Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Before things get too hectic and crazy I just wanted to wish you all a 'Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year'.  I hope you all have a wonderful time and enjoy all New York has to offer at this time of year!

I'm going on holiday with my family so won't be posting again until after the New Year, so have a great time and I'll look forward to telling you all about my travels when I get back.

Happy Holidays!!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmas Tipping

Around this time of year you will be expected to give a Christmas tip to those working in your building.  Most places will send you a card from everyone working in the building which gives you a list of who you are expected to tip.

Luckily I know everyone in my building and the staff is fairly small, so I am happy to give them all something for Christmas.  However, some of my friends have been sent cards with over 20 people on them, most of whom they have never met, so it can be quite tricky knowing who to tip. 

Of course it is up to the individual to decide who they tip and how much they give, but I would recommend giving something to the 'Superintendent' or 'Super' as they manage the building and will be your first point of contact for any problems that may arise.   I would also give something to doormen/concierge's if you have them in your building, as you see them on a daily basis and they take delivery of your packages, etc.  I also give to the handyman and porters that work in my building.

If you have just moved into a building it may be quite frustrating to be expected to tip everyone, but I would still give a small token in preparation for the year ahead. 

It can be an expensive time of year, but I think giving something to those who work in your building is an investment in the year ahead. It is also a great opportunity to recognise the people who make a difference in your building and thank those who have helped you throughout the year.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas Markets in Manhattan

December is probably the busiest month in Manhattan with people from all over the world coming to visit.  It is beautiful at this time of year and the Christmas lights and decorations are amazing.  

One of my favourite festive additions to the city are the Christmas shopping villages that pop up across the city.  There are many to choose from, but my top three are:

The Holiday Shops at Bryant Park
This is one of the biggest markets with over 100 stalls selling some great goodies.  It is very festive with a beautiful Christmas tree and free ice skating rink.  We enjoyed walking around with a hot chocolate and a bag of popcorn.  There are lots of places to sit and take in the views and they also have the best public toilets in town! 
For more information visit http://theholidayshopsatbryantpark.com/

Grand Central Holiday Fair
This Christmas market is located in the Vanderbilt Hall inside the station which means it is a great place to shop no matter what the weather.  There are over 70 stalls to visit as well as the other stores already located in the terminal.  While you are there try and watch the kaleidoscope light show which takes place in the main concourse every half an hour from 11am to 9pm.
For more information visit http://www.grandcentralterminal.com/

Columbus Circle Holiday Market
Located at the edge of Central Park, this market is a great place to grab a hot cider and get some Christmas gifts.  The Christmas lights at Columbus Circle are really pretty, so perhaps visit this market when it is dark so you can appreciate the view.  They also have a great light and music show in the Time Warner Building, so once you have done your shopping you can warm up indoors while enjoying the lights!

I really enjoy visiting the Christmas markets and it makes me feel all festive!  However, they can get extremely busy, especially at the weekends, so I would recommend going early to avoid some of the crowds.  

Happy Shopping!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Walking the Brooklyn Bridge

Even after living here for just over a year there are still loads of touristy things I haven't done yet and so last weekend we decided to take a walk over the Brooklyn Bridge.

We took the subway down to Chambers Street and followed the bicycle route signs to the bridge.  There is a pedestrian walkway across the bridge so you don't have to worry about the cars.  However, there is a bike path running parallel to the walkway, so make sure you stick to the pedestrian side in order to avoid the cyclists.

The Brooklyn Bridge is just over 1.1 miles long and I enjoyed a close up look at the architecture of the bridge.
Walking from Manhattan to Brooklyn
When we got to the other side we headed for DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) and the Brooklyn Bridge Park.  From here you can take in great views of the bridge and the Manhattan skyline.  
View of the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan as seen from Brooklyn Bridge Park
After exploring DUMBO, which has some interesting shops and restaurants, we headed back over the bridge.  The views going back to Manhattan are stunning and we stopped a few times to look at the skyline and Statue of Liberty. 

Views of Manhattan from the Brooklyn Bridge
Although the walkway was quite crowded it was still a great experience and well worth the trip.  I imagine that the views are spectacular at sunrise and sunset, so it might be worth getting up early or making the trip in the late afternoon.  

For more information about walking across the Brooklyn Bridge visit: 

Monday, December 5, 2011

'Reading Partners' Volunteer Program

I have recently started volunteering with the 'Reading Partners' program and think it's a really worthwhile scheme.  It is 1 to 1 tutor program which takes place in certain schools in Manhattan, The Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens.

Each week you partner with the same child for one or two 45-minute sessions and work through the lesson plans provided by the program.  The lessons are very easy to follow and the tutor is given a step-by-step guide on how to teach the concept to the child.  It is great for the child to have the same tutors on a regular basis and the program has made a real difference to those taking part.  The program is very well organised and there is always someone on hand to answer questions and offer support.  They provide training before you start and throughout the school year.  It is lots of fun and the children really look forward to the reading partner sessions.

Volunteers must commit to at least one session a week for a minimum of one semester, but they will be extremely grateful if you can do more.  If you can't commit to anything on a regular basis you can sign up to be a substitute tutor and volunteer as and when you can.  Also, for those expats who cannot get a social security number they do international background checks so you can still sign up for the program.

For more information about the program and to sign up visit http://readingpartners.org/volunteer/new-york-volunteer-form.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Trip to Bear Mountain State Park

Me and my husband recently took the hour drive (well it is an hour if you don't get lost!) upstate to visit 'Bear Mountain State Park'.  We really enjoy hiking and thought it would be a good opportunity to catch the last of the Autumn leaves.

The entrance to the park is situated in a valley and there are lots of activities on offer besides walking.  There is a carousel and play area for kids as well as a swimming pool, a zoo and an ice rink.  You can also rent boats and bicycles.  It is a really pretty area with a lovely lake you can stroll around if you're not feeling up to a big walk or have young children.

Hessian Lake
On arrival we visited the information centre and were given a very basic leaflet about the hiking trails in the area.  As half of the page was cut off I would recommend printing your own before you go to avoid confusion half way through your walk.
You can get one from http://a1.exhibit-e.com/sites/palisades/img/bm_attractions2.pdf.

We chose a 4 mile walk up to Perkins Tower which was described as 'challenging' but with amazing views of the Hudson River on route.  The walk took us a mile up the mountain and was harder than we thought with steep climbs over rocks.  It was a great workout though and the views were well worth the trip.  We reached the tower, which again provided stunning views of the local area and then we headed back down.

Stunning views over the Hudson River

A view well worth the climb

The walk took us just over 2 1/2 hours and we really enjoyed being out in the countryside. When we arrived back at the recreation area we were starving and went for lunch at the 'Bear Mountain Inn'.  The hotel is currently being refurbished but the shop and restaurant are open to the public.  We had giant burgers and potato wedges which were delicious although quite pricey.

We had a great day out at Bear Mountain and it's a good place to visit if you want a break from the city.  It has lots of activities for children and adults alike and I'm sure it's great fun in the snow!  For more information about the park visit http://nysparks.state.ny.us/parks/13/details.aspx or http://www.palisadesparksconservancy.org/parks/5/.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade 2011

I was lucky enough to be invited to a friend's house to watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.  We went to look at the balloons the night before and she had an amazing view of them from her balcony.  It was really festive on the streets with Christmas music playing and lots of excited children (and adults!) looking at the balloons.

Inflating the balloons 
The parade itself started at 9am, but armed with hot chocolate and a big coat, we enjoyed watching the preparations from 7.30am.  It was great to see the performers getting ready, there was lots of cheering and chanting and everyone seemed thrilled to be a part of such an iconic event.

