Hi guys! I have returned from my holiday and the majority of it took a very unexpected turn which I will reveal to you in due course in an excessively detailed, epic post series. You know how it goes! For the first few blissful days I did an Instagram takeover with Swimwear365 and they transformed my suitcase with some gorgeous pieces to pack. Here's the low down on the items I chose and a taste of the dreamy Abu Dhabi days...
Winter sun is just a plane ride away and glistening waves, clear skies and white sands await. As you know, this November I ditched my evenings usually spent blogging behind my laptop, clutching a steaming cup of tea and wrapped in layers of blankets, for a weekend of sun, sea and sports cars in Abu Dhabi. With a huge range of beautiful S365 swimwear and beach accessories at my fingertips, why reserve your sunny getaways for just the summer months? Hitting the beach in the winter time is a fabulous chance to indulge in the warm weather when you're craving it the most and it's even more satisfying to soak up some much needed sunshine, plus post a few stand out Instagram snaps.
With the F1 races in the evenings, Abu Dhabi is actually stunning destination full of surprises. Armed with gorgeous bikinis and maxi dresses, a short speed boat ride from Al Reem Island took us to a secluded party island with a beautiful palm tree lined beach on one side and a huge pool complete with DJ and water bar on the other. As it was race weekend, the beats were pumping and the pool was packed with dancing crowds, and with a cocktail in hand I felt amazing in my s.Oliver bikini. The pretty gold beading added a touch of glam and the gorgeous aztec print gave an eye-catching twist. Colourful beachwear really sets off a background of white sand, and the next morning we chilled at our apartment pool, myself in the golden Kangaroos triangle bikini with these exotic sunset hues or red, orange and yellow.
Before the final F1 race on the Sunday, we relaxed at the beach club one last time, grabbing a bite to eat in my beautiful blue paisley maxi dress. The colours pop dramatically on the bold white background and it's the perfect cover up to take you from the beach to restaurant. With rich history, huge skyscrapers and fast cars, you may think Abu Dhabi stops at the luxurious offerings, but with private beaches, party islands and rooftop pools, there is much more to this Eastern paradise. Let's raise a cocktail to winter sun with S365!
I was sponsored to take over the @swimwear365 account, where I chose the pieces myself and <3 <3 <3 them all - thank you S365!
I had a fantastic weekend with my best beauty buddy Georgie and if you have ever considered a city break in Manchester, this is the post for you! We were planning a sunny get-away but time and prices ran away with us, and it was better to plan a local trip in a UK city and shop 'til we dropped. And that's exactly what we did, deciding on Manchester! This is my student city (along with Boras, Sweden - do you remember when I lived there!?) and I love everything about Manchester and the North in general, from the style and spirit to the music/food/shopping scenes.
Georgie and I met on the train despite myself managing to book the one arriving an hour before, and we gossiped none stop until Manchester Picadilly. We booked the Premiere Inn at the Printworks, even though its a good 5 minute stroll from there, as it was also right next door to the Arndale shopping centre. If you're there for the shopping, it's best to spend a day in the city and a full day at the Trafford Centre.
We dumped our things and headed off for lunch in the Northern Quarter; a menagerie of vintage stores, quirky record shops and trendy eateries. Trof was a favourite of my friends who continued to study in Manchester after I graduated and has a sweet menu with burgers, sandwiches, and apparently comes alive at night with a cocktail bar and three floors of music. It's not too pricey and we had the place to ourselves, minus a PDA couple that joined our corner as we finished.
Fuelled and ready to hit the shops, I showed Georgie down Market Street and towards Selfridges. I had no idea their food floor was no more and we went down to the beauty hall to hit it hard instead. We made a pact to be totally on the ball with gaining any samples we could then try out that evening, and Georgie was a master! We were in the market for oils and eye creams, and as a testemony to Northern spirit, every assistant was so friendly and more than happy to offer a sample or two, or ten in Aesop's case! We even saw some dudes rack up a £900 bill at the Tom Ford counter and gossiped about their footballer status to the Lancome ladies.
How beautiful is this Eyes to Mesmerise shade by Charlotte Tilbury?! We carried on around the shops, Georgie was enlightened by the bargains of Bodycare, and we splurged some vouchers I won at work on a takeaway Pizza Hut, complete with salad bar and our drink of choice - sparkling water! In matching Ariel pyjamas, it was the ultimate sleepover.
A few movies and some beauty sleep later, we awoke and immediately inspected the results of all of the skin care we had sampled the night before, before applying loads of makeup and heading towards Home Sweet Home for breakfast, as kindly recommended on Twitter by Sarah of Sequin This. Sadly there was a 45 minute wait for brunch so we took a look at the many cafes in the nearby streets and stumbled across Superstore. The wooden and charcoal metal interior was industrial but rather simplistic and relaxed too, and we indulged in matching berry pancakes with honeycomb butter - not too plentiful but absolutely delicious!
And then we hopped on the Magic bus and towards the Trafford Centre! This is truly an all-day event and the centre almost feels like you're on a cruise ship with it's Greek decor and fountains.
The first stop I wanted to make was the new Missguided concession in Selfridges! I'm the world's biggest Missguided fan and order so much from there, so it's a real novelty to check out the latest range in person. I hope the concession travels as far as the Birmingham Selfridges too!
I didn't actually buy or try on anything at the concession though because I'd already seen the collection on their website and would have ordered anything I liked before! We were however entranced by the Muji storage collection, and I funnily enough discovered there has been a Muji store on New Street in Birmingham for about ten years and I never even noticed it! I'm currently discarding my things (yes I am reading this book) and once I've reordered my room, I really am keen to jump on the perspex makeup drawer bandwagon.
We wandered around the beauty hall of course and I purchased the MAC LE Fix Plus in Lavender as it was one of the few flavours left but was not as heavy as I assumed it would be. Samples whiz Georgie even bagged some Creme de la Mer samples loving wrapped in tissue!
The food haul triumphed here and we 'met the maker' of new refreshments Just Bee, with hints of honey of course. We met co-founder Joe who partnered with his dad to tend to the family bee hives and masterminded the brand. A family of bee keepers - so cute! See more of Joe in my vlog below...
Selfridges didn't have Gucci Bamboo in stock yet but a random cheapie perfume place did! This is SO on my Christmas list as I collect Gucci fragrances; I never find them sickly or sweet.
A trip around Hamley's, a feast at T.G.I. Fridays with my extra winning vouchers and one Michael Bublé impersonator later, it was getting late and we whizzed back to the city centre to top up our makeup and hit the Northern Quarter! I also like Deansgate, but there are so many bars in NQ to explore and some are open into the wee hours. We indulged in cocktails and '90s r'n'b in Walrus and went onto Black Dog, an old favourite from my Uni days.
