Recipe for a Perfect Saturday

Any plans for Saturday? No? Well, how about this – mix shopping for vintage treasures with a pinch of all-food bonanza, add a spoonful of sunshine and the smell of fresh-cut grass; stir with the Manhattan skyline and the Central Park lake – serve with a smile 🙂

Ingredients:                                                                                                    1. Artists & Fleas Market, Williamsburgh (or any other flea market for this matter – there’s plenty to choose from in NYC!):

flea market BrooklynArtists & Fleas  is just a few block away from the the Hudson River bank, Williamsburg/Smorgasburg Market and East River State Park. They sell so many beautiful things that  you just don’t know where to start!

Check out the glitter shoes!!

Earrings with real moss! Apparently,  moss will grow if you water it and you can even trim it to give it a nice shape! I lost the vendors’ business card but I will look for it again and put a link to their site.

2. Smorgasburg Food Market (can be substitued for Hell’s Kitchen Market) – located between N6th and N7th Street, the market is full of delicious food:

$2 cupcake..a bit of a rip off considering the size!

The best thing about the market is that it’s right next to the river bank where you can sit on the grass, relax and enjoy your food as you’re admiring the Manhattan Skyline…which brings us to:

3. East River State Park – when I got there last Saturday, the perfectly blue sky and the clear-blue water contrasting against the vibrant green  grass  perfectly encapsulated what summer is about – and with the Manhattan skyscrapers towering over the river, it almsot felt like I was looking at a painting:

Manhattan SkylineWhat a better way to finish  a lovely, sunny day than taking a stroll in Central Park and renting a boat to row around the lake? 🙂 This has always been on my “things to do in NYC” list and I can’t believe it took me nearly 3 months to finally do  it!

4. Central Park Lake – renting a boat was so much fun! The only downside was that the lake is packed on weekends so rowing around was more of a rush-hour traffic type of experience than a peaceful day at a lake…but I still loved it! 

Hope you all have a great Saturday!

New York State of Mind?

It might seem like stating the obvious, but I think that one of the biggest differences between NYC and the cities I’ve lived in/grew up in are the people. New Yorkers are straightforward, up-front and (at least in most cases) brutally honest. It’s almost like the fast-paced lifestyle doesn’t give them the time to be shy. Then it’s the confidence – not only in the way they talk but mainy in the manner they carry themselves – walking with a purpose, their quick steps matching the rythm of the city that never sleeps. Self-confidence seems to be given a different value here in NYC than back in Europe.  Here, it’s almost considered a virtue not only to know your self-worth, but to be confident enough to show it; in Europe, the real, self-assured confidence is often mistaken for arrogance, and looked down on (I realise this might sound like a generalisation but that’s how I feel about it).

A common misconception is that New Yorkers are rude – to me, they are the friendliest people on Earth (unless, of course, you cross them which I do not recommend – NYers don’t mince their words!). I’ve always thought that  the chatty, always-ready-to-strike a-conversation attitude was a part of a small-town mentality, where everyone knows each other and has the time to be nice and interested in other people’s lives,  but NYC has proven me wrong. People here seem to love small talk and are happy to help. On my first bus ride in NYC, I was greeted by a smiley bus driver who not only spent a good few minutes patiently explaining how I can get from point A to B,  but  started telling me about his life in the city and asked questions about my hometown.  Just this week, I strained my knee so I’ve been limping around the city with an IcyHot knee sleeve on. Passers-by and people on the subway would come up to me and ask what happened; a random (and very friendly) guy asked me what brand the sleeve was cause he needed one himself; I even got a free taxi ride!

Hardly a day goes by when someone doesn’t start a conversation with me, compliment my outfit/accent, randomly wish me a good day or invite me for a drink. People in England and Poland (places I lived in) are friendly but this was something new! I was wondering where this friendly spontaneity was coming from, and I came across a brilliant article by Joan Acocella. According to her,  New Yorkers make less separation between private and public life and therefore tend to interact with strangers the way they do with their friends. Now that I had a chance to observe the New York City lifestyle, I couldn’t agree  more – people here spend most of their days  among strangers – think of the crowded subways and busy city streets;  so it’s only natural that, instead of distancing themselves from their surroundings, New Yorkers interact with them in the most natural way possible – simply by being themselves. And this is why I love them! 🙂

NYC – Vintage shopping, chocolate galore and more!

