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Travel Guide: New York

Another new feature I thought I would add to the blog following my recent travels was a little series of ‘Travel Guides’. I tend to write a really long, picture-heavy post after I have visited a new place and I thought these mini guides could be a quick read with my highlights including where to eat, what to do and where to stay.

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First up, New York, one of the most vibrant, exciting and fun places to visit. No matter what your interests, there is a never-ending amount of things to do including walking tours, sports, art galleries, shopping, sight-seeing and an amazing variety of places to eat. I have only been to this city twice so this is by no means an exhaustive list but just a few recommendations.

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EAT

Argo Tea

Dotted around the city, these tea shops offer delicious beverages with several free tasters in store!

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South Street Seaport

A very cool district full of great bars and restaurants. We happened upon the Smorgasburg food market when we were there and had some amazing lobster rolls and local beers.

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Tick Tock Diner

Standard, American diner serving great pancakes and other breakfast items.

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Gansevoort Market

A little foodie mecca with some amazing choices for lunch – it is a perfect stop once you have walked The High Line.

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Ellen’s Stardust Diner

Good for breakfast with singing Broadway-trained waiters – a really fun start to the day!

Iguana New York

This Mexican restaurant was next door to our hotel and did the best margaritas.

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Grand Central Station

Not only is the station itself a must-see in my opinion, but there is a great little food court on the lower level which includes Shake Shack, Magnolia Bakery and a lovely soup bar.

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Katz’s Deli

A New York institution, endure the queues as the pastrami and beef brisket sandwiches are worth it!

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DO

Visit Central Park

It’s huge so you can make several visits during your stay and see a different area each time. We went running here in the mornings, strolled in the afternoons and even came for a picnic but there are also outdoor concerts, play areas, a boating lake, sculptures and an outdoor swimming pool in the summer…a beautiful oasis amongst the skyscrapers.

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See a Broadway Show

There is a booth in Times Square where you can get discounted tickets for shows the same day and we took advantage of this to go and watch ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time’ for my 30th birthday. Times Square at night is a sight to behold too.

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Buy a CityPASS

If you plan on doing several of the major tourist attractions then it is worth looking into this ticket booklet to save some cash. My Mum bought me mine for a birthday present and we ended up visiting the Empire State Building (twice!), the Natural History Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim, the 9/11 Memorial Museum and a ferry tour of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, all of which I would recommend.

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Walk The High Line

Once an abandoned railway track, this elevated walkway takes you through wild gardens, art installations and food vendors with great views of the local neighbourhoods.

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Go Kayaking on the Hudson River

The Manhattan Community Boathouse offers free half hour kayaking (which is about how long my arms could take!) in a couple of locations. We went at sunset and it was such a fun thing to do!

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STAY

If you want to be near to Central Park and the buzz of Broadway and Times Square, then I would recommend staying at The Ameritania. The staff are incredibly helpful if you need directions or a recommendation, the rooms are clean and modern and there is  a Starbucks over the road for chai tea and free wifi!

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TIPS

Buy a MetroCard for getting around the city. We bought a 7-day card for around $30 and definitely got our money’s worth using it several times a day. The carriages are also air-conditioned which is a godsend in the summer!

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Latest Purchases #87 – Huge US Clothing Haul

So I think it was fairly safe to assume that I would be returning from America with a much heavier case than I left with! I saved my pennies for months before I went so although this is a lot of stuff, I had been pretty restrained over the past few months and I cannot see myself buying many clothes for a little while. I love reading blog posts about clothing hauls so thought I would take a quick snap of my goodies before I packed them away in my (now heaving) wardrobe.

I bought them from lots of different places but decided to roughly group them by clothing type…first up, dresses!

I bought this pretty dress with yellow roses on from Forever 21 in Times Square whilst Ian was queuing for theatre tickets. It is quite short so I would definitely need to wear tights or leggings underneath but I think it is a perfect autumnal dress and I love the sheer long sleeves on it.

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Also from Forever 21, is this grey marl tunic. Worn with leggings, this is my ultimate Sunday outfit as it is soft and cosy but also looks great with a statement necklace if I do venture out.

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I think I must have a thing about long sleeved dresses with sheer sleeves as I picked up another one from H&M. This is navy with a swallow print and will be good for work. My mum got married in a navy swallow print dress so I think of her when I wear it!

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This dress was one of my pricier purchases but also one of those that looks so much better on than it does on the hanger. It is an H&M striped shirt dress with gold details and is just such a flattering cut. I love all the detailing on it, like the folded sleeves and gold tie-pulls and I feel like a woman who has her shit figured out when I wear it!

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A more summery dress now from a shop called Loft…stripes and lace, what more you could you want?!

