31 May 2017

May reads: 'Black-Eyed Susans' and other thrillers

Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin

I hold my hands up. April reads did not happen. I was busy frolicking amongst the empire state building and a stack of humongous pancakes. Hashtag no regrets.

I mentioned back in March that I am loving thrillers/police crime atm and these are some particularly sexy ones for you to sink your teeth into.

Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin 

This book. THIS BOOK. It’s a fairy tale thriller, an amnesia thriller and a classic who-done-it thriller all in one. You’ll also learn a lot about exhuming bones and the appalling details of an execution which is, you know, nice.

I can't recommend it enough though. Best book I've read in ages. Sophisticated, eerie and beyond compelling.

Dumped in a grave with bodies and bones, among a field of black-eyed Susans, Tessa alone survived and her testimony helped put a vicious serial killer behind bars. Or so she thought. Now, 16 years later, he is about to be executed but someone is planting black-eyed Susans outside Tessa’s window, there’s a lawyer telling her an innocent man is about to be put to death and Tessa still can’t remember those fateful 36 hours.

Which could mean the real killer is still out there.

Dear Amy by Helen Callaghan

The twist in this one was such a good’un. It’s a psychological thriller at its best; creepy, full of suspense, and I really liked the unusual premise.

Margot is an agony aunt for the local newspapers, under the guise ‘Dear Amy’. She’s dealt with a lot of letters before but never one like this. For this is a letter from Bethan Avery, a schoolgirl who went missing twenty years ago. It surely must be a hoax. But as the present-day search for a missing school girl intensifies, Margot becomes entangled up in the search for the sender and must face her worst fears.

The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin 

I loved this book. So much so that I read the entire thing in one sitting.

It’s about a little boy who has nightmares, a phobia of water and wants to go home. Because, as well as being four-year-old Noah, he also remembers being nine-year-old Tommy.

It’s a really interesting exploration of the importance of memory, as well as reincarnation and grief. And there’s a murder mystery thrown in for good measure.

The Farm by Tom Rob Smith 

Your mother says your father is a conspirator to murder. Your father says your mother is mentally ill.
Who do you believe?

A ‘Scandi’ thriller, jumping between rural Sweden and central London, with the main character Daniel having to decide which of his parents is telling the truth about the disappearance of a young girl.

Full of stories within stories, this book, as cliché as it sounds, will leave you guessing until the very end (naturally I got it wrong).

Happy reading x

Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin

27 May 2017

Little Gems: in the wake of tragedy

I’m currently writing this with a view of a swimming pool, ocean and Albania. In that order. Oh and I have one hand curled around a glass of wine so I can’t promise that this isn’t going to be a rambling mess.

I brought my laptop with me to Corfu with the idea that I would have loads of writing time. When actually, apart from the odd bits here and there, I’ve mostly just read several books and lazed around whilst eating copious amounts of Greek salad and baklava. And that, quite frankly, is more than fine.

As the title suggests, this post was supposed to be one of my usual Little Gems posts. I first started making little lists of things that had made me happy a few years back, when I was going through a particularly shite time. Focusing on tiny, happy things really helped me get through the day and it’s something that’s stuck with me. So I like to try and do them at least once a month as I find them really quite… therapeutic? I feel it’s important to take time every now and again to appreciate life.

But right now?

Well, a bomb went off in Manchester.

So chatting about a cool book I read recently or how amazingly clear the sea is in Corfu seems, right now… daft. Like I’m being self-absorbed or insensitive in the wake of such grief.

Even though I know it’s important to focus on the little happy things now more than ever. To appreciate every single moment in life because you never know when those little moments might be over forever.

But, right now, there are some whose lives have been shattered beyond return by a completely barbaric, senseless act of violence.

So the main thing I’m appreciating right now? That none of my loved ones, and I know how easily they could have been, were at a concert in Manchester.

I struggle to believe that I live in a time where it’s becoming standard to wake up to news of people strapping explosives to their bodies and blowing themselves up in a crowd of children. I long for the day when it isn’t.

