So Oli and I went back to New York last month and although I hate planes (as I mentioned before), I couldn’t wait to plant my feet on to the New York pavement. This time, Oli bought an explorer pass to visit five attractions in New York.
On the first day – after a good night’s sleep – we wandered down to our favourite place. That’s right, Dunkin’ Donuts for the best hot chocolate in the world.
We had a bit of a lazy day and walked around the Highline. We’ve walked the Highline before when it had snowed, but it was such a nice day and they always have art displays on the overgrown tracks. They are really interesting to read and the sights over the Highline always puts a smile on my face. Last time, when we went, the Red Arrows were flying over. We were incredibly lucky to see them as they weren’t in the US for very long.
We got back to the hotel and then I had a look on Instagram and saw that there was a Taylor Swift Pop Up. So Oli and I rushed on to the subway and queued for two hours to get in to what Oliver called “a shop” (rolls eyes). However, Oli was kind enough to buy me some Taylor Swift pins and I took some photos of the outfits and I even used the same phone that Taylor used in her Look What You Made Me Do music video.
It turned out that Taylor showed up at the Pop Up 20 minutes after we left so obviously I cried like a little baby. However, I did get two Taylor magazines exclusive to Target so I was rather happy. As you can tell, it was the perfect time to visit New York – a day after the release of her album.
The second day was slightly more chaotic as we made our way to the Empire State building. It was a bit foggy so we couldn’t see a lot but the view was breathtaking – you could see everything. We spent a lot of money on souvenirs this time and even bought some Empire State chocolate. We then went to Taylor’s house once again and then to the 9/11 museum. It was very strange and eerie seeing pictures of everyone who tragically died. It’s an amazing place to see though and I highly recommend going.
We then made our way to the Statue of Liberty and bought more souvenirs in the gift shop (a Statue of Liberty Panda and Penguin. Yes, we are daft). It’s surprisingly smaller than I thought it was but it was still a great sight to behold.
We then got on the boat to Ellis Island and went around the museum but we were so tired we could barely walk. The museum is great if you enjoy reading – but for us, we had walked so much we just wanted to sit down! I highly recommend going if you’re interested in the history of Ellis Island. It’s phenomenal how many people came through its doors to live in New York.
On our last day, we had Dunkin’ Donuts again (can you tell we’re obsessed?) and made our way to the Intrepid Air, Sea and Space museum where we saw a space shuttle and bought astronaut ice cream. The space shuttle was huge and took us by surprise, It’s crazy to think that something that big has gone to space.
With our legs buckling and being too tired to stand, we made our way (long way) to the Natural History museum through Central Park. I was too hungry to enjoy myself and we kept getting lost. One thing they need more of? Sign posts. However, the museum was interesting and the displays were well put together. There’s so much rich history. I was mostly interested in the animals/bird displays so we wandered around those for a while. There’s a makeshift forest in the middle of the museum and it does feel rather scary! There’s also a huge dining hall where you can pay to spend the evening under a ginormous whale statue.
We had to make our way to the airport for our overnight flight and the turbulence on the plane was the worst I’ve felt – but I did manage to sleep for a while. It was sad to come back to the UK again. We hope we can go back again one day and stay a bit longer. And maybe even live there one day.
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So, as some of you may know, I’m trying to post more book reviews on my blog! This month’s book review is based on All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven.
Warning: spoilers ahead!
All the Bright Places is about a girl called Violet who learns to live from a boy called Finch who wants to die. Violet’s sister, Eleanor died in a car crash and Violet blames herself. Finch is a boy who is bullied at school and called a ‘freak’ and his parents don’t seem to care much about him. His dad ran off with another family and his mother is too busy and clueless to know what is going on.
Violet meets Finch on top of the school’s bell tower where they seem to both talk each other off the ledge. Soon enough, Finch is obsessed with wanting to be Violet’s friend and the two strike up a friendship when they are assigned a group project to wander Indiana before they graduate and go off to college.
Violet counts down the days until she leaves school but Finch teaches her that she doesn’t need to stop living just because Eleanor is gone; she has to learn to live with the pain and not let it consume her life.
