my sister stayed in. Over £100 a night, but literally inches away from all of the high-end shops, close to tram stop, and has reduced deal for next door’s very safe
car park.

Adagio Aparthotel, 106 Avenue de Strasbourg
Only 20 minutes tram-ride from the city centre, literally at the main tram stop. Under £50 per night, this is our cheap-but-great recommendation. Has internet and self-catering facilities too.

Holiday Inn Illkirch, Boulevard Sebastien Brandt, Parc d'Innovation, Illkirch
This is out of town, in a research park in nearby Illkirch. We stayed here because of the great deals you can get on Reward Nights from IHG – 15,000 points for a Junior Suite – trust me, this is a bargain! The room had 2 TVs, a king-size bed and separate lounge. The hotel is a 10 minute walk from the tram stop Campus D’Illkirch, which is on the A line 25 minutes out of town.
If you decide to stay here, let us know and we’ll give you info on food, nearby shops and clear directions. It’s not hard!

Tourist Information:

There is a tourist office in the rail station. This has all of the information you need.
There is also a tourist office at 17 Place de la Cathédrale, which has a souvenir shop as well. You can get 30% discount in the shop with the Strasbourg Pass (see below).
Both open 9am – 7pm.

Strasbourg Pass:
This could well be the best value pass ever. For €15 you get:
Free entry to one museum (worth €7) and half price entry to another
Free boat trip (not between 2pm and 4pm inclusive) worth €12.50
Half-price ride on mini-train showing sights around town
Free cycle hire for half a day
Free viewing of Cathedral’s astronomical clock as it chimes at 12.30pm (arrive East Door 11:35am)
Free entry to Cathedral tower – a big climb but worth it!


Alsacien specialities:
Choucroute is a plate of sauerkraut (big enough for 2 people) as well as sausages and other meats. Flammeküche or flams, a wafer thin pizza made with onion-cream sauce, Baeckeoffe, beef and pork stew cooked, with potatoes and carrots, usually served for two or more persons and Fleischnackas, mixed beef meat presented like spirals and served with salads.

Flams, rue des Frères near the Cathedral. A sort of Pizza Hut version of flam. Strictly for tourists after an easy life or families who want a fun cheap eat. It is not great, but serves a great variety of flams and their “all you an eat” deal is a good one. Try to find somewhere more authentic, though.

Le Foyer Des Pêcheurs
The BEST place for flams is out of town, in a small forest near the Campus D’Illkirch tram stop. It’s walkable but is unlit at night, so you may want to take a taxi. They cook their flams in an outdoor oven, while you sit under the stars, and keep bringing you food until you beg for mercy. An Alsacien delight.
1 Chemin du Routoir, 67400 ILLKIRCH
Tel: 03 88 66 14 85

Maison Kammerzell is next to the Cathedral and is a tourist trap par excellence. The half-timbered building dates back to 1427, and the décor includes pre-WW1 murals. The food is local specialities, but it’s not the best you can get. Ask your hotel for their top tips.

For a healthy and delicious lunch, OUR top tip is Vertuose, 19 rue d'Austerlitz
Salads, wraps, sandwiches, wine … all with excellent service. To eat in (or outside) or to go, you will love your lunch and your body will love you too!

Other places we used for an easy bite:
McDonalds – in the city centre just SE of Place Kleber
Café de l’Ill – outdoor café on Place du Marche aux Cochons de Lait
Kohler Rehm – outdoor café in Place Kleber
Comptoir Kanter – nice café in the main station with a good breakfast offering


Boat trip: Batorama tours are available from the quay behind the Palais des Rohan. They last about 90 min and go through Petite France and up to the European institutions.

Mini-train: a 40 minute ride, starting in Place Gutenberg, taking you through the historical parts of town, which you can visit on foot later.

