My 20 Day United States Itinerary

I wanted to go for sixty days initially, then one month, but in the end around three weeks was the most workable solution with work and life being how it was.

I booked my flight from New York to London first, because I didn’t know how long I would be able to spend in the states, and booked my flight from London to Los Angeles later. Both flights were with Norwegian Airlines. My itinerary covered California, New York and Massachusetts, ticking off places and things I’ve alway wanted to do!

London to Los Angeles: 11 hours with Norwegian Air

A long, exhausting flight made worse by the fact if you don’t pre-pay and pre-book your meals, you will have to pay in flight or starve. I starved on principle.

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2nd – 5th July: Los Angeles and Venice Beach

I spent two nights in a hostel in Hollywood, and one night in a hostel on Venice boulevard about five minutes from the beach. 

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5th – 6th July: Santa Barbara 

A brief stop to see the pretty Spanish influenced town of Santa Barbara on the pacific coast

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6th-9th July: Carmel-by-the-Sea, Monterey and Big Sur

Arriving in the evening of the 6th allowed me a day and a half in Carmel and one day exploring Big Sur and Monterey

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9th-12th July: San Francisco

A few days around the time of my birthday to stroll through landmarks, hilly streets, historical neighbourhoods for gay rights and wonderful bookshops

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12th – 16th: New York City

Museums, bookshops, markets, seeing friends, eating lots of food and spontaneously attending a street party in Brooklyn!

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16th – 18th: Boston, Massachusetts

Visiting the pretty and quaint city of Boston, and Cambridge for the prestigious Harvard College.

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18th – 19th: Falmouth, Massachusetts

A very quick visit to the coastal town along Cape Cod

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19th – 21st New York City

Back to New York for my flight home: time for museums, Coney Island, Chelsea and more Brooklyn adventures!

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5 Big Ol’ Myths About Travelling Across America

Many of us would love to travel across the States but there’s always a reason not to. My advice is to just book your flights as soon as you have the capacity to do so, and you’ll soon find the solutions for any issues you expected to come up against.

Here are some common misconceptions that I found to be completely workable when I was in the States.

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It’s not possible to do it without a car!

Not true. I never learned to drive, but the United States has a very decent bus and train network. You can buy Amtrak passes and Greyhound bus tickets or multi-stop passes. Many cities have public transit, uber is popular and it’s perfectly acceptable to use your legs to cycle and walk too!

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It’s going to be so expensive.

It’s probably going to be pricier than staying in Western Europe and if you’ve travelled in Asia or South America you might sense that you are literally just burning away money in comparison to how cheap the cost of living is.

Finding a place to stay isn’t cheap, but Couchsurfing is a possibility. Flights and getting around may cost you. But my biggest expenditure on the daily was things like gifts, shopping and paying to get into museums – all optionals. By eating at delis, markets and grocery stores my food budget was often around $15-$20 a day.

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I need someone to go with.

No, you don’t! Going to the States was my first solo female travel trip. I wanted to go alone, but even if I wanted a companion no one was available to go with me at the time.

I rarely felt like I was alone because everyone was so chatty and friendly wherever I went. People would ask to accompany me round cities, I met people in the hostels, got invited on dates (polite blushing) so you really don’t feel that absence at all!

And for every other situation, you can befriend someone’s dog!

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Many places are quite dangerous, aren’t they?

If you’re going to be caught up in a criminal incident, the only thing that needs to happen is that you are in the wrong place at the wrong time. It therefore means that in the middle of the safest place on Earth, you could come up against an issue.

Everyone warned me about this and that place. Here isn’t safe and there isn’t safe. Poverty, homelessness and drug abuse are serious issues in big cities and there are some very desperate people in desperate situations. Do your research, be aware of your surroundings and be sensible. As a woman alone without insurance, I made sure to be back before it got too late into the night in a few cities – but it’s not always a necessary precaution and in many places I was out roaming until late and felt completely safe.

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Hmmm… Now is just not the right time. Maybe I’ll book for next year.

Next year will not be the right time either! You’ll always find the reason not to! Find a cheap flight, close your eyes and press “book”!

Return to New York: Museums, Galleries and Feminism. 

 The plan for my very last day was ambitious. Wake up early, get breakfast from Duane Read, go to the Museum of Sex, then walk to Central Park to quickly see it as I walked up to Dylan’s Candy Bar to get a sugar hit, get the subway to Washington Heights to see the Cloisters, the metro down to the Bridget Dugmore gallery to see the exhibition, back to the Brooklyn Bazaar for Le Sigh before getting back to my hotel at 8pm to get to the airport for 9PM. This would be accomplished in a 10 hour period. Right…

Well, I started off well, getting breakfast from Duane Reed and getting to MoSex in good time. I was planning on only seeing the Zana Bayne exhibition, where she displays her pieces including a replica of Lady Gaga’s Yoü and I outfit. 


