1.Don’t be afraid to stand out
from the crowd. Yes, lame statement but with your chino wearing Rugby dudes,
designer clad foreign students and the oh so bohemian looking English lit
students it’s easy to feel pressure to dress to fit in. I may have gotten some
very strange looks during my time at UCL from some lecturers and fellow
students but fashion is about having fun and expressing yourself and your uni
years are a great time to do exactly that!
2.Don’t stop making an effort. It
might be tempting to rock up to your 9 am lecture in joggers and a sweatshirt,
especially if you no longer have a mother giving you a judgmental up and down
look before you leave the house, but taking pride in your appearance is
important and hey you bump into the love of your life on campus and you sure
don’t want to be in your JD Sport best when that happens.
3.Use that student loan. Don’t
waste all of it on nights out and booze because once you leave university you
are most likely to not earn very much whilst also having to pay all those
annoying adult things like council tax. So use your loan to buy some nice
quality basics ( Cos, & Other Stories and the like) and pretend you don’t
have to spent the next 30 years of your life paying that loan back.
4.Find friends. Ideally with the same dress size
as you. My flat mate and me basically share wardrobes which not only saves you
a ton of money but is perfect for pushing you a little bit out of your style
comfort zone as you can try a totally different look without having to part
with any cash!
5.It’s ok to make mistakes. I donned some rather
ridiculous outfits over the last few years including an awful lot of sequins
and feathers but that was all part of finding the (slightly scaled back) sense
of style I have now. As with everything at university it’s all part of growing
up and becoming a “proper” adult. Plus you can always untag the worst of your
fashion mistakes or as I do use them for hilarious #TBT!
Love at first sight is a big claim to make for anything in life and though I am still waiting to experience that kind of emotion towards a handsome young fella ( here's hoping), I did always have that sort of relationship with London. Visiting the city the first time when I was seven, coming all the way from Germany and with little clue what to expect, I couldn't help but be completely awed by everything I saw. This awe has never quite went away and though the places that achieve this emotion have changed, my favourite spots at the time, the Natural History Museum and Carnaby Street not quite like the little patch of town I proudly call my home now (East London) , I still love London like on that first day here as tourist. Of course I have visited many places since, all of which I enjoyed - Rome was a foodie's paradise, Kenya was beautiful and Berlin, well Berlin is home to Berghain, and with that arguably gave me the best night of my life. However none of these places quite managed to evoke what London had, that is until I, jet lagged as hell, set foot outside my tiny yet perfectly formed Air Bnb in New York's East Village.
Over-tired, soaking wet ( the only bad weather I had during the entire trip with almost monsoon like rain at tropical temperatures) and with little aim as to where I was going other than using city mapper to gage how far I was from some of my must-try eating spots, the brightly lit shop fronts of places I had always wanted to try and bustling street gave me that sense of a warm embrace by a long lost friend you never knew you had. Oh East Village how I loved you from the minute I discovered you. Yes, you can argue I wasted my 5 days there basically remaining in one part of town ( though I did go on a highly recommendable walk across Williamsburg bridge to reach Brooklyn with great views across the city without having to go to an overpriced rooftop bar) but you know what I am not sorry about that. I've lived in London for the last 4 years now and the best places I have found are definitely not Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus, Buckingham Palace and the like and though some people may insist that you have to visit these sights to tick them of some pointless list of things you can buy on postcards I don't really see the point of wasting my time doing so when I could get to know the real heart of a city.
Thanks to some fellow foodie experts, giving me list upon list of must-trys, an Air Bnb that was a maximum 15 minute walk away from everything on those lists (highly recommended to stay at as well for any single travellers) and some lovely 'semi' locals showing me the ropes ( special shout out to Aideen who discovered my blog whilst in her native Ireland but showed me around her new home New York in the only manner possible..fuelled by continuous cocktails as well as one of my favourite London hip hop DJ's Khalil who invited me to one of his nights over in Williamsburg during my stay) I had, to put it rather bluntly, a rather fucking fabulous time. I didn't think it was possible but London, you lost a little of my heart to New York, and I am already planning a return trip for spring next year.
Below are some of my favourite discoveries, ticked of my ongoing list during my brief time there. If you want some comprehensive city guide telling you what fountain is the coolest in Central Park, what galleries to visit or where Carrie ate a cupcake then this isn't for but neither are my London discoveries because the best places in every city at least for me are where the locals are willing to queue and where the visitors, like me, dream of being a real New Yorker amongst them.
