New York - Saturday, shopping day

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

A sneaky peak of the Empire State Building walking back to my hotel at night
Saturday had always been marked in my diary as shopping day. I woke early, around 6.30am, still buzzing from the night before. I lay for a little while and watched a bit of 24 on the iPad (free uninterrupted wifi in the Refinery i hasten to add!).  After an hour i decided to get up and have a shower then FaceTime the parents. They didn't answer. I FaceTime'd my sister and the boys and gave them a tour around my hotel room as well as the view. I LOVE TECHNOLOGY for allowing me to do this!

I managed to get through to Mum who had actually learned how to answer Dad's iPod touch. She's a total technophobe. We chatted for a little while and she got the room tour too. Come on, don't say you never do that?!

I went for my shower, washed my hair and got dressed. The shower was great. You could fit 4 people in there. Not that i would but for size comparison all I'm saying is you could. After dressing i headed down to the restaurant that is part of the hotel too, Parker and Quinn. It was quiet, but it was only about 8.30am. I had orange juice, tea and a breakfast sandwich. A short while later it was delivered to my table. YUM. The breakfast sandwich was a brioche bread, scrambled egg, ham and runny melty cheese. With a side serving of fried potatoes. The sandwich was really amazing. Especially as this was my first hot meal since the plane for the previous day. The plane food was really good by the way, did i mention that?

After a leisurely breakfast in lovely surroundings I headed back to my room to get ready for my assault on the shops of NYC. I sorted my money out and checked the various locations and opening times on Google maps on the iPad. I was trying not to use too much data whilst away from the hotel since O2 had sent me a text as soon as I'd landed to say they'd be charging me £40. Was this £40 in total or was this starting at £40?! I didn't know and their website is very unclear. Sort that out O2.

Anyway, I was soon out of the hotel by about 10am and headed around Bryant Park and the New York Public Library and onto Fifth Avenue.

Zara. Should I go onto Zara? I went in. But then I thought what is the point of going all that way to buy something I could buy in town at home. I didn't buy. I wandered further up and came to another Sephora. There were a few things i still wanted to buy but didn't the night before. I bought them here. Another Tarte blush, nail polish and more perfume rollerballs. The Rockefeller Centre came into view and since i was going here on Sunday I took a quick look at the ice rink area and the flags. It was surreal to be standing there after seeing it so many times on TV or in films. J Crew came into view and i headed in. They seemed to have a 25% sale on items but i wasn't sure if it was on everything or certain things. I browsed for a little while and spied something that i was interested in. I took my phone out to use the currency converter to see how much said item would cost me, with and without this discount. Remember to add that tax on though! I decided not to get it just now but it was in the back of my mind, just in case.

A walk further up Fifth Avenue and i came to Tiffany's. My destination. I entered through the revolving door and inside were lots of display cases with everything from sterling silver to million pound diamonds. Okay so i didn't see anything worth that amount but there were things in the tens of thousands. I caught the lift up to the third floor - sterling silver! haha. Again on entering that floor there were cases and cases of different rings, chains, bracelets, pendants, all things silver and a few gold. It took me a good while to look around. It's like some sort of sweetie shop for adults. I settled on a few items and again tried to work out how much this was going to cost. Ach what the heck. Who cares. I'm getting myself two things. It's just gotta be done. I ended up with an Atlas collection ring and matching bracelet. This means that YOU can get me the accompanying necklace for my Christmas *wink*. Presents for my sister and mum were bought too. I can say this here now as they've already got them. The service was great and the woman wrapped each item individually in one of those famous Tiffany blue boxes with an off white ribbon. Then she put everything in a large bag and gave me four little individual bags for giving the presents too. A nice touch. Watching her wrap the boxes in the ribbon I guessed that each assistant must have been put through their paces at a ribbon wrapping class before being let loose on the shop floor.  I left shortly after that.

what about those Elmo comfies!
Heading out I looked at my phone and realised i'd been in there over an hour. Wowsers. I could see the corner of central park from here but decided that it wasn't going to interrupt my serious shopping expedition. Next up was the Apple store, for nothing other than a short charge of my phone and a nose. But if you've seen one Apple store you've seen them all. Same items, same prices except those times have a dollar sign and ours a pound sign. Damn that eh.

