Book Review: Botanicum

It’s been a while since I’ve done a colouring review, as I have been working in a couple of books for the last few months. The book I am reviewing today is one that I bought in Sweden last year on my Nordic Trip. At the time it was Maria Trolle’s most recent colouring book. Since purchasing it I had visited this book a couple of times, but I finally got to work on doing a series of completed pictures.

Botanicum is the fourth book by Swedish artist, Maria Trolle. I have the Swedish edition, but you can also find an English special edition (with 8 additional pictures) and a Dutch edition. She has recently also brought out a new colouring book Flora, which is on my Christmas list.

This book is the same format as Maria Trolle’s Twilight Garden/Blomster Mandala and Nightfall/Skymingstimman; and Hanna Karlzon’s colouring books. It has a hardcover, which has one of the designs that you will find in the book. Similarly to the line art, the background is also black, but objects have been filled in with colour. The English edition has a different cover image, which is also found inside the book. There are 96 pages inside, which are double-sided, on high0quality ivory paper.

Similarly to Maria Trolle’s other books, this book has a garden theme. However, this book takes us through a floral adventure through different seasons and includes some designs for Easter, Halloween and Christmas. There is also some new animal that we haven’t seen before, including seals, unicorn and dragons; and many more girls and fairies of various sizes. Another new feature in this book is that many of the pages have defined or lose borders. This book also includes several pages with black backgrounds and an index of both the flora and fauna you will find in the book. Since my book is in Swedish, I was able to find many of the Swedish/Latin names flowers and plant life quite easily, but I did have to use a translator for some of the animals.

This has to be my favourite of Maria’s Trolle books in my collection. I love the variety of intricate line art, new creatures, very pretty girls and seasonal themed designs. I love that the name of the flora and fauna is listed in the book, so I can make easy colour choices. Lastly, I love the bordered line art and some of the circular designs, which allows me to just colour within the boundaries of the artwork.

Below I have included a video flip through and photographs of all the pages that I have coloured, in order that you will find them in the book. These include 10 completed pictures, which I have coloured in a variety of medium, which I have detailed below. I have added all of these images to my Botanicum gallery, where I will continue to add newly coloured pictures from this book. If you interested to see my other reviews of Maria Trolle’s colouring books, see: Twilight Garden (Blomster Mandala), Vivi söker en vän and Skymningstimman (Nightfall).

The Name plate page in this book is quite a simple design. Since the line art was quite delicate I wanted to leave a clean crisp background behind the brightly coloured flora and detailed fauna. I spent my time trying to get the bird and the snail to look as life-like as possible. The flowers were a little easier since I was able to easily find examples of the colours of the flowers. I only used Prismacolour Premier pencils for this page, which works beautifully on this paper.

I coloured this Easter bunny for my Happy Easter Colouring for 2019. It was the second page I had coloured in this book. I really loved how it turned out, so I knew I really wanted to revisit this book. Since these flowers didn’t come in a variety of colours, I started with them. I was later able to use complementing colours for the rest of the picture. I always find this helpful when I have no idea where to start with colours. For this page, I used Primacolour Premier pencils and a white Uniball gel pen (for the blue flowers).

This Thumbelina in the garden scene is one of the pictures that have a defined border. It is straight, but my photo came out a bit warped. These Peony flowers come in quite a few varieties, but I choose yellow and orange to complement the small blue flowers. It took quite a while to colour this page with Faber-Castell Polychromos pencils. I tried to do many light layers to avoid hard lines coming through. I also used a white Prismacolor pencil to blend for highlights and a white Uniball gel pen for the blue flower and the bee wings. Polychromos pencils do work well on this paper as well and also have the added bonus of not leaving pencil dust on the page. This is probably my favourite of the bunch.

