Easy to Identify Mushroom in NYC: Giant Puffball (Calvatia gigantea)

Puffballs of all sizes grow in the forest, alongside roads, in the middle of a green grassy lawn, they can really grow anywhere! You can stir fry them, cook them in the oven and my absolute favorite, is pretending they are pancakes!

It’s prime mushroom picking season but it’s quickly cooling down. You might be seeing mushrooms all around you, even in city parks and on the side of highways! There’s still some time to go out and forage before winter chases us indoors for Netflix, hot chocolate and hibernation. However, most mushrooms take a lot of experience to identify which can be scary and discouraging.

It is also extremely dangerous to eat anything that you’re not certain about. Although there are many YouTube videos and Facebook groups are not always a reliable way to be sure that you will be safe. Even after you read this article, go talk to experienced mushroom pickers, join a mycological society and always be overly careful.

Two other warnings:

  1. It is not legal to pick mushrooms everywhere. Ask a police officer, park ranger or at the info center where you can pick them. If you go anywhere else, you risk getting a hefty fine. In NYC it can be up to $250!
  2. Wild mushrooms are not like the ones you buy at the store. Some people might experience an allergy to a specific type even though they are not allergic to others. Some edible mushrooms have skins that certain people might react to with a stomach ache. Although I am lucky to be allergy free and tolerate everything I’ve tried so far, I’m aware that I might eat a perfectly good edible mushroom that might make me feel sick.

That being said, mushrooms are a great way eat sustainably, healthily and package-free. They are also vegan but can be cooked with whatever ingredients you prefer. Some people make ice cream and cheese cake out of mushrooms…

Let’s get down to business, there are mushrooms that are growing everywhere around New York right now and they happen to taste delicious! The giant puffball (tiny ones are good too) is really easy to identify, grows to be huge so it’s satisfying to find and it’s a great way to begin your mushroom picking lifestyle.

Giant puffball (Calvatia gigantic):

Puffballs come in round shapes and in various sizes. They don’t have any gills, or stems, they grow right out of the ground. The regular kind is small, round, white/grayish/yellowish with tiny bumps and they get dark and dry when they are ready to release their spores. When they are dry, you can stomp on them and they will puff out dark-colored spores, which is why they are called puffballs.

Giant puffballs don’t taste any better than small ones, arguably they taste worse. But one big puffball can feed a family of three for a day. They can grow to be larger than your head! In their prime they are pure white on the outside and inside.

If they are any there color, or have any markings, be cautious.

Unlike the hen-of-the-woods that I wrote about earlier this week, giant puffballs do have a very poisonous lookalike, but it’s extremely easy to differentiate them! Once you pick a puffball, cut it down the middle from top to bottom, an edible puffball will have firm purely white firm flesh without any markings. It should look like sliced mozzarella!

If the mushroom is off-white, it’s an edible kind that’s past it’s prime. Don’t eat it! There are several stages of a puffball going bad. First, the inside will get yellower but will remain firm. Then it’ll get wetter and darker, at this point the outside might be getting yellower too. Finally, it dries up and releases dark gray/black spores.

Even when a puffball is yellow, it’s technically not poisonous. The only type of puffball that is poisonous, is one with black lines that look like intricate designs. These will be on the outside and on the inside. These puffballs are very poisonous and should NOT be consumed.

Puffballs of all sizes grow in the forest, alongside roads, in the middle of a green grassy lawn, they can really grow anywhere! Just make sure to cut every single mushroom in half, and throw any puffball that isn’t pure white on the inside. The rule of thumb with mushrooms is, if there is any doubts, leave it behind.

If you thought that the hen-of-the-woods had many recipes, just wait until you bring home a haul of puffballs. You can stir fry them, cook them in the oven and my absolute favorite, is pretending they are pancakes!

All you need to do is cut 3/4 inch slices, fry them in the oven or on the pan with some coconut oil and cinnamon and serve with maple syrup. If you cook them long enough you can barely taste the difference – they are soft on the inside and crispy on the outside. Delicious. Here are some other recipes.

Just a quick reminder, some people don’t react well to the skin of puffball mushrooms (or any mushroom skins). Some mushrooms have tough skin that’s supposed to protect the mushroom from being eaten, this skin can be hard to digest and some people are more sensitive than others.

It’s very similar to the skin on certain nuts, if you’ve ever pooped out an intact almond, you know what I’m talking about. Personally, I eat the skin but please be aware that you might have a reaction to it! You can always start by eating a small piece with the skin on, wait a few hours and see how you feel. It can be scary to feel sick after eating a wild mushroom and not know why.

Do you have any stories to share about puffballs? What’s your record find (size or amount)? What’s your favorite recipe? Share your puffball stories with us in the comments below!