Getting ready to go!
When the parade started we could hear the commentator announcing all of those participating and the crowds cheering and clapping.  The parade was brilliant, my favourite balloons were 'Spiderman' and 'Kermit the Frog'.  The floats were awesome as were the marching bands, dancers and other performers.

Spiderman flying over Manhattan

Kermit the frog at the end of the parade

Watching the parade was such a great experience and I feel very happy to be living in NYC today.  

Now I am off to start preparing my first thanksgiving dinner, anyone know how to cook a turkey.......;-)

Happy Thanksgiving everyone and I hope you have a wonderful day!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Joy of Steam Heating!

On our first night in New York we were woken up by these really loud banging sounds.  I jumped out of the bed convinced someone had broken in and was smashing up the place, but the apartment was empty.  It took me a while to realise that this noise was the heating coming on!

Until I arrived here I was unaware that most New York apartment buildings have steam heating, which has to be one of the most antiquated systems I have ever come across.  Not only does it make a racket when it starts up, you have no control over the temperature in your apartment or when to turn it on/off.  When it drops below a certain temperature the Super will put the heating on for the entire building. 

In our current building it's not too bad, but in the first place we lived we always had the windows open as it was unbearably hot in the apartment.  It really is a crazy system and not at all environmentally friendly.

If the noise is particularly loud in your apartment let your Super know as there may be a problem with the heater.  We experienced this in our first place, but eventually the Super came to fix them so we weren't woken up at 4am every morning.  You can also have them turn the heaters off entirely which might be a good idea if your home is like a sauna.  It seems that in New York I am always trying to keep my apartment cool no matter what the time of the year.

So, if you arrived in the Summer, don't be startled if you are woken up by what sounds like metal pipes clanging together, it's just the heating coming on!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Central Park in Autumn

Central Park is picturesque at the moment and I really enjoyed the Autumnal views as I ran around the reservoir last week.  I had to stop a few times to take some photographs as I think the park looks prettiest at this time of year.  

The park won't stay like this for long so I will be making the most of it before the arrival of winter!  If you haven't had a chance to visit the park this season it's well worth the trip before the last of the leaves fall, and as they say over here 'Happy Foliage'!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

5 Free activities in New York City

Living in New York City can be very expensive and I don't always want to spend money on activities.  Here are some great things you can do in the city absolutely free!

1.  Visit one of New York's many public parks
Although Central Park is a great place to visit, there are many other parks in NYC that are well worth a trip.  There are so many great parks to visit I could write a whole piece on them alone, but some of my favorites are Bryant Park, Riverside Park, The Highline and Prospect Park.  Public parks often have free activities available year round for all ages.  Visit http://www.nycgovparks.org/index.php for more information.

2.  Go to a live taping of your favourite TV show
There are many TV shows filmed in NYC every day, some of which offer free tickets to be part of the audience.  I had great fun watching a live taping of the Jeremy Kyle show.  Although it may be tricky getting tickets for the more famous shows, such as Letterman, you can almost always get a ticket for something.  Check out http://www.nycgo.com/tv-show-tapings/ for details of shows offering free tickets to tapings and how to get them.

3.  Visit a Museum or Gallery
Many of NYC's top attractions offer free or discounted entry if you know when to go.  Here are some of suggestions:
-MOMA-every Friday between 4-8pm entry to the Museum of Modern Art is free.
-The New York Botanical Gardens-Free entry to the grounds every Wednesday and from 10am-11am on Saturdays.
-The Morgan Library-Free entry 7-9pm every Friday
Most places also have a day or time slot where entry is by donation so you can pay what you can afford.  Visit http://gonyc.about.com/cs/museums/a/museumdeals.htm for more information.

4.  Go to a concert or show
Although the Summer is the best time to catch a free show or concert in NYC, it's still worth keeping an eye out for events in the city.  Bryant Park's tree lighting ceremony takes place on 29th November and features live music and skating performances.  Also, Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade will feature many performances by various pop stars and Broadway Shows.

5.  Watch a movie or TV show being made on location in NYC
Movies and TV shows are often shot on location in New York City and it can be great fun watching a live shoot.  Unless you are lucky enough to stumble across a live set whilst walking around the city it could be quite difficult finding something interesting to watch.  However, there is a great website called http://www.onlocationvacations.com/ which lists the majority of upcoming filming taking place in NYC.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The New York City Marathon 2011

We had a great time watching the New York City marathon yesterday.  It was a perfect day weather wise for both the runners and spectators and there was a great atmosphere throughout the city.  

The course ran through all 5 boroughs finishing in Central Park on the Upper West Side.  We went for a walk around the lower ring of the reservoir and enjoyed some brilliant views of the runners as they came close to the finish.

Marathon view from the Upper East Side

Only 2 miles to go!

Closing in on the finish line
I was in awe of the runners, especially those participating with added difficulties.  As you can imagine most people looked absolutely exhausted with 2 miles to go, but seemed very appreciative of the cheering crowds.  

They had closed many of the roads around the finish and there was a real street party feel.  It was nice to see people congratulating participants after the race and the celebrations carried on well into Sunday evening.  

I really enjoyed my first experience of the NYC marathon and it made me want to participate next year.  However after a big dinner and a bottle of wine I decided that perhaps I would stick to my role as cheering spectator ;-)

If you fancy taking part in next year's race you can apply now at http://www.nycmarathon.org/.  

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Desmond's Sunday Roast

One of the things I miss about living in the UK is a decent Sunday roast dinner, so when I saw that 'Gilt City' had an offer for a British restaurant serving roast beef, I thought I would give it a try.  We got a great deal for a three course Sunday lunch for $33 which included an appetizer, a roast beef main course and choice of dessert.

'Desmond's' restaurant has been open since March 2011, but has only been serving Sunday lunch for the past few weeks.  When we arrived it was pretty quiet, but the staff were extremely friendly and there was a nice atmosphere.  We had the 'Gilt City' set meal, but there were lots of British favourites on the menu including fish and chips, bangers and mash and shepherds pie.

We started off with some homemade biscuits and butternut squash soup which was really tasty.  Then the roast beef arrived looking and smelling delicious.  It was a really generous portion with all the trimmings including roast potatoes and a giant Yorkshire pudding.  The beef was cooked beautifully and the whole meal was excellent.  Although I was stuffed I found room to try the sticky toffee pudding which was scrumptious.

We will definitely be going back for another Sunday lunch soon as it really did taste like home!  The dinner menu looks great too and I will be giving it a try in the near future, I'll let you know how I get on.

For more information about 'Desmond's' and to make reservations visit http://www.desmondsny.com.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Duran Duran at Madison Square Garden

Last night I went to my first concert at Madison Square Garden to see British super band 'Duran Duran'.  I have always really liked their music and this was the first time I had seen them play live.

I was really impressed with Madison Square Garden.  It holds about 20,000 people which is similar to the O2 Arena in the UK, but somehow it felt smaller and more intimate.  When we arrived we were informed that they had rearranged the seating and that our seats were no longer available, but that we would be given  seats in the front row of the the floor section!  There was a small standing section just in front of us but we had a clear view and were really close to the stage.

I thought Duran Duran were brilliant.  They played a good mix from their new album, 'All You Need is Now' as well as many of their greatest hits, including my favourite 'Hungry Like the Wolf'.   I was really excited when Ana Matronic from the 'Scissor Sisters' joined the band on stage to sing 'Safe' and then Mark Ronson, who produced the album, played guitar during another song!

It was a brilliant night and I really enjoyed my first concert at Madison Square Garden!

