A Travellerspoint blog

May 2014

Iceland - Take your pick in Reykjavik

by Kt

Our final destination (back in September) and a great one at that. Cuba and Iceland have been topping my dream list of places to visit for years so when I realised I could get a flight back to UK going via Iceland for no extra cost by heart literally skipped a beat.

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We spent just a week in Reykjavik but despite having a it's own very unique vibe and style, it was our first time back in Europe for almost 2 years and it was an almost tangible feeling of being back, which felt kind of comforting. And the weather was a reminder of being back too. It was actually worse weather than they are used to in September and for us, having only had some chilly days in Hong Kong and Japan - it was quite a shock! It was also a great time for Mark to discover he'd lost his coat somewhere in Canada or the USA. Lord only knows where he left that, but he has a history of losing coats and sunglasses so not a real shock.

Landing on another planet

It was a very early morning flight in and our airbnb room wasn't going to be ready for us for a while so it was actually a bit gutting how quick and efficient it was to get through customs and onto the bus transfer to Reykjavik. As soon as we left the airport we realised that we really weren't in Kansas anymore. OK, it was New York, but you get what I mean. The landscape in Iceland is so different to anything I've ever seen before. The sun coming up over lava fields is un-earthly and quite stunning. It should be bleak but somehow it just isn't.

We got dropped off by the bus at a large hotel which seemed in the middle of nowhere in terms of anywhere to sit and wait. There were houses and big wide roads and a few office buildings but at not much after 6am there was nothing going on and we were a bit stumped as to what to do to kill the few hours we had to wait, laden down with all our worldly goods. They were very nice at the hotel and said we could hang out in their foyer for a bit and in the end, after Mark had been on a little exploratory trip of the hotel, we decided to splash out and eat the breakfast there. This doesn't seem like a big deal, but the idea of having a breakfast at a fairly pricey big hotel was out of our travel comfort zone. It just wasn't what we did. It seemed wasteful and too luxurious, but looking back now it was actually not that expensive anyhow. It was the best decision we could have made. Not only was the food amazing but they let us ditch our luggage while we ate (already the safety and friendliness of Iceland was appealling!), so we had a long, luxurious, stress free breakfast to build us back up after a tiring few weeks in NYC and an overnight flight.
Our airbnb host rushed for us and so by about 9am we were able to trek off to our latest lodgings. I later realised that the hotel wasn't in the middle of nowhere anyhow, but when you're tired and it's early and you're carrying your life with you, things can seem such hard work.

The redemption of airbnb

After our one and only bad airbnb experience, it was a delight to get to our Reykjavik lodging and sink onto the divinely comfortable bed of our large, cosy, well equipped room. Our host, Magret, and her husband lived in the house above and there were 3 rooms in the basement with it's own kitchen, bathroom and the laundry room. Magret was lovely and we learned she'd actually lived in Hove for a while when she was studying. The whole place was cosy and welcoming and just what we needed. I could have stayed an extra week just to read all the books from the bookcase in the hall and snuggle in the cloud like scandi bedding.

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A city that throws it's arms around you for a welcome hug

Not literally of course, they don't grab you on the stree, but just the ease and relaxed nature meant there was no transition time needed. It was all just exploring and enjoying.
Everything just works here, but without any sterility. It's quirky, cosy, stylish, friendly and efficient. Very scandinavian in those ways but also definitely it's own place. That is the beauty of islands far from all - they've always walked to their own beat Add to that that the young Icelanders nearly all leave to work in foreign countries, but most come back - there's an interesting and creative mix of culture and new ideas.

On our first day, we walked into town from our accommodation - a fair old walk in the cold but one we rather enjoyed. Great back drop over the sea and interesting little sculptures along the way as well as the gorgeous Harpa building.

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When we made it to the centre we came across various groups of girls dressed up, playing games involving things like a carrot on a stick. One group with each of them wearing only one pink glove. Despite googling I'm none the wiser as to what this was all about. When we saw the first group we thought maybe a hen-do, but then when we came across some others we were just puzzled. A kind of fresher week thing maybe? But they were all girls. If anyone can enlighten me, that would be great.

The cold weather was getting to us and Mark in particul without a coat so getting warmer clothes was first thing we had to do. Iceland isn't the cheapest place so I wasn't quite sure what to do. The jumpers that I swooned over cost a bomb, but I stumbled across the very cute, tin fronted Red Cross shop. The 2nd hand jumpers in there were actually still very expensive but I did manage to pick up something nice and warm.
Mark found a coat on sale at a skater shop that did the trick for him. It seemed expensive but when we discovered you can get the tax back it didn't seem so bad.

The cathedral is one of the main sites to see for good reason. It's stunning and sits up high above the city.

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Mark in hot water

There was a swimming pool with thermal spa just 2 minutes down the road from were we were staying. It was definitely a place for the locals and everyone goes - young and old. There's pools of various temperatures and a slide on one of the big pools that Mark was very partial too. He convinced me to go down it telling me there was a surprise once inside. It was literally just that it went dark for a bit. The real surprise was when Mark left too soon behind me and so landed on my head just as I had entered the water, nearly drowning me. I'm not that keen on water and particularly not keen with my head being held under water. Mark, however, found this the most hilarious thing and was still laughing to himself about it days later.
We went back a couple of times and Mark went a fair few times on his own. Confessing one time, upon his return, that he'd gone on the slide on his own 10 times. Pushing the kids out of the way no doubt!

Food & Drink

Another place where everything tastes good - from restaurant food to stuff picked up in the garage, it was always good and there was definitely some interesting new things to try. I was desperate to try a Jam burger when I saw it on a menu and I wasn't disappointed. It sounds odd but definitely works. Of course there's lots of fish.

Cake Loki
There's a great little cafe up at the square overlooking the cathedral that does some lovely local dishes. Can definitely recommend as an icelandic taster.

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Pig party
The day we walked down from Cafe Loki, there was, of all things, a Bacon festival going on. Lots of little stall of local restaurants and caterers selling bacon related things to try. We didn't partake as we were stuffed but it was tempting and funny to see even the local Dominos pizza got involved.

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Kaffibarinn
We went for a drink in Kaffibarinn, a famous bar and music venue, to find that there was a talk going on in the back room about Icelandic pigs.
The talk ended with them getting everyone in the room chanting 'Bacon'. Typically, brilliantly Icelandic.

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This was a great sign they had up in the bar which probably sums the place up nicely.

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Due to the cold weather (and being the way we are) we often ended up cosying up in one of Reykjavik's many bars. Here's some of our faves:

Bunk bar

Great place, great happy our. Just don't sit near the back door - it gets cold with people coming in every 5 mins and leaving the door open. The decor had a kind of old 60s lodge/boarding school kind of feel to it.

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Boston
This bar is up some stairs on a main street which housed an older, cool crowd and this little fella overseeing things.

