Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Israel...Here I Come!

I am so excited to be heading to Israel tomorrow. It will be a whirlwind of activities, but I'm sure I will make memories that will last a life time. I look forward to sharing my pictures, videos and experiences with you. I hope it is easy to get wireless Internet there, so I can try to update my blog on a day-by-day basis. If it is not that simple, I will catalogue everything and update when I get back. Check in to see if I'm able to post, and follow along with me as I head on this amazing adventure to Israel! Now, if I can just get all my packing done...

Monday, June 21, 2010

10 Fun Tidbits About St. Marks Place

St. Marks Place is a crazy, fun-filled street in Manhattans lower East Village area. It runs from Third Avenue to Avenue A, with the most condensed area being between Third and Second Ave. It is packed with cheap eats, yummy treats and massive amounts of shopping. It is also the go to spot for finding weird and wacky, off the wall people and things. Read on to find out a few things that make the place tick and tock.

1. Japanese restaurants with a lot of unusual items (sushi lovers head elsewhere)
2. Mamouns!
3. Crazy vendors selling everything...and I mean everything
4.  Tattoo and piercing places galore
5. Yoga for the what you wish, bring your own mat
6. Smoke shops...only selling pretty glass and uhh, mini vases, yea, that's right
7. Wanderlusts
8. Karaoke bars...Sing Sing anyone?
9. Bars and restaurants and a hotel that rents by the hour, oh my!
10. Heaps of trash...not pretty, but part of the streets decor

Sunday, June 20, 2010

There's More To Queens Than JFK and LaGuardia

Lot's has been going on...but my access to internet on my netbook has been hit or miss, so I haven't been updating as much as I would like. I want to share pictures that show the simple beauty which is New York City in the summer. Yes, it is a bit humid, and yes the subways can drive any sane person crazy-but ahhh, the energy, the thriving pulse of the city and all there is to see and do is just to die for. 
Let's start with Far Rockaway in Queens, where Rockaway Beach is found. Such a cute little town, not typically a beach town, but still user friendly to beach-goers. The "goers" are a raucous bunch  of all ages, with music blaring from radios and vibrant chatter keeping them laughing. The water was a bit icy though, and there were shells that were hard on the feet. All in all, a nice place to soak up some sun, and a really good people watching beach.

I also attempted eating at Meskerem, an Ethiopian Restaurant I've walked by a million times on MacDougal, but had never gone inside. I say attempted because I was faced with new eating challenges I'd never encountered. Let me just say the food was good, nice flavors and huge portions. However, I'd never had Ethiopian food before, and was in for a surprise when my salad came wrapped up in what looked like a crepe. The waitress placed it before me and I looked at her and said, "thank you, what is this?" She responded with, "your salad." A few confused, hungry minutes later, I called her back over and asked what she meant. She said, "your salad is inside the bread." Ahhh, there we go, I opened up the crepe like bread, and lo-and-behold, inside was my delicious avocado salad. I ate that, and shortly after came my lentil main course. It also came in the crepe, with two more huge crepes as accompaniments. You can see from the pictures that it was a lot of food, and with the portion size and my confusion, I decided to have the main course boxed up so I could decipher it at a later time. 

I took in a few more sights in Queens, including a hookah bar in Astoria, a funny little place with a nice garden with seating area in back, contradicting no smoking signs and minimalistic checks. The promenade park overlooking the east river and city skyline in Long Island City, very nice view and loads of seating areas. Nice park for the kiddos as well. Since I'm staying in Queens, I've found a lot of things to do in the borough, but I have a strong Love Jones for Manhattan, so I will be back exploring there soon. Ciao.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Manhattan Has A Google Office?

An old friend stumbled upon my travel blog and noticed that I would be in the city for a bit. Low and behold, said friend works for Google. So, I was invited to the (almost) top secret Google office on Manhattans West Side, and was treated to an oh-so-delicious lunch, like only one of the biggest tech companies in the world could provide (to their employees every day). After I was 'scanned' into their database, my friend met me in the lobby and took me to the eighth floor-where the "good" cafe is located. Elevator doors open and masses of people are running around with trays, grabbing goods from the superbly stocked salad bar, made-to-order hamburger/chicken/vege bar, clam bake, hot foods, soup and finally dessert bar. On top of this, there are drinks aplenty, and baskets of fruit for the taking. Needless to say, I was in perennial food shock, overwhelmed by all the choices that lay at hand, I managed to grab some clam bake items, a plum and a cup of lobster bisque. There were no pictures allowed inside, but I was encouraged to take dessert, which I did of course, and managed to snag a picture before I scoffed it down outside. Such a fun experience and I really would like to thank my friend for having me as his guest.

