Onto the second day of my Abu Dhabi adventure and we all woke up in our various air bed situations and headed out for breakfast. We look taxis to a local café and refuelled with eggs and smoothies, and it's great to note the restaurants in Abu Dhabi and Dubai are such a high standard. There are no tourist trap joints with laminated menus that usually litter our holidays!
I'd bought a bunch of maxi dresses and kimonos from Boohoo for the trip but beach wear really isn't my vibe. I should have stuck to my usual style which I did in the most part, but none of my wardrobe suits anything remotely summery. I'm no beach babe! I'd also just had my hair done (more on that soon!) and it was back to my natural ginger shade with blonde ends, so I was getting used to a new look. That day I wore a bright blue kimono I believe that I'd managed to pull out of my unpacked case and again threw my hair up in a bun to save time, and to be fair it was difficult to get any mirror time! We headed to Waitrose near my friend's apartment, which was on the ground floor of the neighbouring sky scraper in a cool, sleek mall. Again there was no hustle and bustle, it's very sleek and calm in the air-conditioned buildings. The day before we had barely had time to even eat so we stocked up on snacks and a handy pizza for a late night return, and we had a peek in the designated separate room full of pork products in the supermarket, as the UAE is a Muslim country.
We planned to head off to the first day of our Formula One package at around 5pm, and took a quick dip in my friend's apartment swimming deck, racing each other around the doughnut shaped pool and laughing our heads off until it was nearing an hour of getting-ready time - uh oh! I had a bit of a brain fail and began warm, rust coloured eye makeup, but having just a hand mirror, I couldn't save it and ended up not liking it too much. I'd planned to wear a skater dress that I'd worn to a friend's wedding earlier in the year but since the previous day, we had realised you could basically wear anything to the F1! I felt a bit too 'safe' so I threw on around five outfits and almost all were new so needed a little pinning or sewing. I'd bought one from House of CB (formerly known as Celeb Boutique) that was so low cut and gaping open, it was hilarious! With eight girls to a one bedroom apartment, it was another hour of chaos, with a memorable moment of my friend thinking I was topless but then I turned round perfectly concealed with a stick on bra!
Vowing that the next day I would spend hours getting ready, I settled on a Boohoo maxi dress that felt way too dressy for day time but was the best solution. I even wore it with flip flops because I couldn't figure out which shoes I had and the taxis were already eight floors down and calling us. Flip flops?! You probably wouldn't know the chaos that had happened once eight glammed up girls hit the lobby, and soon we were whizzing across the motorways to Yas Island again. Arriving at the F1 site is quite tricky as the cars can only reach so far and they drop you off at different points, but I think we all managed to link up and we explored The Hill - our spot for the race. Imagine humongous outdoor stadiums with crowds of smartly dressed spectators and groups of 'dad' racing fanatics. The Hill was basically everywhere in the area that wasn't the seated stands, so we stood for a while watching the cars practice and I must say, it was rather lost on me! With no sporting or racing knowledge, we were soon exploring the activities in the hub of the area and hit the bar zone with picnic tables and screens.
Sizing up the crowd, there were groups of people our age but it was mostly hoards of adult men. A few drinks later costing around £15 each, we were off down the huge roads to walk to the outdoor stadium for the Saturday night concert - Florence + the Machine! We grabbed some delicious food from a falafel stand, which was more boutique than your usual festival affair. We met up with other expat pals of my friend and it wasn't long before Florence took to the stage in an amazing white flared suit and did her thing. Their music is just made to be heard live! Our group was hanging near the back of the massive arena space but myself and two girls decided to head further forward. We couldn't convince the others to join us but it was just as spacious as we headed even further towards the stage, hitting the 'Golden Circle' barrier as we go so far. Often at festivals they put up a gigantic semi circle of barriers for so many metres in front of the stage so only select ticket holders have a chance to be up close to the front, We stayed as close as we could until the faux break before an obvious encore, and I saw my mission so clearly. I needed to get us into the Golden Circle!
Telling my friends to wait right there I dashed off through the crowd to the side of the arena, where there was a small opening in the barriers with security. Some lash fluttering and story of how my friends were inside but I'd lost my golden wristband later and the guards were happy to let me through. The only problem was my friends next. A group of guys were walking out and said they'd give me their wristbands as they were leaving. I said I needed three and they offered three 'for a kiss' which was pretty gross and I took two before saying a very speedy thank you and literally darting off into the crowd never to be seen again! Sure it's fun to blagg your way into somewhere but for a kiss, I think not.
I reached my two friends, produced the wristbands to their shock and we all dashed to the side, them flashing their newly acquired wrist candy to the guards and me exclaiming how I'd found my lost friends before slipping in. We'd made it! The crowds behind the barriers were thick but inside the circle it's more spacious and we weaved right to the front just as Florence came back for her encore. Being right under the stage is amazing! A few songs later and it was all over, and we got chatting to a group of the most weird and wonderfully beautiful people, who turned out to be part of an Alice in Wonderland show. They invited us there but to be honest I forgot all about this encounter until now as we were moving on swiftly to find our friends again and attempt to find cabs or a shuttle bus to a club, which was an adventure in itself as the expats guided us and thousands of people left the arena. We ended up in an Irish bar of a hotel with a hilarious live band, and let's say it's definitely true that if you even stand arm to arm with a member of the opposite sex, the bouncers will be approaching and ready to exit you from the premises! There's something so different about dancing with your friends abroad to being in your home city, and even if the music is old or cheesy, it's even better! The night ended with chatting to the taxi driver whose family, like most, lived on the other side of the continent, and all of us girls staying up chatting with pizza until the even earlier hours.
