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Monday, 4 September 2017

Boston and Down The Cape...

'So the days, the last days, blow about in memory...'

In the blink of an eye our time in New York was over and on Thursday morning we found ourselves on an Amtrak hurtling towards Boston. Goodbye city of dreams - and damn - it's good to meet yah Boston.
Clam chowder, the freedom trail, Harvard University - Boston has its fair share of renowned attractions. Being first time Bostoners ourselves, our stay here was more touristy. People had said it was a "small scale New York", although the pace was more leisurely, the shops more boutiquey and the people perhaps less pretentious...
The sun arrived with us in Boston, so we soaked up its rays whilst we strolled through the public garden and alongside the Charles River. Rowers rowed, people picnicked and runners raced around the park. 
Amongst sipping Shirley temples (no alcohol for this minor!) and chomping down lobster rolls (a pricey version of a prawn cocktail sarnie), we also toured Harvard University. Led by an enthusiastic Harvard student, we learnt about the treasured traditions. I won't ruin them for anyone hoping to do this tour at some point, but there is something magical about the myths - I love the idea that you can only go through the Harvard Gate twice (once when you join and once when you graduate)... If you break this your chances of graduating are cursed! (Might try and enforce this in Newcastle somewhere!)

In classic parent fashion, my Mum also insisted that we all engage with the history and culture of Boston. This resulted in us attending the Freedom Trail Tour, which I must admit was a short but sweet briefing on the American Revolution, and later the Boston Tea Party (which we concluded was for a younger audience).

During our evenings, we had many tasty meals in Boston - Eataly was an exciting Italian marketplace with a buzzing atmosphere (& tasty pizza!). 

The North End also boasts many authentic Italian restaurants - deffo worth a trip to a few!

Other pitstops included Faneuil Hall Market, Beacon Hill neighbourhood and a look around the Tall Ships. As Fathers Day was on our last day in Boston, my brother and I had surprised my Dad with an evening cruise focusing on the Tall Ships. Although much of the tour guide's jargon went straight over our non-expert heads, we savoured every last sunset hue.

With the arrival of Monday morning, it was time for my brother to depart from the USA (he chose a Stone Roses gig instead, pffft) and for my parents and I to drive over to Cape Cod. A stark contrast to the two cities we had just been in, The Cape (as it's known to by locals) is home to historic character and beautiful beaches.
Our stay here was brief but wonderfully organised thanks to the women who owned the inn we stayed in. (And may I just add that their inn - A Little Inn on Pleasant Bay - was the kind of place I have dreamt about owning!) Can life get anymore stress-free than birds-eye vistas of the bay and a side of homemade french toast for breakie? I'll take that any day!
(My horoscope also hit the nail on the head for my 2017 travels - yes, I did fall in love... With the cutest lil rescue dog!)

As well as exploring the local area, we also caught a ferry to Nantucket - a small island off Cape Cod. As the weather was a little cloudy, we opted for a bike ride around the island aided by a huge peanut butter and jelly sandwich... The energy was needed! Nantucket also has a plethora of bookshops, cafes and holiday houses to browse at.

Due to only having one other full day, we crammed in a road trip that took us through some of The Cape's top spots. From a pleasant few hours spent sunbathing on Marconi beach, to the colourful and fun Provincetown, it's no surprise that the enchanting Cape Cod is a popular holiday destination for many city inhabitants. As you've probably concluded, our trip was a major food fest, so I may as well confess my last luxurious dinner consisted of oysters (due to the abundance of fresh fish available in Cape Cod!).
As our plane soared above the Boston streets, I reflected on the many hidden gems we were yet to explore. But until next time Boston - cheers, you rock my sox(!).

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

The Mets to The Met

'Onward: across the park and out into Fifth Avenue: stampeding against the noonday traffic, taxis, buses that screechingly swerved...'

