“A 1-day Abu Dhabi itinerary and a list of must-see cultural attractions, from traditional Arabesque architecture landmarks to Emirati craftsmanship hubs.”
If you’re visiting Abu Dhabi right now, you’re so damn lucky!! Because I miss that beautiful city even when I’m already there. Once per year for the last 19 years. With this in mind, I decided a 1-day Abu Dhabi itinerary to the most Emirati culture-filled attractions (which has always been that special must-do on each of my arrivals) should be a one-of-a-kind post on my travel blog. The everlasting smell of the oud perfumes carried over the windy beaches of the Corniche and all heritage sites begging to be explored!
“A list of fun, virtual NYC experiences that you can try without actually traveling there.”
Since the pandemic started, I’ve been finding countless and successful means to revive the memories from my last trip to the beautiful island of Manhattan. Not hard at all to virtually visit New York by watching documentaries, reading books, playing games and lots of other fun online activities.
So, here we go.
Read a Book:Seeking New York
I’ve actually had this intricate, kind-of NY architectural guide long before traveling to the Big Apple as part of an architect’s research for the hidden depths of the city. And I say “kind of” because New York architecture is, in this case, merely a pretext for storytelling and unveiling the well kept secrets of old and new Manhattan. What I totally love about it is the hand sketches found through out the whole book.
Seeking New York gathers architectural greatness, restless history and true stories quietly witnessed by walls still standing (or not), shivering at every private life’s sight and hosting some of the most unbelievable daily life activities, from glory to decay and back to glory through ages and ages.
New York, not pure, not easy going: the book has a bit of a brutal debut with the dreadful stories about the old Rat Pit. A red brick, still standing, Georgian-style home, 273 Water Street, dating back to the 18th century and known to be the third oldest building of Manhattan.
Watch THE Movie:Pretend It’s a City
NETFLIX documentary. Seven parts. About 30 minutes each. Watched without breathing. Scorsese takes Fran Lebowitz, an American writer and humorist, and places her above the New York City. He speaks to her while she’s having a peaceful walk on the site of the NY 3D model at Queens Museum in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, the model of the city she’s been living in for the last 50 years.
Given that, a simple and discreet looking Fran easily becomes a demigod with a notorious city lying helpless at her feet, due to unequalled humor and pragmatic remarks on even the smallest of the smallest details, such as the honorary plaques, strongly grounded in the New York pavement, or the restless metro atmosphere.
Her statement – pretend it’s a city… where people live with good and bad, in a social and political context. New York does not exist just for sightseeing. Fran’s refined sarcasm helps the viewer understand the city of NY on all levels. For instance, either psychological, political or social aspects connected to economical survival of the millions of its residents, investments in the city urban furniture and infrastructure, environmental issues, 9/11 or OJ Simpson trial, the music of the Dolls and the crowded Times Square are just a few of the subjects discussed.
Watch THE OTHER Movie: The Apollo
The Apollo Theater is one of the most famous New York venues, a legacy of the African Americans’ folk contribution to culture.The 93-minute documentary brings up a different side of America, the one of the black performers.
It is another kind of experiencing a New York visit, strongly felt while I was going to Harlem for jazz music or on city tours organized by the black people community. It is about hope and suffering and struggle and success, a mix of emotions that gave birth to an unique American music style and international known figures like Ella Fitzgerald or Billie Holiday.
Every few days, the Metropolitan Museum is having online live art sessions in which you can learn about various exhibits, through, most of the times, hands-on activities: drawing museum items, book binding like in the old times, designing particular objects that can be worn as jewelry and much more.
For example, at Drop-in Drawing I learned how to draw mandalas, how to sketch the Temple of Dendur in pencil and how to replicate a 19th century dress design. There is music to listen for the grown-ups, as well as storytelling and art camps for children. That said, a little bit of everything for all ages. Previous workshops can be found here: Facebook Videos and Art at Home.
