Great NYC Walking Food Tours

by Kelly on July 24, 2014

There’s so much to see and do (and eat) in New York City, that sometimes even living here feels overwhelming. As someone who lives in Brooklyn, I’m constantly asked by out-of-town guests where to eat, and I never know what to say, as the options are literally endless.

That’s why I was delighted to try out one of the best NYC Walking Food Tours out there via Ahoy Food Tours—a great food tour that takes guests through Little Italy and Chinatown, two neighborhoods I don’t venture to nearly enough as a local.

The tour starts out at Ferrara Bakery & Cafe with one of their legendary cannoli (yum!) and then ventures through Little Italy, where our guide Alana pointed out all of the authentic (and not-so) places to try out in the neighborhood.

One of my favorite places was Alleva Dairy, the oldest Italian cheese shop in America, where we tried delicious prosciutto and homemade mozzarella.

We then headed over to DiPalo’s Fine Food, a family-run Italian meat and cheese store that’s also home to the best olives I’ve ever eaten. I loved every bite here, and I’m not even usually an olive person!

From there we walked to a pizza shop, Grand Appetito, to try a slice of “grandma’s pie” a Sicilian classic, and then into Chinatown, where we learned a bit more about the neighborhood. Did you know that NYC’s Chinatown is the most populated in the country? Pretty neat!

Have you ever tried dim sum? If you’re looking for a good place to go, check out Nom Wah Tea Parlor, in the heart of Chinatown, on a street that was once known for bloody gang fights. We got to try a lot of different dishes here, which was fun, as what we got to try I may have never ordered on my own. Pork buns? Yes, please!

If you’re looking to experience more that the city has to offer, or are just looking for a great history lesson while you eat your heart out for three hours, I highly recommend Ahoy Food Tours. It’s three hours of food & fun, in two extremely interesting and diverse neighborhoods!

Have you been on a food tour? Where?

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Exploring Native South American Culture

by Kelly on July 15, 2014

This summer’s World Cup has drawn all eyes to Brazil, with more and more people thinking about taking a South American vacation. However, there’s much more than sport to discover on this fascinating continent. With a rich culture dating back thousands of years and later influenced by Spanish tradition, it is full of wonders just waiting to be discovered.

Dive into South America

South America is home to many different cultures, from the Inca-influenced native people of Peru to the rancheros of Patagonia. It is linked by a series of airports and long roads traversed by luxury coaches, though in some places it’s easier to get around on horseback. Teeming cities thrive between vast plains, mountains, deserts, salt flats, jungles and sub-Antarctic regions. The Nazca lines are visible as pictures only from the air, while must-see ruins include the legendary Inca city of Machu Piccu, the giant stone statues of San Agustín, and the subterranean tombs of Tierradentro.

Music

Argentina is known for its jazz music, Brazil for its samba music, and Venezuela for its folk music and love of cuatro and ocarina songs. Across the continent, music is approached as a social thing, something that talented people, and those keen to develop their talent, are often welcome to join in with. A trip to South America is a great chance to learn new songs and to discover the roots of musical traditions that are enjoying an increasing influence on North American and European music.  A great idea is to check out the dance hall scene, where traditional dances remain highly popular and are an easy way to get to know the culture surrounding the music. In Uruguay and Argentina, you simply have to try the tango.

Food

South American cuisine is one of the earliest forms of fusion cooking, combining Spanish influences with native traditions and a rich variety of ingredients. Most of the continent’s major cities are coastal and seafood is always popular, with tuna available in most of them, lobster huge in southern Brazil, and crab and krill popular in Patagonia.  Wherever there are plains, beef is eaten in large quantities, generally barbecued or grilled. Lamb and venison are popular in the south whereas tropical areas rely heavily on fruit such as guava, limes, lucuma, chirimoya, pepino, cocoya and dragon fruit. Potatoes, quinoa and omelet-based dishes are popular in most areas.

Festivals

South America’s biggest festival – in fact, the biggest in the world – is Rio de Janeiro’s carnival, but there are similar events that take place all across the continent, with Montevideo’s event often lasting for a whole month with numerous parties going on alongside the main event. There are also lots of religious festivals, usually Catholic in origin, with those in the smaller towns and villages often the most elaborate, with parades and statues carried through the streets. In Brazil and Chile, one of the most exciting times of year is New Year’s Eve, when spectacular firework displays light up the sky beneath the southern stars

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Backpacking vacations are a time for adventure. However, they are also frequently undertaken on a low budget, and if money trouble occurs, this can become a real problem. Therefore, it is wise to have a plan for what to do in the event that the trip goes over-budget and into money difficulties.

Budgeting and money trouble

Budgeting is an important aspect of any vacation, and even more so in the case of backpacking, when cash may be limited. However, in the excitement of a trip, it is all too easy to over-spend on a special meal or souvenirs. That is why budgets should be sensible and include a little bit extra for unforeseen spending. However, there are always going to be times when even a little bit extra is not enough.  Crisis situations often require immediate access to funds. Situations such as ill health requiring medical care, or being the victim of a crime such as theft, can place a serious strain on even the best-managed finances. Fortunately, there are a number of things that can be done to either prevent or overcome such financial difficulties.

Planning to cope with a money crisis

Prevention is always better than cure for financial problems while traveling.  For example, it is better not to have money stolen in the first place than to have to replace stolen funds afterwards. Common-sense precautions can often save a traveler from many of the worst-case scenarios. For example, take care of possessions and keep wallets and purses in a place where it is difficult for a pickpocket to reach. Backpackers can often give themselves financial back-up by carrying money in a couple of different places: keeping a few dollars or euros in a sock or cigarette packet at the bottom of a backpack, for example, is a first-level way to protect resources. Using a hostel or campsite safe deposit box is another way. Keeping cash in low denomination bills and avoiding showing large amounts of cash on the street are other ways to avoid the interest of thieves. Carrying a spare credit card in a money belt is also a good idea. To cover health issues, it is wise to ensure adequate insurance before leaving and to keep the insurance company’s emergency contact details available.

What to do if money becomes a problem

In the worst case scenario, if an emergency occurs and the immediate plans to cover a shortfall in funds are not sufficient, there are still steps that can be taken. With the global reach of the internet, it is easier than ever to arrange a money transfer. This can be done between points almost anywhere in the world. For example, in those cases when emergency funds are required, Transfast.com and other services are available to get cash quickly from friends and family. Alternatively, it may be possible to access an online bank account or credit card account for self-service in the same manner. As a final resort, or in the case of a lost or stolen passport, official advice can be sought from a consulate or embassy.

Photo by Dean Ashton on Flickr.

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Legal Precautions to Consider when Traveling in the States

July 5, 2014

Traveling in America can be one of the most unforgettable experiences of your life. It’s a place with so many different options for places to visit, things to see and do, experiences to have. If you love sports, food, culture, big cities or wide expanses of natural land… you’ll find a place to explore! And [...]

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Cool Things to do in Manchester

April 2, 2014

photo credit: Smabs Sputzer Manchester is one of the hippest cities in the UK. Located up north, noted for its outgoing and friendly populace, and home to a thriving music and arts scene, it’s the city that gave us The Smiths, Oasis, The Hacienda and much, much more. If you’re looking to explore the cooler [...]

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