An afternoon tea was the perfect way to treat any slightly heavy heads from the evening before, and Georgie had kindly booked us into 47 King Street West as my birthday present! The experience was absolutely delicious and the area is perfect for people watching so I recommend requesting a table by the window! I love cakes, pastries and sweet treats so this was such a treat and made for the perfect Sunday afternoon before saying farewell for now and boarding our train!
Thank you to Georgie for a fabulous weekend! I'll definitely be visiting Manchester again - it's one of the most fun-packed cities with the room to shop and indulge as you please. Don't miss my vlog of the weekend below and subscribe if you haven't!
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.
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.
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!
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!*
Hi guys! It's Friday and I finally have some time to continue with the gossip of New York. Gosh New York, I can still hardly believe that I went there! As the happenings become memories and life rolls along, I already feel a world away, and almost one step forward to my next trip!
So in my last post, I left you during the day-after-the-night-before of a Pendulum mosh pit in Brooklyn and chatting over beers until the early morning in a scene that would have been at home in an episode of Girls. We had made the clever decision to just ride the open top bus the next day but that did not satisfy enough for a day in NYC, so just my one friend and I decided we couldn't bear wasting any second and to hit the Manhattan night air for a fourth night running. By now we had numerous guys from previous night offering to hang out again, and while their advances were mostly of the friendly nature, we knew a brand new night would bring brand new people. And we were not wrong! This post is very much a *bonus round* as it's simply a funny story, but I have no pictures to accompany this as I didn't even take my phone out at night.
I had a heavenly power nap before coaxing myself to hop in that shower and get my butt into action. That night was when I recorded my outfit in my vlog and I really have to stress that I didn't vlog or photograph everything we did, so I'm telling you here in these posts. It was coupled with the fact that my main prerogative was to enjoy every moment rather than document every moment, and also the friends I was with are, like myself, so not about that social media humble brag life. We had a conversation that went something like 'Hmm we really should post something on Facebook shouldn't we?' 'I'm not putting anything on mine' 'Me neither' 'OK well I'll post a picture but I'm not putting a status or description or anything' and that's how it stayed! I posted two pictures I think and even then I felt the shame. So you won't see many selfies here or outfit photos as we just didn't have chance to stop!
I have digressed but I shall continue with the night of Monday, and I spent a good fifteen minutes consulting our list of 100 bars and clubs to figure out which we definitely wanted to go to and which were open on Mondays and close to each other. I need some sort of orienteering award after this because it is way more difficult than it might seem! We decided to hop across to a mysterious rooftop bar that was opposite out hotel room, and then onto Up and Down as recommended by Maya and possibly a club called Avenue which apparently had an amazing Monday night on. The ground floor of the elusive rooftop bar, which had seemed amazingly full every night when we saw it from our hotel, was rather like a dungeon, and we followed the bouncer's instructions of 'turn left, right, then left' down the dingy corridors and to a lift. Another gal joined us and she was wearing what I can only described as a plunge, lycra printed hot-pant jumpsuit with thigh high boots - amazing. She basically looked like Beyoncé about to go on stage and had that vibe of being a girl totally dressed up but you've not linked up with your friends yet, so you feel most awkward inside but are trying to channel your most natural vibes. I, in contrast was wearing a midi pencil skirt and polo neck top a la Kim K but felt like yes, we had come to an awesome club.
When the lift arrived to the roof, it was clear this was a hip hop/trap night as the room was full of grinding couples, groups of girls dressed in the most skin tight, mega plunge dresses that I've only ever seen on Instagram pages with 300k followers, and guys in sunglasses. We grabbed a drink and stood outside to look over the rooftops. Times Square is so brightly lit that it actually looked like daylight! It was bizarre! This music was so up my street though and of course it was not long before some guys approached us who described themselves as a model/blogger/stylist/creative duo who had just rode their bikes over from Brooklyn. One was smartly dressed with waist length dreadlocks, and the other had a man bun, baggy hippy pants, and could do an awesome British accent. They said Avenue was a great party but Up and Down sounded like an awesome place, so we said maybe see them later and hopped in a cab. We got a little lost on the way and the cab actually drove past Avenue, so I hopped out and asked one of the bouncers near the edge of the street for directions, which he gave me with no fuss. BIG MISTAKE. Read on.
The bouncer at Up and Down first asked if we were on a guest list but it looked like the club wasn't even open as there was no one outside, so he nodded for us to go in and we headed through the dark door and downstairs. Monday definitely wasn't the main night as it was more of a casual vibe with low tables and plush sofas occupied by cool kids, and so we had one drink and a gossip before thinking Avenue was the way to go. Back in a cab, we pulled up to a very busy crowd now surrounding the square section of barriers outside Avenue and saw our model friends from earlier! Sadly they seemed to be having trouble getting in as one of the guys was dressed so casually in his baggy pants, and there didn't really seem to be any gap to go towards the club door anyway; just barriers and crowds of very tall, slim people looking very prestige. One burly bouncer told me to 'wait there' and we noticed a very small, tanned, wrinkled older bouncer in an immaculate suit but wearing the type of gloves you might wear while beating someone up (?!), and he was possibly the scariest person I've ever seen. I watched as groups of people joined the crowd, then seemed to be recognised by the bouncers and have the barrier pulled aside for them. Some people stood near the front for a moment before getting the attention of the scary dude and somehow saying some magical words to enter. I asked the nearby less-scary bouncer why we were waiting and he said 'be patient', ignoring my question. And it was about ten minutes before I realised something was up. We were not getting into this club.
We spoke to some guys next to us who had just arrived and were male models (male. models. YES) and they stood almost in silence as the bouncer sized them up for about five minutes, before somehow passing the test and being let in. By now it was around 2am and I was not happy about the wasted time. We could have gone somewhere else! Why wasn't he letting us in? Apart from implying something gross, the more friendly bouncer said a few times 'just a few minutes' and did his best not to look anywhere in my direction, before finally, finally turning to the scary, scary man and nodding to us. The miniature man I swear didn't not even grace us with his gaze as he shook his head and turned to other commotion. Argh! It was not like me to give up on a situation but I just could not figure out how to get into this club. The people going in were so random - they just seemed to know the bouncer. Was there a secret password? Open sesame?! We were talking to the friends from earlier who couldn't get in because of his trousers and one of the male models came out from the club too as he had tried to get us on the list (yes - a male model. His jaw is still in my dreams). We asked him what was up and he said apologetically "OK girls... it's because.... you're not tall enough." and looked at us pityingly.
