New York State of Mind: My 5 NYC Tips

New York, New York: you are epic, thrilling, bustling, inspiring and exhausting. NY definitely is an iconic city and when you’re there it feels like you’re part of a bigger scene so very familiar from countless movies, series, novels and songs. In SATC NYC was  like the fifth major character in the series.

I want to share my best NY tips with you. Obviously, the list is not all-encompassing, but I hope that it can help you spice & shape your NYC experience with a few selected and tested gems.


Stay overnight in Jersey City


Definitely. Jersey City feels like an up and coming area with good vibes. With the price that we got a tiny (yet stylish) room in Midtown Manhattan, we got a beautiful spacious loft apartment in Jersey City. Jersey pampered us for example with a wide wooden pier which was perfect for sunny morning runs, a cute little coffee wagon where we got our post-run cappuccinos and almond croissants, a top-notch view to Southern Manhattan, a fast and affordable path train connection to Manhattan (20 minutes and $ 2,70), a farmers market and chilled vibes. When there, try also the Hudson Hall Smokehouse and beerhall (on 364 Marin Blvd): a tasty experience wrapped in yummy barbeque sauce and friendly and easy-going service.

Midtown Manhattan is busy and hectic and a good place to stay if you’ll for example take the train from the Penn Station the next morning (we went to Boston), but I really preferred to stay the other nights on the side of Jersey.


Feast in the Katz Delicatessen


Want to have the best pastrami sandwich of your life? The Katz Deli enjoys a legendary reputation and it was here where the famous scene in When Harry met Sally rom com was filmed. I’ll have what she’s having, indeed and yes please. There’s a sign hanging from the ceiling indicating where Meg Ryan’s character sat, pinpointing the exact seat for movie fans and tourists.

We shared the juicy Katz’s Pastrami Hot Sandwich and Katz’s Cheesesteak (the menu promised that this plentiful treat would make Rocky leave Philadelphia): both were purely delicious, tender and filling. The atmosphere in this Jewish-style deli is fast-paced, characteristic and interesting. You can opt for either the self-service way or the full-service seating: we did the latter and it worked well. The price was reasonable ($ 80 for two) considering it is New York and the sandwiches are shockingly yummy.

Address: 205 East Houston Street, corner of Ludlow St


Walk the High Line


High Line: calling it a green oasis might be a bit too much but it’s a verdant park-like public space built on an elevated freight rail line, located at the Meatpacking District in West Chelsea. On sunny days it is really popular. High Line is a nice green walk amid the bustling city. Before or after the day stroll you can visit the Chelsea Market (75 9th Ave) and for example enjoy Japanese inspired tacos for lunch.

See a Broadway show. See Chicago.

If you only have the chance, do this. A great place to get tickets up to 50 % off (to same-day performances) are the TKTS discount booths. We prefer the one on South Sea Seaport (located in the corner of Front and John Streets): there were no queues and we got tickets half price to Chicago of that same evening. There are two other booths as well, one on Times Square and the third at Lincoln Center.

And Chicago at the Ambassador Theatre (291 West 49th Street): it was mesmerizing, radiant and super skilled. The intermission drink from the theatre bar was way overpriced as you can expect but they served the sparkling wine in a big plastic mug with a straw so that you could keep sipping it during the second act. As a side note on how people in the audience is dressed: five years ago, in our first Broadway show I was slightly surprised how casually some people were dressed to the occasion. I remember seeing a bunch of shorts and t-shirts. But hey, then again, the main thing is the spectacular show.

Cross the Brooklyn Bridge at sunset


Cross the bridge to the side of Brooklyn, where you can admire the gleaming Manhattan skyline. Epic views are guaranteed. If you’re an early bird, go for the sunrise experience. We couldn’t help but wonder what it is like to live right next to the bridge where millions of people have a direct view to your living room, bedroom and life. Megacity life indeed.


What else, what else? Here are a few quick notes:

Visit the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (1071 5th Ave). Afterwards you can enjoy a nice late lunch or light dinner at the atmospheric French bistro Demarchelier (50 East 86th Street).

Remember to apply for your ESTA before travelling to the States.

New York was way more expensive than five years ago. Back then we actually managed go under our NY travel budget (!) Many things can of course be affordable or free, but be prepared for high prices in food, accommodation, experiences and shopping of course.

And last, enjoy and take in the NYC magic with all your senses!

Isola Bella and its peacocks and unicorns


You know the feeling when you’ve had a small and futile argument with your special loved one about something utterly unnecessary and then you come to a place that is breathtakingly mesmerizing or beautiful and so skillful. The sun is shining, the warmth of the sweet summer day caresses your cheeks and the lake water sparkles as the sunrays dance on its surface. Very soon you come to realize that you really don’t want to lose any time from experiencing the beauty, the gorgeous day, the efforts of the gardener and moments of this life that we have. Perhaps a bit sappy but actually very true once you start thinking about it.

One place that has this effect is Isola Bella on Lake Maggiore in North of Italy. And in there particularly the blooming baroque garden of the Palazzo Borromeo.




