The blog

British mummy blogger and travel blogger

Sunshine in Madison Square

One of the things I love about photography is how even the slightest change in light can have a huge… [more]

Sunshine in Madison Square Sunshine in Madison Square

My totally gorgeous, probably impractical new pink coat

Yesterday I did something a bit rash. Something not very 'me'. I bought a gorgeous new pink coat. PINK.… [more]

My totally gorgeous, probably impractical new pink coat My totally gorgeous, probably impractical new pink coat

Win goodies from Macy’s New York

So as you know when I was in the Big Apple the week before last I was treated to a guided tour of Macy's… [more]

Win goodies from Macy’s New York Win goodies from Macy's New York

Addicted to Breaking Bad

Spoiler alert: There are no spoilers in this post. My eyes are red, I've hardly slept and I'm being… [more]

Addicted to Breaking Bad Addicted to Breaking Bad

2 days in New York

So last week I spent two nights and 2 days in New York, one of my favourite cities in the world. I've… [more]

2 days in New York 2 days in New York

Britain’s Best Beach

It doesn’t matter how much I travel, I still think that we have one of the best coastlines in the world – so it’s no surprise to me that Woolacombe Beach in North Devon, with its long stretches of sand and craggy landscape has been voted Britain’s Best Beach. In fact, it’s also been named as the fourth best beach in Europe, beating off the likes of Turkey, Spain and Greece by Trip Advisor.

woolacombe Bay North DevonPart of Woolacombe’s charm is that it’s a traditional British seaside resort, and it’s incredibly beautiful – it’s on the North Devon Coast of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The beach is three miles long, gently sloping and faces the Atlantic Ocean. Plus you have all that rock-pooling, so it’s ideal for exploring with smaller kids, plus it’s safe for swimming and surfing – in fact a lot of people holiday there because of the surfing (if you’re looking for somewhere to stay it’s worth checking out the affordable accommodation at Woolacombe Bay.) In winter Woolacombe is fairly quiet but in summer it really comes to life, and one of the biggest attractions in the centre of the village is a pirate themed crazy golf course. I don’t know about you but as a family we never miss an opportunity for a round of crazy golf.

One of the reasons surfers love Woolacombe is because of the Atlantic waves, which mean the swell is large and clean, plus you have those dramatic cliffs and landscape which adds to the thrill of it all. Move over California.

Woolacombe BeachThere are also sloping sand dunes which you can climb on, and a lot of the surrounding countryside is owned and cared for by the National Trust; across from the beach there are stunning panoramic views of Lundy Island.

And if you want to really impress the kids, you can tell them that during the Second World War, the US Army Assault Training Centre was based at Woolacombe. In fact, because the beach and the climate was considered to closely resemble the Omaha Beach landing area, this was where thousands of small boat crews and infantry practised amphibious landing assaults on the beach in preparation for the Invasion of Normandy, part of Operation Overlord. There is actually a moving memorial to the soldiers on the grassy headland at the northern end of the beach.

And Woolacombe is the perfect base for exploring North Devon, which offers a range of fabulous eating out options – everything from cosy pubs to fine dining restaurants – and cultural experiences (with of course the wild beauty of Exmoor right on your doorstep). There are family attractions ranging from an aquarium to a Dinosaur Park, theme parks with rides and slides and of coruse farm attractions. There’s even an aquarium.
Exmoor itself is perfect for walking or mountain biking, and it’s also where you’ll find Dulverton, which was the setting for part of that classic novel Lorna Doone. In fact North Devon has inspired lots of literature – including Tarka the Otter. Barnstaple, North Devon’s oldest and largest town sits at the centre of the Tarka Trail, a 180 mile path with 32 miles of off road cycleway.

In fact whatever your interests, Woolacombe is definitely a great destination for a family holiday, and you don’t even have to get on a plane to reach it.

 

 

Holidays to Portugal

It was the sardines that did it for me. The freshest we’d ever had, marinated in olive oil and herbs, cooked on an open fire and served hot, with crusty bread and plenty of sparkling wine to go with them. And the best thing was they kept on coming, while the music played and everyone danced and drank the night away. Since then I’ve tried lots of sardines, all over the world – but nothing compares to the taste of the ones we had on our holiday to Portugal’s Costa Verde. That moment, right there, is when I knew I’d fallen in love with Portugal.