As much as I enjoyed this YA contemporary novel about two people I can relate to personalty wise, I have to say I felt as if Niven almost romanticized dying – I don’t believe this is her intention at all; after all, Niven lost someone she loved to suicide. But the book reminded me a lot of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars and I can’t help but feel that some contemporary books for young adults romanticize anything they can with poetry and riddles.
If you don’t want to know how the book ends, I suggest you come back after you have read it!
Throughout Violet and Finch’s wanderings through Indiana, they leave things behind and go to insignificant, ‘lovely’ places that aren’t the usual tourist attractions. Finch befriends Violet on Facebook and they start using Virginia Woolf quotes throughout their messages. When Finch disappears, he leaves behind notes and clues for Violet; which reminds me of John Green’s Papertowns. These clues eventually lead Violet to realise that Finch has taken his own life.
Finch teaches Violet that things most people would find insignificant or ugly, are actually rather lovely and these make the best memories. Violet learns to let herself heal and eventually comes out of the dark she has been hiding in for so long. I just feel as if Violet will now go back the way she was when Eleanor died; after all, she has now lost two people who meant the world to her.
At Finch’s funeral, his family refuses to call his death a suicide because of the stigma and shame surrounded by the word. They let people believe it was a tragic accident instead of blaming themselves for not paying enough attention, not reading the signs. Which makes it even more unbelievable that Violet would not notice it; she was closer to him than anyone. It’s true that you can hide your depression from others, but I feel like with Finch’s character, someone should have noticed other than the counselor. However, I do understand where Finch is coming from when he doesn’t want to be labelled as Bipolar or anyone with a mental illness. But it is important to get help and recognize that you do have a mental illness. You don’t have to let a label control you; anxiety, suicidal thoughts, depression, bipolar disorder, OCD, any mental illness doesn’t define who you are.
As much as Niven has highlighted suicide and depression, I can’t help but feel that Violet would have seen the signs – after all, didn’t Niven portray Violet as someone with depression? This is also something that bothers me about the book: we don’t receive enough insight into the characters, least of all, Violet.
In real life, someone with depression isn’t usually fascinated with suicide facts and quotes and memoirs. Somehow, I feel Niven has made Finch obsessed with dying and when he leaves Violet and his family behind without a word to them – just clues – I felt as if this was quite unrealistic. This topic is sensitive to me in more than a few ways and I feel as if Finch reminds me of someone I once knew. Maybe this is why I didn’t enjoy the book, maybe why I didn’t shed a tear, maybe why I didn’t feel that flippy feeling in my stomach every time I read a good book.
I understand there are probably hundreds of people who feel the same way as Finch and Violet, but I just felt the characters didn’t feel real and raw enough. They were written in first person but by the way they would talk, it sounded more like they were written by someone on the outside, in third person.
Suicide is a tricky subject to write about and I applaud Niven for writing from the heart. It takes a lot of courage but it is also what makes you a good writer.
I did like that the places Niven described in the book were real and lovely in their own, wonderfully weird way: I especially liked the roller coasters created by John Ivers, the Milltown Shoe Tree, the world’s Largest Ball of Paint, the Ultraviolet Apocalypse and the Taylor Prayer Chapel. These places may be insignificant tourist attractions but they are all beautiful and I’m glad Niven introduced me to these places.
I couldn’t find any good photos of the rest but if you Google them, they will come up! These two images were sourced from Google.
I’m going to rate this book as 2/5☆ since I feel uncomfortable with the subject and I’m not sure how I feel about the portrayal of characters. I do think that these books are extremely important, no matter how they are written! Just as long as the message gets across!
Let me know in the comments what you think of the book! Everyone has different opinions!
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If you feel depressed, suicidal or anxious, please talk to someone. It is so important! I’m going to put some suicide hotlines down below:
Samaritans UK and ROI: 116 123
Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide: 0300 111 5065
SupportLine: 01708 765200
For our anniversary, Oliver took us to New York on a big adventure…
For someone who has only been on a two and a half hour plane journey to Portugal, going on an eight hour flight to New York was more than daunting. Turbulence scares the hell out of me and being in a big machine catapulting across the sky obviously brought out my anxiety.
