The CityPass is a booklet of vouchers you can buy in advance of your trip to NYC which gets you into a number of tourist hot-spots for a discounted price.
To make it worth its money, you do need to try and use most of the vouchers and I would say that you need at least four days in NYC to allow yourself enough time to do so.
The vouchers get you entry to:
The top of the Rock or the Guggenheim
Empire State Building
Statue of Liberty or Cruise around NYC.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Natural History Museum
The Museum of Modern Art
I really enjoyed all the things apart from the cruise - it was utterly tedious after the first 15 minutes. I'd strongly advise anyone to go for the Statue of Liberty option instead.
The absolute best thing about the pass was that it constantly allowed us to jump the often very long queues of people and get priority access. This was absolutely fantastic and saved us so much time.
This is a great shabby chic hotel in downtown Manhattan that offers comfortable accommodation at a price you're unlikely to be able to beat in New York.
Woody Allen used the hotel in his film Manhattan Murder Mystery and the hotel claims that Madonna has stayed there at some point, though I have no idea if this latter fact is true or, indeed, if anyone could care less.
There are shared bathrooms on every floor and these are cleaned regularly and always in a decent state. The rooms, depending on size, have a wash basin and a TV.
Very comfortable all round and, although a fair way out of the centre of New York, the hotel is very close to the Union Square/14th Street subway station, which is the intersection of a number of subway lines, effectively making it very easy to reach anywhere in the city.
I spent two nights at the Siam Classic in Bangkok and couldn’t find fault with this stylish hostel. Handily, it’s located at Hua Lamphong (one end of the metro line), just five minutes from Bangkok Central Station and also on the edge of the old town.
For 4,500 Thai baht (about £9) I had a cosy, clean and sweet-smelling single room with free Wifi and a simple breakfast (egg and toast) in the morning. The shared showers were strong and hot and there was a lovely roof terrace - perfect for chilling out away from the city noise. There are also banks opposite and a launderette just round the corner.
I went on the recommendation of a friend who’d formed such a bond with the owners that they’d let him store some of his luggage while he went away for a month. While I’m obviously not guaranteeing they’ll provide this service for all their guests, hopefully this indicates what nice folk the guys at the Siam Classic are.
For the best zapiekanka (called the Polish pizza - half a baguette, covered with cheese and any number of variety of toppings) visit this place in the fascinating and historic old Jewish quarter of Krakow (Kazimierz). Set in the middle of the square, the queues will tell you that you have chosen well and the cheap delicious take away, will keep you filled and satisfied for a long time.
+48 12 429 37 54
Plac Nowy 4, Krakow
Google map: bit.ly/hPgPuJ
A holiday break in Warsaw would not be complete without a visit on Sunday to Lazienki Park to sit on the benches or grass surrounding the imposing memorial to Frederic Chopin. Here world-famous pianists, laureates from renowned festivals and professors from leading music academies of music perform his immortal piano solos. It is an incomparable moment as silence descends upon the gathered audience and only the notes of the piano fill the air.
Royal Lazienki Park bus stop on Aleje Ujadowskie, enter park and monument is opposite. Concerts are FREE Sundays at noon and again at 4.00pm from mid May until end of September.
Google map: bit.ly/fWUF0s
This is an upmarket backpackers guesthouse popular with all ages. We paid £13 a night for a double room with aircon, ensuite, TV, fridge, free wifi and a small balcony with views towards the mountains behind. The house has character with murals on the walls and quirky decor. Our room was very spacious and homely. The bathroom was wetroom style and fairly dated and well-used but clean with a good hot shower. It is in a very central location but set back from the busy street so feels like a welcome retreat. There is also a huge roof terrace with sunloungers and a four poster bed where you can chill out. Staff are friendly and helpful and don’t push tours and trips but do offer both. They also own a massage shop across the road which is very cheap and a really relaxing environment with experienced trained masseuses. I paid 150 Baht (£3) for a head, shoulders, neck and back massage but was given this pyjama outfit to wear and had my whole body worked on for a full hour and came out floating on air! The room rate doesn’t include breakfast but there is a café next to a small swimming pool on the ground floor. Thai food was good and better value and taste than the Western menu. We actually went just along the road to another café for breakfast run by a lovely tiny lady called Eing who makes the most amazing banana pancakes!
7 Ratchadamnoen Road, Lane 1, Thapae Gate, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand
The Wein und Biershänke in Worms is a definite must-eat restaurant in this region of Germany. Famous for its Flammkuchen and Neuwein, the Shänke has been satisfying the hunger of both locals and tourists since 1982. I have been fortunate enough to visit the Shänke many times with family, friends and work colleagues. The friendly atmosphere inside is great for any type of gathering; flea-market decor, wooden beams and evening specials scrawled in the most unusual of places instantly ease you into a relaxing state, while you hungrily anticipate your evening meal.