Not tall enough. Not tall enough?! Amazing! I'm 5'5 and my friend is about the same and we were in heels, but he explained that the night was a party of models and celebrities, and we had rocked up after 1am thinking we could stroll in, without knowing anyone's name or being on the guest list, and looking like tourists rather than effortless models. We were so obviously nobodies! They didn't want their club to be a tourist playground; it had to be the most exclusive crowd around. Ah! So that made sense and we realised we had got very lucky with the clubs we had been to so far. And it was even more apparent when, five minutes later, Wesley Snipes walked out of the club and then a guy from Empire. Woah. And I also just Googled the club and that scary bouncer is actually this guy. WOAH. We asked ourselves who did we think we were when we assumed we could just walk into the most exclusive clubs in the most exclusive city in the world. We grabbed pizza slices and pondered our new found knowledge, before heading off and buying makeup in the 24hr CVS on Times Square at 2an. Not at all a bad end to a night that had no expectations for, but definitely a night not to forget! So how did our other night fare when we did manage to get into what is known as THE most exclusive club in NYC? Stay tuned!
Evenin' y'all! That's my best American introduction to my second post right here! Reliving my trip is literally giving me life right about now. Day three was technically our second full day in NYC and after visiting Yankee Stadium, Coney Island, and an exclusive rooftop bar on the first day before, we awoke ready but damn hungry. I think this was the day that we went from place to place looking for decent breakfast food - Times Square is not the place (unless it's Evergreens, aka heaven!). Sadly it closes early on Sunday - boo!
I have to give a shout out to the skyscraper directly opposite our hotel, as you could see directly into the windows. There was an apartment that left the curtains wide open to reveal a chic, book-lined bedroom with a Tumblr-worthy white bed containing a very beautiful man within the sheets. We spent the first morning swooning over him softly sleeping, and low and behold, on Sunday morning he was joined by a snoozing girlfriend and their fluffy white PUPPY. Yes it really was a scene from Instagram. I said a wish that my life too would be that beautiful. Sure it was a little creepy to be watching people sleep, but we figured it was them who left the curtains wide open to show off their perfectly coiffed Sunday morning. Amazing!
For brunch we settled on a deli, and by deli I mean one of the many places that we would probably regard as a café in Europe, but they house counters of salads, pizza, sandwiches, and every kind of lunch choice to the max. A muffin in New York is like no other muffin! A top tip is to drop in and remember any of these delis that you see along your travels, as they are so well priced and might look like nothing special from the outside, but the selection is incredible. I believe I indeed had French toast again and we left with a phone number on a napkin from a cashier and the destination of Central Park.
We had heard that Sunday was the day to go to Central Park and this was not wrong. We stood at the edge and knew that one of the many rickshaws or horse-drawn carts would be a good option to see the whole park. We negotiated a rickshaw for $60 for an hour in total and in hindsight maybe shouldn't have opted for a Turkish driver rather than American, but our guy was seriously charming and knew all of the sights.
We were soon peddling away at a lovely pace around the park. I can't even tell you just how many people were there. At any one second there would be about twenty runners in skimpy shorts with iPhone pouches, fifteen couples strolling with ice-creams, five gossiping nannies pushing strollers, friends chatting whilst power-walking, and that's not mentioning the usual tourists. And the next second there would be a hundred more people! The sheer amount enjoying the park on such a beautiful day was wonderful and really showed how populated the city is. Might I add, we arrived in Manhattan on the cusp of a heatwave and it was a scorching 26 degrees! We slurped on ice lollies that eventually turned our hands into a child-like sticky mess, and cruised along on wheels feeling like the best.
We stopped by the Friend's fountain and tried out some slightly ill-timed jumping photos (fail!), peddled past the John Lennon memorial, and around this b-e-a-utiful lake. Gorgeous!
This was without doubt the loveliest way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Our ride lasted quite a while as you stopped off at the different scenic spots to chill and take photos, and soon enough we had persuaded our driver to pedal us right onto Sixth Avenue (scary!!) and somehow towards Columbus Circle to find the Wholefoods there. I had watched too many vlogs not to add a visit to Wholefoods onto our itinerary as potentially a cheap way to grab dinner and actually eat something green.
We were immersed by the lower level store crammed to the rafters with greenery and rustic wood. Wholefoods just breathes life and nature and oh my, the salad bars! We grabbed a box at the stations that said $8.99 and prompty started filling it with every type of salad, tofu, vegetable and grain on offer. I even thought 'Hmm, nine bucks on salad? Well I'm sure it's good'. I even stated adding things I didn't even want that much just to fill the box and get two meals out of this sweet, sweet salad. Then something clicked and it dawned on my that the price was $8.99 per pound. PER. POUND. Oh no. Ohhhhh no! I rounded up my friends and it dawned on us that we were about to spend $50 on salad. We had been just discussing that we were speeding through our spending dollars at an unexpected rate and here we were about to spend a whole $50 bill on a load of marinated vegetables!
We were starting to look shifty as we clutched our heavy boxes of artful legumes and huddled in horror. We contemplated setting down the boxes and casually running out of the store but since our run in with the Brooklyn law yesterday, we didn't want the risk of being deported again! With hysterical smiles, we realised we would just have to spend our green fortune on greens. We queued up and formulated a not-so-quiet plan of feigining suprise at counter and acting like clueless tourists. We chose which person would go first (me) and take the rap, before claiming we had no money and rush out like idiots. The colourful queueing system was confusing at best and soon we prematurely thrust ourselves in front of a cashier to hear out fate. In the end it came to $25 on salad, which was a relief but also $25 on SALAD. Never the less, we paid up, grabbed our hefty boxes, and took our silly selves out of there! Why are we so silly! Hysterical!
Time was ticking on now and we had a gig to go to so couldn't be setting off at midnight. We had prebooked to see Pendulum in Brooklyn, and if that sounds like the coolest thing I have ever done, then yes it probably is. A gig in Brooklyn - who do I think I am, Lena Dunham?!
We had such fun getting ready that night as we were making fairly good time, and I actually chose quite a dressy faux-suede Missguided dress with a loooow plunge (similar here). I wore this because it was just a Pendulum DJ set so the venue was apparently more like a huge rave. And it was a Sunday! We had no idea what to expect. We hopped into a cab and were soon crossing the bridge and pulling up to what can only be described as a dive called Output. Upon entering the black-walled, underground tunnel, the rave turned out to be a fairly small, slightly gothic club with various corners and turns, and a small stage. We grabbed a drink as we were rather early, and realised that everyone else was in black jeans and many things were pierced.