Follow The Travel Bug Bite at:
0

Easy to Identify Mushroom in NYC: Hen-of-the-Woods (Maitake)

I find these mushrooms the most rewarding to pick, because even a small one is enough as a side dish to any meal and the bigger ones can feed an entire family! Every time I’ve looked for hens, I found at least one and usually had 2-4 kilos (4-9 pounds) in just 30 minutes of searching. Of course, you can also find a single mushroom that weighs 13+ kilos (30+ pounds).

It’s prime mushroom picking season but it’s quickly cooling down. You might be seeing mushrooms all around you, even in city parks and on the side of highways! There’s still some time to go out and forage before winter chases us indoors for Netflix, hot chocolate and hibernation. However, most mushrooms take a lot of experience to identify which can be scary and discouraging.

It is also extremely dangerous to eat anything that you’re not certain about. Although there are many YouTube videos and Facebook groups are not always a reliable way to be sure that you will be safe. Even after you read this article, go talk to experienced mushroom pickers, join a mycological society and always be overly careful.

Two other warnings:

  1. It is not legal to pick mushrooms everywhere. Ask a police officer, park ranger or at the info center where you can pick them. If you go anywhere else, you risk getting a hefty fine. In NYC it can be up to $250!
  2. Wild mushrooms are not like the ones you buy at the store. Some people might experience an allergy to a specific type even though they are not allergic to others. Some edible mushrooms have skins that certain people might react to with a stomach ache. Although I am lucky to be allergy free and tolerate everything I’ve tried so far, I’m aware that I might eat a perfectly good edible mushroom that might make me feel sick.

That being said, mushrooms are a great way eat sustainably, healthily and package-free. They are also vegan but can be cooked with whatever ingredients you prefer. Some people make ice cream and cheese cake out of mushrooms…

Let’s get down to business, there are mushrooms that are growing everywhere around New York right now and they happen to taste delicious! The hen-of-the-woods (maitake) doesn’t have any poisonous look alikes, grows to be huge so it’s satisfying to find and it’s a great way to begin your mushroom picking lifestyle.

Hen-of-the-woods (maitake):

The hen-of-the-woods looks a little like the fluffy feathers of a hen, hence it’s name. Here are some photos of how they can look at different stages of growth.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Picture credits: Photo 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5

Don’t confuse the hen-of-the-woods with the chicken-of-the-woods. Chickens can grow higher up on the tree, they are orange and they grow in layers. I have heard a lot about these mushrooms and I’m told they’re delicious, however I haven’t found any yet and I don’t know how to tell them apart from the many other orange mushrooms that grow on trees! Stick with hens at the beginning, you can’t go wrong with them and there are plenty to go around!

Hen-of-the-woods mushrooms typically grow on oak trees, so if you see acorns on the ground you’re in the right spot. If you look at the roots of an oak, you’ll notice that they have a clumpy shape with many little lumps which is very similar to the hen mushroom. From a distance, you might confuse a hen mushroom with some dried leaves. Always go check it out, and take a look around the entire tree. They tend to grow on bigger, wider oaks and there can be a several clusters of them around a single tree!

I find these mushrooms the most rewarding to pick, because even a small one is enough as a side dish to any meal and the bigger ones can feed an entire family! Every time I’ve looked for hens, I found at least one and usually had 2-4 kilos (4-9 pounds) in just 30 minutes of searching. Of course, you can also find a single mushroom that weighs 13+ kilos (30+ pounds).

Hen-of-the-woods are either off-white, kind of beige/grayish or more brownish, especially around it’s rounded edges. They always grow in clumps, so from a distance you could confuse them with clustered mushrooms – remember that even though it looks like a cluster, it’s one big mushroom that spreads out and looks fluffy. If you cut it at the stem and you see many individual mushrooms, it’s not a hen. If you see any gills (pictured below) it is NOT a hen.

Hens are smooth, fluffy looking, single-stemmed mushrooms.

http---jimbuescher.zenfolio.com-img-s-v-3-p757829223-3

Remember, the picture above is NOT a hen-of-the-woods. It’s an example of gills, that hens do NOT have.

Sometimes, the hen-of-the-woods grows on trees other than oaks. If you want to be extra safe, you can stick to only eating the ones that you find on oak trees, although like I already said, there isn’t any dangerous look-a-like. Hens are very unique looking.

Don’t forget to bring some common sense with you to the forest. If there are too many bugs on the hen, if it looks dry or off-color, then it’s probably not good for eating. While most insects are pretty safe to eat if cooked correctly, you should stay away from unintentional entomophagy. Plus, insects can cause allergic reactions in people who are also allergic to shellfish.

Another common sense move is to avoid picking mushrooms in forests where there’s a mark on the tree, or a colorful rope tied around an area. These could mark a protected area, a sick tree, some sort of pest, pollution, disease, etc. If it looks questionable, don’t go there.

