New York…below Central Park

Ok, I know I went on about some of this stuff in another NYC post but that was like a year ago and some of it is STILL worth going on and on and on about!! So this is basically a post detailing our favourite haunts in New York and pretty much covers everything south of Central Park! In true us-ness (got to be a word, right?) this one’s mostly food. A girl’s gotta eat.

Firstly though, on a non-foodie note we went to see On the Town on Broadway. Some pretty cool songs but Jesus it was a long show. At least John didn’t fall asleep…unlike our trip to San Francisco’s Christmas Nutcracker performance. Nope, he shall never live that down. Pup.

Times Square

Times Square

Times Square

Times Square at night

Helping you find your way

Helping you find your way

Broadway, baby!

Broadway, baby!

Pretty sunsets

Pretty sunsets

Chelsea/Meatpacking/SoHo/Little Italy

The Chelsea Market takes up an entire block of the Meatpacking District. There’s a really good Anthropologie store and a sister Artists & Fleas Market to the one in Brooklyn; there’s a lot of lovely delicate jewellery on sale here. Visiting the Chelsea Market is all about eating though. The Lobster Place is my favourite spot in the entire market. Crab clubs, lobster rolls, even whole steamed lobsters to chow down on – yes, please! It’s always packed full of people and always awesome. Lucy’s Whey has really tasty cheese toasties and lovely, friendly staff. Buon Italia has got lots of food options from Italy at really good prices. More so foodstuff for cooking yourself though so it’s really only good if you’re in an Airbnb. Chelsea Market Baskets sells artisan food, gifts and eh, baskets. A good perusing spot. Away from food again and Posman Books have a fantastic selection of New York themed books, cookbooks and beautiful cards too. I could spend HOURS in here! Once you eventually decide on a place to eat within the Market you could hop up to the High Line (if you visit New York and you don’t walk the elevated park that is the High Line then you’re missing out) and find a bench between the trees or overlooking the street to devour your haul but if you don’t fancy total strangers staring your food down then I suggest crossing the street to the 14th Street Park for your very own table for 2.

Chelsea Market entrance

Chelsea Market entrance

The prettiness!!

The prettiness!!

Up on the High Line

Up on the High Line

Empire State from the High Line

Empire State from the High Line

Street Art from the High Line

Street Art from the High Line

14th Street Park - free wifi!!

14th Street Park – free wifi!!

One of my favourite cafes in New York is Maman. It’s right across the road from the beautiful old Police Building (which is now a seriously luxurious apartment block – we’re talking Net-a-Porter delivery vans constantly arriving at the door). I just cannot explain the deliciousness of the hot chocolate at Maman, the prettiness of their coffee cups or the awesomeness of their bathroom. They’ve a lavender hot chocolate too. They can do no wrong. No wrong. They just opened in Toronto too.

Since our visit to Brazil I’ve developed a bit of an addiction to açai bowls. I’ve tried to recreate them with the frozen pulp from Whole Foods (crap) and the açai powder. My skill level isn’t there yet either. Liquiteria does them but they just taste like bananas and although they’ll make them without bananas they’re just not right. Whatevs! Two Hands does their own version; super pretty but again very banana-y. Damn it people!

Maman

Maman

Aw, they're a friendly bunch

Aw, they’re a friendly bunch at Maman

Old Police Building

Old Police Building – fantabulous apartments these days

Around the Police Building

Around the Police Building

Liquiteria's açai

Liquiteria’s açai

Two Hands

Two Hands

Gansevoort Market is a cool, industrial style market in the Meatpacking District, which is easily accessible from the southern end of the High Line. We had awesome pizza from Luzzo’s here. It’s not a huge market but there is plenty of choice so it’s definitely worth a look. Another market similar to this is Gotham West up in Hell’s Kitchen (near Times Square). It’s a down-with-the-cool-kids sort of spot. They have a Blue Bottle Coffee Bar; we’re talking coffee for serious coffee lovers. They even have their own book. Oooh, very fancy!! There’s also a Blue Bottle across from the Chelsea Market. Since we’re on coffee I guess I should mention Joe Coffee (various locations), which, according to the coffee connoisseur that is John has the best coffee in New York. So there you go!

Gansevoort Market

Gansevoort Market

Gansevoort Market

Across from Gansevoort Market

Up close

Up close

Back to NoLita and the Little Cupcake Bakeshop still reigns supreme as one of the cutest bakeries on the planet. Just look at it. Black and white tiles inside with red velvet and coconut cloud goodies. Adorable.

Little Cupcake Bakeshop

Little Cupcake Bakeshop

Harney & Sons Tea Blenders in SoHo. Oh the Paris tea. I don’t even need to say more.

The BEST street to wander in New York is Bleecker. It’s full of great boutiques (hello MAJE), a lot of beauty stores (MAC, Fresh! and Marc Jacobs Beauty) and lovely eateries such as the Magnolia Bakery (yes, that of Sex and the City fame). Need I say more? Get them and pop up to Washington Square Park to people watch. Perfection! Across the street from the Magnolia Bakery is Bookmarc NY, a small bookstore by Marc Jacobs. It’s small enough and sells mostly fashion books but they also have cute gifts and book bags. If you’re down around this area then you shouldn’t miss a trip to 64 Perry Street AKA Carrie Bradshaw’s apartment. Molly’s Cupcakes way down Bleecker street is a cute little spot to grab a hot chocolate and some sweeties. They have indoor swings! Right next to Molly’s is Winston Churchill Square – a cherry blossom filled haven in the city! Just across the street from here is the Porto Rico Importing Co. which is, it seems, a mecca for coffee and tea lovers. It’s been around since 1907 and is just a lovely store to wander around. Back up near Washington Square Park is probably one of the coolest old school pharmacies in the world – C.O. Bigelow is just special.

In Winston Churchill Square

In Winston Churchill Square

Porto Rico Importing Co.

Porto Rico Importing Co.

