From New Amsterdam to One Happy Island
Once New Amsterdam, because of the Dutch settlers, New York got its name with the take over of the English in 1664. The metropolitan of the East coast of the United States, the city with so much history, the city that never sleeps…the city that is ever evolving, developing new »it« neighborhoods and offers exploring of the hidden gems.
NYC & COMPANY, the official guide to NYC, hosted us in the city that welcomes you always, with the amazing tour around New York City's newest hot spots.
Everyone knows the Times Square, 5th Avenue, Financial district and Central Park, but not many know of the newly developed Hudson Yards – residential, touristic, cultural and shopping area on the West side of Manhattan. Hudson Yards is writing a history with being the largest private real estate development in the States ever and when completed, it will host the highest outdoor observation deck on the western hemisphere. Hudson Yards has two iconic structures, »The Vessel« and »The Shed«. The Shed is the art center of Hudson Yards for all audiences, hosting everything from music, film and theater to painting. Now, The Vessel is what truly amazes you with its shiny bronze cylindrical structure. As the visitor you get to climb around 2.500 stairs of the 154 interconnected flight of stairs to enjoy the views of the city.
On the lower and Eastern part of Manhattan, the Seaport District is also a part that started with a transformation 3 years ago. What used to be New York's original commercial hub and the fish market of New York, is now developing into an entertainment and cultural district with a very dynamic culinary offer. It's never dull on Fulton market, live music is played from Tuesdays to Sundays and there are weekly events at the Rooftop, which include Monday's movie screenings and Tuesday's sports activities. The commercial fashion shops are being replaced with boutique stores, one of them being opened by Sarah Jessica Parker. And to top it all of, this historic neighborhood never seizes to amaze with the stunning views of the famous Brooklyn Bridge, which is the most mesmerizing at sunset.
A true New York tourist knows that New York's not only about Manhattan. But, not a lot of people actually know about the hidden gems the city has to offer. An hour train ride from Manhattan, all the way through Brooklyn, there is this coastal gem of Coney Island, a very strong small community, which is developing more every year. Having the old-school amusement park, the island is also the perfect getaway to the beach in the hot summer days. But don't think enjoying on the beach or riding the roller coaster is all there is. Coney Island is the home of the original Nathan's Famous hot dog and they also have their own brewery. Coney Island Brewery started its business 8 years ago and is in the process of expanding to a bigger capacity. This is a brewery that brews by hand and produces most of its beer right there in the heart of Coney Island. With their most known, the Mermaid Pilsner, they have their limited releases of beer all year round.
Back to Manhattan and hop on the short ferry ride, which leads you to another hidden gem, the Governors Island. This ice cream cone shaped island is a true hidden gem of New York, as it is something new even for the New Yorkers, with many never even being there yet. This is the island, which played a huge role in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, serving as the former military base in New York. Nowadays it is the oasis for recreation and events, open from May to October. The relaxing setting is perfect for cycling around the island, picnics, glamping and has great views at New York's lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty.
Liberty Island, a short ferry ride from Lower Manhattan, is the home of one of the most famous New York City's landmark, the Statue of Liberty. In May the Statue od Liberty Museum opened its doors for the visitors for the first time since September 11 of 2001. The museum offers an unique experience with a walk through the history, where you even get to see the original torch from the Statue, which was replaced in 1986 due to its many modifications. Needless to say, climbing the 215 stairs up to the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, rewards you with the breathtaking view of New York City's famous skyline.
All this exploring around »New Amsterdam« sure makes one hungry and one of the perfect places to dine at is »The Public Kitchen« at the Public hotel on the Lower East Side. The modern cuisine of the renowned chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten has a cross-cultural menu, inspired by traveling around the world and uses organic and fresh products directly from the market. The Public Kitchen definitely satisfies each visitor with its dishes and the ambient.
And as much as a 3-day trip around the City excites one, you definitely wish for a well rested sleep. The perfect hotel to give you an experience you never knew you needed, is the boutique hotel on the upper side of Manhattan, »The Benjamin«. With its origins going way back to 1927, being one of the most recognized works by the architect Emery Roth, The Benjamin Hotel represents the early evolution of New York's skyscraper design. The hotel was fully redesigned and restyled in 2012 to create this special ambiance of both relaxation and sophistication. The hotel is known for its unique Rest & Renew program, created in partnership with sleep expert, Dr. Rebecca Robbins, that makes sure you have the best sleep of your life and your bedtime becomes »a dream come true«. The sleep program features bedtime bites and a pillow menu with ten different types of pillows, from water filled, lullaby, anti-snore and many more.
And to make your experience at The Benjamin even better, »The National Bar & Dining Rooms« restaurant takes care of you from breakfast to dinner. The cuisine is a modern American one and the restaurant gives the feel of a contemporary NYC Grand Café. With chef Geoffrey Zakarian in charge, the restaurant is one of the 50 New York's finest.
When you’ve seen and enjoyed the big city, where the tempo never stops, it is now time to change the scenery and hop from the city to the island. Only a 5 hour flight away and a popular vacation destination for many New Yorkers, the tropical island of Aruba awaits you.
The super friendly guide from ARUBA TOURISM greets you at the airport with the biggest smile and in the next few days, he shows you what the island is all about.
