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The New York Diary - My week in NYC, Day 7: Ross Geller and The Jane

This is almost the last instalment of my New York trip and these posts have been so fun to write! Because I'm typing throughout the day at work, sometimes I don't have the energy to sit and type type type some more in the evening, even though my favourite thing is pouring my thoughts onto the screen. I seize every moment the inspiration strikes though and right about now I am avoiding revising for my driving theory test so its win/win! Oh to be back in New York and waking up each day with only excitement ahead rather than nine hours of work!

So in my last post we had been partying with Miley for real. AAAH! One of my friends had stayed in that night so we regaled her with the stories of the club before setting off for our second to last day in NYC. I forgot to mention that the evening before we had found out that we had to go to a booking office to prebook our spot on the Sex and the City tour, but it was a little too far out of reach and despite running across Manhattan, we missed the 6pm deadline. We vowed to make it the next day as taking the tour was one thing I definitely didn't want to miss, and so we only planned in the American Natural History Museum for this day, and we had also booked a gig to see Prides later. I still have no idea who Prides are but my friend assured us it would be Made In Chelsea-style indie band! We did have a range of guys messaging us each day to hang out again, from the male models from the previous night to the Brooklyn guys to the Yankees guys, plus a host we had lost track of placing, but we never wanted to repeat an event and just carried on meeting new people!

We caught the subway to the museum and used our Explorer passes to get in. We were at first a little confused at just where to begin and nearly joined a walking tour to guide us, but after grabbing a map we decided we could just walk through every single exhibition hall of each of the four floors and it would work out at around three hours. 

I didn't know what to expect but this is a marvellous place! On a simple scale, it's full of every single stuffed animal you can think of. You work your way through continents and species, and its hard to believe the animals in front of you were once roaming around alive. The photo above looks like a painting but it was a real exhibit with the real animals! Quite surreal. And even the whale below is real!

I did have a soft spot for the chubby cutie above!

There's also the history of global civilization and an endless array of creatures to discover. The top floor reveals the Ross Geller Mecca of dinosaurs, towering and imposing.

What a sight to see! The natural world certainly give you a fantastic perspective on how the world has evolved to this very day and to each of us. I couldn't think of a better way to spend an afternoon!

This really gave us an amazing high and we even managed to find the On Location Tours office to book in for the SATC tour the next day - eeek! The gal recommended a nearby bar/restaurant for an early dinner called The Liberty and we sipped some fabulous cocktails, although the food was quite salty so I don't think I would recommend it there.

We attempted to shop away our food babies but the bloat was beating us. We hopped back to the hotel to get ready for the gig and worked out we had to leave in around an hour to get there in decent time. That hour turned into an hour and a half and soon is was around 8pm. Then it was 8.30pm and we realised we were going to be very late. By the time we were ready to leave to go find a cab and get across town, there was no way we were making this gig! Damn. It wasn't the end of the world, but who knows what might have happened if we had gone!

We cracked open another drink, got even more dressed up, and walked right out onto Times Square looking like this in my Rihanna x River Island thigh split dress. I felt like a million dollars! I stepped out onto the insanely bustling street to hail a cab and my Carrie Bradshaw dreams all came true in that moment. I also have a hilarious video on my phone of us shouting 'We love you New York!!!' out of a cab haha! One thing to note is that cabs are very reasonably priced and you could get from one side of Manhattan to the other for $20.

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We changed the plans to head straight to a recommendation called Westway. If you like hip hop, this is the place for you! The side street was already electric with the buzz of the cabs pulling up and the music pumping out of the club. We got straight into here as it was more of a casual scene - the guys were in the coolest trainers and it felt like a student vibe - and there were iPads on the walls almost like photobooths, plastic cups of Henny and toilets covered in graffiti. This was SO my kind of place but my friends aren't really into this music, so we didn't stay too long. I didn't mind as I knew anywhere else we would go would be amazing! This night did teeter on the rocks as we did a quick consult of The Itinerary and picked out The Standard - which is THE most exclusive place to be in New York, with two rooftop clubs and the scene of the lift drama between Solange and Jay Z. When we had visited the Gansevoort hotel on night one, you could see The Standard rooftop pulsing with energy from across the skies! We stared up at the insane sky scraper and were ready to walk in, not even knowing if we would get in, only to be told by some passers-by that it was a private party that night. If only then we knew a bouncer saying 'private party' is code for 'I'm not going to let you in', we might have tried our own luck, but instead we started off towards Hotel Chantelle, met some hipsters who told us we were the Spice Girls, and detoured to their recommendation of The Jane.

