Tag Archives: city break

Italy | Experiences you don’t want to miss when visiting Venice

Pic by Paolo Braiuca

Pic by Paolo Braiuca

My parents always treat themselves to a city break in the spring – it’s a perfect time to celebrate both of their birthdays by escaping to Europe to explore some amazing new place. The other year they decided to try out Venice for the first time and came back raving about the maze of canals, the gondola rides and the amazing architecture. They spent their days wandering the city in the sunshine, stopping off regularly to indulge in the local delicacies washed down with endless glasses of wine.  Their glowing recommendations made sure it became a place I have to one day experience for myself to experience the culture and art of this timeless city. It’s definitely on my bucket list, and if you’re planning a trip look no further than this post for tips on the top experiences on offer – and where to book your tickets.

Doge’s Palace & Secret Itineraries Tour

The Venetian Gothic style will captivate visitors to the city, but none quite so much as the Doge’s Palace. One of the city’s main landmarks, the Palace is the main symbol of Venice and although starting out as the home of the Doge, the supreme authority in Venice it was opened as a museum in 1923. Purchasing a ticket to the Doge’s Palace also allows entry to the Correr Museum, the Biblioteca Marciana and the National Archaeological Museum. You can purchase tickets here. 

While exploring the Palace, it is worth checking out the Secret Itineraries Tour which includes the visit of the old rooms where the Serenissima government carried out all important and secret issues related to the administration of the State over the centuries. The tour gives visitors a taste of the political history of the city, Venice organization and justice institutions. You can purchase tickets for this tour here.

Pic by Pedro Szekely

Pic by Pedro Szekely

Venice Museum Pass

If you’re a museum fan, this pass is the one for you. The Venice Museums Pass gives you access to all Civic Venice Museums and the museums in San Marco Square. These include Doge’s Palace, Correr museum, National Aercheological museum, Biblioteca Marciana, Ca’ Rezzonico, Museo del Settecento Veneziano, Carlo Goldoni Home, Palazzo Mocenigo and Centro Studi di Storia del Tessuto e del Costume, Ca’ Pesaro, International Gallery of Modern Art and Museo d’Arte Orientale, the Glass museum, Murano, the Lace museum, Burano, Museum of Natural History. You can purchase this ticket here and it remains valid for six months.

Venice Islands Boat Tour

Fancy getting outside and exploring the city? Why not try the Venice Islands Boat Tour – get to see the city from the canals and visit the most important and famous islands of Venice lagoon, Murano, Burano e il Torcello, by boat. This tour is available every day and at just 22 euros it’s a great way to explore the city. Tickets available here.

Gondola Serenade Tour

Of course a trip to Venice would be nothing without experiencing the magic of a gondola tour, and how better to woo your love than by being serenaded during this beautiful cruise along the canals? This is a fascinating tour along Canl Grande and smaller, hidden channels which gives visitors a chance to experience this unique city from an unsual point of view with a background serenade. Pick up your tickets here.

Pic by Pedro Szekely

Pic by Pedro Szekely

Venice Walking Tour

For those who prefer to stay on dry land and explore on foot, the Venice Walking Tour could be the perfect way to explore the city. Last around 80 minutes, the tour takes in a wealth of sights and monuments with a guide to tell you all about them. The tour starts from St. Mark’s Square giving you a description of the history of the main monuments including St. Mark’s Basilica, the Doge’s Palace,the Campanile, the Clock Tower and the Procuratie. The tour will then head to one of the most popular squares in Venice, S. Maria Formosa, before exploring Marco Polo’s house and Malibran Theatre, where ancient and recent history meet Mercerie in this wonderful corner of Venice. Tickets available here. 


If you’re planning a trip to Venice, don’t miss out on the amazing deals available online and don’t forget to book in advance as many of these attractions will get booked out during peak season. Be a smart traveller and skip the queues buy purchasing your tickets ahead of time through Italy Travels. Check out their website here.