Hello everybody! It's time to detail my trip to Dubai and Abu Dhabi in a few epic posts - just because! Writing these is pure indulgence and an awesome way to recall the memories. Now not all memories of this holiday were fantastic but we will come onto that. For now, here are the first two days!
As a little background, Dubai has always been on my list of top destinations and luckily for us, one of my girlfriends is now a teacher in Abu Dhabi and invited us over. She said a good time to visit is October/November as there are no religious holidays and it's just the right temperature at around 25-30 degrees. The final race of the Formula One is held in Abu Dhabi at the end of November and flights were exactly the same price as any other dates, so we booked up!
There were three of us in New York but this trip would mean eight girls, making for a totally different experience. We were all arriving in batches from different places and spent weeks chatting in a chaotic Whatsapp group. I tried to make headway by creating a huge itinerary to share in Google Docs, which was really time consuming and I didn't get a definite feel of how Dubai is laid out or more importantly, how to dress! Now this really was a bone of contention as people were offering such different advice. Many people stated shoulders and knees must be covered at all times, friends said that clubs and beaches were 'free' zones but you still have to get there via a taxi or public places of course, and some travellers told me they just dressed as usual. My friends and I spent weeks buying outfits and after ordering Missguided's entire stock, we all had an arsenal of knee length, 'nice' daytime dresses for the Formula One, and respectable outfits for the clubs, plus a host of maxi dresses and kimonos for the day time. I got most of mine in the Boohoo sale and picked up some rather lovely beachy pieces at seriously low prices. Not really my usual style as I'm not a summery person, but I got what I needed. I had a few bikinis in my draw but also bought an embellished River Island number, and then ensured all of my shoes were re-heeled and I had stocked up on products, makeup and lashes. My look was very Ibiza-inspired and I imagined wearing jewellery to the beach and sashaying into the club in gorgeous prints.
I really spent weeks planning this gig and even started going to the gym on the *sort of* regular, plus eating really well during November. Then sods law, I got sick. The exact same thing happened just before New York and I spent the Tuesday working my way through a million tissues while working my way through my workload. I had cunningly booked the Wednesday off work but had packed the day with nail, pedicure, brow and tan appointments, and I had to find dirhams in my local high street too, which is not an easy task. So I trudged around feeling like I just wanted to curl in bed, and finally packed up my case ready for a 4.45am early rise.
Luckily my cold cleared up almost as soon as I arrived so maybe the air pressure or the in-flight regime I adopted worked. We flew from Birmingham to Dubai with Emirates and while the personal movie selection was endless, the food was that stodgy, synthetic plane food that made us dash to grab a few Boots meal deals at the airport before boarding. I was flying with just one friend and we glugged litres of water and Lemsip before landing in the evening. The first impression you get at a airport is always interesting and Dubai was towering, chic and ominous, with huge indoor waterfalls, glass lifts and extensive marble surfaces stretching everywhere. Taking a taxi to Abu Dhabi was a little crazy as we had no idea if the driver was even taking us 1.5hrs in the right direction or not, but soon we were speeding past the Burj Khalifa on the impossibly fast, weaving motorway trails and trying to locate my friend's apartment on Reem Island. Abu Dhabi has no post codes and the driver didn't have a Sat Nav, but on the phone my friend advised to just to look up at the skyscrapers to pick out the one she was describing. The area is so vast that each tower powers into the blank sky above the spirals of tarmac, and we soon spotted just the building she meant. We managed to let ourselves into the 8th floor apartment with a key under the mat as my friend had already set off to pick up the next arriving party from Abu Dhabi airport.
We sat in my friend's apartment for an hour basically asking ourselves 'what are we doing with our lives?!' The building was insane and the balcony view looked out onto a stretch of undisturbed warm, black night, only peppered with the odd 50 storey sk scraper. Being a teacher means my friend's apartment is totally funded and I can only dream of having my own flat to call my own! Well I'm not keen on tying myself to a bunch of bricks, but if it were free, then of course I would love to call a home like that my own! It was gorgeous. Far from the dreary weather in the UK, the night was balmy and just right in AD. After claiming one of the foam beds on the floor, finding a side of a wall to sit our suitcases and tentatively exploring the fridge, three more gals arrived with my international friend and we all caught up and cheered over the setting. We had somehow all made it half way across the world to visit one of our group and it was a real 'we've made it!' moment!
