The Honeymoon: NYC 2017

As I sit on the train on the journey back from Heathrow I can’t actually believe our honeymoon is already over. We stayed for 5 days in New York, and with the time difference it worked out that we did a day in London beforehand too.

Getting to NYC was a bit of a nightmare, and the flight back wasn’t much better, but the rest has been totally and utterly fabulous. It’s been a whirlwind of travel and people and sightseeing and noise and VERY cold weather, and I’m absolutely exhausted, but it was a wonderful experience. My back aches, my feet and legs hurt, my gloves are shredded but my phone and The Bloke’s camera are now full of pictures and I have a million memories to cherish and write about.

Here were just some of the highlights… To see the images in a full screen simply click on them. Continue reading

Self-Care, Honeymoon Plans and a Blog Update!

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If I’m being honest, I struggled after Christmas for a little while – The Black Dog and anxiety reared their ugly heads without any warning and I spent a little bit of time consciously focusing on self-care and busying myself with little projects to keep my mind occupied. I’ve become a little obsessed with the Hygge movement, albeit a little later than everyone else it seems, and it really helps. Thankfully, it slowly dissipated and by the time New Year arrived I was feeling a little better. Continue reading

How a Natural Disaster Gained Me an Invitation to the White House

At the very top of my Bucket List was one thing:

‘Visit New York.’

I had spent my teenage years watching American programmes like Sex and the City and Friends, and had started to develop a little obsession with going there, to the point where I had books and posters all over the house.

After I qualified as a teacher I started working at a secondary school. I had only been there for about a year when I heard that the history department were planning an American History and Politics trip to New York, Philadelphia and Washington, and after several months of nagging and annoying the trip leader he eventually agreed to let me join.

And so it was I found myself stood outside a hostel around the corner from Madison Square Gardens at 3.00am during the Easter holidays of 2010, accompanied by seven other members of staff and 56 children, all of whom were tired and clutching suitcases that were stuffed with far too many items of clothing for a week – long trip.

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Times Square at night

The itinerary had been planned right down the the minute with the plan to see and do as much as possible in the three days that we had scheduled. We kept to it – we went up the Empire State Building and the ‘Top of the Rock,’ visited Times Square (several times), took the Staten Island Ferry and saw the Statue of Liberty, played volleyball on Coney Island, shopped at Macy’s, the Apple Store and Bloomingdales, and we walked. And walked. And walked some more. We walked through Central Park, paid our respects to John Lennon at Strawberry Fields, we walked around Wall Street and through to Ground Zero, where the new tower had just started construction, we walked around Washington Square and listened to the amazing street performers. I saw works of art that I had previously studied at the MOMA and The Met. In our bright red waterproofs with the school logo printed in the front we were the ultimate tourists – my feet were swollen and blistered but it was absolutely worth it.

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A very happy doorman at the Empire State Building

On the fourth day we travelled by coach to the National Constitution Centre in Philadelphia, stopping along the way to run the the ‘Rocky’ steps. Unfortunately, I was quite a heavy smoker at the time and so my running consisted of ‘run halfway, stop to avoid passing out and then run the rest.’ We then travelled to Washington, where we were staying at a hotel in the centre of the city.

After spending half a week in a bunk bed in a hostel I was delighted that my room not only had a double bed, but a bath. It was dark by the time that we had checked in, eaten and unpacked, and so we went for a walk to see the White House and the Washington Monument. We didn’t get back until late and so it was decided that the next day would be a lazier start to the morning. I woke up early and while everybody else was getting ready I went in search of some cigarettes, and managed to buy some in a waffle store opposite Ford’s Theatre.

