Top 10 Vegan & Vegetarian restaurants in New York City you cannot miss!

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Ditch the pizza and barbecue in New York City, for you are about to ride the latest foodie spaceship in town. New York is now leading the path for the most innovative, creative and sumptuous Vegetarian and Vegan hotspots and here’s a sneak peek:

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Hangawi: You will be transported from the streets of Chinatown to a Korean shrine. Its low seating, dim-lighting and peaceful ambience is sure to capture your senses. You cannot walk away without indulging in their rice stone bowls whether you pick the tofu, avocado or kimchi.

Website: http://www.hangawirestaurant.com/

Vatan: A popular Gujarati thali restaurant, Vatan, offers an array of options for one’s dietary needs like Gluten free, Vegan, Nut free and other fixed menus. So, if you are craving some spicy Indian food beyond Chicken Tikka and Katti Rolls, pay them a visit. They are only open for dinner.

Website: http://www.vatanny.com/

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Red Bamboo: Whether you’re an ex-meat eater or a curious vegetarian, Red Bamboo is popular for its mock meat. Try their soy chicken dishes and BBQ wings for some finger licking goodness. A little secret: They deliver across different boroughs in New York.

Website: https://www.redbamboo-nyc.com/

ABCV: At ABC’s vegetarian offshoot, you will be going home with a pocketful of Instagram content of their flawless restaurant, presentation, and food. The Dosa on the menu is their secret weapon! Reservations made in advance are highly recommended.

Website: http://www.abchome.com/dine/abcv/

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Le Botaniste: For a homely lunch or dining spot, Le Botaniste is a pleaser. This vegan place serves gluten-free organic food and has a natural wine bar. They serve an array of fresh salads and DIY bowls that will leave you feeling super healthy. Some of their highlights are Young Coconut Ceviche, Red Beet Caviar, and Tibetan Mama Rice Bowls. Don’t forget to thank us as you walk out the door.

Website: http://www.lebotaniste.us/

Candle 79: Candle 79 is your next vegan date. This high-end restaurant with its romantic setting and eclectic dishes is sure to leave an impression. The Breadcrumb-Crusted Cauliflower and Ginger-BBQ Seitan Skewers are a good indulgence.

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Beyond Sushi: Sushi and vegetarian are not often part of the same sentence, except that’s not true at Beyond Sushi. This chain of restaurants across New York serves Sushi with the most delicious vegetables combinations including Pickle Me, Spicy Mang and Mighty Mushroom.

Website: http://beyondsushinyc.com/

Blossom: A vegan chain of restaurants popular for infusing the classic with modern, Blossom is known for its cooking techniques. The star of the show is Pistachio & Pepper-Dusted Tofu, Tuscan Kale Salad, and Southern Seitan. Treat yourself with Chocolate Ganache for a happy ending!

Website: http://www.blossomnyc.com/

 (Press images have been used in this article)

 

 

 

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#ILoveNY: Croton-on-Hudson

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I’m back at exploring the Hudson Valley! Fall is my favorite time of the year to explore this gorgeous valley along the Hudson river.  The colors are just beginning to come through, and the entire landscape looks like a carefully curated selection of vibrant hues. Greens, yellows, reds, orange and sometimes, even violet.

Croton-on-Hudson is a mere hour’s drive away from New York City, and surrounding areas. It’s an easy distance for a quick weekend trip.

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The park has a dam that can be accessed via a short trek through the nearby forest (which we didn’t do, because we were too busy eating), but definitely recommend. A friend visited the spot a week after I did and also did the trek, which she said was light and enjoyable. As usual, it has a large park surrounding it, and we played a good game of frisbee in the soft sun (a sneaky way to get our workout in for the day!).

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Made my camera do this trick where it captures a selected color in an otherwise BnW photo

 

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We used our friend’s Instax to get this adorable photo!

On our way back, we decided to just drive around the area for a bit and once again NY didn’t disappoint us 🙂 

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Sunset

 

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Vibrant hues of Fall

 

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That’s the moon!

 

Be sure to check out Croton-on-Hudson and the nearby area if you’re looking for a quick trip on the weekend. I will be back with another park in my next blog post. Hope you enjoy this Fall Edition!