I coloured this Floral lady for my 6# Colouring Update, so it was the first page I coloured in this book. I tried a darker skin tone, which I did find a bit difficult. I think because of the numerous layers, I may have blended too soon. I used Prismacolour Premier pencils, which are my prefered pencils for this paper. However, you do have to be careful not to get pencil dust on the black background. Otherwise, if you try to rub it out you will remove the black a little. I don’t love this page because I found my pencils came out a bit waxy on the small flowers.

When I saw these Playful seals, I knew I had to do colour this page. I started with the background, trying to layer to make it appear to have a seafloor and expansive ocean. I’m not sure I pulled it off too well, but the rest came together well. I am happy with the seaweed and bright fish. I used Prismacolour pencils and a white Uniball gel pen.

This Resting Unicorn is a special page I coloured for my little girl, who is obsessed with unicorns. We had a few disagreements on the colour of the unicorn, so I left that until last. I spent time colouring each flower and its leaves exactly as it would appear in real life. They looked quite detailed before I added the rest of the elements and then they a bit flat. I decided on a white and electric blue unicorn to stand out amongst the sea of green, pinks and purples. It was entirely coloured with Prismacolour Premier pencils and a little bit of white Uniball gel pen for details.

This Little old town reminded me of the paintings of the old towns you for sale in Europe squares. I fell in love with the Elena Moskaleva version, so I tried to use a bit of watercolour as well. I used Derwent Inkense and Faber-Castell Albrecht Dürer Watercolor Pencils. My version didn’t come out very good. I think I didn’t add enough colour before I activated the pencils. I went the page with Prismacolor pencils, which always work nicely over watercolour pencils. The paper took the water quite well and I had no buckling or bleed through at all.

I coloured this Halloween scene for my post, Halloween Colouring 2019, where you can read more about it. Its was coloured with Prismacolor Premier pencils. I did use Mungyo watercolor crayons for the background. It did come out a bit streaky and I tried to blend it and deep the colour with pencil over the top. I also used a Unibal white gel pen to hide some lines and add stars. It’s not my best work, but I am happy that it came out a bit less conventional than other Halloween pictures.

I was going to come back to this book for Christmas, but I decided to make a start on my Christmas colouring before reviewing this book. This Round robin wreath took me a very long time to colour. So many little elements and confusion on colour selection. I used Faber-Castell Polychromos, so that I could get into the little nooks and keep the line art sharp. Once the main image was completed I decided to go with a simple caramel wood. I just realised I forgot to add the wood grain, oh well. I did use a Derwent blender pencil for the background because despite the number of layers it was still quite ashy. I’m happy with the overall effect of the picture.

The very last page in the book and that I coloured is this Kitty-cat Christmas. It’s not a page I would normally choose because of the huge empty background. I started with the main elements which I used Prismacolor Premier pencils. Afterwards, I was faced on what to do with that huge empty background. So I used a cream Faber-Castell Albrecht Dürer Watercolor Pencil and activated it with water. I then did some shading with Derwent Inkense pencils. Since it was hard to get into the little spaces around the leaves, I found myself brushing the water brush over the leaves. Luckily the Prismacolor pencil stayed intact. Lastly I used a lot of Uniball white gel pen to bring out some of the details on the Christmas ornaments and the cat’s fur.

Botanicum and Maria’s other books can be purchased from:

6# Throwback Travel- New York: Rockefeller, Top of the Rock and Little Italy (day 6)

Day 6 was our second last day in New York and another busy day. On this day we visited the Rockefeller Centre, saw the view from the Top of the Rock Observation Deck, visited the Natural History Museum and had dinner in Little Italy.

The Rockefeller Centre

Before visiting the Rockefeller Center, O and I had breakfast just around the corner from this attraction. The Bouchon Bakery Rockefeller location is one of a few Bouchon Bakery, opened by Chef Thomas Keller. The first was opened in the Napa Valley in 2003. You can also find other locations at the Columbus Circle in New York and Las Vegas. They offer fresh-baked pastries and viennoiserie, cookies, cakes, sandwiches, quiches, soups and salads. Since they are known to have some of the best pastries in New York, we just had to try it.