This did diversify as the evening went on and I set about to fulfil my mission of meeting Pendulum. There wasn't really a reason for this but after making friends at every turn so far, I somehow knew that some members of Pendulum were English and maybe if I told someone that I knew them, we could meet them? If you don't ask, you don't get! So soon I as speaking to the softly-spoken manager called Thomas who said sure he would let the band know that their friends were here (?!?!?) and gave us some free drinks tickets - result! So I skipped back to my friends, started speaking to a girl who I asked if life really was like Girls (I'm so not cool) and then Pendulum hit the stage, or rather the decks. The club was soon a mosh pit and I can safely say I am used to pulling some sweet shapes on the dance floor, but this space was more about jumping, throwing yourself around and generally getting cray cray. Not for many years had I danced like this, but it was awesome! It was literally a rave up, and at one point I accidentally found myself at the edge of the mosh pit and was pushed backwards, resulting in a rather large bruise on my behind.
After the set hit a climax and then even crazier heights, the club crowd dispersed and we were meeting Pendulum. I don't know if they believed that we were suuuch big fans and as soon as we saw they were playing in NYC, we booked our holiday around that (LOL! Total lies) but they were very polite and we went along with whatever they were saying. Of course we already knew it was their world tour.... um, yes. We had to make a very swift exit as we ran out of things to talk about - and there were some serious groupies waiting in the wings - and we stepped outside to hit the after-club. This was in another set of rooms behind Output and you could take the stairs up to the roof garden, which had the most amazing view over the river to Manhattan. Just incredible! While sipping drinks in the warm early-hours air, we eventually found one of my friend's friends who had moved to New York because he worked on Wall Street, oh wow. While they caught up, my other friend and I started chatting to his insane friends who all lived with him in a big Brooklyn house and of course we soon found ourselves drinking beers in their garden as the sun came up. To be hanging out in Brooklyn was potentially the second coolest thing I have ever done! I need to add that the bizarre events did not stop there, as one guy had just got back from travelling and went to have a bath for literally the next two hours, and then suddenly appeared holding up a painting silently until everyone's conversations suddenly trailed off and we were all looking towards the guy who had disappeared who was suddenly holding up a painting with his eyes closed?! Just crazy. It was officially morning when we headed back to Manhattan and pulled down the hotel room blinds for a few early hours' sleep.
So now it was official, we were basically in the coolest place on the planet behaving like we were doing these cool things on the regular. Tourist by day, party by night! I don't actually remember where we had breakfast that day as to be honest I think we were still finishing our epic salads (they were delicious by the way and I made sure I enjoyed every dollar's worth) and our next destination was the Hop-on, Hop-off bus tour; the first activity we used our Explorer Pass for. Because all of the activities we had planned so far weren't all on the tourist trail, we now had all of the typical sights to see, and catching one of the bus tours is a great way to get your bearings. We opted for the Uptown tour as many of the attractions are Downtown, and we secured the bad-ass seats at the back. Sod's law, the only time it rained on our whole trip was when we took this open air bus! We sheltered downstairs as we set off but soon braved the top deck and got kitted out with these lovely free yellow pac-a-macs.
The sun soon came out, and in fact it was so hot that I kept my mac on for fear of burning, and we plugged in our headphones. We definitely thought we would have a live human tour guide but most of these buses have little headphone ports where there is seriously annoying jazz music and a generic voice recording chipping in at the wrong times about buildings that the bus had passed five minutes ago. But it was really fun and retro, and we had scheduled this in because we knew we would be feeling delicate from the night before! We relaxed, sat back, and took in the sights of Harlem, Central Park, and the museum stretch in the sunshine.
And we were back to Times Square! Now was the chance to hit the mecca (Sephora) and tick off the long shopping list I had brought with me. I will do a separate post on my haul as I was also tempted by the miniature trial size versions of all of the most amazing brands that line the queue to the cash register. You couldn't take photos in there but I tempted both of my friends to buy make up sponges ("They will change your life!") and left $100 lighter.
We had a hilarious dinner at Bubba Gump Shrimp, which has funky merchandise and singing waiters (thanks for the recommendation Victoria!), and decided that myself and one friend were going back out on the town that night. Yes, forth night in a row! You may be thinking that's crazy but we were spending our nights socialising rather than crazy drinking, so we weren't feeling effects of a terrible hangover, we were just tired if anything! I had an indestructible energy supply through the trip and just the fact of being in New York made me not want to waste one second. This night turned out to be a total game changer, but I think I'll leave that until my next post! We already had about ten new friends messaging us to hang out but after a 20 minute power nap, we set out on our own again, totally open to whatever was going to happen on another crazy night in NYC!
Hi guys! The time has come, the dream has been realised and I can now live happily ever after because I went to NEW YORK!!! I did share snaps on my Twitter and Instagram but it still might have flew under the radar as since when was I going to New York?! I don't know if I even mentioned it properly, for fear it might not actually happen. Well as part of turning 25, aka the quarter life crisis, I asked myself why am I working? What am I living for? If I won the lottery tomorrow, what would I do? Top of my wishlist for a very long time has been to live in New York, but that itself is rather tricky and of course I need to visit first! I was considering spending months saving and going on a long trip across the USA but as it's such a huge space, it wouldn't be worth spending a couple of days in each place. So I narrowed it down to just the East coast, and then planned to visit New York, Boston (where I have some family) and Toronto (Drake hunting obvs.). I have to add, I was planning to do this on my own, but then my friend said she'd be up for a New York trip! It's so expensive compared to a city break so we decided to turn it into the best ten days in Manhattan and booked up! We only did that a month or so in advance as I was waiting until the final moment, but I had planned the trip for May. It's so daunting to actually set dates and book them! Another good friend also joined the trip and so then there were three!
I wasn't too fussed about the touristy side; I wanted to live there for a week! However having two friends with me was a compromise that was definitely a positive and so soon this trip was about having a blast doing NYC the way it has to be done, and I can always go back there with someone who has 'done' the tourist trail too! Plus I planned to go off myself if I there were any destinations I wanted to visit that weren't on our list.
And soon the month of May rolled around and we had a couple of meetings to discuss our itinerary. Being there for eight nights meant we could do loads of stuff but had to order them in a clever way so we weren't going up and down the island each day. We first booked the Explorer Pass, which gets you access to 10 of 60 attractions within 10 days! It was such amazing value and we encountered no queueing throughout the holiday, all while saving hundreds of dollars on entry prices. We also booked two gigs, a Broadway show, a Yankees game and Coney Island wristbands, PHEW! We went home exhausted and realising we had spent about £1,000 total, and then met up again to loosely order the places we wanted to go into the different days.
