A Postcard from New York

Dear Mum and Dad,

This is it. The final, electronic, grand-slam postcard of 2017. All the way from New York City! At least that’s where the photos were taken. As per tradition, I am writing this a few weeks after the event concluded (five, to be precise), which I’m going to argue is because I am in denial. How can the grand-slam tour be over already?


So I didn’t see Andy this time round ūüė¶ But I did see Jamie play ūüôā Twice! I even had an almost-conversation with Jamie’s bodyguard. It went something like this:

Bodyguard: “Ma’am, please put away your (amazingly beautiful Scottish) flag,”.
Cat Mac: “Oh. Yes… Sorry…” *shuffles awkwardly and removes flag from innocent position around neck*

The photo below depicts said bodyguard doing his bodyguard thing, moments after telling me my flag was an inappropriate accessory. Seriously, what do these grand-slam tournaments have against flags? Anyway, between my flag fiasco and me cheering “Well done Jamie!!!!’ a million times in my proudest Scottish accent, I think I achieved my goal of letting Jamie know that his fellow country-people had his back. I’ve also learned that when there’s a competition to get to court-side for signage opportunities, the cute, tiny children are always going to win. No worries, guys, I’ll just chill back here in the second row, grinning madly like the cool, 30-year old mahoosive fan that I am.

Tennis aside, I really enjoyed my brief stint in New York and for the first time in three visits, I felt like I was finally getting to grips with the city – a feeling I also had when I was in Paris. FYI the number 7 subway line in New York is the equivalent of the Victoria line in London; it’s the line that takes you everywhere you need to go. At one end, Flushing Meadows. At the other end, Times Square and Grand Central Station. And somewhere in between, our hotel for the first few days, and my Air BnB when I returned for the final day of the slam. Oh yes, I have this NYC thing all sussed out!

One particular novelty from this New York adventure was the rare reunion with Kenneth and Anna, aka both siblings, at the same time. Sure, we never meet in the UK but New York, you say? Yes, let’s have brunch!

We also wandered along the High Line, once a rail-track, now an elevated linear park, which towers above street level, allowing you to get away from the traffic and explore central New York from a raised perspective. It’s a very cool concept which offers a slice of relaxation in an otherwise hectic Manhattan.

Brunch was a common theme on this trip, as it is in most weekends in my life, and New York did not disappoint. Though I’m not sure I’ve ever paid quite so much for a brunch as I did when Anna and I went for brunch at Bluestone Lane beside Central Park (post-run, might I add). Oh America, with your crazy tax and tipping systems. This is where the girl hovered an iPad in front of me, but didn’t let go, so she could fully observe just how much I tipped. No pressure at all. Thankfully, the food was delicious and fortunately for my bank account, I do not live in New York.

Another highlight, later the same day, was going up the Rockefeller Center¬†which gives you sweeping views over Manhattan and, crucially, the Empire State Building (as opposed to being inside it). Whilst I may have bought my most expensive brunch of life earlier that day, at least this ultimate tourist experience was free, thanks to my pal Sara hooking me up with free tickets via her friend who works in the same building. A recurring theme of all of my blogs: having friends is the best. Fun fact: I stole photo inspiration for the pic below from a Lonely Planet blog post titled: ‘10 iconic NYC Instagram Spots‘. LP knows what it’s chatting about.

Though I’m a fan of Manhattan, I’m really glad we stayed across the water in Long Island City, and explored, albeit very briefly, a different part of New York. Before I headed to Flushing Meadows on that finals Sunday, I took the scenic and novel¬†$2.75¬†NYC Ferry from the end of my street (Hunters Point South) all the way down to Dumbo, a great starting-point to explore Brooklyn, and view the landmark Brooklyn Bridge. I didn’t really have any great purpose other than wandering about aimlessly but loved having the freedom and time to do just that, especially with the sun on my side.¬†

I came away from this final trip thinking, ‘I could do this again’. In fact, with the exception of the Australian Open, for obvious reasons, I’m half considering doing the rest of the grand-slam tour again next year. Is that crazy? At least, in my mind now, it seems pointless going to Paris or New York unless I’ve coordinated the dates with the respective grand-slam tournaments. If tennis can feature, why go there at any other time?!

However, for 2017, all that’s left for the era of catmacbirthdayslam is to focus my efforts on the rest of my parkrun challenge. Can you believe I’ve been running consistently for 10 months? Maybe next time I go to NYC, parkrun will be there, too! I can dream!

CatMac X

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A Postcard from Melbourne

Hello from¬†Down Under! This is your favourite daughter writing. Somehow I failed to buy a postcard during my time in Australia so I thought I’d send you an alternative: a blog-shaped postcard. Mum, I know you’ve signed up to this blog meaning you’ll get an e-mail alert, so it’s almost like it’s being delivered directly to you… it’s just the rest of the world can read it too. Please inform Dad. And feel free to print this post out and stick it on the fridge alongside¬†Kenneth’s boring conventional postcards.