We got a pretty good sleep compared with usual holiday evenings and awoke to tea and toast. Before visiting we knew the time would be first spent in Abu Dhabi for a few days for the Formula One and then onto Dubai, so I needed day outfits and F1 outfits first. I considered separating my suitcase into batches for when I needed things, but I basically needed to tap into every section of my case to get ready each day. This is pretty much impossible when you can't actually unpack and only have a hand mirror and seat on the floor to get yourself set for the day. Yes there were mirrors and plug sockets around the apartment, but one bathroom to six girls was difficult! It really reinforced the fact that I need time and focus to get ready and feel good about myself. It doesn't matter what I do, I just need to do things calmly or else I'll have a bit of a mind-blank when getting ready and just go through random robot motions, applying any makeup I tend to use and just getting at least ready enough to leave in case I'm running behind. Teamed with not being able to unpack and see what I had brought with me, I only managed to add a touch of BB cream, waterproof mascara and lip balm, shoved my hair in a bun as I knew I would be sorting it out later for the F1 concerts, and picked out my outfit of planned pieces from S365 for my collaboration. Chucking sun lotion, towel, dirhams, shoes, hat, camera, sim card, etc, etc into a beach bag also proved time consuming and soon enough we were all out of the door. Now this may not seem like a big deal but I can spend 15 minutes getting ready and feel better than if I'd spent an hour getting ready if it meant there was no rush or pressure. I can't rush basically! Also we were thinking about how revealing out outfits were, as we only jumped in taxis whenever we went anywhere, but there's a level of respect you need when in the UAE and that means outfit must be considered carefully.
So we set off feeling pretty good really and I adapted to beach life best I could. I realised I'm not a beach person or a summer person maybe - I need outfits and layers and makeup and effort, and cool, boho vibes do not come naturally to me! Also I'd just had my hair coloured back to more of a natural red so I almost wish I'd stayed blonde and channelled a beachy look. Anyway - you're probably thinking wow, how self absorbed do you need to BE on holiday! Relax! Well I wasn't thinking of these things at the time, they are more of a reflection now on how I imagined the holiday would be but didn't quite have time to implement. I'd bought gold transfer tattoos, jewellery, hair crowns and all sorts for the beach, but what took priority was getting out into the beautiful sunshine and to the local beach club that my friend goes to at least once a month, and has sent us the pictures to prove it! We ordered taxis across the city of motorways and met up at a concrete dock with a few expats, and were first on the small boat to set off to Al Maya Island. I was worried I would find it really hot and burn easily but the temperature was perfect.
One windy journey across the sea and 15 minutes later we stepped onto literal paradise. I didn't think in my lifetime that I would visit a place like this! Straight out of a Sandals advert, the wooden dock, lined with Absolut vodka banners, lead onto a gorgeous pool area with in-pool bar and pool-side DJ stage, neighbouring a creamy white beach leading into bright aqua water. Complete with endless cushioned sunbeds and straw parasols, this was IT. We bought towels and drinks and headed straight to the beach. It was so incredible that it almost felt artificial and surreal. The day before I was sniffling around Birmingham and now I was in the most turquoise sea with a cocktail in hand, surrounded by my friends! We've never actually been on a beach holiday together so that in itself was a novelty, and it was overwhelming and just amazing!
We chilled at the beach, had a dip in the pool and looked on in curiosity at the other guests. Mostly expats, the island does get busy on weekends, which is Friday and Saturday in the UAE, but as it was theF1 weekend, it didn't get too hectic while we were there. Did I mention it is free entry for ladies too?!
We didn't quite have chance to stay there and really get into the party spirit as it was soon time to head back to Reem Island for the concert later. The F1 takes place over 3 days with the race on the Sunday, and each night there is a concert. We had tickets to the Saturday and Sunday F1 events which were around £100 total and included entry into the concerts, but the Friday concert had loads of free tickets distributed so my friend had secured us some. We roamed around on what felt like an endless construction site for taxis to take us back to the apartment and began getting ready. By now there were eight girls, every inch of floor space was covered in a suitcase, and we all had to shower and be ready within the hour. One hour! In hind sight I would have gone basic on my makeup, added a bold lip, sorted my hair and threw on a dress, but at the time it was a 10 minute effort to even locate my toiletries inside my unpacked case.
We soon determined too that our sophisticated (read: dowdy) outfits we had all sourced to look respectable at the F1 were not needed at all - we all threw caution to the wind and ended up in backless, mini and strappy dresses! My friend had advised you had to look chic and not have a combination of legs/boobs/bodycon all on show at the same time, but my friends and I are usually in midi dresses or the like anyway. The rules are relaxed at the F1 as it's a more Westernised event, but you still cannot touch or kiss a man! I ended up shoving my planned outfit to the side and throwing on three different dresses, all needing some sort of tit tape assistance, pinning or some maintenance that wasn't 'dress and go' ready within my 2 minute time frame. I'd applied my usual makeup, curled my hair a little while standing behind a few other girls of all different heights in a full length mirror, and ended up in a Boohoo berry-coloured midi dress with berry ankle strap heels. Not the outfit I had planned, and I barely had chance to assess what it even looked like in the mirror before the taxis were waiting outside and calling up repeatedly. And with that, we were off!