Duran Duran on stage 

Giant 3D faces of the band hung above the stage 
The band are joined on stage by Mark Ronson
Duran Duran rocking Madison Square Garden!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

New York Taxi Cabs

Getting a taxi in New York is relatively easy unless it's Saturday night or pouring with rain, in which case they all seem to disappear.  Taxi rides are fairly cheap in the city, which is pretty much the only good thing about them!

In London all cab drivers have to complete 'The knowledge' before being able to drive people around the city.  This means they know exactly where they are going and the best way to get you there.  In New York however, it seems that anyone can drive a taxi and I have found that they often have no idea where they are going.  If you know the quickest route to your destination make sure you tell the driver. I also try to get them to repeat my destination as they often don't listen and I end up in the wrong place.  For safety reasons make sure to wait until you are inside the car before telling the driver where you are going.  

Every time I get a taxi in New York I feel as if I am taking my life into my own hands and am always surprised when I arrive at my destination in one piece.  Taxi drivers tend to be quite aggressive on the roads pulling in and out of traffic unnecessarily and stopping suddenly throughout the journey.  I hate to stereotype, but after living here for almost a year I have found the majority of drivers rude and unhelpful.

You can pay for your ride with cash or by credit card, but beware that you have to leave a tip if you pay with a card.  I don't mind tipping for good service, but I think it's very cheeky to expect a 20% tip if the journey was unsafe and the driver was rude.  

New York taxi cabs are a necessary evil, they are cheap and readily available most of the time.  I have come across some nice drivers, so hopefully you will too!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Tropical Storm Irene and The Catskills

We recently visited the Catskills for a weekend break and were really shocked at the devastation caused by Tropical Storm Irene.  The TV news coverage of the storm focused mainly on New York City and I had no idea how badly the rest of the state had been affected.

Many of the small towns were completely flooded with shops and houses left derelict and uninhabitable.  The rivers were full of fallen trees and subsidence had affected some of the roads.  We visited Margaretville and the high street was recovering from severe flooding.  The local supermarket was completely destroyed and is in the process of being rebuilt.  One side of the high street has been left empty and deemed unsafe as the severity of the subsidence is determined.  Many people have had to leave their homes due to flood damage, with many being condemned and completely destroyed.

Margaretville after the storm damage

The locals are in the process of rebuilding the small town and many businesses have reopened.  Everyone we spoke to was extremely positive and determined not to let the storm get the better of them. 

Many other towns were even harder hit by Irene.  In one small town 60 of the 80 homes were condemned after the storm.  We watched footage of the floods and were amazed to see the water run through towns and villages like rivers.  

As you can imagine, rebuilding after such a massive storm is time consuming and costly.  We saw posters for benefits and fund raisers, but I think a great way of showing support is to visit the Catskills and put some money back into the economy there.  It is a lovely place to visit and each town has something to offer. There are lots of outdoor activities to enjoy, including horse-riding, hiking, biking, kayaking and skiing in the winter.  There are some great little shops and restaurants too.

I'm happy to make some recommendations for those of you who are interested, just let me know!  For more information on visiting the Catskills visit http://www.visitthecatskills.com/index.php.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Jeremy Kyle Show-Going to a live taping

'The Jeremy Kyle Show' has been on TV in the UK for 7 years and has recently arrived in New York.  It is a 'Jerry Springer' style show, with guests airing their problems in front of a live audience and the rest of the United States!  We always had a good giggle at the show in the UK, so when my friend came to visit we thought it would be fun to go to a live taping of the US version.

At the moment, as it's a new show over here, it is easy to get tickets.  All you need to do is go online, request tickets and someone from the show will call to confirm.  Filming takes place on Thursdays and Fridays in a studio on West 57th Street.

We were told to arrive at 9.30am for the morning taping.  We queued outside the studio with the rest of the audience while we waited to go through security.  They provided a very basic breakfast of bagels and coffee, but I would eat before hand if you are hungry.  We also saw a few people smuggling the bagels into their bags, so I'd get in there quick if you want one!

At about 10.30am we were taken into the studio and assigned seats by some of the crew.  They had a comedian to warm up the crowd and they took practice shots of the audience.  The set was a lot smaller than it appears on TV, but it was very interesting to see how things work behind the scenes and what happens when making a TV show.

Just before 11am Jeremy Kyle came out to say hello to us all.  He was very interactive and friendly with the audience, making jokes and asking questions.  Shortly after this the taping started and the show was underway.

The guests on the show were very 'interesting' and the topics were what you would expect from the Jeremy Kyle show.  It was great to see it all in action though and we really got in to it, cheering, clapping, laughing and booing in all the right places!  After the first show had ended we were given a drink and a snack and a quick loo break before the next taping.

The next show was a bit more serious and some audience members got quite upset as the story unfolded.  It was OK though, Jeremy was at hand to put us all at ease and help the family fix their problems ;-).

The taping finished about 2pm and they provided lunch for audience members wanting to stay on in the afternoon.  We had exhausted ourselves by that point though so decided to end our Jeremy Kyle experience and head off for lunch.

It was great fun watching a live taping of the show and I will be watching future episodes to see if I made it on to the small screen!  To get free tickets and for more information on the show and being an audience member visit http://www.jeremykyleusa.com/.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Black Eyed Peas Concert in Central Park 2011

Last Friday I was lucky enough to go to the 'Black Eyed Peas' concert held in Central Park to raise money for the charity 'Robin Hood'.  I didn't get tickets the first time around and was one of the few people who benefited from the concert being cancelled back in June.  I got online when the remaining tickets became available and after an hour of trying I got 4 tickets!

'Robin Hood' is involved with many programs that help fight poverty in New York City.  The show was completely free, but I'm sure the people lucky enough to get tickets made donations to the charity-we did!

It was a brilliant concert and the 'Black Eyed Peas' were amazing.  Everyone was dancing and there was a great atmosphere throughout the night.  Unfortunately it did rain during the performance, but no one seemed to care and just carried on enjoying the show!

It was a fantastic night and I felt very lucky to be a part of such a great event.  60,000 people were watching the concert in Central Park making it the biggest show I have ever attended.  With the backdrop of the NYC skyline behind me it really was a night to remember.

To find out more about the charity 'Robin Hood' and how they are helping to fight poverty in New York City, visit http://www.robinhood.org/home.aspx.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Celeb Spot-Alexander Skarsgard!

Whilst walking along the High Line today I saw Alexander Skarsgard, who plays vampire Eric Northman in the TV series 'True Blood'.  He is also currently staring in the remake of 'Straw Dogs' which is out now in cinemas.

He was with a small group of people and seemed very relaxed and friendly.  He is even better looking in the flesh and I was very excited to see him as I am a huge fan of 'True Blood'!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Crafts on Columbus 2011

When I was on my way to the gym on Saturday I noticed that there was a market of some sort running from 77th to 81st street on Columbus Avenue.  On my way back I checked it out to find it was the annual 'Crafts on Columbus' market which takes place every Saturday and Sunday until the 16th of October.

They had a wide variety of stalls selling all sorts of crafts.  There was a great stand selling amazing clutch bags made from all different materials including glass and metals.  I saw some unusual bracelets made from old typewriter keys and some great leather cuffs.  One stand was selling tee shirts with various pictures of New York printed on them.  I want to go back next week and get one as I think the images used are very interesting and depict the city in an unusual way.

There were independent designers selling clothes, as well as many jewelry, handbag and hat stalls.  I really liked the clock stand at the start of the market at 81st Street, they sell original hand-made pieces.   I bought some lovely smelling soaps from a company called 'Copa Soaps' and want to go back this weekend for another look.  Hope to see you there!