Afterward, I went directly into Chelsea Market, because what's better than looking at food while full, right? For some reason I've never been and it was too close to pass up. Aroma pleasing smells swirled around me as I passed by bread, chocolate, milkshake, sushi and cupcake shops. After a fun stroll through the artwork adorned, dark, disneyland-esque thruway, I ended up back outside on tenth avenue, eager to head up to Highline Park which I'd heard a lot about.

This architecturally magnificent park is spread above the city on an old subway track, stretching ten blocks. There are gorgeous views of the Hudson River, Empire State Building and surrounding West Village. If you're in that part of the city and have never seen this before, it is definitely worth a look. So many new and interesting things to do in this city, and with a ton open 24/7, I will quest on.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Roaming Manhattan

Yesterday I found myself roaming around Manhattan, checking out different freebies, with no specific time frame. I first found myself at the Gagosian Gallery on West 24th, and boy was I in for a surprise when I saw what that gallery had to show. I walked into the very sleek place,  asked the ladies at the reception desk where the free exhibit was, and they pointed me into a room that was covered with photos of, wait for it, nude men. Nude men with, ahem, very nude parts showing. Eyes growing wide with shock, I took a quick polite walk around the room, then abruptly walked out of the gallery, barely throwing a "thank you" over my shoulder as I went out the door. I didn't take any pictures of that experience.
Next, I went to the other Gagosian Gallery on West 21st, for the Monet exhibit. Now this was everything I expected and more. Four huge rooms with brillant works of art from Monets' later collection, mainly water lillies, but some beautiful weeping willow portraits as well.

Afterwards, I headed back to the West Village for some grub. I was looking to hit up this yummy vegan/vege friendly restaurant called Soy Luck Club, but instead found Swich. The menu is pretty strait forward with wholesome and huge salads, sandwiches and snacks. I had The Polo Salad, which came with complimentary lemon mint edamame. So good. Pretty tired at this point, but determined to take in one more freebie, I caught the subway up to Central Park to see the Summer Stage offering for the evening. The concert was a combination of soul, carribean beats and african rhythmic music. The crowd was moving and grooving to the beat, and I got up off my feet and swayed to the sounds myself. A great day full of fun freebies.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Top Ten Free Event Websites in NYC

Back in the city and so much to see and do! The weather is a little annoying...cloudy and on and off rain, but it's New York and people are still out and about. My first quest for today is finding the freebies that take place every day in the city, which isn't too hard if you know where to look. Of course, if you have endless hours and a magicians hat full of cash, there's plenty to do while barely having to lift a finger...for those that are a bit more adventurous (and a bit lighter in the pocket book), look no further than the following list for a sure-fire way to be in the know on the free events in the city.

This website has a list of daily free things to do, plus a list of over 300 stagnant free things to do in the city...ranging from the bars that give the best free food, to parks that have interesting free standing art work shows.

Amazing free paper that's published every Wednesday and can be found all over the city. The website has weekly events listed and insider tips on what's going on throughout the city.

The name says it all. is a fabulous website full of interesting tidbits on everything. It is very user friendly and has great info about what to do, when to do it and why.

The concrete jungle does have parks...and lots of them! Check out this website for fun free events and activities at the cities parks (and trust me, there's a lot more than just Central Park)!

They call themselves "The Official Guide" to what's going on in the city...and they're pretty much telling the truth. This is a great place to go for info on more unique things happening around the city.

Citywide events calendar...not uber exciting, but still useful

They have a "Best of New York" page, which might not all be free, but is still worth taking a peek.

This website gives some coupons and deals to be had...but primarily serves as a lure-in for tourists. Use caution when maneuvering through the pages.

So you wanna give back? Volunteering is free and it makes you feel all warm inside. This website gives the best volunteer opportunities in the city, with a lot of one day options.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Best NYC Cocktail Spots

As I'm gearing up to go back to the city for a couple of weeks...I started musing over fun and new cocktail places to visit. I found a few that sounded oh-so-tempting. Below are the places I hope to check out and sip a delicious libation (or two).

