Eat here: Genji Soba, Osaka, Japan (noodles)

Genji Soba
4-5-8, Namba, Chuo-ku, Osaka, Japan
http://genjisoba.co.jp

An unfortunate incident involving a too-milky matcha latte had me feeling a little unwell on our last night in Osaka, so dinner had to be something plain and simple. The husband quite enjoyed his first soba experience, and wanted to go for more, so a quick Google hunt led him to Genji Soba, only a few streets away from our Airbnb.

Tucked away down a quiet alley with no big A-frame, no blinking neon lights and no real signage, this little 18-seat restaurant is one of those places you’d never know was there unless someone has told you to check it out. And I’m telling you, check it out!

We were quickly greeted and seated, and given menus with English translations. They’re known for soba, so that’s what we went with! I was looking at the soba with daikon, but the little lady running the show warned me that it was “very strong.” I asked if by that she meant spicy, and with English words failing her, she busted into the kitchen and back out again with a little dish containing a pinch of daikon and a spoon, so that I could try it myself. Turns out we were both right; “strong” equaled spicy!

I ended up going with the plain soba, made from a mix of 80% buckwheat and 20% flour. I was instructed to either dip my chopsticks into the pinch of salt before reaching for the noodles in order to balance out their natural sweetness, or add some onion and wasabi to the dipping sauce, or, combine the lot should I so wish. That dipping sauce was pure umami magic, and my long, thin noodles were delicious!

Husband ordered the 100% buckwheat soba, which were thicker and chunkier than mine, with a richer, nuttier flavour. They were nice and chewy, just as they should be; cooked just to the right point.

Following dinner, this sweet little lady was back again, with a red, square tea pot and two fresh tea cups in hand. She proceeded to pour some of our remaining dipping sauce into each new cup, and topped them up with the contents of the tea pot – the water in which our noodles were cooked. As she added the cloudy, hot water to the dipping sauce, she explained that was the correct way to finish your meal of soba, by drinking the cooking water with some sauce, like a soup. She was spot on; I drained two cups.

After our umpteenth tea refill, we finally made to leave. Our bill was promptly brought over by the young man (around AUD$20.00 for two noodles and husband’s 500ml beer), and the lady of the house followed hot on his heels with two notebooks; would we be so kind as to leave a few nice words in their guest book? Most definitely! And could they also take our picture for their photo book? Absolutely! And with that, we were walked to the door with a flurry of bows and thanks, a small gift of an origami Geisha, and an insistence of helping me put my coat on, despite her being a foot shorter than me.

This is what it’s all about. Yes, the food was outstanding, as demonstrated by the stream of locals filing in and out while we were there. But it’s the people that make it an experience you won’t forget, and Japanese hospitality is absolutely on another level.

Oh, and if you want to find this place when you visit Osaka, this is what you’re looking for:

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Top 10 Things To Do in Prague

I thought I’d kick off the new year with one of my favourite new cities – Prague was incredible! It was one of the cities I picked out for this trip because it looked beautiful in photos I’d seen, and sounded fascinating from the books and blog posts I’d read. Expect to see a lot more about this gorgeous city here in the coming months, but for now, here are 10 things you can add to your Prague bucket list!

 

1. Eat some seriously good traditional home-style food at U-Medvidku.

http://umedvidku.cz/en/
Where? Na Perštýně 7, 100 01 Staré Město
Why go?
They’re a restaurant, hotel and brewery all in one, and the food is warm plates of pure comfort. I highly recommend the potato dumplings filled with smoked ham on a bed of red and white sauerkraut – it looks almost as unappealing as it sounds, but it’s one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. So much so, we went back the following day to order it again!
How long will you need? An hour or so for a good meal – food actually comes out pretty quickly,  but you’ll want time to enjoy it!
Cost? Soups and entrees from AUD$3.00, mains from AUD$12.00

 

2. Cross Charles Bridge – duh.

Where? In the middle of the city
Why go?  Don’t expect it to be quiet and romantic; it’s as packed with tourists as the Brooklyn Bridge! If you’re willing to get up and go early in the morning, you’ll enjoy a nice sunset with less people around, otherwise join the throngs later in the day and enjoy!
How long will you need? Leave at least half an hour each way
Cost? Free!

