1# Throwback Travel- New York: Midtown (day 1)

Back when I began this blog, I had only travelled to the USA for the first time a couple months before. At the time I was still figuring out what I wanted to write about and I only really covered the food and Florida Diseny Parks on this trip. Our travel stops included New York, Washington, Boston, New Orleans and Orlando (Disney). Since then I have written extensively about my travels to Europe, Japan, Singapore and Scandinavia. So I thought it was time to revisit my travel adventure in the USA, since I am planning to go back in the next couple of years. I have found so much family across different states, so my next trip will be focused on places like Connecticut, Detriot, Colorado, LA, Miami, Ohio etc. I would also love to revisit some of the cities I have already seen and do some of the things that I have missed.

Today I will start with our first stop, New York City. This was the place I was most excited to visit and was the perfect place to celebrate my 30th. We spent 7 days in New York and out itinerary was full to the brim with tourist attractions, shopping and yummy food experiences. As I mentioned, I only wrote about the food in New York, so you can read my previous posts Eating through NYC and review of By Chef Chloe restaurant.

Midtown

Marco, Octavia, Sally and I arrived on a warm summer afternoon in August. First thing we did was check into our hotel, without our suitcases. Since we had flown from Brisbane to LA to New York, there was some mixup and didn’t receive our suitcases until the next afternoon. We looked a little dishevled but were so excited to be in the most amazing city in the world.

We stayed at the SpringHill Suites, in Midtown Manhattan, which was quite a good location. Its a short walk from Bryant Park and 34th Street shopping strip and had a great view of the Empire State building. It is also within walking distance from Time Square and Central Park. As soon as we were finished checking in we set off to explore. We made our way towards Bryant Park and found the large streets to be pretty calm. I was expecting to feel like a sardine, but it really wasn’t that crowded.

Our first stop was the beautiful Bryant Park, which was just as I imagined a green space in New York would be. It is 38,860m square space between 40th and 42nd Street in the heart of Midown. On the day of our visit the lawn was closed, but there were plenty of chairs to sit and take in the greenery against the backdrop of sparkling towers and blue sky. Bryant Park hosts lively programs through out the year, including cultural events, classes, kids programs and winter activities. There is also plenty of food kiosks and cafes here. So matter what time of year you visit, its worth making a stop at Bryant Park.

We continued through Midtown, down 41st St and 7th Avenue towards Time Square. Now we were passing through bustling streets with flashy billboards that I was expecting. Along the way we met a friendly police man on horseback, which was very exciting for the kids.

Theater District

Eating in the US was a bit of a worry to me, as I was still breastfeeding at the time. So I tried to look for as many organic, minimally processed and GMO free food options that I could find. Marco’s biggest priority was finding the best American burger he could consume. So I was able to comprismise with this great little organic burger joint, which is only a short walk from Time Square, in the Midtown Theater District. Smokey Burger Organic offers organic, natural burgers, with gluten free, vegetarian, wild game and seafood options. Besides burgers, they also offer fried sides, salads, soups, shakes, sodas, juices, and smoothies.

I ordered the Young, Wild & Free Deluxe Burger which had a ground salmon patty, mango, citrus aioli, caramelized onion, lettuce, tomato. Marco and Sally had the Smokey Burger with ground double beef patties, yellow cheddar, chipotle sauce, caramelized onions, wild mushroom, lettuce, tomato. We also had a side of Sweet Potato Fries and Onion Rings. Everything was really delicious and satifying. The perfect meal for our first night in New York.

After dinner we checked out the famous pedetarian intersection, Time Square. It was so light up with bright billboards of products, brands and broadway show, and bustling with so many tourists. We were just so overwhelmed that we nearly missed the famous Red Stairs, which sits upon the TKTS ticket booth. In the heart of Time Square there are lots of costumed characters, who offer to take photos with you for a tip. They were a bit pushing and we only got photos with them because my mother-in-law happy agreed to get photos, thinking they were free.

Time Square is pretty amazing to see as a first time visiter, but as the days went on I found it to be a tourist vortex. It was very hard to get out of when you are passing through, because it was so crowded. Its extremelly touristy, but it also has plenty of entertainment, shopping, dining options, and of course Broadway. So any first-timer or tourist need to make a stop in Time Square and see at least one show on Broadway. We saw a few shows, which I will explain further in a future post.

That bring us to the end of our first night in New York City. On day two we did the tourist buses and Finanical District, to see 9/11 Memorial.

Have you been to New York? What did you think of Midtown and Time Square?

Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Pictures

If your an animal lover and not crazy about Disney princesses you’re going to love Animal Kingdom. This park is dedicated to natural environment and animal conservation. It showcases animals from Asia, Africa, the conservation efforts by Disney and the animals of the past. It was also probably the least busiest of the parks, although the day was so hot it was easy to see everything.

My favourite entertainment was the Festival of the Lion King and Finding Nemo – The Musical. The Lion King showcased amazing African singers, beautiful costumes and high energy dance troupe. Finding Nemo was probably the best combination of puppetry and acting I have ever seen. The actors performed for both the puppet and themselves. The storyline followed the movie on point. Both were really enjoyable and I recommend the Fastpass for these shows, for better seats. The evening show, Rivers of Light was probably my least favourite of all the parks. Maybe we were just tired after 5 whole days of Disney, but I could of skip it for a nice dinner.

Our favourite attraction was definitely the Kilimanjaro Safaris. We did a couple of times, so we got to see different animals and as we were taken on different trails. It’s amazing how animals have created their own African habit by treating the land as they would back at home. The reserve that the animals live on is so extensive, so they have plenty of space between each other. I also enjoyed cooling down on the Kali River Rapids. I really didn’t enjoy Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain. It was themed really nicely but the ride itself was too rough for me. Marco and Sally really enjoyed it, but the did get a sore neck after going on it again.

I also enjoyed the walk through exhibits. I was able to do the ones in Africa and Asia. The Discovery Island exhibit was closed on the day. Another attraction I would have loved to see was DINOSAUR, but unfortunately it was also closed for refurbishment.

For lunch we dined at Yak and Yeti Restaurant. We ordered the Asian dishes, which were really fresh and delicious. For dinner, we ate at the Flame Tree Barbeque, which was not as good as I expected. I would have preferred to go to a restaurant as the counter food was not that impressive. This park probably has the most snack and drink stops, which is really handy on a hot day. I wish I would have taken more time to relax and have a mocktail.

So here is our day in Disney’s Animal Kingdom in pictures. You can click on the photos for a closer look. If you’re planning a trip to the park check out my Disney’s Animal Kingdom Guide and my Tips for Florida Disney Parks.

 

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Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Pictures

If you like live shows, old world Hollywood nostalgia and Disney franchises like Star Wars, the Muppets and Indiana Jones, this is the park for you. It is perhaps the least disneyesque park, but there are still a few live shows featuring Disney princesses. I really enjoyed it and was perhaps one of the more relaxing compared to the rushing, running and crowd sizes.

My favourite show was definitely Beauty and the Beast-Live on Stage. It had dancing, singing, a large cast and was right on point with the movie. It didn’t feel rushed or leave out any of the important moments from the film. I also loved that it was in an open-air theatre, as the other dark theatres scared my toddler. Octavia thoroughly enjoyed it and was dancing and beaming the whole time. We also really enjoyed The Great Movie Ride for the film nostalgia and the Tower of Terror. The improv of the Citizens of Hollywood was also really entertaining to watch as your walking through.

We went to two restaurants in the park, which were less competitive to book than the other parks. For lunch, we went to 50’s Prime Time Cafe. The 50’s kitsch decor, family-like atmosphere service and comfort food really make you feel at home. The food was surprisingly really great, comfort food done really well. For dinner, we went to Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano. The dark atmosphere was really nice and I had the most amazing pasta dish. For dessert, I receive a ‘spaghetti and meatball’ cupcake as a gift for my birthday, which was a really nice surprise.

The evening show was Fantasmic!, which we had previously seen in Japan at Toyko Disney Sea. It wasn’t as speculatively but it was still really enjoyable to watch as it was done at a smaller scale. Due to limited seating and timing clash, we weren’t able to go to the Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular as well which was a shame.

So here is our day in Disney’s Hollywood Studios in pictures. You can click on the photos for a closer look. If you’re planning a trip to the park check out my Disney’s Hollywood Studios Guide and my Tips for Florida Disney Parks.

 

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Epcot in Pictures

Epcot was perhaps the Disney park I was least excited about visiting, but I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. After the Magic Kingdom, Epcot comes in second as my favourite park. I love the fusion of human achievement, technology, nature and unique world cultures. The Future World beautifully demonstrated how far we have come, yet instilled an appreciation for nature, plant foods and the sea. World Showcase on the other hand, beautifully depicts a host of cultures completely true to their form. The architecture, the food and the people all come together to give you an authentic experience, that you almost forget you are in an American Disney park.