This is a free exhibition, but I already decided to see the whole thing and I’m glad I did. It’s sexy, political and a lot of fun. I would have liked to have done the sex personality quiz but I couldn’t find the artefacts they wanted!


From there I decided I was close enough to walk to Bridget Dugmore on 99 Bowery. It wasn’t too ambitious, had I not stopped off at every single shop that caught my eye on the way. The exhibition was pleasant, very small and I probably could have just gone on to the cloisters. What I didn’t realise was that it closes at 4:45PM, so I had one hour to get there and see all I wanted to see. Not worth it. I went straight to Brooklyn.


I took a macaroni cheese from a burger store and ate it as I walked around Bedford Avenue. The Brooklyn Bazaar Le Sigh Women and Non-Binary goods market wasn’t quite open yet, but I was glad I went when it did. There are so many handmade zines, cosmetics and jewelleries. There are a lot of creators who I would like to recommend, but my specific favourite was: a funny, chatty, lively, witchy chemist and alchemist called Ash who creates scents and sells wonderful stones. She was intelligent, fun and I bought her scent Clitoria Vittoria. I mean of fucking course. The name was excellent. She also gave me a tigers eye stone as well, I told you – she’s brilliant and a great new person to meet and conclude my trip.

I was cutting it really fine to get back to Manhattan and take my flight, but I managed it in good time walking to Penn Station, taking the Long Island Rail Road to Jamaica where an enchanting woman chatted with her friends for the journey and probably wondered why I was staring but it was because she was beautiful, and finally the Airtrain to JFK.

I write this now as we take off heading back to London and I’m sad. It’s been a trip of learning, exploring and simply being alone with me and my mind. It has exposed parts of myself I like, parts of myself that have made me proud and parts of myself that I endeavour to change. It has given me perspective and a distance from things that I needed, and when I land there’ll be a lot of reality to deal with, but this was a trip I really needed.

Return to New York: Midtown, Coney Island and Chelsea

Back in New York, I was aware that my days on this trip were numbered. I had so many things to do and time was not on my side. I’ll tl;dr – there were too many things on my itinerary than hours remaining, so Washington Heights and the Cloisters museum, Museo del Barrio and revisiting Central Park will have to wait until next time.

Upon arrival, the first point on my agenda was to refind the deli I ate at last time. It took a long time thanks to Maps.Me deciding to place the pin in a place the deli wasn’t, but I guessed it was Sunac Deli, and I was right. Sadly, after more time searching than I would have liked, they didn’t have the mashed red potato or cajun shrimp, so I took sesame chicken instead but it was too sugary.

After my deli meal, I went to Bryant Park, a sweet little park near my hotel, on 42nd Street. Like all New York hotels, a lot was happening in such a small space, and there were accordion shows and people chatting in chairs, with buildings towering above in every direction.


I stayed there for a long while, watching the world go by and making use of the free wifi. 


It wasn’t far to Grand Central Station, and I didn’t mind seeing it again, so I walked there too, then walked back via an adorable Japanese bookshop, a Ricky’s Beauty Supply and into my bed to sleep.


The following day, the itinerary checklist began in earnest.

First, Cipriani La Specialità for The Art of Watches. This was a (free) grand exhibition of Patek Philippe watches. I am of the opinion that a watch does nothing that a good smartphone doesn’t, but having travelled two months with Alessio and his love of simply saying “Patek Philippe”, I figured I had to go. And it was free. I still think they are functionally obsolete, but these watches were unmatched in beauty and elegance.


Cipriani La Specialità was also very beautiful and ostentatious, making me feel a little self-conscious by just how out of place I was. Especially when a wealthy but boring man was droning on about his watch, then his glossy wife asked “but where did you buy me this one?”


From midtown I made my way to Coney Island. Coney Island was one of my happier nostalgic places in this world.


My anxiety was quite high as I travelled here, so I spent a long time easing that talking to friends with the free wifi by Nathan’s. I was also feeling sad because I had last been here with my Mum and that nostalgia stung a bit. It’s one beautiful memory I have of her, taking selfies on that beach. Unfortunately, at this point this was where my first truly bad experience travelling happened and it’s jaded my opinions of Coney Island a little. I mention this because I now can’t be unbiased about what I write, and I will always write honestly about my travels without sharing too much of myself. I will say that I really enjoyed the Coney Island Art Walls.


