Last year, when I wrote my end of year review (which you can read here), the world seemed to be going through a lot of changes, and I had a busy year too.
2017 was a lot more settled as I spent most of my year living and working in New York and the rest of the year in London. My first impressions of New York laid the foundation for an amazing time in the city that never sleeps from visiting all the famous pizzerias, to discovering all the best museums NYC has to offer. You can't visit New York without seeing all the famous skyscrapers which I made sure to do. I managed to really experience American culture by attending at least one game of every major American sport and even got to see their 4th of July celebrations. A trip out to Long Island gave me a different taste of Americana, something a lot more laid back.
While I was out in the United States, I visited Washington DC on a couple of occasions, managing to see a fair amount of America's capital city. I took a trip out to the midwest and spent some time in Chicago visiting some of the famous landmarks and tasting the famous Chicago style deep dish pizza. I also caught up with friends I had met in Cambodia as they showed me around Florida with a trip to Miami during Spring Break. Perhaps my favourite city that I visited in the US was San Francisco, I spent almost a week seeing different areas, including a trip across the famous Golden Gate Bridge.
My second half of the year was significantly quieter as I transitioned back to life in England. That being said I made a very short trip to Luxembourg, visiting Luxembourg City, the beautiful town of Vianden, and a train ride across the border into Germany to visit the oldest continuously habited city in the country, Trier.
As with the post last year, just click the blue links to read about any of the locations in depth.
Financial District, New York City, USA
I began my year by moving to New York to live and work in the US for half a year. Pretty much everyone told me to move to either the West Village or Greenwich Village. I decided to move to the slightly unfashionable financial district (FiDi) and I had absolutely no regrets. The area may have been slightly quiet, especially on weekends, but it had everything I could have wanted, and also allowed me to walk to work.
The history of FiDi is the history of New York City, in fact, the Dutch settlement of New Amsterdam was no larger than the modern day financial district. The area showcases the groups of immigrants that have left their mark on the city, and in Wall Street they have the centre of American, and therefore global, capitalism.
What's it like to live in FiDi? Is it expensive? Is it fun? You can read my full review here.
New York City, USA
I arrived to an unseasonably warm January, in fact, at one point, I was able to go out in just a t shirt. However, that very quickly changed. It got very cold, very fast and I experienced a Nor'easter a powerful storm that brought more snow than I have ever seen in my life. Here a police car tries to navigate the hazardous snow covered streets. That really did sum up the city for me; one of extremes. The winters are too cold, the summers, uncomfortably hot.
It's not just the weather that works in extremes. The city is at the same time filthy rich and incredibly poor - the poor of New York seem to be in significantly worse shape than the poor in England. A lack of access to basic healthcare might be one explanation. I was also surprised to see a city where the streets are dirty and the infrastructure looks like it has seen better days.
My first impressions weren't all bad though. The energy of Manhattan is unlike anything that I have ever experienced. The food is much better than back home and despite the stereotypes, New Yorkers are nice people!
You can read about all of my first impressions about New York here.
Manhattan, New York City, USA
I couldn't talk about extreme weather without mentioning this incident. Waking up to this storm is something that will stay with me for a long, long time. I've only once seen a thunderstorm with as much lightening as this and that was during the monsoon season in Panjab. But there's something about seeing silhouetted skyscrapers and lightening, almost Gotham-esque.
Chinatown, New York City, USA
There were a lot of misconceptions and misinformation that I had about New York, and very quickly the misconceptions were dispelled and the misinformation corrected.
One of the things that I learned very quickly were the different areas of New York, each with its own vibe. Moving from Chinatown to Little Italy to Soho was like visiting three different countries, the areas are that unique. Chinatown in particular left a strong impression on me. The hustle and bustle of the narrow streets, eastern smells and the incredibly cheap but tasty food isn't something that I expected in a modern western city. This picture shows a typical street in the Chinatown district.
Another thing that I learned is that it is very difficult to get lost in New York. Once you go north of Houston, the streets are all numbered, 1st to 271st south to north, and 1st to 13th west to east. The straight grid system of streets and avenues make getting around the city very easy.
You can read about the 10 things I learned about New York City here.
Statue of Liberty, New York City, USA
Sometimes my broken old phone takes some nice photos, and this is one of my favourites.
