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Sunday Catch-up #44

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Writing about nail varnish and recipes seemed somewhat futile after the events that took place in Paris this week. However, life must go on, even if things do feel very uncertain at the moment…

This week I have been…

Making: bacon and avocado sandwiches for a lazy Sunday brunch

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Going: for a mid-week Wagamamas

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Wearing: pyjamas for most of the weekend!

Eating: Ramen

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Drinking: ale

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Reading: In the Kitchen (still!)

Watching: Season One of American Horror Story – I liked it, Ian hated it!

Buying: my first Christmas Costa

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Planning: holidays

Cooking: two beautiful pieces of hake

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Baking: some lovely almond and chocolate cupcakes

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Writing: the start of my Christmas lists

Favouriting: Twitter – I was glued to it from Friday night onwards

Working on: finishing the book I’m reading

Trying to decide: how many of my cupcakes it’s OK to eat in one evening…2? 3?

Wishing: I could start every day with a sunrise like this one

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Enjoying: this present from my brother

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Needing: to share how good these cookies are

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Feeling: very relaxed after a bath with these bad boys

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Giggling at: Josh Widdcombe live – he was great!

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Restaurant Review – The Milk Churn

A couple of weekends ago, we fancied trying a new place for lunch so I booked us a table at this Hall and Woodhouse pub. Part of the Badger Brewery chain, Ian loves their ales and, although their menu isn’t exactly fine dining, it offers really good pub grub.

I can’t say the pub itself is in the nicest setting but The Milk Churn is housed in a gorgeous building which has a converted barn feel to it.

We started off with a couple of their ales – I love ‘Golden Glory’ which is a light ale with a peach flavour and reminds me of summer holidays camping in Dorset!

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For my lunch, I ordered a Buffalo Chicken Burger which was coated in Frank’s hot wing sauce and served with a blue cheese mayo. This reminded me so much of the chicken wings we enjoyed in America and although the bun fell apart a bit, the chips were really good!

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Ian opted for a Fish Dog which is basically a hot dog with beer-battered cod goujons in place of a sausage, with mushy peas and tartare sauce. It may sound a bit strange but it really worked and reminded me of a slightly fancier fish-finger sandwich (one of my favourite comfort-food lunches!)

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We also shared some hot wings which were a little on the small and dry side for me.

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I always save some room for a pudding and The Milk Churn offer ‘mini puds’ which I think is a great idea if you are torn between two desserts! I ordered a mini toffee cheesecake and a mini chocolate pot.

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The cheesecake was OK but the ratio between the toffee sauce, biscuit and cream were a little off. My favourite by far was the chocolate pot which had a rich dark chocolate mousse topped with vanilla panna cotta. This was a perfect combination and I could have eaten two or three of them!

We had a lovely lunch here at The Milk Churn. I probably wouldn’t come back here for an evening meal as it has a bit of a ‘chain’ feel to it and I much prefer a local, country pub but it was a great lunch venue and we are big fans of the ales served here.

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Recipe – Sausage and Beer Casserole

Ahhhhhh hello half term! This break could not have come soon enough for me and I plan on making the most of it. I started today with a lovely lie in then eggs and smoked salmon – a perfect start.

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Today’s recipe is a lovely seasonal dish that you can make for a crowd or some extra portions for the freezer. You can also add a twist depending on what sausages or beer you decide to use!

Ingredients

A glug of olive oil

6 sausages

I onion, roughly chopped

1-2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

A tray of mushrooms, sliced

1 can or bottle of beer

1 tin of chopped tomatoes

Mixed herbs (fresh or dried)

Salt and pepper

A handful of green beans

How to make it

  • Begin by lightly frying the sausages in a large pan with the oil until browned on all sides
  • Add the onion and garlic and fry for another 5 minutes

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  • Next, add the mushrooms for another few minutes

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  • Pour in the beer, chopped tomatoes, herbs and a good helping of salt and pepper

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  • Mix well and leave to simmer for about half an hour
  • Add your green beans (I also threw in a handful of shredded carrot I had in the fridge)

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  • Serve with crispy potatoes or mash

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Sunday Catch-up #37

Hello! I was MIA this week as I spent three days away with my school on a residential trip. It was very fun but extremely tiring so this weekend has been very easy-going. We headed out to Bath Chilli Festival yesterday which probably wasn’t the best idea for me (I am a bit of a wimp with spicy food!) but Ian was a lot more adventurous and had the tears rolling down his face to prove it!

