San Francisco, California
Update: I originally posted this in 2017 but I've updated in 2022 following another visit
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.
New York City, United States
Airport Security *****
Reception of locals ****
First impressions of Washington DC
Airport Security *****
Reception of locals *****
My experience of American Sports
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 hemispheres.
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.
My 10 favourite New York City museums
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.
My 10 favourite New York skyscrapers
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.
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.
Top 5 Pizza Places in New York City
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.
Living in FiDi
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.