After that I wandered along East 58th Street to try to find Bloomingdale's. They also had a denim sale on, I checked before I left my room. I entered into a wonderland of designer handbags. Now, I did say to myself I'd buy a new bag, a Philip Lim Pashli was what I was after. But on seeing the price (although cheaper than if I was buying it in the UK) I just couldn't part with that kind of cash on a bag. I just couldn't. I headed up the escalator to the contemporary fashion level. It was awash with Acne, Alexander Wang, Etro, Christopher Kane and as I was passing the Kenzo section I was complimented on my 'cute shirt'. I was wearing my awesome white Kenzo tiger head sweatshirt. I was tempted to get a couple of items but alas I really wanted jeans. New jeans.

They were up another level. Denim galore. And plenty of people to help you find the right size and fit. I wanted some Paige denims in plain denim with no rips in them as I realised too late that I'd only packed boyfriend jeans with rips in them. Duh. I found a pair i quite liked and tried them on. There were two pairs to choose from but i opted for the Paige Kylie crop jeans which turned out to be a pretty good ankle length on me. Perfect. They're a dark indigo denim so can be dressed up with a cute pair of heels. And lo, there was 15% off 1 item of denim or 25% off 2 items. When you convert it back into pounds i saved a good £50 on these jeans if i were to buy them here in the UK. I love you exchange rate!

After Bloomingdale's I exited into real warm sunshine and had to remove my jacket. I was laden with bags and my back was starting to ache. Ducking into a Bath and Body Works on my way to Grand Central Station, I bought some bits and pieces for presents. This was on my list. During my walk I got a voice mail on my phone from the restaurant where I'd booked lunch for on the Sunday, Minetta Tavern. I called back to confirm and kept walking down Lexington. Almost 20 blocks later (yes I walked 20 blocks) I saw Grand Central Station and headed inside. WOW.

Inside Grand Central Station, obvs. And you should see that ceiling
It really is just like the movies. Sorry I'm saying this all of the time. Actually, I'm not sorry as I was well excited. It stood for a few minutes taking it all in. It was busy but not crazy busy. Cameras were flashing, the voices were echoing and every now and then an announcement came over the tannoy for the latest departures. Wandering around I stopped at the clock in the middle of the vast main concourse and a couple of women asked me to take their picture. It as a tradition for them they said. They were tow of a group of friends from all over America who, whenever they visit New York, go to the clock, have a picture taken and send it to the rest of the group saying 'meet us at 3pm'. I loved that little story and longed for a similar one, except here I was alone. Not with a group of friends, but with only my phone to take pictures and capture memories for me. However, they kindly returned the favour and took a picture of me at the clock and we went our separate ways after the thank you'd. People are just lovely sometimes aren't they.

By now I was getting hungry, but since my plan was to head down to Soho in the evening and maybe try to grab a burger, I decided that I'd quite like a Magnolia cupcake and some tea. It took me a while (several trips outside the building and umpteam stops at the 'you are here' map) to find it. It was on the lower level, almost directly across from Shake Shack. Argh, that was on my 'to do' list too but i couldn't have two burgers in one day. Plus the queue was miles long. I settled for a vanilla cupcake and no tea. They'd run out of black tea, offering me chai or early grey, to which i politely declined. I took my little cupcake in the magnolia box and headed the few blocks back to my sanctuary at the Refinery.

I sat for a little while and watched a few things on TV, then freshened up. My face need a clean. It must be the traffic dust or something but i just needed to wash my face. I ate the delicious cupcake and at around 5pm I headed off out towards herald square and the Flatiron building.

Wow it really was something. Again, just like you see in pictures, but me being a building dork i totally loved it. It was turning out to be a lovely evening walk. But my feet just couldn't take me all the way to Soho so I took my first subway ride! Exciting. I bought a ticket and hopped on after only a few short minutes wait.