Experience Local:Airbnb Unique Activities
You can have a Brooklyn street art and graffiti tour with Ariel, draw with a New York artist or you can even plan your next visit to New York with Ben. Cooking classes, NYC history talks, interactive magic and Illusion shows. New York people got online and share their best skills no matter how far you might be.
Either you are into latest fashion or product design, many NYC stores are shipping nationally and internationally. In particular, Macy’s, MOMA design store and even the Metropolitan Museum have their online stores filled with goodies. Just be careful and patiently read all their shipping policies, because, for example, MOMA does not accept returns on international orders.
Of course, the online shopping is not as fun as the live retail therapy. But if you can’t have the 5th Avenue on-the-spot experiences, at least, you can enjoy some wonderful books or worldwide famous contemporary design objects, as well as the latest trends in clothing. Just another way yo visit New York from afar.
Eat That Famous NYC Pizza:The Pizza School
What about a homemade, New York-style pizza? As a matter of fact, you can now take an online class and make your own pizza from scratch with Pizza School NYC which hosts fun online webinars and private events. You will learn how to make the perfect dough, prepare your sauce affordably, choose the ingredients, especially the cheese, and, my favorite part, how to throw dough like a pro!
Besides, if you’re from US, then you can buy your own pizza kit from their online store. If you’re outside US, ingredients can be bought from a local store, as they give you a pre-class information to prepare yourself.
In addition, you pay only one fee per screen so you can come with family, friends and neighbors.
Do Something Crazy:Check the Shelves of a Mexican store
An activity as crazy as it may sound for the weirdos who love label reading: exploring an interior 360 panorama view of a New York Mexican store, a truly culinary virtual experience. He is Edwardo from Mexico and he has a lot of Mexican food around him, from fast food, instant food and spicy sauce to cheese and pastrami. This is Harlem too. So rotate and…
As incredible as it might seem, you can now escape a NYC challenging adventure room from the distance. A few New York escape rooms are available online: codes, clues, puzzles, all live with your friends and family from anywhere in the world.
Visit New York From Above :Fly a Virtual Helicopter
The 2-minute long virtual helicopter experience takes you over the Statue of Liberty and magical Island of Manhattan. Moreover, the helicopter is just the first part of a 360 degrees virtual tour presenting famous places of NYC: Ellis Island, Union Square, Madison Square Garden.
While browsing Google Arts and Culture I discovered their Experiments area. And a big online coloring book featuring paintings and landmarks. In brief, who doesn’t love coloring when it’s just a click away?!?! And guess what! You can color your own artsy Statue of Liberty and download it as a New York keepsake.
It’s a basic, but fun voice-controlled browser game for two people that measures by comparison your NYC QUOTIENT. This is one of the many amazing Google experiments developed for fun by coders using Chrome, Android, AI, AR etc. The game gives you a word and you have to find other connected words, things that people would use to say about that subject in their tweets on Twitter.
After you Launch the Experiment you you have some instructions to help you understand how things are working and there is even a demo.
Have a Theatrical Venture:On Broadway!
Since very small, I’ve been hearing about all these famous, glamourous musicals on Broadway. From the very few movies that somehow managed to get to my country at that time. Who would have thought, more than 20 years ago, that the brightly lit, Midtown Manhattan avenue experience will go beyond the live theatres and be so easily accessible worldwide?
Lately, due to the pandemic, even if I haven’t watched TV for the last 18 years, I got various subscription to Netflix, and HBO and Amazon Prime. Like a maniac. So adding one more to the list was unexpected. But it happened. There is this Broadway HD website, streaming all goldies for theater lovers. So that’s for ME!! They have recordings of wonderful musicals like Memphiscaptured live in a 2015 performance at Broadway’s historic Shubert Theatre, and most impressive, some very old ones likeOklahoma!, one of the Broadway classics.
If you’re a morning person, then you will absolutely love this sunrise on Brooklyn bridge. But if you’ve always wanted to wander through the Central Park, now you have the chance to see some of its own landmarks (the Mosaic at Strawbery Fields, Alice in Wonderland Statue) and learn history with this virtual experience
The 9/11 Memorial it is also available online. Here you can virtually move around the amazing Reflecting Absence Fountains, two twin waterfall pools with bronze parapets where the names of the victims of the 9/11 attacks are written. They replace the two twin towers that were once the World Trade Center.