That’s the thing about holidays to Portugal, and one of the reasons I think that it’s such a popular destination for the British. It’s not just the beaches with sand like demerara sugar, the vivid blue of the water, breathtaking scenery and golf courses; it’s also the cuisine and culture, which is incredibly seductive.

AlgarveMy first experience of a holiday to Portugal (and first taste of Vinho Verde) was to the island of Madeira, with its glorious gardens, fantastic hotels and exquisite scenery. Since then we’ve holidayed in the stunning Costa Verde and Oporto, where you can taste exquisite Port made from grapes grown in the Douro valley; and of course the Algarve, with its fantatic golf and beaches, which is quite simply one of the most relaxing destinations I’ve ever been to. There’s a wonderful laidback, welcoming atmosphere. If you’re thinking about going there this year then it’s definitely worth checking out Saga Travel‘s selection of hotels, escorted tours and package holidays to Portugal. And one of the best things about visiting Portugal is that even though it’s so popular, it feels unspoiled. Wherever you go you’ll experience authentic traditions and customs, like the fado music which beats through the heart of the country.

Ah, just thinking about going to Portugal is making me wish I had a Pastéis de Nata right now – that delicious Portuguese version of the egg custard tart – to have with my coffee. I tried making them once and they were disastrous; guess I’ll just have to go back to Portugal to have some more of the real thing.

Sunshine in Madison Square

One of the things I love about photography is how even the slightest change in light can have a huge impact on an image, particularly when you’re photographing an incredibly recognisable building or landmark that’s been photographed a zillion times before.

Met Life Tower New York

 

 

 

 

 

 

I took these photos around Madison Square in New York last month, at lunchtime; after quite a grey start the sky suddenly brightened and the sun shone, so that the buildings and spikiness of the leafless trees appeared almost silhouetted against the cornflower blue (this is the Met Life building, which was completed in 1909.).

Flatiron building New York

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I particularly love the way the light hits the Flatiron Building, which is considered an icon of architectural design and engineering; it was built in 1902.

SoHo New York

 

 

And this photo was taken the following day, in SoHo; I was experimenting, trying to capture something that might be worth getting enlarged and putting in a frame. Not sure I quite achieved it but I do like this photo, the sun behind the apartment blocks and the shadows on the sidewalk; it feels quintessentially New York.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*This is my entry to The Gallery – the theme this week is ‘light’.

Why a holiday in Turkey is perfect for families

Olu DenizWe first fell in love with Turkey on a holiday to Olu Deniz, with its enchanting, properly blue lagoon. That sparkling azure sea, white sand, the feta cheese pastries, baklava and the fabulous Turkish people proved to be an irresistible combination. Since then we’ve been back many times, including to Kusadasi, for the spectacular ruins at Ephesus, and of course Istanbul, which is probably one of the most captivating cities in the world.

I think that what makes a holiday in Turkey such a winner for family breaks (apart from its obvious charms, not least the glorious sunshine and stunning beaches) is that it’s superb value for money; you can eat out really cheaply (and the food is gorgeous – all that meze and fresh fruit and fish). I also love that when you go bargain hunting at the bazaars they always give you copious amounts of apple tea – elma çay; we still have boxes of it in our kitchen cupboards. Plus if you’re into water sports this is the place to do it – all that unspoilt coastline and sea life. In fact, I learned to both snorkel and scuba dive in Turkey, and take it from me, nothing beats the thrill of being in an underwater world with all those tropical fish and ancient ruins. We also had a lot of meals al fresco, either in villages or by the harbour at Fethiye; absolutely magical. And of course the shopping is superb.

If you’re thinking about taking a family holiday to Turkey for the first time then my advice would definitely be to book with a company that really knows the region, because that way you’ll get to experience the very best the area has to offer, while benefitting from local knowledge. I’d still recommend heading for the glittering Turquoise Coast and Olu Deniz, or the Antalya area which is also stunning (and has dramatic waterfalls as well as golf courses if you’re holidaying without kids), but do make time to go on a few excursions so you get to experience Turkish culture and see some of its sights. And of course, a Turkish bath is an absolute must ;)

My top 10 family things to do in New York

In one of the episodes of the final season of Friends, when Monica and Chandler announce they’re moving out of New York because they don’t want to raise kids in the city, Rachel is genuinely surprised. ‘Ross and I are doing it,’ she says. ‘Sarah Jessica Parker is doing it.’

