NaBloPoMo: Graduation

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Yesterday, I got up bright and early and made my way to Bristol for my graduation.

Prior to the event I wasn’t that excited because all my friends had attended their graduation in the summer whilst I was in America.

However, when I saw the famous sites of Bristol and was gowned up, by a friendly bald headed man, I felt a sense of achievement and my mood soon picked up.

I had professional photographs taken and then another thousand pictures outside with my mum and dad. The reason I had to pose so many times was because neither my mum or dad could work the iPhone camera. For some reason they kept managing to make the photos all blurry. Luckily, in my happy state, I just found it pretty funny.

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Then the service began and I started to feel a little nervous about having to walk on the stage to shake the mans hand. Thankfully I did not trip up and it all ran smoothly.

The whole experience was an enjoyable one and I felt proud of myself for graduating with a BA Hons in Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies.

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Job done!

NaBloPoMo: Winter walks

lewisAs much as I like summer, I really do love the winter. I may moan about being cold but wearing lots of layers or staying in bed having film days is so much fun.

I know there is nothing stopping you staying in bed in the summer but for some reason I feel a lot more guilty if the sun is shining outside. The cold and rainy weather almost gives you an excuse to be lazy.

I love the autumnal colours and the rocky sea waves. My friend and I like to walk her dog through a place called Cockington. We wear wellies with thick socks and follow the little Westie into the mud puddles.

Cockington is a lovely place, it has a grand manner that sells yummy cream teas and lots of walking paths along lakes or through the trees.

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NaBloPoMo: Rainy days

Today the weather is very miserable. I have just returned home from a girls night in at my friends and I want nothing more than to curl up in bed with a cup of tea.

When it is raining outside I love to put my joggers on and a big hoody, my lazy day clothing. My mum hates it if I ever go out dressed in this attire but she cannot complain if I wear it around the house. I personally don’t think there is anything wrong in braving the winter storms in comfy clothing. I would only ever nip to Sainsburys or the corner shop wearing joggers and UGGs.

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It makes me happy knowing that I am nice and warm in the comfort of my own home whilst the rain lashes down outside.

Today, I plan on doing a little blogging and I will probably end up getting into bed to watch a film later on this afternoon. My usual rainy day film of choice is Harry Potter.

NaBloPoMo: Surprise Lake Camp’s lake

This summer I took part in Camp America which allowed me spend my summer at Surprise Lake Camp.

I spent many hours on the docks by the lake and it truly made me happy.

This summer, it was ridiculously hot so diving into the lake was very refreshing. I often admired the lifeguards simply because they got to spend all day on the docks and in the lake.

When we all first arrived we had to take a swim test before we could swim in the lake. I expected it to be very cold but because of the hot weather the lake was luke warm.

I never understood the people who complained about going in the lake, it was so fun especially when we got to go on the burger bounce. I would get flung into the air and land with a splash into the water.

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Travel: The glitz, glam and golden nugget

The drive to Vegas was long but the scenery was interesting with its large mountains that stood tall either side of the road. It was as though someone had carved through the rock face in order to pave way for the road that we were driving on.

When we arrived in Vegas we had our eyes glued to the strip that ran alongside us. We saw huge buildings with gold facades and hotels that looked like castles, I was very excited.

We pulled up outside the Golden Nugget which was to be our home for the next few days. With little experience as to what to do when you pull up outside a hotel that offers valet parking, we sort of hovered near the entrance whilst one of us went inside to check in. We were then told to give our keys to the man standing outside in a white outfit and to unload our luggage. The entrance to the hotel was magical, this huge fish tank greeted us with all sorts of tropical fish inside. I was impressed and the fear that I usually experience before checking into a new place was not present.

The room was spacious, clean and the beds looked comfy. Even though I was excited to be in Vegas, I could not wait to climb between the white bed sheets and fall asleep on a comfy mattress. Before I could do that we had to go and explore.

We decided to go and look at the hotel facilities so we donned our swimming clothing and headed to the pool. I couldn’t believe our luck as we entered the pool area and I laid eyes on the huge shark tank that had a slide running through it. The first thing I did was head to the three story slide and whizzed down it. On our tight budget I could not believe we had managed to bag ourselves a room at this swanky hotel.

The boys decided to do some more exploring but Siobhan and I felt we hadn’t fully made the most of the hot tub so we mulled around in there for a little longer before retreating to the room to get ready.

All dressed up we went to find something to eat. God only knows how we ended up in a restaurant that had not left the 1970s. The food was very average and the place was filled with old aged pensioners with gambling addictions. Not what I expected from our first night in Vegas. The Downtown strip however, was very glitzy with its loud music and flashing lights.

Siobhan and I watched the boys gamble whilst we drank our drinks. At around 2am we headed to a fast food takeaway, ready to eat some greasy food and call it a night. In the middle of eating we made friends with three Americans who promised to take us to a great place that stayed open until 7am.

All excited we got in a taxi and followed them to where the locals hang outs. When we got there are mouths dropped open as we entered a bar that was about to close. The DJ was persuaded to put some music on and the lights were turned back off. We sat on the chairs and hoped it would get busier. When it didn’t liven up we sat waiting for a suitable time to say we were going home so as not to appear rude, luckily they bailed on us first.

We returned to the room at about 5am and I quickly fell asleep.

