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iain

New York Tips

Things To Do

TV Show Recordings (Free)

Sign up here and fill out profile etc. The ballot for tickets normally opens up about a month and a half or before the show date. The website has a good twitter that keeps updated. I managed to get tickets to see The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and Late Night with Seth Myers.
https://1iota.com/

New York Crime Walking Tour

This was the best tour we did on the trip. We booked this last minute after deliberating about it for several days. I am so glad we did. This tour covers so much more than the title would lead you to believe. There were 5 people on the tour.

The tour was done by John (who was an NYPD cop). Just walking around with him and his knowledge was so interesting. His insight into the way the criminal system in USA was very insightful.

The breadth of this tour should not be taking for granted (quick summary below):

  • Wall Street – White Collar Crimes (also see the Charging Bull)
  • Court Houses & Jails – How the system works
  • 9/11
  • Chinatown
  • Gangs
  • Mafia
  • Gun Culture

https://www.takewalks.com/new-york-tours/nypd-tour-mob-mafia/

Grand Central Terminal

It is worth a quick stop off to just go into the main terminal, it is really impressive.

We did a tour of it. I would highly recommend for anyone. I am a bit of a transport geek, so perhaps I have a slight bias. However, Ben knows his stuff inside and out. You can tell he breathes the place. It was very interesting and fun! There were 5 people on the tour. I would also recommend his other tours. I wish we were able to do his Highline & bagel tasting tour – maybe next time! On the tour, someone did mention a crime thriller book based in the station called Terminal City by Linda Fairstein.

https://www.bensbageltours.com/tours/

Rock ‘n’ Roll Tour

This tour is for anyone that is into rock and roll. The tour mainly focusses on artists from the 70’s such as The Ramones, Jimi Hendrix & Led Zepellin. However, does look at so much more artists such as Charlie Parker (jazz saxophonist) & the early Madonna years. The tour also looks at famous music venues and discusses promoters. There were around 6 people on our tour and our guide Bobby Pinn (stage name) was very engaging and passionate.

https://rockjunket.com/activities/east-village-punk-n-rock-tour/

Food:

Joe’s Pizza – Best pizza we had there. Pizza by the slice. There are a couple of them all over.

Sticky Fingers – Amazing chicken strips place. I would go back just to go to it.

Leo’s Bagels

Other Tips

Revolut Bank Card

This is a card you can top up and use like a normal bank card anywhere in the world. It has great exchange rates. I used it when booking stuff online in dollars and the exchange rate is almost identical to the one on google. My main bank would normally have a worse rate and charge £2 for the pleasure.

https://www.revolut.com/

Broadway

The price of broadway shoes are not cheap. However, A lot of shows do lottery tickets if you enter online. E.g. you might get lucky and see Hamilton for $40 (usually $300). We did not find this successful. We did in London for The Book of Mormon (creators of South Park), so we might have just had bad luck. However, a fair few shows have selected days that if you go to the box office in the morning around 10am they do cheaper tickets for select days (e.g. half price). This worked out for us.

http://www.nytix.com/Links/Broadway/lotteryschedule.html http://www.broadwayforbrokepeople.com/

Empire State Building / Rockefeller ‘top of the rock’

I done both, but I am not saying it is a ‘must’ to do them both. I would recommend Rockefeller to be done during the day. On one side you get good views on Central Park from high up which is impressive. We did it at night, which was a mistake as its pitch black square! Don’t buy any passes from guys outside claiming they’ll help you skip the line – its a scam.

Comedy/Concerts

I would highly recommend checking ticketmaster to see if any bands are playing around the time you are there or see what the comedy clubs have going on. Just be aware that comedy club norm is you pay a ticket price and have to buy 2 drinks minimum per person at your table.

Shopping Outlets

We went to one of the designer outlets you had to get a bus a fair bit away too. You will see advertised. It was ok. If you only have a few days, then I wouldn’t waste time going as the bargains aren’t that great to justify going. – Worth mentioning that the one we went to was in NJ as I think the most popular/ common one people go to in NYC is Woodbury.

Shopping – Macys

If you’re going to shop in Macys, you can get 10% off with an International Savings pass. You’ll need to bring your passport and a copy of the pass (printed or shown on mobile). More info here https://www.visitmacysusa.com/voucher/savings-international-visitors

Also, save an image to your phone of a US > UK sizing chart – saves you having to constantly Google shoe/ clothing sizes.

Travel

We walked to most places (remember to bring a good pair of walking shoes!!!). Manhattan is pretty much a grid system, so fairly easy to get around. Weekly unlimited passes are available for the MetroCard (similar to an Oyster card – can be used on the subway, transit buses). We also got a couple of Ubers which were reasonable. Try to avoid the yellow taxis (unless you’re going for the photo opportunity) – the fares can be pricey.

Celeb spotting

Check out https://onlocationvacations.com/category/daily-filming-locations/ – list of all movies/ tv series filming in New York.

Photos

If you want a good photo at any of the top photospots (e.g. Strawberry Fields in Central Park, Brooklyn Bridge) , try to go earlier in the day when there are less tourists around.

