Monday, December 29, 2014

Twelve reasons why I love New York City






I spent a week in New York City for my 18th birthday and quickly assimilated to the hustle and bustle of American city life. I stayed in the Wellington Hotel, located just next to Central Park on Seventh Avenue and spent the week doing everything and anything but shopping. I became a serious tourist, climbing the Empire State Building, watching the street performers in Central Park, drinking coffee in Times Square and checking out the hotspots such as Madison Square Gardens, the Statue of Liberty, Rockefeller Center, Brooklyn Bridge and the Chrysler Building. Considering the vast transport links, most of the city was walkable (minus a cab ride to and from JFK airport) and for a city that never sleeps, it sure did make me feel at home. Here are twelve reasons why I fell in love with NYC.

  • The subway is easier, quicker and cheaper than the London Underground (plus it runs 24/7).
  • When you order dinner, they give you enough to feed yourself, six families, a herd of lions and an entire village. Nothing beats value for money, especially when it comes to copious amounts of food. 
  • It is impossible to get lost. As one of the newest cities in the world, New York was drawn up so a young child could find their way home. A grid of horizontal and vertical lines, filled with blocks of houses and iconic landmarks in between, the city is perfectly planned for a tourist.
  • It is home to one of the most iconic and impressive skylines in the world. The view from the top of the Empire State building is otherworldly (though beware of the birds, they get altitude sickness up there).
  • You could go to a different pub every night of the year and never have to go to the same one twice.
  • It is the one place that perfectly mirrors how it is portrayed in the movies. Nobody sleeps, yellow cabs flood the roads and you are guaranteed to hear a local ask for cawfee (coffee).
  • You can travel the world without leaving the city as you fill your tummies with food from every nation on the planet (If you get a chance, head to Juniors, they do the yummiest food).
  • There is a birth in New York City every 4.4 minutes. This lack of space ‘promotes a creatively wilful ignorance’. Anything is acceptable in the streets of New York, whether it be dancing to no music, dressing like a clown, or moving your sofa single-handed across a main road. The weird and wonderful is embraced by New Yorkers, with no judgement.
  • The city really does never sleep; meaning middle of the night cravings can always be satisfied.
  • It is the home of Chuck and Blair from Gossip Girl.
  • The city is filled with history. Even outside of the various museums, there is history in every direction, from the Statue of Liberty to the peaceful memorial of 9/11 (known as Ground Zero).
  • There is always something happening and regardless of your budget, you can still have an incredible time.





Friday, December 26, 2014

Copenhagen



The only thing better than planning a trip abroad, is being surprised with one two days before you’re due to leave. My lovely boyfriend, who knows me all too well, gave me a birthday card the Saturday before last with a boarding pass to Copenhagen attached on the inside. Lots of jumping, hugging and squealing later, I was mentally planning the clothes that needed washing, camera batteries’ that needed charging and toiletries that needed to be bought at the airport. In the blink of an eye, it was 4am on Monday 15th December and we were leaving for Luton Airport.

From London, the flight time is around 1 hour and 40 minutes, just enough time for a quick power nap before heading to passport control on the other side. The weather forecast the day before had predicted rain for the entirety of our trip and as promised the heavens opened when we arrived. Unlike predictions however, the rain stopped by the first afternoon and kept away for the remainder of our stay. It may have been freezing cold, but as long as it was dry, we were content. 

Copenhagen, the capital, is the most populated city in Denmark. All the locals speak English, which although practical, can result in you not attempting to learn any Dutch. The city is safe, clean and ridiculously tiny, making it extremely easy to travel around. The transport system, like most of Europe outside of London, is efficient and reasonably priced. It also operates 24/7; meaning late night trips to the other side of town don’t result in expensive cab rides back to the hotel. On the whole, much like Amsterdam, the city is made for bicycles, with beautiful parks, bike lanes on every street and an orange bike bridge (cykel slangen) crossing the water. 

Attractions that are definitely worth a visit include the elevator to the top of the Parliament building, it’s free and offers the highest viewpoint across the whole city. If you’re planning a trip in advance then it may be worth booking a tour around the Parliament building. We didn’t have time during our stay, but we would definitely jump on one next time we are in the city. The church in the city centre also offers you the chance to climb to another beautiful viewpoint, for a small fee. We wandered up there on the morning of my 21st birthday. The December chill and strong winds made it particularly cold, but the views overlooking the city were astounding. 

