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New York, New York

New York, New York

New York via Toronto

I’ve been back from North America for almost two weeks now and am just starting to settle back into post-holiday life. I had an action-packed couple of weeks with my mum and sister. The relatives we stayed with were so good and ferried us around to see so many different sights around Ontario. As well as spending a lot of time in Toronto, my sister and I decided to squeeze in a trip to New York too. It looks pretty close on the map but it was 12 hours on a coach so quite intense. That said, the coach dropped us right in the middle of Chelsea so we were ~in the city~ as soon as we arrived, which was a bit more appealing than a 45 minute taxi ride from the airport.

New York
New York

New York is somewhere I’ve wanted to visit for the longest time and finally getting to go conjured up so much romance taken from seeing it in films for so many years. It’s not like any other city I’ve visited. I thought there was a pretty high chance it would be like Hong Kong, but the skyscrapers is just about the only similarity I can think of.

New York
New York

So nice they named it twice!

I can definitely see myself going back and can see why so many people get the bug for it. So here are a few thoughts from New York that I took away from my trip. I’ll certainly be bearing them in mind for when I do make a return trip, even if it was with someone who was a first-timer.

New York
New York

Perfect for people watching.

New Yorkers are not as rude as everyone says but they do love to overshare on the phone or walking along in conversation, they are loud and it’s a great place for people watching.

New York
New York New York

My personal highlight was the lady who was munching on a packet of crisps willing her ‘lover’ to return to her.

New York is not the muggers paradise we were warned about either but it’s just all about being careful as with any city. Being two women, I did feel a little on edge compared to if I had been with Moon but there really wasn’t much to worry about and I relaxed pretty quickly.

New York
New York
New York

Top tourist spots!

New York’s skyscraper viewpoints are tourist spots for a reason, they do offer some incredible sights of the city. That said, I did enjoy just strolling around the city and taking it in from the ground, as well as obviously the less busy areas. The High Line was easily my favourite spot – the way the history has been taken into account alongside how sympathetic the gardeners have been to it so nice. The High Line also felt much less busy than other places we had been in the evenings, and as a result was much more chilled.

New York New York
New York
New York

By contrast, while also beautiful the Top of the Rock at sunset was way too crowded. We lucked out getting a great tour when we first arrived and it ended up lining up with being to go up at sunset. I’d ask for Pete if you can, he was great. Unfortunately even though we were only in a small group, the rest of New York’s tourists appeared to have the same fab idea to go up at this time, go figure. It was far too crowded, with queues for that famous view of the Empire State building being almost 10 people deep. It kind of ruined the experience for me but the view was still worth it.

New York
New York
New York

Walk, walk, walk…

Central Park is MASSIVE! Even seeing it from different aerial platforms it’s difficult to comprehend. From walking in at the American Museum of Natural History entrance we walked around the reservoir towards the Belvadere fountain before I made my way to Strawberry Fields and met my sister again by the carousel, in the end that took around 3 hours. New York generally does involve a lot of walking though and even though we used the subway, we covered over 12km on most days with our record being almost 20km.

New York
New York

Get ready to spend some dollar.

Tipping is a bit of a necessary evil but to be budgeted for. Thankfully, most restaurants make it easy for you and plonk the different variants at the bottom of the bill. We went for around $50-80 a day, which was fine but when you factor in each meal plus something fun, I feel like doubling or tripling that would have made the trip more comfortable and it’s definitely something I’m going to bear in mind for my next visit.

New York

There are quite a lot of fun, free things to see and do in New York but I do think that the CityPass is definitely worth it if you’re planning on doing at least two skyscrapers. The Top of the Rock with the tour ended up being $44 with the Empire State being $32. Add these to the $27 we spent at the Natural History Museum and you’re almost at the $116 for the CityPass, plus you get to skip queues and there are a couple of other museums and attractions you can get into that are included in that if you have more time than we did.

New YorkNew York
New York


The coach from Toronto to New York was well worth doing. We spent most of the time sleeping and for $60 each we were able to start our trip as soon as we arrived. There were two stops and even though it took longer and wasn’t quite as comfortable as a plane, I’d definitely say if you have booked a trip to either city and you have spare time, a weekend or couple of days to either is well worth it.