I ordered a few items to share, including a Wild salmon bagel, Plum and raspberry Croissant, soy cappuccino. The bagel was so fresh and delicious and the croissant was probably one of the best filled pastry I have ever had. Coffee was also pretty good.

To top it off, we met a nice elderly New Yorker, who serenaded us with a beautiful broadway song. It was just one of those spontaneous unexpected experiences. He didn’t ask us for anything, just sat down and had a chat, sang a song and left. He reminded me of the actor Wallace Shawn.

Unfortunately during our visit to New York all the late-night shows, the Radio City Rockettes show and NBC Today show were on holidays. I had planned to go really early by myself to be one of those tourist standing outside the Today show. However, while I was in New York they were airing in a different location. I guess for that reason, and also because we were there so damn early it was pretty quiet.

Before going up to the Observation deck on the top of the Rockefeller Centre, we began on the lower level of the and read about the history of the Rockefeller family and this building. You can read more about it here.

Top of the Rock

I know most people go to the Empire State building to see the elevated view of New York, but we did the Top of the Rock instead. I can’t remember exactly why, but it may have been because we wanted to also see the Rockefeller Centre. If your not sure what to do, see this article by Our Escape Clause, Empire State Building or Top of the Rock: 9 Crucial things to know.

The Top of the Rock observation deck offers a 360 degrees view at 70 floors. The view is just spectacular and if you go early enough you won’t find many other tourists to obstruct your viewing pleasure. It was so windy up there though.

Natural History Museum

Our next stop was the American Natural History Museum, on the Upper Westside. I took so many photos, so I will do a separate post for this. It was definitely one of the highlights of my trip for the nostalgia and the amazing Human Origins hall.

After visiting the museum, O and I relaxed back at the apartment, while Marco and Sally went to see another Broadway show. They won the tickets in the Broadway Lottery. They saw On Your Feet!, which is the story of Emilio and Gloria Estefan. They really enjoyed it and I was a little jealous. I had already seen two shows, so I had to be happy with that.

Little Italy

In the evening we visited the famous neighbourhood of Little Italy in Lower Manhattan. It was nothing like I imagined, but then we did go on a quiet night. I just loved the hanging street lights and wide streets lined with Italian restaurants. Its definitely somewhere I would have to revisit.

For dinner, we went to Rubirosa Pizza, since I heard it had some of the best pizza in the city. They are an Italian-American family-run restaurant and pizzeria. The owner was the son of the well known original Joe & Pat’s in Staten Island. He has continued using old family recipes and added some of his own creations. For dinner, they offer Pizza, handmade pasta, soups, traditional appetisers and sides, as well as hearty main meals. You can also do lunch and brunch here.

We ordered Lasagna (mozzarella, tomato, sausage and meatball filling), Tuscan kale with fried onions and the Fresca pizza (mozzarella, tomato and basil). The pizza was enormous, but tasted just as good as it looked. The lasagna was the ultimate comfort food and the kale was a taste and healthy bit of vege, we really needed. The restaurant itself was a little pokey, which made us feel like we were having a delicious meal in someones dining room.

Tomorrow is our last day in New York. We will be seeing Grand Central Station, Central Park, visit the MET, walk down 5th Avenue.

5# Throwback Travel- New York: Animal love in Central Park and Eataly (day 5)

Day 5 in New York was another full day in the heat of summer. We took a magical journey on horse and carriage through Central Park and visited the animals at Central Park Zoo. This was followed by a Broadway show, dinner at the amazing Eataly and visit to The LEGO Store.

But first, breakfast. As I mentioned previously I had been doing mamma-daughter breakfast dates out instead of eating the mass-produced food at the hotel. Today we visited Le Pain Quotidien again. O and I shared a big bowl of organic steel-cut oats and berries. It was really wholesome and satisfying.

