A Budget Tour of New York June 23 2013

Visiting any major city can be expensive but it can be done on a budget if you are in the know.  Unless you've suddenly hit jackpot on the lottery and cost isn't going to be an issue, you will want to keep the cost of your visit to as little as possible without missing out on the sight seeing and shopping.  And if you're on a budget and let's face it, most of us are on a budget of some sort, here's a list of some of things I did in New York that doesn't have to cost the earth.

Manhattan Skyline

This one of the most famous skylines in the world.  Sitting on the mouth of the Hudson River, Manhattan, is one of the smallest boroughs of the State of New York but yet one of the densely populated.  You can get a really good view of the tall buildings the reside along the East River leading up to the Brooklyn Bridge.  From Brooklyn Bridge Park you can see the Brooklyn Bridge, Manhattan Bridge and the famous Manhattan skyline that you see in so many films, photos and postcards.


The Statue of Liberty

The Statue of Liberty was a gift from the people of France to the people of the United States in 1886.  If you are not particularly interested in going up The Statue of Liberty and you don't want to pay the earth on a boat trip around the Hudson Bay, you can still get a good view of the lady herself on the Staten Island Ferry which leaves from Whitehall and Water Street...  And it's free!  The boat ride is run by New York  City to transport locals between Staten Island and Manhattan but many tourists also get on the boat just to see the wonderful New York skyline.  The boat ride is about 25 minutes each way and as soon as you get off Staten Island, you quickly embark to another boat going back to Manhattan by walking off the boat you just arrived on and hopping on the one leaving for Manhattan.  You have to be quick though or you may miss the boat and you'll have a long wait for another!  But you can get some fantastic photos of not just of the Statue of Liberty but of the New York skyline as well.


Home to NBC since 1933, you are better off going up The Rockerfeller Center than going up the Empire State Building.  Although the Empire State is the taller of the two, it also the better looking of the two in architecture.  To see a panoramic view of New York from the top of the Empire State Building, you view the scenery through mesh wire whereas from the Rockerfeller Centre, you view the city through glass and you can poke your hands through the gaps between the panes so you don't have to take a photo through the glass and you get to see the magnificent Empire State in all it's glory.  Also, you can't see Central Park from the Empire State Building but you can see how big Central Park really is from the Rockerfeller Center.  And if you look hard enough, you can see the apartment block where John Lennon lived and was sadly assassinated outside but if you go up at night, you won't be able to see Central Park as it is not lit up at night.  Opening hours are 8am-12am with the last lift going up at 11pm.  It's not cheap though, $27 for adults but well worth the visit.  We stayed up there for about an hour and half just taking in the views, sitting and chatting.


Bryant Park, Midtown Manhattan

A wonderful scenic park situated behind the New York Public Library between 40th and 42nd Streets which in surrounded by trees and skyscrapers.  It is only small in comparison to Central Park but in the Summer, you can sit at tables or just lie on the grass and have a picnic and people watch.  There are even ping pong tables shaded by the trees if you fancied a game.  In the Winter this park turns into an ice skating rink.  There are cafes in the park but there are a few places around that you can grab a sandwich from if you prefer.  If you're like me and a bit of a chatterbox, the local New Yorkers seem friendly to strike up a conversation with and they'll happily sit and chat for ages if you let them!


Along the way to the flea market in Lafayette Avenue, we stopped off for a bite to eat at this truly scrumptious eatery.  It was only by coincidence that we stumbled across it but seeing that it was popular with a lot of people, we thought we would give it a try.  It was particularly hot this day and the restaurant had opened up its glassed front for diners to sit in comfort and diners alike sat inside and out with fans blowing inside.  We didn't have to wait long for a table and were seated inside.  A glass of chilled water was poured for us (pretty much all restaurants in the US automatically do this and it is free) with the "Best Hot Dogs in Brooklyn", a Joint Dog with either pulled pork, beef or chicken as a topping and a large cup of creamy coleslaw (the Americans know how to make good coleslaw!), it all came to $8!  So if you are looking for somewhere cheap and yummy to eat, be it a Hot Dog, Spare Ribs (which are massive!), fries, salad, fish, chicken, beef or pork this is the place.