I hope this all seems like hilarious chaos rather than me moaning as I think it sounds negative, but it wasn't. Getting ready with friends is a mess of heels, hairspray and handbags anyway, and we were all surprised we had managed to step out again in the bright daylight dressed up to the nines in what was basically night club attire. We were heading to the Marina for drinks before the concert, which meant a 20 minute taxi across vast motorways to Yas Island, then a shuttle bus from the sandy drop off point and a walk past some pretty huge yachts. Yes the aim was to find a dude with a yacht of course! We picked out a bar next to the wooden deck of the Marina walkways and chose out incredibly expensive drinks - and note that the bar people keep the change as their tip. £25 down and one mojito up, we looked around and decided that the girls dress just as they do in classy bars at home, but it would not be the place for outfits fit for Walkabout, Oceana or any of those haunts. If there were no unspoken rules of the UAE, it would be an 'anything goes' vibe, where as the events had an air of prestige about them. We had barely ate and a few girls went off to fend for food while we sized up the crowds and were soon a shuttle ride way from the stadium for Enrique. Yes the Friday concert was Enrique Iglesias! Hilarious!
There were huge crowds slowly filtering into the huge stadium and we soon found each other and took out place in the crowd for Enrique. There were some strange warm up acts including a pole dancing cowboy, and the drinks were £16 for a double vodka. Soon the show began and thousands of people were having a blast - the concert was awesome! I love live music and being outside in the warm evening was superb, and everyone knows every word to Enrique songs even if you don't know you do. It was like a festival! We had met up with my friend's expat friends too and soon a troupe of us was walking to a hotel party. Like New York, the clubs and bars are in hotels rather than dedicated venues. We walked for what felt like 30 minutes down the huge sandy dual carriageway as all taxis were full and my feet were dying, but soon enough we were in the bar and enjoying the night. Far from being a place where being drunk is 'illegal', there was an incredibly rowdy group of Irish lads among the crowd and the drinks were flowing like normal. You can't be drunk in the street but you are allowed to drink on a dedicated premise. We ended up chatting to some guys who apparently fixed race cars but all they wanted to do was talk about themselves, despite my friend and I playing the 'who has the coolest job' game as I work for a chocolate company and she works for a jewellery brand. I didn't take my camera out as I wasn't sure I was allowed so I don't have any snaps to share, but that's a wrap for part 1! I have a whole eight more days to go so stay tuned for more including my blag into the golden circle, drinks at the 7* hotel and the reason why we definitely didn't go on a yacht!
And here it is, the last serenade to New York! Can you believe it? I'm so chuffed to have received some lovely tweets and comments saying you have enjoyed reading these posts. It's possibly quite rare to read a blog post where nothing has been gifted, arranged or set up, rather than a true account of events that would have happened even if I wasn't a blogger! Maybe I wouldn't have taken this many photos though, but you may have noticed that I'm not actually in many photos apart from this post! We were more concerned about seeing and doing everything rather than stopping to pose and reflecting the camera back on our own faces, and every second was precious due to the amount of time it takes to get from A to B in New York.
And so we begin the last day of Friday and it had really sunk in that this trip was coming to an end! The first few days with the Yankees game, Coney Island and the Pendulum gig in Brooklyn seemed so long ago and we had been all over Manhattan by now. We had managed to book onto the Sex and the City sights tour the day before as annoyingly you had to go to their invisible office in person, and also I arranged to meet up with a fabulous blogger (more on that later!). We had a few more things to tick off our list though before we began the SATC tour!
We awoke from an amazing night that ended up at The Jane and grabbed breakfast at a place that we had visited for food at about 4am the night before. How these guys were working all night and throughout the day I do not know, but we hoped they didn't quite recognise us behind our sunnies. You're invisible behind sunglasses, right? First mission of the day was to visit Grand Central Station!
XOXO! We didn't spot Serena Van De Woodsen but it is a breathtaking place. You can do full walking tours to uncover the secrets and history but we took a fleeting look before hot-footing it to the meeting point for the SATC tour, booked with our Explorer Pass.
Now the SATC tour was possibly my favourite touristy thing we did. Is that bad? I've wrote before how visiting sights and attractions wasn't my main prerogative and it was my wish to just soak up the atmosphere and lifestyle, and watching Sex and the City as a teenager and beyond was so my inspiration to visit the Big Apple. I would advise you to do this tour and any other bus, boat or sight seeing tours at the beginning of a trip as it really helps you get your bearings, and we might have explored East Village more if we were familiar with it earlier in the week as it was achingly chic.
We located our tour guide with her giant blue umbrella and boarded the coach with around 60 other giggling ladies (and a few men), with every seat filled. An open top bus would have been better for the views but the New York traffic means you edge through the streets slowly anyway and so you don't miss any key points. Like the hanging screens on aeroplanes, there were TVs up and down the coach playing clips of the shows and movies as we passed each point, and our tour guide was the most fabulous, over-the-top host! A guidebook listed the tour guides as aspiring Broadway actors so that explained the super sunny, all-American welcome and quotes such as 'Ladies - cute guy to the left! I die!' *cue everyone peering onto the street to a supposed cute guy, 'Ladies - do we all remember Saggy Ass?' and various other hilarious, girly anecdotes from the show that got pretty X-rated as we continued on with our journey.
