An escape to the country: Our treehouse babymoon

With a tendency towards minimalism and a love of the great outdoors, it is perhaps unsurprising that one of my longer standing whims (if that’s not too much of an oxymoron?) has been to stay in a treehouse. This desire was finally realised last week, when R and I headed to Wales for three nights in a secluded cabin in the canopy.

Located just outside the village of Tintern, sited at the top of an orchard and surrounded by fields on all sides, the treehouse offered the perfect solitude we were looking for. Built by our host, Gemma, it spanned three rooms – a combined lounge/kitchen/diner, a bedroom and a bathroom – plus a little balcony, just big enough for my yoga mat! With running hot and cold water, a wood burner and an electric hob, we had every luxury we needed for a glamping weekend away.

While a few people raised an eyebrow at my desire to holiday in a treehouse while 33 weeks pregnant, this did little to dampen my enthusiasm. In fact, taking a few days to escape the hot and hectic city, and all of the jobs that need to be done around the house, was just what we both needed. Chore, TV, work and stress free we enjoyed long chats over unhurried meals in the local pub, read our books while sitting on the balcony overlooking the orchard, went on long walks fuelled by a supply of hot cross buns to be enjoyed when sufficient mileage permitted, lingered over the crossword over breakfast of properly made (not microwaved!) porridge, played cards and scrabble in front of the fire, and generally embraced the serenity and togetherness that we know may become increasingly rare in the coming months.

While the excitement of the new addition to our lives takes up a lot of ours thoughts, energy and plans at the moment, our weekend in the trees was a wonderful opportunity to just be us again for a while. Whether it was while doing yoga on the balcony or reading a trashy magazine (me), going for a morning run or enjoying a third pint at the pub (R), we indulged ourselves, free from the usual pressures of home life. We also enjoyed those conversations, which so often come with our holidays, that are liberated from the bounds of domestic priorities – no questions over what’s for dinner or who’s going to empty the washing machine!

While I don’t often talk about my relationship here, I just wanted to acknowledge how lucky I am to have such a wonderful partnership with someone with whom sharing a tiny space in the trees is all the luxury I need! I love that when our relationship is stripped back to two pairs of walking boots, our anoraks and some time outdoors, we are both at our best, no grand gestures or fancy hotels required. It was good to be reminded of this and to have it at the forefront of both of our minds ahead of the new challenges that await us.

I was too sad to leave when Monday morning came around and we needed to get back to the city. Sadly our treehouse retreat was not enough to satiate my whim for a treehouse holiday; rather, it fuelled my desire to book another! Let’s hope baby Suze shares her parents’ enthusiasm for time outdoors and we can enjoy more treetop adventures together.

Until my next, enjoy any summer escapes you have planned.

We stayed at Mistletoe Treehouse, Tintern, booked with Canopy and Stars.

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Stepping up

I have been wearing my Jawbone Up for just over a month now, so I figured it was a good point to make an initial review.

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Jawbone
Anyone who has found themselves going from a to b with me over the past 6 weeks will know that walking has become my mode of transport of choice. Come rain or shine, I have started to eschew tubes and taxis in favour of a jaunt to my destination, (something which a group of fellow publishers discovered to their dismay on a freezing, rainy night in Frankfurt, as I took them on a trek across the city, under the slightly optimistic promise that our destination was only 15 minutes away – and by 15 what I really meant was 35).

I had previously thought that I walked a reasonable amount, but now I’m seeing all of the opportunities that I had so readily missed. Suddenly, an awareness of my sedentary moments – the hours at my desk, the time spent in meetings, the long stretch of my commute, spells in cars or on trains during weekends away – is compelling me to move that little bit more. The Jawbone obviously can’t do the exercise for me, and its efficacy relies on me seeing the stats and holding myself to account, but it really has been motivating me to move that bit more. Knowledge is power and it’s also good at guilt-tripping you into getting up and going for a walk.

