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:
http://www.archstoneapartments.com/
http://www.related.com/rentals/
http://www.columbussq.com/
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!