Flatiron District

Eataly in the Flatiron district is perfection. Their meat and cheese plates with a glass of vino or a craft beer makes for a splendid evening 🙂 A stroll in Madison Square Park after a feed here and you’re sorted. The Lego store is right next door and it has the most amazing creations of New York scenes. Some people have talent. Toby’s Estate coffee in the Club Monaco flagship store around here is pretty good for a coffee to go. There’s a well curated Strand Bookstore within Club Monaco too. The destination with a destination in a destination!! The main Strand Bookstore is at 12th Street and Broadway – if you’re in to books then it’s absolutely worth a visit here. Beecher’s Handmade Cheese Shop does an amazing cheese and fig toastie. DEFINITELY worth some pennies!

A 'flat' side of the Flatiron!

A ‘flat’ side of the Flatiron!

The Flatiron's behind that!

The Flatiron’s behind that!

Lego creations

Lego creations

A glimpse inside Eataly

A glimpse inside Eataly

The Strand within Club Monaco

The Strand within Club Monaco

Greenwich Village

We were very well advised by our Airbnb hosts that Mamoun’s is THE spot to come for falafels. It’s tiny and the decor looks decades old but that just adds to the experience. It’s right next to the lovely Café Reggio which incidentally houses the coolest coffee machine on the planet. Oh and they served the first cappucino in the US. No biggie. Tea & Sympathy is a great (albeit teensy!) spot for British style afternoon tea, it’s actually run by Brits so you can’t go wrong with the scones here. They’ve got a store next door selling British goodies too.

East Village

We hadn’t spent any time in the East Village on previous trips to New York to be honest but we were keen to try out Jennifer’s Way – the cutest little bakery specialising in gluten-free goodies. Actor Jennifer Esposito owns it. HA and OWNS IT, go Jennifer!! You could pick up some goodies and enjoy them in Tompkins Square Park, just down the street. This park was a great find for us – there was a market around the edges, some cool music and lots of beautiful flowers. A little oasis in the city. Ninth Street Espresso is a block away from the park and although it has a few outpost  John liked this one best. A very chilled out spot to grab a coffee. Since we’re on food…the Clinton Street Baking Company. Sweet Jesus, just go there for brunch.

Jennifer's Way

Jennifer’s Way

East Village residents

East Village residents

Keeping the East Village nice and cosy

Keeping the East Village nice and cosy

Battery Park

Battery Park, waaay down the southern tip of Manhattan (Bowling Green subway stop) is a lovely place for a walk, it’s also where you get the free ferry to Staten Island or have a stare at the Statue of Liberty. You could walk from here up to the 9/11 memorial and the World Trade Center. We happened upon the Irish Hunger Memorial around here, it’s uncanny how like Ireland they managed to get a spot in the middle of Manhattan. I’d continue up to TriBeCa to the adorable Tiny’s bar then.

Freedom Tower

Freedom Tower

Irish Famine Stone

Irish Famine Stone

John's home county

John’s home county

Ireland's most important county

Ireland’s most important county

Staten Island Ferry

Staten Island Ferry

image image

Tiny's

Tiny’s

Here’s all of our favourite New York spots!

Upper West Side, New York

If I could live anywhere I’m pretty sure it’d be New York. Such an awesome city. We stayed just over a month and based ourselves in Harlem in an apartment we rented on AirBnB. Honestly, I have to admit I was a little apprehensive about staying in Harlem because of its reputation but we were pleasantly surprised – the locals up here (we stayed on west 126th street) are really friendly and there are plenty of cafes to sit in and relax. I’m not saying there weren’t any psychos roaming the streets – there were plenty but you know, it didn’t seem as dangerous as one might be led to believe.

Jacob's Restaurant, Harlem

Jacob’s Restaurant, Harlem (not UWS, I know!)

We got ourselves a monthly unlimited subway card for $116.50 as we knew we’d be using the subway a lot (I think John worked out if you’re going to use it something like 4 times a day then it’s worth getting the unlimited card. It’s also nice not to be fumbling with change and queuing for ticket machines with oh so patient New Yorkers on your heels!) I’m going to concentrate on the Upper West Side (UWS) in this post.

We hadn’t wandered around this area on previous trips so we decided to do it some justice this time and absolutely fell in love with it. Perhaps because of the food up here…

Ok, so I found a great article on Buzzfeed pinpointing all the hot spots from my absolute favourite movie of all time, You’ve Got Mail so we got right on this on our first afternoon in NYC…and pretty much every afternoon after that… I think I could pretty much retitle this post as ‘Our You’ve Got Mail Days’…

We found ourselves in Zabar’s on numerous occasions – I have a slight addiction to their chocolate pretzels and John’s a fan of their chocolate croissants and in-house coffee blends. I think it’s best that it’s across the pond as I’m positive I’d be the size of a house if we lived anywhere near here. They have a pretty good homewares section upstairs, a good spot to pick up a useful souvenir like a tea-towel, mug or canvas shopping bag. Oh and Zabar’s sell Kerrygold butter therefore cementing its position as the best store in the US!

Zabar's baby!

Zabar’s baby!

Obviously we checked out the atmospheric Cafe Lalo complete with twinkliest of lights outside. It’s open until 2am and is one of the most perfect places for a date or a catch up with a friend. Pretty tight squeeze into the tables when it’s busy though, it’s definitely not as airy as portrayed in the film. We ended up here a few times – it’s just so damn gorgeous. I had the most random concoction one evening – steamed eggs with strawberries (huh?), mixed nuts, raisins and cinnamon. Totally worked. You can check our their menu here. Their desserts are absolutely delicious.

Café Lalo - oh so pretty

Café Lalo – oh so pretty 😍

Inside Café Lalo

Inside Café Lalo

The 91st Street Garden, where Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan meet at the end of You’ve Got Mail and she says “I wanted it to be you”. Such emotion! Such a pretty garden! It wasn’t quite as beautiful as in the film but you can tell a lot of hard work goes into it – I’m sure it’ll be lovely by mid-summer. This isn’t a bad spot to catch a sunset…although it’s anything but peaceful – there’s a highway underneath you. It’s still New York 🙂

The 91st Street Garden

The 91st Street Garden

It's a cat!

A cat!

