Bookgrrl’s survival travel tips in San Francisco and New York



It’s a restroom, not a toilet

Cities have a downtown area, or civic centre, not a CBD.

Be prepared to add milk to your coffee or to leave it for a while before you drink it- the coffee is served HOT.

Beware of HUGE portion sizes and order small.

Try not to check your phone all the time, especially when in the subway or emerging from one- it’s been known to be whipped out of your hands.

Ulmon have a great app City map pro which you can download the city in which you are travelling, and you can search it while you are offline or not connected to wifi. Thank you so much to Fiona for showing this to me.

Have no sense of direction? Use a compass, or if it’s a sunny day, check shadows on the sidewalk. This is especially good if you are travelling by subway and you emerge with absolutely no idea which way to walk. If you have an idea of the intersecting streets, you may find you are walking only a block before you realise your mistake and have to turn back.

Wifi abounds in most cultural institutions such as museums and libraries and in some cities like San Francisco, in their downtown area have it available for free. Good to check for locations of shops- I found that there was a Converse store in downtown San Francisco not far from where we were that day.


The candy taste test

One of the things that the kids requested was lollies from America. There is a great deal of similarity between what is on the candy shelves in a store in New York and what you find on the supermarket shelves here in Australia, so the challenge was to find things that the kids wouldn’t otherwise be used to.

Here is an assessment of the candy. Sadly the photo does not have all the candy tested, as by that stage, some had been woofed up by the family.

I picked these up at random from Liberty Island, with Mr BG asking “why?” I had heard of them and was keen to have the kids try them.Have you ever tasted the plastic that encases electrical wire? No? Well don’t bother, because Twizzlers is it. It was tasteless and hard and altogether yuck. My hopes that it would be similar to licorice were sorely dashed.

To be filed under the never again category.

Hershey’s chocolate-I know that it’s available here quite readily, but we don’t eat it much and I wanted to get it straight front the source, so to speak. We picked a series of Hershey’s miniatures, which included Milk, Dark chocolate, Mr Goodbar, which was chocolate and peanuts and Crispy.

It is strange how chocolate can differ in taste and texture from one country to the next. Even an international brand such as Cadbury tastes different in Australia, the US and the UK. (The UK has the best Cadbury’s) Hershey chocolate isn’t as sweet as the chocolate I am used to The kids aren’t great fans of nuts so I tasted the Mr Goodbar which was quite good.

The Milk chocolate was ok, and I found the Dark chocolate quite enjoyable. I think it’s a case that I am used to milk chocolate being quite sweeter than dark.

We also taste tested Butterfingers- like a peanut crisp encased in milk chocolate- Miss BG wolfed it down and loved it.

M&Ms were also purchased, as Master BG did request these. You could get them in all shapes sizes and flavours, but we didn’t have the room, and I didn’t want to explain to Customs why our luggage smelt like a candy store.

Reeses peanut-milk chocolate bar with a peanut butter centre. I had to fight Mr BG off to get a taste. It has a savoury sweetness that really appealed to him. It’s like the whole salted caramel phenomenon which I don’t really get. But these bars had a creaminess to them, probably supplied by the peanut butter, that was quite appealing.

Are there lollies/candy/sweets that you like or prefer to those you normally find at home when you go overseas?

Thank you America

One last walk down 5th Avenue on a rainy day, I am finally getting a sense of where I am.

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I don’t want to leave, yet I am missing my kids and I cannot wait to feel their arms around me. It is with these mixed feelings that we depart for JFK.
I never thought I would ever get a chance to visit New York, or San Francisco. It was all I ever hoped for and more-now I know what it is like to descend into the muggy subway on a warm day, to see the Golden Gate Bridge shrouded in fog and to see the manhattan skyline at dusk. I’ve eaten bagels, pretzels, tasted a knish, and sipped cocktails.
But what made the trip even more special was the people. I had the chance to meet so many friendly and hospitable people during our travels.

Our air bnb hosts were lovely in San Francisco and Brooklyn.

Thank you to our Brooklyn neighbours Jenelle and Bill for their hospitality and for letting us order something to be sent to Bill’s place of work. Your advice on getting a car ordered to take us to the airport was spot on!

I had a great time at the Popfests and meeting the nicest people, such as Becky, Lauren, Ashley, Olive and the indiepop kids from DC. We also got to meet Phil, a musician who was also a librarian who worked at the New York Public Library, which was really cool, and Gary, who led us through Manhattan on an amazing night to remember.

It was also an opportunity to spend time with the Bart and Friends extended family, which included the Zebras and their friends and family, which was wonderful. Much bonding occurred over drinks and common interests were found. Sharing an apartment with Scott, the Bart and Friends singer and his partner Fiona was also a highlight-getting to know them after knowing them for so long was great.

But it was also the anonymous people who made the trip special-the park ranger on Liberty Island speaking passionately about the benefits of immigration, friendly sales assistants wishing us well on our trip, ground staff at JFK ensuring we had good seats on our flight back.

So thank you America. It was a blast.

Manhattan Transfer


How could you ever get tired of a sight such as this? With the days in New York lessening, these are some of the moments I tried to capture.

Statue of Liberty

With the New York Pass, we took a ferry to Liberty Island. It’s an impressive monument, popular with domestic and international tourists alike.

911 Memorial
In the middle of downtown, with a massive building site next to this, people are silent. The trees rustle as the public pay their respects.

