Wednesday, 10 September 2014

22 things I've learned by 22

1. If you love someone, tell them. Even if you think it's the scariest thing in the world, tell them. Tell your mum you love her, tell your grandma, tell your best friend. Because we all think we have forever, but the reality is that we never know what's around the corner. And what's the harm in putting a little more love in the world?

2. What's done is done. There is no do-over, there is no going back. There is no point in looking back and no point in regrets, they will swallow you up and have you forever living in the past.

3. Worrying is pointless, literally and absolutely pointless. It does no good, there is nothing positive that comes from it.

4. Wine and vodka do not go well together. They are great on their own, but together they'll make you fall asleep in the most public and embarrassing of places. Don't do it.

5. Do what you can to make work fun. If you have to pay your dues before you get your dream job, make the most of it. Theres something great about having no responsibility at a crappy job. I've had the best shifts working behind a bar getting drunk on champagne and gin with my friends, or just laughing at how stupid I look in a hair net in a fast food place. Everyone has been there, embrace it!

6. If you want a friendship to last, you need to work at it. It's really easy to drift apart and lose touch with someone you once talked to every day. If you want that person to stay in your life for the long-haul, let them know.

7. School days are the best of your life, as are uni days, graduate days, sitting-on-the-sofa-with-your-friends-doing-nothing days, family days, holidays. Every day has the potential to be a great day. You might think the good old days are something in the past, but a couple of months from now you'll probably look back and think that these days were the good ones. Every day is a good one if you look hard enough.

8. There is a reason for everything. Even if you can't see what it is yet. If you can find even a tiny positive thing in a horrible thing, focus on it.

9. Be friends with your family, they'll always have your back.

10. If you're sad, tell someone. Never be sad on your own, text your friend or ring your mum, there is always someone who wants to make you smile again.

11. Don't let anyone tell you what you can or can't do. Go after your dreams, prove the doubters wrong.

12. Show up early to the airport. Chances are, the place you're going is somewhere you really want to be and your flight has cost you a fair bit of money. Sacrifice the extra hour in bed for the sake of your blood pressure and tears. I once missed two flights in one day, I was not a pretty sight when I finally made it onto a plane.

13. Don't waste years of your life pretending to be something you're not. Be who you want to be, not what other people expect you to be.

14. Don't wear suncream that cost £1. You will burn, badly.

15. Stop every now and again to take in the view. Watch the sunset, look at your family around the dinner table, watch your friends laugh until they cry. It's the little things.

16. Sing loudly and badly. Sing in the car, sing duets with your siblings, sing while you clean, go to concerts and sing until your throat hurts, sing in the shower. Sing the power ballads and the cheesy 90's pop songs.

17. Be spontaneous. If you're sitting at home bored, call a friend - go on a bike ride, go for lunch, go drink wine in the park. Usually the things you don't plan are the things you'll remember. A random, spontaneous trip to a pet shop with my bestie turned into one of the funniest days I've had in forever and one that I'll remember for a long time.

18. Laugh. Spend time with people who make you laugh. Watch Miranda. Make fun of yourself. Send funny dog pictures to your friends. Laughing decreases stress, makes you look younger, improves sleep, improves your relationships and is a natural pain killer. LOL everyday.

19. Dance like no one's watching. Dance in the kitchen with your flatmates, dance when you hear gangsta rap blasting from people's cars in the street, dance in the club with your friends like an idiot. Don't care what people might think, if it makes you laugh then why not?! Once me and my flatmate spontaneously did the parent trap handshake/dance in the middle of a club in Piccadilly Circus and I still smile (and cringe) when I think about it.

20. Take photos. Lots of photos. Document your life, have stuff to put on your walls when you get your dream house. Download snapchat and start screenshotting. There's no better way to cheer yourself up when you're sad than looking at pictures of your best mates trying to look ugly. (Emphasis on "trying", my friends are beyond beautiful!)

21. Don't buy shoes from Primark. They will turn to mush at the first sight of rain. Once I wore a pair to work at Royal Ascot. The shoe got stuck to the floor, the sole stayed stuck and the rest of the shoe went with me. I spent the rest of the day walking around with a bobble holding my shoe together.