Organic steelcut oats and berries, Le Pain Quotidien

Central Park

Our first activity of the day was a horse and carriage ride around central park. We found our coachman on 59th St, across from the Plaza. I can’t remember exactly how much it cost, but I’m sure it was around $60-80 for 30mins. I think if you book it is more expensive, but then I wasn’t visiting in high season. It included commentary by the coachman, of the history of the park and sites of interest. It was a lovely experience and a nice way to get an overview of the park in small time frame.

After that, I was a little hungry, so I stopped into The Plaza Food Hall. There are so many different delicious food options for a quick lunch. I’m not sure why I didn’t take any photos inside, but you can see a video of the food hall (see link). I had a prawn roll and seafood chowder from Lukes Lobster Red Hook, which hit the spot.

Central Park Zoo

Next, we visited the Central Park Zoo. I’ve always dreamed to visit this zoo since it’s so famous. It is probably the smallest zoo I’ve been to, but it had a nice variety of animals and is the perfect places to take little kids. Within the zoo, you can also find the Tisch Children’s Zoo, which offers children the opportunity to pet small farm animals.

Broadway

Afterwards, Marco and I went back to Broadway to see An American in Paris. We actually won the tickets in the Broadway Lottery. We entered the lottery every day and won twice, so Marco and Sally also saw another show. If your going to enter the lottery you do have to be flexible with your itinerary. This play was in the most beautiful and historic Palace Theatre. As for the play, I hadn’t heard of it or the original film. I really enjoyed the story and the performance. It would of well been worth paying full price.

Eataly

For dinner we visited the Italian market hall, Eataly. It is the brainchild of Oscar Farinetti, who opened his first location in Torino, Italy. He has since opened more across, Italy, the USA, and in various other countries. Eataly offers various coffee and dessert bars, deli, fresh food, pasta, seafood and meat markets; as well as speciality restaurants, retail, classes and events. This was the first Eataly that I have visited, but I have since come across another in Stockholm last year. I hope an Eataly will open in Australia in the near future. I also wish to visit the Eataly Bologna Ambasciatori, which is meant to be like a foodies theme park.

There are two Eataly’s in New York, in the Flat Iron and Downtown district. When we visited the Flat Iron location had just opened. I didn’t know what to expect, so I was blown away by the amazing food and wished I could try one of everything. Since I couldn’t cook in the apartment I just bought some beautiful exotic organic fruits, that I hadn’t tried before.

Since we were here for dinner we look for a restaurant that could accommodate us. There were four restaurants, including Le Verdure, Manzo, La Pizza & La Pasta, Il Pesce, La Piazza. Since my visit, it appears that Le Verdure was closed and replaced with Il Pastaio di Eataly and Serra D’autunno by Birreria was added. Anyway, on this particular evening, there was only room at Le Verdure, the vegetarian restaurant. I was pretty excited about this since I was looking forward to trying some traditional dishes inspired by vegetables.

We ordered a few things to share, including Pizza Fritta with Stracciatella, tomato & basil; Fritto Misto, Gnocchi alla Romana con Bolognese di Verdura and Cannelloni con spinaci e pomodori. This was one of the most amazing dinners we had in New York. The food was just so well made, crispy, crunchy and full of flavour. After dinner, I also tried a Pumpkin Tiramisu from the dessert counter and Marco had a Nutella crepe from Nutella counter.

The LEGO Store

On my walk back to the hotel, I came across The LEGO Store, in the Flat Iron district. This was the first one I had ever been to, so it was more exciting at the time. It was pretty packed considering it was nearly 8pm. Luckily my toddler was too tired to get out and want to play with everything she saw.

Tomorrow, we visit the Rockefeller Centre, see the view from the Top of the Rock Observation Deck, Natural History Museum and have dinner in Little Italy.

Halloween Colouring 2019

Happy Halloween friends! This year I did a small series from four colouring books, from the artists Hanna Karlzon, Maria Trolle and Nicholas F. Chandrawienata. This year I really wanted to use unconventional colors, that aren’t associated with this occasion.