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Big Lebowski
I have never seen the Big Lebowski but I know how utterly obsessed people are with it so I know that to a fan this themed bar would be heaven.
And even without knowing the references it's a great place to hang out.

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Kaldi
Stylish, welcoming decor plus the best happy hour and local beers and super friendly.

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Tapas Barinn restaurant
On Vesturgötu this place is a bit odd. It's a spanish style tapas restaurant but does a whole bunch of Icelandic food taster menu. There are lots of places, particularly on the main street, that does similar but this place is just fantastic. We decided on the last night of our trip to splash out on this and it was so worth it. We had the Iceland taster menu but asked to not have the whale and replaced it with something else. There was 7 courses and a shot of the local cockle-warming liquor.
This place has style, a great atmosphere and seriously good food. The puffin was amazing. Sure, I really want to see a puffin in the living flesh, which has as yet alluded me, but their is a puffin catching season - not farmed or anything like that so I had no quarms chowing down on that. It was such a dark meat, almost purple.

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Whale watching

When we'd gone away I assumed as many people dreaming of travelling does that I was going to spend lots of time watching dolphins frolic off the side of sunny boats and seeing whales while hiking over stunning clifftop scenery. As I don't much like boats or hiking, that was always unlikely, but I thought it 2 years I'd have seen more than the 1 loan dolphin from the ferry between islands in New Zealand. So Iceland was my last chance really.
We ummed and aahed about the budget a bit but it had to be done. And actually even if I hadn't seen whales and dolphins (which I did -yey!) I would have actually enjoyed that day out. It was hilarious.

It started a bit badly when we never got picked up on the bus but the hotel we were waiting outside were friendly and helpful and chased the company up. They had forgotten us somehow but came hairing over from the port in a Prius to pick us up.

It was a cold and blustery day and we wisely opted for the sea sickness tablets. Once on the boat we got kitted out in the natty whale watching outfits. They seemed a bit extreme but my crikey you needed them to keep alive.

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With such rough seas I thought our chances of seeing anything were slim, but in fact we ended up seeing not only lots of dolphins but also quite a few Minke whales. So I always thought they were pronounced 'mink' but in fact it's 'Minkee' which just sounded funny and cute every time the guide said it. It really was an amazing trip. They have pretty strict rules in place in Iceland and I also made particularly sure that we went to a place with a good reputation. They were very concerned with getting the ecological points across and asking people to make sure they didn't go into town after and eat any!!

The wind and the rain was really giving us a battering and although the suits kept us warm and dry - you start to suffer in the extremities. My hands quickly went from painful to no feeling. The icing on the cake was the spot I was standing (holding on for dear life) was at such an angle that the water splashed on board covering me head to toe. Man that was cold. Mark (despite not getting the soakings I kept getting) whimped out in the end and went inside on the trip back. I stuck it out to the bitter (and it was very bitter) end. Not bad for someone who doesn't like water or boats. I guess I was kind of high on the excitement of seeing the whales and also the violence of the sea and the boat. It was quite the adrenalin rush!
So, I got to see my dolphins and my whales even if it wasn't on a calm, turquoise sea - it was still the perfect ending for our trip.

Blue Lagoon

If you've ever seen pictures of this place, you'll know the allure. Again, it was not great on a traveller's budget but it just had to be done or we'd be kicking ourselves. It really is as beautiful as it looks. The water really is that beautiful aqua, pastel blue. So many famous places are amazing but not quite the colours of photos you may have seen - this really is. Blue milkshake against black lava rocks. Seriously - it's so dazzling and enchanting, it gave me the chills. Unfortunately an icy cold rain storm descended on the day we went so it wasn't quite the relaxing soak I'd been imagining but in some ways the extremeness of the weather and the fact that very few people dared to venture out into it, made it a bit more of an adventure. I found it quite hilarious. Mark, who hates being cold, found it a little more arduous. There's a small indoor pool area where you first get into the thermally heated water and once in you go through the water outside. There's an amazing cave when you first go out where we sheltered at first. Then we went out into the larger area. The place is massive and there's various areas you can head to - I think there's a swim up bar, but people who were partaking at first quickly abandoned it. There's areas which have like a big bucket full of goopy clays which are like face pack which you can put on you - covering your face and hair makes you look quite the swamp monster.
I wanted to explore regardless of the pounding rain but walking across the water out in the middle with no shelter, was so painful we had to walk backwards half the time. I don't know why I found this so funny, I guess it was some kind of bizarre exhilaration. What we did find in the end is an area with super hot water - it's warm and lovely everywhere but you could find these little pockets with extra heat. We found it and stayed there, clinging onto the side, keeping nice and warm. An icey cold head and a nicely warm body. We met some retired couples from the USA who were there on there way over for a trip in Europe. One of the guys had been based in Iceland in the 60s when he was in the Forces. Apparently back then, this place was known, but there was no structure around - people literally just drove into the middle of nowhere and jumped in!!
This isn't the only place with these stunning pools - you do see them scarred around the area as you drive in, so I guess in theory you could still find one out there and jump in. Certainly an alternative and would be fun to do on your own. But the Blue Lagoon does what it does well. Although there's lots of people there it doesn't feel hassley like tourists attraction often do. I definitely want to go back in more clement weather. I know I go on about how much I love lots of places but this really is something very special. I think it's probably because I love the aesthetics so much.

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Architecture

Oh I do love a bit of architecture and Iceland doesn't disappoint with the corrugated iron you imagine. There was some really colourful ones.

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The other predominant buildings - mostly housing but also sports centres and offices, were grey buildings - most likely from the 50s, 60s and 70s. The house we were staying in and all in the surrounding areas were an old pebbledash style. You would think, lots of grey buildings in an already bleak environment would be drab and depressing but strangely I really liked them. I always find England at it's most depressing when it's raining, with a grey sky and you're somewhere with concrete buildings. I can't figure out why it just didn't have the same effect here.

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I liked the church styles as well - seemed like something out of fairytales.

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The Culture museum

We went here thinking it was free but it had changed and we had to pay to go to the main exhibition which was all about the history of the Sagas. I didn't know anything about this before coming to Iceland but had read up about it since and realise how significant to the culture it is. The exhibition probably was not worth it to us on a travellers budget. I'm definitely not into history much past Victorian times - the further back, the less interested I get. But if you're into viking history or appreciate the cross-overs with things like Tolkien it would be worth it. I remember thinking that my brother would love it!

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The stuff on the upper floors was actually more up our street. Some interesting art and a particularly alarming room with speakers sprinkled around the room with a womans voice whispering strange phrases. It was way creepy!

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Collectable curiosities

There's a great antiques shop which was a proper treasure trove. I don't know what it was called, but it was on Vesturgötu. Being on a once isolated island, it did have lots of Iceland specific, unique and interesting things. I could spend weeks in there!