Cathédrale Notre Dame: with a 142 metre tower (the highest in France).
The tower has over 330 steps and is worth it. The Astronomical Clock in the cathedral is open all day, but rings noon at 12.30pm (don’t ask). The cathedral closes when it is ringing, you have to queue separately.
Nearby on place du Château is the Musée de l'Oeuvre Notre Dame – a museum of medieval religious art related to the cathedral (closed Monday)

All museums are open 6 days a week from 10am to 6pm

Palais des Rohan:
Museum of Fine Arts, the Archaeological Museum and the Museum of Applied Arts (all closed Tuesday)
nearby, the Historical Museum (closed Monday)
Musée Alsacien, quai Saint-Nicolas: (closed Tuesday). This museum features articles from the daily lives of Alsatian peoples from the 13th to 19th centuries: clothing, furniture, toys, tools of artisans and farmers, and religious objects used in Christian, Jewish, and even pagan rites. The exhibits are in rooms connected by wooden staircases and balconies in adjacent houses around a central courtyard. A fantastic historical visit.

Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, 1 place Hans-Jean Arp (Closed Monday)
Works by Kandinsky, Max Ernst and Picasso, and temporary exhibitions. It is also home to the first-floor Art Café with views across the canals, good food and cheerful service

Petite France: the area of the city between the rivers, home to some of Strasbourg's prettiest and most photogenic streets and buildings, with half-timbered townhouses. On Saturdays there is a fleamarket stretching from Petite France to the Palais des Rohan, in front of the Bourse.

Take tramline E to Droit de l’Homme and walk from here to see:

Parc de l’Orangerie: avoid the zoo, which is small, instead look for the storks nesting around the Orangerie building.

European institutions: Council of Europe (Le Palais de l'Europe) (1977), built by Henry Bernard; European Court of Human Rights (1995), built by Richard Rogers; European Parliament (1999), built by Architecture Studio

Place Kléber, the largest in the city and home to the renovated L'Aubette building with its 1920s De Stijl interior, which is only open Wed-Sat 2-5pm


Shopping centres:
Place des Halles, 24, place des Halles, with over 100 shops and restaurants north of the city centre, tram stop Ancienne Synagogue Les Halles.
Rivetoile, opened at the end of 2008 at Place d'Etoile, at Etoile Bourse tram
Auchun hypermarket and other shops, at Baggersee tram stop on the A line south of town.

Gingerbread: an Alsacien speciality. The best shop for it is Pain d’Epices, 14 rue des Dentelles, run by Mireille Oster. She has over 15 different flavours of what would be unfairly described as gingerbread – the name Pain d’Epices really means honey spice cake. You will buy all of your take-home gifts here!

18 January 2014

Women Bishops - the battle for the Synod

Today's news reports (Guardian, Church Times) describe the possibility of the first female bishop in the Church of England being appointed by the end of 2014. In November, the General Synod voted overwhelmingly to welcome the new women-bishops proposals, by 378 to 8, but the opposition hasn't been as obvious there. Instead the House of Laity, comprising members of the deanery synods or chosen by and from the lay members of religious communities, has managed to stop it happening so far. Legislation narrowly failed to gain a two-thirds majority among lay representatives at the synod.

Why did this happen? Because evangelical pressure groups are doing their best to swing the vote their way by encouraging their supporters to put themselves forward, first as PCC (church council) members, then as deanery synod members, and then finally as House of Laity members. This was very obvious in November when I wrote to the Guildford Diocese members, who replied that they would vote the way their conscience led them, not in the way the majority of the congregations in their diocese felt.

This is like an MP having overwhelming feedback from her constituents on a policy issue, and a free vote in the House, and still deciding to put her own personal point of view across.

We received two letters this week about the Church of England. The first was a very exciting one about the appointment of the next Bishop of Guildford.
The Crown Nominations Commission (CNC) will meet twice this summer to discuss and propose potential candidates for the role. As part of its deliberations the CNC – made up of the two Archbishops, six members of General Synod, and six diocesan representatives – will consider views from the diocese. If you have a candidate in mind or a view you would like to express you are invited to write to these diocesan representatives. Members of the public are also invited to take part in a public meeting in Guildford where everyone is welcome to express their thoughts on the needs of the diocese.