Soho subway tiles
Gorgeous golden evening glow
Before I knew it I'd emerged into the golden hour to a new landscape of buzzing narrower streets and lower buildings. I liked this a lot. Admittedly with only a paper map to hand (I was trying to save data on my phone!) it took me a little while to get my bearings but once I had found them I headed straight to the shop on the top only my 'to do' list, Rag and Bone on Mercer street. I was after another pair of jeans. And perhaps one of their amazing fedora hats. The denim display was at the back of the shop so i headed straight there but not without the customary welcome from a sales assistant manning the front door area. Nice.

I found the jean style I was after, The Dre, I could only find the white plan denim or ripped ones. My ripped jeans collection far outdoes any other so i decided what the heck and chose the white. I was led downstairs by another nice assistant to the changing rooms who would be the one helping on my visit, she said. I told her my size and she said no, let's try a 27, I think a 27 will fit you. Wah! I've not had 27 jeans on for ages but i went with it. And sure enough they fitted but the white just wasn't me. I asked if she had them in plain denim and in fact, a new style had just come out in the Dre jean. She took a little while to bring them but when she did I tried them on and they fitted like a glove. Size 27 Dre jeans in the new Bradford wash. Perfect. Whilst in the changing room i was trying to work out how much the jeans and a hat wold cost me in pounds. I decided that I couldn't part with the cash just now so it was jeans only. Now, yes they were expensive but when converted back into pounds, they still cost me less than they do if I were to buy them here. Bargain. I left with a spring in my step and headed for the Adidas Originals shop. I wanted new Superstars.

When I found it (my internal compass was slightly off) it was like a garage. There was loud music. The whole front of the shop was open for you to just wander in. It wasn't big and to be honest the selection wasn't that great but i found a crisp all white pair in the kids section. And they didn't have that pesky tax added. All in all I got them for £30 and so picked up a cool little black Adidas NY t-shirt for Ryan. With that my shopping list was nearly complete. I wandered around Soho for a little while longer. Darkness was setting in and being alone I didn't want to leave it too late to head back to the hotel. I really loved the Soho area though. I'd come back for more exploration.

My second trip on the subway was just as fine as my first and I got off at Times Square and walked the short 10 minutes walk back to my hotel. It was about 8.30pm and I collapsed on the bed. I hadn't had anything substantial to eat since my breakfast at 9am. This could only mean one thing. Room service from Parker and Quinn!

I oohed and ahed over the in room menu and decided on the burger and fries and a cup of tea. Yes I know. But hadn't had tea since 9am too! After washing my face again and sorting through the shopping bags, i found some good things to watch on TV and rested on the amazing bed till the knock on the door came about half an hour later.

Room service
Room service was deliver in a brown paper bag on a tray with napkins, plastic plate and plastic cutlery. My tea came with a little side container of milk, and there was a little serving of tomato sauce in a separate dish too. Inside the bag was two trays. One filled with fries. The other had my burger. I didn't even bother using the plate, I just ate it from the black tray it was delivered in. Now, I'd seen in reviews that some people didn't like this form of delivery on plastic trays and plastic cutlery but it didn't bother me. I've seen the Kardashians eat salad from those on the new series ;) Even though they were plastic the food was hot and honestly the burger had amazing melty cheese on it. I even lost sight of my sense and forgot to take a picture of it! Damn. The chips were so tasty. They were proper potatoes but cut thinly and still had their skins on. And the tray I got was full of them. Once I'd been fed and watered i got changed into my jammies and sorted my itinerary for Sunday. Then I had a nice surprise. My cousins Facetimed me all the way from Australia.

A good end to a tiring but wonderful day shopping in New York. Dreamy.

Angela xx

New York - Friday night lights

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Being the planner that I am, my plan for New York was this...

Friday: after check in and freshening up I'd head to Times Square and explore for a while. I'd then head to Fifth Avenue and find some shops. Have a quick look around. Scope the area, then head back to the hotel.

Saturday: SHOPPING DAY! Fifth Avenue and around the area and then later on Soho.

Sunday: Top of the Rock, Highline, Greenwich Village for lunch, 9/11 memorial, Wall Street area, then walk across Brooklyn Bridge.

Monday: breakfast, check out, a little more exploring and maybe some shopping.

What actually happened was this...


