After my recent trip to Europe, (expect some travel guides, coming soon!), I came home sick as a dog. One of my wisdom teeth got infected, I had a minor case of food poisoning and a UTI that was causing everything from migraines to excessively high fevers. The point is, I had a lot of time, whilst being bed ridden, to think and I decided that I’m totally reconsidering the way I travel. You see, normally, I’m quite the ambitious adventurer. I generally only get to travel once a year, so I’m eager to see as much as I can. My thinking is, if I’m spending all the money, time and effort hauling myself half across the world, I better make it count! Especially when so many countries are wonderfully accessible to each other, it almost seems silly not to venture into other territories. However, there are benefits and drawbacks to this method.
Of course, it’s exhilarating to see so many beautiful and unique places all at once. Rather than spending all your time in one country, you’re able to tick off multiple bucket list items at once, a satisfying feat for sure. Not to mention, this gives you a chance to see where your heart truly lies, and it’s not always where you expect. For example, when Jeff and I first backpacked Europe 5 years ago, we spent significantly more time in Italy than anywhere else, assuming we were going to love it. And we did, mostly. But we’d also given ourselves only one day in Switzerland, thinking foolishly that it “wasn’t really our kind of place.” We ended up loving it so much more than we’d ever expected and we were kicking ourselves for being so short sighted. The fact of the matter is, when traveling anywhere new, you’re gambling a bit. You might love it, you might hate it, so varying where you go ensures you won’t waste all your time in a place you can’t stand and gives you a greater chance of finding somewhere you truly love. It allows you to try a taste of each place and figure out what you’d like to dive fully into in the future. And of course, it’s pretty nice to hear how impressed most people are when you rattle off the list of countries you’ve seen.
On the other hand, are you really even seeing anything when you’re so rushed and all over the place? When segmenting your time into so many smaller pieces, a lot is lost in doing so. You don’t get to experience each culture as richly as you would if you spent ample time in one place. And I found myself getting disappointed again and again when we’d discover that we were missing something special by just a day or two because our ambitious schedule didn’t leave much room for spontaneity. And the truth is, it’s exhausting. If you’re into relaxing vacations, this is definitely not for you. The more places you go, the more you have to unpack and repack your suitcase and the more room there is for error: a missed flight, a delayed train, etc. It can be extremely invigorating, but also extremely stressful. Sometimes, despite being in a beautiful, new city, you don’t even have the energy to care. Not to mention, it can make the trip much more expensive. All those extra planes, trains, boats, taxis, Ubers, etc. add up in addition to having to exchange money everywhere you go. You also lose a ton more sleep, have to cross multiple time zones and, as I know all too well, getting yourself so run down leaves you much more vulnerable to illness which can ruin the whole trip anyway.
While I still highly recommend a backpacking trip here and there, I’ve found myself being more drawn to the idea of, hey, maybe not totally killing myself for the sake of adventure. Despite my inner Type A Traveler screaming at me to keep doing moremoremore, I find myself moving closer to the idea of taking my time a little more these days. Of course, each traveler and trip is totally unique and I think it’s the difference between a buffet and a sit down dinner. Do you want a little bit of multiple things, or a lot of one thing? But maybe there’s some kind of balance to be struck. Perhaps there is the 3 course meal of traveling. Spain for the appetizer, France for the main course, a little Italy for dessert. Ambitious still, but much less overwhelming than cramming yourself full of 10 different countries to the point where you can’t even enjoy the last few.
Okay so here is my best advice. Do the backpacking trip, but take plenty of medicine just in case and be prepared for what you’re signing up for. Explore as many beautiful places as you can and get a feel for what you like. Are you more connected to cities, or countrysides? Do you love staying in hostels, or are you all about hotels? Find your favorite places and experiences and then go back one day to fully immerse yourself in the culture. Maybe you go for a week, or a month, or a year, whatever works for you, but give yourself the peace of mind of knowing that your full attention is going to be on this place only.
