Brighton: Babes, Boys and Birthdays

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This weekend, I went away to Brighton for my friends birthday. Josh is now the grand old age of 24 and we celebrated in style, with wine on the beach, trips to The Lanes and some of the best falafel I have ever had.

I had only ever been to Brighton in the rain before. It’s such an ‘English thing’ to be so dependent on the weather, but the sun really did make such a difference to our trip. I had never even seen The Lanes before this weekend, only the back – ends of the shopping centre and the beach when I was around ten, and got frustrated with the stones not making the perfect castle with my bucket and spade.

If like me and Josh, you are a fan of vintage clothing and one – off finds (that my parents often mistake for ‘garbage’), then you will love Snoopers Paradise in the centre of the North Laines, ideal for finding old magazines, furniture and clothing. Brighton Flea Market is also good – located down Upper Saint Jame’s street, nearby to trendy jazz bars, cafes and a short walk away from the pier.

Our weekend went far too quickly and I know that there is far more of Brighton I want to see/ sea (!) – this sunny weather has certainly given me a new – found love for the city, and I can’t wait to hop back on the train and flock there again. This time though, I will bring my sun cream. All that sitting on the beach did nothing for my Albino – esque complexion.

Dreaming of the Big Apple

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When I left New York, I had powerful, vivid dreams that made me sleep so deep and still feel tired when I woke up from 12 hour ‘naps’. At first, I put it down to jet lag, but this lasted for six months. I later realised it was homesickness. It is silly really, to even think that you could be homesick from being somewhere for such a short amount of time. But it was the truth. I don’t believe in looking back at the past, but this was something that proved far more difficult than any other transition in my life. I put it down to the power of the city.

I’m not sure if I believe in the cliche of magic, but there is certainly some kind of spell that is cast over New York. One day, I hope to go back and stay. Stay for longer than the three months I was allowed, but the immigration laws will need to change before that happens.

I had always wanted to move to New York, and a younger, more naive me believed it would be as simple as buying a plane ticket with some savings, and going off ski. At the time of deciding to go, I was in a difficult place in my life. I had graduated and previously worked abroad for a year, and was in two minds whether to go back and travel some more, or get a stable job and build a life with a savings fund for a house in the city, similar to the rest of my friends. After trying the latter, and most probably applying far too optimistically for roles such as ‘Editor’ and ‘Director’, I  decided that even when realising what level I was really at, I was just not experienced enough to compete with the celebrity offspring, who still are – in my opinion, getting all of the good roles.

Knowing that it wasn’t possible to get a working visa in the States in my own situation, I looked at other ways in which I could go there for a long period of time on a budget, with the aim of finding writing work out there and building a more solid portfolio – something you will be pleased to know, I did! This resulted in me making plans to move to a boat. That’s right, a boat.

Living on a boat sounded anything but ideal, but it would cost nothing to live on. I had found it on one of those sites, where you can get free accommodation if you work for free, and for New York, it was the only and far better option of the two – the other helping out a magician in Times Square dressed as a clown everyday – not at all sketchy…

It was only when a few other facts came to light about the reality of living on the boat for three months that I stopped in my excited tracks and resorted in going back to the drawing board. As well as smaller things, like the location being very far out, I found out, two days before going, that I would be sharing my room with eight others. Eight. I am all for adventure, but this put another dimension to the expression ‘cabin fever’.

In between answering the phone at a temp job which was funding some of my trip, I frantically searched the world wide web for an affordable room, something far more difficult that I had ever imagined. When I did find a room, in my price range and available during the time of my stay, I felt like singing hallelujah sister liberty. Instead, I panicked – because it was in Harlem. So I told my parents I was moving to the Upper West Side, and prayed it was better than the papers made it out to be.

 

(Taken from my travel blog – The Grass is Greener).

Ultimate New York Nostalgia

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It has been a year since I first left the UK to go to New York, packing a tiny suitcase with me with five outfits, one bag, three pairs of shoes and a whole lotta dollar (well, not quite). My expectations of the city were very different to the reality. It was hard living there – especially in the humid heat. I stood out for the better and the worse with my posh British accent, got far too annoyed with tourists and found myself becoming far more direct and brash ‘New Yorker style’ towards the end of my stay (it didn’t last long – don’t worry).

