New York, New York

It’s been two weeks since we’ve been back from the Big Apple, but I still reminisce about the good food, the incredible weather (it was HOT) and the hugeness of it all. About time I’d let you all know what I loved and didn’t love about the big city life. Let’s start off by saying I won’t be moving to Manhattan anytime soon: not enough green, too many people and too many tall buildings. I need some space. What I did love was the shopping, the food, the city life and the older more historical buildings. Let’s round up, shall we?

Where we stayed – 

We purposefully didn’t stay in the hustle and bustle of crowded Manhattan, but took our lodgings to an AirBnB in New Jersey. Great location because 1. We got the beautiful skyline of NYC as our daily view, 2. Not as crowded, more of a residential neighbourhood feel and yet 3. Only 15 minutes by shuttle bus from the city centre! We were happy to just come home and relax, prepare our own meals and unwind from the busy city.

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What we ate – 

If there’s one thing we’ve learned in New York it’s to not wait to get food until you’re starving, because you can expect lines at restaurants! If you get hangry, like me, it is in your boyfriend’s best interest to make sure you have your food stops locked in. Here’s some of our best food discoveries

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  • Shake Shack – fast, easy, but such tasty burgers. Also the best strawberry milkshake I’ve had in a while.
  • Dylan’s Candy Bar – it’s everything I’ve ever dreamed Charlie’s Chocolate Factory would look like. If you’re looking for candy that’s American or just really weird flavours, this is the place
  • Dough Donuts – We’ve tried a lot of donuts in our lifetime but these ones were just ‘wow’. The melt-in-your-mouth yet so flavourful kind. New York knows how to do donuts, that’s for sure. Another good one is the Doughnuttery, in Chelsea Market, which by the way is foodie heaven! These tiny donuts come in all kinds of funny flavours and let me tell you, the ‘Purple Pig’ flavour is finger-licking good!
  • Ample Hills Creamery – A decent place for regular ice-cream with a wide variety of flavours.
  • Taiyaki Ice Cream  – A really fun ice cream place that makes fresh cones that look like fish (they’re still a bit warm when you eat them so you can tell they are really freshly baked – very instagram worthy and with very quick and friendly service.
  • Grimaldi’s Pizza – We had our best slice of New York pizza at Grimaldi’s in Brooklyn, where you can share a large pizza and choose to have two sides with varying toppings, a nifty idea. Go on time to make sure you don’t have to wait in line.
  • Fika – If you’re craving a coffee break in an airconditioned, quiet space, this is your place.

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Where we shopped –

  • Sephora – As a beauty and skincare lover this was one of my personal highlights of the trip and I spoiled myself with some goodies for my birthday. You can find ANYTHING here. The one on 45th East Street is the biggest. Heaven is a place on earth.
  • Glossier Showroom – Another beauty favourite was the Glossier Showroom in Chinatown. I love the aesthetics of the place and brand and the fact that it’s so well hidden in a penthouse makes it all feel very luxurious. The products are high quality and remain very affordable!

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  • Barnes & Noble – If you like books, notebooks or other book-related stuff, this is the place to be.
  • Paper Source – This place is a stationery lover’s dream. It’s where I bough my new 2019 journal, but wanted to buy everything.
  • Brooklyn Flea Market – We went to the this flea market in Dumbo, Brooklyn, where the shade of the bridge lured us in. It’s a great place for original souvenirs, nice jewellery, furniture (which ached because we couldn’t take any home), clothes and nice smelling soaps.

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  • Chelsea Market – As said, it’s a foodie heaven, BUT it’s also a place where local designers show off their work and you can buy some of their stuff.

What we saw – 

  • High Line – An old railway between the meatpacking warehouses that is now a 3km long park, such innovative urban planning. Loooooved this bit of green!
  • 9/11 Memorial – A testimony to the tragedy of 9/11 and a beautiful place to hang and ponder life
  • Grand Central Station – Not amazing (and not as big as I’d always imagined) but still worth a visit because it is beautiful!
  • New York Public Library – One of my favourite places we visited. This library is everything. Marble staircases, elegantly lit reading rooms, grand hallways, ooh yes. Wonderful just wandering around here.

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  • Times Square – Overwhelming but worth a visit. We thought they had like an event going on or something, but nope, just the regular amount of people on a night in New York.
  • Top of the Rock – We were a bit unlucky with the weather because it was so overcast and misty, but still, views up here are amazing with Central Park on one side and the Empire State on the other. If you can, take some food and drinks and watch the sun set on the rooftop!