But then again, if you’re headed to the Netherlands, France is right there… and England isn’t so far either… and maybe there’s time for Greece, and Prague, and Germany and…
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but last year, I think I made it to the beach a grand total of once. Now, in my defense, it rained nearly every day last Summer. But it was more than that. You know how we start to take for granted the things we get to have all the time? I realized, after a life spent living on an island, I didn’t appreciate the beach anymore. So this year I decided to change that.
On what seemed like the most beautiful of all days, Jeffy and I piled into his car to meet the fabulous Mary Bordelon and her boyfriend, Jacob, for a good ol’ fashioned Long Island beach day. Naturally, the moment they drove all the way out from Brooklyn to meet us, the skies opened up and it started to POUR.
Was there some kind of curse placed on me that kept me from the beach? Had I taken it for granted too long and now I was being punished for my apathy?
Shockingly enough, no.
After feeling like we were all caught in some odd fever dream where the storm picked up every time we even mentioned going to the beach, the rain eventually subsided and skies were prettier than ever. And thank heavens, because Mary and I had bold plans to film some wonderful videos. Naturally, our boyfriends took naps while we went crazy filming. In the end, the weather was perfect, the post rain sunset was stunning and our videos came out wonderfully!
It was the perfect kick off to beach filled Summer 🙂
While Time Square is fabulous in all it’s brightly lit glory, I personally believe the true gems of Manhattan are to be found a little further south on the map. Lower Manhattan is filled with countless brunch spots, incredible places to stay and all around some of the best things to do in New York. There are some great places to stay in the more bustling, crowded, touristy side of New York as well. And if that’s your cup of tea, then by all means, keep it up! But if a slightly more quiet and unique scene is what you’re after, then catch the subway downtown and check out these Lower Manhattan hotspots on your way!
WHERE TO STAY If you’re planning to stay overnight in the city, Lower Manhattan is an excellent choice. You’re far away from a lot of the loud crowds but still surrounded by endless things to do! Which means you can sing your heart out at the kareoke joint 10 minutes away on foot without sacrificing a great nights sleep. And after all that beauty rest, you have no shortage of delicious brunch places to try on nearly every corner.
Hotel 50 Bowery Location: 50 Bowery, New York, NY 10013 Website: Hotel 50 Bowery Located in Chinatown, Hotel 50 Bowery is the place where luxury and affordability meet. The views from their rooms are almost as outstanding as their customer service. From the moment you walk in the lobby, you’re greeted by complimentary matcha tea and hot cocoa in addition to the super friendly staff. If you’re a fan of sushi, boba tea, hand pulled noodles or authentic Chinese, this is the place for you since the hotel is surrounded by excellent Asian restaurants. Not to mention their restaurant, Rice and Gold, was so delicious we went there twice in one day! At night, head up to The Crown, the rooftop bar reserved only for 50 Bowery guests. With almost entirely glass walls and a rooftop terrace, the view of Manhattan is unprecedented. While, I must admit, the drinks weren’t exactly my favorite, I’d go back any day just for the amazing atmosphere.
The Nomo Soho Location: 9 Crosby St, New York, NY 10013 Website: The Nomo Soho At a slightly higher, yet still affordable price point sits the Nomo Soho in, you guessed it, Soho! The exterior alone is so fabulous, it’s become something of an instagram hotspot. But keep walking beneath the beautifully green archway into the actual hotel and you’ll be even more stunned. With floor to ceiling windows, you won’t find a better view from your bed. The rooms are spacious, the service is warm and welcoming and the Nomo Kitchen is out of this world. It’s a place you’ll never want to leave! I spent my 24th birthday there and they made it beyond magical (read more about that here! or watch the video diary here!)
TIP: always check Groupon and look for midwinter deals! Groupon has been a lifesaver (and money saver!) when it comes to finding great hotels. But you can also check with the hotels directly for any sales they might be running. Most hotels are practically giving rooms away on their off seasons so if you’re on a budget don’t be afraid to ask!