I now get onto the train to work from one stop further away from home than is necessary. Since I live right opposite the station, I found that if I got on at my pre-Jawbone stop, the walk would only rack up to a paltry 200 steps tops; walking to the next stop, however, I can ratchet up 2,800-3,000 steps by the time I reach my desk. I do the same one my way home too (if I’m not planning to run home), meaning that my commute alone can allow me to hit 6,000 steps door to door. If I don’t run at lunch I’ll take a walk around the park to tip me over 7,000 steps for the first half of the day, and my 30 minute stationary reminders – a little buzz to say ‘get moving’ – see me popping to check the post, do the office coffee run or grab some water from the kitchen at least every hour.

Walking in the mountains
Walking in the mountains
A month in and I’m starting to spot trends: on the days I go on longer runs I usually hit around 22,000-24,000 steps for the day. On short-run and non-running days I range between 13,000 and 19,000 depending on how busy I am at work and how my evening plans pan out. I am pretty consistent during the week, and with my commute, lunchtime stroll and a run I hit my targets.

Weekends, however, vary wildly. On weekends in London I topple 20,000 steps a day, even if I feel I’ve just been mooching around the local area, as I walk everywhere and often go on a couple of runs. Even getting the tube involves a reasonable bit of walking and I never sit down while I’m on the train. Weekends away, however, seem to be less prolific from a step perspective, in part due to the fact that outside of London we tend to drive a lot more – in London you don’t think twice about walking to the corner shop or strolling into town for a coffee, while elsewhere you tend to drive more since the distances are further and public transport links are less convenient. Also, while at home I am my own master and can potter, run or take long walks at will, whereas others seem less keen to jump on the walking bandwagon.

I set my initial target at 10,000 steps, then almost immediately upped it to 12,000. This week I nudged it up to 13,000. The app keeps trying to encourage me to increase my target further, but I’m resisting (for now).

All of this walking has found me reading more about the benefits of getting out for a few extra steps, and the pitfalls of too sedentary an existence. Frighteningly, it seems that gym trips alone are not enough to keep you in shape if the rest of your day is spent sitting still. A recent study found that sedentary desk-based workers who exercised were at just as high risk of various health issues – diabetes and heart disease – as those who didn’t exercise regularly. For the desk worker, what’s much more crucial than intermittent trips to the gym is regular movement. Even just standing, rather than remaining totally stationery, may create enough of a stimulus to counter some of the negative effects induced by extended periods of slouching at your desk. Aim for five minutes of standing for every 30 minutes of sitting; add a couple of stretches during this time and you will be doing yourself, your back and your hip flexors, a big favour. These little movement breaks are not only good for your body, but can also help your mind, boosting productivity and helping to get the creative juices flowing – ever had that eureka moment while stood waiting for the kettle to boil? That’s what we are talking about.

I have also found that walking boosts my mood – getting outside into the fresh air always makes me feel better, in the morning it wakes me up and after work it helps to clear my head. Lunchtime strolls also helps to curb my appetite, as I usually follow my salad with a stroll, by which time the food has had a chance to settle and I’m no longer craving a post-meal sweet treat.

The Jawbone doesn’t just count your steps, you are also able to add your other ‘step-free’ exercises, such as swimming, yoga, and circuit training to your ‘step diary’. The app keeps a tally of how many times you workout a week, reminding you how well you did last week if the currently week is looking slightly more sedentary. At the moment, including runs, I’m averaging 6-9 workouts a week.

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Get walking
The other really useful function is the sleep tracker, which allows you to set a bedtime reminder and, come morning, it lets you know how long you slept for, you light and deep sleep rhythms, how many times you woke in the night and for how long for. I have set my sleep goal at 8 hours, but rarely hit this target. Even if I’m in bed for 8 hours I tend to wake at least once a night for between 20 minutes and and hour. At the moment I’m happy if I make 85% of my goal on this front (but am aiming to improve!).

Finally, the app monitors your overall behaviour and makes movement and exercise recommendations based on what you are doing. It may suggest standardising your bedtime or adding stretching exercises and yoga to compliment your running. There are healthy eating tips and links to articles relating to exercise, diet, sleep and general wellbeing.