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There's lots of interesting shops in Reykjavik. It's definitely not full of bland chains. I think you can go out to out of town shopping places to get more of brands but the town is a bit more interesting. Lot's of tourist shops of course but some interesting ones sprinkled about the place.

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The Photography museum

This is a fairly small museum on the 3rd or 4th floor of the building but it's free and definitely worth a visit if you like photography. There was a great exhibition on when we went of bikers.

There is also old photos of Icelandic people on the stairs all the way down and odd cut outs using old photos - see below.

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Arty Iceland

It's a really creative country - the amount of amazing music that comes out of such a small places proves that. Maybe it's the long cold winters so people have nothing else to do but stay in doors and do interesting things!
It's definitely got it's own unique take on things and just wandering the streets you come across all kinds of street art and quirky things.

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What's not to like?

Well in our case - the weather. We were a bit unfortunate as it should have been warmer and it was mainly the shock of not being somewhere warm but my gosh the Icelanders are hardy. We'd be sat shivering in bars or restaurants as they'd have the door and windows open.
We had a one particularly wet, cold, miserable walk home.

Whaling
Things like this are controversial and of course I find whaling awful, but as I've said previously on this blog, since travelling you find you have to step back from judging cultures. It's difficult. Particularly when things are done for sport. When things are eaten/used, it at least doesn't seem pointless.
Considering the atrocities that go on in agriculture in the Western world, people can be a bit hypocritical campaigning to save only the cute or magnificent. Unless you're vegan you're on tricky territory - battery hens and dairy cattle can have horrendous existences. Anyhow, I found something particularly strange going on in Iceland. The argument is that it's tradition, but stats show that whale is barely eaten by the Icelanders anymore. Who's eating it? The tourists!!! Probably 2 thirds of the restaurants on the main street offered whale - particularly on the taste of Iceland menus. It's not available barely anywhere else in the world, so people give it a go. People from countries who don't support whaling. It's a crazy situation. If all the tourists stop eating it, the restaurants wouldn't need a constant supplier and there likely wouldn't be enough need to justify the continuation.
They have a similar situation going on in Japan, though it's not being eaten by tourists. V few people in Japan want to eat it anymore and those that do are generally the older generation so this will continue to decrease. But the Japanese government seem to continue as a point of principal. They have warehouses full of unused whale meat and this has become a contentious issue within the country.
Anyhow, I may not be sure where I stand these days in hating/accusing someone who eats something I think of as wrong if that's part of their culture, but I do know that whales being killed for a tourist 'look what i did' story is depressing, so people, if you go to Iceland, please, please don't!

Excellent in Iceland

Buses
The buses are brilliant in iceland - efficient, cheap, regular.
There is a slight downside though, in that you need to have pre-bought tickets or have the exact cash.
You can buy bus tickets at the tourist info centre, so I suggest getting a few when you first arrive so you can jump on a bus whenever you feel the need.

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No need to splash the cash
You never have to use cash, a card will always do. Admittedly we didn't travel out into more rural areas but everything we did we could pay for by card and it was all super easy.
And Iceland's reputation for being expensive is not so true these days. It was obviously pricey for us as we've spent much of the last year and a half in cheap places but I wasn't shocked by any of the prices in Iceland. I actually noticed that a lot of the high end stuff (though we didn't participate in) was really reasonably priced, so great if you want to treat yourself. It's definitely cheap compared to the UK!

Safe n sound
It's always nice being in a low crime country. I imagine a lot of Icelanders still leave there doors unlocked.

The rest...

Jumpers
I became obsessed with the Icelandic jumpers. I so wanted one but they price made me choke. They have the design on other things like coasters but I think it's all possibly trade-marked as all that stuff is quite pricey too. I bought a set of the worlds most expensive paper napkins as a present!

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The language
I love it - it's a beautiful sounding and looking language.
And Fiskisupa means fish soup - brilliant!

Kilroy the kangaroo
This is (possibly) only funny for people from UK over age of 25:

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The penis museum
We walked past it a fair few times but never really felt the need.

Bear attack
There are no polar bears of course, but it seemed fitting

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The End

I am definitely returning to Iceland in the future. I really want to get out and explore the country, whereas on this trip we were mainly based in town.
I mean who wouldn't want a go in one of these:

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And I want to come back when the puffins are about!

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It was an unexpected and incredible place to finish our 22 months of travel. And on a more practical level, it cut a long plane journey into 2 short, reasonable chunks. It think it's calm, coseting affect was just what we needed as we contemplated going back to the UK, both excited to see our loved ones after so long, sad that it'd come to an end and fear and worry about what we were going to do next. It was a very strange cocktail of feelings that morning, waiting to board the plane.

And now we're back in England (for now). We're both working up in London and this is the first time for me to be working full time in the city. We couldn't, unfortunately, go back to live in our beloved Brighton as the work just isn't there.
To better deal with the 'real life-ness' of it all, now after having gotten over the initial upheaval of finding work, lodgings etc, I have decided that it would be good to take the opportunity to be a tourist in my own backyard. I've not done the majority of sights in London despite having lived so close for so long. I've mainly done nights out or gone in for work. I've never even gone for shopping. So now that we're a fairly short commute to the centre, I'm trying to explore a bit and try to go on little adventures. And of course it's nice to not be on a strict budget for a change. We're making the most of what food London has to offer and reliving our trip eating lots of things like Thai, Japanese and Vietnamese.
Makes us feel less homesick for the road!!

Posted by KtandMark 06:05 Archived in Iceland Comments (0)

USA - NYC - going Brookly-in & out of Manhattan

by Kt

So, it was a while ago now since we returned to the UK but now that I have some time, I am determined to finish my trip blogs with 2 destinations to go NYC and Iceland.
If I don't get it all down then too many of the events, sights and experiences will be forgot to me and most definitely by Mark who has a sieve like memory. It might be erratic and in an odd sequence, as I have random notes of things that happened but hopefully it will coherent.
I can't remember the order of everything so the following is just general lists in various categories - mainly filled by restaurants and bars - sad but true!

New York, New York

So, let me start by telling you that New York is one of MY places. One of those places that I have some kind of strange affinity with. I love all the big sights and cliches but I'm also happy wandering about back streets on my own doing much of nothing.
I like going to unexplored neighbourhoods just to see what they are like. Up till now I have only stayed on Manhattan but partly because it is freakishly expensive and also because I wanted to discover Brooklyn, we stayed this time on Long island. The 3 week stay was probably the most expensive of our trip- on par with Hong Kong perhaps.
The location was good - in hipsterville itself Williamsburg, which kind of did my head in on the 'hipsterness' side of things but for convenience you can't beat it and is clearly why this was the first stop of people moving out of manhattan. You can walk over the Williamsburg bridge and be on the Lower East Side in a leisurely half an hour (a gorgeous walk in the sunshine). I'm sure a brisk walk or a bike would knock it to nearer 15 minutes.
Or the subway takes you straight across, first stop my beloved East Village and onto lots of central stops like Union Square etc.