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Washington Monument

We spent the next few days following the itinerary as scheduled – we visited the Smithsonian museums, sat in the gallery during a congressional debate (during which our trip leader was told off for falling asleep) and the older students were delighted to see some of the politicians that they had been studying as part of their course. We visited the ‘Newseum’ where I says the antenae from the Twin Towers, sections of the Berlin Wall, John Dillinger’s death mask and some of Elvis Presley’s costumes. We played rounders on the grass, during which lots of Americans stopped to tell us that we were playing ‘baseball’ wrong. At night we visited the memorials. One of the greatest experiences of my life was sitting on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, overlooking the Washington Mall – it was dark, clear and warm and I found it almost impossible to take in the sheer significance of where I was.

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The Lincoln Memorial at night

On our final day, when we were eating breakfast, our trip leader received a phone call. The Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajokull had erupted, causing all planes to be grounded, including the one that was supposed to fly us back to England. We weren’t going anywhere. In fact, the travel insurance company couldn’t tell us when we would be able to leave, and had paid for us to stay for another week in the hotel.

Awesome.

After spending the previous week following a strict itinerary, we decided to relax a little. We visited things that we could have only dreamed of before – the Holocaust Museum (which I had to go to the toilets to stop myself from crying in front of the students), we went to Alexandria and Georgetown, and we visited Arlington Cemetery. It was the best possible situation – the travel company paid for our food and accommodation and the hotel allowed parents to wire over more money to students, even though they didn’t need it.

One morning I received a phonecall in my room at the hotel:

Him: Hi there, could I speak to Mr … (Our trip leader)

Me: I’m sorry, you have the wrong room, but can I pass on a message?

Him: my name is B, I am calling from The White House.

I almost dropped the phone. We had tried to get into a tour previously but were disappointed to discover that this needed to be booked several months in advance.

Me: erm… Good morning!

Him: We saw your story in the Washington Post and we would like to invite you and your group for a tour of the White House…

It turns out, the Washington Post had heard about our situation and had written a short article about us. The next day we were lined up outside the White House entrance with our passports, excitedly waiting to go in. Some of the students were convinced that we would see Obama, and were sorely disappointed when we saw his helicopter taking off.

And there I was, walking around the lower floor of the White House, staring at portraits of Presidents gone by that I had only seen previously on the television or in books. What an experience.

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Outside the White House

We discovered later that the ash cloud had cleared and we would be on a flight in two days time. Not before, however, we attended the ‘Earth Concert’ on the Washington Mall, during which we watched Jimmy Cliff, John Legend and Sting perform.

Our return to the UK was just as eventful. Only one coach showed up, leaving a small amount of the group behind to wait several hours for another coach, and on our return to school we were faced with local TV crews who did news reports on our American adventure.

Oh, and the final thing we were told upon our return after only nine hours sleep in two days and a 5000 mile journey? We had an OFSTED inspection the next day…

What about you guys? Have you ever been stranded anywhere?

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog

Travel Theme: Architecture

http://wheresmybackpack.com/2013/08/09/travel-theme-architecture/

The Travel Theme for this week is ‘Architecture’ and I couldn’t be more excited about it. You may have seen some of these before, so I apologise, but I love these photographs, all of which I took on my travels over the last few years.

Concorde, Paris

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Eiffel Tower, Paris

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The Sacre Coeur, Paris

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Empire State Building, New York

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Flatiron, taken from the Empire State Building, New York

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The Guggenheim, New York

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The Met, New York

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The White House, Washington

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Jefferson Memorial, taken from Arlington Cemetery, Washington

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The Globe, London

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Houses of Parliament, London

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The Shard, taken well before it’s completion, London

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The view of London, taken from the London Eye

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Hope you enjoy!

My Ultimate Bucket List

I posted my original Bucket List a few months ago, and then reblogged it the other day. However, when I re-examined it I realised that, in fact, it was actually quite lame. I’m normally quite proud of what I post, but I felt that I hadn’t done it justice, so I’ve decided to do another one and spend a little more time on it. The resulting list is a combination of the list I set myself ten years ago and further goals that I have set myself.