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So, how was Australia? Aw, I’m glad you asked.¬†The night I arrived in Melbourne, I wrote that blog post about how it didn’t matter that Andy Murray had gone out of the Australian Open because there were so many other things to look forward to on my trip. I think part of me was just saying that because that was the grown-up, mature approach to take. But my mature¬†sensibilities were right: I had such a good trip!

My Airbnb hosts were very cool. On the first day I arrived, Phil said he’d show me round the area. I envisioned a walk around the neighbourhood¬†for like, 10 minutes. No, no. We got into his BMW and he drove me around the city centre of Melbourne, showing me where the tennis was taking¬†place, pointing out caf√©s, and then he drove me across the West Gate Bridge (a sizeable bridge) so we could cross back again and I could see the cityscape of Melbourne! Almost every evening, I’d come home¬†and watch the tennis with Phil and/or his wife Lucy. It was random in the sense that I don’t usually¬†expect to hang out¬†so much with my Airbnb hosts but I loved having the¬†company, especially on the days when I wasn’t meeting up with anyone else.

Speaking of other people, I met up with my friend Beni, who worked with me at Chevening in London, and we went to the tennis on the Tuesday. Such a different experience from Wimbledon! No queuing required Рwe literally rocked up at 11.30am and strolled on in. We watched a number of doubles matches on the smaller courts and then other matches on the numerous screens that are dotted around the grounds. I was impressed with the Australian Open in general Рthe (lack of) queue, the facilities, the screenage, the additional entertainment in the grounds  Рthey do everything very well.

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I also met up with Mairi for an afternoon in St Kilda. Mairi’s been here on the working holiday visa for the last year and is loving life. Moving to Australia did cross my mind during my week in Melbourne – I like the idea of living abroad again and apparently¬†I have until my 31st birthday to apply for the working holiday visa! However, you’ll be reassured to know that your favourite daughter is probably too lazy to¬†pursue this. Also, that journey is just way too long.

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I had some of the best brunches of my life in Melbourne. Check out this smoothie bowl I had at Matcha Mylkbar, an uber hipster café in St Kilda. I copied the description from the menu because I wanted to remember it forever: Amazebowl of matcha and coconut, avocado, spinach, coconut oil, coconut mil, strawberry, banana, coconut shavings, lime and coconut granola. Delish.

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You would have both loved the Botanic Gardens in Melbourne. I wandered through them to get to the Shrine of Remembrance, in the south of the city, built as a memorial to those who fought in the first world war. The weather was just perfect and I seemed to have the gardens to myself. I’ve never really been that excited about botanic gardens in cities before but this visit really sold it to me.

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I’d been told by multiple people to try to get out to the Great Ocean Road while I was in Melbourne. Always keen to get out of the city, I scoured multiple tour company websites, searching for the best deal, before bizarrely¬†opting for¬†the most expensive day trip on offer¬†with tour company¬†Go West.

The Great Ocean Road is an Australian Heritage Site, renowned for its¬†243km¬†stretch of beautiful coastline, with limestone cliffs, sea stacks, beaches and gorges¬†making for a stunning route. The day trip was a bit of a beast¬†– I met the bus at 7am and returned home about 9pm – but it was worth the commitment. We went koala spotting, had lunch on the beach, ventured through a rainforest, took a million photos at the 12 Apostles before finishing the day at a road-side McDonalds. Don’t worry, it was my only Macca’s of the trip. I made friends with a girl from Argentina who was around my age and whose dream it had been since a child to travel around Australia. There were also two girls from Fife in my tour group who had the ultimate Scottish accents – apparently I’m¬†never too far away from home!

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The highlight of Melbourne was undoubtedly the Australian Open final which I’d timed so it would coincide with my last night in the city. What a way to end one of my favourite-ever city breaks! As hoped, post the Murray exit, it was a Federer vs. Nadal final and the atmosphere was incredible, unsurprisingly as they are probably two of the most popular tennis players of all time. I was enjoying the trending of #fedal, demonstrating how much equal love there is in the world for the two players.

I went into the match not supporting either player but supporting the concept of a 5-set match. My wishes were granted and I felt the £300-odd financial commitment for my finals ticket paid off. The quality of tennis was insane, with lengthy rallies and points played where we were just in disbelief that either player had been able to make the shot. It was so fun to watch the match alongside such a large and enthusiastic crowd, and to not have the pressure and stress of watching my favourite player. Still, I better see Andy Murray at one of the grand slams this year!

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Now isn’t this the most informative postcard you’ve ever received?

Until next time!

Catmac X