About Megan McDonough
Megan Eileen McDonough runs Bohemian Trails, an online travel magazine focusing on global art, culture and off-the-beaten path destinations. A wanderer by nature with a love of all things fashion, music and street art, Megan encourages readers to ditch their rigid guidebooks and discover a city by purposely getting lost. Her personal travels have taken her through Europe, South America, Mexico and Egypt.
Megan is also a freelance writer and social media specialist based in New York City. She contributes to various online and print publications in the travel and fashion industries and is an international correspondent for both Jetsetter and Northstar Travel Media.
Latest Posts by Megan McDonough
There are so many amazingly fascinating neighborhoods in New York City and each deserves a little praise once in awhile. Today’s guide is all about NoLita, or North of Little Italy. This is arguably my favorite area of Manhattan, although it’s really a toss up between here and the LES. I guess it depends on the day or my mood.
NoLita has a little bit of Soho spillover and a lot of personality. There are tons of restaurants, bars, boutiques and cozy book stores to entertain anyone. To give you some perspective, NoLita is east of Soho, west of the Bowery, north of Little Italy and south of Houston Street.
If you are looking for a bargain you won’t find it here. Granted, the trendy boutiques in NoLita do have sales but the starting price points are on the high side. That being said, there are a few really cool stores here. Vintage lovers should head to Resurrection (217 Mott Street) even if you can’t afford any of the treasures that lurk inside. Then there is a shop that sells socks and another that specializes in pajamas. Go culture crazy at Condor (259 Elizabeth Street), which is owned by Loriann Smoak who is quite the traveler. This becomes obvious when you see the merchandise.
Eating in NoLita is an experience in itself. Café Habana (17 Prince Street) is a cheap way to get your Cuban culture fix and Lombardi’s Pizza (32 Spring Street) appeals to both locals and tourists. I personally really like Delicatessen (54 Prince Street) for brunch because the sangria I order comes in a huge glass and the food is delicious. It’s also a prime people-watching spot because it’s right at the border of Soho yet far enough away to avoid the Broadway madness. I’m also slightly obsessed with Tacombi‘s (267 Elizabeth Street) indoor taco truck.
Even happy hour feels more fashionable in NoLita. For cheap margaritas, head to Sweet & Vicious (5 Spring Street) and try to snag a seat outside if the weather is nice. There are also several of charming wine bars like Epistrophy (200 Mott Street), with its white colored brick walls, large windows and European ambiance. YN Bar (227 Mott Street) is another wine bar just up the street from Epistrophy (hmm maybe I should start a wine bar crawl!) They serve about 50 different wines and rotate these weekly. Go to Cafe Gitane (242 Mott Street) if you get hungry.
Don”t even think about leaving NoLita without paying a visit to McNally Jackson Books (52 Prince Street). It only took me about a month living in New York to discover this gem and I’ve been going back ever since. Gossip Girl fans take note – this is where many scenes during their college days were shot. Fashion aside, I get lost in my own world in this place, which is when their cafe comes in handy. Travelers love it here because not only is there an extensive travel guide section but their two floors are arranged by geographic location.
NoLita is the perfect neighborhood for an afternoon stroll. If you visit on a weekend, definitely spend a few minutes browsing through the designer market along Prince Street between Mulberry and Mott streets. I recently bought a hat there for half the price, thanks to an end-of-summer sale. Another great stroll is along Elizabeth Street where many of the boutiques are located. Even if you don’t feel like buying anything, the street is generally quiet and clean and those are two serious rarities in New York.
Long before arriving to Maui I wanted to do a post about how the island’s culture is reflected through color. Granted, I knew little about Maui but all signs pointed toward blue beaches, green valleys and flower leis in all shades of the rainbow. All this turned out to be true, but I also learned a lot more about Maui’s unique history and fascinating traditions.
Green = Valleys, Palm Trees & Nature Hikes
A lot of the activities I participated on during my trip were water-based but there are actually a ton of nature hikes that are bursting with color. During my helicopter ride, our pilot gave us a tour of Maui’s many valleys and waterfalls and even pointed out a few rare plant species that live on the island.
I didn’t have time to go on a nature hike while in Maui but there are so many great options. I did, however, spend several hours biking through Haleakala National Park. Along the way, there is a beautiful little lavender farm and a patch of fresh-smelling Eucalyptus Trees. A few days later I went paragliding near Rice Memorial Park and Kula Botanical Gardens. At 3,000 feet in the air, you see a while lot of green!
