Where to celebrate Bastille Day in New York?

Celebrated on July, 14, Bastille Day is the French national day and the most important bank holiday in France! Setting the storming of the Bastille in 1789 as an essential part of the French History. The 14th July has become a major public holiday, traditionally considered as the symbol of the French Revolution. There’s no shortage of parties to attend in honor of France’s National Day on July 14, which commemorates the Storming of the Bastille a turning point in the French Revolution.

Credits: Nicole Stalinsky
Credits: Nicole Stalinsky

Starting this weekend, several French restaurants will hold pétanque tournaments and block parties will fill East 60th Street, Carroll Gardens’ Smith Street and Harlem’s Saint Nicholas Avenue.

Where is Bastille Day in New York?

While the most popular Bastille Day celebration takes place on 60th Street between Lexington Avenue and Fifth Avenue on Sunday, July 9th, there are multiple events happening all over the city until Sunday, July 16th.

Credits: nypost
Credits: nypost

July 13

  • Bastille Day Ball 2017
  • Where: Club 404, 404 10th Ave. Midtown
  • When: 6 p.m. to midnight

The Committee of French Speaking Societies is hosting its annual Bastille Day Ball, featuring Chloe Perrier and the French Heart Jazz Band and DJ Olivier Meiji. There will be a raffle for two round-trip tickets to Paris with Air France, as well. Tickets start at $30.

July 14

  • Bastille Day Pétanque
  • Where: Cafe du Soleil, 2723 Broadway, Upper West Side
  • When: 6 p.m. to midnight

Cafe du Soleil is hosting a pétanque tournament on its terrace with live music and food and drink specials.

July 16

  • Carroll Gardens Bastille Day Celebration & Pétanque Tournament
  • Where: Smith Street, Carroll Gardens
  • When: Noon to 10 p.m.

Bar Tabac is back again this year with its annual Bastille Day celebration and pétanque tournament, with raffles, live music, food and drink by local businesses. Roughly 20,000 people are expected to turn out for this free event.

  • Bastille Day Block Party
  • Where: Maison Harlem, 341 Saint Nicholas Ave., Harlem
  • When: Noon

Maison Harlem and Bang Tidy, a Brooklyn antique and clothing market, are hosting a Bastille Day block party with live DJs, food, cotton candy, face painting and pétanque.

Credits: deviantart
Credits: deviantart

You can also go on any French bar or restaurant, I am pretty sure, you will have fun ! If you have any question, don’t hesitate to write me a message !

Salvatore

Tips, taxes, commissions, how to spend your money in New York?!

The common act purchasing something (food, goods, clothes, other equipment…) in your own country is quite simple: you have a good idea of the prices applied in your local stores and depending on which country you live in, taxes are directly applied on the displayed item. You do not get surprised at the view of the price of your final purchase!

Credits: Harlem Spirituals
Credits: Harlem Spirituals

Therefore, you may feel a little bit lost performing such a mindless act when abroad. It can also become trickier when it’s not using your own currency. Get ready for some math calculations! In this article, I will explain to you how tipping works in New York, what your bank charges you per withdrawal and help you out with general money questions you may have.

How do I pay in New York?

Of course, in New York, the currency is the US dollar! See, you were not that terrible in school ! 🙂

1$ equals approximately to 0,77 British pound or 1,30 Australian dollar or 1,30 Canadian dollar or 3.49 Israel New shekels. The bills in circulation are the $1, $2 (new), $5, $10, $20 and $50 and $100. (sometimes business owners can be reticent to accept bills of $100) the coins in circulation are: the quarter (25 cents), the dime (10 cents), the nickel (5 cents) and finally the penny (1 cent). Generally, the most used credit cards, VISA or MASTERCARD are accepted almost everywhere. However certain business owners don’t take the American Express because this company charges them a higher commission. Banking checks from another country are not accepted.

Before coming to New York, I suggest you to pay your banker a visit to make sure your credit card is usable for your travel needs. You can also write an e-mail but do not forget to mention the dates of your stay! Indeed, if your credit card was never used abroad before, their security system qualifies your expenses as fraud and disables your CB instantly. While in New York, you can withdraw cash in ATMs. There are inside and outside most of the banks (avoid those at bars or placed outside small businesses where commissions are higher than in banks, even for national residents). During your withdrawals, I suggest you to choose “withdrawal from checking”. Depending on the partnerships that your bank has set up with local banks here, you may have to pay additional fees from $4 to $8 per operation. The best way to know is to consult the pricing online.