22. People come into our lives for a reason. If you're lucky enough to find friends who become family, hold onto them and don't let them go. Best friends are like soul mates, they don't come along very often and if they do, realise how lucky you are and keep them close.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

We are all responsible for our own happiness

Someone once said "I wish we could know we're in the good old days before we've actually left them." Some people look back on days in the past with nostalgia and think they were the happiest days of their lives, or gaze into the future and think that they'll have this perfect, happy life twenty years from now. Like happiness is something to be gained after graduating, travelling the world, getting that dream job, getting married, like when we've finally ticked everything off the list a wave of euphoria will wash over us and we'll finally be happy..right? Not really.

I think happiness is something we all have the potential to be. Our happiness can't depend on someone else. A best friend can't make us happy, or a boyfriend or a girlfriend. There's a sparkle inside everyone that draws people in to loving you in the first place, and if for some reason that sparkle goes out we can't depend on other people to get it back for us. We are responsible for our own happiness. Instead of aspiring to be happy when you reach your goals, make the goal to be happy right now. Life is basically a massive pursuit of happiness. But really we all have the potential to be happy right now.

The odds of each of us being born are 1 in 6000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000. That wasn't a typo. It is pretty much a miracle that every one of us is here. Sometimes we just need to take a minute and think about the fact that we're all miracles. We all need to stop fretting over the past or worrying about the future. We need to stop worrying what people think about us and stop regretting the things we can't change. An asteroid could hit tomorrow, we could get hit by a bus, but if we worried about those things we'd never leave the house. Forget worry and be happy. Be grateful for the people you have. Be grateful for the life you have.

Find your sparkle and be the happiest you can be right now.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

The Other Hollywood

After Washington D.C., my sister and I embarked on our Greyhound journey down to Florida. It was a 27 hour trip, but we met people along the way who made it an interesting one. One was Frankie, a Miami native who gave us the low down on his home city, as well as just about everything else. He could talk for hours, but he was a hoot and made the long bus ride fly in. We eventually got to discussing the hostel we had booked to stay at in Miami, but soon realised was had actually booked ourselves into a little beach front place in Hollywood, twenty miles north of Miami. Woops. We finally arrived in the Sunshine State on New Year's Eve, and were advised by Frankie to get off a stop early, as it would be easier to get to our hostel from there than from the Miami stop. So off we popped, waved goodbye to our bus-buddies and tried to figure out a route to our new abode. We boarded a local bus, but soon realised we had no idea where it was going, so upon spying a 7-Eleven, we got off to ask for directions. While I went inside to take advantage of the air conditioning and ask where the hell we where, my sister sat with our bags outside. I came out none-the-wiser about where we where, but found out that we'd been offered a lift by a young girl and her sister who were headed in the direction of our hostel. We threw our bags in the trunk and about fifteen minutes later we'd arrived. (We were unsure of the etiquette when hitching a ride so gave the girls $10 gas money for being so kind).

Looking back, I'm so glad we booked into the place outside of Miami. The hostel was so quaint and laid-back, I absolutely loved it. It was a stones throw away from the beach and the boardwalk, in an absolutely picture-perfect location. My sister and I met great people the very first day. Among them was Kym, a wise Australian who’d sold his house and moved into an RV in Austin, and had never been happier; Kitty, who was on her way to meet her sister for the first time, and a jazz enthusiast, Don, from Chicago. We spent the day checking out our new surroundings, and were then invited along to the Taco Shack next door that night. We all spent New Year’s Eve eating tacos, sipping on bottles of beer and talking about life under the stars at that little Mexican place. Of all the 31st of December’s I’ve experienced, that’s my favourite. Just taking it easy with new friends and toasting to the New Year.

Hollywood boardwalk
Taco Beach Shack

The rest of our time spent in Hollywood was just as relaxed and easygoing as the first night was. It was heavenly. We discovered a gorgeous huge breakfast bakery place just around the corner from the hostel, which we frequented at least three times during our stay for their delicious pancakes and waffles. We spent time relaxing at the beach, swinging in the hostel hammock, reading, taking bikerides and walks along the boardwalk, exploring the town of Hollywood, with it's little boutiquey shops, chilling out on the communal sofas and watching television with our new friends and just taking it easy. Kitty took us to this out-of-the-way tiny little restaurant for foreign food for dinner one night, where we all chatted away to an old Mexican man who told us some stories while we ate our cheap, great food. I love doing those sorts of cool, untouristy things, they really give you the feel for a place and you remember those little things after you've gone. We ended up extending our stay in Hollywood because we loved it so much, the vibe was wonderful. It's pretty safe to say that I'll be back in the future.

