Saturday 30 November 2019

My November Days

Usually in November I try very hard to hide away from all of the early festivities in an effort not to hit peak Christmas too early but this year I am throwing myself into it and I think after the year I've had it's completely acceptable. I have spent a lot of my month sitting on my sofa snuggled up under a fleecy throw watching the cheesiest of Christmas films on Netflix and it's become a bit of a happy haven to me as the darkness of Winter begins to hit.

Here's what happened in November that didn't make the blog.

Thornley Woods

We have been meaning to explore more of the Derwent Valley for many years now yet never seem to make it past Gibside (you can't really blame us, when you have National Trust membership it does tend to influence most of your walk decisions). So I'm so happy that this month we finally made it to Thornley Woods for a short stroll through the Country Park. There's miles and miles of countryside to explore across the Derwent Valley and our short stroll took us to some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen in the North East with stunning views across the leafy landscape. Eating our sandwiches on a bench in the sunshine and watching the Red Kites fly overhead was quite a moment.

November Days - Thornley Woods

The Tyne Pedestrian Tunnel

Whilst hanging about in a tunnel may not be everyone's idea of a fun Saturday morning, my visit to the recently reopened Tyne Pedestrian Tunnel was one of my highlights of the month and I'm so glad that I went for a little nose about.  The Grade II listed tunnel reopened this year following a 6 year restoration project and I am so glad that this little piece of history is now open for us all to enjoy. The tunnel takes pedestrians and cyclist under the River Tyne from Jarrow to Howdon and the wooden escalators down to the tunnel transport you to the most fantastic place if you are into photography or exploring more of our local history.

November Days - Tyne Pedestrian Tunnel

For the Love of the North

Just when I thought Spanish City could get no better For the Love of the North arrived.  With stores already in Whitley Bay town centre, Stack at Newcastle and Corbridge, the northern inspired shop now has a beautiful space next door to The Split Chimp and sells the most incredible collection of prints, pins, mugs and totes all created by and inspired by the North.  I dragged poor Simon round the store dropping endless hints about what I'd quite like for Christmas!

November Days - For the Love of the North

Hive Coffee

I finally returned to Hive Coffee in Jarrow this month for a breakfast catch up with the lovely Sarah. Getting there super early (I'd forgotten how many tables they have and so panic rushed to get a seat!) we enjoyed a lovely quiet start with matching breakfasts of Avocado, Salmon and Poached Eggs on Toast. This place is so special and if you're yet to check it out it's a must visit.

November Days - Hive Coffee

Feasting at Central Oven and Shaker

Now that it's getting very dark, pretty soggy and quite cold I am all about pizza parties and carb loading so I was more than ready for a night at Central Oven and Shaker, somewhere I hadn't actually been since it very first opened (shame on me!)  To celebrate the launch of their new Autumn Winter Menu we feasted on some incredible warming dishes and I am still dreaming about the Wild Boar Lasagne Bites and Goats Cheese and Jam Pizza.

November Days - Central Oven Shaker

Festive Afternoon Tea at Spanish City

I'm not sure I should confess to you exactly how many Festive Afternoon Teas I have booked in this Christmas. The fact that we're not even in December yet and I've already had two says it all really doesn't it? This month saw the first ever Festive Fayre at Spanish City in Whitley Bay and arriving on a very wet day at the coast hoards of eager Christmas fans piled their way into the Dome to mooch around the little stalls and admire the beautiful Christmas Tree that's become one of my favourites in the region. We decided to go all out for our visit and booked ourselves in for a Festive Afternoon Tea. Priced at £25.00 per person the cakestand was a thing of real beauty with mini Father Christmas, Reindeer and Christmas Trees all carefully created out of cakes. If you're looking for something really lovely to do this Christmas time I highly recommend checking it out.

November Days - Spanish City Festive Afternoon Tea

For more adventures from New Girl in Toon make sure you follow me on Instagram.  I post a new photo every day and you will find vlogs from my favourite North East adventures on  my highlights.

Wednesday 27 November 2019

Christmas Events at Wallington

This is an advertisement feature with National Trust Wallington 

I am throwing myself head first into all things Christmas this year and as the festive season begins my diary is crammed full of so many afternoon teas, carol singing and wreath making I'm not sure when I'm going to get a chance to finish shopping for presents! If there's one place guaranteed to get you into the Christmas spirit this year it has to be Wallington whose programme of seasonal treats has got me thinking I should perhaps just set up camp there throughout December so I don't miss anything.

National Trust always know how to celebrate at this time of year and Christmas at Wallington looks set to be bigger and better than ever.

Simon and I were like two excited kids on Christmas Eve when we got invited for a little look behind the scenes as Wallington prepare for the festive season. The house is currently closed as the team are hard at work carefully decorating the rooms ahead of the great reveal on 30 November so we felt very honoured to be allowed a little preview of what we can expect at Wallington this Christmas time.