Sadly the week before the trip I was really under the weather, It seems to be human nature that every few months you are struck down with 'your' version of sickness, and mine is my sinuses being infected. For a week I was exclusively breathing through Olbas oil tissues, was drinking 3 ltrs of water per day, and went to be at 8pm each night, all while trying to complete my work cover for ten days and packing, and of course when you are visiting somewhere as highly-rated as New York, there is an absolutely endless amount of research you can do. I began by emailing some babes that I knew had been/lived there, and watching vlogs, before trying to get to grips with Uptown, East Village and Brooklyn, It's quite hard to plan for a destination you have no concept of, but our 10 page itinerary was soon being printed and the day came!
There is a new flight with American Airlines from Birmingham Airport and we were booked on the first one! It was around £100 more than flying from Manchester the day before, but after the craziness of getting to Gatwick when we flew to Athens, we vowed we would never again travel if we didn't need to. Considering getting to Manchester/London and back would have cost us near enough £100, we chose the smooth option and it really did pay off. Even typing this now I can remember exactly what it felt like on the morning of the flight! We sped through check-in and there was actually a party at the gate, with local TV crews and a free champagne breakfast! A Queen's guard gave a speech on the new flight and we all crossed our fingers to win the free First Class upgrade competition. But soon we were jetting off, sadly minus a vegetarian meal and gluten free meal for my friend and I (despite ordering them) so the surly air hosts threw plates of fruit at us for the next seven hours in the air. Luckily we had grabbed a classic Boot's meal deal, but the journey there was partially hilarious, partially ridiculous. We had only had to wake up at 6am so we weren't tired, but landing in JFK on New York time of noon, it really felt like almost bed time!
We hopped in a cab (amazing!) to our TRYP hotel on Times Square. Our experience was very nearly a totally different one as we were going to book a one bedroom apartment in East Village. Then at the last second, my friend found an amazing deal of 8 nights at the TRYP for less than £300 each! Staying in a hotel made all the difference as we got fresh towels every day and could always ask for directions whenever we wanted. However staying on Times Square definitely gave us the tourist experience of dining, as you tend to eat where you stay. None of us are foodies but we did end up catching breakfast and often dinner in touristy places, and I wouldn't say you need to stay so central to be able to visit the sights, as most were a subway ride away anyway.
Our plan had been to go to Wall Street for Friday night drinks but we were hungry and were not too sure we wanted to dress up at 5pm. We were all awake but crazy from the jet lag and made the decision to eat on Times Square and then head to East Village. Keeping in mind we had no idea what we were doing and only had a few online descriptions of clubs to go by, we headed for dinner at the Hard Rock Café for ease! This meant our first step onto the hustle and bustle of Times Square, which was just amazing! People are calling you and trying to sell you show tickets and stopping for photos and it's the moment of any holiday where you feel really far from home. I was in my element and literally strutted through the crowds feeling like Serena Van Der Woodsen mixed with Carrie Bradshaw. We'd made it!
Of course the Hard Rock Cafe was wall-to-wall merch and music so we ordered mega meals and after one sip of a cocktail, I literally felt so drunk. It must have been the jet lag because we were trying to sober ourselves up before the food arrived, and then after we were so sleepy. However we were already dressed up in heels, Joni jeans and crop tops though and it was barely 7pm! We couldn't just admit defeat so we jumped in a cab and headed to Alphabet City in East Village - literally like a scene out of girls. We went into one bar, had another drink, and honestly I wanted nothing more than to go to sleep. We called it a day and were tucked up in bed by 1am which was actually 6am on UK time - Zzzzzz!
With the most hard-core start we could muster, we were all most pleased to wake up to a fresh new day feeling rested and ready. We were set to hit New York hard and our first booking was a 1pm Yankees Game at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx! In hindsight I would recommend you to do all of the bus/boat/scenic tours first so you get your bearings of the different areas before starting your other activities. Our first day was almost spent out of the central city. Upon online recommendation, our first stop was locating a diner called Evergreens, which served up the BEST all American diner food. This was one of many waffles/French toast/pancake breakfasts as we had to keep our energy up and of course, it was DELICIOUS! Maple syrup is heaven. The photo above still haunts my dreams!
After many cups of English breakfast tea (as standard!), we were off on the subway to the Bronx and as the line came to an end, the carriage was full of crowds in jerseys and hats. As you leave the subway station, there are loads of stalls selling merchandise and food, and we contemplated some jerseys before looking for a bathroom. We went through one door and it turned out to be a huge club! Even though it was daytime!? After a bathroom stop, we decided to grab a drink at the bar and noticed how it was full of 90% guys. The first night in the Alphabet City bar was just a drink, but it was here that we had our first sample of the all-American charm. We'd just about ordered when a guy approached us, and his buddies soon joined after. Within ten minutes we had made best friends with these Jersey guys who worked on Wall Street! Can you imagine? It takes me about ten nights out at home to come across a guy who even has a job and isn't insane! These guys weren't chatting us up, they were just sociable and having a great time on a Saturday at the game with the boys. It soon got the 1pm but they weren't bothered about the start of the game as it was on for the next five hours! So we had a few beers, they helped us barter for jerseys (mine says Jeter on the back - apparently Derek Jeter is the best Yankee of all time?!), and made our way to our terrible seats. They did try to persuade us to go to a different bar but we had to go to our seats at some time! So we climbed many stairs and soon stepped out onto the stadium, which was so huge and so fun.
We took our seats and watched a few innings, while everyone around us drank beer and chatted. It's almost like a social event rather than an actual game, as we were surrounded by families and couples just enjoying the occasion. We of course had no idea what was going on and there seemed to be breaks every five seconds.
A man next to us complimented my nails and the girl next to him smiled too. Now this is when I realised America is so different - in the UK, a guy would never randomly compliment a girl in front of his girlfriend. That just wouldn't happen, people just don't start talking to you. But in the US, people are so friendly and chatty without any ulterior motive that it's the most natural thing in the world to talk to anyone, no matter what their sex. This is why we ended up meeting so many new people on this trip!
In the end we probably stayed at the game for half an hour max before leaving to go to our next destination! We decided to go to Coney Island that day, despite it being literally an hour in the other direction. It was a way to get the furthest places done first, and we had the afternoon to go. We took the subway and went all the way to Brooklyn, stepping off at the board walk. Coney Island is that retro theme park in Bey's XO video, as recommended to me by the sassiest of them all, Victoria. Thank you again SO much for giving us so many recommendations girl! She's awesome, trust me. You need to follow her Instagram.