The website doesn't provide that much information, but you can check it out at http://craftsoncolumbus.com/.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Using the Subway

When I first arrived in New York I was a bit nervous about using the subway.  I had heard that it was unsafe, over-crowded, hot, smelly and dirty.  However, as a seasoned tube traveller none of this particularly worried me as people say the same about the London Underground.  I was more concerned about getting on the right train, getting a ticket and using the system in general.

Not all stations have manned ticket booths, but they all have machines.  They use a swipe card system and you can buy a single ride ticket or a metro card, which works the same way as an 'Oyster' card in London.  Unlike the tube, you only need to swipe your card on entry into the subway.  There are no 'zones' and each single trip costs $2.50 no matter how far your travel.  You can save 7% by using a metro card and can buy unlimited ride tickets as well.

Initially the system does seem fairly complicated as the subway lines aren't obviously named.  They are colour coded, which does help a bit, but otherwise you will need a subway map for reference.  Also note that although 2 lines appear to run on the same line, one will be the 'local' train, which stops everywhere and one will be the 'express' train which only stop at selected stations. It does get easier the more you use it and after a few weeks I was much more confident.  I still use the subway app on my phone to help me out though!

The subway is smelly, dirty and crowded, but it's also cheap, convenient and quick.  As with any public transport system it can be dangerous at night, but just use your common sense and don't travel alone late at night or into neighborhoods where you don't know your way around.  I wouldn't flash my prized possessions on the subway, but I wouldn't on any form of public transport in any city, again it's just being aware of your location and situation.

For subway maps and to plan your trip visit http://www.mta.info/index.html.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Broadway Week NYC- Get 2-4-1 tickets

I was browsing the web last night and found a great deal on Broadway shows running until the end of September 2011.  You can get 2 tickets for the price of one on most of the big Broadway shows including 'The Adams Family', 'Sister Act', 'Chicago' and 'Jersey Boys' to name a few.

Tickets do seem to be selling quite quickly, 'Wicked' and 'The Lion King' have sold out already, but there are still tickets available of other shows.

For a full list of the shows included in 'Broadway Week' and to book tickets visit http://www.nycgo.com/broadwayweek.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Columbus Avenue Street Festival 2011

We have just got back from the Columbus Avenue Street Festival which runs from 66th to 86th Street.  Columbus Avenue has been closed to traffic and the street is full of various food vendors and stalls selling a wide array of goods.

There are lots of different foods to try and many of the restaurants have either extended onto the street or are selling food outside to take-away.  There was a great live band playing outside the bar/restaurant 'Prohibition' which is between 84th and 85th Street and many other places have DJ's playing music.

It's all going on right now, so if you are sat at home and don't know what to do for the rest of Sunday head over to the Upper West Side and enjoy the street festival!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The High Line

The High Line is an old railroad track that runs above the streets of the west side of Manhattan from the Meatpacking district to 34th street.  Trains haven't run on the lines since 1980, and it 1999 it opened as a public park.

I have wanted to walk the High Line for a long time and we finally got around to going last weekend.  The idea of walking on an old railroad track above the streets of Manhattan really appealed to me and I was looking forward to seeing a different view of the city.

We started our walk at the Gansevoort Street entrance and headed uptown.  It was a great feeling to be walking above the city and watch the craziness of below in relative calm.  Although not an obvious choice for a park, they have made a great deal of effort in making it feel like one.  The old train tracks are lined with trees, plants and flowers, and there are lots of places to sit and relax.   There are various food stands and art stalls along the High Line as well as some interesting sculptures.

However, it did used to be a train line and can get narrow at some points during the walk.  It was very busy when we went and at times I felt as if I just shuffling along in a big group rather than enjoying a walk.  It did become quite frustrating when people seemed oblivious to those around them walking side-by-side in a large group blocking the entire path!

I did enjoy my walk on the High Line and would go back, but not at the weekend.  I think it would be much more pleasurable in the evening or duing the week when it wasn't as crowded.  Having said that, I would recommend a visit as the views and experience are worth the trip.

For more information on opening times and how to get to the High Line visit http://www.thehighline.org/.

Monday, September 12, 2011

'20at20'-$20 tickets for Off-Broadway Shows

Until the 18th September 2011 there is a great Off-Broadway promotion running called '20at20'.  Basically you can get $20 tickets for certain Off-Broadway shows 20 minutes before the performance begins.  

Just go to the box office of the show you want to see 20 minutes before it is due to start and say "20 at 20" and you will get a ticket.  Shows included in the offer are 'Fuerza Bruta', which I have seen and is brilliant, 'Million Dollar Quartet', 'Stomp' and 'Channelling Kevin Spacey' to name a few.

I guess it's a bit of gamble showing up 20 minutes before a performance without a ticket, but I think it sounds like a pretty good deal and I will be trying it out this week!  I'll let you know how I get on.

For further information and a full list of the shows included in the offer, visit http://20at20.com/

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Celeb Spot! Elizabeth Hurley!

I have just got back from a trip to the UK and in the arrivals hall at Newark airport I saw British actress/model Elizabeth Hurley.

I was reading 'Hello' magazine on the plane and saw that she is currently filming 'Gossip Girl' in the city. It was very exciting to then see her in the flesh at customs.

She looked very striking in black trousers, red top and sunglasses. You would never have known she had been on a long haul flight for 8 hours!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A Day at the Beach

Yesterday myself and a couple of friends took a sneaky mid-week trip to the beach.  It was my first time at a New York beach since my arrival here and I was really looking forward to seeing what it was like.

We decided to go to Rockaway beach, which is a peninsula in the Queens borough.  We took the A train from Columbus Circle to 'Broad Channel', where we changed to the 'Shuttle' which took us to the beach.  There are numerous beach stops and we got off at the 116 beach station as we had heard it was fairly quiet.    It takes about 90 minutes in total, but next time I would probably stay on the A train to 'Far Rockaway' and see what the beach was like there to save time waiting for the shuttle.

It was a short walk from the station to the beach, which was very quiet so we found a spot easily.  It was hard to believe I was still in New York as I laid in the sun listening to the ocean.

For lunch we took a walk along the boardwalk and ate in a great place called 'Caracus Arepa Bar'.  It serves homemade Venezuelan food which is delicious.  I had a Pabellon Arepas which consists of shredded beef, white cheese, black beans and fried plantains in a cornflour roll-yummy!  Check out their website at at http://caracasarepabar.com/rockaway.php for more information.

After lunch we walked a bit further down the boardwalk to about 90th Street, which was much busier and had the added entertainment of surfers!  We had a little paddle in the sea, which was freezing but really cooled me down.  We spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying the beach before heading back to the city.

I thought Rockaway would be touristy, like most beach areas, but it was very residential with lots of homes on the seafront rather than hotels and B&B's.  There weren't that many places open to eat, but I think that was because of the recent storm and the fact it was mid-week.  I would imagine that it gets much busier at the weekends though, making it harder to access the facilities.

I really enjoyed my day at Rockaway beach and hope to go again before it gets too cold.  It's an easy journey and a nice break from city life, well worth a visit!

For more information about Rockaway beach visit http://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/rockawaybeach.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Earthquakes and Hurricanes

What with an earthquake, hurricane and a tornado warning, it has been quite a week in New York City!

We started this unusual sequence of events with an earthquake on Tuesday.  Tremors from an earthquake in Washington DC were felt here in NYC, but I have to say I didn't even know it had happened until I turned the news on!  Some buildings were evacuated, but overall it wasn't a big deal and most people just went about their business as usual.

