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New York State of Mind

September 29, 2017

It took me 32 years to visit but alas, here we are! This trip was a special one, we were celebrating our 5th wedding anniversary and it would be the last big trip without children for awhile. Because we were travelling without children, we took the opportunity to go somewhere that wasn’t very child friendly. A big city, with restaurants that didn’t just serve chicken nuggets, a place where we could be adults again. New York seem to fit the bill.

Despite its rats, piles of garbage, and the occasional wafts of urine, there was something so special about New York. Its tall skyscrapers, yellow cabs, cobblestone streets, and bricked town homes are what my dreams are made of. The constant energy, hustle and bustle, its cool vibes are intoxicating and infectious. I cannot wait to be back! Until then, here are some highlights of our trip and our New York City travel guide!

If you’re looking for our New York Eats, click here. We ate so much, it warrants its own post.

– Tips on visiting Attractions –

Purchasing an attractions pass can save you some money if you plan on seeing a lot. There are several official options such as the New York CityPass, New York Pass and many others. Do your research and find which option suits your travel needs. We bought the New York CityPass; a booklet which included 6 attractions and expires within 9 days. This was perfect for our weeklong trip. We didn’t feel rushed and could take our time spanning the sites over the course of the week.

A note on the CityPass Booklet
When these Discount Pass companies say you can bypass all the lines and skip the wait, it’s not necessarily true.
– The lines that we were able to “bypass” or were “fast tracked” were: Empire state building, we bypassed the long ticket line, they scanned our booklet directly right before entry. Bypass lines are also available for 9/11 Museum as they also scan the book directly.
– For Top of the Rock and Statue of Liberty, we had to wait in the regular ticket line to transfer our booklet coupons into official tickets before entering the attraction.
– At The Met, we skipped the line and went to the round info desk. They changed my ticket quickly and got me into the museum without the wait.

Our Favourites
We loved the Top of the Rock and preferred it over the Empire State. Top of the Rock had better views that weren’t obstructed with a concrete wall (I’m short). Also, from the Top of The Rock, you can see the Empire State building which made for a better skyline.

I also really enjoyed the Statue of Liberty. Its as touristy as it gets but really worth the trip for first timers. If you want to save money, you can take the Staten Island Ferry and go around the Statue.

I also enjoyed The Met. If you are really into museums, this one is amazing and HUGE. Plan your day around your visit and even then, you won’t see everything.

I could’ve skipped the Empire State Building, it was older, busier, and as I mentioned above, the views at Top of the Rock were better. There were long lines and wait times for the elevator. However, we did go around sunset peak time. We went to this attraction to use up our CityPass booklet.

Out of all the attractions we visited, the 9/11 Memorial and Museum was my favourite. It was an eye opening journey. Not being American and a bit weary of the whole ”MERICA IS THE BEST!” subculture; I had a preconceived notion that this place would of been very biased and very Pro-America. And to my surprise, it wasn’t the case. The museum had a wonderful flow, carefully curated and you can feel the thoughtfulness that went into preserving and memorializing such a horrible time in history. It was subjective, insightful, instructive, and incredibly sad. It is a solemn place, filled with so much memory and loss. It made me respect New York so much more. I can’t say enough about this memorial, the stories I read, the videos I watched, it was so well done and well worth the visit. And revisit.

– A Note on Transportation –

Subway
The most cost effective way to get around NYC is their Subway system. It is super intimidating to look at on a map but once you get the hang of it, it’s generally easy to use. Note to travellers: the train you’re taking will designate uptown or downtown, this is not reference to a geographical location like “downtown” or “chinatown”, it means you are going North (uptown) or South (downtown) from PRECISELY the location you are. Never go by the color of the train on a map, go by the letter and number of the train. Another good thing to remember: there can be separate entrances to the subway designating uptown or downtown, if you go down the wrong entrance, you’ll be on the wrong train.

Here are some useful Subway Guides here and here. And many subway apps to that have offline maps which are useful underground.

