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10 of my best-kept tips for travelling with older kids

We have travelled regularly with our daughters since they were babies. Back then a lot of trip planning went into packing nappy supplies, organising cots and making sure there was suitable infant food at the destination. Now that they are 11 and 17, travelling as a family is a totally different experience, and one which is incredibly rich and rewarding.  But there’s still a bit of pre-planning involved…just of a different kind. In this post I outline my best-kept tips for travelling with older kids. 

10 tips for travelling with older kids: www.feetonforeignlands.com

10 tips for travelling with older kids

1. Don’t keep them in the dark

I encourage the whole family to be involved when it comes to planning any travel experiences, so we discuss itinerary wish-lists and preferences as we draw up the schedule. I think it’s really important that the girls are aware of exactly where they will be going, and can look forward to it as much as The Poolboy and I do. It’s also great if they can take on board a bit of the background and context of the destination in advance. Sometimes we’ll watch a couple of movies set in that location before we go, and we certainly discuss interesting facts, traditions, historical events and attractions as I come across them in my research.

Before we got to Japan, the girls and I had discussed onsen etiquette in detail, and (after their Turkish haman experience) they drew the line at communal nudity. So, I made sure the ryokan we stayed at in Hakone had a private onsen bath option.

By being fully informed, they are never caught unawares or thrown off guard, and I’m so thrilled that they both embrace the different, the unusual and the challenging. They will eat local foods, and they accept and respect local customs. They also tolerate and cheerfully participate in some of the quirkier activities I ferret out.

2. Pack lightly and make everyone responsible for their own stuff

10 tips for travelling with older kids: www.feetonforeignlands.com

One of the significant milestones in any travelling family’s life, is when all the kids are old enough to be responsible for the carting of their own luggage. Hauling their own wheelie suitcases on and off planes, trains and automobiles is a big incentive for them to pack lightly.

We have a set of matching 68cm hard-sided wheelie suitcases in four different colours, one for each of us. They were perfect for travelling in Japan, as they fitted into the boot of taxis (just), into overhead luggage racks on Shinkansen trains, and onto a step of escalators in train stations, plus they were completely manageable, even for the 11 year old Impossible Princess.

3. Provide lots of ‘Instagram-worthy’ moments (and the means to upload them)

10 tips for travelling with older kids: www.feetonforeignlands.com

A few of the pics Queenie has uploaded to Instagram over the years. (Clockwise from left: The Hirschhorn Museum, Washington DC, Ryokan Fukuzamiro in Hakone, Japan and Thanh Da Island, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam)

Sometimes, no matter how incredible the destination is, teenagers would rather be at home hanging out with their friends. There’s this sense that they are out-of-sight, out-of-mind and missing out on the holiday fun at home. So, I think it’s important to provide internet connectivity for your teens to keep in touch with their mates. I know, I know…it’s not how things were when we were young, but that’s the reality of the life they live nowadays. If they can hook into some wifi or a data connection for at least a few minutes each day, they can touch base with their friends and be in the loop.

Plus they get a lot of happiness out of posting the perfect Instagram shot every few days. What we photograph and are interested in as adults, isn’t always what appeals to teens. When we visited The Hirshhorn Museum at The Smithsonian in Washington DC, the girls’ interest was waning…until they saw the bottom floor which had a striking red, black and white installation by Barbara Kruger called Belief + Doubt. They decided it was the perfect location for taking a multitude of selfies and portraits which were later Snapchatted, texted and/or uploaded to Instagram. Win-win. They got their fun shots, and we bought a bit of extra time to see the museum.

4. Create a ‘holiday highlights’ ritual

Every few days while we’re travelling, we have a ritual during dinner of naming our three holiday highlights so far. We all get a turn to declare our list and explain what we liked about each item.  It really focuses our attention on the positive aspects of the experience so far, and we get an insight into each other’s travel happiness. Sometimes I’m surprised by how different our lists are, sometimes they are all the same…and as the journey progresses, it becomes harder and harder to narrow down to three items, which really forces each of us to reflect on the whole experience.

5. Agree that life is full of compromises

10 tips for travelling with older kids: www.feetonforeignlands.com

Theme parks are really not my thing. The girls certainly wouldn’t put several hours tramping ancient ruins at the top of their bucket lists. But in advance, we all agree to compromise and tolerate each other’s wish lists. By drawing up a really diverse itinerary for each destination, we try to ensure there is something of interest for all of us each day. (Click here to download my free e-guide to creating varied itineraries that rock.)