My favourite attractions in the Future World was the informative boat ride, Living the Land and the spectacular journey on the ride, Soarin’. My favourite experiences in World Showcase was the delicious meals I had in Italy and Mexico and the window shopping I did in each ‘country’. I would go back just to wander around and sample all different cuisines. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a Fastpass for Frozen Ever After and the wait was just too long to do with a toddler. We did get to meet Anna and Elsa however, which was really nice. Elsa was a bit cold but Anna was really lovely, warm and friendly.

For morning tea we bought a few Swedish sweet treats from Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe. We tried the Lefse (Potato Flatbread rolled with a Sweet Cinnamon Butter) and Sweet Pretzel with Almonds. They were nice, but if I had more time I would have journeyed all the way to France for some pastries. Unfortunately, I had limited time to run there and back since we spent the morning in Future World.

For lunch, we went to Via Napoli. The food was so delicious and authentic. We just ordered a few simple dishes but they were executed perfectly. Later we had dinner in Mexico at La Hacienda de San Angel. Again the food was amazing and perfectly authentic. Both of these restaurants were highly recommended and I’m so happy we got to try them, rather than having counter food.

So here is our day in Epcot in pictures. You can click on the photos for a closer look. If you’re planning a trip to the park check out my Epcot Guide and my Tips for Florida Disney Parks.

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Magic Kingdom in Pictures

The Magic Kingdom was my favourite of all the Disney parks in Florida. It was really a dream come true. It pays homage to all the classic Disney characters and films, including my favourite 2D Disney princesses. There was just so much to see and do that we had to do it in two days.

My favourite rides were Splash Mountain and Seven Dwarves Mine Train, which were most difficult to get Fastpasses for. I also really enjoyed Enchanted Tales with Belle and having breakfast at Be Our Guest Restaurant. The 5 year old girl in me really felt like I was in her world. Octavia’s favourite ride was definitely riding the horses on Prince Charming’s Regal Carousel. She did enjoy sitting on our lap on most other rides. We got to go on most rides at least twice, which is a feat considering we had a toddler.

Our best meals was at Liberty Tree Tavern.  My Pilgrims’ Feast tasted exactly like I imaged a true American thanksgiving meal would taste like. The Ooey Gooey Toffee Cake was also pretty great. The other restaurants we were choose weren’t bad, but not as memorable. We weren’t able to get better booking since we only had two weeks from purchasing the tickets. Next time we would definitely stay at Disney hotel to take advantage of early restaurant booking and Fastpasses.

So here is two day at the Magic Kingdom in pictures. You can click on the photos for a closer look. If you’re planning a trip to the park check out my Magic Kingdom Guide and my Tips for Florida Disney Parks.

 

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Eating through New Orleans

New Orleans is famous for many things and the food is definitely one of them. The New Orleans cuisine is largely influenced by Creole cuisine, Cajun cuisine, and soul food. There are so many famous New Orleans dishes that I wanted to try. Some of these include Crawfish Étouffée, Gumbo, Jambalaya, Oysters Rockefeller, Po’ boy, Red beans and rice and Shrimp Creole. So many dishes and only a couple of days to try what I could. Health and good food choice went out the window completely in New Orleans. I didn’t find anything organic, vegan, local or sustainable in this city. I’m sure it was out there, but I was more focused on finding the restaurants with the best examples of New Orleans cuisine. With a bit more time I probably would have liked to sample the best of both worlds. Well, I think I would have too because this food is so heavy and hearty but not something I could eat every day. 

What’s your favourite New Orleans classic?

Drago’s Seafood Restaurant

When we arrived our Uber driver recommended the best places he loves to eat New Orleans cuisine. He recommended Drago’s Seafood Restaurant and Mothers Restaurant (below). So our first stop was Dragos. The location we visited was situated in the Hilton Hotel. The menu is so extensive. They specialize in seafood, so they everything you could want to try in New Orleans.We loved it so much we went back again.