Experience Christmas at Wallington

Christmas at Wallington

Christmas is a really special time at Wallington and from 30 November you can fully immerse yourself in the festive season with plenty happening in and around the house.

Visitors will be greeted into Wallington by a very special Christmas Tree - the 30 ft tree has been sourced from Harwood Forest at the top of the Wallington Estate and will be illuminated with thousands of lights. The Courtyard comes alive at Christmas time and if you still have some gifts to purchase the Christmas Shop at Wallington is a beautiful Winter Wonderland of seasonal goodies and local produce which make perfect gifts.

Christmas at Wallington

I can't believe that this was our first ever trip inside the house at Wallington to see the Christmas decorations. Despite having been National Trust members for years we've somehow always missed it so if you're finding that your diary is already beginning to fill up make sure that you get a date at Wallington in there before you run out of days because believe me, it's the most beautiful place to get into the Christmas spirit.

Entering the house we made our way round each beautifully decorated room. There's nothing like a festive trip to Wallington to inspire you to really up your decorating skills, why can't our house look this beautiful at Christmas? Each room is being perfectly decorated with fireplaces decked with garlands, baubles and fairy lights.

My favourite was the incredible dining room decked out in white feathers, tiny little angels, paper Christmas trees and a table to be truly jealous of. Just imagine having your Christmas lunch somewhere as beautiful as this - the views over the Northumberland countryside to enjoy as you tuck into your turkey are something else.

Christmas at Wallington House

If all that wasn't impressive enough the Central Hall truly took my breath away, it's a very impressive room at any time of the year  but with the addition of an incredible 20 foot high Christmas tree dressed with 3,000 lights it really is a sight to see.

We were so honoured to be the first people to see this years Christmas tree and it gave me goosebumps.  For someone who loves Christmas as much as me this really was quite some moment and this beauty really is a must see this Festive season.

Christmas at Wallington - Christmas Tree

If you want to enjoy the house dressed for Christmas yourself then you will not only discover all of the beautifully decorated rooms like we did but you'll also be able to enjoy music in the Central Hall, Christmas baking in the kitchen (if you've ever been to Wallington you'll know how incredible that will be!) and stories with Mrs Christmas.

Perhaps the most exciting part for me though, and the reason we will definitely be going back before the end of Christmas, is that the house is also open for twilight hours, giving you an amazing opportunity to see the house lit for Christmas after dark.

Christmas at Wallington - National Trust

Experience Christmas at Wallington:

Daytime:  30 November, 1, 7, 8, 14, 15, 21, 22 and 23 December 10:00 am - 4:00pm
Twilight:  30 November, 6, 7, 13, 14, 20 and 21 December 4:30 pm - 7:30 pm
Admission:  Normal admission charges apply with discounted admission after 4:00 pm to £5.00 per adult and £2.50 per child.

Festive Afternoon Tea at Wallington 

A first for Wallington this Christmas is the chance to enjoy Festive Afternoon Tea in the Central Hall. A truly exclusive experience, the house will be closed to the public during the Tea allowing you the opportunity to explore the house dressed for Christmas in an intimate setting.

Settle yourself down at a table in the Central Hall and admire the beautiful Christmas Tree as you enjoy your cakestand of treats whilst listening to a pianist playing seasonal music. Such a great treat to take a few hours away from the endless merry-go-round of present wrapping and school plays.

Christmas at Wallington - National Trust Festive Afternoon Tea

We took our Tea in the Parlour, originally used as a sitting room its beautiful fireplace and original William Morris wallpaper made it such a special place for our Festive Afternoon Tea and we couldn't believe how special it felt to be dining in such a unique space. It's not every day you get to have afternoon tea in a beautiful country house with so much history.

Christmas at Wallington - Festive Afternoon Tea
The Festive Afternoon Tea at Wallington is the perfect treat with the most delicious seasonal flavours packed onto the cakestand. We began with Finger Sandwiches - Smoked Salmon with Dill and Orange Butter (Simon hasn't stopped going on about that one!), Egg Mayonnaise & Watercress, Northumbrian Cheese & Red Onion Chutney (my absolute favourite) and of course, the must have Turkey, Cranberry and Chestnut Stuffing.

Christmas at Wallington - Afternoon Tea

The scone tier was a delight with two scones each - a Plain and a Spiced Cranberry that made me feel instantly Christmassy as soon as I bit into it. Served with sticky sweet jam and indulgent clotted cream, they were some of the best scones we've ever had on an afternoon tea.

