Great campsite on the edge of the city, 15 mins to Dam Square on a tram. Cheap tent rates or hire a little cabin, central heating and bedding included in the cost of these. Good breakfast can be bought from the bar in the morning, and food all day at not extortionate prices. Good clean showers, if a little cramped when you are taking one. Bike hire on site as well, and saves you having to find parking in the city centre at very expensive rates, you just leave your car at the campsite!
My four-year-old daughter and I found ourselves living it up in New York recently when we joined my husband on a business trip. We had a great time eating out, exploring the city on open-top bus tours, and doing museums and Broadway shows, but some of the best things we did really were free (or at least nearly free). Here are my top ten things to do with kids for next to nothing in NYC…
1. Lay out a blanket in Central Park (picnic optional) and soak up the atmosphere. The huge expanse of grass at the Great Lawn is a favourite spot and great for games too.
2. Visit Belvedere Castle in the middle of Central Park at 79th Street. It is the highest point of the park with great views, a visitor centre, walking tours and free educational programs.
3. Attend Saturday morning story time for children of all ages in Central Park at the Hans Christian Anderson Memorial (mid-park from East 73rd entrance. Check for times at www.centralparknyc.org).
4. Visit one of the spectacular toy shops: Toys-R-Us in Times Square or FAO Schwartz (the corner of Fifth Avenue and Central Park South) which has a giant electronic keyboard built into the floor upstairs that children can play with their feet. You can easily spend an hour or more exploring and trying out the display toys without buying a thing.
5. Take the Staten Island ferry. Day or night this is one of the best free (or paid for) boat rides in the world. It takes about half an hour each way. You can get straight off and back on again or spend time on the dockside at Staten Island looking at the distant Manhattan skyline. The ride gives spectacular views of the downtown skyline and the Statue of Liberty, all lit-up to magical effect at night.
6. If it’s a quiet stroll you’re after and you find yourself in Brooklyn, take a walk along the Brooklyn Seafront for a great view of Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge. (And if you do want to spend a few dollars there is a great ice-cream parlour there too.)
7. Stand in the middle of Times Square for ten minutes and don’t forget to look up.
8. Stand just about anywhere and play how many yellow cabs can you count in a minute?
And if it’s summer…
9. Summerstage (held at Rumsey Playfield near 72nd Street and Fifth Avenue) and Shakespeare in the Park (at the open-air Delacorte Theater near the W81st Street entrance to the park) are two of the most popular summertime programs and both are free. Top-shelf acts and great performances.
10. Fancy a dip? There are 14 miles of public beaches in four of NY’s boroughs: Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens, and Staten Island. Contact General Parks and Recreation Department Information at www.nycparks.completeinet.net for more info.
The local train service runs from Sorrento to Naples, with stations near to the main sites or with a shuttle bus (to Vesuvius). It drops you right outside Pompeii entrance for example. It's cheap and regular.
This is a wonderful intimate theatre in Kings Cross. It's the only theatre to produce all Australian work and has some of the most exciting new plays in Sydney. On Monday it has a Pay What You Can policy so anyone can afford to go.
Fishs Eddy is a fantastic store near Union Square selling all sorts of good quality dinnerware and glassware at bargain prices. Stock includes unused items from restaurants and even cruise ships, as well as new designer items.
The new tram has finally arrived in Nice. It runs eight km from Las Planas to Pont Michel, stopping in between at Gare Thiers, Jean Medicin, Place Massena and up to Place Garibaldi.
The cost per journey is a standard fare of 1.30 euros. You can also get a day pass for four euros entitling you to unlimited travel for the day. You can buy tickets at any of the self-service stations where you catch the tram.
The journey from Place Massena to Pont Michel takes approx 16 minutes and there is a tram every four minutes during peak times and every eight minutes off-peak. Trams run from 4 am until 2.30 am the next morning.
It is that rarity for Geneva: an inexpensive, unpretentious restaurant, popular with students, immigrants and UN employees. A plate of delicious lamb couscous is 15 Swiss francs and the wine list, while limited, is very reasonably priced. It is in the funky Paquis district. In the summer, there is a casual outside terrace for dining or just sipping the soothing mint tea. And there is even a no smoking section - also rare for Geneva.
In the Paquis district, at 11, rue du Dr. Alfred Vincent
A friendly, bohemian cafe-bar in the Gothic quarter, just off Carrer de Ferran. Expect to be sitting alongside writers and artists - writing and drawing, no less - during your stay. Food is reasonably priced (eg soup and a main - the 'combi of the day' - for 6 euros). Plus the staff all seem to know English, but avoid speaking it if possible - usually a good sign.
