New York highlights

So, it’s been about a year since I blogged and I realised I never did get round to writing my NY highlights so here goes:

Food
Glaze Teriyaki – a great, low budget gluten free option. This felt like a really cool, no fuss place to eat with a really good vibe and even better when you can relax knowing they have gluten free options.

Tu-Lu’s Gluten free bakery – the food from here was SO good. Easily the best gluten free cakes and doughnuts I have ever eaten. I really wish they would open one in the UK!

Sprinkles cupcakes – they have a cupcake ATM!!! What can possibly beat that?! Also worth noting that it dispenses gluten free cupcakes.

Shops
Top Hat This is a great little shop which is worth checking out. I found a great purse in here which i’ll cherish forever. It’s not huge and some of the things can be a little pricier than other shops but it’s a great independent shop with quality goods.

Sights
9/11 Museum – this is such an unforgettable moment in World history and I think that this museum is a really well thought out way to ensure that the truth of 9/11 continues to live on through generations. The content of the museum can be harrowing which is no surprise but it brings home how desperate the people involved and who lost their lives must have felt. The 9/11 fountains are also worth a visit and a touching way to remember those who lost their lives. Please remember that this is a memorial and smiling selfies are really not appropriate!

Top of the Rock – I have done Top of the Rock and Empire State and I prefer Top of the Rock. It means you get an unrestricted view of Central Park which really allows you to appreciate the size and beauty of the park.

Statue of Liberty – this is one of my favourite things to visit in NY. Go and visit the Museum and have the audio guide. Listening to the audio guide really brought home to me what the Statue of Liberty symbolises and has meant to people for so many years. Lady Liberty is so iconic and I can’t quite believe I’ve actually seen her in the ‘flesh’. Lady Liberty represents freedom, liberty and was the first thing many people saw when coming within touching distance of the USA for the first time in hopes of a better life and new beginnings. Well worth a visit!

The high line – I love this concept. It is so great to walk (without stopping at traffic lights at each block) from one area of NY to another. You can take in the views and enjoy a leisurely stroll. The high line seems to get longer and longer every time I visit NY which is great.

There are of course so many other highlights in NY; Bryant Park, Battery Park, the Chrysler Building, Grand Central, Bloomingdales, Macy’s, Central Park, Empire State Building, 30 Rock, Flatiron building, Brooklyn Bridge, Intrepid Air Sea and Space Museum, NY Library, Times Square and so many more – all of which I would recommend seeing/visiting.

I absolutely love New York City and think that it is impossible to run out of things to do so I could go on forever but wanted to give you some of my highlights.

My Costa Rica adventure

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After being desperate to travel to somewhere new and exotic, I started to look online for Spanish speaking countries where I could learn but also see a new country. Travelling alone meant that I wanted something to occupy my time and a Spanish speaking country meant I could continue to improve my Spanish.

I stumbled across ´Go Learn To´ who had a listing on their website for a Spanish and Photography course in Costa Rica. I booked months in advance and proceeded to spend months planning my trip and making sure I had all the necessary vaccines. This is when I found out that the institute offering the course was ´School of the World Costa Rica´ and so I did some research online and found rave reviews.

Having decided that I wanted to try and get some sun during the UK winter, I decided to fly to Costa Rica in December of 2013. I was greeted by scorching sunshine and a fair amount of humidity but was so thankful to be avoiding British weather. The locals told me at this point that they couldn´t wait for summer to arrive despite it being well over 30 degrees!!

I chose to stay with a homestay family who could not have been more welcoming and helped me so much with my Spanish and helped me to feel at home more than I could have imagined. They were a family who didn´t have very much except each other and a few belongings but they offered me their time and attention and gave me an insight into their world and to me, they seemed richer and had more to offer than anyone I know because of it.  Admittedly, the only thing I missed during my homestay was hot water but a cold shower every morning reminded me of how much we take our home comforts for granted.

I began my school week bright and early the day after arriving in Jaco, Costa Rica. Everyone at the School was welcoming and everyone was treated the same regardless of whether you were staying for one week or four months. I had one photography and one Spanish class a day and feel like I gained a lot of knowledge in both areas thanks to the teachers at the school and how well everything was organised. Classes are also offered in Yoga and Surfing which in hindsight I wish I had also done!!

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When I wasn´t studying, the pool area was available to relax in, as was the hammock and lounge area and the kitchen area. It is easy to follow the ‘Pura Vida’ (Pure Life) motto or mantra that belongs to Costa Rica because the locals (Ticos) have an amazing quality of life because they are so relaxed and live in a beautiful country.

I visited a private beach for photography class, zip-lined through the rainforest, woke up at 4.30am to see sunrise and help baby turtles take their first swim in the ocean, visited Manuel Antonio National Park which was the most beautiful place I have ever visited, watched a surf competition and experienced sunset on the beach, saw sloths and crocodiles up close, photographed local fishermen while they fixed their boats, ate amazing tacos, experienced local sodas (amazing local food establishments for really good prices), experienced Costa Rica life firsthand and improved my photography and spanish skills along the way.