We ventured out of Hollywood a few times to check out Miami, of course. We became such good friends with Kitty, that we all drove down together in her car. En route there, we decided to stop off at an IHOP. I'd heard so much about this place that I just had to check it out. Wow. Yum. Coffee, orange juice, waffles, fruit, pancakes, pancakes, pancakes. It was amazing. We also discovered a drive-thru Starbucks - huh?! Americans obviously are big fans of their morning coffee en route to work.

Miami was filled with great little market stalls selling everything from jewellery to fruit. We spent time at the beach and checked out the great shopping scene, but I much preferred Hollywood. When my sister and I returned again, we went on an adventure to find Miami Ink. We found it, but it left much to be desired. I had been interested in getting the Red Hot Chili Peppers logo tattoo for a while, so thought it'd be quite cool to get it at the famous shop featured in Miami Ink. Unfortunately, we were met with quite a pompous, arrogant receptionist, so we promptly took our business elsewhere. The number of tattoo parlours we found around the area of Washington Avenue was overwhelming. After walking around and checking out some of the shops, we found one we were happy with and I got my tattoo. My sister also decided upon getting a simple and meaningful Beatles lyric, "Love is all you need."

I was quite sad to leave Hollywood, and sad to say goodbye to the great people we'd met, but it was time to take in the sights and sounds of fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada. We stocked up on food, ventured to Fort Lauderdale and slept at the airport to save some money in anticipation for our next adventure. The next morning we boarded our plane and lifted off for Sin City.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Adventure in D.C.

After our incredible time in New York, my sister and I escaped the crazy snow storms and headed off to Washington, D.C. We arrived late at night so dumped our bags in the back of a cab and gave the driver directions to our hostel. We got there feeling pretty tired after our four hour bus ride down the East Coast, so really just couldn't wait to put our stuff away and find somewhere to eat. We were met with a confused-looking receptionist, and after a long, drawn-out conversation, he told us that he'd given our beds away. Huh? Turns out he'd expected that we'd be stuck in New York because of the snow, so had decided to let the current guests (who were supposed to be heading for NY) stay on. I was mightily pissed, we'd booked two beds in advance and paid deposits, but the guy didn't really seem to care or make any attempt at apologising. He told us he'd sort something out, to leave our bags in reception and that there was a place to eat up the street. We arrived back a while later and met a strange little Mexican man. Apparently he was going to drive us to a guesthouse in Virginia to stay there for the night and return us the next morning to the place we'd actually booked to stay in. I admit, it was a bit of an adventure, randomly going to another state, but it was all quite freaky at the same time.

We were picked up the next day by a man and woman, who drove us back to D.C., but to a completely different hostel to the original one. I, again, was quite pissed off at getting messed about AND this new hostel was a total dump - it looked like the kind of place prostitutes and drug addicts lived, but I was also glad to finally just have somewhere in the city to dump my stuff and go explore.

We were only in D.C. for about three nights, therefore two full days to see the city, and we really did cram a lot in. The Lincoln Memorial (I really wanted to see it after seeing it in a Simpsons episode once), the Washington Monument, the World War 2 Memorial, the White House, the National Mall... A massive highlight was visiting the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. It's probably the best museum I've ever been to. I walked around it with my sister, then we eventually lost each other and I came out the exit to find she had been waiting for me for about an hour and a half! I must have spent about four hours total in there, it was so interesting.

