New York

Favourite things to do in New York at night

Unsurprisingly, The City That Never Sleeps offers rather a lot of things to do in the evening. With so much to choose from, here’s my top treats to light up your nights in New York.

Go to Times Square

I mean you can’t go to New York and not stop at this hidden gem. Go sit on the stairs and let it all sink in. YOU ARE IN NEW YORK.

Catch a musical or theatre show

There is soo much to see and yet nothing on Broadway did it for me, so I skipped that and went to the immersive theatre production of Sleep No More where I got to run around, and following and interacting with actors for 3 hours (Yes you might know it from the TV classic Gossip Girl)
Free Things To Do in New York Vessel

Enjoy sunset at the Vessel

You’ve probably seen this beehive-style structure all over Instagram. The good thing is that it’s free and that it’s open until 9 pm, so you might want to book your sunset slot and experience the city lighting up. Sadly there isn’t any honey inside, at least that I could see.

Take the ferry to Staten Island

Gazing at Lady Liberty and Manhattan from the Staten Island ferry was another ‘Oh My God I’m in New York’ moment! And I can only imagine how amazing both would look like all lit up. That’s one for another visit.

See a sports game

With baseball, ice-hockey and basketball all on offer there’s always a game to catch. I watched ice-hockey and it was one of my favourite things I did on my trip! Ice hockey and basketball are ideal as the stadium (Madison Square Garden) is in Manhattan and it easy to get to and from.

Experience an observation deck

Either book tickets to the Top of the Rock or Empire State Building and enjoy the full-blown panoramic skyline experience. My budget alternative is to go up the 30 Rockefeller Bar, get yourself a drink and enjoy free the view from the balcony.

Watch a late night show taping

Late Night with Seth Meyers, The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert are some of biggest shows you can watch being taped in New York. You can apply for tickets via this website. I got tickets for Stephen Colbert and loved seeing how the show was put together. Such a shame TGS with Tracy Jordan isn’t on anymore, now that would have been one to see live.

Stay in your hotel room and watch TV

No shame here, but you did pay a lot of money for that room and you hit the 25K steps mark so you might as well treat your legs and feet and stay in and enjoy the wonderful world of American ads (and the shows they manage to squeeze in between them of course!).

London

The other most Instagrammable places in London – London Photo Spots

We can all agree that London is beyond photogenic with almost every corner being worthy of a snap. But you can only take so many photos of Tower Bridge, Peggy Porchen and Notting Hill before you get bored. Over the years I’ve stumbled upon some other favourite places that showcase the various faces of the capital – so I thought I’d share my top picks for your next London trip which might also supercharge your Instagram feed.

Seven Dials Market

Food, food, food! The perfect spot for your tastebuds and your Instagram feed is the recently opened Seven Dials Market featuring some of the best London Street Food – including a conveyor belt…for cheese!
Best Time For Picture: Indoors, so anytime
Cost: Free to go inside

Shad Thames

If you find yourself next to Tower Bridge head down the stairs and walk through this historic riverside street that showcases the rawer side of London.
Best Time For Picture: day and evening both have their charm
Cost: Free to visit

Barbican Conservatory

When the weather gets rainy and you’re looking for somewhere indoors to explore, then head to the Barbican Conservatory and explore the different species of trees and plants as well as a special cacti and succulents corner. Only open on Sunday so might need a little planning.
Best Time For Picture: Indoors; avoid the first hour as the light might make your photos too overexposed
Cost: Free to visit, but donation is encouraged

Severndroog Castle

Don’t let the word castle get your hopes up as it’s really only a little tower, but this 18th Century gem hidden in a park in South East London offers a great 360° views of the London skyline.
Best Time For Picture: Day time
Cost: Check website for up to date entrance fees

Phone Boxes LSU

Did you really visit London if you didn’t get a photo in or in front of one of the red phone boxes? There are so many phone boxes, but my favourite ones are near LSU in Bloomsbury.
Best Time For Picture: Day time
Cost: Free to visit

St John’s Gate

St John’s Gate is a Tudor gate dating all the way back to 1504. It used to be the entrance to the Priory’s inner precinct, now it’s the home to the Museum of the Order of St John, where you can learn more about the history of the Order.
Best Time For Picture: Day time
Cost: Free to visit

