A Flair for Food

 

Spring has sprung, the snow has melted and the world is waking up to an exciting new season… of blogging.

We found ourselves in receipt of a very special invite this month – would we like to review The Northumberland Arms’ new Masterchef Special created by former Masterchef Quarter Finalist (2016) and Executive Head Chef at the Northumberland Arms Matei Baran?

 

 

 

If you’ve read our previous posts about The Northumberland Arms and their sister venue  The Percy Arms, you’ll appreciate why we headed here with high expectations and accepted without reservation.

Describing itself as an “elegant British restaurant with rooms by the river Coquet […] offering gourmet food”, you’ll discover the perfect blend of country pub and contemporary eatery at The Northumberland Arms.

Hitting the nail on the head with the quality of their food and decor, the venue appeals to a wide range of customers from across the region.

Its cosy, comfortable dining-cum-bar area doesn’t feel dingy, while the light and airy conservatory and dining area makes it a popular spot for everything from Sunday lunch (my Nanna is a regular, so special mention to Norah who I know will be reading this!) but also lends itself well to date night or dinner with the girls.

Bringing one of my best friends Laura along for the ride on a sunny Wednesday evening, we practically skipped out of town very much looking forward to finding out what the mysterious Masterchef special was all about.

The Main Event:

 

I should warn you that trying to decide what to order at The Northumberland Arms is no easy task, with star performers such as poached sea trout, smoked haddock scotch egg and venison loin on the menu, alongside classics like the Brown Ale Beer Battered Fish and hand-raised pie of the day with hand cut chips or sautéed greens.

I was almost glad of the choice being taken away as I opted straight for the highly anticipated Masterchef Special.

Available from 6pm – 9pm, the Masterchef Special is a set menu of artisanal design. The creation of former Masterchef Quarter Finalist (2016) and Executive Head Chef at the Northumberland Arms Matei Baran, the Masterchef Special changes weekly, paying special attention to locally sourced ingredients and homegrown herbs.

Think of it as a “blink and you’ll miss it” opportunity to be wowed, my meal started with king scallops, spring onions, chicken dashi and pui lentils served with chicken wafers. First impressions? The dish ticked all of the right boxes looks-wise, but more importantly this dish certainly didn’t fail in the style vs. substance stakes.

 

 

The chicken “wafers” were akin to the most delicious, moreish roast chicken crisps you’ve ever eaten – satisfyingly salty and crunchy. Portion-wise, the three king scallops and chicken wafers were enough to whet your appetite without spoiling the main course – another work of art in itself.

While Laura received a giant portion of beer battered fish and chips, I was presented with my second course: hickory smoked pork fillet served alongside a charred rack, glazed liver, charred corn, potato wedges and barbecue jus. Miniature apples stewed to fall apart in your mouth completed the dish and I promptly dug in.

 

 

Working my way through the dish though it were an ornamental garden, stopping to admire the colours, scent and flavours, before picking my way through the gloriously crisp Cajun wedges, succulent pork, sweet miniature apple and juicy corn; I honestly can’t remember the last time I enjoyed a meal this much.

Completing the trio of dishes on the Masterchef Special was an Amaretto and chocolate delice served with soured cherry sorbet and pickled cherries. The creamy chocolate delice melted in your mouth leaving a buttery almond flavoured biscuit base behind to enjoy afterwards.

As with the two previous courses, the Masterchef Special isn’t just a one-time taste sensation; it’s a firework display of flavour. Just when you think you’ve got the gist of it, a smoky barbecue tang drifts into the mix.

 

 

For research purposes I had to have a taste of Laura’s Eton Mess and can confirm it was heavenly: intensely creamy with pieces of meringue and popping candy scattered throughout.

It’s a rare thing, isn’t it, to leave a meal feeling well fed and fulfilled (not just full), so it’s a real pleasure to say that the Masterchef Special did just that for us.

Befitting his place on the TV series, Matei’s Masterchef Special was food theatre at its finest. No gimmicks, no pretence, no dodgy kitchen artefacts passed off as plates to disguise below-par food. The special was full of interesting and long-lasting flavours, culinary creativity and a real pleasure to eat.