Some of my most memorable moments have been doing things the kids wanted to do (e.g. ziplining in Singapore), and often the girls create their own fun experience out of something they previously thought would be ‘boring’. In The Metropolitan Museum in New York City, Queenie and our gorgeous English exchangee, Britannia had a fabulous time imitating the Greek sculptures and photographing each other. 

Exploring and following the girls’ specific interests has also led us to experiences or places we may not have otherwise found. Queenie’s interest and studies in fashion have seen us seek out an Italian designer outlet centre in the suburbs of Milan, have an ‘Amazing Race’ type experience in the Tan Dinh fabric markets, and check out more formal/prom dresses in the shops of New York City than I even knew existed.

6. Avoid being hangry

Coffee, bread and cake - Vietnam-style: www.feetonforeignlands.com

When you travel with small children, you are acutely aware of their limitations and usually organise the day around food and nap times. With teenagers, it’s sometimes easy to forget such things and just push on through a packed daily schedule. But for our family, one of the most important contributors to family travel happiness is avoiding situations likely to cause hanger (hunger-induced anger).

We know for a fact that we’re people who don’t function well on empty stomachs, so we don’t fight it. We always have a big breakfast each day, and schedule in regular meal and snack breaks to keep up the calorie intake while we’re out and about. Plus this gives us the opportunity to experience lots of different local foods and treats.

7. Get there by opening time

San Marco before the crowds: www.feetonforeignlands.com

A rare photo of an empty San Marco in Venice. Only possible because we got there well before opening time!

Adults don’t like queues. Older kids? Even less so. No teenager came home from a trip saying, “It was fantastic! All up we queued for 14 hours in the first three days.” But in many cases, the only way to minimise the queuing time for major attractions is to get there before the crowds.

We’re early risers, and like to pack as much into a day as possible. Our strategy is usually to get to the biggest ticket item on that day’s schedule (i.e. the one likely to have the longest queues or largest crowds) well before opening time. On one infamous occasion, we got there quite a long time before opening time. However, this strategy has also been known to back-fire. In Istanbul, the opening time queues for the Topkapi Palace were huge due to several large cruise ships being in port…but when we left the palace around lunchtime, the queue was non-existent.

There is nothing surer to kill a kid’s enthusiasm for a place than to make them queue for hours to get into it. (And me, queuing for hours for a ride at a theme park? It just isn’t going to happen.) Do some research and plan ahead to minimise the wait times.

8. Have a memorable Christmas away from home

How to have a merry Christmas abroad 2

‘Christmas away from home’ experiences can create memories to be treasured forever. And being so far from family (and the familiar) on Christmas Day can give all of you a refreshed understanding of the importance of home and a gratitude for some of the traditions your family shares.

When you’re an adult, part of the attraction of being overseas for Christmas is to experience different traditions and ways of doing things. However, kids don’t always see things that way. It’s good to have a clear idea of what they need for Christmas to seem familiar and meaningful. For our girls, a Christmas tree is non-negotiable. So in both the places that we have had Christmas overseas (New York City and Hoi An, Vietnam) we’ve managed to have a tree in our accommodation to put the presents under.

Plus, being away from home is a great opportunity to create new traditions. The year we were in Hoi An for Christmas with our gorgeous English exchangee’s family, we chose some matching t-shirts at the markets in Saigon that the kids all wore to sleep in on Christmas Eve. Plus Queenie, The Impossible Princess and Britannia took off to the hotel day spa on Christmas Eve afternoon and asked the girls there to paint their nails in fun designs to celebrate Christmas. I’m not sure who enjoyed that experience more, our girls or the day spa staff who laughed as they painted tiny kiwfruit, strawberries and watermelon on our girls’ toenails.

9. Talk about emergency plans in advance

Tips for travelling with older kids: www.feetonforeignlands.com

Some of the emergency equipment and signage in our Japanese accommodation

No-one likes to think anything is going to go wrong while you’re on holiday, but it’s much better to have thought about the possibilities (which hopefully are remote) and ensured the kids are informed of safety procedures in advance, than to be ignorant when you need it. Unlike small children who you would just scoop up in your arms in the event of an evacuation, older kids may well be in a separate hotel room, or off doing an activity on their own, and need to know what to do.