My favourite dish was the Charbroiled Oysters. I’d never had oysters prepared this way and the others were oyster virgins. We are all converts now. They are so delicious and the buttery sauce was so amazing and you just want to dip every last morsel of bread into it. The Po’boy was huge. I’d never had catfish and it was nice, as were the lobster lollipops. On my second visit tried Mama Ruth’s Seafood Gumbo was really good despite the appearance. You expect for it to taste really like seafood but it was very smokey and rich. The brownie was not mine and I just cringe at the sight of the mountain of whipped cream. Marco said it was good though.

dsc06459Lobster Lollipops

dsc06460Charbroiled Oysters

dsc06465Catfish Poboy

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dsc06716Mama Ruth’s Seafood Gumbo

dsc06715Crabmeat Salad

dsc06717Hot Brownie à la Mode

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Eating from Boston to Cambridge

If you’re a foodie, Boston is definitely a place you want to visit. They are known for their fresh seafood, New England classics and Bostonian dishes, such as Clam Chowder, Scrod, Raw Oysters, Baked Beans, Cannoli and Boston Cream Pie. If your health conscious, vegan or vegetarian there are also plenty of cafes and restaurants that are focused on organic, local and sustainable food.

We only had a couple of days to see Boston and the Harvard, Cambridge, so we tried as much local cuisine as we could. It was really nice to try some of Bostons finest foods, by cooks and chefs that make everything traditionally and in-house with New England ingredients. There was so much we didn’t get to try, so I would definitely go back to eat everything thing else I missed.

Have you been to Boston and Cambridge? What were your favourite foods?

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Eating through NYC

When I was planning my trip to New York City I was a bit nervous what exactly I was going to eat over there. I try to stick to a lifestyle diet of mostly vegetarian, unprocessed, organic and chemical free food.  I also had my toddler with me, who is preferring more and more to only eat the same food as me, rather than her organic baby food. Friends had told me how it’s nearly impossible to find healthy unprocessed food in America, particularly New York. However, once I did a bit of research I found there were so many of delicious options available that were healthy and less processed. There some more indulgent options that are made by artisans from scratch.  New York is Foodie Mecca! Here are some of the most delicious meals I had while eating through New York City.

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By Chef Chloe

By Chef Chloe.jpgLast year for my 30th birthday present I went on a trip America! I have always dreamed of going to New York and it really was as amazing as I thought. We spent a week there, sight seeing, eating and walking, so much walking. One of the places at the top of my list was to visit Chloe Coscarelli’s restaurant By Chloe. I have been a fan of hers for a long time and own all three of her books that I cook from regularly.

Chloe Coscarelli first shot to fame when she won a culinary competition with her vegan cupcake on the Food Network’s reality series Cupcake Wars, back in 2010. Since then she has published three vegan cookbooks: Chloe’s Kitchen (2012); Chloe’s Vegan Desserts(2013) & Chloe’s Vegan Italian Kitchen (2014). In 2015 she opened her first restaurant, by CHLOE, in New York City. She currently has three locations in New York, one in Los Angeles and is set to roll out more locations in New York and Boston.

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I can’t remember exactly how I came across her first book, but I fell in love with the easy to prepare delicious plant-based recipes. Not long after I purchased her dessert book, which I regularly use when entertaining friends. It was a dream come true when she brought out her vegan Italian cookbook. Coming from an Italian background myself I really loved the veganised versions of classic Italian dishes as well as some more inventive recipes using Italian ingredients.

While in New York we visited By Chloe in the West Village on Bleeker Street. This street has so many amazing restaurants, but one of the busiest by far was By Chloe. We arrived for a late afternoon lunch and there was a line to the door. This line didn’t get shorter the entire duration of our visit. We were lucky enough to grab a table in the limited dining room and enjoy the hustle and bustle of this busy little restaurant. The menu includes a range of burgers, salads, pasta, fries, juices, ice creams, and desserts.

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We ordered the Classic and Guac Burger, Sweet potato fries and the Kale Caesar Salad. They were all really delicious. The Guac was a little better than the Classic, as I think it was put together in a rush. However, with the addition of the free dipping sauces (yes free!) it was saved. I think incredibly delicious dipping sauces were Chipotle Mayo and Beetroot Ketchup. The salad again was perfection. It had smoky shiitake mushrooms, crunchy croutons, a well-balanced dressing and ‘parmesan’ crumbs.

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After that, we went back for desserts. There was a big selection, I wish I could have tried one of each. We got the Chocolate Chip Cookie, Raspberry Cupcake, Cloiser Chloe Cupcake and Kale Cookies & Cream Ice cream. They all tasted as good as they looked. The ice cream was also a nice surprise. I didn’t know what to expect but it didn’t really taste like kale.

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If you get the chance I really recommend you stop in at By Chloe. Like my partner, if you not vegan I still think you will enjoy it. If you are vegan, vegetarian or a health conscious eater you will definitely really love the abundance to healthy delicious food. By Chloe is not only 100% vegan but it is also 100% GMO free and uses organic, seasonal, and locally sourced ingredients.