We drove around the city and our guide picked out places featured in the show and played the matching clips, such as the park where Miranda met Steve's girlfriend Debbie, Aiden's furniture store where Carrie once visited with Stanford, and around 50 other scenes. The tour was over three hours long and our first stop was to browse the sex shop where Charlotte bought her Rabbit and grab a giant pizza slice where Miranda and Carrie once filled up after an unsatisfying raw dinner served by Smith Jared (a very random combination of scenes there!), and then onto Buddakan, where Carrie and Big hosted their pre-wedding dinner in the first movie and they emerged on these stairs to applause from all of the diners below. You got a good look round the place and a discount on drinks there for the future.
The climax of the tour was of course Carrie's apartment near Bleecker Street, which actually has a fictional address. I felt it was almost a pilgrimage for me to visit her stoop. We had 25 minutes to take a look at the building, as it does have real residents so you can't quite browse around, and visit the nearby Magnolia Bakery, where Carrie told Miranda she had a new crush called Aiden who she believed to be very cute. As the tour group continued onto Carrie's place, we first grabbed a delicious cupcake and a slab of thickly iced cake, that was every bit as delicious on the spot as it was later that night at 4am!
Carrie's apartment! On TV the street looked huge and towering but in real life it was but a doorway and some steps that you can't climb, but can certainly take a snap or selfie in front of. We had mere moments to take one before running back to the coach as it was due to set off. This is my favourite picture of the whole holiday!!
Many people hadn't had chance to get a cupcake due to the huge queue so it was lucky we nabbed those first. East Village is very hip and laid back so would be a beautiful pit stop for a delicious lunch or some window shopping if you visit NYC. There are also very few tourists so you could strike up conversations with locals!
Next up was to sample a Cosmopolitan at Aiden and Steve's bar Scout, but we departed the tour as this was the final destination and we had someone special to meet! I would say that it is so fun to relive each clip as you travel across New York and the tour guides are so fun, but you could save money and take a trip to the buildings yourself if you planned it well. Some of the clips we drove by were quite insignificant, though I know every scene to every episode so they all resonated with me!
We soon hit the subway and headed even further East to met with the unbelievably sweet Erin of Spikes and Sequins and her equally gorgeous cousin! I worked with Erin when I worked with fashion bloggers at Motel and she always took such amazing photos in the garms' I sent that we became Instagram friends and I just knew we had to meet up! She is every bit as hot as her smokin' snaps reveal - you have to drop her a follow for ultimate inspiration on bodycon style with added sass. I don't think I said in person how cute she was but just look at that super high ponytail and fabulous outfit! These girls were such fun to hang out with and I hope they visit the UK soon!
We dined at the Frying Pan which is actually a boat on the water! The food was really fun, with mini burgers, watermelon salad and crab cakes, and we of course sampled a few cocktails too while subtly rocking back and forth on the waves. As it was Friday night it was brimming with hip New Yorkers and I bet is amazing at night.
There was then just one more stop to make. My dad is a fire fighter and he said we could take some shirts from the UK and swap them for FDNY shirts. This wasn't exactly a policy but you can knock on the fire station doors and purchase their shirts anyway, of course not if distracting them from work. We were like giggling school girls when we paid our local station a visit, but the guys welcomed us in and offered to take a photo - and gladly took the shirts! We giggled away with a free support bracelet and regaled that yes, these American guys are just so wholesome. Swoon! Just look how happy I look, haha!
And then it was onto the final night and the final farewell! Such mixed emotions and sadness as we realised we had literally ruined our own lives (not really) - how could we head back home after we had experienced such sights and such wild nights! We got ready one last time and FYI the 'songs of the holiday' ended up being Nick Jonas, Carly Ray Jepson and Miley Cyrus (of course!) - not sure why the first two became apparent but we just ended up singing them over and over!
We embarked on our final destination - The Standard Hotel. Hosting the absolute most exclusive set of rooftop clubs that light up lavishly in the sky each night, I was determined to have a go at getting in. We had already tried the previous night to go but were told it was a 'private party' by some people outside, but we soon realised that was tough bouncer code for 'You're not coming in'. We had more faith in ourselves and so we formed a plan, stood tall, threw our shoulders back, and strutted into the huge marbled reception area that was deathly silent and infinitely long.
We were informed by a person at the desk that the club entrance was actually around the corner so I casually asked him who the promote was that night before we turned away. He mused 'Um, Troy I believe'. We were in! Around the corner were streams of people lingering before giant bouncers, and we haughtily named dropped good old Troy and got right in! Whoever you are Troy, thanks a bunch!
As mentioned, it helps to be silent, aloof and not smile or voice your foreign accent. Soon we were whizzed up in the infamous lift with the Solange and Jay Z altercation, and were on the rooftop of this dazzling bar. Like clockwork, we grabbed our first drink a few mere moments before people began chatting to us, from Wall Street moguls to Google guys. It's casual, it's friendly and there are no strings attached to these chatty encounters. Le Bain was an amazing space, made even more outrageous by an actual swimming pool in the middle of the dance floor. A steamy concoction of bikini bodies in the dark club, a literal pool of debauchery! I was transfixed by an actual swimming pool in the middle of a club, 18th floors up!? Cray cray! It was like a warped dream! There were loads of people running around and to the toilets in swimwear and towels amongst those enjoying drinks and dancing in cocktail dresses. We didn't depart until the very end and left on an absolute high.