New Zealand: Waiheke Island Day Trip

Waiheke Island is a stunning place. It’s pretty cool to just say “I have been to Waiheke Island”.

waihekeisland

Getting To Waiheke Island From Auckland

Waiheke Island is only 10 miles or so from the heart of Auckland. I would say visiting here should definitely be on the “must-do” list if you are visiting Auckland.

Getting to Waiheke Island is a 40-minute boat ride from the Auckland Harbour. It is operated by Fuller Tours. We opted to do their Island Explorer bus tour that cost $50NZD and that includes ferry tickets, and an all-day bus pass. They also offer a wine tasting tour (which appears to be what Waiheke Island exports a lot of!). If you are on a budget, you could walk it, but I wouldn’t recommend it as it is pretty hot and hilly!

Island Explorer Bus Tour

Now, you are probably going to wonder about the picture you are about to see…  This is Glenn our driver and tour guide for the day. If you are like me, before you book a tour, you might go on Trip Advisor. Do an FBI  investigation before booking. You might even do what I do, and jump right into the negative reviews! There could be 100 good reviews, but I’ll focus on the 2 bad ones! To quote one poor review referencing Glenn (mainly due to his humour):

So if you decide to go on this tour, maybe ring up in advance and ask who the tour guide is for each session, and choose one of the other ones!

Well, guess what, we got Glenn! Now, the plot twist here is that he was hilarious. I would say his humour was very British in terms of it being rather dry and sharp. For example, at the start, he would go round the coach which held maybe 16 people and ask them their names and where they are from. It was like being in the front row of a comedy show! For myself it went a bit like this:

G: “Where are your from”

Me: “Scotland”

G: “Did you pay for the ticket or did you get it free?” – ZINGER!

(The joke is that the scottish reputation is to be cheap-skates!)

The tour went round the Island taking us through the small villages, through some vineyards, and along the coast. Glenn stopped at some photogenic points to take pictures and walk about.

waihekeonetangibay

Food Recommendation

We hopped off the bus in the village of Oneroa (which is just before the ferry terminal) to get some lunch. We walked down the main road and the restaurants were fairly pricey if you just want a relaxing lunch. However, we spotted an awesome fish and burger place down some stairs called The Local. I think it is safe to say you could call this the ‘million dollar view’. We then popped to the Island Galato Co for some ice cream!

Emirates Options Voucher – My free flight to the other side of the world and back!

As an Accountant and self-confessed thrifty person, I hit the jackpot with this one: A free return ticket back to Australia! This is a story of highs (free ticket!) and some lows (thinking I was caught up in some sort of terrorist plot!)

What is an Emirates Options Voucher?

Emirates_Options_Voucher_TicketAn Emirates Option Voucher is a complimentary ticket that the airline uses for compensating passengers who are either voluntarily or involuntarily denied boarding to the plane (for reasons outwith their control). The voucher, which has a validity period of one year, gives the person a free return flight to a destination of similar mileage from the airport they were denied boarding.  I think the business reason behind this system is to overbook seats to ensure a a full plane, and hope that a few people can’t make the flight so they don’t have to use the voucher system. If this fails and every passenger booked on the flight checks in, they have the compensation option up their sleeves to avoid a possible lawsuit!

How Did I Get Denied Boarding?

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Historical Aircraft Restoration Society Museum- Australia

Location: Albion Park Cost: $20 AUSD (£10 /$15) Length: 1.5 Hrs More Details: Click Here

I think the below picture of me standing in front of a retired Boeing 747 probably falls under the ‘geeky’ post section of this blog. Count yourself lucky that you were not my friend, who got dragged on a two hour train journey to the museum, a two hour tour (which he just waited in the reception), and then a further two hour train journey back!!!

It’s my thing, ok. I try to make it to at least one transporty thing when I am abroad.

hars_museum_boeing_747

HARS caught my attention through a great travel podcast I have been listening to called Layovers. They discussed that Quantas had donated it’s first ever Boeing 747 that was delivered direct to the company to the HARS museum. I couldn’t turn down the chance to get a tour of a Boeing 747.

HARS is based at the Illawara Regional Airport, and is easily accessible from Sydney by a two hour train journey from Sydney Central Station to Albion Park train station. The train journey was great; a mixture of stunning forests to scenic beach views.

  HARS_Museum_Train_Journey

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Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb – Is it Worth It?

Sydney_harbour_bridge_Climb_twilight_traffic

Location: Sydney Harbour Cost: $363 AUSD (£185 /$260) Length: 2.5 Hrs More Details: Click Here

If you are going to visit Sydney, or even Australia in general, one of the most iconic landmarks that you will want to see is the Sydney Harbour Bridge. There is then the temptation to climb the frickin’ thing!

On Australian tourist information sites, the Bridge Climb is often recommended as a ‘must do’, both for spectacular views over Sydney Harbour and Circular Quay, and for the experience of climbing the tallest steel arch bridge in the world . However, they often fail to mention that the climb is done in a jumpsuit with only your underwear on underneath!!

REAL TALK – IS IT WORTH IT?

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