Downside to the subway? You see many uh…interesting…people. And by interesting, I mean crazy. So crazy.

There was a dude, emptying his suitcase frantically to the left of us. He was screaming over and over that he didn’t want to go to jail again…

Uber or Car Hailing Companies
Initially, we were intimidated by the subway system so our main mode of transportation was Uber. The app is very convenient. I liked how it showed our route and had the full fare posted. It was convenient to pay and tip with the app. It was also nice that we weren’t running on a meter which made New York traffic more bearable. TIP: There are many of these hailing companies available in NYC and for some of them, first rides are free. It’s also cheaper to “share” rides, so your driver will do pick ups and drop offs along your route. This is a good option for longer, more expensive rides.

We personally used Uber and not once got in a iconic yellow taxi, but hailing a cab from the street is incredibly easy.

Walking
Arguably, the best way to see New York is to walk it. We planned our trip to certain sections of the city per day. Once we got to our general area we just walked everywhere. Bring comfortable shoes and turn that FitBit on! You’re gonna get some city miles on ya!

    

Trip “Itinerary”
I find it very useful to see other travellers itinerary. It helps me get a feel of how long things will take, how people separate their week to make the most of their time in certain places. It also gives me an idea of what to see and what to do. I’m including our very loose guide. We split Manhattan up into sections and our time revolved around what we planned on eating (true story, we love to eat). We also diverged from our schedule to see other things along the way. But I hope this helps those planning a trip to The Big Apple!

Note: Steve had food poisoning for the first two days and kind of slowed our plans down slightly. We crammed a lot into our last day. I wouldn’t suggest doing all of that on one day but we did manage it!


– 6 Nights in NYC – 


Wednesday/Day 1:
Land, Uber to hotel. Dinner at at Totto Ramen, walk Time’s Sqaure at night.
Thursday/Day 2: Top of the Rock, Rockafeller centre, Byrant Park, New York Public Library, Grand Central Station, Shake Shack
Friday/Day 3: Anniversary Date, Walk Central Park, Loeb Boathouse Lunch (Resos needed), The Met Museum, back to Hotel, change and get ready for early dinner at Daniel.
Saturaday/Day4: Explore Lower Manhattan, Dominique Ansel Bakery (cronuts!), Little Italy, Chinatown. Soho shopping, Greenwhich. Grab subway uptown to Yankee Stadium, ball game. Back to Midtown, dinner in Koreatown.
Sunday/Day 5: Flatiron, Eataly, Chelsea Market, Meatpacking District, Highline. Back to Midtown. Go to Empire State Building. Hotel, change and get ready for Broadway show. Book of Mormon at Eugene O’Neil Theatre. Walk around broadway and theatre district.
Monday/Day 6: Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, 9/11 memorial and museum, Brooklyn bridge and explore Dumbo, Brooklyn. I wouldn’t do all three of these things in one day, you’ll feel a little rushed, I would allot around 3 hours for the 9/11 museum and a whole morning for Statue of Liberty.

That concludes our trip! What a wonderful way to celebrate our 5 years of marriage, happy anniversary Steve, how lucky and I to be doing life with you! xx

Click here to see what we ate in NYC!

 

 

 

 

 

Food Travel

New York Eats

September 29, 2017

How Steve and I travel is we eat our way through places we visit. And we eat a lot. As you can see, our eating adventures warrants a whole blog post. Here are some of our food discoveries, some well known favourites, some local favourites (One of Steve’s best friend lives in Manhattan), from Michelin starred restaurants to street food carts.

– Fast Food/Street Carts –

Shake Shack, Grand Central Station, Broadway locations  – Steve loves Shake Shack, anytime he’s home from New York he craves it. This time around, he took me to pop my Shack cherry; it most definitely lived up to the hype. We returned several times to satisfy our late night burger cravings. The Shack Stack Burger was my favorite: it’s essentially a cheeseburger topped with a deep fried portabello mushroom stuffed with cheese. Like what?? So good.