The following day it became clear that the city was going to be hit by hurricane Irene, which was working it's way up the East Coast of the US.  As it came closer the mayor evacuated areas most at risk and public transport was suspended.  People started stocking up on water, canned goods, batteries and flashlights (they had no idea what I was talking about when I asked for a torch!) as recommended by state officials.

On the Saturday there was a very unusual atmosphere in the city.  Many places had closed down for the weekend, but some restaurants remained open until the early evening.  We had a late lunch before heading home to await the arrival of Irene.

By 8pm the streets of the city were almost deserted but for a few cars still on the road.  I have never seen New York so quiet, especially on a Saturday night!  We followed the progress of the storm on the news and late in the evening they issued a tornado warning across the city.  By midnight the storm had started, but seemed no where near as bad as they had predicted.  The worst of the weather hit during the night and by 10am on Sunday morning it had all but passed.

Luckily Irene had been downgraded to a tropical storm by the time she hit New York and the damage was no where near as bad as we thought.  There was little flooding in Manhattan and it seemed that everything put in place by officials had worked well.

However, outside of Manhattan not everyone was as lucky. Many people were without power for the majority of the weekend and some areas experienced flooding and damage caused by fallen trees and debris.

At about 10.30am, when it was safe to do so, we went outside to get some air and assess the situation for ourselves.  It was fairly busy out and by midday the streets were full of people.  You could see that a storm had hit the city, but damage was minimal.  There were some fallen trees and flooding in Central Park and it was supposed to be closed.  Unfortunately many people ignored these signs and were in the park, even though it wasn't a safe area.  It also surprised me that people were putting their rubbish on the top of overturned bins!  Surely you would either turn the bin upright or take it home with you?

By this time some restaurants had re-opened and they were packed!  Everyone was trying to get lunch and people were queueing out the door of the places that were open.  It was the same in the evening when we went for dinner, everywhere was full and we had to search for ages before we found a restaurant with a table.  New York apartments are small, so I guess people wanted to get outside before cabin fever set in!

Today it seems that everything is returning to normal with most businesses open and the MTA up and running.  It is a lovely sunny day with blue skies and let's hope for a less eventful week in NYC!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Running in Central Park

For the past couple of months I have been running around the reservoir in Central Park.  Not only is my fitness improving but I love the views as I run around the water.  If I am ever feeling a bit down or homesick, a run around that reservoir reminds me of how lucky I am to be living in New York.

Central Park can be very entertaining and it is much more fun than running on a treadmill.  On a recent run I saw two boobs, one testicle and a woman riding on a bicycle in a wedding dress!  Never a dull moment in this city ;-).  The only thing about exercising in the park is that it can be very busy, so be prepared to dodge tourists, dogs, cyclists and other runners.  It is great fun though and a busy park contributes to the experience.

There are running trails ranging from half a mile to the full park loop which is 6.1 miles, so there is something for every level of fitness.  The official Central Park website (http://www.centralpark.com/guide/sports/running.html) is in the process of updating it's running page, but you can find a map of the trails at http://www.soundkeepers.com/running/nyc_big_map.html.

Good luck and I hope you have as much fun running in the park as I do!

Monday, August 22, 2011

'Fuerza Bruta'- Look Up!

We recently went to see the show 'Fuerza Bruta' which is playing at the Daryl Roth Theatre by Union Square. I received a special offer via email and got tickets for $35 each. There are often special offers online, so it's worth checking out before going to the box office.

This show is unlike anything else I have seen in New York and is very different from other Broadway/Off-Broadway performances. Firstly, you stand the entire time and audience participation is required as you are moved around the theatre during the show.

When you first enter the theatre everyone stands in the middle of the room where there is a DJ playing dance music. It reminded me of a nightclub and lots of people were dancing-it was a really good atmosphere.

I don't want to give away too much, but expect aerial acrobatics, live music, dancing, water, wind and lots of fun! The show is only 70 minutes long but it is full of surprises and you will want to keep on dancing long after the performance is over.

We had a great time and I would definitely recommend it for those of you looking for something a bit different. For more information and to purchase tickets visit http://www.fuerzabrutanyc.com/.

If you do get the opportunity to go I hope you have a great time and don't forget to 'Look Up!'

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Six Flags Great Adventure

Earlier in the week we braved the rain and took the 90 minute drive from Manhattan to 'Six Flags Great Adventure' in New Jersey.

It was pouring with rain when we arrived and were told that it was a possibility the park could close if it became any worse. We thought we would risk it and made our way to the park entrance wearing our very trendy waterproofs. I had purchased and printed our tickets on line so went straight through to the park (although there wasn't a queue).

The good thing about going to a theme park mid-week, in the pouring rain, is that it is very quiet and so we didn't really have to queue for any rides. However, some of the bigger rides were closed throughout the day due to the weather.

The first ride we went on was the new 'Green Hornet' stand up roller coaster. We went straight on so I didn't realise exactly what I was letting myself in for. Well, I learnt that I am NOT good at going upside down numerous times standing up and felt so sick when I got off. The photo was very funny though, I looked like I was being tortured!

This theme park is not short of roller coasters, you can stand up, sit down, lay flat, ride in the dark, you name it they have it. They also have the tallest roller coaster in North America. Unfortunately it was closed due to the weather otherwise I would have gone on it, honest ;-).

As the park was quiet there weren't many eateries open and those that were didn't exactly offer a great choice. It was very hard to eat well and they class vitamin water and fruit as healthy choice meals-not exactly filling. However, these kind of places are known for burgers, pizza and ice-cream so it wasn't a big shock that we couldn't get a decent salad.

We had a really great day and there are lots of fun rides for all ages, although it is definitely more for the thrill seekers who love big roller coasters! We were so lucky that we didn't have to queue for any of the rides, it really made a difference to the day.

Separate to the main park they have a water park and a large safari park that you can visit for an extra $10, although it is included in some ticket prices. Also, if you get tickets online they currently have a special offer where everyone pays kid prices which is $36. Allow for another $20 for parking.

For more information on park opening times and to get tickets visit http://www.sixflags.com/greatAdventure/index.aspx

Happy roller coasting!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

On Location Vacation

When walking around New York City you might be lucky enough to see a TV show or movie being made. I walked past a live set yesterday involving a lot of firemen! It was a really big shoot and although I didn't find out what they were filming it was really interesting to watch.

A great way of finding out what is being filmed in New York, and across the US, is to visit http://www.onlocationvacations.com/. They list all of the upcoming shoots for movies and TV shows and give you the set locations. For live updates you can also follow them on Twitter @olv.

It is very exciting to watch a live set and you never know who or what you might see in action!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Getting Cable, Phone & Internet

It is probably a good idea to organise cable, phone and Internet services before you move in to your new home. Although an engineer will have to visit your property, it is a good idea to ring in advance to ensure you don't have to wait weeks to get your services up and running.

There are many different options when it comes to these services and the company you choose will depend on your individual needs. However, before you decide to use a certain provider check that they supply the services to your building. For example, we can't get 'Verizon Fios' in our building so had to go with 'Time Warner Cable', even though it was more expensive.

Also, I didn't realise that you don't need a phone line in order to get Internet services in New York. In the UK you have to pay line rental charges, even if you don't want a land line in order to access the Internet.

Unfortunately, if you want the best cable channels, such as HBO and SHOWTIME, you will have to pay an additional monthly charge. However, if you aren't that fussed about watching shows as they air you can sign up for NETFLIX which is much cheaper and gives you access to hundreds of TV shows and movies, although I think you need to a games console to watch it through your TV.