Explore NYC Graffity Art:From Street to Online Galleries
I did!! Firstly, because I was lucky enough to have a wonderful December walk on the streets in Brooklyn. And now by browsing melancholically the online galleries on Google Arts & Culture website.
The graffiti as a modern art movement started with not so fancy painting tools back in the 70’s, in the Bronx neighborhood. Though it raised from an overwhelming atmosphere of crime and oblivion, the graffiti art surpassed its conditions and spread its amazing wings all over the city. People’s talent and enthusiasm easily conquered, for a few decades now, the boring walls transforming them into open air museums with short-lived art pieces of vibrant colors. StreetArt NYC tries to showcase all these unique paintings and keep them alive a bit longer.
When I was a little girl, my few ways of traveling to Greece were some old books and a bit of imagination. I used to read again and again a big, brown-reddish book called the Legends of Olympus, a re-writing for children of the charming Greek myths about the fearless adventures of the Olympian Gods. If you like reading, I would recommend a lovely book to get you into the mood before traveling to Greece and that would be Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes.
From the ambrosia, the source of eternal youth and beauty and the lavish feasts held in the unreachable Utopian heaven located above the peaks of the Mount Olympus to the countless animal sacrifices done by humans in search for their Gods’ benevolence, food has its special part in those legends.
Demeter was the goddess of cereals providing grain for bread.
Dionysus was the god of wine.
Priapus was protector of livestock, fruit plants & gardens.
Greek delicacies surrounded by myths and mystery, coming out of a fertile land blessed by Gods and risen to the surface from the deep of the Aegean Sea. Who would dare not to be at least curious?
With so many beaches you might think Greeks eat only fish. But not!
Greek people have this talent of combining kindness, hospitality, humor and unexpected tastes in lovely, simple restaurants that bring together the city panorama with a good roasted steak and the sea waves with a chocolate lava cake on the house.
I’ve located all the visited restaurants on Google map, so you can easily get to the them, if you’re already in Greece.
Εκτός των τειχών / Outside the Walls Restaurant, Thessaloniki
Going down from Heptapyrgion of Thessalonica (the remains of the Byzantine / Ottoman-era fortress) or climbing up from the sea level along the old city walls, this restaurant is a middle way stop to enjoy a beautiful panorama of Thessaloniki and the Gulf, while having a taste of the traditional Greek cuisine.
The service in the restaurant was flawless, and the view is spectacular. We visited when the sun was setting down and made a stop because our feet hurt from so much walking. It was a randomly chosen restaurant.
We were not so hungry and took just some appetizers and a salad. But, even so, we received a front seat for the view and a homemade desert on the house! Yummy!
This is where I tasted for he first time the Greek style dish, baked feta with sesame crust and honey, a meze with origins in Cretan cuisine, truly mastering the craft of combining salty cheese with sweet ingredients.
Kitchen Bar, Thessaloniki
A very popular and well rated Mediterranean restaurant, with prices rather higher than others, but extremely fancy and with a lovely view of the Aegean Sea / Thermaic Gulf. It is located in the old Port of Salonic and it is great for a late night dining experience. Still, I was there during the day and the view was magnificent.
Me and my boyfriend did not search for reviews before going there, we just saw the Kitchenbar luminous sign the previous evening, while on half hour cruise on a Greek war themed boat touring the Gulf. And thought we should try that restaurant too!!!
The food and drinks were a dream!! We ordered a nice Mango Mule cocktail, some beer, a mixed meat plate and an Asian Basket – Sushi maki with shrimps and salmon, some chicken meat, spring rolls and dumplings.