The sweet tier was Christmas on a plate with the cutest mini Christmas Cake, Mince Pie Filo Parcel, Rose & Almond Choux Bun and the very tempting Chocolate & Orange Tart. Such an incredible feast of treats and a great pre Christmas indulgence.

Christmas at Wallington Northumberland
Experience Festive Afternoon Tea at Wallington

Dates: 4, 5, 11, 12, 18 and 19 December from 2:30 pm - 4:30 pm
Admission: £30.00 per person - Booking essential on 01670 773 606
Adult Only

Christmas Crafts in the House

If the Christmas prep is all getting a bit too much for you may I recommend a couple of hours in the house at Wallington partaking in some Christmas crafts. There are two craft lessons available and you can choose between creating a book folded Christmas Tree or a Ribbon Wreath which you can then take away to make your home look truly special this Christmas time. Crafting includes a cup of a tea and a mince pie and there really is no more relaxing way to spend a morning.

Those who have been reading my blog for a while will know that crafting is definitely not my strength.  I'm really not very creative and usually struggle to follow the simplest of instructions so avoid arts and crafts as much as I possibly can. So let me just tell you that Christmas Crafts at Wallington was so much fun and I absolutely loved it.

Christmas at Wallington Northumberland - Christmas Crafts

I created my very own Ribbon Wreath and it was so easy to follow yet really beautiful and effective. Who knew you could create something so lovely with very little effort. I loved that I was able to craft and gossip at the same time and even said to Simon that I'd quite actually fancy a spot of crafting on Christmas Day after lunch, it's so relaxing!

Simon opted for the Book Folded Christmas Tree which I have to admit I was a bit scared of when I saw it, the finished decoration looks so beautiful and I wasn't convinced that I'd ever be able to create something that good, but it was actually another really fun and a simple creation using only two folds.  Simon is now hooked and I'm a bit worried that if I leave him near my book shelf at home for too long I will return to find that he has turned all of my books into Book Folded Christmas Trees!

Christmas at Wallington - Christmas Crafts

Experience Christmas Crafting at Wallington

Dates: 29 November, 6, 13 and 20 December from 10:30 am - 12:30 pm
Admission: £20.00 per person - please advise when booking which craft you would like to do
Booking essential on 01670 773 606

Other Activities at Wallington this Christmas

There are plenty of other activities happening at Wallington this Christmas including:

Meet Father Christmas

Take a wander through the house at Wallington and admire the beautiful Christmas decorations before heading to see Father Christmas in his grotto who will be handing out gifts to children

Dates: 30 November, 1, 7, 8, 14, 15, 21, 22 and 23 December between 10:00 am and 4:00pm
Admission: £12.00 per child including gift
Normal admission applies to enter the house with after hours admission discounted after 4:00 pm to £5.00 per adult and £2.50 per child.
Booking essential on 01670 773 606

Jingle Bell Jog

A nice relief after all that chocolate - partake in either a 1 mile or 3 mile jog round the grounds at Wallington sporting your favourite Christmas jumper or fancy dress. Enjoy festive tunes and receive a Santa hat to wear as you run.  A medal, certificate and goody bag await you at the end with the cafĂ© open for warm drinks and breakfast afterwards.

Date: 15 December
1 mile jog - 9:00 am registration for 9:30 am start
3 mile jog - 10:00 am registration for 10:30 am start
Admission: £10.00 per child
Under 8s must be accompanied by an adult
Booking essential on 01670 773 606

Christmas at National Trust Wallington
With so many great Christmas events happening at Wallington over the next few weeks we are already planning a return trip before the big day.  Hopefully we'll see you there!

Find Wallington at:

Nr Morpeth
NE61 4AR

This is a sponsored feature with National Trust.  We also received a complimentary afternoon tea and Christmas craft class 

Wednesday 13 November 2019

40 Things you must do in New York

We have just returned from our first ever visit to New York City, somewhere that I have been wanting to visit for so long that being there felt like an absolute dream.  I'm not sure anything could have prepared us for how much we would love the bright lights of the Big Apple and it's safe to say the holiday blues have hit us both hard - we are desperate to go back!

Many things about the city surprised me - I had been warned about its fast pace and told that New Yorkers could be rude but the reality was quite different.  New York was busy but never felt overwhelming -  the people were so lovely and I have never felt so safe in a new city before.

We are obsessed and so I couldn't resist sharing our new favourite place with you.  Here are 40 things you must do in New York!

40 Things you must do in New York
1.  Enjoy banana pudding at Magnolia Bakery

Like many people my age I was first introduced to the Magnolia Bakery thanks to a little show called Sex and the City, and I think it's fair to say that Carrie Bradshaw has influenced tourists to flock to branches of Magnolia Bakery in New York to feast on their cupcakes. But whilst the cakes do look delicious I would personally recommend that you grab yourself a banana pudding instead. Served in little pots I can't even begin to explain to you how good these sweet treats are!