Subway love
This brings me to an interesting (well to me) point. In other visits I only used the subway once. How I ever got around New York without using the subway is beyond me. Seriously - how did I? I can't even imagine as it is so ridiculous to get a cab and I never got a bus. It's quite easy to walk long distances but still. The subway is brilliant. The buskers in Bedford Avenue are world class. Even in hot, humid August, the trains are air conditioned beautifully. In fact sometimes I couldn't wait to get down there to cool off. It's great people watching and above all it's cheap and convenient. It's what the Tube should be and isn't?
Plus - you certainly get some interesting characters. Doesn't Mark look happy with his new friend?
There was one time that the people sat opposite me were like some kind of hyper Benetton add. There was a row of people of every colour, crede and style, but my fave was next to a skinny asian punky girl was an enormous Rabi. Seriously - he was huge. Not fat - just a grand stature. And best of all he kept chuckling to himself. He tried to engage in conversation with the girl but she was having none of it - it is New York for goodness sake ;) but that's how I learned he was from out of town. And he continued to chuckle for the whole journey. I will never forget the gigantic chuckling Rabi!

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An airbnb fai
So with NYC being what it is, budget accommodation was going to be tricky. Not knowing Brooklyn properly or New Jersey, it was difficult to judge what was a good area to stay in. Although New Jersey is a great and cheaper place to stay for popping into the city, I wanted somewhere with things going on first thing in the morning, last thing at night. I wanted a neighbourhood. Williamsburg was my ideal but I was doubtful we could get anything because of the price. I was looking on AirBnb which I love, will continue to use, but all in all found for New York was a bad experience and I don't think for going there I would use it again. First up, the search was a nightmare. Probably only 30% of the listings turned out to be proper, in that people had in the description that the dates available were for 2 weeks in May or something but didn't put the proper dates or removed when the time had passed in so it appeared in the calendar. This made trawling through very tedious. Secondly, a huge number of people put the listing up but never respond to your inquiries. This wasn't looking at short notice, I started looking about 6 months before. And because of how much someone in NYC can charge, the choices are not great. Tons of them are to sleep in the persons front room or behind a curtain, but you have to often look quite closely to notice that.
Anyhow, location wise the place we chose was undeniably great, everything else about it was not so great. The theory that just a room and a bed is all you need does not work out when you are staying somewhere for more than a few days (like 2 weeks!) and it is in the middle of the hottest month which no-one seems to be prepared for. I should have known when we turned up at the pre-arranged time to be told that the room wasn't ready, that this girl, in her mid 20s who I will call just H, was not the hostest with the mostest. It was no bother for us. We dropped our bags off and went off to drop our rental car at La Guardia.
When we got back we got shown to the room in the dark basement flat (no problem with this as our flat in Brighton is a dark basement) but we soon realised that pictures can lie. The picture on Airbnb wasn't wrong but gave the impression there was a front room. Not that we wanted to be sat around in the apartment all the time but somewhere to sit and have a drink and maybe eat when we were on our own is what we were expecting.
The kitchen had an oven, microwave and fridge but no work surface - on the few times we tried to even have take out food in there we ended up using the top of the washer.

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The room had just a bed and a drawless bedside table. Being used to living out of backpacks I managed to organise things but most things had to 'live' on the floor which was awkward. There was no ceiling light just a lamp which gave off a dull light you could barely read by. The sheets on the bed were a bit scratch, but so be it (I've since seen reviews that say that people thought she'd not even washed them for their stay).
On the 2nd night the bed fell to pieces. This probably had happened before as the slats were just lain across the bed/not nailed or screwed in. She was clueless about what to do. Fair enough. She was a young girl, these things can through you. We had some gaffer tape we carried around for emergencies that we looped around as best we could. It never felt v sturdy so in addition we positioned the backpacks across the room so they pushed against the bed, helping to keep the slats in place. This is how we stayed for the rest of the 3 weeks. Never any mention of dealing with it and with the next guest turning up not long after we left, I guess they had to deal with the same.

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The linen wasn't changed the whole time which wouldn't normally bother me but the room was often like a sauna. She had an aircon unit which she liked to leave on when she was in, the problem being it pointed into the 'front room', opposite direction to our bedroom with the pipe that blows out the hot air going out of the kitchen window. But our one source of air was the bedroom window which backed onto a low courtyard bit next to the kitchen window so the hot air blew into our room heating it up. It was pretty unpleasant to spend time in this dark, hot humid bedroom so we tried to be out a lot of the time but that isn't what we wanted - it was exhausting. It wasn't an out and out dirty place but it wasn't clean in the way that you clean it if you have guests coming, let alone paying guests. One day we had a couple of unwelcome dark, shady visitors. Now let me tell you, having travelled in all these exotic and unusual places on our trip - New York has the largest cockroaches. Size of freakin rats!!! Even that we took in our stride. We're not complainy, fussy people and in the end we just wanted to leave. There would have been no point creating a fuss, if we ever did bring anything up with her it was usually met with a blank stare. We barely saw her which was a good thing, but that didn't mean it was because she wasn't there. She kept odd hours and we realised after a few days that where she slept was in an alcovy bit behind a curtain in the front room. We clearly had her bedroom. I'm not sure what she did for a living. She didn't seem like she was holding down any kind of proper job. So when she was in, if you were in the front room it always felt a bit uncomfortable and half the time you weren't sure if she was in or not so still felt uncomfortable. Not that we did anything in the rest of the house other than stand in the kitchen staring at each other wondering what to do. It was such a strange experience as I still can't work out for the life of me what was going on with her. Surely it's human nature that if someone comes to stay in your house you make sure the basics are there. There wasn't even enough crockery. There were 2 mugs as I recall so if she'd had a drink and left the washing up in the sink (as she did often) we had to do her washing up to get the mug and often plates. I mean you can pick up mugs and plates at ikea or a second hand store for a couple of dollars. She can't of exactly been poor living in Williamsburg in the first place and her expensive ready made vegan food that sat around in the fridge wasn't cheap. The fridge was fun - a huge thing but of course leaving one shelf for paying guests wouldn't be the thing to do would it. It was full of stuff - she wasn't sure what belonged to the previous guests she said. Some days we would come back to find her and her creepy boyfriend sat on the chez lounge watching things on the laptop. This was a tiny bit of furniture which was as much as a sofa as the flat had and was right inside the door so you'd walk straight in to find them draped over each other, him a shirtless, voiceless ape.
I mean this stuff isn't rocket science. You clean your house, give people basic but clean things to use and make the best of what you've got - even a hook on the back of the bedroom door would have helped! And most of all your are courteous and considerate. Fat chance here!
I mean it was cheap - working out at probably 45 quid a night but you could stay in a hostel for less and at least they'd have some level of hospitality.
I'm sure there are great NYC hosts out there but this was a serious dud. Even if you are just doing it for the money - if you have no interest in other people's need it's not the thing for you. I regret not leaving her a worse airbnb review but somehow I kept giving her the benefit of the doubt. If it was a couple of nights and wasn't in the middle of summer, the downsides would be ignorable. My feedback that goes to Airbnb rather than be published was honest though and I even sent H a direct, unpublished message talking about the issue with the heat and the air con and the cockroaches. She didn't bother replying and didn't leave any feedback on us. That pretty much sums her up. Oddly she was very communicative and chatty and helpful in communication before our stay. You can usually take that as a good indicator of who you are staying with but sadly not this time. Again, I think the place wouldn't have bothered us if it was a few nights and wasn't the height of humid summer. It was just as the days went on and you were hot and tired and uncomfortable, things start to get to you. She was a 'nice' person but just away with the fairies and I would say not suited to hosting.