Shopping for New Yorkers tends to involve buying online, and getting stuff delivered. However you do learn a lot about a country through their stores.
Macy’s is insane. Like Myers on steroids, with a patriotic twist.


Where you can make your own mini figs, a wall of Lego bricks, and a chance to find those really obscure Lego sets that your local toy store no longer stocks.

FAO Schwarz

I am sure this exists for guilty parents and for parents who have never quite grown up. This was the most amazing and comprehensive toy store I have seen since Hedleys in London. You can build your own bear, build your own muppet and yes, play on the piano immortalised by Tom Hanks in Big. There were a couple of kids playing on it when we were there, but were soon pushed off by a man in his thirties wanting to play chopsticks.

Central Park

Rather than take the subway sometimes we cut across Central Park. The windiness of the paths make me lose direction, and I am constantly arguing with Mr BG where we are exactly. He’s usually right.

The New York Accent

Hearing it is another reminder that I am here. Whether it is from a sales assistant at Macy’s, an information desk attendant at MOMA, or in a lady asking for directions in the subway, it is music to my ears.

New York public library

The Rose Reading Room is still closed, but it is still a cool place to wander around. I manage to sit down at a table for a few moments and dream. I check out the children’s section and happen upon story time.

2014-06-05 10.27.33I go for a wander into the Genealogy Room and feel as if nothing has changed in the library for years.

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You’re the tops Manhattan.

Bookgrrl, MOMA and the Guggenheim

If visiting the New York Public Library was No 1 on my list of places to go, the Museum of Modern Art was No 2.

The Met is a fantastic and comprehensive collection of art and I was overwhelmed by it. But as MOMA is more contained and has a clear collection directive, which makes for a day of Wows and tears. Art can make me cry, in a good way!

The space itself is expansive and the rooms on most of the floors flow in the same direction, allowing for a feeling of familiarity to develop with the layout. It wasn’t crowded either, which was no doubt due¬† to the fact it wasn’t school holidays or vacation time.


We started from the top and worked our way down, looking at the collection in a chronological fashion.

Highlights for me

To stand in front of Van Gogh’s Starry Night and soak it up all by myself (and the security guard who stood by it). I also wished at that moment for Master BG to be here, as Vincent is his favourite artist. There were some tears at this point.

To see Les Demoiselles D’Avignon by Picasso

To walk into rooms of Mondrian, Matisse and Picasso and not to squeal out in delight

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To stumble upon yet another art class to school students this time in front of a Matisse and to hear the teacher speak about his use of colour. It’s at moments like this I would wonder about moving to New York if I had a spare $10million or so.

2014-06-02 13.42.01And this was just the first floor.

Heading down to the next floor you are confronted by Roy Lichtenstein’s Drowning Girl, then we turned around the corner to see Warhol. In fact a lot of Warhols!

2014-06-02 14.00.30On the following floor, there was a design exhibition on Women in Design. It highlighted women’s contribution to design from the Art Nouveau period through to the present day.


While some of the designs were poster art and photography, a lot of it centred around the home. Modern kitchen designed for small spaces was included as well as crockery and furniture.

Needless to say we were blown away with the experience, and yet there was more to do. We were meeting friends for drinks in a couple of hours and we had time to spare. Could we…?

A mad dash uptown was undertaken to the Guggenheim. The building is itself an amazing work of art, in a town of amazing buildings. We arrived with less than an hour to closing and were lucky to get $3 off the admission price.

What was in our favour was no queues, and due to the lateness of the day, not a lot of people in the museum.
While it is an amazing building, there are a lot of challenges to it being used as a gallery space- it is circular and space is limited.


There is a room devoted to post-Impressionist art, but other galleries were closed for installations of new exhibitions due to be launched in the summer months.
The major exhibition was Italian Futurism, which was quite interesting, not least due to its latter incarnation being co-opted by the Fascists in the 1930s. The intersection of art used for political ends was quite interesting to explore. Mr BG also commented on its influence on Peter Savile, the graphic designer involved with Joy Division and New Order.
Two amazing museums in one day!

Bookgrrl about town #blogjune

This post was originally going to be entitled “Take me out to the ball game”, as we were planning on going to see the Yankees at Yankee Stadium.

We are sharing an apartment with Scott and Fiona and Scott is a huge fan of baseball. A group of 7 Australians and Gary, a New Yorker, whose house was commandeered for band rehearsal, met outside the Carlyle Hotel to head to the game.

However, the weather turned and it was decided that something else would happen.
In fact several things happened.


We visited the Brill Building, and in between the dozens of pedestrians hurrying home in the rain, snapped a few photos.

We went up to the View Restaurant at The Marriott hotel near Times Square to have a cocktail and check out the view from the revolving deck. We were luckily to catch a glimpse of the Chrysler Building as the sun was setting.


We watched baseball at a bar called Jimmy’s Corner, where heaps of photos and posters of boxers and celebrities adorned the walls. Eight of us were squeezed around a table drinking beer, and listening to jazz. It would have been the type of place I would have never even ventured into without someone with “the knowledge”

We saw the Bladerunner-esque Times Square en route to the subway.

We had Indian for dinner at 10.30 pm at a restaurant called Panna II on the lower East Side, where it was lit up like a Christmas tree. I recommend the Balti beef!

We then walked around the corner to our final stop, a bar that was a hangout for college students in the fifties and the decor had never changed. The wooden floors were creaky, and the air smelt of stale beer and popcorn.

My phone had died, so sadly no photos, but take my word, it was a place of character.

Oh what a night!