If visiting in winter, the Christmas market is a must. Selling local food and drink, typical Christmas gifts and some quirky memorabilia. Nyhavn was certainly the most beautiful part of Copenhagen, with long colourful houses right next to the water. If you’re on a budget however, avoid eating and drinking in this part of the city, as prices are particularly high. For a cheaper night out, the Student Bar (Studenterhuset) offers a friendly atmosphere, live music and happy hour from 4pm until 8pm every day. 

The botanical gardens were a minor let down, with the best part closed off due to construction work and the rest covered with overgrown weeds. It would certainly be interesting to visit in the summer and see if it is as magical as the photos online. On the other hand, the changing of the guards at midday in Amalienborg Slotsplads was remarkable. Equipped with lines of soldiers, an incredibly talented marching band and police officers to supervise the crowds, it is certainly an event that shouldn’t be missed while in Copenhagen. 

We stayed opposite the Tivoli amusement park, which was the perfect location for moving around the city. Tivoli itself was pricey, but if you have some extra cash and a whole day to burn, spending it on rollercoasters wouldn’t be half bad. 

Copenhagen itself was beautiful, relaxed and intimate in size. Every inch of the city is mapped as though it has been thought about, to make life easier and serve the needs of the population. With Baresso coffee houses on every corner (which Jake labelled the best coffee he had ever had outside his own home), great food including Dutch pastries which make your mouth water, and locals with huge grins on their faces, it’s no wonder it is called the happiest nation in the world. Being there for three days certainly made me smile.








Tuesday, December 16, 2014

21 lessons


Today I turn twenty-one! So to celebrate, I'm sharing twenty-one things I've learnt along the way...

 
1. Those who join in when you sing loudly and out of tune are the ones you need to hold on to.

2. You have the same amount of hours in your day as Barak Obama. Stop complaining that you don’t have time. 

3. No matter how much weight you lose, your bum will always be disproportionately large. Embrace it. 

4. Birds are arseholes. 

5. Stop worrying about what other people think, trust yourself enough to keep doing what you’re doing.

6. Your dancing skills are killer, and your ability to make up routines and perform like you’ve had them rehearsed for months is otherworldly.

7. You don’t like nightclubs. Don’t go to them.

8. Comfort zones are like keeping your camera on auto. 

9. Be kind. 

10. Look after yourself; eat breakfast, exfoliate and floss.

11. You live in England, buy a damn umbrella.

12. It’s okay to be sad. Stay in bed and eat Ben and Jerry’s all day. Just remember that sadness is temporary. 

13. Iron Man is educational. It teaches you the fundamental importance of working hard and going to school. Others will deny it; but everyone wants to be a superhero. 

14. When you look at someone with bright green hair and think ‘what is she doing?’ before rethinking ‘Go her! She doesn’t give a crap’. Know that your first thought is what society has conditioned you to think. It is your second thought that defines you. 

15. Pandas look like a man in a suit. They are, and will always be, the most incredible creature to have blessed this earth. 

16. You will become friends with annoying people. When you tell them they’re annoying, one of two things will happen. Either they will stop being annoying, or they will stop being your friend. 

17. Spend your money on experiences rather than things. Material objects will lose value after a while. Good memories last forever. 

18. Tartan will always be fashionable.

19. Making lots of friends becomes less important as your get older. If you have found one true friend then hold on tight, because you have struck gold. 

20. Document everything. Write. Film. Take photos. Nothing will ever beat capturing the moment something made your heart sing. 

21. Find what you love, pursue it, and forget the rest.



P.S I am currently posting this from Copenhagen (my surprise 21st birthday gift from Jake)
... Happy Tuesday :-D 



Thursday, December 11, 2014

Budapest



Founded in 1873, Budapest is the capital of Hungary, and in three days it quickly rose to become one of my favourite cities in Europe. The beautiful Danube River separates the two sides, Buda and Pest, with statues, churches, castles and incredible monuments placed throughout the city.

We had three days, which meant we had lots to see and not a lot of time. Our first day was spent in Pest, where we stayed, wandering around the gorgeous Christmas markets and exploring the city centre, which runs alongside the river.