 

3. Then, see the bridge from above, at the top of the Old Town Bridge Tower.

http://en.muzeumprahy.cz/201-the-old-town-bridge-tower/
Where? The end of Charles Bridge – Old Town side
Why go? After crossing back into the Old Town from the lesser town side, you’ll reach the beautiful Old Town Bridge Tower. Most people we saw stopped to snap a photo of it, but very few seemed to notice the little entrance – head in, pay around AUD$6.00 for entry, climb the stairs to the top, and be rewarded with the best view of Charles Bridge in the city.
How long will you need? An hour or so, depending on how you do with the stairs
Cost? About AUD$6.00

 

4. Take the stairs on Zámecké schody to Prague Castle.

Where? Corner of Thunovská and Zámecká Streets, then head west (turn left) at Thunovská
Why go? Most people enter the castle complex on the opposite side, via the Old Castle Stairs, but that’s actually starting at the back – it was meant to be entered from the first courtyard. But that’s not the only reason; the view out over Prague from the top of the Zámecké schody stairs is unbeatable, especially around sunrise.
How long will you need? 10 minutes or so to the top
Cost? Free again!

 

5. Buy a ticket at Prague Castle to see more than just the outside of the buildings.

https://www.hrad.cz/en
Where? Take the stairs – see above
Why go? There are a few options depending on how much or little you want to see; we went with the middle ground and bought tickets for “Circuit B” which included access to the incredibly imposing St Vitus Cathedral, the Old Royal Palace, St George’s Basilica and Golden Lane (you’ll find Frank Kafka’s house among the tiny colourful dwellings here).
How long will you need? At least 2 – 3 hours
Cost? Circuit B cost around AUD$15.00, plus around AUD$6.00 for a license to take photos

 

6. Indulge your sweet tooth at Café Savoy.

http://cafesavoy.ambi.cz/en/
Where? Vítězná 124/5, Malá Strana, 150 00 Praha-Smíchov
Why go?
It’s one of the most opulent places you’re ever likely to eat cake, and they have a great big tea list, too! It’s also great for a spot of people watching, with locals and tourists both pouring through the doors.
How long will you need? How much cake do you wanna eat?
Cost? A fancy coffee, a pot of loose leaf tea and a gourmet slice of cake will cost around AUD$15.00 – $20.00

 

7. Feel the love at Lennon Wall.

Where? Velkopřevorské náměstí 490/1, 118 00, Prague 5-Malá Strana 
Why go?
While the man himself never had anything to do with the wall, he became a bit of a hero to the pacifist youth when he died in 1980 – his songs of peace and freedom were a pipe dream to many back when Communism was king – and for whatever reason, they took to this wall to paint their own messages. So many of us take our freedom for granted now, so it was actually pretty moving to stand before this wall that so many young people risked their lives to promote that message on.
How long will you need? Leave time to stay a while
Cost? Nothing!

 

8. Try one of the city’s most famous street foods from a vendor in Wenceslas Square – fried cheese.

Where? Wenceslas Square – look for the carts labelled “Vaclavsky Grill”
Why go? Yup. A solid chunk of cheese, crumbed, deep fried, and nestled in a bread roll. Add a little mustard and mayonnaise, and tell me that’s not the greatest thing ever.
How long will you need? 30 seconds… it’s so good it won’t last long!
Cost? A few dollars

 

