It’s Up to You, NY, NY!

Our daughter lives in Jersey City, so we never miss an opportunity to spend time with her which, of course, has the added bonus of spending a little time in the city.

We visited for three of the most beautiful days the city sees in a year’s time and we had the absolute time of our lives. This visit we did the Big Bus Tour of Manhattan for the first time. We love the Big Bus! Even though we are very familiar with the city, there’s nothing like riding on top of a bus in the open air. Of course, you get an actual tour, so we did learn a few new fun facts.

We stopped in one of Times Square’s many pubs for some cheese fries and a Guinness and to use the restroom. For heaven’s sake if there are two things true of New York City it’s that a.) there’s nowhere to sit and b.) there are no restrooms. You gotta go inside somewhere and patronize a place. Well, that’s fine with us. We were ready to get off our feet and the pub was terrific.

We had dinner and drinks later that day at The Dead Rabbit in the Financial District. This place was alive with activity and packed full but the staff was friendly and their feathers were unruffled. The drinks here are fascinating and delicious and the food was outstanding. This stop was the highlight of our trip.

Another first for us on this visit was using the ferry to get from Exchange Place in Jersey City across to Brookfield Place/Battery Park. It was around $8 per person and we arrived in NYC in a few short minutes. It was a very pleasant ride. It’s a lot more fun than the Path for sure and quicker. We would definitely do that again!

At the end of our day and back in New Jersey, I grabbed this. Beautiful city.

Live. Love. Local.

When we travel internationally, we mostly stay away from the obvious tourist attractions. Sure, when we went to Paris we visited the Eiffel Tower. We spent some time at Notre Dame Cathedral because my husband is a sketch artist and he was drawing it. We didn’t make our way to Champs-Élysées, we didn’t visit the Louvre. We might have, but it just didn’t work out. It wasn’t a priority.

What we did do was walk the streets of the neighborhood where our quaint boutique hotel was located (Latin Quarter). We sat in cafés, ate croissants and sipped lattes. We visited the little ‘ready food’ kiosks for meals.  You can tell you’re staying local when the people you are talking to generally don’t speak English. And as rough as my French is, there is nothing better than trying to converse with a happy local gracing us with a big smile.

On our recent trip to Porto, Portugal, we stayed in an apartment in a quiet neighborhood far from the city center. There was a huge park across the street, a small café a few doors down, and a small market a couple blocks away. These places are where you experience local life.  Watching the old men and children feed the peacocks in the park, eating at the café and asking, “What do you have?” because there is no menu.

The owner beams as he describes his carefully prepared national dishes – maybe five choices. The woman working at the market trying to describe to us which type of meat was sliced and packaged because, well, we didn’t know enough Portuguese to figure it out. Is this a jar of mayonnaise? Try asking that question with a language barrier. Lots of laughing is involved.

Of course, Praça da Ribeira is amazing, the Duoro River is beautiful, Praça da Liberdade is worth the time spent. But going to a big busy public area doesn’t give you a genuine feel of the people. We love the people.

To me there are three ‘steps’ to discovering a new city, a new culture. First, we love to do a tour bus and get the macro perspective.  Learn the lay of the land. Figure out what we really want to see. Second, we will make it a point to visit one or two landmarks (Paris, Eiffel Tower… Porto, Dom Luis I Bridge) but after that we are all about local food, picking up a bit of the language, learning about the history and culture. These are the memories that last. These are the memories that make me smile.

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