How to Maximize a Weekend in NYC

Have A Free Weekend And Want To See The Big Apple?

What to Eat | What to do | How to Enjoy

The crew and I ( Adham, baby Amirah, and I ) decided to take a family weekend trip to New York City and it was awesome! Of course the travel planner and Virgo (like Beyoncé) in me wanted everything to go by the itinerary, however, with a baby its just not that easy. I’ve been to NYC plenty of times but never had I been traveling with an infant and she showed me that I had been doing NYC wrong the whole time anyway! She has taught me that if you truly want to enjoy NYC have a light itinerary, I now believe it is incredibly advantageous to leave quite a bit of room in your itinerary to go with the flow. There are so many things to do in New York City and you can make yourself feel like you have to do everything in one weekend or even in a week. However, YOU WON’T and you shouldn’t.

 

For example, normally when I am in NYC I have so much that I want to do and see (so I can tell you all what to do when you get there), but also because people tend to make you feel like if you don’t do “this or that” in NYC then you missed out on something. However, we went to go have a picnic in Central Park, which I recommend you all do and baby Amirah just didn’t want to leave. I had a Michelin star restaurant I wanted to try for lunch but Amirah had her bottle, a blanket, the shade under the sun and she just wasn’t in the mood to leave. So of course, we stayed, Her and my husband both fell asleep and I ended up reading a book and people watching. When both of them woke up, I wasn’t disappointed at all that we skipped the restaurant! It was relaxing, it was peaceful, and even though it wasn’t a museum or a must-eat restaurant, it was still a very New York City thing to do.

Picnic in Central ParK

Adham and Amirah Asleep in Central Park

Later that night, we ended up going to a Midtown Michelin star restaurant, Cafe China, that was incredibly delicious and surpassed our expectations. Midtown’s Cafe China is unassuming, traditionally Sichuan, delicious and its the only Michelin star Chinese restaurant in NYC. The 1930’s Shanghai decor is sure to make you feel like you’ve taken a short journey to China. Our favorite dish their was the Chungking chicken which is only for someone with an appetite for spice, and by spice I mean an abundance of dried chilies.

At around midnight, while many people are out clubbing (I used to do this well) or grabbing drinks with friends. The foodie, parents, and Muslim in us decided to grab desserts instead. We continued to stay with our various Asian cuisine palette for the day and go to Grace Street Coffee and Desserts. Everything we ordered was nothing short of amazing so we ordered our first order twice. I recommend the Ho-Dduck Korean Donut (vegan option available), Apple Cider, Hong Kong French Toast, and he Mango Madness Shaved Snow.

The next day, the crew still wanted to take it easy, I obviously ignored their request because we ended up in Times Square. Walking around with a stroller and a baby in Times Square was not fun to me but my husband thought it was and seemed to think navigating with the baby in Times Square was a fun challenge as if he was in a video game. They ended up loving their navigation adventure and I throughly enjoyed taking pictures and people watching. Sponge-bob Squarepants on Broadway was showing at the Palace Theatre, if you are a Sponge-bob fan I would definitely see this. I preferred Aladdin, which was showing at the New Amsterdam Theatre.

Times Square

After a great show, you must eat and we decided to go to Miss Lily’s. Miss Lily’s is one of my favorite places to eat in NYC. The food is incredible and I have never had a bad experience food or service wise. Everyone there is extremely sweet and accommodating and they want you to have a good meal. I actually found out about Miss Lily’s a couple of years ago while watching Chef Andre Fowler’s of Miss Lily’s win ’Chopped’ on the Food Network. He brings authentic, and vibrant Jamaican flavor to Manhattan and crowds do indeed flock to experience it.

Miss Lily’s Restaurant

The weekend wasn’t over yet and even though there are so many incredible museums to see and many people purchase the New York City Pass, which includes admission into NYC’s top attractions, if you are only there for a weekend all of the attractions can be a bit overwhelming and it might not be worth the money. One of the museums that the New York City Pass includes is the Guggenheim museum which is a must see but due to my tight schedule this time we went to the Brooklyn Museum as I like the Brooklyn museum a bit more. It is NYC’s second largest museum and it features electrifying art, inspiring and educational exhibitions, and right now a David Bowie tribute display.

