31/10/2019

Exploring NYC: Manhattan & Brooklyn


Get your comfy shoes ready: we're gonna explore NYC!

This is the second post of my NYC series, and there should be a third post after that - look at me spoiling you! In this one, I take you around two of the main neighbourhoods of the city: Manhattan and Brooklyn. This is where my friends and I decided to explore - not that there isn't anything interesting in other neighbourhoods like Harlem, but that will be for another trip. There are so many things to see and do around Manhattan and Brooklyn and I only scraped the surface during my trip, but everything we did was so exciting - and I know you'll love it too!

EXPLORING MANHATTAN

Manhattan is where all the main New York attractions per se are (see my New York CityPass review here), but you could walk around the place for days, discovering new neighbourhoods and landmarks at every corner. I would advice you to divide your time in Manhattan into the different neighboorhoods and activities you would like to do. Some of my highlights in Manhattan include:
- seeing Times Square at night, with all the lights shining bright around you,
- walking around the main avenues (4th, 5th, 6th avenue) and looking around for the skyscrapers,
- visiting St Patrick's Cathedral, a beautiful, European-style church that left me speechless,
- seeing the inside of Grand Central Station, a stunning work of art and star location of Gossip Girl (once a fangirl, always a fangirl!)



TIMES SQUARE
Times Square is probably one of the most famous sights in New York, and also a love or hate place, I think. I enjoyed seeing all the advertisement boards, especially in the night - they shine so bright, it is quite impressive. However in terms of what's around, it's a lot of stuff you may have already seen before: Sephora, Levi's, the Disney Store... Groundbreaking, I know. Times Square however is the place where you can get reduced tickets for Broadway shows. We got reduced tickets for Chicago and lemme tell you, it was amazing. Whether you're a hardcore fan of musicals or not.

GRAND CENTRAL STATION


Grand Central may not be a place of interest for some, but I wanted to see it because it is featured at the very beginning of the very first episode of Gossip Girl - yes, that show again. (Sorry, not sorry.) I had to get a photo there, and pretend I was Serena Van der Woodsen for a minute or two. But the station is worth checking out anyway for its beautiful architecture: low, warm lights, ceiling adorned with star signs, and a plethora of places to grab a bite to eat. Grand Central is not too far from the New York Public Library and Bryant Park, so if you're around, why not go in? Maybe you'll end up catching a train somewhere...

ST PATRICK'S CATHEDRAL
I love churches and cathedrals, but the US really isn't where I thought I'd find something that could compete with the ones we have in Europe. St Patrick's showed me that I was wrong, and I now stand corrected! The Cathedral is located on the 5th avenue, and sandwiched between modern buildings, which kind of make it seem out of place. The outside is beautiful, but it's the inside of the cathedral that really surprised me: big, light and full of neogothic wonders. A little bit of European architecture in the Big Apple!

CENTRAL PARK 
Who could visit NYC without walking around Central Park? Not me. I love parks and green spaces - I love the parks in London, for example - and Central Park has been in so many films, I was eager to visit. Central Park is huge, and you may want to pick and choose what areas you would like to see. There are plenty of maps of Central Park online, so you can plan your time there.
My favourite thing we did there was watching a baseball game at Heckscher Ballfields, sitting in the grass with an iced coffee. The best views in my opinion are towards south Central Park, Wollman Rink and the Gapstow Bridge. Nature blends in with the tall skyscrapers in the background, and this is the traditional sight you may imagine when thinking about Central Park. The Lake and Belvedere Castle are also whimsical places to see. We did not make it to north central park, but if you do have the time, you should make sure to see a little bit of everything - and on sunny days, a picnic in the park is ought to be had!


EXPLORING BROOKLYN

Brooklyn can be reached from Manhattan by crossing on one of the city's famous (especially on Instagram) bridges. It is a borough that's been reviving a lot in recent years, and it is now known to be a hip place full of art works, hipster cafes and cool hangouts. My airbnb was actually in Brooklyn, and I do think it is the best place to stay during a trip in New York because it is easily accessible in public transport and has good connexions to lots of other places in the city.
My friends and I explored some areas of Brooklyn, though the borough is so big that you would need a few days to explore all of it.

BROOKLYN BRIDGE
Let's start by the beginning! Brooklyn Bridge is the iconic bridge that links Brooklyn and Manhattan, and walking along the bridge gives you beautiful views over the East River and the skyline of Manhattan. There are plenty of photo opportunities there, but I would recommend getting there early in the morning - the bridge is relatively narrow, and there is a cycle path running through it, which makes pedestrian access even more restrained. Beware of angry New Yorkers on their bikes: some of them cycle quite fast, and most of them will remind you they hate you because you're a tourist that is standing on their way. (Not cool.) If you make it all the way from one end of the bridge to the other: congrats! It is a looong bridge. It's ok if you give up halfway.