Halal Guys – These famous orange and yellow street carts serve up aluminium platters stuffed with rice, chicken and gyro meat (we endearingly call it “mystery meat” haha). Top yours with lots of white and hot sauce, find a curb somewhere to sit and stuff yo face.

Joe’s Pizza, Carmine St. – The quintessential New York slice. Super thin crust, minimal toppings. I’m still thinking of that crispy crunch.

Prince St. Pizza – Completely different from the traditional thin crust NY slice at Joe’s. This popular joint serves up thick square slices of pizza. Lots of cheese, thick pepperoni cups that curl up and hold a good amount of pizza grease. It’s heart stopping but oh, so worth it. However, we did prefer the thinner crust pizzas because back where we live, our pizzas are made with thicker crust and its something we could easily get back home.

Grimaldi’s Pizza, Brooklyn – Clearly, we ate a lot of pizza on this trip! This is a well known Pizzeria in Brooklyn. Underneath the overpass, it was dark and a bit sketchy but we were determined to get a slice. But we learnt you can’t get just one slice here, it has to be the whole pie. Challenge accepted. We bought it, caught the subway back to Manhattan and ate it all! Well, Steve ate it all and I just stared in disbelief. My husband is a bottomless pit.

The Lobster Place, Chelsea Market – I had the lobster roll. A soft white roll piled high with the freshest lobster meat. Good genuine flavour. Although, I would’ve wanted a little salt…I know, I know, salt on fresh lobster–blasphemy.

Los Tacos No.1, Chelsea Market – You’ll cram into a long time and will have no where to sit but the tacos are worth it!

– Bakeries/Pastries/Sweets –

Dominique Ansel Bakery, Soho – The home of the famous Cronut. We went early and the line was short. Got three PB&J cornuts and several other pasties. The cronut itself was too rich for me but Steve has a big sweet tooth and loved them. I preferred their popular DKA, a flaky pastry with a crunchy caramel crust.

Taiyaki – Specialty soft serve ice cream served in a warm fish shaped cone stuffed with red bean or custard. This little ice cream shop was included on Buzzfeed’s list of most Instagrammable eateries in NYC. And I gotta say, it lived up to the hype. The ice cream had good texture, flavour was mild but good. And the soft Taiyaki pastry and red bean wasn’t too sweet–I really enjoyed it! Be prepared to wait though!

Mille-Feuille Bakery Cafe, Greenwich Village – Walking around the area, we stopped in to get a croissant, they were sold out. I got an almond one instead and satisfied my craving.

Tous Le Jours, Koreatown – This South Korean bakery chain serves amazing Shaved Snowy Ice. The ice is flavoured, comes with fresh fruit and a big scoop of ice cream. A great and cheap dessert option!

Magnolia Bakery, Rockefeller Center – Had my Sex and the City moment and got some cupcakes from this famous bakery. Gotta say, the cupcakes were just so so, I’ve had better. The husband really liked their Banana Pudding though!

Lady M Cakes, Rockefeller Center – They are famous for their crepe cakes. Layers upon layers of crepes and cream? Uh, YES PLEASE! And yes, it was so good and I could for a piece right now.

 



– Restaurants –

Daniel – This two michelin starred restaurant was recommended by our friend who lives in Manhattan. It is also #1 on TripAdvisor, so we decided to book it for our Anniversary. You will probably spend your life savings here BUT its worth it. The food is what you expect, amazing contemporary French cuisine. You’re coming to Daniel for a dining experience. From the classic, romantic ambience, to the well trained staff, the professionalism, all the thoughtful details, it will be an experience to remember. Certain dishes come to your table to be finished such as my fois gras. Some drinks are also shaken table side.

We ordered the 4 course meal and were prepared to grab a burger afterwards. To our surprise, the food was well portioned, spaced out through your dining time there and by the end we were stuffed. Throughout the meal, there is a selection of piping hot french bread for you to enjoy. Its accompanied by good quality butter and different finishing salts. Your meal starts with an amuse bouche and little tasting dishes are served in between the courses.