Brooklyn Museum

Every time I come to NYC I find so much more do and so much more to eat and I recommend that you visit the following on your next visit:
* You can find many discounts to attractions on Groupon as well

Central Park
Such a great time as aforementioned with bike and pedestrian paths, jungle gyms, ball fields, a zoo, picnic areas, carousel, and awesome city views,

Times Square
In the heart of the Theatre district where you should find a good show, do some shopping, and people watch .

The Empire State Building
Sweeping city views, museum, and history.

Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
National Monument, museum, history, and guided tours.

Brooklyn. Museum (my favorite)
Incredible large art museum as aforementioned above

Grand Central Terminal
Iconic train station, shopping, dining, and feeling like you’re on the set of NYC romantic comedy as you can’t watch one that doesn’t feature a scene in this station.

Brooklyn Bridge
Picturesque bridge that connects Brooklyn and Manhattan

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5 Things You Must Do in Bangkok

|The Best of Bangkok |

I recommend if only in Bangkok for a short while you at least experience the following for an guaranteed incredible time

1. Stay At Lebua State Tower

THE VIEW from the balcony in the state tower rooms is INSANE! You can stay in a 5 star hotel and indulge yourself with fine dining and every need you need attended to in a luxury suite with my favorite rooftop bar on the premise for only ~ $150 a night in the “Tower Club” suites

Lebua State Tower
Balcony Views at Lebua State Tower

2. Visit All of The Temples

  • Visit Wat Arun Temple
  • See Wat Pho and the Reclining Buddha
Reclining Buddha
Reclining Buddha
  • The Grand Palace: One of the most famous attractions is Bangkok
Grand Palace Temple
Grand Palace

 

3. Experience the Rooftop Bar Scene

  • Sky Bar At Lebua: The Worlds Highest Rooftop bar and MY FAVORITE
    • The view, drinks, and food are incredible
  • Vertigo: Indulge in great food and drinks 61 floors above the streets of Bangkok
  • Three Sixty: Jazz Lounge with a 360 view of Bangkok
  • Octave Rooftop Bar: Here you also get a 360 view of Bangkok but people are DANCING! I don’t think you’ve ever danced this high in the sky!
Lebua Sky Bar
Lebua Sky Bar

4. Shop Til You Drop

Get a custom made suit, dress, whatever you’d like for ⅓ of what you would pay in America, Europe, or Australia. Go to a night market and experience the culture while shopping as well. And when I say shopping I mean, BARGAINING! Don’t be shy!

  • MBK Center
  • Khao San Road Market
  • Central World
  • Siam Paragon
  • Chatachuck Weekend Market

5. Thai Massage

Get as many massages as your heart desires, they even offer massages at some of the temples. Worried about how expensive massages and spas can be? Don’t! You can get as many Thai massages as you’d like for about ~ $7 an hour

Basically, you need to get to Bangkok! It’s a great starting point before you explore the Thailand beaches and islands (Phi Phi Island is my favorite). Don’t miss out!

Click Here For More of My Bangkok Adventure

 

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To Cairo with Love 🌹

| Cairo 🇪🇬 |

For my new readers, I am newly married to a handsome Egyptian-American man who has taken me on a roller coaster ride of new cultural experiences. I must tell you this beforehand because it truly impacts the way I travel now and during my trip to Cairo, Egypt visiting his family I truly got to experience Cairo as a tourist and as a local. Because of this I am going to take you on a journey and give you some insight on traveling to Cairo, Egypt.