I’m starting to run out of Halloween picture, so I may have to purchase Halloween themed book for next year. Any ideas for me? If you want to see my Halloween colouring from last two years, see Halloween 2017, Halloween 2018. For more completed pictures from these books see my Colouring Book Galleries.

Hanna Karlzon’s Seasons

This first page is from one of my more recent purchases, Seasons, which I will be bring out a review of in a few days. I have seen this picture done quite a few times and I wanted to do something a bit different. I still wanted to stay with autumn colours, since this picture is found in the autumn section of the book. I used Prismacolor pencils for the main image, as well as a white gel pen for details and a black Tombow brush pen for the background. It was a pretty quick and easy one and I am happy how it turned out.

Maria Trolle’s Botanicum

This next page is from another book that I am working in at the moment and will be bring out a review soon. I like this page because it more cute then scary, but I was pretty stumbled to what kind of background it needed. I began with white painted pumpkins and then coloured the flowers as realistic to the species (listed in index of book). Then I decided to use watercolor crayons for the starry night background and black for the ground. It did come up a bit scratchy, so I had to go over it all with pencil. It didn’t come out perfect, but I am happy with the overall effect. The medium I used include Prismacolour pencils, Mungyo watercolor crayons and white gel pen.

Nicholas F. Chandrawienata’s Fantasia

The follow two pages are from Fantasia colouring book. For the first, I was a little unsure how to tackle it. It has so many decorative elements, which didn’t seem to relate to the main subject. I decided to add a large moon to the background, which I traced with one of my daughters round toys, with a white gel pen. I then came up with a basic colour palette of black, lilac, yellow orange and blue. This paper is quite textured, so it took quite a bit of shading to cover the white specking. It also doesn’t allow you to scratch off or colour over white gel pen. However, once completed Prismacolor pencils work lovely on this paper. I am very happy how my page turned out and the colour combination.

This werewolf picture is one that I have been looking forward to colour for a while. I decided to use Polychromos pencils for this page, since there was so many fine details. This pencils require ever more layers on this paper and I still struggled to cover some of the white speckles. I had no idea what colour combo I wanted to use, I just knew that that I wanted a dark brown fur with electric blue. I found it difficult to figure out what to colour the other elements, so I tried not to introduce to many new colours. For the background I used a black Tombow brush pen. This is probably my least favourite of the bunch, but it still looks pretty wicked.

4# Throwback Travel- New York: Lower East Side, West Village and High Line (day 4)

I’ve been a little unwell the past month but feeling better today. So I can continue with Day 4 in New York City. We were finally done with our tours, so now it was time to check out some of the hipster neighbourhood in Lower Manhattan. We did breakfast on the Lower East Side, lunch in the West Village, walked the High Line and did a low key dinner with a friend. It was a pretty low key day, but boy did we do a lot of walking.

Lower East Side

One of the places you have to visit when in New York is the famous Katz’s Delicatessen. If not for the movie nostalgia and its history, definitely for their pastrami sandwich. This historical kosher-style delicatessen was founded back in 1888 and has been featured by numerous food shows. I have never been to a kosher eatery, so I was pretty excited to see what they would have on offer.

We arrived pretty early in the morning and there really wasn’t a lot open on the Lower East Side. Katz’s Delicatessen was open, so we took our time reading about their history and getting accustomed with the menu. Its a pretty lay back place, so we didn’t feel rushed to figure out what we were going to have. The menu is massive, consisting of hot and cold sandwiches, traditional Jewish dishes, breakfast omelettes, soups, salad platters and cakes.

We ended up going with the classic Pastrami Sandwich, which was chock full of freshly cooked pastrami, with mustard on fresh bread. We also had a side of half-sour and full-sour pickles and plate of Potato Latkes with apple sauce and sour cream. I’m don’t usually like cold cut meat sandwiches, but this hot pastrami sandwich exceeded my expectations. The meat was so juicy and satisfying. The sour pickles really complemented the sandwiches and the potato latkes were nice and crispy.