WHERE TO EAT Breakfast/Brunch The Fat Radish Location:17 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002 Website: The Fat Radish After waiting on line for a much “trendier” brunch spot and getting a major attitude from the waitress, we left and found this incredible spot instead. Upon seeing that it was British food, I must admit I was put off as my only experience with British cuisine was not a great one. However, this brunch blew me out of the water! The place is super cozy, the wait staff is beyond friendly and on a Sunday morning, we only had to wait 10 minutes for a seat, and that’s practically unheard for Sunday brunch in New York!
Jack’s Wife Freda – Soho Location:224 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012 Website: Jack’s Wife Freda This one’s definitely a much trendier spot but for good reason because the Mediterranean style food is totally worth the hype! Just as long as the family style seating at their huge farm table doesn’t bother you, it’s a major win. But really, if getting a little cozy with some strangers puts you off, then New York probably isn’t the place for you to begin with.
The Butcher’s Daughter – Nolita Location: 19 KENMARE STREET NYC — 10012 Website: The Butchers Daughter Another place high on everyone’s radar but again, majorly worth it. Get there nice and early to beat the crowd and enjoy the beautiful morning light pouring through the windows (especially if you can grab a seat at one!) This is all vegetarian but you won’t even miss the bacon because what these people can do with an egg is fantastic.
TIP: try out the more popular brunch spots midweek when the crowd isn’t nearly as bad as it is on Sundays. Otherwise, try getting to these places as soon as they open and you can grab a seat before most New Yorkers have even un-crusted their eyes. Quick Bites & Sweets Teado Tea Shop Location: 145D Hester St, New York, NY 10002 Website: Teado Tea Shop This adorable little shop is the perfect place for Asian style snacks like onigiri, rain drop cakes and so much more. There’s some very interesting flavors of boba tea that you can sip on whilst flipping through their small selection of manga. Personally, I just adore the calming piano music playing in the background. It makes me feel like I’m living in some super cheesy romance Anime and it’s great.
Macaron Parlour – Lower East Side Location: 44 Hester St, New York, NY 10002 Website: Macaroon Parlour Go for the instagram pictures, stay for “The Giggity” a macaroon featuring chocolate, peanut butter, dulce de leche and marshmallow fluff. Yep. It’s okay, I nearly cried when I read description too.
Dinner Rice & Gold Location: 50 Bowery, New York, NY 10013 Website: Rice & Gold I mentioned it above but I’m mentioning it again because it was THAT good. We had such an incredible brunch here that later, the same night, we decided to try it for dinner and every single thing we ate was out of this world. My suggestion: try the banana bread pudding. You can thank me later.
Tang Hotpot Location: 135 Bowery, New York, NY 10002 Website: Tang Hotpot prepare to spend an exorbitant amount of money here, but also prepare to have some of the most delicious hotpot you’ve ever had.
WHERE TO SHOP
Stationary CW Pencil Enterprise Location: 15 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002 Website: CW Pencil Enterprise if you’re a fellow stationary lover like myself, welcome to your personal heaven. These people take pencils very seriously. With a wall of countless pencils to choose from, it’ll make you want to take up their suggestion to start collecting pencils from around the world. My favorite area however, was the back room filled with stickers. Adulthood sucks way less when a couple stickers get involved.
Paper Source – Soho Location: 83 Spring St, New York, NY 10012 Website: Paper Source slightly more expensive and a lot more main stream but another great spot for stationary lovers. They have some gorgeously crafted cards, calendars, notebooks, you name it!
Clothing Soho Shopping is some of the best for clothing. There are countless places to shop in every price range from thrift stores to Chanel. I recommend just exploring streets such as Spring, Crosby, Broadway Prince, Kenmare, Mercer and Broome in Lower Manhattan and see what strikes your fancy! But if you’re totally lost, check out some of my suggestions to get you started!