As soon as you arrive in your hotel room or lodgings, locate the nearest stairwell exits with the kids. If you’re in an earthquake-prone region (like we were in Japan), check out the room to identify the safest place to shelter. Familiarise yourself with the hotel’s advice regarding evacuation plans. Brief the kids on what to do in the event of emergencies of various types (e.g. fire, tsunami, earthquake, civil disturbance), and determine a family reunification plan in the event that you are separated during an incident. Agree a contact back at home (family member or friend) that can be used as the go-to for coordination of communication if you were separated, and make sure all the kids have memorised that number.

10. Reminisce and reflect on your travels often

The benefits gained from family travel experiences don’t end when you return home. You can spread out the current joy, knowledge and wisdom gained for years to come. The trick is to reflect and reminisce often with the kids about all you saw, what you experienced, the foods you ate, the people you met.

Obviously, photos play a large part in this process. Using photos in highly visible ways keeps all the experiences top of mind. I’ve created photo books for the coffee table, made calendars as Christmas gifts for family and friends, used photos as the screensaver on the computer and TV, and even gone old-school and stuck some printed ones on the fridge.

However, photos aren’t the only way to reminisce. Souvenirs that have a useful role trigger happy memories in our house on a daily basis – the glass light fitting above our dining table reminds us all of Murano, the bone salad servers of Hoi An, and the cotton pool towels of Istanbul.

Another reminder of our travels is incorporating foods we’ve enjoyed into our day-to-day menu. I make a ripper New York cheesecake, and The Poolboy is a dab hand at künefe and Vietnamese dishes. We brought back some matcha tea from Japan so we can recreate the tea ceremony experience in our own home (minus the kimonos).

Plus, of course, we talk about our travels often. Sometimes, out of the blue, one of the girls will ask a question about something we saw years ago, or a place we went…or will remember something funny that happened, and suddenly, we’re right back there again, re-experiencing the pleasure of that particular trip.

Do you have a tip for travelling with older kids to share? Or do you have memories of travelling as a teen and what you really enjoyed about the experience?

This post on my Best Kept Travel Tips for Travelling with Older Kids has been written as an entry to the 2015 ProBlogger Virgin Australia competition. You can find more details about it here

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Christmas away from home

Christmas away from home
For all of my childhood, I woke up every Christmas morning in my own bed. Sure, during the day we may have travelled to other family, but essentially I was at home in Western Australia for Christmas.

My first Christmas away from home, was when I was 19 years old and I spent the summer holidays between two university years travelling in the UK and skiing in Austria.

For Christmas itself I stayed with family in Brighton in England. It was my first experience of a cold-weather Christmas. The sun set early in the afternoon and there was a chill in the air. For the first time, Christmas snowflake and icicle decorations made sense. The twinkle of fairy lights was clearly visible in the afternoon gloom, and rugged up carollers went from house to house singing their repetoire in the days leading up to Christmas.

Since I moved to Melbourne in my early twenties, there has been just a handful of years that I have woken up in my own bed, as Christmas has often entailed travel back to Western Australia for a family Christmas.

And we’ve spent two Christmases about as far away from home as you can get geographically (in New York City) and culturally (Hoi An in Vietnam).

New York City for Christmas

In 2008 we were in New York City, staying in a two-story apartment in a brownstone in Harlem. There was snow leading up the big day, and still some on the ground on Christmas Day itself. The most incredible part of Christmas in New York however, was the atmosphere. Despite the Global Financial Crisis having just hit, decorations in the shops and public spaces were completely over the top. Giant trees, fabulous shop windows, lights on buildings…

Christmas away from home - NYC

The owners of the apartment had organised a white plastic Christmas tree for us, and had provided some decorations. We couldn’t resist buying more to add to them, and around the base of the tree, we scattered the fake snow (…just add water) we had bought in Los Angeles.

Christmas away from home - New York City

After checking out several NYC restaurants’ Christmas Day offerings, we decided to cook our own Christmas lunch in the apartment. We shopped at the Wholefoods store at Columbus Circle, where we found all the ingredients we needed, including fresh cranberries to make cranberry sauce.

