Thursday, 27 October 2011

Booking an airbnb apartment: our experience.

I wanted to tell you about our experience of booking and staying in an airbnb apartment whilst we were in New York. Because it was absolutely awesome! I have done apartment swapping in the past, with amazing results. (I stayed on a private island in Miami!) So when we were looking for accommodation in New York, we decided to do a similar thing. With airbnb you actually book to stay in someone's private apartment. It works out so much cheaper than booking a hotel and, in my experience, staying in a spacious apartment is usually a much nicer and more interesting experience than staying in a hotel. (I've apartment swapped in NYC before as well and it was also a winner.)

As we were planning to get married in an out-of-the-way part of Brooklyn, so we thought it would be great if we could stay in the area, and we totally lucked out. I found this loft apartment right in the neighbourhood which was absolutely gorgeous. And, at about £100 per night, much cheaper than a New York hotel. Here are some pictures. Unbelievably, I managed to take very few of the loft. (There are a couple in my post about our wedding, I think.)

To my mind, a hotel could never match up to the experience we had there. It was a huge loft owned by a gallery director, filled with artefacts, photographs, books... even the light fittings were gorgeous. I got ready to get married using the theatrical lightbulb vanity mirror in the bathroom. (Well, I had to fight my friend Jenny for mirror access.) (Can't believe I didn't take any pictures!)

There was a kitchen with everything you might need (and it was all lovely stuff) which you obviously wouldn't get in a hotel. A huge dining area, a living space full of interesting books, and even a film projector.

The building itself was incredible, an old factory converted into lofts. The hallways and doorways and everything else about it were solid brick and over-sized. Again, like a wally, I managed to take no pictures. (I'm secretly happy about that though, because I was just enjoying it, as opposed to feeling the need to record everything.)

I also have to say, we nearly booked this place in Willamsburg before finding our Red Hook place and the host was so helpful and lovely; definitely check this place out if you want somewhere more central in Brooklyn.

To summarise: I can't recommend airbnb enough. You get better value for your money and stay in more interesting neighbourhoods. You can get a rough idea of whether the host is going to be reliable through their reviews. They also link their page to their Facebook and Twitter accounts, so you can sort of see whether they're a real person. I personally had a great experience and say go for it.

EDITED: Just had lunch with a friend who asked me a couple of questions after seeing this post. We didn't share the apartment with the host, he was away, hence him renting it out. Some apartments you do rent with the owner occupying, it is all detailed on the airbnb profile of the property. We picked up our keys at a neighbourhood bar, which was super handy. As soon as you book the apartment you get your host's email address and phone number and then just work out all the arrangements.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

New York Trip, part 2.

I've been so busy since I got back from NYC. In the last three weeks I've had a lethal mix of jet lag, a heavy cold, the sudden need to search for a flat and then moving house AGAIN. (More on this later.) I'm so behind on things I want to post about, so I'm just going to post up the rest of my New York pictures (Tom and I must've taken 1500 between us) then get back to business.

The day before the wedding we went scouting around Red Hook for a place to hold the ceremony. I love that neighbourhood! In a big old warehouse there was a place that looked like somebody's garage which was advertising key lime pie for sale; Steve's Authentic Key Lime Pies. I asked Steve what kind of pies he sold. Silly question. 'Key lime pie.' Although they also sell key lime pie frozen, dipped in chocolate and on a stick; apparently it's called a swingle. Read about it here.

Key lime pie

Loved this cheeky cat making none too discreet advances on my pie.

Key lime pie

Just after pie the sky totally changed.


Post wedding day hangover.


I love the diner scene in the background!

Morning after wedding

Then uptown!




Obligatory picture of Bergdorf's window. There was a sensational fur coat – I wouldn't buy fur, even if I had the money – costing about $11,000. You can just see in the picture a glamorous blonde lady; she had a lap dog in her extremely handbag and looked as though she did have the money to buy it and was all like, 'Amazing, huh.' Before looking me up and down and walking off.


A massively essential lie-down in Central Park in the afternoon. So lush!

Central Park

In my hungover state, this view of the lake looked like a mirage as we turned the corner and saw it spread out in front of us.

Central Park

Brooklyn wanderings. Love this little cafe bar, Moto. It's probably a bit too hipster for its own good but it's decorated in really beautifully restored 1920s style and has lovely old-timey live music on in the evenings. Brooklyn is going through such a 1920s revival at the moment.



Mexico 2000 is in the same neighbhourhood, a few tables set up at the back of a bodega. It's the best mexican food I've ever had.

Mexico 2000

We went to Williamsburg just to have a poke around and caught the new East River ferry straight outta there, which was handy. I'm being a total hipster snob in this post, it seems. Dunno why, it takes one to know one.


