Thursday, 30 August 2018

My New York Diary: The Stuff I Brought Back

Shall we end the 'My New York Diary' mini-series with a little bit of showing off? I bought some lovely things while I was over in the States, things that will forever remind me of what it was like to be in New York City. So, here we go. Here are all the new additions that made it into my suitcase on the way home from America.

Let's start this list on a weird one. On the first night that we were in New York, the night that we walked out to Times Square to get our bearings and get our first glimpses of the city, a guy randomly gave us his mixtape, or rather, a signed CD. I'm guessing he's not a fan of Soundcloud, and likes to do things the old-fashioned way. As bizarre as it was to have a stranger wander up to us and just hand over a CD, it was an interesting start to the holiday. Will I ever listen to it? Who knows? My dad even asked me after we'd walked away if I still own a CD player, and luckily, I do. I'll let you guys know if it's any good if I ever feel the urge to give it a listen.

And now, the more serious stuff. The National September 11th Museum was probably the experience that will stay with me the longest, and it was the place where I felt most inclined to pick up some souvenirs that will hopefully stay with me and retain those memories for years to come. The first is this notebook with the slogan 'Love is stronger than hate' printed across the front, which immediately grabbed my attention, and not only because I'm a sucker for notebooks. It's heavy and dense, something that feels like it will last a long time, plus it's as bold and powerful as the message that it's conveying. I'm so happy that this is now a part of my notebook collection, so that among all the silly slogans and bright colours, there is something a little more sobering and important.

I'm not usually the kind of person who opts for wristbands when it comes to souvenirs, but this blue one pictured below was too good to turn down. 'United by hope' was a slogan that struck me as both a positive and melancholy message, and the fact that three words could instantly make me feel so much made me fall in love with this little strip of rubber. I wore the band every day of the holiday as a comfortable little reminder that there is still hope in the world, and that, as terrible as things can seem at times, all is not yet lost. The white band is one that we got for free with our purchases in the gift shop. It's a little simpler than the blue one, and I haven't actually worn it yet. I'm sure I will one day, but until then, the blue one is my favourite.

But it wasn't only profound, meaningful memorabilia that I picked up across the pond. Some of the things that came back with me only made their way into my bag because I'm a total hoarder. For example, the wash bag that I was given when we got onto our Heathrow-to-JFK flight and settled down in Business Class. This cute little pouch contained plenty of things that would come in handy on a plane and not many places besides. I'm sure I'll find a use for the earplugs and grey socks and the tiny toothpaste one day, but until then, these are just a nice reminder of our great flight at the start of our holiday. 

And what sort of holidaymaker would I be if I didn't take the complimentary soaps from the hotel room? As with the British Airways wash bag, I'm not sure if/when I'll ever use these, but I'm sure there'll come a time. They smell lovely, so maybe that will encourage me to use them at some point!

Here, we get into the stuff that I'm most excited about. On Day 4 in New York, I managed to pick up a Fenty Beauty lipstick in Sephora. It was a hasty decision as to which Mattemoiselle lippy I was going to pick up since they were all GORGEOUS and we were short on time, but since I'm going through a bit of a nude lipstick phase at the moment, I went for the warm-toned nude shade 'S1ngle'. And I'm in love. The colour, the finish, the packaging...everything is so beautiful. As you can tell by the second photo below, I've worn it a couple of times since we've been home, and I'm in love with how effortlessly it glides on and how well it wears. The colour is also a perfect match for me, showing up on my pale complexion as a slightly darker nude, making me feel very 90s. Definitely worth it!

But as hyped as I am about my new Fenty lipstick, the purchase that I'm most excited about is, of course, the one I made in the Tiffany store on Fifth Avenue. As I've mentioned before, I wasn't set on buying anything from there until we actually got inside. The store was so beautiful that there was no way that I was going to leave empty-handed, and I didn't. I left with a little blue box inside a little blue bag.

The earrings that I picked up are very simple, very elegant, and made of sterling silver. I asked at first if they had anything in the shape of an ampersand (the name 'Tiffany & Co.' obviously features one, and they feature heavily in the store decor), but they didn't. They did, however, have these ones in the shape of the infinity symbol. I remember reading once about how an ampersand 'represents a broken infinity' but also means that there is always an 'and', always something else still to come. It was that resemblance between the two that clinched the deal for me, and I ended up with this gorgeous pair of earrings that I have worn pretty much every day since I got home from our holiday.