Thank you to the Matei and The Northumberland Arms for bringing us out of blogging hibernation and our taste buds back to life.
A Note To Readers:
If you’re a regular reader of Prosecco and Pie you’ll notice there’s been quite the hiatus since our last post, we have been in blogging hibernation for the past few months.

The reason? I’m very fortunate to be kept busy running my business Bumble and Bloom Media, but also personally. Since becoming a carer for a loved one, there’s been little time for fun and foodie adventures while we navigate the murky world of mental health. So when an email popped into our inbox inviting us to review The Northumberland Arms’ new Masterchef Special we decided this one was too good to miss and poked our heads out of blogging hibernation to drive 30 minutes up north to the village of Felton (just past Morpeth) curious to see what was in store.

We kindly received a free meal in return for an honest review on Prosecco and Pie. For readers’ benefit our meal would have cost: 

Scallops starts – £8.95
Hickory pork main – £17.95
Delice – £6.95

Advertisements

A Quick Pip Stop…

There’s only one way to brighten up a boring old Wednesday, and that dear readers is a delivery of wine. Yes. wine delivered directly to your door.

 

 

Take a seat (or should that be a sip?) and sit back as we introduce you to two very different, delicious world class wines from local business The Pip Stop.

Hallelujah I hear you cry?!

Housed in a charming former 1950s garage whose exposed brickwork walls are filled with well-stocked shelves of wines, ciders, beers and spirits – the aptly named Pip Stop strive to fuel our curiosity for the perfect drinks-with-the-girls pinot grigio, date night drinks or something to squirrel away for Christmas.

 

This lovely local business host a series of wine tasting events throughout the year and P&P was invited to one of their recent events. Unfortunately we were unable to attend, but to our sheer joy the company offered to put together our very own personalised wine tasting kit to enjoy at home!

It would have been too easy to send us a bottle of prosecco, so we particularly enjoyed the team taking their time to personalise our wine tasting kit with something new for us to try.

 

Wine 1: La Vue
In our initial email, we mentioned we liked to indulge in a Provençal rosé (a multi-award winning Côtes de Provence wine made from the Grenache and Cinsault grapes – which tends to be pale in colour and dry) when on holiday in the South of France. In response, The Pip Stop sent us a beautiful bottle of La Vue Grenache produced by an Australian company McPherson Wine. The pastel pink colour was a sure-fire indicator of the delicate nature of this wine.

So how did it taste?
This little beauty certainly lived up to expectations! Light and crisp with a slight fizz, I’d like to say we enjoyed this wine with something equally light and civilised but I’d be lying. The truth is slightly more down to earth – but just as enjoyable – crisps and dips and a good old catch up the with best friend.

According to our guide, prepared for us by The Pip Stop, La Vue is produced in Victoria, Australia in less than 6 weeks hence its light and fresh taste. Produced by McPherson’s Chief Winemaker (er hello, how do we get that job?) and busy mum of four Jo Nash – this wine is definitely a keeper and we can’t wait to try a chilled bottle with fresh seafood in the summer.

La Vue is rated a “2” on The Pip Stop’s scale (1 being very dry, 9 being the sweetest) which explains why we liked this one. Dry wine all the way for us!


Wine 2: Unruly Red Zin
Our second wine was a bit of a wildcard – almost black in colour, this incredibly dark, fruity wine comes from the Delicato Family Vineyards in California we’re told. Beautifully depicted with “thunderous bursts of blackberries and spice” I couldn’t have put it better myself.

How did it taste?
Heralding from the Zinfandel grape (according to my guide) this was quite a heavy red, with a deep spicy aftertaste. Tasting almost like Christmas spice, we enjoyed Unruly Red Zin with homemade steak and ale pie served with buttery veg, mashed potato and homemade pastry. A perfect Sunday afternoon drink with family or friends, sat preferably in an armchair by the fire (dog by your feet!?) – it’s a real scene setting wine that’s good for the soul.