This week I have been…

Making: a blue cheese dipping sauce

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Going: to Bath Chilli Festival

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Wearing: my Hunter wellies again

Eating: Beef brisket and lamb wraps

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Drinking: Chilli beer

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Reading: In the Kitchen by Monica Ali

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Watching: Gogglebox – so glad it’s back!

Buying: some hot sauce

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Planning: a healthy week of no-effort meals

Cooking: more BBQ food

Baking: nothing this week

Writing: to-do lists

Favouriting: this beautiful new glitter from Essie

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Working on: running again (I’ve been a bit lazy lately)

Trying to decide: if it’s cold enough to put the heating on yet

Wishing: for more late summer sun

Enjoying: the great company of my colleagues

Needing: a three day weekend to catch up on life

Feeling: very tired

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Giggling at: Ian trying the ridiculously spicy hot wings from the wings-eating competition

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Travel Guide: Philadelphia

I want to start today’s blog by wishing my lovely husband a Happy 31st Birthday!

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I like to think of Philadelphia as New York’s friendlier, leafier and artier little sister. It is rich in history and was actually Ian’s favourite stop on our East Coast road trip this summer. We both loved our three days here and managed to pack a lot in! Here are my recommendations for a long weekend in this beautiful city.

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EAT

Chifa Food Truck

Found at the Spruce Street Harbor Park, this Peruvian-Japanese fusion may sound like a strange combination but it works brilliantly! We had ribs, chicken wings and fish tacos (pretty much my three favourite foods!) and they were all delicious.

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Franklin Ice Cream

Something of a Philadelphia institution, the ice cream selection was amazing and scoops are served in these cool cardboard boxes too.

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Reading Terminal Market

One of my favourite places in the city, this huge market houses so many different food shops and restaurants, you can get a great meal here. We stopped off for breakfast where I had a hot, buttery pretzel, followed by a doughnut!

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Campo’s

You cannot go to Philadelphia and not have a Philly cheesesteak and my tour guide assures me Campo’s does one of the best! I cannot claim to be an expert but it was pretty damn good.

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The Foodery

Like beer? If so, then you will love this place. Ian and I worked our way through several craft ales and I know we would be here on a weekly basis if we lived nearer! We ate here too which was tasty but the fridges full of beers are the real stars.

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DO

A Bus Tour

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Yes, you will look like a total tourist but we felt that there was so much history in this city and we wanted to find out as much as possible without having to walk around with our heads in a guidebook. We saw things we probably wouldn’t have seen had we just explored the city by foot and our tour guides were all local so we got some good bar and restaurant recommendations from them!

Swing in a hammock at Spruce Street Harbor Park

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My favourite place in the city! We walked here on our first night and it was amazing to sit by the river as the sun set with cocktails and a selection of food trucks to eat at. You get a fantastic view of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge and if you’re lucky, you will find a free hammock to relax in.

Visit the Eastern State Penitentiary

If you fancy a slightly alternative museum then you will love this derelict prison. It was quite spooky in places but I loved wandering around with my audio tour, finding out a bit more about this fascinating site.

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Run up the ‘Rocky Steps’

It’s just got to be done!

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STAY

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We stayed at the Doubletree by Hilton which I would highly recommend. It was very central, had amazing views from the corner windows and you also get warm chocolate chip cookies when you arrive!

Sunday Catch-up #35

My first full week of work is done and I am back in the swing of things, feeling shattered at the end of each day but kind of glad to be back. We’ve had a fab weekend with my parents starting Ian’s birthday celebrations with a beer festival and the most amazing carvery today! x

This week I have been…

Making: room for our new vintage suitcase-table hybrid

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Going: to a beer fest in the sunshine

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Wearing: my new Nine West handbag

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Eating: a delicious carvery for lunch

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Drinking: beer!

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Reading: I’ve almost finished this one

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Watching: Inkmaster – love it!

Buying: a new bra set – Freya is a great brand for larger-busted ladies

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Planning: for a little European city break over half term

Cooking: a healthy cauliflower and egg curry

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Baking: nothing this week

Writing: daily blog posts…I’m trying to keep them up!

Favouriting: the trainline website – I managed to nab some bargain train tickets this week

Working on: staying organised

Trying to decide: whether to write a not-so-great review of a restaurant we went to last week

Wishing: I was braver when it comes to dealing with these…

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Enjoying: this month’s Birchbox

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Needing: to try out a fig recipe sent by my friend Collette

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Feeling: proud of my bestie for completing a charity run

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Giggling at: my brother ordering the most girly-looking cocktails!

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Travel Diaries – Washington DC

Washington was our fourth and final stop on our East Coast road trip – you can read Part One and Two of our New York trip and all about Atlantic City and Philadelphia by clicking on the links!

