Friday, November 15, 2013

Roosevelt Island: Manhattan's smaller sister, confusing little place

Roosevelt Island is a tiny strip of land on the East bank of Manhattan that you can access by Air Tram. Which, if like me you are scared of heights, is great fun...

You could not exactly say this island has a strong identity. It is made up of a sea of concrete blocks of flats, some slightly flashier than others. 

The allure of Roosevelt Island lies in its difference to nearby Manhattan. And when I say nearby I mean quite literally a stones throw from Manhattan. Roosevelt Island feels almost suburban. Safe. Quiet. And yet amid these peaceful 1970s builds, you come across some historical gems. 

But lets start from the very beginning. To reach Roosevelt Island you can take the Air Tram. The great thing about this is that you can use your Metro Card. Super cheap, super accessible. The reason being for this is that a lot of people live on Roosevelt Island and commute into Manhattan on a daily basis.

You arrive at what is essentially a subway, but just not underground. And your board your Air Tram, which, as you have probably guessed, takes you to the island by air. Lovely. Have I mentioned I am scared of heights?

Ok so it really was not all that bad. 

Once off the tram, Roosevelt Island is a little confusing. With block after block of residential apartments, it is not clear which direction you should walk. Right, take a right.

After walking through block after block of almost communist looking apartments we came across a historical building looking awkwardly out of place. The Chapel of the Good Shepard of 1889 is in stark contrast to its surroundings (and the Verizon stand did not help). 

We also came across the The Blackwell House: constructed in 1796 - New York's 6th oldest farmhouse. Here they negotiated and agreed on the selling of the island to New York City in 1823. 

Despite all my complaining, I chose to go on the Air Tram as I had heard that the views are amazing. 

This is so true. 

It was fantastic to see New York from above. I cannot recommend the Air Tram enough. It is far less touristy, so much cheaper and so much more fun than any sight seeing activity I have done in the city so far! 

This was a truly different and memorable day out.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Green Table at Chelsea Market: Food Fit for the Dalai Lama

Yesterday it was cold in New York. Very cold, and with this year's first snow I was looking for somewhere warm, to eat something fresh. 

We took refuge in Chelsea Market and came across The Green Table. An organic eatery that has produced food for the Dalai Lama himself. Devoted to organic food and local family farms, this quaint bar/cafe was such a find: the ultimate healthy and environmentally responsible restaurant. 

We shared a Red Quinoa Falafel Platter – tahini, warm chick peas, seasonal pickles, fresh herbs, naan bread. Super filling, full of flavour and ridiculously fresh!

Here, I also discovered Spindrift. A soda with a difference - using real, whole, fresh ingredients. I tried the blackberry soda and it was delicious.

The Grilled Cheese Sandwich(raw milk cheddar cheese & seasonal chutney, Orwasher’s Miche, market greens) was great for a cold day.   

For a seriously tasty and environmentally responsible meal, come to the Green Table. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Segovia - Sunsets and Walt Disney's Cinderella Castle in Central Spain

"Many cities have certainly a greater right to call themselves 'Eternal' than Rome... Segovia is of this number" - The Illustrated Magazine of Art

Just outside Madrid lies Segovia tucked away up in the mountains.
I spent a summer here with a local family discovering the local area. 

This ancient city is steeped in history and myth. Legend has it that Hercules himself founded the city!

Famous for its aquaduct, the city has been declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO. Constructed by the romans in 1 AD, the aquaduct dwarfs the square it runs through and is a slightly scary if not hugely impressive thought that no cement holds this structure together!

The Alcazar was one of Walt Disney's inspirations for his Cinderella Castle in the centre of his theme parks. It was here that Queen Isabel agreed to fund Columbus' voyage to the New World.

Due to its mountainous position, it is cooler than the rest of the county. This makes it a fantastic place to visit in the summer as it tends not to suffer heat as sweltering as nearby Madrid. 

Against the backdrop of the Sierra de Guadarrama, the surrounding countryside is simply breathtaking. 

The cathedral, built in 1525, took almost 200 years to complete! Located in the Plaza Mayor, the Romanesque church overlooks the historic part of the city. Like the rest of Segovia, it is to be enjoyed leisurely. This is not a city to be rushed, lazy days and long lunches are what Segovia is all about.

Segovia is a picturesque city with pedestrian only streets. It is quaint and yet impressive. I would recommend staying a few days but even if you just make it a day trip from Madrid you will not be disappointed. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Calling All Chocoholics in NYC - Travel the World through Chocolate

"Take chocolate in order that even the most tiresome company seems acceptable to you." Madame de Sevigne

Named one of the 10 Best Chocolatiers in the World by National Geographic, Vosges Chocolate House on Spring Street New York was a fantastic discovery. 

I have always been an advocate of real chocolate, and by this I mean something high in cocoa content. Ever since I visited cocao plantations in rural Ghana and tried Fairtrade, high cocoa content chocolate, I have struggled to find something authentic and not overly sweet.

 I finally found this in Vosges, called “THE innovator in chocolate to lead the US through the next 30 years” by Food & Wine Magazine

This ethical and experimental chocolate house prides itself on sourcing only the finest ingredients.

This purple paradise is a fusion of the best chocolate recipes brought together from across the world. These chocolate creations are daring and innovative. 

From black salt caramel to bacon truffle, these surprising combinations are sharp and elegant. 

The Parisienne Couture Cocoa Single hot chocolate is made of Madagascar vanilla bean pieces with dark chocolate. This thick, rich, deep cocoa hot chocolate is to be drunk in tiny sips. It reminds me of the thick hot chocolate you get in Spain to be eaten with churros. 

This shop is quirky and yet classy. The staff are extremely knowledgable, helpful and friendly. Ask them anything, they will help. 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Land of the Long White Cloud- New Zealand North and South

New Zealand is not a small country but a large village - Peter Jackson

Christchurch and Jailhouse hostel

We visited Christchurch before the earthquake and the devastation. I have great memories of this city and it is so sad to think that parts I remember are now gone. 

We stayed at Jailhouse Accommodation. This converted female prison now acts as a hostel providing not only great value accommodation in an unusual and historic setting but a seriously memorable stay! The hostel has maintained one cell in its original condition for guests to visit. The other cells have been converted into compact but lovely rooms. Great facilities, staff and location- I definitely recommend it!

Kaitoke Regionak Park- Lord of the Rings location for Rivendell

This stunning park is where parts of the Lord of The Rings trilogy was filmed and it is not difficult to understand why it was chosen. This majestic park with its pristine, ancient rainforest and tranquil river pools does have a magical feel to it. The swinging bridges are great fun!  


Rotorua is located in the Bay of Plenty, famous for its hot springs, mud pools and Maori culture. 

The Tamaki Maori Village was a fantastic way to experience Maori culture and way of life. Traditional dances, songs and a feast with Hangi meat (cooked underground). As you walk through the village you can see the women weaving baskets and the elders telling stories of their ancestors. 

South Island Road Trip

We caught the ferry from Wellington to Picton and drove down to Dunedin through Christchurch. The South Island is truly epic for a road trip - with it's dramatic, rugged landscape there is a real sense of freedom and space. 

This is the lesser populated island and it really does feel remote. There are just over one million people on the entire island and its towering snow topped mountains and stunning coastline are quiet and uncrowded. 


The capital of New Zealand, this charming city that feels quite homely. The Te Papa museum is a must! A fun, interactive museum that gives you a fantastic overview of New Zealand, its culture, history, wildlife and much more. 

I have been to New Zealand twice now, both times in their winter. I really hope to go back one day in their summer and see a whole new side to the two islands!