Should You Use a Tourist Pass in New York?

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When I was researching things to do in New York, I kept on coming across tourist card type promotions – cards that you pay a one-off payment for, to let you into a number of top tourist attractions. I decided to look into it a bit further.

There are two main types of tourist card. One that restricts you by time, and one that restricts you by number of attractions.

So, for example the New York CityPass gives you a booklet of 6 coupons to get into 6 attractions. The New York Explorer Pass is a card which gives you a choice of a number of attractions, then you can use your card and visit that number of things. And then the New York Pass gives you a number of days within which you are free to visit as much as you can.

For me, it was a toss up between the last two options. What swung it for me in the end was that I know I can go around things really quickly because I’m by myself and also that they had an app which I found really useful.

I got the card for three days and I did over $200 worth of things, including going up both the Empire State and the Rockafeller Center, a walking tour, the museum of sex, the Lego exhibition…and so much more. I paid $160 for the pass, so although I could have saved a lot more if I’d tried (and if I’d have taken more walking tours which are expensive) but still, $4o is a couple of meals and so that was a good save for me.

The downside to the “time limit” option is that you really have to plan everything. I spent days working out a schedule for all the things I wanted to do – especially because I wanted to do tours as well. The walking tours you’re able to take with the card only happen once or twice a week and so, unless you take a week’s card, it’s really hard to do all of them. Also, you need to book the tours in advance and their websites aren’t the friendliest.

The upside of this type of pass is that I could fit in things last minute. When the weather turned icy cold, I decided to take a trip to see the Lego exhibition so I could warm up for a few hours. When I was on the way to somewhere else, I found I was near the Museum of Sex and so decided to pop in there for a while.

However, if you’ve seen the list of what’s on offer and know exactly what you do and don’t want to do, then the “limited by number of attractions” option would be better for you, I think. That way, you can take your sweet time over the course of your trip, and can spend time in other places on the way that aren’t part of your deal, and not feel like you’re wasting precious time and money.

The coupon option is good if you have a small budget. Though saving the least, you’ll also be spending the least as there are only 6 coupons and so you won’t be tempted to spend any more than that.

Have you ever used any tourist passes when traveling? Do you have any recommendations for other cities? I’d love to hear them!

Kate Miller Photos

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So a few weeks back, I asked my friend Kate Miller to take some photos of me…mainly because the only recent photo I had of myself for LinkedIn was one of me holding two beers up while wearing a dirndl at the Nintendo Octoberfest.

You may have noticed these photos popping up around the place, so here are a few of my favourites! If you are in the Frankfurt area and want an amazing photographer then please contact Kate through her website.

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Best & Worst Airports

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Sometimes, when you plan an amazing trip abroad, the quality of the airport can be the icing on the cake to a perfect holiday…or can be the thing that drags the whole trip down.

Airports can be small, remote, busy, whatever. But there’s one thing that makes an airport terrible for me and that’s bumping up the prices of everything inside it. I recently took this photo of water bottles inside Frankfurt Airport -

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3 euros for a small bottle of water??!! We can’t take water in from the outside, so if we want water we HAVE to pay these prices!

Another airport that I remember being particularly bad for this was Helsinki airport, which I used when I went back to Japan a few years ago. I was so hungry after the flight having only RyanAir style expensive food available to buy, so I went to get a sandwich at the airport. It was something like 7 or 8 euros for just a sandwich! That’s just crazy!

I was also disappointed in New York’s JFK airport. The prices weren’t as jacked up as they are in other places but in terminal 1, where I was, it was shaped like an L and the whole area was just repetitions of the same 3 or 4 shops. What’s more, all the food places sold exactly the same things at the same prices. There was no variation and I didn’t want to eat sandwiches or Pringles.

So what makes a good airport? Let me tell you about my favourite in the world – Singapore airport.

Imagine an airport that has -

Lots of shops with lots of variety.

The ability to just pop out the airport and go to the amazing food court in the basement.

A butterfly farm.

A cinema showing all the latest movies – just walk in and chill out for a bit!

A massive slide.

Did I mention the butterfly farm?

It’s amazing. I’ve been through there 4 times now and I would happily pay extra to go there when I fly to Asia. I’ve even slept there overnight, and that was even great, since they have shower units you can use for a small fee. I’ve never used the cinema, but I love the butterfly garden. They have pineapple everywhere because apparently it’s the catnip of the butterfly world. The city is just a short taxi ride away from the airport and so if you have a connecting flight your suitcases are sorted and you can just drive into town and go eat some delicious local food. Omg.