I should of course note that these earrings were paid for with the money that my grandparents had given me as a graduation present. They had given me some cash in the hopes that I would buy myself something special in New York, and I hope that I delivered on my part. I'm so grateful that I had the chance to buy a special something from one of the most famous stores in one of the most famous cities in the world. 

And with that, the New York posts are over! Took me long enough to get them all out, but hopefully they've been worth it! It was the holiday of a lifetime, and even though we were only there for four days, those four days are packed full of amazing memories and will stay with me for years and years to come. I've thoroughly enjoyed documenting them all on here, and I'm sure that looking back through these posts in the future will help me to remember the fantastic time I had. 

Friday, 24 August 2018

My New York Diary: Day 4

Day 4: Coming Home

We had reached the last day of our holiday, but we were not ready to give up on New York just yet. It was the only day that we set out with a destination in mind for breakfast: Pershing Square, a restaurant under the Park Avenue Viaduct a few blocks from our hotel. My parents had been there for breakfast on their previous New York visit, and they tell me that, when they had caught their first glimpse of it, there had been a sign outside proclaiming that they served 'the best breakfast in New York'. There was no such sign there this time (had they been dethroned?) but we went in all the same. And I am so glad that we did. While we decided what to order, we saw other meals being taken out to customers at neighbouring tables, and every single serving looked ENORMOUS. I decided on brioche French toast with maple syrup and bacon, and a pot of warming cinnamon tea.

Look at the size of that serving! Plus it was probably the crispiest smokey bacon I have ever had, and I doubt I'll ever eat bacon the same way again. I feel like my most vivid memories of New York are all food-related. I'm pretty sure that that's not a good thing.

After breakfast, it was time to head back to the hotel and pack our bags. We spent the last hour or so combing every inch of the room, making sure we left nothing behind, as well as taking our last photos of the view beyond the window. I would miss that view, but I would be lying if I said I would miss the height. Knowing that we were so high off the ground had been making me dizzy, and my brain was tricking me into thinking that the building was blowing in the wind, so even when I was lying down in bed, I felt like I was on a boat. I'm 99% sure that it was all in my head, but still.

Once we had checked out of our rooms and left our bags in luggage storage, we set out to do a spot of shopping, another aspect of the New York trip that I had been looking forward to. We walked up Fifth Avenue until we reached Tiffany & Co. just before it opened at midday, and we waited outside alongside many other eager shoppers until the doors opened.

Although I had been curious to see the Tiffany store and simply to walk around, I couldn't have imagined how beautiful it would actually be. I hadn't even planned on spending my money on expensive jewellery since a cheap pair of earrings from New Look will satisfy me just fine. However, once we were inside and browsing the contents of the glass cases, I knew that I couldn't leave empty-handed. If you are a jewellery fanatic who is on holiday in New York and has some extra cash to spend, it seems only natural to get yourself something timeless from the iconic store. As tempted as I was by the adorable Tiffany x Steiff teddy bears (way out of my price range, but something that I would have bought in an instant if I had had the funds) and the Tiffany-blue pen, I ended up getting a pair of earrings, which I will show off proudly in my next (and probably final) New York post, in which I will just talk about my final thoughts and my lovely souvenirs. I can safely say that they are among the most elegant and beautiful earrings that I own, and I've worn them almost every day since I've been home.

We spent most of the day browsing the shops on Fifth Avenue, although our time was limited since we had spent so much of it in Tiffany & Co. No regrets. The only other store that I was dead-set on visiting was Sephora, a store that we don't have here in the UK and which also stocks Fenty Beauty. After months of having the brand hyped up on social media, I was desperate to try out the products in person, so I spent the ten minutes that I had in Sephora swatching every Fenty lipstick that caught my eye. They were so beautiful that there was no way I was going to leave empty-handed, so I shelled out $18 on a new lippy. As with the earrings, I'll show it off in my next post, but rest assured that it's stunning.

After a quick dive into a pharmacy to pick up anti-sickness tablets (I was getting nervous about the flight home and felt like I needed some stronger meds) and a hasty trip to Shake Shack, we made our way back to the hotel for the last time to change into comfy clothes for the long haul flight. To our surprise, we had the same driver waiting to take us to the airport that we had had when we first arrived in New York, and he asked us about our trip. He was amazed that we had walked everywhere and had not at any point taken the subway or rode in a taxi. Gave me a weird sense of pride, if I'm honest.