One of my favourite parts of Manhattan is Soho and the East Village – perhaps because the architecture and the relaxed atmosphere remind me a bit of England, but mainly because I love the hip, artistic feel the area has to it. I could spend a whole day browsing through racks of beautiful vintage clothes on Spring  & Prince St., stuffing my face with chocolate goodies and delicious Japanease food at St. Marks Place, and visiting art galleries.

Spring St. and Prince St. are definitely my favourite hang-out spots in Soho (I also like the quiet Elizabeth St. for its art galleries and unique vintage shops). They are full of lovely, privately owned stores with a very European feel; there are cute, tiny cafes on almost every corner and street stands with the most amazing jewellery, paintings and other random and wonderful things such as these camomile and lavender-filled, hand-embroided pillows (I saw these on Prince St., somewhere between Broadway and West Broadway):

Most jewellery stands are scattered around Prince St. (especially the area between Broadway and Sullivan St.) and Spring Street (Sullivan – Broadway and the Elizabeth St. area) but you can get slightly cheaper deals at the corner of Spring St. and Broadway and along Broadway:

As you walk up Elizabeth St. towards the East Village, there’s an antique stand at the corner of Houston and Elizabeth St. (they usually open around 1-2PM). The jewellery isn’t as pretty as what you can find on Price and Spring St. but they sell one-off, mainly vintage pieces so if you’re lucky ou can find something truely unique 🙂

Soho  is also famous for its vintage stores – you can find literally everything from aligator-skin purses and couture cocktail dresses to flaunts and cowboy boots! It’s a bit like walking around a gallery, except you get to try on the artwork!

Another thing I love about this area, perhaps even more than the vintage stores and the jewellery, are bakeries and chocolate ateliers (I LOVE food, especially if it’s chocolate-covered ;). This is one of my favourite shops – the owner had a genius idea of combining a jewellery store with  chocolate atelier – what more can a girl want?

Chocolates are $2 a piece – they are so rich and tasty, you will want to eat them all!

Another place where I regularly grab my dose of chocolate is this small, hole-in-the-wall bakery  on  the corner of Spring St. and Broadway, called Baked By Melissa. They sell delicious minature stuffed cupcakes – they look really cute:

Choclate mint, peanut butter jelly (mmm) and cinnamon cupcakes. The photo doesn’t really show it, but they are very tiny!

There’s also a place called Bond St Chocolate on 63 E 4th St. in the East Village, where you can buy novelty chocolates, such as these chocolate Buddahs and the Virgin Mary ($10 each):

Gallery-hopping in Chelsea and the High Line Park

If, like me, you love wandering around art galleries and like the idea of admiring urban architecture from a park towering 30 feet above the ground, then you should definitely spend a day gallery-hopping in Chelsea and strolling around the High Line Park. This is what I did on Tuesday afternoon and it made my day!

The galleries are spread from 19th to 29th St.,between 11th and 10th Ave – many of  them seem to have been converted from industrial warehouses – the rustic, unassuming buildings strangely compliment the amazing artwork hidden behind large window displays. All works are contemporary art, which I’m  normally not a big fan of, but most of the exhibitions were so inspirational, creative and elegantly minimalist that I had a great time! The High Line Park, a former elevated railway built in 1930s and now a wonderfully peaceful  greenway with a great view of Chelsea and  the Hudson River, runs along the gallery district from Gansevoort Street up to 30th Street. I like  how the flowers and greenery contrast against the metal and the buildings! The park’s a perfect place for a post-gallery stroll 😉

I started my little gallery walk on 24th St. – I got there around 4PM, two hours before the galleries were closing, so I only went as far as 29th St. 😦 (as it turned out, there are very few galleries on 27th-29th St., so you might as well skip them if you don’t have much time). I will definitely come back on Thursday, when opening hours are extended to 8PM – there’s something magical about wandering around galleries at night, when the city lights go up!