Before leaving I was reading on the web about a new play that had opened on the Tuesday night for preview shows. Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men was on a short run in the Longacre Theatre. And here's the best part EVER!! The main characters were being played by none other than Chris O'Dowd and JAMES FRANCO! I mean WHHAAAAAT!! No I am not apologising for my over use of capitals and exclamation marks. This line up deserve it. AND if you don't know who either of those people are then you're basically dead to me (just kidding, a little) ;D

So yes, Of Mice and Men was something I'd heard of but didn't actually know the story. I'm glad I spent most of my Wednesday Googling for tickets instead of reading up on the story. It would have spoilt my magical experience. I somehow managed to land a ticket for the supposedly sold out Friday night show. It cost a pretty penny and I was really hoping it wasn't some dodgy ticket touting website I'd used. You never know.

Wait, back to the hotel. I'd just landed-check. Checked in-check. Then I went for a wander. I'll head for Times Square and then go to collect my ticket at the Longacre box office I thought to myself. By this time it was about 4pm in New York. The streets were busy with both traffic and pedestrians but surprisingly to me it was nothing too bad. I was looking all around, looking up, taking pictures as I wandered. Always look up, eh @DanRubin. One block from my hotel I turned right onto Broadway and I saw what I knew to be the edge of Times Square - wow so close. Ten slow walking minutes later I was there. THERE.

Words can't really describe it. It's busy. There's people everywhere. There's billboards flashing at you from above, below, front and back. Camera's and phones are abundant with people taking every opportunity to save some memories for the future. It was so busy I nearly got clothes lined by an Elmo! haha. I soaked it all up for a little while. Wandering from side to side then to the red steps where everyone takes pictures. Really great. This is the life I mused.

Then i spied a Sephora. Now Sephora, for those not in the know, is like a beauty junkie's dream shop. It's got most things and was the first shopping list I wrote on my phone. I couldn't help myself. I went in. There was too much choice, too much. All kinds of brands and all kinds of colours.  But i did it. I made my first Sephora purchase. Presents for my little cousin and a few bits for me. Before I realised it it had been an hour in there and I still hadn't been to the box office to collect my ticket. That would be my next stop.

Walking up Broadway I couldn't help but take more pictures of the street sign. You gotta get them while you can (without being knocked down by a yellow cab!). A short while later, at the Hershey's shop, i turned left onto West 48th Street and arrived at the Longacre. The box office was open and sure enough my ticket was there waiting for me. Woop! I hadn't been duped by a tout website. Amazing.

I headed back to the hotel to have a shower and change of clothes but not before stopping at a CVS to pick up water and some crisps.

The show was at 8pm but I wanted to get there in time to be seated by 7.45pm so i left the hotel just after 7. I timed it. 4 minutes later I was in Times Square. 4 actual minutes! My hotel was in the perfect location. This close to the main attractions but far enough away that you're not getting all the pedestrian footfall right past it. I entered the theatre and went to take my seat. It was a small theatre with a high ceiling adorned with two lovely ceiling roses and chandeliers. Although we were being told not to take pictures inside plenty of people were, so i quickly took a couple of snaps. My seat was great. 5 rows from the stage and slightly to the left. Argh, JAMES actual FRANCO will be right there in 20 minutes, Argh.

looking up, Longacre theatre

The venue was filling up nicely and soon it was time. The lights dimmed, a net curtain type material rose up and there they were. George and Lennie. James and Chris. OMG. I grinned and i didn't stop til near the end. As I mentioned before, I did not know the story and oh man I'm so glad I never. It was both funny and heartbreaking. A story of loneliness, friendship, bonds, family who aren't your family, life on the road, everything. Chris O'Dowd was absolutely perfect and made to play Lennie (a large, strong but simple-minded man). And I mean that in a good way. He was much more imposing in real life, I didn't realise how tall he was. His normally floppy curled main had been shaved, he'd grown a thick wiry beard and he wore a blue denim all in one. Not a onesie though. It's never a onesie. You can tell the relationship between Lennie and George is a special one. George looks out for Lennie, but heck, Lennie would die for George.