Tate Britain

Just like several other London museums the Tate Britain is a perfect spot for those who are interested in architecture. Their unique selling point might be the stairs inside the main lobby.
Best Time For Picture: Indoors, so anytime
Cost: Free to visit

Fleet Street

Walking through Fleet Street is a walk down history lane: from the art deco offices to Tudor style pubs and several monuments and statues.
Best Time For Picture: Day time
Cost: Free to visit

Alexandra Palace Theatre

London Instagrammable Photo Spots Alexandra Palace Theatre

The recently refurbished Victorian theatre is the oldest new theatre in London and every corner is photo worthy. You can only visit it as part of a tour (or to see a show) so keep that in mind before going all the way up the hill.
Best Time For Picture: Indoors, so anytime
Cost: Check website for up to date entrance fees

Mithras Temple

London Instagrammable Photo Spots Mithranium The London Mithraeum houses the remains of the Roman Temple of Mithras and a selection of Roman Artefacts. Do bring your best low-light camera as though it’s atmospheric, it’s very, very dark.
Best Time For Picture: Indoors, so anytime
Cost: Free, but you need to book ahead

Wallace Collection

London Instagrammable Photo Spots Wallace Collection

Just one of those gorgeous historic mansions filled to the brim with 18th and 19th century paintings and grand coloured rooms that will brigthen up your Instagram feed.
Best Time For Picture: Indoors, so anytime
Cost: Free

Green On The Screen

If you’re not interested in spending money on a film you’ll definitely be interested in shooting a photo of exterior of one of the oldest cinemas in the UK.
Best Time For Picture: Evening
Cost: Free, check website for movie screenings and costs

Two Temple House

From Mahogany carvings to a grand staircase and stained-glass windows and ceilings, this is a Gothic Revival heaven. Keep in mind that it’s only open for selected exhibitions, so make sure to check if ahead of time.
Best Time For Picture: Indoors, so anytime
Cost: Check website for up to date entrance fees

Lesnes Abbey Ruins London Instagrammable Photo Spots Lesnes Abbey Ruins

The stunning ruins of a 12th century Abbey, plus its gorgeous surrounding woodlands, complete with bluebells, are definitely worth the trek to South East London. The added bonus is it’s a popular dog walking destination too.
Best Time For Picture: Day
Cost: Free

Octagon Room at Orleans House Gallery

London Instagrammable Photo Spots

The Octagon Room was built in the 18th Century to impress the royal guests, and if that’s not their equivalent of Instagram worthy then I don’t know what is. It’s small and all the way in Richmond so you might want to combine it with a walk by the River Thames or Richmond Park.
Best Time For Picture: Indoors, so anytime
Cost: Free

Sustainable & Green

Thoughts On Green/Eco Travelling Tips From Someone Who Actually Tried

 

Soooo much buzz is happening around greener, more sustainable and eco friendlier travel this year. I could write another generic green travel tips post, but since there are over 1.7 million of those on Google and barely anyone talking about how they struggle to do any of them right I thought I’d share some insights on how I’ve handled it this year…spoiler alert: I failed, like a lot.

PICK THE RIGHT DESTINATIONS

Everyone preaches to choose alternative destinations over places that are suffering from overtourism and focus on places that prioritise sustainability. I didn’t. This year I went to Amsterdam and Barcelona among other destinations … two cities that are victims to over tourism. Me visiting my friends in Amsterdam, did not have the same effect as me visiting going to Barcelona for a quick city trip.

RESPONSIBLE TRANSPORTATION

One of THE tips to decrease your carbon footprint is to avoid the plain and travel by train or even bus. I did a train trip from London to the Basque Country and I take the train within the UK. But the rest of my international trips this year were all flights because that was the easier choice. And I only set off my carbon emission for one of them, I can try to make it up a bit and mention that least they were all direct flights so that’s my footprint slightly reduced (ahem). At the destinations themselves I kept it to local transport to get around and didn’t use any cheeky Uber rides.

THINK ABOUT ACCOMMODATION

Booking eco-conscious accommodations hasn’t been a high priority. Sure, I stayed at a self-sufficient green camping site on Ameland, with friends or family in others’ places and hotels in New York and Bilbao. But I failed when it comes to Airbnb and booked a place in Barcelona that was solely there for tourists and therefore adding on to the making housing unaffordable issue for locals. My only excuse is that it’s more convenient when going with a group.