The following day I got up and went for breakfast, enjoying some alone time whilst the others slept. As I sat there two men started talking to me, they must have been in there 30s. I discovered that they were here on business and after overhearing part of their previous conversation I new they had wives. This did not stop one of them giving me his number on a napkin and asking me to call him so I could ‘catch a drink’ with him later that night. Needless to say I left the piece of napkin with the number on it on my plate before leaving the restaurant.

I then went and fell asleep on the sun loungers for a good few hours and before I new it, it was time for diner. We ate in the hotel and I ended up watching a film in bed before having an early night. It was a much needed, lazy day.

The following day we planned to take a trip to the Grand Canyon. A lady had told us that it takes three hours to get there so we left at nine in the morning thinking we would arrive around midday. This lady was an idiot! It did not take us three hours, no, it took us five or more hours to reach the gates to the park and then probably about another half an hour to get near the Canyon. When we finally got there, all restless and annoyed, we could not believe our luck because the mist that had rolled in from the east was covering the whole of the Canyon. Feeling like we wanted to commit we couldn’t have been in a better place. Trying to stay calm, we decided to drive a little higher up the road. This was a good decision as we were able, at long last, to see what we had driven all those hours for.

The Grand Canyon certainly lived up to his name and I may be slightly ashamed to admit it but it almost took my breath away. The sheer depth and size of the place was incredible. I have never seen anything like it. I am so glad we persisted with the long drive to see one of the seven wonders of the world.

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A friendly warning, if you go to the Canyon, make sure you wear something warm as it was very windy!

After hours of viewing the Canyon we all piled back into the car just before it started to rain. Josh was very brave as he drove down the windy roads in the pouring rain. By the time we got to the bottom it was dark and visibility was very poor due to the weather. We decided to stop for some dinner at a pizza place and I took over the driving.

After eating we got back on the road and I was driving along at a steady pace when suddenly I saw a ball of fur in the middle of my lane. With nowhere to turn as a lorry sped on past me, I had no other choice but to run over the poor little creature that was in my way. With a sudden bang followed by an incredible smell we all thought something had happened to our tyres. I pulled over and the boys got out to look. I had images of a shredded up tire, just like the ones you regularly see at the side of the road. Luckily we could not see anything wrong so Josh decided to take over the driving and we carried on.

As we got back on the road we could hear a distictive banging sound so we thought it was best to get off the freeway and find somewhere with a little more light so we could have a proper look. We still couldn’t see anything so again we carried on and I was positive I had ran over a skunk which is what was causing the horrendous smell. Getting back on the freeway however proved a little tricky. Josh ended up going the wrong way down a road which attracted the attention of a cop. I could not quite believe it when I saw the blue and red flashing lights in the wing mirror.

We pulled over yet again and the cop came up to the drivers window and asked us what went wrong. Josh explained our story which only led to the officer asking to see his ID and for our entire car to be fully searched whilst we stood at the side of the road in the rain chatting to another cop.

It turns out that we were in one of the biggest and well known areas for drug smuggling and a common story that someone tells, when being pulled over having been smoking weed, is that they have ran over a skunk because it is a similar smell.

We obviously did not have any drugs and I think the officer realised this after chatting to us, so he gave us a souvenir sticker and sent us on our way. We can all laugh about it now but at the time it was just another thing that had gone wrong that day.

After another hour or two we finally made in back to the Golden Nugget and I was able to climb into those lovely bed sheets and fall asleep.

The following day we decided to explore the main Las Vegas strip. We went to the Hard Rock cafe for lunch and Siobhan and I shared a full rack of ribs.

We then wondered through all the different hotels, admiring all the different themes.

The Mandalay had a huge casino floor and an Aquarium inside but unfortunately you had to pay for that.

The Luxor was incredible, with its pyramid shape I really wanted to see what the rooms looked like as they lined the slanted roof.

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New York New York hotel had a huge roller coaster that surrounded the permitter and inside it looked like an Italian market with quaint little shop fronts.

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Late that afternoon we all went back to the hotel and chilled by the pool. That evening we decided to go to a club and I had managed to get us free entry due to a club promoter contacting me on Twitter. The club was called Marque and we later found out, as we were dancing away inside the spectacular club, that you are supposed to pay $90 to get inside.

It had dancers that lined the stage, hot tubs outside that lit up and very expensive drinks. I have never been to a club like it and I don’t think anywhere will ever top the place.

The following day we recovered by the pool in the morning and went to see the White Chapel and the rest of the strip in the evening.

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A highlight of my trip to Vegas would definitely be standing outside the Bellagio hotel watching the fountains dance to music. It was enticing and magical and I wanted to watch it over and over.

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We ate dinner in a place called Serendipity and it just reminded me of the film. We also went inside the Venetian hotel which was had boats floating up and down a river on the second floor.

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The last thing we did in Vegas was watch a very cheesy pirate show in the Treasure Island hotel. It was a great way to end a fabulous trip to such a crazy place.

Travel: Surfers paradise

Our travel destinations always surprised me. It was strange how we managed to create the route considering we had not really planned any of the trip. We didn’t really discuss what route we would take or where we would stay, it sort of just happened the way it did – very disorganised travellers.

The next stop on our marvellous American tour was San Diego. It was approximately two hours drive from LA and we were all very excited to go and see another place. We arrived quite late so didn’t really get to see much of our new destination until the following morning.