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  • MoMA – Bit of a whirlwind visit here, because we entered only an hour before closing time. We didn’t love the museum, but the museum garden was really nice.
  • Museum of Natural History – Very similar to the one in Brussels or Tervuren if you’re form Belgium. Good to know is that they let you pay the amount you want to get in (they have an indication price though).

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What we did – 

  • Central Park  – We rented bikes and helmets for the whole day and decided to tour Central Park so we could cover the whole area. On our way we visited the Natural History Museum, saw the Guggenheim Museum, spotted the different ponds and discovered there is only one-way lanes to bike the park. The park is HUGE, which also makes it less cozy, but we were glad to get out and about in the green.

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  • Coney Island – We took the time to take the metro down to Coney Island, which we loved. There’s a beach and and old 50s amusement park/ fair, which made for a nice day of relaxing, enjoying the sun and watching people go by. Take a picture in one of the photobooths as a souvenir.

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  • Washington – We took a really early train (still snoozing when I think about it) to Washington D.C. and saw all the sights! Best parts were the Library of Congress (gorgeous interior and tiling), the Smithsonian garden, and the US Botanic Garden. So different from NYC too, with lots of white buildings, open spaces and green.

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  • Staten Island ferry – This ferry service goes to and from Staten Island all day and in doing so, goes by the Statue of Liberty. And did I mention it is free? So basically, it’s a free tour past the statue (which is smaller than I imagined?)! You get on the boat in Manhattan, get off in Staten Island and get right back on. It takes about an hour there and back.
  • New York Mets – We decided to see a baseball game at Citifield Arena. If you can, try to get weekend tickets because the crowd was kind of sparse when we were there on a weekday.
  • Brooklyn Bridge – We spent some time in Dumbo, which we loved. We really took our time wandering around this area. Afterwards, we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge (super crowded) to get the full experience. Impressive though.

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That’s it folks! If you have any tips for us for next time, let me know!

Wanneer er niet genoeg binnen aan een huis is

Ik zat vandaag op de trein. Lekker warm. Want buiten was het één van de koudste dagen van deze winter. Temperaturen onder nul. We glijden voorbij de achterzijden van de eerste Brusselse huizen. Eens Brussel binnengekomen zie ik iets vreemds.  Een waslijn met een horde aan gekleurde t-shirts. Gek, denk ik, om bij deze temperaturen je was te drogen te hangen.  Elke t-shirt wordt een statisch en stijve vlag in de wind die weigert te wapperen. Dan zie ik het. Een vierkanten constructie. Een bijeenraapsel van dozen en plastiek. Vier muren en een dak.

Nu weet ik waarom. Wanneer er niet genoeg binnen aan een huis is moet het buiten. De was buiten. De koude binnen. De deur altijd open. Was het buiten maar warm en binnen koud. De wereld binnenstebuiten gekeerd als een warme trui met fleece binnenin. Dan was er plaats genoeg, en iedereen in de huislijke warmte, altijd en overal.

Ana Frois
© Ana Frois

Vienna

A week ago, I left on a last-minute solo trip to Vienna. I decided to spend my few last free days doing something that I love, namely travelling. So, I booked a ticket and a hostel and a week later I was on my way. Here’s a play by play of what my trip was like.

First off, I arrived late in the evening at my hostel, the Wombats City Hostel. I believe it is one of the very, very few hostels in the city, which means you are bound to make friends there if you travel solo. There were lots of solo travellers there, which was nice. Overall, great hostel, would definitely recommend.

One other tip is to buy a 24 or 72 hour pass for the metro (the U-Bahn), an easy way to get around in Vienna. Or you can walk if you like that, which is very doable too.

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The first place I went to is pictured above: Karlsplatz with its famous Karlskirche. Entrance for students was only 4 euros, and that includes an elevator ride up to the dome and a view over the city (behind bars, unfotunately). Nonetheless, the outside is more spectacular than the inside, unless you are into baroque dome paintings and lots and lots of gold.

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Next up was Schönbrunn, one of the most famous palaces in Vienna. And you could tell by the number of people there, so touristy. I originally only intended to visit the gardens, but due to unfortunate stormy weather, they were closed. So I took the shorter tour of the inside rooms (there is a long one with 44 rooms, and a short one with around 20 rooms). And let’s be honest, if you’ve seen one of those castles, you’ve seen them all. I was truly impressed by the length of Princess Sissi’s hair though. I’m sure she could’ve donated her hair for about 20 wigs to ThinkPink.

