New York

Polaroid Of The Week: The Insane Christmas Lights In Dyker Heights, Brooklyn

Polaroid of the week

polaroid of the week usa new york city brooklyn dyker heights christmas lightsI couldn’t go home to Germany for Christmas without stopping in New York en route to Europe! I hadn’t been in my adopted home in months, was eager to catch up with friends, and, most importantly: enjoy the Holiday Season in New York, because everybody knows that Christmas in the Big Apple is magical. Last year, when I spent the entire month of December in New York, I had so many plans for my 1st NYC Holiday Season: go ice skating, visit the Christmas markets around the city, see the Christmas window displays on 5th Avenue, marvel at the legendary Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, and see the famous Dyker Heights Christmas lights. Well, somehow I didn’t manage to fit in everything on my list last year – I never went ice skating and I never made it down to Dyker Heights in the south of Brooklyn, which isn’t the easiest place to get to.

Even though I had less time than last year during my brief visit this month I was determined to make up for it, and not only did I go ice skating in Bryant Park (which was fabulous!), but I also went all the way to Dyker Heights to take in the elaborate Christmas lights there. I am not sure how it started, but there are a few blocks in a residential neighborhood there whose residents go completely bonkers with their Christmas light decorations. Now it has become so famous that bus loads of people arrive there every day (really, you can take a Dyker Heights Christmas lights bus tour!) to see this spectacle for themselves – apparently, more than 100,000 (!) people make their way to Dyker Heights every December! The lights been featured on the news, and every year, all sorts of publications run stories about these Christmas light displays.

Apparently, the residents who are participating in the Christmas light craze aim to make people feel the spirit of Christmas and have been doing so since the 1980s. Over the past few years though, since international media began reporting on this ‘phenomenon’, the lights have become crazier and crazier. As I was slowly walking up and down the streets that have the most intricate decorations, I couldn’t believe the extent of this annual tradition – the extravaganza was beyond my expectations and even though I think they are a little over-the-top, the Dyker Heights Christmas lights put a smile on my face and I know I’ll be back to see them again – hopefully next year.

Merry Christmas, everyone!


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Why People Are Speaking About The New York Speakeasies


Although the best cocktail bars in New York City are widely publicized and highly frequented, there are others that are kept under wraps – way under. Hidden bars, or Speakeasies, are increasing in popularity throughout NYC, giving people an exclusive thrill and throwback to Prohibition. But of course no good secret remains a secret, right? So here is a list of some of the best kept “secret” hidden bars in NYC.

Top Secret is Trending

Ever since we saw Leonardo DiCaprio on screen as the dashing Jay Gatsby, everyone has been clamoring to experience the Roaring 20’s, and this includes Speakeasies. This is not only an NYC phenomenon, there is a slew of hidden bars in other prominent American cities, like Chicago, and an increasing interest throughout Asia as well, where Speakeasies can be found in Shanghai and Tokyo, among others.

So how are these bars becoming known about if they are so secret? Well through the wonderful modern day word-of-mouth: social media networks.brooklyn bridge at night 2015

Three Classes of NYC Speakeasies


These Speakeasies are about as private as it gets. They don’t even have a website and yet they are still receiving quite a buzz. People are reviewing these locations on Yelp and mentioning them across social networks, including blogs and online newspapers. They are somehow intelligently gaining all the benefits of social media marketing without actually making themselves officially present online. It is a bit of a wonder, and yet it is exactly this secrecy that is making them so appealing and a thing to be talked about.radisson blu royal cocktails

  • Attaboy – so under wraps that they don’t even have a menu, just tell the bartender what your poison is and they will create a completely original custom-made mix for you. To find the bar, look for the window with the neon “A” on Eldridge Street, Lower East Side.
  • B Flat – wander down Church Street, Tribeca, and look for the black door marked with 277. Head down the stairs and be greeted by the live jazz performances that make this Speakeasy feel like it’s really from the 1920’s.


