Satisfying my wanderlust -one step at a time

Whenever I travel to any new city, first thing I do after checking in is to frantically figure out my way around town, the use of public transport if any, and  how do I buy and use the oyster/subway cards or on what side of the street do I catch the bus on. But I am always utterly delighted when I discover that I just need my own two feet.

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So, I just want to say a big thank you to some of the world’s walkable cities -I am pleased to meet you, and appreciate you for the fact that you allow me to explore your beauty all on my own.  I love getting lost on your cobblestone streets and quaint bazaars. I love watching the street performers and stop by to listen to them singing or playing funky music on the guitar. I appreciate the quiet privacy I get even when sitting on a busy street bench, enjoying my Gelato and people watching (Something I can never do in Delhi).

Walkable towns and cities offer so much more in terms of sightseeing, something a bus or train ride can never lay claim to. But I have to warn you that not all cities are well suited to pedestrians (I’m looking at you, Los Angeles), and offering my utmost respect for those people that prefer to get around on foot (I’m looking at you New Yorkers).

I’m amazed at just how many miles I walk by the end of my trip (always forget to turn on the app on my phone) and the excitement of exploring a new city always trumps the exhaustion of a long day on my feet.

 While I may not do enough justice by listing out all those cities here, there are some of the few here I have had the opportunity to explore on foot and are just fantastic to walk around.

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New York

This one literally takes the cake. I am amazed at how much walking I can do in NYC even if I do not want to do all of the touristy things. I always look at Google maps and the subway app before I venture out and work out exactly where my must-sees are, in relation to each other. I feel grouping things geographically is by far the best way to maximize my time and minimise unnecessary walking. Using the subway does get you pretty close to most of the sights, such as Highline and Brooklyn Bridge, but exploring all of New York City takes more than a subway ride. Around Central Park, Times Square, the Empire State Building, and Rockefeller Center it is much easier to walk the blocks exploring this frantic city as you go by.

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Philadelphia

Consistently ranked as one of the country’s most walkable cities, Philadelphia is ripe with colorful neighborhoods, great buildings, and cultural sites to explore. Seemingly a world away from Philadelphia’s colonial sites, the South Philly section has a rich history of its own. Cheese, chocolate, spice, and olive oil stands are plentiful at the famous outdoor market, which is open daily and is America’s largest.

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Boston

Smaller when compared to New York City, Boston has its own charm coupled with  elegant neighbourhoods, historic streets, and American landmarks from the Back Bay to Beacon Hill and  the Freedom Trail. Newbury Street known for its trendy shopping, Copley Square for its beautiful open square and the Boston Public Library and Trinity Church give a cool vibe to this city. The Boston Public Garden one of the loveliest green spaces in the city also has one of the most photographed statues — the Make Way for Ducklings sculpture. The North End is a captivating, lively quarter, with its many Italian restaurants and picturesque streets that transport you back in time.

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Washington, DC

One of the best features of Washington, D.C., is its walkability. Not only are many of its major sites and attractions grouped together on the National Mall, but the city is a series of true neighborhoods knitted together, easily traversed by foot. Whether it’s historic or cultural, food- or monument-centric, watching the cherry blossoms in full bloom or taking a tour of the memorials by moonlight, DC has many things to offer its tourists.

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Vancouver

Vancouver is popularly known as the ‘walker’s paradise’, all thanks to the pedestrian way finding maps that encourage a person to walk through the city. Among the most famous walks, False Creek to Granville Island takes the front position where we would stop by and shop at the Public Market for locally grown fresh produce. Downtown Vancouver, Gastown, Stanley Park and the Buchart Gardens which is an easily reachable place from the downtown Vancouver adds to the list.

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Venice, Italy

Probably the originator of the “getting lost” in Europe mentality, (which I have yet to feel) Venice is the ideal place to explore on foot.   Of course, a gondola ride along the canals is a wonderful treat; however, the true magic can be found in the streets along the canals.  Walking on the Rialto square and around St Mark’s square, you will experience the locals going about their daily business shadowed by the city’s historic structures.

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London, UK

London is one of the most foot-friendly cities in the world and one of my favourite too. Its bridges and the London Eye (on a clear sunny day) provide some of the best views in London. Central London has most of the landmark locations which are closer to each other. The City Visitor Trail also known as “the Square Mile” a guided walk maps a route through the heart of the City, taking you past a range of famous attractions on a stroll through the historic heart of the capital to see St Paul’s Cathedral, Guildhall, the Bank of England, Mansion House, the Monument, the Tower of London and Tower Bridge – along with a host of City churches, like the famous St Mary-le-Bow.

