To the parents of the boy in the gorilla enclosure… I apologise for the human race

To the parents of the boy in the Gorilla enclosure at Cincinnati Zoo…

I hope you and your family are ok and getting past your traumatic experience in whatever way you see fit.  I also apologise for the human race and their apparent lack of compassion throughout your public shaming of a global scale.

Now, don’t get me wrong – I, too, am extremely saddened by the events at Cincinnati Zoo this week… and deeply bereft that the beautiful Silverback Gorilla, Harambe, had to lose his life.  However, I also think that people (myself included sometimes) can often be all too quick to jump on the bandwagon of judgement in these situations.

I’m no parent, but I do know how difficult it can be to look after my niece (and I only ever have her on her own!!) – young kids can be extremely strong willed when they want (or don’t want) to go somewhere… and I also know that taking your eyes of them for a single second could cause all kinds of trouble!!  Aside from the fact that the kids parents had other children to look after on the day of the incident at Cincinnati, we also tend to go to such establishments (particularly in Westernised countries) safe in the knowledge that the zoo’s themselves have sufficient safety measures in place to avoid such tragic incidents from occurring in the first place!

I feel, in the age where media rules everything, we, as a society, can often be all too quick to judge others based solely on what the newspapers tell us… Why do we feel the need to place blame onto people and shame them??

I believe that this family went through a truly traumatic experience and, without having a second to breathe and actually acknowledge what went on in those moments – which probably felt like a lifetime to them – they’re suddenly being bombarded with insults and admonishments regarding their ability to look after their own beloved children!!  I’ve seen reports, in the media, which dig into the families personal past and dramatise their history in the headlines – just to sell papers and, thus, cash in at somebody else’s expense!  As if all this wasn’t enough – the police are, also, now investigating the parents for possible criminal charges… does nobody have any compassion?? Surely this is complete and utter victim-shaming?!

I’m certain that the parents of the young boy had no idea, even after he’d fallen in, the zoo would go to such measures to protect their child.  I’m also sure the couple would never have wished for the gorilla to be shot.  If we wanted to, we could also blame todays’ greedy society for putting the zoo in such a position where they have to shoot a defenceless animal in order to avoid a potential court case and probable suing had the zoo used any other measures and the child had died instead.  As it stands, however, there is really no point in blaming anybody for an incident that’s already happened.

Surely we’d be far more productive, as a species, by channelling our anger over this incident into endorsing and/or bringing awareness to programs which aim to prevent the poaching of such animals that are actually still alive in the wild, or supporting the national parks which home these magnificent animals – such as: Gorilla Fund, Fauna and Flora International, Endangered Species International, or The Gorilla Organisation.

So, my question is this: Why get angry and start throwing blame and criticism around, when you can actually direct that energy into doing something directly about the cause you are aiming to defend?!

…I hope this offers some food for thought…

Love.

(my usual sign off doesn’t seem too appropriate for this post…)

5 great reasons to go countryside running

Since training for my first marathon, in New York City, I’ve really started to get back into enjoying running again.  Having grown up in the countryside, I’m a bit of a country bumpkin at heart and have genuinely loved my long training runs around the area I live… for that reason, I’ve been inspired to write this post for you guys and give you 5 Great reasons to go countryside running.

Silence

Running in the countryside brings with it a certain serenity and peace… The absence of busy roads with cars and lorries, rushing to get everywhere they need to go, leaves your mind with a sense of complete calm… Instead of noisy vehicles, you can listen to the sounds of the birds flying above, the wind blowing through the trees, water trickling/gushing down brooks/streams, or children playing and laughing as you pass nearby houses.  I prefer to run without music blasting into my ears now, and I tend to find it quite a meditative experience!

On my last 30minute run, at dusk, I literally passed just zero cars and found myself to be much more aware of my other surroundings!! 🙂

Views

Countryside Sunset

Just a 5mile run from my house, and I’m up in the hills/fells that surround the area I live. The views from here are incredible – I can see rolling hills and views over the nearby bay area. Right behind my house is a canal… and there are a few rivers, as well as numerous villages to run through or alongside.

If I go running at dusk, too, the sunsets you see in the countryside (IMHO) are much better than those in the big cities!! 😉

Nature

Curious cow...

There’s something about jogging past fields full of curious, staring cows, chewing grass as they watch you pass… or of sheep, each running away, as they follow the one you startled, because it didn’t see you approach. The elegant, gliding swans as they swim down the canal, ferociously protecting their family if anyone gets too close for comfort… or the ducks swimming along, looking slightly more frantic. Finally, the silhouettes of birds, graciously flying overhead – lone or in flocks – as they emigrate or fly back to their nests to feed their families.

Friendly faces

When I did my final (UK) training run for the New York City Marathon (because I was catching my flight out from Heathrow airport) I went for my run in and around the Hammersmith area of East London… It seems that city folk seem to have more on their mind than happy-go-lucky country folk… Of all the people I attempted to smile at or say hello to – only 2 responded/smiled back!! The rest just avoided eye contact all together!!

In the countryside, the majority of people you come across will smile or say hello as you pass… There tend to be an abundance of happy and friendly walkers, cyclists and other runners if you choose popular routes into the fells or along cycle paths!!

Exploration

Proboscus Monkey - Malaysia

Somehow, when I take a new route into a place I’ve never been before… I find my mind taking me back to a time when I felt like a real explorer.  I think back to when I was trekking through a Malaysian National Park, in Sarawak, on the island of Borneo… I was alone, and so aware of all the animals and the nature surrounding me – I was ducking between tree branches and squelching through mud as I watched Probiscus monkeys and silverbacks swinging or jumping from tree to tree around me.  Now, when I run through new places (particularly in the countryside) it takes me back to those precious moments in Malaysia and reminds me to look up around me at the sheep in the fields, the birds flying overhead, and to be present in that particular moment – exploring the world again, like a child, looking at everything around me with fresh eyes.  🙂

Do you love countryside running?  If so, why?  Do you agree with my reasons or have any of your own to add?  Please feel free to comment and join in the conversation!!

Love, Magic and Fairy Dust 😉

Getting to Niagara Falls from New York City

Two of New York states’ most popular travel destinations happen to be New York City, itself, and Niagara Falls… so, it comes as no surprise that, most people, who visit the Big Apple, would be eager to see both.  Although the two sights are both located within the same US state (Niagara lying on the border between upstate New York and Canadian, Ontario), they are still a fair distance from one another – so, getting to Niagara Falls from New York City can still prove to be somewhat of a mission!!

On the plus side, there are a number of options available to you – dependant upon your budget, timescale and preferred travel experience…

Going it Alone

If, like me, you prefer to have the freedom of “going it alone” and having options as to how you spend your time, there are 4 different options available to you…

Car

Recommended if there is more than one person and costs can be split!

There are plenty of car hire companies available at JFK airport should you need a car when you arrive in NYC – they are all in the same area (Federal Circle stop – from the AirTrain), making it easy for you to get quotes for whatever you want/need (one day and leave the car in Buffalo/the duration of your time upstate AND the return drive/anything in between/extra drivers etc.).  Alternatively, you can book before your trip and, thus, hopefully get a cheaper deal.