2. Walk the Brooklyn Bridge

Walking over a bridge probably isn't high on the agenda for many city breaks but when you are visiting New York a stroll across the Brooklyn Bridge is a must. Walk from Brooklyn to Manhattan for the very best views of the skyline (or do what we did and spend the entirety of your walk looking behind you!) The views are epic, the beautiful photograph opportunities are endless and if you want to enjoy the bridge at its very best I highly recommend getting yourself on it by 9:00 am to avoid the crowds.

40 Things you must do in New York - Brooklyn Bridge
3. Hit the supermarkets for US food

Please tell me we're not the only people who travel to the US and then can't resist spending hours of our holiday desperately hunting out supermarkets? We love to cram our suitcases full of the kind of Oreo and PopTart flavours we could only dream of in here in the UK. Whilst New York doesn't really have any large supermarkets, a visit to Trader Joes is highly recommended if you fancy taking some treats home - I was thrilled with my haul of pumpkin flavoured goodies.

4. Have a cone at Big Gay Ice Cream

If you love your ice-creams with plenty of personality and an extreme amount of toppings then a visit to Big Gay Ice Cream is a must. If you're feeling extra indulgent you can get the inside of your cone smeared with a generous helping of peanut butter or Nutella before covering it in rainbow sprinkles (their very own special blend don't you know!) and dipped in their very own customised chocolate dip.

40 Things you must do in New York - Big Gay Ice Cream

5.  Enjoy a Bagel with Schmear

There are plenty of foods that you must tick off your list if you are visiting New York and one of the most iconic has to be the bagel. Perfect to grab on the go you'll find a bagel shop on every street corner and they come in all shapes, sizes and colours (I'm being serious, rainbow bagels are a thing!) If you want to be authentic go for a bagel with schmear (that's cream cheese if you don't talk New Yorker!)

6. Go to the Top of the Rock ... twice!

There's a bit of debate about whether Top of the Rock or the Empire State Building is the best climb in Midtown Manhattan. Personally if you love views I would pick Top of the Rock every day as you can see the Empire State in the skyline making it a truly iconic view of the city. I would recommend getting yourself a "Sun and Stars" ticket which allows you to go twice in a day. Aim to do your first climb of the day as soon as the doors open at 8:00 am for a crowd free experience and then do the second around an hour before the sun is due to set to secure you the perfect spot to enjoy the pink skies over Manhattan.  Be warned, it gets cold - no matter the temperature during the day you will need warm clothes!

40 Things you must do in New York - Top of the Rock

7. See Times Square, and then avoid!

You can't really go to New York without seeing Times Square but whilst it's fun to see the bright lights and crowds for the first time, the area is way too crowded and an uncomfortable tourist trap of overly priced gift shops and restaurants. To enjoy it crowd free go first thing in the morning - see it the once and then avoid it for the rest of your holiday!

8. Visit Carrie's Steps

If you're a Sex and the City fan a visit to Carrie Bradshaw's apartment on Perry Street is a must. Be warned, it's privately owned so you can't do your best Carrie pose on the steps and it is obviously pretty busy with TV fans wanting pictures. Take a quick snap for your holiday album and then hastily make your way to Magnolia Bakery round the corner to recover (don't forget to get a Banana Pudding whilst you're there!)

40 Things you must do in New York - Carries Apartment

9. Explore Soho and buy a bag from Bag All

One of our favourite parts of New York to explore was SoHo - designer stores, art galleries, cute shops and endless brunch spots it's where the coolest of New Yorkers gather and gives you a little taste of life outside of the tourist traps. There are plenty of places to wander and explore but a great starting point is Bag All who sell incredible tote bags in all shapes and sizes and a variety of fun prints.  If you ever fancied a wine shaped tote for your BYOB evenings, somewhere to stash dirty underwear in your suitcase or a handy place to store your gadgets Bag All has the answer.

10. Cool down with a treat at Milk Bar

Who doesn't love drinking delicious cereal milk from the bottom of their breakfast bowl? It has to be one of life's greatest pleasures! Thanks to Milk Bar you can indulge without getting milk down your chin or facing the glares off your Mum. The ice-cream at Milk is so unique and absolutely delicious, we agreed that it tastes a little like Frosties milk and the cereal crunch topping just adds to the fun.

40 Things you must do in New York - Milk Bar

11. Spot the "Friends" Building

Being in New York is a little like being on a TV set 24/7 but that doesn't stop you wanting to see those iconic filming locations that you've grown up with. You'll find the exterior of the apartment from "Friends" on Bedford Street, although I must warn you that you won't find Central Perk underneath it. It's very popular so another snap and leave location and if you have some time I recommend wandering some of the surrounding streets for some really lovely classic New York buildings.

