Getting Gospel in NYC: Where to see the best gospel choirs in New York

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Where to see the best gospel choirs in New York

New York is the home of some incredible gospel choirs and if you are planning a visit to the big apple there are plenty of places for you to hear gospel music live around the city. Although there are some guided tours created specifically for tourists - these can often be expensive and feel a little inauthentic so I've rounded up the top three places for you to get the best experience of gospel choirs in New York, without the price tag.

Time Square Church Gospel Choir in New York
Image source: TSC Music Facebook
Times Square Church
Address: 237 West 51st St. New York, NY 10019
Nearest Metro Stop: 50 St

The most centrally located of the bunch is Times Square Church, which is actually a renovated Broadway theatre right in the heart of Manhattan. The 180 strong Adult Praise Choir is made up of people from over 30 different nationalities and all walks of life including students, business professionals and single mums who meet to perform and worship. This one is ideal for anyone who's time in New York doesn't fall over a weekend as they minister a mid week service on Tuesdays at 7pm along with the two Sunday services at 10am and 6pm.

First Corinthian Baptist Church Gospel Choir New York
Image Source: FCBCNYC Facebook
First Corinthian Baptist Church
Address: 1912 Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd, New York, NY 10026
Nearest Metro Stop: 116 St

Perhaps the most social media savvy gospel choir in New York on the list, the choir from the First Corinthian Baptist Church not only have their own Facebook, Twitter and Instagram page - they also stream their performances live online! Tourists will always get a warm welcome here and they have three Sunday morning services to choose from. If you want to beat the crowds, go for the 7.30am service but if early rising isn't your thing there are also two later services at 9.30am and 11.30am. Located just on the borders of Manhattan and Harlem, the First Corinthian Baptist Church is also just a five minute stroll from the northern side of Central Park, so why not team your New York gospel choir experience with a brisk Sunday morning walk around the greenest part of the city.

Brooklyn Tabernacle Church Gospel Choir in New York
Image Source: The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir Facebook
Brooklyn Tabernacle Church
Address: The Brooklyn Tabernacle, 17 Smith Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201
Nearest Metro Stop: Jay St

The Brooklyn Tabernacle is often given the title of the best gospel choir in New York and it's not hard to see why as the 270 voice choir has already scooped up five Dove awards and six Grammys. The choir was first formed in the 1970's with just 9 people before it went on to enjoy the global success that it does today including performing at the 2012 Presidential Inauguration in front of an estimated viewing audience of one million people. The church can be found in downtown Brooklyn, just a short walk away from the Brooklyn Bridge, and this choir too only ministers in Sunday services at either 9am, 12pm or 3pm. The choir will sometimes be replaced with a core group of Brooklyn Tabernacle singers but to check if the choir is singing for a specific date and service, you can call the church office before you visit.

Top Tips
It is important to remember that the choirs are performing as part of a religious service, so be respectful and look up any specific visitor information before you go - they will usually have helpful advice pages for tourists on their website.

Always double-check the service times online a few days before you are due to go as they may change, particularly if there are other events in the church calendar

The services will normally be over two hours long, so try and leave yourself enough time to stay for the duration, as it may be considered disrespectful to leave halfway through.

Have you ever heard a gospel choir perform? Have you ever heard a gospel choir in New York perform? Where are your favourite spots in the world to see them?

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#PillowTalk: A Review of Nautilus Hotel, Miami

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Nautilus Hotel Miami Pool

If you are a fan of boutique hotels, then you won’t find yourself more spoilt for choice than when planning a visit to Miami Beach. When we were researching places to stay, my “shortlist” was about 30 hotels long with every one offering a trendy art deco inspired base from which to explore the party capital of the sunshine state.

After much deliberation, we decided to go for the Nautilus Hotel, which is part of the Sixty Hotels collection. Found on Collins Avenue, right on the Ocean Front, the Nautilus combines the breezy nautical feel of a coastal beach house with all the chic glamour you would expect from a Miami Beach residence.

Nautilus Hotel Miami

It features 250 rooms, all of which have a crisp yet comfortable feel that encapsulates the casual but elegant vibe of Miami. The whitewash décor is slick and modern and each room is decked out with all the essentials and more including Bluetooth docking stations, Nespresso machines and the most pimped up mini bar I’ve ever seen, in the shape of a vintage travel chest - which we took full advantage of! After 16 hours travelling from London (and a lost case along the way) the huge white pillows on a seriously comfy king size bed felt like heaven and the feel of the room struck a great balance between feeling modern and swish but still cosy.