A lot of work goes in to this space

A lot of work goes in to this space

Catching a sunset

Catching a sunset

Another UWS sunset

Another UWS sunset

We visited the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument (89th Street and Riverside Park) , a commemoration of the American Civil War. It’s exceptionally quiet up here, a nice spot for an evening wander.

Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument

Gray’s Papaya (just at the exit of the 1/2/3 72nd street stop) is a great place to pick a New York favourite, the ubiquitous hot dog – and their fresh juices are amazing! We were routed here on numerous occasions by John since he has a bit of a thing for their chilli dogs.

Gray's Papaya!

Gray’s Papaya!

Decisions, decisions!

Decisions, decisions!

The triangular shaped Verdi Square (Broadway and 72nd) is a really nice place to sit and people watch. There’s even an artificial owl (check him out in the second picture below) up in a tree; designed to keep the pigeons away however that’s not working, they pretty much sit on top of him! The statue is Italian opera composer Giuseppe Verdi.

72nd and Broadway

72nd and Broadway

Verdi Square

Verdi Square

We did a lot of our food shopping at Trader Joe’s just across from here. It’s possibly the most manic supermarket I’ve ever been in – some evenings there was a queue outside the door plus a queue round the entire shop to pay for your goods. I’m pretty sure I’d go insane if I had to do my shopping here all the time. They’ve got beautiful flowers though. Worth queuing for! There’s a pretty good Urban Outfitters just across from here too. I hadn’t noticed before but URBO seems to have completely taken over NY – it’s like the Starbucks of the clothing industry.

The Designer Shoe Warehouse (DSW) (2220 Broadway) AKA shoe mecca is a danger to anyone in possession of a credit card. It’s a humongous store with rows and rows of oh so fabulous shoes from every designer imaginable (although they’ve a healthy sprinkling of Betsey Johnson and Birkenstock) and all the sizes are stocked up underneath them so you can go about your own business and nobody bothers you. It’s heaven. The one on the UWS isn’t the greatest but if the shoe fits… There’s one in Union Square (and one next to Macy’s too) and I must have tried on about 40 pairs of (please be mine) shoes one afternoon. Again, heaven. Down a few more blocks there’s a Century 21 (1972 Broadway) which is way less crowded than the one by the Freedom Tower. Oh the Burberry trenches!

The American Museum of Natural History (81st Street) is definitely worth a wander around. I’d been wanted to visit the museum for aons so was delighted when we got to visit. There are exhibitions within the museum which you have to pay extra to visit so it’s worth taking a look at the website before you go to see if any tickle your fancy. We decided to add on a space show, Dark Universe, which is on in the Hayden Planetarium adjoining the museum. Neil deGrasse Tyson narrates the show on dark energy and dark matter. You’d need days to do this place any justice. We managed a few hours and then needed a caffeine hit so have left some areas for another visit. The Hall of Saurischian Dinosaurs has an amazing fossil collection, including a T-Rex with 6 inch teeth! It brought us back to South America when we saw actual dinosaur footprints in Sucre, Bolivia. Pretty cool. The blue whale in the Hall of Ocean Life is spectacular – and at 94 feet long absolutely monstrous!

Subway stop

Subway stop

Tyrannosaurus Rex

Tyrannosaurus Rex

I think John preferred them alive in the Galapagos!

I think John preferred them alive in the Galapagos!

It's a party!

It’s a party!

Cheetah

A pretty startled looking Cheetah

Elephant City

Elephant City

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle – the backgrounds here are amazing

Lions!

Lions!

Gigantic Jack Rabbit!

Jack Rabbit – these guys are gigantic

Alaska Brown Bears

Alaska Brown Bears

Massive Blue Whale

Mahoosive Blue Whale

That's one old tree

That’s one old tree

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Good Morning Philadelphia!

Good Morning Philadelphia!

Just two hours from the bustling borough that is Manhattan lies what has to be one of the prettiest cities in the world. Philly is awesome. We bussed it from New York to Philladelphia with Megabus ($24 return for 2!) and arrived at 7.30am. We lucked upon Green Eggs Cafe (212 S 13th street), a typical American neighbourhood cafe serving pancakes, eggs cooked in myriad ways and randomly, absolutely delicious quinoa porridge. We hadn’t really read much about Philly so didn’t really have any expectations but seriously, this city of Brotherly Love made us want to stay forever. It seems like a very livable city. We tend to walk and walk and walk in a new city but you can get a metro or SEPTA card for $8 (8 rides – very good value) if you’re not that into walking.

The streets of Philadelphia have the pretties names – Chestnut, Cypress, Spruce, Walnut…although there was Locust St. too… Speaking of Spruce Street, I feel it’s necessary to immediately share Green Street Coffee Co. (1101 Spruce St.) with you – the best chai latte I’ve had in so long. It’s a tiny little spot but there’s some outdoor seating (however, contrary to popular belief I can attest that it is not always sunny in Philadelphia…) and the staff are really friendly.

On to Philly’s attractions, and there are many. Probably the most important attraction (for tourists and history buffs alike) is Independence Hall and its Assembly Room; the site where the US Constitution and the Declaration of Independence were signed. Lincoln’s body lay in repose here after his assassination; George Washington’s Rising Sun chair is still here and the Assembly Room is pictured on the back of the very rare $2 bill. You need to pick up tickets to visit Independence Hall at the Independence Visitor Centre (1 N Independence Mall W; opens at 8.30am). Tickets are free but there is limited availability so you’ll need to get there early enough to choose a time that suits you. Across the street from here (between the Independence Visitor Centre and Independence Hall) lies the Liberty Bell, which used to ring in Independence Hall but cracked after an unsuccessful repair job on an initial crack. Just across the street from here is the Dream Garden in the Curtis Center – worth a quick visit to check out the 49 foot glass mosaic. 

One of Philly’s most famous buildings is the Philadelphia Museum of Art ($20 entrance), with those steps from the Rocky movies. We were there about 11am and it was getting really busy so if I’d definitely advise trying to get there much earlier in the morning if possible. You’ll obviously need to run around up here and throw your arms in the air. There’s a bronze Rocky statue at the bottom of the steps which you won’t want to miss if you’re a fan. We walked from the city out here in about half an hour. On the walk back in to central Philly is the Rodin Museum, complete with a monument sized version of ‘the Thinker’. It’s amazing. The cherry blossoms are framing the statue perfectly at the moment; I think it was my absolute favourite part of Philly. Aren’t cherry blossoms the most beautiful part of Spring?