I wrote a post about leaving last August and I wanted to re – post it to share. It defines my trip and my opinion and my experience of the city.

I’ve been waking up early a lot these last few days. The heat is so humid that I often wonder if I have been kidnapped, waking up in the wilderness of the jungle. Sometimes I think I really have. It’s just more concrete and less wilderness. There are similarities though. Looking around, there are beasts everywhere, both figuratively and literally. Rats, mice, humans – the most animalistic of them all. There is a fight for survival, the weak don’t stand a chance. Pushing your way around the subway crowds without smiling is a good method.

Unlike the real jungle, it is fairly easy to get out of here. There is nothing forcing you to stay, in fact most will say please go – there’s one less person to compete with in finding a place to stay, a subway seat, a table at a $20 bottomless brunch.

Yet there is something so beautifully gritty about this city. So repulsive but compelling, so crowded yet so peaceful. People come here from all over the world to settle. Seek refuge.

Why? Because it accepts everyone and everything. It might swallow you up some days, but it will spit you back out and allow you to see it’s unconventional beauty with a fresh eye. On these days, the days I hate New York and then suddenly see it again in new eyes, I realise how sad I will be when I have to leave.

A Bella Trip to Bologna

I recently went to Bologna, Italy to go and visit my friend Vittoria. If you are a regular reader of my blog, you will know Vittoria from my chaotic and wonderful adventures in New York. I met her while we were both living there last summer and we bonded instantly over our clumsy, unlucky everyday life – even the day we met we were waiting at different Starbucks’ the opposite sides of Harlem.

Bologna is beautiful and I had a wonderful time. It is famous for Bolognese don’t you know. I love the laid back European lifestyle that Britain seems to have missed out on. Drinking wine at lunchtime with a cigarette while watching the world go by, going for aperitif and eating a small plate of fresh Italian food (so dreamy) – despite the fact it is all you eat are just some of the things I love about the culture. And don’t even get me started on the coffee. Or the pasta. Or the Bolognese sauce.

Take me back!

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The Definition of ‘Home’

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Pictured is me, age five in my favourite Spice Girls t – shirt in my restaurant/ house/ cafe/ den in the back garden. Excuse my facial expression, I think I was caught mid – sneeze.

My parents home is currently up for sale and they are relocating to the countryside. I get asked a lot how I feel about that. Don’t I feel sad? Surely I must – those bricks and water that sheltered me from the age of three to now (on and off) will be taken over by a new family.

The answer is no. Not really. To me, it isn’t really ‘home’ anymore. However, it does mean that I will have to find somewhere permanent to live myself. No more ‘going back home’ for months at a time to the safety blanket of my childhood bedroom.

This got me thinking of all my other ‘homes’ that I have had in the last five years – where I have gone off to with the confidence of knowing that if I happen to boomerang back to Surrey, I will have somewhere to stay.

I have had seven bedrooms in the past five years. Three in Cardiff, one in Aarhus, Denmark, one in France, two in New York and the bedroom at my parents house. I find if funny how easily I settle somewhere new, and how hard it is when I have to leave. The familiar is never permanent in life, and this is something I learnt as soon as I moved out of university halls. Your bedroom, daily routine, corner shop, neighbours – all everyday fixtures in your life, are things that suddenly change. I feel a small part of my soul is still in every one of the bedrooms I have stayed in, the ‘me’ then being slightly different to the ‘me now – simply because I have a new routine, a new ‘local’ and a very different view from my bedroom window. Mountains in France, sky scrapers in New York, hills in Denmark and  residential rubbish – trodden streets in Cardiff were once background scenes in my day – to – day life. Now I think about them in the past tense.

With my parents impending departure from the ‘familiar’ family home, I am spending every spare second looking at rooms to move to. As a freelance writer, I have the flexibility to move around the world – anywhere with a plug and a Wi-Fi code. Sometimes I think about moving back to one of my old homes. But I’m scared that going back will ruin the memories I have. People make places, not concrete and bricks.