Same goes for roadside mushrooms. Think about the pollution that they are exposed to. Would you like some car exhaust with your mushrooms? I don’t think so. Don’t pick anything that looks unclean (not including natural forest dirt) or could be polluted. Similarly to road exhaust, some places could be using pesticides or other chemicals in the area. Although most of us are already exposed to them from the food we buy in supermarkets, the less chemicals we consume, the better.

When you find a hen and bring it home, watch a video on how to clean it correctly. It has many layers, the thick white stem isn’t as yummy as the rest of it so you want to cut that off and if possible, clean it outside or in a large tub to avoid clogging your drain with forest debris. If you see any holes, cut into them and remove any insects, spiders or slugs.

How do you cook a hen?

There are so many ways to cook these mushrooms! Chop them into tiny pieces and stir fry, with other veggies, or if you’re not vegetarian then maybe some meat, lard or eggs to make the perfect mushroomy omelette.

The nutritional value of hens varies depending on the website, but everyone agrees that they have very little fat or protein and lots of vitamin D. Some websites claim that they have very few carbs, others claim that they are 70% carbs. Almost everyone agrees that they are a healthy addition to a balanced diet!

I tend to use too much olive oil and caramelized onions to make a fatty, crispy, scrumptious meal but there are much healthier alternatives. You can cook them in the oven with coconut oil, you can steam them, boil them, grill them probably even air fry them. Whatever you chose to do, make sure to cook them well as they can be a bit chewy and hard on the stomach if you undercook hens, although this is true for mushrooms in general. You can find various recipes here.

If you didn’t manage to find any, or didn’t want to risk picking the wrong mushroom, you can still enjoy eating wild hen-of-the-woods. Check out your local farmers markets from August until November and I guarantee that you’ll find some hens – generally for $1 per pound!

Do you enjoy picking mushrooms? Have you tried hen-of-the-woods? Share your stories, tips, recipes and favorite mushroom picking spots in the comments below!

Follow The Travel Bug Bite at:
0

Mushroom Picking in New York City

So many people are curious about picking and cooking mushrooms but fear holds them back. It is never risk-free to eat wild mushrooms, but there are certain kinds that are extremely easy to identify. There are also books, Facebook groups and other recourses that can help you. Never eat anything that you’re not sure about or something that has a poisonous look-a-like.

Fall in New York is amazing for so many reasons. It is finally cold enough to enjoy the city, the fall foliage is breathtaking, you can finally wear those scarves and jackets that have been waiting in the back your closet and *drumroll* you can go mushroom hunting!

Living in China for two years and moving to New York didn’t beat the Czech girl out of me. I grew up picking mushrooms with my parents and I never expected NYC to be mushroom heaven!

In Prague, mushroom hunting is a popular sport and the experts don’t joke around. If you arrive in the forest at 7AM, you’re already late. All you’ll find is stumps of cut off mushrooms that were picked at 4 or 5AM. It’s extremely competitive and almost every Czech does it.

I was so excited to visit Bear Mountain even though it cost a lot on car tolls and the drive was long at almost 2 hours from Brooklyn. I decided to look for mushrooms while we hiked, and the very first tree that I looked at was covered in hen-of-the-woords mushrooms!

This led me to discovering the New York Mycological Society, an amazing group of people who love mushrooms even more than I do! They offer lots of foraging events all over the city and sometimes upstate New York or New Jersey.

So far I joined one event that took place at the Woodlawn Cemetery and Conservancy in the Bronx. For just $5 each (for non-members) we got to join around 20 other people who collected mushrooms for four hours and then came together to identify them. It was really fun despite the horrible weather and I learned so much about local mushrooms!

If you’re coming from Europe like me, please do your research before you go mushroom picking! Certain boletes that are edible in Europe are actually poisonous here in the USA. There are also plenty of edible species here that don’t grow in Europe – that’s why it’s a great idea to start off by going with the Mycological Society, they will teach you the dos and don’ts!

Another thing to be aware of in New York City, is that state parks have strict laws about foraging. Technically, picking mushrooms can get you a fine of up to $250. It is confusing because when you look up the laws, they make it sound like foraging plants and flowers is illegal while mushrooms are an exception, but I keep hearing about people getting fined and pleading ignorance doesn’t always work.

So many people are curious about picking and cooking mushrooms but fear holds them back. It is never risk-free to eat wild mushrooms, but there are certain kinds that are extremely easy to identify. There are also books, Facebook groups and other recourses that can help you. Never eat anything that you’re not sure about or something that has a poisonous look-a-like. I’ve been picking mushrooms my whole life and I still leave anything that is questionable or looks off, even if I’m 99% sure.

Are you an avid mushroom picker and have some tips, stories or want to generously share your favorite spots? Please share in the comments below!