THE NEIGHBOURHOOD HANGOUT
El Rey Coffee Bar & Luncheonette
What is it : An East Village contender to London's Antipodean leaning coffee shops with added sunshine, great people watching on one the most vibrant streets of this part of town and some seriously healthy but tasty brunch dishes to devour if you are hungry.
Where is it: 100 Stanton Street
What to order: If you go to New York during summer which for these lucky bastards means any time between May and end of September ( I had 29 degrees and sunshine bar the first day) you'll notice that everyone and I mean EVERYONE in this city drinks iced coffee and if you are anything like me you'll be on two a day of those by the end of your trip as well. What makes them so great? You get your black coffee with ice and can add whatever type of milk, sugar or sweetener ( darling it is America after all) after to suit your taste, making them the perfect caffeine hit to beat the heat with.
The bar scene in London, to put it simply, kind of sucks sucks compared to New York. Why? Well in New York, not only does nearly every bar offer an amazing happy hour at a decent time but bars as a whole are open until around 4am, considerably later than in London where inevitably you are forced to make the decision whether to hit a club or call it a night before the clock has even hit 2. I may have been a little bit of a hungover tourist after the Friday and Saturday night where me and my newly made friend Aideen hit the Lower East Side bar scene, but the amazing cocktails, ridiculous conversations with bartenders, bouncers and regulars I managed to have and the real sense of having dived into a local night life scene made it SO worth it ( even if it meant me waking up on the Sunday next to a packet of dumplings and little recollection how they got there..). Here are my three favourite bars so far, though I hope they won't be the last I try. So go, rinse the happy hour, get drunk and make new Yanki friends.
VBar St Marks
What is it: Unpretentious bar with amazing happy hour and friendly staff , so good that I went back twice on this trip!
Where is it: 132 First Avenue
What to order: THE PARMESAN TRUFFLE FRIES. If you don't you may miss out on the best fries of your life. These came highly recommended by a friend and boy am I glad I listened. Heavenly and nearly worth a plane ticket over there alone. Cocktails are also great, go for the watermelon margarita as perfect drink to enjoy alongside.
What is it : Cute little neighbourhood restaurant/ bar serving brunch, lunch and dinner with great outside seating to watch the world go by.
Where is it: 85 Orchard Street
What to order: Perfect place to order some nibbles alongside inventive cocktails ( I loved the Rosé sangria) for a civilised start to an evening out on the town. Get the brussels sprouts with quinoa, herbs and lime dressing - god knows what's in that dressing but it made them the best brussels sprouts of my life!
The Beauty Bar
What is it: My favourite bar discovery, hands down. Because what could be better than a slightly grubby 60's style beauty parlour meets cocktail bar where you can actually get your nails done while slightly rude middle aged bartenders pour your $5 dollar mango belinis and funk and soul is blurting out of the speakers..not much. Really, really not much.
Where is it: 231 E 14th Street
What to order: Whatever you like. Just sit back and enjoy.
Artichoke Basille's Pizza
What is it: Of course you can get a pretty decent slice of pizza at nearly every corner in New York but Artichoke Basille's almost cult like status in the city as well as numerous recommendation pointing me towards it in the run up to my trip made me determined to make this my first slice of New York pizza because, well you may as well start with the best. And boy was I not disappointed. Much needed at 2 am and after a few cocktails at nearby Beauty Bar, and after a bit of a wait surrounded by locals also wanting their carb fix, I was faced with a gooey mix of cheese, artichoke and the most incredibly dough ( sans tomato sauce which I am quite happy to live without when it comes to toppings anyway), combining essentially everything you will ever want from a slice of pizza and so much more.
Where is it: 328 E 14th Street
What to order: Do I even need to write it out? Get the artichoke one and enough napkins to stop the glorious grease dripping onto your outfit for the night.
Russ & Daugther's Cafe
What is it: Of course a trip to New York ( or anywhere in America) isn't really complete without a brunch. Though you can now get a pretty decent take on brunch in London, no where is it celebrated as much as the USA with it's overindulged piles of pancakes, french toast and whatever else you can get away with as your first meal of the day be it 11 am or 5pm. I decided for a little less traditional brunch venue, forgoing cult venues like the Clinton street bakery, for Russ & Daughters Cafe, a little bit of old school Jewish eating tradition repackaged into a sleek dining spot. The original deli run by the family is still around the corner and has been so since 1914, selling the finest selection of bagels, smoked salmon and cream cheese one could dream of. The cafe takes those classic ingredients and gives them the sit down brunch treatment without loosing the homely atmosphere and overriding high quality Russ & Daughter's have become so famous over the decades for.