And then it was time to depart! I've called Day 8 the last day as we only had a few final hours on the Saturday morning to grab a last breakfast of French toast with eggs (sunny side up of course), chuck everything into our straining suitcases, and spend out last cents on American candy and I Heart NYC souvenirs. We booked a taxi with our hotel which turned out to be a mini bus that picked up various passengers from ALL over the city and was driven by a cursing, raving mad lady! We didn't think we'd make it in time or alive but we had plenty of time to chill at the airport, check out just how many dudes were on Happn in JFK, and set off back for the UK.
Wow - such a whirlwind! It was such a difficult trip to plan as we were all under the weather in the weeks leading up to it and my nature is to plan every aspect all the way down to my makeup look each day. I'm not a clean or control freak - I just love planning in order to make the absolute most out of things! Hopefully there are some tips throughout these posts that could help if you are considering visiting, my main advice being to list the attractions and sights you hope to see, arrange them into a rough itinerary for one in the morning and one or two in the afternoon, and pre-book as much as possible. Getting a multiple attraction pass saves so much money! I'd also go off the tourist track to a football, baseball or basketball game, Coney Island if time allows, and also going to music gigs is a great way to meet locals. Dining, as always can be quite difficult and I never see how people 'stumble' across places, especially in a city this big. Research the best places near your accommodation and bookmark a few fancy restaurants for evenings out.
Thank you for reading my posts and coming along for the ride! Here is my full vlog again in case you didn't catch it in my first post. Enjoy!
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!
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!
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.
Well hello there! I hope you are all very well and really getting into gear for autumn. I'm still sorting my coat (I'm stalking ASOS for a discount code!!) but am feeling excited for warm drinks and Christmas time. I rounded off the summer with my trip to Milan and it was a whirlwind of a weekend! We literally didn't stop to take a breath and it went so quickly, but I did manage to record a vlog below! The first night consisted just of a night out as we sped through East Midlands airport, applied our makeup on the £19.99 RyanAir flight, and drank beer on the coach to join our London friends at the apartments for around 10pm.
Our friends had been there since the early hours so we met them at a bar and rushed to get ready to hit the first super club called Alcatraz, which literally had suspended cages with topless dancers and about 3,000 students. Sadly I am so far from being a student that the sweaty, packed out bars and swaying teenagers meant it was not a place to meet an Italian stallion or have a fashionable cocktail. Milan itself is rather similar to Birmingham in being very industrial and grey, brightened by scrawled graffiti. We danced the whole night away and while we definitely weren't drunk enough to be in a student club, it played some fun stuff and there was a hip hop dance off and a huge stage!
I brought a variety of slightly new-ish outfits and wasn't too sure where we would go for the following nights, so I went for two separates instead of a dress, which to me seems less formal. This outfit is totally dressy but in my eyes, a dress would be even more so!
This navy Topshop bralet has really seem me through 2014 and goes with every skirt or bottoms possible. I bought this white skirt in the summer from Missguided on an impulse really as it's not the most wearable thing but it does brighten a look. I don't think black suits me as much anymore so white is a fresh alternative. These Choies shoes are not the most comfortable but they aren't too bad and I love love love how they add an extra spice to any outfit.
I also have blue in my hair! I bought some of that fancy dress hairspray colour in blue and it made my hair super crunchy but lasted all holiday and kept my curls in place! Very Kylie Jenner inspired. I wonder if I could get away with it for work...
And onto the next morning, and out first day! I woke up with a heavy head and was quite surprised the 10 euro Long Island Ice Teas were that brutal, but we soon realised we all felt very groggy because in Italy you can smoke in the clubs, and none of us are smokers! When I first started clubbing it was legal in the UK too, so the memories of coming home with your clothes and hair stinking of stale smoke were not very welcome again, and despite definitely not smoking myself, I could almost taste cigarettes for the whole holiday.
We gathered the troops and went in search for our first pizza, which was harder than you would think as we were surrounded by the curse of the tourist restaurants. You know the ones with the photos of the food and laminated menus? Even in the back streets of our apartment block, we searched for a while to come across a stone baked pizzeria and took the first bite of fresh Italian pizza, mmmm!
I'm usually the organiser for the trip but this time I sat back and followed the flow of the group. I'm not sure where our apartments were but my bed sat high up a spiral staircase on a ledge, so we were almost all in the same room, but not quite! Very cool! The other gals had visited the main Milan sights the day before so we navigated our way onto the train to Lake Como, around an hour away. The steep mountains and beautiful clear water lake actually extends for miles and miles, and we marvelled at the high hills and gorgeous views.
We jumped into a few pedalos to appreciate the water but these clunky old boats really didn't go very far, and we were pedalling like crazy and not going anywhere! It may have been our imagination but we bobbed around for ages and even watched some little kids whizz past us, and some Italian boys who rode past staring with one randomly wearing a creepy surgical mask, before shouting 'We love English!!!' at us! I've never laughed so much and you can catch a glimpse in my vlog below.