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Eurotrip | My 24 hours in Amsterdam

14292456_10153770246632617_4868750785377706268_nDuring the summer I headed home to the UK for a short while but it wasn’t long until I started getting itchy feet, and I thought why not take advantage of Europe being right on my doorstep? Living in the UK, we are so lucky to have so many countries and cultures so close and accessible, it’s important to take advantage of that EU passport while we still have it eh! I’ve travelled quite a lot of Europe over the years but  there were still so many places I longed to visit and since making so many new international friends on the other side of the world, it seemed a perfect time to go and visit them all at home for the ultimate Eurotrip! One of the top places on my list was Amsterdam – I’ve wanted to visit for years and have planned trips several times but ended up never quite making it. I would only have about 48-72 hours in the city but it was the perfect opportunity to experience it for the first time and to visit a good friend of mine at her home – from Australia to Amsterdam.14344242_10153770246852617_8477002503444430472_n14322737_10153770246727617_3952194705655828329_nI flew in from Budapest and after a fairly chilled few days spent in the stunning baths and exploring the city at a gentle pace, I was ready to take things up a gear to cram in sightseeing and partying into just a few hours. I was staying just outside the city with my friend, Lisa, and I have to give a huge shoutout to her for not only putting me up at her amazing apartment, but for helping me to make the absolute most of my Amsterdam experience. As soon as I arrived we cycled into the city in true Amsterdam fashion to check out the parks which were filled with the scent of barbecue and the chatter of friends. We sat in the sunshine at a little man-made beach along the river having drinks and pizza with friends, and spent the evening bar hopping along the canals. It was a perfect first evening there and gave me a chance to meet a lot of people, we even stumbled across a fashion festival happening in the streets with all of the high class shops hosting DJ sets and bars.14317358_10153770246982617_7699547149721011518_n14344708_10153770245602617_3898552608383686668_nThe next days, I headed into the city first thing to make the most of my sightseeing time by taking one of the brilliant free walking tours. I first heard about Sandeman’s free walking tours from a friend when I was in Berlin and after experiencing one there and another in ‘Dam, I would seriously recommend them to anyone visiting a European city. The tours are fantastic quality and are led by energetic, knowledgeable and passionate individuals who bring history and heritage to life through their delivery. The walks last just a few hours and take in the main sights of each city plus there are several specialised ones including tours of the Red Light District, beer tours, history tours, graffiti tours etc. The best thing about these tours? They’re technically free despite being such amazing quality. The people giving the tours make their money through tips – they just ask that you pay what you feel the tour was worth at the end – you can give nothing or you show how much you value the experience. It calls for the tour leader to really work hard to show you the city and it calls for you to give an honest and fair review of the services. I can’t fault the company or the system. The Amsterdam tour was fantastic and our guide was really friendly and knowledgeable.14355179_10153770245822617_6765741485707631537_n14238219_10153770245592617_5590145311600997742_nOnce we’d spent a few hours wandering through the busy streets and along the canals for the tour, I headed back to the apartment for a quick change and glam up. Then Lisa and I were straight out the door and off to Magneet Festival – a bit of a trip affair, the festival would feature some of Lisa’s friends who were DJing on the most amazing stage overlooking the whole festival. It was an incredible night, amazing music and a fantastic group of people made for a pretty special experience. We danced and partied our way around the festival, even checking out hardcore and rock tents and watching some entertaining karaoke. It was such a fun night and pretty epic to experience a festival in Amsterdam. After the gates closed, we headed into the city and ended up at De School – a converted school which has become a club where must-lovers can rave in a dark, smokey basement until the sun comes up. Such a good club, we had a fantastic night! The next day, dying of hangover, I packed up and headed out to catch my train up to the north where I was visiting another amazing friend for just one night before heading home.14322663_10153764176672617_3330531587880020450_n14212547_10153764176582617_1783270569474228189_nIt was such a flying visit but my goodness I crammed a LOT in, Amsterdam is a fantastic city which makes it hard not to want to cram everything into the quickest visit. Before even leaving I knew I already wanted to return for another visit – there is still so much I didn’t have time to do, like the Anne Frank House and the museums. And I would love a chance to spend more time exploring the city at a slower pace. I will definitely return in the future but I was so happy to not only get to experience the city for the first time but to share the experience with such amazing people. I’m a lucky girl and travelling the world definitely has opened me up to some incredible cross-continent friendships. Getting to reunite with friends in a completely new land is definitely one of my favourite things about travelling the world.14316794_10153764176542617_1276094821434236239_n

Have you been to Amsterdam – what was your favourite experience? Can you recommend any other walking tours?