9. Shop for books at The Globe Bookstore.

http://globebookstore.cz
Where? Pštrossova 1925/6, 110 00 Nové Město
Why go? 
While there are a few book stores floating around the city, this one was the first in the city to stock English language books, and it was the best one I found. They also have a great little café/restaurant in there with surprisingly good and well priced food.
How long will you need?
Browsing and eating can take a while…
Cost? Depends how many books you want; food is very well priced – you can get a decent sized meal for around AUD$10.00 – $12.00

 

10. Walk up Celetna Street into Old Town Square.

Where? Celetna Street – just follow it all the way to Old Town Square!
Why go? Because you can’t possibly leave Prague without seeing the Astronomical Clock! Celetna Street itself is one of the oldest streets in the city, and it’s unbelievably beautiful. And the clock really speaks for itself – it does get super crowded on the hour for its little song-and-dance routine, but it’s absolutely worth seeing!
How long will you need? At least an hour
Cost? Another freebie!

A souvenir that lasts – 5 tips on getting tattooed while travelling

This is such a touchy subject, and one I’ve actually really been looking forward to writing about. Getting tattooed, while you’re travelling overseas. The irony of this is that “overseas” is different for us all. I live in Melbourne. Maybe you live in London. Or Rome. Or Seattle. Or Vancouver. Does that mean that you, living in Seattle, wouldn’t feel safe getting a tattoo in London, even though hundreds of people are probably seeing tattoo artists there every day??! Of course not, that’s completely ludicrous!

I think that the main issue with this topic is that many people have preconceived notions that:
a) Only irresponsible idiots get tattooed to begin with.
b) If you get tattooed while you’re travelling, it must have been a spur-of-the-moment idea that you probably had while drunk and will really regret it later on.
c) Because it was such a stupid, unplanned decision, you’re probably just going to get it done in some dirty, back-alley garage by a big guy in a torn leather jacket who doesn’t sanitise his needles or even wash his hands between appointments, which he smokes his way through.

While point a) irks me to no end, being the happy owner of we’ll over a dozen tattoos, I’m not writing this as a rant against people’s uninformed assumptions; if you’re not willing to consider the opinions of others and see both sides of a story, I don’t care much about what you think. Instead, I’m writing this for those of you who, like me, are admirers of art, and have maybe seen some work by talented artists across the globe who you might consider visiting on your next trip. Or maybe there’s just a city you really love, and want to take a memory of that city home permanently, and you need to find the right person for the job. Either way, there are a few things to consider….

 

1. Do your research regarding design:
* Don’t just turn up with a vague idea and expect it to be perfected immediately. They’re tattoo artists, not magicians.

* It should go without saying, but if you’re planning to get a tattoo in a language you’re not familiar with, for goodness sake, make sure it means what you think it means, and make sure it’s spelt correctly!!!!

 

2. Do your research regarding tattoo artist:
* If you’ve been following someone’s work for a while, this step is a lot easier. Otherwise, search online for “best tattoo artist in XXX” and read through all the lists that come up – if certain names seem to keep popping up on every list, chances are that’s for a good reason.

* Check that reviews/lists are actually recent and still relevant, not advice from 10 years ago.

* Try asking around on online forums, like Trip Advisor and Yelp.

* If you’re in a country where you don’t speak the native language, be sure you’re going to be able to communicate exactly what you’re wanting.

 

3. On the day:
* Does this place take walk ins or do you need to make an appointment in advance?

* If you need to make an appointment first, is a deposit required? Is it refundable (often it won’t be)?

* Are they a cash only place when it comes to payment, or are you able to pay on card?

* How can you get in touch if your plans change?

 

4. Consider the point in your trip you’ll be getting tattooed:
* Generally, you don’t want to expose your new tattoo to long periods of time submerged in water or exposed to the sun, so if your next few destinations are going to involve swimming and sunning yourself, it’s probably not the best time to do it.

* If you’re a party person, it’s also worth considering how many big nights you’re going to be having, and not getting your tattoo done the day after. Alcohol thins your blood, which means you’re going to bleed a lot more, and that’s not ideal.