Hoi An, Vietnam for Christmas

In 2012, we met up with our English exchange family (Britannia, her parents and her brother) for two weeks together in Vietnam.

Vietnam does the festive season in a spectacular way. Despite being a mostly non-Christian country (less than 8 percent of the population is Catholic or Protestant), they have embraced many of the Christmas traditions. The street lights in Ho Chi Minh City are stunning, and are left up for the Christmas period, New Year and Chinese New Year.

Christmas away from home - HCMC Vietnam

We arrived in Hoi An the day before Christmas Eve, and we were booked into the hotel’s ‘compulsory Christmas Eve dinner’, which turned out to be a hoot of an evening.

For Christmas Day itself, we were keen to find a restaurant that would serve a Christmas lunch that at least vaguely resembled what we considered to be traditional and we found it at The Cargo Club – a prawn entree, turkey with trimmings, and a chocolate or pavlova dessert. And then in the evening we had a Vietnamese meal as we cruised the Thu Bon River with Cinnamon Cruises.

Christmas away from home - Vietnam

Christmas Day in Hoi An was business as usual for all of the town. Shops, restaurants, tours etc were all open and operating. Apparently there was a town Christmas Eve festival/pageant at the church, but we were so caught up in our compulsory dinner we didn’t have a chance to check it out.

Other experiences of Christmas away from home

Both of our recent ‘Christmas away from home’ experiences have been significant milestones and created memories we will treasure forever. But the flip-side of the experience is that being so far from family (and the familiar) on Christmas Day gives you a refreshed understanding of the importance of home and a gratitude for some of the traditions your family shares.

Being away for Christmas is something for everyone to put on their bucket list.

But don’t just take my word for it…here’s some links to other bloggers who have spent Christmases away from home too:

  • SJ from Chasing the Donkey has spent several Christmases away from home (in Paris, New York, across Australia, and her most recent one in Croatia). In this post, she offers some great advice on how to survive Christmas abroad. (I’d never before thought about the photo opportunities empty streets on Christmas Day would bring…)
  • Josh from Travel with Bender took the public bus to the birthplace of Christmas itself…Bethlehem. (I’d imagine the three wise men wished there had been a bus back then.) In this post, he offers some great tips and advice for anyone wanting to visit Bethlehem for Christmas.
  • Rachel from Life, Actually discovered how a combination of her Italian, her cousins’ English and a lot of hand signals, led to a deep connection to her extended family in Pavia, Italy – a connection she will carry with her forever.
  • Liz from Passport Packed is currently teaching English in Madrid, Spain. In this post she writes about the food, the street lights, the queues for lotteries and the Christmas markets that a visitor to Madrid could expect at Christmas time.
  • Social worker, Jouljet flies in and flies out (FIFO) of her work on the Pacific Island of Nauru. Last Christmas Day was a regular working day for her, starting with a staff Christmas beach breakfast, which had ‘pancakes and cheer’ on the menu. This was a big contrast to the white Christmas she spent in Uppsala, Sweden.
  • Megan from Pegs on the Line found herself in Jyväskylä, Finland for Christmas last year where the main day of Christmas festivities is (like many European countries) Christmas Eve. She discovers that Santa (who is in fact, Finnish) doesn’t fly in Finland, he’s strictly grounded.
  • Marie from Marie Away will still be in Canada for Christmas this year, but over 4,000 kilometres from her family home in Newfoundland. She’ll be recreating some of her family’s traditions and joining the party via Skype.
  • Sharon and her family from Where’s Sharon? experienced a warm Christmas in Cabarete, Dominican Republic, where they enjoyed a two and a half hour traditional three course lunch in an Irish pub right by the beach, and relaxed in and around the hotel swimming pool.

Have you ever experienced a Christmas away from home? Please tell me about it!

PS: Check back here on Friday when I’ll be posting my step-by-step guide for creating a memorable family Christmas when we’re travelling.

 

 

 

Memorable moment: New York City ‘Snow Day’

‘Memorable moments’ are those travel memories of a time, a place or an experience that stick with you and bring a smile to your face years later. Here on the blog, the ‘Memorable Moments’ series is like a set of postcards on the fridge – each one a snapshot and the short story about what made that moment memorable.