12 Have a Gossip Girl moment on the steps of the MET

Of course if you are interested in art then I'd say visiting the MET is a must and not just to prance about on the steps like I did. But if you're more into your Van Der Woodsen  than your Van Gough posing about on the steps like Serena and Blair makes for a great photo opportunity. We visited in the morning, beating the crowds and from there it's a short stroll to either Central Park or a wander down the beautiful Maddison Avenue.

40 Things you must do in New York - The MET

13. Visit the Ghostbuster's Fire Station

Now if I'd let Simon lose on this guide he would have had you visiting one of the two Lego Stores, living it up in the Microsoft Store or hanging about in the ridiculously huge Apple Store but as he's not I've selected just one location to keep the geek in your life happy - a visit to the Ghostbuster's Fire Station. The real life working fire station is on North Moore Street and has a really cool Ghostbusters sign on the pavement outside the building making it a great place to stop by.

14. Go designer shopping on Fifth Avenue

Many people flock to New York for the amazing shopping and with an endless amount of shops I can see why but for something really special head to the designer stores around Fifth Avenue. They are huge, beautifully designed and filled with goodies that most of us can only dream about owning. I saved my pennies to have a Chanel moment on Fifth Avenue and although I couldn't afford the handbag of my dreams my beautifully packaged gift to myself made my holiday extra special.

40 Things you must do in New York - Fifth Ave

15. Enjoy a Doughnut from Dough

I really regret not taking a photo of my doughnut from Dough Doughnuts because it was like nothing I've ever seen before. They are huge and completely covered and stuffed with gooey, sticky delicious flavours. They are often experimenting with new flavours and seasonal favourites so it's always worth stopping by for a coffee and a doughnut

16. Breakfast at Tiffanys

Long gone are the days of standing outside Tiffanys on Fifth Ave clutching a sorry looking croissant for your breakfast at Tiffanys moment, you can now book to enjoy a proper sit down breakfast at The Blue Box Cafe, inside their iconic store. Bagging yourself a table isn't the easiest - booking opens exactly 30 days in advance at 2:00 pm (GMT) with all tables reserved within seconds. The menu is prix fixe with Breakfast, Lunch and Afternoon Tea on offer - of course if you're doing it properly it's breakfast that you want - it will set you back $32 per person and includes Seasonal Fruits, a Croissant and then your choice of a cooked main. Definitely worth it for the experience, it's not every day you get to have breakfast at Tiffanys.

40 Things you must do in New York - Breakfast at Tiffanys

17. Enjoy the Views at a Roof Bar

If your budget doesn't stretch to climbing the Empire State or Top of the Rock there are some incredible roof bars all over Manhattan that offer great views of the city for a price of a cocktail. There's something to suit everyone - whether you're into a loud party scene, a garden oasis to chill out in or just want somewhere quiet to enjoy the epic views you'll find your thing. My list of bars to try was endless but in the end we only made it to one, the PHD Terrace at Dream Midtown which has a very small roof bar with lovely views.

18. Shop at Artists and Fleas

If you love supporting local then you will love Artists and Fleas where local art, fashion and artisan food vendors gather together to sell their designs. New merchants arrive every other week making it a great place to discover something new and take home some truly lovely souvenirs from your trip to New York. I loved the beautifully colourful glitter prints from Verrier Handcrafted and can't wait to get them up on my wall to remind me of our trip.

40 Things you must do in New York - Artists and Fleas
19. Have brunch (with a movie star) at Jacob's Pickles

Whilst I can't promise you brunch with a movie star, I can promise you that Jacob's Pickles do absolutely incredible food and it's a great spot to go for a true New York experience, I knew we were the only tourists in the place when Anne Hathaway strolled in and took a seat on a neighbouring table and none of the other diners even batted an eyelid! The portions are huge and will keep you going all day - this was easily the best meal we had in NYC!

20. Spend a whole day in Central Park

People aren't joking when they say that Central Park is huge, it is crazy huge and you will need an entire day to explore it properly at your leisure. Time will vanish as you explore all of the different parts, we didn't quite make it round to everywhere we wanted to (we may have got a little distracted spotting turtles and photographing squirrels!) but still left feeling like we'd had a really good explore. Climb the rocks positioned all over the Park for the most incredible views of the skyscrapers that tower overhead.

40 Things you must do in New York - Central Park

21. Enjoy the best pizza slices in NYC

You can't go to New York without enjoying a pizza slice and there are plenty of places that claim to be the best. We tried two of the most iconic pizzerias during our trip with a slice at Bleeker Street Pizza and another at Joe's Pizza.  Pizzas are served by the slice, are freshly prepared and when you get them in your hands they are piping hot. One slice is huge and it takes a fair amount of skill to eat without burning your chin and getting covered in toppings. Use your paper plate to fold the slice in half and hold your pizza to avoid accidents!