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Hungary | How Budapest stole my heart and why you should visit

dscn4498For years I have longed to visit Budapest, it’s a city that seems to sparkle with beauty, history and culture, and one I couldn’t wait for the opportunity to explore. During the summer, I finally had the time and the money to jet off on a jaunt around Europe, taking in cities like Amsterdam and Berlin, road tripping around Bulgaria and I couldn’t resist taking the time to explore what has since become one of my favourite European cities. After spending just a few days exploring the sights and sounds of Budapest, I have spent the last few months telling everyone I know to go along and experience it for themselves. Whether you’re looking for a romantic city break for two, a weekend away with friends or, like me, you’re going it solo, it’s the perfect city for your next trip.image

Where to stay?

I stayed at Avenue Hostel which is right in the heart of Budapest on Oktogon, and I can’t recommend this hostel enough. I met amazing people there, had the comfiest bed and loved the creative, artsy vibe. Whether you’re there to sightsee or want to party and meet people, it’s a perfect hostel for you to use as your base. Plus everything within Budapest is walking distance so you can easily get to all of the sights, restaurants and bars on foot. It’s a great area and even if you don’t want to stay in a hostel, there are countless hotels, AirBnBs and B&Bs to choose from.image

What to do?

On my first day in the city, the weather was terrible but what better excuse to visit the famous baths? I went for the Gellert Baths to start with – these were mainly inside and offered great deals on massages which was just what I needed on this rainy day. It’s worth asking at your hostel/hotel for any deals available – my hostel gave me a great entrance/massage packages that saved me quite a bit of money. As the weather improved, I spent the next few days exploring the city on foot – there was no need for a tour guide as it was easy to navigate the city using the maps app on my phone and by chatting to the locals. The castle, parliament and Fisherman’s Bastion are incredible structures that are well worth a visit, as is St Stephen’s Basilica and City Park. Check out the views from the Liberty Bridge and as you wander along the winding streets look out for memorials of the history of this amazing city. Finally, wait for a sunny day to enjoy the incredible Szechenyi Thermal Baths, the jewel of Budapest, it’s a perfect place to top up your tan while bathing in the famous waters.img_2140

When should you visit?

Budapest is an amazing city to visit all year round – glorious in summertime when visitors can walk through the winding streets and eat outside in the restaurant-lined courtyards. Or, for those who prefer to time their visit around Christmas, it’s a perfect opportunity to get in the festive spirit by visiting the world famous markets. If you can time your visit in the summer – be sure to grab a ticket for Sziget Festival – music, arts and a lot of fun right in the heart of the city. No matter what time of year you visit, be sure to take the time to explore the city at night as well as during the day. A city of lights, Budapest comes alive at night when crowds all the streets to witness the city aglow and visit the ruin pubs of years gone by. If you’re travelling alone and want to meet some party pals, definitely try and do the Wombats Hostel pub crawl – it’s one of the best hostel pub crawls I’ve done in a long time.dscn4502

Has that whet your whistle for Budapest? If so, why not check out Liverpool John Lennon Airport’s new city guides for all the best tips on what to do and how to plan your Budapest trip. Read the Liverpool John Lennon Airport destination guide here. Or find another destination for your next trip – click here.image

Have you been to Budapest – what did you think of the city? What is your favourite European city and why?

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Travel | Top tips for keeping your home safe while you travel

imageWhether you’re heading off on that much anticipated two week holiday or you’re heading off on a huge backpacking trip, it’s important not to get so carried away you forget to safeguard your home. So often it is the last thing we think about when we’re going away, but it is actually the time when our homes and our possessions are most vulnerable. With thieves getting smarter and so much of our personal lives being available for the world to see on social media, it only takes one bad egg to take advantage of your trip to line their own pockets. But as ever with travelling, planning is key and can save you a lot of time, hassle and money. So when planning your next trip, why not put some of these suggestions in action and see how much of a difference they make. You can spend as much as you like on a luxurious resort, but if you don’t have peace of mind that your home is safe, there’s almost no point in being there. Treat yourself to full relaxation on your next holiday by making sure you’ve done everything in your power to give yourself a good homecoming.

What can you do to protect your home?