Follow The Travel Bug Bite at:
0

Go Green in NYC with Green Mountain Energy

According to Green Mountain Energy, their customers have avoided using over 69 billion pounds of CO2 which is the equivalent of planting over 8 million trees. You can see the climbing numbers on their website. By the time you check it out for yourself, it’ll be over 70 billion and we can only hope that it keeps climbing!

Green Mountain Energy had a booth by the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and they got our attention for waving a $5 discount coupon for the store we were about to shop at. We decided to listen to what they had to say, and ten minutes later we were signing up to change from coal to renewable energy.

The company boasts being the longest serving renewable energy retailer. They offer competitively-priced electricity products that use wind and solar power. According to their website, the traditional production of electricity from fossil fuels is the largest source of industrial air pollution in the U.S. This fact is supported by the EIA – the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Changing over was very easy, we just needed to find our Consolidated Edison identification number and fill out an online form. Con Ed has a monopoly on providing electricity to New York City and they offer the option for using green energy instead of coal. We didn’t know about this so we never thought of changing it. Since coal is the cheapest and easiest for them to provide, that is the automatic option.

The change to Green Mountain Energy will cost us just a few dollars each month for the service fee, but the actual rates are basically the same – for electricity. We also ended up switching to a sustainable gas source as well, which is supposed to reduce our gas bill and cancel out the extra electricity costs. Basically, going green is going to be free and changing it was the easiest thing in the world.

Like so many of you, Isaac and I do so much to try and minimize our footprint on this planet but we were missing this vital step that will make more of a difference than saying no to a bag at the store! If you would like to make the change but need more information, call your electricity provider today. It can be scary signing papers handed out by strangers, go through your provider directly for peace of mind.

We’ll be receiving our first utilities bills this week, so we still can’t confirm that this change was practically free. But we only have one Earth, so even if it costs us the price of a coffee or two to reduce just a little of the damage that’s being done to the planet, then we’re willing to pay it.

According to Green Mountain Energy, their customers have avoided using over 69 billion pounds of CO2 which is the equivalent of planting over 8 million trees. You can see the climbing numbers on their website. By the time you check it out for yourself, it’ll be over 70 billion and we can only hope that it keeps climbing!

 

 

 

 

Follow The Travel Bug Bite at:
0

Best Vegan Food in China Town, NYC: Bodhi Kosher

On our way in I saw sashimi in the display window and I was disappointed that we weren’t in an all-vegan restaurant. It turned out that the sashimi was vegan too! Another customer who had lived in New York her whole life told us that it was her favorite place in the city.

It was hard to find a vegan restaurant in China Town. Just kidding… it was hard picking one of the dozens of restaurants all claiming to have the “best vegan food in New York City.”

When we lived in Shanghai, China, the concept of veganism was not something that was understood by local people. Although it was easy to avoid animal products by ordering veggie side dishes in local restaurants, there was only one exclusively vegan expat restaurant. So even though we knew that New York is extremely vegan-friendly, we had no idea that China Town was in on the hype.

After a quick search on Google we picked a restaurant based on distance from where we were. It was raining and it would have taken an hour to go through all the options… so we walking for two minutes and found ourselves at the end of a long line outside of Buddha Bodai, supposedly the best vegan restaurant in the city.

Isaac used his Mandarin skills to eves-drop on the staff who mentioned a 45 minute waiting list. We considered waiting since the place had such great reviews, but we ended up finding another place nearby and it didn’t have a line. Bodhi Kosher Vegetarian Restaurant was barely a block away from Buddha Bodai.

On our way in I saw sashimi in the display window and I was disappointed that we weren’t in an all-vegan restaurant, because I was excited to browse the menu without having to check what I could and couldn’t eat. It turned out that the sashimi was vegan too! Everything in the restaurant was, and this place also claimed to be the best all-vegan restaurant in the city. Plus, another customer who had lived in New York her whole life told us that it was her favorite place.

The list of items on the menu was overwhelming. There was sushi, dim sum, all sorts of traditional dishes made out with mock meat. Like pulled pork, duck and a meat platter all made of mushrooms, stain and other plant-based ingredients that I couldn’t identify.

Unfortunately we came about three hours after dim sum happy hour, which makes every meal a dollar cheaper! Not that Bodhi Kosher Vegetarian Restaurant is expensive… we spent just over $35 on a giant meat plate, a sushi platter, steamed dumplings, fried dumplings and some dim sum. We even got fortune cookies with the bill – which is not something that happens in China by the way.

We definitely hope to go back and sample some more of their delicious menu. However there’s many other vegan places we still need to eat at in China Town. One of the best things about New York is that you could eat a different restaurant every day and it would still take you a lifetime to try it all!

What’s your favorite restaurant in New York? Leave a comment below!