We saw a lot in two days, but on our last night it came time to book a bus or a flight down to Florida. The hostel had a grand total of one computer, and we were faced with an angry woman who repeatedly told her kid to stay on the computer, just to spite us. This ultimately led to a bit of an argument between "Crystal" and my sister. When we eventually managed to get on the computer, the flights were all really expensive so we ended up going for the 27-hour greyhound option down to the Sunshine State - that's another story! I vividly remember sleeping that night with my packed rucksack propped up against our bedroom door, genuinely afraid for my life, thinking angry-computer-hogging-lady would break in.
On our last day, we had a tiny window of time between checking out of the hostel, and having to board the greyhound to Florida. We decided to chance it and run down to the National Archives Building, we couldn't go to Washington D.C. and NOT see the Declaration of Independence. (National Treasure is one of my favourite films). We arrived to find a massive queue around the outside of the building, but joined it anyway. Once we got to the front, we realised there was nowhere to store our huge rucksacks, but they thankfully just about fit through the bag scanners. We looked very odd, rushing around the building trying to find the one room that houses the Declaration, with huge rucksacks on our backs and sweaty foreheads. When we managed to find the room, we were met with another big queue (obviously) but after about ten minutes of waiting nervously, constantly looking at our watches, we got in and saw it, and I'm so glad we did. We also got to see the Bill of Rights and the United States Constitution at the same time, that was very cool and a welcome addition to the flying visit. We left, hailed a cab, and got to the bus station with a few minutes to spare.

D.C. had been a whirlwind of adventure, but I was quite glad to be leaving. When you think of the city where the President of the United States lives, you think that everything about it is going to be glamorous and sparkling clean and full of warm, respectable people. That is true of the city, but there's another side of it that's dirty and unwelcoming and kind of scary; like you wouldn't feel safe walking down the street past 10pm, whereas I would in New York. However, I'm a massive fan of American History, and this place has tonnes of it to offer, so I'm sure I'll be back sometime in the future to give it another go.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Travel Films

There are a hell of a lot of films out there based on some type of travel. Roadtrips, vacations, round-the-world backpacking trips, there's a movie for everything. The best ones are the ones that inspire you to pack in your job and book a one way plane ticket the minute you finish watching it. Here are my top ten travel films that made me want to do just that.

The Beach
The ultimate travel film, with a hell of a good soundtrack. If you haven't seen this film and you are an aspiring backpacker, watch it, then watch it again. Based on the book by Alex Garland, it tells the story of backpacker Richard who lands in Bangkok, "the gateway to South East Asia", looking for something different, for adventure, for experiences. He finds that, and more when he is given a map which leads to a unknown, breathtaking beach which offers a new way of life. It inspired me and probably thousands of other backpackers to travel to Koh Phi Phi.

Into The Wild
This is a real emotional roller-coaster of a film with stunning scenery and a beautiful soundtrack. Based on the moving novel by Jon Krakauer about the true story of Christopher McCandless, aka Alexander Supertramp. Christopher was an Emory University graduate who abandoned everyone and everything he knew before giving his $24,000 savings to Oxfam International and following his dream of travelling into the Alaskan wilderness, far away from civilization, to find himself. He met people on his travels who would go on to have a huge influence upon him.
"Happiness only real when shared." - Christopher McCandless.

One of the most successful films to ever come out of Australia. I watched this for the first time the first night I arrived in Sydney. My sister and I had originally gone to watch the 127 hours premiere but it was sold out so we got tickets for this instead. A brilliant blockbuster movie about a team of underwater cave divers searching for an unexplored cave system which leads to the ocean. Spectacularly shot on the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia, there's a high chance you'll be booking yourself onto a flight down under before it's over, but perhaps not onto a caving expedition.

127 Hours
Not a typical travel movie in any sense of the word, although it has inspired me to want to see the canyons of Utah. Based on the memoir Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston. A true survival story about canyoneer Ralston who, during a solo expedition, became trapped "between a rock and a hard place." The night I went to see Sanctum in Sydney (the night of the 127 Hours premiere), I actually got to see Aron arriving to see the film about himself. He seemed to have such a kind, smiley nature, even after all he endured. He still climbs mountains and intends to climb Mount Everest. What a guy.

Sex and The City
The series that made a million girls want to see New York City. The subsequent films just added more girls to that number. There are even Sex and The City tours that run throughout the year in New York, taking people all over the city to see places such as Carrie's apartment and the famous New York Public Library, the intended location of her and Big's wedding.
The Hangover
"Some guys just can't handle Vegas." A hilarious tale of a trip to Las Vegas for a stag party that goes a bit awry when the groom goes missing during their drunken adventures. The three groomsmen must retrace their steps from the night before to find their friend, resulting in even more adventure that involves a tiger, a baby and Mike Tyson to name but a few. Bound to inspire anyone to want to see the bright lights of Las Vegas and have an adventure of their own.

