Friday, 21 December 2018

Christmas in New York

Last week, I blogged about what we got up to in New York.

This week's post will focus specifically on all the beautiful Christmas decorations the city has to offer. After all, there are only 4 days to go until the big day!



The Rockefeller Christmas tree

How could I start with anything else? As I've said numerous times on all my social media channels, I've wanted to see this iconic Christmas tree ever since I saw Home Alone 2. We saw the tree from the back on our first night as we couldn't get anywhere near the front, and even that view made me well up. It was more spectacular than I could ever have imagined.




We visited the Rockefeller Center many times during our trip and managed to see the tree from every angle possible, during the day and the night. Thankfully it wasn't quite as busy as it was on our first night for the rest of the holiday!




The 72ft tree is the focal point of the Rockefeller decorations, and rightly so, but the whole area around the Rockefeller Center is charmingly festive. This includes the famous ice rink and the mesmerising decorations in the Channel Gardens. Every detail was absolutely perfect and I could have stared at it all forever.








Fifth Avenue 

Fifth Avenue was filled with an absolute wealth of decadent Christmas decorations. The extravaganza started with the giant UNICEF crystal snowflake just after clearing Central Park, and everything else just snowballed from that point (see what I did there?).




Lots of the high-end designer shops along Fifth Avenue had beautiful large-scale displays on their storefronts, as well as inventive window displays. It was a pretty impressive sight during the day, let alone at night when everything was all lit up and twinkly.








Saks Fifth Avenue is the avenue's centrepiece during the festive season, and a very impressive one at that. Every night, the store would put on a spectacular lights show with accompanying music which made us feel super Christmassy. As an extra bonus, Saks is situated directly opposite the Rockefeller tree which meant we could spin around and experience both at once. Slightly surreal, but completely magical. 






Macy's 

We only went to Macy's once on our previous trip to New York due to a lack of time, but we became a little obsessed with it this time. It was only a ten minute walk away from our hotel and the store's Christmas decorations, both inside and outside, were out of this world. The decorations on the ground floor were particularly impressive and I couldn't get enough of their giant suspended baubles. They all rotated very slowly which meant it sometimes took about 20 seconds to get a decent shot, but it was completely worth it.








As for the exterior, I honestly felt as if I was an extra in Miracle on 34th Street whenever I walked past. Macy's is an absolutely massive store and they certainly make sure passers-by are swept up in the infectious spirit of Christmas with their beautiful window displays and outdoor decorations. I just wish there was a Macy's in Cardiff! 










Radio City Music Hall

I loved Radio City Music Hall's Christmas display. It was pretty minimal compared to some of the decorations I've raved about already, but something about it just caught my eye whenever we walked past.




The displays in the surrounding area were also really eye catching. I'd seen a lot of them on Instagram before we arrived so I was very excited when we came across them on our first night. Radio City is pretty close to Rockefeller Center so we made sure we saw these decorations several times during our trip. Unfortunately, it was impossible to capture the sheer scale of these displays with a simple photo!










Central Park 

We made a conscious effort to spend quite a bit of time in Central Park during this holiday. On our last day, we wandered to the Wollman Rink... not to ice skate, but for me to take a nice photo. It looked so perfect against the beautiful city backdrop and the blue sky. I know this doesn't strictly fit in with the Christmas decorations theme, but it looks like an idyllic Christmas card so I figured it was fine to include it in this post.





As well as all these notable sights, there were beautiful Christmas trees and decorations in hotel lobbies, shops, apartment entrances and restaurants all over the city. If I'd have had my way, I'd have blagged my way in and taken photos of all of them.

New York City is pretty special whenever you visit, but it was truly magical during the festive season. I'm so glad I was able to experience it and to tick such a big dream off my bucket list.

In the meantime... 'Merry Christmas, ya filthy animal!'



Friday, 14 December 2018

New York in 15 photos

Last week was better than average... I spent it in New York.

I've wanted to go to New York to see the Christmas lights since the first time I saw Home Alone 2 many moons ago, and it was absolutely everything I dreamed it would be.

We went for six nights and managed to fit in a highly impressive amount. As a result, I thought it would be a good idea to share one photo from each of the sights and attractions we visited. I took 777 photos in total so this was quite a difficult challenge, to put it mildly.

A separate post will follow next week about New York's Christmas decorations, including the spectacular Rockefeller Tree, so don't be alarmed at its omission from this post!



