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.