It happens to be Jazz Appreciation Month in Philadelphia now and we came across a free lunchtime jazz session within the beautiful building that is City Hall. It’s that stunning steepled building in all the Rocky movies. God, free stuff is awesome. Very close to City Hall lies JFK Plaza or LOVE Park, named after the red L-O-V-E sculpture by Robert Indiana. You can see the Rocky steps way up Benjamin Franklin Parkway in the background. There’s not much in the park; it’s just a lovely place to chill out and take in the scenery.

Macy’s (1300 Market St.) has the largest working pipe organ in the world and as luck would have it we got to hear it!! It’s called the Wanamaker Court Organ and was built for the 1904 World Fair in St. Louis (which celebrated the Louisiana Purchase 100 years earlier. Excellent background story available here). The organ is beautiful, takes up 7 (!) floors…I think it would be awesome for aisle music! Honestly though, it would be a beautiful place to do Christmas shopping; they put a 3 story Christmas tree there every year. Awesome. If you’re visiting Macy’s don’t forget to bring your passport to the Visitor Centre on the ground floor to get 10% off.  There’s also a pretty new Century 21 if you need an designer outlet shopping fix (821 Market St.)

A few blocks from Macy’s is the Reading Terminal Market (51 North 12th Street) – the perfect place to pick up lunch. Philly Cheese Steaks, pretzels, lobster, sushi, sausage sandwiches, salads – pretty much anything you could want will be packaged up for you to scoff down. Even if you’re not hungry it’s a great place to wander around. No way you’re leaving without a chocolate pretzel though.

A bit of a walk from the Reading Terminal Market lies Christ Church (entrance by $3 donation), possibly the most famous of all America’s churches. Also called the Nation’s Church, it’s here that people such as George Washington and Benjamin Franklin worshipped back in the day. Franklin and a whole host of other famous people are buried in the two acres adjoining the church. Just a few blocks from here is Elfreth’s Alley, America’s oldest residential neighbourhood and what has to be one of its prettiest alleyways. 32 picture perfect houses complete with shutters line this cobblestoned street – reminiscent of old London. There is a museum here but it’s only open at the weekends ($5 including tour of the Alley).

Note: If you’re travelling with Megabus and they say your bus is leaving from 30th Street Station then you need to walk through the back of the station on to John F. Kennedy Boulevard (under the bridge).

Witherspoon Building

Witherspoon Building

One of Philly's 3600 murals

One of Philly’s 3600 murals

And one more...

And one more…

Philly's Subway

Philly’s Subway

Rittenhouse Square

Rittenhouse Square

They should open this again!

They should open this again!

Cute Café

Cute Café

How beautiful is this building?

How beautiful is this building?

Yes, I would live here!

Yes, I would live here!

Possibly my next home...

Possibly my next home…

Another contender!

Yet another contender!

The Liberty Bell with Independence Hall in the background

The Liberty Bell with Independence Hall in the background

The Liberty Bell

The Liberty Bell

Dream Garden in the Curtis Center

Dream Garden in the Curtis Center

Philadelphia Museum of Art

Philadelphia Museum of Art

In Rocky's Footsteps

In Rocky’s Footsteps

Rocky's View

Rocky’s View

John and Rocky

John and Rocky

Rodin Museum

Rodin Museum

Oh the blossoms!

Oh the blossoms!

Chilling with The Thinker

Chilling with The Thinker

Obsessed with these blossoms!

Obsessed with these blossoms!

A pink carpet!

A pink carpet!

The end of an awesome dance move?

The end of an awesome dance move?

Walking to LOVE Park

Walking to LOVE Park

So pretty!

So pretty!

LOVE Park

LOVE Park

Macy's and the Wanamaker Organ

Macy’s and the Wanamaker Organ

Reading Terminal Market

Reading Terminal Market

Cool signage

Cool signage

Inside the Market

Inside the Market

Can't pass up a flower pic!

Can’t pass up a flower pic!

Pretty pretzels!

Pretty pretzels!

Ok...

Ok…

Makes total sense

Makes total sense

Hahahaha!!

Hahahaha!!

Christ Church

Christ Church

Inside Christ Church

Inside Christ Church

Elfreth's Alley

Elfreth’s Alley

More of Elfreth's Alley

More of Elfreth’s Alley

An alley of an alley

An alley off an alley!

Sydney’s Best, an A – Z Guide

As we lived in Sydney for over 3 years and I only managed one post (ridiculous) I thought it was about time to share our favourite spots of this oh so beautiful city. Ya so it’s mostly food because apparently that’s what our lives revolve around.

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

Vivid Sydney Festival

Vivid Sydney Festival

Sydney’s Best…

A

Afternoon Tea. I definitely consider myself a connoisseur of Afternoon Tea. It’s my absolute favourite thing in the world. After shoes, obviously. The Langham in the Rocks area of the city does a pretty good afternoon tea. I also love the Tea Cosy in the same area, an Irish themed tea spot located in a lovely building (with a balcony) and the scones are delicious. They even have lamington (chocolate and coconut sponge cake) scones in celebration of Australia Day (January 26th). The best afternoon tea isn’t actually in the city though, it’s in Katoomba in the Blue Mountains, in Lilianfels Resort and Spa. Glass of champagne in hand, fire crackling in the background and live piano music. Perfection in the winter. Yes, Sydney gets a bloody cold winter. Not Ireland cold but definitely scarf and woolly hat cold.