It may be similar to the humble pizza, but flammkuchen is the more unusual of the two, having a quark base instead of tomato. Flammkuchen directly translates to 'flame cake', which represents the way it is still cooked in the Shänke. If you are fortunate enough to sit at the table opposite the delivery hatch, you will be able to sneak a peak at the flammkuchen being taken in and out of the wood fired oven.
Flammkuchen is basically a huge rectangular slice of deliciousness, traditionally topped with bacon and onion. My personal favourite vegetarian choice is halb-sieben-halb-acht. For those of you who don't know the menu off by heart yet, this flammkuchen is half topped with feta and jalapeños, with the other half covered in mushrooms, onions, sweetcorn and kidney beans. Delicious. The best way to eat a flammkuchen? I'd say folded in half and eaten straight from the board, but one of my friends likes to roll hers and another likes to pick off the toppings first. However you like to eat it, with 37 different toppings to choose from the only problem is choosing your favourite.
If this doesn't sound like your thing then the Shänke also serves regular pizza, pasta, cheese and a selection of meats. If you are brave and very hungry then order the spare ribs; cooked on a long skewer and then hung from the ceiling, they are certainly a centerpiece. To top it all off, there is an extensive cocktail list with everything from Frosch (a green cocktail resembling its namesake - a frog) to the non-alcoholic KiBa (half cherry-half banana). KiBa is very popular with the locals and it is also my favourite accompaniment to Flammkuchen, except for in September and October, when Neuwein is in season.
On my first visit to the Wein und Biershänke I sampled Neuwein and boy, it was good. Neuwein is a sweet tasting wine and as it contains yeast, the fermentation process is ongoing and the alcohol content cannot be determined. At most the wine contains around 10% alcohol, so although it tastes and looks like fruit juice, don't drink it like so!
All in all the Wein und Biershänke is a great place to eat; the staff are friendly, the food is fantastic and did I mention the price? A flammkuchen is only 8.40 € and unless you are feeling extremely hungry, it is best to share one between two. Also don't forget to ask for 'ein Packung' to take any leftovers home, they make a great lunch the next day.
It is advisable to reserve a table or arrive early as the Shänke fills up quick! (Who knows why...)
Lub D is a funky well-located well-appointed hotel in Silom district. The staff are young and hip with fair English and a helpful manner; the hotel is new and very clean; the other visitors are varied and well-travelled. Nice European breakfast, great bathrooms, free 24 hour internet, all very clean and secure. Email them if you want to stay seven nights or more, they'll do you a bespoke rate (I saved 33% with a single email this way). A local market with many fresh cheap eats is three streets away. You'll pay 500 baht taxi from the airport at 3am including tolls and tip; Lub D will email you a taxi map in Thai when you confirm your booking making it so easy. Note that some tour bookings can be achieved more cheaply from travel agent on Silom especially if there are two of you - we saved 250 Bt each on the floating market this way.
Good cheap food and beer. While centrally located, this is popular with locals and tourists alike.
At the moment there is a series of pictures of Tallinn on the walls which clearly show how the city has changed in the last decade.
The 'In Your Pocket' series of guidebooks are well worth recommending. The guides are written by locals and expats and are updated on a regular basis.
Even better, they are free and can be downloaded as PDFs from the website.
Alternatively you can pick up free copies in some hotels.
It's an amazing outdoor vegetarian cafe in the grounds of a beautiful temple in Chaing Mai. The name "Pan Pan" means "a thousand varieties" as the people who run it also have an organic farm and seed bank where they grow the produce for the cafe. The food is always delicious and fresh and the menu is pretty innovative with a Thai herb salad and a fried flower salad (tempura style) and they make their own tofu which is two tone black and white coloured by black and white sesame seeds. The food is very resaonable about 50 Baht (1 pound) a dish. They also have great smoothies and herbal drinks. It's open during the day but closed in the evening.
In the grounds of Suan Dok temple on Suthep road. Go into the temple grounds through the main entrance and passed the main temple building and it's in an courtyard area under a large tree in an area behind a building with a sign "Monk chat".
Google map: bit.ly/gQxrZ5
The White Desert tour from Cairo is a really amazing and different experience. It is a bit of a drive because you're driving from Cairo to the entrance for about 3.5 hours and then once you enter the park you have to drive through the Black Desert first, before you get to your first camp site about 90 minutes later. Saying that though, I have great confidence all those hours spent in a car traveling will prove to be worth it once you see the desert! The sunsets will really take your breath away and the desert's own character (mushrooms and other cool features) will really make some good photos and memories. It really is something different but not many people know about it.