For city breaks/summer holidays:

  • Make friends with your neighbours – they’re the best security watch you can get and they’re totally free (well, perhaps get them a box of chocolates to say thanks for watching the house)
  • Stay off social media. As hard as it can be to not boast pics of you sipping on cocktails in the Maldives, there have been several homes targeted by thieves who knew people were on holiday from social media.
  • Get a house sitter – there are lots of websites where you can get house sitters for any length of time – in exchange for a place to stay people will watch the house and any pets you may have. Or ask a friend/family member to do it.
  • Install a security system – good quality systems are available for all budgets these days and will offer 24/7 monitoring of your home and possessions. Check out this Panasonic Smart Homes System.
  • Make sure the building is secure before you leave – all doors/windows should be locked and make sure expensive items are not on display, you don’t want to tempt any opportunist thieves.
  • Don’t close all curtains and make the building look abandoned – it is very clear when no-one is home and it is most vulnerable. Instead use net curtains/blinds to block views into the downstairs rooms, leaving the main curtains open and making the building appear active.

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For the long-term travellers:

  • See if you can find someone to rent or live in the property while you are away. If you can’t find a renter, consider Air BnB (which will also generate income) or house sitters to make sure there is always someone at the property and that it doesn’t sit abandoned.
  • Ensure the building is secure before you leave – check all exits and entrances, all windows and doors for vulnerable points or anywhere that could be a target for thieves. Replace any weak joints/hinges that could become a problem in six months.
  • Making friends with neighbours or having a friend/family member who can monitor and check up on the building is a good idea whether you have renters or not.
  • Installing a security system can be a good way to instantly alert authorities or family if there is a problem and the property is unattended.
  • Place any expensive items that will not be used (i.e. cars/TV/computer) in secure storage so they are not left in an unattended house.
  • Make sure your house insurance/contents insurance is up-to-date no matter where you are in the world or how far away it all seems. It only takes a burst pipe or an opportunist thief to cause serious damage at your home and you want to be covered for all forms of loss.

Don’t suffer from FOBA (Fear Of Being Away) – get out there and enjoy your travels by doing all you can to protect your home while you’re away. Just as you padlock up your suitcase and buy travel insurance as a back up in case anything goes wrong – make sure you look after what’s waiting for you at home. Also, stay safe abroad by checking out my safety tips for travelling solo.

Have you been a victim of theft while on holiday? What security do you put in place at your home while you travel?

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London | A taste of the AbFab lifestyle at The Mandeville Hotel