So we spent a few hours riding these retro rollercoasters - hold the phone, I actually spent the time watching from the ground as I just do not like rides, eeek! I did go on a few but oh my gosh, never the big ones! I had a pizza slice and took in the views, obviously pretending to be Beyonce. We had major fun on the go carts (of course mine was the pink one) before having dinner at Applebee's served by the cutest waiter ever! He was probably around 19 and even wrote down his number to give us some tips on Brooklyn, awwh! We already had the Bronx guys download Whatsapp, or as they said 'Whatsupapp' - LOL - and so there was already starting to be a list of new friends recommending things.
We went back to the subway and missed a train just by seconds, and it was starting to get late now. I watch other city break vlogs and just don't get how people are not pushed for time, as we always seemed to be rushing around from A to B on every holiday. We left the station and grabbed some water before hearing the next train and finding our subway passes didn't work at the gate as they had just been used! The train had arrived and we saw a dude open a door to exit the platforms, so we rushed in through the door and up the stairs, but missed the train again! We were laughing and panting before we heard 'Excuse me girls' and a cop was walking up to us!!!! After a minute of all apologising profusely at the same time and explaining the story and faux almost-crying, he realised we were tourists and soon enough was giving us destination tips and posing for a selfie. This was not the last time we almost had a run in with the law, and I'll explain that later!
So we're eventually we were back at the hotel and getting ready for a night on the town. It was Saturday and we had a list of the most exclusive rooftop bars. We took one step down from The Standard and chose the Gansevoort Hotel, as recommended by a gal I follow on Instagram called Maya who is an NYC resident! Love her Instagram long time! We wore our fanciest dresses - Carrie eat your heart out - and stepped out of the cab into a line in the Meatpacking district (pinch me!). Some dudes in front of us suddenly walked to the front and got straight in, so as the bouncer walked by I said 'Hey' and he sort of looked at us and beckoned us to go straight to the front. As we stepped into the building the bouncers were a little uptight but we were taken in the lift up to the top floor, and wow, once you party at a rooftop bar, you can probably never party anywhere else again! It even felt so normal to be clinking cocktails while gazing out across towers of dotted lights for miles and miles. Amazing! These New Yorkers know how to party too, and the vibe is inclusive and anyone will talk to anyone. It was the best club ever basically, and that was considered a usual place!
So I'll round off this post from the 20th floor as it's so long already and we've barely even started! My vlog has already uploaded though if you want to see a snapshot of some things, although the juicy details will be right here on my blog of course :)
It's time to talk about my Athens trip! This post has been quite anticipated but it just reflects how slap bang in the middle of everything it was. Some people have one big holiday per year and count down to the day with crosses on the wall calendar, but my friends and I have formed a routine of city breaks scattered across the year so you never feel too far away from one. We have still never been on a package or beach holiday together, if you don't count Barcelona, and we possibly never will. Rather than sunbeds and tour reps, we seek an adventure we cannot predict. We actually chose Athens as a hen weekend for the first member of our group to get married! We booked the trip as a surprise and all chipped in to pay to whisk her away, and there were ten of us in total in the end. I looked at a cheesy trip to the Canary Islands but the bride-to-be's younger sisters picked out Athens. I didn't have any previous desire to go there but would never turn down a raucous trip with my main girls or the ultimate way to celebrate one of us getting hitched.
We flew from Gatwick on the Thursday and it was possibly the most stressful journey ever! First my friend revealed I was responsible for the directions, and it didn't help that I am not a driver and have no idea where Gatwick is or how to navigate motorways, and we had to stop off to put oil in the car for the first time for fear of the engine blowing up. A few hours later with Google Maps for company, we realised we were not far from Birmingham at all and in fact were rapidly travelling down the M5 towards Bristol, taking the most excessive loop around the UK to reach London. Now too far down this route to turn back (and not knowing even how to begin to re-route), we said several prayers in scary silence as we spun in different directions, battered with wind and heavy rain, and soon were still two hours and over one hundred miles away from the airport just as the other car of girls texted that they were arriving into the airport. Panic! We beat all of the odds and just about managed to park up, run to an airport shuttle bus and race down to departures on time. This was almost scuppered when we started queueing at the gate for Pisa, one minute before the flight time. Can you believe we are a bunch of professional women?! Hardly the calmness we were hoping for but we finally took our seats on the EasyJet plane and compared all of our preprepared notes on the best clubs, bars and destinations.
It's quite difficult to get a feel for a city when you are hunting across the internet for information. I find it's best to print a list with addresses and descriptions of all clubs and restaurants, and then your group members can scan over these on the trip and pick out the most suited. It also helped when recommended places by locals as you can cross reference the unbiased description on your list. The maid of honour had created day plans of different attractions and mapped them out so we were sorted each day too. One thing we always struggle with is restaurants as the best ones always seem to be the most expensive and sometime you need to eat sooner rather than later.
I would say this holiday was summed up with practical jokes and silliness as we spent the flight joking to the bride's sisters that we had decided to not go out all holiday and stay indoors pampering the bride instead! Their faces were a picture. We arrived to Greece in the early evening and took a metro ride to our apartments, even though a taxi all the way would have been the same price we found out on our return! Travelling into the city by public transport is always a good introduction to the setting though, and we stepped out of our station just as it got dark and grabbed a bite to eat. We stayed at the McQueen apartments which were fantastic value and comfort, although the area could be compared to a run down, abandoned town! They were just off a wide main road with lots of large deserted buildings, but a few streets away were all of the party streets so that shouldn't put you off; it always felt safe. One building seemed to be the home to stray dogs and we even spotted gangs of them roaming the city together like pals. Apparently they catch the metro and meet each other in town!
There were six girls on the first night and four more were set to join us the next day, and there's nothing like that first step into your new temporary home when it's as fabulous as this. Especially clean, modern and equipped, we had a two bedroom space plus two balconies with a view of the Acropolis and lots of full length mirrors. This, along with plug sockets, is so important on a girls holiday!