On day two, we ventured over the Danube River and into Buda. Before leaving, we grabbed breakfast by the Hungarian Houses of Parliament, which is probably my favourite part of Budapest. It was a Saturday morning and we witnessed the guards changing over, yet it was extremely quiet, nothing like Buckingham Palace on a Saturday morning. We walked down from Parliament to see the Shoes on the Danube Bank and were lucky enough to stumble across a beautiful memorial service. The speeches given by various people were in Hungarian, so we had no idea what was being said, but it was lovely none the less. At the end, a group of people stood in a line facing the river and each dropped a yellow rose into the water. Once the service came to a close, we hopped on a tram and headed into Buda. My mum had never been on a tram before so to say she was excited was an understatement. 

Buda was just as beautiful as Pest, with a castle perched on the top of the hill, overlooking the entire city. We opted against the usual walking tours due to being limited on time and headed out with just a map instead. After a couple of hours of walking, we stumbled across the Fisherman’s Bastion, with spiral steps that took us to a scenic view of the river and the Houses of Parliament on the other side. Next to Fisherman’s Bastion stood Matthias Church, with a patterned ceramic roof that glistened in the fog, and at the time of our visit, was the host of a wedding ceremony. The small town next to the church was quaint, and like every other part of Budapest, extremely quiet for a capital city. After a day of wandering, we crossed the Chain Bridge back into Pest, and headed to our hotel for the night. 

Our last day in Budapest entailed two trips, both situated at opposite ends of the city. In the morning we travelled south, just outside of Budapest, and visited Memento Park. The last remaining statues from the period of communist rule, situated in what appeared to be the middle of nowhere. The history dork within me came to the surface and we wandered around the park, test-driving a car and creatively rein-acting statue poses. Who said history wasn’t fun?

After the morning at Memento Park, we travelled back North to City Park. Equipped with the largest thermal bath in Europe, Vajdahunyad Castle situated next to an outdoor Ice Rink and Heroes’ Square as its main entrance – a must see when visiting the city!

Budapest was beautiful, with friendly locals and undoubtedly the best transport system I have ever come across. Three days was nowhere near enough time and I am already planning a second visit (though questionably it is being added to an increasingly long list).








Friday, November 28, 2014

Memories of Greece



I love the ocean. I love its enormity, its depth and its reputation as an uncontrollable force not to be reckoned with. The ocean never fails to make me feel small. This in itself is what puts things into perspective – everyday worries become distant concerns as life on the water gives you an unimaginable sense of freedom. It was sailing around the Greek Islands in 2008 that presented me with this realisation.

We organised the trip through a company called Sailing Holidays – we give them money and in return they give us a boat for two weeks and a guide boat to follow to different islands around the Greek coast. When you arrive, you become part of a flotilla, which makes the trip extremely sociable and constantly filled with various laughable events; including dinghy races (which happened to be the moment we realised ours had a hole in and preceded to row and scoop water out simultaneously), cocktail making competitions and an awards evening to finish off the trip. We managed to scoop ourselves the Golden Shield after all the mishaps – we lost a bucket, a solar shower and even a dinghy, which we later found bobbing on the ocean. However, we later became the height of everyone’s entertainment when we found ourselves lost at sea and slept on the wrong island for the night. 

The beauty of this journey was that my brother came with us. As an impressionable teenager he had given up on family holidays at the age of sixteen, but it appeared that sailing around Greece was an opportunity not to be passed up. My mother’s cousin also joined us. Interestingly enough she had little swimming ability, in actual fact she had no swimming ability, which made living on a boat for two weeks interesting to say the least. 

The days were filled with cruising along the water, dolphin searching and sitting on the front of the boat singing along to Nickleback’s ‘Rockstar’. We witnessed the most beautiful bays in some of the more remote Greek Islands with one tavern and a small number of residents, as well as some busier towns where we could hit the shops and eat out in the restaurants. Nothing however, beat falling asleep on the deck under the stars and waking up in the morning with the ocean at your feet. 

It really was an incredible experience, living on the ocean, and six years on my family continue to dream of the day when we will be able to go back and do it all over again.





Thursday, November 20, 2014

Anniversary weekend | Cleethorpes



The second part of our weekend adventure entailed a trip to Cleethorpes. Cleethorpes is a seaside resort on the estuary of the Humber in North East Lincolnshire and was probably the most perfect way to spend the day. It was a freezing cold Sunday, in November, but the sun was shining and the wind kept at bay; which was certainly the best we could have hoped for.