Day Eleven – Thursday 6th August

I couldn’t have left Philadelphia without running up and down the ‘Rocky Steps’ so I dragged myself out of bed early, put on my trainers and ran out to the art museum, up those famous steps, posed for a quick pic with Sly then headed back to our hotel room to pack our bags again.

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We caught a bus to Washington which was fine (it had free wifi!) then taxied it to our hotel – you know it’s going to be an interesting ride when you tell the taxi driver your hotel address and he asks you “Where’s that?”

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We stayed in Hyatt Place and we loved the room. It was a pretty new hotel and had a lovely little lounge area to chill and watch TV and a really modern, cool bathroom. We weren’t that impressed with the area our hotel was in. NoMa is apparently very up and coming but I just don’t think it was quite there yet and although it seemed quite vibrant in the daytime, it didn’t feel the best place to be walking about at night.

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We decided to head out and do some exploring that afternoon so walked down to the Capitol Building (which was stunning but covered in scaffolding!), wandered through the parks, saw the Washington Monument and had a great dinner of prawn, crab and lobster rolls – yum!

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Day Twelve – Friday 7th August

After breakfast at the hotel, where I tried my first ever ‘biscuits and gravy’, we spent the morning at the Newseum, a museum dedicated to the media. Outside, there is the front page of every main US State’s newspaper as well as some from the UK, Spain, Brazil, China, France and so on.

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This was a fascinating museum and there was such a good variety of exhibits including the Berlin Wall, the history of comic strips in newspaper, a huge archive of the most important headlines over the past two hundred years, a September 11th exhibition, the challenges journalists face in different parts of the world, the dogs of the White House (loved this one!), the Washington Nationals and my favourite which was all about the Vietnam War and the influence the media had on changing public support for it. There was also a section where you could record yourself as a news anchor on screen which was really fun! This was probably my favourite museum of the whole trip (OK, maybe joint favourite with Ellis Island in New York and the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia!)

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We refuelled with some chicken wings and pizza before a wander through the Sculpture Garden on our way to the Museum of American History. On paper this place looked cool but it was very much aimed at a younger audience so we only did a couple of exhibitions…obviously the one including food and a visit to Julia Child’s kitchen!

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That evening we caught the metro over to the Nationals Park to watch a baseball game. This was so much fun especially the firework display at the end of the game.

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Day Thirteen – Saturday 8th August

After a few days in Washington DC, we started to realise how huge and spread out it was so in order to cover it all and not add to our blister count, we bought tickets for another hop-on/ hop-off tour bus. Whilst it wasn’t as good as the Philadelphia one as it was a recording and felt a lot less personal, it did take us everywhere and also to places and memorials we probably wouldn’t have gone otherwise such as Arlington Cemetery and the Pentagon which are over the water in Virginia.

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Lunch was my first ever Shake Shack and was as good as I had hoped! That afternoon we visited the Vietnam and Lincoln memorials before heading to Chinatown for happy hour cocktails and an amazing Mexican meal where our waiter made our guacamole at our table…I grilled him for his recipe!

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Day Fourteen – Sunday 9th August

Our last full day in America! It was Liverpool’s first match of the new season and I read about a Liverpool supporters’ bar not too far away from us. We spent the morning there and it was such a good atmosphere and a chance to chat with some locals too. We left a bit tipsy and realised it was still only about midday!

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That afternoon we went to Georgetown, one of the oldest parts of Washington and one I’d heard was a bit less touristy and cool. I loved it here and wish we could have spent longer wandering around the shops and trying out the bakeries and bars. We had a really nice lunch here (ribs!) before hitting Sephora where I got so excited running up the stairs that I tripped and fell! I was so embarrassed and ended up overspending to hide my shame – like in that episode of Sex and the City where Carrie falls over in Dior and ends up buying loads to make up for it!

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We spent our final night packing, eating doughnuts and watching Sons of Anarchy and I also cracked open my new Essie polish to try out!

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Luckily our flights home were a lot less stressful than when we left the UK, although I suffered with horrendous jet lag for the next few days and was a bit zombie-like most afternoons!

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So that is the end of this ‘Travel Diaries’ series. I think you can probably tell we had an absolutely incredible couple of weeks and I feel a bit lost now I don’t have something to spend my spare time planning for…I may have to get our next trip booked soon! x

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Travel Diaries – Philadelphia

Philadelphia was our third stop on our East Coast road trip – you can read Part One and Two of our New York trip and all about Atlantic City by clicking on the links.