Sharing this bottle with my mother, for whom red wine has been her go-to tipple for as long as I can remember, we both enjoyed our first glass savouring the intense flavours but I’m not sure I could have polished off a full bottle given its spice and intensity. According to The Pip Stop’s guide, this wine is rated a “D” which on a scale of A-E (A being the lightest, E the most full bodied and powerful) I think I’d like to try a B or C.

It’s been a real pleasure to sample some new wines and receive an education about what we’re actually drinking and why we like what we do. I can see myself getting lost on The Pip Stop’s website in future, looking for something nice to be delivered to my door.

Fancy trying something new? 
Sign up to The Pip Stop’s email newsletters to receive 10% off your first order and discover something new this Christmas/New Year! Ben – I’m sure the team at The Pip Stop would be more than happy to give you a recommendation – it’s seriously good grown up fun this wine tasting business.

Even better, take a 360 degree tour of The Pip Stop from the comfort of your seat…

P&P On Tour: South of France

Off-the-beaten-track bijoux bakeries, freshly baked pastries, jambon et fromage baguettes, street side cafés perfect for sitting and people watching with a frothy cappuccino before drifting along to pop up art, crafts and flower markets…

Grab yourself a cup of tea and a biscuit or two dear readers, because we are off to the South of France!

 

First stop: Nice 
For me, Nice is the jewel in the Côte d’Azur’s crown. It has everything I need: culture, a city buzz, beaches, wine bars, shopping and heritage. There are some beautiful boutique hotels and apartments to stay in but plenty of budget-friendly spots that tick all of the boxes if you’re watching your pennies.

Tip: We planned on travelling further afield so staying near the train station (Gare Thiers) is recommended. 

Only two hours(!) away from Newcastle, Nice feels a million miles away from the soggy British weather which suits me just fine.


The weather is still beautifully hot even in late September, and we sure made the most of it wandering along the promenade, stopping for a glass of chilled white wine at Le Beau Rivage beach bar or going for a dip in the sea.

Wander along the promenade to the Old Town and you’ll find  a labyrinth of cobbled streets filled with bars, restaurants, little shops and charming apartments you daydream about living in. Pop along before 6pm during the week (except Monday’s from what I remember) and you’ll find the local flower market too.

For some, the Fontaine du Soleil on Place Masséna is a favourite – but for me the fountains along the Promenade du Paillon are beautiful! A five minute walk from the popular designer department store Galeries Lafayette, they’re a perfect spot to sit and watch the world (or get a soaking).

 

Cannes. Monaco and Villefranche
A day ticket on the train cost us around €12 and we headed half an hour along the coast to Cannes for the day. It’s a town of two parts – there’s the yachts, designer shops, manicured lawns and palm trees at the Port and then the winding and cobbled streets of Le Suquet, the Old Town of Cannes where some buildings dating back to the 11th century.

Grabbing breakfast at a local café near the train station, we hopped on one of the little tourist trains for €20 each which took us on a tour of Cannes and up into the Old Town before wandering around the shops and stopping for lunch. Luckily, there’s a Zara here which meant I can now say I bought something whilst in Cannes! Pity it wasn’t a designer handbag, but maybe next time…

 

Villefranche-sur-Mer
Blink and you’ll miss it, Villefranche is only a couple of stops from Nice, in fact the railway line runs right along the cliff along the coast you’re so dazzled by the view we almost missed our stop.

According to Google, “The Bay of Villefranche is reputed as one of the five most beautiful bays in the world” and oh my goodness I’d have to agree! With Monaco on one side and Nice on the other, it’s hard to believe that it can retain such olde-worlde charm and the authenticity of a little village where everyone knows each other with such cosmopolitan neighbours where new people arrive or leave every hour.

 

We spent the day at the beach – quite literally the whole day – having rented loungers at the local bar/restaurant. A little reading, sunbathing, a dip in the warm turquoise waters followed by a little snooze…. and repeat – before heading for a wander into the Old Town. Sunlight trapped between the tall buildings (some of them 13th century!!) only served to add extra charm.

It’s like life has no pace here (in a good way!) –  time stood still and you had time to just stop and catch up with your thoughts, or that book you keep meaning to read. You feel a million miles away from emails and social media notifications. Heaven!