Mamma Mia
Mostly filmed in the gorgeous Sporades Islands - a group of three islands in the east coast of Greece named Skiathos, Skopelos and Alonissos, this film has left me yearning to go island hopping in Greece someday.
Lost in Translation
This film came highly recommended from my friend Robbie (, so I watched it one night. If there's ever a movie to make you want to visit Japan, this would be it. Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray play two bored Americans, in Tokyo for different reasons. They meet eachother and become unlikely companions, taking in the crazy Tokyo experience together.

Almost Famous
A semi-autobiographical road movie from Cameron Crowe about a young student who lands a job writing a story for Rolling Stone Magazine about an up-and-coming band as they tour around the USA. It's a heartwarming film about life, love and friendship with one of my favourite ever movie scenes, taking place in the band's tour bus ("Doris").

On The Road
An upcoming film to be released in 2012, based on one of the greatest books of the 20th century by Jack Kerouac. I hope they do it justice so it can stay on this list.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Travel Music

There have been a zillion articles written about finding that ultimate travel playlist. The one to listen to while you're driving with the roof back down the 101, or as you walk through the airport when you first arrive in Australia, or as you're sitting on the edge of the boat on the way to Koh Phi Phi. Here are my absolute favourite travel tunes.

Alexi Murdoch - Orange Sky
This is a gorgeous laid back folk song, perfect for just chilling out on a beach, watching the sun go down with people you love. Here's a beautiful video shot by someone living in Vancouver, of what looks like the most unbelievable sunset in the world. It has inspired me to add Vancouver to my list of places to spend time in.

Eddie Vedder - Music for the Motion Picture Into The Wild
WOW, just wow. There's no way of choosing a few tracks to recommend from this album, the whole thing is just genius. This soundtrack is the most perfect collection of songs ever written for a film. It is a rare instance where the film may even be better than the book, with a lot of help from Mr Vedder.

Phantom Planet - California
Old fans of The O.C will remember this one. Once that piano melody hits at the very start, you just imagine yourself driving down the 101 highway, without a care in the world. "On the stereo, listen as we go, nothing's gonna stop me now, California here we come."

Morcheeba - The Sea
I highly recommend the entire "Parts of the Process" album by Morcheeba as part of a travel playlist. This track is particularly chilled, perfect for kicking back on the beach and soaking up the atmosphere.

Jay-Z featuring Alicia Keys - Empire State of Mind
There are three songs about New York City that I love. This is one of them. Imagine yourself walking up the steps from the subway and seeing the architecture of Manhattan for the very first time with this song playing in your ears. Incredible.

Billy Joel - New York State of Mind
Written by Billy Joel upon his return to his native New York City after spending three years in Los Angeles, this is one of my favourite songs of all time. The beautiful saxophone solos and heartwarming lyrics make this a wonderful piece of music to listen to, whether you're in New York City or just sitting at home. You might find yourself booking a plane ticket though. "I'm in a New York State of Mind."

Jem - Just a Ride
This really is a jem of a song. Taking inspiration from the legendary stand up bit of the late great Bill Hicks. Here's the original quote from the man himself.

Bob Marley - Redemption Song
This song. So simple and beautiful. When I listen to this, I want to just sit around a campfire, eat banana pancakes, drink a Chang, forget about material shit and war and discrimination and just embrace the incredible beauty of the world we live in.

Joe Purdy - Wash Away (Reprise)
I discovered this song when I was watching an episode of Lost one day. It can't be that bad to be stuck on a desert island, right?

Alexi Murdoch - All My Days
Another beautiful laid back folk song from Alexi Murdoch. "I have been searching all of my days, all of my days. Many a road, you know, I've been walking on, all of my days." Perfect for sitting back and taking in the beauty of the world, and realising how lucky you really are.

Baz Luhrmann - Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)
A classic. Not a song massively about travel, more about life. Taken from a column article written by Mary Schmich for the Chicago Tribune in 1997 called "Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young." I'll let you listen for yourself to realise how great the message is.

Red Hot Chili Peppers - Californication
Well, how could this not be here? The title track off my favourite RHCP album. As soon as I hear it, I just want to be out in the ocean surfing, with this playing down from speakers in the sky.