Cairo is a city that never sleeps. We landed in Cairo at 11pm at night, don’t worry if you’re flight gets in late as there are still taxis and tuk tuks (a bike taxi) available as the city of Cairo stays alive well into the wee hours of the morning. If you’re still hungry, want to wind down at a Shisha Lounge (hookah), go to a Jazz Club, frequent a bar, or shop at the many nights markets, you can still do those things and more after your arrival. If you arrive in the late evening as opposed to the aforementioned wee hours of the morning, I would recommend the following:

-Nile Dinner Cruise
-Sound and Light Show at the Giza Pyramids
-Cairo Old Market: Khan Al-Khalili Souk
-Hang out at Almaz (nightclub lounge)

We stayed at the Le Meridien Pyramids Hotel & Spa. It has a beautiful view of the Pyramids and is extremely close by. It has 4 restaurants, a spa, and an outdoor pool. It is also very affordable with prices at around 60 USD a night.

In the morning we went to go see the most well-known and major highlight for travelers to Cairo: The Pyramids of Giza. It is the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world and still remains preserved. If you do not arrange this excursion with your hotel or purchase beforehand with a touring company, here are the costs to get your ticket upon arrival: You can buy your ticket at the entrance security desk/kiosk. Beware of your taxi driver taking you elsewhere to purchase your ticket, don’t bargain with them, just have them take you directly to the entrance gate.

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Ticket to enter the Pyramid complex: Egyptian Pounds 80 ~ USD 9
Entrance Inside The Great Pyramid: Egyptian Pounds 200 ~ USD 11
Entrance into 2nd or 3rd Pyramid: Egyptian Pounds 40 ~ USD 2
Great Pyramid (Pyramid of Khufu): Egyptian Pounds100 ~ USD 9
Meresankh III tomb: Egyptian Pounds 50 ~ USD 6

I thoroughly enjoyed the Great Pyramid and the Sphinx, I had no idea what to really expect. We took a horse and carriage ride around the pyramids and then we rode a camel around the smaller pyramids. I found the archeological site to be fascinating and if you are into history and architecture, you will too. Nobody still knows how the pyramids were built and it is so interesting hearing all of the locals opinions on its construction. The question remains unanswered and it makes me even more curious and enchanted.

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The next stop was to visit some of my new family members and even though this is probably not something that would be on your itinerary, I learned quite a bit that would be useful for any traveler. Some of the phrases that the kids had me perfect that you should know upon arrival are:

No: la
Yes: naam
Please: min fadlak (m.) min fadlik (f.)
Thank you: shukran
Your Welcome: Ahlan beka
Sorry/Excuse Me: assef
Welcome: Marhaba
Goodbye: salam (peace)
My Name Is: esmi
What Is Your Name?: esmak eh? or Ma Esmok?
How Are You?: ez zayyak? (masc) ez zayyek? (fem)
Nice to Meet You Saadot belkak
I Don’t Understand: ana mish fahem
Do You Speak English?: int betetkalem inglizi?
Can You Help Me?: mumken tsaa’dni?
What Time Is It?: el-saa kam?

For my foodies, what is the point in traveling to a new destination and not trying the local cuisine? I was really excited about the opportunity to try Egyptian cuisine in Egypt at a family member’s house and I tried everything, even things I was skeptical about, like pigeon. Stuffed pigeon is a delicacy in Egypt and consists of whole pigeon stuff with rice and many different spices. Some other foods I had that I recommend you try upon your visit are:

-Kushari
– An assortment of grilled meats
– Sausage and liver sandwich
– Baladi Bread
-Fava beans and falafel

They also welcomed us with a delicious cake, celebrating my husband’s birthday and our new marriage. Egyptian birthday cakes are a little different than American cakes. You won’t find buttercream and whipped icing cakes, but more traditional cakes.

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Later that night we joined some more family members and went out for coffee, tea, and juice. If you are a fan of juicing, this is your time to have fresh juices galore. I was in juice heaven as I love juicing and fresh fruits and they had a plethora of smoothie and juice bars. Try quenching your thirst at Juice Me Up or City Drink!

For a full meal out on the town, try Sequoia for a diverse menu and shisha, they also serve alcohol in a place where many restaurants don’t. The views of the Nile are breathtaking and the setting is trendy and romantic. I am also a fan of Andrea, simply because I love chicken liver and the Kobeba and chicken liver are a must have there. Also, the atmosphere is laid back, colorful, and old school. Your kids can even take a donkey ride. Cool right?