I would suggest doing some online research to find the best coverage and deals for your area, as they can differ from street to street. I have listed some websites for some of the main providers below:


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Feeling Far Away

Moving away from family and friends can be hard at the best of times, but when something bad is happening in your home country you realise just how far you are from them.

After the awful events that have taken place across London over the past 3 nights I am worrying about my family and friends that live close by to the areas affected by the riots. Although anxious and apprehensive, everyone I know is fine and just hoping the situation gets resolved soon.

I am especially thankful for the internet at the moment as I can chat to people online as well as keep up to date with events on the 'BBC News' website. News coverage of events outside of the US can sometimes be limited here, so it is a good way to find out what is happening.

Let's hope for a much quieter night tonight. Stay safe everyone. x

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Avanti Nails and Spa

I have had some really bad manicures lately and can't seem to find a decent place to go in my neighbourhood.  In the last three places I have tried the polish didn't even last a day and I was disappointed with the whole experience.

However, today I was in midtown and I found a really great nail bar called 'Avanti'.  They do a variety of different treatments and I opted for their 'Essential' package which consisted of a manicure and signature pedicure with a 10 minute massage for $71.  It is more than I normally pay, but I thought it was worth a go as I might get better treatments.

The salon is very clean and and the chairs and equipment are comfortable and well spaced out.  They also have a large back room overlooks a lovely garden.  It was a popular place but I didn't feel like they were rushing my treatments in order to get the next person in the chair.  The staff are friendly and make you feel comfortable and relaxed.

My pedicure was excellent.  The technician spent a long time ensuring my feet were smooth and soft and the massage was so relaxing that I almost fell asleep in the chair!  She painted my toes beautifully and my tired New York toes were twinkling again once she had finished. 

The manicure was more basic but still very good.  She took her time throughout, which makes a change as I hate it when they rush through the treatment.  My nails look great and I hope the polish lasts longer than my last few manicures.

I would recommend giving Avanti a try as I really enjoyed my experience and will definitely be going back there in the future.  For more information on services, prices and opening hours visit   http://www.avantinailsandspa.com/

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

'New York Sports Club' Gyms

I have recently joined a new gym as we have moved a bit too far from 'Club H' and I was finding excuses not to go as I had to walk over 20 blocks or get the subway!  I was also finding it costly paying $20 for each Zumba class I was taking so I thought I would join a gym that was near by and offered the classes I like.

I looked at many gyms in the area and decided to join the 'New York Sports Club' as they offered all of the classes I wanted, were within walking distance and I didn't have to sell a limb to pay for the membership.  They have loads of locations across the city and for $89 a month you can use them all.  It's great for me as I have access to all of the different classes and schedules they offer at each club.

The changing facilities and overall look of the gym aren't as nice as some of the others in the area, but they are more than adequate for what I want.  The cardio classes are good, I go to the zumba, cardio kick box and step and always get a great workout.  It is quite busy though and you have to book in advance for some classes.

However, I have found that some members don't really understand gym etiquette.  People often run late for classes, which is disruptive although not a huge problem, but they always seem to push in front rather than go to the back to find a space.  Also, some of the senior members are very territorial when it comes to where they workout and can be rude if you are in 'their space'.  The majority of people are friendly though and I never let people like that put me off!

Overall, I do like the NYSC gyms and am enjoying exercising there.  For more information visit their website at http://www.mysportsclubs.com/regions/nysc.htm.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Bill Bailey comes to New York!

Hilarious British comedian Bill Bailey is coming to New York in September to do 4 performances of his new show 'Dandelion Mind'.  He is a very intelligent and original comedian who incorporates music as well as traditional stand up in his shows.  Bill Bailey is very funny and well worth seeing if you get the chance.

He is playing from the 14th to 17th September at the NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts which is located downtown.  You can buy pre-sale tickets now via the Bill Bailey website at http://www.billbailey.co.uk/latestnews/2011/07/bill-bailey-announces-new-york-run/.

I already have my tickets and can't wait to see the show.  Hope to see you there!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Making Friends in NYC

When I first arrived in New York I didn't know anybody and was worried how I would make friends in such a big city.  Initially I really missed my friends and family and had a bit of an unhealthy relationship with Skype and Facebook!  However, six months on I have a great circle of friends and brilliant social life.  It made a huge difference when settling in here and makes New York feel more like home.

I made friends in lots of different ways, so here are my top tips:

1. Go to EVERYTHING-If someone invites you to something, go!  Even if it doesn't sound like you kind of thing make the effort to go as you never know what might happen or who you might meet there. 

2. Volunteer-I have made some great friends through New York Cares and other volunteering opportunities, especially when I went to the same projects on a regular basis.

3. Take up a hobby-join a gym, dance class, book club, Mum's club, etc.  You will meet like-minded people and hopefully enjoy yourself at the same time.

4. Go to events organised by relocation/expat websites- Some are better than others, but there are some good websites that organise fun events for expats.  It is a good opportunity to meet other expats who understand what it is like to be new in New York. I'll be writing a separate blog about these companies.

5.  Don't be shy-Me and a friend were laughing the other day at how making new friends was a bit like dating!  Sometimes you have to make the first move and it can be scary asking someone to go for lunch or coffee for the first time, but don't be shy, go for it!  Also, you do have to make the effort to call and meet up with people, don't just talk to them on Facebook :-)

I hope these tips help and if you have any of your own please post a comment as I would love to read them!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

'Park Avenue Summer'-Restaurant Review

We have been taking advantage of 'Restaurant Week' this summer and have been to some great restaurants.  My favourite so far has been 'Park Avenue Summer' located on the Upper East Side.

This is a very unique place to eat as each season they not only change the menu, but redecorate the entire the restaurant and change the name!  At the moment it looks like a lovely park with yellow walls, grass and flowers spread throughout.  We visited this restaurant during winter restaurant week and it had a completely different feel with white walls and interesting tree arrangements. 

The restaurant week menu was the best I have seen so far as it had 5 choices for each course as well as wine specials.  I had the Potato Gnocchi to start while my husband chose the Salmon Tartare, both were delicious and worth trying.  For main course I had the Dr Pepper baby back ribs which were cooked beautifully, the meat fell of the bone and you can easily eat them using cutlery! My husband had the Filet Mignon which was a $10 supplement, and although tasty he thought my dish was better.  We finishned off with banana parfait and lemon cake, again they were both yummy.

The service was excellent and we had a very enjoyable evening.  It was busy but they hadn't overbooked and we didn't have to wait for our table.  The normal menu is more expensive, but this restaurant is definitely worth a visit especially for a special occasion or celebration.

For more information about the restaurant including menus, opening hours and to make reservations visit http://www.parkavenyc.com/.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Fairway Supermarket

I have just discovered 'Fairway Market' on the Upper West Side and found it to be a great place to go food shopping.  They have other locations across New York with an Upper East Side store opening very soon. 

It is the first supermarket I have been to where I can everything I need under one roof.  They offer a good selection of fresh fruit and vegetables, and their meat and fish is of a high standard.  They have well stocked deli and cheese counters as well as freshly baked bread and cakes.  You can get all of your other typical groceries at Fairway and they also sell household products and toiletries.

I was impressed with the British food section, they sell baked beans, Heinz products, British sauces and condiments, Branston pickle, biscuits and much more.  It is the best selection I have seen outside of a specialist shop.  I bought some really nice English cheddar and had a cheese and pickle roll for lunch! 

The staff were friendly and I didn't have to wait long to pay.  It is much busier at the weekends, so I would recommend going in the week if you can.