The really encouraging thing was the diocese’s Statement of Needs drawn up by the diocese’s Vacancy in See Committee to provide a description of the diocese and set out a desired profile for the new bishop. It is written in entirely gender-neutral language:
Person Specification
We seek a diocesan bishop who will lead us and work with us to ‘Grow Communities of Faith and Engagement’. We believe such a person will have and be able to demonstrate the following qualities:
4.1 A deep and confident personal faith Our new bishop will have a presence which makes the living God real. Love of God, humility and a life of prayer will equip the bishop as a godly and courageous leader. Theologically literate, and confident in scripture, our bishop will be a clear teacher of the faith, valuing and delighting in the differing traditions within the Church of England.
4.2 A clear commitment to mission and growth The new bishop will have demonstrable experience of leading effective mission, characterised by sustained new growth. The bishop will be committed to working with and building on existing initiatives, as well as offering fresh insights, challenging where necessary. An understanding of and empathy with parish life is seen as essential; experience as an incumbent is desirable. The bishop will affirm and encourage the development of the work of schools, chaplaincies and other sector ministries.
4.3 An ability to lead and to manage change creatively
We are looking for a creative leader, ambitious for the gospel, who will seek to inspire and enable rather than to direct, and to work collaboratively, sharing episcope. The bishop will have the breadth of vision to engage with those outside the ‘walls of the church’, as well as recognising how the diocese and the national church can reinforce and enrich each other. The bishop will be able to think about mission strategically, with experience of turning thinking into effective action. Senior staff experience (not necessarily as bishop, dean or archdeacon) is desirable.
4.4 A confident and competent communicator The bishop will be comfortable engaging with a wide cross-section of people, at ease with new forms of technology (including social media), and able to connect with young people and the 21st century world. Able to communicate in a compelling way with those who worship regularly, as well as those of other denominations and faiths or none, the bishop will need to work with the media and be a clear thinker with a warm and engaging delivery. Experience in working with the media is desirable. The bishop will be able to engage in dialogue across difference and to interpret one to the other.
4.5 A gifted pastor to clergy and laity A person of wisdom and integrity, the new bishop will be able to listen to and get alongside both laity and clergy. We look for a bishop who will encourage, motivate and empower others, building up confidence and self-esteem, and affirming them in their ministries, whilst expecting high standards and challenging complacency. The bishop will be able to recognise and utilise the talents and significant abilities of clergy and laity, supporting and encouraging vocations to all forms of ministry, fostering innovation where appropriate.
4.6 In favour of women’s ministry The diocese will welcome a woman as bishop when that becomes possible, although a small number of people and parishes would find this difficult to accept. The majority of people in the diocese hope that our new bishop will be unreservedly in favour of women’s ministry at all levels of church life, whilst maintaining the highest possible degree of communion and contributing to mutual flourishing across the whole Church of England.
And that final paragraph is heart-warming. I'm so pleased to belong to a diocese that may well have a male bishop later this year, but clearly wants one who is open to a successor being female, and is a diocese committed in favour of women's ministry.

Which makes the other letter we received all the more worrying.

This is from the Chair of the General Synod's Evangelical Group (EGGS):
Dear friends
The Church of England is often described as ‘episcopally led and synodically governed’. So it is in the Synodical structures that evangelicals must champion evangelism, advocate good strategy and contend for the gospel.
It is likely that – in the next couple of years – decisions are going to be made in synods of a magnitude which may either threaten or fracture both the Church of England and the Anglican Communion. It is therefore imperative that evangelicals participate at every level in the Synodical structures.
In April 2014 at APCMs in each and every parish lay representatives for deanery synods will be elected. They in turn will elect the lay membership of General Synod in 2015. On behalf of the EGGS committee can I therefore encourage you to nominate and support good evangelical candidates for these forthcoming lay deanery positions and thereafter encourage those elected to consider standing themselves in the 2015 General Synod elections.
Synods may not have the obvious ministry appeal of running Christianity Explored or praying for healing on the streets, but Synodical decisions do have the potential to build a church and culture in which these things are both supported and expected to be part of normal church life. It is also through involvement in the Synodical structure that evangelicals can influence the planning for and financing of church planting, the future shape of ordination training and the election of Crown Nomination Commission representatives who appoint diocesan bishops. In other words, there is much to be gained by full engagement with the Synodical system.
If however standing for deanery, diocesan or General Synod is not for you, we nonetheless ask for your prayers for those for whom it is appropriate to do so.
Yours in Christ
The Rev John Dunnett
Chair of EGGS (Evangelical Group on General Synod)
On behalf of the EGGS committee
(emphasis added)
So as a "good evangelical" I would need to push the candidates that would be against women's equality, against women bishops, and against anything else that doesn't fit their narrow worldview. Because if you don't, the Church of England will fracture, and who will be doing the fracturing? Yes, evangelicals.