I know that I’m already driving R and my colleagues crazy with my step checking and stats obsession, but I’m hoping that as I get into more of a pattern I will become less fixated on the figures. If you are thinking about getting a tracker I would encourage it, even if just to make you more aware of how much you are moving and to find areas where you might improve. Like a food diary, the Jawbone works primarily on the basis that awareness and transparency hold you to account and that by learning about your behaviour you learn how you need to adjust it.

Happy walking.

Step to it!

Last year David Sedaris wrote an essay, published in The New Yorker, entitled ‘Stepping Out‘, in which he reflected on his relationship with his Fitbit.

In his inimitable style, Sedaris described how the acquisition of this little watch-like pedometer turned walking from a hobby into a competitive sport and then into an obsession. With his Fitbit keeping track of his steps, he found himself walking further and further each day, increasingly dissatisfied with earlier aspired-to targets. 

From 10,000 steps a day (‘a distance you can cover in the course of an average day without even trying’), to 15,000 steps (‘not bad if you are on a business trip and getting used to a new prosthetic leg’), to 30,000 (‘honestly how lazy can you get?’) and eventually hitting 60,000, which equates 25 miles a day. 

At this point he knew that 65,000 would be the next target and that there would be ‘no end to it until my feet snap off at the ankles. Then it will just be my jagged bones stabbing into the soft ground’! 

Thus he questioned, why is it that some people can manage something like a Fitbit while others let it rule their lives? 

I mention this now as I’ve just acquired a Jawbone fitness tracker.

Despite his previous reluctance to let me have one, R actually bought it for me for my birthday (something which I gently remind him when he rolls his eyes as I cite my step and sleep statistics or anxiously pace the house to hit my daily step goal). 

Like Sedaris, I find myself wanting to please the tracker (which we have fondly named ‘The Dictator’). On the days it ‘thinks I can do better’, suggesting I up my daily goal by two or three thousand steps I can’t help but say ‘yes’. 

I have a buzzer set to remind me when I’ve been stationary (or as The Dictator somewhat unkindly phrases it ‘idle’) for half an hour and this has prompted frequent tea or water runs at work, or spontaneous turns around the office, much to the bemusement of my colleagues. 

Not only does it track my steps, but it also monitors my sleep. And I feel the need to explain to The Dictator that while I’m trying to hit my sleeping goals, if I want to do yoga before work and fit a morning walk in, then 6:15 is the required rising time.

On the days I go running it buzzes like crazy, but here in approval as I smash my daily average goals. I have it synced up to my Strava run tracker too so it can see exactly what I’ve done. 

I have a gentle buzz alarm set half an hour before bedtime to tell me to get ready for bed and I anxiously check my morning statistics, which tell me how many times I woke in the night and for how long for, as well as how much deep and light sleep I have had.

As it stands The Dictator doesn’t seem to take into consideration gradient, so the 25,000 steps I walked in the mountains gave me the same calorie burn as the 25,000 steps I took around London, which I felt slightly disgruntled about.

However it does encourage me to add little walks in throughout the day – getting on and off the tube a stop earlier, walking around the park at lunch, nipping out after supper to get the final thousand under my belt. 

The app, which The Dictator feeds back data to, allows you to add non-walking workouts – yoga, Zumba, swimming, cycling etc. You can also add your daily food intake and it gives you a more realistic assessment of how many calories you are burning a day and thus encourages you to make better decisions in terms of what you’re eating. 

The app also allows you to track your mood and you can see how various sleep and exercise patterns improve or worsen your outlook.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t hooked already, but then I love tracking my statistics and I don’t think R expected any less from me.

I’d be really interested to hear about other people’s experiences with their fitness trackers; if the novelty has worn off or if you are still pacing the room trying to reach a new step target.

More stats from me to follow but for now I need to get walking as I’ve had my 30 minute idle warning! Happy stepping! 