These semi-private locations do have websites for the bars, usually including some kind of contact info – phone number or email address – through which you can make reservations, and may or may not disclose the address of the establishment. But no more than that do they divulge.hooch cocktail manila

  • Fig 19 – hidden behind the Loge Gallery, on Chrystie Street, Lower East Side. The entrance isn’t glamorous, but once inside, glittering chandeliers make you realize that this is a secret treasure.
  • PDT – an acronym for Please Don’t Tell, located at St. Marks Place, East Village – accessible through the vintage telephone booth in the Crif Dogs restaurant. Simply ring the buzzer and a hostess will open the phone booth and usher you inside.

hooch cocktails philippines

Online, but oozing Speakeasy class

And of course some of these Speakeasies are fully equipped with a website and all of the necessary social media accounts, but are still dedicated to giving that Speakeasy experience. And since their entrances are hidden, they still qualify as a “hidden bar,” even if their location is publicized. Furthermore, it still requires people to stumble upon them – whether in the street or online – so they are still not widely known about.

  • The Back Room – located on Norfolk Street, Lower East Side, this is an original Speakeasy from American Prohibition. It therefore has a historical right, as well as a good atmosphere, to be included on this list. Patrons can visit the bar through the same hidden entrance behind the bookcase that was used by patrons over 85 years ago. Look for Lower East Side Toy Company to find the spot, enter through the gate and head down the flight of steps.
  • Raines Law Room – look for the unmarked stairwell on West 17th Street, and head down and ring the bell. You will be escorted into a cozy room with couches and hear music from the 1920’s lightly playing in the background. Need a refill? Pull the lamp string to turn on your table light and a waiter will come straight over.
  • Beauty and Essex – head through the fully-functional modern day pawn shop front entrance and head towards the back to the circular staircase. Head up towards the bar for a Rat Pack kind of evening.

new york central park drink

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Polaroid Of The Week: Gregos Street Art in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Polaroid of the week

polaroid of the week new york city brooklyn williamsburg gregos street artMy last week in New York (for now) rolled around, and so I decided to take some time off and not hide behind my laptop the whole time, which is what I had done pretty much all month. Instead, I made time to hang out with friends and enjoyed a few more of my favorite summer activities in New York – cycling, sunset picnics, food markets and al fresco dinners (on a rooftop no less!). This year, I also got to kayak on the East River, something I’d been wanting to do for the past two summers. It was just as awesome as I expected it to be, and was a good reminder that I need to get into a kayak more often (the last time I was in a kayak was in May in Austin).

And I went on a street art walk in Williamsburg, hunting down some new graffiti pieces and murals, which I love doing, no matter if I’m in New York or in Bangkok or Buenos Aires. A highlight of that day was stumbling upon a Gregos face – exactly a month after stumbling upon one in Berlin. I was excited when I read in July on Gregos’ Facebook Page that he had just finished a project in NYC during which he plastered his face in 3D 74 times all over the city. I couldn’t wait to see some of them, but it took me nearly a month to spot one (and it should be the only one I got to see)! I’ve seen his faces (actually his very own face, always molded with varying expressions) in Berlin and London, and am hoping to find one in L.A. where I am right now.

The French street artist started his ‘face art’ in Paris, then plastered them all over cities across France, and finally ventured beyond his home country with stints in places like Japan, Malta, Brazil and Greece. Sometimes his faces are smiling, sometimes they’re sticking out their tongue, sometimes they look sad – and they’re always painted in different colors. Some are just glued onto a wall, others incorporate the surrounding wall into the piece, resulting in completely unique artwork. Check out the list of cities where you can find his faces (there are over 1,000 now) – maybe there’s one near you! If you spot one, share a photo of it on my Facebook Page 🙂

For a more detailed look at everything I got up to in August, check out my monthly round-up: Life Lately & Upcoming Travels; August 2016 Edition.