 

Monaco
20 minutes or so from Nice, we spent an afternoon in playboy paradise Monaco. The world’s second smallest country (to the Vatican I believe?) Monaco squeezes in serious attitude in such a small but beautifully furnished spot. Aside from hosting the world’s largest yachts, there’s the famous Cafe de Paris, the Casino de Monaco and the Hotel de Paris sandwiched between an array of the world’s fastest supercars.

I highly recommend grabbing a front-side seat at the Café de Paris, ordering a coffee and just watching the world. We played eye-spy the supercar and got to something like 23 in 40 minutes!!

Unsure of what time the last train was, we played it safe and headed back down the hill to the station back to Nice after a brief, but lovely wander through the gardens past Celine, Chanel, Prada and a few other well-heeled neighbours.

 

There are surprises and character around every corner here, it’s a place I find I can visit time and time again and still find something new to fall in love with… 5 days of sunshine, sea and plenty of good food – until next time!

 

Grown-Up Getaway UK

We’ve been on another adventure here at Prosecco & Pie to a woodland lake lodge near Thirsk…


With nothing but eating, drinking and exploring on the agenda for three blissful days, 7 good friends came together and filled one Landrover with as much food and drink as we could carry and shut ourselves away for the weekend.

No work, no meetings, nothing to do but relax.

It took us an hour and half’s drive down from Newcastle to arrive and we promptly popped open a bottle or two of prosecco before diving in the hot tub. After enjoying a “family dinner” (and possibly too much wine) we headed to bed for a good night’s sleep in the countryside (before waking up and eating our own bodyweight in bacon sandwiches, coffee and chocolate croissants to remedy the situation.)

 


Our days were spent catching up on old issues of magazines we never had the time to read, the Sunday papers and chatting over a bottle of wine in the sunshine sat on our little terrace that overlooked the fountain in the lake.

We didn’t eat on-site or venture to the communal areas so can’t comment on that side, but the lodge we stayed in was enormous with super comfy beds.

Sunday dinner at The Black Lion in Thirsk was a particular highlight, the food was fantastic and such good value for money. Despite it almost being mid-September the weather held out just long enough to enjoy a ginormous ice cream for pudding. This of course, paved the way for “Champagne Sunday” – where we sat and toasted to our friendship and other lovely things in life, like not having to go to work in the morning.

I’ll forever remember our little dinner parties and alfresco dining on the picnic bench overlooking the lake, the feeling of the warm early Autumn air as I sat drinking my morning coffee watching the ducks, lying in the hot tub drinking a glass of red wine on a Sunday evening looking up at the sky and spotting shooting stars…

Now that’s what adventures are made of. Wouldn’t you agree?

(P.s – if you go and do happen to find my lost car keys and prized Chloe keyring I bought in Hollywood let me know!!)

 

Chasing Waterfalls…

Swapping ballet pumps for walking boots.. wild swimming, sparkling wine, chasing waterfalls, river rapids, mossy carpeted woodland and more… 

Welcome to the Lake District, Prosecco & Pie style…

We indulged in a girls weekend like no other earlier: fresh air, wind in your hair, getting your hands dirty and faces hot and sweaty walking through wind, rain, clambering up hillsides and scrambling across rocks in search of waterfalls – all washed down with generous helpings of delicious pub grub and plenty of prosecco. Just what the doctor ordered…

Swapping busy city life for a slower pace 80+ miles north west to the Lake District, we were staying in Cockermouth nearby Wordsworth House (who just so happens to be a distant relative of a relative of mine which means we’re practically related) – Cockermouth a perfect base for exploring the lakes.

 

Day 1 – 
We had a route planned in search of a particular wild swimming spot around the Stanley Ghyll Force waterfall walk and spent several happy hours wandering in wonder off the beaten track…

Finally we found it: a shimmering chute dropping 20 metres or so into a deep, dark plunge pool enclosed by mossy rocks and tropical-looking ravines. We scrambled on hands and knees up nature’s staircase of rocks, over wooden bridges and across rivers to reach the very top. The braver of our group might have thrown caution to the wind and jumped off the top but we decided to retreat back to Dalegarth Bridge and take a look at its rocky pools below.

