This is the third time I'm writing an end of year review, and it's always nice to have a look back on the places I've been lucky enough to visit.
You can read my end of year review for 2017 here.
You can read my end of year review for 2016 here.
For the first time, I didn't do an extended trip, but instead took a large number of smaller trips to cities in Europe, Asia and North America.
I kicked off the year in Italy, visiting Rome (including a quick stop in the Vatican), Naples, Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast. I then went to Asia where I returned to Singapore after 5 years. I then experienced a personal highlight exploring Kuala Lumpur and the nearby Batu Caves. It was back to Europe as I visited Vienna, Frankfurt and Zurich in quick succession. I then had a change of pace as I climbed the 'Rock' during my time in Gibraltar. I finally got to visit a city I've wanted to see for a long time when I made the trip to Berlin. As summer turned to autumn I returned to Amsterdam before ending the year with short trips to New York and Edinburgh.
As with the posts the last two years, you can click any of the blue links to read in depth reviews of each location.
Update: I originally wrote this article when I was living and working in NYC, but other than a SuperBowl party, I didn't get to see an NFL game live. That all changed on my return, so I've updated this article.
Almost all the world plays (English) football. No matter where I have gone, football seems to be the unifying language. Roughly a third of the world also plays cricket, and rugby has far surpassed its humble origins in the English Midlands into a truly global sport played across all hemisphere's.
American sports on the other hand are not so well known outside their home country. Baseball is limited to the American continent, surrounding islands and parts of Pacific Asia (i.e. Japan and Korea), ice hockey is limited to the North American continent and parts of northern Europe, American football seems to be just the States. In fact, its only basketball that has a somewhat global following, so unsurprisingly its only basketball that I had any familiarity with.
However, wanting to immerse myself in American culture, and being a keen sportsman myself, I thought watching as many American sports as I could was a way of better understanding the American psyche and its people.
I lived and worked in New York City and found it was unlike anywhere else in the world. And, without a doubt, Manhattan is NYC's beating heart.
The cool thing about Manhattan is that it's split into a number of neighbourhoods, each with its own unique character. The differences between Chinatown, the Financial District, TriBeCa and SoHo are incredible, even though you could walk through each of them one after the other.
Given these differences, I decided that during my time in New York, I would visit every part of Manhattan and then pick some things I really enjoyed. Since my return, friends have been asking for my tips, so I thought I'd share this more widely. This list shows one thing to do in every Manhattan neighbourhood, with the neighbourhoods defined by the city's own political map.
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.
There are a lot of things New York does well, and a few things that it doesn't do so well. One thing the city does particularly well is its museums. Across the 5 boroughs of New York, there are 80 museums, 32 of them in Manhattan, the area in which this article will concentrate on. The city has its own 'Museum Mile' an area that is covered with museums.
This number is considerably smaller than London (where there are over 200), and not only that, unlike the UK, museums in the United States charge admission prices, and some of the prices can be incredibly steep. However, despite these negatives, and the relative youth of the city, the museums in New York more than hold their own against European and British museums - and here are 10 of my favourites.
The High-Rise City
Chicago might be the birthplace of the skyscraper, but New York City is undoubtedly its home. A combination of inventions, and a Great Fire, gave the skyscraper the impetus to become the building that dominates most major city skylines around the world, and for New York, skyscraper fever began in 1890 when the World Building overtook Trinity Church, a building that had been the city's tallest for over a century.
Since then, New York has seen three different skyscraper booms: 1890 - 1930, 1960-1972 and finally the current boom that began with One World Trade Center. Most of these 200+ skyscrapers are located either in the financial district or Midtown. As mentioned in previous articles, New York hasn't (at least until very recently), taken building preservation very seriously so very few of the earliest skyscrapers exist. In fact, some skyscrapers stood for a matter of years, only to be replaced by taller buildings in their very spot.
I'm sure everyone has their favourite skyscraper in NYC, here is a list of my top 10.
The New York Pizza
Ever since Gennaro Lombardi opened the first pizzeria in the United States in the Little Italy neighbourhood of New York City, the New York style of pizza has grown into a global phenomenon unique in its flavour, detached from its Neapolitan origins.
From that first pizza place in 1905, the city now has close to 500 pizzeria's operating in the city. So what makes New York pizza so different? Firstly, there's a standardised size, 18 inches in diameter, secondly it uses a high gluten type of bread. I've tasted pizza in many parts of the world, but the New York style is definitely one of my favourites, in fact, I had a boss who would come from Washington DC, just for the pizza! So what else could make New York pizza so special? Some say its the evolution of the pizza through Gennaro Lombardi (many successful NYC pizzeria's can trace their origins directly to his pizza place), others say its the unique concentration of minerals in New York's famously high quality tap water.
Whatever the reason, you are never more than a couple of blocks from a good pizza place, and during my time in New York, I made it a mission to visit some of the best pizzeria's the city has to offer. After all of that, here are, in my opinion, the 5 best pizza places in New York City.
Airport Rating *****
Reception of locals *****
There are four parts of the world that every Sikh has family friends or relatives; Panjab, England, Canada and California. I'd heard (and read) a lot about the west coast of the United States, and I was excited when I was given the chance to give a talk in San Francisco. I decided to extend my stay for a few extra days and ended up spending almost a week in the city.
Its the tech capital of the world and in terms of western cities, it's definitely one of the strangest I have ever visited. Areas of ridiculous money are often a short walk from areas of abject poverty. The natural beauty of the Bay Area is contrasted by the dirty, run down and drug infested streets away from the coast. It's a city of extremes, but it's one that has left a strong impression on me.
You know the deal by now, marks out of 5, the higher the score the better.
Cost (relative to other areas of Manhattan): ****
You can get much bigger places in FiDi for cheaper rental prices than most areas south of Central Park
Transport and accessibility: ****
Most main subway lines converge at the tip of Manhattan to give you quick access to the island as well as boats and the PATH train to New Jersey and Brooklyn
Nightlife and entertainment: *
Other than Stone Street, its a pretty poor place for a night out, but things are improving and TriBeCa is just a short walk
Shopping and convenience: **
A large Century 21 and a new Westfields Shopping Centre are good, but there is no where near the diversity of shops as there are in SoHo or Greenwich Village. Grocery shopping is also more expensive, with the nearby Whole Foods in TriBeCa the best option
History and culture: *****
You won't find anywhere in New York with the history of FiDi and the area also boasts a small number of museums
Airport Rating ****
Reception of locals ****
Chicago is the third largest city in the United States and the centre of the American Midwest. The city has an incredible history considering its relatively short existence (especially compared to cities in Europe). The Great Fire of Chicago gave rise to the birth of the skyscraper, whilst prohibition brought along with it the rise of gangsters such as Al Capone.
It was another work related matter that allowed me to visit a different American city, this time to give a talk. I decided to take some extra time in the city afterward to explore a little of Chicago and see some of the main sights, and I'm glad I did because I thought it was a beautiful city.
British Sikh, born in the Midlands, based in London, travelling the world seeing new cultures.