39467350_10156580401008134_6162101875786121216_n

 

Follow The Travel Bug Bite at:
0

Cheap Ferries with Great Views of New York

Depending on the time and day of the week, it can be faster to take the ferry than the subway to get from lower Manhattan to Brooklyn. After a day of exploring New York a few weeks ago, we did just that. We managed to get on the last boat of the day and made it to Dumbo in less than five minutes. From there, we got to enjoy a beautiful view of the city…

As soon as we found out that we were moving to New York, we began booking weekend trips, sightseeing tours and ferry rides. We found a really cool sunset cruise that only cost $16 per person so we bought tickets, never wrote it down on our calendar and we ended up missing it… which was extremely disappointing.

Luckily, just two days later we decided to go to the beach and the subway took almost two hours to get us from Brooklyn to Rockaway in Queens. On our way back we decided to take the ferry to Manhattan with our friends. For the same price as a subway ride, just $2.75, we spent an hour on the ferry with a double rainbow behind us and the most spectacular New York skyline in front of us!

For about $10 we could have ordered a beer on the ferry too. Although that was too expensive for us, if you add $10 and $2.75, that’s still less than the $16 (+ tax and service fee) that we paid for the sunset cruise that didn’t include drinks… if it hadn’t been raining, we would have even gotten a sunset! Instead, we got to see the most beautiful rainbow.

The Manhattan Pier 11 ferry terminal is on Wall Street and it’s in a really cool area. There are places to eat right on the water, there are parks and cute streets to explore. We didn’t have enough time to stay there and look around, but next time we take the ferry, we hope to see more of the area!

Other than the completely free Staten Island ferry that I definitely recommend every New York visitor to take for great views of the Statue of Liberty, you can also take the ferry from the same Pier 11 to Dumbo, Brooklyn.

Depending on the time and day of the week, it can be faster to take the ferry than the subway to get from lower Manhattan to Brooklyn. After a day of exploring New York a few weeks ago, we did just that. We managed to get on the last boat of the day and made it to Dumbo in less than five minutes.

From there, we got to enjoy a beautiful view of the city. We ended up walking to a secluded spot right by the water where we could see the Brooklyn Bridge in the distance as well as the Manhattan skyline. Once again, this ferry only cost us $2.75!

Although we haven’t done it yet, we’ve heard rumors of a $10 ferry that circles the entire island of Manhattan that runs frequently every day. Although these cheap public ferries are a great way to explore New York, if you’re looking for a proper boat tour, that is another cheap option. Subscribe to The Travel Bug Bite for more tips and info about New York City!

39441736_10156580400848134_1754309100339986432_n39500157_10156580401103134_2475059553830436864_n40562533_10156616728288134_4746048705868595200_o39910948_10156585957843134_3247056930031534080_n

Follow The Travel Bug Bite at:
0

Visiting the 9/11 Memorial: New York, 2018

Despite feeling a pang of sadness every year when the anniversary comes around, the magnitude of the catastrophe never really resonated with me… until I visited the 9/11 Memorial and Museum on September 1st as part of my New York Sightseeing Pass. I did not expect to be as moved as I was by the display of videos, artifacts and photographs of all of the victims and the towers.

It’s been 17 years since the tragic day of September 11th, 2001, but as one of the signs in the memorial states, “No day shall erase you from the memory of time.”

The high schoolers who will learn about the event this year, will be learning about it as history. They were not alive at the time that 2,977 people lost their lives in the biggest terrorist attack that the world had ever seen. I was only nine when it happen yet I remember the day clearly. I can still picture myself playing with legos while watching the footage on every news channel while my mom called family and friends in tears.

Despite feeling a pang of sadness every year when the anniversary comes around, the magnitude of the catastrophe never really resonated with me… until I visited the 9/11 Memorial and Museum on September 1st as part of my New York Sightseeing Pass. I was curious about the museum but was mostly looking forward to going up the One World Trade Center/Freedom Tower afterwards.

I did not expect to be as moved as I was by the display of videos, artifacts and photographs of all of the victims and the towers. They displayed the metal structure that the first plane hit, twisting it out of shape. They had the motorcycle that one of the firefighters had just bought before perishing in the rescue efforts. They even had the boarding pass of one of the highjackers of Flight 77. It was fascinating and incredibly eerie at the same time.

As soon as we got through security and entered the building, a solemn mood fell over the previously boisterous crowd of tourists. There was barely any talking, except in hushed tones, as people read the timeline of events on September 11th.

The amount of information was staggering, down to the detailed minutes of the fateful day, from the phone call that a passenger made to his father from the first plane to rescuers telling people in the South tower to stay calm and return to their offices a mere half-hour before the second plane hit.

There were tissues available for viewers of a video where bystanders and survivors describing the series of events and the horrors that they witnessed. While we didn’t see anyone crying, many people were shaking their heads, holding their loved ones close and closing their eyes when things got too intense.

My favorite aspect of the memorial was the message of hope portrayed in the video about the construction of the One World Trade Center. Amidst all the horrifying footage and possessions of the victims were stories about the heroes who went above and beyond their duties to save lives and help those in need.