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B

Beach. Obviously need to include a beach in a Sydney post. There’s no situation where Palm Beach doesn’t win this medal and it’s less than an hour from the city. Don’t miss brunch from the Boathouse. Bondi Beach is obviously world famous, and it’s great for people watching but if you’re looking for a city beach then I’d go for Maroubra. It’s way quieter than Bondi so you’ll always get a spot to yourself, although there aren’t many food options at the moment so it’d be a good idea to bring a picnic. It’s up and coming though so there’ll definitely be more foodie options in the next few years. Bookstore. Another B I know but I have to share! Hands down, the Japanese bookstore Kinokuniya in the city for choice – they stock everything but it is a little pricey. Berkelouw in Paddington has a nicely curated selection as well as a cafe. Sappho Books (and cafe and wine bar!) in Glebe is a little like Shakespeare & Co. in Paris, a warren like maze of a store brimming with secondhand and rare books.

Palm Beach

Palm Beach

Bondi Beach

Bondi Beach

Maroubra Beach

Maroubra Beach

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C

Coffee. No joke, John has actually sampled every single coffee shop in this city. Morning coffee was had and loved from MLC Grind in the MLC Centre in the CBD. Weekend brews were most enjoyed from the tiny Reuben Hills in Surry Hills.

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D

Drinking Spots. My absolute favourite bar is Grandma’s in the city. It’s a tiny basement bar (and well hidden) but the cocktails here will knock off any cobwebs. John loved the Button Bar in Surry Hills and the Barber Shop in the city. The Wild Rover, actually a small bar in Surry Hills and not a crazy college scene Irish bar like the name would suggest, is a pretty nice spot too. Shady Pines Saloon is hilarious and located in Darlinghurst. What you see in movies and expect a bar in the Wild Wild West would have looked like.

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E

Eggs. It’s really easy to find fantastic breakfast spots in Sydney – you’ll find poached eggs with avocado on sourdough toast pretty much any time of the day. Our favourite hang out was Baffi & Mo in Redfern. God, their sweet potato hash browns. Unbelievable. VargaBar Espresso in Newtown used to have the most delicious eggs benedict but they went and changed their menu. Rude. They can still cook an egg though. Surry Hills is your best bet in terms of breakfast in general. Plenty of places to choose from.

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F

French Fries. Although it’s a hotdog spot, Snag Stand has the tastiest fries made with Tasmanian potatoes no less; an Irish girl championing potatoes that aren’t from Ireland? Yes! Also Fish and Chips from Doyles on the Wharf in Watsons Bay is really tasty and is the perfect place to watch a Sydney sunset.

View towards the city from Watsons Bay

View towards the city from Watsons Bay

G

Gelato. Actually this one’s a tie – Gelato Messina (a few locations) or Anita (Chippendale). Both heavenly.

H

Harbour Bridge. Enough said.

Hot Chocolate. I’d probably have to say the mint hot chocolate in the Hyde Park Barracks Cafe but I’ll give Max Brenner second place since you get it in a hug mug. Aw. Hair Salon probably needs a mention here too – Renya Xydis in the city is bliss.

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I

Italian Food. One of the cheapest and tastiest places you could eat in Sydney is Bar Reggio in Darlinghurst. They can do no wrong. No wrong. Jamie’s Italian in the CBD is pretty good – there’s always a queue though. Unless you go on December 26th. Random.

J

Jewellery store. Lovisa. They’re everywhere and super cheap.

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K

Kept Secret. The Golden Age Cinema and Bar in Surry Hills is a tiny cinema, which was the former screening room of Paramount Pictures in the city. Pre-cinema cocktail? Pretty cool spot.

L

Lunch Spot. Most of my beautiful Sydneysider ladies adore Din Tai Fung (plenty of locations but we frequented the one in Pyrmont) but I’m not a dumpling lover so I generally favoured a hole in the wall sushi spot closeby. My actual favourite place to grab a sandwich is in the Met Centre/Wynyard train station in a hole-in-the-wall spot called La Petite Expresso. Fantastic chicken and walnut sandwiches. John’s favourite spot was pretty much anything from the David Jones Foodhall or steak from the Fairmont Restaurant in the Occidental Hotel.

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Not the Food Hall but David Jones in the Spring

Not the Food Hall but David Jones in the Spring

M

Market. I love love love the Flower Market in Flemington. A pain in the ass to get to for sure – and you’ve got to get there early but waaay cheaper than stumping up CBD prices. The Rocks Market probably needs a mention if you’re looking for an Opera House Christmas bauble or any form of souvenir you could possibly dream up. Sydney Fish Market in Pyrmont is also great; this is where you’ll find most of Sydney’s population on Christmas Eve stocking up on prawns for Christmas Day barbecues (the market has a 36 hour marathon (opening hours) to keep up with demand).

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N

New Year’s Eve Spot really depends on how much you want to cash out. Observatory Hill is a fantastic free spot for a view of the fireworks behind the bridge and the suburbs up along the harbour (you can’t see the Opera House from here though). Lawn with the View within the Royal Botanic Gardens is located on a hill just behind the Opera House so you see the Opera House and the front of the Harbour Bridge (the epicentre to be honest). Tickets are close to $300 per person which is ludicrous but this is Sydney. The good thing about a ticketed event is that you don’t have to get there super early but honestly we loved the atmosphere at Observatory Hill and we didn’t get there until about 10pm. The water around Pyrmont would also yield some good free firework watching spots of the Harbour Bridge.

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New Year's Eve view at Observatory Hill

New Year’s Eve view at Observatory Hill

New Year's Eve view at Lawn with the View

New Year’s Eve view at Lawn with the View

O

Oatmeal or Porridge. Served at the always delicious O Organic Produce cafe in Surry Hills. Everything they serve is amazing.

Opera House. Again, enough said.

P

Pizza. Ok there’s a little contention over this one. John adores Lucio Pizzeria in Darlinghurst and Pizza Mario in Surry Hills and I’d likely give up my first born for Il Grappolo in Rozelle.

Q

Queen Victoria Building (QBV). The architecture, shopping, those beautiful clocks, Santa. Wonderful.

R

Rainy Day Spot. Time spent in the Art Gallery of New South Wales is time well spent. Free entry, a cafe with lovely scones, a great museum shop and jazz evenings make this the perfect spot to spend a rainy day in Sydney. And that does happen more than you might think!