The drive itself took us about 7-8hours (with a couple of food/coffee/toilet breaks)

Pros:  Toilet/food/coffee breaks whenever you feel like it, freedom on location (should you wish to explore Buffalo/Toronto/Lake Ontario – as opposed to just the Falls themselves), easy to navigate along the Interstate the majority of the way (but more scenic/cultural routes available if you wish)

Cons:  Tiring, Car hire costs (if applicable), Petrol costs, toll costs, time

Plane

Manhattan and the Hudson River from the air!!

Recommended if you’re restricted by time rather than money.

Flying, to Buffalo (around 25miles from the falls), with a company such as JetBlue means you can fly out of JFK early in the morning and back the same evening – making a day trip to the falls a feasible, albeit ambitious, option!

The actual flight time is approximately one hour… however, once you add up; check-in time at the airport, luggage handling, getting to/from the airports at either end… you could be faced with a, more likely, 4-5hour commute.  Still, this almost halves the time spent for any other form of transport…

Pros: Time, fairly relaxed journey, great views of Manhattan from the air!

Cons: Cost, other things to organise (such as transport to/from airports), possible hidden luggage/tax costs, may be unreliable in bad weather (check out my blog post from my journey here…)

Train

Recommended if you like to sit back and relax.

Amtrak connects NYC to the US side of Niagara by rail – with journeys leaving three times per day, ranging between $65 – $155 or £43 – £103 (as at Nov 2015) per person, each way.

The journey takes approximately 9hours with a fairly short bus journey to the falls at the end (and a little bit of walking between each section).  It’s fairly easy to check out the journey on Google Maps beforehand 😉

Pros: Fairly relaxed journey, toilet/food/coffee breaks whenever you feel like it, scenic Hudson River Valley views

Cons: Cost (if more than one person), Time, less freedom on location unless you hire a car

Bus

Recommended if you’re a budget traveller with plenty of time.

The Greyhound buses serve the area between NYC and Niagara, Ontario.  The vehicles are equipped with an on-board restroom, as well as free wi-fi and individual power outlets.

The bus journey can take anything from 9-11hours and seems to be priced from around $47 or £30 (as at Nov 2015) upwards.

Pros: Toilet breaks, scenic views, cost (better if booked in advance), free wi-fi

Cons: Time, less freedom, Stock up with food/drink beforehand if you want a snack!

Niagara Falls (American Falls)

Tour Packages

Recommended if you’re more limited by planning time than money!

If you prefer to have a ready made package, a tour could well be the best option for you.  Many companies offer both single day, and multi day tours from NYC to Niagara Falls.

STA Travel

I prefer not to promote full travel packages if I haven’t used the company before myself, however, I have been on a month long tour booked through in Asia and thoroughly enjoyed the experience… otherwise, a simple Google search should do the trick for you! 🙂  Happy holidays!!

Have you ever travelled to Niagara Falls from New York City? Any pleasantries or horror stories to share from your experiences??  (Check mine out here!!)  Please feel free to comment below! 🙂

Love, Magic and Fairy Dust 😉

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For Great Deals on hotels in, and around, Niagara – click the image below! 🙂

The Home of Hip Hop – New York City

New York City is an absolute mecca for a wide variety of worldwide cultures and communities… art, fashion, music, business and anything else you can dream of will be alive and kicking on a street somewhere within the big city… as Alicia Keys says – “if I can make it here, I can make it anywhere.”

One culture that was born on the streets of New York City itself, however, is Hip Hop.  The four cornerstones of the hip hop culture (MCing, DJing, Bboying and Graffiti Art) first came together at a party thrown by DJ Kool Herc on 1520 Sedgewick Avenue in The Bronx… making this, the home of hip hop.  From there, the culture spread far and wide, across the world!!  Hip hop has, since, formed an artistic outlet for youngsters (or otherwise), often born and raised in more poverty-stricken areas (such as the NY “ghettos”), to release their frustrations and/or personal disputes in a more creative manner… as opposed to violently competing using the more traditional, and destructive, ‘street gang’ methods.

Aside from the numerous regular sight-seeing activities available to explore in New York City, one of my main goals, whilst in NYC, was to find some notable “hip hop” locations… perhaps a dance battle/class, or a famed graffiti wall within the city.  A failed internet search led me to a graffiti wall that has since been knocked down… until I found Hush Hip Hop Tours – a tour, largely based in Harlem and South Bronx, led by notorious pioneers/celebrities within hip hop culture, such as legendary MC’s “Grandmaster Caz” and “Kurtis Blow”.

This morning was the morning of “said” tour… and, as it was one of my main priorities for this trip (aside from the marathon, obviously), I was about as excited as these guys waiting for daddy to arrive home.  The tour started out, in true “hood” style, with an argument over a parking ticket with one of the NYC parking attendants!!

N.B.  I, originally, booked our tour for the Saturday afternoon, just after we got into NYC – but on Friday, we received an e-mail stating that the tour we booked would not go ahead due to low sales, so, we were offered either; a different tour, a different date (today), or a full refund.  I’m mentioning this just because I want people to be aware that this could happen – so, if this tour is as high on your “NYC sightseeing” list as it was on mine, I’d advise you book an earlier date on your trip so it can be rescheduled before you leave if needs be!!

Harlem Graffiti - New York City

After the parking ticket had been rectified, we set off towards Harlem and The Bronx for the first stop of the tour… all the time, being questioned and educated on hip hop culture by our tour guide, Grandmaster Caz.  After establishing the four elements of hip hop, and learning about the “street style” of those involved in the culture, we pulled up outside a school playground in Harlem.  The playground is a graffiti hotspot in NYC, and we were able to see some of the professional work produced by some of New York’s best graffiti artists.

Bboy Mouse - Dynamic Rockers crew

We paused for a moment in the same area for Caz to show us how the old school DJs used to hook up their amplifiers to the public lampposts to start block parties!!  Across the street, we stopped at a basketball court – readily prepared with some lino and a portable sound system.  Here, bboy Mouse, of Dynamic Rockers crew, was waiting to give us a demo and introduction to breaking.  After the initial demo, we were called out to try to learn some basic breakdance moves… this was the moment I was waiting for – so, the first time I followed Mouse’s routine as he did it, the second I finished of with a bboy stance, and the third time I finished with a freeze!!  This was, apparently, all the encouragement Caz needed to pull me out n ask for a “freestyle” from me!!  Having not done any breaking in about 3-4years, I felt a little nervous, but did it anyway – and was surprised to learn that I could still do most of my old moves!! 😀

Bgirl 6 step - New York City
Bgirk Freestyle - New York City
Bgirl Uprock - New York City
Apollo Theatre - New York City

Next stop, we jumped back on the tour bus and head towards the Apollo Theatre… boasting a rich history of performers, such as James Brown, Louis Armstrong, Lauryn Hill, the Jackson 5 and Aretha Franklin – the venue also launched the careers of the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Luther Vandross, Ne-yo and Mariah Carey, amongst many others!!