Anyhow, you live and learn and to be honest it is difficult to judge these things and we'd been pretty lucky up till now. I'm sure there's a few similar places in London where people are just taking the money without putting much effort in. Each to their own!

Welcome to Williamsburg

So we were very close to the Bedford Avenue subway entrance which is the heart of the Williamsburg scene. It's a very funny place. It can get on your nerves sometimes with the amount of hipster-esque things and people but there is lots of nice things there and some bits of the old Brooklyn remain.
Mark used to walk around muttering 'everyone's different so they are the same' which sums up things quite nicely. There is almost a uniform - particularly for the men, they really do look the same. And everyone has a french bulldog. Go figure!

One of the first places we went to was the Surf bar. This place doesn't say much of anything. It's not particularly hip or New Yorky but it's just fun and nice to hang out in - especially in hot summer.
It was always going to appeal to me with it's kitschy, beachy aesthetics. Lot's of fairy lights, sand on the floor out in the large garden. Tasty seafood and good drinks. It was quite pricey but if you go to Williamsburg first time as a tourist and aren't quite sure where to go/what to eat I think it's a nice easy stop off.

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A bar which was possibly my favourite was on Bedford Avenue but as you moved further away from the 'heart'. It was a kind of old fashioned bar with a very 80s feel, a large area in the middle for late night dancing and as we discovered on a later trip, big old Brooklyn bouncers on the door, who weren't there to decide if you were cool enough to come in, but were good old fashioned bouncers, looking for trouble makers.
The first time we went in the lady behind the bar had me intrigued. She had the most fabulous Brooklyn accent and was telling us that they were having problems with the 'waaader' (read water) so would we mind using plastic cups. Us? Of course not. She seemed to take this as a sign that we were ok! We then pretended to talk to each other while really listening to her bitch about her parking ticket which she shouldn't have got as the funeral directors pass was clearly showing on the dashboard. There was a funeral directors across the street and I guess both that and the bar were her family business. I love this! I can't work out what this bar is called but it's on the corner of Bedford and 5th.

Other great things in Williamsburg, include the many Food Trucks - from vegan ice-cream to rendang. Great for cheap eats.
The local independent supermarket - I loved this place and would often pick up things to take home to eat. They had some vegan dumplings I was rather fond of.

The view from Williamsburg, a few streets back from Bedford Avenue is amazing and it is nice to just go down there and sit in the sun and look. We never got the ferry over but you could get it up to midtown and downtown somewhere as well.
On the weekend the famous vintage market is great but it's kind of too perfect. You won't 'find' cool things because everything is cool and priced as such. The food there is amazing as well. If you lived there you could kit out your place and your wardrobe quite nicely from here. It wasn't all expensive you could get some old T-shirts reasonably priced. Cheaper than the many amazing but stupidly priced vintage shops scattered around Williamsburg itself.

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Favourite things in Williamsburg

Pete's Place
The hero of the hour. I loved this place. It sold kind of southern food but without the slop.
The Sunday brunch was barely eatable if you included the free soup or salad - huge!! And what a bargain - the lunchtime special which involved quarter of a chicken with a couple of sides (and soup or salad if you wanted) with a corn muffin was something like $10.
This was kind of the neighbourhood ish place I'd hope for in Brooklyn that didn't cost much and have any pretentions. See the plate below - that's just the side order!

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Cribs Hot dogs
Oh My God!!! I'd heard about this place but didn't think much of it before we went. You wouldn't think much could be said of a hot dog joint but lordy these are good hot dogs. The BLT is my recommendation. Yum!!

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Korean Mexican fusion?
That's the kind of thing you get in Brooklyn. Sometimes it seems fun and innovative but often you really think just why?

Samurai Mama
Oh you've got to love lunchtimes in the city - great deals to be had - especially in Williamsburg where lots of the monied are working in the daytime over on Manhattan. We had a great ramen at a quite famous Japanese place who's usual prices are rather high.

Charleston bar
Another great bar on Bedford Avenue, Williamsburg
Free pizza with your beer? Yes please.
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Rosamundes - a bar that sells sausages - cooked and in a butchers stylee.
The first time we went they had Alf on the tvs constantly - what's not to love?

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Rosemary's
Another former neighbourhood bar which has hipstered up but still has a nice atmosphere.
We spent a great night there feeing the jukebox. NYC does lots of jukeboxes!

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Mclaren park
The park at the far end of Bedford Avenue is interesting. It's a bit rough and ready and I'm not sure I'd hang out their at night but there's definitely some interesting goings on. They apparently have free open air cinema up there in the cinema too.
On our short stroll we saw one of the most interesting cars I've ever seen and a great posters for a lost tree:

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I heart the East Village:

The East Village is somewhere I utterly love and we found ourselves, wherever we'd been, time and again gravitating back there (it helped that it was one stop on the L train). Here is a list of some of my fave things.

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Lucys
This is an old fashioned bar, graffitti and bars out the front. Basic inside, run by a Russian grandmother - no idea if she is Lucy or not, but I like her. No nonsense. It's always dark no matter what time of day and you can grab the local paper and get a good priced drink.

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Saigon shack
A diamond Vietnamese, on Mcdougal street.
The price of this place kept surprising me. Often with Vietnamese, the more kind of 'ruff and ready' a place looks, the better, but this one they've done in a kind of asian modern stylee which would make you think the prices are higher than they are. The food is just bloody amazing.

Sushi Lounge
On the corner of Tomkins Square park - this place was fantastic. Massive bowls of prawn tempura udon at a great price!!

Fabulous Fannys
I could only looking in longingly with my budget - but this place sells vintage specs and in the past I have gotten some fantastic bits that even in my 'sell everything to travel the world' moments, I haven't been able to part with.