We managed to make our way to shore after narrowly avoiding a huge, speedy cruise ship, and took a vertical tram high up into the hills. The view was obscured by fog but we travelled back and had a sweet meal at an outdoor restaurant, where the waiter nearly set himself on fire when torching my creme brulee.
We soon realised time was ticking on fast as we finished our meal in the dark and headed off to find the train station. We ran Rocky-style up huge marble stairs but we had missed the train anyway, so grabbed some drinks for the next one from a supermarket. It was only an hour later when we reached the Milan central station that we realised the train conductor had been sitting in our carriage all along and possibly heard all of our X-rated gossiping!
We didn't actually get back to our apartment until midnight! This is even despite the mental Italian taxi drivers. We booked a taxi for 45 minutes later and literally threw on some makeup and clothes. I was going to wear this Missguided nude skirt again with a mis-matching crop top but the matchy-matchy thing just does it for me, and I love the shape of this crop top. I did feel a little naked in this outfit, but the tan colour and suede-esque fabric is so sophisticated, and I wanted to toughen up the look with some chunky leather sandals. I also added a deep red lip as I didn't get chance to wear false lashes, and it makes a statement when time is tight!
We had researched online and read that Hollywood was the top Milan club for 'supermodels, politicians and footballers'. Well we definitely picked the wrong night as it was again a sweaty student party, and after the 25 euro entrance fee, we thought we would find more than one packed out basement room! We navigated to a space to breathe in front of the VIP section (which cost 280 euros to enter!) and took many selfie stick photos, before attempting to buy a drink at the rammed bar and realising the mirror in the girls bathroom was actually clear right through to the boys bathroom! I didn't twig until I looked a little closer at my supposed reflection and also realised a girl next to me was arguing with her boyfriend through the mirror. Wild! We left the club and were about to visit another but they all had 15+ euro entry, so we got pizza and took our tired feet home!
The Sunday was the final day for the London girls, but myself and another friend were staying one more day. We took the metro to the centre and ate more pizza, visited Sephora, and roamed a castle. The day again went so quickly as it took a long while to navigate the tube, and at one point I got lost/kidnapped!! A tassle on my kimono got caught on a man's butt button hole and I was the last to step off the metro, so my one friend spotted me and frantically tried to keep the metro doors open, while I tried to yank off the tassle and an Italian woman intervened and tried to untangle the button. Soon enough, the metro doors had to close shut, the tram departed, and I was carried away from my friends into a dark tunnel with a tube of people laughing at me! After a few moments the man was set free and I stood alone on the travelling tube, looking around on my lonesome! I did just step off at the next stop and caught an oncoming tube back in the opposite direction, but it will still always be known as the time I got lost in Milan!
More ice cream later (thank you to blogger babe Sandra for the top Milan tips!!) and we had to say goodbye to the London girls, who were super inspirational and generally totally awesome. My friends are very career-driven and it really inspired me to lean in and push forward to achieve what I want to. It was then time for just my home girl and myself to get our Sunday night wear together at our new hotel, which for me was a Zara silk plunge top and new ripped Topshop Jamie jeans, which I had been wearing all holiday. These with my Choies lace up heels felt dressy but still casual, and we took the metro to the Navigli canal area for dinner and drinks. I'm secretly one of those people that strange things just happen to, and I never expect to go anywhere without coming home with a story. I don't think my mojo is going anywhere because we met some business men visting Milan for a vending machine conference, took them to a bar known for dancing on the tables, and tried a lot of red wine, before bumping into an American basketball team who could be world famous for all I know, until one of them asked us to name a price for him to spend the night with us, and we left pretty sharpish rather horrified! Girls - no night with the rich and/or famous is worth your dignity or nude pictures posted all over the internet. Run away!
And so we awoke to the check out time of our hotel being five minutes ago, and with a few more sights to see such as the Duomo above. As we were in the central station with our suitcases, some men did try to 'help' us buy our metro tickets and generally confuse us, until we said NO very firmly and I grabbed my euro from his hand. Be VERY careful when travelling of those who will distract your attention and act bizarrely so your guard is down. They can easily rob you, or their nearby friend can, before you know what's going on.
One airport McDonalds later and we were home from our Italian adventure! I think Milan is certainly a two day city and was SO EXPENSIVE, but we let our hair down and had so much fun discovering Milano. It's also worth noting I could see over the heads of almost everyone in the club but I still have a soft spot for those pint-sized Italians and their crazy driving. I also vlogged the experience, which was my first time vlogging and my first video in a looooong time. As my photography skills are non existant, I wanted to show you all my trip in real-time and take you along with me! Enjoy!