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Life 

1. Get married.
2. Have a child.
3. Work part time (I start this in September).
4. Even if it’s just once, I’d like to get down to my ideal weight and wear a dress from Karen Millen.
5. Learn sign language fluently.
6. Learn to drive (I’m 31, it’s about time I did!)
7. Make some money through blogging, however small.
8. Take a photography course.
9. Accept the past, come to terms with it and move on (although if an opportunity presents itself to tell her what you think of her, take it).
10. Volunteer at an animal sanctuary.
11. Complete the London Marathon.
12. Complete the Birmingham half-marathon.
13. Find a pen-pal.
14. Volunteer at a hospice.
15. See dolphins swimming in the wild.
16. Go to a PostSecret seminar.
17. Ride a Segway.
18. Spend a day with animals at the zoo.
19. Donate money regularly to charity.
20. Play on stage at the Albert Halls. (Achieved 2000)
21. Get highlights.
22. Buy a house.
23. Spend the weekend at a spa and have lots of treatments.
24. Learn to speak French fluently.
25. Sleep in a castle.
26. Get a manicure.
28. Take a boat ride down the Seine, Paris  (Achieved 2010) 

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Artwork, Artefacts and Objects 

30. Alexandros of Antioch: Venus de Milo – Louvre, Paris  (Achieved 2010)
31. Gheeraerts the Younger – Queen Elizabeth I, National Portrait Gallery, London (Achieved 2013)
32. Da Vinci: Mona Lisa – Louvre (Achieved 2010)
33. Vermeer: Woman Holding a Balance – National Gallery, Washington. (Achieved 2010)
34. Hogarth: Shortly After the Marriage – National Gallery, London (Achieved 2012)
35. Van Gogh: Flowers – National Gallery, London (Achieved 2012)
36. Van Gogh: Wheat Field with Crows, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Achieved 2010)
37. Picasso: Les Demoiselles d’Avignon – MOMA (Achieved 2010)
38. Matisse: Dance 1 – MOMA (Achieved 2010)
39. Pollock: One:Number 31 – MOMA (Achieved 2010)
40. Da Vinci: The Last Supper – Milan
41. Van Eyck: Portrait of Giovanni and His Wife – National Gallery, London
42. Van Eyck: Man in a Red Turban – National Gallery, London
43. Whistler: Arrangement in Grey and Black: The Artist’s Mother – Musee d’Orsay, Paris
44. Degas: L’Absinthe –  Musee d’Orsay, Paris
45. Renoir: Luncheon of the Boating Party – Phillips Collection, Washington
46. Manet: A Bar at the Folies – Bergere – Courtauld Institute of Art Gallery, London.
47. Seurat: A Sunday on La Grande Jatte 1884 – Art Institute of Chicago.
48. Degas: The Tub –   Musee d’Orsay, Paris
49. Munch: The Scream – National Gallery, Oslo
50. Klimt: The Kiss – Österreichische Galerie, Vienna.
51. Kandinsky: Composition VIII, Guggenheim, New York.
52. Hopper: House by the Railroad – MOMA, New York
53. Hopper: Nighthawks – Art Institute of Chicago
54. Wood: American Gothic – Art Institute of Chicago
55. Picasso: Guernica – Madrid
56. Wyeth: Christina’s World – MOMA
57. Antennae from Twin Towers, Newseum, Washington (Achieved 2010)
58. Berlin Wall, Newseum, Washington  (Achieved 2010)
Bayeux Tapestry (Achieved 2006) 
59. Greyfriers Bobby  (Achieved 2013) 

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Travel 

62. Philadelphia. (Achieved 2010)
63. Washington D.C. (Achieved 2010)
64. Amsterdam. (Achieved 2010)
65. Naples. (Achieved 2012)
66. Pompeii. (Achieved 2012)
68. Ben Nevis.
69. Gamble in a casino in Las Vegas.
70. Vancouver.
71. Rome.
72. Tokyo.
73. San Francisco.
74. Barcelona.
75. Prague.
76. Auschwitz.
77. Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
78. Florence.
79. Los Angeles.
80. Yosemite National Park.
81. Mount St. Helens.
82. Niagara Falls.
83. Bora Bora.
84. Travel on Route 66.
85. Machu Pichu, Peru.
86. Hawaii.
87. Barbados.
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Buildings, Monuments and Landscapes 