Trees 1,000 times taller than you, a soft mossy green carpet covering the woodland floor beneath your feet, the sound of silence was punctuated every so often by rushing water or lone sheep on the hills.

Nobody around us but the ancient beauty of crumbling dry stone walls and fellow walkers eating their sandwiches overlooking the enormous valleys beyond. I could feel the peace and tranquility sinking into my bones, our day made when we stumbled upon the most perfect beauty spot by accident and spotted a lone heron sitting gracefully, unknown he was being watched on the water before us.

 

We packed everything we could into this three day trip over Bank Holiday weekend – walks, lazy wanders around Cockermouth and Grasmere, ice creams in the sunshine, leisurely pub meals and chatting to locals before a hilarious and unforgettable canoeing trip on Ullswater.

Ashleigh and I have never laughed so much in our lives as we did that day. Both absolute beginners at canoeing, we weren’t about to let that stop us and that’s the spirit of our friendship, the glue that sticks us together.

Day 2 –
Hopping into our canoe and figuring out how to work it after a few spins around the lake we were instantly hooked. The British weather was perfect for once, rays of hot sunshine hitting the water so it sparkled, with just the right kind of gentle breeze brushing past our faces as we giggled and rowed, grinning from ear to ear.

We learnt so many new things about ourselves on this trip, tasted new food, drank divine wine, witnessed new natural wonders, experienced new feelings, got muddy, got wet, got sunburnt and spent the whole weekend without so much as looking in a mirror…

What a weekend.

 

 

P&P On Tour: Brooklyn Heights

As the warmth of the sun radiated down on us from the clear blue sky above and the now-familiar jagged outline of the city’s skyline dominated the view beside us, I felt utterly at peace…


Time stood still as we made our way across the creaky wooden slats of the mighty Brooklyn Bridge, its steel rods casting kaleidoscopic sculptural shadows along the bridge’s footpath in front. Stopping every few minutes to take in the view, familiar landmarks popped into our peripheral – Lady Liberty far off in the distance standing tall and stern – the One World Trade Center reflecting light across the city from its mirrored coat and a swell of cars, people and streetfood carts below that make up life on the ground.

I didn’t think Brooklyn Bridge would capture my heart and soul as much as it did, but I never wanted that walk to end…even though every step was agony after walking almost 50 miles in 4 days!

We finally reached the other side and headed down to Dumbo (a neighborhood in the New York City borough of Brooklyn) and wandered through the pretty streets, along the East River until we found the perfect spot overlooking the harbour.

We’d heard about Smorgasburg in Williamsburg – a Brooklyn flea food market and wanted to check it out, so took the East River Ferry two stops to get there. Being on that ferry looking out at the view on the gentle waves, the sun beaming down was perfection. We could have sat there all day, and if there was more time on our trip, we probably would have.

Smorgasburg was HEAVING when  we  got there. You couldn’t get moved. At least a hundred street food stalls, each one with a more witty and delightful menu than the last were packed into this scrap of land just off the river. Fresh lemonade stands, fries with EVERYTHING poured on, tacos, burgers, oysters, pulled pork… you name it they had it. Only, we couldn’t get near for want of trying. Some stalls had queues 40-50 people deep and we began to feel seriously hangry.

I can’t tell you how great some of the food was, because we were too hungry and waiting in those queues in the heat just wasn’t possible, so we headed further into town and found a perfect little spot with an outdoor beer garden where we sat drinking fresh peach bellinis well into the afternoon.

Absolute perfection.

 

Tonight was our last night in New York (sob!) but Ashleigh had something amazing planned. She’d made us a dinner reservation at upmarket steakhouse Mortons in Manhattan, booked weeks in advance.

A little bird had told them it was her birthday and we got nothing but the best. Prosecco on arrival, a table overlooking the whole restaurant, a personalised birthday menu and of course after-dinner birthday cake! We ordered two 6oz fillet steaks, triple-cooked potatoes and broccoli rabe served with parmesan and lemon. Everything we ate was out of this world.