Ah George, lovely James Franco. Safe to say my interest levels have spiked to an all time high 10 since seeing this play. Shorter than I expected, and stalkier too. But man, much more handsome and dreamy in real life. Absolutely nothing like all those pin up looks you see in magazines. But they're all airbrushed anyway. Nah, me, I prefer the real life than the airbrushed version of anyone. His George was fabulous too. You could tell that there was a great real life rapport there between those two actors notwithstanding their on-stage relationship. I think it only added to it. George was a sharp short tempered guy who just wanted the good life. He'd looked out for Lennie for a while and they'd dreamt and planned this whole other life together. Things happen along the way and story takes turns I'd not expected. When the end came I was crying like a baby. After the final scene the lights went out and in one unanimous wave everyone rose and clapped and whooped and cheered. It was quite a special moment. In fact I'm welling up as I type. It was emotional. I couldn't take it all in. I was standing there in New York having just watched this amazing cast in a brilliant play and there was a standing ovation. The cast all came out to take their bows and were grinning too. At the end I saw Franco grab O'Dowd and give him a chest slap as if to say 'great show'. They both had the widest grins. And boy does James Franco have a great smile...

I tried to wipe my eyes before the house lights came up but it was no use. My glasses had to be removed to wipe them. These were happy tears though.

Outside there seemed to be a blockage on the pavement then (duh!) I realised it was because people were waiting at the stage door. I didn't think they'd come out so quickly but after about 10 minutes, there they were. Chris first. He stopped to take pictures and sign autographs for people. I was at the back of the second black SUV I thought they would have come that way. Nope. I'm sure he went away wandering down Broadway. 5 minutes after James came out with a couple of others. He too signed programmes and took pictures. Again I ever got one. I did get him in the car though - honest!

Chris O'Dowd, what do you mean you can't see him! ;)
Still smiling I headed back into Times Square for night time pictures. Luckily for me there's always someone willing to take a picture for you for one in return. By this time it was after 11pm and I'd been up and awake for nearly 24 hours. It was time for some shut eye back at the hotel.

A short walk down Broadway and left onto West 38th Street I was back in the comfort of my cosy room in 10 minutes.

What a first day... James Franco... *dreams*

Angela xx

New York - first taste, Refinery Hotel

Monday, March 31, 2014

at Edinburgh airport
As January turned to February and February to March my excitement levels rose to about 10 on the Angela scale of hysteria!

I bought a new case, I rewrote my lists, I searched Google maps for places close to my hotel and yes, i checked Trip Advisor every other day for new reviews or traveller photos of the hotel.

The day finally arrived and I woke before the sun and set off for the airport for the first part of my journey. Edinburgh to London Heathrow. I was on the busy plane quickly enough and eating a cooked breakfast before most people are on their commute. After just over an hour we landed in Heathrow. I followed the purple signs for my connection. Terminal 5B. Gah! I had to get the little transfer train and my flight was boarding in less than an hour so this meant no browsing at duty free. Boo. But by all accounts, unless you're buying something that is expensive in the first place, you aren't really going to be saving that much money anyway. I went to the toilet then stocked up on juice and two bottles of water for the flight. Always keep hydrated!

Boarding the flight and my heart skipped a beat as I thought "wow my seat is spacious". Nope. I was walking through the business class section. However, I had upgraded to World Traveller Plus so my section was next. I was in an aisle seat on the middle rows of four seats. I like an aisle seat. The plane was packed and once they'd done the counting of heads and safety checks we set off soon enough. About an hour into the flight they brought the meal. A lovely piece of beef, some mash and roast vegetables and a chocolate mousse for dessert. This travelling malarkey wasn't too bad after all! There was plenty of drinks and tea too. Yum. I watched Sunshine on Leith and then a little bit of Filth and before I knew it we were getting a chicken salad sandwich and kit kat for afternoon tea. An hour after that we landed. It was 1.35pm. Phew. It looked lovely outside.

Because we were near the front we got off the flight pretty quickly and made our way to security. I wasn't too long in the security line and lovely guy Sanchez stamped my passport and wished me a belated happy birthday and a great trip. I think I waited longer for my cases than I did for security and started to have a mini panic that they'd been lost. Not to worry as I'd packed an extra t-shirt and jumper and some underwear in my hand luggage. Savvy, me. Soon enough though my yellow case was on the belt and i pulled it off and headed outside into the warm New York sunshine. Breathe it in, breathe it all in...