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My only regret? Not staying for more than one week and not managing to fit in time for a surf!!! I have no doubt that I will return to Costa Rica and discover even more beautiful places because Costa Rica, you have stolen my heart. Pura Vida!!!

Independent travel v travelling companions

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(Albufera, Valencia)

I always know that starting a solo adventure and starting an adventure with my friends/family will be totally different.

Without a doubt travelling with others gives you a bit of a safety blanket. Someone to help if you’ve packed way too many things, someone to feel safe with when getting a taxi or public transport or walking late at night. Someone to talk to while you eat in restaurants.

Travelling with my family is always comfortable and enjoyable. We all know each others habits, fall into a routine quickly and generally all want to do the same things or spend the same amount of time in museums!

Travelling with friends is usually always fun although can definitely make or break a friendship! If they forget they have set their phone alarm for 4.30am and somehow sleep through it while you’re trying desperately to find the phone in the middle of the night after a long journey and then they have no recollection of it in the morning and seem to not care about your efforts to silence the alarm then maybe it doesn’t bode well for the rest of the trip!

Travelling solo is totally different and definitely where I have learnt the most about myself. It gives you time away from everything you know and throws you in at the deep end. You have time to reflect, to become independent and to become comfortable with your own company. It also means you only have to really think about yourself and it can also put you in situations where you meet people you probably wouldn’t have met had you been with people you know.

Travelling alone as a woman can mean you are much more alert to danger which can be tiring but the important thing is to stay in contact with your loved ones (thank god for wifi) and don’t put yourself in any dangerous situations like walking through deserted streets alone at 2am.

I have travelled to Europe and Central America alone and now feel comfortable flying alone and doing everything else alone that comes with solo travel. You can have some amazing experiences and find out about an inner strength or inner adrenaline junkie or whatever else it is that you didn’t know you had as you hadn’t stepped outside your comfort zone.

For me travelling solo was a great way to see different parts of the world at a time when my friends and family didn’t want to go to the same destinations as me or couldn’t afford to. I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to travel for the sake of travelling alone.

Now I prefer to travel with my loved ones so that I can share amazing experiences with them but would always consider solo travel again in the future!

Cultural Differences

I have grown up in the UK and seen how society has changed drastically over the last 20 or so years. It used to be common for people to hold doors open for those walking behind them, to say please and thank you and to let others off public transport before getting on. It was also rare for people to have their music so loud it can be heard down the street and prevent neighbours from getting sleep. Unfortunately now this seems to be how a lot of people act, showing no respect for other people or even their belongings.

Travel has opened my eyes to how different cultures can be. Of course not everyone in the UK acts like the above but it is becoming more common place and my experiences around the world reflect my experiences and as in people and as in everything there are good and bad.

When I visited the US, I was amazed at the level of service in New York. Every member of staff whether it was on the subway, in a restaurant or in a shop, they all had impeccable customer service skills. I guess a lot can be said for commission but even so, this makes your day that little bit brighter and makes society that little bit nicer.

In Central America, some parts of the countries I have visited have been reasonably wealthy and reflect a lifestyle similar to that of the UK (but with more sunshine). However, other parts of the countries I visited have few belongings, no internet, no hot water and live three or four children to a room. This made them value everything they have and even the smallest gift seemed like you were giving them the world. In the mountains of Boquete in Panama, I saw a building of breeze blocks and holes for windows with a teddy bear and a small toy car out on the makeshift porch.IMG_9184

This was in contrast to the skyscrapers and Hard Rock Cafe of Panama City but it made me wonder, who is happier? I like to believe that it is the child with very few belongings but a close knit community working in the coffee plantations of Boquete who cherish everything they have and live so remotely that they are unaware of how the other half live.

In Spain, family is cherished more so than in the UK and maybe other parts of the world. Life revolves around family and the closest of friends are considered family. This is a nice way of living and appreciating those closest to you who have probably given you the most in life and provided you with the best start in life that they could.

Travel really does broaden the mind and although, like many, I am guilty of being too materialistic, I have learnt to appreciate those things and my family and friends more than I did before. I appreciate that I can turn on the shower and warm water comes out. Independent travel especially makes you realise the things that matter to you. When you leave your family and/or friends to travel for any period of time, you look forward to that moment at home or at the airport when you will see them there waiting for you. Certain countries have stolen little pieces of my heart and I am sure that some of the new countries I visit in the future will also steal my heart but home really is where the heart is and the majority of my heart lies where my family are.

Hello fellow travellers!

costa rica beachHello fellow travellers and welcome to my Savvy Travel Blog.

This post is (hopefully) the first of many to provide you with my travel experiences, travel hints and tips, financial related travel advice including the latest deals and loyalty schemes to help make travel that little bit cheaper and some travel photography from my travels.

I love to travel and it is a passion of mine. There are many more places in the world that I am yet to discover but am working towards ticking more countries off my list but have many experiences to share with you to date.

Thank you for reading and hopefully you will find my blog interesting and it will give you some inspiration for your travels!

SavvyTravelBlogger