Thursday, 19 February 2015

Planning: New York

In April this year my boyfriend and I are visiting New York. I have been a few times before but he never has, so the holiday is going to be that mix of the sightseeing bits you have to do on your first trip, and the more relaxed things you can do when you've seen it all before. This will surprise nobody, but I have been planning planning planning pretty much since we booked it, and here is what I have so far...

One of my favourite hotels in the world is the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs. They have a few hotels across the US (plus one in Shoreditch, London) including one in New York, and so it really was a no-brainer as to where we would stay. Luckily enough, the hotel is in a great location - Midtown - so we won't have to factor in loads of travel time to wherever we want to go just so I can stay there!

One of the reasons I wanted to go to New York this year is because of the upcoming Bjork exhibition at the MOMA, so this will be a definite must-visit when we get there. In addition to this, currently on the list are visits to the New York Transit Museum (boy's choice) and the Museum of Mathematics as it is a 5-minute walk from our hotel.

So, as I said, I have visited NY a few times and have seen a lot of the sights already. This is my list for the things I really think a first-timer has to make time to do.
* Ground Zero
* Top of the Rock at the Rockefeller Centre (hoping to do this at dusk)
* Central Park
* Brooklyn Bridge (will schedule in walking across it when we have a Brooklyn day)
* Times Square (at night, as this is when it is at its most spectacle-esque)

Current choices on the list are:
* Egg
* Brennan & Carr

Other Stuff
It will be my birthday while we are there and we have booked tickets to the Brooklyn Nets vs Chicago Bulls Basketball game at the Barclays Centre. I'm still not 100% on what I want to do the rest of my birthday but I think maybe spending the day at the beach if the weather's up to it, so maybe a trip down to Coney Island? Something new since I last visited is the High Line so we're definitely going to do that and then there are a few bars I've been eyeing up but I think it's probably best to keep that open and see what we fancy while we're there. We're definitely going to spend some time in Williamsburg, and then I'm quite intrigued by the Brooklyn Night Bazaar.

Any must-dos I've missed off the list?

Monday, 16 February 2015

12 in 12 in 2015

Project 12 Months

Aim: 12 trips in 12 months. And not running out of money by August...

February: A Guide To: Rome
June: FAIL!!! 
July: Slovenia - BOOKED!
August: Camping in Walmer - BOOKED!
September: Whitstable - BOOKED!
October: TBC
November: Tenerife TBC
December: Bath TBC

Update July 13th:
Can't believe I failed in June! I had a few up-in-the-air plans and was considering a last-minute weekend away - work was far too busy to contemplate taking many days off - but then it all fell apart at the last minute when I had a boring work disaster to deal with. I did some other fun things in June though, such as visiting Field Day, and I'm not going to let it deter me continuing with the project for the rest of the year.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

A Guide to... Rome

Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill
You can buy a ticket that grants you entry to both the Colosseum and the Roman Forum (plus Palatine Hill) for €12 per person. The best way to get your ticket without having to spend too much time queueing is to buy your entry pass from outside the Roman Forum - the queues here are much smaller than at the Colosseum, and when we got there at around 9.30am we were only waiting for about five minutes. Once at the Colosseum, if you are after an audio or visual guide you have to queue again, but this is a much (much) shorter queue than if you were buying your tickets then and there. The audio tour we did cost €5.50, but we found it a bit lacking in information and wasn't all that clear. Also when we went, two of the 6 audio-tour points were closed off and there is currently no replacement audio so these two sections were a bit redundant. Probably worth doing for the cost, but maybe do a bit of reading-up on it first.

Circus Maximus
En route to the Colosseum, and open to the public to walk through. Has a running track around the edge if you are that way inclined!

Vatican Museum, St Peter's Basilica, Sistine Chapel
Everyone who visits Rome will tell you that the queues for the Vatican Museum are ridiculous. Well, they were being kind. The museum opens at 9am and when we got there at that time the queue was already enormous, so goodness knows what time the people at the front had arrived. Luckily, we had planned ahead and booked our tickets and tour in advance - there are a few options but we pumped for the 3-hour one that took in the museums, Sistine Chapel and St Peter's Basilica, at a cost of €37 per person. Our tour guide was spectacular - she knew her stuff and made the whole thing so much more interesting and engaging than I could have ever imagined. She gave us a detailed overview of the paintings to look out for in the Sistine Chapel so when we got in there we knew what we were looking at (no loud conversations and no photos allowed at this point) and it made the whole experience so much better. At the end of the tour we climbed up to the top of the dome of St Peter's Basilica (which has some very questionable steps) and the view of Rome from their was breathtaking. I highly, highly, recommend this tour, and even if this one doesn't take your fancy then you really must look online and book something in advance. 