Midweek Birthday Mini-Break

Midweek Margate Mini-Break

It’s been a busy few days filled with birthday celebrations and happiness. If the last couple of days are anything to go by, 27 is going to be a good age to be.

Margate Mini-Break

My birthday surprise was just that, a complete surprise. I must admit that I did spend a little time stressing about where we were going but it all worked out in the end. Moon rocked up to my mum’s house in the morning and then let loose that we’d be heading the Margate for an overnight stay – super exciting!

After seeing Margate’s Dreamland on TV and Moon actually meeting Wayne Hemingway a year or so ago, I was excited to take in a proper British seaside mini-break.

We were so lucky with the weather, you just can’t beat a bit of the English seaside when the sun is shining. 


There’s so much to see and do in Margate that it’s understandable why it looks to be making a comeback. From Dreamland to the Turner Contemporary Gallery, as well as a ton of beautiful independent shops and its very own Shell Grotto! Margate is great for a walk along the sands or going further into the town to explore.

Dreamland with my dream boat 




Dreamland reminded me so much of Secret Cinema’s Back to the Future, except better. Firstly, everything is incredibly affordable, with rides ranging from £1-5 (or unlimited rides for £15) and secondly, it’s all real! The branding of the theme park is really something special, thoughtfully putting together beautiful bold fonts with perfect pastel colours. It’s a lovely way to spend the afternoon.









Due to slightly pigging out with a picnic lunch, we were feeling a little too fragile to go on some of the wilder rides. That said, we still made it up the big wheel – which has great views as far as the eye can see of Margate and beyond. Unfortunately the Scenic Railway wasn’t running when we went but as it’s the oldest running rollercoaster in the UK, it’s certainly on my list for a return trip.





I couldn’t get over how pretty everything at Dreamland was, it was a bit ridiculous how well it had all been thought through. Right down to the staff t-shirts, which had us green with envy – hoping they’ll make them available in the gift shop soon!


We read in a guidebook in our hotel that Dreamland has brought a lot of money back to the area, and we could see why. It’s really unassuming from the outside but opens up to this great public space, I have real hopes that it’s going to work out.

My birthday meal was spent enjoying rum cocktails and eating delicious Caribbean food at Mullins Brasserie. No pictures unfortunately, but a great atmosphere and we’re ready to try Caribbean pepper pot again real soon.


Secret Underground Shell Grotto 

Our second day in Margate was opened with glorious sunshine again. After finishing up breakfast at our hotel we popped everything back in the car before wandering over to The Shell Grotto.





Discovered by a father and son in the 1830s and believed to be some kind of smuggler’s passage, The Shell Grotto is just that, an underground tunnel covered in shells. There are lots of neat different designs, and it’s crazy to think that despite being well lit now, it would have been completely dark when it was first discovered. It didn’t take too long to get around but the gift shop was really good and it was really interesting to see the different shell designs and shell work.




Old Town

Shopping in Old Town is a must in Margate. There are so many good independent vintage shops and galleries. Unfortunately, a lot of Margate town centre is kind of uninspired with quite a few charity shops and pound shops, but with a little exploring there are so many hidden gems to be found.






I do like to be beside the seaside  



We rounded up our trip with a trip to the Turner Contemporary followed by a walk along the stone pier before spot of lunch at Buoy & Oyster.









It was such a treat to spend the middle of the week by the seaside pottering around with my favourite person. It made my birthday a very happy one indeed. 

Italian Adventure.

Italian Adventure Title

Rome, Venice and Lake Garda by planes, trains and Wowcher deals.

It’s been almost two months since Moon and I were spending our days sightseeing and eating our way through Italy. We took a Wowcher deal for Rome, Venice and Lake Garda by train (though it turned out to be by bus a lot too) and aside from having some pretty shocking hotels, it was a really fun holiday. I’d definitely recommend seeing Italy by train as it’s such a straightforward way to go about things. I will say this though, we’re pretty lucky I added a data pack onto my phone as we’d have been stuck in either the wrong part of Venice or Lake Garda at least twice during our trip – thanks, Wowcher!