I debated about getting a ticket for the bus or a taxi, or would I use the Uber service I'd signed up to a few weeks ago. What the heck, Uber it was. This was my fantastical treat to myself after all. What a great service. I arranged my pick up via the app and a minute later I got a text to say my driver was on the way. He texted me himself to ask which terminal, I replied and within 5 minutes a big black SUV was waiting for me across the road. The driver was Walter and he was very lovely. He offered me water and a cable to charge my phone. I was sitting in the back like some sort of minor celebrity, so I thought ;)

He chatted away and told me about where we were travelling through, Queens. He told me where he'd travelled too (he hadn't been to Scotland). We passed two huge cemeteries and pretty soon i caught my first glimpse of the midtown Manhattan skyline. WOW. There's nothing quite like it I've seen yet. I was excited. Five minutes later we were under the east river going through the tunnel. And five minutes after that we emerged into the bustling New York streets, all grid like in their nature. We went up a slight hill. Yes, a hill in New York. I'd never have thought it. Out of the tunnel is pretty much two blocks from the street my hotel was on and i recognised some buildings from Google street view. Yes, I did *that* before setting off, haha.

On arriving at the hotel it was pretty much what i expected. Grand lobby. Gorgeous smelling with their burning of Le Labo candles and really helpful and courteous staff (who were quite young and hip looking). Tip dilemma. When are you supposed to tip the doorman? I had not a clue. How much? Is it a slight of hand thing or openly accepted? argh these were all racing through my mind.
the lobby of Refinery hotel

this theme ran throughout the hotel, keep smiling 
My check in was quick and easy and the young lady was very helpful and friendly. Pretty beautiful too. There's lots of beautiful people in New York! I entered the lift and hit floor 9.
my room
in the lobby outside my room, gorgeous decor
My room looked like it was on the corner of the building. When I opened the door it was exactly like the pictures I'd seen on Remarkable. (For more professional pictures hit that link back there to, my camera and iPhone really can't do it justice).

What I noticed first was the size. Pretty huge for a NY room by all accounts and with tall 12 foot ceilings. The flooring was dark hardwood flooring. Phew, no dank carpet!

To my left through a dark wood and opaque glass sliding door was the amazing fully tiled bathroom with large walk in shower. All brass fittings and black granite wash sink top. Le Labo toiletries were an added bonus, they smelled amazing. There was a window too. If I could design a toilet for my own house, this would be it.
the huge bathroom and walk-in shower

lovely tiling on the bathroom floor

selfie! gorgeous dark hardwood flooring

the legs of the desk, like on old Singer sewing machine
To my right was a desk. The legs were akin to an old singer sewing machine legs (the clothing theme continued throughout the hotel). On the desk was the drinks from the mini bar. Gin, wine, water, whisky, a couple of crystal glasses, an ice bucket and an old fashioned bottle opener in a box.

Then there was the bed! A queen size bed. Now, is that bigger than a UK double bed (?) because when I sank into it, it looked and felt like you could get 3 of me on there comfortably. The linens were white with a grey hessian style blanket as well as a duvet. The pillows were firm enough to hold your head but not brick hard. Next to the bed on the wall was a huge piece of blue artwork with a brass light fitting above. Very stylish. On the wall was a 42" LCD TV with every station you could want.

I had two large windows that had a view of the next streets skyscrapers. I could just about see the needle fro the top of the Metlife building. There was a closet with a safe and ironing board as well as hangers. I could fit my case and hand luggage bag in but i reckon you could easily fit two large cases and a couple of bags in there. In the mini fridge next to the bed was soft drinks and more water, as well as chocolate and wait for this... shortbread, haha. On first impressions I loved this room. I was delighted with my hotel choice.
my view, typical new york

and the bathroom view too
After taking some things out of my case and getting my money sorted it was time for me to head out into the streets of New York... I just knew I was going to enjoy my stay here.