Blue = Water, Sky & Surf
From surfing and paddle boarding to going underwater in a submarine, ocean life is a huge part of Maui culture. While there is always room for improvement, I was pleased to learn that there are many initiatives for protecting the ocean. Even my surf instructors gave us a lesson on how to protect the reef while surfing. There was one point where I sort of crashed into some rocks because I didn’t hop off my board soon enough and instead of worrying about my new “reef tattoo” my main concern was getting back on the beach without doing too much damage to the reef.
Yellow = Luau Fashion & Food
In Hawaiian tradition, a luau (lū’au) is a gathering to celebrate life that always involved food, music, dance, and arts. Nowadays, the type of performance many travelers attend involve food, dance, music and various cultural activities.
However, there are a few differences that separate the two. Firstly, the traditional lū’au was not scripted as it’s often done today and secondly, it did not involve other Polynesian dance (the fire knife dancers are from Samoa, Tahitian dancers with the fast drums and high hair pieces are from Tahiti, poi ball dancing and marking of the face with moku are from their New Zealand cousins).
A luau is still very much apart of local Hawaiian culture. It’s a time when hundreds of families and friends come together to celebrate a special occasion – like a child’s first birthday, a graduation party or a marriage.
Brown = Knowledge Written In The Sand
My first crash course into the Hawaiian language was written in the sand during my surf class. Aloha means hi, by and love but the real meaning goes way beyond greetings. To ‘alo’ is to be in the presence of someone and ‘ha’ refers to breath or in a more complex outlook, your life force. Mahalo means thank but it also is used as you’re welcome since there is no real translation for that phrase in the Hawaiian language. Ohana is the word for family and Nalu means wave so He’e nalu is how you’d say surf.
Going back to the concept of aloha as a greeting, The Fairmont Kea Lani’s cultural coach Jonelle Kamai gave me even more background into this tradition. Historically, Hawaiian would ‘honi ihu’, which refers to a nose-to-nose greeting of breathing in each others breath. Not surprisingly, this is the most intimate type of greeting in any other culture and a way to show that you are accepting that person without judgment. You’ll still see many Hawaiians doing this with people they know well but most people just hug each other or give a quick cheek-to-cheek kiss to say hello.
When I found out that I could participate rooftop a tour of the stars, I almost fell over in excitement. Our teacher showed us different stars, planets, galaxies and nebulae through two larger-than-life telescopes. I had never seen the moon so clearly before, nor had I been able to decipher red stars from blue.
Maui has an interesting history with stars. Voyaging Polynesians used the stars as their only source of navigation to reach the Hawaiian Islands more than 1,000 years ago. It’s pretty fantastic really, especially when I think of how dependent I am on Google Maps. (photo by Sherry of OttsWorld)
This trip was hosted by Maui Visitors & Convention Bureau. All opinions are my own.
Dr. Seuss totally nailed it with his famous “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” story. Little did I know that a trip to Maui would have be going just about everywhere…including to the bottom of the ocean floor. It’s no secret that I’m a Disney fanatic but I’m also a superhero fan as well. Here are a few of my favorite activities that really made me feel super human.
My Jurassic Park Moment
Maybe it was the climactic music as our helicopter ascended into the skies but I could have easily been in a Jurassic Park movie. This was my first helicopter ride and quite honestly, one of the major highlights of my trip. My helicopter pilot was an encyclopedia of sorts. I have had some pretty cool experiences in my life but I really felt like my six-year old self on Christmas morning. The sensation of flying high in the skies not to mention the valleys and endless ocean that shone below, had me smiling ear to ear.
Riding a Wave
I have mentioned before how I have always wanted to surf and despite my fear of sharks, I figured Maui was the perfect place to give it a shot. Our instructors for the day were Dustin and “Sharky”. While Sharky’s nickname did little to squash my fear of sharks, it didn’t matter because from the moment our lesson began, my nerves were replaced with excitement. After some quick practice on the beach, it was time to hit the waves. Dustin helped me catch my first wave and Sharky was there to drag me back to the water by putting his toe on the top of my board to pull my board along. He later surfed on his head.
To be honest, I was not expecting to even stand up on my board but I ended up surfing every wave I attempted, with the exception of the first. If you do end up taking a surfing class in Maui I highly recommend booking with Maui Surfer Girls. The class sizes are small and the prices are very reasonable. Plus, the atmosphere feels open and inviting and it really beats the alternative of huge classes with very little one on one training.