 

5. After care:
This will be a bit easier if you’ve been tattooed before – while the general guidelines are pretty similar everywhere, only you know how your body heals and responds to certain ointments. As such, this advice is not to be taken as gospel, but for me, I know that:
a) I need to use Bepanthan cream for 4 – 5 days on my new tattoo, then switch to a gentle, non-scented moisturising cream.
b) my tattoos heal best when they’re kept covered for the first few days, and then left uncovered with a layer of Bepanthan where possible, or covered with plastic wrap over the Bepanthan again if they’re in an area that needs to be covered with clothing.

Knowing this, I packed some plastic wrap, medical paper tape and a tube of Bepanthan – I have sensitive skin, and after so many tattoos, I’m not willing to risk trying anything new at this point when this system has been working well for me for the past 12 years!

 

As you can see, we not dealing with some secret tricks – it’s basic common sense for the most part. If you do decide to get a tattoo in a foreign language made up of some cool characters that you’ve seen on a street sign after leaving a night club after having way too much to drink, and you do stumble into the first tattoo parlour you see with a quick iPhone snap of the street sign, then yes – you are an idiot and no one feels sorry for you and the crappy tattoo you’re going to end up with. For the rest of you who are looking for a lasting piece of artwork as a souvenir from a meaningful time or experience that you can literally carry with you for the rest of your life, I hope this helps! 🙂

 

As for me, I left home wanting to add to my collection, and …

Done by Martin at Sweet Hell Tattoo, Reykjavík, Iceland

Done by Pabby at Downtown Tattoo, New Orleans, USA

How to day trip by train from Bern: Interlaken, Grindelwald & Thun

In the course of our trip planning, I spent many hours trawling through travel blogs and websites, trying to find the most helpful information I could, in order to plan the best trip possible. For the most part, that wasn’t too hard, but when it came to Switzerland, I honestly had no idea.

We wanted a good mix of places we’ve been to before that we wanted to re-visit, and some cities that we didn’t know a lot about, so we’d have something new to discover. I threw Bern into the mix, and husband said “yeah, why not?!” Great. We’re going. Now what?!

Grindelwald

I picked Bern because it looked like a really pretty, charming Swiss city, but not as busy as Zurich or Geneva, and I figured it’d be the perfect city to slow down for a while in. I started Googling, and found that there’s actually a bit to do around there, if you want to, which led me to looking for rail information. After spending some time trawling the internet, I landed on MySwissAlps.com, a cornucopia of helpful information for someone with no idea past “it looks like a pretty place to visit” but still wanted to explore by train.

Aside from the rail help and the usual information about what to do, where to go, how to find accommodation etc, they have a few forums, which is where I found the most useful information:

1. Rail: the place to ask ALL questions about rail travel.
2. Accommodation: the place for all things accommodation, including the more niche spots (eg. where to base yourself if you’re going to hike).
3. Trip Reports: the place for travelers to post their itineraries and talk about how their trip went.
4. Miscellaneous: everything else!

Thun

While we already had a pretty good idea of what we wanted to do, it was great to browse the forums and look at other ideas. It was also nice to see how helpful users were when someone asked for help with an itinerary! And when it came to finding information on specific cities, I found it easiest to just type the city name into the search box rather than hunt through the site. A good example was Thun – I’d seen some beautiful pictures of the place and that got my attentions, but I didn’t know what else there was to see or do there. A quick search showed me So, I typed “THUN” into the search box gave me options for boat trips, hiking paths and sightseeing options.