I'd be very interested to hear your point of view on both of these letters.

9 January 2014

New York Travel Guide

We're finally updating our very first 2004 travel guide, to the 2014 New York guide. It's longer than most, so if you want to download it, use this link.

New York

Getting into Town (and back again)

At JFK, ignore the taxi touts. They will lie to you and cheat you.

You could take a SuperShuttle bus, but book in advance and only talk to the uniformed guys managing the Ground Transportation Desk. They will drop you to your door for a reasonable rate, and you get an early chance to see some sights on the way. You can also book your return trip at the same time.

But why pay over the odds? It’s so easy to get to Brooklyn or Manhattan for the price of one subway ride, plus the airport train.
Get on the AirTrain at JFK Terminal 7 towards Howard Beach, this has an additional $5 fare
Buy subway ticket (or use MTA pass – see below)
Get on the back of the A train here and go through to Broadway Junction.
Get off here, go up the stairs, go up the escalator, and over to the L Platform towards Manhattan.

At the end of your holiday, you may leave your suitcase at your hotel. But what if you’re in an apartment? There’s only one solution:

Luggage Storage – Schwartz Travel
355 W 36th St, between 8th & 9th Ave. – 2nd Floor
Close to MSG, Penn Station (West Side) & Port Authority
A.C.E. Subway stop, next to the Wyndham Hotel
Open Everyday: 8am - 11pm
34 W 46th St, between 5th & 6th Ave. –  4th Floor
Close to Times Square & Grand Central Terminal
Same Building as Via Brasil & Subway
Open Everyday: 8am - 11pm

Travelling from Penn Station back to JFK:
Take LIRR train, get off at Jamaica Station, $7 – it might cost more but it’s much quicker
Take AirTrain, get off at Terminal 7, $5

Somewhere to Sleep

It used to be so easy to rent an apartment in NYC. Now the law forbids holiday lets unless the landlord is resident. Don’t take the chance – you could arrive and find that your let was illegal.
We can’t recommend particular hotels, but we can recommend where we stayed:

Conselyea Street, Williamsburg, Brooklyn
2 minutes walk from Lorimer St subway stop on the L train
Because Brad and Sean (both professionals, with a lovely daughter) live in one of the 4 apartments, it’s perfectly legal. We took the 1st floor apartment, but you have 3 floors to choose from. There are supermarkets nearby and the kitchen is fully equipped. Check it out!

Getting Out

MTA 7-Day Unlimited Ride Card, $30 for unlimited subway and local bus rides until midnight on the seventh day following first usage
Use the subway. Use buses. Get on a ferry. Get on the Roosevelt Island cablecar. Explore!

Eating In or Out

On the corner of Bleeker Street and Broadway is Han’s Deli (245 Broadway) which has a self-serve salad bar and a hot buffet, with vegetarian, noodles, meat, and lots beside. You’d get more organic stuff at a Whole Foods but if you’re after a quick and cheap dinner, fill up a big container! We went back several times.

Reputedly the best pizza in town ... John's of Bleecker Street, 278 Bleecker St.

Noodles as good as Wagamama and just as stylish can be found at Republic, 37 Union Square West
It gets busy but if you don’t mind a short wait it is worth it. Delicious starters, Pad Thai, and more.