Whizzing down a Volcano
Wherever I travel, I usually try to squeeze in a bike ride. However, nothing would quite prepare me for the three hour downhill bike ride that would ensue. We went up Haleakala volcano to 6500 feet and through the communities of Ha’iku, Makawao, and Kula. From here, we had until 4 pm to leisurely make it down the volcano to our starting point. The self-guided tour style worked well for me because I had plenty of opportunities to pull to the side of the road and snap some pictures. And yes, I did have a few road runner moments of racing down the hill!
Going Under the Surface
Maui was all about new experiences for me and 100 feet below sea level was no exception. I felt like Ariel during her “Part of your World” song especially we passed the sunken Carthaginian ship. We were really lucky because we saw a pod of dolphins, which is a rarity for these tours. I also spotted a sand shark and various colorful fish swimming in clusters or playing in the reef. The captain also turns the submarine around to give passengers a 360 degree view.
Walking on Water
After an intense day of surfing, standup paddle boarding felt like a breeze. My lesson was conveniently located right along Kā‘anapali Beach. After paddling for a little on my knees, I stood up and spent the next hour or so paddling along the beach amid other snorkelers. I didn’t find it too tricky to stay balanced but I did get an intense upper body workout, especially when I was paddling against the wind or trying to head in a different direction.
Soaring above the Clouds
There’s a reason why Superman was my favorite super hero as a kid and why Peter Pan was my go-to Disney movie. Both fictional heroes fly and that is the number one super power I wish I had in real life. On my last day in town I drove about an hour and a half to reach the spot where I’d be paragliding for the first time.
In reality, my instructor Dexter did all the work. I just ran a few steps at takeoff and another few as we were landing. He managed our flight, the roller-coaster twists and turns and the lifts and dips that made me laugh and scream out of pure bliss. The 12-15 minute ride went by in a flash but the adrenaline and feeling that I had actually flown like Peter Pan still hasn’t worn off.
This trip was hosted by Maui Visitors & Convention Bureau. All opinions are my own.
In case you are planning a trip to New York or if you just want to live vicariously through the hipsters that reside here, I’ve put together a guide of my favorite places to eat, drink and sight see.
The Lower East Side may have a reputation for putting the hip in hipster but there’s actually a lot of interesting history associated with this neighborhood. For a crash course to the LES, visit the Tenement Museum (103 Orchard Street). Your entrance ticket grants you access to 97 Orchard Street where you can see what immigrant life was like in the 19th and 20th centuries. You can also take a guided walking tour of the area to learn more about how the neighborhood has changed over the years.
It’s a good idea to have realistic expectations before walking around the Lower East Side. The streets are grittier than most New York streets, but that’s all part of its charm. During the day, the neighborhood is alive with locals eating, browsing through the slew of independent designer shops and innovative art galleries. By night, the area transforms into a hipster hub of concert-goers and bar hoppers.
MUSIC: Arlene’s Grocery (95 Stanton Street) is one of the neighborhood’s most iconic music venues and for good reason. Band big and small have performed here including The Strokes, The Bravery and AC/DC. Once a Puerto Rican bodega, the rock venue never bothered to change its facade so don’t be fooled by its unimpressive exterior. Head to The Living Room (154 Ludlow) to hear singer-songwriters or Pianos (158 Ludlow Street) if you want to dance after listening to techno tunes or indie rockers perform.
FASHION: This isn’t Soho, which means the mass-market stores are few and far between. There is, however, a small Steve Madden store on Rivington Street that seems to always have crazy sales. On Orchard Street there are countless vintage shops selling everything from one-of-a-kind garments to old-fashioned jewelry. The Dressing Room (75A Orchard Street) is my all time favorite joint because it’s a vintage haven, bar and an emerging designer shop all meshed into one store.
Eat, Drink & Be Merry
With so many music venues and vintage shops doubling as bars, it’s easy to see that drinking is a big part of the local culture. As grungy as the Lower East Side is, there are still many bars and restaurants that give the illusion of of sophistication.
HAPPY HOUR: Most of the bars on Ludlow Street offer happy hours but my go-to spot is Verlaine (110 Rivington Street) because they serve up their $5 lychee martinis until 10pm daily and they are delicious. The candlelit restaurant feels strangely posh for the LES but the prices say otherwise.
OYSTERS: Another thing to note about the LES is its close proximity to the East River, which can only mean one thing – oysters! Places like Essex (120 Essex Street), Tiny Fork (167 Orchard Street) and Sebastian (81 Ludlow Street) serve $1 oysters during happy hour. Tiny Fork has the most variety so if you are a huge oyster fan, start there.