Grindelwald

Arno and Annika who run the site actually aren’t native Swiss – they’re a couple from the Netherlands who fell in love with Switzerland and decided to create a hobby out of it, which then turned into a business! I liked their site because they’re independent operators who specialize in rail travel, and that’s what we needed; a company who could advise us on how to get around by train, but that wouldn’t try to sell us something they were being paid to sell. And when I emailed for help, they got right back to me and explained that I didn’t need to buy several different tickets for our day trip – I could just buy one return ticket Bern to Grindelwald and break my journey in Thun and Interlaken. Lucky I asked!! Also, just for the record, the trains are really very comfortable and spacious…

 

As for the day trip itself, it may seem like a lot of ground to cover in a day, but because the rail system is so efficient and simple to use, it was actually a really easy and stress-free day! Here’s what our itinerary looked like, in case you need some ideas…

How did we make this work by train?
It actually couldn’t have been easier; as I mentioned before, there’s no need to purchase multiple one way tickets, nor do you need to worry about booking tickets in advance. Just buy a Bern to Grindelwald return ticket at Bern’s main railway station (around CHF 80 per person) and you can break your journey at Interlaken in one direction and Thun in the other! Easy!

 

STOP 1: INTERLAKEN (55min from Bern, getting off at Interlaken Ost station)
Why go? Other than the fact that everyone’s photos looked really nice, the forums told me that Interlaken was the place to go for adventure sports and adrenaline experiences, and I’ve always wanted to go paragliding…

What did we do there?
– I went paragliding with Paragliding Interlaken, and couldn’t recommend them more highly – complete professionals and so much fun!
– If you’re a shopper, you’ll love Interlaken’s bounty of boutiques.
– And chocolate. Swiss chocolate. From the Swiss Chocolat Chalet; get a 200g bag of mixed chunks of chocolate (milk choc hazelnut, dark choc almond, that kinda thing) for CHF 12.80.

 

STOP 2: GRINDELWALD (35min from Interlaken Ost)
Why go to Grindelwald? It’s a good base for the snow bunnies, but for the rest of us, it’s an incredibly beautiful town sitting around 1000m above sea level and surrounded by mountains.

What did we do there?
– Walked around the village and stopped every few metres to admire the view!
– Lunch at Alte Post – think old-style, straight out of the movies wooden chalet with a cosy interior and homestyle cooking!
– You can also easily get to the ‘top of Europe’ at Jungfraujoch from here.

 

STOP 3: THUN (1hr 15min from Grindelwald with an easy change at Interlaken Ost)
Why go to Thun? Honestly, I saw a gorgeous photo of Thun’s perfect blue lake and thought it would be nice to see… Turns out it’s a much bigger town than I first thought and there’s quite a lot to do there! And the best view of the lake is from the window of the train as it passes…

What did we do there?
– This is another great place for shoppers, but less high end designers and more every day affordable stores! Get onto the islet in the centre of town and walk the main street Bälliz.
– For multi-cultural restaurants, cafes and a more personal shopping experience, try Obere Hauptgasse street; think hand crafter jewellery, second hand book shops, and small fashion boutiques.
– Thun Castle was beautiful – a bit of a climb with a view more than worth it! There’s a restaurant and shop in the castle walls which can be accessed by anyone, then it’s a CHF 10 fee for some extra access including the museum exhibits.

 And your last train is an easy 20 minute ride direct from Thun to Bern! The stations are all well signed in terms of which platform you’ll need to get to which city, and there’s no need to validate your ticket – just hold onto it so it can be checked by one of the train conductors when they walk through. And that’s it! Three towns in a day: no tour bus or guide necessary!

 

* Disclosure: This post was partially sponsored by MySwissAlps.com, however the opinions contained herein are completely my own based on my experience, as per usual 🙂 *

Stay here: The Bubble Hotel, Iceland

The Buubble, Iceland
http://www.buubble.com/

While husband was flicking through a travel magazine on a flight we took in early 2016, he came across a picture of a bubble, and a few lines describing it as newly built ‘bubble’ accommodation somewhere in the middle of Iceland…

Upon landing, I started Googling, and found it to be Buubble, the self-proclaimed 5 million star hotel. Basically, a “hotel room” that’s one giant, clear, bubble, where you can rest your head and enjoy a non-stop 360 degree view of the Icelandic night sky, and hopefully catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights. “I’m concentrating on offering the accommodation during the wintertime, so that people can see the Northern Lights and the starry sky,” Róbertsson explained in the website not long after it launched. That sounded pretty good to me!