Frankfurt airport gets a mention in the list of good airports, though. It just tries so hard to be good. Outside the check-in area there are loads of shops and restaurants (all of which are open on Sundays), and the security staff are pretty friendly as far as security staff go. Their motto is “security with a smile” which, admittedly, isn’t always the case, but they have always been super nice to me when I’ve been through there. The downside to Frankfurt airport for me is that although it’s only a short train ride to get there, getting from the train station to the departures is a mighty faff. It’s just so far. And it’s even further walking from your plane to the baggage collection area, then to try and find the train station and then the right platform to get back to town. That last part is very poorly signposted.

What’s your favourite and least favourite airports? Have you spotted outrageously overpriced food and drink in airports?

What I Ate in New York (Part 1)

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The first thing I learnt in New York was to not buy things from street vendors. This was a “chilli dog” I bought for $5. It was disgusting, but I have heard lots of other worse stories so I think I may have gotten off lightly.

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The second thing I learnt was that if I forgot to eat the whole day and then at around 4pm went to the first place nearby, I’d end up eating crappy food. Here is a cob salad I had at TGI Fridays. I seem to remember eating at TGI’s in Miami and really loving their salads, but this wasn’t so good. But yay for avocado!

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NOW we’re talking! I wanted to compare 5 Guys and Shake Shack, and ended up finding a 5 Guys first. I loved it. I loved the burger, I loved the peanuts and I loved the malt vinegar to go on the fries. Love love love.

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I had to go to Magnolia Bakery. I have to say, being a person who is not too fond of cupcakes normally, this was one of the best desserts I have ever had.

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A little over exposed, I apologise. I walked around for SO LONG trying to find K-Town, the Korean part of New York. It sucks relying on screenshots of maps I took in the morning. But when I found it, I was HUNGRY. There were so many places to choose from so I ended up going for Kunjip. Luckily for me, Kunip appears to be one of the best places in town and was super busy with people wanting to try his top restaurant.

I was seated with a young lady (whose name I have forgotten – sorry, if you’re reading this!!) and we had a blast talking while we ate our bibimbaps. The food was excellent value for money (less than $10) with loads of sides. My only thing about it would be that there wasn’t any sesame oil to put in the bibimbap, which would have made it taste even better.

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I was trying all the glitter polish in Sephora…

On the way out of K-Town I decided to try some frozen yoghurt! It was soooo good. So good, in fact, that I had more every time I went by a red mango place again!

Friday Links 11/04

This week has been a blur. I’ve not finished editing all my New York photos yet, and it took me a good few days to stop being sleepy.

I also have to get my bum in gear and arrange the whole Leaving Frankfurt thing. Why do things have to be so energy draining?

But I have a load of really cool posts lined up. I can’t wait to share all my adventures with all of you!

 

LET’S LINKIE!

For people who like their links a little creepy, here’s a 19 year old photographer who reenacts his nightmares in photos. Really creepy…

Here are some more options I’m considering for my next career move. Chocolate beer specialist sounds like a good fit for me!

I love old time photos of Japan. I wish I could jump through the photo and walk in that world.

I’m definitely using this next time someone makes me really angry.

Here’s a blog post from a woman doing amazing things in Uganda. That must be such an amazing adventure to be on, and it seems she’s learning so much through the experience.

I found in New York it was really hard to get out of Times Square sometimes. I wanted to go to other areas but then the thing I wanted to do happened to be in or near Times Square. But I do wish I’d had the time to go find these hidden things to go see in that area – although I did go to the comic shop!

Here’s a very long read that I’m actually only a part way though. It’s a diary of 40 dates between a guy and a girl. It’s really interesting, and I LOVE the website design. But like I said, it’s a long read!

If you’ve ever written a thesis, how would you sum it up in one sentence? Mine would have been “Why the TOIEC [an English exam for Japanese people] is a pile of shit”. Enjoy the thesis themes of other people on Lol My Thesis.

Here’s another blogger who went to Dublin recently, but experienced the gorgeous city in a very different way to me. A very interesting read!

Here are some great apps for people living and also visiting London! Some really handy tips there.

My blogger buddy Bevchen shared a sausage roll recipe and every time I look at it I’m hungry again. She’s such a troll!

I want to dress our cats up as cat busses.