How much cash do I need to carry in New York?

When one goes abroad, it is essential to always carry a little bit of cash. Worst case scenario: imagine for a second that you lose your credit card on your first day… It is then necessary that you have enough money to help you get by for a few days while waiting for a new card or finding another solution! To gage how much you need in cash, do a quick calculation based on what you plan to buy/spend during your first few days. If you want to grab a taxi cab at the airport, the cost of the ride is between $65 to $70. I personally don’t think that you need much money on your arrival because for most cases, your accommodation has already been paid beforehand.

IMPORTANT: Please, don’t be fooled, avoid “black cabs” (illegal taxis), also called “gypsy cabs.” Their drivers are only looking to scam tourists and will not hesitate to ask you $200 for the transportation to your hotel! My advice to you is to wait on line for a yellow taxi (yellow cab) where an agent at the airport will affect you to a car, and it is one of the safest options out there.

Credits: Harlem Spitituals
Credits: Harlem Spitituals

If you want to plan ahead and avoid the hassle of finding a taxi cab after your long and tiresome flight, you can now book our comfy transportation service options from any airport to your hotel/apartment with us by CLICKING HERE.

Regarding the currency exchange, your bank is limited with economic solutions for your travel because their commissions are pretty expensive in my opinion.

Here are my 2 advices to you:

– pre-order US money online and withdraw it directly at the airport. Some Exchange Currency offices offer this service.

– if you have time, go to 2 or 3 Exchange currency offices near where you live to check what they offer, some of them (depending on your country) charge a little commission, other nothing. Explore all your options!

Service and leaving tips in the Big Apple

The average income of a waiter/bartender in New York is less than the minimum wage and that’s the reason why tipping is mandatory. It is very common to leave between 18% to 20% of the check in tips according to the quality of service you got. For your informaton, the tip is called “gratuity“. If you order a drink at a bar, the average tip is $1 or $2 per drink. If you are 6 people or more at a table, the waiter will automatically include a “gratuity” of 20% on your check/bill.

Credits: Liberation
Credits: Liberation

Tipping is not applied everywhere though. Indeed, if you eat in a fast-food like McDonalds or Starbucks, the concept of service doesn’t really exist because nobody will bring your order at your table! When taking a cab, like in most restaurants, you need to tip between 15% to 20%. If you pay in credit card, you will be able to select the options displayed on the small monitors behind the seats of the car.

In New York, the displayed prices don’t include taxes

On my first day in New York and doing some shopping, I was being cautious about the estimation price of my shopping cart while filling it. When I got to the cash register, I was surprised to notice that the amount estimated increased by approximately 10%! So much for my calculations… I asked the cashier to explain to me this price difference, and she declared the displayed prices don’t include taxes ! So beware of that.

What are taxes for the goods and services in New York?

The State of New York imposes taxes on services and goods on its territory.

When you see a displayed price, it is necessary to add 8,875% of taxes.

Taxes are composed this way :

– the tax of the town of New York with 4.5%,

– the tax of the State of New York with 4%,

  • the tax of Metropolitan Commuter Transportation District (MCTD) of 0,375%. Nevertheless, some products are not subjected to this tax, it is the case of food (except for restaurants), drugs, diapers, magazines and newspapers… but also clothing and accessories like shoes if their cost do not exceed $110.

Example for a pair of shoes:

– If a pair of shoes costs $110 or more, it will be taxed up to 8,875%.

– If this same pair of shoes costs less than $110, no tax will be applied. Another example: You bought 3 pairs of shoes at $100 dollars per pair, the tax will not apply because each pair of shoes do not exceed $110 dollars. As soon as you buy an item that costs $110 or more, the tax will apply.

Credits: Glamour
Credits: Glamour

I hope you found this article to be useful before you take on your NY adventure, if you have any question, do not hesitate to drop me a line on Facebook!

Salvatore

How to celebrate Fourth of July in New York?

What is this it is?

Independence Day referred to as the Fourth of July or July Fourth, is a federal holiday in the United States commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence 241 years ago on July 4, 1776. The Continental Congress declared that the thirteen American colonies regarded themselves as a new nation: the United States of America, and were no longer part of the British Empire.