This has always resonated with me, and 10 years later New York is still one of the most family-friendly cities in the world; in fact it’s probably one of the only cities I would have considered raising a family apart from London (the other being Sydney). Add in the fact that it’s now cleaner and safer than ever and you definitely have the ideal destination for a family city break. Here are my top 10 family things to do in New York:

Gapstow Bridge1. Hang out at Central Park. Whatever time of year you visit, Central Park is a constant source of free fun and total delight for families, with acres of green space and trees, and the added bonus of superb views of the city. In the winter there’s the ice-rink, in the spring and summer there’s always something going on, free concerts and entertainment, plus the carousel. There’s even an utterly charming Swedish Marionette Theatre. On a warm day (and New York can get fiercely hot in summer), grab some hot dogs (remember most hot dogs will be beef not pork) from one of the vans outside the gates and enjoy them strolling around. Take some time to stand on Gapstow Bridge and watch the world go by, or go boating on the lake. Magical – and fantastic people watching for grown-ups as well. Just watch out for the squirrels. Take it from me. Central Park squirrels have no fear.

Empire State building2. Go up the Empire State Building. It’s the No 1 tourist attraction in New York for a reason, and kids will definitely get a kick out of the ride up in the lift and that birds’ eye view of the city. Not so great if you’re afraid of heights. No 1 Son had to help me walk round the observation deck when we went up there; it’s scary high.

3. Visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Galleries with giant works of art are fantastic for kids, encouraging their own creativity, and what’s wonderful about MoMA, apart from all the art by the likes of Van Gogh, Picasso, Warhol and Lichtenstein is that it has lots of hand-on workshops and art labs (plus children under 16 get in free). This is one of our favourite galleries in the world.

4. Take the Circle Line boat tour. On a sunny day this is a brilliant way to get a feel for the city, to see the skyline and the Statue of Liberty, and older kids in particular will be fascinated by Ellis Island. An absolute must-do.

5. Marvel at the displays at The Intrepid Air and Space Museum. With a fantastic location right on the Hudson river, not only will you get the chance to explore a real aircraft carrier, which is pretty thrilling, but you’ll also see aircraft including a Concorde.

6. Check out the American Museum of Natural History. If you took the kids to see Night at the Museum 3 this is guaranteed to be a big hit, with dinosaurs galore as well as various earth and science exhibits. A good one for a rainy day.

Times Square7. See the lights at Times Square. The beauty of Times Square is if you have jet-lagged kids, you don’t have to go at night because the lights are on pretty much all the time; and they’re soooo pretty (I took this photo at 9am). Plus with a New York Police Department office right on the doorstep, the chance of seeing real New York cops, their cars and horses is pretty much guaranteed.

Disney's Aladdin musical8. Take them to a Broadway show. OK, this requires a little more planning and Broadway tickets aren’t cheap. But the production values are superb, and with spectacular shows like Disney’s Aladdin to choose from it’s guaranteed to be something you’ll all always remember.

9. Visit the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Plaza. Admittedly very much a seasonal thing, but a must-do in the winter months: even if you don’t fancy skating you can look at the ice-rink and get that warm glowy New York Christmassy feeling. It’s enchanting.

The Big Piano10. Shop at FAO Schwarz. This is where Tom Hanks did the famous ‘dancing on the piano keys’ in Big (on what’s known as the Big Piano), and it’s packed with toys of every description. No 1 Son and I have always preferred it to Hamley’s, as it’s much more spacious and well laid out, and the displays are really imaginative. My top tip is to give your offspring a set amount to spend and let them make their own decision about what to buy. It will encourage them to get creative, teach them about maths and stop all the ‘please can I have that?’ requests.

So, those are my top 10 family things to do in New York – if you’ve been to the Big Apple (or if you live there) please do feel free to add your own :)

Free family half term day out at Novotel

If you asked your kids who their superhero is, what do you think they’d say? Iron Man? Doctor Who? Well, according to a new survey by Novotel, while the likes of Spiderman, Superman and Batman are all popular with our kids, more than a third of children actually think their mum or dad are superheroes.