After getting a few pictures (and a quick toilet stop), we jumped back on the bus and crossed the bridge into the Bronx.  Our first stop, over this side, was the Yankee Stadium, followed by a quick drive by 1520 Sedgewick Avenue – the location of what is known as the very first hip hop party!  On the bus, we were surrounded by a full audio-visual display of hip hop culture, as Caz talked us through the importance of this particular address in the progression of hip hop within NYC.  The bus continued to a new graffiti spot and then onto the “Bronx Walk of Fame” – where Caz showed us the most visited lamppost in all of NYC… his own (since he has numerous tour groups to bring here)!! 😛

Yankee Stadium - New York City
1520 Sedgewick Avenue - New York City
Bronx Graffiti - New York City
Grandmaster Caz - The Bronx Walk of Fame - New York City
Me and Grandmaster Caz - New York City

We finished the tour on Malcolm X Boulevard for some “soul food” in Manna’s restaurant back in Harlem, before hopping back on the bus towards our original start point.  On the way back, we had a “freestyle” sesh on the bus, where, if you wished, you could do a little improvised rap… one of the couples on the bus were a fantastic duo, but no one else on the bus dared to give it a go!!

Unfortunately, as the tour was running a little late and we had flights to catch, we had to hop off the bus a little early in order to get the metro back to our hotel, pick up our bags, and get to the airport before check-in closed!  As my parents flight home was before mine, I went across to their terminal with them, we said our goodbyes (and mum got all emotional – worrying about plane crashes etc. *rolls eyes* 😛 ) and I ran off to my own terminal.  We got on our respective flights back to Manchester/London as I reminisced another incredible, action packed holiday! 🙂

Check out my blog on this trip, from the beginning, here. 🙂

Have you ever been to New York City?? Did you go on any of the more cultural tours? Are you a fan of any aspect of hip hop culture? Please feel free to join the discussion in the comments section below!! 🙂

Love, Magic and Fairy Dust 😉

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Exploring New York City!

Aside from wonderful shopping opportunities, phenomenal theatre shows and an incredibly multi-cultural society… New York City is, also, an absolute mecca for some fantastic sight-seeing. As one of the first European settlements in America, almost 500 years ago, New York has a great number of historic sights following on from a European dream of the “New World” – and, later, a call for independence.

Medal Engraving!!

NYC Marathon - medal

First stop this morning, was a trip up to Colombus Circle on the South Western corner of Central Park… I’d heard that there was a shop in the “Time Warner Shopping Mall” (located here) which does free medal engraving for yesterdays’ marathon finishers – so, first things first, I made my way to the shop, and handed my medal in ready for engraving my name and official finishing time. (For other first time New York marathoners, I’d recommend not booking any sight-seeing tours for this morning – as the shop had a group of professional masseurs on hand to relieve the marathoners aches and pains from the day before!! Although I arrived super early, there was already a waiting list of about an hour for the masseurs – unfortunately, I was already booked onto a Statue of Liberty tour, so didn’t have the time to spare… Let’s just say stairs were a major struggle that day – and there were plenty of them to navigate!!)

Statue of Liberty

Statue of Liberty

I arrived back at the hotel to meet up with my parents again before setting off, on the metro, to downtown Manhattan ready for our boat ride across, from Battery Park to Liberty Island, for the Statue of Liberty.

Statue of Liberty - from the boat

I managed to get some pretty good pictures of the Statue, looking at the island from the boat, before disembarking and joining the queue to redeem our (pre-booked) view from the pedestal. (Please note: when we arrived, they were turning people away if they hadn’t pre-booked because there were too many people wanting to go up – I would recommend pre-booking just to avoid disappointment. If you want to go to the crown, as opposed to just the pedestal, tickets often sell out weeks in advance.)

Inside the statue, we were able to see the original torch, which has since been replaced, and replica’s of some of her body parts to give the general public an idea of, for example, the size shoe she might wear (just in case you wanted to buy her a present 😉 )… The torch and the body parts are bigger than you could ever imagine when just looking up at the statue from afar!!! There was also a lot of information about the history/engineering background and much more once inside… Including a whooooole bunch of very. Painful. Steps. 🙁 (215 to the pedestal be precise!!).

Old Torch - Statue of Liberty

Statue of Liberty – the Old Torch

Statue of Libery Foot!!

Statue of Liberty – Foot Replica… in relation to my foot, and to me!

Walking around the pedestal, you could see a fantastic view of the Manhattan skyline… And I also found it pretty incredible to see, from afar, just how far I’d run yesterday… Looking out at the start line of the Varenzanso Bridge and tracing my eyes right across through the entire of Brooklyn, into Manhattan, right up to the Bronx and back down through half of Manhattan again – I felt a real sense of pride and achievement that I don’t think I fully appreciated yesterday!! 🙂

Manhattan - view from Liberty Island

On the boat back, we had the opportunity to stop at Ellis Island so we could see the old official immigration reception centre used in the early 1900’s mass immigration – we chose instead, however, to use our short, remaining time in New York to see the new “Ground Zero” and pay our respects to all the victims of 9/11.

Ground Zero

When we first arrived, we watched a couple of screenings, documenting different standpoints, on the events of 9/11 and the immediate aftermath. We spent around 2 hours or so, afterwards, looking around the museum and reading about the events and the victims of the tragedy… as well as at the destruction caused to some of the original building foundations that have, purposefully, been left free standing within the new building – it was an extremely sobering experience which left me feeling slightly depressed for some time after.

Ground Zero - water fountain
Ground Zero - engraved names

The 2 waterfalls outside, depicting the areas where the twin towers once stood tall above the Manhattan skyline, are a slightly happier symbol of resilience and remembrance… Each surrounded by a wall of engraved names, ensuring the individual victims of the tragedy will never be forgotten.

Grand Central Station

After picking up my medal from Columbus Circle, we made our way to Grand Central Station. As America’s largest, most historic, busiest and most featured (in film/TV) train station – Grand Central was always a must visit for our trip to NYC. We walked into the main concourse via one of the large shopping corridors, and the first thing I noticed was the infamous clock in the centre of the expanse… Commuters were surrounding it in search of travel information, tourists were stood around taking photographs and groups were meeting and chatting away to each other. I then looked up at the roof to notice the fantastic artwork depicting the astrology belt – being a bit of a stargazer myself, I was able to really appreciate what the artist was trying to achieve.

Grand Central Station
Grand Central Station - Ceiling Art

Just as we were leaving, I noticed 2 friends go to opposite corners of a particular alcove just leading off from the main concourse… They both turned to face the wall for a moment, then turned around and giggled at each other!! I thought this rather strange activity for 2 adults, so I thought about it a moment and came to the conclusion that there must be something in it!! I told my dad to stand in the opposite corner and (after some coaxing to get him to try out my silly experiment, which he didn’t believe would work) started speaking, quietly, into the wall “can you hear me?!” and sure enough – my dad’s echo-ey voice came back, from across the busy hallway of numerous commuters, telling me he could!! The architecture, of some of the alcoves, is such that the sound can travel from one corner to the other without shouting to each other!!