Our journey through the airport was relatively quick, and we had some time to browse the disappointingly small (if I'm honest!) selection of duty-free shops before spending some time in the much lovelier airport lounge. I was hungry enough to load up on carbs before the flight, but I also caught myself stressing about a seven-hour journey to Heathrow.

Eventually, we made it onto the plane. We took our seats in Premium Economy (comfy chairs with more legroom than in Economy - result!) and settled in for the overnight flight. Dinner consisted of tomato and mozzarella, chicken and herbs, and a square of chocolate cake - very tasty but not quite as photogenic as the meals in Business Class, hence the lack of photos. The flight itself was actually very comfortable, especially since the cabin was dark and quiet to allow everybody to get some sleep. I may not actually have slept, but then again, I hardly ever sleep on any mode of transport.

We arrived back into the UK at about 8am on Monday local time, and this is where things start to take a turn for the worse for me. Tired and dehydrated, I went into a panic before the plane bound for Aberdeen took off from Heathrow. I was suddenly very aware that I was trapped in a metal tube that was about to take to the sky, and I was so afraid that I was going to wet myself or throw up or something equally embarrassing that a member of the cabin crew (her name was Kate and she was a godsend) took me to the back of the plane, gave me a bottle of water, and comforted me. We were on the tarmac for ages before we took off because of other planes taking flight, so my fears that I was holding up our plane were thankfully all in my mind. The flight was actually fine once we were in the air, but I was still plagued by memories of all my dizzy spells in New York, as well as how tense I had been on the previous flights when going through turbulence, times when I had tensed my whole body so hard that my muscles had been aching by the time I left the plane. Since we've been home, I've been to see both a doctor (for ongoing symptoms of labyrinthitis) and my hypnotherapist (for the anxiety that is getting in the way of me enjoying myself) and things have calmed down. Hopefully the next time I go on a plane or a train or a boat, I'll be able to keep myself calm and collected.

Anyway, we were back in Aberdeen by early afternoon, and from there it was a half-hour drive (shoutout to my dad for still having any energy left in him to drive) to our house. The afternoon dragged as we all tried to stay awake. We all watched Night at the Museum for the first time in years just for the hell of it, seeing if we recognised any aspects of the American Museum of Natural History. The holiday suddenly felt like it hadn't actually happened at all, like we had all just been watching movies set in New York for the last four days. It felt like I had just hallucinated the whole experience, despite the fact that photos of the city were clogging up my phone. All holidays seem to end with this doubt. Did it actually happen? Was it all just some amazing dream?

However, the souvenirs that I brought back from the States confirm for me that the holiday was definitely real. But I'll save all that showing off for my next (and final) New York post.

Monday, 20 August 2018

My New York Diary: Day 3

Day 3: Museums & More

We woke up on Saturday to the sound of thunder. My brother sat in front of the window, trying to snap photos of the lightning flashes with my Lumix. It was quite an experience; being so high off the ground made it feel like the thunder was right beside us. A bit too close for comfort. I just managed to convince myself that Thor was visiting New York, and that made things a little more exciting.

More rain was forecast for the rest of the day, although it was still going to be warm. A thin anorak was a must, especially since we were going to be walking a fair distance once again. Our first destination was the Metropolitan Museum of Art, one of the landmarks that I had been most looking forward to seeing, not because I know a great deal about art, but just because there's something so calming and inspiring about art museums. And what better one to visit than one of the biggest and most famous on the planet?

It was already busy when we arrived, but thanks to our incredibly handy City Passes, we got inside without having to wait too long. The place was huge, so huge that you could probably get lost without a map. At least, I'd probably end up getting lost. We wasted no time heading up to the modern art wing, and proceeding to check out the weird and wonderful works. I'd had no real preference about which wings of the museum I'd most like to see (we were short on time, so had to pick and choose what we wanted to look at), but modern art was one section that I was very keen to see, and for good reason.

One of my favourite pieces in the museum - 'Spectrum V' by Ellsworth Kelly

My brother had been keen to see the Egyptian art, so we headed there after a quick bite to eat in the coffee shop. It was every bit as stunning as the modern art, but in an entirely different way. I'm gutted that we didn't have time to see everything and that we had to walk briskly through the museum instead of taking everything in and appreciating every piece of art, and I don't remember a lot about our visit. I just remember that the museum was laid out beautifully, the massive rooms all colour-coordinated, with each room flowing seamlessly into the next. I wish I had spent a full day exploring, and I also wish that I had been able to spend as much time as I wanted in the gift shop, browsing the art books and souvenirs. One book in particular that I regret not picking up was a little yellow one entitled How Art Can Make You Happy. It would have been worth getting it just for the aesthetic.