22. Explore the brownstones of Greenwich Village

I spent a lot of our trip to New York yelling "Ahhh Sesame Street" and rushing off with my camera, leaving a slightly bemused husband behind me. If, like me, you are obsessed with those classic New York brownstones there are plenty to be found all over Manhatten but some of my favourites were in Greenwich Village. I would have happily spent an entire day photographing people's doorways - they were truly stunning and if you're lucky enough to travel in October you'll love the bonus Halloween decorations.

40 Things you must do in New York - Brownstones

23. Enjoy lunch at Gansevoort Market

Whilst many people recommend Chelsea Market for the ultimate foodie tour, we much preferred nearby Gansevoort Market, much smaller and quieter but with some really great food options it was the loveliest little place to explore and it was great being able to properly see the counters and enjoy some food without fighting for space. Avoid Cheslsea Market at lunchtime, it's rammed and not enjoyable!

24. Have a coffee at the Starbucks Reserve

You may be wondering why on earth I'm recommending Starbucks to you when the city is filled with some really lovely independent coffee shops, but hear me out! The Starbucks Reserve next door to Chelsea Market is unlike any Starbucks you will have ever visited before. We loved it so much we visited twice during our week long trip to New York.  They serve a variety of different coffees from their huge roastery and just wait until you see the pastries.

40 Things you must do in New York - Starbucks Reserve
25. See Manhattan from Pebble Beach

Yes, there really is a beach in New York! Head over the Brooklyn Bridge and into DUMBO for a little stroll along the shoreline of Pebble Beach - a real New York beach with amazing views of Manhattan. Despite the wonderful views it wasn't too busy when we visited so perhaps this is somewhere that's still yet to be discovered by some tourists.

26. Get a bird's eye view at One World

I have enjoyed some pretty incredible views all over the world during my travels but none have impressed me as much as the view of New York from the One World Observatory - I really can't put into words what it was like from the top of the viewing tower but we could see for miles and miles and it was absolutely incredible. Easily one of the highlights of our trip, if you see just one view in New York, make sure it's this one.
40 Things you must do in New York - One World
27. Take some time to reflect at Ground Zero

Standing at Ground Zero made me cry - it didn't matter that I was surrounded by tourists, I forget them all as I stood at the place where the Twin Towers once stood. An event so huge and life changing, it feels like it happened only yesterday.  It all felt too raw for me to even think about doing the Museum but standing at the memorial fountain was something I really wanted to do and I'm so glad that I did. It's a truly beautiful memorial.

28. Explore the Upper East Side and get a coffee at Ralphs Coffee

The Upper East Side was one of our favourite areas of New York to explore. The perfect place to explore the designer shops, the stores are a lot quieter than the other stores on Fifth Avenue and it's a lovely place for a walk with some great people watching. If you can't afford to shop designer then definitely duck into Ralph's Coffee in Ralph Lauren for a coffee in the store - it's a lovely place to rest your feet.

40 Things you must do in New York - Ralph's Coffee

29. Buy candles at Bath & Body Works

Simon looked slightly panicked when I picked up my fifth candle to take to the till at Bath & Body Works but I promise if you pack light it is easy to get them home. I could have fit even more in my case as I was still well under my luggage allowance. The three wick candles at Bath and Body Works are just incredible and we really don't have an equivalent in the UK, I have to stock up every time I'm in the US.

30. See Lady Liberty on a Sunset Cruise

Every guide to New York that I read before we went said to never book an organised boat tour to see the Statue of Liberty and to take the free Stattan Island Ferry but I would definitely advise against this.  The ferry gets so crowded so unless you want to fight for your spot to see the Statue I instead suggest booking a really good quality cruise. We sailed with Classic Harbor Line on their Sunset and Statues Tour, our ticket included a glass of fizz and it was a lovely relaxed way to see the sites. With plenty of room for everyone we had picture perfect views, travelling out during golden hour, seeing the Statue at sunset and then seeing the whole skyline lit up at night time. Such a brilliant experience!

40 Things you must do in New York - Statue of Liberty

31. Do the NBC Tour

I will admit this was perhaps wasted on me a little as I don't really watch any of the US talk shows but Simon absolutely loved the NBC Tour at Rockerfellar and if you're a regular viewer of Saturday Night Live or the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon it's a great behind the scenes look at how TV is made. We were very lucky and got to see an SNL rehearsal during our visit and we loved the end of the tour where we got to create our own TV show.