We spent about two hours walking around the museum and we would have spent more time there if it wasn’t so cold (the air-con was a little overdone) and if we hadn’t marched for four hours earlier during the day. There was a lot more we could have learned if we had had the energy (and a jacket).

It was a coincidence that we went to the memorial before going up to the observation deck. We were standing by the fountain and made the decision completely at random. It was so much more meaningful to go up the One Trade Center after going through the memorial and re-living the tragic event and experiencing the hope that the tower represented first-hand.

If you’re planning on visiting both the 9/11 Memorial and the One World Trade Center then we strongly recommend that you do the museum first. If you have enough time to spend an entire day there, visit the memorial in the morning followed by a lunch/coffee in the area. You can even get food to go and eat by the fountains that are located exactly where the original twin towers once stood. Please remember where you are and don’t disrespect the memorial by sitting or leaning against the names inscribed along the fountain.

End your day wowing over the views in the tower – try to time it around sunset. If you want to get drinks up on the deck, you can save some money by biding a $6/drink coupon at the ticket desk downstairs. Otherwise you can get beers for around $11, coffee for $5 and fancier wines/drinks or dinner for up to $30 per person. If you have the money to splurge, this is the place to do it.

A few facts about the 9/11 Memorial:

Construction began in 2006 and was finally opened to the public in May 2014. General admissions are $24 for adults, $44 for admission and a museum tour and $39 for admissions and a memorial tour. There are discounts for teenagers, children, students, seniors and U.S. veterans. It is also included in the New York Sightseeing Pass.

If you’re visiting New York City, this memorial is a definite must see. Just visiting the fountains won’t have the same effect . The two hours I spent here gave me a whole new appreciation of New York City. The events of 9/11 didn’t define the city. Instead, the attack united New Yorkers who went on to show the world their strength and the unbreakable spirit of this unique city.

I have so much respect for the creators of the memorial and museum, for the police officers and fire fighters who risked their lives on 9/11. Most of all, for the community that went through the world’s most horrifying terrorist attack and managed to rebuild their lives as well as their city, becoming stronger than ever before.

Rest in peace.
Never forget. 
“No day shall erase you from the memory of time.” – Virgil

uri_mh1535911949665

Follow The Travel Bug Bite at:
0

The Best View of New York City: One World Trade Center

One World Trade offers a unique view of New York’s spectacular waterfront. While you can see both the Hudson and East rivers in the distance from Top of the Rock, One World is right on the water. You can both rivers clearly merging into the Upper Bay and watch the sunset over New Jersey…

Everyone always debates between going up the Rockefeller Center‘s Top of the Rock or the Empire State Building to see the best views of New York City. My advice? Go to the One World Trade Observatory (Freedom Tower) instead.

Isaac and I travel a lot and one of the highlights of any trip that we take is going up the highest point. Nothing beats seeing a place you’ve been exploring from a new vantage point and we always try to schedule our trip around sunset to experience the city going from day to night.

Although we still haven’t seen the view from the Empire State Building, we’re confident that nothing will beat One World Trade and here are the reasons why:

1. The Waterfront

One World Trade offers a unique view of New York’s spectacular waterfront. While you can see both the Hudson and East rivers shimmering in the distance from Top of the Rock, One World is right on the water. You can both rivers clearly merging into the Upper Bay and watch the sunset over New Jersey.

2. Brooklyn Bridge

New York’s most iconic bridge, the first steel-wire suspension bridge ever constructed and finished by a woman is one of the highlights of the city. One World offers a beautiful view of not only the Brooklyn Bridge but also the Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges. Seeing the bridges light up at dusk was magical and not possible from Top of the Rock.

3. No Obstructing Construction

Construction is not an issue at night because the lights of the city drown out the many cranes. However, on our last visit to Top of the Rock during the day, the view was quite obstructed by construction – we couldn’t really see Central Park because at least three buildings are coming up in front of the park. On the other side, right next the Empire State Building, surprise, surprise, there’s more construction!

Since One World Trade is so much taller than all of the buildings surrounding it so there’s no cranes in view. The construction happening uptown is too far to interfere. Unfortunately you can’t see Central Park from the One World observatory at all, but the Top of the Rock isn’t a good place to see it anymore either.

4. Picturesque Skyline

Both One World Trade and Top of the Rock offer great opportunities for photos. On our visit to Top of the Rock we saw a couple getting their wedding photos taken. There are a few big differences between the views. Top of the Rock offers the best possible close-up shot of the Empire State Building and you can even take a selfie with it.