And I must say that their lemon pie looks fabulous:
H 𝒍𝒆𝒎𝒐𝒏 𝒑𝒊𝒆 🍋 που τα σπάει! Δροσερή κρέμα λεμονιού, με πλούσια αφράτη μαρέγκα και τραγανή crumble βάση. Το απόλυτο καλοκαιρινό γλυκό που θα σε ξεσηκώσει με την ακαταμάχητη γεύση του! 😋 ______________________________________ #kitchenbar #thessaloniki #bar #restaurant #summerinthecity #summeratkitchenbar #lemonpie #dessert #yummy
You can find them here, but it’s hard to miss them if you get to the Gulf:
Just another homey way of outdoor sitting. An eclectic restaurant with tiny, tiny balconies, cute and romantic, hiding one table and two chairs sheltered by small olive trees, thyme and basil, fit for just two people, watching the city at night from above. We saw this pretty restaurant one evening when we were going back to our hotel and fell in love with it instantly. So we were back there next day.
Local people often recommended us to go to some roof top bars which seem to be plenty in Thessaloniki, but with this one, we chose something in between: not too high to feel dizzy, but high enough to feel the whispers of the streets immersed in the darkness.
On the first floor of a building on Ionos Dragoumi street, this cute and cozy restaurant recreates the charm of the island of Mytilene: handmade wooden furniture, a traditional cuisine bringing together many different parts of Greece, local wines and homemade pickles.
The atmosphere is quite elegant and you get plenty of tasty food for the money you pay. We wanted to try the titbits dish from different parts of Greece. And ordered two: Macedonia and Crete, thinking we will get two plates with five small bites each. But in fact there were FIVE!!! Five different plates for each of us with so many different Greek cheese specialties, pickles, salads, meatballs, seafood and more.
At Molyvos life flows slowly. And tastes great.
The desert was on the house: a big plate with Loukoumades, Greek donuts, and icecream!! ♡
Ktima Gerovassiliou Bistro, Epanomi
This is one of those less traveled places in Greece, recommended by locals and hard to describe because it’s so charming and complex that one doesn’t know what to start with. So I made a whole post about it here:
The short version is that this pretty Greek wonder, blessed by Gods and only 30 minute away from Thessaloniki, in Epanomi, brings together various functionalities connected to wine and wine making: a museum, a winery and a beautiful vineyard overlooked by a small restaurant.
Hidden behind a bunch of trees that separates it from the private parking, this luminous bistro, with windows from top to bottom on the perimeter, immersed in nature and art, is a welcoming space with wine tasting and pretty good appetizers. After a visit into the amazing corkscrew museum, you can taste here, I think, up to 5 different wines French and Greek ones, among which the famous, local one prepared from saved-from-extinction Malagousia grapes. Goes well with seafood, poultry, pasta dishes with light sauces fresh vegetable salads, Mediterranean and Asian cuisine. We did not do the tasting part as we were driving. Their specialty is white wine.
But! At the entrance of the bistro there is a small store which I did not left unchecked. I took two bottles of traditional wine (one white Malagousia and one deep-red Avaton that goes perfectly with red meat stews in spicy sauces) and a book that brings together agriculture and architecture.
Aristos Fish, Ormos Panagias
This sea-side restaurant, one of the famous Halkidiki taverns, came as a recommendation from a local guy and it was a beautiful surprise. At the entrace, a blackboard awaits its clients: Aristos – The original fish-sea food restaurant. Since 1971.
Despite the fact the prices are a bit higher than in the other restaurants around, this one is always filled with people and the service is above any expectations. They go pay attention to every details like cleaning the fish bones in front of you, small things on the house. Tastyfood on your plate and sea at your feet.
Even here, in a fish tavern, I could not resist the temptation of trying again the feta cheesed dressed in honey and sesame. But the sea bass was excellent too!
And, as almost always, the desert was on the house: LAVA CAKE!!
That’s it for today!! If getting to Greece is out of your reach for now or if you want to try some fine recipes before going there and read a bit about the lifestyle…
The crowded airports, the many unknown faces, cold early mornings just to see the sun rising up behind the sleeping airplanes, the many lights of the cities like fireflies that prepare your landing in the evening… sadly, but successfully replaced with #HomeIsolation and #Hope. And #AfterCovidDreamBuilding.