32. Play on the Subway at the New York Transit Museum

Even my husband didn't realise that I'm actually a bit of a secret transport geek - yes I'm the kind of person that watches documentaries about the London Underground - don't judge! The New York Transit Museum is housed in a decommissioned subway station in Brooklyn and is such an interesting look at the history of the Subway. The very best bit of the museum is on the platform where you'll discover a very impressive collection of old Subway train carriages all set out in their original state complete with advertisements. It's great if you want to take photos on the Subway without annoying the commuters and if you're a secret geek like me you'll be in your element.

40 Things you must do in New York - Transit Museum
33. Leave Midtown Manhattan!

Many tourists fall into the trap of just staying in Midtown Manhattan but our favourite places in New York were all of the incredible suburbs that are just waiting to be explored. We particularly enjoyed wandering the streets of SoHo and Greenwich Village and know that there are still so many places for us to explore on our next visit.  We never made it to Williamsburg, Little Italy or Chinatown!

34. Take to the skies on the Roosevelt Tramway

An absolute hidden gem, the Roosevelt Tramway offers great views of the city all for the price of a Subway ticket. As we had our weekly ticket this didn't cost us any extra money at all and it was such a great experience. The cable cars make the short journey from Manhattan to Roosevelt Island regularly and it has to be the most fun way of photographing the skyline.

40 Things you must do in New York - Roosevelt Tramway

35. Walk the High Line

Walking the High Line is a must on every visitors list and we could see why. The 1.4 mile stretch from Chelsea to Hudson Yards is the most beautiful escape from the streets below with beautiful urban gardens, art installations and views of the streets below. Filled with tourists, joggers and people relaxing in the sunshine, it's a spot very much enjoyed by all.

36. Visit the Shake Shack at Maddison Ave

To say we are obsessed with Shake Shack would be a bit of an underestimate.  Simon and I enjoyed four (yes four!) visits to Shake Shack during our trip to New York, we honestly couldn't get enough. I usually hate fast food burgers but honestly this is on another level.  Their burgers are incredible, the fries are something else and Simon is hooked on their shakes.  There are several locations across the city but Maddison Avenue is absolutely beautiful with a huge amount of outside seating all set underneath beautiful fairy lights.

40 Things you must do in New York - Shake Shack

37. Grand Central

Having seen Grand Central featured in so many of my favourite movies it was quite surreal stepping into the busy terminal for the first time.  It is exactly how you imagine it to be and so much more! It is definitely worth dedicating a bit of time to properly exploring, there's so much more to see and do than you first realise.

38. Drink Frozen Hot Chocolates at Serendipity 3

Made famous by the film, Serendipity, the frozen hot chocolates at Serendipity 3 are a must if you are visiting New York. It's pretty hard to explain just how good the frozen hot chocolates are.  A delicious drinkable treat (so thick you need a spoon) they fall somewhere between a melted ice-cream and a thick shake.  Perhaps the biggest surprise was how lovely the place was, as a very popular tourist spot we had expected to queue for a table but instead got straight in and the friendly staff were some of the loveliest people we found in New York!

40 Things you must do in New York - Frozen Hot Chocolate

39. See a Show on Broadway

You really can't go to New York without seeing a show on Broadway ... we ended up seeing three! Although a lot of people recommend the TKTS Booth on Times Square I'm not a fan - joining the queues of tourists in one of the busiest parts of the city where the chances of you getting a show you actually want are pretty slim is not the life for me. Instead I recommend getting yourself rush tickets for the show that you actually want to see. Most theatres sell a limited amount of cheap tickets for the same day when the box office opens at 10:00 am. With some keen beans queuing outside the box office from early in the morning if you are desperate to see a particular show get yourself there first thing but as a guide we joined the queue for Mean Girls at 8:30 am and the queue for Waitress at 9:45 am and managed to get tickets to both shows.

40. Try and get"THE" photo in DUMBO

One thing you will notice everywhere you go in New York is people trying to get the most famous shots of the city and none more so than the iconic shot of the Manhattan Bridge from Washington Street between Front and Water Streets in DUMBO. I have never seen so many people trying to take a photograph in one place, and although it was absolutely ridiculous you can't help but join in.  If you're lucky enough to get this shot without a lot of people in the background you really are winning.

40 Things you must do in New York - DUMBO

I hope you've enjoyed this little glimpse into our week in New York, it was easily the best holiday we have ever been on and we are really hoping we can go back one day.  Now that we've done all of the tourist things we love the idea of exploring more of the suburbs and perhaps spending some slightly calmer days just pottering around.

If you've been to New York before I'd love to hear about your favourite spots in Manhattan! Where shall we visit on our next trip?

