What can be a great trap of 'touring' a city is just that, becoming a tourist. Eating in the restaurants that adorn the streets surrounding popular landmarks, taking excursions to look at the big buildings that are recommended in the guides, and paying far too much for the clothes that one could find along popular avenues of any metropolis are all trademarks of a typical trip, devoid of local insight.
"Without interactions between visitor and native, what can happen is an estranged and potentially warped voyage."
People will collect experiences that are more of a tick on a list, rather than allowing the chance to be changed by their involvements. We further the gaps and remain strangers, instead of making the world a global village, and sharing and learning from each other.
If you’ve not yet heard of Airbnb, then prepare to be travel-enlightened. Airbnb is a simple, clever and experience-enhancing service that connects the traveller with a host, who, as the name implies, opens their house/room/guest villa to the traveller.
With over one million listings worldwide they list everything from villas to castles (of which there are 600 listed on the site, for any of you who fancy a casual escape this weekend). Airbnb curates warm and hospitable persons who offer lodging in their properties for a far more authentic travel experience than one would experience in a hotel room.
With prices suit every budget, a clean, funky and welcoming room/house/apartment can be rented in any number of locales, each bearing the individual flair of their owners, and with accompanying insider tips of the respective hosts. It is an exciting concept, and one that makes the world all the more accessible.
"Now if we know anything about Foodies, we know they like to travel. And usually, a wanderlust smitten individual is one whom also enjoys eating their way around the world, learning about the culture of a city through the food it offers."
Airbnb hosts add a mass of value to trips, whether by ensuring you don't drink bad coffee or directing to the most reasonably priced sashimi in the city.
We went and chatted to Tea and Andrew on a recent visit to New York, both Airbnb hosts who are creative, welcoming, and old hands at recommending the best spots in Brooklyn and beyond.
Tea | Hails from Sicily | Works in Hospitality | Speakeasy Queen
Tea you're originally from the Mediterranean island of Sicily in Italy. What brought you to New York and what makes it home now?
I moved to New York blind, having never been here before. But New York is one of those cities that you can say you have been to without ever having been here. It is exactly like what you see in movies and television. As an artist myself [a musician], Brooklyn had the feeling straight away of home. The enormous Italian community helps with that too. You can imagine the type of regional food you can find here.
So if one wanted an authentic Italian espresso that wouldn't be too challenging to find?
Definitely! There is one pastry shop, Fortunato's, which is run by brothers from Italy. They make coffee like I had only seen in Italy, where you add sugar to the first shot of espresso, whisk it so it almost becomes like a cream, and then add it back into the second shot. Makes for a very smooth espresso and it is nearly impossible to find anywhere else.
Why be a host on Airbnb?
When I grew up in Sicily, my family was part of a home stay program, which meant I had people from every country around the world in my house constantly. I have worked in bars and the hospitality industry most of my life, so accommodating people comes very easily to me. I love the variety of people who come to my house, from the Finnish to the Japanese. And I love making their stay more enjoyable.
Okay so give us some insider tips, if you please, that you can't find in guidebooks.
The thing about I love New York are the speakeasies. They're pretty much unique to this city. Sure other places have a few, but they are nowhere as well executed nor numerous as the ones in this town. They really imitate the prohibition era, the lighting is dim, the mixologists are amazing, and jazz musicians outstanding. I think I’ve visited nearly every single one in New York!
Angel's Share [pictured above via http://www.new-york-city-travel-tips.com] in Noho is hidden behind a Japanese restaurant and features Asian inspired cocktails. It overlooks the street and has romantic setting without being snooty.
Little Branch on 7th and Leroy has live jazz and a spot on 1920s vibe. It is a bit tricker to find, but looks for a white door and then go downstairs.
Apotheke, in Chinatown, is a bit livelier, but still hidden from public eye and they’ve nailed the decor. And the exterior gives nothing away! Their cocktails are too good.
Insider Foodie Guide to New York:
1) Ballaró (77 2nd Av). Good food, good music, great community. They have Twister nights, jazz nights, $6 wine and free buffets all the time.
2) Numero 28 Pizzeria (near Washington Sq Park). Think, slightly chewy crust. Some say this is THE place to eat pizza in New York City.
3) Burger Joint at Le Parker Meridien (33 West 8th St). Fun place in a posh area. If you are doing the Tiffany & Co, 5th Avenue thing, turn left as soon as you enter the Meridien lobby and score a cheap, outstanding burger in a hidden burger bar.
4) Angel Share (Noho). Creative cocktails with unique ingredients, a rarity in Manhattan. Most people's favourite hidden bar in the city.
When you book an Airbnb stay through Foodie you’re entitled to a $25 USD/$194 HKD discount! Visit www.airbnb.com/foodiehkif you like having more money to spend on food.
Burger Joint at the Park Meridien