DUMBO +  MANHATTAN BRIDGE
DUMBO may be the most famous area of Brooklyn at the moment. It is all over Instagram, and a buzzing place with cafes, restaurants, markets - the perfect weekend friend meetup. 
My favourite thing there was the DUMBO Flea - a flea market held every Sunday right under one of the archways of the bridge. There you can find vintage clothes and homeware, old Peanuts and Charlie Brown books, old car number plates, but also independent coffee stalls, donuts and ever creepy old toys... Something for everyone, right?
Walking around DUMBO, you will spot a lot of street art on the buildings, under bridge archways, and so on - reminding you that you are in an artists' hub. Walk towards the river and you fill find the Time Out New York, a fancy food market in a stunning building with great views over Manhattan, and Main Street Park, where you can sit in the grass under Manhattan Bridge and enjoy a bagel with coffee. Living the Brooklyn dream! 
Psst, Gossip Girl fans: the Humphrey loft is located right next to Manhattan bridge, on Water Street. The spot is always crowded because it is an amazing photo opp, but it still feels strange to see the red brick building in real life.


GOSPEL AT THE BROOKLYN TABERNACLE: YES OR NO?
This point may be one of contention, but I do want to talk about it nonetheless. My friends and I went to a gospel mass at the Brooklyn Tabernacle, though I wasn't sure about it myself, all my other friends had this on their "must-do" NYC list. I had no idea what to expect, and when we left after mass, I thought through the experience a lot, and all of my thoughts are a mixed bag. I loved the singing - the choir was big and full of people from various backgrounds, and everyone both on stage and in the audience seemed so happy to be there and share this moment together. After the songs a sermon take place pastor Jim Cymbala. As a non-religious person, I still respect and appreciate all religious faiths, though I found it hard, with my own beliefs and opinions, to sit through the whole sermon. I am very grateful that we were welcomed in the church and there were no difference made between the worshippers and visitors. Now that I have had this experience though I would still advise anyone whose views don't agree with religion, that it may not be the right experience for them - even though they would want to come in for the music.

CONEY ISLAND
For those of you who enjoy funfairs, Coney Island is not to miss. It is located south of Brooklyn, on the New York coast, and the area is mostly consisted of hot-dog restaurants, novelty shops, and the infamous fun fair where you can ride old-fashion trains and rollercoasters. My friends and I went at sunset on a Friday night, and it was perfect. There were very few people when we arrived, and we enjoyed a long walk along the pier before checking out the rides. For dinner, I had to try Nathan's hot dogs, which are a famous Coney Island institution - cheap and cheerful, too! 
During the summer, there are fireworks every Friday at 9.30pm, so grab a drink and sit ready to enjoy the show, which was pretty amazing!


There are many more things to see around Brooklyn and Manhattan, but this post would never end if I mentioned them all. These are my top picks, but I highly advise you, if you're planning a trip to NYC, to look at a multitude of posts and videos to decide what you will visit there.

Would you prefer Brooklyn or Manhattan? What would be at the top of your list of things to see there?
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06/10/2019

It's OK To Take a Break: Why You Should Slow Down To Bloom Again


Overwhelmed? Uninspired? Switch yourself off and recharge your batteries.

Having a long-term project like a blog, content creation, or an artistic hobby, is always a big endeavour. And unfortunately, you can't always be 100%. Over the past few months I haven't been too excited about my blog and producing content here. Nothing wrong with it, too. It doesn't mean that I'm tired of blogging at all, but I have less time nowadays, and fewer ideas than I did before too. At first I found it very frustrating and took it as me not being as good with the whole blogging thing, but then, during the recent summer holidays and when I happened to not post for more than a month, I realised it is actually OK to give it a break. If you are feeling like me right now, here the little tips I gathered that made me feel better about slowing it down!

WHEN should you take a break?
There is a difference between when you should try a little harder and push yourself, and when you've just got to stop altogether and take a break. I do believe resilience is key and you should always try to improve what you would like to change, in yourself or in what you do. But then, how do you know when it's time to stop? 
Generally, if you lack inspiration for too long and you can't get your motivation back for a while, even though you've tried everything, then you should consider stopping everything and taking a step back. It doesn't mean that you will never get there, it just means that you give yourself the time to live, relax, focus on self-care, before getting back to the task. There is no shame in taking time to do something. Enjoying the journey is important, and if you don't put yourself first, you will hit the wall eventually. So look for the little signs that tell you to stop for a bit, and listen. Don't overdo it.


WHY should you take a break?
If you're stuck, pushing it again and again won't help - it may just tire you out more and you need to feel refreshed to start over with new motivation and ideas. Taking a break will put things in perspective and allow you to think about why you have been feeling that way and how you can make it better. Stressing out about not being good enough is never a good option! This is why you need a break: to relax, think things through, reflect on your own mental health and fix it. With some time and self-care, you will slowly find a path to move forward again and fuel your creativity.

HOW should you take a break?
I have tried 'half breaks' before, and it doesn't really work. Like pretending to be on a break, but ending up doing a bit of this and that, because I was feeling too guilty to completely stop and pause. Leave your project out for a bit and do something different: call a friend, watch a film, do a pamper session, instead of working on your project as you usually would. Look for support if you need it: ask friends out, do things together and maybe ask them for advice on your situation. Chances are they've been there too - we all have! - and if they know you well, they will give you relevant advice that you may not have found out on your own. Sometimes, you can't do it all on your own and that's totally ok! So own the fact that you're taking a break and slowing down a bit. I really believe things work out at the right time eventually, though it may take longer than anticipated. Listen to yourself and you will get there!

What do you do when you need a break? What's your favourite way to recharge your batteries?
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