Brooklyn Flea Market, Lafayette Avenue, Brooklyn NY

From vintage baseball gloves to vintage clothing, furniture from the 50s and 60s to old vinyl, the Brooklyn Flea Market offers an eclectic choice of stalls.  Set in the grounds of a High School and between Clermont and Vanderbilt Avenues, I found a lot of things here rather expensive (really no different to a vintage fair in the UK) but if you look hard enough, there are things you can pick up rather cheaply, it all depends on what you want and are willing to pay!  And don't be shy to do a bit of haggling!


The best homemade burgers I've tasted in a long time, the Piper's Kilt is a small bar/restaurant that is reasonably priced.  In actual fact, the Piper's Kilt reminded me of how a bar would have been in the 1970s with its old fashioned tills they still use and with "Love Like Oxygen" by Sweet blaring out the speakers.  Prices for a burger vary between $7.95-$12.95 depending on what toppings you have, Blue Cheese, Canadian Bacon with Cheese or just tomato.  Water  is served if you want to keep the price down because drinks can bring your bill right up but a soft drink is around $1.75.  Remember to give a 20% tip on top of your bill as this is expected in all bars and restuarants in the US.  I would recommend you make a table reservation before you go as it gets quite packed or you may have a bit of a wait until you are seated.

Guggenheim Museum, 5th Avenue, Manhattan NY10128

A contemporary and modern Art Museum with various exhibitions to see.  General admission is $12 but I'm not entirely sure if this was because part of the museum was closed off when I went for a pending exhibition because I thought entry was $22...  But if you are on a budget, from 5.45pm until 7pm, admission is free.  There are works by Bauhaus, Pablo Picasso, Paul Cezanne and many more.  If you are not wanting to see a particular exhibition, then this should give you enough time to have a look around.  If you are walking up Fifth Avenue, then I suggest that you take a walk in Central Park, a path that runs along side and leads you up to the Museum Mile.  It is a lovely walk and away from the hustle bustle of the cars.


D&N (Dumpling & Noodle), 26 Palmer Avenue, Bronxville NY10708

This is restaurant is a little gem!  Homemade authentic Asian dumplings and noodles that are very reasonably priced.  The staff are very friendly and attentive and the place itself is quite quite small but clean and modern, I would say it seats around 20 people but you can get a carry out (that's a takeaway to you and me) if you please.  I ordered a Pork & Shrimp Dumplings (you get 4 giant Dim Sums that I did share!), Roast Duck with Rice and Chicken Broth Soup with Scallion (it was meant to be noodles but I customised it and asked for rice instead) and Steam Custard Buns (5 Egg shaped buns, again I shared I'm not a complete little piggy) all for about $20!!!  They do Curry Puffs which were also delicious and Fried Ice Cream!  On asking how they fry ice cream , the waiter said that the ice cream is rolled in breadcrumbs, then quickly fried and served so although it is hot on the outside, the ice cream is still cold and solid on the inside.  Clever...  If you want to give this a try, I would call up and book a table before you go as it does fill up quickly.



I was in my element here!!  Unlike the UK and other countries I have been to, the US doesn't seem to have a seasonal sale.  They do have Summer and Winter sales but there is always a discount of some sort going on.  I'm told  no one in New York ever pays full price and in some shops even if an item is already in the sale, you still get further money off depending on what the discount is for that day or week.  Even if you don't have a voucher for discount, most stores will have a voucher at the till you can use.  Have a good look around first to see which places are doing deals and better deals.  For example, I found the department store Lord & Taylor on Fifth Avenue having a week 25% discount on most items except chocolate candy and 10% discount off perfume.  But Bloomingdales on Third Avenue just had a half price sale on selected items.  So it's worth having a mooch just to get your bearings about the place.  Just make sure if you don't have an actual discount voucher that the till you are paying at has one you can use or you will be charged full price.


Clothes and especially shoes can be expensive in New York but sportswear by Nike (futuristic looking Basketball boots and Converse are big here) underwear by DKNY and Calvin Klein is cheap and even cheaper if you go to a shop with discount.  UGG boots are a lot cheaper in the US (also big here) as is believe it or not, Hunter wellies even though they're British!  I was told there is an 8% tax on any single item that costs over $100 to purchase and anything under that, even if you buy 3 items and they come to a total of $115, you will not be charged the 8% tax.