Elton John - Tiny Dancer
Mine and my sister's song! We've driven around in her car in our home town many times with this blasting from the CD player, singing our hearts out. I fell in love with it after watching Almost Famous, about a young high-school kid travelling around the USA with a band on tour. A brilliant car journey song. Try it.

Jet - Move On
A band from Melbourne. They mention Flinders Street Station in this particular song, this is where I got off the bus when I first arrived in Melbourne so it reminds me a lot of being there. "You should be happy just to be alive." A wonderful, meaningful track, this is the song to listen to when you first land in Australia.

John Mayer - Where The Light Is: Live In Los Angeles
Another entire album... When my sister and I drove up part of the Southern California coast from San Diego to Los Angeles, I stumbled upon this CD in a massive Walmart during a stop for roadtrip food. I think the only songs I'd heard by Mayer were "Waiting on the World to Change" and his popular cover of "Free Fallin'." On the merit of these brilliant songs, I bought it and it has become my favourite album of all time. Each time I listen to it, I'm transported back to that roadtrip and filled with joy. You'd think after listening to it so much for three days straight I'd hate it, but no, I absolutely love the entire thing from start to finish- and always will.

All Saints - Pure Shores
THE ULTIMATE TRAVEL TUNE. Probably most recognisable from The Beach, starring Leonardo DiCaprio. As soon as I hear that first beat, a smile comes across my face and I feel as though I'm right back in Thailand. "Take me to my beach..."

More unbelievably good songs that should be included in any decent travel playlist...
Rascal Flatts - Life is a Highway
The Cinematic Orchestra - To Build a Home
Eagles - Hotel California
Joe Purdy - San Jose
Joe Purdy - I Love the Rain
Keane - Walnut Tree
The Jazzual Suspects - This Beat
Gareth Dunlop - Dreamers
Tracy Chapman - Fast Car 
Patrick Watson - The Great Escape 
Israel Kamakawiwo'ole - Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World
Damien Rice - Coconut Skins
Sara Bareilles - Many the Miles
Bright Eyes - Another Travelin' Song
Roger Miller - King of the Road
Youth Group - Forever Young 
Frank Turner - The Road
Patrick Park - Something Pretty
Fleetwood Mac - Landslide
Death Cab for Cutie - Summer Skin
Lynyrd Skynyrd - Sweet Home Alabama
Kings Of Leon - Back Down South
Red Hot Chili Peppers - Around the World
Red Hot Chili Peppers - Road Trippin'
Red Hot Chili Peppers - Soul to Squeeze
Frank Sinatra - New York, New York
Groove Armada - At The River
Moby - Porcelain
Jackie Greene - Travelin' Song

Happy travels!

Monday, 13 February 2012

Christmas in New York City

When I set off to see the world with my sister, the first place we landed was the big apple, New York City baby. It had always been something of a dream of mine to spend a Christmas there, so off we went. We landed at JFK on the day before Christmas Eve, ready to experience the greatest city in the world.
We stayed in a gorgeous little place, Broadway Hotel and Hostel on the Upper West Side, but on our budget, we stayed in a not-so-gorgeous room. It did the job, a set of bunk beds, a mirror and a sink, with a shared bathroom down the hall. Our room was next to another occupied by a man who'll be forever known as "the cougher", day and night, he'd cough cough cough. It was quite a horrific experience having to share a bathroom with him and the mysterious occupants of the other rooms who never seemed to come out, but hey, we were in New York, live and let live! The downstairs living area was the best thing about this hostel, the warm brown tones, comfy sofas and chairs and really friendly staff made this the perfect place to come back and chill out in, after long days exploring the city in the freezing winter weather.

We crammed in a lot of the classic New York Christmas things to do while we were in the city, as well as the big tourist attractions. We spent much of 23 December travelling, finding our hostel, unpacking and trying to adjust our body clocks. On 24 December, off we went to explore. Victoria and I decided to go check out Times Square (of course) and the crowds were unbelievable. We were literally moving around in a sea of people, but whoa, what an experience. I understand what Carrie Bradshaw meant when she said how much she just wanted to get 'pushed and shoved' in a crowd of people, it makes you feel alive! We escaped the cold weather and crowds outside, and went into the Times Square Toys 'R' Us. But whaddayaknow, more crowds, and I loved it! It was like something out of a movie, mothers running around grabbing the last things off the shelves for last minute gifts. The prices were outrageous in typical New York City fashion, but my sister splurged on a bag of sweets that, from what I remember, the price of ran into double digit dollar figures.