5 Calle de Arai
For great, traditional and some unusual Vietnamese food, try Highway 4. The actual Highway 4 crosses the mountains and hill tribes (and ethnic minorities) of northern Vietnam, and this defines the cuisine (and the great fruit, herbal or medicinal flavored rice wine) of Highway 4 in Hanoi as well. All this can be had at reasonable prices, in a pleasant environment that evokes the highlands.
Recommended dishes: Nem Cá, or famous Highway 4 spring rolls with fried catfish and wasabi soy dipping sauce. But tell them to go light on the mayo inside the rolls.
Grilled chicken with lemon leaves (Gà Nương Lá Chanh) and the Bò Xào Dưa Chua (beef sautéed with local pickled mustard greens—translated as sauerkraut but it’s quite different).
A unique and wonderfully textured green that’s only available seasonally is Hoa Thien Lý Xào (sautéed Thien Ly vegetable/flower).
For seafood, try the soft shell crab roasted with Tamarind or Salt (Cua Dong Rang Me/Muoi) and Ca Kho To (fish simmered in clay pot). Also good: Green mango (Xoài Xanh) marinated with salt and chili; and for the pork lover—Thịt Kho Tộ (pork carmelized in clay pot with coconut—tourist places tend to use lean sliced pork, while more traditional places like Hwy 4 will use pork belly). Try the sampler set of their Son Tinh liquor.
5 Hang Tre, just east of the north end of Hoan Kiem Lake. For more restaurant recommendations (and travel itineraries and other great tips) go to www.savourasia.com - they really throw themselves into eating in Asia, and especially Hanoi!
Huge bookshop with a vast, if slightly populist, selection and decent discounts. Certainly one of the best in town for scale and economy, there's a decent if slightly overpriced second hand section as well.
Parnell Street, North of the river
Big Sky offers the best, least crowded skiing in North America. On December 26th, the longest we waited for a high-speed quad chair was three chairs.
This resort is built like Breckenridge years ago, there are runs and lifts across the face of three mountains and on the backside of one, without any of the crowds.
Base lifts are a five-minute shuttle ride from the condo, a private hot tub with views of the ski area is super great! Which you'll need because you skied so much and waited so little.
It's very cold but if you love to ski and hate crowds this is the place. $369 a night, over the holidays.
Cedar Creek Condos
13 Moose Ridge Road
Big Sky, Montana 59716
The best Mexican food I have eaten outside the States. The interior is bright and used authentic Mexican colours and the food is fab. I especially loved the carnitas which took me back home to Santa Fe. Worth a visit.
64 Thistle Street Edinburgh, eh2 1en
0131 260 9699
I stayed in an artist's studio in Tribeca last year. I found it on craigslist under short term rentals.
People who have vacant apartments rent them by the night through craigslist. I also got a 3 month sublet a few years back through the same site.
The best time to visit is between November and March as the temperature will be between 27* - 35* and sunny so it’s the perfect winter sun destination. What also makes it so worthwhile is that it’s incredibly cheap; you can go there for as little as £250 and the most you’re going to pay is £350/400.
You can either stay in the tourist resorts along the coast or the capital, Banjul, but either way, as the country is so small, to get to either place shouldn’t take any more than 20 minutes to get to by taxi. They have specific tourist taxis, which the tour operators recommend, however I caught numerous ‘normal’ taxis and these are completely fine (and cheaper).
The tour operators also recommend that you do all of their activities through them, and while I would certainly recommend some of these, especially the roots tour, which travels up the Gambia river by boat and goes to where the slaves were captured and held before being shipped of to the Americas - I would befriend the locals and get them to take you out; this is what my friends and I did, as there are licensed juice sellers on the beach by the hotel.
After buying juice from them we decided the best way to get to know the Gambia is by letting people that live there show us so we arranged for two locals to take four of us out to dinner in a place they recommended. We also wanted to go on a safari so we got them to organise a Jeep trip to a safari park. We obviously paid for transportation and food and anything else but this would still be cheaper than doing it through the tour operator and it is helping out the local economy.
People in the Gambia are some of the friendliest you would ever meet, in fact an expression I often heard was ‘it’s nice to be nice’, and at no point did I ever feel remotely threatened, even at police stops everyone was extremely courteous.