The following day was very relaxed. We drove to Ocean Beach and spent the day enjoying the sun, sand and waves. I lay on the sand reading a book and watching the surfers surf the big waves.

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The waves were very powerful and knocked me off my feet on a number of occasions. I envied the regulars gliding above the rolling white horses on their surf boards as we all got wiped out by the relentless herd.

Later in the evening we watched the sunset over Ocean beach pier and saw a seal hovering in the water waiting for the fishermen to throw him some fish. Queue cheesy line…I felt blessed to be able to experience such lovely surroundings.

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For dinner, we found a lively New Zealand bar named Raglan Public House where we ate mini sliders (also known as mini burgers) in the midst of laughing at Josh’s sunburnt face. It was so burnt he had to buy an emergency stock of moisturiser and a bag of ice which he face planted every few seconds.

With an aching stomach from laughing at Josh’s face we returned to our hotel and fell asleep.

The following day we ventured out in the Sin Wagon to another beach called La Jolla Cove. It is pronounced holla, incase you ever ask for directions and nobody knows where you mean.

I think there must have been a surfing competition or event taking place because there were lots of stalls and no parking whatsoever. We drove around for a while before finding a spot a few streets away from the beach. We didn’t stay very long at the main beach because the reason we had decided to check out this particular one was because we were told it contained lots of seals. With no seals in sight we decided to ‘wing it’, yet again and go and find them elsewhere.

Further along the coast, what we believe to still be La Jolla Cove, we managed to find what we came looking for. Sat on a rock, bold as brass, was the biggest, wettest with whiskers the size of my arm, seal you could ever imagine. We turned a corner and saw loads of them swimming in the sea trying to dodge the divers who were brave enough to try swim next to them.

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It was pretty incredible how close the divers could get without being harmed by these slimy creatures.

Once we had, had enough of the seals we left the beach and went to get ready for our final night in San Diego.

We dressed up a little and went in search of some cheap alcohol filled slush puppies. We found the bar that was famous for slushies but it was empty so we decided to go and grab some food and see if it livened up a little later. We ended up in a restaurant called Henry’s bar and I enjoyed a nice pizza with a side of mash potatoe. I was craving normal food and the mash was as close as I could get.

Later in the evening we found another bar and ended up dancing until the early hours before returning to the hotel to sleep.

That concluded our trip to San Diego, next stop VEGAS!

Travel: The delights of Hollywood

When someone first lands in LA I guess you would expect them to recall how amazing there first night was. Spent in the Hollywood hills spying on celebrities and drinking cocktails until the sun came up.

This is what I would expect to hear from someone else’s traveling adventure. For us the story goes a little differently.

Before anyone judges us, may I just remind everyone that we had just spent the night on a very ‘comfy’ airport floor and flown across America the following morning.

We spent our first evening finding a laundrette to do our washing. Well equipped with washing detergent, bought from a dodgey looking vending machine, we soon managed to get the cleaning of clothes underway.

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A man casually strolled passed us and asked if we would like some drugs but we politely refused and continued the mundane task of watching our clothes dance, swirl and splash around.

The clothes did not smell as fresh as I would have liked but I guess that is what is to be expected from a life as a traveler.

As luck would have it a Dominos sat next to the laundrette so we decided to grab a pizza and head towards a beach.

Siobhan, combined with Josh’s sudden breaking, nearly lost our pizza to the floor of the car.

I found LA dominos highly displeasing. Everything just seems to contain so much salt and little of anything else.

Soon after we finished eating we decided to head back to our hotel room and I was quickly sent into a salt and jet lagged sleep coma.

As disappointing as this tale of our first night in LA may seem, the logical side of it is, it enabled us to have clean clothes for the rest of our trip.

I nearly forgot to mention, we now have a car named Sin Wagon.

When we landed, we caught a shuttle bus to the Thrifty garage to pick up our hire car. As we queued up waiting to see what our vehicle for the next month was going to be, I was praying for a red swanky car worthy of the Sin Wagon title but unfortunately we got given a black one. Sin Wagon was still a justifiable name even though it was black.

Josh was given the task of being the first to drive but before he could even begin, we had to figure out how to move the seat back so Josh’s long legs could fit in. Who could have guessed that seats these days are electric?!

Once we got on the road Josh was doing great considering he had only ever driven a car during his driving lessons and that was on UK roads.

It was such a relief knowing we could pack up the car with all our luggage as and when we wanted, ready to head to another destination.

The following day we decided to head to Venice beach, having heard a lot of good things about the place. It is supposed to imitate the real Venice but when we got there I did not see any little alleys filled with water, no boats gliding along any rivers and no Italian restaurants for that matter.

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What I did see was a number of tramps picking rubbish out of bins, an outdoor gym with a few men posing near the weight machines and a beach, which could have been great if the mist wasn’t surrounding us. Needless to say, we were all slightly disappointed by Venice beach. The best thing about the place was a group of guys who put on a dance performance and I was pretty sure I had seen them in New York a month or so ago, so even they did not originate from this place.

I am sure the place may look and feel very different if the sun had been shining because surely all the hype cannot be about nothing.