This was not on The Itinerary so was a gamble, but we thankfully walked straight into the classic hotel and took the lift up to a teeny waiting room on the top floor. Predictably a bouncer asked us if we knew whose party it was, we had no idea, and we weren't allowed in. A few low key English guys happened to be there too and said we were with them (they were some sort of music producers), so we managed to step into the rooftop bar that looked a little like a drawing room, and out onto a brick balcony. It was more of a chatty affair rather than a club and we started talking to some guys who happened to work on Wall Street. And it's not like any of these New York dudes are walking around in suits and ties; just any cool person you talk to happens to spend their 9-5 in a cool NYC job.

These guys showed us there was actually a club on the ground floor where we first walked in! This was almost like a huge hotel lobby with leather sofas and a stage area, but the lights were down and there were a few hundred people dancing on the chairs. This was the best music of the entire trip and the Wall Street guys handed us a bottle of champagne before retiring for the night as they had work in the morning, and we continued dancing into the wee hours! Definitely an unexpected night but one of the very best.


Feeling #Travelogical in Leeds

I was going to start off this post by saying that I love to travel, but doesn't everyone? That's possibly a generalisation but I'm definitely not a homebody. Decorating my room with marble, cacti, and IKEA pieces does not work for me no matter how many times I reblog pristine apartments, and I have never felt ready to settle in once space in my entire life. Even now I live in a room I rent off my dad in a house with my siblings, so I could do whatever kind of DIY I want, but spending my dollars on paint and MDF strikes me with a pang of horror. Spending on travel however is my weakness.

My wanderlust travels as far as my purse can take me and I'll keep throwing my pennies into that change jar until it can stretch to far corners of the globe. In the mean time, I utilise my friends across the country for day trips, girly weekends and flying visits. The people at Travelodge (the people, not the puppets!) invited me to take the #Travelogical quiz and find which travel personality I have, and I resulted in being social travelogical; I hunt out the most hip hop happenin' spots (yes I just typed that) and search for the unique personalities of the destination, be it in food, places or people. A few suited cities were recommended for a visit and I chose Leeds! I have only visited there on a university open day almost ten years ago (now that is scary). I'd heard it was a bubbly pot of laid back style with a dash of Northern retro. One trip up the motorway on a Friday eve and we were there!

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If I visit a city other than Birmingham, I'm often thankful if each end of the town is a walkable distance apart, and Leeds fits the bill. Staying at the Leeds Central Travelodge did mean we were slap bang in the centre of everything because everything is in the centre! My best gal pal and I checked in, fell into the heavenly cloud of the king size bed, and snuggled down for the night. No of course we didn't - have you read my blog before?! We had a swift cup of tea in the said heavenly bed before squeezing into our Joni jeans and strutting out. I had printed my standard list of places to check out and we were armed with a few recommendations from friends, so our first stop was the elusive looking Smokeshack. Literally around the corner from the hotel, we eyed up a few 'younger' looking doorways before heading up the stairs of this unassuming first floor bar, grabbing a cocktail from the menu. Spotting a couple of people from the calm bar troop upstairs, we headed on up to what was in fact packed out with people jiving to jazz, blues and soul. After chatting to the locals and sipping a few more of the finest cocktails, we checked out the imfamous Mojos (is there somewhere called Mohos or Mojos in every city?) and were presented with hard drinks on arrival, and then interrupted by the bar men dancing across the bar many a time. Leeds has the vibes that only the North can pull off and it was just a damn good time! I don't think I've been anywhere that was less pretentious yet so stylish.

We did retire eventually and had the most satisfying snooze before awaking bright eyed and excited for more. I'd researched The Greedy Pig as a signature spot for a bargain brekky and we took a ten minute walk over to this cute cafe with a menu that even the most delicate person could choose from. I could not differ from a classic (vegetarian) English breakfast and it was big and beautiful. A free steaming mug of tea was the starter to a hearty plate of the classics, plus corn bread and sour dough toast. Delicious does not cover the spot this hit!

We had no plans until a little later so we browsed around the centre with a carrot juice in hand and explored the tiled arcades and marbled archways. There are dinky shops and cute cafes alongside chic designer stores with windows to rival Bond Street. The highlight for me was my first time visiting a Space NK and by God, it was like walking into a YouTube beauty video! Every product I had ever heard of was there, from Sunday Riley Luna to Oskia Renaissance Cleansing Gel and beyond. Painfully expensive and equally as heartbreaking, we sniffed and sampled our way around the store before leaving empty handed and vowing that we know we've 'made it' when we can exclusively shop there.