30? I’ll take that.

Boats Calvi Corsica
The harbour, Calvi, Corsica

If you had asked me two weeks ago how I felt about turning 30 the response would have been less than positive. It’s so easy to get hung up on the idea of a number; a target by which we believe that certain arbitrary goals should have been reached. In the dying days of my twenties I felt the weight of my own expectations hanging over me – had I ticked off all of those things that the me of 10 of 15 years ago had hoped to have achieved by this stage of my life?

Running away to Corsica with R for my birthday was a canny move. Rather than seeing my 30th year in on a drizzly British Friday in the office I spent it on a boat in the 30 degree heat, sailing from Calvi to see the beautiful nature reserve of Scandola and enjoying a birthday lunch in the tiny town of Girolata, a place only accessible by boat.

NB this is my left hand...
NB this is my left hand…

The evening was spent drinking champagne in a cosy little wine bar followed by a delicious supper washed down with Corsican red. R even topped the wonderful birthday celebrations of last year with a birthday present I couldn’t have even have dreamed of receiving (and I’m not talking about the Jawbone – although more on that to follow!)

So distracted was I by the beauty and wonder of the world around me and so overwhelmed by all of the love and well-wishing from friends and family, that I totally forgot that I was no longer a 20-something.

In fact on that day, 30 felt pretty damn good.

Beautiful beach
Enjoying a beautiful beach

So far 30 has brought me more love than I could ever imagine from the most amazing friends and family.

It has brought me days in the sunshine, walking in the mountains and lounging on the beach. It’s brought art galleries, adventures down new roads, swimming in the sea, yoga on a roof terrace and picnics sat on top of boulders in the hills.

So is 30 the big deal I was worried it might be?

I know now that the past 30 years are an integral part of me; the lessons learned, places visited and the people I’ve met and loved along the way are things that I’d not sacrifice for anything.

I know that one day – the tipping point from 29 to 30 – has not suddenly changed my mind or body.

Walking in the mountains
Walking in the mountains

The arbitrary achievements that I may have set for myself 5, 10 or even 20 years ago have changed; experiences and the parameters of my world have expanded so much that that while there are many items I may not have ticked off my ‘before 30’ list, there are many more things that I’ve done which I would never have thought to add to a list written all those years ago.

So how is 30? I’d say pretty damn good.

Luxurious long weekends

I’ve been feeling a bit end of term-ish and rather exhausted lately, despite the vast amount of things I still need to achieve before I finish work for Christmas. Therefore it was heavenly to be able to take some time out this week and to enjoy a long weekend away in Yorkshire.

With the physical distance from work stresses, and with super comfy beds, fresh air and dark, silent starry nights, I enjoyed a series of nights spent actually sleeping, without the tossing and turning and panicked waking I’ve been suffering in London.

And while my running took a backseat for a few days, the weekend also included a blissful walk on Ilkley Moor, which reminded me how much I love being outside, away from the crowds and busy hubbub of the city.

Saturday saw another nod to sport, with my first trip to see Bradford City play at Valley Parade with R. As with other trips to see live sport I found myself so much more engaged and invested than when listening on the radio or watching on TV and the 90 minutes raced by.

Sadly the final score was not quite what we’d hoped for (1-1 with the opposing side, Gillingham scoring in the 93rd minute), but it was definitely an experience to be repeated (if R will have me there again!).

The weekend also involved a lot of good food and drink and I’m afraid all of the low calorie days of the previous week were undone!

Our walk on the moor was followed by a strawberry and banana smoothie and delicious parsnip and coconut soup with rye bread at the smoothie bar in Ilkley, and later with a sneaky trip to Betty’s Tea Shop!

Our Friday evening included a supper of delicious vegetable chilli and salad followed by tasty baked apples stuffed with homemade vegetarian mincemeat, topped with Alpro soya cream, all cooked by R’s mum.