Isn’t that fab? I don’t have any particular special powers although I did encourage No 1 Son to always tell the truth when he was younger by a) pretending I had X-Ray vision and b) that I had a hotline to Santa and the ‘Naughty List’ *cough*; but I love the idea that children think their parents are superheroes. Because if you think about it, we are; we make sure they’re always cuddled and fed, do our best to protect them from harm, we read them stories and ferry them from this club to that club, and we’re always, always there for them in their hour of need. Plus I think encouraging your child to see you as a superhero is a much more positive way of encouraging them to tell the truth, rather than making threats. As long as you actually ‘fess up when they’re older, of course, otherwise it could get awkward.

NovotelHeroesAnyway, to celebrate all the superhero mums and dads around the country Novotel are holding a free ‘Super Heroes Day’ across their 33 hotels in the UK on Saturday 21 February and they invited me to tell you about it. Parents who are looking for a fun and free half term day out with their kids (ages 5-11) can enjoy activities ranging from learning to how to save the planet, discovering which food types give them their energy for their super powers and finding out where their crafty imaginations take them. It promises to be a really fab free day out, but spaces are limited so if you want to book or visit more go to novotelheroes.

Time to get into that telephone box and put my pants on over my leggings ;)

 

How to start a blog

Pink notebookI’ve written so many features on How to start a blog for magazines and websites I kind of forgot that I hadn’t actually written a post about it on The Mum Blog. Doh. And I know it’s easy when you’ve been blogging a while to take it for granted that everyone knows how to start a blog. But it’s something I get asked by friends and colleagues ALL THE TIME and it takes a while to explain on email or whatever. So I thought I’d create this post of my top 10 tips for starting a blog, which I hope are easy to understand. Do feel free to add any of your own. (These tips are not by any means meant to be exhaustive, they’re just meant to be nice and simple, but if you have any queries do please feel free to post them below).

Top 10 tips on How to start a blog

1. Think of your blog name and what you want to blog about. For many bloggers this is one of the most exciting stages in the creative process – so many possibilities for your little corner of the internet (and then you can move on to the look and feel, which is really cool). My top tip here would be to think about longevity – a blog called ‘Stinkypoos’ might seem like a FABULOUS name for a parenting blog when you have very small children, for example, but will it really work when your kids are at secondary school? Similarly a blog called ‘My travels round India’ might seem like a fantastic name for a travel blog, but what if you go somewhere else and want to blog about that destination, too? Changing blog names just confuses everyone. So, from the name point of view at least, my advice would be to think it through, think long term. Of course your blog will evolve and develop, so think of a name that might work for any kind of content you want to post. And definitely have a google before you decide on your name – it can be a bit disheartening to find there’s already a blog with the *genius* name you wanted to use up and running and established; or worse, that it leads to something slightly less desirable *cough*.

2. Choose your platform (this is what you use to publish your blog). Setting up a blog on a free platform like wordpress.com or blogger.com is a very simple and pain-free process, and it’s actually a great way to teach yourself about using a basic CMS (Content Management System) if you don’t already use one for work. The platform I use for The Mum Blog is wordpress.org (not .com), because it gives me the freedom to host ads if I want to, but the slight disadvantage here is that you do need it professionally hosted and, unless you know lots about coding, you’ll probably need someone to set it up for you. This costs money; I viewed it as an investment and made it back within the first six months of setting up the blog, but I’d already been blogging for a year when I launched this blog. If you go with a free platform to begin with you can always migrate to wordpress.org later on. But whatever you decide to do…

3. …register your domain name (the name and url of your blog, with the full web address) with 123-reg or similar. Even if you don’t want to pay for a professionally hosted blog at this stage, by having your blog name and url registered – it’s really quick and inexpensive to do – in a few different formats (e.g .com, .org) you’ll reduce the chances of anyone else coming up with the same name, registering it and stealing your limelight when you are ready to migrate. If someone has already registered the domain you wanted, choose a different one. Simple.

