A Geeky Girl’s Guide to Paris

Ah Paris, the city of love, home of the Mona Lisa and where you can eat as many crepes as you can stuff into your face. I headed over there in 2006 and I have to say it hasn’t been my favourite city to visit, although I do plan to head back one day and give it a second chance, however I do have some tips if you do decide to head on over to Gay Parie.

– If you are travelling from the UK just take the Eurostar, it is so much easier and far less stressful, take some time to also check out the recently updated St. Pancras Station – it is delightful.

– Paris can easily be done in a weekend, but make sure you plan out everything you want to see and check it is open!

– Do the most touristy thing ever and go to the top of the Eiffel Tower, you get great views over the city and for a few moments you can pretend you are in Superman II. Also make sure you check out the light show of an evening.

– Go to Parc de Belleville for great views of the city – best viewed just as the sun is setting.

– Have a wander down the Champs Elyees and look at all the high end fashion shops (ladies make a small purchase in Chanel – when in Rome etc.) and take in the Arc de Triomphe and the crazy traffic lanes that surround it!

– Go and see the Mona Lisa at The Louvre although she is smaller than you may think. Also make time to say hello to the Venus de Milo – she is absolutely stunning and very impressive to see in person.

If you can’t quite stretch to seeing a show at the Moulin Rogue (it is very expensive!), take a look at the fancy outside and belt out a bit of “Come What May”.

My favourite thing to do however was walk to the top of Norte Dame. The cathedral itself is impressive but at the top you get to see up close and personal the gargoyles that guard the city. They all have their own character so give them plenty of time.

– Although I would never fancy snails or frogs legs I can heartily recommend Nutella Crepes as source of substance while hitting the streets.

– Paris is a very expensive city so make sure you think ahead budget wise, when we went we easily paid £3 for a coke – outrageous!

– Ride the Paris Metro for the door opening system alone – it is an eye opener for anybody used to the London Tube System.

As always enjoy yourself and bon voyage!

A Geeky Girl’s Guide to New York

One of the things I really love to write about is travel. I’ve been lucky enough to have been to quite a few places around the world but one of my all time favorite has to be New York City and this year I was able to visit again as part of our East Coast extravaganza.

I need to be honest straight off the bat here, I love New York as much as I love London, it is a vibrant, busy, hustling, exciting and playful melting pot. There is always something to do and it truly lives up to its moniker of the City that never sleeps. The shopping is fantastic, the arts scene is amazing and the architecture will take your breath away. Basically if I had to live anywhere else on the planet it would be there. After two visits I’m still itching to go back, but if you are heading to the Big Apple anytime soon here are some of my thoughts and tips,

– Give yourself a good six days in the city – there is plenty to see and expect large lines for the more well known sites. We spent a good couple of hours waiting to get up the Empire State Building and a good half day in line for the Statue of Liberty, but don’t let the lines put you off, both are great experiences and you get the added bonus of being able to hum the theme music from Working Girl as you make your way across the Hudson River.

– Book yourself tickets to a night viewing up the Top of the Rock. The Empire State Building never looks more magnificent then when it is lit up and the view from there is spectacular over the city. Head to the visitor center at Rockefeller Plaza on the day you want to go up to book in advance.

– Make time to go downtown and visit the 9/11 Memorial. The new World Trade Center Tower is opening later this year and it is a sight to see but it is the really beautiful memorial that truly takes your breath away. Based on the footprints of the Twin Towers, the infinity fountains are engraved with the names of all who fell on that fateful day and each day the ground staff add a single white rose to anybody who would have been having a birthday. You need to book tickets in advance if you just want to enter the memorial, however I could not recommend highly enough a tour with the 9/11 Tribute Center –  each tour is lead by people who were there on the day, were part of the emergency crews who dealt with the aftermath or the family of somebody who was lost and all profits go back into the great charity work they do.

-Walk over the Brooklyn Bridge.

– Save a good half day to explore Central Park and make sure to visit the Lake, the Alice in Wonderland statue and Strawberry Fields where you can buy John Lennon badges from hippies.

– Immerse yourself  in the sheer over the topness of Times Square. One of my favourite things to do is sit on the red steps above the Tkts booth and just people watch.

– Have your picture taken with the Naked Cowboy.

– See a Broadway show. The sheer amount of choice you have in New York is breathtaking and there will be something on that will suit any taste. If there is something you know you want to see then book your tickets before you leave, you can pick them up at the box office on the day. If you fancy taking a punt the Tkts booth in Times Square offers substantial discounts on a huge majority of shows.

-Eat lunch at the original Shake Shack in Madison Square Park. If you look one way you see the Flatiron Building and the other the Empire State Building, doesn’t get much more New York than that.