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Polaroid Of The Week: Cheers To Summer In New York City

Polaroid of the week

polaroid of the week new york city central park sunsetThis past week was all about Central Park! I was staying a couple of blocks away from New York’s largest (and most famous) park, and so I ended up there for one reason or another every single day. There were runs in the park (it was Central Park, by the way, where I became a serious runner and finished my first race in 2010), several writing sessions on a blanket in the sun (those are the times when i love being a freelancer), a picnic and tour of the park which I shared on Snapchat (my ID is mariposa2711) and, pictured above, an epic sunset session with cheese and wine, a game of boule and a catch-up with my fellow travel bloggers Caroline and Kristin.

As much as I love Prospect Park, Brooklyn’s answer to Central Park, close to which I’m usually staying, the majestic feel of Central Park is just unrivaled: The views over Manhattan’s skyscrapers from the rocks or from Sheep Meadow (best enjoyed with a cookie from Levain Bakery on 74th and a coffee from Le Pain Quotidienne inside the park, just behind Sheep Meadow), Belvedere Castle and the nearby Shakespeare Garden, the Conservatory Flower Garden, the many lakes and ponds, (including the turtle-filled and aptly named Turtle Pond, my favorite!), hidden waterfalls, the symmetry of the Mall and Bethesda Terrace with its gorgeous tile work. Of course Prospect Park has similar things to offer, the beautiful boathouse for example, the wilderness trails that are not unlike Central Park’s northern forest, an ice rink, but if I had to pick a favorite, Central Park would win!

Have you been to both parks? Which one is your favorite?

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Polaroid of the week: Outdoor cinema in Brooklyn Bridge Park

Polaroid of the week

polaroid of the week new york city brooklyn bridge park outdoor movie

Click here for the soundtrack to this post 🙂

The past week has been all about work; the most I got to see of New York was during my runs: Brooklyn Bridge Park with its stunning Manhattan views, across the Brooklyn Bridge (with even better views), the lovely Red Hook neighborhood with its pier and great vistas of the Statue Of Liberty, running in Riverside Park alongside Hudson River and in Central Park. I took a break on Thursday to finally enjoy an outdoor movie – one of the 28 things I love about summer in New York City are the free outdoor movies all over the city – and couldn’t have chosen a better time for a break away from my laptop: a beautiful summer night, A League Of Their Own, good company, a lovely picnic and watching the sunset over the Manhattan skyline.

That night was a nice walk down memory lane in three different ways: This Used To Be My Playground, the theme song of the movie, was the first Madonna song that really got me hooked on her music (I liked her 80s stuff, but it was a bit too pop-y for me), and was the song that started her ‘ballad phase’ – over the next couple of years, she would release some of my all-time Madonna songs, like Rain, Secret, I’ll Remember, Take A Bow, and finally You’ll See, which might be my all-time favorite song of hers.

The other way related to the movie that I was strolling down memory lane: Some of the baseball scenes were filmed in Wrigley Field, Chicago’s famous baseball stadium which dates back to 1914 and is one of the oldest baseball parks in the U.S., which is why it was a perfect location for the movie which was set in the 1940s. I was lucky enough to watch a couple of games there during my visits to Chicago and even though I’ve been struggling to understand the game ever since I watched my first one in the suburbs of Chicago nearly ten years ago, I’ve always enjoyed being in the ballpark, taking in the cheery atmosphere of what is for me as a European a quintessential American experience, munching on peanuts and cheap nachos.

And last but not least: A couple of summers ago, I had one of the best dates nights of my life while watching an outdoor movie, and thinking back on it still puts a smile on my face.

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Polaroid Of The Week: Feelin’ beachy in New York

Polaroid of the week

polaroid of the week new york riis beachThis week was all about beaches – simply because it is too hot to do anything else! New York is suffering from / enjoying a heatwave – the perspective depends on who you ask, I guess, but I might be the only one who’d say this is enjoyable, and admittedly, it has been a little too hot even for my taste.

Working two jobs at the moment means I didn’t have much time to explore this week, but I managed to visit three different beaches: the small beach in Red Hook, just a short drive from where I’m staying, which is the perfect place to let my pup cool off in the water for a while, and Riis Beach in the Rockaways, where I’d been wanting to go for a long time (I’ve been to the Rockaways before, but only to another part of the beach there).