On Saturday, supper was at the vegetarian restaurant the Cheerful Chilli, where we shared a meze platter of olives, hummus, falafel and sweet potato crisps to start, which I followed with an aubergine curry with pear and chilli chutney. Delish and definitely worth a visit if you in West Yorkshire.

On Sunday we also enjoyed a tasty home cooked meal of vegan cottage pie, made with lentils, pearl barley and walnuts (a recipe I intend to pinch!) and for pudding a vegan fruit crumble – perfect Sunday fayre!

Needless to say I’ll be back on the low calorie meals again this week!

While hard training, strict dieting and long days at work certainly have their place, so too do relaxed weekends, long lie-ins and healthy, hearty meals. I feel so much revived after the past few days and ready to restart and re-engage in the office and on the running track next week.

Guilty pleasures (that are actually good for you)

After Monday’s rather sombre post I wanted to follow up with something a little cheerier. As is often the case when you are feeling a bit low it is nice to indulge in a few guilty pleasures. Since Sunday I have been enjoying a few of my favourite things and realised that while these are little treats, they aren’t altogether bad ones and even those with a slightly more negative slant still have a silver lining! I think so at least!

  1. Health and fitness magazines

magOn Monday I was working at our Windsor office and inexplicably (since I’d hardly looked at it all day at all) my phone battery decided to give up. With the knowledge I had a 45 minute train journey ahead and (unwisely) no book to hand, I treated myself to Women’s Fitness magazine and indulged in a journey of health and fitness news, exercise tips and delicious recipes.

Having not bought a fitness magazine in an age it was such a lovely treat and I picked up a few new exercises and foodie tips to boot! For example did you know turmeric is now being lauded as the next superfood? Or that a high-fibre meal can reduce the negative impact of sugar from fruit juices? And I also like the recommendation for threewordadvice.com – some favourites of mine: call your parents; remember the details; admit you’re wrong; turn everything off; wake up earlier; be less bothered; love your body.

  1. Abandoning my phone

That evening also reminded me of another guilty pleasure which I know my family and friends sometimes get annoyed with me for, which is ignoring, abandoning, or just altogether turning off my phone.

It’s nice not to be 100% reachable at all times and to be able to properly surrender yourself to activities without one eye on your phone just in case someone calls/texts/whatsapps/emails/tweets/facebooks etc. I think it helps you to focus your concentration and be fully in the moment and engaged in what you are doing. It’s also nice to be liberated from other people’s narratives and with them the nagging dissatisfaction that comes from the feeling that you should be exercising more, staying out later, traveling further, partying harder and forging a more successful career. My pet hate is sitting at a table in a bar or restaurant with friends all sat with their phone out. So sometimes, whether it’s because I want to listen to a podcast, read a book, cook, chat with my housemates, take a bath or just potter, I will ignore my phone (sorry to those who call me at these times!)

  1. Bubble baths

They are warm, cosy and relaxing. What more could you want?! They also give the perfect undisturbed opportunity to indulge in guilty pleasure number 4.

  1. Radio 4/podcasts/TED talks

My new podcast discovery is ‘Stuff You Should Know’, which is a 50minute show on every topic you can imagine from coffee to currency and interrogation to animal domestication. The two guys who host it, Josh and Chuck, chat in a really fun and accessible but really well-informed and researched sort of way.

It’s hard to explain so I recommend you give it a listen or have a look at their website www.stuffyoushouldknow.com. If it’s not SYSK, I’m forever listening to TED talks or my favourite Radio 4 shows – Saturday Review, Front Row, The Film Programme. I love learning for learning’s sake and feeling informed and updated on all of the latest cultural events. It’s also a great way to distract my brain from the stresses of the day while not letting it go to mush – active recovery for the brain!

  1. Getting off the train early to walk

Especially at the moment when coming home from work involves a beautiful sunset I can’t resist a stroll. After being inside all day being outside and stretching my legs while either listening to music or just hearing the world go by, I love taking time to myself to just walk and process the day. The benefits of walking are multifarious from keeping you fit, helping you to sleep better and boosting your energy levels to increasing your attention span and boosting your memory. Before you go on a walk give this article in the New Yorker on the link between walking and thinking a quick read, then get your walking shoes on!