Day Nine – Tuesday 4th August

I started our final day in Atlantic City with an early morning run along the Boardwalk. It was so quiet with just a few people wandering around with their morning coffees and papers and the mist rising around the hotels.

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For my 30th birthday, I had decided to treat myself to a designer handbag. I had seen a few the day before but decided to sleep on it and before we left Atlantic City, I nipped back to the shops and ended up buying two!

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Bags packed, we were back in the car and heading to Philadelphia. It was only about an hour away and I got some Bruce Springsteen on when I saw the city in the distance.

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We found our hotel and received the best welcome…warm chocolate chip cookies. I think I ate mine in the lift as I was getting hungry! We stayed at the Hilton Doubletree and it was probably our favourite hotel in terms of location as we were so central. The room was gorgeous too – two double beds and a great view.

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We dropped our car off, grabbed a sandwich and started exploring. My first impressions of Philadelphia were good – very leafy, friendly and lots of sculptures, fountains and open spaces. As we were only here for two nights and Philadelphia is full of history, we decided to jump on a bus tour so we could see as much as possible of the city. We chose one with a real tour guide as opposed to a recording and it was a great way to find out a bit more about the place.

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After a quick change, we headed out for dinner. I had read about this really cool park down by the river so we walked over and it was amazing! Spruce Street Harbour Park is full of hammocks, benches, fairy lights and food trucks…what more could you need?! We got there and watched the sun set behind the Franklin Bridge with cocktails before indulging in fish tacos, ribs and chicken wings. We ended the night with ice cream in one of the hammocks – such a perfect evening!

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Day Ten – Wednesday 5th August

The next morning, we went on to Reading Terminal Market for breakfast. A great little foodie find, this market has everything to buy and some amazing little places to eat too. I had the best pretzel ever and an ‘Elvis’ doughnut which contained peanut butter icing, banana icing and bacon (and I wonder why my jeans now don’t fit!)

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After my healthy start to the day, we went to the Eastern State Penitentiary. You may not think an abandoned prison would be top of the to-do list for most people but this was such an interesting place to visit. After being left abandoned for years, it has been half-renovated so the public can visit yet see how it has decayed over time. It was quite creepy in places and the audio guide was so interesting covering the beginning of the prison, daily life for inmates, religion, death row, famous inmates (including Al Capone’s luxurious cell) attempted escapes, solitary confinement right up to present day issues such as gang violence and the death penalty.

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There were also cells dotted around the place that had been dedicated to various art installations which added to the experience – I would highly recommend this slightly alternative museum.

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It was lunchtime so we had to sample one of Philadelphia’s most famous exports…a Philly Cheesesteak. There are so many opinions on which is the best but we opted for Campo’s and oh my they were amazing!!!

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We spent our final afternoon having a final wander around the city, cooling off in fountains before indulging in some craft beers, more chicken wings and fish tacos for dinner. We went to The Foodery which has hundreds of different beers…Ian was in heaven! x

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Sunday Catch-up #31 (US Edition)

This is my first Sunday Catch-up since our holiday and I was going to fill you in on what I’ve been up to this week but then realised I could sum it up in a few words – jet lag, naps, running, unpacking, laundry. Done.

Seeing as I missed a couple of weeks of this feature, I thought it would be much more fun to do a version based on our holibobs!

This fortnight I have been…

Making: the most out of every day

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Going: running in Central Park

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Wearing: my playsuit

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Eating: a ridiculous amount of chicken wings (buffalo, medium spice, blue cheese dip)

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Drinking: some amazing craft beers

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Reading: To Kill a Mockingbird

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Watching: the Washington Nationals

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Buying: a lot in Sephora

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Planning: as much as we can fit into each day

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Cooking: nothing

Baking: ditto

Writing: in my diary each evening

Favouriting: the Trip Advisor app – so handy when you’re away and don’t always have wifi

Working on: my tan

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Trying to decide: which shoes will give me the least amount of blisters each day (we did A LOT of walking and my poor feet suffered!)

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Wishing: this trip never ends

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Enjoying: exploring new places

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Needing: to fit all our new purchases in our cases

Feeling: like my thirties will be awesome

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Giggling at: Ian being flipped upside down in a particularly big wave!

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Travel Diaries – New York (Part One)

Right, I think I’m feeling awake enough to make a start on some holiday posts! I love making a record of our adventures and when previous trips pop up on Timehop, I’m really grateful to have this little corner of the internet to look back on fun times.

In case you didn’t know, my husband Ian and I spent two weeks travelling down the East Coast of America, stopping off at New York, Atlantic City, Philadelphia and Washington DC. Today’s blog post will be part one of the five days we spent in New York.