As an example of how safe it is my friends and I decided to go to a bar about three miles away from our hotel so we decided to go there by foot alone along the beach, by the time we got there it was pitch black so walking along the beach was quite an adventure and when we got to the bar the owner gave us a free lift home.
When you go to the markets you would obviously have to haggle with the price but this is to be expected and is part of the experience but the market sellers are never overly forceful or aggressive.
I had the lucky experience of being on the beach on my last night when the president threw a party to celebrate him being re-elected, so there were local tribes dancing and playing music with lasers and fireworks, it was such a great parting experience. To sum up my experience and the Gambia itself, in order to go into the cordoned-off arena where the President and performers were, I merely asked a soldier if I could go into the area and the solider allowed me to, that is how nice and friendly the people of the Gambia are.
The Café is the best in Calais for lunch or for a wee drink. The staff are friendly and professional - it is not sloppy student service. Okay, Calais is definitely not the most beautiful place in the world but this place makes you really feel that you are in old France. It is simple and unpretentious.
Fantastic mussels and chips (and the chips are hand cut, none of the frozen crap), excellent steak tartare and plat de jour/ grillade.
The square in front of the café was partly destroyed twice in the two world wars and they threw up bits of concrete, but the café is an original - benches and wood panelling. We go every time we visit our journalist friend who works for the local tele.
The staff try their best to speak English, although a svp and a merci goes a long way.
They have a simple kids' menu but I really advise mussels. They might find it strange, but they will always remember it. My kids eat anything, at least once without force - then it gets more complicated.
I'm sort of regretting this as it has almost been an English free zone.
Watch out for the lovely old girl who drinks a coffee and then sings a chanson or two on Sundays - she loves Scots.
All in all, if you have an afternoon or a booze cruise - this is the best of Calais. And you can walk along the front after and see the White Cliffs of Dover on most days. Go up to the lighthouse!
Place Armes. Walk down from the station towards the sea and after the "grey" tower (not the townhall)on your left.
The Circle Line is wonderful for a tour around Manhattan Island. It should not be missed. But much more exciting was our cruise on the Schooner Adirondack. There are some four sailings a day and we chose the sunset one.
You board at Chelsea Piers (on the Hudson near West 23rd). The two-hour cruise goes to the Statue of Liberty and returns, with champagne served by the crew.
The sunset cruise is particularly beautiful because you see the sunset to the west over New Jersey and to the east looms the skyline of lower Manhattan which is lit up brilliantly by the time you turn around and head back.
Unfortunately the cruise only runs from the end of April through the end of October. Cost is around $50, champagne included. We will never forget it!
PS122 is the centre of experimental performance (dance, theatre, live art, etc) in New York City. It has been a hub of interesting work for over 30 years.
Sometimes the work is fantastic and sometimes it is not so good - but the low ticket price makes it worth the risk. Their biannual festival, Avant-Garde-Arama is an experience worth the risk.
It is on 1st Avenue and 9th Street in the East Village. You can get their via the L train to 1st avenue, the 6 train to Astor, the R train to 8th Street, or the F to 2nd Avenue.
Radio City Apartments is an apartment hotel in the heart of the theatre district close to Times Square and 5th Ave.
It is excellent value for money. We paid $200 per night for a one bedroom apartment which comfortably took our family of four. Friendly, helpful young staff and clean and comfortable accomodation.
Big Apple Greeter is a voluntary organisation which was set up to give visitors to NYC a personal insight into The Big Apple. A Greeter meets up at your hotel and you get a five or so hour WALKING tour of your chosen neighbourhood, and it is all FREE. You even get a subway pass for the day. We had a great time. Check the websites for both for all the details.
RADIO CITY APARTMENTS
142 West 49th Street
New York, NY 10019
1-(877)921-9321 (U.S Only)
It is a little chip van that provides quality frites with mayonnaise. Just what is needed for a truly Belgian experience!
Vridajmarkt, near the massive socialist style building with a large window and clock.
Google map: tinyurl.com/ko8erz
Barcelona can be pretty expensive for tourists, so when you go there I can give you a good tip: buy a discount card; it saves you a lot of money! I bought one, named the Go and Connect discount card, which was only 12 euros. With this card I was able to go out for almost nothing. I got discounts in a lot of shops, restaurants, clubs, transport rentals and more!
If you are interested you can check out their site to see where you can get the card and where you can get discounts - I think it is a must in an expensive but amazing city like Barcelona.
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