I had a great time in Egypt’s sprawling capital, set on the Nile River and I look forward to going again. I have never experienced anything like it, the traffic the noise, the hustle & bustle, and the people will deluge you, so give yourself time to explore, relax, and wind down with a Shay bil na’na (mint tea) or a glass of sugarcane juice. I recommend on your visit you also do the following:
-Egyptian Museum
-Mosque of Muhammad Ali
-Al Azhar Park
-Tahrir Square

Remember, when you are ready to make your trip, Cairo is no Dubai, in fact, it can be dirty, it’s not glamorous, there are many pickpocketers and scammers waiting for a tourist to slip up, and the air quality is horrible. However, even with all of these unfavorable traits, it is still incredibly beautiful and one of my favorite places I’ve traveled to and if I were to recommend anything to you, it would be to give yourself time. You need time in Cairo for your visit to be efficient, productive, and somewhat foolproof.

Personally, having been able to enjoy a local and tourist experience was incredible. I loved meeting my new family members, eating authentic Egyptian cuisine in a real local Egyptian house, camel and horse riding at the Pyramids, and taking in all of that Vitamin D that the Egyptian heat and sun truly provide.

Do you love to travel and see yourself in Cairo?

 

 

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Follow me to Greece 🇬🇷 Why you should go to Greece now 🌎✈️

Greece is magical. 💫✨

Every experience I have in Greece is always unforgettable and I always long for it every time I leave. My first time in Greece was with one of best friends and we had a spectacular girls trip! Our favorite place was Mykonos, and every time we talk about plans for any other trip she always says “Take me back to Greece.” Because of my previous adventures in Greece I was so excited to go with my husband this time and show him what truly made my Greek experience incredible.

Our first stop in Greece was Athens and we stayed at NLH Fix | Neighborhood Lifestyle Hotels. NLH Fix Neighborhood Lifestyle Hotels is in a low profile neighborhood that is referred to as a new “old gem” and is right by the Acropolis. It’s ideal for long stays and is truly an accommodation that is a —place to live. There are guests that even stay there for months at a time and the design of interacting with the staff and people that live there further make your stay a unique adventure. In my experience, if you have a gelato craving at 3am, the staff & guests will be happy to assist you in making sure they find you a place where your cravings are met. My favorite part of staying there was how functional and spacious the rooms were. The hotel itself is very comfortable, stylish,  and it’s affordable (prices around $120 a night)!! Even though guests normally stay for a longer period of time, Santorini was calling us and we had to be on our way.

You can take a direct flight to Santorini from Athens but we decided to take a ferry. We bought a Blue Star Ferries ticket on DirectFerries.com and it was smooth sailing! I prefer a ride on the sea rather than a plane sometimes and the views on the way to Santorini were quite spectacular even though for the last 2 hours I won’t lie, we cuddled up and watched Netflix. But why not? The seats were comfy, there is a plethora of food and drink options, and it was spacious.

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In Santorini, we stayed by the Black Beach in Kamari and it is a perfect location for a couple looking for some R&R time. Besides the fact that it’s geographically amazing to lay out on a sunbed on a beach composed of black volcanic sand and pebbles, the row of restaurants on the beach were extremely appetizing as well. Our favorite restaurant on the Black Beach of Kamari was Alismari. We enjoyed a delicious seafood platter, good music, non-alcoholic cocktails, and superb lighting.

Other great locations in Santorini to stay are Oia, Fira, and Imerovigli. Every location is incredibly picturesque. In Oia we had a delicious meal at Fino. It’s a super cozy 5 star restaurant with extremely accommodating and sweet staff. We thoroughly enjoyed the food and the atmosphere; as you can see the decor is extremely aesthetically pleasing.

The Red Beach by the ancient site of Akotiri was one of my favorite beaches in Santorini. The view is worth the trip alone but how could you not love walking along the red cliffs while a local man is playing music and people are casually selling delicious fresh fruit along your cliff walking journey. I don’t have enough hands to count how many times someone asked me how my fruit was and if they should get some from the vendors and partake too. Why yes, you should!!