Day One – Monday 27th July

So our holiday started with a 4:30am alarm clock although I think we were both awake before then, a bit too excited to sleep! After a big mug of tea (me) and coffee (Ian), his parents and their dog George very kindly dropped us off at Bristol airport with just enough time for me to purchase a new perfume (L’Impératrice by D&G).

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We flew with Aer Lingus, which meant having to go via Dublin. I hadn’t flown to the States via a connecting flight before and after this experience, I’m not sure I’d be in a hurry to do it again. We sat on the runway at Bristol for about 45 minutes meaning when we landed, we were really late for our connecting flight. Cue a mad dash through Dublin airport and security and arriving on our next flight a bit hot and bothered. Not the best start and I definitely needed a large G&T afterwards!

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Apart from that drama, it was a fairly uneventful flight…bad food, good films and I also read Mindy Kaling’s book ‘Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?’

We landed mid-afternoon and after a bit of hanging around at the airport, we caught our transfer and were dropped off at our hotel, The Ameritania, which was a couple of blocks from Central Park, right in the centre of Broadway.

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My first impressions of the hotel were good. I would say that the décor was not my style but it was very modern and clean, the staff were so helpful and you really couldn’t beat the location. Our room  wasn’t huge but again very clean, luxurious and modern with a lovely bathroom, really comfortable bed and good views. We weren’t sure about the ‘Lover’s Intimacy Kit’ which was included in the minibar though! I think the only thing that could have made our stay more perfect was free wifi as we had to go to Starbucks over the road for it.

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After settling in, I was quite ready for bed but knew I had to stay up and try and get on US time. We walked up to Central Park and had a leisurely stroll around, sussing out our running routes for the next morning and taking in the atmosphere. It is without a doubt my favourite space in New York; a little oasis amongst the hectic pace of the city.

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We then walked over to Times Square which was a bit of a mistake as it was packed with people waiting for Tom Cruise who was there for his latest film premiere. We finished the night with a bite to eat and of course I had to order ribs for my first meal!

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Day Two – Tuesday 28th July

Thanks to the time difference, I was awake at about 5am to see a beautiful pinky-golden sunrise from our hotel window. Ian and I both packed our running gear for this holiday as we decided we should try and balance out all the eating and drinking with a few morning runs. I never thought my running shoes would make it into my holiday suitcase but I’m so glad they did! Running through the streets of New York before everyone else was up was kind of surreal but also a chance to see a different side of the city. A near-empty Central Park was beautiful and it was refreshingly cool too.

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On my list of foodie places to go was a café called Argo Tea and I was pleased to see one on the way back to the hotel. They did an amazing iced chai tea drink which I had every day we were there!

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After a quick Starbucks, we bought our Metro passes and headed Downtown to Battery Park. It was absolutely boiling the whole time we were away and the air-conditioned trains were a godsend for getting around the city.

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The first thing we decided to do was to take a trip to see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Previously when we visited New York, we got the free Staten Island Ferry past the island which was OK to see it but this time we wanted to get a bit closer. We got a ferry over to Liberty Island, had the first of many audio guides and enjoyed great views of the green lady as well as back over Manhattan.

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Next, we hopped back on the boat, this time to Ellis Island and its Immigration Centre. I found this place fascinating. It was well set out, the exhibits were really interesting and it not only told the history of immigration to America but really challenged my views on it today too.

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The grand hall was impressive and having travelled there by boat, you could really imagine how people would have felt decades ago, arriving and seeing the statue before starting a new life in America.

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After getting back onto dry land, we were really hungry so walked to South Street Seaport where I had read about some cool foodie places. We stumbled upon ‘Smorgasburg’ with lots of individual stalls selling a great variety of food and drinks. We settled on some local beers, a Vietnamese-style beef brisket roll and the best lobster roll I have ever eaten!

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Fed and watered, we walked through the Financial District and visited the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. It didn’t feel right to take lots of photos inside but it was a fascinating and very moving, sombre experience. I didn’t think the actual exhibits were particularly well laid out (lots of waiting for the people in front to move before you could see the displays – I would recommend going early before the crowds) but it took you through the events of the day using video clips, artefacts, newspaper reports, answerphone messages and parts of the actual Twin Towers. Outside we saw the two huge memorial fountains too.

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We decided to end our day at one of my favourite places to eat in America: Bubba Gump! Yes, I know a Forrest Gump-themed restaurant isn’t the height of culinary sophistication but I order the same dish every time (Cajun-spiced mahi mahi and shrimp with a bourbon sauce) and loved it!

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Right, that’s it for Part One…the next one should be up tomorrow x