As promised, this second post about our remaining time in New York arrives in rapid succession after my first. (In very un-like Holly style, who procrastinates her blogposts for months!)
Our next couple of days were as glorious as the first, albeit somewhat less crammed. Having said that, in the space of just 2 days my Dad was told he looked like Sting three times and I was stopped in the street to be informed "you're the white BeyoncĂ©" (I was pretty chuffed). 

48 hours into our food infused trip, I somehow found myself at the hotel gym on Tuesday morning, in a meek attempt to burn off the huge American portions. Sadly, due to weak will power and the alluring aroma of greasy diner grub, I was stuffing my face with french toast, poached eggs and streaky bacon at Blooms Diner just an hour later... no regrets.
Upon persistent requests from my family to find unconventional activities, I had discovered Roosevelt Tram. The ski-bubble-like lift glides above the New York streets and across the East river until it arrives at Roosevelt Island. Although the cheap as chips ride uncovers panoramic views, I didn't get the "wow, that was great!" reaction I had been hoping for. 34 degrees, no air conditioning and a claustrophobic bubble made me realise perhaps it's an activity better suited to the cooler months.

To avoid the grumbles of the unimpressed (slightly sweaty) boys, Mum and I departed from them to do our own thing. By our 'own thing', we meant stepping into Blair Waldorf's louboutins and claiming New York as our own... 
We sashayed across to Central Park, perched in the shade and cursed not bringing bread to feed the ducks with (where's Dorota when you need her?). Without Chuck Bass to escort us via personal chauffeur, we hailed a taxi to take us to the Met Art Museum. The long building overwhelms visitors with her maze of artefacts, and gloats in her superiority to the many other galleries around the city. 

We attempted a look round a section but were defeated by the copious pieces of art, so we booked onto a museum highlights tour. Although I do love art galleries, I can only hack exploring them for so long before I get the 'ugh get-me-outta-here' feeling. However, I would happily spend my Sunday mornings sauntering around the Met with the added bonus of light pervading atriums to give your thoughts space.
After our tour, we caught some rays on the Met steps whilst working out how to get the metro to our next stop. (Embodying Blair's hierarchical tactics, I made my minion sit on the step below me...! Amongst our metro riding and getting a little lost, we also called at The Museum of the City of New York - or to those familiar with Gossip Girl, Constance Billard School. 
Reunited with the boys, our evening was spent watching the New York Mets baseball! I had been sceptical about watching a sport I know nothing about, but the four of us agreed it was a holiday highlight. Like a bunch of keen beans, we all purchased an official Mets cap, a foam finger and a tasty tea from inside the arena. To those of you reading, you may think this is a little extreme, but the arena is brimming with many families getting into the sporting spirit. Unlike the football hooligans in the UK, there's a friendly, competitive vibe, and we gathered that for many Americans it was a chance for a good ol' catch up with colleagues and chums. (Sadly the Mets got their asses whooped by the Chicago Cubs!)

Encouraged by the sport we had watched the night before, we kickstarted Wednesday morning with a run around Central Park. The sun was intense and I developed an unfriendly relationship with my trainers that decided to rub me, but the feeling of being a local throughout the tranquil park compensated for any misery. 

Afterwards we chomped down a well deserved healthy breakie at Bread and Honey - a 'food bar and urban market'. Salmon, avocado and egg (in a less healthy) croissant was to die for!

As it was our last day in New York, we opted for a more relaxed schedule as we ambled in and out of shops and department stores. None of us were bothered about going crazy and spending loads of money - damn you exchange rate! - but my tired running legs were glad of a gentler itinerary.

Our last evening in New York was concluded with a meal booked at Patsy's Italian - a popular spot for celebs and a family fave from last time we went! Whilst the rich ravioli satisfied my love for Italian cuisine, my taste buds tingled with eagerness for the next part of our trip...

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

A slice of The Big Apple...

'...while she, glittery voyager of secure destination, steamed down the harbour with whistles whistling and confetti in the air.'