Miami, South Beach Scenes

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If you want to party right, hit up the swanky shores of South Beach, Miami. This party town is dead in the AM but by late night, it is teeming with party goers on Collins Ave. And then you realize that of course, no one wakes up until 12 PM the next day.

Our first spot was a little Cuban restaurant Moreno’s Cuba. The colorful decor and kitschy vibe of the place caught my instant attention! We had a great conversation with the bartender, who shed some light on the sentiments of Cuban people towards his country, and also shared his recipe for a wonderful cocktail we had there!

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The entrance to Moreno’s Cuba
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Vintage decor
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I need those chairs!

I’m in the process of home decor and this place had so much inspiration all around. Don’t be scared to experiment with bright colors and different textures. It can be tricky, but you can make them work 🙂 

Coming back, Collins Avenue is pretty much the main street that has everything. They have a free shuttle bus that runs up and down the length of Miami beach, which is pretty frequent and super convenient. Of course, you have your Uber and Lyft as usual.

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Free Miami Beach shuttle

There are plenty of hotel options too. There’s no dearth of places to stay. There are regular chain hotels as well as boutique hotels. Whatever you chose, be sure to book in advance as the prices can get really high the closer you get to your visit date.

I also hit up a museum on South beach! I love visiting museums wherever I go, just so i can learn about the history of the surrounding area. The one I originally wanted to visit, The Bass, was closed because it was Labor Day, but I did end up going to The Wolfsonian-Florida International University. It was more of a historical artifacts from around the world type museum.

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Me being artsy in a party town. My husband hated me for this 😛

Later that evening, we checked out the famed shores of Miami Beach and swam in the warm waters of Florida. It was a welcome respite from the constant cold waters of the Jersey Shore, which makes me think twice before visiting it.

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They have a best Lifeguard stands. So colorful!
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Posing with another one.

Finally, at 10 PM, we went out to hit a bunch of nightclubs around town. They each have something unique to offer, which is amazing, but paying up the entrance for each can quickly add up and before you know it, you need to visit the ATM. So I would suggest, just carry a substantial amount of cash.

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Just soaking in these bright lights and chill vibes

Couple of places we went to were in Miami Downtown, but unless you want an absolutely extraordinary experience, the Miami Beach area is good enough.

There is one place that deserves special mention, which is Nikki Beach Miami, a super swanky beach lounge / night club. I will say I am an extremely beach biased person, and even food served on a beach tastes better to me, so a beach nightclub had to hit the spot. But check out these pictures, and tell me you don’t want to be there!

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This place has its own inner dining area too, as well as free access to Pearl Lounge above it, if you just show them the receipt from order at the Nikki Beach lounge. There’s no end to partying in Miami!

On the final morning, we went to the beach again and had ourselves squeeze in the last bits of our vacation, walked around the Miami Art Deco district and I even bought a gorgeous vintage poster, which now adorns of one our bare walls. 

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Leaving you with some sunny pictures of palm trees and clear skies..Do leave a comment if this post inspires your visit to Miami. Ciao!

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The perfect boutique hotel across US and Europe for the solo traveler

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After a 20+ hour flight, there is nothing more inviting in a hotel than a 5 minute check-in process, a cozy bar and an ultra-comfortable mattress: and this is just the start! My experience with CitizenM (Times Square) started in the summer of 2014, my first solo travel experience internationally to New York.

You are greeted by a generous dose of quirk, popping colors and curiosity as you face the huge wall shelves at CitizenM coupled with an open space of comfortable couches, and community tables.

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This hotel is a technology enabled, self-service hotel with most of it automated starting from the elevator that leads up to your room. Don’t fail to notice the ‘Rooftop Bar’ sign that is exclusively for CitizenM travelers. Needless to say, as a solo traveler it was a great space to meet people and spend time with the chatty bartenders who are almost trained on over-the-counter conversations!

Given this background, here’s the anti-climax: I had only heard about the infamous real estate and box sized apartments in New York but my first encounter was still a jolt. The room was the tiniest size ever with the most efficient and compact design imaginable. As I settled in, there was an iPad propped at the bedside that controlled 90% of the things within that small space – starting from the blinds, to the lights (which by the way had mood lighting like party, office, ambient etc.).

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Some other perks that sets CitizenM apart is their Wi-Fi inclusion in the room rates, skype calling rates, including international, from their room phone and the option to upgrade to a breakfast plan with a lower cost. If staying for a few nights these can be a real cost-saver compared to other NY hotels in the area.