After breakfast, we took to the streets to see what the Lower East Side was all about. The buildings on this side of town aren’t highrise, so it has much more of a neighbourhood feel. The area has quite a few contemporary art galleries and home to many artists and creatives. It is also known as a place for night life and live music, so we probably should have visited later in the day. At this time of the morning, it was pretty quiet. None of the shops were open and it seemed most people were still in bed. We did find a few coffee shops open. In Australia, coffee is a pretty big thing and our coffee is a lot different from American coffee. So we were hoping to find something more similar to what we were used to.

We visited Ludlow Coffee Supply and their coffee was pretty good. Their barista/server was pretty rude though and I am not quite sure why. I don’t quite understand why anyone would be rude when they relying on tips. In my country, we don’t get tips, but its still unacceptable to have a bad attitude. Anyway hopefully they have nicer staff now. Other then that, it has a pretty trendy interior and was a pretty popular place for locals.

West Village

Afterwards, we walked over to the West Village, which took about 20 mins on foot. For us quite a bit longer with a toddler and a grandmother. We stopped at a local park and let O have a bit of a play. It was so unbelievably hot, so we hung out here for a while. The West Village has so many amazing cafes and restaurants in this area, as well as vintage stores and galleries. Its was probably my favourite neighbourhood in New York.

Pretty soon it was time for lunch and we visited another one of my must-visit eateries in New York. I have been a huge fan of Chloe Coscarelli for years, so I couldn’t wait to visit her first cafe. I have already reviewed this By Chloe on Bleeker Street, which you can see here. The food was amazing. It looked and tasted just as delicious as the food in Chloe’s cookbooks. Unfortunately, since our visit, Chloe was ousted from By Chloe. You can read about it here. To be honest I am not sure I would want to return to By Chloe given the chance. It just feels wrong after the way they treated her, and continuing to profit off her name and food genius.

The High Line

After lunch, we walked up to High Line, which begins on the north-eastern tip of Greenwich Village and continues through Chelsea. The High Line is an elevated public park, that runs along a historic freight rail line. It offers great views of Manhattans West Side and Hudson River, and features art installations and 120 different flora species. It runs about 1.45 miles (2.33 km) and a great place to take a relaxing stroll.

Friendly Catchup

After all that walking on the hot sun, we took some time to rest in the hotel. For dinner we met up with a friend of mine, who was air hostess and stopping overnight in New York. I really wanted to go do Momofuku Noodle Bar or John’s of Bleeker Street. However, it was so hot and nobody wanted to go so far away. Instead, my friend suggested the Olive Garden near Time Square. Marco was much more keen then me to try this Americanized-Italian food and I was a little curious.

Olive Garden at Time Square is a huge restaurant and is extremely popular for tourists. We had to take a buzzer, but it didn’t take too long to get a table. The menu is also massive, consisting of pastas, meat dishes, soups, salads, desserts, etc. It was quite overwhelming, we kept it simple with the Bread sticks, Famous House Salad, Angel Hair with Shrimp (no cream) for me and Meat cannelloni with meat sauce for Marco. The meals came out and were just massive in size. Mine looked a bit better than Marco’s dish, which looked a mess. My pasta wasn’t too bad, bit also wasn’t really flavoursome. Marco wasn’t such a fan of the taste of his. On the bright side the salad was fresh and the bread sticks weren’t bad. This would have been the perfect place to take your family if they love lots of options, big serves and have no dietary restrictions.

That brings me to the end of day 4. Tomorrow we do a horse and carriage ride through Central Park, visit the Central Park Zoo, see a Broadway show and dine at the amazing New York Eataly.