Our steaks, cooked medium/rare were slightly salty, moreishly meaty, juicy and just unbelievable. The triple cooked potatoes came in at something ridiciulous like 1500 calories but who cares, they were cheesy and crispy and creamy and we couldn’t get enough.

 

We just about managed to squeeze in a birthday cake of chocolate soufflé served with the nicest vanilla ice cream I have ever eaten before finishing off our bottle of wine and heading out into the city.

Drunk and in love with New York, we walked the few blocks back to the hotel dressed to impress. Me, in my trusty pink flamingo skirt and Ashleigh in her dazzling LBD – it was the perfect end to our perfect trip. Perfect perfect perfect.

(Did I say perfect enough times?)

New York had one last surprise for us as we turned the corner towards the Rockefeller Centre….

The city had only just replanted the spring bulbs there with an extravagant display of flowers and trees around the fountains. All lit up, it was a total surprise and a perfect photo opportunity for our last night.

 

P&P On Tour: NYC Day 3 – Retail Therapy

 

Prada. Dior. Chanel. Champagne. Massages. Marc Jacobs…

Welcome to Day 3 in New York. Unable to sleep due to excitement we jumped on the subway and headed to Lower Manhattan for an early morning breakfast at Balthazars – another Ashleigh “must try” and dear god she was right.

Balthazars is a beautifully furnished bakery-restaurant in an understated elegant art-deco style which turned out to be a genius find for Ashleigh and her family when they last visited so she couldn’t wait for me to try it too. Their breakfast menu serves anything and everything you could possibly want, from boiled eggs and soldiers to hazelnut French toast and almond croissants and so much more. We ordered poached eggs that came cooked to sunny perfection, served with rye bread toast, fresh coffee and an almond croissant to share. After breakfast, we wandered our way around Tribeca, West Village, Lower Manhattan and more just taking in the view, popping in and out of shops before heading back up to Midtown, Manhattan do so some serious shopping.

We started in Saks, 5th Avenue working our way from the Louboutins to Lanvin and YSL. I dared myself to check out the price tag of the Prada saffiano tote I’ve got my eye on, but at $2,236 plus tax I think I have a little more saving to do! We had our makeup done at Dior, sat back while Pepé worked out the kinks in our back, neck and shoulders and drifted in and out of the various clouds of perfume, stopping to admire the beautiful Chanel Mademoiselle stand beautifully decorated with buckets of puffy peonies, their precious pink petals still tightly closed like a fist, stunning, sunny ranunculus, heavenly hyacinths and 12 dozen coloured roses.

The gorgeous man from Chanel must have sensed my love of flowers, and gave me a rose with a beautiful Chanel bow….

You never have a moment to get bored as your eyes are constantly looking up, down and around at the buildings, parks, people and places. Every few minutes Ashleigh and I would give each other this look as though to say – “how chic are they?”

 

I loved the seamless blend of high-end department stores and designer hotspots on every corner, jostling for space between high street favourites like Uniqlo, True Religion, Victoria’s Secret and Ralph Lauren. We happily switched from drooling over handbags and jewels we could never afford to snapping up the things we could – I’ve been doing some work for Lindt recently so couldn’t resist popping into the Lindt store and sampling some of the American flavours we can’t get over here (I won’t even tell you how divine their peanut butter flavour is).

Having never been to New York before, I wasn’t sure how much spending money I’d need. “Normal” food isn’t ridiculously expensive (though there are some beautiful places I’d loved to have tried), but I had to keep reminding myself that these prices don’t include your taxes or tips (customary in American culture). I took $1000 with me which was easily enough – but since this was my first trip to New York/part of Ashleigh’s 30th birthday celebrations we definitely indulged in a few things…

…Cue afternoon champagne in the Veuve Clicquot Lounge in Saks – a bloody lovely way to spend a Friday afternoon, I have to say.

 

I highly recommend a visit – no words needed really.

After discovering you could get 10% off purchases at Bloomingdales if you showed your passports to the concierge services on the 3rd floor (thank you Ashleigh!) it was time to get down to the serious business of handbag shopping.