Getting around on the Subway

They say New York is the city that never sleeps, well this is because the subway in New York never stops.  Of course there are more trains running during the day than after midnight but the trains never stop running even after midnight.  No matter how far or short you go on the New York subway, it is $2.50 a ride.  You can buy a 7 day Metro Card for $30 and go on as many rides in NYC as you want provided it is within the 7 days.  Or you can buy a refillable Metro Card for as little as $1 and top it up as and when you need it.  For example $ 10 will get you 4 rides.  Just watch you don't accidentally swipe your card twice when entering the subway or you'll be one ride down than you think and then you'll have an insufficient fee for what you think is your last ride.  You can pay by cash or by card but best to just use cash if you have it.  So getting around on the subway is cheap.

And so...

I know I haven't covered everything to do in New York but I hope my little insight of the place has helped plan part of your trip and to show that you can do the city on a budget if you really want to.  I will say this much though, be prepared to be filling your suitcase full of clothes, underwear and shoes!  Seriously, even if you think you won't be buying anything, you will once you see how cheap certain things can be!  New York is a truly amazing place, I absolutely loved it and I think myself lucky that I got to go.  I heart NY, I really do...

Lace & Tweed Vintage Fair June 01 2013


After a hearty breakfast in the greasy spoon near where I live, my friends and I went to Lace & Tweed Vintage Fair in Guildford.  "So does anyone know where we're going?" I asked.  "No..." everyone said in unison...  It was lucky that Rachel and I had looked this up on the map the day before because no one had a clue where it was although I had a rough idea.  Up the hill in Guildford town we trundled, up through Jeffries Passage (phnaar phnaar said the Actress to the Bishop) and there on the other side was the Holy Trinity Church with a big sign outside saying "Lace & Tweed Vintage Fair".

Set in a beautiful Anglican Red-brick church in the centre of Guildford, the Holy Trinity was built on the site of a Medieval Church that collapsed in the 18th Century.  It is thought the foundations of the church are Norman.  There were so many beautiful things on first sight, it was difficult to know where to start looking.  The first stall I stumbled across was a stall selling the  most beautiful 1920s and 30s dresses, some with their tags still on, having never been worn!

Musicians and a live DJ played on the stage and a backdrop of Black and White movies were being played.  We sifted through rails of clothes and mounds of jewellery.  Rhiannon had found a vintage scarf and I had spied a vintage brooch.  Lorna was umming and ahht's really hard going to a ring about a dress and Rachel was meant to be looking for a birthday present for her friend but ended up buying for herself!

With so many pretty things to buy and reasonably priced too, it can be all too easy to get carried away and spend a small fortune on stuff that you don't even want!  I was very good and managed to contain myself but then that's because I have trip to New York coming up and I was saving all my pennies for a trip to Brooklyn's flea markets and thrift shops.  Oh my God, I can hardly wait!!!

There was a hair and beauty pop-up parlour and Lorna said she wanted to have her hair and make-up done so we eagerly watched while she was made up 1940s style with me snapping away with the before and after shots.  For £10, Lorna had eyeliner flicked on her eyelids and Victory Rolls put in her hair and Lorna became Lana, a beautiful starlet from the 1940s!

Aww look how beautiful Lorna looks!

It was a unusually warm day today (yes I know it's the first day of June and June is in the Summer but it had been cold and raining that week) and Rachel and I were gasping for a drink, a cold drink.  Handy there was a large vintage tea room then!  I'd say this was the biggest bargain of the day because for £2.70 we got a cup of tea and plus a top up and a large slab of homemade cake!  Lemon Sponge, Carrot Cake, Victoria Sponge, Scones with Jam and Clotted Cream, Chocolate Brownies, the list went on...  There was even homemade lemonade!  After a hard morning of mooching, supping tea and scoffing cake was well deserved.

And best dressed goes this lovely lady...