Another blogger buddy of mine, Lehrer Werkstatt wrote a great post on the differences between American and German organised labor. Another excellent read!

Tipsylit is a great literature blog that you’re going to get to hear a lot more about in the very near future! In the meantime, have an awesome post full of made up greetings cards. I think my favourite is “Another baby.  Well, if you’re okay with that then I guess I am, too” because that’s how I feel when people get pregnant.

Here’s an old video from Daily Grace. Who I love.

That Time I Did Comedy in New York

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My trip to New York didn’t start on the 21st March. It started much, much before that, last summer.

I was feeling down because I’d done some comedy and – as always – I was the only girl. That’s not what was getting me down. I was down because all the other guys were making dick jokes, or being quite insulting and the guy who went up before me had a set purely about how men should be allowed to look at boobs. Don’t get me wrong, comedy can come in many forms and I do really enjoy these guys’ sets, but time after time of “man comedy” was making me tired of the comedy scene.

I was sent a Huffington Post article about two women in New York, Sue Smith and Anna Drezen, who were tired of comedy nights being dominated by men pulling lame, sexist jokes all night. So they decided to start an open mic night called Open Michelle, just for women to perform at. I knew I had to go. I didn’t know when but I knew I had to go be there.

Half a year later and I’m walking round New York squinting at my phone at a screenshot of a google map to the Open Michelle event. I made a point of turning up early just in case there was a queue (as many things in New York have) so I loitered outside the door until they let me in.

I set myself up on one of the high stools at the tables while girls of all shapes, sizes and colours walked through the door and started snacking on the cake and other treats laid out for the event. I got chatting with a couple of the girls and more than anything, I just felt like it was the friendliest, safest environment ever. I felt like it was the warm-up to a sleepover or something. Those are the kinds of warm fuzzies I was feeling.

I didn’t perform that night because I like to bounce off of other comedy shows. Something even as small as posture can spark off a routine in my head and so I just wanted to absorb the comedy from these girls.

The first girl got up and started with “so I am a plus sized model and I was on America’s Next Top Model”. I went weak at the knees because, although I’ve not watched in about 3 years, I had watched her cycle (9) and recognised her. After her came a long string of gorgeous, funny, inspiring women. Some joked about periods. Some joked about being broken up with. Some joked about being Jewish.

After the show I went up to Sue and Anna and introduced myself, saying that I’d read the Huffington Post article and that that was why I wanted to come to New York – to see this show. They were really surprised that I had come so far, but made me promise I’d perform the next week.

A week passed and I was there again, ready to perform. It was the event’s anniversary and so there were waaay more people than the previous week, including a few more minor celebs. I guess it’s great being foreign because you can act normally around people because you have no idea who they are but still get the happy feeling when you google them afterwards and realise.

I was about 6th or 7th on the list. A hilarious transgender woman told some jokes about some of the misconceptions people have of her. A few of the girls from the week before had come in with fresh stuff to try out. Then it was my turn. I did acted out a variation of the Talent for Christ post I wrote, and even though I wasn’t nervous before I went up on stage, I suddenly was when the audience turn their eyes on me.

It wasn’t my greatest work. I hadn’t spent as long on it as I’d hoped, but it was still well received. It always seems much worse when you’re on stage as your ears are so full of the loud beating of your own heart that you can’t judge how much the audience are enjoying it. I think my accent was hard to understand at times, and I didn’t have the confidence of the other girls, but still, it was great and I got a big round of applause after.

Later in the evening Janeane Garofalo turned up and did a short set. I had no idea who she was but was enjoying all the people around my going crazy that she was there.

After the show all my new Twitter friends and I waved goodbye and I went to celebrate my New York debut at a 2 bit retro gaming arcade bar. But that’s a post for another time!

The Art of the Brick – Lego Exhibition

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I don’t plan to write up individual posts on everything I did in New York, but I feel that this was something that was particularly good, so it does deserve its own spotlight!

While in New York I visited The Art of the Brick, which is a Lego art exhibition by Nathan Sawaya. It blew my mind. I’ve taken some photos for you to enjoy – a fraction of what’s there in reality – and sometimes I’ve taken one from a different angle to just show that he’s made all this amazing art from regular Lego blocks. What I love about him is that he’s not just an amazing artist but he wants to make people believe in themselves, and a lot of the pieces had the theme of people holding him back. He said repeatedly that he wants to inspire kids to get arty themselves and to never give up whatever dream they have.