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That same night, I went back to the castle because I’d let some weirdly dressed guy that kept calling me “milady”convince me to go to a classical concert there at the Orangerie. When you’re travelling solo and you don’t really have much to do in the evenings, your brain is bound to think YOLO and say yes to things you usually wouldn’t say yes to. So I went, and it was great! The concert consisted of two 40 minute parts, one with music from Mozart and one with music from Strauss, both accompanied by dance and opera singing. It’s strange how much classical music you recognise without even realising you know it! I thoroughly enjoyed watching some of the guests come to the concert in proper ball gowns and taking place front row while I was sitting there in my jeans at the back row, with the plebs. So, if you get the chance to see ANY concert in Vienna, it’s a must do.

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The next morning, I was meeting some friends that I’d met over the summer in Canada. They were kind enough to meet me in Café Central, one of the most famous coffee houses in Vienna, and if I may believe so, the most beautiful. It dates back to the fin-de-siècle coffee culture that was prominent in Vienna at that time. It was known to be the place for Austrian writers like Peter Altenberg and other famous visitors like Freud and Trotski. It’s a great place to go in the morning as there is still room to sit (not so much in the afternoons, I was told by my personal guides), the breakfast is great and it’s a perfect departure point to go visit other main attractions the rest of the day.

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One of my next visits was to the Hundertwasserhaus, a series of apartments that remind me a little bit of Gaudi, but are a work by the architect, you guessed it, Hundertwasser. They’re a bit out of the way, but I found them interesting enough to put in the effort. Also, it was a nice break from the rather busy and “touristy” areas of Vienna. One of my favourites parts of the trip.

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Next up, I went to Stephansplatz, a central part of the town, with lots of (souvenir) shops and people. The main attraction of the square is the Stephansdom, which you can enter for free. Although the interior, again, didn’t really speak to me, I find the roof kind of interesting and pretty. It reminds me of the Matthias church in Budapest. Being neighbours, I guess it’s logical that they would have some influence on one another. With the Christmas lights still up, Stephansplatz was a nice area to wander around though. Two places I recommend going are, firstly, the Haas&Haas Tea shop, only for the smell if not to buy something. The second place is a good one for dinner and another recommendation by my friends, who called it “very Austrian”. It’s a place called Jonathan&Sieglinde and all of their dishes are made with apples or potatoes. Sometimes both. The food I had there was divine.

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The next day was already my last day, and because it was so cold (-11°C, but with windchill about -20°C), I decided to spend it visiting a few museums. The first place I went to was not a museum, though, but a secret, hidden gem called the Ferstel Passage, right behind Café Central. It’s a gorgeous gallery that goes past a tiny square with a fountain (you’d think it’s outside, but there is a huge glass dome). It looked like something out of a movie.

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Onwards, I walked past the Hofburg and went to the National Library, a definite must-see for any book lover. I was suffering a serious case of library envy (yes, that is a thing and if it’s not, it should be). I tried to take some pictures but they don’t do the place justice.

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My next stop was the Museum Quartier, where I went to the Leopold Museum. If you like paintings by Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt, this is the museum for you. Also, the building has some cool windows which offer good views of the city. (I seem to have developed a love for museum buildings rather than the artefacts themselves, is that strange?) Also the MQ shop has some really cute stuff, worth a visit.

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My last stop was the Secession, a very small museum, but with one of the most fun exhibitions by Francis Alÿs. His art pieces are tiny, tiny works of art on pieces of wood of about 10 by 15 cm. You get a magnifying glass to look at the art pieces. At first glance, each art piece represents a very mundane habit, but if you look closely, each piece is absurd. In between each piece there is text. The text doesn’t necessarily say anything about the picture, but nonetheless, the pieces and text are interactive. Loved it!

Back to Naschmarkt I went, to pack my bags to go home. If you’re in that neighbourhood, there is a good burrito bar called El Burro. Cheap, cozy and delicious.

Now, that’s that. Auf Wiedersehen!

Mus in een Plas

The best things happen when you least expect them. Well, I stumbled upon this little gem when we were looking for a book café (blog post on that soon!). This little shop is so cute. It’s filled with notebooks, things for your house that you didn’t know you needed until you saw them, lovely greeting cards, great quotes and very pretty jewellery. Mus in een Plas can be found in the Serpentstraat in Ghent, a street that I happen to find very charming too. If you’re not convinced and are thinking that Ghent might be a bit far, they have a webshop too!

Where? Serpentstraat 22, 9000 Gent
When? Tuesday-Wednesday from 10.00 to 12.30 and 13.30 to 18, Thursday-Saturday from 10.00 to 18.00

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