Neither of us have ever been to Italy and it was quite hard work in terms of the amount of walking we did. That said, it was great to spend time together, meandering through new places and meander we certainly did, clocking up between 13 and 14 miles every day!


Free drinking water is available all over Rome, I know some people are a bit sketchy about things like this but we were all good throughout the trip. In fact, it was something we really missed when we got to Lake Garda

Viva Roma!

Starting off in Rome, we got a really early flight and managed to cover a lot of ground in our first day. Rome is an ideal city for a short weekend break, even breaking up our time there with a trip to the Vatican City, we were able to see so many sights and take in so much of the atmosphere. Most of the main attractions in Rome are fairly close together but there’s still a lot of walking to be done. We were staying about a 15 minute bus journey away from the city centre which wasn’t as big a deal as we thought it would be as the buses were so easy to use and we could buy tickets from just outside the hotel on the way to our stop.

 

Rome is the ideal city for a short city break.





Despite the crowds, the Trevi Fountain was easily one of the best things we saw. Photographs simply don’t do it justice and there’s no other way to describe it other than beautiful. As a city with such history there’s a lot of construction going on to repair the roads and architecture, which meant we didn’t get to sit on the Spanish Steps as our friends had when they visited a couple of years ago.







The Colosseum was my least favourite tourist attraction, I think it might have been because it was the weekend but there were just too many crowds. It is amazing to look at from the outside though.


There was quite a lot of street hawking going on but I don’t know why I was so worried about being pickpocketed. Obviously it happens in the same way it does in every city but just as it is everywhere else you just have to keep an eye on your stuff.




I’d definitely like to go back to Rome in the future. Even though we took in a lot in the short space of time we were there, being particularly lucky on our last day to get a full day, there are still a few things we missed off. That, and I could sit by the Trevi Fountain people watching all afternoon – I mean once you root through the streams of selfie sticks, there are quite a few characters!

 

You’re not really seeing Venice unless you get lost.

Unfortunately our Wowcher deal meant that we weren’t actually staying in Venice ‘proper’ but on the mainland. This is definitely something I’d say to watch out for if you’re booking a similar deal on Wowcher, it wasn’t too much of an inconvenience as it was only a 10 minute bus ride but it wasn’t helped by the fact that the hotel was one of the worst I’ve stayed in. The air-conditioner was broken and everything was dated and itchy. That being said, we weren’t spending much time there and it did make us get up and go and stay out.



Having been told that Venice was pretty small, I was surprised how much walking we did. It’s true, the distance isn’t far but when you’re winding your way through allies, it soon takes longer than you think to get from point A to point B. We even managed to get lost on our first evening and found an equally lost Spanish man who was close to missing his train – we helped each other muddle through though.


We couldn’t go to Venice without going on a gondola and even though I was initially worried about the cost, we ended up getting a €10 discount due to supposed future bad weather (which never came) and to get a shared one out by St Marco’s Square was the same price. It really was romantic, even if our gondolier spent a lot of time shouting out his gondolier friends.



I know it’s super touristy but this photo feels so unreal.




Just one Cornetto…

I’ve wanted to visit Venice for a long time and the romance it conjures up was very much present when we got there. There were photo opportunities around every corner and even though the gelato didn’t have a patch on Rome’s offerings, I really enjoyed my time in the city.




Risotto in Venice is a must!


I think if I were to visit Venice again it would be to go to some of the outlying islands, like Burano or Murano. Due to only really spending one full day there simply wasn’t enough time alongside our initial exploring – of which we did plenty. Even though it was a little more touristy than I was expecting, I’m glad I finally got to see this beautiful city.

 

Bella Lake Garda!

By the time we got to Lake Garda we were tired but still a bit sad that we only had one day left – it was one of those places that made me understand why people go to the same places on holiday over and over again. It was easily my favourite part of the trip, it was so beautiful. To top it off, we were staying in Garda – which isn’t even the fanciest part!





I think if we’d had more time we would have made time visit a few vineyards, maybe even done a bit of cycling but one day really didn’t allow for that. I was definitely keen for a dip in the lake but sunbathing by the pool had my name on it by the afternoon of our last day. Not only that but we saw a snake swimming in the water so I knew Moon would need more than a day of convincing.