For more information on Fairway Market locations and opening hours visit http://www.fairwaymarket.com/home.php.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Signing a Lease

Once you have secured your apartment you will need to sign a lease.  The terms of the lease will be different for each building so it is important to read them carefully before signing.  Depending on where you are renting, the length of the lease will normally be for 1 or 2 years.  It is possible to find shorter leases but you have may have to pay more for these apartments.

It is also worthwhile checking what will happen if you have to break the lease early.  Some places may let you sub-let the apartment, if not you may be responsible for paying the rent until they find a new tenant. 

You will need to provide two bankers cheques as a deposit and each cheque must be the value of one month's rent.  One cheque will be your first month's rent and the second will be returned to you at the end of the lease as long as there is no damage to the property.

If you unsure of anything on the lease ask the management company or your broker to go through it with you before you sign.

The building should redecorate the property before you move in, but if you notice anything that needs fixing or replacing let the management company know so it can be rectified before you move in.

You now have your very own New York apartment!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Finding and Renting a Place to Live in NYC

Once you have decided on which part of the city you want to make your new home, the next step is to find your perfect apartment.  The majority of New Yorkers (about 70%) rent homes rather than buy, so there is a big rental market in the city. 

I started my search buy looking online at available apartments in my area.  This gave me a good indication of price and what I could get for my money.  Once you have an idea of what you are looking for there are three main ways of finding a place to live.

1. Use a Broker
Brokers have a good knowledge of the local area and market prices.  They often hear about listings before they are advertised and will get you viewings of properties new to the market.  They can negotiate prices for you and help you through the rental process. However, this service comes at a price and you will be expected to pay around 15% of the first years rental if you find a property using a broker.  You may be able to negotiate a discount and it is worth checking with your employer to see if they have any discounts with certain brokers. 

There are some online companies that provide broker services for free.  I don't have any first hand experience of using a free broker, but it may be worthwhile to research some companies to save on fees.

2. Rent directly from an apartment building
There are lots of companies that have large rental portfolios in NYC.  These companies have large apartment blocks at various locations throughout the city and often provide shorter term lets depending on availability (most leases are for two years).  You can view floor plans, check availability and prices online and liaise with their lettings office when organising viewings.  These buildings may also have additional facilities, such as a health club, business centre and playroom, although these are not always included in your rent.
Here are some of the companies I looked at:
Also, if you google 'rental apartment buildings in NYC' or similar, you will find lots of rental building websites.

3. Word of Mouth
This is how we found our apartment.  We told everyone we knew that we were looking to move and were lucky enough to find our perfect apartment through a friend.  I appreciate that we were very fortunate to find somewhere this way, but you never know so it is worth asking around.  You also avoid paying broker fees!

Be prepared to make some compromises when looking for property in New York as it is almost impossible to get everything you want.  You may have to look at lots of places before finding the right one, but once you do it is important to move quickly.  Good apartments are snapped up quickly in this city, so if you love it make sure to move fast to avoid losing it to someone else.

Good luck!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Off to the West Coast

I'm off to the West Coast for a weeks holiday so won't be blogging next week. However, I hope to have lots to tell you when I get back and will be continuing to write about finding an apartment and all that goes with it.

Have a great 4th July weekend!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Summer Restaurant Week

In January I wrote about 'Restaurant Week' which takes place twice a year in New York.  Summer restaurant week (it is actually 2 weeks) is coming up and takes place from 11-24 July.  Many restaurants across the city offer special 3-course set menus at $24 for lunch and $35 for dinner.  It is a great opportunity to try some high end restaurants without breaking the bank.  These special menus are available Monday-Friday and Sundays in certain restaurants.  Some place only offer the restaurant week menu for lunch or dinner, but you can check online before making reservations.

During the last restaurant week I ate in some fantastic places and am looking forward to doing the same again this summer.  I would start making reservations now as places do get booked up quite quickly, especially the more expensive restaurants. 

To find out which restaurants are participating and to make reservations visit http://www.nycgo.com/restaurantweek or http://www.opentable.com/.

I'll be writing reviews of the restaurants I visit and would love to know how you get on.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Summer Stage NYC & Shakespeare in the Park

Every year Summer Stage, sponsored by the City Parks Foundation, hosts a variety of free performances that take place in the parks of New York.  During the season you can see live music, dance, jazz, comedy, opera and much more.  Although the 'Main Stage' is located in Central Park, there are many other events taking place in parks across the 5 boroughs, Manhattan, Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens and The Bronx.

To find out what's on, when and where visit the Summer Stage website at http://www.summerstage.org/index.html.

Another New York summer tradition is 'Shakespeare in the Park', which takes place in Central Park at the Delacorte Theatre.  The season runs from the beginning of June to the end of July and all performances are free to the public.  You can get tickets from the free line at the theatre on the day of the performance.  The box office opens at 1pm and the performances start at 8pm.  You can also get tickets from a few other places across the 5 boroughs or by using the virtual ticketing service online, which is a bit like entering a lottery.

Shakespeare in the Park is extremely popular and demand for tickets is high, especially at the weekends.  If you can go during the week you may have more luck getting tickets or get to the free line early to avoid disappointment.

For more information about performances and getting tickets visit http://shakespeareinthepark.org/about/.

I hope you get to enjoy some of the great free events on in New York throughout the Summer and I would love to hear how you get on!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The GreenFlea Market

The GreenFlea Market runs every Sunday on the Upper West Side between 77th and 80th street on Columbus Avenue. There are two sections of the market, the flea market and the farmers market.

The farmers market is set up on Columbus Avenue behind the Natural History Museum and sells an array of foods. You can buy fresh fruit and vegetables, meats and cheeses, wine and ciders, baked goods and other local produce.

I have bought fresh fruit and vegetables from the stalls here and have been impressed with the quality of the products.  They are well priced and you can feel good in the knowledge that you are supporting your local New York farmers.

The flea market is located across the street at the school and there are a variety of stalls selling clothing, jewellery, antiques, furniture and many other interesting items.  The market is set up both inside the school and outside in the playground.  There can be some good bargains to be had and it's a great way to spend an hour or so on a Sunday afternoon.  I like looking at the vintage handbags and shoes!

The Greenflea market is worth a visit if you are in the area and is a good place to buy your fresh fruit and veggies for the week.  For more information on vendors and market hours visit http://www.greenfleamarkets.com/.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

ZClubNY-New UWS Location & Dirty Dancing!

I love ZClubNY and often go to their classes.  I have written about them before on my blog, but just wanted to update you on their new location on the Upper West Side.  The studio is located on 68th Street between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue.  They have the same instructors as the other two locations and the classes are a great workout.

Also, this Sunday (June 26th) they are holding a 'Dirty Dancing' masterclass from 11.30am to 1pm.  It is at another studio on West 60th Street and is being taught by two of my favourite instructors Xavier Marzan and Edmee Cherdieu d'Alexis.  Unfortunately I can't go but I am sure it will be loads of fun and a great workout.  Let me know how you get on if you go!

For more information and to book classes visit http://zclubny.com/.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Location, Location Location!

Finding an apartment in New York can be a daunting task, especially if you have never been here before or don't know the city that well.

The first thing to do is decide which area you would like to live in.  There are many different factors that will influence this decision as there are lots of things to consider when choosing a neighborhood.

Firstly, you want to feel comfortable in your neighbourhood.  There are so many choose from and each has it's own vibe and atmosphere.  Your personal situation may affect where you decide to live, for example, if you are young, free and single you will probably want different things from a family with children.