3# Throwback Travel- New York: Lady Liberty to Uptown (day 3)

On day three in New York, we continued our Big Bus tours, cruising to the Statue of Liberty and exploring the fancy side of town. We lunched on the Upper East Side, at one of the most amazing and elegant vegan restaurants, saw a Broadways show and had a cheeky late-night premium burger in Hell’s Kitchen. All in all, a pretty great day.

River Cruise to Lady Liberty

We had to get up pretty early this morning for the NYC Sightseeing River Cruise, which was part of our 2 day Big Bus pass. For breakfast, I went to a little hole in the wall bagel store near our apartment, which I can’t remember well and didn’t photograph. From memory, it was a pretty average. After, that we took a car down to the South Street Seaport in the Two Bridge area, where we took the Hornblower Cruise. It appears that this has been changed to a port off Hell’s Kitchen now.

The cruise went for about an hour and took us along the East River, passed the end of the Hudson River and into the Upper New York Bay. We got amazing views of the Financial District, Brooklyn, Governors Island, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. During the cruise, there was a recorded commentary and we could explore the top deck and the inside cabin. There wasn’t anything very exciting to eat or drink, just snacks. So I happy we had breakfast first.

This cruise didn’t get too close to the Statue of Liberty, but it did provide a great opportunity to take photographs of the entire island. It was pretty surreal seeing the lady of liberty in person. I did see many people exploring the island and I don’t regret not visiting it. I think we got a better view of the statue from the cruise than we would have below the statue.

Uptown and Harlem loop tour

Next, we took the Big Bus Uptown loop, which we got on from Bryant Park (20). It took us up through Time Square and the Broadway district, where we could see the outskirts of the Rockefeller centre. Then up to the Columbus Circle (southern left point of Central Park). From here we got off and onto the Harlem loop, which took us through the Upper West Side and up to Harlem. Harlem is a pretty hip area, with an amazing history, particularly for African Americans. As we passed through the Upper West Side, our guide pointed out the celebrities residents of the massive apartment building and important churches. The bus then took us back down to Columbus Circle, where we took the Uptown loop again up as far as the MET Museum. Here we got off to explore and have lunch. We didn’t have time to see the MET today, but I did return a couple of days later on my own.

Upper East Side

The streets on the Upper East Side as exactly how I imagined this fancy New York neighborhood to be. The buildings were all perfectly maintained with trees lining the narrow streets. It was much less crowded and very private, so I can see why it would be an ideal place to live in this bustling city. There are plenty of places to eat at this end of town closer to Central Park and in between the quieter streets.

One of the highlights of my trip was visiting Candle 79, which is a seriously great vegan restaurant on the Upper East side. It was top of my must-eat list for New York and it was highly recommended by Alicia Silverstone. It is a high-end vegan restaurant, serving organic, local and seasonal food. The menu items are well thought out and there was a small army of chefs in the kitchen producing all the amazing food that was coming out. It doesn’t matter if your not vegan or vegetarian and I guarantee the food will still wow you.

We sampled a few different dishes and I can say it was all really great and everyone was very happy. I had the Wild Mushroom Crepe with summer vegetables, tempeh, spinach, garlic truffle aioli. Marco had the Burrito with chilli-herb grilled seitan, caramelized onions, sautéed greens, chipotle black beans, brown rice and ‘mozzarella’. And Sally had the Spaghetti & White balls with truffled tomato sauce, roasted garlic, spinach, cashew parmesan. O just sampled what she liked. We also ordered a couple of desserts, including the Chocolate-Peanut Butter Bliss (chocolate & peanut butter mousse, salted peanut-caramel crust, berry coulis) and the Cannoli (chocolate chip-vanilla cream filling, coconut ice cream, chocolate drizzle). If you didn’t know the deserts were vegan, you wouldn’t off been able to detect a different. They were just fantastic.

