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Monday, 20 November 2017

Second Year: Nice to meet ya'

'I am always drawn back to places I have lived, the houses and their neighbourhoods.'

Summer sprinted away with its last rays of sun and Autumn rocked up with chunky scarves, crunchy leaves (mmm) and a reminder that change is a thing of beauty. Welcome second year, it's a pleasure to meet you. 
House dinners, house parties, house outings. There's an ease, a relaxed atmosphere, a simplicity to living with friends. Those bitter, dark walks back from Uni feel like you're returning home, rather than to a vast flat. In Jesmond especially, the many houses populated with students has created a community away from the bustling city, whilst still providing us with a brimful of brunch spots, bars and bakeries. One could even say it's a less upmarket Chelsea...

 Living with 3 other Bridget Jones's has provided us with an abundance of anecdotes and not a dull day gone by in our cosy maisonette. 

One of the joys of moving into a house is decorating it, and I felt apprehensive when two of my flatmates proposed
a 'Mexican themed living room', although the reality is that most student houses are drab and need the colour. 
I went for a botanical theme in my bedroom, thinking it a sophisticated sanctuary until my flatmate walked in and called it 'the jungle'. (Not quite the image I was going for, but it gets us in the 'I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here' spirit).

Meeting people seems easier than first year, as everyone seems more settled, natural and themselves... No faking it for the friendship this year sista! "Pop round for a cuppa" or wine nights on the terrace with amigos have become a regular occurrence. Second year also promises a high school throwback to house parties, and our Halloween hosts went to town with decorations, and provided a priceless party. My Jelly Belly costume seemed a great idea at the time, but squeezing down a packed, narrow corridor was problematic...  
Amongst these pastimes, I'm also juggling Uni work with a job in retail and boshing out the occasional newspaper article! It's too easy to lack motivation as a student, but perhaps I am being more productive than I realised... 
The "it's first year, it doesn't count" mentality is out the window and the pressure to produce perfect essays is piling up... We promise ourselves we will read (all three) books a week, have an essay plan smashed out in good time and to attend every seminar having done our secondary reading. Phew. That's a lot to cram in on top of the stress of supermarket shopping on a budget (put the peanut butter back, Holly).

In classic English student fashion, I've also scouted out some new coffee spots. These make reading 18th Century Literature that little bit less tedious, and I'd recommend trying it for the brain fuel. 
As the decent into Winter commences, the 'is it too early to get in the Christmas spirit' debate starts simultaneously. I for one am always ready for the festivities to kick in, and last night I was ironing in tune to a Christmas playlist whilst soaking in the smell of my Christmas candle... Oh dear. As my flatmate and I have our birthdays in the same week, we've begun party planning and making a 'festive fun' checklist for a whole week of celebrations!  
Just 8 weeks back in the Newcastle bubble and I can tell this year is going to be a good one.
This week I hung a quote from a magazine on my pin-board that reads;
'Enjoying the fullness of life around you'. 
It's quickly becoming my motto for second year.  

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...