  1. Running home from work

photoThere is something about putting on my trainers and running away from work that I find a little bit sneaky! Plus it means I get to avoid the rush hour crush and feel a little bit smug when I arrive home having truly earned my supper.-

  1. Mishmash suppers

You’ve not had time to go food shopping, or you’re trying to use up the tailends of multiple meals from the week, either way you don’t want to waste any food and can’t face the corner shop. The result: the mishmash supper. This week I indulged in crumpets with tofu scrambled in a dash of sesame seed oil with salt, pepper and chilli, topped with grilled tomatoes, wilted spinach and beans, not bad for leftovers!

  1. Red wine

glass of red wineNow the seasons are on the change red wine has reaffirmed its place as my favourite drink. Something about darkening evenings and candlelit suppers demands a glass of red wine. While I know the disadvantages of this vice there are a few positives such as the antioxidant content. Everything in moderation!

  1. Eating my greens

I feel like this is a guilty pleasure because it’s meant to be virtuous but I actually really like it! I love broccoli, I put handfuls of spinach into anything and everything, I get through sugarsnap peas and edamame beans at a breakneck pace. Rocket with avocado, cabbage with black pepper, asparagus with cracked salt and chilli, mmmmmm!

10. Early nights

I’ve never been a night owl and while there are occasions when I surprise myself by staying up past 1am, as a rule I normally keep to Cinderella hours. Even more decadent however are the evenings a good supper, glass of red and bath send me spiralling into 10pm warm drowsiness and I sneak into bed with radio 4 and fall asleep before I’ve even heard the opening gambit. Bliss!

The pursuit of happiness

IMG_1319I wanted to write one last post before I leave the US so I’m writing this while sitting in my favourite spot, looking out onto the Hudson, sun on my back, iced coffee in hand.

I thought I’d write a top ten of things to do in New York based on my last three, perfect weeks here, but I couldn’t narrow it down to ten so here’s my top eighteen instead!

In no particular order:

1. Pack your running shoes and go running
Everyone in New York seems to run. Young, old, fast or slow there is hardly a pathway or park that you won’t see a runner, and with some of the most beautiful urban running routes I’ve encountered it’s really no surprise.

Central Park is full of great little routes of varying lengths and I recommend just getting lost zigzagging the paths. Riverside Park also provides beautiful views of New Jersey accompanied by the gentle lapping sound of the Hudson and some beautiful boats silhouetted against the sky.

IMG_1174If you were just going to do one run, I’d recommend the route around the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir in Central Park. The views are spectacular although the loop itself is only 2.5 km you can easily add on extensions into the park or make a second loop if you desire.

2. Walk
Walk everywhere, or as much as you can. One of my absolute favourite things about New York is the grid system. It means that even those, like me, with the absolute worst sense of direction, can always find their way.

Walking everywhere has meant that between points a and b I have encountered many cute little coffee shops, quirky cocktail bars, sunny little parks and stunning vista, emerging from quite unexpected vantage points, all chance encounters that I would have missed on the metro. Walking is such a great way of piecing the city together, on top of which, it’s such great exercise. Give yourself lots of time just to walk in Central Park. I’ve walked through it most days going to and from work and each time I still seem to find a spot I haven’t seen before.

IMG_07483. Visit Chelsea Market
Chelsea in New York is like the Liverpool Street of London, with Chelsea Market an American Spittalfields. With vintage stalls and amazing delis and cafes it’s easy to lose yourself for a good few hours. It’s all inside too, so perfect for rainy days or as an air conditioned retreat when the sun is out.

4. Walk the High Line
While in Chelsea and the Meat Packing District it’s really worth walking the High Line. This little garden retreat above the busy streets, while congested in parts, is also home to many benches and corners away from the crowds perfect to enjoy the views of the city.