Fast forward to 2018, and I stayed in CitizenM’s Schipol Airport Hotel in Amsterdam, my fourth time staying with this hotel chain. Although a short stay, it brought back all the reasons that makes it so unique including the fresh smelling coffee at breakfast!  

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CitizenM currently has 8 locations across US and Europe and are extending their chain to Asia as well. As a boutique hotel, their prices are similar to other hotels within the area of operation. Their Times Square location averages at approximately 200 USD a night, and the Schipol Airport averages at 120 euros a night.

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This hotel is for those: who seek adventure, want quirk & cool over lavish & grandeur, and don’t crave unlimited options.

This hotel is not for those: seeking a budget stay option, traveling in large groups and prefer 24-hour concierge services.

What could be better: Their 24 -hour cafeteria hardly had any vegetarian options, as I don’t eat egg. So stock up if you have a similar dietary preference.

Additional Tip: Sign up on their website as a CitizenM member to get a discount on the room rate.

(Note: All the pictures in this article are from the Schipol Airport Hotel property)

#IloveNY: Lake George + Niagara Falls

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This week in weekend getaways was, what started out to be a quick road trip to Lake George, but ending up in Niagara Falls.

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The weather was fantastic and we wanted to rent a boat for the lake. But before that, we took a walk around the charming town of Lake George, and took in the beautiful sights.

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The gorgeous, sunlit docks and the view of the rolling hills were calling out to us! We rented a 5-seater and took her out for a spin on the calm lake…

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…and bathed in the beautiful scenery surrounding us on all sides. This was the first time I’ve driven anything in the US, I don’t drive a car yet. So as long as your means of travel is water, I can be your Uber.

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Once back on dry land, we decided we wanted to go further. And on the spur, decided to visit Niagara Falls! Maid of the Mist, here we come!

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Maid of the Mist, is a boat ride to the Horseshoe falls section of the Niagara Falls, which is home to one the wildest waters in the world. The boat, narrowly avoids the alleged whirlpool each time, that’s in that section of the water, due to the massive volume of water flowing in. Thrilling!

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We also went up the stairs on the side for some up-close action and sick views.

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And finally, we were blessed with this stunning capture, which in my head, was mission accomplished!

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Comment below if you’re inspired to visit, or have visited these places! Cheers!

10 offbeat things to do as a tourist in New York City

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Speakeasy-Hopping: For those unfamiliar, Speakeasy bars sprouted during the Prohibition-Era in America when small establishments existed off the grid in the most surprising places aka behind football stadiums or at the end of a bookcase and many other quirky places. Based on the same concept, one can find Speakeasies across the city where you pass through a coffee shop, or have to seek a code or password at the entrance, or in the alleyway of an electronic shop that lead you into a world of cocktails and alcohol. The cocktails in speakeasies are particularly interesting and if you like experimenting try asking for the bartender’s choice! Some of the popular bars are Apotheke, Dear Irving and Bathtub Gin (where you see me sitting in a bathtub in the above picture!) 

Museums beyond MOMA: New York has a lot of museums beyond MOMA and American Museum of Natural History. You will find museums focusing on different ethnicities including Rubin Museum of Art, Chinese, Jewish Museum. If this is not your calling, some of the following will spark some interest like Museum of Sex, Museum of Ice cream, Noguchi, Guggenheim, New York Transit, and Museum of Moving pictures.

Explore Brooklyn: Brooklyn bridge is a gateway into Brooklyn’s art, architecture and landscape. Apart from the hipster neighborhood, Williamsburg, there are other areas like Gowanus, Dumbo, Brooklyn Heights, Crown Heights that have the most fun bars, cafes, and restaurants to explore. Brooklyn is also popular for their flea markets, farmer’s markets, and local brews. Some of my favorites spots include Verazzona Bridge in Bay Ridge, Prospect Park (the Central Park of Brooklyn), Brooklyn Academy of Music for performances and movies, Barbes for local music, Threes Brewing for brewed beer, Buttermilk Channel for brunch, and most importantly pizzas in Dumbo.

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Drink and do-what-you-want: New Yorkers can not only drink day and night but they can be geniuses at multitasking with a drink in hand. Whether it is drinking beer with yoga, paint night with drinks, watching The Drunk Shakespeare, or having a 7-course meal accompanied by wine in each course, the options are unlimited. Just think of something you like and google the activity with drinks, you will find an answer to your next-in-line hobby.