Another consideration is proximity to your work place. However you decide to travel you will want to make sure that you can get to work easily.  For example, if you are planning to use the subway you will want to be near a station,or if you want to drive you will need access to parking at home and work. 

Local amenities may also influence your location decision, you may need to be near a school, want outdoor space (a luxury in this city!), be near a park or close to shops and supermarkets.

The cost of living will also be an important factor. The cost of renting/buying varies greatly depending on the neighbourhood and the type of property. 

So, how do you decide which neighbourhood is best for you?  Lot's of research!  I would recommend looking at these websites as they give a great overview of each neighbourhood in NYC.  You can look at property prices, crime rates, local amenities and get an overall impression of the area. 


Based on personal experience, I can give you further information about what it's like to live in Murray Hill, Midtown West and the Upper West Side.  However, please feel free to contact me about other neighbourhoods and I will do my best to find out for you.

Once you have decided on your new neighbourhood you can then start searching for your New York pad!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Moving Apartments

I am currently in the process of moving apartments.  It is a complicated process as not only do we have to move our stuff from our current apartment to our new one, but we had a lot of our belongings shipped over from the UK.  Add on to that a delivery of a new bedroom set and you have chaos!  We also have to organise phone, cable and internet, which brings its own set of problems.

However, the good thing about this process is that I am discovering some great tips that I can put on my blog.  Once I am settled I will have lots of information to share about finding an apartment, broker fees, locations, buying things for your new home, how to get cable, TV and internet and much more.

Wish me luck!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

New Girl in New York is Published!

A few months ago I was approached by 'Cacao' magazine to write about my experience of being an expat in New York.  I was extremely excited to be given such a fantastic opportunity and couldn't wait to get started on my article.  I felt just like Carrie from 'Sex and the City' sitting in front of my laptop writing about 'The New York Look'! 

Cacao magazine is quite a new publication and the June edition includes a section on New York.  There are some really interesting articles about people's experiences of the city and some great photographs.  The magazine is only available to buy in Sweden, Berlin, Hong Kong and Taiwan at the moment, but they are hoping to sell it in New York in the future. 

Check out their website at http://www.facebook.com/cacao.mag and if you do get a copy of the magazine I would love to know what you think of my article!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Statue of Liberty

My parents recently came to New York for a visit from the UK and I thought it would be great to take them to see the Statue of Liberty.  As it is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the U.S. I thought I should be organised and book tickets in advance.  I looked online and there are a lot of companies that sell tickets, but I purchased mine from the official 'Statue Cruises' website where the tickets are cheapest.

There are different types of tickets available online and I would highly recommend booking in advance rather than just turning up on the day.  By booking reserve tickets you can avoid long queues to buy tickets and to get through security.  I wanted to book 'Crown' tickets, which allow you to go up to the top of the statue, but you need to book them months in advance.  I was lucky enough to get 'Pedestal' tickets which allow you to go inside the structure and stand just below the lady herself. 

It is almost impossible to avoid the queues completely as there is still a wait to get though security (twice if you are going in to the statue) and you can wait quite a while for the ferry.  There are two departure points available, one in Battery Park Manhattan and one in New Jersey.  It isn't as busy from NJ, so it could be worth going from that location during peak times.

However, it was well worth the wait and we had an amazing day. The views from Liberty Island looking back towards the Manhattan skyline are just fantastic and it was great to get so close to such a famous landmark.  We ran out of time to visit Ellis Island, which is included in your ticket, but I hear it is very interesting and worth stopping off to look around. 

It is a great place to take visitors to the city and a good excuse to be a tourist for the day!  For more information and to book tickets visit http://www.statuecruises.com/.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Getting a Mobile Phone

When moving to New York one of the first things that most people want to get organised is a mobile phone.  There are many different service providers and plans to choose from and it can become quite overwhelming. 

In England we have the 'Carphone Warehouse' which offers all of the current phones and plans from the majority of service providers.  However, in New York it is slightly different, there isn't a 'one stop mobile shop' here.  Each provider has it's own store and in order to view their plans and phones you either have to go into each shop separately or look online.  Certain phones are only available with certain providers and most contracts are a minimum of two years.  Also, in most cases the phone itself isn't included in the package and you will have to pay for it in addition to your monthly charges.

As the majority of new comers to the U.S.A won't have a credit history you may have to pay an additional fee in order to set up a contract.  This can be any amount up to about $500. 

However, there are a couple of stores, 'Best Buy' and 'Radio Shack', that do stock a selection of some of the service providers and phones available.  They don't have everything, but they are a good place to start if you have no idea what you are looking for.  I went into 'Radio Shack' and they were extremely helpful.  They helped me choose a phone, a plan and set everything up for me so that when I left the store I had a working mobile. 

So, after a long search I decided that I didn't want to part with a fortune just to have a mobile phone, so I opted for a 'Virgin Mobile' pay as you deal.  I got a pretty good phone for $100, nothing fancy but I can get email, facebook, etc, and I pay $25 a month for unlimited text, internet and 300 minutes of calls.  For $60 a month you can get unlimited calls, texts and internet.  Also, as there is no contract there are no extra fees to pay.

Virgin offer pretty good international rates, it costs 20cents to send a text to the UK and 20cents per minute to make a call.  Beware that when you receive international calls and texts you will also be charged these rates.  You can get cheaper international rates (more information to follow), but it's handy to have if you need it.  For more information you can visit http://www.virginmobileusa.com/.

Good luck when shopping for your New York mobile phone and please feel free to contact me if you need more information on the subject!

Monday, May 30, 2011

The Great Washing Machine Shortage

One of the things that amazes about New York living is the fact that hardly anyone has a washing machine in their apartment.  Not only that, it is considered a luxury to have washing and drying facilities in an apartment building.  This was new for me as in England almost all homes have their own washing facilities. 

If you live somewhere without any washing facilities you have two choices, you can visit your local laundrette, (they call them Laundromat's here) or take your washing to a dry cleaners where they will wash and dry everything for you.  They tumble dry everything over here, so make sure to take out any clothes that are delicate or may shrink.

When I first arrived here I found it very odd that I had to take my laundry down to the basement to get it washed.  As everyone in the building needs to use the same facilities you can't put a wash on and go out, or put a wash on overnight.  Now I don't think much about it and count myself lucky to be able to wash my clothes without leaving the building!

I don't believe it's like this across the rest of America, or even in the rest of New York State, it seems just to be a problem here in the city.  What I find even more unusual is the fact that most apartments have full size dishwashers, even though the kitchens here are tiny!

So, if you are moving to New York and looking for an apartment, make sure you ask about laundry facilities as washing your clothes might not be as easy as you think!

Friday, May 27, 2011

GMA Lady Gaga Concert

I had an amazing time at the 'Good Morning America' Lady Gaga concert today.  There was a great atmosphere and everyone was really friendly and happy to be there so early in the morning!  Although it was really busy and there were lots of people there, we managed to get a pretty good view of the stage.

Lady Gaga came out just before 7.30 am for a rehearsal during which she chatted with the crowd and practiced 'Bad Romance' and 'Judas'.  She also taught us the moves for 'Judas' which she asked us to perform in the live show.

The live show was fantastic and Lady Gaga made her entrance by flying on a zip wire above the crowd to land on the stage.  She sang 5 songs including 'Born this Way' from a tank full of black glitter and finished with 'Hair' which Gaga played on a full size Unicorn piano.  It was a brilliant show and I am so glad I had the opportunity to see Lady Gaga perform in Central Park!

Lady Gaga's grand entrance on the zip wire!

Lady Gaga singing 'Hair' on the unicorn piano