Following our interesting discovery in Grand Central, we began to walk back to our hotel – looking for some places to eat along the way. As we meandered, on one particular road we saw several police cars lined up (if I were to guess, I’d say around 20-30 of them!!) – so, after making up a number of humorous stories, regarding what they could be doing there, between us (mostly involving pizza delivery, or our past coming back to haunt us 😛 )… my dad finally asked one of the officers what was going on… He told us we’d missed President Obama passing through just minutes before!!!

Bus Tours

Empire State Building and Macy's

This morning, we were up bright and early to jump on one of the cities’ bus tours – and, by about 9:30am, we were already on the tour bus, heading downtown from Times Square, past Macy’s and the Empire State Building!  It was a beautiful morning with clear blue skies, so we sat on the open top bus as we listened to all the tourist information provided by the guides through the headphones and took photos of the main city sights.  As we passed through Chinatown, I was trying my best (as I normally do) to read as many of the Chinese characters as I could on the shop windows (I tend to get stupidly excited when I manage to read a full sentence – although that happens extremely rarely!!! 😛 )

Brooklyn Public Library

We swapped buses in Chinatown to jump on one which would then take us over the bridge and into Brooklyn – we had a quick tour around the immediate Brooklyn area across the bridge, covering sights such as the Memorial Arch for Soldiers and Sailors… The majestic Brooklyn Public Library – with its golden gilded entrance featuring a number of infamous characters in American literature… and Prospect Park, before heading back into Manhattan, past Wall Street, and up towards midtown again.

Central Park

Next stop, Central Park – we all had the idea in our heads that, whilst in New York, we would like to hire some bikes and cycle around Central Park… so, that in mind, we arrived at Central Park only to be bombarded by people wanting to sell us horse-driven tours or bicycle rickshaw tours etc etc.  We did meet a nice young man, however who, eventually, showed us the way to a good bike rental shop so we could make our own way around.

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We hired our bikes from a place just one street away, and head back towards the, 843 acre, park – armed with a map of all the popular places to visit.  We stuck mainly to the South End of the park, starting our exploration by cycling towards the Bethesda Fountain (in line with 72nd street).  The fountain is the largest in New York, and boasts a beautiful view across the lake, where you can sit watching the numerous rowboats – or alternatively, hire one out from the Loeb Boathouse just a little further round the lake!!

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Next, we cycled, along the lakeside, towards Strawberry Fields (West 72nd Street) – this area of the park has been dedicated to John Lennon.  Strawberry Fields is located across the street from Dakota Apartments, where the famous singer/musician/songwriter was shot dead just outside his home in 1980.  The mosaic, pictured, is located in the centre of the 2.5acre region of the park, in memory of John Lennon’s most famous song – Imagine.

DSC09845

We then cycled all around the lake, stopping at one or two places along the way to marvel at the vibrant colours of the Autumn tree leaves, and some pretty looking bridges, before heading back to the South to take our bikes back before we got fined for a late return!!

Once returned, we jumped back on the tour bus towards Times Square to get some dinner before heading back to the hotel – ready for our Hip Hop tour in the morning!!

Have you ever been to New York City??  Did you go to see the same things? Any other recommendations for other places to go?  Please feel free to join the discussion in the comments section below!! 🙂

Love, Magic and Fairy Dust 😉

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Running the TCS New York City Marathon!

Continued from my previous post… How NOT to Prepare for your First Marathon

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As one of the official Abbott Marathon Majors, the New York City Marathon is one of the six most renowned marathons in the world – making it an unforgettable experience for both, runners, and supporters alike.  In this post, I’ve tried to encompass my personal experience of running in it…!! 🙂

New York City Marathon!!

Waking and Preparations

The day I’ve been preparing for, for the past 4, gruelling months of training has arrived… 400+ training miles have been logged, and now I’m ready and raring to run the furthest distance I’ve ever run in my life26.2miles of New York City – here I come!!

Having set my alarm, last night, for 4:45am – I woke up and climbed out of bed and into my running gear… I gathered my food/gels/protein shakes/phone/extra layers/race info, all into my specified race bag, complete with race number, and grabbed my breakfast and went down the hotel lift into the lobby – when I arrived, the lobby was full of runners, all waiting for our marathon rep to take us to the buses.  I stood, very nervously, with my tub of raisin bran and milk – slowly munching away, despite the fact that I really didn’t feel particularly hungry (but knew I had to get something nutritious down me a good amount of time before the race!!)  I, eventually, tried to distract myself from my nerves, and lack of hunger, by chatting to the other runners surrounding me (whilst still shovelling my cereal down my throat!) – many of the people I’d spoken to, that were also aiming for a sub 4-hour time, had spent all day yesterday resting, carb loading and getting an early night… I felt like a complete novice when I told them I, too, was hoping for under 4 hours, but that it was my first marathon and I’d spent yesterday doing anything but relaxing… I even found my confidence dwindling so much that I started telling others “I’d like to get under 4 hours – but it is my first marathon, so I’d be happy with anything under 5..!!”

As we started to navigate the streets of New York, following our marathon rep, towards the Central Library where the buses, taking us to Staten Island and the Starter Village, were located, I managed to finish off my cereal and force down a banana before reaching the queues that stretched right up and down 42nd street between 5th and 6th Ave!!  After waiting in the bus queues for around a half hour, in the extremely mild November weather, we finally boarded a bus where I was able to sit down, relax, and have another short kip, before reaching Staten Island about an hour later.  Looking out the window, into the starter village, I could just see a sea of people wearing bright/luminous running gear… the majority of which wearing orange and pink hats!

Staten Island Starter Village

NYC Marathon - Starter Village

I arrived on Staten Island around 7:30am and, as I gathered my bags and got off the bus, we were ushered towards the Starter Village security check… as I got closer and closer, the song “New York State of Mind” by Alicia Keys was blaring out of the speakers (reminding me to look out for one of my biggest idols, who was also running this years marathon!! 😀 )… I emptied my pockets into the bag provided so the officials could check what I was taking in and went through the security check – thankfully without any holdups!! 😛

I then began to wonder what I was supposed to do with myself for the next 3hours until my wave started running… my initial answer – portaloo‘s… after waiting in line for around another hour, I head off, into my respective, orange, starter village and sat down to relax, briefly, to put on my race number and have a bit of my protein shake… I then wandered around the village, grabbing a free bagel (which I only ate a couple of bites of due to nerves!!), protein bar and water bottle, before wave 3 (my wave) were called to our respective corrals… I promptly stripped down to my shorts and running top, packed everything into my bag and (apprehensively!!) left all my personal belongings with the luggage trucks for transportation to the finish line… another quick toilet break, and stretch out and I’m heading for my corral.

NYC Marathon - Waiting to enter the corral!
NYC Marathon - Waiting in the Corrals
NYC Marathon - Wave 2 setting off!

