Introducing Williamsburg, Brooklyn

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For the millennial crowd, Williamsburg is the centre of New York life.

Williamsburg is like Shoreditch’s younger, cooler, less crowded cousin. The main street, Bedford Avenue, is lined with boutiques, cafés, bars and restaurants. Excluding the obligatory Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts (which really are on every corner), chains are kept to a minimum and the street is always lined with people as a result.

We were only there for four days and, with a mountain of quirky shops, live music, flea markets and countless places to eat and drink, it was impossible to do more than scrape the surface of what Williamsburg has to offer. Nonetheless, here are a few of our favourite places from the trip.

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Rooftops of New York

I was thirteen the first time I went to New York. It was a couple of days before Christmas. I remember buildings so tall that you couldn’t see the top, even when you craned your neck back as far as it would go. I remember the lights glittering above the wide avenues. And I remember the cold. The biting, blistering cold. It was snowing and the wind was howling along the streets, turning my nose to a frosty lump on my face.

Returning ten years later for a muggy week in June, I was faced with a somewhat different experience. Instead of freezing cold, there was a sticky, overwhelming heat that turned me into a sweaty, grumpy mess (I have no idea how New Yorkers handle August).

I quickly learned that there’s only one way to cope with summer in the city and it involves a view and a cocktail.* Oh, and a lot of air-con.

Here are a couple of my favourite rooftop spots.

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Exploring New York on a Budget

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New York isn’t exactly the cheapest of holiday locations. The flights alone can leave a significant dent in your wallet, and that’s before you factor in the cost of accommodation, food and transport around the city.

Whilst some of New York’s most famous sights are free (the Brooklyn Bridge, Grand Central Station and Central Park, to name a few), many of the city’s main attractions are relatively pricey. However, there are ways of seeing the best of what New York has to offer without bankrupting yourself in the process.

Here are a few of my favourite budget activities for those of you paying a summer visit to New York.

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Santi Taura: Fine Dining in Mallorca

Mallorca isn’t especially known for its cuisine. That’s not to say that it doesn’t have a rich food culture, but it’s not exactly brimming with Michelin stars. Fine dining is thin on the ground, especially outside of Palma. Restaurants like Santi Taura stick out like a sore thumb as a result – and that’s no bad thing.

The popularity of Santi Taura means that reservations usually need to be made months in advance (especially for a large party like ours). We were gifted ours by a Spanish cousin of one of our party, who had hoped to celebrate his birthday there, but was now unable to get off work. We were charitable enough to take the table off his hands.

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Heaven has rickety floors: Shakespeare and Company

Photo Credit: Flickr - swiv

Photo Credit: Flickr – swiv

Most people go to Paris for the romance, the fashion, the pastries, the perfume, the underwear. Me? I go for the stationery. Don’t get me wrong, all that other stuff is a huge draw (especially the pastries – I am an éclair fiend), but it’s the smell of leather and the feel of high quality writing paper that really makes me weak at the knees. Not to mention books. Oh, books. The musty smell of ageless wisdom. The dry, papery feel of adventure. Endless possibilities wrapped up in a myriad of coloured covers. Books are my first love and most loyal companion.

You can see, then, why I might get a little bit excited about visiting Paris’ most notorious bookshop, Shakespeare and Co.

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Bars behind Bars: Paris’ Secret Watering Holes

Le Comptoir General

Credit: Le Comptoir General

Unlike London and New York, Paris has been a bit slow to catch on to the hidden bar concept. Slowly but surely, however, a few of these speakeasy-esque, prohibition-inspired drinking spots have sprung up around the French city. On my short trip to Paris, I managed to visit three very different bars – so different, in fact, that the only thing they have in common is how tricky they are to find. And the alcohol, of course.

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Vintage Shopping in Paris

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The best thing about vintage shopping in Paris? Parisians have not yet discovered a real appetite for second-hand clothes so, unlike in the UK (and especially East London, which is wallet kryptonite), everything is dirt cheap. Most shops have €1 bins piled high with items which are all a steal at (yup) €1.

The best vintage shops are in the Marais (super handy as the multitude of incredible parfumeries in the area act as an antidote to the old clothes smell. Be warned though; if you’re anything like me – aka extremely susceptible to the scent of lavender and the glint of antique glass bottles – give your purse to a friend for safekeeping, because you will want to give those people EVERYTHING.)

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