This is that time of the year when I was traveling to visit my parents in Abu Dhabi. The strong smell of Oud and Bakhoor that tickled my nose while I was rushing out of the airport into the pleasant heat mixed with a bit of humidity follows me even when I half close my eyes.
And that’s barely one of the things that I want to experience again and again: the boring one hour and a half from Dubai to the place I used to call my second home, just on the shores of the Persian Gulf; the Family Beach on the Corniche Road in its windy days when I couldn’t even properly read a book, my secret spots in the city where I’ve enthusiastically digesting the culture of the Arab world… such as the lovely and always surprising Warehouse 421. I miss all these. I miss my parents. 4000 km away.
But while Coronavirus haunts the world outside spreading sadness, I realized it is not a bad time for any of us to turn inside and deeply search for the anything that yesterday seemed lost.
These last two months of self isolation…
…made me want more, do more, start new projects that could change something. I started holding online 3D modeling classes for children in Tinkercad and Rhinoceros. I’ve had my own digital design and manufacturing studio for 6 years now and always wanted to take children into this wonderful adventure. Give them all the technological fun that I discovered so late. Before Covid I had rented a studio big enough to allow 3D printing and 3D modeling group classes. But, for now, it stays closed. And I got this wonderful opportunity with a local school to teach online. Besides teaching, I also opened my own Etsy store with cute birthday & anniversary greeting cards so I can put a smile on people’s faces all around this beautiful, so mysterious planet. And I did not forget to engrave on wood my passion for traveling. It reminded me I can be useful in so many ways.
…made me look at myself in the mirror and ask: “When did I lose you among so many things? When did I forget the way you smile, the way your skin looks like, when did I forget about all the beauty you used to hold inside? When did I forget how happy you were just to get in that plane and just fly, just dream?When did you forget to cry for the people you left behind so many times, so far, on foreign lands? The moment I let work and daily life problems crowd into my life and other people grow inside me their own fears and impatient worries. A society in a horrifying rush that now is forced to lay down. It reminded me I can be peaceful and forgiving and strong. Not strong in defending myself. But strong enough to be my old self and take care of my heart, mind and body.
…and made me think about all the people I met while traveling. The lively evenings we’ve always spent at the City Golf Club in Abu Dhabi, the thrilling rides of the Dubai Wild Wadi, the hand in hand walks we’ve had on a freezing cold day on Madison Avenue, just in time for a sparkling NY Christmas, the funny life tales sharing on the streets of Belgrade with the Serbian friend that you’ve never thought you’d ever have the luck to meet and that tasty pljeskavica you’ve shared, the rising pirate boat in Luna Park while watching the Marmara Sea from Tekirdag, the dreams we might have made while looking above Cairo and the whole world from “Nasser’s Pineapple”.
Made me think about all the people I lost or I miss because of huge distances. Made me think about the people close to me. The people that I fail to appreciate enough for the beauty of just having them in my life. The people that forgot me or I forgot, the people who left or I had to leave behind so many times. So many flights that now rest in the airports and inside my thoughts. It reminded me how much I love writing.
Wherever you are, do not forget. Be brave. This is a time to be reborn. A time to share kindness, a time to do the things you thought you could, but never had time to. It is a break for the Earth, a break for our soul. A time to travel inside. Let the airplanes and cars and trains do their beauty sleep. We will be back on the road, in no time, you will see. but rarely we will have again the same opportunity to discover and rediscover ourselves and our dear ones.
Spread dreams! And later we will spread our wings. Again.
Visiting the Sultan al-Nasir Muhammad ibn Qala’un Mosque. What a marvelous architecture! And so much history to share with the visitors…
The mosque located in the Citadel in Cairo, Egypt was built in the 14th century (year 1318) by the Mamluk sultan Al-Nasr Muhammad as a royal mosque for the fortress. Sultan El-Nasir Mohammed was the son of Sultan Qala’un and the ruler of Egypt for about 42 years. The mosque is admired for its large size since it has capacity for 5000 person and was one of the major congregational places in the region of the Citadel for a long time.