Ten Things You Should Do In New York City

New York skyline

Having just got back from an awesome week in New York seeing my parents and hanging out with Al, I was thinking about the ten things I would rave about to anyone planning a trip. As this was my eighth holiday there (and you don’t need anyone else telling you to go up the Empire State) here are my thoughts on cool things to do. Anymore recommendations? I’d love to know your top ten.

Al cycling

1 – Cycle Central Park.

NYC has finally caught up and hit themselves with some Boris Bikes (or Citi Bikes, whatevs). I am nowhere near brave enough to bike down Fifth Ave but there is a cycle path going all around Central Park and it is a gorgeous way to see the park with different parts opening up to you on every turn. Just remember that the top bit near Harlem is pretty hilly and also that you have to cycle in an anti-clockwise direction.

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2 – Get tipsy in the Brooklyn Brewery

The Brooklyn Brewery in Williamsburg does tours throughout the week (which you can get a ticket for from here) but head over on a Sunday for free tours at 1pm, 2pm and 3pm and get five beer tokens for $20. The brewery serves drafts of beers that you can’t get anywhere else and there is a chilled, Sunday atmosphere –  you can even order in your own pizza. And legendary vintage shop Beacon’s Closet is just across the road.

20130908_1600243 – Forget the diet

Ok, this goes without saying but seriously, deactivate My Fitness Pal and hit Sweet Chick in Williamsburg for the best fried chicken of your life served with fluffy, buttery waffles. Sounds crazy but it works. Oh and their Bloody Mary has home-cured bacon in it. Amazing.

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4 – Chelsea Market for great eats

Chelsea Market is like a fancy Borough market with loads of artisan food vendors (including the cute Eleni’s Cookies for tasty gifts) and an hour or two can easily fly by here. There is also a cute outpost of gorgeous jewelry makers Brooklyn Charm here too if you’re after a custom necklace.

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5 – Walk the High Line

When you’re done with Chelsea Market, climb the stairs around the corner to get on the High Line. What was once a disused railtrack has been turned into a pedestrian walkway with art installations along the way (East London’s finest Gilbert & George were on display there at the time). Weaving in between the apartment buildings is a cool and different way to see the west side of Manhattan.

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6 – Tour the New York Public Library

The New York Public Library is gorgeous and free to visit (rare in NYC) and is full of beautiful artworks. The ceiling of the Rose Reading Room is incredible and on our visit we saw a fascinating exhibition on the importance of children’s literature. The actual original Winnie the Pooh and friends were there! I almost cried. A must see.

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7 – Walk the Brooklyn Bridge at night

Of course, walking across Brooklyn Bridge is on everyone’s list but do it at night! Get the subway across to Brooklyn, have dinner somewhere cute and then walk towards Manhattan with everything lit up.

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8 – Bar crawl in Greenwich Village

Last summer, my brother, his girlfriend and me went for (what turned into) a boozy night out in Greenwich Village. After dinner, wander from bar to bar to hear jazz and blues bands playing for tips and a two drink minimum. There are the big clubs like the Blue Note but these are a lot pricier. Plus the down-at-heel bar we went to was entirely decorated with shrines to Obama and Christmas lights, and who doesn’t love that?

9 – Avoid regular chain stores

I don’t really get why people travel to the other side of a major ocean to go to shops that exist in England. Also, I’m gonna throw this out there, NYC is nowhere near as good for shopping as London as the Americans just don’t really get the concept of high street (and the Brits are the best at it). My only go-to store in New York (other than certain vintage/thrift shops) is anyone of the numerous Sephora shops there which are the best for makeup and nail varnish – including brands you don’t get in England – and the service is really good. And the amazing Fifth Avenue Christmas windows (above) are always worth seeing.

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10 – Take it easy in Bryant Park

I love Bryant Park. In the summer you can lounge around in the sun while in the winter time there is a gorgeous Christmas tree and a lovely market. You can even play ping pong there. What’s not to love? Also, the public toilets there are incredible! I’m talking classic music, fresh flowers, marble….I never thought I would rave about a public loo but it’s rather impressive.

Photos by myself or Al. Greenwich bar shot from Rachel.

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Daytrip to Liverpool

Liverpool is a great city for a sneaky weekend away and while it might be more famous for pop and perms (as well as the frightening development of The Scouse Brow ) it also has some really cool galleries that are well worth a peek.

The Open Eye Gallery is the only gallery dedicated to photography in the north west and is split over two floors. Small but perfectly formed, there are some interesting exhibitions coming up there including the works of late, great Liverpool photographer Tim Hetherington of soldiers in Afghanistan.