From the One World Trade observatory, you can see Empire State but from a distance. You can take beautiful shots of the entire city with Empire State, Top of the Rock and all of the other iconic sky scrapers all lined up in the distance. Seeing the entire city like that was spectacular, but you couldn’t make out any of the buildings clearly in a selfie. Enjoying a great view should be a bigger priority than the perfect selfie, but to each their own…

5. Floor-Length Windows

When you’re standing up against the floor-length windows in the One World Trade tower, you can see all the way down and feel like you’re flying above the city. With so many people touching the glass and leaning their greasy foreheads against the windows (like I did) create unsightly smudges and reflections that interfere with the view and with photos. But having windows also makes it weatherproof, which gets me to #6….

6. Weatherproof Views

Top of the Rock is outside which is great on a breezy sunny day, but I’ve been there twice in the middle of winter which was less pleasant. Sure, there’s something to be said about the crisp night air, but if it’s raining a lot or if there’s a storm, the observatory is closed. You can visit One World Trade whenever you want and enjoy a (slightly too strongly) air-conditioned space.

7. Tallest Observatory Deck

Size doesn’t matter, but when it comes to views, height makes a difference. One World Trade is significantly taller than Top of the Rock and was actually the tallest building in the USA (if you count the height of the antenna). As I previously mentioned, it’s height puts it over ugly construction on nearby buildings and it just makes it more excited to be as high off the ground as possible.

8. The WOW Factor

This might be an unfair category since the Top of the Rock was built almost a hundred years ago and opened to the public in 1933… but I can’t not mention the cool extras that the One World Trade Center offered that made the experience more special. The elevator that took us up took only 45 seconds and shows us a video of New York as it changed (and grew) in the past 300+ years. It was unexpected and beautiful!

Next we were waiting in line watching yet another movie about the building. It wasn’t boring but staring at screens gets old when you’re itching to see the real thing. The video ended with the screens lifting to reveal our first glance of the bay from (almost) the top of the building! Everyone was so genuinely surprised that we wowed and clapped. Sorry for spoiling the surprise…

Conclusion:

The two buildings offer completely different view of the city. If you can only do one, I’d say go to One World Trade. If you get the chance to do both, it’s definitely worth going to Top of the Rock too. They charge you extra for going around sunset so if you do both, go to Top of the Rock during the day and then do One World Trade for sunset to save a few dollars. Or get the New York Sightseeing Pass and save a lot of money on visiting various attractions in New York.

Both buildings have a fascinating history – if you do One World Trade I’d recommend visiting the 9/11 Memorial first to truly appreciate what a symbol of hope the Freedom Tower was in the light of the terrible attack on the Twin Towers. It’s a somber experience that made sure to emphasize the One World Trade Center’s part in New York’s healing process.

40560600_10156615600928134_3723590230196879360_n40584159_10156615600863134_778866648110071808_n40613474_10156615600493134_3806448601832357888_n40524670_10156615600783134_8371101356819218432_n

Follow The Travel Bug Bite at:
0

Rainbow Bagels: They Look like a Unicorn, Taste Like 💩

The bagel was sugary yet flavorless, the beautiful twirls of colors wasted on what tasted far from the rainbow I expected. I had to scrape the cream cheese onto a regular piece of bread to get the grossly bland flavor out of my mouth…

Bored of regular New York bagels and coffee after just one month of living in Brooklyn, I decided to venture out and sample something special. Somehow Googling “glitter coffee” took me to the The Bagel Store’s website. I couldn’t find what I was looking for but the words “rainbow bagels” and “the bagel that broke the internet” combined with pictures of crazy colors had me intrigued. I just had to try one but I didn’t want to do it alone.

I got to their store at 754 Metropolitan Ave way too easily, already worrying that if the bagels tasted as good as they looked I’d be tempted to hop on the L train for 15 minutes for a fresh taste of the rainbow every single day. Perpetually early, I got there with time to spare and was disappointed to find that the place was tiny and hot. But at least there was an empty seat for me to sit in while a waited!

After just five minutes of me waiting the two men behind the counter started eyeing me and I overheard one asking if I had ordered anything. It was my first experience of New Yorkers being rude and it made me squirm in my seat, going out of my way to check my watch, sigh and pretend to text so that it was clear that I’m waiting for someone. Why else would someone sit in an non-airconditioned bagel store in the middle of a heat wave?

Five more minutes passed, I made accidental eye contact with the staff who didn’t return my smile, so I got up and waited in the doorway which provided a pleasant breeze and was slightly less awkward. My friend finally arrived and we went in to buy some bagels, “to-go” of course, to avoid the heat of the place and the coldness of the staff.

I ate the bagels a few hours later at home after toasting them on the stove, taking some pretty pictures and slathering them in tofu cream cheese. A sweet stuffy smell filled the kitchen but my hopes were still high… until my third bite. The bagel was sugary yet flavorless, the beautiful twirls of colors wasted on what tasted far from the rainbow I expected. I had to scrape the cream cheese onto a regular piece of bread to get the grossly bland flavor out of my mouth. They should call it the bagel that broke the planet after a tsunami of colorful bread clogged up toilets and overflowed landfills.