And my beachy highlight this week: Fire Island! This 32-mile-long, ¼-mile wide  strip of sand (the longest of four barrier islands that protect the South Shore of Long Island from the Atlantic Ocean) had been on my travel wish list for the past two summers, but somehow I never made it out there (it takes about 2.5 hours incl car & ferry ride to get there from NYC). But this week, there was the perfect opportunity to finally get my a** over to the island when a friend celebrated her birthday there. It was just a quick teaser and I didn’t get to experience any of the gay night life that Fire Island is famous for, which means I have to return soon, I guess! But the quick visit did definitely whet my appetite for more  – it was the perfect city break, and I didn’t even bring my laptop over there, which means it almost felt like a vacation to me.

If New York stays as sweltering hot as it’s been these past few days, I might need to plan another beach getaway for next week…

Newsletter subscribers: I sent out the summer edition of my Beyond the Blog newsletter last week – if you haven’t seen it in your inbox, make sure to check your spam folder. I’ve got some exclusive giveaways for newsletter subscribers which you can still enter. (If you’d like to subscribe, you can do that here)

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Polaroid Of The Week: Performance Art On Governors Island, New York

Polaroid of the week

polaroid of the week new york city governors islandAnd just like that, two months in Europe are over and I am finding myself back in New York. As always, it felt like I had never left and I picked up right where I had left off when I said Au Revoir to New York in early June. I can’t tell you how good it feels to be back in what is undoubtedly the greatest city in the world, and I started August off with a trip to Governors Island.

What was supposed to be a beachy afternoon turned into more of an entertainment trip when the beach bar I was hoping to sip a cold beverage in was closed, but we caught a compelling show by the Polish theater group PEREGRINUS instead, which involved acting, dancing of the fantastic performers, and even participating myself. The Manhattan skyline formed a picture-perfect backdrop to the performance (which got us excited for the NYC Fringe Festival later this month!) and to a relaxing day in the sun – much needed after the lackluster summer in Germany.

I am excited to be able to enjoy all the things this month that make NYC so great in the summer – open air movies, food markets and street fairs, beach time, rooftop drinks and picnics in the park. Stay tuned for more – and if you happen to be in NYC this month, let me know!

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Polaroid of the week: Street art in Bushwick, Brooklyn

Polaroid of the week

polaroid of the week usa new york city bushwick street artWhen I arrived in New York last week, I was told that I had brought summer with me. Apparently, it had been cold and rainy most of the spring until the weekend of my arrival – and hearing this made me feel reassured again about having spent all of May in Austin (in case you haven’t noticed yet – I’ve got a major case of FOMO and ‘scarifying’ a month in New York for four weeks in Austin wasn’t an easy decision for me to make!). To be honest, I was considering extending my stay in Austin for another three weeks (yes, I loved it that much – more on that to come next week) but then my travel plans were changed by circumstances beyond my control (more on that soon).

And that’s why I ended up spending only eight days in my adopted home. Knowing that my time in New York would be short and sweet, the goal was to make the most of it. This meant: make sure to have a decent New York bagel (check), have a pizza at Roberta’s (check, and it was so worth nearly missing my flight for it! Still my favorite pizza spot in NYC.), see some new street art in Bushwick, go to Smorgasburg for some street food, see the spring blossoms in Central Park, catch up with friends. Well these were all the things I that I managed to fit in – my actual list was, as usual, much more ambitious than what I could actually fit into a short week, but I also managed to fit in a daily run in Prospect Park, bike rides through Brooklyn, I checked out a brunch place I’ve wanted to go to for a while (Cheryl’s Global Soul, thumbs up). It felt amazing to be ‘home’, to see my friends, just to be part of life in the Big Apple again.

What else did I get up to? I checked out a few new ‘coffices‘, had two wild nights out, soaked up the sun in Madison Square Park, made time for a stroll through the West Village (one of my favorite neighborhoods), and I even ended up at Dominique Ansel Kitchen (unplanned, which made it even better), which is a pastry lover’s dream, and where I last went for a birthday treat last winter, for a chocolate nutella swirl croissant (just as indulgent as it sounds) and scoped out a couple of Middle Eastern places I hadn’t been to yet (thumbs up for both Taim and Kulushkat.

