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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 Beyoncé" (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...!

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Time flies when you're having a boogey...

' spirits heightened whenever I felt in my pocket the key to this apartment; with all its gloom, it was still a place of my own, the first, and my books were there, and jars of pencil to sharpen, everything I needed, so I felt, to become the writer I wanted to be.' (Breakfast at Tiffany's)

HOW ON EARTH IS IT MID MAY? How on earth do I have a week left of Uni? And how on earth has my exam crept up on me this quickly? WHERE HAVE 19 YEARS OF MY LIFE GONE?

The reality of how fast the last 9 months have sped past is hitting me harder than that 3 day treble hangover from freshers. Today I thought I'd just have a scroll through my camera roll (classic procrastination technique)and reflect on the hundreds of photos I've accumulated since September. 
...I'm feeling nostalgic.

I know this blogpost has probably come at a bad time for the many of you revising for exams (sorry), so my aim was to keep it short and sweet. But then again, who the hell can condense a year's worth of boppers into one blissful track? 
Some of you will be undergoing the torturous process of A Levels (I pray for you), some will be enduring Uni exams, whilst others of you are working your butt off to save some dolla. Aren't we a bunch of hard workers. 
Anyway, I thought I'd compile a post about my experience of first year in an attempt to inspire those hoping to go, or just to entertain the rest of ya. It's been one of the most challenging, adventurous and, frankly, FUN years of my life. So here it is.  

Everyone tells you to join societies, buy the official wristband (DON'T) and to gatecrash flat parties. Bar the wristband, they're not wrong. You need to meet as many people as you can from the start, because the reality is that the person you thought you would be best buds with is no longer on the scene by the end of the year. It just happens. I made the mistake of signing up to LOADS of societies and not sticking to one (why the hell did I think I would be good at Lacrosse?). 

That said, don't get stuck in your flat. Sure, that Netflix series is great and I'm sure your dressing gown is comfy, but every once in a while get out your comfort zone. (Aside: I'm going to get SO criticised by my family for this, so I may as well confess that I LIVE in my dressing gown.)

My friend Kate and I sashayed across to the Baltic contemporary Art Gallery after procrastinating it for months. And it. was. fab!! I'm not saying art galleries are everyone's cup of tea, but trips out like these make that 9 grand worth every penny. Immerse yourself in your city.

Appreciate your surroundings. I know I've mentioned it on my blog before, but I will never get over the incredible sunsets that seep in through my window. I really am going to miss my Uni room (and this window in particular). It has a kind of urban vibe and I LOVE blogging away at my desk with the hum of city life filtering through my window. I'm easily amused.

I also remember being petrified of not finding people with the same interests as me. Of not having someone to go for a coffee and a catch up with. Of not having someone who can comfort you on your down days (we all have them).
The truth is, everyone finds their feet at different times, and some feet need to make a U-turn before they arrive at their destination. Some of my friends from home settled in immediately and I worried I would lose them to their new pallies. Fear not, FaceTime and Facebook are good at what they do. Some people have their honeymoon phase during freshers week, but personally I've loved second term even more. I count myself super lucky to have met the sass queens I now class as sisters and, cheesy as it may sound, it feels like we've known each other for years. (Who would've thought a Scouser, an Irish lass and a broad Yorkshire gal would be able to understand each other's accents?)

Anyway, you never stop meeting people throughout the course of the year. Recently I met my friend's friends (does that make sense?) from her hometown and tagged along on their night out. And what a hilarious lot they are. Having different groups of buddies is essential so that when one chum falls down, you can scout out another trooper to hit the club with.

Yeah, you may also worry that you won't have a routine like you did at home, you worry you'll become a slacker (sadly everyone is in first year) and you worry you'll miss amigos from home. But you make new traditions. Washing day is Sunday, productive day is Wednesday and Pizza Express dates with your flatmate are... well, just regular.

And let me tell you, returning to family and friends has never been better. You learn to cherish every single one of your friendships. (Ilkley Spoons you better be ready for a lot of reuniting...)

Also, GO TO THE FORMAL! It's a chance to get your glad rags on, have a decent meal and to celebrate surviving those 3a.m breakdowns. We had a ball!! (Bet you've not seen that captioned on anyone's instagram photo...)

So here's my advice:

1. yes, eat that. (It's first year, you're allowed to get fat)
2. introduce friends to friends (you can never have too many)  
3. live in the moment. You're young, sassy and you've made it this far... stop stressing about not being smart enough.

