Bear Burger, New York

One of the best gluten free places I’ve ever eaten is BareBurger in New York.

Keep in mind that we’d struggled to find somewhere close to the hotel which offered a decent gluten free menu. As those of you with dietary restrictions will know, options are usually limited to a salad or the most unappetising option possible. Once we found this place, it all changed!

The staff were really friendly from the outset and had a great knowledge of what we could and couldn’t eat. They were also really good at making suggestions of what could be changed in the menu to cater for our allergies.

Set in a quirky little venue, the lightshades were made of forks and the decor was quite rustic in style. The menu was mostly organic but always natural, meaning that you can eat guilt free! The best thing about this place? The burgers are huge!!! When they arrived at our table, we worries that we might not finish them all – especially as the chips were also gluten free!

Most gluten free buns are ‘okay’ at best – usually a bit dry, a bit crumbly; but this place has it cracked!

As for cross- contamination, although they use the same kitchen, they do have separate areas for cooking gluten free and vegan options.

BareBurger became the ‘go to’ place for us on our trip.

Top of the Rock Vs Empire State Building?

Visit New York and one of the questions you get asked is always “did you visit Empire or Top of the Rock?”.

Of course we are talking about the Empire State Building or the Rockefeller Building. It seems like people are always talking up the virtues of one over another:

“Top of the Rock gives you a view of Empire all lit up at night”

“You get to do the famous ‘beam walk’ at the Rockefeller” 

“Empire State Building is the most iconic”

You get the point. I have a completely different take on this conversation – why would you want to choose between the two? Yes – both are tall buildings with amazing views; but for me, that’s where the comparisons stop.

The purpose behind the buildings are very different and although they are both Art Deco in style, it comes through in the design in varying ways. Empire has the decadent style that I (and other gamers) have come to associate with the Bioshock games; beautifully ornate but slightly creepy. Rockefeller seems to be less overstated and quietly absorbs the Art Deco touches into a more sleek exterior.

The atmosphere of Empire is one of historic importance, with ushers in costume and rope style queuing systems to fit with the carved ceilings. There was a sense of expectation and entitlement within the building, feeding into the style of the day. Rockefeller however, was different. Giving nods to the history and the working class people involved in the development of the building, it had a much more ‘down to earth’ feel and there was more of a fun element to the visit. In particular, the Skyride (otherwise known as an elevator which looks like it will catapult you through the ceiling, Charley and the Chocolate Factory style) and the Breezeway – where you have your own colourful squares following you across the room as you stand just inside of the observation deck, were lots of fun!

Views of Central Park are incredible from the Top of the Rock in the day time (you won’t see anything of Central Park at night – although the huge expanse of darkness where you know the park sits is also pretty cool, but not particularly photogenic!). Night time from the Top of the Rock will also give you amazing views of Empire, lit up in its full glory.

Empire is something else. All that nostalgia, Hollywood movie screen time and old elegance combine to create an experience that is hard to forget. The views across lower Manhattan are stunning and it’s here that you can put your panoramic photography skills to good use. I challenge you to take a bad photo from the top of Empire – it just can’t be done!

So, if you plan a visit to New York and someone asks you which building you are heading up, or which was better, please give them a sharp tap on the nose from me – there is no comparison; do yourself a favour, visit both and collect experiences that will never leave you.

Travel Music

We all know that travel is life, but there is something that I consider to be just as important when I’m getting ready for a trip. Almost as soon as I’ve booked my ticket, I’m popping in the headphones and starting a new playlist. I don’t mean finding a new playlist – I’m talking about setting one up, from scratch and searching out the best music for my trip, because for me, music is also life.

I use music before a trip to set the scene, build a picture of the place I’m visiting and generate excitement. Whilst I’m there, I use music to help me to link memories and create an atmosphere of the trip. Those of you who are into your music will be nodding your head at this point – you get it. For those of you who are wondering why I’d dive into a playlist rather than shopping for holiday bits and bobs – I’m sorry, this post is probably not going to make much sense to you!

I’m talking to those travellers who need music to create the heartbeat of their trip. Who plan 3 hours of driving tunes to perfection to meet the tastes of all of the travellers on the road (I’ve absolutely done this!) and who download playlists to their phone ‘just in case’ it doesn’t work online (I’ve done this too – this can wreck the pre-night out preparation time). I wanted to share with you some of my song choices for road trips we’ve taken – it would be great to know if we have any choices in common!

New York Tunes

  • No Sleep Til Brooklyn – Beastie Boys
  • Empire State of Mind – Alicia Keys & Jay Z
  • (Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher – Jackie Wilson
  • New York, New York – Frank Sinatra
  • NY State of Mind – Nas

Vegas Party

  • Can’t Tell Me Nothing – Kanye West
  • All I do Is Win – DJ Khaled
  • The Joker And The Thief – Wolfmother
  • Dynamite – Taipei Cruz
  • Viva Las Vegas – The Blues Brothers
  • Right around – Flo Rider

California Road Tripping

  • Good Vibrations – Beach Boys
  • California Dreaming – Beach Boys
  • California – Phantom Planet
  • Surfin’ USA – Beach Boys
  • California Dreamin’ – The Mamas and the Papas
  • I Get Around – Beach Boys
  • All Summer Long – Kid Rock
  • Hotel California – The Eagles
  • Beverly Hills – Weezer
  • Yosemite
    • Society – Eddie Vedder
      Hard Sun – Eddie Vedder
      In fact, anything off the ‘In to the Wild ‘ soundtrack – nothing can beat this when you are surrounded by trees and campfires. Nothing!

    A Birthday in Central Park

    Up and down, up and down, the scenery flashed past as the carousel spun, taking us laughing riders nowhere and everywhere all at once. It was my 30th birthday and I’d been lucky enough to convince Wandering Beeb, my sister and her partner to spend it with me in New York.

    I’ve been a couple of times to New York, but never ridden the carousel in Central Park – and so this was the one thing that I wanted to do for my birthday.


    The carousel has been in existence since 1871, first operated by a mule and horse who would pull the ride round from an underground platform. Fortunately, these days the ride is much more animal friendly and is powered mechanically.

    I’ve always liked carousels and it felt like the best place to do something childlike and fun! Although the ride was short, it created a perfect snapshot picture, something that will always stay in my mind, the wind whipping round us, hair flying and most of all, lots of laughing.


    We spent the rest of the day wandering around the park, taking in the highlights. Bethesda Fountain took our attention straight away, standing out against the blue sky. The noise of running water from the fountain merged with the sounds of the performers in the court yard, entertaining the crowds with a large bubble display.


    We sat perched on the side of the stairs for a while, looking down on the activity below, before heading off to walk around Belvedere Castle. The image of the castle reflected in the pond certainly lived up to the castle’s name, which means ‘beautiful view’ in Italian.


    The nearby pond, known as Turtle Pond was full of cheeky little turtles, all bobbing up in the water to see the human visitors wandering around the side of the pond. Once we spotted one, it was easy to see all of the other little shapes in the water, following people around for a sneaky bite of their lunch.


    We stopped off at the Chess House – a brilliant idea of a place, filled with outdoor tables where people can set up their own games. I loved this and it felt like a hidden gem, bringing people together in a beautiful setting.

    We rounded off the day sat on some of the large rocks, soaking up the sun and people watching, turning snippets of over-heard conversations into elaborate made-up back-stories. It was the best way to spend an afternoon, by being New Yorkers for the day in the hub of the big city.

    What bits of Central Park did you enjoy the most? Are there any highlights we missed? Tell us your stories in the comments.