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Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Amsterdam’s flat, compact, and lively streets make the city an ideal place to explore on foot. In fact, walking may be the best way to appreciate gorgeous 17th-century canals, leafy parks, and former industrial docklands.

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Shanghai, China

With clean, wide sidewalks, and interesting sights along the way, Shanghai has lots to offer for a fun walk. The Yu Garden is the number one tourist attraction in Shanghai, and the only example of a Classic Chinese garden left in the city from the dynastic period of Chinese history. The added advantage is that it borders the Yuyuan Tourist Mart, where one can browse through a wide selection of touristy trinkets and test out bargaining skills. There are two parts of Shanghai, worth visiting –one a scenic/cultural part of Shanghai in the French Concession, and the second covers a famous temple and Shanghai’s art district through a more local route.

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Sydney, Australia

The 6km trail from Bondi to Coogee is perhaps the most famous coastal hiking trail in Sydney, New South Wales and perhaps even Australia.  Bondi Beach to Coogee Beach walk treats visitors to some of Australia’s best beaches and most impressive ocean views. Not only tourists but even the local Sydney-siders come to Sydney’s east coast every day to enjoy Australia’s best beaches, stunning ocean views and lots of parks, cafes and restaurants on the way.

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New Delhi, India

If you have ever been to Delhi, you will notice that it is a huge maze, and to manoeuvre it can be a task—especially if you are new to the city. The best way to soak in the rich culture of Old Delhi is to take some guided tours that are a combination of walks and cycle rickshaws rides, as you absorb the street vibe , the historical sites, and bazaars, and experience the various culinary treats and street foods. Although there are many heritage monuments dotted around the city, the Heritage Walk is an excellent way to connect the historical dots, since the guided walks are themed. That way, you learn what one monument has to do with another, as it was intended all those years ago.

Another interesting tour is the Cycle Tour where a group of 8-10 participants is accompanied by a friendly tour guide in bright orange, who will maintain a nice pace as you pedal through Old or New Delhi.

While you will definitely enjoy most of the ‘walking tours’ in some of these places, do note that you need to take heed of the following steps before you do so.

  • Walking tours usually involve long distances with each excursion lasting around two to three hours. While you’re possibly used to walking around your hometown, it is advisable to check out the general terrain of the city where you’re going. I have seen many a person who is part of a group tour getting excruciatingly tired after a few miles of walking that the entire group feels the strain.
  • Condition your body and build adequate stamina so you can enjoy exploring your vacation destination. Wear proper footwear and break in your trekking shoes by wearing them regularly for a few weeks in advance.
  • One of the prerequisites of enjoying a walking tour is keeping up energy levels and hydration. Eat a filling breakfast to fuel your body for the trek and bring bottles of fluids.

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Exploring a city or town on foot is one of the most exciting ways to get a closer view of its inherent charm. Not only do you get an immersive experience of its attractions and people, but you’ll understand it better than any conventional excursions.  Guided walks and city tours are available just about everywhere; to find them, do an Internet search, consult a good guidebook or contact the local tourist office.

Enjoy!

Madhavi

 

 

PC: Visitphiladelphia;Planetware; Touropia;Sydneywalks;Spinmonkey

 

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A New York state of mind !

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This isn’t my first time in New York but still whenever someone asks me what they should see and do in New York, I’m almost always stumped for an answer.

I mean besides the obvious touristy places /things, how can I sum up my answer? New York isn’t just any other big city. It’s an experience.

New York emits a mixed response from people. The crowds that throng this city is unbelievable. Some just love the crazy vibe the city has, and others hate it.

There are a million things that you can do in New York City that if I start talking, I wouldn’t know when to stop. After all, it is known as the city that never sleeps.

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But let me begin by saying that you better be prepared for walking a lot! A lot, a lot, a lot!! I mean you definitely can hail a yellow cab, just like in the movies and all, but who wants to see NY from a cab window, come on !

New York traffic can really leave you exhausted; not to mention the cab fare which can add up and get expensive in the long run.

Subway is your best bet and the 7 Day Metro Pass card will give you the best bang for your buck. And sometimes, Uber and Lyft are better options since most of the time, they are cheaper than regular cabs.

Speaking of traveling by Subway, be prepared to spend a little time figuring out which train goes where. Although I have traveled by Subway several times, it does get a little confusing for me. Figuring out the direction I need to take rattles me but then I figured out that doing a recee first on the google maps helps in taking the best possible route. Also downloading the NY Subway app on your phone can be really helpful.