We were getting peckish now and I was looking for a hearty yet naughty dish. I had researched the Belgrave Music Hall and Canteen for their famous Belgrave Feast that falls on every second Saturday, and we stepped into the wide bar space full of tempting vendors that pop up during that lucky weekend, from Caribbean to falafel. Mouthwatering! On the roof space (Leed's biggest public rooftop!) there is a bar-come-barbeque, with cute deck chairs, benches and comfy seats to chill, sip and look out over the rooftops of Leeds. It was a fine day so we had a sweet cider and admired the views before choosing which eatery we wanted to try. So many choices! 

With different vendors each time, I was so tempted by the mac 'n' cheese from The Mac Shac but I had an insatiable craving for a really good veggie burger and Patty Smiths did not disappoint. Hearty, compact and flavourful, with a gorgeous stroke of mustard, this baby took many, many minutes to finish, complete with a dabble of hand cut fries drowned in ketchup of course. It hit the spot! My friend tried Nasi Lemak Malaysian and reported it was equally as satisfying.

We stayed at The Belgrave for ages as it had such a relaxed vibe, with cute people coming and going from the communal benches and corner nooks. It was literally the dreamiest, most chilled Saturday I've had in so long, and you just don't get that feeling when you are in your own town with your to-do list in your hand.

We finally departed, grabbed some snacks and even managed to fit in a few episodes of Dinner Date at the hotel as we tucked up under the covers and munched away. Lush! Then it was time to begin the process of jazzing up the face and sorting out the hair. When I think back to Uni days when I first really got into makeup, I would spend hours blending and adding and touching up, but now I could do my signature makeup in the dark! This makes life much easier as you can experiment as and when you feel like it.

We stepped out towards Bundobust, a craft beer bar serving a dash of Indian street food, and I sampled a signature Mumbai Mule (Finlandia Vodka, Lime, Spiced Goome & Ginger Beer) as I'm loving ginger beer right now, and it was absolutely delicious! Trusty taste bud-tingling. If I'm ever in Leeds again, I will definitely be checking out the food.

We continued onto The Botanist for some amazing live music and another tasty cocktail (my go-to is a Mohito), before spotting a rooftop bar and taking a chance. We went straight up in a lift to SkyLounge and felt slightly like we were in New York again. There ain't no bar like a rooftop bar! We gossiped in the warm night air and then hopped on to a recommendation called The Maven, where behind an elusive black doorway was a swinging, raucous bar with snazzy cocktails decorated with fresh flowers, and we ended the night at a club that I couldn't actually tell you the name of, but there was a huge queue and I used my new found New York clubbing skills and walked straight up to the entrance. The bouncer asked if we were on the guest list and I gave him a wide eyed look as though he was talking Chinese to me, and he let us in right away! Result!

Fast forward to the morning after and we stocked up at the hearty Travelodge breakfast buffet before departing from Leeds, agreeing it is a city full to the brim of fun, flare and interest. I'll definitely be back soon!


The New York Diary - My week in NYC, Day 6: Dancing with Miley

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I'll being this day by saying YUM! Yum indeed. We strayed away from our bae breakfast spot Evergreens to go straight to our first day time destination, and took a chance to grab breakfast there. Again this was a traditional New York deli spot with the huge range of sandwiches, eggs, salads, pizza and beyond. They really know how to dine! I opted for my favourite French toast with eggs sunny side up of course, and I really credit it for never feeling hungover or tired despite partying throughout. My mouth is watering at this sight!

With bellies rounded and energies ignited, we continued on towards Ground Zero, the 9/11 memorial. I haven't included any photos here because it didn't feel quite right to edit a photo of a memorial as I began this post. We queued up for the National 9/11 Memorial Museum but found our Explorer Passes were only valid for the 9/11 Tribute Centre just across the street. This is a museum set up by the September 11th Families’ Association and focuses on the personal stories from all of the communities surrounding the tragedies. It felt much more encompassing to see such personal pieces of the events, including items and papers recovered from the sights and individual stories of those involved. After exploring the centre for around an hour, we were then booked onto a walking tour of the memorials. We each had headphones so we could hear our guides in our ear, rather than having to stand right by him, and of course the areas were still full of tourists too. 