Hey guys! So here are the final instalments of my Amsterdam trip. I really want to book another holiday already! After our first arrival night, we still weren’t totally sure of our surroundings but woke up nice and early to being our tourist travels. We went towards Anne Frank House with a pit stop for breakfast, and got slightly lost along the way. Once you figure out which canals are which, Amsterdam is quite easy to navigate though. Bicycles nip down the cobbled streets much more frequently than cars and the air was humid and close, with canals littered with pretty flowers. A man sitting outside a café exclaimed ‘You girls are so fashion!’ and we approached a very trendy barbers to ask for directions from various tattooed, bearded men! Amsterdam vibes are very chilled so after asking many people, we finally found our destination. There was a queue of around two hours but we hovered and finally reached the doors to Anne Frank House, and toured around the actual rooms where the families hid for years. I’ve read Anne Frank’s diary but there weren’t too many extracts in the exhibitions, possibly to keep the visitor flow going through. It was quite eerie and very sombre; one of those once in a lifetime experiences.
For the whole holiday I wore these white sandals from Quiz which divided my friends as one hated them and one borrowed them every night and bought a pair when she got home! They are so satisfyingly chunky and comfortable due to that platform, but they are super easy to walk in and don't look like a heel at all. I've seen loads of cute girls wearing these 'ugly' sandals with Joni jeans et al, looking really sweet. Other outfits you've seen before but it was so hot that we couldn't handle wearing much!
After our first stop, we had a wander around a few shops and tried a very tasty strawberry tart from one of the many bakeries. It’s quite annoying when going on holiday and only finding touristy restaurants and cafes, but Amsterdam haunts weren’t too bad for day time eating, even though it took us a while to find decent evening places without photographs of the food in the windows! We took a hilarious trip around the Sex Museum, which was so bizarre to see rude selfies taken in the 1900s. Even when cameras were first invented, nudie photos were taken!
We hit a few bars for drinks and ended the night with plans to go on a bar crawl the next day, as we weren’t too sure where best to go and still didn’t want to be all dressed up and walking the streets in our usual heels and get up.
And then it was Friday – another chance for us to see the sights. We sipped fresh mint tea before embarking on a trip around the Heineken Experience. I managed to get a complimentary trip for the girls and I through my work so we made our way through the hilarious tour through the factory, smelling hops and mixing the barley (maybe!?).
They had a crazy ride where you took a trip through the real beer making process, before sampling the complimentary refreshments in the bar rooms which pumped out the music. This definitely put us in the mood to hit the town, but first we visited the iamsterdam sign and took a look around the Van Gogh museum. After finding out he was rather mad, we realised over dinner that the day had ran away with us and the pub crawl we had planned to go on would start in an hour! We vowed to get ready in the nick of time and speed walked towards the hotel, before bumping into one of the guys dotted around the city advertising the crawl and realising the first bar stop lasted two hours – not the whole crawl. OH!
So we all managed to shower and add as much makeup as possible in our tiny compact mirrors, before trying on all of my outfits in attempt to look dressy but not too dressy. In the end we just went with our usual glam outfits and walked to the first bar. When we paid, we worked our charm on the organiser and he gave us ‘special’ purple wrist bands and a mention in his 'speech'. Well it turned out that half of the 200 people were purple and his speech consisted of telling everyone how messy and wasted we would get! When he mentioned ‘four sexy girls from Birmingham’ we literally stayed silent and hid haha! We realised everyone around us was already drunk and were either 18 or on a racous stag do, so it took us a few terrible shots and free watered down drinks to warm up. By the second bar we were laughing at the drunk people and avoiding the lurching stags, before reaching a final place where the toilets were 50 cents to use. This made our decision for us and we took the risk to abandon the crawl, even though we didn’t know quite where we would end up. Funnily enough, a bar that was recommended earlier to us was right infront of our eyes, so we stepped in and had some very reasonably priced sweet wine and soaked up some electro. I asked a group of hipsters where a club called Jimmy Woo was, as I had heard from many sources that it was the top club. Even more coincidentally it was right next door, so we walked up to the guest list queue and after looking down his list, the bouncer said we were (magically) on it and we walked straight in! This turned out to be the most perfect club with a heaving dance floor and a song list that we would have created ourselves.
We danced for the entire night and it was such a perfect sequence of events that we were content with just that night out, since having done so many activities during the days. This was proved by our late rise the next day and hangover breakfasts at 1pm. If we would have been out every night, we would never have visited so many parts of the city in the day, so really it’s either/or when choosing holiday priorities. Our main aim of the final day was to rent bikes but that didn’t quite happen, so we observed a really random photoshoot where some girls in matching playsuits started swimming in a pond, and then rounded off our trip an awesome restaurant with a gorgeous menu of delicate dishes, and we toasted our short trip. But oh no, it did not end there – we still had a few key places to see! The infamous red light district on a Saturday night was heaving, and due to the key time slots, the girls in the windows were amazing!! Literally like supermodels but with a lot less clothing and a lot more sass. We also saw a sex show which had a number of ‘acts’ in succession, each more crazy than the last! There are things I have seen that I can never unsee!!
After a few more cocktails to toast this craziness, it was time to grab a pizza slice and hit our beds, setting the alarm for a 6am rise for the airport. All in all it was a very expensive trip and we had so many more experiences that didn’t involve a three day hangover! We had loads of stories to tell and it’s a city you definitely have to visit once. Next I’d like to travel further afar to Prague or Budapest maybe, and then I might head towards my first long haul holiday. Better start saving those pennies!