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Outside the Museum of Liverpool (which is a lovely modern building and has some fascinating exhibitions on the slave trade) are these gorgeous little fellas – Super Lambanas!

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As well as being cute and cheery, they tell the tale of Liverpool’s history as the first international city – importing bananas from the Caribbean and exporting wool from Lancashire.  I think they are gorgeous.

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Just around the corner at the famous docks is Tate Liverpool, which means I have finally been to all the Tates (Liverpool, St Ives, Britain, Modern) yay! Like all the Tates, it is beautifully designed and is full of treats. LOVE these floating frames in the middle of the room.

imageThe exhibitions are organised as “constellations” with certain pieces, say by Man Ray or Jackson Pollock, acting as “trigger” pieces to set off a constellation of inspiration and more beautiful works. Very clever, very cool.

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It’s not all culture though. We did some classic Liverpool tricks too by watching Everton not score a goal, having shots in my fav northern cheapy chain Baa Bar and we even saw Brookie heart throb Tinhead on the train home. Amazing scenes!

 

A little trip to…Biarritz, France

A lot has been going on in Night Bus towers at the mo, with a ton of work but an awful lot of playing out too. One of the fun things and something I have to tell you all about is our recent little jolly to Biarritz in the south of France. You may remember me saying how I needed sunshine, wine and rest. Well…

biarritz surfers

We got two of the three, which as Meatloaf says, ain’t bad. In fact, the weather was so grim when we arrived that the pilot had to do two attempts at landing the plane! It was kinda terrifying and I’m a pretty sturdy girl when I comes to stuff like that. Anyway, the weather did improve a bit as time went by.

biarritz coast

Biarritz is a great little city (and it is little) for a mini break, and you can fly there regularly from London. Everything is in walking distance, the people are so kind and welcoming (even when your French is appalling) and the food is fantastic.

Here is Al with some of the gorgeous Basque tapas we shared as a starter in Bar Jean, a great little spot in our adopted neighbourhood. The Basque region covers both France and Spain and you basically get the best of both national cuisines.

Bar Jean

And of course, being right on the Atlantic means a ton of amazing seafood. Here is Al again with our platter of oysters we had at La Cabane A Huitres. Wowsa to both food and Basque wine. And the staff here are so cool and friendly – this part of town has a really great, youthful vibe. GO VISIT.

biarritz oysters

As it was rainy, we saw some seafood outside of the plate context at the super fun Musee de la Mer aquarium. Maybe some people would see that as more “school trip” than “romantic break” but hey! We like to learn stuff on holiday! Plus, the jellyfish are hauntingly pretty.

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We stayed in an Air BnB studio (“Biarritz in the Basque Country”) which was lovely and bright with everything two people need for a mini break. I got quite attached to my little seat next to the Juliette balcony which was over the most delicious smelling bakery.

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Our last night was pretty spectacular. We climbed a little fence to sit on our own little rocky bit of the coast line and watch the sunset. A great end to a great break, and one I’d totally recommend for a few days outside of London.

Biarritz sunset

All photographs from my Instagram feed @rachaelgormley

Au Revoir, we’re off to Biarritz

My final exam is done and dusted and we are off to Biarritz for a few days of great wine, great food and relaxation. I’ll be sure to let you know what the best bits of the city are when I get back.

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I’m also really excited about the pastries. So glad that I did a hardcore Bikram yoga regime in the run up to this trip so I can undo all my good work with cheese and butter. NOMS.

Queen of the Night Bus xxxx

The joy of holiday planning

We have finally booked our mini break and are off to Biarritz at the end of May for four days of wine, baguettes and lounging on the beach. We’ve found a great place on Air bnb which looks perfect – and the reviews mention its proximity to a great wine bar and bakery. Sold! It’s just what I need after my exams/dissertation and before the final, hectic months of my midwifery degree.

Photo from www.biarritz.fr

Photograph from http://www.biarritz.fr

I love planning trips – from finding out about great bars and restaurants to attempting to learn some of the lingo (my GCSE French is a bit rusty). At work the other day, I was talking to a lovely lady at the clinic about her “babymoon” (I was distracting her while I  was taking blood! I’m a sneaky vampire)

Have you heard of this? It’s when you treat yourself to a little holiday before you have a baby, normally in your second trimester before you get a bit too big to fly.

What a brilliant idea. I just wish
more of the women I look after could afford to do this. My baby days are a long (looooong) way off but this is something that is definitely going to happen. Any excuse, eh?

Queen of the Night Bus xx