Cleethorpes is what I would call a typical English seaside; arcades, crazy golf, candy floss and addictive claw games in which you waste endless amounts of twenty pence coins attempting to win a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle cuddly toy. For those of you, that like me, think that in the end the claw will give up and hand you over your prize, you’re wrong. It picks it up; each time getting closer to the drop hole, and then on queue, lets it slip out of its grasp moments before it’s yours. It’s an emotional turmoil, which makes you invest more than just your leftover coins. I have to confess that I was sucked in by the chance of winning Donatello in toy form, it is almost concerning how addictive some of these arcade games are, one goes there with a sensible mind and a tight budget, but within moments is willingly handing over all their money. 

One activity that is as addictive though requires less emotional investment than the claw, is one known as… the dance mat. For those of you that have never endorsed in the brilliance that is the dance mat, you have been deprived. I began self-assured and excelled (though followed by a brief period of overconfidence and failure) it has and will always be, my favourite arcade game (closely followed by air hockey of course). I could spend all day in an arcade centre, lucky for me there isn’t one close by or my degree would have been severely neglected over the past two years. 

The rest of the day was spent doing what we do best; eating unhealthy food, stroking ponies on the sand (sadly I was too big to ride them), walking along the beach and people watching, which soon turned into dog watching – the winter rules of the beach allow owners to bring their pets, meaning on a Sunday, the beach was full with some very lovely furry friends. 

I have to say, I was dubious about how much fun a beach could be in the winter, but it was perfect and I will definitely spend many more winter days at the seaside.









Thursday, November 13, 2014

Anniversary weekend | York



On Sunday November 9th, Jake and myself had officially been together for a year. It’s scary how fast time flies, but it was only fair to mark the occasion with an adventure filled weekend. That and it was also a perfect excuse for me to visit places I had never been to before. Over the last year I have spent a significant amount of time up in Yorkshire with Jake, but have explored little of the surrounding towns and cities. Last Saturday, we headed on the train to York, a beautiful historic city that has been on my list to visit for a while now.

The day began on a high. I started taking photos of the gorgeous church; the wall surrounding the city and the little quaint streets filled with shops and of course lots of people. Then before long, as predicted by the weather forecast, the heavens opened. Refusing to let the rain ruin our day out, Jake and myself proceeded to wander around the city, heading into shops and for a coffee to dry off in between bouts of walking in the rain. 

Besides coffee, I bought a couple of Christmas presents. This year I am so incredibly proud of my organisational skills when it comes to Christmas shopping (no more Christmas eve trips for last minute gifts). I also walked into the Disney store and fell in love with a big, fluffy, strawberry smelling, Lotso. After some excited jumps, squeals and soppy eyed looks in Jakes direction, I left York with a new addition to the family. 

Sadly the bad weather meant my camera spent most of the day in Jake’s rucksack, so only a handful of pictures were captured, but York was beautiful and I will definitely be returning when the forecast predicts some sunshine.





Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Be the reason somebody smiles



Kindness is contagious, that is the motto of the ‘I Am Girl ’ campaign that I adore so much. It’s about working together, pulling people up as opposed to putting them down. It doesn’t take much out of your day to tell somebody how wonderful he or she is. It could be somebody you love, a friend you haven’t seen in years, or a complete stranger who you tell to ‘have an incredible day’. You could give somebody a warm smile, a hug, pick up the phone or send him or her a note.

I kindly received a message from a follower on tumblr who told me to ‘have an amazing day’, and I couldn’t help but smile. To think that somebody I had never met took two seconds out of her day to improve mine made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. So I did the same to another, passing on the well wishes that had been kindly sent my way. 

It is such a small task, yet it is something we all seem to forget. We become so wrapped up in the events of our own lives that we pass over opportunities to make somebody smile. So message a stranger, pick up the phone and tell your loved ones how much they mean to you, tell the girl on the tube who is clearly dressed up for a date that she looks great, send a tweet of appreciation to the user who always makes you laugh, or write a letter to your mother telling her that she is the most incredible woman you have ever met, and that every day you aspire to be just like her. 

Take a few minutes out of your day to be the reason somebody smiles. Let’s get everybody grinning like chimpanzees.
 
A photo that always makes me smile. This beauty was captured during an Arctic Monkeys concert last June.
 



Saturday, November 01, 2014

Happy snaps from October 31



Halloween began with one of mine and Lisa's infamous walks, and ended with fancy dress, pumpkin carving and Hocus Pocus. As always, I took advantage of the various photo opportunities throughout the day. To read the full story of our walkabout, head over to Lisa's blog, Lisiloo
Hope you all had a great halloween :)