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Next, onto tops and my best bargain. This shirt from Forever 21 had a label on it for about $30 but rang up as $3 when I took it to the till! I love the geometric pattern on it and it looks great with jeans and boots.

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A nice Breton-style top from Old Navy.

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A New York-inspired t-shirt from Aeropostale. I love the semi-distressed material and the images in silver foil…a little reminder of our trip to the Big Apple!

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Similarly, a cityscape t-shirt from Aeropostale in the same soft, sheer material.

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A slightly cropped red jersey top from Aeropostale. I picked this up on a bit of a whim but like that it is made from thicker material so I can wear it as it gets colder.

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Is it wrong to buy a t-shirt because you like the back more than the front? I don’t know, but I love the plaited neon of this top so much and it is made of a really soft, sheer material.

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Another purchase from Loft, I bought this pineapple t-shirt as I just thought it looked cool!

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As it was our 2nd wedding anniversary when we were in New York and it is tradition to buy gifts made from cotton, we bought each other an I Love NY t-shirt….naff or romantic?! Anyway, I plan on wearing this for working out and will have to co-ordinate with Ian to make sure we aren’t twinning!

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I bought this long t-shirt from Aeropostale (yeah, went a little crazy in that shop!) and I really like the silver geometric pattern on it. It hangs really nicely and looks ace with leggings or skinny jeans.

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A little random at-the-till purchase now in the form of this woven clutch/ make-up bag from H&M.

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Onto some shorts now, something I never used to wear but I seem to have found a style that suits my short legs! These black and white geometric print shorts are from H&M and I love them. They kept me cool on holiday and looked great with a loose black t-shirt and sandals. I’m hoping we get a few more warm weekends this summer so I can wear them again.

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Feeling emboldened by my H&M purchase, I also picked up a floral pair of shorts from Aeropostale which actually look quite like a skirt when they’re on.

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Let’s talk skirts next. As you may know, I am slightly obsessed with anchors and I just love this nautical navy skirt from Aeropostale! I’ve worn it with a plain white tee tucked in and it feels very ‘me’.

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Also from Aeropostale is this mint green lace skirt which is another one I am hoping I can wear again before the sun disappears this summer.

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Buying a whole new load of clothes always gives me a kick up the arse to have a good clear-out, mainly so I can fit everything in and also to get rid of the stuff I haven’t worn in a while. I’m really pleased with my US haul. It’s hard on holiday not to be lulled into buying really summery gear but I think I have a good mix of work and weekend wear and I luckily didn’t go over our suitcase weight allowance! x

Travel Diaries – Atlantic City

If you haven’t already, you can read Part One and Two of our New York trip!

Day Six – Saturday 1st August

It was our final morning in New York so we went for one last run in Central Park, packed our suitcases and popped out to a deli for breakfast bagels before being picked up by our airport shuttle. We picked our car up at Newark Airport (which meant we avoided scary central New York traffic!) and set off to Atlantic City. We shared the driving there, stopping off for lunch at the busiest service station before getting our first glimpse of the city – it reminded me so much of Vegas!

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We were staying at the Sheraton Hotel which was a couple of blocks from the Boardwalk and absolutely huge (we had two double beds in our room.) This hotel is also where Miss America is held each year so there was memorabilia everywhere and some sort of child beauty pageant going on too so I kept finding little girls with full faces of make-up on in the lifts!

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When I booked this holiday, even my travel agent wasn’t sure why I wanted to go to Atlantic City, and people we met whilst in the States looked bemused with this choice of location too. I think it has a reputation similar to our Blackpool but I have to say I absolutely loved it and would definitely go back! Yes, it’s brash and has casinos and a funfair but it also has excellent shopping, beautiful beaches, great restaurants and every evening we enjoyed walks along the Boardwalk with gorgeous pink sunsets. We were only here for three nights but it was a lovely mini beach holiday.

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After a quick change and cup of tea, we headed out to explore. We were staying right next to a huge outlet shopping centre (my dream location!) but wanted to go straight down to the Boardwalk and see the sea.

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We walked all the way along to the Taj Mahal (Sex and the City fans will remember this episode!) where I persuaded Ian to have a go on the fair ground with me before going for our belated anniversary meal.

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We ate at Ruth’s Chris Steak House (which always makes me laugh as my Mum is called Ruth and my brother is called Chris!) and had an amazing meal of steak, lobster and lobster mac ‘n’ cheese followed by cupcakes in our room!

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Day Seven – Sunday 2nd August

We woke up and I had a lie-in whilst Ian was good and went for a run along the Boardwalk. That morning was dedicated to shopping and I did some serious damage!

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We met for lunch in what became our favourite place to eat and drink during our stay – Wingcraft, dedicated to chicken wings and craft beers.