The bride expressly permitted anything cheesy or crude and we followed suit with a few alternatives. The maid of honour brought along various dare cards, signs and a highly-used selfie stick, and we planned dress themes for each night that were definitely not fancy dress. The first night was Rainbow Night, where we were all due to wear a different coloured outfit. I did shop around for weeks trying to find any version of an orange, yellow, green or purple dress that I liked but during early February, the shops were a sea of black, white and camel! I went with my trusted Missguided khaki set instead and we all trooped out just before midnight. This is where we made cardinal holiday mistake number one by ignoring our own research and heading to the area the hotel receptionist suggested. Often people try to send you to a 'nice' place when really you want the most alternative, underground jaunt in the city and not a glamourous club with pop music! We took a taxi to the recommended are of Gazi, the local strip of restaurants-come-bars spilling out onto a courtyard. We stopped off in the first bar after being tempted in by the promise of drinks deals, and ended up staying there for most of the night as we literally had the place to ourselves! The 'DJ' was playing YouTube songs on a laptop so we took over the playlist and willed away the hours gossiping and becoming best pals with the only other bar residents who happened to be an American couple also looking for a club. A bar man walked us in a line to a nearby club, almost like a trip of school children, but as we navigated the paved roads in heels, we arrived to find it was shut! Unimpressed, we hit another place but as it was way into the early hours, it was only playing Greek music. We found across the whole trip that every place will turn to Greek tunes after around 3am.
Somehow I was soon taking off my make up before hitting the pillow and we woke up the next day to sunny skies and a full itinerary ahead. American tourist told us the hotel was full of models with go-sees to get to (apparently) so we had to be quieter. A few girls had not been away with us before and were surprised that despite partying into the daylight hours, it still meant getting up before lunch time and continuing on with a full day of sight seeing - and then doing it all over again the next night! We embarked on a tour of all of the sights apart from the Acropolis, as our final friends were not joining us until that evening, and the main centre was only one easy metro stop away. We were certainly there outside of the scorching tourist season, but I was so surprised at how smooth it was to travel around the city. Hustle and bustle was nowhere to be found here and we moved around with ease. There was still lively street entertainers and busy markets, but nothing hectic.
We had some breakfast/lunch and not before long, the heavens opened. Well, they literally parted and a waterfall of rain and golf ball-sized hail did not stop falling for the entire day. Considering some of us were in sandals and cardigans, this was a disaster! Never fear though, we still moved around all of our locations including the Acropolis Museum, National Gardens, Arch of Hadrian and Zappeion, just with very wet feet and very wet hair. Embarrassingly we bumped into the American couple in the museum and swiftly tried to avoid them as last night had been such a blur! We picked out a touristy restaurant later that evening after hours of walking around Athens and soon our other friends arrived to complete the group. The action really started when we were all there as that night we brought out the hen-do games and had quite an emotional time telling all of our best (aka most embarrassing) memories of the bride to be and filming some equally as hilarious/tragic messages for the groom! The newest girls to arrive also did a beautiful, hysterical and seemingly choreographed dance to Spice Girls' 2 Become 1 for the bride involving lots of group swaying and arm movements, which turned out to be completely made up on the spot! That night was Black and White night and it was so effective in the group photos! With the loose themes, each person can still dress in their own style but you all look amazing together. I wore my Dancing Alien's lace top with a Missguided white pencil skirt and a red lip of course!
After setting a time for 11pm drinks in our apartment, everyone was finally all in one place by around 12.30am, we had the hilarious time doing the activities above and so then eventually we didn't leave our apartment until around 2am!? To some this may seem ludicrous but European clubs don't get going until around 1am so this suited us perfectly. I'll always be a night owl, prolonging an evening so it's as amazing as it can be before turning the page to a new day, loosing the evening forever.
When we bumped into the American couple in the museum and had that very awkward chat, hiding our blushed cheeks with the inevitable sunglasses that are a must after 4 hours sleep, they highlighted YOLO club for that night. Not only was this on our encycolpedia list of clubs but it also sounded pretty decent, yet when our taxis linked up outside, it seemed like a huge cube with few people opening the doors and a dull bass softly pumping. In the carpeted reception area, we definitely weren't sure if we wanted to go through the adjacent double doors but with no other options to hand, we took the chance and settled on getting a 100euro table between us that covered entry and free drinks. Stepping into the club was a whole other realm though! A huge space with a central bar leading to the dance floor, there was a heaving crowd, some seriously gorgeous dancers on a glowing stage performing impressive routines rather than strutting around, and a long, sloping stretch of staggered platforms where the VIP tables were, almost like an amphitheatre looking down onto the dance floor. We all crushed into our table area with as many girls to a velvet seat at possible and were so damn happy we had stumbled upon the best club possible! Drinks and dancing later, we were jumping across to other tables, a few of the girls with long white dresses had tied the hems up around their shoulders for more dancing room, and we were of course chatting to random girls in the toilets about nothing every time we ran off for a group visit. After a few hours the club filtered out almost immediately and the DJs played straight Greek music. We had brought out a few sheets of other clubs addresses so we jumped in the taxis outside the venue and were promptly tipped out of them, with any and every driver refusing to take us to our destination. After Googling the chosen afterclub's address, pleading with bouncers and dodging some boys from Essex who randomly popped up and tried to 'help' us (any sound of the English accent when we are out of the country is not a joyous occasion!), we didn't get anywhere!
In the end we gave up, with a few girls heading back to the apartment and the rest of us convinced to go back inside. Luckily the music tides had turned and I climbed into the DJ box to dictate the songs we wanted to hear. If I am bored in a club, I will head to that DJ and get that song changed! We soon hit a takeaway and hit the sack at around 6am, all after loosing a room key, plotting an extensive and successful plan to steal the hotel's master key and return it innocently to the shocked receptionist after finding the huge bundle of keys 'on the stairs', and all sleeping in the same bed for no reason. This might sound like one heck of a night, but of course by 11am the next day we were dressed, out and off to the Acropolis! It's that laugh-a-minute mix of people that tiredness just doesn't seem to occur. Thankfully that day offered a continuous blue sky and even a little sunshine on our skin; perfect for the upcoming views.
At the base of the Acropolis, a few gals had some incredible caricatures done surrounded by other tourists, and of course we all chipped in to force the bride to be to have on done, which was drawn with a pitchfork and accompanied by an ankle tagged 'groom'! It was hilarious to watch the picture form after whispering she was getting hitched. We navigated our way to the top of the mountain with surprising ease and were soon looking over the breathtaking city views amongst the imposing, ancient citadel. The Parthenon is absolutely magnificent.
Despite going on a raucous break to celebrate our nine year friendship having such an important milestone and relieve some of the bride's pre-wedding stress, it is also the time to feel so reflective of how far we have all came since those first days of meeting and how we all find ourselves to be in such an overwhelming place together. Very much summer sisters, we have all shared some of the most striking and significant times together, and spending a few days laughing away at the mundane happenings of home, you also end up covering topics of work, goals, passions and dreams. Such an eclectic and ambitious group of women definitely feed me to push forward with discovering my own potential and confidence, and I hope the bride to be's sisters also found it to be a holiday with a difference. The views felt very humbling and a perfect setting to round off the trip together.