Despite the unpleasant experience with the store, the staff and the rainbow bagel itself, I plan on returning to give their glitter bagel a chance. Now that my expectations are so low, nothing can disappoint me. Right? Plus I still haven’t tried edible glitter and since I can’t find a sparkling coffee anywhere, a blinged out bagel will have to do for the time being.

All in all, I recommend the rainbow bagel if you’re an Instagrammer or just want to check it off your bucket list like I did. Please don’t feed it to any birds, unless you hate them and want them to die. Just keep in mind that crows never forget a human face and will get revenge if you torture them with this rainbow 💩.

Follow The Travel Bug Bite at:
0

New to New York: First Impressions

So our first impressions are: New York is awesome! It’s overwhelmingly huge and the atmosphere, in Manhattan especially, is boisterous and pregnant with possibilities that make you want to follow your dreams and shoot for the moon! The people have been friendly, chatty and very welcoming. It’s so diverse and international that no one bats an eyelash about a Ukrainian-born Czech moving here from China…

Isaac and I left our cozy home in Europe in July 2016 with a plan of spending a year in Shanghai, China while doing some traveling before settling down in New England in a cute house with a large backyard to fit all of our rescued animals. But things don’t always go the way we plan… and that can be a good thing!

Since my visa wasn’t ready and our travel plans had spun out of control, we ended up spending another year in Shanghai. During that year we visited Tibet, Seoul, Harbin, Bali, Cebu, Manila and PhiPhi! That Christmas I also got to spend a year in New York and I couldn’t help falling in love with it.

When my visa interview appointment was set and it was time to look for jobs, I pushed Isaac to extend his New England applications down the coast to New York and New Jersey. I had no idea that he would get his dream job in my dream city! We made all of the arrangements and started booking weekend trips and bought New York Sightseeing Passes but it didn’t feel real until we arrived at our first apartment viewing on August 1st.

It only took seven apartment visits to find our perfect apartment and it was far from the house we had pictured as our first home in the US. It was also perfect! It’s no colonial but it’s surprisingly large and affordable for Brooklyn (picture a shoebox that’s meant for knee-length boots instead of flip-flops) plus it has a small shared backyard with one other family.

Our backyard-sharing neighbors are quite rude I must admit, almost as rude as we pictured most New Yorkers to be. We could not have been more wrong! Compared to Shanghai, the people here are extremely polite, respectful and aware of personal space as well as their surroundings.

In addition to not stepping on us and letting people get off the subway before they get on, they don’t stare and always say “excuse me” if they want to get by you, or if they get in your way at all. One guy apologized for almost stepping on me when I was rudely rushing by him without saying “excuse me” to warn him to not step on me. It’s truly night and day!

It’s also making me curious to explore the rest of America and see these terrifyingly friendly and polite people who make New Yorkers seem rude. Our first trip outside of the city will be Block Island RI to visit family, then Cape May NJ to whale watch and in October we have a fall foliage train ride leaving from Connecticut and then a lighthouse bout tour planned along the Hudson River.

Between unpacking, Isaac working, my job hunting and our weekend trips we’re low on time to actually explore the city! We’ve been squeezing in some activities from our Sightseeing pass that have so far included a day at Luna Park followed by the last weekly Coney Island fireworks of the season, we took a night tour of the city, we visited the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, soaked up the day-time views from the Top of the Rock Observatory and then took a stroll through Central Park – yes, our feet hurt.

We also got to spend the day in flapper dresses (well I did, Isaac wore his typical work outfit with bonus suspenders and a fedora). We had booked the tickets for the Jazz Age Lawn Party the moment my visa was approved back in June and it was even more fun than we had expected! We went with an old friend from Prague who also moved to New York and met a brand new dance-loving vegan friend who happens to live in Brooklyn too!

So our first impressions are: New York is awesome! It’s overwhelmingly huge and the atmosphere, in Manhattan especially, is boisterous and pregnant with possibilities that make you want to follow your dreams and shoot for the moon! The people have been friendly, chatty and very welcoming. It’s so diverse and international that no one bats an eyelash about a Ukrainian-born Czech moving here from China.

I will be writing an entire blog post about the subway and how it compares to the horrors that I experienced on my daily commute in China. Let’s just say for now that when I heard a girl complain about the rudeness of a man who stood up before the subway came to a stop because he stumbled and accidentally touched her – well, Isaac had to stop me from bursting out laughing. Because he didn’t want me to be loud on the otherwise quiet crowded subway… and if you’re reading this thinking I’m crazy, I beg you to book a flight to Shanghai and take the metro during rush hour.

Don’t forget to subscribe for more blog posts about New York, fun guest posts by people living on the other side of the world and for more fun travel stories from places both near and far.

Follow The Travel Bug Bite at:
0