However, our journey there and back with Norwegian was fairly smooth – even though take off is always the worst! For me, I like to grip on to Oli so hard he has to pull my claws off him!
When we landed it took us over an hour to get through the border and we went on the sky train and subway.
Once we got to Hotel Pennsylvania and checked in to our room, our smoke alarm wouldn’t stop beeping, there was mold on the walls and plug sockets hanging askew off the wall. We requested a change of rooms, exhausted (it was nearly 4am UK time). We were so happy with our new room – you wouldn’t think it was the same hotel!
On our first proper day we headed to Dunkin’ Donuts for the best hot chocolate ever(!!!) and croissants. After that we went on the subway to Tribeca, where Taylor Swift’s apartment is located. Being a Swiftie, this moment was precious to me. I had stood where she stood, walked where she walked. I just wish she had been there!
After seeing Taylor’s apartment we walked to the Brooklyn Bridge, crossed it and had pizza which was only $7! We came back and walked a very long way to the ferry. We thought it would be cheaper to see the Statue of Liberty from the Staten Island ferry than it would be to go and see it close up! (It’s worth it to just go on the ferry unless you’re desperate to get a close up for those Insta posts! 😉)
After walking from the ferry, we went to Ground Zero. It is such a surreal place. You don’t realise how big and wide the towers were. We went to Times Square to get McDonald’s and went back to the hotel.
Once back at the hotel we relaxed, watching Friends in America(!!!), before going out to Times Square for something to eat. We went to Applebee’s but we were so stuffed from croissants, pizza and McDonald’s that we barely ate. We ended up having giant pretzels afterwards though…
On day two we went to the Friends Building and fangirled. Then we walked up to the High Line and along it and saw some good art pieces, including this hilarious piece…
While we were walking across the High Line we saw the Patrouille de France who were doing their first tour of the US. We then walked back to Times Square and saw the Rockefeller Centre. Strolling along at this point, our legs killing us, we went to the Gossip Girl Hotel and Grand Central. I pretty much risked my life to take a photo in the middle of the road of Grand Central.
We then went and saw the Chrysler building and the Empire State building and walked back through 5th Avenue to our hotel. And, of course, like the Instagram oriented person that I am, I decided I wanted a photo of the aesthetic brown Starbucks up several blocks from us. At this point I had already gone past a shop full of puppies in the window (cruel, I know. I wanted to take them all home!) and was eagerly trying to catch a look before Oliver pulled me away.
Once I had taken a photo of Starbucks, I was determined to set foot in Barnes and Noble and to take a picture of it. It is every book worm’s dream! It was at least three floors of beautiful bounded books: contemporary, fiction, non-fiction and the classics where I dragged Oli around looking at all the huge books that couldn’t possibly fit in my suitcase. We then went to TGI Fridays for the first time ever – I hadn’t even eaten anything there in the UK.
So, after attempting to go to Ellen’s Stardust Dinner for ice cream several times, we decided to wait again on our last day. We waited before and they told us the electric had cut out when we had been waiting half an hour and the queue was stretching further and further down the block. We were told this even though we could clearly see there were people still in the dinner. So on our last day we queued for about forty-five minutes before they told us they were changing the menu from breakfast to lunch and then they told us half an hour later that a group of school children would be taking up the whole dinner – bear in mind the queue was now stretching around the block. We eventually entered after freezing to death for two hours and sat down to order ice cream, just to be told we couldn’t order it as it was melting. I would not recommend this place at all.
After wasting two precious hours in the city that never sleeps, we were starved and started walking to Columbus Circle and to the mall which had the most expensive cafes inside. So eventually we went to Starbucks and walked through Central Park with a pretzel in hand. This was the coldest day we had had and we walked to Belvedere Castle and then hobbled to the MET (aka Gossip Girl steps). Oliver found it hard to walk after the past few days’ adventures. And then we finally went to another Gossip Girl location – the Museum of the City of New York.
Finally, we took the tube and walked past the New York Public Library to TGI Fridays once again for lunch. This time I had a burger instead of salad and it was honestly the best burger I have ever eaten. After lunch we headed to the Flat Iron building and then made our way back home after grabbing more Dunkin’ Donuts!
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