Credits: Michael Dyers
Credits: Michael Dyers

Independence Day is commonly associated with fireworks, parades, barbecues, carnivals, fairs, picnics, concerts, baseball games, family reunions, political speeches and ceremonies (in addition to various other public and private events celebrating the history, government, and traditions of the United States). Independence Day is the National Day of the United States.

What Can I expect from that day?

Independence Day is a national holiday marked by patriotic displays. Similar to other summer-themed events, Independence Day celebrations often take place outdoors. Independence Day is a federal holiday, so all non-essential federal institutions (such as the postal service and federal courts) are closed that day. Many politicians make it a point to appear at a public event as well, in order to praise the nation’s heritage, laws, history, society, and its people.

Families often celebrate Independence Day by hosting or attending a picnic or barbecue; many take advantage of the day off and, in some may take a long weekend away to gather with relatives or friends. Decorations are generally colored red, white, and blue, the colors of the American flag. Parades are often held in the morning, before family get-togethers, while fireworks displays occur in the evening after dark at such places as parks, fairgrounds, or town squares.

How to celebrate this exceptional day in New York?

As mentionned above, the majority of New Yorkers will be enjoying the day outside: Central Park is one of the destination for an impromptu picnic with family and friends to later meet again in the evening to see the fireworks. The show starts around 9:00pm on the East River. Brooklyn Bridge and Williamsburg Bridge offer the best view of Manhattan. Also, keep in mind nearly 3 million of spectators are expected so make sure you arrive around 11:00am to score the best spot. If you do not want to wait, I invite you to explore other options to admire the fireworks below.

Credits: centralpark.com
Credits: centralpark.com

A wonderful cruise to admire the fireworks !

Credits: Harlem Spirituals
Credits: Harlem Spirituals

The 4th of July cruises are very trendy right now in New York. Indeed more and more people embark on board of a small boat to be near the fireworks and celebrate this national event with friends and family, while remaining away from the hurly-burly of New York. The cruise lasts for 5 hours during which you will be able to witness the best perspective of Manhattan and its skyline. To top it all, this escape includes the magic of one of the best DJs of New York. It is one wonderful moment which will remain engraved forever in your memory. If you are hungry or you wish to have a drink, there is a service bar/restaurant available in the boat. To book it, CLICK HERE

An helicopter tour

Credits: lovingnewyork
Credits: lovingnewyork

If sailing is not your thing, maybe you have the heart of a bird and air is for you!? If that’s the case, you will be thrilled by this tour which will enable you to enjoy the most exceptional sights of the city. After a takeoff above the Hudson River, you will move right towards the mythical Statue of Liberty and will be able to admire the Empire State Building and other iconic buildings of New York! If you want to make a success of your trip in New York, I strongly advise you o take this tour. To book it, CLICK HERE

If you have any question, do no hesitate to write me on Facebook!

Salvatore

How to avoid scammers in New York?

How to avoid scammers in New York?

How I always say a successful trip is a well organized trip! Scammers are everywhere and I hate to be taken for an idiot. I now know New York very well and it’s my pleasure to tell you what you should avoid while enjoying your trip !

At the airport

Credits: Gary Busio
Credits: Gary Busio

Don’t get into a gipsy cab (black car), those drivers are expecting the perfect fool. Some of them are indeed without scruples and will not hesitate to ask you $200 to $400 once arrived at your destination!Yellow cabs respect the official city rate which is approximately $75, tip included). For your information, Harlem Spirituals offers a large range of transportation service. Some of them include a private driver that will wait for you outside the airport : no stress, no wait, no inconvenience ! To book this service with us, CLICK HERE

Buy and walk in touristic places

Credits: Angel Chevrestt
Credits: Angel Chevrestt

Do not buy electronic products or cellphones in stores located toward Times Square. Very often, they are poor quality products and when you realize it, it’s too late, you are already back in your city/country.

Some shops, most of them near Broadway, sell national phone cards at the price of international cards. They are obviously much expensive and useless for you if you want to call your family and friends from your country.