When we heard about Rice to Riches we couldn't believe it. A cafe that just sells rice pudding? But dozens of flavours… even a small portion will fill you right up.
37 Spring St at Mott St

Two Boots Pizza, Grand Central Station Dining Concourse, Lower Level
Even when everything is shutting down for the night, Two Boots stay open with some of the wackiest (and drunkest) patrons around. The TV shows the sports channels (we caught another baseball game, not as much fun as being there though) and the pizzas were amazing. Adam had “The Dude” – a Cajun bacon cheeseburger pizza pie! They have other locations around town, and a concession at Citifield.

Whole Foods Market
Choose from fresh salads, Asian food, sushi and curries. Put your choice in a plastic box and pay by weight.
Union Square South and other locations

Original SoupMan (aka Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi)
259A W 55th Street (between Broadway and 8th Avenue)
Fantastic fresh soup, go for the clam chowder, comes with bread and fruit and an NY attitude!

A selection of diners we have tried:

Bowery Diner
241 Bowery opposite Prince Street, just north of Bowery subway station
A bit different from the rough and ready diner, the food is little bit nouvelle though still delicious, and prices aren’t too pricey

Skylight Diner
407 W 34th Street at 9th Avenue, near Penn Station

Westway Diner
614 9th Avenue (between 43rd and 44th Streets), near the Port Authority Bus Station

Comfort Diner
214 East 45th Street (between 2nd and 3rd Avenue), between Grand Central Terminal and the UN

Brooklyn Diner
212 West 57th Street (between Broadway and 7th Ave), near Central Park
155 West 43rd Street and Broadway, just off Times Square

Shop Til You Drop

Big Department Stores:
Barneys New York, 660 Madison Ave at 61st St
Bloomingdale's, 1000 3rd Ave at 59th St and Lexington
Macy's, 151 W 34th St at 7th Ave
Saks Fifth Avenue
get a tourist discount card from these (showing your passport) with limited discounts

FAO Schwarz
767 5th Ave at 58th and 59th St
best toy shop in New York

Crate & Barrel
650 Madison Avenue at E 60th St
611 Broadway at Bleeker St
979 3rd Avenue at E 59th St
451 Broadway at Grand St
amazing homewares

Old Navy
503 Broadway at Broome St
144 W 34th St at 7th (Fashion) Ave
GAP-quality clothes but at much cheaper prices – stock up on tshirts, jeans, chinos and more – don’t buy all at once and you get a discount coupon on your next purchase!

Have a Rest

Bryant Park, 6th Ave between 40th and 42nd Streets. Round the back of the NY Public Library. Free wifi. Nice café.

Symphony Plaza, 8th Avenue and West 56th Street. Perfect if you are eating soup from the SoupMan – see above. Not too noisy and good seating. Watch the office workers and tourists pass you by.

Special Tips

Easter Sunday

Williamsburg Ascension Church, 127 Kent between Franklin St/Manhattan Ave
(walk or take line G to Greenpoint Avenue)
very welcoming, with post-service reception & desserts
Church of the Ascension, Fifth Ave at 10th St, Manhattan
traditional service (people dress quite smartly here) and a great welcome
Easter Parade 10am
Fifth Av from 49th to 57th Sts
bonnets optional!


Maybe like us you're a Seinfeld fan. In which case you have GOT to go on the Kramer's Reality Tour. Kenny Kramer, Larry David's ex-neighbour and the inspiration for Cosmo Kramer, runs his bus tour with all the Seinfeld sights. Book well in advance!

Baseball Game

This is unlike any other sport anywhere. Forget the game. It’s like a combination of pantomime, rounders, eating, patriotism, and more eating. Don’t worry about the scoring system. Or the fact that despite lasting for 4 hours the score is only 6-2. Just go, eat, enjoy, and eat some more!

Must-See Sights: Manhattan

Museum of City of New York
1220 Fifth Av (between 103rd-104th)
Subway 6 to 103rd St, open 10-18, $10

Grand Central Terminal
Tours: Audio Tour $7 from GCT Tour windows 9am-6pm
Municipal Art Society – tour window on Main Concourse – 12.30pm every day $20

Empire State Building
350 5th Ave at W 34th St
8am-2am $25
Whatever time of day or night you decide to go, you have got to do this once!