Sending love and hope to those who lost their lives in Manchester, to those grievously injured, and to all those left behind.  

18 May 2017

Video: Postcards from New York

Video: Postcards from New York

Hey kiddos.

It's video time again. A montage of all the lil snapshots of film I took whilst I spent a week eating wandering my way around the Big A.

Warning: involves footage that will probs make you book a flight to NYC immediately and therefore empty your bank account. Soz and that.

Other New York posts here.


14 May 2017

The Best Touristy Things To Do In New York

The best things to do in New York

This is kinda a hard one to write. Because, in my eyes, New York City can do no wrong. In my eyes, everything you do in New York will always be ‘the best’. And that’s probably why the post-holiday blues are so bad when you go to New York that you then spend the next few years desperately saving so you can go back there. It’s a vicious cycle.

Anyway, after much deliberation, these are my recommendations.

Go up the Empire State Building at night 
That view was truly summin’ else. I mean, I basically cried. Seeing all of New York lit up before you is a real-life slice of magic that you ain’t gonna find anywhere else. Go out for dinner, go out for a drink and then get your ass up there around 10/11pm. You. Won’t. Regret. It.

Helicopter Ride
I’ll say ‘it’s worth the money’ over and over again whilst you’re looking at the, ahem, not so cheap prices if it helps you press ‘book’. Cos sweet jesus, it really was. You regret what you don’t do, not what you do, and honey you ain’t never gonna regret swooping over the big apple skyline in a flippin’ helicopter.

Top of the Rock 
The only problem with the view from the Empire State Building is that you can’t see the Empire State Building. The Rockefeller centre is your answer. Go up on a clear day and take in those dreamy views over 3 observation decks (the highest is the best). You can see for miles, including such a sexy view of the Empire State and all of Central Park.

Eat ShakeShack in Madison Square Park 
If there’s one thing I learnt in New York, it’s that ShakeShack is SO GOOD. Their SmokeShack burger, with bacon and sweet red pepper and those crinkly fries with cheese sauce and maaan the strawberry milkshakes… MY WHOLE MOUTH JUST FILLED WITH SALIVA. And yeah, whatever, they now have ShakeShack in the UK but it won’t be the same as eating it in the sun in Madison Square Park, with squirrels running about, and the Empire State just peaking out behind you and HELLO FLATIRON BUILDING YOU DREAMY THING YOU.

9/11 memorial and museum 
The memorial pools are quite something; even though you know they’re as big as the space of each tower, you still are stunned by the size of them. The water is calming as you take in the sheer amount of names etched into the stone; if there’s a flower in someone’s name, I think it means it would have been their birthday. The museum though, blew my mind. It sort of shocked me into this state of grief and disbelief. It’s all underground and vast. It covers the horrific events of that day, plus the history of the towers, the aftermath and hundreds of individual stories collected from survivors or victim’s families. We were there for five hours and I’m still not convinced we saw every section. The bit that stood out the most for me was the room that had a picture of every single person who died covering the walls from floor to ceiling. You could go to screens, click on someone’s picture and find out who they were, how old they were and see more pictures from their life. You’ll probs cry but that’s okay. I almost felt I couldn’t not go and pay my respects to this place when in New York.

The best things to do in New York

The best things to do in New York

The best things to do in New York

The best things to do in New York

The best things to do in New York

The best things to do in New York

The best things to do in New York

Mooch around Midtown 
You can see a lot of the classic sights of New York in Midtown, and they’re all free. Go see the lights of Times Square, the sheer beauty of Grand Central Station, the Chrysler and Flatiron buildings, and take a wander around the New York public library. That reading room was really quite something.

Go see the Friends apartment building 
Because if you don’t spend half your time making references to Friends, did you even go to New York? It’s in Greenwich at 90 Bedford Street, on the right hand side, at the corner of Grove street.

