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

Off the beaten track

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PC:Pexel

Do you remember what your doctor ordered you to do, to keep your body happy and healthy? Err, do apples ring a bell?

Great! So if I ask you what it is that you should do to keep your soul happy? What would you say?

Well in my opinion it has to be travelling.

Wouldn’t it be a perfect world if every couple of months, we would be able  to take short weekend getaways, far away from the hustle and bustle of the daily life.

A chance to stay in a fancy hotel, eat delicious food prepared by top chefs, lie on the beach drinking cocktails and going shopping sounds like the ideal way to de-stress away the daily grind.

Of course there is no doubt that indulging in luxe travel is absolutely fabulous, but sometimes let’s make that adventure junkie in us take over and have us explore new places as they are meant to be seen.

So how about getting off the beaten path and away from sponsored tourism?

If you really want to ‘see’ the place and ‘feel’ the experience rather than just taking a vacation, then here are some ways you can go about it.

Try backpacking

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PC:Unsplash

Rather than staying at five-star hotels or dining in Michelin star restaurants, go away from the glitz and glamour of tourist hot spots. Try Backpacking. It allows you to see a destination in a completely different way. It’s a much more humble way to get around and appreciate a destination for what it really is beyond the conventional tourism.

Of course you’ll mainly be traveling on foot and or by public transport which will enable you to really immerse yourself in the place you’re in, allowing you to see it as the locals would and not simply as a tourist. You’ll be discovering places that you simply wouldn’t come across if you were on package tour. Not only is it an inexpensive way to travel, but it can give you really meaningful experiences. You will leave a place feeling as though you know it, rather than just skimming the surface like you would as a tourist.

Stay somewhere different

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PC:Kerela Tourism

Instead of staying in a hotel, why not look into different accommodation options when you travel? For instance if you are in Kerela, try staying in a houseboat. The experience you will have will be like no other. Or you could choose an AIRBNB rather than an upscale hotel. It’s a lot cheaper and can completely change the feel of your trip. There are plenty of websites which offer home stays and vacation rentals with the entire house if needed.

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I have personally had some amazing stays at Washington DC and Montreal at comfortable and well maintained AIRBNB’s .  Although these were a little further out from the main tourist destinations, it allowed me to stay in a location that I may have never found, had I stayed at a hotel. Or if you are solo traveller you could look into travel hostels, these are cheap and cheerful and can be a great way to meet other travelers.

Once you’ve decided on your destination, do your research and consider different options for where you could stay. Going with something a bit more unique such as Houseboats, or Swiss Tents could add another dimension to your trip and make it extra memorable.

Speak to the locals

Speaking to the locals is one of the best ways to find places that are off the beaten path. There are certain streets that bring out the vibe of a place. And speaking to locals would certainly help in exploring it.

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On my recent trip to Singapore, walking through the streets in Kampong Glam, I was pleasantly surprised to find Haji Lane. It’s fabled to be one of the narrowest streets in Singapore. The street had some quirky and vintage boutiques, funky graffiti on its walls and quaint cafes.

Neal’s Yard in London was another such gems I found on my travels.

Google and travel guides will, of course, tell you all about popular places and the things that you want to see, but there will be so many additional things that you’ll be able to discover by chatting to the people that live there.

Travel off season

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Most destinations will have a peak season and an off season, mainly dictated by the weather. Ideally try going during either on an off peak or shoulder season. Not only will it be less expensive but it will be less busy. Sure, there won’t be as many shops, eateries, clubs and other hot spots open but as a traveler, this won’t be the kind of thing you’re looking for anyway.

On the downside, there might be not so ideal weather conditions during the off season depending on where you go, so do your research and go prepared. For example, many hotels in Goa have excellent packages during the monsoon season between June-September.

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PC:LonelyPlanet

 

Travel, should not be a break from everyday life. Travel should be the time when you feel the most normal, centered, and at home.

There is no high more intense than being someplace new, and feeling like just a little piece of a vast, vast world.

 

Happy Exploring!!

madhavi