United Nations Building
1st Ave at 46th St
$16 for a tour, but we showed our passports and went in, saw some great exhibitions, visited the shop and café, and didn’t really need to see the General Assembly. Expect school groups aplenty.
Check http://visit.un.org/wcm/content/ as they are having building work done until 2015.

Federal Reserve Bank
This is one for nerds, the exhibition is good, the tour a little slow, but you get to see the gold deposits and the history of the US banking system.
Book a tour 2 weeks in advance at http://www.newyorkfed.org/aboutthefed/visiting.html
Meet at 44 Maiden Lane with ticket and passport

High Line
Best idea ever – an elevated railway that was ready to be demolished is turned into an elevated garden walk high above the Manhattan streets. See New York from a different angle, enjoy the space, the quiet, and the plants.
The south end is near 8th Ave subway on the L line. The north end is not really near anywhere, but Penn Station is closest.
It’s also handy for Chelsea Market, which has nice shops and eateries.

MOMATH: The National Museum of Mathematics
11 East 26th Street on 5th Ave
A pricey nerd visit but if you’re reading this you might be just the type!
10am–5pm, 7 days a week, $16

New York Public Library, Schwarzman Building
5th Ave at 42nd St
10-6 Tu We 10-8, Su 1-5
Free tours at 11am and 2pm daily

9/11 Memorial
You must get tickets in advance, and you purchase them at a different place to the memorial itself:
The Preview Site is at 20 Vesey Street between Church St and Broadway, round the corner from St Peter’s Church
If you haven’t bought tickets online, you can get them here, but there’s a queue. It opens at 9am so it’s worth getting there beforehand. If you need to pick up breakfast, there is two great Pret A Mangers just round the block: 100 Church Street, or 179 Broadway.
When you have your ticket, it’s 5 minutes walk to entry at 1 Albany Street at Greenwich St.
Daily, 10:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m.
The whole place is a building site so allow time to get through the traffic, and cross safely.

Lower East Side Tenement Museum
103 Orchard St (Broome-Delancey), Lower East Side, 10-18, $22
It offers tours of an apartment building recreating the 1870s and 1930s.

Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Av (82nd St), Upper East Side, Tu-Su 9.5-17.5, Fr Sa 9.5-21, Subway 4,5,6 to 86th St
They claim it costs $25 but it REALLY is optional. HONESTLY. Pay what you can afford, or what you think it’s worth. If you’re only popping in for a break, don’t pay full whack. They won’t be rude to you when you say “I’d like to pay this much”.

Guggenheim Museum
1071 Fifth Av (89th), Upper East Side, 456 to 8th St
Fri-Wed 10-18, Sa 10-20

Whitney Museum of American Art
945 Madison Ave at 75th St (take 6 train to 77th)
Wed-Sun 11-6 (Fri to 9)
$18, or pay-what-you-wish Friday 6-9pm

MOMA – Museum of Modern Art
11 W 53rd St between 5th & 6th Aves
1000-1730 and Fridays until 2000
usually $25, free Fridays 4pm to 8pm, but the queues for this are horrendous – easier to pay!
Design store across the street, and another at 81 Spring Street in Soho, which are open M-Sa 1000-2000 and  Sunday 1100-1900

Must-See Sights: Brooklyn

New York Transit Museum
Boerum Pl, Tu-Fr 10-16 Sa Su 12-17,
Subway lines A,C,F,R to Jay St/MetroTech, or subway lines 2,3,4,5 to Borough Hall, $7
The only subway museum that’s actually a whole subway station in itself – with carriages from the past centuries on the original tracks!

Brooklyn Museum of Art
200 Eastern Parkway at Washington Ave

Artists & Fleas
70 North 7th Street between Kent & Wythe Avenues, 3 blocks from the Bedford Avenue L train
Indoor market near East River State Park (see Smorgasburg below)

Brooklyn Public Library
Grand Army Plaza, corner of Flatbush Avenue and Eastern Parkway


Atlantic Terminal Shopping Mall
Atlantic Ave at Flatbush Ave (Metro 2,3,4,5 Atlantic Av at Barclays Center)
best buys: Old Navy, Target, Uniqlo

826NYC/Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co
372 5th Ave at 5th St, Brooklyn
Part of a literacy project, your kid can also buy all of their superhero needs! Seriously!