Loved the Cobble Hill area of Brooklyn. Henry Street was such a sweet little neighbourhood street.


Coney had to be done. I don't know why I never learn about Nathan's hot dogs. They're disgusting. But my eyes are bigger than my belly, as my Grandma used to say.


The weather was lovely so it was nice to have an unexpected beach day. And there's just something so special about Coney, deserted when we went but redolent of generation upon generation of couples on dates.





Then back to Cobble Hill where we saw Drive at a cute old-fashioned cinema. (Loved Drive. Mean-faced hottie Ryan Gosling driving around LA. Didn't get Carey Mulligan in that role, though.)




This was the sign of a vintage shop called A Little Wicked in the lower East side and I have to say, it was full of awesome. You can buy online on their website. I was trying to be good but I regret several things that I didn't buy there!


Kinda love this picture of me crossing the street. (Narcissistic, yeah, that's why I've got a blog.)



How awesome is The High Line? Hanging out above the streets of downtown Manhattan, planted with scented shrubs, flowers, water features to splash in, recliners overlooking the Hudson river... such an oasis.





On a moody walk around rainy Tribeca on our final day, I stuck my head into the foyer of an old deco apartment building. How awesome is this light shade?


And our last sunset in NYC. I hate that feeling in airports when you just know you're on borrowed time.


Friday, 7 October 2011

New York trip.

I finally got around to sorting through the pictures of our New York trip. These are from the first couple of days. I've never seen NYC look as grim as when we arrived. It was really grey and rainy but I'd insisted we catch the bus to Manhattan from JFK instead of catching a taxi straight to Brooklyn; I really love the first glimpse of the city as you approach from the airport.

Unfortunately, we got stuck in really heavy traffic in the rain on a bus playing two types of really bad, tinny music. I nearly had a meltdown. Then when we arrived in NYC, it was just grim, grey and we couldn't get a cab outside Grand Central. When we did catch a cab, to take us to the ferry terminal for the ferry to Red Hook where we were staying, we drove through the grimmest part of town, under the bridges and next to the fish market.



But ne'ermind! As soon as we got on the ferry over to Red Hook, an amazing sunset broke through the clouds.

Red Hook

Red Hook is an industrial port area of Brooklyn, with overhead cables and wide streets that make it feel a million miles away from Manhattan. And the sunset that greeted us was absolutely stunning.

Red Hook

Red Hooke

We had to get up early the next day to go to pick up our marriage license. We only had one day to do it as we arrived late on Thursday and were getting married on Sunday and we had been warned that it would be busy due to the same-sex marriage legislation.


We decided to go to Brooklyn Municipal Hall instead of Manhattan City hall; a less glamorous option, but we didn't want to mess around. Jet lag helped us, so we were almost first in the queue at 8:30am. (There were some eager beavers ahead of us though!) It was really exciting, going through the forms with the registrar. Both of us had been slightly worried that something was bound to go wrong.

Brooklyn Municipal Building

Brooklyn Municipal Building

Brooklyn Municipal Building

But as it turned out, we had got our license and finished breakfast by 9:30am, so we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge to Manhattan.

Brooklyn Bridge

We wandered around Ground Zero, where I was surprised that the 9/11 memorial isn't actually freely accessed by the public, but all fenced off out of sight. Then, up West Broadway – my favourite street in Manhattan, because I stayed there on my first visit – and through Chinatown down Canal Street.





Then into Little Italy, where the San Gennaro festival happened to be taking place. It was artery-busting food heaven. Unfortunately (or fortunately) we were still full from breakfast. Cannolis, pickles, funnel cakes, sandwiches laden with any meat you could think was pretty intense.

San Gennaro festival


San Gennaro festival

San Gennaro festival

We had a wander around the West Village and a blissful lie-down in Washington Square Park, where a full jazz band were playing. (They even played one of our songs. Ahhh.)



We were jetlagged and pretty knackered, so we caught the subway back to Brooklyn. Cobble Hill, a neighbourhood close to where we were staying, was ridiculously cutesy. This is a Brooklyn Bridge tableau, built around a tree.

285 One street had been dressed up to look 1950s, and they were shooting a new TV series called Pan Am, a Mad Men spin-off.

Pan Am

Then dinner at Prime Meats, a restaurant that the hipster foodies rave about but which I actually found quite lame. (Gorgeous corn chowder, but corn is my favourite foodstuff. A massive fail of a main course, two giant wurst with a plateful of sauerkraut does not an interesting meal make. Plus Tom's burger was ridiculously rare. And the service was crap; disinterested diva city. Don't bother.)

Prime Meats