Have brunch at Jack’s Wife Freda 
Cos, holy moly, is their food good. We went for dinner in their Soho branch on our last night and loved it so much, we went back for brunch in the Greenwich branch the next morning. We firmly agreed that dinner was the best evening meal of the holiday but I preferred brunch on the whole because a) the whole place felt like it was meant to be seen in daylight with the big windows, marble bar and pastel colours and b) the poached eggs, halloumi and tomatoes with a cantaloupe juice was probably the best thing to ever enter my mouth. Plus we were sat next to David Schwimmer so there’s that.

Washington Square Park 
You have to take a wander in Greenwich because the vibe is so bohemian and it feels like Washington Square Park sums it up. Within about 3 minutes of being there, we’d seen two jazz bands, some street theatre, people doing chalk drawings on the floor, people playing chess, acrobats practising stunts, a guy with about 20 pigeons sat on him and a woman with a parrot. Plus there’s that famous white arch.

Walk the Brooklyn Bridge 
Ideally both ways but if you don’t have time, get the subway over to Brooklyn and then walk back because that’s where the view is at. On one side, you’ve got the built-up shininess of the financial district with the Freedom tower towering above, and on the other you’ve got traditional New York with the Empire State. There’s just something pretty majestic about walking that bridge; it’s truly special. I mean there is a lot of people but if you went early, you’d probably avoid the tourists. I loved this so much that I insisted we went back on our last day and walk it again.

Brooklyn Heights Promenade, Brooklyn Bridge Park and DUMBO
I would have liked to have spent more time in Brooklyn but I suppose something had to give. Basically if you’re walking the Brooklyn Bridge, then make time at the Brooklyn end to have a little wander round. Like, you have to cos the views are basically the best you’re gonna get. Walk along the promenade (which FYI has featured in approx. 200 films), then grab a ShakeShack and sit in the park and take in that view of the bridge and lower Manhattan. Wander into DUMBO; there’s a flea market there at weekends and you gotta go see the iconic Washington street view of the Manhattan Bridge. More about our day walking the Brooklyn Bridge here.

The best things to do in New York

The best things to do in New York

The best things to do in New York

The best things to do in New York

The best things to do in New York

The best things to do in New York

One World Trade Centre 
Not gonna lie, if you're picking between the skyscrapers, pick the Empire State and Rockefeller before this cos in my opinion the views are better from them. But this is the tallest building in the western hemisphere so the view is still definitely something to shout home about; you get to look across the city from lower Manhattan and you can see the statue of liberty and far out across the horizon. I would recommend doing this after you’ve been to the 9/11 museum because it gives you a sense of the poignancy of the building and everything it represents.

Walk the High Line 
In a nutshell, it’s an old railway line turned green oasis stretching above 2 miles of the city. It was originally built high up because kids kept getting killed when the railway was on the ground so the history isn’t picturesque but it’s been turned into something that is. It’s like a super long garden with art and benches and fountains. We walked it twice and the first time was pretty busy in the sunshine but the second time was at dusk and we could enjoy that sunset in peace. Also it ends in the Meatpacking district which is full of sexy bars and restaurants. Speaking of which…

Eat pie at Bubby’s 
Sat at the end of the high line! The food, drink and atmosphere (including the old school playlist) were just perfect for an evening out. BUT the show stopper is the pie. That’s what they’re famous for. I had a full-on love affair with that peanut butter pie and don’t even care that I cheated on G. It was worth it.

Umpire Rock in Central Park 
Central Park is a special place; a lil oasis, but it’s also BIG. And, tbh, if I had to choose, there was a lot of other things I’d rather do when in New York. So, if short on time, go to Umpire Rock (around 62nd street). Essentially, tall, exposed rock bed where you can sit and just take in the park and all those surrounding skyscrapers. One of my favourite things in New York is the buildings contrasting against the trees. Also would recommend the Jacqueline Kennedy reservoir at the other end of the park; it’s stunning.