We took a short flight from Santorini to Mykonos and stayed in Mykonos city. Ideal location with restaurants, clubs, shops, and bars galore. Most of our adventures in the daytime included me on the back of a quad bike scared for my life that my husband would accidentally drive us off one of the cliffs. However, I loved showing him around Mykonos as the last time I was there I had the time of my life. Last year, I was in Mykonos with one of my best friends and we danced the night away at Scandinavian Bar, Super Paradise, and wandered around Mykonos city eating all of the gelato and baklava we possibly could. However, this trip with my husband was more of a time for us to wind down and relax, especially on the last leg of our Greek trip.

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Greece is one of my favorite travel destinations and I recommend that everyone go at least twice. You should go once with a group of friends and have the ultimate Greek island experience. Swim, sunbathe, boat, and dance! Then, you must go again, with a significant other and explore the volcanic cliffs, beautiful blue seas, and famous white and blue architecture. Be that cheesy couple way to obsessed with each other and enjoy the food,history, and culture. Greece has something for everyone. 🇬🇷

IMG_0936.JPGIG @jordansta

 

 

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Traveling As A New Muslim Convert

 

|First stop in ‘ Traveling as a New Muslim Convert’ chronicle ✈️ Ireland 🇮🇪  |

Ireland is for lushes but also non-drinkers too. As aforementioned, I am now living in a Muslim household and will be raising Muslim children and one of the things that is prohibited in Islam is alcohol. As enlightening as it is being a new Muslim convert, it is more difficult than you expect not being able to pick up my usual glass of wine while watching The Bachelorette (don’t judge), Insecure, or This Is Us. So when my job invited me to Ireland to celebrate my achievements for my successes in the past year all I could think about was how am I going to experience the TRUE Ireland. How am I going to go pub crawling? What about the touristy Guinness factory tours? I’m a massive globetrotter and I always pictured me going to Ireland and getting to be apart of the Irish drinking culture. As necessary as I thought it was to enjoy Ireland, it wasn’t.

Ireland is a romance novel readers dream. The ancient lore, doughty castles, and tower houses nestled in an island surrounded by the Atlantic are more picturesque than you could ever imagine. Not to mention, the mythological traditions, traditional music, Irish literature, & historic sites will keep you busy and enraptured in love, history and humor as well. We went on boat rides and toured the Dingle Peninsula, the Wild Atlantic Way, and went on a horse and buggy ride in the Gap of Dunloe. It was truly a Game of Thrones watchers’ wildest dreams. After a few days in the beautiful region of Shannon, I was sure that traveling as a new Muslim convert would be no big deal. But then we went to Dublin.

Dublin seemed to be all about pub crawling and that was not an option for me. Having my Muslim husband with me definitely helped me counter my disappointment in not being able to do the brewery experience and tasting of Irelands famous beer (Guinness) or even one of a ton of Irelands famous whiskeys. While my friends were out and about drinking it up, pub crawling, and singing karaoke to Irish songs with Dublin locals, I must admit I felt like I was missing out and I was doubting how truly adventurous my travels could be not being able to drink. I mean, after-all alcohol is a big part of many cultures and truly apart of some countries’ history. I came up with something better though, something much better. A SPA DAY. Dublin has so many amazing boutique spas to choose from and my husband and I spent an entire day at one and no longer had any FOMO of the Dublin pub experience. After all the hiking and exploring of the Shannon landscape and terrain it was well needed anyway.

Basically, Ireland isn’t just for lushes, it’s for non-drinkers too and I can’t wait to go again. So for all my Muslim brothers and sisters, don’t be hesitant to include Ireland in your travel destination plans or bucket list too!

Now that I’m expecting, I realize how dramatic I was being for a week in Ireland, when I definitely can’t partake now and neither can most women for 9 months at some point in their adult life.

I must say the difficulties of being a new Muslim convert aren’t just about not being able to drink but in Ireland I was able to see how different my trips would be moving forward. While leaving and headed to the airport I knew my new travels wouldn’t be any less adventurous BUT then we arrived in Greece…….(stay tuned)

 

@jordansta on IG

 

 

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