When you pay with your credit card in a restaurant or any other business dealing with the service aspect, don’t forget to write the tip you want to leave. If you let it empty, the server or any other employee can fill it for you …

In Times Square or Soho, while you ll be walking around, you ll certainly meet young musicians acting with you like you guys have been friends forever. They will try to put on your hands their last CD/album. Don’t forget they expect money from you. So if you feel charitable that day, feel free to give them whatever you can, otherwise do not pay attention to them !

In the High Line and other touristic places, you may meet false buddhist monks. Basically, they offer “piece of paper full of wisdom”. They smile and look inoffensive, but they ask you for money. This phenomenon have obliged the town hall to set up information boards everywhere to inform tourists of these scammers.

Hotel, housing and public behavior

Credits: Harlem Spirituals
Credits: Harlem Spirituals

If you are staying in an hotel and your booking does not include breakfast, don’t order it on the spot. Most of the time, it’s more expensive than having breakfast outisde the hotel and on the top of bit you get to try different meals.

In New York, drinking booze in public is formally prohibited. If you get caught by the police, they will make sure you’ll regret it, not even talking about the huge fine you will get.

In a less glamour note, if you feel like you need to pee, my advice to you is do not do it in public nor against a wall, it’s consider like a degradation of public goods. The police officers will be pitiless.

Do not get Pedicabs randomly in the streets of New York, the rates which they give to tourists are excessively expensive. Harlem Spirituals offers similar activities like biking on the Brooklyn Bridge! To book it with us, CLICK HERE

If you have a drink in a bar, the tip is not included and as I already said, therefore do not hesitate to ask your change and leave a tip by yourself (for a beer or a soda or a cocktail, leave between 1 and 2 dollars).

In Times Square, if you decide to take a picture with Batman or Mickey Mouse, don’t forget that the guy behind this costume expects a tip… Some of them can become very aggressive if you forget to pay them…

If you rent a house or an apartment, do not send money or at least be very careful, there are a lot of scammers online. Choose a well-known website like Airbnb or Vrbo or Homeaway.

If you have questions, do not hesitate to comment on this article or to write me on Facebook.

Salvatore

A Guide To Some Classic NYC Food Experiences

Nowadays it’s not enough to just know about the latest food craze or trendy restaurants. The real pursuit is in finding the hidden gems – the under-the-radar eateries where real New Yorkers go for deliciously unpretentious bites that always manage to hit the spot. But how do you know where to go when New Yorkers like to keep their favorite places a secret so it doesn’t end up like every other crowded joints in NYC?

If you’re planning a visit to NYC or have guests coming from out-of-town, skip the typical tourist spots. And if you don’t know where to go: join us for a tasty BBQ lunch in Brooklyn or for fresh seafood lunch in a small, charming NYC seaside neighborhood that is off the beaten paths and frequented by mostly locals, on our Hidden Treasures tour of The Bronx with Lunch at City Island. Because why would anyone settle for average food options in NYC of all places, when you can essentially travel the world one plate at a time without ever leaving this city!

Here is our insider guide to good eats in the Big Apple.

Pizza

Pizza-NYC(Photo by Katrin G)

As a quintessential NY food, you are probably not surprised to see pizza on this list. Now, what is the best pizza in the Big Apple? Thin crust, thick crust, NY style, deep-dish, wood-fired or coal-oven… the answer is anyone’s guess and the good news is that regardless of your preference, New York City has a style of pizza for everybody and you can decide where you fit by looking at our list of The 10 Best Pizzas in New York City including the places where you can eat them.
Staff’s pick: Some of our favorite pizza places include Motorino, John’s on Bleecker Street, and Roberta’s.

Barbecue
Originating in the South, American Barbecue is more than just a culinary style; it’s a whole subculture with fierce fans. While New York City may be a mecca of food, it’s not the largest BBQ hub in the United States. You will be surprise by how far Barbecue enthusiasts in the Big Apple go to get their authentic BBQ fix in this City. No need to worry about finding one if you have been on our Triboro from Hip-hop to Hipsters tour complete with a finger-licking authentic southern style Barbecue lunch in Brooklyn! If you haven’t booked it already, do it now and you won’t regret it.
Staff’s picks: Other Barbecue restaurants that some of us cherish are Hometown Bar-b-que, the Smoke Joint, Blue Smoke and Hillstone

Soul Food

Chicken n Waffles(Photo by Flickr U)

What is soul food, anyway? It’s a token from the south of the US brought to NYC. The name “soul food” was coined by soul music, and initially used by Jazz artists in the ‘50s. Soul food is nothing new to New York City; it’s been around for decades. In fact, ‘til this day there are still some very good soul food eateries in the city that serve the most authentic version of this dish such as the restaurant we go to during our Soul food and Jazz tours as well as our Harlem Gospel tours with soul food lunch on Wednesdays or soul food brunch on Sundays.
Staff’s picks: When we want soul food on days our tours aren’t available we go to Bobwhite, Londel’s Restaurant or Manna’s to fix our cravings.