Rooftop Bar 
How the heck can you not do this in New York? It will make you feel all sparkly and sophisticated and maybe like this was the life you were always intended for. I recommend 230 Fifth. Because you can drink cocktails in the shadow of the glittering Empire State building and what sane mammal wouldn’t want to do that?

The best things to do in New York

The best things to do in New York

The best things to do in New York

Tick Tock Diner 
Cos it’s just so American, the pancakes are NOM and their bacon is as addictive as crack. We went twice and it wasn’t enough. Soz not soz.

Statue of Liberty 
There is just something about seeing this iconic gal up close. Ellis island is super interesting but if you haven’t got time to do the usual Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island trip, and aren’t too fussed about actually getting off at Liberty island, there are plenty of boat trips that take you as close as possible without actually docking.

Little Italy 
Maybe it was because the weather was so sweet, but I loved the feel of Little Italy. You really do feel like you’ve stepped into a different country with the beach-hol vibe and all the little tables on the street and the smell of pizza wafting about.

Eat pretzels, cheesecake & bagels, buy NYC sweatshirts from lame tourist shops, gaze at the Empire State lit up at night, go shopping in Bloomingdales, be the shiniest, sparkliest version of you, LIVE THE NEW YORK DREAM.

The best things to do in New York

The best things to do in New York

The best things to do in New York

12 May 2017

Walking the Brooklyn Bridge

I’m currently on a train and there’s an old guy next to me wearing a New York sweatshirt and I’m trying to resist the urge to be like WHEN DID YOU GO? WAS IT MAGICAL?

Although that’s kind of a stupid question. New York just creates its own kind of glittering magic. Like Dumbledore or raspberry magnums.

And you know what makes it particularly glittery? The Brooklyn Bridge.

The main reason to walk the Brooklyn Bridge is that, if you don’t, you’ll miss out on some of the best views in the city and your Instagram page probs won’t talk to you for like a week as a result. I loved it so much, we walked the bridge again on our last day. But it’s also free and there’s a ShakeShack at the end of it so there’s that as well.

Despite the fact that walking the bridge was top of my to-do list in New York, I think G and I were both a bit huh when we first got going. It was a glorious day with clear blue skies and there were a lot of people who had clearly had the same idea as us.

Cyclists get maaaaad when you stray over into their lane so it felt a tad like we were all walking single file to get onto a bus or summin’. But then you get over the water, the bridge widens out a bit and it very quickly becomes a more relaxed walk. Almost immediately, we could see the statue of liberty in the distance looking so tiny compared to the towering skyscrapers behind us. The bridge widens out when you get to each of the towers, so that gave me ample time to stop and take photos of the view without the fear of being hit by a cyclist.

The bridge itself had a vintage feel. Once purely practical, the old but still solid structure felt quirky and yet majestic almost. There was just something about the symmetry of the cables as they rose upwards to the top of the towers.

When we reached Brooklyn, we immediately walked onto the Brooklyn Heights promenade which is directly opposite the financial district so gives you some pretty sexy views of lower Manhattan with the Freedom Tower, and the Statue of Liberty. It felt like a film. In fact, I have actually seen many film scenes take place in that exact spot, with the decking under my feet and the boats streaking across the water, so tiny compared to the trade centre.

We then moseyed over into Brooklyn Bridge Park and, not going to lie, I actually squealed at how good the view of the bridge stretching across the water towards those skyscrapers was. We were stood on this little pebbly beach and the sky was so blue and I just kept thinking, like the typical cliché that I am, that it was so much better than I could ever have imagined. And, yes, I’m so lame but I know anyone who will have experienced the magic of New York will get it.

When G managed to persuade me to leave that view, we wandered into DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) to have a look round the Brooklyn Flea market which was so very cute. There was such a vintage pink sofa that I had my eye on but I doubt I would have got it through airport security so I had to let it go.