Empire State Building





Top of the Rock





One World Observatory 





9/11 memorial and museum 





Best of NYC Circle Line Sightseeing Cruise 





Central Park 





Times Square 





Metropolitan Museum of Art 





Madame Tussauds 





Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum 





The High Line 





Grand Central Station 





St Patrick's Cathedral 





Mickey The True Original exhibition 





The Friends apartment building 





My Fitbit informs me that we walked 175,000 steps and 134km in total... this isn't surprising when I look back at all the places we visited and take into account the fact that we walked everywhere and didn't use any public transport! 

Look out for more blog posts about New York over the next few weeks, including the aforementioned Christmassy bonanza next Friday. 

Friday, 23 November 2018

Trello is my new best friend

Since starting my new job in March, I've become a little addicted to Trello. I haven't had much time to blog this week as I've been ill, so I thought I'd quickly summarise why I love Trello and what I use it for. 

Trello is basically a haven for list lovers and super organised people (a.k.a. me). You can set up boards for various categories, and within those boards you can set up numerous lists and cards. Cards can then be dragged and dropped into different lists when tasks get finished or priorities change. You can do lots of colour coding and add attachments, and it's completely free! 

Trello has a great mobile app as well as a user-friendly desktop version, and I'm now obsessively using it in my personal life as well as in work. 






So, what exactly do I use Trello for and why is it my new best friend? 




Work 

I'm a member of at least ten work-related Trello boards. As a communications team, we use Trello to plan our events and content, allocate tasks, organise workload, keep track of progress and keep on top of deadlines. We also use Trello to work with different areas of the business on wider campaigns and projects. It has a useful 'calendar' feature which allows you to look at the upcoming week or month in its entirety, and I honestly don't know how I'd be able to do some parts of my job without it! 



Blogging

I use Trello to jot down ideas for blog posts whenever they pop into my head. I move cards to my 'blog content in progress' list once I start drafting a post, then they satisfyingly get moved to the 'published' list when they go live on a Friday at 5pm. Trello has a handy 'comment' section where I keep a rough summary of what I want to cover in each blog post, and it's so much neater than keeping a big long note on my phone as I used to do pre-Trello. 







Holidays 

We used Trello to organise our holiday to Florida in May, and we're now using it to plan our trip to New York next week. Neil and I both have access to our 'NYC 2018' board which means any updates we make will sync across all our devices. It's a great way of keeping track of the restaurants we want to visit and to make sure we've actually got enough days to do all the exciting activities we've got planned. 



Christmas 

I used to keep my Christmas shopping list in the back of my paper diary. Not any more! Trello has been a really fantastic tool for noting down who I need to buy for, quickly jotting down gift ideas, keeping track of what I've bought and how much I've spent, then moving cards to that hallowed 'people I've finished buying for' list once I'm happy with what I've bought for each person. 






Is anyone else obsessed with Trello? Let me know if you can think of anything else I could use it for! 

Friday, 16 November 2018

Annual Christmas shopping trip

For the last ten years or so, my uni friends and I have organised a Christmas shopping get-together just before Christmas. We usually meet in late November or early December, but we met a little earlier this year due to my impending trip to New York.






Our first few meet ups took place in Cribbs Causeway, and we've also met in Cardiff a few times. However, in recent years, we've met in Bristol city centre as that's the most convenient meeting point for the majority of the group.

Our trip was scheduled in for last Sunday and I decided to catch the Megabus to Bristol. It only cost £10 for a return ticket and it was certainly a lot more relaxing than trying to drive my way around Bristol. I took a photo of City Hall from the bus just before I left Cardiff, purely because of the unexpected rainbow!






It was raining when I left Cardiff, but I was met with brilliant sunshine and blue skies when I arrived in Bristol. I wandered around a couple of shops and made some standard purchases from Lush before making my way to our meeting point on Park Street. I got trapped in the massive Remembrance Day crowd while I walked to Park Street, so I stopped for a while to watch some of the ceremony and to pay my respects by observing the two minute silence.






We all met just before 12 and decided to go straight for lunch. These days, there's a lot more focus on eating and talking than there is on actual shopping during our meet ups. Our go-to restaurant is Pizza Express as there's always something on the menu to suit everyone, so we made our way there immediately.

I ordered a pink gin cocktail and the ragu romana pizza. I don't think my pizza was quite as good as last year's festive beauty, but it was still pretty excellent. To be fair, I don't think I've ever been disappointed by a meal in Pizza Express.