BRUNCH: If you feel like pancakes, Clinton Street Baking Company (4 Clinton Street) is a must. Be sure to get there early because there is always a line and you can’t make reservations in advance. Essex is my top pick for boozy brunches in terms of price and atmosphere. I also really like Todd’s Mill (162 Orchard) and Dudley’s (85 Orchard Street) for hearty but healthy breakfast. Vegans will love The Hummus Shop (101 Ludlow Street) and Teany (90 Rivington Street) .
DINNER: For Mexican, head to Barrio Chin0 (253 Broome Street) but not if you are in a rush. The tiny restaurant nearly always has a line but it’s work the wait. I also really like Hotel Chantelle‘s (92 Ludlow Street) rooftop for both the French Mediterranean cuisine and the random performances. I witnessed a jazz performance followed by a burlesque show on the same night. One of my newer discoveries is Cafe Katja (79 Orchard Street) because they serve Austrian cuisine and Grüner Veltliner. Enough said!
DESSERT: I’m not vegan but I adore the cupcakes at Babycakes (248 Broome Street). They make their cupcakes with all-natural, organic ingredients and it really is so much better than the super-sugary alternatives out there. If you do need a sugar rush, I recommend stopping by Creperie (135 Ludlow Street) and indulging in their sweet or savory crepes.
It’s no surprise that everything is going mobile these days and for a traveler, that’s super convenient. Granted, I still travel with my Macbook Air but that’s because I need to be writing and blogging from the road. Otherwise, I’d be perfectly content with using just my iPhone because there are so many helpful apps to solve all my problems. These apps that are well worth a download!
Find inspiration with AFAR
I have spent countless hours on their site creating highlights and wanderlists but when I’m on the road, I often find myself browsing other entries from members of the community on their mobile app. It’s basically a mobile version of their homepage and the layout looks similar to Instagram so your eyes will be very familiar with the navigation. Find things to do, places to stay, and activities to try by sifting through the user-based content. You might just find your next destination.
Get organized with TripIt
Speaking of booking a hostel, there is a lot of planning that goes into a trip and TripIt helps you make sense of it all. You can either forward all of your travel confirmations (flights, hotels, bus tickets, etc.) to TripIt or you can use their auto import feature. I opted for the latter, which means that TripIt scans my email for confirmations and creates an itinerary for me and puts all of my information in one place. This sure beats printing everything out or fumbling through a stack of paper at the airport check-in desk.
Learn the language with TripLingo
I’m a huge fan of Google Translate but I can’t really rely on it if I’m outside the US because I turn off my data browsing and stick to Wi-Fi. In search of other language apps I stumbled upon TripLingo and have been happy with it thus far. The free version only unlocks a basic level of information and I haven’t upgraded yet. There are currently twelve languages to choose from and a couple different types of learning tools including flashcards, lingo for various travel situations and of course, on the go translations.
Stay connected with Viber
Up until a few days ago, I had not heard of Viber but I’ll be testing it out next month when I’m outside the country. Similar to WhatsApp, Viber allows users to call and text other Viber users for free. It’s important to note that you must be connected to Wi-Fi or have your data service activated. Once you download Viber and enter your phone number, it can access your address book to display who of your contacts is already set up with the app. There’s an option to include a photo like you would on other social networks and it makes searching through names a lot easier.
I walked The High Line in search of inspiring street art.
Most of my days were spent working in the Columbus Circle area.
I also ate…a lot.
Summer is not complete without an absurd amount of brunching!
For my latest Neighborhood Guide I’ve chosen Québec City. From the newly revamped Saint-Roch neighborhood to the historic streets of Quartier Petit Champlain and Vieux-Québec, this French Canadian city has many faces. If you have time, try to visit these major neighborhoods but otherwise, this guide should give you an idea of which spots you will gravitate toward most.
Let’s start with my favorite neighborhood. If you had visited Saint-Roch ten or more years ago, you might have wondered why you wandered here in the first place. Since then, the neighborhood has seriously been revamped and nowadays it’s a bohemian hub for avant-garde art, trendy restaurants, bars, fashion boutiques and hair salons. In reality, everything you need is within a block or two of St-Joseph Street. Eat lunch at Le Cercle which actually doubles as an indie music venue or grab a beer at one of the local breweries like La Barberie or Korrigaine.
Vieux-Québec: Haute-Ville (Upper Town) & Vieux-Québec: Basse-Ville (Lower Town)
I’m lumping these two areas into one because Lower Town is basically an extension of Upper Town. Château Frontenac is one of Haute-Ville’s major landmarks and it’s pretty hard to miss. Around this area there are often street performers, restaurants with small town charm and side streets where vendors sell artwork. From here, you can either walk like I did or take the funiculaire to Basse-Ville, which features similar style architecture. Wander through the cobblestoned streets, visit the Museum of Civilization or hop on the ferry for an evening view of the city.