I left Coney Island and with a lot of time left in my day but not a lot of phone battery, decided to get off the subway at 14th Street-Union Square. 14th Street fast became my hub in downtown like Times Square was my hub in midtown. Wherever I was, if I navigated to there somehow I could probably get to where I needed to be.

From 14th Street, I walked to Chelsea Market for dinner. Chelsea Market is big and diverse and full of places to eat. I chose Giovanni Rana for pasta. Make your own pasta dish bars are quite popular, and I selected to have tonnarelli amatriciana, with fresh tonnarelli. It was a massive bowl of pasta, and I’m absolutely grateful that it measured up to my high expectations. A light heat, fresh ingredients and well cooked. Finally, an Italian dish I can recommend!


Chelsea Market is close to the High Line. I had already walked it heading South with my Mum, but it was a nice way to get back to midtown so I headed that way. There are beautiful sceneries, architectures, flowers and bars along the way. 


And a very sweet guy really begged me to call him so we could go on a date later and I said I’d call him but my priorities changed, because I’m a terrible person. Also I didn’t want to go on a date with him, even though his chat was alright.


My priorities changed, because once I got off the High Line at around 35th, there was an amazing view of the New Yorker building, and it began to rain. Then I realised my idol Patti Lupone was performing in War Paint RIGHT next to my hotel. I wanted to try and meet her, but sadly it wasn’t to be. 

I think that hindsight is 20/20, and instead of going to Coney Island I would have gone to Washington Heights instead, but had I done that, I would not have had a nice time in Chelsea. Walking along the Chelsea High Line as the sun set was truly a trip highlight, and definitely a top experience in New York. 
Favourite sights: Bryant Park, Chelsea Market, Chelsea High Line. 

Hotel: Hotel Shocard

Positives: Very modern, clean, great decor, friendly staff

Negatives: Small rooms, quite dark at all hours with dodgy lighting, no breakfast

Harlem History and Brooklyn Charm

On my first visit to New York City, my Mum
straight refused to visit Harlem. She said it was too dangerous and wouldn’t go there. I vowed to visit this time, in the morning so I could then go on to Brooklyn later in the day.


I could walk to Harlem from my hostel, and on the way I strolled to the popular Levain bakery for a soft, indulgent brioche. It was milky, not too sweet, fluffy and just delicious. Almost croissant like, but still cakey. I watched the world pass as I ate, then carried on up North.

Around the Harriet Tubman memorial, Harlem becomes distinctly Black focused, which is why I came. For the rich black history. The murals and the bookshops. The people were just as friendly, with a guy stopping me to chat and offering his hand in marriage as a solution to my not being able to move to New York.


From Harlem I took the train straight to Bedford Avenue which is in the heart of hipsterised, gentrified Williamsburg in Brooklyn. 

First on the agenda was the Mini Mall. This was really cool, and definitely didn’t give off the Too Cool To Talk To You vibe. I ended up buying a whole lot of gifts here and a pair of shorts for me. 


From there I walked to the City Reliquary, but after spending $40 on shorts I didn’t also want to pay for entrance there so I instead followed a poster for a yard sale and went to that instead. There I met Dollfille, a living doll with really beautiful fashion, and I looked around my first yard sale.

The plan from here was to go to Artist and Fleas, get lunch and then make a plan from there. In actual fact I saw that down one street there was a few fairground rides. I became curious and followed it down. There were fairground games, Italian food vendors and Italian flags and a huge shrine at the bottom of the street. It didn’t yet make any sense. The vendors who chatted to me were Italian, but no one really divulged more than “it’s a festival we have every year”. The police explained that they carry the shrine at around 4pm, and it’s an Italian community thing. I was so curious I decided to come back around 4pm.


Artist and Fleas was nearby, but it was as I expected, very closed off and up itself and I didn’t love any of the things on sale so I left. 


Opposite was Smorgasburg which was a big Brooklyn hipster food market with trendy vendors lining. I am so disappointed in myself to admit that I chose to order a spaghetti doughnut. I know. It tasted exactly as bad as it sounds, but it was fun to eat at the “beach” of the East River. 


By this point I could head back to the festival, stopping first at a funky pink little gift shop that caught my eye. It’s Brooklyn Broads, a feminist gift shop that donates 10% of all the proceeds to Planned Parenthood. Although it’s pricey, all the gifts are created by female artists who the shop supports. I enjoyed looking around and it was very photogenic.