We concluded the day of sight seeing with a lovely meal at a homely yet hearty restaurant, and trooped back to the apartments. By now your suitcase contents have been strewn across any shelves and floor, you're slightly concerned all of your belongings have walked off, and you can't for love nor money find an available charging socket for all of your drained electronics. After a shower and an extra scrub to remove any shred of remaining make up, you feel just about refreshed to embark on a third night on the town with as much gusto as the previous two. It was timed purposely well that this night was Goth Night. Oh yes, you can see the maid of honour has a certain penchant for all things alternative and has possibly watched way too much True Blood. Despite a genuine offering of an authentically vampy brown striped, corseted floor length goth gown from my friend's colleague to her (she did not take up on that offer!), we weren't actually hitting the town dressed in spiked boots, PVC and black lipstick. We were all going for the hot goth vibe, with deep plum lips, LBDs, chains, cuffs, platforms and lots of smoky eyes. Some girls went for a more retro, rockabilly vibe and some the more traditional sultry look. I wore my plunge Pepper Mayo crochet dress with an elaborate lace choker (borrowed) and my lace up heels, with a hint of MAC Diva lipstick and sooty eyes. Contrasting to the previous night of elegant feel, this night made for a totally surreal but awesome vibe of teenage rebellion. Looking around the room and seeing all of my friends in an alternative hot goth world was the most bizarre but amazing thing! Everyone making the effort but still looking as gorgeous as ever was the best way to do a dress theme. We may have looked like we had just came from a funeral or were a little too into Twilight, but we definitely looked awesome.
We booked a few taxis from the hotel to that infamous club that no taxi driver would take us to the night before for some unknown reason. After driving in three separate cars to the address printed in our DIY city guide, we realised why. The club didn't exist!!! It was literally a burnt out tower block - no wonder it was such a fail the night before! The drivers shouted at each other in Greek while leaning out of their car windows and made a joint decision to take us to somewhere called Spell. Again we came up trumps as this club too had a heaving dance floor surrounded by platforms of bars and tables, and we pushed our gothic selves to the centre of the room and had a blast! At one point I wandered off to request a song and was watching my friends from the towering DJ box, literally in awe of their bobbing heads causing havoc and mischief among a sea of faces. I got a song played that I knew they would recognise as a request and they all turned and cheered at me waving from up high in the box. Mission accomplished!
The night rounded off with an infamous yet fresh Greek takeaway where they put the chips inside the burger of your choice (veggie for me!) and hobbled off home via a piggy back that ended with a twisted ankle. After a few hours' doze, we were cramming our towering platforms into our slightly over-generous carry-on suitcases, subsequently abandoning said platforms because they just did not zip in, and headed for a congratulatory brunch on another successful holiday! We browsed some markets, got accosted by the street performers, grabbed an ice cream, and soon we were chilling in the airport before touching down on the twinkling sea of London lights.
The season we visited Athens meant we didn't see the port, enjoy any roof top bars or travel out to any beaches, but I would definitely recommend it for a city break on a budget. The food, travel and accommodation was impressively cheap and during February it was a breeze to navigate and enjoy. 'Soak in the sights and party all night' was our prerogative, but you could also take the classy options of frequenting the famous hotel bars and soak in even more culture from the city shadowed in preserved history. Thank you to my superbly talented friend Nomsa for these photos. I hope you enjoyed my post and check out my vlog below too! Can you recommend any destinations for us for next time? Who know's who will be getting hitched next! We've definitely set the standard for hen celebrations to come.
It's already almost Wednesday and I am going away to Milan on Friday, eek! This has been the most organised I have been for a holiday - not that I have been disorganised before but I started getting things ticked off the to-do list a few weeks ago. For any random ideas like a selfie stick (omg) and getting an extra memory card so maybe I can vlog (ahhh!), I noted them down in my phone and just started crossing things off earlier than usual. These things always come around so quickly and sometimes it does feel like a lot of pressure when you build the anticipation, but I'm just feeling really excited for this trip!
I still do not have my outfits finalised though and will definitely be sorting this tomorrow evening. I definitely have things to wear but I don't know exactly what my outfits are yet, and I can only take 10kg of just hand luggage with me so I can only afford to carry what I will definitely wear. Airports this year also seem to be only allowing one clear sandwich bag of liquids. Have you see the size of that Polly Pocket bag that has to fit all makeup and toiletries, and 100% close?! I've had to chuck away may products recently while a security person looked on as I reasoned over a body lotion VS. a lipgloss. Even a deodorant takes up about a third of that mouse-size bag!
I've pulled together some current inspiration for night time looks from Tumblr. Colleen (a RAD blogger!) commented that I hadn't shared my Tumblr before recently and I realised it's so true, even though literally I'm on Tumblr evvvvery day! My night time laptop routine is emails, twitter, blogs and then Tumblr. I'm back into watching YouTube videos while I'm pottering around too, and if I ever filmed a 'Nighttime Routine', it would be SO boring! Literally just me eating dinner and then sitting on my computer or washing my hair and scrubbing off my makeup. Would my life be better if I made a posh tea in a favourite mug and lit a scented candle? Maybe!! I don't even have a favourite mug, what am I doing with my life.
So basically I spend lots of time on Tumblr to reblog images of things I want to try or buy soon, like a visul shopping/beauty list. Then I'll visit it before nights out or holidays and pin point some things I want to try. When I sit down to do my makeup before going out, I need some direction or I end up adding and adding random products and have to take it off and restart as it goes wrong! I'll often try to copy a look but as I am using my own products, it ends up being a mix of my own style and preferences.
So for the past few days I've been obsessed with a very certain lip colour in my mind, and am going to hunt it down in town before I go away. I need a matte red that's definitely not plum or pink toned and not too vampy, almost like a rosy but pigmented stain? HMM! I'll ask at MAC and then browse around for a dupe maybe. I'm feeling everything matte for this holiday and I just got a new MAC Studio Careblend powder so can make sure my skin is a seamless canvas for a deep, chunky lipstick and lots of lashes and contour. As it's Milan, I'm all about jewel tones and jewel accessories! I'm going to take my most fabulous jewellery, bags and shoes, and really go all out. My last trip to Amsterdam felt very laid back and a bit more hipster, but I'll bring out my best classy/sassy lady vibes for Milan!
Now I just need to figure out what to wear for the day time! I have actually packed away my summer things and I don't think shorts or co-ords are so appropriate for a city. I'll definitely be pulling apart my wardrobe tomorrow!