Elena Bowes

New York-London travel writer of a certain vintage looking for meaning and wholeness in life

Taming the Urban Jungle: Apps that NYers Love –

January 26th, 2017
The Big Apple

Earlier this week my friend Jessica and I organised a pub night in London for Columbia Journalism School alumnae. Nearly all the attendees graduated within the last few years. Not only did  they all have good jobs, but they shared a sense of adventure and curiosity, reminding me why I chose journalism in the first place. And reminding me what it’s like to be young and carefree.

Award-winning novelist Jennifer Steil told me at the drinks that the best thing she ever did was leave a stagnant job in the States and move to Yemen.

Yemen, I thought in surprise, not quite sure if I could pinpoint it on a map. Are there nice hotels there, I wondered.

Steil met her husband, edited the Yemen Observer, wrote her first of three books, an acclaimed memoir called The Woman Who Fell from the Sky  and had a baby – all in Yemen. Maybe I should have gone to Yemen. I realised I knew nothing about this hotbed of possibilities, made a quick mental note to brush up on all things Yemeni  …


Later this year I will be an empty nester. Here is my chance to go wild, follow in Steil’s brave footsteps, take the plunge.


I am moving to Yemen. Just kidding. I am semi-moving to Manhattan, pretty much the same thing. Adventure is my middle name. And yes, Stretch has something to do with it.

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In New York  time is money, convenience is king and booking on-line is taught in kindergarten. My daughter Kate who lives downtown told me that she wouldn’t dream of just showing up at an exercise studio and signing up for a class. I learned that the hard way at cycling class Fly Wheel. I thought I could stroll in, check things out, sign up on a coloured chalkboard or something.

Instead, a  horde of lycra clad NYers were grabbing shoes, towels, water bottles, rushing to their bikes. An enthused, toned instructor shouted over the thumping disco din that class was starting in thirty seconds. Meanwhile I couldn’t figure out how to open my locker. Then mid-class I fell off my bike. Luckily, it’s dark so no one can see you and cheating is totally fine. My rule of thumb – whatever RPMs the teacher tells the class to target,  divide that number by two and subtract 10.

I am determined to make a success of my NYC adventure which means embracing this on-line thing. No more calling humans, dropping in to check things out. So London. New city, new me.

I asked my squadron of NYC insiders for tips on the best apps. Maisie (below left)  came up with my favourite – Mini bar  – an app where alcohol is delivered to your door, straw at the ready.


So epic, comes within the hour, says Maisie.

Fancy some nibbles to accompany your Mojito? Try Caviar a streamlined app which delivers food from upmarket restaurants to your mouth.

Or maybe you’d prefer to go out instead? Resy is like Open Table only with a more selective, interesting group of restaurants from which to book. Whoops, did you forget to reserve a hotel?  Hotel Tonight offers great last minute deals.

Now my daughter Kate’s (above right and below)  tips for the city have more of a pampering theme. No surprises there …


She likes Zeel for massages. They’re affordable and good quality. I’ve tried Zeel twice and am a total convert.

Kate sweetly offered to do market research for me on  Glam Squad, a beauty on-demand service that provides hair, nails, makeup anytime, anywhere. Imagine, you thought you had a night in your PJ’s watching Scandal, but then you scroll through Happn – the dating app that connects you to people you’ve crossed paths with literally –  and you see that the cute guy in the apartment downstairs has ‘liked” you back. You have a date in ninety minutes.  Who you gonna call? Glam Squad!

Logan, below, is clearly the one to ask for apps on what to see and do.


He recommends the New Yorker’s app Goings On, a guide to the city’s cultural life. The magazine’s editors hand pick everything from food and drink to theatre and exhibits. Once you’ve selected a play you’d like to see, Emma (marching below) says Today Tix has good last minute theatre deals.


Cristina (below right) works at a Soho art gallery. She relies on the See Saw gallery guide to keep her up to speed.


It breaks down shows by area in NYC. It also shows you what’s opening and closing that week. I check it at the beginning of every week.

For transport Uber, Via (shared, inexpensive  rides in clean SUV’s) and Citibike are all good. I love Citymapper for getting around town. It gives you different options to get you where you want to go and turned me into a subway aficionado.

January 2017