S

Suburb. No question here – Surry Hills. Where you’ll want to roam every Sunday. Beautiful tree lined streets, fabulous people, shops and cafes. Whilst we’re in Surry Hills, I’ve got another S for Supermarket. Thomas Dux is a great place to find things not readily available elsewhere like CoYo or baking ingredients. They have lovely homemade chocolates and beautiful fresh bouquets too.

T

Tea. The Tea Centre in the Glasshouse Shopping Centre. So. Many. Options. Delicious soups too. Edit – the Glasshouse is no longer around…submerged by Westfield but the Tea Centre can be found in the Piccadilly Centre just off Pitt Street. Sadly, no soup for anyone anymore though.

U

Utterly Awesome Experience. The Moonlight Cinema in Centennial Park every summer is a fantastic evening out – black and white movies and a bottle of vino under the stars. Perfection.

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V

View. This isn’t a difficult decision at all. Walk aross the Harbour Bridge and set up shop beneath same. If you take the train you’ll need to get off the train at Milson’s Point. Take a wander around the very residential Kirribilli for views like this:

Wowsers!

Wowsers! Also a good New Year’s Eve spot…

W

Wandering Spot. One of the most beautiful places you can take a stroll in Sydney is within the Royal Botanic Gardens. The Rose Garden is a beautiful place to chill out with a book, watch a wedding (yep) or catch a glimpse of the Opera House. You also cannot go to Sydney and not walk from Bondi to Coogee along the coast. It’s stunning.

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View of the city from the Botanic Gardens

View of the city from the Botanic Gardens

Coogee Baths

Coogee Baths

X

What the hell am I, Scrabble Champion? Nope.

Y

Yogurt Spot. Frozen yogurt spot to be precise. George St. is yogurt avenue. Yogurt everywhere. Yogurtland was my favourite, the perfect post-power-yoga stop off (and they always had discount deals for some reason or other).

Z

Zoo. One of the most spectacular locations on earth. Good for you Taronga Zoo! Bring the credit card though – a $46 admission price ain’t cheap ($23 for kiddies).

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São Paolo, Brazil

We flew from Rio’s Galeão International Airport (R$30 and 30 minutes in a taxi from Copacabana although we were warned it could take hours. Lucky us!) to São Paulo’s GRU airport for less than $95 for both of us – amazing deal but we did fly at 6am on a Sunday morning. We rented an AirBnB apartment in the Paraíso area of the city (taxi from GRU to Paraíso was R$28 and took about 10 minutes), which was definitely not a tourist centric spot so we definitely had a local neighbourhood feel. We had 2 full days in São Paulo, not enough time to do this megacity of 11 million people any justice but we managed to tick a few things off the list! The metro is pretty good here, very easy to navigate and costs R$3.50 per trip. Oh ya so we’re back at square one with the language again – 6 months of learning Spanish and now we’re in Portuguese territory – it’s so frustrating! We were actually able to communicate pretty well in Spanish to be honest; they say that Portuguese speakers can decipher Spanish pretty well, thank God they were willing!

The Japanese Market (at the Liberdade metro stop) is on every Sunday, worth a stop off since São Paulo has the world’s largest Japanese population outside of Japan – about 1.5 million people! They gotta do sushi well, right? Yes! The streets here are lined with red oriental style lampposts and there are lots of Japanese supermarkets and trinket stores to wander around after you’ve perused the market stalls.

We met a few people from São Paulo over the past 6 months and they all told us that the one thing that you HAVE to do is visit the Mercado Municipal de São Paulo (São Bento metro), oh my God were they right! Amazing. The selection of produce is fantastic; fruits we’d never seen before, colourful spices from all over the world and cheeses smellier than you’d find in France! Back to açaí and we visited the first place to offer açaí in the market, Don D’Aju. Perfect! The biggest draw of the market is the famous mortadella sandwich, perfect if you’re in the mood for a pound of meat.

Avenida Paulista is the financial area of São Paulo, the CBD I guess. We walked a few kilometers of this one evening, coming across concrete towers, more Starbucks than you can imagine but also some street tango classes which is pretty cool. A few streets away from Avenida Paulista is Rua Oscar Freire, a shopping area and lovely place to wander around shops such as American Apparel, Forever 21, Kate Spade and Espaço Havaianas, Havaianas flagship store where you can get flip-flops for about $5. Well worth that visit! You can actually get Havaianas in the supermarkets and from street vendors – you know the ones that sell newspapers? It’s actually the perfect city to have a Havaianas malfunction – you know when the strap breaks and there’s no fixing it? (Oh ya, it’s happened to me in New York and in Lima. I sure wear mine out!)

Colourful graffiti in Paraíso

Colourful graffiti in Paraíso

Fresh coconuts - just grab a straw!

Fresh coconuts – just grab a straw!

Sunday Market in Liberdade

Sunday Market in Liberdade

São Paolo Cathedral

São Paolo Cathedral

São Paolo Cathedral

São Paolo Cathedral

In front of the Cathedral

In front of the Cathedral

THE coolest traffic lights!

THE coolest traffic lights!

Banespa Building - based on the Empire State Building

Banespa Building – based on the Empire State Building…kind of…

Banking in São Paolo

Banking in São Paolo

Busking on the streets of São Paolo

Busking on the streets of São Paolo

Municipal Market of São Paolo

Municipal Market of São Paolo

More of the market

More of the market

That's a hell of a lot of spices!

That’s a hell of a lot of spices!

Lovely colours

Lovely colours

Cheese-sus!

Cheese-sus!

Nearly taller than John!

Nearly taller than John!

So much fruit!

So much fruit!

Hungry?

Hungry?

Where?

Where?

Plenty choice here!

Plenty choice here!

Decisions, decisions!

Decisions, decisions!

Like a beach party ☀️

Like a beach party ☀️

Bye, São Paolo!

Bye, São Paolo!

Next stop: New York City!!

Buenos Aires, Argentina

We flew from El Calafate to Buenos Aires’ domestic airport, Aeroparque Jorge Newbury. We stayed in an apartment in the Palermo Hollywood district (remise/taxi from the airport was $ARS160 and took about 15 minutes) which is filled with cafés and boutique stores. I’m glad we chose Palermo as there was plenty to do in our own neighbourhood and the subway brought us to the centre of town in no time. As Buenos Aires is so big I’m going to divide this post into more manageable bites, which I hope make more sense.