We then went to Washington street to see the iconic view of the Manhattan Bridge framed by the street. It’s basically a tourist/photographer’s dream, particularly when you look closely and see the Empire State Building perfectly framed underneath it.

We wanted to go to Juliana’s pizza for lunch, which we’d heard was really good but the queues were just too long for us (especially in the heat) so we decided to go for a takeaway ShakeShack instead (second one in two days but hey HOLIDAAAAY). I honestly have absolutely no regrets about this though. The Juliana’s queue probably meant that it was really good but we essentially had a ShakeShack picnic in Brooklyn Bridge Park with that view and that’s now one of my favourite memories of the trip. I honestly could not recommend doing this more, particularly if the weather is good. Does life really get much better than eating crinkly fries in the sunshine with a view of Manhattan? Answer: nah.

Walking back over the bridge on the way back is even better cos that is where the view is at. You just have it all before you for the entire walk back and it’s so beautiful. On one side you’ve got the built-up shininess of the financial district with the Freedom tower glittering away, all new and shiny and hopeful. And on the other side you’ve got traditional New York with the Empire State and you can imagine what it would have been like once upon a time, with 1930s music playing in your head (cos obvs I’m a regular listener of such things).

There are a few people trying to sell you things as you walk along the bridge. Some of it is tacky tourist stuff like key rings etc but we actually ended up buying two sketches from an artist as we walked back. One is of the bridge itself and another is of a typical New York street scene, with the Chrysler building in the background. These are both now framed on the wall in our flat and I have so much love for them.

I feel like, when planning a trip to New York (tips here btw), it could be tempting to just stick to Manhattan, particularly when short on time. But I would genuinely implore you to head to Brooklyn via the bridge. Not only is it FREE, it’s also one of the best things to do in New York.

8 May 2017

The Next Five Years

On the Saturday of the last bank holiday weekend, G and I thought we’d go enjoy the last of the sun with ‘just the one’ drink in the pub garden on the other side of the park before coming home for dinner.

The Ye Olde Fighting Cocks is fast becoming one of my favourite pubs, and favourite place in St Albans in general. The inside has that cosy, low-beams, soft lights thing going on. And the garden is big and leafy, with a view of the glittering lake in the park and lovely multi-coloured fairy lights stretched low above your head.

We settled in the last of the sun to enjoy our drinks and got chatting about the future.

Fast forward six hours, the cathedral bells had chimed midnight and we were swaying/stumbling back up the hill through the park. Needless to say, we hadn’t had ‘just the one’.

That’s the point of bank holidays though right?

We spent pretty much all of the evening planning out the next five years of our lives. It started out simple enough, but the drunker we got, the more ridiculous detail we went into.

Some of it is rather hazy now but I do seem to remember there was a conversation about who would give speeches at our wedding.

Not engaged but got the wedding speeches down to a tee. Ah alcohol you cutie.

Travelling, house buying and babies were also discussed if you’re interested.

And, ngl, I loved it. Yes we were rather drunk and yes, some of it was purely alcohol-induced (particularly at the end of the evening), but the majority felt like ideas we would one day actually see come to pass. And I’m so excited for those days.

None of it is set in stone; wouldn’t be fun otherwise. But it feels like we came away from the evening with a pretty solid idea of where we want our lives to go over the next few years.

That and a hangover.

1 May 2017

Planning a trip to New York

Ah bank holiday weekend. It’s been sunny and pissed it down. I’ve been shopping, had a hangover, done some cleaning and eaten too much. So pretty standard right?

G and I agreed this weekend, albeit somewhat drunkenly, that we were going to start planning our American road trip and so naturally I’m already cracking on. I do love a good planning session.

Which is how a post about planning a trip to New York has come about. It may or may not be useful but hey ho, I’m off to watch Beauty and the Beast again and eat fancy M&S popcorn.