Broadway show

After such a big day we took a break in the hotel and prepared for our big Broadway show. I bought the tickets to Aladdin months before for Sally and I. They were pretty expensive, I think about $200 AUD. This is the only show we booked in advance. However, we did put our names down in the Broadway lottery every day, so we all got to see another show each, at a discounted rate. At the time, many of the shows prices were being driven up by bots buying tickets and then reselling them on other sites for four times the price. This was very unfair because many of the shows were quite empty.

So when I left the apartment, O was fast asleep on the bed with Marco. I prayed everything would be well because this would be the first time I ever left her. Sally and I walked up to the theatre. The show was held in the gorgeous New Amsterdam Theatre and we had pretty great seats. There was a bar with Aladdin inspired drinks and shop with merchandise, but it was all pretty pricey. When the show began I was blown away, it was spectacular. Remember this was back before the film came out. The show was very close to the original movie and was a true live-action rendition stage. Then, halfway through the show, I began getting messages from Marco. O had woken up and freaked out that Mama wasn’t there. He could not calm her down and was begging me to just come outside the theatre for a quick hug. There was no way I was going to leave this amazing show and jeopardise my first few hours of freedom. I said no way, deal with it. In the end, he gave her a shower and she fell back asleep from exhaustion. They managed, which was the most important thing.

Late night burger

After the show, Marco wanted to get some dinner, so we all took a walk to Hell’s Kitchen to try the famous Five Napkins Burger. I believe this is one of the only places Marco had on his must-eat list. Five Napkins is a high-end burger joint, with four locations across NYC, and are renown for their original 5 Napkins Burger. It contains 10oz Angus beef from Aspen Ridge, Gruyere cheese, caramelized onions and rosemary aioli on a soft white potato bun. We all got the original with fries, I just omitted the cheese. These burgers were pretty amazing and tasted exactly how you want a juicy beef burger to taste. All the ingredients were high quality, but I think it was the caramelized onions that won me over.

Now all of our tours were completed, we had the freedom to explore some of the places we saw on the bus and explore a few new things that weren’t covered. Tomorrow we head to Lower East Side, the West Village and catch up with a friend.

2# Throwback Travel- New York: Big Bus from Midtown to Brooklyn (day 2)

On day two in New York, we did the most touristy thing you can do, the Big Bus tours. I usually prefer walking tours, but when you have a baby and the weather is a bit drizzly this was easier. We got to see so much more than we would have on foot since the city is just so massive. The Big Bus tours are only offered for 1-3 days. Of course, we wanted to save money so we went tried to do four bus tours and a cruise two day. We still did shopping, dining and sightseeing on foot on the same days, so its definitely doable. Today we did the Downtown, Brooklyn and Night tour loops. We also visited the Financial District, Battery Park and 9/11 Memorial.

Since we had a big day ahead of us we need a big breakfast. My hotel did have complimentary breakfast, but I preferred not to dine there since the food was very processed. The healthiest option they had was Quaker Oats, but I was aware there was a class action against them. I preferred to explore some healthier breakfast options near my hotel. I found Le Pain Quotidien (Bryant Park location). They offer pastries, artisan breads, jams, eggs, steel-cut oats and more healthy breakfast options. Their bread is made traditionally with organic stone-ground flour and most of the other breakfast menu options are also organic. They have a large selection of organic jams and other condiments that are also free to use. Octavia and I had boiled eggs with a selection of breads and jams and soy cappuccino. The staff were so lovely and brought Octavia some extra bread to chew on.

Downtown Loop Bus tour

We began with the Downtown Loop, which we did in two parts that day. We took it from the 5th Avenue Midtown (3), all the way to City Hall Park (10), which covered Midtown to Lower Manhattan. The bus goes right through the middle of the island, so we saw districts of Nomad and Greenwich Village, Spring and Canal shopping strips and all the important law buildings in the Lower Manhattan. From the second level of the bus, I was able to get better views and photos of buildings. I listened to all the commentary from the guide with the earphones. The guy on this part of our tour was pretty entertaining and one of my favourite guides.