As we were waiting for entry into the corral, we heard a gun shot and the whole crowd cheered as wave 2 set off!!  The atmosphere was a mixture of excitement and nerves as we ushered our way into our corral… All the way through, I was trying to stretch and do some dynamic warm-ups amongst the mass of runners, I guzzled down a single energy gel with the water bottle I’d brought (so I could easily mix my electrolyte tabs with water at each mile/water post) and stuffed the rest of my gels in my flipbelt along with my phone – then, we were called forward to the start line… I tried to push my way through the crowds to get as close to the front as I could in order to not be held up as we crossed the first bridge of the race.

NYC Marathon - At the start line

As we approached the start line, I settled where I was and returned to my stretches whilst chatting to one or two other runners around me… No turning back now!!  The National Anthem was sung by an opera singer and the gunshot went off… we were actually doing this…!

The Marathon!!

As I crossed the start line, I noticed the clock on, what I thought was, 41minutes (since all the clocks were programmed to the first wave of runners) and made a mental note of it… the first 1.5mile stretch was running across Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, from Staten Island into Brooklyn.  As I crossed the bridge, I tried to stick to the left hand pavement/sidewalk in order to get through as many runners as possible and keep up my projected time… I took a few glances over the water to see if I could find the Statue of Liberty, but I think I just didn’t really look hard enough!  Jumping over the layers of hats/clothes/accessories, previous runners had stripped off along the way, that, now, formed a multi-coloured second surface to the bridge, I was almost tempted to pick up a few of the articles that I thought may be useful to me in future runs!!

NYC Marathon - midway

The moment we stepped off the bridge into Brooklyn was a strangely emotional experience for me… this was where the crowds began, and where I actually realised I was doing what I’d been visualising myself doing on each, and every, training run up until this point… running 26.2miles through the 5 boroughs that make up New York City.  As that notion hit me, along with the screaming crowds of Brooklyn, I felt, strangely, slightly teary!! ……………… As the feeling passed, I started to embrace the support – high fiving just about every small child I ran past, just to see their faces light up with delight that a runner had taken some notice of them – I began to feel a little like a celebrity!!  The crowd carried me for a good few miles after this, to the point where I really wasn’t even sure how far I’d gone – I was just completely lost in the moments unfolding before me.  At around mile 8, I saw a supporters stage with some Brooklyn bboys doing flares and all kinds of power moves – as I ran past, with appreciation of their crazy skills, part of me really wanted to join them, briefly, to show off what I could do too!!  Soon after, we hit an orthodox Jew part of town, where everything just went silent… It felt slightly eerie after the past 10 or so miles to go from constant cheering, to people just going about their daily routines, staring at us in silence as we ran through their neighbourhood!!  This was about the time the distance I’d already run, hit me – and I was still feeling great!! 🙂  Soon after, the supporters returned and we were met with plenty of roadside parties and offers of food/drink/tissues again!!  At about the half marathon point, I had to make my first, and only, toilet stop – queuing at the portaloo’s by the side of the road, I became conscious of how much time I may be losing and was so eager to get back on the road that I almost dropped my phone, out of my shorts pocket, into the toilet pit below!!  Thankfully, I managed to stop it falling just in time!!  Phew!

Next thing I knew, I was looking across at the high rise buildings of Manhattan from the Pulaski Bridge, going into Queens.  This short, but sweet, section of the marathon had a real community feel to it – I remember seeing a band performing at one point and feeling my feet find the rhythm of the drums as I continued running!  Next, the 15 mile standpoint… having pre-arranged for my parents to support me from around 16miles (just after I crossed the Queensboro Bridge into Manhattan at around 1pm – all being well), as I approached the bridge, I realised this would be the one with my parents on the other side.  As I ran along the underpath of the Queensboro, I started to notice that this (aside from the first bridge) was the most congested part of the run thus far – I found myself attempting to dodge through numerous people who’d stopped to walk in the wake of supporters and street parties to cheer them on!!  I asked someone the time (my phone battery had just about died by this point! 🙁 ) and, upon hearing that it was a few minutes to 1pm, I slightly rejoiced in the accuracy of my pre-race guestimates of my timings!!

As I got to the end of the bridge and started the first Manhattan section of the run, I began to position myself on the left hand-side of the runners, as I’d pre-arranged with the momma and poppa, so we could see each other as I ran past… what I hadn’t bargained on, however, was the sheer amount of spectators that had the same idea to support from the same vantage point.  Although I slowed down significantly, in order to search for them, and looked out for them for another mile or two after our agreed “meeting place” – I, unfortunately, never managed to find my parents in the spectator crowds, and they never managed to find me in the runner crowds!!  As we made our way up First Ave towards the Bronx, the streets were packed with supporters, although it had slightly less of a party atmosphere than Brooklyn and Queens… I found myself counting down the mile markers until the finish.  I’d heard mile 17/18 is where runners normally hit “The Wall”… so I spent most of this stretch wondering when it was going to hit me!!

Soon after we crossed over the bridge into the Bronx, we hit the 20 mile point… every step I took after this point became my longest ever run!  The DJ’s and the street parties were back in full swing and I was still feeling fairly strong!!  I considered taking another of my energy gels at this point – but the sun started trying to peek through the clouds, and that, along with the party atmosphere, seemed to energize me – I decided to skip the gel and stick with the electrolyte tabs I’d been adding to my water all day to stop me from dehydrating!

NYC Marathon - Crossing the finish line
NYC Marathon - bgirl finish line

Next, we crossed over the final bridge – from the Bronx, back into Manhattan.  This was the point where I was really ‘”chafing” the dream’!!  After running for so long, my shorts had become slightly uncomfortable, but I wasn’t about to back out having got this far – running down 5th Ave, I took a half a banana and a small cup of coke from a couple of generous spectators passing fuel to any runners who needed it – and made my way towards Central Park… this was where I began to look for the parents again, but was still unable to see them.  After a while, I gave up looking for my parents and really pushed myself to give up just a little more energy to ensure I bagged that sub 4 hour time frame… as I passed through the 25 and 26 mile markers, my smile grew bigger and bigger… the final 200m were marked, and I pushed for as much of a sprint finish as I could muster – hoping over the finish line with a massive smile and my arms waving in the air!!

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NYC Marathon - Finisher
NYC Marathon - medal

What an achievement!!! 😀  I jumped in front of the camera’s to get a breakdance freeze at the finish line (for those at home who were asking for it!!) then moved forward towards the medals, goodie bags (complete with much needed protein shake, water and an apple from the Big Apple!!) and heat sheets.  Next came the walk – about a mile further up, through Central Park, to pick up the luggage I left with the luggage people in Staten Island – only to walk back down the same way once I got out the park to make my way back to my hotel!!  The contrast between how all the athletes ran up to the finish line, compared to how they walked after the finish line rather amused me – I’m pretty sure we all looked like we were a part of a zombie apocalypse… one where the finish line looked like our safety net from a distance but, actually, turned us all into the zombies we were initially running from!!! 😛

NYC Marathon Results

Marathon Evening

Empire State from Top of the Rock

When I got back to the hotel, after many “congratulations” along the road back – I promptly got a shower, changed, and met up with the parents ready to go to the ‘Top of the Rock’ for sunset (…nothing like making the most of the holiday!!!).  Walking rather slowly and painfully, we eventually made it – and the panoramic views across Central Park, the Hudson River and over the Empire State Building were nothing short of spectacular!