Aruba, a small island in the southern Caribbean Sea, only 29 kilometers northern of Venezuela, is one of the four countries that form the Kingdom of the Netherlands. With beautiful nature, great weather all year round and very friendly and welcoming people, Aruba's other name is »One Happy Island«. There are two really special things about Aruba. One is the Divi Divi tree, Aruba's iconic symbol. And the other one is the Mangel Halto beach, probably the only beach in the world with 7 different colours of the sea.
Aruba is the island with the least amount of rain in the Caribbean, but with calmy winds it makes it pleasant to spend all day in the sun. The sandy beaches and crystal clear and bluest water you will ever sea are not all there is about to experience. On the northern part of the island you get to explore the natural hidden gems and limestone cliffs, with a feeling of being on a completely different island. Pastel colored buildings, local delicacies, calypso music, rich and diverse history and happy people – that's what charms the tourists and makes them return to the island over and over again. In the recent years Aruba became a very popular destination and the average hotel occupany rate throughout the year is 70 %, with also having the highest repeat rate of visitors in the region.
»One Happy Island« has four languages, the official Dutch and local language Papiamento, with Arubans also speaking English and Spanish. You can see the unique mix of languages everywhere on the streets, where the signs are in all of the four different languages. Papiamento is based onAfro-Portuguese Creoleand borrows a lot of words fromDutch, English and Spanish, while it still manages to sound really exotic.
On the northern shore, the winds and waves created several natural bridges along the cliffs. The largest one, the Natural Bridge, collapsed in 2005, but it still remains a popular tourist attraction on the island. This is the part of the island, near the Bushiribana gold mine ruins, that makes you feel like you're in a kind of a dessert, surrounded by the majestic waves of the ocean. On the way back to the southern side of the island, »Aruba Aloe Factory« offers tours of the factory and plantation, all while educating you about the 160-year old history of aloe in Aruba. With two thirds of Aruba covered with aloe plants, Aruba is the world's largest exporter of aloe.
The visit to Aruba wouldn't be a wholesome experience without booking a cruise with Pelican Adventures. Sailing out from the beautiful Palm Beach, stopping to snorkel around one of the many shipwrecks, it takes you to Boca Catalina Bay, where the water is of the bluest colour. You get to jump in the water, swim with the tropical fishes and just enjoy in this perfect setting.
On the eastern side of the island is the city of San Nicolas, a developing cultural capital of Aruba. Aruba Art Fair brought to the city both local artists and artists from all over the world to participate in the creation of the most magnificent murals you will ever see. The walls of the buildings on the Main Street of San Nicolas simply amaze with the amount of talent and beauty of this art.As the majority of Aruba's income is mainly coming from the western part, which is populated with resorts near the beaches, San Nicolas is starting to develop its recognition. Not only investing in the art projects, but to change into attracting more tourism in the next 5 – 10 years. One of the first steps towards that is building a new hotel, which is starting at the end of this year.
When vacationing in Aruba, you stay at one of the many resorts on the beach. Palm Beach is the strip of hotels, where most of the tourists book their stays. But if you want to escape all the crowds and relax a bit more, the perfect choice for your stay is the »Divi Village Golf & Beach Resort« on Divi Beach, which is right next to Eagle Beach, which was voted third best beach in the world by Trip Advisor.
Aruban getaway is also very rich and diverse in culinary, it offers you oneof the most unique foodexperiencein the Caribbean. With local Balashi beerand freshcatch of the day pulled from the sea, you get to explore the tastes you have never tried before.
Palm Beach not only hosts most of the hotels, it host many great dining spots. Hadicurari Restaurantis the perfect Caribbean-style restaurant. With sand on your feet and the view of the romantic sunset, you enjoy in the deliciously prepared catch of the day. Another favourite is The Pelican Nest, favourite restaurant in Aruba since 1994. Located on the Pelican pier, you are surrounded by the calm ocean, while you enjoy the unforgettable views with a favourite cocktailin your hands. Well, as breakfast is the most important meal of the day, in Aruba you gain a new favourite breakfast spot, Eduardo's Beach Shack. Get your smoothie or a smoothie bowl with exotic fruits and enjoy the serene sound of waves.
Local food is a must try when visiting Aruba. The perfect place to try it at, is Zeerover, a local fisherman's wharf. You get to experience something completely different, the fresh catch of the day is a lot of times the barracuda and all the food is prepared right in front of you. Unexpectedly, the barracuda is very tasty. Another local, caribbean dining spot is The West Deck, close to the capital of Oranjestad. It's set on a deck over the white sandy beach, overlooking the ocean and offers an authentic island cuisine. Their specialty is the secret garlic shrimp recipe – a must try.
But dining in Aruba doesn't only offer the local cuisine. The Screaming Eagle Restaurant is serving an interpretation of French-fusion boutique cuisine with a caribbean touch. You discover completely new combination of dishes, while enjoying a glass of one of their 300 different wines on the menu. And AZIA Restaurant & Lounge, on Palm Beach, is where the Asian cuisine meets the Carribean flavours in one of the most delicious combinations ever.
Once you've been to Aruba, you really understand why it's so popular. It is an island that captures your heart with its friendliness and welcoming feeling. Not only will you definitely return, but you don't even want to leave. »One Happy Island« becomes your happy island too.
images and text by Jana Letonja