Tompkins Square Park
I love this park. I always like to wander through and see what's going on and we always stop to watch the dog parks - one for small dogs, one for all dogs.
In the summer they have lots of events on and they were coming to the end of that season. We stumbled upon an open air screening of 'O brother where art thou' and before the film they had blue mountain style singers performing. Unfortunately it had poured that day so the ground was soaking so we decided not to stick around to watch the film.
There's something about this place though and I find wherever I am if I'm tired, or don't know what to do with myself, or even just want to have a think - I tend to head to the park and the streets surrounding it.

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Otto’s Shrunken Head
I do love a tiki bar so I headed over to find this one on the outer edges of the East Village. We didn't go there enough in the end - I really liked it. It's been around years and is a little bit divey and not 'trendy' so is full of interesting people. They have rockabilly and comedy nights and I can definitely recommend if you want an afternoon hideaway.

Yaffa cafe
This is somewhere I like mainly for the kitschy decor. You can't get enough leopardskin in your life can you?

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Elsewhere in NYC...

Tick tock
It's the diner underneath the New Yorker hotel. We always go here and one of the few things in this crazy, busy centre I like.
They do good food. LOTS of it. It's often got a lot of NYPD in there too. One time we saw someone called 'Officer Squash' and this always amuses us to say in an over exaggerated New York accent.

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Art & MOMA
I've been to MOMA in other places but never got further than the museum shop at the New York one. It's not the cheapest thing in the world to do so we decided to be good backpackers and go on the free night. Wednesday night I think it was. Wow - that's popular. We joined a queue which looped right around the block. It actually didn't take long to get in once they opened the doors but actually I'm not sure if I'd recommend to go here as a freebie. It was so popular/so busy and it's kind of hard to enjoy a gallery with that many people about. Part of the experience should be to have a little peace and space to look at what you like. It's a cool place though, particularly the courtyard garden.

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Obviously just walking the streets you find a lot of art. Street art, galleries and unintentional art. One of the more interesting things we came across was a building who's front wall swung out onto the street to create the gallery.

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Freedom tower
This has gone up so quickly. I have never been to New York when the twin towers were there so I've never been able to imagine this site with something on it. It's always been a massive hole/construction site to me - one tinged with horror and sadness of course. But now the freedom tower is built I get how much the towers meant to people because you can see it almost every neighbourhood and direction you go. It's ever present, so I can only imagine how strange it must have been to live with those towers with such prominence on the street and building views from all over, to have that gone.
That said - I know there's a spike on the top to make it tall but there's something else - an antenna or something - which always looks messy and drove me a bit mad - felt it ruined the view that it should be - clean and standing tall. Not with some wonky wiring at the top.

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TriBeCa & Meat Packing District
I'd never been properly to these area before so I wanted to have a wander about. This is all about 'I' you notice. Well Mark does like New York but it's my obsession and I make the plans and drag him around. I got stuck on a crazy island for many months so he can traipse around New York with me for a couple of weeks!
Anyhow, I found the areas had some nice old character mixed in with a bit of sterility. I find Soho, though pretty, to be very sterile and it holds no interest for me and these places tinged on that. A bit too cleaned up with quite bland galleries and restaurants.
The architecture of the Meat Packing District is gorgeous though and you can think back to decades old movies or cop shows where they are interviewing someone hanging a whole pig in a freezer (it was always a pig wasn't it?) - they're still the same buildings - gorgeously restored. I just wished they filled it with things that were a little bit more eclectric. Sometimes I think part of New York will over stylise themself!

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Highline
We got onto the highline, which is a park like walk setup on an old disused railway line which opened a few years back. I'd been dying to see it and it wasn't wildy exciting but is definitely worth a go. Certain points your walking through not so interesting buildings but then you get a view or a sight that makes it worth it. Particularly the further north you got.

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The Williamsburg bridge
Everyone raves about walking over the Brooklyn Bridge which I'm sure is great but frankly there's nothing much when you arrive there, other than the view back over and the point you go over on the Manhattan side isn't very interesting either. The Williamsburg bridge hooks up too more interesting places with a lot more going on. It's not only a nice walk if you fancy it but it's a convenient link.

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It takes you to the lower east side where if you head north you find some of the best restaurants, bars and shops.

Schillers
After we'd walked the bridge, we were practically on the doorstep of one of another of my faves - Schillers lounge which has interiors to die for. Not sumptuous - but it has somehow been preserved in time and you have original tiles, mirrors and especially amazing is the bathrooms downstairs.

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And they do a very good bloody mary too!!

Central Park
You can't not love Central Park. This was the great advantage to going in the summer to be able to spend a long (if hot and tiring) time in the park. I wanted to go to areas I hadn't been to before so decided to start in the top eastern corner. This meant getting the subway to the edge of Harlem. This is a very different area to the bottom easter corner. Mark was a little disconcerted when we got out of the subway and I tried to find my barings to get to the park. He was even more concerned when we had a huge guy try to hustle us for some money as he'd just got out of hospital because he'd hit his head !?! He did act like he'd had a blow to the nonce!

Anyhow - it made us realise how huge the park is. It took for ever to make our way down but it was really interesting. The difference in the type of people and what they were doing as you made your way down was a surprise. And there's all kinds of little things to find along the way. The huge lake/pond in the middle is huge.

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During this trip and another we made to spend a couple of hours here, we finally found the iconic poets walk, watched some baseball, watched some amazing roller skating which I think goes on every weekend in the summer. And people watched - a lot! Watching some of the portrait artists was funny - there was some great artists but the likeness to the person they were actuallly drawing? Way off - hilariously so!

McSorleys
It's a cliche, it's a tourist trap but it's also a great place with great beer and great atmosphere that is not to be missed.
The oldest bar in NYC - probably. The best - it's certainly up there. Sawdust on the floor and you can buy two beers at a time - go for a light and dark.
It is the best. It just is!!

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Trailer Park Lounge
Mark gets dragged here everytime but I have to - it's like a place of workship for kitsch lovers. Buy your beer in a can, order some mac n cheese and just lok around you... heaven!!

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Peculiar Place
We were introduced to this on an east to west pub crawl we got taken on on our first visit together (thanks cousin Andrew) and I couldn't remember it's name but stumbled across it again in Greenwich village. It's a perfect bar. Little bit funky, but not too much - doing it's own thing.

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Washington square
Fabulously central to all things good and great people watching. There was an eccentrically dressed crazy guy who looked like he was about to beat on people but actually was chasing after people who were dropping litter and shaming them. Good for him!!
You always have to end up at Washington Square park!

West side story
We hit the Hudson on the west side for the first time. It's funny to see Jersey sat over the other side. It always seems to much further away than Brooklyn - like it's another world almost. A walk north, ending up by Chelsea pier, was interesting having never been there before and nice and quiet but unless I was after some peace and space I probably wouldn't rush to go back over there again. Though I can see it's appeal for the owners of upscale homes in the West Village - somewhere to go chill or run, with few tourists.