Housing Works Thrift Shop Location: 130 Crosby St, New York, NY 10012 Website: Housing Works If you’re into the more ethical route or shopping on a budget, you’ll definitely want to check out Housing Works. Surrounded by the more main stream shops like Free People and Zara, this is the perfect little getaway to find that vintage gem. But before scouring endless racks of second hand clothes, be sure to check out The Ultimate Guide to Thrifting, to help you score the best pieces without the frustration! Everlane – Soho Location: 28 Prince St, New York, NY 10012 Website: Everlane If you’re looking to shop ethically but not exactly into the second hand approach, check out Everlane. It’s definitely a lot more expensive than thrifting, but you can feel good about putting your dollar towards a company that’s doing their part for humanity.
Galeria Melissa Location: 500 Broadway, New York, NY 10012 Website: Galeria Melissa the draw of this little Brazilian shoe store is not only their unique (and affordable) designs but also the way they creatively weave art into their decor! Last year, hundreds of stars adorned the ceiling of their Soho location and instagrammers everywhere flocked to this place just to snap a picture amongst this manmade galaxy. This place prizes art just as much as they do shoes so keep it on your radar for their next installation or a great new pair of kicks.
Make Up Glossier Location: 123 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10013 Website: Glossier To be honest, I’m not even into makeup but even I can’t resist the call of Glossier. Their flagship store in Lower Manhattan is one of the most instagrammable places in all of New York. There’s always a line to get in, but once you do, you don’t regret it. Shop all the cult favorites or just snap some cute pictures with their giant tubes of boybrow. It’s like walking into a super aesthetic cave with fantastic lighting.
For the Home Coming Soon Location: 37 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002 Website: Coming Soon Despite the name, this shop is currently open for business. I’m still trying to decide whether or not the name is actually genius, but either way check it out for some quirky additions to the home including a free the nipple door mat or a ridiculously expensive but gorgeously pink velvet chair. The Sill Location: 84 Hester St, New York, NY 10002 Website: The Sill This adorable shop is really only practical if you’re headed home by train or actually living in Manhattan because it’s filled with every kind of plant imaginable! However, it’ll have you smiling before you even walk in the door with their huge window boasting “plants make people happy!” Check out one of their in store or online workshops for plant care or check up on their plant of the month. And if you really fall in love with that giant palm plant, they ship nation wide!
THINGS TO DO See a Concert Location: 6 Delancey St, New York, NY 10002 Website: Bowery Ballroom The Bowery Ballroom is certainly a little grungey, but that’s totally the draw. They often feature a lot of lesser known artists who’s tickets are super affordable. Just make sure to wear comfortable shoes because you’ll be standing (or hopefully dancing) all night. And if you’re short, get there nice and early to score a spot up front.
Sing Karaoke Location: 161 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10013 Website: Baby Grand If you’re looking for karaoke, especially in Chinatown, there are no shortage of places! However, my favorite spot is actually in Soho and it’s called Baby Grand! This karaoke bar & art gallery is cozy, and by cozy I mean TINY, especially when tons of booze fueled singers are packing the place out, but that’s part of the charm! It’s just around the corner from the Nomo Soho and it’s a sure fire way to have an unforgettable night.
Take a Yoga Class at Skyting Yoga – Chinatown Location: 17 Allen St, New York, NY 10002 Website: Skyting Yoga Let’s face it, you’re in New York. It’s likely you’ll be drinking a little too much, staying up a little too late and indulging in some ridiculously sweet concoctions only New Yorkers can come up with. So why not sweat it all out and find some inner peace. With multiple locations all over Lower Manhattan, this is one of the most gorgeous places to get your flow on in all of New York. It’s no secret by this point that I’m a big fan of city views and this one is unlike any other. Between the spacious, white brick interior and the endless greenery, it feels like doing yoga in some magical jungle on a cloud. The instructors are amazing and the classes will totally kick your butt (in the best way!) Just take the elevator up to the highest floor… or maybe the stairs for a pre-yoga booty lift.
So that’s my guide to Lower Manhattan! What are some of your favorite New York City hotspots that I might’ve missed? To see more of these places in detail, make sure to check out some of the videos below for an inside look! Happy travels everyone, until next time!