Immersive theatre: This is one of the coolest things I witnessed while staying in New York. There are two shows, Sleep No More and Then She Fell which are incredibly unique in their theatrical style. These two elaborate productions offer immersive story-telling where the audience and actors are interacting across different levels and different rooms in a building, and the story telling is unique to each participant as they witness different scenes of the story almost like scattered puzzle pieces that start forming an image as you bring them together. As a participant there is no way of telling which scene you will end up in, and sometimes you are even exchanging places as the actor.    

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Pick your own berry: Apple, Berry, and Pumpkin picking are a total rage if you are here at the right time. Each season has a different offering and one can gather a group of friends to indulge in a half day trip to the farm where you gather your own apple for example and have the farm produce delicious meals, desserts, and syrups from the juicy produce. Think apple pie, apple cider, fruit salads (need I say more!).

Thrift stores: Look past Loft, H&M, Banana Republic and Gap in New York as the city is filled with thrift and second-hand stores selling clothes, furniture, household goods that is a treasure hunt. Don’t dismiss them before you explore a couple of stores and I promise you will end up with empty pockets. Neighborhoods like Chelsea and Soho among others have a great run of thrift stores where you will end up with some of the most stylish, vintage collection to your home and wardrobe.

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Vegetarian/Vegan restaurants: New York can be a meat eater’s paradise but there is absolutely no reason for Vegetarians and Vegans to be disappointed. The city has amazing restaurants like Beyond Sushi, abcV, Le Botaniste that are so creative with vegetables that it can almost convince people to convert. Non-Vegetarians, beware!

Street/Public Art: New York is a walking city; if one hasn’t spent atleast 50% of their trip walking the streets of New York, then there hasn’t been enough justice done to the city. New York walls are filled with interesting, eye-catching street art and graffiti and the streets are filled with looming public art and sculptures. The colors, shapes, images, perspectives are definitely worthy of one’s attention. One cannot miss graffiti walking Dumbo and Williamsburg in Brooklyn, while downtown Manhattan is filled with public art. Even beyond, every part of the city has its own identity and art to speak for itself.

Head to other boroughs/islands: You can easily spend a day or two walking in other boroughs and islands like Queens, Bronx, Staten and Roosevelt Island. These offer such a different perspective of New York, far from the maddening crowd of Manhattan. For example, Queens is popular for its diversity and has some of the best Indian and Asian food in NY, while Roosevelt Island is a quick ferry ride that transports you to an island filled with greenery, stunning views of the Hudson, and some instagram-worthy pictures.

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There is probably no other city in the world that is so vastly diverse, culturally rich and has everything to offer to everyone. So don’t forget to put on a curious look and a exploratory hat for the city doesn’t get tired of fascinating you.

Spring of 2018 in New York!

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What the first official day of Spring 2018 looked like.

I can’t say I was utterly disappointed at this sight. It was really funny though that the great nor’easter snowstorm of 2018 decided to coincide with the first day of spring.  We quickly hopped into the car the next morning to catch the fresh snow and get some pictures for this season. We drove up to Palisades, a gorgeous strip of land along the Hudson river, with panoramic views of the river and amazing landscape, just an hour’s drive from the New York City metro area. It’s a treat for the sore eyes any time of the year. 

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Me faking calm

The snow was untouched and fresh as we had expected. I couldn’t stop myself from literally walking, kicking, shoveling, picking all over the place. There was an irresistible urge to disturb ALL of the untouched snow! I would’ve been there for hours, had I not been reminded that I had to go to work.

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Eye candy

 

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The bench looks so comfortable!

 

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More eye candy

There was also a charming little cottage-turned-cafe that elevated the already serene vibe of this place. 

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I had the yogurt chocolate brownie and some coffee, which was perfect for a day like this. There were sandwiches available too. You can easily spend the entire day there, soaking in the views when you get tired of work.

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Snowstorms can be disastrous, but what they leave in their wake is divine. Perfect example of how sometime terrible can give rise to a thing of beauty. Next time it snows hard, don’t forget to catch some fresh snow the next day! You won’t be disappointed.

 

Moving to New York? Here’s a dainty guide-post!

