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!

Afternoon tea in Hong Kong

nfd

The setting for Christmas holidays this year was Macao and Hong Kong. It was exciting, beautiful in many places, both hectic and tranquil, new and familiar, strongly Portugal influenced in Macao and tasty, of course. I’ll post my tips and best do’s soon. Now it’s time for a tea tip.

An English style afternoon tea was something I wanted to include in our travel program. Many hotels offer an afternoon tea in Hong Kong. We desired a savory experience in a beautiful setting, for a sensible price. We went for the Hullet House and its restaurant The Parlour (1881 Heritage, 2A Canton Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, HK).

The milieu of this boutique hotel is pleasant and tranquil. The building with its white arcs and pillars is colonial in its style and the space exudes historical vibes. We sat on the terrace overlooking the hotel garden. We got to see  glimpses of a wedding photo shoot of a newlywed couple and the garden view in the soft afternoon light.

The tea menu included a selection of sweet and salty delicacies: finger sandwiches, scones served with whipped cream and jam, small cakes and biscuits. And a pot of tea: the jasmin was rather good. The cost of the set for two was 418 HKD (excluding the two glasses of prosecco).  Note that a service charge of ten percent will be added to the price, like in many places in HK. You can find more expensive tea’s as well, but that shouldn’t come as a surpise when in Hong Kong. The  hotel advices to make a reservation beforehand.

The old Hong Kong Afternoon tea (found on the hotel’s website), including local delicacies, sticky rice dumplings, wife cakes (?) and egg tarts, sounded interesting but was not available during our visit. The tea and the treats were tasty and it was a delicious experience.  The scones could have been a bit fluffier and maybe there could have been something sour in the selection as well to give it a little edge but all in all the combo worked.

What else? The terrace is wide enough if you come with a stroller. Next to where we sat there was a wedding planning  office: all in all the amount of wedding stores and wedding related services was very high both in HK and Macao.

I can recommend the tea experience for one afternoon’s program of the trip, for example between the days of hiking to the peak (the best climb ever) and to the mountain with the Tian Tan Buddha on the Lantau Island.

nfd

nfd

The taste of Italy – three restaurant suggestions

20150803_154619The food, yes. And the wine.

20150803_191500And coffee, of course.  

20150802_151841
Italian food. When I read travel guides before our trip to Italy Eataly occurred frequently. We tasted many rich and delicious local products and dishes, from the  savory pizza in Verona to a tasty Insalata Caprese enjoyed in Riva del Garda for lunch and made of quality ingredients.

I’ll share now three restaurant/bar suggestions from our trip. The first is the Casa degli Spiriti (Via Monte Baldo, 28 , Costermano, Verona). It is a charming and beautiful house with a gorgeous view on the Lake Garda and it is situated in one of those tight tornante turns. We passed it by car many times as it was close to our hotel and mentioned that it would be nice to maybe have a cocktail or a coffee there. We saw the butler at the door but what we didn’t know beforehand was that we would  step into a place housing a Michelin star restaurant, such a beautiful decor and an extensive wine collection. Well, ok, the Ferrari and the design fountain at the parking lot maybe gave a hint.

20150804_153111

IMG_6626

20150804_151835
We enjoyed a late lunch/afternoon tea from the day-time menu on the terrace.  The cappucino was served with home-made biscotti. The service was very good and the atmosphere warm. The other half of the owner couple told us that the casa is a popular place  for weddings. I can believe, though, a wedding budget of some size is required. Warm recommendations for the place: a trifle of tasty elegance to the day.

IMG_6621

20150804_152930
20150804_150247

IMG_6730
The second suggestion, a very strong and memorable one, is Taverna Kus (Contrada Castello 14, San Zeno di Montagna, Verona). We went there twice and on both times after 10:30 pm. I guess we are really Mediterranean diners. Our daily trips and adventures took a bit more time than expected. On both times the restaurant was still open but the second time when we arrived after eleven the kitchen had closed, which is more than understandable. And this is where all points go to this place. Despite that we arrived rather late, the attitude of our friendly and professional waiter was super. He welcomed us, asked us to have a seat and said that he would see what he could do for us. And what happened was we got a delicious meal with warm bread, local quality salami, a selection of cheeses and well chosen wines.

The lets make this happen attitude  is something I really value, in life in general and also in customer service. And at the time of our visit this was really mastered in Taverna Kus.

20150801_221521

20150801_211803
20150801_211734

20150801_223856
We sat in the atmospheric garden. The top flavours from the a la carte menu were fish from the Lake Garda prepared in three different inventive ways and a combination of veal and chantarelles. The wine recommendations were apt.

20150801_223538
20150801_223457

The third place to tip is actually at the Milan Malpensa Airport. It’s the Ferrari Spazio Bollicine bar (in the main building on the first floor).  I’m tipping it because it really hit the spot. You know that feeling when you’ve got some time before your plane takes off and it would be nice to eat something, not heavily but something tasty and salty. And maybe toast to the successful holiday. This was the setting and after a bit of window shopping we saw the tempting aperitivo sign.

The food was colourful and fresh, the wine sparkly and good and the price very fair. It hit the spot, as a tall young man from Texas said when having a hotdog after we had finished the day working outside in the slightly chilly summer air in Iceland.

20150807_180110

20150807_174150
Well fed in Italy, yes we were. The last picture is from the beach boulevard in Garda: a nice place for a stroll before dinner or for a post-dinner gelato.

20150801_205633