“BIRTHDAY SURPRISE GONE WRONG” – NEW YORK TRAVEL VLOG
“GOOD MORNING NYC” – BIRTHDAY WEEKEND AT THE NOMO SOHO
Back in June, for my boyfriend Jeff’s birthday, we decided to spend the weekend at a hotel in NYC called Stewart Hotel. I found a pretty nice deal on Groupon and we packed our bags for a weekend in the big apple! To be honest, we had a few moments there that left a little to be desired, but overall, I’d say we had a great experience! Today I’ll be sharing my honest review of the hotel, talking you through the good and the bad, so you can make your own decision next time you come to New York!
THE LOCATION: The first great thing that we loved about Stewart Hotel, was how close it was to the Penn Train Station! When we left the station, there was no need to call for a taxi or an Uber because the walk brought us there within minutes! That’s a major plus when traveling, especially around New York where taxi’s and Ubers can get pricey but the subway isn’t always the most convenient. If I can walk somewhere, and quickly, I’m a happy girl! (especially when I’m wearing heels just as tall as the New York skyscrapers.)
The location was also great because it was minutes from Times Square, perfect if you like the real hustle and bustle of NYC. It was also a quick drive to the heart of the calmer Chelsea area, one of my personal favorite places in Manhattan! This made it easy to get to attractions like the High Line,the Flatiron Building or Bryant Park.
The surrounding area of the Stewart was another win! There were plenty of delicious restaurants right around the block or just a short walk away. We personally fell in love with places like The Little Beet, by Chloe and OF COURSECha Cha Matcha which I recently featured in my blog post about finding jeans for a big booty! We got into the city on a Friday night and noticed that there was a really lively crowd out and about. I’m personally love going wherever the action is, so I liked that aspect! It wasn’t the craziest of areas though, and it certainly felt safe where we were.
THE DECORATIONS & AMBIANCE:
One of the things that attracted me to the Stewart Hotel right off the bat was the amazing decorations! As you first walk into the hotel, the lobby is pretty stunning with grand, high ceilings and seating areas that look more like artwork than a place to sit down! And everything from the hallways to the elevators felt wonderfully luxurious.
Then we got into our room! Huge flowers covered one of the walls from floor to ceiling and that was an extra little touch that Jeff and I loved!
There were a few issues with our room to discuss but before we get to that, there was plenty we loved about it! First off, the size was pretty great for what we paid for! With the Groupon it came to about $150 a night, and in New York City, especially where we were, that’s a pretty nice deal! With that said, often times you pay that price or more and get a bed crammed in so tightly to the room, you wonder how they even managed to get it in there. But this room was HUGE! We had a little kitchenette, a giant bed, 2 tv’s (not that we used them) and a living room area!
Jeffy being cute on our couch
THE RESTAURANT & BAR:
We didn’t get a great chance to experience the Stewart’s restaurant but I think it’s worth mentioning that they have one! We did, however, head over to the bar before we left just to relax a bit before leaving. It was a really cool set up with bright neon lights and great service! Again, we were so busy, I wish we had more time to check everything out, but from what we saw of it, we were impressed!
WHAT WE DIDN’T LIKE ABOUT STEWART HOTEL-
So, as much as we liked our room, there was one issue that we had to resolve. On our first night there, the window air conditioning unit started to make a really high pitched squeaking noise that woke us out of our sleep. It wasn’t the biggest deal, but we asked for help resolving it the next day and a very sweet man came up to look into it. He played around with some buttons and though it didn’t seem like he did much, the squeaking stopped and he offered us a bottle of wine for our troubles! We were very grateful!
And then not 10 minutes later, the noise started up again.
We were about to hit the town for dinner so we decided to ask about it again later when we got back. That night, a different man came to help us out. This guy hardly did a thing. I’m not exaggerating when I say he hardly even touched it before saying basically there was nothing he could do about it. He offered us a bottle of wine as well and then promised he’d have someone call us within the hour. No one ever called.
By this point we were ready to leave and the issue had never truly been resolved. Not to mention, we were a little annoyed that we’d waited on someone calling us and never heard back. But in the end, after we explained our issues to the manager, we were given another free bottle of wine, and they took a bunch of fees off our bill, including the room service we ordered the morning before. I don’t expect every situation to be perfect. Accidents and mistakes happen all the time, but how an establishment responds to such mistakes goes a long way in terms of how I feel about them ultimately!