The island got its name from Isabella D’Adda, the wife of Carlo Borromeo III, when the spectacular palace was built for the aristocratic family in the 1600s. The high rooms of the palazzo include for example the decorative Ballroom, the ornamental throne and the Sala di Napoleone where the French emperor stayed with his wife. Not to forget the numerous artworks from old masters, the ornate grand piano decorated with a painting even from the inside, the magnificent halls, the detailed ceilings and in the bottom floor the impressive grottoes, with walls made of pebbles and lava stone. The palace is still the summer home of the Borromeo family.


When we step outside to the palace gardens we see first the gallant white peacocks strutting on the green and well-attended lawn. They don’t care about the visitors but are wise enough to escape the sticky hands of an energetic toddler who sweeps past us reaching towards the fascinating white birds.


The gardens include well-kept verdant boulevards, tall obelisks, a unicorn statue, geometrically trimmed trees, many terraces, ponds with water lilies, a parrot house and the imposing Teatro Massimo. And a myriad of flowers.


Isola Bella can be reached easily with ferries from the cities of Stresa, Laveno, Pallanza and Intra. The last ferry back to Pallanza goes quarter past seven. After the palace has closed the island quiets down quickly. The entrance fee to the palace is 15 euros.


Isola Bella is definitely worth visiting but I wouldn’t opt to have the accommodation there. It is beautiful, crowded on the small streets during the day and a fine place to spot skilled Italian style gardening. And oh yes, a lunch spot tip is Il Fornello Bottega con Cucina: a beautiful terrace, friendly service, quality bubbles and a tasty antipasti plate.

Christmas Vibes under the Andalucían Sun



One of the best things on our Christmas holiday in the South of Spain? Light. Light. Light. Sunlight. Sunrays. After a long period of moist darkness in Finland, my every cell was yearning for solar energy. And that’s exactly what we got. Plus, a bunch of unforgettable experiences.

We spent the yuletide in Andalucía. We flew to Malaga and spent the first half of our vacation at Costa del Sol and did day trips to Marbella, Malaga and Ronda. The second half we spent in historic Córdoba, the city with the mesmerizing Mezquita mosque. It has become almost a tradition for us to spend Christmas abroad. Not to escape Xmas, but rather to make the most of the holiday season and to spice it with a bit of adventure. We’ve had Christmas treats made from various internal organs in Guangzhou, hiked to a mountain with the giant bronze Buddha statue in Hong Kong and bathed in sunlight in Lisbon while enjoying the rich pasteis de nata pastries. And now South of Spain.

Must admit, I was just a little bit doubtful whether the easy and comfortable Costa del Sol life was for me, with the all-day British breakfasts and generous cocktail offers. But what really made me fall for multi-layered Andalucía was the incredible versatility.

Here are some of the memories that are most vivid in my mind right now: Having delicious white fish for lunch in a chiringuito on the beach in December, wearing summery clothing (!). By the way, one popular local treat is a sardine espeto (skewer), warm and fresh straight from the grill.

Torremolinos

Patio de los Naranjos, the Mezquita, Córdoba

Taking countless pictures of tall palm trees (the new Christmas tree) and of orange trees which were ubiquitous. And listening to the mighty waves hit the shore on the beach promenade in Torremolinos when heading back from dinner.

Mercado Central Atarazanas, Malaga

Doing an evening stroll in Puerto Banus in Marbella, the Monaco of Southern Spain, admiring the big boats and yachts and marvelling at the imaginative and everything-but-affordable costumes the small dogs were dressed in.

Port in Benalmadena

The beautiful city of gorges, Ronda

Sipping delicious warm mint tea in an atmospheric tetería in Córdoba. And admiring the many atmospheric patios and inner courtyards of the city, with fountains, decorated balconies, the blooming poinsettia and cobblestoned floorings. For patio-afecionados like myself, in early May in Córdoba there is a festival Fiesta de los Patios de Córdoba: in this “best patio” competition many of the beautiful patios are opened for the public and flamenco is played on various plazas around the city. By the way, Córdoba is among those cities in Spain in which I could happily see myself living, in addition to Bilbao, Oviedo and Madrid, without forgetting the little cava village Sant Sadurní d’Anoia.

The exterior of the Mezquita, Córdoba


Back to Andalucía recollections. The food, the tapas, the wine and the dry sherry. The grilled chicken we got for lunch from the chicken kiosk Asador, El pollo dorado in Benalmadena Pueblo. The rich salmorejo (a puree made of tomatoes and bread), the oxtail, the morcilla black sausage and the various delicious treats of the sea, from navajas to different tasty types of white fish. Interestingly, we found many counterparts from the Spanish cuisine to traditional Finnish Christmas foods: Jamón ibérico for those who want to have their Christmas pork, arroz con leche – a sweet rice pudding (in Finland we have porridge), enjoyed cold. And Pedro Ximénez, a sweet and dark desert wine, a bit like the remote cousin of the Finnish rusinasoppa, raisin soup, which we enjoy with the rice porridge.


We got to see a lot, but so much remains to be explored: the Alhambra palace area in Granada with its vibes from the tales of One Thousand and One Nights, discovering Sevilla more thoroughly and perhaps a skiing holiday at the peaks of Sierra Nevada. Maybe next Xmas. Hasta la próxima.