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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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Latest Purchases #86 – US Drugstore Haul

I ended up buying quite a bit of make-up and skincare items when we were on holiday so decided to split them into a Sephora Haul (coming next week!) and a kind of high street/ drugstore one. I tried to stick to brands that either aren’t available in the UK or products that I hadn’t seen on the shelves in Boots or Superdrug before. I think I was fairly restrained as I could have added a lot more into my basket!

First of all, not strictly a US purchase but one I used every day on holiday after buying it in Duty Free. This perfume from D&G is my first perfume from the brand and I really like it. I’m rubbish at trying to describe scents but I thought this was fruity and summery and every time I smell it now I think of our holiday.

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Next, a few bits I picked up in Bath & Bodyworks. I love this shop and if I wasn’t so worried about our luggage allowance, I would have treated myself to some of their candles too. I always have one of these scented hand sanitizers in my handbag so picked up some new scents – I picked some lovely summery ones but the ‘Napa Valley Sunset’ is my favourite as it is wine-inspired!

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Some Essie nail varnish next and I managed to narrow this down to three new shades; Chillato (a pastel pistachio – I blogged about it here), Where’s My Chauffeur (a turquoise-blue) and Golden Nuggets (a gold glitter).

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Another nail product from Sally Hansen, the Salon Effects Nail Stickers. I have tried these before and they are really good. They sit on your nails just like nail varnish and I loved this cool geometric pattern.

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Some lip balms next and the first one is from from Eos in Coconut Milk. I really like the formulas of these and the little egg shape it comes in!

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I also picked up a Burt’s Bees Rose Tinted Lip Balm. I thought this would be a chunky colour stick but the cardboard packaging was just for show and it’s just a regular little stick. There isn’t much colour pay-off from this but I always find this brand to be good quality so look forward to using this.

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This seemed a fun product next from Chapstick with a double ended, duo-flavoured stick.

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I wanted to try a few things from the brand Milani and read glowing reviews of their baked blushers. I picked up Corallina which is a beautiful rosey coral pink with a gold shimmer running through it. I think it looks beautiful although the lid cracked in my suitcase so I won’t be taking it in on my travels. I noticed a rattling sound when I picked this up and found a little mirror and brush underneath which is quite handy. I have swatched this and it is very glowy so can double up as a highlighter too.

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I also bought two eyeshadows in different formulas. Bella Cappuccino is a satin matte formula in a warm, medium brown with a hint of golden shimmer. I wasn’t sure what ‘satin matte’ would be like (surely it’s one or the other?!) but it’s actually a perfect description for this formula. I wouldn’t say this isn’t hugely pigmented and is slightly on the chalky side but a good ‘base’ colour for me.

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However, Bella Bronze is a different story! This is a metallic eyeshadow in a deep bronze with a beautiful coppery shimmer. The formula of this is so soft and buttery and it blends really well too. Of the two, I would definitely buy from the metallic range again.

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Another brand that we don’t get in the UK but has some real gems is Wet n Wild. I decided to try out one of their mascaras and there was so much choice! I opted for Megaplump and will let you know how I get on.

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I also picked up a blusher in the shade Mellow Wine. It may be a tad on the dark side for me – I will have to apply this with a light touch! This also contained a little brush, although like the Milani one, it doesn’t feel amazing quality.

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People seem to go mad for the Wet n Wild eyeshadow palettes so I picked up a small one named Silent Treatment. It contains three eyeshadows, embossed with ‘browbone’, ‘crease’ and ‘eyelid’ to use all three together – very handy for those less confident with a smoky eye. These are lovely eyeshadows although the darkest shade is a bit glittery so more of a night time look for me.

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I also wanted to try a lip product from this brand and am really into chunky lip pencils at the moment so picked up a Megaslicks Balm Stain in the shade Red-ioactive (I love the name!) This is so pigmented and although it applies with a gloss, after that has faded you are still left with a really strong wash of colour – I like this a lot.

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Carrying on with the lip products, NYX is another brand that was on my list to try so I bought one of their butter glosses in the shade Peach Cobbler – maybe it was just for the name?! This is a pretty peachy coral colour sitting somewhere between sheer and opaque and as it is a gloss it gives a very lush finish but is a tad sticky.

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Finally, a little trip down memory lane with a good old faithful mascara. I saw this at the till for a couple of dollars so thought why not?! It was only when I opened it that I realised I had picked up the shade Royal Blue. However, coloured mascaras seem to be having a bit of a comeback worn at the tips over black mascara so I shall give that look a go with this mascara.

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Phew – I am so excited to start using these items and seeing which ones will make it into my daily routine! 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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Latest Purchases #85 – Fitness Wear

It goes without saying that I bought a lot on our recent trip to the States so I thought I would break up my Travel Diaries with a few hauls for good measure. First up, some fitness wear…

I invested in good quality shoes and a good sports bra for running but don’t put quite so much thought in to the rest of my ‘outfit’. In fact, I usually go out for a run in my plain black sports leggings and more often than not an old band t-shirt. Practical? Yes, but I have to admit I don’t feel that I look great.

I decided to treat myself to some cool and practical items to work out in, whether it be running, my weekly Pilates class or yoga in my conservatory! Here’s what I picked up…

Most of this haul is from Nike as it’s a brand I know is good quality, they had some awesome designs and their stuff was much cheaper than it would be in the UK. First up, a pair of cropped leggings. These have a little zipped pouch for an iPod or house key and I like the pattern of the material. The waistband is also one that can be folded down.

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Next, a pair of full length leggings in a jazzy grey design. Again, there is a hidden pouch in the waistband and I loved wearing these out for a run yesterday morning!

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A boring but necessary purchase as I upgrade from my Primark socks to some proper, super-comfortable ones.

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I went a bit mad on the vest front but they were all so pretty and comfortable when I tried them on! First of all, there is this coral pink patterned number with a racer back.

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To match the cropped leggings, I also got this black, grey and white vest.

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And finally I thought this striped one was a bit different and a cool bright turquoise colour.

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Continuing with the vests, I picked up this feather design from Adidas (and wore it to run up the ‘Rocky Steps’ in Philadelphia!)

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Finally, I bought a couple of pieces from Old Navy. Two more vests in a purple and green design. Although these look very similar, I like the fact that they each have a different back to them.

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And last of all, another pair of cropped leggings which you definitely won’t miss me in! Haha I wore these for a yoga session this morning and they are so comfortable and seem to hold you in as well as having a good amount of stretch in them for a bit of downward facing dog.

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I am hoping that cool workout gear = more motivation to exercise and so far this week it has worked and I have definitely felt better than wearing my old misshapen tshirts that I should really think about getting rid of now! x

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…