The following day we decided to head into Hollywood. We walked through a lively market and headed towards the Walk of Fame. It was much bigger than I had imagined, lining a number of streets. In New York I felt like you had to walk with your head up so that you could see all the architecture, whereas in Hollywood I found myself constantly walking with my head down, so as not to miss some famous persons name planted in a star shape on the floor. You could spot the locals because they flippantly wondered the streets without their eyes glued to the ground. It almost felt as though the locals were annoyed at the tourists for being excited about a ‘sidewalk’.

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We saw the Chinese theatre which is famous for the concrete blocks that are set in front of the entrance, bearing nearly 200 signatures, foot and hand prints of famous people. Most of the stars have written short messages to a man named Sid and at the time I had no idea who Sid was. It turns out, after reading a little history about the place, that Sid Grauman was a showman who created the Chinese Theatre back in January 1926. I was very excited to be touching the concrete where famous people had previously placed there hands.

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We also went on a tour of the Hollywood hills and saw many things:

The church that Sister Act was filmed in.

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Rodeo Drive which was very glamourous.

The shop that Julia Roberts was rejected from in Pretty Woman.

Viper Room where River Phoenix died

The hotel that Marilyn Monroe had an affair with JFK in and the place she stayed in when she first started out.

Where Jennifer Anniston worked before she was famous.

Where Brad Pitt worked as a sign holder in a chicken suit before he was famous.

The first cinema in LA known as the Egyption cinema.

Dolbly Theatre where they hold the Oscars.

Michael Jackson’s, Bruno Mars’ and Madonna’s house along with the Playboy Mansion and Tom Cruises chimney.

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It was all very exciting and you didn’t really know which way to turn your head first. Warning: The drive is not a straight and simple drive and may cause travel sickness! As we were parked outside the Playboy Mansion I did think I was going to vomit – what a story that would have made.

That evening we headed to a BestWestern hotel and stayed one night in luxury.

The next day I went to Warner Brothers Studios whilst Siobhan and Josh went to Universal.

Warner Brothers was one of the highlights of my entire trip. I loved learning about everything that goes on behind the scenes and seeing parts of the set that had been filmed in Friends and other programmes that I had watched. It was definitely worth the $60 I paid to go on the VIP Tour.

Whilst I was there, The Big Bang Theory cast were rehearsing in one stage, and Pretty Little Liars were filming in another. I walked along the street that was used in Gilmore Girls and is currently used in Pretty Little Liars and Heart of Dixie. I also got to wonder around the school that is featured Pretty Little Liars and saw all the girls bedrooms. It is crazy how small the spaces are in real life in comparison to how big they look on TV. I also got to sit on the sofa that was used in the filming of Friends!!

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I think I had a permanent smile planted on my face as we went round and it definitely made me want to work behind the scenes on a show one day.

Later in the afternoon we met up with the others and Josh drove us closer to the Hollywood sign. We managed to get to some great touristy pictures before we left LA for San Diego.

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Travel: Final week at camp and the beginning of my American journey.

The last week of camp was tough as I had lots of things to edit and finish up. The slideshow needed to be completed as did the calendar and ODs twice in a row was not pretty. I felt mentally and bodily exhausted from late nights and early breakfasts and yet I still had fun.

I spent most of the final week in the office driving Steve insane with my sudden outbursts of frustration at the computer. I think he will miss it really!

Walking back and forth from Teenside to Mainside suddenly didn’t seem as annoying because I new I wouldn’t be doing it for much longer. I guess I was making the most of hearing the goats and looking out for turtles in the lake.

I have truly enjoyed the experience and I will never forget all the amazing things camp has taught me. It felt like everyday I was facing a new challenge, doing something I never thought I would or simply laughing until tears dribbled down my face.

Yes, the days are long and you sometimes feel like you don’t have a minute to yourself. The food isn’t amazing and you are lucky to go back to your bunk to find no spiders making new homes on your walls, but the friends you make and the place you wake up to every morning definitely makes up for any negative points.

As the bus pulled away and I slowly watched the lake and my friends disappear behind a tree, it was a very bitter sweet moment. Bitter because I was leaving behind friends I may never see again and sweet because I was going to meet friends from home in NYC to explore America.

When I got off the coach on 8th Av and started to drag my luggage along the busy streets and up and down subway stairs, I immediately wanted to arrive at the hostel and see my friends.

When I finally made it, amazed that I managed to find the place with no map, I was relieved to find that the hostel was very clean and newly refurbished. I was then extremely happy to see Josh and Siobhan who were all ready to leave for something to eat.

With no time to relax I quickly changed and we headed towards the Rockerfella. At the top, the views of NY are incredible. I looked over the busy city and couldn’t quite believe where I was standing. The lights of all the surrounding buildings glistened and the sound of the traffic hummed below us.

We chose to go up the Rockerfella as opposed to the iconic Empire Estate Building because we had heard that you could see more of NY at the top. It certainly did not disappoint and I am glad I was able to view such a lively city from above.

We then headed to a roof top bar in Brooklyn. One that Josh and Siobhan had been taken to by a local a few days ago. It was sort of hidden away above a hotel in the middle of a part of Brooklyn that you wouldn’t expect a swanky bar to exist.

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The following day Siobhan, John and I went to explore Central Park. We rented bikes and Siobhan and I thought it would be funny to rent a tandem and it was. We had a blast trying to manoeuvre ourselves around the park without knowing anyone else of their bikes. There were near misses but we survived.

Central park is beautiful in the sunshine, the ducks swim in the ponds and we found a few turtles along the way.