Standing just outside New York City's border is the famous Statue of Liberty. The landmark acted as a beacon of freedom for immigrants moving to the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. New York and the wider United States sometimes gets bad press for not having much of a history or a unique culture, but this couldn't be further from the truth. The financial district is a living museum of the early settlement, and as you head north, you find a mixture of landmarks and museums that tell the story of the growth of the city.
It might not have as many museums as many large European cities, but the ones that it does have tell the incredible story of the city, from its skyscrapers, to its immigrants to the artists, intellectuals and innovators it has produced.
You can read a list of my 10 favourite New York City museums here.
Midtown, New York City, USA
If there is one thing that I associate with NYC, it's the multitude of skyscrapers. Chicago may have been the birthplace of the skyscraper, but New York is undoubtedly its home. One World Trade Centre is the tallest skyscraper in the western world, but the most spectacular skyscrapers were all built in the early part of the 20th century.
The Empire State Building is New York's most famous skyscraper and it's not hard to see why, the footprint of the building is enormous and you can see it from most parts of the city. Then there is the Chrysler Building, the unquestionable jewel of the Manhattan skyline.
This picture was taken just before sunset from the Top of the Rock and shows some of the skyscrapers in Midtown in the foreground and the financial district in the background.
You can read the full list of my favourite skyscrapers, and where best to view them, here.
Vaisakhi, New York City, USA
The Handsworth Nagar Kirtan in Birmingham, UK is one of the largest annual gatherings of Sikhs outside of India and it's one that I have gone to pretty much every year of my life. The UK Sikh community is well established and therefore incredibly influential globally (as is the Canadian, in more recent years).
The American Sikh community is smaller in number and traditionally relatively insular. However, movements like the Sikh Coalition have shown that American Sikhs are also progressing and adding to the global awakening of Sikhs as a unified nation.
That being said, I was surprised to see a Nagar Kirtan being held in the middle of Manhattan. The route of the procession went past some major landmarks such as the Empire State Building before ending in Madison Square Park.
My full review of the day can be found here.
Yankees Stadium, Bronx, New York City
Football, rugby and cricket are global sports, spread through the reach of the British Empire. Most American sports are played exclusively in the north American continent, but it's this lack of familiarity with them that makes them so interesting.
I managed to watch each of the major sports at least once and it gave me a further insight into American culture. My favourite was the one that I least expected to enjoy, baseball. The Yankees Stadium, although without the atmosphere you find in English football stadiums, is still a phenomenal sight and I just liked the laid back nature of the game.
If there is one thing I couldn't stand though, it's the sickening amount of commercialism in all the games there. The Premier League is heading that way, but I'm so thankful there aren't breaks in play and adverts every 2 minutes.
You can read my experience of all the American sports I watched here.
Fraunces Tavern, Manhattan, USA
At the southern tip of Manhattan is Fraunces Tavern, one of the meeting places for revolutionary Patriots prior to the formal outbreak of the American Revolution. Witnessing July 4 celebrations in NYC was an interesting experience. The celebration of American independence is all encompassing in the States, and it's one of the major holidays on their calendar.
I used the day to visit different areas of New York that played a role during the conflict, and Fraunces Tavern was one of my favourites. The Tavern has been established in one form or another for over 250 years.
As a loyalist city and British stronghold for the duration of the war, New York City saw less conflict than other colonial states to the north (other than American rebels burning Trinity Church to the ground) but as the first capital of the newly independent United States, the city played a pivotal role in those early years.
You can read about my experience of 4th of July in the United States here.
Miami, Florida, USA
During my trip to Cambodia, I met a group of American girls travelling across the country. In 2016 they came to London for a short visit and I showed them around, a year later they invited me to their home state of Florida for Spring Break.
It was fantastic catching up with them, but I did feel a little too old for Spring Break - most people seemed to be teenagers. However, a trip to the Wynwood area changed my perceptions of Miami, it's probably not a city I'd visit regularly, but it has some very good areas.
I've been too a lot of cities that have beaches; Rio de Janeiro, Valencia, Barcelona, San Antonio (Ibiza) to name but a few and Miami is right up there in terms of good beaches. This photo shows the brilliant blue sea and golden sand.
For an in depth review of my time in Miami, click the link here.
Washington DC, USA
DC is the capital of the United States, and during my time in the States, I visited the city on two occasions, managing to cumulatively spend a fair few days, including a long weekend.
The city is significantly quieter, and smaller, than New York. Its lower-rise, spread out cityscape feels more European in nature. Arriving during the National Cherry Blossom festival made it stand out even more.