Brooklyn

I'd wanted to stay in Brooklyn and explore it for the first time but actually I found it quite difficult to suss out what to do at certain times and often ended up just heading to Manhattan. I probably would have just ticked off each neighbourhood to walk around aimlessly, but I was driving Mark mad with having no real 'end destination' on such excursions. Here's some of the things we did/places we discovered in Brooklyn, outside of our local Williamsburg.

Coney Island
I have always wanted to go to Coney Island but I've never been around in the summer. It's so icon for it's retro funfair - there's a soundtrack in my head whenever I see pictures. It's a bit of hike down there on a pretty slow train, but going mid week it was pretty quiet. This was good so as to avoid hoards of kids and the noise that brings, but it did mean there wasn't a lot going on there.
I guess to compare Coney Island to somewhere in the UK it would be Blackpool or Brighton pier. Old fashioned beachside fun.
We started our trip rather badly as it was lunchtime and we'd not eaten so hastily made a stop at Applebee's. I've never been to one before and it's unlikely I will again. The first person you see as you walk in is ..... first impression officer. The food was not great and not cheap either. I think if you went with their ridiculous 'stuff your face' type deals it would work out cheaper. I was gutted we didn't hold out and go to somewhere with a bit more characters.

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The fair area is separated into a couple of areas, the larger rides and an area for smaller kids with cuter rides. It's got a proper old skool style and is a visual treat for sure.
I, of course, had a go on Zoltar (as per Big), but unfortunately (or fortunately probably more likely) I have remained in my 30s.

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There's some icon structures such as the parachute, the Cyclone and big wheel. The cyclone is still shut from the storms but even without storm damage i don't think i'd have the guts to go on it - it is proper ricketty!!

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The take away food looked great - wish we hadn't eaten in god awful Applebees first. We did partake of rather amazing ice creams before we left though.

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Brighton Beach
We went down to Brighton beach (well we had to didn't we) in the Russian area known as little odessa. It was a funny place. Quite a lot of angry russian drunks hanging about and then some interesting bars/restaurants.

We hung for a little bit in Tatianas - a large seafront restaurant with a nightclub downstairs which looked very interesting. I think it's the kind of club were you really don't want to mess with the management!!

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The Transit Museum
This was something I fancied as I've always found the idea of old tube/subway stations interesting. I'd love to see some of the abandoned ones, but this is the closest I can get as the museum is set in a disused station - Court station.

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I flippin loved this place. I don't know what this says about me, but I thought it was fab. There's tons of old carriages from the different eras - complete with posters and ads from the time which were quite fascinating.

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We also got to pretend to drive things and go through turnstiles rather pointlessly.

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There was a video room which was showing the full Michael Jackson 'Bad' video and a short doco as it was filmed at the subway station that we'd come into the area in.

Brooklyn heights
Brooklyn heights isn't really a destination in itself but it's nice to have a wonder around. The buildings are so iconic and have a host of amazing former residents. We had a very NYC moment when we were approached by a Rabi asking for directions as we stood outside the apartment block that was home to Arthur Miller & Marilyn Monroe. Just up the road was Truman Capote's former home and Moonstruck was filmed around there.
Mark didn't know what Moonstruck was. WTF?
On the river side of the area it of course has great views of manhattan. It is very quite and I can imagine it's ideal for (rich) families for convenience as well as style.

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Caroll gardens/the canal ways
Caroll gardens is a really nice, pretty area. It kind of reminded me of parts of Hove. It's quite and nice but still with plenty of things around.
The strangest thing was the canal - a very quite place to go that you can imagine only a few short years ago, before restoration, it being dodgy as!
I think if I stayed again for a while, I'd like to be based here.

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Cobble Hill
This is another semi gentrified area which has some nice restaurants and bars - a good stop off if you've been to the Transport museum as otherwise there's not much nice around that area. I can recommend the Thai food at HopHap.

Under the Brooklyn Bridge
There is a park under the brooklyn bridge which in the summer shows outdoor screenings of various movies.
The weather wasn't great the day we were there. We had a wander around the area known as Dumbo but there's not really anything there.
There's a restaurant around there which we had a few drinks in which was full of character. The Old Fulton restaurant was once italian owned I think and is now russian owned I think. The decor is luxurious and a bit barmy and it has a fab atmosphere and mix of clientelle. Rich beautiful kids, bikers, old geezers. So if you are round there and not sure where to go, I'd give it a go.

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There was less open than prob previously I think - the famous river cafe is closed due to damage from the storm.

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We got to watch a latino band filming a music video which was v funny as they were dancing to no music!!

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The film on that night was Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas. Many people's idea of heaven but I'm not keen and add to that the bad view and poor weather we didn't make it the whole way though and left early.

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It was dark by then and we did manage to get lost trying to find the nearest subway. Brooklyn isn't really the most fun place to get lost. I didn't admit to Mark that I was a little concerned (I never do when this kind of thing happens!).
But we found our way in the end thanks to some helpful students!

It's a great view day and night over to manhattan and looking at the bridge so worth going over there but the lack of nearby subway means needing a little planning.

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NYC Budget Traveler Tips:

Ferry cross the Hudson
It's a classic tip on any budget NYC itinerary but it's a good one. The Staten Island Ferry is free and you get great views not only of the Status of Liberty but also of Manhattan, Brooklyn and the newly resurgent Staten Island. I also found the journey itself was interesting in terms of people watching. This is people's commute. It's a funny old, oddly relaxing experience.

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Cheap eats
NYC is amazing for the best, most expensive food in the world but also for cheap eats. You just need to be careful and think about where you are/what you are having but it's all there. I thought we'd eat mainly street food and eat at home but eating out was quite easy if you plan - just keep your eye on resturants/cafes as you pass them so u can come back if they are a bargain.

Just Wander
You can go looking for things in New York but more often than not the most interesting things you will stumble upon.
Just walk the streets - try out different neighbourhoods - it's amazing the things you find. Impromptu hug givers, tree huggers (yes I have seen both), street parties, exhibitions and hidden treasures.
You also often stumble on tv or movie sets. I don't thik I've ever been to NYC without coming across some tv/movie trailers. This time around they were filming in 2 places I like - Mc Sorleys - famously the oldest pub in NYC and a tourist trap to an extent but such a great place non-the-less. I'll talk about it more later on.
They were completely closed for filming which we were rather miffed about as we were headed there. The other place was the Borgeous Pig which is a great, atmospheric fondue restaurant which was out of our budget this time around. Who knows what they were filming in there - a cozy couple restaurant scene I would imagine - it's deep reds and twinkling lights would work well for that.

You always come across the most interesting things by accident - it is the NYC law!