If you know me in real life, or know me well enough via internet stalking then you know I have a soft spot for handbags. I’d spotted a beautiful navy suede Marc Jacobs bag earlier on in the day and headed over to the MJ concession to do a little shopping. I can’t tell you how much I paid for my new bag (incase my mother is reading this) but I can say thank you Bloomingdales for 10% off!

After a fabulous day of retail therapy, we decided to hire bikes and take a tour around Central Park. The sun was shining, our feet were killing so we needed a painless way to continue our sightseeing adventures!

We had such a good time cycling around the park, getting to take in much more than you would just on foot. Our heads flipping from side to side as we cycled past the Lower East Side and Upper East Side, the Guggenheim, the Chrysler Building and the park’s enormous fountain and lake really was the icing on the cake of an amazing day. I have to admit to having one or two silent tantrums as I struggled to pedal my bike up a few of the hills (Chloe + cardio don’t mix well) but I’m so glad we got to feel the wind rushing past our faces and feel the breeze in our hair as we cycled carefree around one of the most iconic parts of the city.

The days seemed to last forever here in New York, which was perfect for us because we never wanted them to end. We’d done almost 80,000 steps these past three days (according to Ashleigh’s fitbit) and though admittedly our feet were aching like crazy, we were having the best time. That night,we headed across to Brooklyn on the subway to meet a friend who lives Bushwick. Getting to see the less touristy side of New York was so cool! I seriously envied Jamie’s easy, breezy New York way of life and for one night only, Ashleigh and I felt like real New Yorkers too.

I could go on and on about everything we did, but I’ll move on to Day Four before you get bored…

P&P On Tour: The Sky’s Your Limit…

I highly recommend starting your day at the top of a skyscraper. 

Standing almost directly opposite the Empire State building which we climbed last night, we woke up early after an amazing night’s sleep and headed the few blocks away to the famous Rockefeller Centre shortly before 8am.

Beating the queues this time, we rocketed up 70 floors in record time to see New York city’s skyline as the sun came up at the “Top of the Rock”.


We stepped out onto the viewing platform to complete silence and a crystal clear view. There’s no other way of putting it other than it took my breath away, because it truly did. The city looked equally as beautiful in the daylight, almost like some kind of toy town as you looked down at the tiny yellow cabs moving in straight lines below, spotting miniature airplanes in the sky above the city’s skyscrapers, so small you could pluck them straight from the sky!

This time we truly got to appreciate the stunning symmetry and architecture of the city – from the perfect rectangle that is Central Park to the gold leaf spire of the Chrysler Building and gargantuan One World Trade building – now the city’s tallest building. Up here, nothing else mattered. You’re completely caught in the moment and care only about what you can see, hear and feel at that moment.

The crowds didn’t take to come, obstructing our perfect view so Ashleigh and I headed back down to earth in search of breakfast. A total pro at New York life, Ashleigh insisted we go to a cute local diner called Astros.

A perfectly frothy cappuccino, poached eggs, toast, turkey sausage, crispy potatoes and an orange later (it’s an American thing) we found ourselves refuelled and exceptionally well fed. Breakfast here in New York sets you up for the whole day, which is just as well as we had lots to see.

(Click images to enlarge) 

We spent our day ticking off tourist hotspots our list: Grand Central Station, New York Library (where Carrie Bradshaw almost got married – #sorrynotsorry), the World Trade Center memorial and hit the shops before happily stumbling upon the world-famous Magnolia Bakery on Bleecker Street for a red velvet cupcake and vanilla cheesecake to share.

Eating, drinking, exploring is what this blog does best and we certainly excelled at it during this trip. Returning back to the hotel for a quick outfit change, we caught the subway downtown for a slice of proper NY pizza and ended our evening tucked away in Bobo, a beautiful tiled bar in the basement of a charming bar/restaurant townhouse sipping prosecco until it was time for bed.

Could life get any more perfect here in New York?

I couldn’t wait to see what Day Three had in store…

 

 

 

P&P On Tour: The Big Apple

When I found myself sat in the travel agents this time last year, putting down my £175 deposit down for what would be my first trip to New York I didn’t really think too much about the city I would be spending almost £1000 to visit.