The centre of Washington is very nice, all of the famous monuments are within walking distance of each other. The White House is significantly smaller than I had imagined, and not particularly memorable, whilst in contrast the US Capitol building is incredibly beautiful. The Jefferson, Washington and Lincoln memorials (pictured) are all really well done, the Jefferson one in particular is something that transcends being a simple monument and has a poignant message that resonated with me.
The city has a sizeable homeless population, and just a few blocks from the home of the most powerful man on the planet are thousands of homeless people. You can tell a lot about a country in the way it treats its most poor and vulnerable, and on this measure the city fails miserably.
You can read my full review of DC here.
Chicago, Illinois, USA
The third largest city in the country is just a short flight from New York City and I absolutely loved it. It's the birthplace of the skyscraper, and a visit to John Hancock Centre gave a great 360 panoramic view of the Chicago skyline.
Located on the banks of Lake Michigan, Chicago suffers from the same extreme of temperatures that DC and NYC has, and a huge thunderstorm that coincided with my visited showed just how unpredictable and extreme the weather can be.
One of the highlights of my trip was a visit to the Millennium Park and the Cloud monument (pictured).
You can read more about my trip to Chicago here.
Chicago, Illinois, USA
The Chicago Riverwalk is a relatively recent development to improve the inner core of the city and it's honestly one of the most beautiful city walks I have ever done. I did the walk in the evening when the lights of the city were glowing like stars, and I did it in the day when I could admire the architecture of the city in more detail.
I took this photo during one of my walks in the day, in the middle of a midwestern heatwave.
San Francisco, California, USA
I took this photo from Battery Spencer, a hill beside the famous Golden Gate Bridge. The bridge itself is roughly a mile long and spectacular in its scale. As with many cities I visited this year, the usually temperate Bay Area was experiencing a rare heatwave which made crossing the open bridge slightly uncomfortable.
I really liked San Francisco, the city was completely different to Chicago, DC and New York - you could really feel the Latin influence from its history as a former Spanish colony and Mexican territory. Despite its Spanish past, it still felt different to another former Spanish colony, Florida.
San Francisco's climate and liberal laws means that it has one of the largest homeless populations in the United States, and what surprised me was the open hard drug use on the streets. Groups of people, usually middle aged, were huddling around injecting themselves and each other, with no subtlety.
You can read about my trip to San Francisco here.
Luxembourg City, Luxembourg
One of the cheapest ways of visiting cities is by using the 'Everywhere' function on Skyscanner. Combined with staying in a hostel, as I did here, you can have a weekend for the same cost as a night out in an English city.
Luxembourg isn't a popular destination, but its capital, especially the old town (Grund), is very beautiful. Perhaps the most breathtaking site is Le Chemin de la Corniche, a balcony type walk over the old town, and popularly known as the most beautiful balcony in Europe. This photo was taken early in the morning at Le Chemin de la Corniche and shows the spire of St Jean du Grund.
The city was known as the Gibraltar of the North for its extensive fortifications, and you can still visit some of these tunnelled fortifications, or Casemates to this day.
A full overview of my trip can be found here.
Perhaps the most visually stunning town that I visited in 2017 was the border town of Vianden. A short one hour bus and train ride from the capital, Vianden is a small town near the German border.
The centrepiece of the town is its castle, a 10th century structure that has been extensively refurbished in the past half century. The photo above shows the town of Vianden from one of the rooms in the castle.
There's not too much to do in the town, and half a day is all that's really needed, but it's a very good way to spend a few hours. You can read a review of my trip to Vianden here.
Trier is the oldest continuously inhabited city in Germany dating back to the 4th century BC when it was founded by the Celts. However it was as an Imperial Roman city in the third century AD that Trier really came into its own.
The Porta Nigra, the largest Roman gate north of the Alps is the most famous landmark of the city but there is plenty more to see and do. Trier is the birthplace of Karl Marx, home of the Roman era Aula Palatina and Roman baths, the 800 year old Trier Cathedral, and St Gangolf's Church.
The latter of these was architecturally the most unique. The photo above is from the central square in the town showing the church. It looks almost like something from a Disney film.
As with the others on this list, you can read a review of my trip here.
What are your favourite pictures from 2017? As always leave comments below or tweet me @travellingsingh or see some more pictures on my instagram account @thetravellingsingh
British Sikh, born in the Midlands, based in London, travelling the world seeing new cultures.