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In the evening we got the subway to the Yankees stadium to watch a game. I am no baseball follower so I had no real understanding of the rules but just the atmosphere and the view of the pitch itself was great. We walked into the staidum all wide eyed and excited which I think is what attracted attention to us.

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A man approached us and asked if we would like to be ungraded to VIP, we politely declined by saying we couldn’t afford it. He quickly mentioned it was free and he would like to offer it us if we simply smile and look happy when a presenter hands over the tickets. Quickly getting excited we agreed to appear on the big screen to accept the VIP tickets. With beaming faces we stood and accepted the tickets, on camera, in the comfort of the air condition VIP area with prime views of the pitch. The whole evening was a whirlwind of excitement, buttery popcorn and cheers from the supportive Yankee fans. What an amazing way to experience an American baseball game.

 

Travel: American street fighting, cool chairs, markets, beer gardens and fast rides!

Last Wednesday was a quiet day at camp as half of Teenside went on a trip. I therefore took pictures and worked on the calendar.

Thursday consisted of similar activities as did Friday. On Friday evening I left camp with Ashley and headed to her house in Long Island. We ate McDonalds in the car on the way home before arriving at her house at around 9pm.

I immediately planted myself in her bed and found it very difficult to move from that spot. Later on in the evening one of Ashley’s closest friends came over with a friend of his (Chris and Mac, like Mac and Cheese – I found that funny!). Chris was what I can only describe as your stereotypical frat boy. They both said ‘YO’ after pretty much every sentence and I began to find it funny.

They both seemed very friendly! A while later one of them mentioned pizza and my ears pricked up…I could definitely move for some pizza, so we all ended up piling into Chris’ snazzy car.

Ashley drove and as usual she did something crazy like not stopping at a stop sign. We can laugh about it now as we survived but I am pretty sure it is a serious thing to skip a stop sign.

As we arrived at our pizza destination we went to find a parking spot but was rudely interpreted by a mass fighting session. Very large, what I assume were American men, just starting flailing their fists at each other in an attempt to severely harm one another. Sat in the safety of the car, mouth slightly ajar, I began to laugh at how ridiculous the whole thing was. Shimmying forward slightly we were able to make it past the fighting gang in order to park.

As we walked down the street people were trying to break up the fight to our right whilst a man on our left sat on a wall reading a book with the strangest smile on his face. I mean, who on earth sits on a wall, at gone midnight, casually reading a book whilst a fight occurs on the opposite side of the street?! I couldn’t quite grasp the events that occurred and I still look back with utter wonderment at who the book reading, smiling man was. I sort of think you have to have seen the man to realise how strange the whole situation was. This man was surely from another planet or something!!!!

We then proceeded to walk past a huge log that had been fitted with chair backs – it was a log chair! I was amazed.

We crossed the road and I began to excitedly walk to the pizza shop until I was interrupted, yet again, by another outburst from the big bald American fighters. One man went a little far by grabbing a small blonde and forcing her to cross the road. The poor girl started screaming and tried to put a stop to him picking her up by putting her feet on the floor. The strength of him and the size of her plus her very high heels just did not help matters and she ended up being dropped on her bum in the middle of the road, for all to see.

Sadly it all died down pretty much after the girl got up, swore and walked away.

The pizza shop mission continued and I was very happy to taste the goodness that is Little V’s margarita pizza. I am sad I will never get to eat another slice!

Once we had all finished we headed back to the car and I have to say that I was a little excited to see the log chair and smiling book man again.

This time I actually got to test out the chair and was surprised to find out that is wasn’t that comfy. I should have known.

Up the road I could see that one of the ‘professional’ fighters was wobbling around on the pavement. With nervous footsteps I proceeded to walk past him only to be stopped by him stroking my face and bopping my nose.

After the nights events I wasn’t surprised that he did that. I calming and cooly shrugged it off and got in the car.

The next day we traveled 2 hours to the New Jersey, 6 flags theme park. What a day! I still, to this day, do not know how the three of them managed to get me on the rides. I am not a roller coaster person. They are just so fast and I definitely could not breath whilst I was whizzed aimlessly around. Some even went upside down! I found closing my eyes and yelling at Ashley the whole way round was the best way to get through it.

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The day was a lot of fun yet extremely tiring. We didn’t end up getting back to Ashley’s until 12pm and we were up at 5am to travel back to camp ready for visiting day.

Sunday was a long day and I don’t think I have ever been as tired. I was so tired I nearly started crying whilst I stood taking pictures of all the kids embracing their parents in humongous hugs. I miss the famalam! Sucking it up I continued to wonder round the tents taking pictures of all the families that had descended on our camp.

After lunch I was required to stand and direct cars out of camp. It is amazing how difficult that job was, simply because no one listened or looked at my very clear arm directions. Then the rain came and I was all lovely and soaked by the end of the day, in need of a hot shower and a comfy bed.

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday consisted of usual camp activities. I photographed the campers and edited the calendar.

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During the week all the Israeli staff worked hard to put together a whole day of activities for the campers. In the morning everyone gathered in the Eddie Canter theatre and watched them perform a little skit. I found it hilarious as the majority of it consisted of them taking the mic out of all the American and English staff. I love the Israelis!