Nautilus Hotel Miami Room

Nautilus Hotel Room

Unfortunately the weekend we were there, Miami had a freak weekend of downpour after downpour – but when sunnier skies are to be found, the Nautilus Hotel also has a packed schedule of events for guests to enjoy including weekly yoga sessions, boozy brunches and pool parties and BBQs at their poolside bar, the Cabana Club. It also has a super cute bohemian style chill area overlooking South Beach, all set up with hammocks and private service, which you can also take advantage of if you head to the hotel’s private area on the beach itself. We were really gutted we didn't get to go to any of the events, but from talking to people in the area, the Nautilus Hotel shindigs are frequented by the Miami cool crowd - in particular those looking for an alternative to the bigger more well known hotspots like the Fontainebleau.

Although we didn’t get the weather to try these luxuries out ourselves, one thing I can personally vouch for is the Cabana Club cocktails (Cecchini-Tini was my favourite!), which we carried out extensive research into to escape the rain. The Cabana club also serves up a range of Mediterranean inspired dishes, which combines French cuisine with Floridian ingredients in their breakfast, lunch and dinner menus.

Miami Nautilus Hotel

Miami Beach

When it comes to cost, the Nautilus Hotel is certainly not the cheapest option but it's far from being the most expensive Miami hotel. As it was only opened in late 2015, the Nautilus is still fairly good value compared to other Miami hotels of the same caliber, which is why we choose it above some of the others. Scroll down the Telegraph travel’s best picks and you would struggle to find less than £300 a night but while the Nautilus is still the new kid on the block when it comes to Miami hotels, you can snap yourself a double room from just £140.

If you are looking for the most budget way to stay in Miami then perhaps this one isn’t for you, but if you want a slice of the Miami lifestyle – the Nautilus Hotel is a great way to get the VIP feel without the price tag.

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Nautilus Hotel Review

*All images are copyright of Nautilus Hotel

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The Travel Post #23: 5 Bars In Havana Not To Miss

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5 Bars in Havana Not To Miss

Late last year, I ticked off one of the cities that has been top of my bucket list for a while when I visited Havana, Cuba. Havana is a place that is buzzing with life and culture and one of the best places to experience the vibrant spirit of the city is in the local bars. With that in mind, I have put together my pick of the five bars in Havana you should pay a visit to if you find yourself in the Cuban capital.

El Floridita
One of the most famous bars in Havana, El Floridita is best known as the home of the Daiquiri and it still serves some of the best in the city with a whole host of flavours to choose from including a mango and a chocolate orange variety. It is also renowned for being a local haunt of Ernest Hemingway, meaning it is a bit of a tourist hotspot but it's worth the crowds for a cocktail or seven.

Bar in Havana Cocktail
Image by Valters Krontals

O'Reilly 304

A lesser known spot is the tapas bar O'Reilly 304, a definite must see bar in Havana. Named after the address of which it is found, this boutique spot is always packed with the local hipsters. As well as serving up some seriously impressive frozen cocktails, they have some of the best Sangria I have tried anywhere. Team this with some of their famous Tacos and don't leave without trying the Ceviche, which is said to be the best in the city.

Havana Bar Barman
Image by Ty Nigh

Patio del Hotel Nacional

The Hotel Nacional de Cuba is one of the most historic buildings in Havana and if you head to the patio bar on the terrace - you can tick off two of the sights as you get a great view of the city's sea wall, the Malecon, too. There isn't much more on offer than the usual Cuban cocktails, but it's a great place for people watching. Grab a mojito and get yourself a seat right at the cliff edge to see the locals flock to their favourite meeting point at sunset.

Patio del Hotel Nacional Havana
Image by japs11f63

La Guarida

La Guarida is one of the most famous and most beautiful Paladars in the capital, but not many people know about the newly opened rooftop bar, which sits on the floor above the elegant Cuban restaurant. This uber trendy spot has lavish seating and serves up premium cocktails with the best city view out of all the bars in Havana. Don't forget to take advantage of the giant picture frame for the perfect Instagram shot.

Rooftop Bar in Havana
Image by Chris R Hee

La Factoria Plaza Vieja

La Habana Vieja, otherwise known as Old Havana is the best place to experience the Cuba you see in the guidebooks with its narrow streets and crumbling colonial buildings. Head to the Plaza Vieja, one of the most famous squares in Old Havana and you will find La Factoria Plaza Vieja, one of Cuba's original microbreweries. Pockets of people can be seen sitting outside with ice cold bongs of beer and the outside grill serves up tasty kebabs in the Cuban sun.