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As I begin my countdown in NYC, I can visualize my first day moving here and how overwhelming it felt taking in all the novelty around. There were many things to learn and unlearn, discoveries to be made and myths to be broken as I started my journey as a New Yorker. So this post is dedicated to the brave souls who are soon moving or have recently moved to NYC to help you transition and provide some tips/hacks to make life easier during this move:

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House-Hunting: House-Hunting is a universal pain and expensive cities add an extra layer of torture. It’s important to know what your priorities are: price, distance, amenities, or even proximity to your friends. My priorities were the first three and sunlight, and contrary to your impression I am really not high maintenance!

Wondering how to decide your budget?  The average rule of thumb is you don’t want to spend more than 40% of your income after taxes in rent. I know some of you are falling off your chair right now but NYC is infamous for having some of the highest rents in the world! Housing prices vary a lot in different boroughs so don’t be afraid to venture into Brooklyn or Queens or even New Jersey if you want better prices or bigger spaces.

For those who have their heart set in Manhattan here are some additional tips: Try to avoid apartments that are completely carpeted as bed bugs make a friendly appearance and beware of apartments above restaurants as they can attract some pretty mean rats. 

Banking: Bank of America is the only bank that will let you open an account without your Social Security Number. In my experience they have also been great with fraud detection, presence across New York, and accessible customer care. Their app has simple analytics to categorize your spending which is extremely valuable for someone as lazy as me. As a heads-up, given that you may not have credit history in US and your bank does not have your spending pattern, the first couple of months can be frustrating given that banks may constantly put your account on hold as you spend high dollar amounts. I bore the brunt of it as I went shopping for my first winters!

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Subway: You can love them, you can hate them but you can’t ignore them. Subways are the lifeline of the city just like Mumbai’s local trains. An unlimited monthly or weekly pass gives you access to unlimited subway rides and local bus rides and if you plan to be a voracious explorer in NY this will be your best investment each month. As someone new the subways are not very intuitive so I highly encourage you to have someone local explain to you how the basics work. Also Google maps and NYC Subway are two apps you MUST have on your phone. 

With the boring stuff out of the way let’s move on to the fun part:

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Seasons: Coming from Bangalore in India, I was not used to seasonal expectations! Everything here is about seasons – fashion, travel, food, and even beer are all season specific. Be ready to see New Yorkers go crazy over pumpkin spice lattes during fall, floral clothes during spring and peanut butter all year round. And also when you tell them you’re not into that kind of stuff you will see crazy eyes 😀 Oh! And did I forget to mention that you need to check the weather app every single day before you head out – New York has some pretty crazy, erratic weather that is unpredictable and it is as important to be updated with the weather as it is with current affairs in this city.

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Boroughs: As a tourist or outsider we equate Manhattan to New York City but as a New Yorker you will realize that the four other boroughs in NYC have a lot to offer as well. Each borough has its own uniqueness in terms of parks, museums, housing, geography and most importantly food! For example: Brooklyn is known for its pizza while Jackson Heights in Queens is popular for Asian food. So as you hang out with “the city people”, spend an equal amount of time exploring beyond!

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Explore: Apply for a free NYCID as it gives you one year of discounts and free memberships to museums, parks, movie tickets and even gyms across the city. This is an amazing resource for someone new who is interested in making the most of their time here. Be open to new experiences aka Broadway shows, ballet, opera, music concerts because this is where the world’s best artists come together. Some of the popular ones I have seen are Aladdin (Broadway), Nutcracker (ballet) and a Coldplay concert and all of them are recommended.

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Beers and Margaritas: Draft beers are abundant in the US and small hole in the wall bars procure beer from different breweries. So while you are here stop drinking the bottled Coronas, and Guinness and head straight to the freshly brewed IPA’s and Stouts. In the last one year my love for margaritas has increased manifold as well with the different flavors, fruits and herbs that are mashed into the concoction. Hic!

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Travel within NY State: There are a plethora of travel options around New York and traveling varies with season. You will see locals flock to Upstate New York during fall and winter including Connecticut, Vermont, Poconos, Lake George. During summer, explore some hiking trails around Hudson River, and add some New Jersey beaches to your list. Some other popular day trips include Storm King for outdoor sculptures and Roosevelt Island for a change in scenery. 