Daniel doesn’t play games with their dessert. Along with your regular dessert (and an extra anniversary dessert), a little platter of tasting desserts were also offered. And then came a basket of freshly baked french madeleines. Two tiny house made chocolates to finish your meal. And when I thought they were done, they gave us two jewelry boxes with french Cannelle to take home “for the morning after”. Dessert itself felt like a four course meal.

Yes the food was great but what knocked it out of the park was the service. Unpretentious, professional and knowledgeable. We had three waitstaff for our table and all of them were so nice and friendly and they truly made our dining experience an amazing one. Daniel is a great choice for our anniversary or any celebration.

Loeb Boathouse – This lakeside restaurant is in the heart of Central Park and was a romantic spot to have our anniversary lunch. The service wasn’t the best I’ve had but they were quick and efficient. The food was good, the crab cake appetizer was a knockout and the best part of our meal. The view is what this restaurant is known for; with a huge open window, all guests have a beautiful view of Central Park, the lake and its charming and romantic rowboats.



Cosme – Mexican inspired cuisine. The extent of my mexican food experience has been limited to tacos and the like. I have never had this level of mexican food before. And man, I have been missing out. I had the Egg Sope as an appetizer and grilled Branzino. It’s hard to explain the complexity of flavour and how well all the ingredients complimented each other. The food was so fresh and flavourful. It was one of my favorite meals during our trip. For reference, we went for lunch/brunch which is a separate menu from dinner.

Jongro BBQ, Koreatown – Our friend lives close to Koreatown, so we ate around the area a few nights. Being big fans of Korean BBQ, we decided to go to one. You sit in a booth, with a large grill in the centre and a hood fan above you. You order your cuts of raw meat and at this restaurant, the servers cook the meat for you. There are traditional Korean side dishes, rice, lettuce to wrap your meat and dipping condiments. Our one friend is originally from Korea and according to her, this place is top notch and authentic.

BCD Tofu House, Koreatown – This was our last meal in NYC. By now we were so stuffed with so much NY food we just craved home cooking. This place was perfect for that reason. We ordered their speciality Tofu stews. They serve traditional hot tofu stews in individual simmering pots, comes with a choice of side dish (I picked korean short ribs), rice, and side dishes. It felt so comforting and a perfect end to our stay.

That’s mostly everywhere we ate! NYC is the mecca of good food, its constantly changing and evolving. And it could feel very overwhelming with all its choices, hopefully this list has given you some inspiration to find some really good eats while your in The Big Apple! Happy Eating!

 

 

 

Lifestyle Travel

my vacation beauty essentials

April 24, 2017

I brought a lot of makeup with me on this Mexico trip because I was doing my best friend’s makeup for her wedding. With all the options I had with me, these are the items I used the most during my five day stay.


Marc Jacobs’ Fineliner Ultra Skinny Gel Eye Crayon Eyeliner (in Blacquer)
I picked up this liner at Sephora after the girls tried the product on my aunt. I’ve been a big fan of gel liners (Bobbi Brown in particular) and was interested in this pencil version. After the kids were born, I didn’t have time to bother with a brush and a liner pot so I became a loyal user of Stila Stay All Day Liquid Liner. Pencil form, convenient and easy to use. Continue Reading

Food Lifestyle Travel

postcard from mexico

April 20, 2017

My best friend got married this past week in Rivera Maya, Mexico. Friends and family traveled down and stayed at the Azul Fives Resort to be with her on her special day. Here is my photo travel diary for the short time I was there. I will also be sharing a mini review of the resort we stayed at down below. xx

my beautiful best friend, a couple days before her wedding

The Azul Fives Resort is a small one tucked behind the main strip heading towards Playa Del Carmen. Its decor and architecture was more modern than all Mexican resorts I’ve been to before. With its white buildings, green foliage it was a very beautiful. Rooms were updated tastefully and if staying on the Esscence side of the resort, the rooms are new with concrete and modern furnishings.