La Factoria Plaza Vieja Bar in Havana
Image by Angel Cuenca
Have you ever visited any of these bars in Havana? What are your top things to see and do in Havana?

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5 Havana Bars Not To Miss

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The Travel Post #22: A beginner's guide to Bangkok's Markets

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A beginners guide to Bangkok markets collage

For anyone planning to visit Bangkok for the first time, checking out the city’s famous markets is a must, however choosing which ones to visit can be a hard decision. Here is a rundown of four of the city’s markets which are a must see for a first time visitor!

Floating Bangkok Market
The floating markets of Damnoen Saduak sit roughly two hours outside of the centre of Bangkok and hundreds of visitors flock here every day to discover the unique experience of a market accessed completely by water by taking a ride on the vendor boats. Although most of the stalls are geared up for tourists, selling typical Thai memorabilia and souvenirs, at some of the smaller stalls you will find women from the local village wearing traditional bamboo selling deliciously fresh Thai produce such as sticky rice, bananas and coconuts. You can either float around the market with a guide or hire a boat and travel round by yourself, which will cost from 150B (about £3.50!) per person per hour (with a bit of haggling!).
Short on time? You can pay extra to have a motorised long tail boat, which will allow you to see the floating Bangkok market in about half the time. If you do opt for the early start with a guide, ask them to show you how to offer food to the monks yourself and receive a blessing of your own!

Top tip: Try and get to the market by 7am when the stalls start to open. This way you can avoid the crowds and may also get the chance to see Buddhist monks visiting the stall owners, where they will offer food in exchange for a blessing.

Weekend Bangkok Market
If you're looking for some serious shopping, then the Chatuchak Weekend Market is the ideal choice, and it is super easy to find located right next to the Mo Chit Skytrain station. Bangkok's biggest market takes place every Saturday and Sunday from 9am to 6pm and houses over 15,000 stalls with 27 different sections selling everything from flowers and food and drink to clothes and antiques.

Handy tip: The Weekend Bangkok Market is somewhere you can pick up some serious bargains as many of the stalls will often sell identical stock. To get the best price, approach vendors with a big smile and don't be afraid to walk away if you don’t get the deal you were looking for as often they will call you back and offer you a lower price.

How to get around: I am going to be honest, the market is huge it isn't too difficult to get lost, however there are systems in place that should help you find your way around. If you do lose your way, aim for the clock tower, which is often used as a central meeting point for visitors and make sure you pick up a map, which details all of the 27 sections and shows you what you can expect to find in each. If you can it is also a good idea to try and visit the market first thing in the morning or late afternoon as it often attracts over 200,000 visitors per day.

If you are looking for somewhere to spend the evening, the night bazaar in the modern Asiatique is the perfect place. A slightly more up market option, this Bangkok market is home to over 1,500 stalls selling anything and everything you can think of. As well as the stalls selling typical bric a brac and souvenirs, there is a selection of small and medium size boutiques in the mall area, offering more upscale goods including clothes and electrics.

Asiateque also hosts a number of restaurants and bars in a great spot overlooking the Chao Praya River. Being served up is a range of different cuisines, including authentic Thai (albeit a slightly milder western friendly version!), Italian and Turkish. After dinner, there is also lots of entertainment to choose from including performances in the famous Calypso Bangkok Theatre, and a fun filled Ferris wheel.

Getting there: Getting to Asiateque is easy as they offer a free shuttle running from Saphan Taskin pier. The shuttles run regularly until 11.30pm, so you can enjoy the buzz of the complex until late.

Riskey Market
Another Bangkok market you could visit outside of the centre is the famous Maeklong Train market, otherwise known as the “Risky Market.” This is because at eight times throughout the day the market descends into chaos as stall holders manically pack away their stock to make room for the very large train that passes straight through the centre. If ever there was a place to experience authentic Bangkok with all its fast paced craziness it's here!

Seeing how quickly the stalls are packed up to reveal train tracks you didn't even notice you were standing on and then watching the train fly through is an incredible sight and you will be amazed how quickly the stalls are back up and running afterwards to continue trading.

Another great thing about this place is that unlike the floating Bangkok market, which is now predominantly a tourist attraction, the Risky market is also frequented by many Bangkok locals, who come to shop for their fresh produce. This means you can get your hands on some authentic Thai delicacies, from dried herbs to exotic fruit and vegetables, there is loads of things to try. But a word of warning, there are quite a few stalls selling fresh seafood which is gutted and prepared right in front of you, so if you are a little bit on the squeamish side – this one might not be for you!

Have you ever visited any of these Bangkok markets? Which one was your favourite?

Charlotte x

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