PLASTIC AND BYO

Refillable water bottle. Check! KeepCup? Check? Shopping bags? Check. Since it’s something I do at home it was a bit easier to do than some of the other things.

When I wrote my last post about greener travel fails I complained how I had to buy water bottles in Georgia because it was too hot, after that I bought an isolation bottle – the Dopper is my go to – and it works perfect. Thank God a lot of destinations now offer water fountains to refill your bottle. For one flight to Lanzarote I did buy a bottle, because I wasn’t sure I would have enough for the 4-hour flight. Also, on Lanzarote they recommended not to drink the tap water, so we bought a 5 litre bottle and used that to refill our own.

My KeepCup is everything! And I thought they were a thing all over the world as they are designed as per coffee shop sizes, but turns out in America they don’t do 8 OZ everywhere and I had to give in at a place because their small is European medium, so the barista didn’t know the measurements. I’m used to geting discount when bringing my own cup but that wasn’t a thing in New York either.

In Lanzarote and New York I got plastic bags, sometimes because my totebag wasn’t enough and sometimes because they pack it up your goods before you realise it. Some of those bags I’ve reused during my stay and some of them I’ve brought back to recycle.

I’m reading how everyone should find restaurants that use local ingredients and avoid foods that have to be flown or shipped in, but I found it more shocking how getting a plastic free lunch on the go is hard as everything is wrapped! The best chance is to sit down at a restaurant or go to a food market and hope they will put it in the lunch box that you brought.

PACK RIGHT

I didn’t know people cut back on the weight they might be adding to the car or plane and only pack the essential items. True, my packing was kept to a minimal and I even kept it to hand luggage only for my 6-day trip to New York. But if I’m being honest, this was not necessarily for green reasons. No way am I paying that rip-off fee to check in a suitcase, I’m Dutch after all, so I rather re-wear.

While we are on the clothes topic I also read a report from Bernardos saying that Brits were expected to purchase over 50 million (million!) outfits that will only be worn once, just over the Summer! I’m the opposite and tend to pack my standard holiday abroad items for almost all of my trips.

I haven’t found a low waste toothpaste that has fluoride, I also don’t have a bamboo brush anymore because it just doesn’t work for me. I have found recyclable brushes for my electric toothbrush. They are on my list to buy for when I have gone through the plastic ones I bought in bulk. I use solid shampoo and soap bars, so that’s a little win. Though the shampoo bars have been a hit and miss so far, they usually work in the beginning but the dry my hair out so I go back and forth between that and bottles.

CONCLUSION
I only seem to do the things that will save me money or things I already do when I’m home. But when it comes to travel I don’t know yet if I’m a green, eco or sustainable traveller and that might be the main issue for me. For 2020 I’m going to read beyond the usual travel tips and educate myself on how what I do affects the local environment, the economy amd the people, and based on that make my ways and tips more practical. And who knows I might become the leave-nothing-but-footprints and take-nothing-but-pictures kind of person.

What were your 2019 green wins?

Castles & Palaces

Exploring Strawberry Hill House

Imagine you’re 32, the year is 1749, and you don’t have any kids – so what do you blow your money on? A plot of land overlooking the Thames to create an avant-garde Gothic Revival-inspired mansion to host your friends, store your book collection and impress other people of course! That’s what Horace Walpole (writer, antiquarian and son of Britain’s first Prime Minister) did. And we’re lucky enough to be able to enjoy the fruits of his labour.

And what a treat it is! Every corner, from the entrance hall to the china room and the chapel is filled with intricate details. We’re talking a breakfast room with a tented Turkish boudoir velvet ceiling, a gallery with golden papier mâché Rococo ceilings and a library with pinnacled pillar bookcases. Nothing about this place is basic.

Upon Walepole’s death, the house was passed to his cousin’s unmarried daughter and then to the Waldegraves and the contents auctioned. Lady Waldegrave did the place up and added a wing – you can spot her in a grand painting showing off her social circle.

With the help of his letters, paintings and a detailed document called ‘A Description of the Villa of Horace Walpole’ the place was restored, and they were able to replicate a lot of the furniture and paintings, plus even the bookcases are filled with the same books that were collected by Walpole.

It would have taken your coach two hours, but nowadays it’s a mere 30 minute train ride to Strawberry Hill Station and from there a 10 minute walk.