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While there are the definite,’Things to do in NY’ such as the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building , Rockefeller center- the Top of the Rocks a 3-tiered observation deck at Rockefeller Plaza, that offers a great view of Manhattan, Chinatown, SOHO, the numerous Museums , the list is endless, but most of these attractions are chargeable . But surprisingly there are also so many things that you can do for free.

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Some Museums have free entry on certain days/ times. Or you can catch The Staten Island Ferry which is a Free commuter ferry that travels back and forth from the Whitehall Terminal at the tip of Manhattan to the St. George Terminal on Staten Island. You can catch a stunning view of the city as well as the Statue of Liberty while on the Ferry. This is such a great alternative especially if you do not wish to buy tickets and go to Ellis Island to see the Statue of Liberty or have already done that in your previous trips.

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Apart from this, popular places like Central Park, Bryant Park, Battery Park, Grand Terminal station ( an Icon) the 9/11 Memorial and Museum , Wall Street and its cobbled streets,  taking a walk on the Brooklyn Bridge , or DUMBO (The neighborhood of Dumbo is a beautiful place to visit. It has cobbled streets, vintage brick buildings, sits under the Brooklyn bridge and sports some sweet street art. Just walking around this area is a real treat). The HighLine which passes through Chelsea market and the nearby honeycomb structure  ‘The Vessel’ are all free activities.

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Stretching out underneath the Highline you’ll find a plethora of art galleries. These galleries are funky and weird as hell. They’re free to enter and some are big. This may be one of the most underrated things to do in New York City.

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Other than the tourist spots there are numerous other places of interest such as the ‘house from FRIENDS‘ in West village, or the the fact that Macy’s the trendsetter store covers an entire block with 11 levels of fashion for you and your home.

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NY has some of the hippest restaurants and rooftop bars that exude the vibe of this vibrant city.

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Of course there are many more sights that I haven’t included in this post, as I feel there will always be something I may leave behind.

You can somewhat relate to the quote from the movie Forrest Gump – “Life is a box full of chocolates, you never know which one you get”

Such is New York- Always a little mysterious, a little sweet and a whole lot saucy!!

 

Madhavi

 

 

PC:Lonelyplanet;NYTimes,Personal

A photo walk through the TWA flight center

 

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The last time the Trans World Airlines (TWA) terminal at Kennedy International Airport saw a weary traveler was in 2001.

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The flight centre has since been closed until May 2019 , when it reopened and transformed into the lobby of the new TWA hotel , the only on site airport hotel.
Offering an homage to a past era of aviation, today the terminal’s twin corridors lead you to the TWA hotel with 512 rooms.

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What was once an ‘Arrivals hall’ , is now the reception area of the hotel . The check in desks of the terminal serve as the reception desk .

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Lining the walls are the many pictures of the cities TWA  once flew to.

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Hotel guests will feel like they’re stepping back in history — with the old flight board on display, model cars in what will be a restaurant, rotary pay phones and red plush furniture. There are more than 500 guest rooms, dozens of meeting rooms and even an infinity pool on the roof.

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Walking into the Flight Center, you are greeted first by a vintage Lincoln in the porch. As you enter you see a ticking departures board and a hostess dressed in a purple polyester TWA uniform. Moving on the graceful staircase, the Sunken Lounge, huge window panes, and a view of a restored TWA plane on the long-abandoned runway..

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A cocktail lounge in a repurposed Lockheed Constellation L-1649A from the 1950s stands outside the new hotel. Four large sofas and eight vintage airplane seats reupholstered with a retro pink and orange plaid seat the guests .

 

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The display of TWA uniforms and luggage through the decades is just one taste of history in the brand new hotel.

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There are multiple places to eat throughout the TWA Hotel, such as the Paris Cafe, located on the mezzanine level of the historic building. The 200-seat restaurant is now open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and serves food inspired by in-flight menus from TWA.

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For quick meals, what was once the ‘Departures Hall ‘ now has a mini food-court style offerings and coffee carts.

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Located through the terminal are the multiple memorabilia reminding you of the aviation era gone by.

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Whether you’re an avid plane spotter or just love rooftop bars , the Pool Bar at the TWA Hotel is worth visiting . Looking out over JFK’s Runway 4, you can watch JetBlue and Delta planes take off while sipping a cocktail at the bar or while swimming in the infinity edge pool.

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The TWA hotel at JFK Terminal 5 takes you down memory lane with a marketable “story” and some absolutely wonderful ‘Instagrammable’ photos.

 

Madhavi

 

 

PC: Personal;TWA Hotel;