Microcentro

The centre or microcentro of BA has a few sights but we didn’t find there was too much to hold our interest for more than a few hours. The most suitable subte/metro stop from our apartment was Catedral just off the lovely Plaza de Mayo, which is overlooked by the equally lovely Casa Rosada or office of the president. We wandered around here a few times and the plaza is quite a nice spot to people watch. It’s an easy walk from here to the San Telmo area but I’ll tell you about that in a minute. Probably the most famous tourist street in the city is Calle Florida, which I think they should rename Calle Cambio as touts shout Cambio! Cambio! at you here from every direction (we actually did change $USD with Lumax Cambio, just to the left of the El Ateneo Bookshop on Calle Florida. Don’t worry, they’ll approach you). There’s a beautiful shopping centre (Can I describe a shopping centre as beautiful? Yes!) here called Galerías Pacifico which has the prettiest vaulted, frescoed ceiling – well worth admiring. There’s a pretty good selection of stores here too! On an awfully sad note we found a very lonely looking Harrods store around here – open it up again BA! A bookshop with a difference, El Ateneo Gran Splendid (Address: Avenida Santa 1860) is housed in an old theatre. There’s a lovely vibe in here, a bit of art dotted around, a café to chill out in and a whole load of tourists snapping shots. Don’t miss it though. It’s worth walking to see the Obelisco in Plaza de la Republica, a 67.5m tall concrete and white stone obelisk built back in 1936 in just 31 days! It stands at the cross-section of Avenida Corrientes and Avenida 9 de Julio, the widest avenue in the world. Cool! We wandered from here to the Retiro neighbourhood to check out Plaza San Martín, a lovely green space (which used to be a bullring) to chill out with the locals…and Sheraton guests.

Welcome to Buenos Aires!

Welcome to Buenos Aires!

Casa Rosada

Casa Rosada

Plaza de Mayo with the Cathedral in the background

Plaza de Mayo with the Cathedral in the background (yep, the one that looks like the Stock Exchange)

Pretty door/building on Calle Florida

Pretty door/building on Calle Florida

Some of BA's architecture

Some of BA’s architecture

Galerías Pacifico

Galerías Pacifico

El Ateneo Gran Splendid

El Ateneo Gran Splendid

Harrods Buenos Aires

Harrods

So sad!

So sad 😢

Plaza San Martín

Plaza San Martín

Pimped up BA bus

Pimped up BA bus

Obelisco

Obelisco

San Telmo

Walking down Calle Defensa from Plaza de Mayo brings you to the antique store laden neighbourhood of San Telmo. Be sure to stop to have your photo taken with the beloved Argentinian comic book character, Mafalda (at the corner of Defensa and Chile streets). There are a few buildings which have been converted to little markets selling old records, crockery, glassware, posters and the like around here – you just have to look in every door! The San Telmo Mercado is worth exploring; here you can find antiques, art, fruit and veg and have your dinner in a café or an espresso in Coffee Town. Continuing down Defensa you’ll find leafy Plaza Dorrego, apparently awash with an awesome antiques market every Sunday but we unfortunately missed this. We visited on a Saturday and there were quite a few stalls around though.

The neighbourhood of Montserrat is just next to San Telmo (technically the Casa Rosada is in Montserrat) and it’s well worth ambling through its cobblestoned streets. Buenos Aires’ oldest café, Café Tortoni (Address: Avenida de Mayo 825) is here and still has tango shows every night (you have to book in advance but I believe you can do it on the day in the café).

Approaching San Telmo

Approaching San Telmo

Relaxing with Mafalda

Relaxing with Mafalda

Awesome

Awesome

Beautiful colours en route to San Telmo market

Beautiful colours en route to San Telmo market

In an antiques market

In an antiques market

San Telmo market

San Telmo market

Antiques store in the market

Antiques store in the market

Cool fruit boxes in the market

Cool fruit boxes in the market

Plaza Dorrego on a Saturday

Plaza Dorrego on a Saturday

Old school store on Plaza Dorrego

Old school store on Plaza Dorrego

Palermo

We spent the majority of our time in BA around the Palermo area which is roughly broken down into numerous smaller  areas but we spent most of our time in Palermo Viejo or Old Palermo and Palermo Nuevo. Palermo Viejo is further divided into Palermo Hollywood and Palermo SoHo. Palermo Hollywood (where our AirBnB apartment was located) is called so because lots of TV and radio producers set up shop here back in the 1990s. Palermo Hollywood’s leafy lined  streets are brimming with cafés, bars and restaurants. Our favourite coffee spot here was LAB Tostadores de Café on Humboldt street and the best brunch award would have to go to the very pretty Oui Oui. There’s a brand new outlet shopping centre on Avenida Juan B. Justo (very close to the Palermo subte stop) called Distrito Arcos. It doesn’t have lots of very well known brands but Lacoste, Adidas and Levi’s are here and Vitamina (Olivia Palermo models for them) seems to be opening soon. You could easily spend a couple hours pottering about the stores here. The famous Argentinian ice-cream brand, Freddos is here, along with a pretty cool looking modular shaped building housing a Starbucks; Le Pain Quotidien makes an appearance too for foodies. Palermo SoHo’s epicentre is Plaza Serrano, most exciting at weekends when there’s an arts and crafts market but honestly I thought it was more of a blink and you’ll miss it spot! There are cafés, restaurants and boutiques around a playground with a few benches; it probably doesn’t deserve the plaza title but it’s a nice spot for a meander . The coffee spot you’ll need to look out for here is LATTEnTE (Address: Thames 1891). Palermo Neuvo holds the triangular shaped Carlos Thays Botanic Garden (Plaza Italia subte stop), just next to the zoo, is a lovely spot to wander around and take a break from the city heat. Although not the most peaceful spot in the world, there are lovely fountains, statues and a stunning greenhouse to potter around. Thays’ mansion still stands in the grounds and there’s some artwork and mini models to check out in here. It’s free to enter the gardens.