In 2015, I will be opening this series up to guest bloggers of any genre. If you have a memorable travel moment you would like to feature, shoot me an email or leave a comment below and I can add you to the schedule. You will need to provide one reasonably good quality photograph (can be watermarked), a story of 200-400 words which describes that moment, and a short bio and link your blog.  

New York City Snow Day

Snow Day in New York

Dateline: 19 December 2008

For years I had dreamed of spending a white Christmas in New York City – Bing Crosby had a lot to answer for. Finally, in 2008 we were in New York at Christmas time. But the ‘white’ part was up to the weather gods. I wasn’t that fussed about whether the snow fell on the big day itself, I just wanted it at some point during the festive week.

On the morning of 19 December, we woke up to fine but cold weather. We were watching the morning TV news in our brownstone apartment in Harlem, and saw that they were listing all the New York State schools that were to have a ‘snow day’ that day (i.e. a day where school is cancelled due to snow, heavy ice, or low temperatures) plus the weatherman was warning of a storm for Manhattan itself. It didn’t seem possible, as there wasn’t even a hint of snow at that point.

We headed off to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where we became engrossed in all the treasures on display. Mid-morning, we happened to be near a window overlooking Central Park and discovered the scene above! We could hardly believe it!

We decided it would be fun to walk across the Park from the Met to Columbus Circle, in the still-falling snow. We were wearing completely inappropriate footwear, and the then 5 year old Impossible Princess was in one of those fold-up travelling strollers, as she was recovering from a nasty illness.

The first fifteen minutes were fun. We marveled at the whiteness of the landscape, the magic quiet of freshly-fallen snow, and the story-book beauty of the Park. After that initial fifteen minutes, we were a bit over it…and all blaming each other for the idea to walk across the Park. We were wet, cold and miserable by the time we reached Columbus Circle. (See this NY Times blogpost for a description of the day’s conditions.)

But we’d experienced a ‘White Christmas’ landscape up close and we all still talk about it as one of the most memorable moments of that holiday.

Oh…and does anyone else think the child in the middle of that photo is a ghost child?  Perhaps the ghost of White-Christmas-Past?

Have you experienced a White Christmas?

You can read the original on-the-road post I wrote about this day here.

This post is linked to:

 #SundayTraveler series hosted by Pack me to

 

 

 

 

Travel Notes & Beyond

 

#TheWeeklyPostcard at www.travelnotesandbeyond.com

10 memorable New York City experiences

10 memorable New York City experiencesThe first time anyone visits New York City, you feel compelled to tick off all the main sights – the Statue of Liberty, Times Square, the Met Museum, the Empire State Building…

And on our first family visit to NYC in 2005 we certainly did that.  We’ve been back twice since then for a couple of weeks each time. The most recent two week visit included meeting up and spending five days with our gorgeous English exchange student Britannia and her parents.

When I think over the three visits, some of the most memorable experiences were not those ‘big-ticket tourist items’, they were (in some cases) quieter, unexpected delights. So below is a list of the 10 memorable New York City experiences that have stuck with me, and bring a smile to my face whenever I remember them.

1. FAO Schwarz opening ceremony

IMG_0985 FAO Schwarz, 767 5th Ave, New York, NY 10022, Ph: +1 212-644-9400

FAO Schwarz is the oldest toy store in the United States, opened by some immigrant German brothers in 1856. Nowadays it is owned by the Toys R Us group, but fortunately it has retained its own identify and culture. Most people who don’t instantly recognize the name, nod with recognition when you tell them its the store where Tom Hanks danced on the giant floor piano in the movie Big.

Anyway, the 5th Avenue flagship store is great with an incredible range of quality toys, dolls and games, but the part that is particularly memorable for us is the opening ceremony which we stumbled upon in December 2008. It involved toy soldiers rolling out red carpet and a trumpeted announcement that the store was open. I think that ceremony was only done on weekend mornings. (See this YouTube clip.)

Recently we were there for a regular weekday opening time. The toy soldiers still opened the doors with a flourish (sans red carpet and trumpets) and similar to the 2008 experience, all the staff lined the entry to clap and cheer the customers in.  It’s all very rah-rah, but what an uplifting way to start the day!

My tip? Head straight up the escalator to the Big piano and you’ll be first in line to dance on it. Most people get distracted by all the incredible soft toys on the ground floor and take their time getting up there.