Spoonbill & Sugartown bookstore
Bedford Avenue between N 4th and N 5th Aves

Williamsburg browsing streets:
North 6th Street
Metropolitan Avenue
Bedford Avenue
Berry Street
Wythe Avenue
Franklin Street


an open air food festival that happens each weekend from Spring to Autumn
East River State Park at N 7th St and Kent Ave
176 Lafayette Avenue (between Clermont and Vanderbilt)
80 North 5th Street at Wythe Avenue (Winter only)
Also hosts a great fleamarket, Brooklyn Flea

Corner Burger
381 5th Ave, Park Slope
10 different versions of poutine, including the classic Montreal original – chips, gravy and curds

Junior's Cheesecake
386 Flatbush Avenue Extension and DeKalb Avenue
home to the original 'New York Style' cheesecake

Kellogg’s Diner
514 Metropolitan Avenue, at Union Avenue, near Lorimer St subway
The diner near our apartment, which provided breakfast, dinner, shelter from the rain, and a great place to meet the local community. Great corned beef hash!

525 Grand Street, at Union Avenue, near Lorimer St and Metropolitan Av subways
authentic Mediterranean cuisine

Must-See Sights: The Islands


Ellis Island is more than just a stop on the Liberty Island ferry. Immigrants to America were kept here until processed, and even quarantined if necessary. It’s worth at least half a day’s visit, if you’re interested  in the history of American immigration, and you want to search for your own relatives.
Book tickets in advance at http://www.statuecruises.com/


Staten Island Ferry
Whitehall Terminal near South Ferry subway
free trip with great views of Statue of Liberty

When you arrive on the island, talk the footpath to the right of the terminal and walk up the hill turning left onto Wall Street. You will shortly reach the Island Museum on your right. This is like stepping back in time. There’s a “Wall of Weird”, a fluorescent mineral room, and some original sketches of the ferry from 100 years ago.

For details of other sights on the island, such as a fort and Historic Richmond Town, go to http://www.visitstatenisland.com/


This of course isn’t an island you get to by boat. Instead, take the F, D, N or Q lines from Manhattan or Brooklyn and get off at Coney Island Terminal, or other stops W 8th St NY Aquarium, or Brighton Beach (see below).

Damaged by storms in 2012, there is an enormous amount of heritage to visit here. We took bus 74 to the end of Mermaid Avenue, at the west end of the island, and then walked back along the (very windy) Boardwalk promenade. When you’re up to W 19th St, head inland and check out some of the more famous attractions:

Nathan’s Famous Hotdogs
1310 Surf Ave

Coney Island Museum
1208 Surf Avenue, Brooklyn, NY  at W 12st St

There are two big amusement parks, Luna Park and WonderWheel, right next door to each other. Both have lots of rides and stalls, and different pricing points. What you need to know: the free restrooms are in the Lunapark. FREE LOOS! You’ll need them. Thank us later.

If you carry on walking East past the Aquarium, or catch the subway another couple of stops, you come to Brighton Beach. This is not only chock-full of Russian émigrés, but has some amazing shops full of Russian gifts, clothing, books and DVDs. Check out St Petersburg at 230 Brighton Beach Avenue.

Must-See Sights: Queens

Queens has lots to offer, even if it seems relatively out of town.

The Queens Museum of Art has a fantastic scale model of Manhattan and the surrounding area - try to find your hotel! It also has good temporary exhibitions. Corona Park, Queens

Explore round the rest of the Park, site of the 1965 World's Fair. Marvel at the Unisphere. Flushing Meadows is nearby, where the tennis US Open happens each year.

There’s a Zoo, and also the New York Hall Of Science http://www.nysci.org/location/

Then get back on Line 7 and go to Flushing. This town has fantastic sights and shops, and one of the oldest buildings in New York, the Bowne Meeting House. http://www.bownehouse.org/

The best place to eat is Szechuan Gourmet, a really good Chinese restaurant. 135-15 37th Ave, between Main St and Princes St, 718 888 9388.