Seafood
New Yorkers love to have the best of everything and the seafood is no different, and they will travel to great lengths to find the perfect plate. For fresh seafood, join on our Hidden Treasures of The Bronx with Seafood Lunch, when we uncover the Bronx and this tiny coastal community known as City Island. On this tour, you not only get see a different side of New York City but you’ll also get to enjoy a delicious seafood lunch on City Island located in the Bronx.
Staff’s picks: Other good seafood options if you can’t make it to City Island are Littleneck Brooklyn, Luke’s Lobster or FishTAG.

Ramen

Momofuku Ramen(Photo via Momofuku)

Ramen noodles have been popular in New York City for a long time but this is one of the food trends that has yet to vanish and is enjoyed by people of all backgrounds in this melting pot. This dish continues to mesmerize many foodies and travelers in New York, as there are so several ways to enjoy it. Nowadays, upscale ramen eateries are popping up all over New York City and they are building a stellar reputation among food lovers in the Big Apple.
Staff’s picks: For a flavorsome bowl of ramen, we like Ippudo Ramen, Chuko Ramen, Ivan Ramen or Totto Ramen.

Bagels
What makes the bagels in New York City so special? Even some New Yorkers have yet to find an answer to this question. Some people speculate that it’s all in the water 🙂 whatever the case may be, we can all agree that they are amazing! New York City is home to some of the world’s best bagels and you’ve got a lot of bagel options. Most New York bagels can come anyway you like, whether you want something sweet or savory for breakfast. One thing for sure is that once you eat a bagel in the Big Apple; you will always be able to tell the difference when you go anywhere else.
Staff’s picks: We recommend you try Bagel Express, Broadway Bagel or Bagel Talk during your next NYC stay.

Burgers

Burger- Spotted pig(Photo via the Spotted Pig)

Whether you are visiting or have out of town guests in New York, keep in mind that when it comes to getting tasty burgers in this city, your options are all but limited. If you don’t believe in standing in long lines for a Shake Shack Burger, you can still get very decent burgers that are not fast food depending on the type you are looking for. And, remember that you can still enjoy some really appetizing burgers in this town without necessarily going to a burger-focused restaurant. Some good burger joints in the Big Apple to go: the Counter Times Square, the Corner Bistro, and the Spotted Pig.
Staff’s picks: Some good burger joints in the Big Apple that we like to go are the Counter Times Square, the Corner Bistro, and the Spotted Pig.

Hot dogs
When it comes to hot dogs in NYC, do yourself a favor and stay away from the hot dog carts on the street because there are so many other franks out there for you to enjoy. On independence day annually for instance, people go to Nathan’s famous in Coney Island to stuff tons of hotdogs down their throats for the title of “Nathan’s Hot dog eating champion”. However, if watching people eat lots of hotdogs in minutes is not your perfect image for entertaining, go to any Nathan’s just to get a taste of their famous dogs. Nathan’s has a number of locations citywide if going to Brooklyn seems a little to far away.
Staff’s picks: Our choice for best hot dog in NYC goes to Crif Dogs for all the fun and creative options they offer. But, if you prefer the classic NYC style dogs, try the New York Dog House 🙂

Well now, if you can’t make up your mind on what to taste first and where, we have the perfect solution: join our Uptown and Harlem Food tour  and enjoy 5 delicious and quintessential New York food experiences while also exploring the exciting neighborhoods.

Whether you are on the hunt for all-time classics, trendy bites or the off-the-radar food spots, these are ultimately what you may want to have on your list of what to taste while you are in Gotham. Even if you are not familiar with some of these dishes — don’t knock them until you try them. Challenge your taste buds! What is the dish that you most look forward to eating every time you are in NYC?

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