This area of Québec City is a few minutes walk from Vieux-Québec and is also close to both Battlefield Park and the Plains of Abraham, a massive public park. Within the park you can watch the Changing of the Guard at La Citadelle. The main street around Parliament Hill is Grande Allée and it’s sometimes referred to as the Champs-Élysées of Québec City. There are eateries for every budget and big hotels like the Hilton and Hôtel Château Laurier among others. Compared to the rest of the city, Parliament Hill may feel a little less exciting but there is still plenty to do here.
Another bohemian-worthy neighborhood, Saint-Jean has enough boutiques, cafés, restaurants and grocery stores to keep you entertained for hours. The laid-back, friendly atmosphere is reminiscent of Saint-Roch and in fact, you can take the elevator or stairs from one to the other. History buffs should visit J.A. Moisan, the oldest grocery store in North America, dating back to 1871. I also enjoyed waking through the Saint-Jean-Baptiste Church and St. Matthew’s Church cemetery. If you stay on Saint-Jean street you will eventually hit Haute-Ville.
This district, particularly Avenue Cartier is bursting with personality. The district includes a couple major attractions like the Plains of Abraham and the Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec. To give you an idea of where Montcalm is located compared to the rest of the city, it is southwest of Old Québec and runs from Salaberry Avenue to Belvedere Avenue and is mainly a residential area. I visited this neighborhood twice during my trip and I found a slew of restaurants with outdoor seating, lively bars, gallery spaces and even a few street artists.
Quartier Petit Champlain
Translating to “Little Champlain Quarter,” this area is believed to be the oldest commercial district in North America. While it’s technically it’s own little neighborhood, it’s part of the district of Vieux-Québec, which means romantic cobblestoned streets, art galleries, restaurants and souvenir shops. The Breakneck Stairs is Québec City’s oldest stairway built back in 1635. Don’t worry though, the stairs are sturdy thanks to continuous restorations. Make sure to take a look at the Rue du Petit-Champlain that visually tells the story of the district’s history.
What’s your favorite neighborhood of all time? Tell me in the comments below!
Ever since watching Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of Orange County” a few years back and hearing how much the ladies loved the shopping scene there, let’s just say that my curiosity wasn’t necessarily peaked about heading to Dubai. I love fashion as an art form but moving as much as I have in the last two years will make you think twice about collecting too many material possessions. That said, here’s how I’d likely spend my trip.
1) Gallery Hop
The Al-Quoz strip is quickly becoming the heart of the art world in Dubai, especially with the younger generation. The Lawrie Shabibi Gallery features contemporary art from the Middle East and other regions and the Ayyam Gallery, Gallery Isabelle Van Den Eynde and Flying House are a few others that I’m interested in seeing. This part of Dubai is far grittier than the typical Dubai glamour, which should be a refreshing change.
2) Haggle at the Souk
We all know I love a good haggle and I’m guessing Dubai has plenty of opportunity for me to put my bargaining skills to the test. I rarely buy anything besides a souvenir here or there but my main thrill comes from interacting with the locals and starting up conversations when appropriate. Dubai’s Gold Souk is a must for anyone remotely interested in diamonds of every size, shape and color.
3) Drink tea at the Burj Al Arab
This is considered the only seven star hotel in the world so I’m guessing that a tea is all I can realistically afford. The hotel, which ranks as the fourth tallest in the world, has an aquarium on either side of the elevators and seafood restaurant built underwater. Architecturally, the hotel is designed to look like the sail of a ship and is actually located on its own little island.
4) Search for Street Art
I read an article this past spring about how a creative group of street artists are adding color, both literally and figuratively, to the streets of streets of Al-Quoz, the same area where the local art scene thrives. Currently, the area is mainly comprised of factories and warehouses but like many neighborhoods before it, a revamp is on the horizon. I hope this initiative does come to life, as it would surely add a unique layer of intrigue to the city.
5) Indulge in a Champagne Brunch
This might not be the most cultural thing to do in Dubai, but nightlife and partying have become alluring aspects of the city. Despite being a Muslim state, there’s never any shortage of alcohol in Dubai. I’m also not really a night owl myself but living in New York has made me a brunch fanatic. For unlimited champagne, head to Spectrum on One (Fairmont) or Le Meridien’s (Yalumba) and for a great view, 360 Degrees does the trick.
Photo credit: www.finedininglovers . com.