This year we decided to vacation in the big city. New York, New York has been beckoning us for awhile and we wanted a chance to play tourist, explore a bit, experience some culture, hang out with friends and indulge our taste buds. I think we managed to accomplish all of our goals.
This is the first in a series on New York because there was just too much to show you and talk about that one blog just wouldn’t do!
We chose the Tenements, Tales and Tastes Tour from New York Urban Adventures because it offered a bit of everything and we wanted to get a good sense of the city and its historical and culinary roots. Our guide Brian was very engaging and we knew as soon as we met him it was going to be a really great time and we were right. The group was small, under 12 people, which is the hallmark for Urban Adventures. During our time in NYC we noticed groups of 25-30 people on tours and we were happy that all three tours we chose were unique small group experiences. It gives you the opportunity to ask questions and move at a comfortable pace.
We met at the fountain at City Hall Park and Brian our guide started chatting with a lost couple who were trying to find their tour group. He helped direct them and once we had our whole group together we were off, but not before he gave us a Danish style wafer with caramel to enjoy.
The tour takes you through the immigration history of the East Side, Chinatown and Little Italy. As we walked through each neighbourhood Brian shared important facts and a few stories. Our first food stop was Chinatown where we tasted dumplings that were out of this world! Handmade and delicious, we were off to a great start. I love how food and culture are so entertwined. It is as though by tasting the foods you are transported through time.
Brian was excited to see our interest in the fruit sellers on the sidewalks of Chinatown. He made an unscripted stop and picked up a prickly looking fruit called Rambutan. We felt a bit skeptical but after being shown how to eat it we all gave it a try and it was sweet and juicy and similar to a grape. As we wound our way through the streets it was still early and stores were just opening and putting out their wares.
We soon found ourselves in a nearby area called Little Italy. It is an area much smaller than I would have pictured it but it is filled with food and friendly people who love to talk about it.
Soon we meet John who gives us proscuitto and fresh mozzarella which he makes in house. We learn that the the best way to eat it is by wrapping the meat around the cheese and savouring each bite. There are so many options in this store to create a fabulous Italian meal it is hard to resist temptation
Nearby there is a pastry shop and we persuade our guide to let us buy a couple things because they just look far too good! We opt for cannollis but they don’t make it to a photo shot because well they were far too good!
We move on to our stop at a 100+ year old bakery. I know that we would have never found this little Knish shop on our own and I’m excited to try something completely new. We are satiated with the carb load and as we look around we see photos of Woody Allen and others on the walls. There is a dumbwaiter that brings the freshly baked knishes up from the kitchen to the bakery window to be sold. It is authentic, tasty and the ingredients are simple.
Last stop we celebrate the Germans and their love of mustard with a fresh pretzel. We decide that this stop calls for a beer and we order from their lengthy beer list. It is the week of our 22nd anniversary and hubby’s birthday so Brian surprised us with a treat for all of us to share. There is nothing like fresh apple strudel to make a girl smile.
We make a note to ourselves that we will likely need to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge to make up for our transgressions but it was so worth it! So if you are heading to New York and want to do something a little different I don’t think you will be disappointed. You will indeed have the Best.Day.Ever.
Disclosure: I was a guest of Urban Adventures on the tour. I was not requested to write about it, nor am I being compensated for doing so. All opinions are my own. I consciously chose not to provide the names of each stop and everything we did because they have worked hard to find such fantastic places and you have to have a little left to the imagination!