4. Tweet. Set up a twitter account if you don’t have one already – or if you prefer, a twitter account for your blog. Whatever you choose, if you’re going to run a blog in 2015 and you want people to read it, you’ve got to be on twitter. I can’t stress the importance of this enough. 50% of the traffic to The Mum Blog comes via twitter. If you’re blogging, and you want people to read your blog (not just friends and family) you need to tweet. It’s that simple. Once your blog is established, a Facebook page for the blog is a really good idea, too, particularly if you want to keep your blog a bit separate from your personal Facebook.

5. Make sure you give your blog posts a proper url. It amazes me when friends post blog posts in blogger and they use the url it gives them automatically – usually a load of numbers and letters. Who is going to find that on google? No one. Give your posts proper urls if you want people to read them, unless you’re really only blogging for yourself. By the way, if you’re using a free platform you’ll still be able to customise the design and add your own header.

6. Don’t add a PR and reviews policy at this stage. If I click on a brand new blog and I see they have a ‘PR and reviews policy’ it really turns me off, because I automatically think they are blogging to get free stuff rather than because they have something to say or something I want to read. Great blogs are about great content, and when you’re in the first six months or so of starting a blog your focus really needs to be on creating that content, building up an audience, interacting with other bloggers and so on. If you’re only blogging to generate freebies, it will be immediately transparent to anyone reading your blog, and they’ll switch off.  There’s a reason why so many blogs fail in the first six months; manage your expectations, and blog because you want to write – not because you want freebies. Always write in your own voice, not a voice you *think* you should be writing in (and while imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, most bloggers won’t take terribly kindly to anyone trying to rip off their blog). Authenticity is key, content is king. (Have a read of my post on How to be a successful blogger here).

7. Join blogging organisations and Facebook groups. There are so many of these around, for every possible type of blog, you’re bound to find one that suits you. The support you’ll get will be invaluable, and you’ll also discover lots of really helpful info and tips. Plus make friends (many of whom you may get to meet in real life.)

8. Try to blog at least once or twice a week. Easier said than done if you’ve got a busy home and work life, of course, but try to set aside one or two hours a week at least to blog. Don’t blog for the sake of it, though – blog because you have something to say. And if you do want people to find your blog (and I think we know that you do), submit it to google.

9.  Be cautious. When you first start blogging and you want people to read your blog it can be very tempting to want to be super friendly with everyone. But without wishing to scare you, not everyone is what they appear to be in the blogosphere; my top tip here would be to wait until you’ve met someone in real life before deciding to friend them on Facebook. (You may like to read my post on making friends in the blogosphere here).

10. Have FUN. Blogging is HUGE fun, it’s a way to express yourself creatively and it can lead to some spectacular rewards (including making some wonderful friends, new career opportunities and so on). But try not to take it *too* seriously when you’re first starting out. Just enjoy it.

So, those are my top 10 tips on how to start a blog – there are lots of excellent blogs around offering tips on getting started, so do have a google and see what else you can find; or you may like to read the excellent Blogging The Essential Guide co-authored by well-known blogger Erica Douglas. And if you already have a blog, what tips on how to start a blog would you add?

Win goodies from Macy’s New York

So as you know when I was in the Big Apple the week before last I was treated to a guided tour of Macy’s New York. My guide, John, has worked at Macy’s for 17 years so knows absolutely everything there is to know about this iconic store, and he gave me the fascinating history as well as some insight into all the thought that goes into improving the shopping experience.

The Macy’s chain of stores was founded by Rowland Hussey Macy in 1843 (the red star in the Macy’s logo was the same as the one he had tattooed on his hand when he worked on a ship). The flagship store at Herald Square at 34th Street and Broadway – the one I was visiting – opened in 1902, and the celebrated movie Miracle on 34th Street takes place after the famous Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. In addition to the Thanksgiving Parade in November they also have an annual flower show every March when the store is filled with floral displays (John showed me photos on his phone and it looks stunning), and 4th of July fireworks, and Macy’s New York is officially the 2nd most visited attraction in the Big Apple, after the Empire State Building.