– If you are a film and TV buff like me make time to,

  • Go to Katz Deli and see the place Sally had *that* moment in When Harry Met Sally, and also eat the best sandwich of your life.
  • Visit Carrie’s stoop from Sex and the City then grab a cupcake at the original Magnolia Bakery
  • Go to Hook and Ladder 8 AKA Ghostbuster HQ
  • Have breakfast at Tom’s – the Diner from Seinfeld 
  • Have a frozen Hot Chocolate at Serendipity III (Serendipity)
  • Eat the the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company (Forrest Gump)
  • Go to FAO Schwarz and go on the Big Piano from Big 

Have afternoon tea at Alice’s Tea Cup – their house blend is amazing. (Three locations around the City)

– Spend some time exploring Rockefeller Plaza.

– Shop! Even the most ardent anti-shopper could not be impressed by the experience you have in New York – and even better any clothes purchase under $100 is tax exempt!

I’ve only just scratched the surface of what this amazing city has to offer but make sure when you are next in NYC to give my regards to Broadway and remember me to Herald Square.

A Geeky Girl’s Guide To Rome

One of the things about my life I am most grateful and happy for is the fact that I have had the opportunity to travel quite extensively to a lot of interesting and exciting places, sure I still have plenty to tick off the list, but travelling to a new country is full of excitement and anticipation and so I thought I might share my thoughts and tips as to some of the places I have been.

Rome was my first ever trip out of the UK and in fact my second. If I had my way I would happily visit there once a year but alas there is only so many holiday days you can take from work and exploring new places takes those up very quickly.

So what is it about Rome? It could be the history, the people, the food! But each time I have been there I have been swept up by it all and it also houses my favorite spot in the entire world, the Trevi Fountain, which is stunning to look at and great to people watch at as well.

So here are some tips if you are thinking of or planning a holiday to Rome.

– Give yourself a minimum of at least four to five full days, there is plenty to see and rather than rush do it all at a leisurely pace, Rome wasn’t built in a day, neither does your sightseeing need to be.

– Taxi’s are very expensive, so only really use one if you have to.

-The Rome metro is a handy and cheap way to travel around to the main sights in the city. It is however dirty and hugely populated (imagine London rush hour and double). This means you are very likely to get well acquainted of the armpit of the person standing next to you. You also need to assert some authority when trying to get off the train as people will not move out of your way. On my last trip I got stuck on the train a stop later than I wanted due to people staying put! Also beware of pickpockets or even worse dirty old men who want to get close(er) and personal with you.

– Take a comfortable pair of shoes because you will be doing a lot of walking. The majority of tourist sights are close enough to each other to reach by foot and it is also a great way for you to see the city and its people. Always take a map as the streets can be a little confusing but that is half the fun!

– As mentioned above beware of Pickpockets. Rome is second only to Barcelona for this crime so always be aware of who is around you, especially in crowded places. Another thing to look out for are sellers. They will come up to you and basically try and put roses or tatty plastic toys into you hand and then demand money from you. Ignoring them and walking away is all you can do. If they get in your face too much be as rude as you can to them and they will eventually leave you alone.

– Make sure you visit the Colosseum it is epic and very beautiful and will take your breath away when you first see it but don’t pay to go inside, it is very disappointing. On Sunday’s the road up to the Colosseum is closed to traffic and stalls set up to sell their wears, it is lovely and I would recommend going if you are there over a weekend.

– The Trevi Fountain is a must see and there is an amazing Gelato place just across from it with some the best ice cream you will taste in Rome. Grab a cone an people watch! Don’t forget to throw your coin into the fountain to ensure a safe return to Rome in the future.

– Around the Colosseum are the Forum Romanum, enjoy strolling along and taking them in.

– The Piazza’s in Rome are a great place to stop and have a picnic lunch, Piazza di Spagna is probably the best as you can sit on the Spanish Steps but don’t forget to check out Piazza Navona and Piazza Barberini which have some lovely fountains.

– For an example of pure opulence check out Victor Emmanuel Monument. It is made entirely out of marble and is a sight to see! American GI’s in WW2 said it reminded them of a wedding cake!

– No holiday to Rome would be complete without a trip to the Vatican. Ensure you get there early as the line grows quickly and also check which days it is open, you don’t want to turn up and the doors be closed! Give yourself plenty of time to explore, there is so much to see and take in and you could happily spend hours just looking up at the Sistine Chapel. Also make sure to include a visit inside of St. Peter’s, it is truly stunning. It is also worth paying the extra to walk up to the top! Remember though in all holy places in Italy you must cover yourself up, this means no bare arms or legs, so if you are wearing tank tops or shorts ensure you take a shawl to cover up with.

– For a Roman Holiday Audrey Hepburn moment, make sure you take some time to visit the Mouth of Truth. It is a bit of an uphill walk from the nearest metro station but is a fun thing to do and also makes a great photo op!

– The food in Rome, as you would imagine, is amazing! You can walking basically into any shop and get a tasty lunch or dinner. Don’t limit yourself to guidebook recommendations, pound the pavements and make your own discoveries.

– Like most Mediterranean countries, Rome shuts down for siesta every afternoon. Use this time to re-charge yourself for the evening or visit open spaces that cannot be shut!

The most important thing is to enjoy yourself and take in one of the most beautiful cities in the world!