2. Pizza on the terrace

IMG_8983 The Benjamin Hotel, 125 East 50th Street, New York, NY 10022. Ph: +1212 715 2500

While The Britannia Entourage was in NYC, we all stayed The Benjamin Hotel,  a gorgeous boutique hotel in an Emery Roth-designed building on the corner of 50th Street and Lexington. Each family stayed in a Terrace Suite, which are relatively unique as far as New York hotels go, because they have (as the name suggests) a private outdoor terrace. In our case, the terrace was right on the corner of the building with fabulous views up and down Lexington and across 50th Street.

On a warm spring day, after a full morning of formal-dress shopping with Queenie and Britannia (a whole other story…) the Britannia and Fairlie Entourages, plus a New York friend, all converged back onto our terrace for pizzas and liquid refreshments.

HUGE New York pizzas.

With the bustle of the city going on below and around us, we soaked up the sun, devoured the pizza, had a fashion parade of all the girls’ purchases, and enjoyed each other’s company.

And this experience shot straight to the top of everyone’s ‘holiday highlights’ list.

Sometimes you can’t plan the holiday magic, it just happens.

3. The Strand Bookstore

IMG_9216 The Strand Bookstore, 828 Broadway (cnr 12th St and Broadway), Manhattan, NY 10003-4805 ph: +1 212 473 1452

Spending time in any bookshop is as close to utopia as I can get. The Strand Bookstore in the East Village takes utopia, pumps it full of steroids and blasts it into another universe. This shop boasts 18 miles of books over three floors – over 2 million titles in total.

I spent a lovely hour or so, perusing the shelves.  In addition to all the new books, there’s also a section where you can buy or rent books by the foot. Perfect for when you want an instant library (say, for staging a home for sale, or for a photo shoot or a set design)  – everything from antique leather-bound volumes through to biographies or cookbooks.

Then, up on the top floor is the Rare Books Room, a light and airy wood-floored room lined from floor to ceiling with shelves containing an array of one-of-a-kind literary works —proofs, first editions, signed and inscribed books and papers.

4. Cycling around Central Park

IMG_3753 Central Park Sightseeing. 56 W 56th St, New York, NY, 10019 Ph: +1 212 247 4859

On previous visits to NYC we’ve spent quite a bit of time in Central Park. Walking through it on sweltering July days, taking a horse and carriage ride around it (just like in the movies), and even (because it seemed like a good idea at the time) trudging the whole way across the park after a fresh snow fall.  So on the most recent visit, we decided to do it a bit differently and hired bikes to cycle right around the Park.

We collected our bikes from Central Park Sightseeing in W56th St.  We had booked on-line the night before to get the internet-only pricing. We could have booked a guided cycle tour, but decided just to go our own way. Once we all had our bikes we headed off. There was no way we were brave enough to actually ride the bikes on Midtown streets, so we (like every other tourist, it seemed) walked our bikes up the pavement to 59th and the start of the Park. Once inside the Park, there was only a small portion of the road where we shared the road with motor vehicles (and there were clearly-marked cycle lanes).

It was a stunning day, weather-wise and we went right around the extremity of the Park on Central Park Drive. It’s a relatively easy ride  at just under 10km (6.1 miles), but the slight inclines in the uptown section of the Park are a bit deceptive…my legs felt it the next day. We stopped a few times at points of interest, including the Strawberry Fields Memorial to John Lennon, which is located in the Park opposite the Dakota Building where he was shot.

At the end of our NYC time with Britannia and her parents, when we all named our customary ‘three holiday highlights’, cycling in Central Park featured on almost everyone’s lists.

My tip? Remember to ask for a chain lock at the cycle hire shop if you are intending to get on and off the bikes to see various Park sights that are off Central Park Drive.

5. A walk around the southern tip of Manhattan

IMG_4706 Helpful maps of the first half of the route can be found at these websites: Battery Park City Parks and The Battery Conservancy. And a guide to the public art in Battery Park City can be found here.

It was our last day in New York City, the sky was a brilliant blue, the sun was shining and it seemed too good a day to waste on anything indoors. So after collecting takeaway coffees from Le Pain Quotidien opposite our downtown hotel, we set off to walk right around the southern tip of Manhattan from the Irish Hunger Memorial on Vesey Street in the west to the Brooklyn Bridge in the east.