My birthday happened to fall in the middle of our Icelandic stay, and I decided then and there that if I had to be another year older, I wanted to stay in one of these bubbles for my birthday. I braced myself for what I was sure would be a ridiculously high price, and was more than pleasantly surprised to find out it was only going to set us back AUD$300 for the one night. Wanna take a look around?

 

WHAT’S IT LIKE IN THE BUBBLE?
Despite the fact that they are a self-proclaimed 5 million star hotel, given that the ‘hotel’ is actually a giant bubble in the middle of a forest (the exact address and location is not revealed until you’ve booked, for safety and privacy reasons), don’t expect 5 star facilities. The bubbles themselves (there were only 2 when we booked ours, but it’s now grown to 8!) just contain a big, comfy bed, a little coffee table, a lamp, and a power point (yes, devices can be charged, no there isn’t WiFi in the bubbles, but there is WiFi available in the communal service house). There was no TV or sounds system, and no lights – just a small lamp for dim light; you won’t need it, because once it gets dark (sunset is around 4 – 4:30pm in November) and the stars come out, you won’t be able to look away!

HOW DO I STAY WARM?
How on earth are you going to keep warm in the middle of winter inside one of these guys? As the website will tell you, “The bubble structure is kept inflated by a slight over-pressure from a noiseless ventilation system. It permanently renews the air inside 2-7 times the volume per hour and this way it prevents humidity. The system has heating elements with thermostat so the bubble stays warm all winter.” That system, combined with an extra little plug in heater, kept us pretty cosy despire the snow and frost outside. Oh, and electric blankets. Thank goodness, because the temperature fell to around 10° C overnight! That said, a middle of the night toilet run isn’t real fun…

WHERE’S THE BATHROOM?!
In terms of facilities, there is a shared service house tucked away on the property, containing showers and toilets (toilet paper and shower towels are provided) – they’re centrally located, so only a 2 – 3 minute walk from any of the bubbles. But when it’s below freezing and you need to pee in the middle of the night, it’s hard work getting your layers and snow boots on!

ARE THERE ANY OTHER AMENITIES? WHERE CAN I EAT?
There is free car parking available, and the service house has a small kitchen space with a dining table, coffee machine and elecrtric kettle, sink, microwave, dishwasher, and even a small stovetop – as well as pots, pans, cutlery and crockery! Once you get there, you’re probably not going to want to venture back out to look for a restaurant because a) driving at night in Iceland is scary when the weather can change at the drop of a hat, and b) Iceland is expensive beyond what you’d expect (as in a margherita pizza and a vegetable salad cost us AUD $55.00. Yup, seriously). Your best option is to stop at a supermarket like Bónus or Krónan (there’ll be a ‘how to do Iceland on the cheap’ post coming soon, because it actually IS possible!) and BYO dinner – we took a cup of instant noodles each and bought 2 capsicums – we chopped them up and cooked them in a fry pan in the share kitchen, then stirred our noodles through! And shared a small bag of M&Ms for dessert!

UMMM… PRIVACY?!?
This was one of my concerns, given that there are actually several bubbles on site. Above is a photo of the path we walked from our bubble to the share service house, and if you scroll back up, you’ll see the thicket of trees behind the bed. Yes, there are other bubbles around, but at best you’ll only see a peep of them through the trees if their lamps are on. When we visited, there were only 2 bubbles occupied by independent travellers (us and another couple), and a few more occupied by tour participants, and we didn’t see or hear any of them except for a brief crossing of paths making dinner. And, there are no animals other than the odd bird.

WORTH IT?
Absolutely!!! While we didn’t see the Northern Lights, we saw the stars like we’ve never seen them before. We lay on the bed and watched a snow flurry slowly dust the dome. We woke up to a winter wonderland you couldn’t even conjure up in your dreams (see below – the snow actually shimmered and sparkled in the morning sun). It was one of those experiences that although it cost money, I couldn’t put a price on, and I’ll remember forever.