And so the quest continues to find a place to settle where I will feel asa ‘at home ‘as I have done in the other bedrooms I have had so far in my life. How so very, very grown up.

New York: So Much Love And So Many Feels

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I’ve been waking up early a lot these last few days. The heat is so humid that I often wonder if I have been kidnapped, waking up in the wilderness of the jungle. Sometimes I think I really have. It’s just more concrete and less wilderness. There are similarities though. Looking around, there are beasts everywhere, both figuratively and literally. Rats, mice, humans – the most animalistic of them all. There is a fight for survival, the weak don’t stand a chance. Pushing your way around the subway crowds without smiling is a good method.

Unlike the real jungle, it is fairly easy to get out of here. There is nothing forcing you to stay, in fact most will say please go – there’s one less person to compete with in finding a place to stay, a subway seat, a table at a $20 bottomless brunch.

Yet there is something so beautifully gritty about this city. So repulsive but compelling, so crowded yet so peaceful. People come here from all over the world to settle. Seek refuge.

Why? Because it accepts everyone and everything. It might swallow you up some days, but it will spit you back out and allow you to see it’s unconventional beauty with a fresh eye. On these days, the days I hate New York and then suddenly see it again in new eyes, I realise how sad I will be when I have to leave.

New York Diary: Taxi Rides, Dollar Pizza And The Most Epic Adventure To Date

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As I am writing this I am still replaying the events from last night over and over in my head, as I used to do on my cassette player when the sound track ‘Wannabe’ came on play. Oh, The Spice Girls.

The Spice Girls, Harry Potter and the Queen are all people many many Americans assume I am friends with, or at least associated with. When I proudly told a group of people at a party last night that I had an audition for Harry Potter, it was shut down with “yea right”. However, said girls friend then went on to ask me if I knew Harry Potter. “Here we go again” I said.

It can be flattering at first when people are interested in your country and ask you to say a sentence in your “wonderful British accent” over and over again, but in week 7 of being here, it has become rather draining.

Forgive me for dithering and not getting to the point. It was just one of those nights where so much happened, it all sort of then blends together and cooks up a storm. There wasn’t a literal storm, although it did rain at 5am when I finally got home.

So to the story. Me and my friend Vittoria went out to a bar in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, Welcome to the Johnson’s. Yelp had given it good reviews, I had seen some of the cool NY kids whom I Instagram stalk had been there and all in all looked a fun, cheap venue.

As soon as we arrived, we were greeted by a long, heavy rocker, Jesus look a like who insisted on following us while we stood in the bathroom line and told us that we ‘looked like interesting people’. From someone who had hair longer than Rapunzel, I guess it was quite a compliment..

We sat down, tried to ignore him but he was still hovering over us at our table, insisting on telling us fun facts about himself. When he asked me where I was from and I told him London, he went on to say that ‘London was rubbish’. I then asked him if he had ever been to England, to which his reply was ‘no’. You get the drift, he was an odd ball. What then surprised me even more, is that out of nowhere he decided to lean in and try and kiss me. Horrified that this Jesus maniac turned Judas was in such near proximity to my face, I pushed him away and told him to leave. That mega bitch defensive side of me comes out far too often here, but on this occasion, I didn’t feel even slightly bad. Creep.

We then went on to meet some normal guys from California, who were staying here for a few nights. When they left, we wished we had got their numbers as they seemed normal – a rarity here for sure. We left and went on a mission to find another bar that didn’t close by 12am and hopped on the Subway, avoided (and ran like girls) past a stray rat and finally ended up walking back to where we were before, this time to a club called Pianos. The chances were slim, but blow me down, the two Californian guys were in the bar.

We had a fun time until one of them became too forward and told me he wanted to kiss me (am I just English, or is that just weird) which then made me scuttle off to his friend, who got out crystals and told me and Vittoria to feel the energy and heel ourselves with them.

You think that was weird enough? It gets stranger.

Next, I meet a guy who asks if me and Vittoria want a shot. I managed to upgrade this kind offer to a gin, each and for a good three minutes I sipped it in peace. Vittoria then comes brushing past me and my gin, the glass and the lemon on top all fell to the ground in a dramatic fashion. This attracted the attention of a new potential friend, who told us his friend was having a party in Harlem and that we should go. Why not, we thought.