Here are photos of the artwork I found most intriguing:

Marc Jancou, 24th St.

Freight+Volume, 24th St.

Nancy Margolis, 25th St

STUX, 25th St.

BDG, 25th St.

I forgot to write down the name of this gallery, I just remember it’s on 25th St…:(

The Flag Art Foundation, 25th St.

Cheim & Read, 25th St.

These are my favourite pieces – so creative! The portrait was made by wrapping a single thread around nails attached to a whiteboard, it must’ve taken forever to make! Dillon, 25th St.

Robert Miller Gallery, 26th St.

A Day in Brooklyn

I’ve been staying in NYC since the end of May, and needless to say, I fell in love with the city – I’ve never met anyone who’s been here and hasn’t.

I’m staying in Queens at my friend’s place – I would start most of my days with a cup of coffee from a coffee shop next to Jamaica Center and head off to Manhattan – Soho, East Village and Midtown being my favourite places. In fact, I’ve been spending so much time there that I started to think  I wasn’t giving the rest of NYC enough attention so today I decided to explore Brooklyn. I didn’t want to do the boring touristy stuff and concentrate on the main attractions – when I travel I like to get to know the ‘real’ city, so instead I decided to stroll around, take it all in and just enjoy the atmosphere.

I started off in the Carroll Street/3rd Ave area, a wonderfully  eclectic mixture of tree-lined streets, charming brownstone houses and rusty, industrial estates and quirky antique stores.

I stopped at Film Biz Prop Shop on 540th President Street, a warehouse turned shop, filled with random and really cool film & TV props that would  otherwise be thrown away after the shoot. You can find some amazing things there –  remember when you were a kid and used to rummage around your Grandma’s attic? Walking around this store gives you a similar feeling 🙂 Here are some of the things I particulary liked:

I then took a stroll down the Carroll Street, paid a quick visit to the artsy Clariware Pottery and stopped by Proteus Gowanus Gallery – unfortunately, it turned out the place is closed till September so I just looked around and continued on to the Carroll St. Bridge. There’s an interesting river view facing a local factory and you can see red-brick apartment blocks peeking over the factory buildings.

A quick train ride took me to Fort Greene – but if you take a G train in the opposite direction, towards Church Ave, you will see amazing views of Brooklyn with Manhattan’s skyscrapers skyline – they are particularly pretty once you’re passing Smith Street station.

Walking down Fulton Street, I found this really cute Cuban cafe called Habana Outpost– they serve tasty smoothies and there are free movie screenings every Sunday at 8 PM.  I love the vibrant colours and the lively atmosphere – it’s a perfect place to relax on a hot sunny day!

Another train ride and I was walking down the Front Street in Dumbo, a quiet street with a slight bohemian feel, packed with galleries, bars and lots of quirky stores,  tucked near the Brooklyn Bridge. As I was walking down Front Street towards the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, I stopped at this vintage store called Miritika Boudoi’r, whose lovely owner told me about the Gallery Walk that takes place in Dumbo every first Thursday of the month– basically, all galleries and art studios are open to the public free of charge, from around 5:30PM  till late at night. There’s music, drinks, and you can meet the artists – it sounds great and I will definitely be there on Thursday, 4th August!

I finished my walk at the Brooklyn Heights Promenade – I recommend this place particularly at night, when you can see the Manhattan skyline in its full glory, with shining lights and the Brooklyn Bridge lit up – it looks magical:

I finished my day at Pete’s Candy Store, a bar/pub in Williamsburg, where I enjoyed an evening of poetry reading. From the outside, the bar looks slightly grubby and inconspicuous, but once you walk inside you will love the friendly, relaxing atmosphere – the narrow corridors and dim lights create this nice,  cosy feeling – it’s a great place to listen to live music, poetry readings and mingle with a really friendly, mostly local, crowd.


My personal guide to cheap and happy travel.