Night view - Empire State from Top of the Rock
Night View - Hudson River from Top of the Rock
Night View - Central Park from Top of the Rock

On the walk back, we found a nice little Irish style pub for our dinner – before heading back to the hotel and retiring for the night, ready for a full day of exploring in the morning

On my return, I had a bunch of messages from my friends back home who’d managed to find out my time before I even knew it… or others who had been tracking me online as I ran through Central Park!!

Have you ever run the New York Marathon… Or any marathon for that matter?  What were your experiences like?  Please feel free to join our discussion below! 🙂

Love, Magic and Fairy Dust!! 😉

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Run Forrest, Run!! – How NOT to prepare for your first marathon!!

Continued from my previous blog post… Niagara Falls in Fall – Niagara in a Nutshell

How NOT to prepare for your first marathon!!  Going against all advice I’d heard for “marathon eve” – suggesting I should stick, very strictly, to my normal routine, get an early night and rest up (particularly my feet!)… I spent the entire day; walking around the city exploring for hours on end, watching the Lion King on Broadway (both in high heels), and not eating dinner until the ridiculous hour of 11:30pm after the show… So much for routine…!!! :/

Halloween in the Big Apple

Runners Expo

Morning Manhattan Sky

This morning, I woke early for my final training run… my plan told me to just do a, fairly chilled, 15minute jog to stretch out my legs – having learnt that the runners expo was just a mile from my hotel, I decided the best thing to do would be to jog my way through the vast high rise buildings that make up New York City, get my race number, and any other things I needed, from the expo and jog back – all before heading out to explore for the day, with my family who’d come along to support me on the big day!!

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So, I set out, navigating the nice, easy grid system that makes up the streets of the Big Apple – and head towards the Javits Centre on West 34th and 11th.  The weather was glorious as I ran in and out of the shadows, cast by the huge buildings, from the morning sunshine – after about 10minutes of jogging, I arrived at the huge convention centre and went in to find an array of “Welcome”/”Good Luck Runners” signs on the electronic billboards all around the building, pointing me to where I needed to go to collect my race number.  I made my way, through all the other slightly nervous/excited looking runners, collected my race number, bag and free marathon branded running top – before heading through to all the sales stalls for every conceivable thing you could possibly need, as a runner… there were; clothes stalls, energy bar/nutrition stalls, shoes stalls, accessories stalls and anything else you could imagine needing!!  When I’d finished looking at pacers and clothes and had had my fill of energy bar tasters I head off, jogging back to the hotel, to meet up with the family.

Sightseeing New York City

First stop for sight seeing was the Rockefeller Centre… the huge, 70 story, building is built over a concourse of shops, boutiques and restaurants.  At the main entrance (and, thus, the end of the concourse), lies a golden statue, surrounded by the flags of numerous countries… in the winter, a public ice skating rink is located here – and, at the opposite end of the year, Summer gardens – all for the enjoyment of the public.

Rockefeller Center
Rockefeller Center NYC
Rockefeller Center Ice Rink

We watched some skaters briefly (deciding, sadly, that the skating itself probably wasn’t worth the price tag!!), looked around a few shops, then sat down for some lunch in “Cucina’s”.  We discussed when the best time to go to the “Top of the Rock” would be, over lunch, and decided that sunset would be the perfect time to get a 360 view over the city at both day and night time!  So, we booked our tickets for, when we believed sunset would be, the next evening (after the marathon, all being well!! :/ )

5th Ave bboys

Next we head down 5th Ave briefly, and happened to bump into some bboys (breakdancers) putting on a street show… due to my, brief, background in the dance style, I just had to get a photograph of me joining them for a “freeze”…!! 😛

Halloween Kid NYC

Walking across, towards Times Square, I became enthralled by all the lights and bright colours, surrounding me in all directions… I felt, a little bit, like I was back in China again – only with a much more recognisable scripture than I had become accustomed to whilst living out there!!  All the signs for all the Broadway shows I wanted to see… amidst them, my favourite – The Phantom of the Opera!!  One thing on my NYC bucket list, was a night out on Broadway… we decided tonight should be the night, since everyone would out doing “Halloweeny things”, and we would still see some of the festivities as we wondered towards Times Square!!  Next, came the debate on which show to see… the only one we all seemed to agree on was The Lion King – so Lion King it was!!  We agreed to book our tickets, then start moving back towards the hotel to get dressed up and ready for our theatre evening!

NYC Mounted Police - Times Square

The Lion King

I got dressed up in my traditional Chinese dress, which I’d brought specifically for our Theatre night (NOT for Halloween!!)… on the way through the costumed crowds making their way to their Halloween festivities, I was passed a pretty insulting (but ultimately quite humorous) note, by some white chick, who was obviously trying to prove some political stand (by passing a note and, quickly, running off to hide in the crowds) – telling me my “costume” was inappropriate and insulting!!  At first I wasn’t sure whether to be shocked and embarrassed that I may actually be insulting people, or to just laugh at this girls obvious gutlessness!!!

The Lion King on Broadway

Continuing on, towards the theatre, and the excitement really began to bubble up inside… I’d, previously, heard a number of reviews about The Lion King on stage, and they were all booming… The one thing I LOVE about Disney, in general, is their attention to detail in everything they do – and this musical definitely didn’t disappoint!!

The very first song, “The Circle of Life“, literally sent shivers down my spine throughout the song… I’ve never had that feeling before for the ENTIRE song!!  As the cast, of African animals, made their way, through the audience, onto the stage, you could really hear the; power, passion and skill of the numerous vocalists.

The Lion King on Broadway - Hyena Head

The costumes were, truly, a visual spectacle – and, although the storyline was largely unchanging (which would have been a disappointment…!!), they did add one or two more humorous/modern quips, in place of the original movies’ script!

Looking around the shop, after the show, and some of the costumes were on display – I really can’t stress just how impressed I was with the attention to detail on the outfits, considering they only, generally, get seen from far away in the audience!!

Bubba Gump Shrimp

Bubba Gump Shrimp NYC
Bubba Gump Shrimp NYC - "Run Forrest, Run!"

At around 11:30pm, we left the theatre and went to the Bubba Gump Shrimp restaurant… a restaurant in Times Square based on the film “Forrest Gump” – it was full of all kinds of memorabilia, quotes and pictures from the film.  Whilst we were waiting for our food to arrive, our waitress came over to ask us a few “trivia questions” on the film… to which I, surprisingly, knew all but one of the answers… I do love the film, but hadn’t realised I’d watched it THAT many times!!

I tried to carb load up with mashed potato… and pudding ;P ready for the race in the morning, then we went downstairs to look in the gift shop, before going back to the hotel and, finally (around 1:30am), getting some rest for tomorrow’s race day!!!  Wish me luck!! 🙂

Bubba Gump Shrimp NYC - "and that's all I got to say about that."