We’re big advocates for walking as much as possible on foreign land. You see and experience so much more on foot than you do from a tour bus or taxi window.

This glorious walk took us past: the sculptures and art installations along the Esplanade and in the parks and open spaces of Battery Park City,  the Museum of Jewish Heritage, the Skyscraper Museum, Castle Clinton, Battery Park, the helicopters taking off and landing at the Port Authority Downtown Heliport, the historic South Street Seaport and its museum and the Old Fulton Fish Market. At the Brooklyn Bridge, we headed inland across the island, past City Hall and the Courthouses, the Woolworth Building, St Paul’s Chapel (which is the oldest surviving church building in NYC), and the new One WTC Freedom Tower, back to our hotel.

A couple of hours all up, and a really interesting perspective on that end of the Manhattan.

6. Trinity Church and graveyard

IMG_4609 Trinity Church. 79 Broadway (near Cnr of Broadway and Wall Streets) New York, NY 10006 Ph: +1 212 602 0800

The Episcopalian Trinity Church plays a significant role in the history of Manhattan. Although the current church building was only completed in 1846 (which makes it relatively new), two earlier Trinity Church buildings occupied this site from 1698 to 1776 and 1790 to 1839 respectively. While the bustling financial district has risen around it, Trinity Church and its neighbouring cemetery has remained a quietly dignified little pocket of Lower Manhattan that harks back to much earlier times.

Outside the massive, intricately carved bronze doors of the neo-Gothic church is a plaque which shows where Queen Elizabeth II stood when she visited the church in 1976. It says that her husband, Prince Phillip, ‘stood nearby’.

During 9/11, people sheltered in the Church while the nearby towers fell and the subsequent dust ruined the Church’s organ pipes. The organ has since been replaced with a computerised one.

The graveyard has a distinctly spooky feel to it, even in broad daylight, and a ramble through it reveals gravestones dating back to the 1700s, including NYC’s oldest surviving carved gravestone – a memorial for Richard Churcher, a boy who died in 1681 at the age of five.

Recently, the Church has been embroiled in a public controversy with one of its parishioners filing a lawsuit over how the Church handles its finances. In the course of the case, it has been revealed that (as a result of a gift in 1705 from Queen Anne to the parish of 215 acres of prime Manhattan farmland) the Trinity parish is worth more than $2 billion dollars.

7. Broadway shows

IMG_9041 Time Out New York offers a great guide to Broadway and theatre in NYC.

Broadway shows are one of the most popular tourist attractions in New York City. In the 2012-2013 year, Broadway shows grossed over $1.1 billion in ticket sales with over 11 million tickets sold. 66 percent of the tickets were bought by tourists, so there’s a lot of people taking the memory of fabulous Broadway shows home.

What we call ‘Broadway’ consists of 40 theatres, only four of which are actually on the street called Broadway. The area known as Broadway is between 41st and 54th streets from 6th Avenue to 9th Avenue. Generally, to be a Broadway theatre, there must be 500+ seats. (Between 100 and 499 seats are  ‘off-Broadway’ theatres, and teeny-tiny theatres with less than 100 seats are ‘off-off-Broadway’ theatres.)

Over various trips to New York, I’ve seen several Broadway shows, but the outstanding ones that I walked out of and wished I could see all over again were: Hairspray (we saw it 10 days before it closed in January 2009), the Rockettes’ Christmas Spectacular at Radio City (unmissable for tap lovers) and more recently, The Book of Mormon (one of the best and most enjoyable musicals I’ve ever seen, but not one for the easily offended).

My tip? If you really, really want to see a particular show, cough up to pay full-price and book on-line in advance. The TKTS Discount booths have a great range of shows at up to 50% off (if you’re prepared to queue) but they may not have the tickets for the show you want.

8. The Friends apartment building

IMG_4239 It seems unbelievable that ten years has passed since the last episode of the hit TV series Friends aired. For ten seasons from 1994 to 2004, we watched Chandler, Joey, Ross, Rachel, Monica and Phoebe fall in love, fall out of love, get jobs, be out of work, be on a break, get pregnant, have triplets, share apartments, move away. And the constant to it all was the building Monica’s and Joey’s apartments were in, with the Central Perk coffee shop downstairs.