Click here to see what it’s like to walk to the bubble we stayed in from the service house. And head on over to their website for answers to more of your questions and to book your bubble. You know you want to.

Eating the city: New York City, USA

In a city as big as New York and a stomach that can only physically expand so much, it’s impossible to eat everything. So, in order to save precious gut real estate for the good stuff, let me run you down the goodies you need to save space for when you visit.

 

1. Walnut chocolate chip cookie from Levain Bakery
Multiple locations
https://www.levainbakery.com

Not particularly cheap at USD$4.00 but they’re the size of grapefruit, FULL of melty chocolatey and nutty goodness, and can you really put a price on happiness? If you want to eat in, get there early or prepare to wait around – it’s a tiny space, so it fills up and the line ends up out the door pretty fast!
Read more here

 

2. Patrami & mustard on rye from Katz’s Deli
205 E Houston St
https://www.katzsdelicatessen.com

This is one of the classics of NYC, and there’s a good reason for that. Family run for several generations, they’ve served everyone from Harry & Sally to NYC Mayor de Blasio and Senator Bernie Sanders (I know that because they were sitting at the table next to us a few weeks ago!). And if the USD$22.00 price tag puts you off a little, remember how much you’d pay for that much meat at a BBQ place – just because its between bread doesn’t mean you’re not getting your money’s worth!
Read more here

 

3. Brisket and burnt ends from Mighty Quinn’s BBQ
Multiple locations
http://www.mightyquinnsbbq.com

Tender, juicy meat with soft, melty fat… and those perfect burnt pieces off the ends to finish it all off. Heaven! These guys know how to make meat perfect, and don’t forget some mac & cheese on the side. Prices vary depending on your order, but it’s good value for money for such high quality.
Read more here

 

4. Any and all of the pie from Four & Twenty Blackbirds, Brooklyn
439 3rd Avenue, Brooklyn
http://www.birdsblack.com

Brooklyn’s amazing, but even if it wasn’t, it’d still be worth going to just to get your pie fix from these guys. They have a sweet little pie shop on a street corner, with a chalkboard hanging over the counter announcing the day’s offerings (around USD$6.00 per slice), and REAL tea and coffee to go with it!
Read more here

 

5. A salmon & cream cheese bagel from Russ & Daughters
179 E Houston St
https://www.russanddaughters.com

This is the bagel dreams are made of, in whatever combination you decide on. I can’t go past the scallion cream cheese, and while it’s damn near impossible to narrow down the fish, I’d strongly recommend the cured Scottish salmon and the smoked sable. Prices vary depending on your fish, but they’re kind enough to slice off a bit for you to taste before you commit.
Read more here

 

6. Hot dogs from Papaya King or Nathan’s Famous
Papaya King: 179 E 86th St
http://www.papayaking.com

Nathan’s Famous: Coney Island or at a Bulls game at the United Center
https://nathansfamous.com

Two NYC stalwarts, two great dogs. From Papaya King you’ll be wanting the two hot dogs with sauerkraut & mustard and a papaya drink combo. I wasn’t sold on the papaya juice drink with a hot dog, but its actually a weirdly good combination! And at Nathan’s, you just want a dog with a little ketchup and mustard. Amazing!
Read more here and here

 

7. Tea and scones at Alice’s Tea Cup
Multiple locations
https://alicesteacup.com

I’m a big fan of Alice, so I was stoked to find this wasnt a completely tacky themed cafe. They do breakfast and lunch, too, but I was there for tea and sweets. You can get a large pot (6 cups) of tea with two scones of your choice (they have a rotating selection daily) for USD$20.00, and they’ve cleverly switched to a tip-included-in-the-price system to make things even easier. Selecting you tea is the hard part, with dozens to choose from – I like the Mauritius black tea with a hint of vanilla, and of course their signature Alice’s tea; you can also purchase any tea from their menu to take home!
Read more here