88. Empire State Building (Achieved 2010)
89. Statue of Liberty (Achieved 2010)
90. Times Square (Achieved 2010)
91. Ground Zero  (Achieved 2010)
92. Strawberry Fields (Achieved 2010)
93. Central Park (Achieved 2010)
94. Coney Island  (Achieved 2010)
95. Lincoln Memorial (Achieved 2010)
96. Jefferson Memorial (Achieved 2010)
97. Korean War Memorial (Achieved 2010)
98. Arlington Cemetery (Achieved 2010)
99. Philadelphia Museum of Art steps (Achieved 2010)
100. Eiffel Tower (Achieved 2010)
Sacre Coeur (Achieved 2010)
101. Notre Dame Cathedral (Achieved 2010)
102. Pont L’Archeveche  (Achieved 2010)
103. Trocadero, Paris  (Achieved 2010)
104. Arc de Triomphe (Achieved 2010)
105. Pere Lachaise Cemetery  (Achieved 2010)
106. Montmartre Cemetery  (Achieved 2010)
107. American War Cemetery, Normandy (Achieved 2006)
108. Disneyland, Paris (Achieved 1999)
109. Anne Frank Annex (Achieved 2010)
110. Edinburgh Castle (Achieved 2013)
111. Edinburgh Zoo  (Achieved 2013)
112. Trafalgar Square  (Achieved 2010)
113. Houses of Parliament  (Achieved 2010)
114. Westminster Abbey. (Achieved 2009)
115. St Marks Square, Venice  (Achieved 1992).
116. Tower Bridge
117. Harry Potter Studios
118. London Zoo.
119. St. Paul’s Cathedral
120. Tower of London
121. Neuschwanstein Castle.
122. Graceland.
123. Grand Canyon.
124. Hoover Dam.
125. Uluru.
126. Sydney Opera House.
127. Walk of Fame, Hollywood.
128. Rodeo Drive.
129. Go to Burning Man.
130. Petra, Jordan.
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Places Of Rest (slightly macabre I know)
140. Voltaire  (Achieved 2010)
141. Marie Curie  (Achieved 2010)
142. Pierre Curie  (Achieved 2010)
143. Chopin  (Achieved 2010)
144. John F. Kennedy  (Achieved 2010)
145. Jackie Kennedy Onassis  (Achieved 2010)
146. Bruce Lee.
147. Jimi Hendrix.
148. Frank Sinatra.
149. Elvis Presley.
150. Sid James.
151. Kenneth Williams.
152. Jacqueline Du Pre.
153. Audrey Hepburn.
154. James Dean.
155. Charlie Chaplin.
156. Shakespeare.
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Food
157. Eat at The Ivy in London.
158. Eat at Heston Blumenthal’s restaurant, ‘The Fat Duck.’
159. Cook a three course dinner party for my friends.
160. Learn how to bake cakes properly, without them collapsing or burning.
Books, Films and Shows
161. The Mouse Trap (Achieved 2013)
162. We Will Rock You (Achieved 2009)
163. Rocky Horror Show (Achieved 2010)
164. Grease (Achieved 2000)
165. Chicago (Achieved 2006)
166. Footloose (Achieved 2006)
167. Fame (Achieved 2006)  
168. Watch the entire Harry Potter films consecutively.
169. Watch the entire Lord Of The Rings films consecutively. (Achieved 2011)
170. Read ‘House Of Pi’.
171. Read ‘The Tenderness Of Wolves’.
172. Read the entire Lord Of The Rings Trilogy. I’ve attempted it three times and never got past the first ten pages.
173. Watch Back To The Future without falling asleep.
All photographs are my own and fully copyrighted, as is the article.
I’d also like to include this one, from ‘My Tropical Home.’ I found it really interesting!
Hope you enjoy – it’s taken me a while!