I’ve been travelling for the past eight months – I started off in India, made my way to Malaysia, then Laos and Sri Lanka, to finally end up in New York City – leading  most of my friends to believe that I’ve either robbed a bank or married a millionaire. Well, I haven’t done either – travelling doesn’t have to be expensive. It’s all about your travel philosophy (and how you manage your money!;). If you want to stay at expensive hotels, eat out everyday and treat yourself to shopping sprees, you have very little chance of keeping it cheap. To me, travelling is about experiences, and these often come free. Wake up early and watch the sunrise. Go on a lone walk, have a chat with the locals and listen to the rythm of the city. Admire the architecture. Take a midnight swim in the ocean and look at the stars and the moon as you let the waves carry you.  Keep an open mind and heart. You’ll be surprised what you will learn, not only about the places you visit but about yourself, when you just let go, slow down and enjoy the moment.

Enjoy simple things. The way I see it, each day is a sum of moments, so the more we enjoy each moment , the greater our day.  It’s all about little things – like stopping at a cafe in New York’s Little Italy on a rainy day, choosing a window seat and slowly sipping your cappuccino as you’re watching people pass by.

Make Friends! Making new friends  while you travel will not only make your trip more fun and exciting but also save you money! Paying for accommodation, regardless of where you are, is one of the most expensive aspects of travelling – and if you’re not free-spirited enough to enjoy camping on the beach or sleeping in a car few days in a row,  then sharing a room with a like-minded  travel companion  will help you save a lot. Plus it may just turn out that the person you randomly met somewhere in Southern India will become one of your best friends, and invite you to their home country where you will join them on more crazy adventures!

Explore! Yes- travel  guides are great and it’s always good to buy one before setting off on a new adventure – but use them as a starting point of your trip, don’t base your entire stay on them! After all, you don’t want to recreate somebody else’s experiences – you want to create your own! One of the greatest things about travelling is the freedom you feel when you arrive to a new place – with all the new, amazing things to explore, who is to tell you what you must and musn’t see?  Ask the locals, talk to fellow travellers, trust your instincts, be spontaneous, don’t be afraid to get lost– and you’re in for the adventure of a lifetime!

Don’t book ahead! From what I’ve noticed, accommodation that you find online tends to be more expensive than privately owned hostels and guesthouses which don’t have the money/resources to advertise online… So if you don’t mind arriving at a place without a pre-booked room, head  off to the area that offers the best accommodation deals (check your travel guide!) and find a hotel that goes best with your budget – you might even be able to haggle and you can’t go wrong with that! (This is true especially in India, where you can (and should!) haggle for room prices, often ending up paying 50% of the starting price! If you book ahead online or through an agent, you will have to stick to the price that you already agreed to pay…And that means overpaying!!)

Use public transport! While taking a bus, train or a rickshaw may not be the most glamorous way to travel, it’s definitely the cheapest! Plus, it’s an adventure – you will have a chance to meet local people and exchange travel tips with other travellers. And for God’s sake, if I survived a 12 hours ride on a local Indian bus, squeezed between bags of vegetables and screaming children, then you really have nothing to worry about! The rule is simple – the slower you travel, the less you spend!

Collect air miles! Ok, so while travelling around the country once you already got there doesn’t have to be expensive, GETTING THERE usually is.  Follow three golden rules to make it cheaper – 1. Book flights in advance to get the best deals;  2. Collect air miles to pay less; 3.Travel with cheap airlines such as  Air Asia, Ryan Air etc (you can also try befriending an airhostess and travel for free ;).

Swap restaurant food for supermarket meals. If you’re travelling for a long time, eating out is a luxury you can’t always afford – supermarket food will cost you less and last longer (especially if you’re staying at a place with a fridge/kitchenette). Also, consider buying local food to support the local economy! And if you’re desperate for a meal at a restaurant, use discount websites such as groupon.com to get the best deals.

Be patient and stay open-minded! Travelling to a foreign country can be difficult – you might have a hard time getting used to the local customs, have problems communicating (language barrier) and adjusting to the climate.  But before you get frustrated and upset, take a deep breath, look around you and remind yourself that you decided to come to this place for a reason – that being there is beneficial for you because travelling is the best way you can learn about the world, the people and about yourself. Don’t worry if you missed your train or if things don’t work out exactly the way you planned – sometimes the best  and most exciting things  come our way when we least expect it!

Happy travelling 🙂