Where is it: 127 Orchard Street
What to order: The deconstructed bagel with cream cheese and all the trimmings looked amazing but not quite as enticing as the Lower Sunny Side, sunny side up eggs, the best smoked salmon of my life and potato latkes as only your Jewish grandma could make them. Ask for a side of scallion cream cheese and an iced coffee (of course) to cure even the worst of hangovers and fuel you for a day of New York city life.
What is it: World famous for its crack pie, compost cookies and of course cornflake ice cream you can not NOT make the trip to one of the Milk bar branches around town. Here food is fun for all senses...BUT don't expect too much, it is only ice cream flavoured like the bottom of a bowl of cereal in the end of the day and not quite worth the hype at least in my eyes!
Where is it: 251 E 13th Street
What to order: The cornflake ice cream of course, and yes it is ok to instagram this one on the spot. It's to a travelling foodie what the Empire state building is to a group of Chinese tourists...
Morgenstern's Finest Ice Creams
What is it: If you do want ice cream that blows your mind, give Milk Bar's hype a miss and head straight to Morgenstern's because the flavours here will blow your socks of. With a ridiculous array of flavours, from Vietnamese coffee to cardamon lemon jam and burnt honey vanilla, you'll be hard found choosing just one but whatever you go for you won't be prepared for the creamy goodness, exploding with flavour you get with every spoon. Best ice cream of my life thus far.
Where: 2 Rivington Street
What to order: Everything if you can? As that was impossible ( for now) on my short trip I went for salted caramel pretzel ( INCREDIBLE) and the raw milk flavour drizzled with honey which was short of stunning with its pure yet sweet flavour. First place I will return to when I step of the plane next time, able to just about cure the worst jet lag in my eyes.
Are we the makers of our own destinies? The older I have gotten the more I believe that despite how terrible or great our upbringing may have been, it doesn't have to determine who we ultimately become. Why am I writing this article, verging perhaps on the TMI for some of you? A meeting with a university friend the other week prompted a little self-reflection. She told me how much calmer I had become since our last encounter, more chilled and content, and she certainly had a point, causing me to pen down this piece of (nearly) mid-twenties wisdom.
The years after you leave university, have little money, no longer enjoy the security net of friends you see every day at school or on campus and unless you are very lucky also see you facing a dating world where being ghosted and ghosting is every day norm ( if you don't know what I am talking about read this), are fucking hard. What it is worse you begin to realise how much your upbringing whether happy and sheltered or dysfunctional and far from picture perfect leaves a toll on you for better or for worse. There is a German saying in fact that goes something like 'Everyone has their little parcel to carry, be it small or big' and it was when I realised we all suffer from that extra weight on our back that I couldn't make it an excuse for my own short comings as person anymore, we at the end of the day the makers of our own destiny.
To spare you my dramatic life story (dad who died of a heart attack with drug abuse problems, mum who went crazy after and no family or savings that I can call my own since), I have always tried to hide rather than seek pity about it all. In fact I have tried to work extra hard to come across as completely fine, overachieving in whatever I could to compensate for the areas out of my control.
Inevitably however these factors leave their marks on you, like it or not, God knows what some psychologist would think about how I view men or what all of this has done to my levels of trust ( and very high level of sarcasm), always a pessimist and worrier about almost everything.
However the more you get let down in life and face disappointment ( and yeah that happens a lot in your twenties) you also realise you are not the only one with those unwanted "accessories" and you certainly shouldn't compare your issues to others. Of course not all involve death, crazy mums and the like but they are no less potent in effecting that person and shouldn't be an excuse used by anyone for anything but trying to be the best person you can be.
We should become the people we are despite AND because of these issues and though my life hasn't been the easiest, accepting and working with that has probably been the main factor behind my new found calmness. Maybe I am rambling a little bit but I guess what I want to say is shit happens in your childhood and when growing up but the way we react to it in resilience and more importantly live on to deal with it makes us the pretty decent adults we all want to be and should all work on.