I proceeded to take photographs all day and in the evening the Isreali Friendship Caravan people came to perform. They danced and sang and one even managed to pull me onto the stage to dance with him. It was very awkward because of my awful dancing abilities!

On Friday, I took pictures and completed creating the calendar. It has been a mammoth task as lots of photographs needed to be crammed onto 12 pages. I am however pleased with the result.

Sadly, Friday evening was Kerry’s last night at camp so we all headed to the diner for a fair well meal. As shocking as it may seem, I did not have the French onion soup this time, instead I opted for BBQ ribs. Slightly disappointingly they weren’t as good as Frankie and Benny’s ribs but they were a lot better than anything camp could have fed me.

It was a lovely meal and at the end we got someone to take a group picture…the Super Saturday Specialist Squad :).

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The following day my alarm went off at 6.30am and I sleepily switched it off and fell back to sleep. I was completely oblivious to what the noise actually meant and it was only after my alarm went off again at 6.40am that I realised I was supposed to get out of bed. It was painful but I new a day in the city would justify the early wake up call.

This weekend the camp driver happened to be traveling into the city so we (Casey, Dan and I) were able to catch a free ride in. Typical of John, he slept through his alarms and missed both the bus and train ride. ‘He so stoopid!’

The bus drive was pretty silent due to the early hour but when we made it closer everyone peered out the window and got a glimpse of the Bronx and Harlem.

Dan and I decided we wanted to go to the photography museum in Times Square so we separated from Casey and caught the subway. Whilst we waited to board the cart a woman got off the train with a bag containing a little dog – I found it amusing.

The photography museum was amazing. I was able to see a lot of new photographers work that I hadn’t seen before. One of my favourite installations was a collaboration between photographers Michael Subotzky and
Patrick Waterhouse. The piece was a photographic investigation into the lives of people living in the iconic 54 story Ponte City residential tower in Johannesburg. The photographers had gone into everyone’s flat in the 54 story building and taken a photograph of their television screen, the residents within their homes and their doors. Each project was displayed within a tall light box which complimented the images due to the many silhouetted figures that were featured in the Windows, Ponte City, 2009 piece. It also worked well with the Televisions, Ponte City, 2008 piece because it made the images feel more like mini television screens. The Doors, Ponte City, 2009 piece didn’t necessarily need the light box but as a set it worked well.

Another great piece was by a man named Sohei Nishino, in fact it was more than great. He produces huge diorama maps of his exploration of different cities using a 35mm film camera, yes FILM! He shoots up to 10,000 pictures during his month long journey on foot throughout entire cities. It was absolutely amazing and I aspire to one day produce something as spectacular as that.

Diorama map, New York, February – July 2006

Diorama map, Jerusalem, September 2012 – January 2013

There were many other photographers work that I found interesting and I plan on creating various blog posts about each one when I return from my travels.

After leaving the museum, I headed round the corner towards the New York Library to meet Casey as Dan headed to meet his friends. On my way I bought a ham and cheese baguette from Pret A Manger to eat on the steps whilst I waited for her.

I felt honored to be walking round such a well known building. I can totally understand why everyone makes such a big fuss about the place and I did find it funny how there were more tourists wondering around the place than people actually sitting and reading the books.

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On leaving the library, Casey got a text from John letting us know that he was on the train into the city. We then decided that we had best get an hour or so shopping in before he came to meet us. We went into Zara and I was very good because I didn’t buy a thing. We then walked along the street and popped into a few shops along the way before reaching a huge Forever 21 clothes shop. It was like Topshop in London, ridiculously big with too many people in it. When I was in the changing room I overheard someone say they had been in the place for 2 hours. Again, I was good because I put all the clothes I had collected back on the rails before I left the shop.

John then met us outside the Hard Rock Cafe and Casey decided she wanted to shop on her own so we split up. John and I both wanted to buy some Havaianas and John wanted to walk along the High Line so I followed him. He seemed to aimlessly wonder around the city with a lack of care for whether he was going in the right direction. I sort of just went along with it because I new how much he liked to explore – TEVA! It turned out to be a good thing because we found lots of ‘snazzy’ things along the way and did actually end up at the High Line eventually. I couldn’t quite tell you where exactly we walked but we found a little market that sold lots of old things, including cameras. I was happy to explore the market and true to form I touched all the bits and bobs, stroked the fur coats and tried on all the different rings. If my Dad was there he would have been copying my actions with a bemused facial expression and comments such as ‘why do women always touch the clothes?’

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The High Line was lovely to walk along and I would recommend every tourist visiting New York. As we were walking we found a ‘hip and happening’ bar called Gastro Market that sold their drinks in jam jars. I was very excited by this so we bought a couple of drinks and sat out in the beer garden. We were both fascinated by the rocking metal chairs and I found it very difficult to get back up once I had sat down. The garden had hanging lanterns above your head which I imagine look lovely at nighttime. If I had the money, I would definitely go back there to eat. Lacking in the funds we sadly left the rocking chairs behind and continued our journey along the High Line.

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It was fascinating seeing the old rail tracks amongst newly planted trees and the views across the Hudson river were just great. Half way along John found a friend with matching hair and the guy asked to have a photo with him. We also saw a bride and groom and the rest of the wedding party having photographs. I was very pleased that John had suggested we walk along it!