Well, what a wonderful whirlwind the past few weeks have been! A celebratory family holiday, to a girly city break, to more fabby celebrations at my brother's graduation, have left me nostalgic and a little glum now it's all over.
Just as my skin had adapted to those intense pangs of heat, and my ears to the rapid Spanish dialect, my Dad snapped his fingers and brought me back to reality - "you need another job!".

Sadly, this jazzy, jam-packed schedule has plummeted to new lows as I have a solid seven weeks with no more plans, and a mere 62p in my bank. (Admittedly, I shouldn't have bought that coffee and cake with my last fiver...)

Yes, Hols has post-hol blues and now my skin is craving one last bask in those golden hues. Instead, I'm going to have to rely on my blog to transport me back to those fierce few weeks.

However, as I began blathering on about New York in this blogpost my mind scootered off to the bustling streets of Barcelona (I have awful concentration), so I've decided to split my jollies into separate posts for you. Hopefully that way you can catch the hop-on, hop-off bus with me as I guide you round the USA, before we zip through Barcelona's narrower streets via scooter.

Our first destination is New York, my favourite part of the whole family holiday. I anticipated the struggle of writing about NY through fresh eyes as I have already blogged about our school trip there. However, we had planned a range of 'off the beaten track activities' for our visit (literally – Dad had ensured that I had prepped a spreadsheet itinerary), making our whistle-stop tour unique.
Arriving late into Sunday afternoon, a yellow cab whizzed us across the city that was acclimatising to the heat wave (very hot). Despite feeling a little travel weary, our stomachs surpassed the temptation to tuck ourselves into bed, and we headed to a delightful Italian restaurant just off Times Square.

"Now onto the Tkts steps!" - I practically bullied my sleepy family into the heart of a vibrant Times Square. It is in this core of the Apple that one can elevate themselves above the fast paced New York. Just a few steps up and you become an observer of the sights and sounds of this cosmopolitan city, but securing a spot at the top ensures a superior status...

Okay, so onto our first full day - and by far my fave! Where does one go for breakfast to avoid the Monday morning diner rush? My research landed us in the revitalised Chelsea Market. I wish I could say I cherished every last mouthful of those banana pancakes, but my greedy gut gobbled them down in point 3 seconds before my eyes were perusing the bookshop. Yeah, Chelsea Market is kinda cool and the 'Artists & Fleas' section is fun to check out.
Acknowledging my potential to give birth to 3 banana pancakes at any moment, we embarked upon our next part of the spreadsheet (or 'spready' as it became known as)... The Highline! It's located above the streets in a serene setting where locals and tourists alike immerse themselves in the green space. This linear park provides unseen skylines, quirky art and a more relaxed pace of life. There was no denying that this was a highlight! 

After 45 minutes of walking from one end of The Highline to the other, we grabbed a 'make your own salad' to tuck into for our next destination - Governors Island. Just a 10 minute ferry ride from Manhattan transports you to what was an abandoned military base and is now open to the public as a recreational space. 

From biking to baseball, the island offers a range of family friendly activities, and our afternoon was spent strolling along the island (mainly looking for some shade!), admiring the views and swinging in the hammocks!

I think it's safe to say our day was packed with greenery, so our evening was broken up with a more glamorous venture... To the top of the Empire State Building! Hitting the viewing deck at 8:30, we were just in time to catch the last rays of sun setting over the concrete jungle. As the night ticked on and darkness swept across the city, the warm glow of office lights flicked on in domino effect... This really is the city that never sleeps, and one day I want to be a part of it.

Upon my request for a slight detour back to the hotel, we were able to stop off at Bryant Park... (It's almost as if I were seeking these green spaces amongst the lively city!) A park that is encircled by skyscrapers and lit by the office lights, I consider this hidden gem a perfect spot for a first date. 

As couples snuggle together on picnic blankets and clink plastic champagne flutes, it got me thinking - who said Mondays have to be the worst day of the week? 
More to follow about Tuesday and Wednesday in New York...!