I finally made it back to the street festival, where it had really picked up. People were crowding around the shrine, and the sounds of Italian American Brooklyn accents punctuated the air amongst frying funnel cake and calzone.


A local explained to me that it was a long festival that happens every year. They carry the shrine up and down the block to a band, there is food and on the Sunday a mass. One young Italian American guy told me he is involved in carrying the shrine – called in Italian a “giglio”, or lily. It’s a huge heavy thing, but in Italy they carry it for almost twelve hours!


It was quite a spectacle to behold. The music, the carrying of the giglio, the culture and the celebration that was in the air. Everyone knew I was a tourist but I didn’t feel like an outsider at all as the whole block and its diverse community joined in.

I stayed until nearly 8pm, soaking up the celebration, taking photos, meeting people and hearing their stories and watching them parade the giglio. Above everything, this was the most perfect way to spend my day.


Although Manhattan’s midtown has many must-see sights, events like this that are just so true to the community makes venturing out of the centre so worth it.

Favourite sights: Levain bakery and Harriet Tubman Memorial in Harlem, Mini Mall and Manhattan Skyline in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Lower East Side Exploits: New York City Day 1 and 2

Returning to New York City was like a “hello, old friend” after all the new encounters on the West Coast. I arrived at JFK and strutted through the encounter like it was habit, with a casual air I assumed to be very New York. Confusion fell onto my face when I had to decipher the AirTrain – but I quickly understood to reach Manhattan I could take the Jamaica bound AirTrain then the Long Island Rail Road to Pennsylvania Station.


At Jamaica, I was able to pay for the AirTrain as an exit fare and the Long Island Rail Road. At Penn Station I boarded the 1 train to my hostel up on 101st Street. When a man got on the train with trackmarks and dried blood on his legs and sat opposite a very cute Latino man and a rabbi, I laughed and thought of course. It’s New York at 1am.

The hostel I stayed at wasn’t pleasant, all the money went on the outside with a very basic interior. It was clean but aging, and the locks on the door decided when they wanted to open. Still on Pacific Standard Time, around 2:30am I managed to sleep.

The next day, I decided to tackle the Lower East Side. I booked a tour of the tenement museum that morning for 11AM and headed straight there. The tour I booked was Hard Times, the story of one Italian and one German Jewish family who lived in a particular tenement building on the Lower East Side. You visit the rooms they inhabited, hear their stories and look at their documents. I have wanted to visit this museum for a long time, and I can really recommend my particular tour and the educator Kimberlee who was knowledgable and lively.


From the tenement museum, my plan was to visit a few bookshops and a Tokyo fashion store, but everywhere was closed so I instead strolled down to Little Italy, which was lively but a little touristy, and through Chinatown down to the Brooklyn Bridge.


In between the two was a little park inhabited almost entirely by elderly Chinese people! From the bridge I headed back North through the Financial District which is very grand and an interesting sight before taking a trip through Soho, Noho and Tribeca.


There were a few interesting shops – Maman Bakery, but also a little marketplace which was so up itself. The staff really acted like they didn’t want you there. In addition, at this point the street cat calling became relentless and continued right until I got home. That really put a damper on how I felt about the people in this part of New York!

I got all the way up to Washington Square Park and realised it was time to eat, but also knew the prices would rise as the numbers of the streets rose – we were approaching Times Square.


So I walked back down to a pizzeria for a slice of New York Pizza and hated it so much I left most of it. It was in the artsy hub of Greenwich Village which had a great atmosphere.


Nearer Times Square, there’s a big deli where I got brown rice, mashed potato and cajun shrimp! It was lovely!


I ended my night at Times Square, which is a must do and a spectacle for first time tourist, but with one visit under my belt and as a London dweller who finds Piccadilly Circus annoying, I could have taken or left it.


My second day was rather similar as it was so rainy and I spent it mostly strolling around the Lower East Side with my friend – only there are two additions: we visited the Tokyo fashion store, and ate at the Cheese Grille for National Mac and Cheese Day! The Mac and Cheese was quite nice – a bit too thick and stringy and the crispy breadcrumb layer was too buttery and the pasta a little too soft, though.


The Lower East side has a lot more charm and grit than midtown. I recommend strolling through both to see the contrast between spectacular skyline and getting a cricked neck from looking up and the history and culture of the Lower East Side.


Favourite sights: Greenwich Village, Tenement Museum, Little Italy

Hostel: Broadway Hotel and Hostel

Positives: Rooms are shared with one other, very close to the subway

Negatives: Too much money for what you get. It’s very old and needs refurbishment.