As we neared the end of the strip, finally getting closer to the Havaianas shop, we heard and then saw a bar that looked lively and fun so we promised to return there once we had bought our shoes. When we entered the Havaianas shop I immediately saw the flip flops I wanted. I hunted through the sizes, trying a lot of them on to actually figure out what American size I was. Meanwhile John was not having as much luck. The mens section of the shop consisted of a small stand in the corner. They did not have the ones he wanted and he was very upset. When I bought mine, I immediately relished in the delights of no longer having paper thin flip flops. I did feel quite bad when I saw John’s sad and envious face…but what can you do?!

I finally found out that I was in Chelsea and just like the London version, it was expensive and fancy.

We then walked alongside the rivers edge and found the lively bar that we passed on the High Line; the Brass Monkey. It was very busy out in the beer garden but we managed to find a seat at the end of someone else’s table. By this time it was around 7pm and my stomach was definitely in need of some food. I was extremely happy to see that the food wasn’t all burger and pizza. I ordered fish and chips and John wanted bangers and mash and we both agreed to share them both. When it came I was in food heaven. The chips had a spicy tang to them and the bangers and mash was very flavorsome. I would definitely go back and eat there again. The atmosphere was great, they sold interestingly named beers on tap so John was happy and you could watch the sunset over the river; lovely.

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After eating we headed back in the direction of Times Square, by this time my feet were in agony and I do not know how I managed to make it back.

On Sunday evening camp put on a staff banquette and we all dressed up to attend. I still can’t believe I wore a dress and heels whilst at camp when usually I am in dirty clothes and flip flops. I danced, laughed, posed for pictures and ate some tasty veggie kebabs. A great way to end an enjoyable week.

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p.s. Check out how long my hair is…when did that happen?

Travel: Thick toilet paper, clean sheets, balloon extravaganza and a swimming pool

This weeks day off was spectacular! On Friday evening Kerry’s (an American friend) mum came and picked some of the gang up and Mia (another American friend) drove the rest to Kerry’s house in New Jersey.

It took about 2 hours to drive there and I enjoyed the luxury of sitting in the front of a very big, nice car.

When we turned onto the street Kerry lived on I was amazed at how beautiful the houses looked. In my opinion they all looked like typical American houses even down to the mail boxes at the end of the drives.

We were greeted by an extremely excitable and friendly dog. I would even go as far as saying that the dog was the cutest one I have ever seen.

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Once we arrived we had freshly delivered pizzas waiting for us in the gazebo. Kerry’s dad had even gone to the trouble of decorating the gazebo with fairy lights and the pool (oh yes there was a pool) was surrounded by torched lanterns.

We all sat around the table in the gazebo and tucked into our pizzas that contained both meat and cheese!

A while after we all decided to jump in the pool. By this time it was about 11pm and I expected the pool to be cold because it wasn’t heated. Timidly dipping my feet in I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t that bad. Then before I had chance to gently walk into the water I was hurdled into the air and chucked in, all thanks to Dan. I suppose it was a quicker way to do it!

It was a very active nights swim as the boys began diving, back flipping and jumping off the diving board. I stuck to my star jumps and balled up bombs as I didn’t think my bikini would hold up if I decided to dive in.

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After swimming I had a wonderful shower were I didn’t have to dodge the bugs or fear any body part hitting the sides of the shower cubicle. It was blissful!

I was also happy to discover that not all American toilet paper is wafer thin! It really is the simple things you miss when you are at camp!

All showered and in my pjs we dragged mattresses into the lounge and created one big bed. With air con, a decent mattress and feeling the cleanest I have ever felt since leaving England, I slept like a queen.

In the middle of the night I was awoken to Dan pulling my sponge bob blanket off me. I was not pleased until I realised there was another blanket right next to me. I quickly drifted back to sleep and didn’t wake up until 10am. It was ‘awesoooome’.

Once we were up and about we noticed all the food in the kitchen. It was as though the magic fairy, in the form of Kerry’s mum, had come and delivered all this food for us. Strawberries, normal yogurt, cups of tea, bagels, mini muffins, blueberries and healthy cereal!! We were all so grateful to be there!

After filling out faces we all crashed back on our giant mattress and lounged about some more. It was so nice to be able to relax.

Later in the afternoon we all went back in the pool and messed around. More jumping, diving, swimming and handstands.

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Hours passed in what felt like minutes. At around 5pm we started to retreat back into the house by which time Kerry’s mum had returned with yet more food for a BBQ!

Meat and cheese, normal tasting hot dogs, corn on the cob that we hand peeled! It was all delicious and I couldn’t have been more grateful!

After eating we decided to watch a film and for some reason the film that was chosen turned out to be Grease! I thought it was a very strange choice of film considering all the boys that were with us. Sam (a guy from New Zealand) was particularly into the film whilst I accidentally fell asleep.

At about half 9 we all packed up the car and headed home. Dan casually mooned the others who were sat in Kerry’s car whilst we drove on the ‘highway’, which was pretty funny.

I did not want to return to camp after experiencing such luxuries, but back we all went. I am now just looking forward to next Friday evening when we all head to Ashley’s house.

The following day my alarm woke me up and it took me a good 10 minutes before I could move out of bed to begin the day. I imagined Sunday would be difficult because it was visiting day whereby all the parents descend onto camp to see there children. I had been warned that all I will get all day is complaints from parents asking why there child hadn’t been photographed!