Chanel at Macy's New YorkAfter a multi-million dollar makeover to enhance the customer experience it’s looking fabulous (I particularly loved the cosmetics hall – this is the Chanel concession, which is just down the stairs from the visitor’s centre). Until 2009 Macy’s was actually the biggest department store in the world, and it’s still very big, so I’d probably allow at least a few hours to explore it properly, and make the most of the 10% discount voucher you get from the visitor’s centre if you’re an international shopper.

Macy's prizeAnyway John gave me some lovely gifts – a Macy’s New York tote bag, umbrella and gorgeous red notebook – and I’ve decided to share the love by giving you the chance to win them in my Macy’s New York prize draw. To enter, simply leave your answer to the question below by the closing date, 11.59pm on February 8 2015. The usual The Mum Blog competition rules apply and the winner will be chosen at random using a random number generator.

Q: Who founded Macy’s New York?

Good luck!

A brilliant and easy way to carry cash abroad

One of the things about travelling a lot is that I often have to change between currencies several times a month. I also don’t really like carrying lots of cash with me. Let’s face it, traveller’s cheques were a complete pain but at least they were a safe and easy way to carry cash abroad.

So when I read about the Ukash Travel Money Card I was intrigued. I applied (no credit check or anything like that, you just have to load up £50 online which is very easy to do) and my card arrived 10 days later. You then just add as many funds as you need – you can add them in Dollars or Euros, but you can also take money out in the UK if you need to. I was pleased to discover the exchange rate seemed very favourable, too. All you have to do is look for ATMs and places that accept Mastercard.

Macy's New York shoe floorThe real road test, though, came when I was in New York last week. I first tried the card at JFK and was relieved to discover I could check my balance, no problem, and the money I’d loaded before I’d left the UK was all there. The following morning I was up bright and early thanks to my transatlantic insomnia and a craving for breakfast, and I headed out to a bank (open 24 hours, can you believe?) close to our hotel. I put the card in, put my number in, the machine asked how much I wanted to withdraw and then I had my crisp dollar bills. Easy peasy.

Peanuts chocolate heartsI then decided to try and use the card at Macy’s (where they actually have an ENTIRE FLOOR FOR SHOES), followed by a small drugstore where I bought some rather cute Snoopy/Peanuts chocolate hearts for No 1 Son. The card worked perfectly – exactly like using a debit card or credit card at home, and the best thing was that I wasn’t having to carry cash, so it all felt really safe.

The only *slight* negative is that it’s not advised to use the card when you check into a hotel in the US and they ask for your credit card in case of ‘incidentals’. (This is really common practice in the US unfortunately, and some hotels actually take a deposit from your credit card which they then hold for as long as 30 days). Obviously if they tried to take a deposit from your travel money card this would then leave you short for the rest of your trip, so it’s best to take another credit/debit card for when you’re checking in to your hotel.

But apart from that, I was really impressed with how simple it was to use the Ukash travel money card, and another bonus is there are no transaction fees and you can manage it all online. I’m definitely going to use it again when I have to go to Amsterdam in March.

2 days in New York

early morning New YorkSo last week I spent two nights and 2 days in New York, one of my favourite cities in the world. I’ve visited New York many times before – in fact, New York was the first US city I ever visited with my parents and sister, sparking a lifelong love of America. But it had been a few years since I was there last.

This time I was there for work – the unveiling of Carnival’s new ship, Carnival Vista, and perhaps the only advantage to suffering from transatlantic insomnia in the city that never sleeps is that you wake up really early (like, 4am early) which means you’re up and out and sightseeing before the working day has really started, so as it had been a while since I’d been in New York I took full advantage of our 2 days in New York. January in New York

7th AvenueWe were staying right in the Fashion District on 7th Avenue…

New York bagelAnd on our first morning I braved the cold and snow and had breakfast (deliciously fresh toasted bagel with bacon egg and cheese) at the charming Gigi Cafe where they asked me where I was from and told me how much I liked my accent; I sat in the window, watching the world go by, before making my way up 7th…

Madison Square Garden…past Madison Square Garden…

Times Square 2015…and on to Times Square, where the neon lights were all on…

NYPD(You can see the NYPD ‘office’ in this photo – there was a strong police presence all over the city…)

Macy's New York

 

 

 

 

 

..and then I walked along Broadway to the shops, which were just starting to open, including Macy’s, which recently underwent a makeover (and where international visitors get 10% off…)

KitchenAid mixers Macy'sI couldn’t resist taking a photo of these beautiful KitchenAid mixers, I don’t think I’ve seen colours like these in the UK, LOVE. One day *sigh*.