After a brisk walk to the other side of Central Park, we arrived at the American Museum of Natural History, which had a much longer line for entry than the Met. However, we eventually made it in, and first up was exploring the Hall of Planet Earth (volcanoes, earthquakes, associated things that terrify me despite the fact that they make our planet the badass planet that it is) before deciding to start at the fourth floor and work our way down. Dinosaur exhibits met us on the top floor, and although we didn't have time to stop and read any of the information since it was now mid-afternoon and we had so many other things to see, we were amazed at the sheer terror-inducing size of every skeleton that we saw. I think I'll regret not picking up a Jurassic Park T-shirt in the Dino Store until the day I die. If there were ever a place to buy one, it would have been there.

My brother and I loved Night at the Museum when we were younger, and memories of the film followed us around as we explored. We ended up watching it the night we got home. Am I a little disappointed that the T-Rex didn't come to life and chase us through the hallways? Just a little. But the main attraction at the museum, at least for my brother, was the Easter Island head that resided in the Hall of Pacific Peoples, the one that appears in Night at the Museum that demands nothing but gum. If that doesn't ring a bell, the name 'Dum-Dum' might. And of course I know that there is far more history and nuance to these heads than I can include here, but the funny moments from the film are just what people my age think of now when they see one of these statues. There was a line for photos, but he finally got the photo he wanted of him standing next to the giant stone face. His New York visit was pretty much complete.

If I ever return to New York, I will put aside a full day to spend in the American Museum of Natural History. The immense volume of artefacts, statues and just things that they have in there is staggering. There is something there from every corner of the world, thousands of objects that tell thousands of stories. Everything from the birth of our universe onwards is covered, and I feel guilty having rushed the whole experience. But at least we were there, and I'm extremely grateful for that.

It was a long walk from the museum down to Times Square, but we wanted to visit the Brooklyn Diner at some point since my parents had enjoyed their meal there during their previous New York visit. It was where they had tried something called 'strawberry blonde cheesecake', and they insisted that I would enjoy it even though I loathe cheesecake, so I was keen to try it. First up was a Brooklyn Burger, and of all the burgers I tried in New York, I remember this being my favourite. For dessert, the four of us shared a slice of strawberry blonde cheesecake and a slice of something called 'chocolate blackout cake', which was the biggest slice of cake I have ever seen in my life. I'm not even joking. This thing could have been used as a weapon. As for the strawberry blonde cheesecake, I was amazed to find that even someone as dedicated to hating cheesecake as myself couldn't find any fault with this treat: light, creamy, and made with tasty sponge instead of the disgustingly soggy biscuit crumbs that make cheesecake my least favourite food. In short, the Brooklyn Diner was a win.

But the day wasn't over yet. We still had a ticket to take us to the Top of the Rock Observation Deck that evening, so we headed over to the Rockefeller Centre as night fell. By the time we were at the top of the building, clouds had descended over the city, and everything below had lit up. We had 100% made the right decision by turning up at night instead of during the day.

These photos don't show what it's truly like to see New York illuminated at night. Antennae on top of the buildings were fading through all the colours of the rainbow, and the clouds above were glowing purple and orange from the lights below. Everything was suddenly so much more dramatic, and as impressive as the views were in the daylight from the top of the Empire State Building, it was just as impressive to be in the middle of it all after the sun had gone down. We spent about twenty minutes at the top, taking in the views from the upper and lower decks, but just before we caught the lift back down to the bottom, we walked through a room with illuminated walls that flashed in different patterns when triggered by movement. My brother and I saw a photo op, so took a few Boomerangs and several snaps of the different colours.

That brought our final evening in New York to a close. When we got back to the hotel, I found myself appreciating every aspect of the room that much more: the spectacular view, the beautiful bathroom, the comfy bed. I was going to miss that room. I was going to miss the loud, obnoxious adverts on the American channels on the TV. I was going to miss the vanity lights around the bathroom mirror. I would just have to pile as many tiny complimentary soaps as possible into my bag, and hope that, if I ever used them, I would remember what it was like to stay in a hotel in New York City.
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