A 40 minute taxi ride, greasy pizza and taxi driver chit chat later, we were Harlem bound. The after party turned out to be a real bore. His friends were rude, obnoxious and even told me they didn’t like British people. Because I want to end this post by telling you the climatic, dumb quote of the night, I will just point out in the end we left and got back safely (this is mainly if my parents or grandparents ever read this).

So back to the house and the bad conversation. After declaring their hatred for British people, one of the girls then asked Vittoria where she was from. “Italy”, she replied. The girl then asks “where is Italy, is it in England”?

I died. Oh dear girl, I would understand if it were a smaller country that maybe has no ties to the USA. Riga for instance. Fair enough if you haven’t heard of it. But in New York, you have Little Italy, ITALIAN dollar pizza joints on every corner, and a huge Italian community. So to ask if it was in England, is just a little bit awkward.

I don’t mind too much though, I wish England did have its own Little Italy too.

New York Diary: Brunch, A Grand Reunion And Typical Bad Luck

11742656_10206636486738503_2660771760828166799_n Cheers Christine for the great weekend. We said cheers a lot at the bottomless brunch we sat at for a rather long time, mainly because I was taking advantage of the deal. The cultural barriers between us are always so fascinating that we say we have a language barrier. You wouldn’t believe that we both speak English as a first (and only) language. Like or comment on this post if you too would try and have as many free alcoholic drinks with your brunch after paying $30. While Christine had 2 to get her moneys worth (the were around $11 each), I had 6. I feel in the end, the staff started to put less and less champagne in my Mimosa, until it became simply orange juice. Either way, at least I got a good vitamin fix. 11752051_10206636485418470_3756382804636141528_n Christine, pictured above posing in Central Park arrived the same evening I spotted the mouse run across my kitchen sink. It was as if it was a warning sign of more unlucky adventures to come. On a side note, me and Christine are both notoriously unlucky and whenever we meet up we seem to give each other that extra boost of bad luck powder. So I didn’t even flinch when she messaged me to say her plane was delayed, nor when she said her shuttle bus from the airport was going to be delayed too. When we finally met at midnight, we headed straight to the bar where they said they were closing in half an hour. Of course. However, we still managed to squeeze in two beers, a huge catch up and then walked along to Times Square to take some of those typical cheesy but fun touristic photos outside the billboards that you just seem to do when you have a visitor or visit the city. Horray horray.11059964_10206636486898507_198658714555356118_n Christine, being Canadian is super nice to everyone she meets. The cleaner came in to the apartment early Saturday morning and said good morning when Christine said hi to her. When I said hi, she grunted and turned around. She also didn’t say bye to me, answer me when I asked her if she had a nice week, nor did she clean my room. I think she really hates me, and I should be slightly worried. In the evening, we were supposed to be going out to a bar where I had arranged for some of my friends to meet us. Christine was too ill from the sun and walking around the city to come out and when I arrived, I found out that one of my friends wasn’t going to be making it either. It was a disaster and I wish I had just stayed in with the mice and practiced my bonding skills/ not jumping up and screaming every time I see something move across the floor. Ahh, life in New York. Sometimes it defeats you, but it gave us a great story and platform for fun. I hope you haven’t been scared for life Christine, New York is a gentle giant really! Ps. Despite the bad luck, it was still the best of weekends!

The Pros And Cons Of Living In New York

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The common statement I get from friends and family back home is this – “Omg, I’m so jealous/ you’re so lucky that you are in New York”. If ever I complain about it for even a second, it is shut down with “but it’s New York”. This perceived notion of the city by all (some who have never been) is one of such enthusiasm that I felt inspired to make a list of not only the good, but the bad aspects of living here. You see, once you’ve gotten over Times Square and seen the statue, you start to notice it’s not all bright city lights and big apples.

These are all my own observations and I am in no way generalizing or stereotyping the entire city. If you are sensitive, you should probably stop reading around now.

Incase I sound like an ungrateful, spoilt British girl, I will begin with the pros.