Tours are led by two guides and the first recounted his personal experiences of the events as a New Yorker, and what it symbolised for the city. He explained the events and picked out names of some of the individuals who were murdered that day. When he first said the word murdered I felt a pang of shock, but after hearing from the guide as the hour went by, the true sense of the events were overwhelming and as he stated, those involved were not lost but purposely killed, as hard as that is to comprehend. I definitely urge you to visit one of the museums or centres instead of just looking at the memorials as you cannot get a sense of understanding otherwise. My dad had told me that the guides of the memorial museum are survivors of the events, and I would urge you to consider visiting the Tribute Centre too and taking one of these tours for an even more encompassing experience. Soon into the tour, the second guide took over. She revealed herself to be a survivor of the attacks as she worked in an office in one of the towers, and she began to recount her memories of the day. She volunteers to do these tours and even now was so overcome with emotion as she told our group of around twenty people from all over the world about what had happened then and how it had impacted her life. The whole group was crying and it was such an intense and emotional experience. I wouldn't be able to describe the significance of the feeling that you walk away with, but our tour guide stepped back in and suggested the British people of the group visited the nearby British Memorial Garden. You add your country when you sign up for the tour so he meant us, and after the tour closed we did go visit the gardens.

Wall Street is a stones throw away and we marvelled at the financial power district. We didn't see any wolves of Wall Street but we visited a Duane Read and shopped for more makeup and snacks. I mostly brought home sweets and snacks as presents, and I'll do a haul soon.

We made a move towards the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island boat tour, but were a little too late. I was considering going off on my own instead and exploring Brooklyn or East Village but we hopped on the Water Taxi with our Explorer Pass and saw all of the sights! The boat is busy and goes super fast but it's an amazing way to see the island from different sides and drive past Lady Liberty anyway. I heard it's amazing at sunset too. When I was planning on visiting NYC alone, I wasn't sure I was too interested in the touristy things, but driving around Manhattan is hugely inspiring and breathtaking. The city definitely has an aura.

We arrived back to Times Square and looked for a pizza place as we fancied something satisfyingly filling. We ended up in one of the big chain restaurants which was decent, but I'll say again that staying so central meant the options were limited, and when it's dinner time, you want to eat right here, right now!

After the largest pizza EVER, we browsed Sephora again and hit the huge Times Square Forever 21 but honestly I was not inspired to shop for clothes there. There weren't any shops that I felt I couldn't shop at home or online, and I couldn't really afford to blow all of my dollars on items I wasn't looking for anyway. I wasn't disappointed but I'm probably spoilt by living in a city like Birmingham. I can see why Carrie wears a $10 dress with $400 shoes!

We took a visit to the Toys 'R' Us ferris wheel and then hopped off home to get ready for another night out. We felt rather refreshed after the previous night in and the town was awaiting! And little did we know it would be the craziest night yet! I dressed fairly casual that night with a crop top, choker and high waisted pencil skirt - OK, that's casual for me - and we grabbed a cab to The Delancey, a club that sounded very intriguing in my list of places, and a few people had said it was a fun place. It was wayyyy over in East Village and wasn't too busy at 11pm, plus it was a Wednesday. Only one floor was open and this was definitely a quirky place with lots of students in a dark, pub-style room dancing like cray cray to Spice Girls. At one point a girl we had met took a look at our infamous itinerary and crossed just about everything off our list writing 'NOT CUTE' and 'TOTALLY UNNECESSARY' next to loads of things we had been looking forward to or had been to! These were mostly the chain places but she did knock off Ellen's Stardust Diner and I wish we would have checked it out! 

The legendary club 1OAK (stands for One of a Kind, so cool!) got the sign off from everyone and we jumped ship and headed all the way back West to the Meat Packing district. This was after meeting some musicians outside The Delancey who had played at Wireless last year, which really confirmed that everyone you meet in New York is 'somebody' but also really laid back and friendly! We cruised across town in a yellow cab (it never gets old) and got our game plan on. After what had happened on Monday, we had to get into this club! We made a pact to be silent, look aloof but cool, and subtly glide into the club.

We strutted out of the cab, had a milli-second of internal panic of where to queue up as it was just a black doorway in a side street with a square of red carpet and a rope, and took our place in front of the bouncer. He gave a gruff 'wait there' and we stood trying to act really cool and like we weren't nobodies. It dawned on me that there were guys with cameras there and then suddenly a huge black car parked up and out came a seriously skinny, tall girl in a red two piece with cropped, bleach-blonde hair and loads of silver face glitter. IT WAS MILEY CYRUS!!!! Miley. CYRUS! The paparazzi were flashing away and I was dying of excitement inside as she headed into the club with two girls in toe. This was New York!