I was therefore very surprised when parents called me over to their gazebos (yes they brought big ass gazebos filled with food) to tell me how wonderful the photography has been this year in comparison to last year. Such relief washed over me every time someone complimented the work I had been doing!

I took photographs throughout the day and at 4pm I was finally able to escape the madness by returning to my bunk for a couple of hours.

I seriously cannot believe how excessive visiting day was. When you visit your child why do you need to bring everything plus the kitchen sink?! I am sure many Brits will respond by saying, ‘that’s Americans for you!’

That evening all of Teenside trekked it across to Mainside for a balloon extravaganza. As always I was there with my camera and on this occasion I kept forgetting to use it as I found the magical John Cassidy so captivating. Every magician amazes! How can someone guess what card you choose and have flashing billboards all prepared before you even pick it? He even got inside a huge red balloon and pulled faces through it – he was just nuts.

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Before I was entertained by Mr Cassidy I was feeling pretty down. Simply because I had hardly eaten anything all day because the camp food has begun to make me want to vomit. After dinner I came away wanting desperately to eat some of my mums roast potatoes, feeling frustrated and a little homesick. After the show, I walked the half a mile back to my unit smiling to myself at the fact that every time I am down, something crazy like a balloon magician, always lifts my spirits!

That night I also had to sit OD but luckily one of the campers lent me a DVD to watch; ‘Girls Just Want To Have Fun’. It’s got to be pretty epic with a title like that, right?!

Monday consisted of usual camp business but on Tuesday, camp went all Zen. By Zen I mean spiritual, which involved a lot of tiedying and stick and wool making.

I also tried yoga for the first time and one camper told me I was pretty good at it! I think I may go to a few yoga classes when I get home. After the yoga I did feel very zen!

At lunchtime on Wednesday, Steve and I took our teenagers to the cinema to see Despicable Me 2 as part of an animation workshop. It was a very stressful and hectic trip and I have the utmost sympathy for my old teachers whenever they took us on a trip somewhere.

Wednesday evening was the all camp show which was lovely to watch. The younger kids were adorable as they acted out Hercules for the rest of camp.

During the intermission we all had ice cream sandwiched between two cookies. It was amazing and I am looking forward to the next all camp show to eat one again.

On Thursday I spent the entire day by the lake taking pictures for the end of camp slideshow. As the lake is one of my favourite places at camp, I had a great day. Half of Teenside were on a trip so it was pretty quiet and relaxed.

For the first time whilst being at camp I got sunburnt! It was about 40 degrees so no amount of suncream would of protected me from the inevitable sunburn.

That evening I went to the diner with John, Carlo and Dan and yet again I had the french onion soup, it’s just so good.

It was also the staff banquet and everyone got dressed up for it. I wore these ridiculously tight paint sprayed shorts with a tank top – what have I become?! It was pretty funny considering no alcohol was to be consumed.

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On Friday, all I did was look forward to my evening and following day off. Come 7.30, ‘the gang’ all piled into Ashley’s and Kerry’s car and headed to Long Island to stay at Ashely’s.

Once we arrived we headed to a pizza place and ordered your average huge American pizzas. The staff must have taken a liking to us as we kept getting given free food. Either that or it was because it was the end of the day and they still had food left.

After pizza we went back to Ashley’s and all squished into her hot tub. I don’t think I have ever seen so many tangled up bodies in one hot tub before. The water level definitely decreased by the time we all got out!

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The evening rolled into the morning and I ended up falling asleep listening to Dan tell a very ‘red flag’ story!

The next day we went to a huge shopping mall and I treated myself to a new bikini from Victoria Secret. I was very pleased with my purchase!

I slept in the car in our way back to camp and also ended up going to bed at 8pm. I don’t think any amount of sleep will help prepare me for a day at camp!

On Sunday I took lots of pictures of the campers doing different activities related to birds. Then at 12.30 we all watched a bird show which was very interesting.

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In the afternoon I ended up half taking pictures and half filming a video for Steve’s birthday. Making the video was pretty funny especially as John didn’t initially want to be filmed but ended up being in it the most.

At 9pm everyone gathered in the Eddie Canter theatre to watch the end of session 1 slideshow that Steve and I had created. I was pretty nervous as Steve hit play, just hoping nothing went wrong and all the campers liked it. I think it was a success as many people applauded and left in tears. If no-one cried, Steve and I took it as a failed attempt!

The next day lots of campers packed there bags and left camp. The ones that stayed will be here for another session but before that begins they have trip break. During trip break all the specialists have to be counsellors whilst the normal counsellors have time off.

After lunch, all the remaining campers and specialist counsellors chilled out on the beach and in the lake. Later in the evening we all headed to the canteen and chilled out some more.

On Tuesday we woke up for breakfast, which was blueberry pancakes and then got onto a yellow school bus. The whole of camp headed for the movies and I got to fall asleep whilst all the kids watched The Croods.

Once we got back to camp we had lunch and then Mia (American friend) , Elisia (fellow English girl) and I all went to get out nails done as we all felt we deserved a treat.

That evening I had to sit OD which turned out to be the worst OD so far. The majority of my unit did not go to sleep and refused to turn their lights out. All I wanted to do was go to sleep but the rude campers prevented me from doing so. An apology from the campers the following morning was appreciated.

The next day, lots of other children arrived for the beginning of session two. I took photographs all day and was happy to finally be in bed come the evening.