How did you prepare for your first marathon?  Have you ever been to any of the places mentioned in this post?   Feel free to join the conversation in the comments below… I always make every effort to respond!! 🙂

Love, Magic and Fairy Dust 😉

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Niagara Falls in Fall – Niagara in a Nutshell

Continued from my previous blog post… London to Niagara-on-the-Lake

Visiting Niagara Falls in Fall (Autumn) is a great way to avoid the mass crowds and also see Canada’s National Emblem (the red Maple leaf) falling from the trees in abundance.  Here’s my experience of my two day trip to the falls… “Niagara in a Nutshell“.

Exploring Niagara, Ontario

Morning Jog and Niagara-on-the-Lake

After the previous nights’ looooong drive and late night, we woke up yesterday morning fairly late.  After waking, we ate some leftover food from our airplane meals and then I head out for another marathon training run.  I initially only intended to do a 5.5 mile interval training run, but ended up dropping a card out of my running belt so had to retrace some steps and I thus, finally ran about a mile further than I had planned!  The run, however, around the town that our hotel was located, in Niagara-on-the-Lake, was absolutely stunning.  Just minutes, down the road, from our hotel (The Pillar and Post) were a number of wineries, surrounded by lush green vineyards (I was tempted to jog my way through them, munching grapes, on the way!).  As I turned the corner at the end of the road, I arrived at the Niagara River, and ended up following it, downstream, to Lake Ontario – the HUGE lake which spans around half the breadth of New York state!  I couldn’t help but stop, briefly, to take a photo or two looking across the river to the American tip, before continuing onwards to Lake Ontario, and finally back towards the hotel. I passed some beautiful Canadian townhouses on the way, along with a marina, golf course, and a historic fort, flying the British flag!  I found the people in this beautiful, quaint town to be much friendlier then those in London the previous morning- and, although it was much colder here, the run felt a million times more relaxing and pleasant!  🙂

After my run and a quick shower, we set out to sort the hire cars. Straight after, we got some lunch in a pancake store, in Buffalo, and then drove to the falls.

Niagara Falls

Niagara Bear Fighting :P

By the time we made it to the falls, the horrible wet weather we’d had, whilst getting the car, had passed-and it was just fairly overcast (and freezing cold!).  We excitedly wondered up and down the road on the Canadian side, taking photographs and marvelling at the tremendous, panoramic view of the 3 waterfalls that comprise the infamous Niagara falls (the American falls, the Bridal Veil falls and the Horseshoe falls), and looking around the nearby souvenir shops (where a bear tried to steal my hat… can you believe the cheek?!  See the pictures of me fighting it to the left 😛 ), before running back to the car just in time to avoid a parking fine!

Since we wanted to come back and see the falls again at night, we drove off again for a drive around the Niagara area – mainly sticking to the scenic routes along the Niagara River.  Just as it was getting closer to dusk, we head back towards the falls to see the spectacle at night too.  This time, we entered from a different direction, and, thus, we were able to follow the Niagara River right up until the rapid, turbulent path of the water gushed over the horseshoe falls at the end.  The spray from the falls reached over onto the road, creating patterns of mist, and soaking my camera lense when I tried to take photos a little too close!

Hungry and cold, we finally drove back to our hotel for some grub!  We got dressed up and went down to the hotels’ restaurant and settled down for a nice glass of red wine and a steak. We all thoroughly enjoyed our meals, but fatigue eventually took over and we all retired to bed!

Niagara, New York

Waking up this morning, I packed my suitcase up again – ready for our flight back to New York City this afternoon… went for a brief swim in the hotel pool whilst chatting to some of the friendly locals, and then packed our suitcases into the hire car ready for our final morning of sightseeing in Niagara.  Today, we vowed to check out more of the American side of the falls.

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls (American Falls)

Crossing the border, with the essentials (duty free bottle of gin – to last the rest of the trip 😉 and maple syrup) in hand, we parked up in a $5 car park (parking is wayyyy cheaper on the US side) and wondered across the bridge towards Canada (for more photo ops), and then back into Niagara Falls State Park.

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Visiting Prospect Point got us up close and personal to the American Falls… and then meandering across the pedestrian bridge to Goat Island took us through some beautiful parks, and then up towards Terrapin Point where you could get a closer look at the Horseshoe falls again.  Unfortunately, whilst we were visiting, they were doing some building work around Terrapin Point to make the view much better for future visitors – so we couldn’t get a particularly good view this time round… it seems that once the work is complete, however, the viewing area will be much better for future tourists! 🙂

Buffalo Chicken Wings

Anchor Bar Buffalo Chicken Wings

After our nice stroll through the State Park, we head into Buffalo for a quick bite before rushing off to Buffalo Airport.  A good friend of mine lives in Buffalo when he’s not gallivanting the world on his own adventures – and when I asked him for some advice on places to eat, he said I HAVE to get some Chicken Wings from ‘Anchor Bar’ (the “home of the original Buffalo chicken wings”)… so this we did – and whilst we didn’t really have time for a sit-down meal, before running to catching our flight, we did have 10minutes to wait for a take out.

The restaurant, inside, is decorated with motorbikes, interesting statues, and thousands of quirky car registration plates from all around the country!

I have to admit, the wings were amazing… fatty and greasy, but who really cares about that stuff when they taste so good?! 😛  If you don’t like spicy food, you can order plain wings without the sauce or spices – but they’re just not the same!

Flight

Manhattan and the Hudson River from the air!!

After checking in and having a drink in the lounge, we boarded our JetBlue flight back to NYC.  As we set off, I searched out the window for a birds eye view of the falls, but unfortunately couldn’t see them from the plane.  Around an hour later, we were flying over Manhattan – looking out the window to see the shadow the Empire State Building cast, over the East of the city, at sunset was spectacular enough to make up for it… the photographs just don’t do it justice!  As we landed, we watched as another plane landed on the runway parallel to us right in front of the sunset!!

Dinner

We were fairly late arriving in New York, after navigating the public transport systems from JFK, so we unpacked our bags into the new hotel room and just head to the Italian restaurant, recommended by the hotel, around 100m down the road.  The pizza, shared between 3, was delicious (and HUGE!!) – we even have a bit left over for tomorrows lunch!!  Now time to get some rest ready for tomorrow!!

Have you ever been to Buffalo/Niagara?  What activities did you partake in?  Which side of the falls did you prefer?  I’d love to hear your thoughts/opinions in the comments below! 🙂

Love, Magic and Fairy Dust 😉

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For Great Deals on hotels in, and around, Niagara – click the image below! 🙂

London to Niagara-on-the-Lake… “Life is a journey, not a destination” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

My journey from London to Niagara-on-the-Lake (Ontario, Canada) was an eventful one, to say the least… but as the wise, Ralph Waldo Emerson once said…

"Life is a journey, not a destination"

London

This morning, I woke up to my alarm clock at 8am… contrary to the usual groans and numerous snooze alarms you may hear from outside my bedroom on any normal day – today, I woke up, in the unfamiliar surroundings of my brothers spare room, in London, with an excited spring in my step.  My brother brought me a cup of tea, in bed, to say goodbye before he set off for work, and I hopped out of bed and threw on my running gear – today was the day I set off on my trip to New York City and Niagara Falls!!