We managed to weave through the incredible crowds in Times Square and walk up to see the Rockefeller Christmas Tree on Christmas Day. We saw the massive crowd of people waiting in line for the ice-rink, but thought "hey, this is a once-in-a-lifetime thing, being in New York at Christmas", so we joined the queue. A brother and sister and their Grandmother were just ahead of us in the queue and I remember overhearing the Grandmother saying to her grandkids that there were so many people waiting around, just so they'd be able to say "I ice-skated at the Rockefeller Center rink on Christmas Day!" It was so true, but I'm so glad we did it. About two hours later we finally made it onto the ice, had a whale of a time and then witnessed a guy get down on one knee in the middle of the cleared rink and propose to his girlfriend. The Christmas music playing along with hundreds of people standing around clapping was so heart-warming, I was so glad to be there at that moment with my sister. 
We decided on Planet Hollywood as our destination for Christmas dinner. It's funny how different places can be with regard to Christmas traditions. In the UK, the outside world is like a ghost town on Christmas day, people rarely leave their houses unless it's to ride their new bike or play in the snow. But in New York, everywhere was rammed, the queue for Planet Hollywood extended the whole way down the stairs and almost out the door, it was an experience.

One of the more emotional things we did in our first city was visit ground zero and the Tribute WTC Visitor Center. I was only nine years old when the World Trade Center was attacked, but I'd watched umpteen documentaries as they were always shown on the anniversaries, and I've always had such a dream of going to New York, thinking about the attacks made me feel unusually sad. The site had a lot of building work going on at the time for the memorial which I'd love to see in it's finished state. The visitor center was overwhelming, photographs, video, artifacts, it was emotional to walk through but I'm glad I paid it a visit, I recommend it to anyone visiting NYC (and students go free).

We, of course, headed to the top of the Empire State Building to take in the breathtaking view of the city. I had always wanted to climb the stairs the whole way to the top, but apparently it was the lift to the top, or not at all. Bummer! But that view, there really is nothing like it. I hadn't realised the magnitude of the buildings until I was up there, and seeing how perfectly aligned the roads are is strange when you come from a country where 'blocks' don't exist. We took our trip up at night, so saw the big city lit up in all it's glory.

On 26 December, the East Coast, especially New York was hit by a massive blizzard that left snow knee, sometimes thigh, deep. There were cabs BURIED under snow. Strangely, that was the day my sister and I decided to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. Looking back, I realise we were idiots, the winds were 65 mph and the snow made it pretty hard to see your hand in front of your face. But off we went, made it half way, and then were forced to turn back. But hell, it was certainly a laugh. Unfortunately the snow meant that the ferry to Liberty Island was cancelled until further notice, which meant we couldn't go stroll around inside the Statue of Liberty, but we did take a trip on the famous Staten Island Ferry. We were pretty disappointed about the Statue of Liberty, but it just gave us a reason to go back and visit NYC again in the future.

On one of the days when the snow was still falling, we took a trip over to Central Park. It amazes me how, in the middle of one of the busiest, most built-up cities in the world, there can be such a massive area of green land. One of my favourite things we did in the city was visit the Strawberry Fields memorial for John Lennon and see the Dakota building, which is located directly across Central Park West from the memorial Imagine mosaic. It was a beautiful thing to see, especially the plaque which names all of the nations which contributed to building the memorial. A wonderful place to go and remember the wonderful John Lennon.

When the snow stopped falling and the city was left with a massive white blanket, we took the subway to see Greenwich Village. It was literally like we'd left the skyscrapers and cabs and hussle and bussle of the city behind, and landed in the middle of a village nowhere near New York. On the corner of Grove St and Bedford St, is the building that was used as the Friends building in the credits of the show. Seeing that ruled! As lifelong fans of Friends, my sister and I were amazed to see it.

Our time in New York City had to come to an end, we were off to our next adventure in Washington, D.C. (And boy, was that an adventure!) 
I could go on forever about New York City, it's probably my favourite place in the world. There's so much I still have to see and experience... Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, Statue of Liberty, a Knicks game, a Rangers game, a show on Broadway, the new 9/11 Memorial Site...

Look out New York, I'll back soon.