GOOD

  • There is every type of cuisine, at any time of day. Pizza for breakfast, Bagels at 4am? Go for it, nobody will judge.
  • There is always something to see. I was naive and thought I would be able to explore every district and neighbourhood in the first two months. I am coming up to month number two and I still haven’t even been to Queens.
  • You can feel like you have travelled to another city just by hopping forward or backwards a few stops on the Subway.
  • Bodegas.
  • Coffee.
  • $1 pizza (when you know where is good, avoid the bad places you will get ill)
  • Brooklyn Bridge Park
  • Red Hook – so far out, yet so very very cool
  • Getting lost and looking up and seeing The Empire State building in the distance
  • The triumph of navigating your way through the city and finding your desired destination first time around (or maybe that is just me)
  • The free events that happen daily
  • The artistic cafes in LES make you feel like you have witnessed a free art exhibition

And now for the cons, the bad that they don’t show you on the New York tourism sites

BAD

  • The rats on the subways, especially at night
  • The ants, mosquitos and bed bugs that end up on the subway, in your room and basically stalk you around
  • The obnoxious hipsters in Williamsburg
  • The obnoxious jazz singers who have their own CD and therefore think they are God
  • The price of a shot is normally $6
  • None of the deodorants smell nice, so much so that I have debated not wearing it on several occasions
  • You can’t drink on the streets
  • You can’t buy alcohol in a normal shop
  • ^ This means it is expensive when you do go to a Liquor store
  • ^^ Ps. I am not an alcoholic, just British
  • The subway might be 24 hours, but you might have to wait an hour to change trains
  • American guys in clubs really don’t know how to act smooth around girls and don’t understand the word “go away”
  • The crowds in Midtown make you want to fly off to a desert island forever
  • Not many people understand sarcasm

New York Diary: 4th Of July Fireworks, Island Hopping And Flea Markets

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I apologise for the lack of blog posts this last week. My friend came to visit for a long but fast period of time and now voila we are in July. How does that happen?

I have added the photographs  first so they can do the talking. I had such a great week exploring New York for the first time all over again. My friend was so good at finding new places and doesn’t have the talent of getting lost like I do, so I got to see far more of the city in a much shorter time spam (it normally takes me a good two hours to navigate my way to the desired destination) – it was telling he went to Scouts as a child, if only the nineties was as gender neutral as it is now, then maybe my Brownies would have taught me how to read a map rather than how to bake a Victoria sponge.

We celebrated 4th of July on top of my new rooftop (well not mine alone, but still). A lot of the people from the building came and hung out up there so I got to know some of my neighbours, such an uncool NY thing to do, but hey it was 4th of July and everyone was wearing red, white and blue. Why not break the mold. We got to see the Macy’s fireworks minus the crowds and had a jolly good time.

We explored many of the side streets of my area and discovered a great flea market by the pier, a mier twenty minute walk away. Click on the link if you are a bit of a hipster and want to check out some vintage clobber. I have to admit, my favourite thing was the mac and cheese at the food stall, as the clothes are very over priced, but it’s great for photographs.

Talking of photographs and fast forwarding to today, I have to tell you all about a ridiculous farcical thanks to Instagram, Hipsters and a cafe – Two Hands, down Mott Street. After my friend found it on Instagram, we decided to check it out on account of it’s cheap coffee and cute looking straws. Little did I realise that the whole of New York’s excited hipsters would also want to do the same. Angela if you are reading this, don’t worry, we are definitely still not hipsters, just hip!

There was not only a waiting list of an hour to even have a seat in this tiny little venue, but the people waiting were enough to put me off adding my name to Joe’s list and finding a far less pretentious one. We did just that. But let me not forget to tell you about one particular girl in the queue.

“Let me tell you about my name, it’s like so funny. You see, like, I actually have four names (side note, so do I, but who really cares), and they are all like the names of alcohol, which I think is just so so funny. Stella, Suze, Jack Glenn”.

Revolutionary, not.

I am so glad we found a nicer, cooler cafe that actually had wi-fi. That was the other thing, despite being NY famous from Instagram, Two Hands didn’t even have wi-fi. Pft.