Psycho Runner…

Stretching Selfie

Where it’d normally take me a good few hours to motivate myself to even move from the comfortable, warm spot I’d conjured, in bed, overnight – by 9am, this morning, I’d already set off on my 4mile marathon training run.

Just a few hundred meters from my brothers flat, in the Hammersmith area of London, runs the River Thames – as I set off for the closest bridge stretching across the river, I took in the sights and sounds of the end of London rush hour!!  Once I reached the opposite side of the bridge, I took the cycle path, alongside the river, to the next bridge around 2miles further upstream.  I watched numerous groups of rowers, rowing in unison… passed by a number of other joggers, cyclists and dog walkers coming towards me from the opposite direction… and dodged puddles (in my mind) like a ninja.

It wasn’t until half way through the first 2mile stretch, when I started consciously attempting to smile/say hello to people passing by, that I realised people, here, aren’t half as friendly as the “country folk” I tend to meet on my jogs back at home – everyone, in London seemed to, literally, avoid looking me in the eye… to the extend that they’d, physically, move their heads in the opposite direction as I ran past!!! I started to feel frustrated at all these people for their apparent unfriendliness and lack of community spirit, then a little self conscious that they were avoiding looking at me because I had a large unsightly growth coming out of my face that they felt awkward looking at – until, I felt my face for anything out of the ordinary and, not feeling anything, thus, came to the conclusion that they were probably just all “up in their heads” with the everyday worries city people tend to face.

So, I continued with my run, jogged across the next bridge and back onto the cycle path on my brothers side of the river, heading back ‘home’.  If I noticed anyone who wasn’t avoiding looking at me I’d make a point of smiling at them, and maybe even saying “hello”!!  …I’d like to think I was a revolutionary in the London way of life… although, in reality, people probably just thought I was a genuinely crazed psychopath

Getting Ready

On my return from my run, I ate breakfast, quickly showered and carefully packed everything, once again, into my suitcase… my numerous pairs of boots/shoes at the bottom, 5 different hats in one corner, the odd pair of pants, some running gear and 2skirts neatly laid on top so as to avoid getting any creases…! 😛

The excitement was bubbling up inside as I said goodbye to Alice (my brothers girlfriend who works from home) at around 11am and stepped out into the Autumn air, Oyster card in hand, ready to make my way up to the Hammersmith tube station to catch the Piccadilly line all the way to Heathrow airport with plenty of time to spare to get through security etc at the airport.

Heathrow to JFK

Manhattan and the Hudson River from the air!!

As I arrived in my terminal, I checked into my flight, handed my luggage to one of the ladies at the desk, and went through passport control… on the other side, I got myself some lunch and happened to find a piano with “play me” written (in many different languages across the front) – of course, I had to spend 5 minutes playing the piano before proceeding through security!!

Once on the flight, I settled in – got myself snuggled in my blanket and started reading my book on my kindle app until the in-flight entertainment system came on.  I capitalised (as is customary for me) on the movies, as well as the free alcohol 😉 and watched the Age of Adeline, Nightingale, Ted 2 and Paper Towns all in succession!! Before I knew it, we were arriving in New York City, half an hour early, and I was getting ready to jump off my flight, collect my luggage, go through security and passport control again, run to the next terminal, and do it all again in time to catch my next flight from JFK to Buffalo.

Getting to Buffalo

I got through security, at JFK, in record time – despite having to queue up twice, having not been given a vital form on the airplane (maybe I’d fallen asleep at the wrong time?) – and went straight to my luggage carousel.  As I waited patiently for my bag to arrive, watching so many others disappear off to begin their holidays, I began to panic about whether my bag was on its way… during this time, I had a phone call off my parents (we’d flown in on separate flights – because I’d already booked my holiday, but they, later, decided they wanted to join me to support me in running my first marathon in NYC)… they told me their flight to Buffalo had been cancelled due to bad weather – our initial plan of them meeting me with the hire car at Buffalo airport had been foiled… time to think up a new plan for getting to Buffalo…!!  My mum told me to collect my bags and head to my next terminal just to see if my flight was still on schedule.

15 minutes of waiting at the luggage carousel, and my hope finally paid off… my grey suitcase slowly came down the slide and along the carousel towards me.  I picked it up and made my way, past the final few people, probably also concerned for their bags, jumped on the AirTrain and head towards my next terminal… there, I met dad who turned me straight back around and told me we were driving up to Buffalo – he was hoping I was still wide awake so we could share the loooooong drive ahead!!  :/

I’m from England… I’ve never driven on the wrong side of the road before – so dad managed to get us out of New York City and onto the nice, easy highways… we stopped for a late tea a good few miles outside the Bronx then swapped drivers.  The weather was horrendous – I could barely see 20m in front of me at times and, without ‘cat’s eyes’ (reflectors) on the roads, the glare from the headlights made it impossible to see the lane markings!!  Mix this with the CRAZY big trucks they have out in America(of which I felt terrified the drivers were going to ram me off the road), and this made for a pretty exhausting, 4 hour drive, before I gave up from fatigue and let dad take over again for the final few hours.

I tried my best to get a bit of rest in the back and, after one or two more toilet/coffee breaks, we finally arrived at the Canadian border – and, soon after, at our hotel in Niagara-on-the-Lake.  It must’ve been around 5am – and jumping onto the bed was just the best feeling!! 🙂

…So, let the holidays begin!!! 😀

Have you ever taken the drive from New York to Buffalo?  Or are you planning on doing it in the near future?  Can you recommend any stop-offs to take on the way, if the weather’s nice?  Please feel free to comment below! 🙂

Love, Magic and Fairy Dust 😉

Save up to 50% on Value Deals in New York!

For Great Deals on hotels in, and around, Niagara – click the image below! 🙂

Imminent NYC trip!

I’m ridiculously excited to announce that, tomorrow, I’ll be jetting off to New York… ripe and ready for my marathon on Sunday!!  I’ve been training for almost 16 weeks (and planning for about 8!!), and it’s finally race week!!

Airchair Louvre

A picture from my brief history in “bgirl”ing!!! Freeze at the Louvre, Paris

The plan, for this imminent NYC trip, is to fly into JFK, then straight to Buffalo and onwards to my hotel just across the border in Canada… Thurs will be spent exploring the Niagara Falls (with a short training run wherever I can fit it in!!), Fri is our flight back to NYC, Saturday we currently just have a Hip Hop tour booked which I’m pretty excited about (due to my brief history with “bgirl”ing – breakdancing for those who don’t know the lingo).  Sunday will be the NYC marathon itself!! :/ The next couple of days will be spent exploring NYCs incredible sights, hopefully with a stop off at Broadway somewhere along the way!! 😀

Be expecting some Niagara/NYC blogs/tutorials/activity reviews coming your way over the next few weeks!! 😀

Have you ever been to Niagara or NYC? Or do you live there?  Do you have any recommendations on things to see or places to visit?  Any last minute advice for race day?  If so, please join in the conversation in the comments below…!! 🙂

Love, Magic and Fairy Dust 😉