Uncategorised

2019 In Trips – So Far

While I’ve been sharing a lot of the things I’ve seen & done in London this year, I also took quite a few varied trips to the mainland. Here are the places I hit up and some of the lessons I learned on the way.

paris paris

Paris
My first trip was to Basque Country via Paris by train – you know…in name of being more green and sustainable. It was supposed to be an 8 hours train trip, with two hours spare to change stations in Paris, stretch my legs and have a croissant in the park. What could go wrong?

London to Gare Du Nord went ok, I even thought I was smart by buying a metro tickets in advance ace on the Eurostar. For some reason I had to swap the tickets for real ones, so I had to queue and go through the hassle anyway and lost about 15 minutes to start with.

I found my croissant and the green space I mistook for a park via Google maps turned out to be a cemetery, but a pretty one so it was worth the walk. On my way to the station I even spotted some impressive street art in what was else a very forgotten part of Paris.

Then at the station there was a lot of confusion and it took me forever to find someone who spoke English and explain what was going on. Turned out the trains to Bordeaux and further south were messed up due to an electrical failure and everyone had to go to another station on the other side of Paris to get a train from there. I managed to get on the over packed train (and when I mean packed I mean people squashed into every single bit of the train, even the stairs!) and had to stand for 3 hours until everyone got off at Bordeaux. I arrived 3 hours later than planned at my hotel in Hendaye and had the warmest welcome at Hotel Santiago before I dove in my bed.

Lesson learned – don’t plan Paris, Paris will plan you.

san sebastian

San Sebastian
The next morning I got the train to San Sebastian, bought a bus ticket to Bilbao and fuelled up on some coffee at Sakona. Then went in for a walk around town and wanted to walk up Mount Urgull.  Sadly the entrance was closed, so I couldn’t go up and enjoy the views I’d quite a bit about.

When I booked a luxury bus I thought it meant I had a confirmed seat, because what else could I get for €10 extra? Well … a huge leather stand-alone seat, a video screen with a selection of Friends episodes, and a stewardess handing out wet towels before handing out snacks.

Lesson learned – don’t be afraid to splurge on a luxury bus.

bilbao

Bilbao
When I arrived the weather looked nice, so I decided to walked from the bus station to my hotel, but five minutes in it started pouring and I must have looked really sad because the lovely folks at Hotel Vincci gave me a riverside upgrade so that was exciting. The downside at staying at hotels is that you can’t really make friends in the common room and then head for food. So I had to brave the Pinxton (Basque’s take on tapas) bar alone, though on the plus side … I didn’t have to share any of the bites.

The next day I spend almost all morning and half of the afternoon in the Guggenheim and enjoyed the pieces. Aside from Puppy and the building itself, my favourite thing was getting lost in the The Matter of Time artworks. In London I feel like I only go in and pay attention to half of the exhibits, because I can come back whenever and look at it again. But when I have to pay … I make sure to get the most out of it and that includes an audio tour and taking the time to properly look at all paintings and artworks. I also went to the Saturday market to stock up on Basque cheese, hazelnuts and ground almond Basque cake to take home.

My train trip back started fine, but then it got delayed which again was stressful cause I wasn’t sure if I would make the connection. I eventually did and I think I cried from relief for half of the journey. I realise it all sounds very dramatic, but I would definitely opt for a longer train journey again for future trips.

Lesson learned – Basque cake and cheese make good presents for back home.

barcelona

Barcelona
Then it was off to a team trip to Barcelona for my second visit to the city of Gaudi, Camp Nau and Las Ramblas. I wrote a post about some of the delicious food I had there. Besides eating there was also a stroll from Gracia to the Beach, a night of dancing and a very slow walk through and to the top of Parc Guell. I definitely want to go back a third time as I haven’t been inside the La Sagrada Família or seen the other breathtakingly gorgeous Gaudi buildings from the inside.

Lesson learned – It’s good to give some places a second chance.

vienna

Vienna
I also got to revisit Vienna again. Sadly, it was just for 30 hours, but I still managed to fill it with working from a vintage shop/cafe, eating Bosnian food, a walk in Augarten and catching up with my cousin. Oh and giving a presentation for 30 people…inside Schönbrunn Palace.

Lesson learned – the best Bosnian food outside Bosnia/my mother’s kitchen is definitely in Vienna.

What has been your favourite 2019 destination so far?