1.  Pegu Club
Audrey Saunders' SoHo cocktail mecca is famous for attention to detail, rejection of vodka and superbly mixed cocktails. Several of Saunders' own creations are available, including the Gin-Gin Mule, Tantris Sidecar and Earl Grey MarTEAni. The eponymous cocktail, the Pegu Club, features dry gin, orange bitters, and orange curacao. Asian-inspired small plates served til 1 am.
·                   Address: 77 West Houston Street (Wooster and West Broadway)
·                   Phone: 212-473-PEGU
·                   Prices: Cocktails $12, Champagne Cocktails $16
2. The Double Seven
Leather banquettes, a 90-seat capacity and freshly squeezed juices come together in this cocktail lounge dedicated to decadence. Signature drinks were created by Sasha Petraske(Milk & Honey) and include the Gold Rush(bourbon, lemon juice, honey and hot water, over ice, with a honey ganache) and Pimm's Rangoon. Debauve & Gallais chocolates arrive paired with drinks before midnight.
·                   Address: 418 W. 14th St. (9th Ave. and Washington St.)
·                   Phone: 212-981-9099
·                   Prices: Cocktails $16
3.  Flatiron Lounge
Opened in 2003, the Flatiron Lounge successfully mimics a 1920s speakeasy atmosphere with the original 1927 bar, jazz music, art deco styling and an array of classic cocktails. Flatiron Originals include unique cocktails like the Hibiscus Swizzle, Lychee & Lemongrass Fizz and Cherry Smash for those seeking contemporary comforts. The nightly flight features 3 mini-cocktails with a central theme or ingredient.
·                   Address: 37 West 19 Street
·                   Phone: 212-727-7741
·                   Prices: cocktails $12, flights $18
4. East Side Company Bar
Unlike Milk & Honey, Sasha Pretraske's more democratic, more affordable cocktail lounge has a published phone number and doesn't require reservations. Pressed tin ceilings and wooden booths create a great atmosphere for enjoying the cocktails made with care using fresh juice, fresh garnishes and large ice cubes on the Lower East Side. They also offer a light menu, including smoked salmon and hummus.
·                   Address: 49 Essex St. (Grand St.)
·                   Phone: 212-614-7408
·                   Prices: $8 cocktails
5. Employees Only
Walk past the fortune teller and grab a seat at the bar to experience the skillful bartending action upclose at Employees Only. Creative and delicious signature drinks reflect the seasons and the expert bartenders can mix up just about any classic cocktail as well. Watching the bartenders meticulously chill glasses, stir drinks and even taste before serving is nearly as fun as enjoying the cocktail itself. Dinner menu available.
·                   Address: 510 Hudson Street
·                   Phone: 212-242-3021
·                   Prices: cocktails $12

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

5 Places To Eat On The Cheap In NYC

Manhattan is crammed with the some of the best food joints to be found in the states, however, if you're on a budget it can be difficult to find a good place to grab a bite. While living there I found a lot of great budget friendly spots, so below I compiled a list of my top five places to eat on the cheap.

1. Artichoke's Pizza, 14th b/t 1st & 2nd (Delicious and huge slices for $4)
2. Crocodile Lounge, 14th b/t 1st & 2nd (Free personal pizza w/any drink $6 average)
3. Mamouns Falafal, St. Marks Place & MacDougal (Best falafal ever $2.50)
4. NYC Dosa, Washington Square Park at Sullivan (Yum veg food $1-$6)
5. Vanessa's Dumplings, 14th b/t 2nd & 3rd (Recession special $1.50 dumplings & buy one, get one free sushi plate after 8pm)

Monday, June 7, 2010

10 Things You Need To Know About Vegas

1. Sit at any table, any slot and get free drinks all night long (tip the waitress, of course)
2. $40 twenty-four hour buffet pass....'nuff said
3.Carnival World buffet at Rio is a-m-a-z-i-n-g
4. Paris Hotel crepes. Best. Ever.
5. Ultra Jewelry at Miracle Mile Shops = Best deal on diamonds
6. Random spottings of famous people is best done at the hotel shopping malls
7. It's Halloween 24/7, aka, girls can dress like sluts any day, any time
8. Tao Beach at The Venetian makes you wait in a line to LEAVE
9. If you dance on stage at Coyote Ugly, you will get free shots
10. Cirque du Soleils' Zumanity at New York New York is risque and breathtaking