Free. Can get very busy - we wandered past a few times and there didn't seem to be a quiet time. They request silence as it is a sacred building, although the large crowds mean that this isn't often adhered to. The bar directly opposite does a good bottle of house red wine if you fancy a drink with a view, although I wouldn't bother stopping for the food. Instead, walk about five minutes and eat at Maccheroni instead.

Trevi Fountain
Beware: this is currently under renovation and covered in scaffolding. Google suggests that this will be the case until Autumn 2015, but as there is no clear date it suggests this could be an ongoing process. You can still walk over the top of the fountain so you can get the scale of the structure, but this is currently not a trip highlight.

Spanish Steps
Currently has scaffolding and a large Fiat advert at the top so slightly underwhelming. Is worth it to sit on the steps and take in the surroundings, plus there's a very nice coffee bar nearby.

Piazza del Popolo
Rome is awash with various piazza's, but Piazza del Popolo was our favourite. Large, relaxed and with a beautiful fountain, this would make a great pit-stop.

Piazza Navona
Probably our second favourite piazza. Another good one to have a wander around in, before stopping for food and great service at Cantina e Cucina.

Stadio Olimpico
Rome's largest and main sports stadium, this is primarily used for football but also hosts rugby games. It is a bit of a walk out of town but if you're going to an event there the atmosphere will drag you along.

Altare della Patria / Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
A beautiful building, particularly when the sun is shining. There are two guards watching over the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which makes for a moving memorial.

Santa Maria in Trastevere
A beautiful church in the equally beautiful Trastevere. The square outside hosts a number of bars and cafes, and this is a great spot to stop and have a drink and people-watch, before heading to dinner at Ivo a Trastevere for a pretty incredible pizza.

We flew to Rome from Luton on Monarch.
We flew back from Rome to Stansted on Ryanair.
We stayed in Trastevere, in an AirBnB apartment.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Planning a Low-Key Valentines Day

My boyfriend and I aren't particularly ones for big romantic gestures, but since he moved in a couple of weeks ago we've been conscious of not falling into that trap of never having date nights, not spending time chatting over dinner, and becoming more like housemates than anything else. So this year we're trying to find a good mid-point, and are going to stay in but do something special.


Usually when we have people round I do the cooking, but it seems a shame to have only one of us do it (even if it does mean I may have to help with the washing up afterwards). However, I am a bit of a control freak when it comes to food, so we have decided that I will cook the main and he can cook a starter and dessert.

I was reading with interest last week on both Buzzfeed and the NY Times about the 36 questions supposedly designed to make you fall in love with someone. VD seems like the sort of occasion when you should talk about important things rather than moaning about your work colleagues, so I've google-drived them here and figure I can cut them out and then we can take turns to pull them out and question the other.


We've already said that we don't need to get presents for each other, however I have loved the idea of a Date Night Jar for a while and seeing as we're trying to not fall into that easy trap of not really planning anything together anymore, this VD seems like the perfect occasion to introduce this. I've already ordered my giant lollipop sticks and jam jar, and am excited to start writing ideas on the sticks when they arrive. The idea is that you put a date night idea on each stick, and then when you're at a loose end for ideas you pull one from the jar and do whatever it tells you. You could do this for any occasion really, I think the Recipe Jar idea would be quite a good one. Anyway, for our one I've decided to split the sticks into two categories - daytime dates and evening dates - and will colour the tops so it's easy to pull out the correct one. Some of these ideas are a bit lame and I might change them, but at the moment I think I'm going to go with...

Daytime Dates

* Lunch set-menu deal at a Michelin Restaurant
* Boxset Day
* Bowling
* Geocaching and Pub Day
* Geocaching and Tea Room Day
* Make pizza from scratch
* Double Cinema Day
* Steam Train Ride
* Crazy Golf [this one will probably require a trip to the seaside]
* Hush Heath Winery Tour

Evening Dates

* Film and Takeaway
* Dinner and a Movie
* Bowling
* Drinks at Topolski [we had our first date here]
* Wine and Cheese Night
* Prince Charles Cinema Date
* One Aldwych Film + Fizz Night
* Mamma Mia Dinner [fave local restaurant]
* Mishkins Dinner [fave London restaurant]
* Everyman Cinema Date

I'll let you know how this is all received...!