Angela x

Concrete jungle where dreams are made

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Yep. That's right. After many years of talking about going to New York I finally made it there last weekend. AND, IT, WAS, AMAZING! *angels sing from the heavens above*.

Sometime in January my luck turned for the better. Well, I say luck, but you make your own luck in this world I find. But it happened. Before I knew it I was on the BA sale website pricing a return ticket. In two days it was booked. Wowsers! How very spontaneous of me.

Next up was the search for a hotel. Now, although I'm not well travelled I do know what I like, and what i don't like. Large chains aren't my thing. Keep your Best Western's or such like. I wanted small (is anything really that small in New York?), I wanted classy, I wanted somewhere i'd feel right at home in on my very first visit to New York city. Because I, dear friends, like home comforts.

Now my hotel research was already a third of the way there considering I always have or Expedia opened on my browser, just in case a good deal happens to come along, you know. So i'd been planning an imaginary trip to New York for a few years. But now it was finally happening. I'd had a few hotels on my short list so i Googled each one and noted reviews (good and bad) for each one, then i created a spreadsheet of prices and compared them. My research.

I narrowed it down to about 5. Dream Downtown, Ace Hotel, The Nolitan, The Nomad Hotel and Refinery Hotel. The Standard (east village and high line) and the Mondrian were a bit too out of my price range. Actually not by much but they didn't feel right for a solo trip. All very similar in price for a room. Ace was slightly cheaper but from pictures and reviews the rooms looked smaller. Dream Dowtown was a little more expensive for a standard room, and whilst it was in the Chelsea/West Village area it was pretty far from the main attractions on my list. I knocked these both into joint third place. The Nomad was going to be my first choice, i could even afford the king atelier room as seemed to have them on offer. But something drew me to Refinery. It was further uptown, on West 38th Street, two blocks from Bryant Park. There was free wifi. But the piece de resistance was the absolutely wonderful pictures I found on a website called

STOP. Word: I only just found during my research for this trip but I would recommend it if you're looking for real life hotel pictures. Taken from all angles of the rooms you really get a sense of what it'll actually be like. (I hoped!). A bugbear is when hotel website don't give you detailed room pictures, grrr. Anyway, it impressed me. Then I read reviews on Trip Advisor. They all pretty much seemed favourable barring a few grumps but you get that on every one. It's currently sitting at a top 10 position in the best of New York hotels lists.

From the information given it is a fairly new hotel that used to be a hat factory in the garment district area of Midtown in New York. The rooms are tastefully decorated in the 1930's style but with a modern twist. Free wifi throughout. A restaurant attached. And by all accounts an up and coming NY night time hotspot in a rooftop bar with Empire State building views! Phew. I mean i don't drink so the rooftop bar is lost on me but a view, well i'll take a good view over a drink any day.

I uhmed and ahhed for a few days and made my decision. Refinery Hotel it was. I booked it on (book now pay later charge and free cancellation). I got confirmation right away on my phone and a booking receipt in my passbook app. Cool! I then added the booking to my iCalendar. Was this to be the tone set for my trip?...

A few weeks passed and it was time for me to get excited for my trip. I began writing a shopping list in the Notes on my iPhone. I checked and double checked my flight booking. Every two days I would go on to Trip Advisor to read the latest reviews about the hotel - mostly 5 star by the way! Then I got my own personal itinerary together, an itinerary that I planned and that i could unplan if I wanted to because this trip was a solo trip and it was all mine.

When I told people I was going there was gasps of excitement then the question... "Who are you going with?". "On my own" I smiled. Then it came. The look. The look that only a single person gets when they don't conform to the "normal' way of things. I get it all of the time. I call it the pity look. It looks like they're pitying me but actually I pity them because they'd never have the guts to do such a thing as go to the cinema alone, let alone go to New York city by themselves. There, I said it.

Then comes the statement that I get a lot too. I get it when i tell people I don't drink alcohol, I get it when I say I go exploring on my own and yes i got it when I told people I was going to New York alone. "You're very brave". Jeezo. Brave?! what does that even mean in this context? Brave...

I'll tell you next time how brave I was on the trip...

Angela x

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