As always with any big holiday, the cost of flights was the deal breaker for us. We agreed we wanted to go but didn’t properly decide until we’d looked at the cost of flights. I’ve heard good things about the British Airways January sale but we were booking in June so we looked into an option I’d come across on the internet, which was to fly with Aer Lingus via Dublin. I’m not keen on long journeys or flying so I was never going to be one to jump at the chance at adding extra journey time or an additional flight into the mix BUT that option was a lot cheaper. I can’t remember exactly but I think there was about a £300 difference in the cost of flights which suddenly made hanging around in Dublin airport for a couple of hours a lot more appealing. Plus, a real perk of flying via Dublin is that you can clear US immigration BEFORE you get on the plane. So when we landed in JFK, we breezed straight into baggage claim without so much of a whiff of passport control. Those of you who have flown to ‘Merica before will know the SHEER TORTURE of having to stand in a 2 hour immigration queue after a 7 hour flight. Torture I tell you.


I would absolutely recommend YOTEL. The location was dreamy for one; it was just round the corner form Times Square so you felt at the heart of Manhattan and could get everywhere easily. If you book far enough in advance you can get a room with a view over midtown for the same price as one without. Everything was really modern and efficient; there was decent wifi, a roof terrace, easy check in via a machine in the lobby and ridiculously quick check out via an app. Plus the bed moved up and down so there’s that.


Yeah boring, but needs to be done if you wanna actually get into the country. They approved ours on the same day so it’s easy peasy. Fill out your application here and don’t forget you have to pay *insert eye roll emoji*.

Booking before 

Worth looking in to whether things you definitely want to do need to be booked in advance. The One World Trade Centre has booked time slots like when you go up the Shard so we bought tickets for that before leaving as well as our Yankee game tickets, helicopter ride, and CityPass voucher. We also booked our table at the Boathouse in Central Park; it was rammed when we were there so there’s no way we’d have got a table just wandering in.


If you want to do some of the typical tourist stuff in New York then I cannot recommend CityPass enough. Essentially, you pay $122 and that gets you tickets to Empire State Building, Natural History Museum, the MET, Top of the Rock, Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island and the 9/11 museum. When you take in the individual prices of these, you save A LOT of money and time queuing to buy tickets. Plus, some of the tickets give you two different options. E.g. you can do the Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island trip OR one of the Cruise tours, some of which take you round the Statue of Liberty anyway. This came in vair useful when we tried to get on the boat for the Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island trip and the queue was, no word of a lie, a mile long in the midday heat. So we sacked it off for ice cream in Central Park and opted for the Liberty Cruise trip instead.


Get the weekly metro card. It gives you unlimited travel for the week (or there’s a 3 day one) and only cost $32. Not much to dislike tbh. And download the subway app. It works offline, gives you a map of the whole subway and tells you which are the local and express trains (which you defs need to know unless you wanna go hurtling through your intended stop and delay pancake-eating time).

Central Park 

Spoiler: it’s effing big. I planned this a lil bit like I did our food (see below). I researched bits I definitely wanted to see and marked them on a map with stickers. At least then, we knew vaguely what direction we needed to walk. Also, if it’s hot, don’t just casually wander in without water. You may never come back out again.

Food map 

Given how many incredible restaurants New York has, I was adamant that we weren’t going to waste even one meal on some meh place. Nor were we going to wander round aimlessly unsure where to eat and end up in said meh place. So I stole an idea I saw on a blog (I can't remember which one otherwise I'd link it here - it would probably explain it better than me!). Essentially, I bought a load of colourful dot stickers and then blew up a New York map, splitting each area onto a A4 page to print. Then, every time I came across a recommendation for a restaurant, whether on a blog, in a travel guide or from a friend, I marked its place on the map with a coloured sticker (blue for snacks, yellow for drinks, green for brunch/lunch and red for dinner). Then when we were there, when it was time for food or drink (which was about ten times a day), we could just whip out the map and see what was nearby. This worked even better than I imagined. Everything we ate/drank for the entire week was just dreeeeamy and I was so flippin’ happy about it.

Hope your bank holiday weekend has been a good’un.