We are a family of four heading on an OE for a year. We have bought a seven-day New York Pass from Leisure Pass North America. There are so many sights and sounds covered in it. Can you please advise us of the best and smartest way to put the pass to optimum use?
- Aspi Bilia
Lonely Planet's Sarah Bennett & Lee Slater write:
New York has so much on offer that it can seem intimidating even to the most experienced travellers.
Having purchased your pass you're obviously well organised, and this will help you get the best out of your visit. A week is a good length of time to spend in the Big Apple, and your seven-day pass is a bargain. In fact, if you tick off only 10 attractions over the whole week you'll still save yourself a wad of dollars.
However, many of the city's pleasures lie in unexpected places so make sure you leave time to hang out and let them happen.
Lonely Planet has two guides to New York (City Guide and Encounter) that describe the city in detail. The internet is an excellent resource, too. Do some reading and draw up a list of your must-dos. Group them together geographically and then plan to visit other nearby attractions on the same day. Walk if you can, and use the subway - it's fast, cheap and reliable, and an iconic attraction in itself.
You shouldn't miss the ferry trip to the Statue of Liberty, the dizzying views from the 102nd floor of the Empire State Building (go before 11am to avoid the worst of the crowds), nor the woody oasis of Central Park. Explore the park on a bike with your "free" pass.
The city's also home to a remarkable collection of world-class museums and galleries, including the MoMA, the Museum of Natural History and Metropolitan Museum of Art. They're fun for all ages, as are the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum and Brooklyn Children's Museum.
Don't be afraid of venturing to the outer neighbourhoods such as Harlem, Brooklyn and the Bronx. They're a slice of real Noo Yoik, and serve up some fantastic street food, too.
Rich culture of Portugal
My partner and I are planning to do a two-month trek around Europe. We are planning to visit all the must-do countries such as France, but we are unsure whether it is worth going to Portugal? What is there to do or see in Portugal? Also, do you recommend any places that are worth visiting but are not over-crowded with tourists?
- Cheryl Courtney
Lonely Planet's Lee Slater writes:
I was lucky enough to spend six months in the Alentejo region of Portugal, and loved every minute of it. Stretching from the busy Algarve in the south to the Targus River in the north, it's the country's largest and arguably most beautiful region. It's also the emptiest - you won't find hordes of rowdy tourists here.
It may be one of Europe's poorest regions but it's rich in terms of history, architecture and cuisine. Pretty whitewashed villages and marble towns are home to proud Alentejanos who cling valiantly to local crafts and customs. Gastronomic delights are plentiful and the region is "it" for traditional Portuguese food.
Savour the pork, game, cheese, olives, breads and wines - I hardly ate a bad meal the whole time I was there. Adventurous types should try caracois - snails cooked in garlic and herbs, normally eaten with a toothpick. They make a surprisingly delicious and moreish beer snack.
Come summer, Alentejo is one of the hottest places in Europe with temperatures topping 40C. Inland, expect dry golden plains and rolling hillsides dotted with majestic medieval towns such as Evora, and captivating castles such as Marvao and Castelo de Vide.
Head to the rugged Atlantic coast for cooling breezes and an abundance of excellent seafood. The lovely town of Vila Nova de Milfontes, and Zambujeira do Mar with its wild beaches and cliffs, are both fine spots to spend a few days by the sea.
Other top Portuguese experiences include hiking the high-country trails of Parque Natural da Serra da Estrela in the Beira region, and sipping port in the romantic city of Porto in the north.
Lonely Planet's recently revised Portugal guide has the low-down on all this and more.
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