So what have I learnt most during my time as a fresher in Newcastle? I've learnt that home is no longer a place. It's the feeling of hopping off the train and being excited about being there. 

(WARNING: still be careful when you tell your mum you're going 'home' when referring to Uni. She'll get worried that you'll never return.)

But I hope that whatever your plans for the future are, you find a way to have a blooming good laugh. And remember, if something doesn't work out, something better will sneak up when you least expect it.

Newcastle, you've treated me well. You've seen me in streams of tears (from laughter I assure you); you've witnessed me rocking my PJ's to Tesco and you've been exposed to some of my ugliest hangovers known to man.
So, thank you.

Nonetheless, Yorkshire, I'm ready for ya. I'm ready for your surplus of green, for your FRESH tasting water and for one of your hearty Yorkshire roasts.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

The year of the [fiery] Rooster..

'"I'm not smirking. I'm smiling."'

3 months into 2017, the year of the Fire Rooster. Or as I thought my  flatmate said, the "year of the chicken" (admittedly, I scoffed at the thought of a chicken signifying fidelity and punctuality). Ironically and in typical Holly style fashion, this blogpost was meant to be written and uploaded about 2 months ago. I guess the Rooster hasn't kicked into action for me yet...

Even more ironically, my last blogpost was about my first few months at Uni, whereas I feel this one is veering towards a frightened fresher with little time left in first year. Time just flies by when you're an English student luxuriously indulging in Brontë novels and catching up with chums in cafes in all our contact-free hours. (Oh, and did I mention the perpetual cycle of essays?)

Sure, every year we make the same resolutions to make more effort with certain people, try a different look and to stay more organised. In classic January fashion, I detoxed, ditched the food baby and died at the gym... 

My favourite form of 'detox' was a spa day with my Mum. I really feel I benefitted from the menthol air of the steam room and the dainty sandwiches to refuel subsidised energy levels... Sauntering around in fluffy robes and slippers really does take it out of you.

More recently, I also tried being veggie for lent but 8 days in and I was unconsciously tucking into a cheese and ham panini (oops). I need my protein anyway, right? (In all honesty I think I was just using choc fingers as a substitute to my 'lacking diet'.

Okay, there's no denying that the whole detox regime is not for me. But diet aside, I can wholeheartedly commit to one thing - travel. I've concluded that punctuality and a tight schedule is essential for this, so perhaps the Rooster will benefit me after all. 

Within just a few days of 2017, my friend and I bopped on down to London town for the day. Short
 but sweet, as is generally the case with city breaks, the day consisted of shopping, drinking and eating (we classed Oxford Street's Topshop as our famous landmark). Of course, the day flew by all too quickly as we caught up with Uni gossip amidst flinging clothes over the top of our changing rooms.   

But this city trip was just a taster of things to come in 2017 luckily! This summer promises plenty more travel, with a family holiday booked to New York, Boston and Cape Cod. (I'm already scouring the internet for the places with the fluffiest stacks of pancakes and copious cups of coffee.) Anyone who knows me (or just reads this blog) will be fully aware that I developed a profound love for New York at the age of just 12. Since then, I've been twice more and each time the Big Apple has invited me to explore new aspects of its charm, so I'm looking forward to it opening up more of its secrets to me. The other places we're visiting are completely new to us, so top tips from anyone are welcome...

Shortly after this big trip, I'll be 'rehydrating' with a glass of sangria alongside my two best chums in the bustling city of Barcelona. We're yet to plan our schedule but we'll be sure to absorb some of the city's finest culture, like Gaudí's park, amidst our cocktails and tapas. To tell you the truth, just under a year since studying Spanish in A Levels and I can already feel the language slipping, so I'll be glad to embrace this sassy language once again!

Okay, so it may seem late to be making resolutions, 
but I've decided to make my 2017 the year of laughter. (It's doing a pretty good job so far.) From Uni, to returning home for a long summer, to exploring new places, I'm ensuring my amigos and I leave a little bit of laughter wherever we go.

But resolutions can have a habit of forcing us to over-analyse blunders, or projecting us too far into the future. I don't want to live in the past frankly, and I don't want to be wishing away the future. So this year I'm living in the present (hopefully punctually) and appreciating every minute. So, I guess what I'm saying is carpe diem in 2017. Seize the day, boys.