After a long lunch with lots of catching up, we looked around a few of the pretty shops on Park Street. Although I didn't buy much as I've nearly finished my Christmas shopping, I always love looking around the beautiful independent shops and soaking in the Christmassy atmosphere.









I needed to get back to the Megabus stop by 4:30pm, so we finished off the day with a caramelised orange hot chocolate in Costa. Let's be honest, no Christmas shopping trip is complete without a Christmas hot chocolate with all the trimmings. I did accidentally ask for a caramelised onion hot chocolate which was pretty embarrassing, but let's gloss over that part.






I was completely exhausted by the time I got on the bus. I even managed to have a little nap on the journey back to Cardiff which is unheard of for me. I loved catching up with everyone and sampling Bristol's Christmassy atmosphere, and it feels pretty exciting that one of my pre-Christmas staples has already taken place. 39 days to go until the big day!

Friday, 9 November 2018

Our travel adventures as husband and wife

We're off to New York in just over three weeks! We haven't had more than a couple of days off work since our last big holiday in May, so we're very excited about our pre-Christmas getaway.

We travelled to New York together for the first time in February 2013. It was one of our first holidays together as a couple and, in some ways, it feels as if it happened a whole lifetime ago. This got me thinking about all the places we've travelled to together since then... cue blogging inspiration alert.

I decided to focus on the holidays we've been on since we got married in August 2014. We didn't get photos of the two of us on every occasion, but I'm quite impressed that we managed as many as we did considering we don't particularly like having our photos taken.

Please excuse the inconsistent photo sizes... we've both had lots of different cameras and phones over the last four years! 



Rome, September 2014

We went to Rome for the first leg of our honeymoon. Rome is an amazing place and we loved the four days we spent there, apart from the stress of trying to cross their hectic roads.





Lake Garda, September 2014

The second leg of our honeymoon was spent in beautiful Malcesine. A completely different pace to Rome with breathtaking beauty at every turn.




Venice, September 2014

The last leg of our honeymoon was spent in Venice. More beautiful views, architecture and food... it's safe to say that we were well and truly in love with Italy by the time we left.





Disneyland Paris, December 2014

We went to Disneyland Paris for the first time in December 2014. We couldn't afford to go to Walt Disney World in 2014 due to our wedding and honeymoon but we still wanted our Disney fix. Disney + Christmas = perfection!





Amalfi, April 2015

We decided we wanted to see a different part of Italy in 2015, so we went to Amalfi on the Amalfi Coast.  Definitely one of the most beautiful coastlines I've ever seen in my life.





Walt Disney World, September 2015

It was finally time to go back to our favourite place in the world in September 2015. This was our first trip back to Florida since we got engaged there in 2013, so it was an extra special holiday for us.





Toronto, March 2016

We spent a week in Toronto in March 2016. Toronto is an incredible city with loads to see, and we also went on a day trip to Niagara Falls while we were there.





Walt Disney World, September 2016

Surprise surprise, we ended up back in Walt Disney World in September 2016. Although this trip was overshadowed by my cancer diagnosis, escaping to the most magical place on earth for two weeks was the ideal distraction.





London, October 2016

We went on an overnight theatre break to London in October 2016 to see Aladdin at the West End. I was still recovering from my operation so we had a slow couple of days, and it was lovely to get away for a night.





London, March 2017

We booked another theatre break in March 2017 as we loved the first one so much. This time we went to see The Lion King and it was absolutely amazing.





Walt Disney World, April 2017

I know I know, we can't keep away. This trip was only eight months after the last one which meant we didn't have to wait quite so long for it to arrive!





Wizarding World of Harry Potter, August 2017

I bought tickets for us to go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Watford for Neil's birthday back in March. We booked our trip in August to coincide with our anniversary, and we had a brilliant time.





Florence, October 2017

It was time for us to try yet another part of Italy in October 2017. We loved Florence and I'd highly recommend it if you're looking for the perfect mix of culture, city life and relaxation.





Walt Disney World, May 2018

Back again... yes, we do enjoy going back to Walt Disney World every year. We just love it that much!





Llangennith, October 2018

We went on our first holiday with Jessie in October. It was so lovely to be able to take Jessie with us and we'll definitely be planning more dog-friendly weekends away in the near future.





Next stop... New York!