Of course, the actual filming of the action of Friends took place right across the country in sound stages in Hollywood, but there’s still something nostalgic about seeking out the building that was used for those exterior establishing shots.

The apartment building is on the corner of Bedford and Grove Streets in Greenwich Village. Central Perk is a restaurant called Little Owl (which, totally by coincidence, we had tried to get a dinner booking for, but they couldn’t accommodate a table for seven on a Saturday night).

Standing on the street outside the building we all started reminiscing about various episodes we’d enjoyed…wondering which building would have had ugly naked man’s apartment (sub-leased later to Ross)…remarking how much different Central Perk actually was from what we could see in front of us…discussing actors who had guest-starred at various points in the series.  It struck me that this shared experience of a TV show between two families who live a whole world apart is quite unique, especially in the current era of multi-channel digital delivery of entertainment options.

And apart from anything else, a wander through the streets of Greenwich Village is a lovely way to spend a spring morning.

9. Wollman ice rink

IMG_1700 Wollman (Trump) Ice Rink in Central Park, about a five-minute walk from the south entrance at W. 59th Street and 6th Avenue. The rink is open from late October to early April

Ice-skating in winter seems such a quintessentially New York experience. There’s no shortage of options to experience it. The Rink at Rockefeller Center, Winter Village at Bryant Park, and Central Park’s Wollman (Trump) and Lasker rinks are the best-known, but there’s also been a couple of newer additions in recent years.

After checking out a few, we decided only the Wollman Rink in Central Park would suffice.  What isn’t to love about an open-air rink in the middle of one of the world’s most famous parks? Surrounded by snow-covered trees, and encased by the buildings of 5th Avenue, Central Park West and 59th Street, it is a stunning location to get your skates on.

10. A white Christmas in NYC

IMG_1575 For a couple of years prior to my last ‘big number birthday’, I declared to anyone who would listen that I really didn’t want to have a party or any fuss. I just wanted to spend that Christmas in New York, and hopefully it would be a white one. In the end, I did have a party. But I got my other wish too.

Christmas is a truly special time to be in New York City. The decorations are over the top, the atmosphere is festive, the Rockettes’ Christmas Spectacular is unmissable. Within days of us arriving, the first snow fell.

There was more to come, and there was indeed still snow on the ground on Christmas Day, which technically made it a white Christmas. Santa managed to find the stockings hung near the Christmas tree in our apartment, and we enjoyed a home-cooked Christmas lunch of turkey accompanied by cranberry sauce made from scratch with fresh cranberries (who knew?).

There’s been many memorable Christmases before and since, but this one definitely ranks right up there.

 

What are your memorable moments?

The Memorable Moments series of posts is now open to guest bloggers of any genre. If you have a memorable travel moment you would like to share, shoot me an email and I will add you to the schedule. You will need to provide one reasonably good quality photograph (can be watermarked), a story of 200-400 words which describes that moment, a short bio, link to your blog and social media handles .

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10 Memorable New York City Experiences: www.feetonforeignlands.com 10 fun things to do in NYC that will bring a smile to your face years later.

And so this is Christmas

Merry Christmas to you all!

I know it’s no longer Christmas for most of you, but here it has just started.

I wonder if these trees ever found a home? Lunchtime on Christmas Eve they were still waiting to be bought. I suspect the woodchipper was their fate?
On Christmas Eve we went to the matinee of Hairspray – the Musical. Superlatives are not enough to describe this show. The Poolboy and I agreed it was the best money spent…and we’d almost be tempted to go again. The girls were transfixed.
Afterwards we met a friend and went to her favourite Italian restaurant for an early dinner.Delicious, wholesome Italian food at reasonable prices. We liked it so much we went there three times.
We woke this morning to a sunny, cold day. Presents under the tree. Stockings filled by Santa. Thoughfully, he left IOUs for the girls’ main present. The elves in the late processing department will deliver the trampoline to the new house sometime in January. Just as well, as I don’t think Qantas would be too happy about us taking one on as hand luggage.
The turkey is in the oven. (How four of us are going to eat a whole turkey, I’m not sure…) And I have made cranberry sauce from scratch. Who knew it doesn’t always come out of a jar?
And we can still see some snow on the ground from our apartment. Does that count as a white Christmas?
Ho ho ho!