 

8. Deli sandwich near Sunset Park, Brooklyn
5th Avenue between Green-Wood Cemetery and Sunset Park

It doesn’t really matter where you get it from or what’s in it, the whole walk up 5th Avenue to Sunset Park is lined with these little delis. It’s a bit of a climb to the top of the park, so grab some sandwiches on fresh bread piled high with just-sliced deli meats for a picnic in a spot that overlooks the Manhattan skyline.

 

9. Noodles and dim sum in Chinatown

Let’s be honest; where there’s a Chinatown, there’s good food. And New York’s is no different. Get yourself over there and just start walking. It’s just like being in Asia, which means the menus are often difficult to decipher, and there are more options than you’ll know what to do with. And, it’s cheap. Enjoy!

 

10. New York Cheesecake from Eileen’s Special Cheesecake
17 Cleveland Place
https://www.eileenscheesecake.com

Because how can you possibly go to New York without trying the namesake cheesecake?! You can get a little personal one for yourself (USD$5.00), or a nice big one to share (or, for yourself, no judgement), and in all sorts of flavours as well as the original.
Read more here

 

11. Crack pie & birthday truffles from Momofuku Milk Bar
Multiple locations
http://milkbarstore.com/main/

We live in a time where sugar’s been proven to be more addictive than crack anyway, so may as well skip the drugs and go right for the sweet stuff! The pie is basically pure butter and sugar, and the truffles are sugar with sprinkles, but they taste so damn good you just can’t help yourself!
Read more here

 

12. Bomboloni from Sullivan Street Bakery
533 W 57th Street
http://www.sullivanstreetbakery.com

Soft, airy, pillowy balls of dough, fried to golden perfection and filed with silky smooth custard. Off you go.
Read more here

 

13. A bit of everything from the Chelsea Market
75 9th Avenue
http://chelseamarket.com

There’s a whole basement full of food here, from vegan sushi to Aussie sausage rolls, herbal teas to artisan pastries, pizza slices to microbrew beer. If you can’t find something here you like, there’s something wrong with you!
Read more here

 

14. Gyro platter from The Halal Guys
Multiple locations
https://thehalalguys.com

They say necessity is the mother of invention, and a gap in the market for halal food in NYC led to one of the city’s greatest creations in the Halal Guys. The meat (served street side from a cart) is probably better than any you’ve had in a restaurant, and starting at around USD$8.00 for a platter, you won’t even need dinner later!
Read more here

 

15. Burgers! Fancy ones from Five Napkins, simple ones from Shake Shack.
Five Napkins: multiple locations
https://5napkinburger.com

Shake Shack: multiple locations
https://www.shakeshack.com

I’m a real burger lover, and my two NYC favourites fall on both ends of the spectrum. For something a bit fancier, try the Original 5 Napkin with gruyere and caramelised onions (around USD$17.00), and for a quick and cheap option, get yourself a ShackBurger for just USD$6.00. Both amazing. Just get both.
Read more here and here

City of Chicago: 2017 Year of Public Art

Arriving back into Chicago again was exciting, and a big contributor to that excitement was a small billboard I saw on the train from the airport into the city; it was letting me know that 2017 was the Year of Public Art in Chicago = a whooole lot of street art to be found around the city!

I checked out the City of Chicago website for a little more information…

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) have designated 2017 the “Year of Public Art” with a new 50×50 Neighborhood Arts Project, the creation of a Public Art Youth Corps, a new Public Art Festival, exhibitions, performances, tours and more — representing a $1.5 million investment in artist-led community projects.

There were some incredible pieces scattered around, and I’ve added a few of my favourites below, but they’re helpfully created a few hashtags for you to follow if you’d like to see some more – follow #2017isYOPA or #ChiPublicArt for all of the art work!