5. Hit balls off Chelsea Pier
Not far from the High Line is the pier sports complex. Even if you are the worst golfer (like me) there is a certain degree of pleasure in driving golf balls off this high tiered driving range into the nets while overlooking the river. The complex also has a climbing wall if you are feeling particularly athletic.

IMG_13146. See iconic works of art
It’s a must. Even the least arty type can’t help but be awed by the Frick’s Vermeer’s and Rembrandt’s, MoMA’s Picasso’s and Monet’s or the Met’s Degas’ and van Gogh’s. All within a short stroll (with the exception of MoMA which is in Midtown) of each other along Museum Mile on the Upper East Side. Here you can also visit the Guggenheim, the Whitney, and the Cooper Hewitt.

The Met’s rooftop garden (and bar), as well as a perch on the steps for some people watching are worth a visit in themselves. Similarly MoMA’s sculpture garden offers a nice retreat in the centre of a bustling Midtown.

7. Sacrifice tea, drink iced coffee
I love tea but unfortunately I’m yet to find a good cup of tea in New York. What New York does do exceptionally well however, is coffee. I’d not tried iced coffee until this trip and I have to say it’s one of the best discoveries. I love my coffees at home, but when it’s 30 degrees hot coffee appeals that little less, but iced coffee with a spot of soya milk, amazing!

8. Watch some baseball
Nothing beats live sport and let’s be honest the American do live sports with style. Whether it’s the Mets or the Yankees, get yourself a beer and some junk food and cheer on the home side!

IMG_05179. Look at the city from the top
In any city this is my favourite thing to do and the Empire State Building offers spectacular views of Manhattan. I’ve also had Top of the Rock recommended to me. Either way, this is certainly a city you need to see from on high.

10. and from the water
The Staten Island ferry is free and offers incredible views of the Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty.

IMG_0353You can also take the Circle Line sightseeing boat, however at around thirty bucks for a two hour trip I’d recommend taking the ferry instead.

11. Go Downtown
On your way back from Staten Island you can walk through the financial district, along Wall Street and via the 9/11 memorial, which is definitely worth seeing.

I loved the aesthetic of the financial district with it’s cleanly cut, no nonsense  skyscrapers reflecting the blue of the sky.

12. and Midtown
From the sleek Financial District to glitzy Midtown, highlights include the Rockafella Plaza, Grand Central Station, the West End, the New York Public Library, MoMA, Bergdorf Goodman, Tiffany’s and of course, Time Square.

Time Square should only be viewed after dark; in the day it has a more than slightly seedy feel, by night it’s spectacular.

IMG_090013. Walk the Brooklyn Bridge
For the views and for a trip to Brooklyn Bridge Park on the other side and of course Prospect Park, further into the heart of Brooklyn.

14. and the Williamsburg Bridge
It’s certainly not as pretty as the Brooklyn Bridge but it brings you right onto the main road through the  hipster central of New York.

It’s cuter than Shoreditch but you get the general idea and with a wealth of vintage shops, cool bars and cafes, which spill out into Bedford Street it’s definitely worth a trip. If you want hipster slightly closer to the heart of Manhattan, Alphabet City offers a good alternative.

15. Drink cocktails
The wine can be hit and miss and pretty pricey either way, the cocktails are always a hit!

16. Eat bagels
They’re so tasty and I refer you back to my post on American cuisine.

IMG_061217. Go to Coney Island
It’s kitsch and cutesy and kind of weird, but it’s worth the metro ride. Walk along the pier, paddle in the sea and wander around the funfair. It’s a bit like Blackpool, but hotter!

18. Watch the world go by alongside the Hudson
I’ve spent mornings over breakfast here, lazy Sunday afternoons reading my book or just watching the world go by and evenings to see the sun set.

IMG_1204The Upper Westside is a haven away from tourists and the bustle of town. It’s sufficiently residential that it feels like home and sufficiently commercial that you have everything you need on hand. It has been the perfect home for three weeks and I’ll be too sad to say goodbye.