There are a few companies in Cairo that organise tours to the White desert. We chose Select Egypt for 85 euro a person and that included all the food etc. It was probably the best thing we've done while being in Egypt and we've done a lot.
Blanco Cerrillo is one of the oldest bars in Seville. Very simple and no fuss. It is perfect for eating fried fish tapas, and the adobo is loved by the locals. It gets very packed and the tables outside (and any convenient space to place a tapa and beer) are usually occupied. Once inside though, you can normally holler your order and then inch your way to the bar. It is equipped with a team of three or four older waiters who are constantly shouting out the orders to the kitchen crew "'obo", "eroneeeeh" (boquerones). Something that I loved here before the smoking ban was that one of them had a little ciggy nooky-hole and would serve you and go back for a crafty drag every once in a while - now he swigs from a Cruzcampo botellín instead (a small bottle of Cruzcampo). Tapas are well-priced at only €1.50 a pop.
Calle Doctor Jimenez Diaz, 16, 41008 Seville, Spain
A great budget hostel in the countryside of Yangshuo with nice terraces and a bar overlooking the rice-fields, fruit trees and farmlands below with some huge karst mountain peaks towering up above. Very relaxing atmosphere, excellent food, friendly and funny staff and friendly informative owners. One is from Belgium and provided a full stock of Belgian Beers in the fridge! They also have a great travel guide which made it easy to decide what to do, see and expect. Lots of tours and tips. And just a short walk from the center along the Li-river, beautiful stroll. Definitely recommend it.
Wonderful authentic Vietnamese restaurant in the centre of Edinburgh.
Though small, the food is superb and great value.
Run by a young woman from Saigon so you can be sure of its authenticity.
No drink licence yet but its BYOB with only £1.50 corkage fee.
The Póvoa Dam "Barragem de Póvoa", situated about 11 km Northeast of Castelo de Vide is a large lake and is a great place for a picnic, especially in Spring where you will most probably be alone. In the summer months the local Portuguese go for a swim to cool down from the hot Alentejo sun.
The dam was created in 1927 with the objective of providing energy for the region. Professional fishing and motorized boats are not allowed so it is a very tranquil and beautiful place to relax with plenty of water and large granite boulders to keep the children occupied.
Here you can observe a great variety of birds including lots of ducks and the Great Crested Grebe.
On the south side of the lake you can discover a Megalithic burial chamber or tomb (dolmen) " Anta do Curral das Galhordas", an ancient structure built more than 3000 years ago. (Latitude: 39.461200N Longitude: 7.54425W)
If you are visiting the Alto Alentejo spend the day here and marvel at the stunning natural landscape of this unforgettable region.
This is a fast food joint located at the bottom of the slopes in Mottaret village, nearby to Meribel. A seasonnaire's best kept secret, the outlet provides delicious burgers that are the size of your head (perfect for nourishment after a morning on the slopes), all for around €5 which make them pretty much the cheapest thing you can buy in the Alps. Plus, they really are scrumptious.
30 seconds off the slopes, but past the slopeside restaurants at the bottom of the runs in Mottaret. The stall is opposite the newsagents and will be easily located if you lookout for young snowboarders with burgers that look too big for human consumption.
Google map: bit.ly/h708Tp
So, you have made it to Ushuaia and you need the perfect photo to capture that "end of the world" feeling, there's only one place to go: up to the Martial Glacier. Not only for the spectacular views of the glacier itself, but also so that you can fit in some great skiing on the way down while looking out across the bay towards the Antarctic. It's been a long journey to get there and having hiked up to the glacier you need a good energy fix and something to warm you up before the fun begins: the solution is Tierra del Fuego Mountain Soup. It's hot, it's creamy, it's loaded with maize and chillis and cheese and it's served with an endless supply of freshly baked bread. It's a South American fondu, it's delicious and it's less than $10 dollars for a bowl big enough for four. Simply cannot be beaten!
If you find the Martial Glacier, you'll find the soup - just follow your nose! There is only one slopeside restaurant before the pistes begin and that is where it's at. Enjoy!
Stop at the first ski lodge in Italy.
The prosecco is cheaper than anything in Zermatt and the pannini excellent.
Most of all the juxtaposition of the order in Switzerland with the chaotic scramble and shouting is a laugh riot.
'Highway 7' (Run 7 on the Zermatt\Cervinia ski map), bottom of the blue run.
Homemade Tarte de Poreau (Vegetarian) provided a meal in itself for a hungry skier. Delicious. There was even a non-veggie version! Exceptional find for frustrated veggies in France!
Les Menuires - on the slopes from the top of La Masse 1 - Les 3V
73440 Les Menuires
Tel 04 79 00 74 04
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