In the end we were happy with the way they compensated for the mishaps and the pro’s far outweighed the cons! The next time you’re in NYC, I’d recommend giving the Stewart Hotel a shot! Just don’t be afraid to politely speak up if something is going wrong!
So what do you think? Would you give the Stewart hotel a shot, or do you have another favorite place to stay in New York City? Let me know down below!
with peace, love and pixie dust, -Veronica Disclaimer: Some links are affiliate links. This means that I get to continue making fabulous content for you by making a small commission off of anything you happen to purchase through me, at no extra cost to you! Thank you!
Hello fabulous people of the interwebs. If you’re reading this, you’re an absolute gem. I recently spent some THAI-m in Thailand, a place I’ve wanted to visit for years. It was so surreal to actually achieve something that’s been on my bucket list since I was a little girl and in so many moments, I had to stop and just take it all in. This was my first time to Asia and wow. I can’t recommend it enough as the perfect country to start things off in such a foreign realm. Most everyone we spoke to could easily communicate with us in English and what an amazingly friendly culture! Thailand is called “the land of smiles” and they certainly live up to the name!
WHEN YOU SHOULD GO:
We were primarily there for the Yi Peng Lantern Festival and Loi Krathong Festival. These festivals happen all over Thailand and all over the world now but the one in Chiang Mai is arguably the most magical, and I’ve been patiently awaiting my ticket to becoming a real life Disney Princess so I needed my “Tangled” moment to be done right. The festivals generally happen sometime during the tail end of the year. We experienced the festival in early November but it often changes depending on a multitude of factors. As soon as they release the dates however, I highly recommend booking your trip!
November is an excellent time to go to Thailand, specifically Chiang Mai and not just because of festival season. The weather is fantastic and the price of plane tickets isn’t terribly expensive if you’re coming from America because this is a bit of an off season for us! It only cost us $600 each round trip from New York, and we paid almost double that when we’d gone to Europe in the high season the year before, and that was half the distance.
Old City Chiang Mai was one my favorite places I’ve ever visited. It’s like the trendy sides of New York city speckled with palm trees and motorbikes. There are temples all over the place and we loved spending days wandering in and out of whichever ones we happened upon, each one prettier than the last. We also spent an ENTIRE day getting pampered at Spa called Fah Lanna. For five hours we were treated like royalty with massages, body scrubs, manicure, pedicures, the works! It was very clean and professional too (no issues of sex trafficking.)
Doi Inthanon National Park was another incredible day and a MUST SEE place while in Northern Thailand. The pagodas look like something out of a story book and when we reached the shrine at the highest point of Thailand, the sun burst through the trees in the most ethereal way. That place is pure magic.
WHERE TO STAY:
For the first part of our trip, we stayed in an elephant sanctuary called Chai Lai Orchid and got to have some wild experiences with them throughout our stay. Located right on the riverside in a town called Tambon Ban Kad, this is the perfect place for those who love glamping and falling asleep to the sound of rushing waves. We also fell in love with Secret Garden Chiang Mai, a home stay slightly outside the city but very easily accessible by tuktuk or songtew. The family who runs it is the sweetest and MAN do they make a mean Pad Thai!
THINGS TO DO: -definitely see the Lantern Festival (always hosted in November) if you can help it! -take care of elephants -visit Fah Lanna Spa if you’re looking to be pampered like royalty -visit Doi Inthanon National Park (like something out of a fairy tale!) -go temple hunting, they’re all over the place in Chiang Mai!
PLACES TO EAT: –Ginger & Kafe for the appetizer platter –Graph Cafe for the drinks (be warned, it’s TINY but very instagramable) –Villa Duang Champa for the BEST thai tea and delicious dinner! (part of a gorgeous hotel) –Lemongrass (all the food is outstanding)
*wherever you go though try Khao Soi, it’s frikin DOPE.