The last two got me excited for my next destination: the next Polaroid Of The Week will be coming to you from BERLIN (where I’ll be stuffing myself with as much Middle Eastern food as possible for eight glorious days and welcome a very special visitor).

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Polaroid of the week: Goodbye, Brooklyn (for now…)

Polaroid of the week

polaroid of the week usa new york city yo sculptureAnd all of a sudden, it is here.. my last weekend in New York City. I am, as usual, not ready to leave, but there’s no denying that winter has arrived on the East Coast, the balmy temperatures that we had on Christmas Eve seem like forever ago, and I still don’t like winter. I have been coping with it much better than I thought though, even braving the chilly weather and still rode my bicycle around Brooklyn a lot, went running in the park, but there were a few days that were so cold (19F/-12C, but it felt much colder ‘thanks’ to arctic winds) that I started counting down the days until I’d arrive on Colombia’s sunny Caribbean beaches. I’ve also (finally!) started to research my trip in more detail, which helped getting me excited about leaving and exploring a country that I’ve been wanting to visit for such a long time now.

So what have I been up to over the past  seven days? It was a week filled with goodbyes – I was trying to see all of my friends before leaving, stuffed myself with all my favorite foods (I might even have fit in two of my favorite NYC pizza places in the past few days..), walked the High Line on a sunny day (and discovered spring blossoms!), splurged on drinks in a fancy rooftop bar, finally visited the Museum Of The Moving Image, which had been on my to-do-list for a long time, went on a booze cruise around Manhattan, hosted a dinner party, had afternoon tea at Alice’s Tea Cup (which had also been on my to-do-list for a while..), and hung out in one of my favorite places in New York – Brooklyn Bridge Park, where I took the above picture (a sculpture by Brooklyn-based artist Deborah Kass, which was installed a couple of months ago). I admit, I prefer summer sunset dates or lazy afternoon on a blanket with a book there, but my two visits to the park last week got me excited for the summer months – and the view is always striking, no matter what time of year it is.

So farewell New York (for now!), and my next Polaroid will come to you from Cartagena!

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Polaroid of the week: New York’s magnificent Flatiron Building

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polaroid usa new york city flatiron bulidingGuys, I am freaking out! Only one more Polaroid from New York and I’ll be on my way to South America. I am torn between excitement and misery – on the one hand, I am drooling over pictures of pristine Caribbean beaches as I’ve finally started to plan my trip in more detail (I hope by the time the next Polaroid rolls around I know where I’ll rest my head when I arrive in Colombia in less than two weeks!), but on the other hand I am devastated about leaving New York.. as always! However, since it’s getting quite chilly now, I feel like it’s a good time to leave, and to know that when I get back, I won’t need my winter coat and boots anymore.

As for the last week and what I’ve been up to.. I was happy that several friends who had left NYC for the Holidays were returning from their trips, making sure I wouldn’t turn into a crazy cat lady (I am looking after four cats at the moment..) by getting me out of the house more often again. The last week was a bit dreary to be honest – it seemed like the sun hadn’t made an appearance in days, and winter blues started to set in. I am such an outdoors person, love sitting outside in the morning in  the summer with a cup of coffee, starting my day outside with some fresh air, or simply going on my morning run without an extra layer and freezing fingers, or enjoying the sunset in the park. I even work in the park during the warmer months, taking notes for articles or researching something online. With winter arriving, none of this is possible and I am in dire need of some vitamin D.

However, considering I danced the night away on New Years Eve, had more good food in the past seven days than I dare to admit to, have been enjoying great company here in New York and have been staying in an amazing apartment, I feel bad about complaining, because when I put things in perspective, I am living a pretty sweet life, no matter how cold it is outside (the cats are helping me stay warm) 🙂

I hope you all had a good start to the New Year – where did you ring in 2016?

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