Food at the resort was the standout point for me. When it comes to Mexican all-inclusive, food can be a hit or miss. At most resorts, the food is just okay but nothing too spectacular. However this resort’s quality of food I found to be superior even though the buffet offerings are smaller in quantity. The restaurants were very good. In the case of the Italian and Thai restaurants, I would’ve paid to eat that kind of quality of food back home. I was pleasantly surprised at how much care their chefs put into keeping the menus relatively authentic. One of the best items were their tacos. As stereotypical as having tacos in Mexico can be. They had little carts with cooks pressing fresh corn tortillas and frying them on the spot, filling it with beef, pork and fish. I still dream about them.
As for activities, there isn’t too much to do on the resort. There are tennis and basketball courts but the late night activities were not as abundant as other places I’ve stayed. The live music and singers they brought in were very good, probably the best I’ve seen in Mexico. Azul Fives is a good, quiet resort for people who are looking to unwind. But I would suggest to get off the resort on excursions to make the most of your stay in Mexico.

The smaller beach was beautiful to look at but very rocky. You will have to step pass the rock barrier to get to the soft sand in the water, water shoes would be a good asset to have here. Because the resort is smaller, there is always an available lounge chair which is a huge plus for me! There were also ample umbrellas and shade which is appreciated.

Their infinity pool is gorgeous, leading up and drawing your eye towards the beach. There is a system of pools that connect and run throughout the resort, weaving in and out of the villas. This provides quieter areas well suited for families with young children. A unique feature of Azul Fives is its bridge. A wooden bridge that spans the resort and cuts through a natural jungle. Spider monkey sightings are common. For a girl from a very non tropical country, seeing monkeys was something very exciting indeed.




The wedding. I wasn’t too involved with the wedding planning process on the resort end. But from what my girlfriend told me the coordinators knew what they were doing, they were quick and efficient. The wedding went very smoothly without any large mishaps. They set everything up for her and it turned out beautiful with chiavari chairs, beautiful rustic centrepieces they provided and white and blush accents. She got married on their Sky Deck as opposed to the traditional beachside wedding. It overlooked the skyline and was absolutely stunning. It’s a good option for someone looking for an alternative to a sandy ceremony.


Staff were pleasant, friendly and courteous. Rooms were clean and well maintained. And the showers were hot. It seems trivial to mention but I take showers that could probably blister normal people and I appreciate really hot water. Overall, our stay was lovely and enjoyable. And on a vain note, this resort is incredibly photogenic. Every corner you pass there is an interesting wall or decorative feature begging to be photographed. So coming from someone who has their camera permanently attached to their body, this definitely was a positive feature.

That was our stay! Where is your favorite place to go when in Mexico? If you are heading somewhere soon, happy travels!

 

Lifestyle Travel

oh Canmore, you’re pretty awesome.

March 1, 2017

My best girlfriends and I headed into the mountains to celebrate one of us leaving her single days behind her. And what better way to send her off to marital bliss by taking a weekend away? Visiting the Canadian rockies needs to be on everyone’s bucket list. The mountains, the crisp air, the bluest water. My goodness, be still my heart. We avoided the more touristy Banff area and decided to stay in the quieter town of Canmore, AB. Surrounded by snow capped mountains, charming street corners and great food. Oh my god, the food is stellar in Canmore. I still don’t understand how such a small town can so deliver on their culinary offerings. My girlfriends, taste buds, and the food gods thank you.


We got into Canmore quite late in the evening. Tired from the long drive, we picked up take out from The Rocky Mountain Flatbread Co. This little spot in Canmore is insanely busy, we received a busy signal every time we tried calling but we persisted. And it was worth every second of the wait! Their flatbread style pizzas are artisanal oven baked, thin, crispy and topped with fresh, local produce. We ordered a couple salads but the flatbread was definitely the star and a big hit with my tired crew. Continue Reading