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Experiences within NYC: One of the most fun things about NYC is its diversity. Whatever your religion or race or gender, they are celebrated here. So make some diverse friends and exchange money on Chinese New Year, find baby Jesus in the King Cake and drink Tequila on Cinco De Mayo! For my Indian friends missing home attend the annual Holi Party and show off some of your Bollywood moves. Summers are a rage in the city – it’s filled with free concerts, outdoor movies and music concerts and picnics in the park. Spring brings with it the Cherry Blossom and the Orchid festival in Brooklyn Botanic and New York Botanic Garden respectively.

There is so much to do for everyone that New Yorkers are constantly dealing with a syndrome called FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out. It’s real! So get your spirits high and enjoy for you are about to experience this roller-coaster ride that spells t-h-r-i-l-l from start to finish.

Being Artsy at MOMA, New York

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Art is such a subjective thing. When one person finds brilliance is certain nuances, another absolutely refuses to see the skill. For instance, look at this painting (or dripping, should I say). I can pretty much say I have seen paint dripping like these on the floor, from a messy paint job, and did not of course, think of it as art. But someone did. And they converted the whole simplistic manner of paint drippings into highly subjective art.

This is how big this painting truly is:

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The color schemes on this painting are muted, but there were others by the same artist, where he used brighter colors to drip. Personally, I love seeing simple approaches create end results of complex nature. MoMA, or the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, will satisfy your inner artist, while leaving you gasping for more, at the same time.

Some of the art pieces that I really wanted to just pick off the wall and take them home with me:

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Some portions almost look 3-Dimensional
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Love the texture on this one!
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“highly abstract planar compositions were colourful and rich in contrasts” from Wiki

 

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The one and only, Starry Night.

 

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Beautiful in color and patterns!

 

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The number really intrigued me.

 

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I see a man, calmly fighting his way through a raging storm. What do you see?

 

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Soldiers in a bamboo jungle. Anything else?

 

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Robot knights!

 

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Amazing display of perspective

 

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Can’t decide what this is about, yet found it captivating.

 

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A looming tower?
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Does this painting look happy or sad to you?

 

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I had seen an animated version of this painting. Had no idea it was a painting!

 

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Monet and his flora ❤

 

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And finally, Dali. Master of surrealism.

Do visit MoMA even if you’re not an art appreciator. I guarantee you’ll find something that will make you have a conversation about it.

Weekend Getaway to Ithaca’s State Park

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This post is going to be real short (you’re welcome) and pictures, hazy. I was mostly in or under water in this trip. Jumping into a waterfall has long been numero uno on my checklist. What can I say, I like simple things. If you’re a New York metro area – dweller, you don’t need to spend a bomb and fly into some exotic location to find a jump-able waterfall. In under a 5-hour drive, you’ll be checking off an item on your checklist, or better, adding one and immediately checking it off.

Welcome to Robert H. Treman State Park, Enfield Falls Road, Ithaca.

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Couple of things to note:

  1. The water is going to be cold, even if it’s summer. Like 60F. I hesitated for one second. But once you’re in, your body will adjust in like 5 minutes.
  2. One of the most important things in my waterbody exploring toolkit is water shoes (Water Shoes) .When I see a beach or a lake or any waterfall, I cannot resist taking a dip, except I hate to think what I would be stepping on. With these babies, I can explore the depths (or shallows) with no fear! I don’t have to worry about what I would be stepping on.  Get these, and get wading!
  3. Another important tool is the plastic, water-tight cellphone cover. How else did you think I got these pictures! They’re pretty awesome, they seal well, and you can carry your cellphone with you in the water to get some nice shots. Now you can’t really do underwater photography with it – it works well to protect the phone from random splashes. You would have to leave it out if you plan to take a dive or swim a lot. Don’t say I didn’t warn ya! (Water-tight cellphone case)
  4. And finally, the most important tool – knowing how to SWIM. The water was pretty deep and there was a sign there as well that said that jumpers must know swimming (kinda obvious). If  you don’t know swimming, you’re missing out on 70% of our planet.
  5. Finally, I would like to add – get your explorer mode on! With all these tools in your arsenal, you can explore the beauty of aquatic life and the thrill above it!

Will you give it a shot ?

Get caught up:
Trekking the Mawphlang Forest in India

Note: All the links are just examples of stuff I own, not the actual stuff.