Enjoy!

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8 Places for Brunch in Frankfurt

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I’ve written about brunch many times before, but I feel there needs to be an updated list of great places to spend a lazy German Sunday in Frankfurt. Here are 8 of my favourite places for Sunday brunch!

8. Yours Australian Bar

Yours have a good, cheap yet noisy brunch consisting of lots of American/British favourites like pancakes, bacon and sausages. Their homemade lemonade is some of the best in town! They don’t take reservations for after 11am.

My previous review.

Their website.

 

7. Merianbad Cafe

Boasts to be the longest brunch selection in Frankfurt! One of my favourite buffet places, but the quality of the food is what you’d expect from a cheap buffet. Wonderful in the summer.

My previous review.

Their website.

 

6. Urban Kitchen

Only the Urban Kitchen up at Hauptwache and the one on the Main river have buffets, the Kaiserstraße one does it a la carte. With the buffet you are also able to order all-you-can-eat style from the menu and choose from pasta, curries and soups as well.

My previous review.

Their website.

 

5 Simit Sarayi

Turkish bakery Simit Sarayi sells amazing things for quick eats, but they also have great brunches with eggs, meat and breads as well as some other Turkish breakfast dishes for a slow and yummy weekend morning. Very very busy so be sure to get there on the early side! No reservations taken.

Their website.

 

4 Cafe Schoppenhauer

A brunch for pay-day celebrations. Buffet style, but hitting the higher scale at 20 euros (drinks and champagne included). They are very very busy so be sure to reserve, and get there early (I’d say 12.30 at the latest) as when the food runs out, it runs out.

Tripadvisor.

 

3. Schoneburger

A la carte brunch with some amazing food. Downside is that it’s pretty noisy and the service can be slow. I’d say you’d be able to get in without reservations with two or three people but booking is best.

My previous review.

Their website.

 

2. Cafe Karin

Very cutesy, very popular. A menu full of delicious, “home cooking” style food. But everyone knows how great this place is so I recommend making a reservation at least half a week in advance.

My previous review.

Their website.

 

1. Cafe Maingold

My favourite place in Frankfurt, whether for a lazy Sunday brunch sat in an old armchair eating the best muesli in town, or for Summer evening drinks outside under fairy lights. As with all great places, reservations are needed for brunch. Check out their list of unusual fizzy drinks/sodas.

My previous review.

Their website.

BookOff New York

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Did you know there’s a BookOff in New York?! YES, everyone’s favourite Japanese discount bookstore has a shop in New York and it is awesome!

On my first day in New York I made sure it was the first thing I did. After walking around for ages trying to find it (it’s really tucked away!), I finally made it there. First stop – Japanese video games. Look at those DS games!!

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I really wanted to buy something but sadly none of them caught my eye and the ones I really wanted wasn’t there.

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On to DVDs! Hana Yori Dango is my favourite Japanese drama. It’s a story of a poor girl who goes to a private school and angers the school’s douchiest guy.

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Who knew 90′s teeny bopper girl group Mini Moni had a manga?!

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Finally, my purchases. This is my FAVOURITE manga of all time – Tenshi nanka jyanai (I’m not an Angel). It was in the bargain bin!!!! I got this bumper edition for just one dollar. I also got a couple of other manga that really shouldn’t have been in there with Tenshi.

Find BookOff New York at 49 W 45th St, New York.

Korean Soul Food – Frankfurt

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There are SO many new amazing places around Frankfurt main station right now. As I was walking home from the tram one day I noticed that there was a new Korean bibimbap place that had just opened up…and some of my flatmates were inside! I had to check it out.

Bibimbap is super yummy Korean food. You’ll have a bowl (sometimes a hot stone bowl) with rice, vegetables, meat/tofu and an egg, and you have to mix all this together and eat it with a spoon. It’s one of my most favourite foods ever.

S(e)oul is a very small place that lets you decide exactly what goes into your bibimbap. From different kinds of rice, to different veg and then different meats/tofu and sauce on top, it’s really up to you how you have it. I had mine with barley rice, all the veg and beef on top. The shitake mushrooms were really really good quality and probably my favourite part of the whole thing.

The guys running it are really friendly and always up for a good chat.

I can’t find any website for them just yet and they’re not even on Googlemaps yet, but you can find S(e)oul along Weserstraße, a few doors down from BonaMente.