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The Good

My mini Law and Order tour
I love the series Law and Order - be it original, SVU, Criminal Intent, LA, UK - all of them. And there's barely an episode I haven't watched because if it's on I'll put it on. I like it as background and I find it oddly relaxing. What I found on the trip that apart from poss Cuba -every country seems to shows Law & Order. I guess because there's so many of them and they sell them cheaply - but I've never been far away when we've had TVs. Anyhow, I wanted to go to a few places related to it - the famous court steps, police plaza and the street named after Jerry Orbach from the original (RIP!). So I dragged Mark around some more but didn't go too far afield in my quest. Both the court (easter lower manhattan) and the road (on the upper west side) took me to areas I've never been to before.

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Cool riders
The subway between Williamsburg and East Village is a cool ride.
You get the most amazing buskers on this route (we met an incredible english guy who told us he made a good amount of money there).
You also get the kids who do kind of break-ish dancing involving hanging of the train poles and doing various acrobatics who then just politely hand the hat around.

Riverside park
This is a very peaceful park on the upper west side which goes on forever and mainly has locals so a different kind of people watching.
For people who like cheesy movies - the bit at the end of 'You've got mail' was filmed here.
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Bwwoooklyn
On the subway in Brooklyn, you'd get the drivers talking to you about the journey and the stops. Mark and I were gleefully on our journey one time to have the most fabulously shouty female train driver with the epitomy of Brooklyn accents. It really is the little things.

The Bad

See the (grim) sites
You probably can't spend a lot of time in NYC without seeing some gross things.
There was the guy on a kind of wheelchair who was also an alcoholic or druggy and his 'lovely' mates clearly couldn't be bothered to help him pull his pants back on after he last went to the toilet. That arse was on show for all to see and they were all oblivious.

There was another delightful lady we encountered, who we smelled before we saw. A very hot, humid day on the subway and the smell hit us and as we turned to see what it was we saw an opened shopping bag laid on the floor with large chunks of faeces falling out onto the platform. She was particularly special. Obviously she has a hideous life but it was puzzling that someone who lives in the subway could be so huge. I guess the excess in NYC allows even the homeless to be obese. Sad stories all round.

Alice's empty tea cup
Alice's tea cup on the upper west side. It should have worked but apart form a bit of interesting decco and chirpy 'boy' staff, it was over priced and underwhelming. Everything that NY can get wrong sometimes. Go full on or don't bother!

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Where not to go
Brooklyn can definitely change block by block and after getting off at one subway station we went in the wrong direction and not so much ended up in a rough location, more one were you offered a bit of a shocking insight. This area had a bunch of buildings grouped near each other which meant there were some interesting characters hanging around. The US equivalent of the job centre and social services (whatever they are called over there). And just up the road was a tower block detention centre. Bit of an eye opener, just from going a couple of blocks in the wrong direction.

Say what now?
Why does everyone have to shout their conversations? Why? Why!?!?

The Ugly but inevitable

Everything changes and you've got to wait
First time into the East Village and I was looking forward to brunch, bloody mary and all at Life, on the corner at Tompkins Square Park.
This is the cafe that features in the musical/movie Rent as is was frequented by the writer back in the 80s when the East Village was a grim, yet arty haunt. We had ended up going here not because of it's association but because it was a couple of blocks from where we had stayed in New York on a previous trip (now there's a place I can highly recommend the New York Bed and Coffee (http://www.bedandcoffee.com/) has arty room and shares bathrooms with a few other people on each floor. It's fantastic! Anyhow, the brunch at this place was amazing and we were gutted to have found it had gone. Asking in the uber trendy coffee house next door, apparently one day it just shut unexpectedly and that was that. It is the nature of New York, ever changing, but it is a bit gutting. You don't want the less fancy places to go but nowhere is safe. The great bar Nice Guy Eddy (or something like that) which used to be opposite Katz Deli on the lower east side is now literally a trendy wine bar. New York does character well but it also does bland well and I noticed walking around that a lot of some of my favourite areas have gotten quite boring.
My biggest annoyance - bars or restaurants that had no sign with their name on the front as they are too cool for school and if you want to know you will find out. Their interiors are taken back to brick with the dippest lighting they can manage so you can't even see in to try to work out who they are and what they do.

http://www.theguardian.com/cities/gallery/2014/apr/03/new-york-storefronts-what-a-difference-a-decade-makes

As for the queuing thing that is so loved in New York. Forget it. I don't care how good your food is, I'm not queuing and especially not if there's a chance I can't get in and if I do it's over crowded. The queuing itself is half the being seen and I really can't think of any bigger waste of your life.
I might have really, really wanted to try a Cronut (a fancy bakery in Greenwich Village have created this which is a cross breed of a croissant and a donut), but I'm not going to go there at 8am and queue for an hour. I went in at 3pm and they'd sold out 6 hours previously.
There's tons of good food to be had in the world. It shouldn't involve hype.

Time Square
I tend to tick Time Square off once per trip but it's not somewhere I really like to go. I'm not into shows so other than that it holds no interest to me. Mark does love a bit of Ripleys but we've done that one before. There's a two headed cow from Wiveliscombe, Devon in the entrance and I remember on a previous trip, the guy outside trying to get people in told me it was from 'Wivel-scom' until I corrected him about the pronunciation. Obnoxious? Moi?

Falling into a festival
We turned down a street on 5th Avenue and saw there was a little Brazilian festival going on, so we walked through it only to find at the far end it was actually a full on celebration with people like sardines trying to watch something on stage. The crowd was huge and intense and we literally got trapped and struggled to make it out together. I can handle crowds but I think when you're not expecting it, it can be a tad full on.
But then falling upon things randomly occurring is what makes NYC so exciting.

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Alcohol and a jukebox brings people together
We had a very odd but definitely fun night in the East Village one day when we decide to partake of the jukebox as is our like and due to our choices got chatting to a couple who were on their first date. They were really nice but I think they weren't into each other in a romantic way so we had a more fun the 4 of us putting on some 'interesting' tunes. Lot's of guilty pleasures - oh yes - even Celine Dion. Then another guy who was with his friends, cottoned on to this and applauding are good bad taste, joined in by putting on Jennifer Rush 'I am your lady'. Epic!!

Too cool for skool
Williamsburg was v funny as the staff in half the places were away with the fairies. Obviously none of them were waiters - they would all be artists, in a band, directors, photographers or whatever. But in a city that prides itself on service, it could be hilariously bad here. We didn't care as we were in a rush and had been in countries where service isn't a big deal ever! I think bad burger was a prime example. Food was fine but the guy working there was a total space cadet. But I kind of liked it. It added to the vibe. Reminded me of the film Clerks.

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The End

So that's it really. Not a blog that makes much sense but I had to get all those memories and moments down and as it's one of the most photographable places in the world, we got some great shots.

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Posted by KtandMark 06:58 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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