Get the Gatsby Look May 26 2013

Seeing "The Great Gatsby" the other night has inspired me to write about how to replicate the glamorous fashion of the Roaring Twenties from from drop-waist tea dresses and head scarves to crisp bow ties and spectator shoes.  You don't have to dress head-to-toe in it, you could just pick out a few items that replicate the style of Jay Gatsby or Daisy Buchanan.  Just mix and match, using items from a variety of lower-priced stores like H&M, Accessorize, Primark and eBay.  I picked up a lovely strand of knotted faux pearls from TK Maxx for £7 by the Danish jewellery makers "Pilgrim".

Lace Jacket - River Island Sale £10
Vintage Faux Pearl Necklace - Ebay £5
Vintage Box Bag - Present from my Mummy when I had Chicken Pox!
Turquoise T-Bar Shoes - Carvela Sale £15


You could also sift through secondhand shops and vintage fairs that evoke the era although, actual clothes from the 1920s will be expensive so try to replicate the look cheaply rather than spending a small fortune (unless you want to of course.)

You can easily pull together plenty of fashions and accessories that reflect 1920s glamour by just searching the racks of less-expensive clothing stores like H&M and Primark.  Half the fun can be in the treasure hunt.

Plenty of fashion stores offer such looks as drop-waist dresses in lace or embellished with sequins or beads and head scarves.  Accessorize are doing pretty turbans and embellished clutch bags that are very 1920s.

Looking for a strand of Faux Pearl and T-bar shoes with a small heel?  Shop at low-priced shops like Primark, you could easily pick up both a Faux Pearl necklace and a pair of shoes for about £15 or less!  Pin a Feather or Diamanté brooch to your turban and wrap a string of Faux Pearls around your neck and voila! you have my dahhling, the Flapper Girl look!

Beaded Bag - Accessorize

And boys, if you don't want to wear a Pale Pink suit like Jay Gatsby, you could wear a Pale Pink vest and matching jacket with a Beige pair drop-crotch skinny fit jeans with Slip-on Boat Shoes without socks.  Just don't roll the sleeves up on your jacket or you'll end up looking like Crockett and Tubbs from Miami Vice!  We're talking 1920s here not 1980s!

Betsy Blue has some beautiful decadent brooches for sale from the Art Deco period.   Art Deco is possibly my favourite era, I just love the smooth clean lines of the furniture and architecture and the glitz and glamour of the fashion from that time.  I am an old romantic at heart.  Here are just a few Art Deco brooches on the website..

Oh I do love to be beside the seaside! April 24 2013

After my ordeal from the weekend before doing the 5k obstacle run in Devon, I had marked in my diary the Bournemouth Vintage Fair for the following weekend.  I was still feeling pretty poorly and yes, you may laugh about how feeble I was being but I really was not well, I can only describe the pain as if flu were in my bones.  I think I may have even had slight hyperthermia from that day in Devon and still hadn't fully recovered because I just felt rough all week.

My friend Sarah and I set off in the morning down the M3 to be by the seaside for the day.  The fair itself was in the Pavillion which was built in the 1920s and had the splendour of Art Deco architecture and décor.  It is set just a little off the beachfront and was already very busy by the time we got there.

The Ballroom was where it was all happening and it was heaving with stalls selling their vintage wears.  Despite feeling poorly, I could hardly contain my excitement, there was just so much to see and I wanted to see it all there and then!  Sarah had to reel me in a bit and said, "We need to do this in an orderly fashion or we may miss out on seeing certain stalls and you don't want that."  "Er, yes..."  I replied, "You're right..." And she was.  Sarah's sensible, I’m not so sensible and we started to do the rounds!

As music from yesteryear blared out through the speakers, we mooched around at the vintage bags from the 1950s, we tried on sunglasses from the 1960s, we “oohed” and “ahhed” at the pretty vintage glass perfume bottles, we stared at the fur stoles from the 1940s and of course we made a beeline for the vintage brooches!

I had saved my pennies especially for the day and I managed to pick up three lovely brooches.

After a lovely afternoon, we had seen all that had to be seen and so we headed for the beachfront to blow the cobwebs away and by golly, did it blow!  The wind was so strong it could have swept you off the pier into the sea never to be seen again!  At that point, we decided to head off the Harry Ramsdens for a well deserved dinner of Fish and Chips.  Well, Scampi for me as I don’t do battered Cod!