We rounded off our holiday and our time in Lake Garda with a beautiful lakeside dinner. Visiting Lake Garda made me realise how expensive it had been in Venice and even Rome comparatively. The restaurant we picked was pretty fancy and next level compared to almost everything we ate – though we never had one bad meal the whole trip – but was around €30 cheaper + it was three courses and we had wine!



Things I’d avoid if I did it again…

I’d definitely recommend travelling around Italy like this to anyone, though if I were to go through Wowcher again, I’d probably avoid Tour Center. It took us nearly 8 hours to get to Milan Bergamo Airport using public transport on our last day – when Verona airport, where we could have flown home for 35euros (together), was just 40 minutes away. I do think it was something we needed to do as it was completely new to both of us and now we know how easy it is, next time will be a breeze!

I guess I was just really surprised because sometimes I feel like it’s difficult to get a bus in London so being able to navigate in a language that I can really only say ‘Please’ and ‘Thank You’ in has me feeling pretty good.

Pro-Traveling-in-Italy-Tip: If you find yourself with a little extra time before you fly home or go on to your next destination most train stations offer storage for your luggage for around 6euros. This can be really useful if, like us, you were travelling with bags to carry enough stuff for a week.

An Island Holiday and a Wedding

The Needles - IOW

It’s been just over two weeks since my friends and I hopped over to the Isle of Wight to celebrate our friends Stacy and Pip’s wedding, it’s also been well over two weeks since I said I was back with a new fox attitude, well, quite a bit has happened in between then so I’ve just got to put it down to that.




Now that it looks like summer is here, though we can never hold out for too long with between now and then, and most of the week before, featuring a lot of grey cloud, Stacy and Pip really were very lucky with the weather. Set on The Apple Farm, which actually used to be owned by the man who we ended up renting our cottage for the weekend from, the venue was absolutely lovely, decorated simply but effectively. I feel so grateful that they let us share in their special day.



With it being the bank holiday, and with our friend Long back for a quick UK pitstop, we made the most of the weekend and set up camp and the lovely Afton Bank Cottage, which I would completely recommend if you’re ever planning a trip to the Freshwater area, it was exactly what we needed! The hosts were really friendly and ever ready to help us out with places to go and things to do and they even lent us their barbecue for when we arrived on the Friday.



The sea pinks were so beautiful against the blue sea backdrop. 😘






Don’t scrub up too bad, do we? <3



Reckon selfie-game this weekend was about as strong as my wedding quiff ✌️














The ‘big dogs are best brigade’ sure did make a helluva lot of fuss over little chihuahua, Link.

The Isle of Wight is such a great place for a getaway and there’s so much to do, we even managed to fit in two games of mini golf, so that’s pretty pro. On either side of the wedding and even on the morning of, we were off out doing something. I’m also really pleased we got a cheeky catch-up with the newly weds at The Globe before they jetted off for their honeymoon. The Globe was another place we got really lucky with, we had practically the whole restaurant to ourselves!



















This weekend was just the pick-me-up I needed after a bit of an anxiety-filled lead up, but yeah, more on that another time.

Oh Hey, Stanley.

So, one of my biggest regrets from our holiday to Hong Kong was not being able to get out to the seaside. It wasn’t really our fault, it was mainly due to the last few days of the trip being awful.


Sadly, Hong Kong’s blue flag beaches remain elusive to me, that said, we did make it out to Stanley.




Never in my life have a seen a dog in shoes, other than in this great video, obviously, I thought they were a joke…


There are Goods of Desires all over Hong Kong but of course I had to stop in each one we encountered. They have so much nice stuff and do so many great collabs, it was hard not to come away with something every time.









I would argue that Stanley is one of the most westernised parts of Hong Kong, at least of everywhere I’ve ever visited. A lot of ex-pats live there and there are quite a few Brits-abroad-style pubs. We did get it on a cloudy day so I probably would have had more fun if the sun was shining but there are some great shops there and we had some amazing food at Xia Fei Shanghainese, even if it was served with a slight snarl, rather than a smile.

The market in Stanley is must-go but due to its windy, enclosed paths, it can all become a bit samey and it’s not too dissimilar to the kinds of things you can pick up in Mong Kok.