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After we were fed and watered, I was itching to get in the sea so we dropped off our shopping bags, got in our swimming costumes and hit the beach for the afternoon.

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That evening, we walked along the Boardwalk to the Tropicana hotel and a restaurant called Cuba Libre where I had found a 15-course Cuban taster menu…yep, 15 courses!

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I really liked this hotel and would probably stay here should we visit Atlantic City again. The restaurant was also fab. We started with Cuba Libres (cherry for me, coconut for Ian) before embarking on the biggest meal of my life!

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We started with plantain chips and three delicious dips including an amazing black bean hummus I will definitely try and recreate, before moving onto our starters which consisted of shrimp ceviche, chicken empanada (a South American pasty!), beef filled potato croquettes and spinach and manchego balls. All four of these starters were served with their own sauce and salad and I loved them all.

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We were pretty stuffed at this point but powered on to the main courses which included steak, mahi mahi fish with squid ink rice and pulled pork with black beans. We had rice, beans and plantain wedges on the side but barely touched them if I’m being honest. Sadly, we were defeated and had to ask for our puddings to go…and they were delicious for breakfast the next morning!

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Day Eight – Monday 3rd August

Today was quite possibly our favourite day of the whole holiday! After our Cuba Libre puddings in bed, we hopped in the car and headed to Cape May. I read that this was voted the best beach resort in New Jersey and I am so glad we made the trip.

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This was possibly the most beautiful and quintessentially American beach resort I have ever been to. There were no chain restaurants or huge malls, just local family businesses and cafes, pretty pastel-coloured beach front houses and a stunning beach.

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We parked up and hit the beach first. You do have to pay a daily rate to use the beach here but it was absolutely spotless on there so we didn’t mind too much.

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Now one thing my Mum and I have in common is our love of big waves – you know, the kind that almost knock you over! Cape May had these huge waves and it was amazing playing in them and trying to stay on your feet when a particularly big one hit. My highlight of the whole holiday however came when we were in the sea and looked out to the horizon to see a pod of about 15 dolphins playing about 20 metres away from us. It was so beautiful and I could have stayed in that moment forever.

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We were getting peckish then so had a quick shower, dried off and went to a little beachfront café for clam chowder, grilled cheese sandwiches, the seafood catch of the day, fries and root beers.

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After lunch, I surprised Ian with a trip to the Cape May Brewery. I had tried to get us a tour of Brooklyn Brewery when we were in New York but couldn’t so thought this would be a good substitute. The bar staff here were so friendly and we spent some time in the garden working our way through the various ales.

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For our last night in Atlantic City, after washing the sea and sand off, we went for one more meal at Wingcraft where I combined two of my favourite foods; chicken wings and pizza. Sounds weird but was amazing!

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We realised through dinner that we hadn’t done any gambling in AC so walked along the Boardwalk (where we saw a cool light and sound show and my hair grew inexplicably huge due to the heat, sea breeze and humidity) and managed to lose all of our dollars on the slots and roulette!

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Not a typical holiday destination for us Brits, I would wholeheartedly recommend Atlantic City and Cape May for a mini beach break whilst on the East Coast – we had a fantastic time! x

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 Two)

If you haven’t already, you can read Part One of our New York trip here!

Day Three – Wednesday 29th July

We were up bright and early for another beautiful, sunny day in NYC. We jumped on the Metro and headed for breakfast at Tick Tock Diner. I love American diners, especially their breakfast and brunch menus, and I had some delicious lemon and ricotta pancakes with a raspberry sauce and maple syrup.

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That morning, we decided to head up to the top of the Empire State Building. It’s one of those iconic New York buildings and just has the most breath-taking views, including my favourite building, the Flatiron. Weirdly, this also really helped me get my bearings and see how far apart various areas were – there was also another good audio guide session here!

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After we had taken in the views, we walked the High Line. This wasn’t in existence the last time we visited New York so was something I really wanted to do. An abandoned railway line, it is now an elevated walkway lined with wild flowers, art work and great views over the surrounding neighbourhoods. We wandered along, cooling off with some ice lollies (I had a refreshing cucumber and mint one), adding to the Lego artwork, dipping our feet in the water features and relaxing on the day beds.

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We ended up at the end of the High Line near Gansevoort Market, aka foodie heaven! There was such a lovely selection for lunch but I opted for another lobster roll, a mint iced tea and macarons for pudding.

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After lunch, we had a wander around Greenwich Village, visited Magnolia Bakery on Bleecker (which was a huge let down!) before popping back to the hotel for a cat nap as I had something very cool planned that evening…kayaking!