The Melt Shop New YorkOne of my favourite foodie things about the US is the grilled cheese sandwich. It sounds like such a simple thing, but the way Americans make their grilled cheese sandwiches (and what distinguishes them from the humble British cheese toastie) is that they either griddle them or fry them. I know, I know, probably terribly unhealthy but they absolutely melt in your mouth. So I was delighted to discover The Melt Shop, which specialises in grilled cheese…

grilled cheese from The Melt Shop

 

 

 

 

 

…it was absolutely delicious, proper comfort food (I currently have a New York baby belly #notevensorry). We so need one of these in London…

Madison Square Park

 

 

 

 

 

…and it was close to stunning Madison Square Park (it was cold but sunny the whole time we were there, and the sky was incredibly blue) – I love this shot of the Empire State building and the park…

Flatiron building New York…it’s also where you can see the famous Flatiron building…

New York Life Building

 

 

…and the gold-topped New York Life building…

Met Life Tower

 

 

 

…and the very cool Met Life Tower.

Central Park West

 

 

 

The press conference was at Jazz at Lincoln Center, right by Central Park West, with great views of Manhattan…

New York selfie

 

…and afterwards, even though it was FREEZING, I couldn’t resist doing a New York selfie. Standard.

Hedwig and the Angry InchThat night we went to see a play on Broadway – Hedwig and the Angry Inch, which was probably one of the most confusing plays I’ve ever seen in my life. Everyone in our group was completely bemused; maybe it’s because we’re British, because everyone else in the audience (who were American) were going absolutely mad for it. Basically it’s the story of a German transsexual who ends up in a band. And then ends up as a man in a loincloth. All the time singing in the style of David Bowie and Lou Reed. No, me either.

New York cops on horsebackAfterwards when we were waiting for a cab back to the hotel I spotted four cops on horseback, and couldn’t resist taking their photos (I love that one is on his mobile phone). New York cop on horseback

New York skyline at night

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then it was up to the bar at the top of our hotel for drinks – this was the view. Isn’t it beautiful? Love love love New York.

One World Trade Center

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The following morning as we weren’t flying home until later that day we decided to take a cab to One World Trade Center.

National September 11 Memorial

 

 

 

 

 

This is also where you can see the National September 11 memorial; it’s a sobering, poignant memorial, with the names of those who lost their lives inscribed on its walls. There’s also a museum close by.

 

Afterwards, more walking: New York is an incredibly easy city to walk around and once you get the hang of the streets (it’s all on a grid, so simple) then you quickly find your way. It was sunny again and the sky was blue – I love this photo of the Empire State Building.

Empire State Buildingred velvet cupcakeAnd even though we were having lunch in an hour because my body/stomach clock was all over the place I couldn’t resist popping into Gigi Cafe for a giant red velvet cake. It was lush.

Cipriani downtown

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lunch was in Soho at Cipriani downtown, which is absolutely gorgeous…art at Cipriani downtown

Black Russian Tomato and mozzarella

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I chose mozzarella and tomato to start, which was absolutely the freshest, most delicious I’ve ever had – the tomatoes were black; I’ve eaten fried green tomatoes before but never black. I’ve since found out they were probably Black Russian tomatoes. Delicious.

gnocchi at Cipriani

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My main course was gnocchi with tomato sauce; the gnocchi was exquisite, so soft (it was handmade, not like the stuff you buy in supermarkets here)…

chocolate cake at Cipriani

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…and then the waiters did something very clever. They plonked a chocolate cake and apple tart on the table in front of us. Well of course this instantly made us all crave dessert.

Lemon meringue pie Cipriani

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I decided to go for the lemon meringue pie, which was just luscious.

Yellow taxis Times Square

 

 

 

Sadly once our lunch was over it was time to take our car back to JFK for our flights to London. My 2 days in New York had been a whirlwind visit, but the whole time we were there the atmosphere was friendly and laidback, and I felt immediately at home again; it reminded me how much I love this beautiful city, and how much I’d like to return.Empire State Building and New York

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