imageSo many bloggers focus on one type of travel, but for me that’s just not possible. You see, I like to vary my travelling style as much as I do my clothes. While sometimes I’ll be backpacking on a budget, I still see the importance and the fun in enjoying a slightly more luxury stay whether for a holiday or city break. For me, it’s all about finding that balance between big blowouts and treating yourself, to the times when you’re making every penny stretch. I find you appreciate one so much more when you’ve experienced the other, and you learn a heck of a lot more about money along the way. I was lucky enough to live the Absolutely Fabulous lifestyle of dreams last weekend when I was invited to review The Mandeville Hotel. In a collaboration with Maison Christian Lacroix, the entire fifth floor of this luxury boutique hotel was redesigned with each room telling a different story from the French Riviera, based on Maison Lacroix’s “Belles Rives” Collection. It was perfectly timed as the final weekend I would get to spend in London before I jet back off to the other side of the world, and as a couture treat before I head back to a life of hostels.imageimageSituated just a five minute walk from Bond Street Station, the hotel is perfectly located for a weekend of shopping and sightseeing. Actually, I was so impressed at how close it was to one of the busiest parts of London, and yet the hotel seemed a million miles away from the hustle and bustle. It was actually a lot more peaceful in the streets surrounding the hotel with people sitting out to eat and drink in restaurants. As we walked up to the hotel excited to experience the decadence of Lacroix, we were greeted by the friendly staff who offered to take our bags to the room and organise any restaurants or taxis we might require during or after our stay. As we headed up to our room, we were left to check out the fifth floor makeover. All the rooms have their own individual flair and style, from The Jardin Exotique to Midnight Blue telling the story of the secret midnight bathing society, all telling beautiful stories with inspirations from Lacroix’s upbringing combined with Grace Kelly’s ‘To Catch a Thief’.imageIf you’re like me and have grown up on the antics of Eddie and Patsy in Absolutely Fabulous, you’ll probably have been just as excited as I was when the new movie came out. So to get to stay in a hotel that was every bit as fabulous as the crazy pair was one of my best London experiences yet! You’ll see from the photos the decor was over the top in all the right ways and combined bright, clashing patterns and accessories with sleek designs to ensure maximum comfort. We were staying in The Jewel Box room, which combined Classic Lacroix with whimsical colours and bejeweled designs inspired by Grace Kelly’s stolen Cartier jewels. The lace and mantillas worn by women in The Camargue inspires the Macarena lace wallpaper around the room, balanced with classic Lacroix silver and black striped wallpaper, a true haven for fashion lovers. I was completely taken aback by the room when I walked it, it just screamed Absolutely Fabulous and I was so excited to be staying there. After the long journey, it was nice just to pop on the robes provided and have a coffee from the Nespresso machine in our room (I know where was the Bolly darling?!) and just take in the luxury.  Heading into the gorgeous white marble bathroom, there were a selection of lovely products there to enjoy as I got ready.imageimageThat night, after dinner and cocktails, we headed back to the hotel and I couldn’t wait to get a good night’s sleep. It turned out the room was the perfect place to relax on a Sunday evening, not a single sound from the street outside or the other rooms could be heard while we watched a movie. And when it was time for lights out, the room fell to complete darkness and silence. Combined with that incredible comfy bed and the lovely turndown service that had cleaned the room and organised the pillows for us, I was in heaven. It was the best night’s sleep I’ve had in weeks. I woke up with a big smile on my face and ready to take on the hotel’s breakfast – we’d been booked in for the full English breakfast with continental. Now I never normally order a full English breakfast so I was quite excited to have one for the first time in years – and I was so impressed with the high quality of everything on the plate, including the perfectly poached eggs. Plus over on the continental table there was plenty of fresh yoghurt, juices, fruit and muesli to choose from, as well as platters of croissants and pastries. It was the breakfast of dreams and with checkout not being until 12pm, I took advantage of the opportunity to go back to bed and catch up on even more sleep.imageimageI’d just like to say a huge thank you to all of the staff at the hotel for making our stay there exceptional. I felt so welcome from the second I walked in the door and they really worked hard to make sure every tiny detail was thought of and catered for. It really is a mark of excellence when you don’t have to think of anything the whole way through your stay and come away from a weekend in London feeling rested and content – normally my weekends there leave me feeling exhausted. The Mandeville Hotel is perfect for a luxury treat if you’re visiting London for a special occasion, at £317 a night for the room and full English breakfast, it is expensive but I can assure you it is worth every penny. Staying at the hotel is a whole experience that goes far beyond just a bed for the night, and one I would really recommend to anyone who fancies treating themselves. Find out more or book to stay at the website.

Have you stayed at The Mandeville Hotel – how was your stay? What other luxury hotels would you recommend in London?

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Travel | Go starry-eyed over the sights of New York

imageIf you read last week’s post on my top city break destinations, you’ll already know that New York is a city I’ve fallen in love with over and over again. I’m a child of the Sex and the City generation and a lover of classic movies set in the Big Apple, both have given me such a romanticised view of the city that I never thought it would live up to my expectations. But after travelling there four times I can assure you that on every single trip it has surpassed my dreams, and my expectations to bring me a whole new experience. My most recent trip there, in April 2014 was by far the best trip yet and was actually a big decider in me going travelling solo. I had just gone through the roughest few months of my life and out of this came the push to book a family holiday to NYC, getting away gave me perspective and space, and seeing the bright lights of a whole new country gave me the excitement of something new.imageI suddenly realised that this holiday had made me happier than I had been in months, in every aspect of my life, and while I had already had ideas about going travelling, this was the moment I realised that I had to make it happen. I needed that feeling of excitement and boarding a plane to last, but this time I needed to get away and not know when I was coming back. There’s something about the feeling of getting totally lost in a place that is awesomely inspiring and even now, I just love the idea of escaping from the norm and discovering a new place and way of life. It may sound cheesy, but getting excited about a holiday to New York gave me hope that I would get past this horrible time in my life, it helped me remember a time when I could be happy and gave me a determination to reach that once again.imageEach time we’ve been there, we’ve crammed as much as possible into our five days or a week, the perfect amount of time for an NYC city break or holiday. Staying close to Times Square has really helped that as so much is within walking distance and you can tick a lot of the great sights, and great eats, off very quickly. Going there for the first time? It’s difficult and often overwhelming when trying to plan what to squeeze in and what to leave out – so here is my list of the top 10 things you have to do/see when in New York:

  1. Tick off the main sights – climb the Empire State Building to admire the view, go to the Top of the Rock, stand in Times Square, watch the ice skaters in Rockefeller Centre. If you have time, head to Grand Central Station and the New York Public Library too! And be sure to take cheesy photos at every single one – you may hate being a tourist but you’ll regret it if you don’t have the perfect cheesy photo to Instagram after!
  2. Pick a nice day – hopefully better than the one we had – and head down to Battery Park to see Lady Liberty, even better, take one of the boat trips over to the island to see her in her full splendour.
  3. Try your hardest to get tickets to a game or concert at Madison Square Gardens – it looks like an amazing venue and sadly I haven’t managed to get tickets yet but it’s definitely on the list for next time!
  4. Spend an afternoon wandering around Central Park in the sunshine, it’s beautiful there and gives you a bit of peace from the hustle and bustle of the busy streets. Take a picnic, watch the musicians and performers, check out the ice skating rink, take a horse and carriage ride or walk through the zoo.
  5. Shop until you drop. I always spend a fortune when I go shopping in NYC but it’s just fabulous – take a leaf out of Carrie Bradshaw’s book and head for the malls, often a lot of stuff works out cheaper than it would at home.
  6. Spend a day wandering through Chinatown and getting lost in Little Italy – these beautiful little neighbourhoods give you a chance to experience a different side of the city and we always make sure to have a meal in one of the cute, family-run restaurants in Little Italy.
  7. Get yourself to a Broadway show! Whether you love musicals or hate them, there’s a show for everyone, why not try a play or a cabaret? The best thing is that there always cheap tickets on sale – skip the scalpers and queue up at door before a performance is due to start, often you can get great tickets for cheap because no theatre wants empty seats!
  8. Eat your way around the city – there are amazing breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner stops on every corner. Dive into the fluffiest pancakes with bacon, snaffle down a bagel with smoked salmon and cream cheese, snack on cheesecake, wolf down burgers and steaks. Trust me, New York does food really, really well. And look out for unique dining experiences like the Jekyll and Hyde Restaurant.
  9. One of the best things I’ve done in New York was completely free! It can get expensive visiting every sight in the city, but don’t forget what is right above you. Up on the Highline, every Tuesday, a group of volunteers take their telescopes so that visitors and travellers can take a look at the night sky. Take the opportunity to get starry-eyed by stargazing in one of the brightest cities in the world.
  10. And no visit to New York would be complete without a visit to one of the most devastating and most poignant memorials in the world – most will remember clearly where they were when they heard the news of the 9/11 attacks, I remember being 11 at high school when the news broke. The city have done an amazing job with the memorial and the museum, it was interesting to see the site go from a pile of rubble on my first visit, to the incredible buildings that stand there today. Whatever your feelings about the attack, you can’t help but be incredibly moved by the experience of visiting the 9/11 memorial.

imageThere are a million and one things you can do in New York City and there are always new parts to discover, I can think of countless other things I could recommend for you to check out. But on a first time visit you are always working against the clock to fit everything in and still have fun without rushing. All of these trips, activities and experiences are well worth the time spent on them, no matter how touristic they may seem. You’ll always be hard-pressed to squeeze everything in so make sure you choose the things you want to see and do the most – if you just fancy a shopping trip then why not head to Tiffany’s before shopping your way down Fifth Avenue? Or go vintage and check out the amazing range of markets scattered across the city. There are no end of museums and art galleries from the most prominent to the quirky and unusual, and, if your budget allows it, why not splash out on a helicopter ride across the city? There are so many ways to experience and fall in love with New York City and even after four trips there I know I’m not done – bring on the next trip!image

What’s your favourite thing to do in New York? Are there any attractions you wouldn’t recommend?

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