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I found a place online that offered free kayaking on the Hudson River and was slightly worried it sounded too good to be true. However, it was so much fun and such a pretty sight as the sun set although we did get very wet bottoms so had to go back and change before dinner!

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That night (the last in my twenties!) we went for wings and margaritas at Hooters (I love their chicken wings!) before heading back up the Empire State Building for a second view of the city at night. Although we had to queue for a bit longer, this was just as magical and I just don’t think I could ever get sick of the 360° views up there.

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Day Four – Thursday 30th July (and my 30th Birthday!)

I started my birthday off with another Central Park run and chai tea from Argo then opened my presents from Ian. He knows I can sometimes suffer with post-holiday blues so he bought me tickets to see three of my favourite comedians so we would have something to look forward to over the next few months – an excellent present!

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We went to Stardust Diner for breakfast, near Times Square. This place is so much fun – the waiters sing (mostly show tunes) as they serve and there is just a great atmosphere inside and the food was good too!

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After breakfast, we hopped on the Metro and spent a few hours at the Natural History Museum before a spot of shopping, which included theatre tickets for that night.

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I love Mexican food so we had an early dinner of taquitos and margaritas at a place near our hotel (it even had its own mariachi band!) before going to Broadway to watch the play ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’. I enjoyed the book of this and had wanted to see the play for a little while. I loved it and thought the staging was excellent, although some of the Wiltshire accents were a little off!

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We ended my birthday with beers and mini birthday cakes in bed.

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Day Five – Friday 31st July (and our two-year wedding anniversary!)

For our last full day in New York, we hopped on the Metro again (we definitely got our money’s worth from our weekly passes!) and went for breakfast in Grand Central Station. The building upstairs is stunning but it also has a really nice food court downstairs too.

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We then had a very cultured morning visiting the Guggenheim and the Met. This was my first visit to the Guggenheim and I loved it. Lots of variety inside and I really love the way the curved inside of the building guided you through the exhibitions.

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We then walked up through Central Park to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This place is huge so we decided to just pick a couple of exhibitions to enjoy and explored the Ancient Egyptian section, the featured ‘China’ one which had lots of Chinese-inspired clothing from the major fashion houses and then saw some Monet paintings (one of my favourite artists).

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It was getting on to lunchtime then so we headed to a New York institution – Katz’s Deli. The queues were out the door but well worth the wait. We got one pastrami and one beef brisket sandwich and they were huge! I think I preferred the brisket but both were exceptional…my Dad was very jealous of this visit!

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We decided to spend our last afternoon chilling in Central Park so grabbed some drinks and snacks, a good book and found a quiet spot on the grass. On the way we bought each other our anniversary presents too. You are meant to give cotton after two years of marriage so we bought each other an ‘I Love New York’ t-shirt to remember where we spent the day.

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We had planned a big, posh anniversary meal that night but were so stuffed from the huge sandwiches at Katz’s that we just decided to do that the following evening and opted for cocktails and a slice of pizza near to our hotel before cheesecake and wine in bed!

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And that was the first stop on our trip. We love New York and cannot wait to return. Next up, Atlantic City…

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

Our Next Adventure…

Today I wanted to share some very exciting news. Nope, not pregnant…we’ve just booked our summer holiday!

Ian and I are off to the States again in July and August for a few weeks to explore a bit of the East Coast. We love America and despite a few visits there, there is still so much we haven’t seen.

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So far, our itinerary involves flying to New York (where we’ll be for my 30th birthday), driving down the coast to Atlantic City for a few days by the sea (and our 2nd wedding anniversary), driving to Philadelphia and then ending up in Washington DC.

We have been to New York before but the other three places have been on my ‘to-do’ list for a long time and I think all four stops offer something completely different from the fast-paced city life of New York, to the boardwalks and casinos of Atlantic City to the historical cities of Philly and DC.

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Obviously the countdown has already begun for me (186 days!) and it is acting as great motivation to keep up with eating healthy and exercising more as well as having something to look forward to in these cold and wet months.

My planning instincts have already kicked in and I am busy researching places to eat and drink at, where to visit and what to add to my shopping list (so far it looks like there will be a huge Sephora haul for some new make-up and beauty brands!) I am open to any recommendations for shops, restaurants and must-see places in all 4 locations but I also very much enjoy this stage of shopping around and reading reviews to find the perfect place for brunch or a burger.

I’ll try not to bang on about this trip too much on the blog although I’m sure my excitement will overspill from time to time!

Finally, I have to mention our amazing travel agent Natalie! I email her with all sorts of crazy travel ideas and she always manages to piece everything together, find amazing hotels and take a large amount of stress away from someone as indecisive as me. I highly recommend dropping her an email next time you are planning a getaway.