For more photographs from our trip to New York follow me on Instagram here

Wednesday 6 November 2019

The North East Christmas Gift Guide

When it comes to buying Christmas gifts I try very hard to shop local wherever I can, treating friends to presents that are made in or inspired by the North East. Believe me nothing beats presenting your loved one with something truly unique from under the tree (although I try and forget about the year I confused my entire family by buying them Stotties from Greggs in my determination to take a little piece of the North East back to Norfolk)!

I hope you take some inspiration from my North East Gift Guide and if you have any ideas yourself I would love to hear them.

The North East Christmas Guide

For the Bairns

Could there be anything cuter than a baby proudly sporting a "Shy Bairns Get Nowt" bib? I think not. Geordie Genes create baby vest and bibs and kids tees designed for kids with North East roots wherever in the world they may live.  Their collection includes "Worky Ticket" hoodies, "Alreet Pet" tees and my personal favourite "Howay Mam" baby vests.  Perfect for causing confusion as soon as you leave the county!

For the Proud Geordie

Wear your Geordie Badge with pride with an eye catching pin from Pin Club. These little cuties look so smart decorating a jacket or bag and their regional inspired pins include an Angel of the North, a Vegan Greggs Sausage Roll, a Radgie pin and one that simply says "Mint". I have my eye on so many of these, it's only a matter of time before I'm completely covered in them.

The North East Christmas Guide - Pin Club

For the Gin fan

The popularity of gin doesn't seem to be fading and if you know a fan it really does make a great present. There are a number of gins made here in the North East so I was a little spoilt for choice when putting this Christmas Guide together, but I have decided that when it comes to pretty as a picture bottles and beautiful flavours you really can't beat Poetic Licence Gin. Poetic Licence is a small independent distillery based in Sunderland who have some truly wonderful creations including Strawberry and Cream Gin and Fireside Spiced Gin as well as some delicious gin based liqueurs.

For a North East Christmas Shopping Experience

Although buying pressies online is the most effortless way to shop I still love the buzz of getting out and about into the shops to purchase gifts and perusing some of my favourite local gift shops in the run up to Christmas is such a joy compared to the busy high street.

The National Trust is a great place to start if you're looking for the perfect present and Seaton Delaval Hall has some exclusive gifts created in the North East to celebrate the region's greatest party planners, the Delavals. They have some great stocking stuffers including a pocket mirror and tote bag but my personal favourite is their "you'll always find me in the stables at parties" tea towel. A cheeky little nod to one of their infamous parties where guests showed up to a party at the hall, only to find the place in complete darkness - cross and about to leave, the doors of the stable were suddenly thrown open to reveal an incredible feast ... now that's my kind of party!

Some of my other favourite local stores to delve into include For the Love of the North where you will find a great range of prints, tees and pins created in the North East and Glamorous Owl (hidden down one of the cutest little cobbled streets in Newcastle) who stock some beautiful jewellery as well as ceramics, glass and textiles.

The North East Christmas Gift Guide - Seaton Delaval Hall

For the Coffee Lover

If you have a coffee lover in your life then some goodies from Pilgrims Coffee will definitely be a great way to impress. We discovered Pilgrims on our adventures to Holy Island earlier this year and they roast some of the very best coffee in the North East. Their bags of coffee make a really great and unique present and although you can buy them from their online store, it's also a great excuse to head over to the island and try some of their fabulous coffee and cake while you're there.

For the Fahonista

Top of my Christmas wish list this year is some new things for my wardrobe from A City By the Sea who celebrate Newcastle and its close proximity to the North Sea through the most beatiful visual storytelling. They do colourful prints featuring some of my favourite parts of the North Tyneside coast as well as tote bags and mugs but it's their collection of sweaters and t-shirts that have really caught my eye.  With fun designs and cheeky little nods (only a true Geordie will understand the meaning behind their "HWTL" slogan tee!) I can't wait to stroll around the Toon in one of their creations!

The North East Christmas Guide - A City by the Sea

For your Love

Running out of present ideas for your other half? Why not treat them to something special at Walwick Hall?  We discovered the boutique hotel hidden in the Hadrians Wall countryside this year and we have become more than a little obsessed. Treat your love to a massage, afternoon tea, five course tasting menu or, if you're feeling very generous, a weekend away in one of their beautiful suites.  The best part about this present?  You get to enjoy it too! You can take a look at all of their available gift cards here.

For the Home Interiors 

Lines Behind have had some truly incredible collaborations this year - from decorating a coffee machine at Tynemouth Coffee to designing beer cans for Fat Hippo, the chances are you will have come across their designs perhaps without even realising it! Their quirky drawings and slogans make me smile every day and if you want a really special gift for someone their North East prints make eye catching gallery walls - perfect for anyone on your present list who loves styling their home.
The North East Christmas Guide - Lines Behind
I really hope my North East Christmas Guide has encouraged you to shop local this year and if you have any tips of your own to share, I'd love to hear them!
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