The bouncer turned to us and I flashed him my ID while showing no facial expression and made a beeline to the door like I was definitely meant to be there. We had got past the bouncer!!!! We both strutted through the doorway and encountered a girl on a high stool holding a clip board. Uh oh. She asked 'Are you on the list?' and it felt like a huge neon Game Over sign was flashing before our faces. In hind sight an option was to look aloof yet as pouty as possible so they felt like A. it would be no trouble to let us join the club and B. we might seem like 'somebody', but I choked out the words 'Um we sent an email' (what is wrong with me?!) and my friend said 'Selina and Sarah...' The girl looked at us for a moment and without looking down said 'OK' and we turned and walked into the club. YES!

Success! This club was crazy from the beginning as it was around 1pm already and it was all low ceilings, chandeliers, huge booths and blue lights. The dance floor and bar were heaving but we joined the crowds and a hand suddenly grabbed my arm. While a man said 'Come to my table' to me, I looked towards my friend who was walking off in another direction with the male models we had met at the club we didn't get into on Monday. Hello! We went straight to their table which I can only describe as being a circle of models around absolutely loads of drinks. It was a total party, and chatting to someone who is so darn beautiful is literally the best. It was quite weird that a number of girls kept approaching the table, saying hey to the models and being handed a drink and walking off, but I guessed that the guys were possibly club promoters. All of this was going on while Miley Cyrus herself was on the opposite side of the room sitting on top of her booth chairs and dancing like crazy. Then they played Can't Stop and gave her a microphone and everyone was singing along with her going insane! The night went super quickly and we didn't even really dance as I was talking to a guy with a jaw chiselled by God, he mentioned oh so casually that Tyson Beckford was might be stopping by later. Tyson bloody Beckford... !!!!!!

It was an awesome night and in the cab home, I was freaking out that these clubs were SO hard to get into and there was SO much to miss out on! It would have been devastating to miss out on a night again and we were slightly scared but even more psyched for the future nights ahead. Of course Can't Stop was now the song of the holiday!


The New York Diary - My week in NYC, Day 5: Brooklyn and Broadway

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Hello everyone. So onto day five in New York! Now we had that relaxed feeling where you have settled into your holiday and you're in full flow. We awoke reeling from the night before and realising we were in the hottest city in the world and were going to have to strategically plan our next night out. However the Tuesday was technically our 'night off' as we were going to see a Broadway show that night and had planned the break into our itinerary. I was definitely looking forward to a refresh, especially as there was a heatwave and this was the hottest day yet. We took the subway to Brooklyn Bridge and started the day with the pilgrimage across to the other side.

It was later in the week that we were advised to take the subway across to Brooklyn and then walk across facing Manhattan so you can see the views without constantly turning around. I would recommend that as it's such a fantastic sight. The bridge itself is hefty, wooden and feels very separate from the island. The day was totally still and humid so it felt quite reflective to walk the length of the bridge with the constantly stunning sights, and feel far away but in the middle of the madness at the same time.

We reached the other side and grabbed a bite near the river side. There isn't too much by the end of the bridge but you can walk a good length of the water and see the sky scrapers in clear view. We were so lucky to have the weather.

I did plan to roam around Brooklyn myself but we didn't get chance to with our schedule and it was another area that I knew I could return to New York one day to visit. Since we'd been to the gig before there too, it felt like we'd had a sweet-enough slice of the place. We hopped back on the tube and used our Explorer Pass to hit the Top of the Rock. This attraction was literally a quick exhibit and a trip up a lift to 360 degrees of New York. We were told to visit Empire State at night and TOTR in the day time so you have the view of the ES building - clever thinking! Tall, clear screens block the edges of the rooftop so be aware you are shooting photos through those always unless you dare squeeze your camera through one of the gaps.

We were going to visit the Rockafella Centre attraction lower down in the building but time was a little too tight to grab food before Broadway too. We pre-booked up to see Wicked and even though I've seen it before, I knew a Broadway show was a must. In hindsight I could have gone to see a different show but when we booked the tickets, I chose to stick with my friends that night. The show was truly marvellous, magical and ten times above the performance that I had seen in London a few years earlier. It was literally flawless and each character captured you so fully that you were enthralled throughout. One tip - take a jacket! It sure is drafty.

After the show, we were tired but it was the perfectly timed opportunity to take on the top deck of the Empire State Building before hitting our beds. This has much more of an exhibition tour before reaching multiple lifts that take you to the top floors. The view is uncompromising and stunning at night. The sense of the bustling, noisy city and the many, many glowing rooftops and windows has an energy like nowhere else.

Because this post is so picture heavy, I'll pause now and move onto day six in the next post, as that too was so eventful and one of my favourite days. We like to party *hint!*