I’d seen snippets of NYC on the TV (thank you Sex and the City) but it had always been “one of those places” on my imaginary bucket list I’d quite like to visit…

 

So here we were; 6am last Tuesday morning and we were finally on our way to the big city. Visas approved, bags packed, email out-of-office notifications firmly ON. I was finally heading to New York for a girly week away with one of my very best friends with a vague image of yellow taxis, skyscrapers and dollar bills imprinted in my brain.

P&P was about to hit New York for the very first time, and what a rollercoaster ride it was.

 

The fun began almost as soon as we realised we were waiting at the wrong gate in Heathrow’s Terminal 5. As we legged it to the other side of the terminal to board our flight my heart stopped at the uncomfortable “bleep” and error message that flashed up as the ticket inspector swiped our boarding cards and proceeded to tear them up right in front of us with a strange, sly grin.

“Ladies, I’m sorry to tell you that these are no longer your seats…”

Wait, what? Does that mean we weren’t going anymore? Disappointment began to sting the back of my throat…

“I’m delighted to tell you that you will be joining us as World Traveller Plus guests on the aircraft today.”

Holy sh*t we got upgraded! I had visions of being stuck cross-legged and bored on the 7.5 hour flight, but instead found myself in a snug 2-seat part of the plane sipping champagne and perusing the menu to see what we’d be having for lunch! We had all of the leg room in the world, state-of-the-art TVs and all of the snacks we could wish for. The flight quite literally flew by, two films later, a few more glasses of prosecco (before, after and during lunch) and touched down at JFK around midday NYC time.

Hailing our first yellow cab, we drove flat fare from the airport across Manhattan to our hotel in Times Square.

I practically had my head hanging out of the window like a dog the whole journey excitedly nudging Ashleigh telling her what I’d seen. “Just wait”, she said with a knowing smile, having been to New York a few times already.

As the taxi made its slow crawl through the busy streets of Times Square, I sat happily in the back gazing out in awe at the view. A sweet smell of honey roasted nuts and doughnuts hung in the air as the spring sunshine brought the tiny birds out of the trees onto the pavement, sending blossom cascading from the sky alongside their chirpy birdsong.

I decided there and then that I loved New York.

The people, the smells, the skyscrapers, the noise, the organised chaos, even the lack of any kind of road/traffic rules. It was a complete culture change – just what I needed.

 

We checked into our hotel, The Sheraton in Times Square, threw our bags down  and headed straight out onto the streets (after a quick selfie of course).

We walked for miles along those wide streets, passing some of the world’s most famous landmarks like Broadway, 5th Avenue and Central Park.  With nowhere to go, and nowhere to be, we melted into the city. Just leisurely wandering, stopping for lunch, a drink, a seat wherever we fancied and just took in the view. I honestly can’t tell you how long it’s been since I had the luxury of doing nothing..

I was still going strong after dinner, despite our early start and so we decided to walk the 13 blocks or so to the Empire State Building. Open from 8am – 2am, Ashleigh warned me that every time she’s been the queues have been ridiculous. This time would be different, I could feel it…

We joined the back of an hour-long queue of excited tourists and New Yorkers keen to see the city in all of her evening finery and patiently waited as the queue snaked through security scanners….up escalators….around corners and 86 floors before we finally made it to the top around 10.30pm. I didn’t dare admit it to Ashleigh at the time, but I was starting to feel pretty demented at being penned in like cattle walking tiny baby steps, not knowing when or where the end of the queue would finally reveal itself.

 

 

The moment we stepped out of those double doors and outside onto the Observatory was unforgettable (and totally worth the $32 entry fee). The view was beyond incredible. We must have taken a thousand pictures and not one did the view any justice. The city was sparkling, the lights went on forever and despite experiencing all of that noise down below earlier that day, the atmosphere up here was so tranquil. I’d never seen anything like it and could have stood there staring at the view for hours.

 New York was turning into the most magical place I’d ever been and we still had four more days of discovery…