We really enjoyed the Jardín Japonés or Japanese Gardens (Scalabrini Ortiz subte but a good walk from here), built within the expansive Parque Tres de Febrero (entrance is $ARS50). It was built in 1967 so has had plenty of time to mature into the beauty that it is today. There’s a huge lake in the middle of the garden filled with gigantic carp and criss-crossed by a number of bridges. There’s obviously also plenty of Japanese greenery and some bonsai trees to admire. So cute! The Rosedal or Rose Garden is also situated in the Parque Tres de Febrero and is absolutely gorgeous (free entry). It has been around over 100 years and is kept perfectly. There’s a lake here you can rent pedal boats too.

Checking out the streets of Palermo Hollywood

Checking out the streets of Palermo Hollywood

Café in Palermo

Café in Palermo

Free gigs!

Free gigs!

Plaza Serrano

Plaza Serrano

Now there's a mosaic!

Now there’s a mosaic!

Can't pass up a Ché shot

Can’t pass up a Ché shot

Cute street in Palermo SoHo

Cute street in Palermo SoHo

Plaza Serrano's weekend market

Plaza Serrano’s weekend market

A sign in action

A sign in action

Feeling all Alice in Wonderland

Feeling all Alice in Wonderland

Madison Avenue!

Madison Avenue!

So cute

So cute

Bit different

Bit different…

Oh so pretty!

Oh so pretty!

So cool

So cool

In Plaza Italia

Here’s looking at you kid

Entrance to the Botanic Garden

Entrance to the Botanic Garden

In the Botanic Garden

In the Botanic Garden

Just relaxing

Just relaxing

One beautiful greenhouse

One beautiful greenhouse

Just catching a breeze

Just catching a breeze

Great chill out space

Great chill out space

Rosedal Garden

Rosedal Garden

European!!

European!!

Japanese Garden

Japanese Garden

Lovely setting

Lovely setting

Japanese wishing tree

Japanese wishing tree

Couldn't resist another

Couldn’t resist another

La Boca

We took a taxi to La Boca from outside the San Telmo mercado ($ARS40, ten minutes) as we’d heard that La Boca was quite dodgy. La Boca’s most famous street is called the Caminito, a street lined with colourful tin ramshackle houses – it’s basically a tourist trap but I’m glad we went to check it out. There’s a lot of stalls lining the streets and quite a few souvenir shops and restaurants too. We went to the Havanna café (they’re EVERYWHERE in Argentina) for a submarino – the tastiest hot chocolate where you get hot milk and a bar of chocolate so you can make it to your liking – delicious (I’m thinking lately I should just have had a photo blog on hot chocolate drinking sessions…) we caught the bus back to Palermo from here for just $ARS5.

Havanna (chocolate store) on the Caminito

Havanna (chocolate store) on the Caminito

Yep, that's the Pope

Yep, that’s the Pope

Just get a submarino!

Just get a submarino!

Caminito

Caminito

Excellent

Excellent

There's tango everywhere here

There’s tango everywhere here

Caminito Street

Caminito Street

So blue 😊

So blue 😊

Forever captured!

Forever captured!

So pretty

So pretty

Practice your tango skills

Practice your tango skills

Having a right old natter

Having a right old natter

Get your souvenirs here!

Get your souvenirs here!

Well it wouldn't be La Boca without this...

Well it wouldn’t be La Boca without this…

Recoleta

We actually ended up in Recoleta twice during our stay in BA. On our first visit we checked out one of Buenos Aires’ most famous attractions; it’s odd to say attraction as it’s Recoleta Cemetery but there you go! Recoleta is quite a well to do neighbourhood and they haven’t shied away from spending money in this labyrinth of a cemetery. Honestly though there’s a definite beauty to this place, it’s full of  impeccably (for the most part) kept stone and marble tombs, some the size of a Manhattan studio! Evita is buried here (just follow the crowds of people. She’s in a tomb under her maiden name, Duarte), along with quite a few presidents and other notable Argentinian residents. It’s an eerie but fascinating place, well worth a visit. Just next door is the Basilica Nuestra Señora del Pilar, a lovely white church with an ornate gold main alter and beautiful tiles along the floors and up the walls. You can visit a museum within the church too ($ARS15). I wouldn’t miss this church if you’re just next door in the cemetery. On the weekends there’s an arts and crafts market with over 100 stalls on Plaza Francia, just outside the church. It’s worth a walk around if you’re looking for souvenirs. Just bear in mind that BA is not an early city – some people only set up about 2pm! There’s a much talked about store/centre here too called Buenos Aires Design which is pretty much a group of furniture stores. Maybe it’s loved by many but I honestly thought it was a bit of a hyped up IKEA. We checked out the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes just around the corner from here (free entry) one afternoon. It was a quick visit to be honest, but they have a nice collection of art (including Henry Moore, Jackson Pollock, Picasso and Rodin) and a nice museum shop. Just next to the museum is the Plaza Naciones Unidas which is host to the Floris Genérica, a huge flower sculpture which is supposed to open and close with the sun although it’s currently undergoing some repairs.

What's on in Recoleta?

What’s on in Recoleta?

Basilica Nuestra Señora del Pilar

Basilica Nuestra Señora del Pilar

City of Tombs

City of Tombs

A very pretty tomb

A very pretty tomb

Rows and rows

Rows and rows

Some pretty old graves here too

Some pretty old graves here too

Yep, very, very old

Yep, very, very old

Ornate to say the least

Ornate to say the least

There's Evita

There’s Evita

Tango on everything at Recoleta market

Tango on everything at Recoleta market

Recoleta's a very pretty neighbourhood

Recoleta’s a very pretty neighbourhood

Awesome street sign

Awesome street sign

The prettiest of pinks

The prettiest of pinks

Floris Genérica

Floris Genérica

Getting to Uruguay: We organised our ferry crossing to Colonia in Uruguay with Colonia Express in the microcentro (Address: Avenida Córdoba 753). They were the cheapest provider (by far). Seacat Colonia are just across the road from here but they won’t let foreigners pay with Argentinian Pesos. Thank but no thanks 😊.

Next stop: Colonia, a UNESCO World Heritage site in Uruguay