New York to D.C. to Fort Lauderdale in 7 days – Part 1

So my pre-Christmas trip to New York wasn’t my only trip to New York over my winter break. Nope, I made two more visits, with a stop home and a few days in Florida in between.

Anyone who follows me on Instagram (@ybtraveler) may have noticed that I was posting obsessively about how my Sasha was coming to New York the second week of January. Sasha and I met on our Contiki tour over the summer (she was one of the wonderful souls who looked after me when I got sick all over the Louvre) and we quickly became lifelong friends. She lives in Australia, so after our Contiki ended, I figured it would be long before I got to see her again.

FALSO.

Sasha messaged me on Facebook in October confirming that she and her family were coming to the States on holiday in January. January! We were only separated for seven months! She was going to be in New York for almost two weeks and I knew I had to go up to visit.

So we concocted a plan that I would visit her overnight in New York, then kidnap her from her family and bring her back to D.C. for a few days. She loves Obama, so naturally a trip to the White House was a must.

On the morning of Jan. 6, I headed to Union Station once more to catch another Megabus (which was only $3!!!!!!!!) to New York. It was snowing heavily that day, so there were major delays and traffic on the road, but I finally arrived in the city around 2 p.m. I walked to our meeting spot, the McDonald’s in Times Square, and instantly saw Sasha. Ahhh! We squealed, hugged and nearly cried for several minutes, then finally started making our way back to her hotel so I could put my things down.

I met Sasha’s parents, a lovely, lovely couple, and her sister Corey, and then Corey, Sasha and I headed out for pizza and stroll down Broadway. We ended up walking all the way to Central Park and took our time perusing the snowy woods and long pathways. Soon, though, the cold got the better of us and we headed back to the hotel. We met back up with her family, grabbed some food, then made our way back out to go grab some drinks.

Three Irish Pubs and several $10 drinks later, it was nearly 5 a.m. We had made some “friends” at the last pub we visited and stayed wayyyyy too late. (Connor from John Sullivan’s, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry!)  And we reluctantly headed back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep.

We woke late the next morning (well, afternoon) just in time to part ways with Sasha’s family and catch out Megabus back to D.C. We arrived in the city around 6:30 p.m. and took the metro back to my apartment on campus. We had an early night that night, just grabbing dinner with my Parents at the best Indian restaurant in the world, the Royal Taj in Columbia, and spending a little bit of time at my parent’s home in Columbia. Then we headed back to my apartment to unwind with some Chardonnay and finally get some sleep.

The following day was our tour day of D.C. After our wholesome breakfast of leftover Indian food, we rode the metro back into D.C. and got off at the National Mall. With a temperature of 11 degrees Fahrenheit (-12 Celsius) the ground was covered in ice and snow and we realized we didn’t want to stay out long exploring the monuments. After snapping a few photos at the Capitol and Washington Monument we sought shelter and warmth in one of my favorite museums, the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History.

After two hours at the museum, we left to go hang out in front of the White House for a bit (Obama was apparently too busy leading the country to come out and say hi. Geez.).  Then, we headed to La Tasca, a great Spanish restaurant, to meet my roommates for happy hour. The Sangria was great, the tapas even better, and the happy hour prices were unmatched for an otherwise expensive D.C. restaurant. Even so, after three pitchers of sangria and six rounds of tapas later, Sasha and I realized we didn’t have enough money to continue partying in D.C. It sucks to be broke sometimes! Back to my apartment it was then, to continue the festivities in a much more affordable setting.

The White House
We didn’t get any pictures with Obama, but at least we got a snapshot of his house!

 

Of course, we had another late night that night. But as opposed to hanging out in bars and clubs, we hang out in my apartment building and I introduced Sasha to more of my friends from school. I was so happy everyone got along so well! Almost too well… We stayed up until 4 a.m. again just talking, laughing and dancing. I’m just happy I got to give Sasha a glimpse into the American collegiate experience.

We had yet another early morning the next day. This time I had to get Sasha back to Union Station to catch a bus back to New York, and then I had to head to the airport to get my flight to Fort Lauderdale later that afternoon.

It was incredibly hard to say goodbye to Sasha. It’s so rare to find a friend that you connect with so quickly that within days of knowing each other you know you’ll be friends forever. She is so fun and hilarious and unbelievably kind and full of life—it makes me so sad we live on exact opposite sides of the planet! But we decided that now that she has come to the U.S., it’s my turn to visit Australia. So I guess I better get to planning…

Sasha’s visit was way too short, but we packed a week’s worth of adventures into three and a half days so I can’t complain. I left her at the bus station, and got back on the metro to make my way to the airport. But as this adventure came to an end, I was about to head off on a new one, this time in sunny, sunny South Florida. 🙂

My second day in Dublin

The next morning, we rose to eat breakfast at the hostel and make our way into town to find a place to get authentic Irish coffee. We of course landed back at Temple Bar, where our lovely bartender painstakingly whipped up the most amazing cups of Irish Coffee we’d ever had.

Then we made our way to Dublin City Hall to go on a walking tour of the city. Our tour guide was full of history and knowledge. We walked around Dublin Castle and a few other historic spots and learned a lot more about Irish culture and the rise of Irish patriotism. It was so thrilling to learn the stories the built up the character of the city with which I was so love already. We had to cut our tour short because I mistakenly booked tickets for our tour of the Guinness Storehouse two hours earlier than I had planned. So we parted ways with our tour guide and headed to the Guinness factory.

Walking to the storehouse felt like it took an hour. It was far from the city center in Temple Bar, but given the size of the place, I totally understand. The factory was a huge, multi-level building with brick walls and Guinness symbols all over. The tour took us through several rooms on several floors where we learned about the production of Guinness from barely seed harvesting to maturation. Apparently, Arthur Guinness was particular about every ingredient that went into his beer, right down to the water used. Later on in the tour, we got to to learn how to pour our own pints of Guinness (there is a very specific 6-step process for how to do it). Then we got to take our full glass up to the skybar, a round glass room with astonishing views of the city. And in that moment, I feel even deeper in love with Dublin.

Euro Trip Summer 2014 359

After stopping by the giftshop on our way out, Sarah and I headed about five minutes down Thomas Street to Arthur’s, a cute little pub on a street corner. I got Guinness and beef casserole (delish!) and Sarah got her usual fish and chips. We enjoyed the nice break in our day. But the break was fleeting because we had to head to the Jameson Distillery for our next tour.

We got to the Jameson Distillery a little late, but managed to catch up to our tour. The Jameson factory was much smaller than Guinness but the tour was more intimate. We again got to learn how Jameson is made and why it is distilled no more or less than three times. At the end of the tour, we got to try samples (Sarah even volunteered to do a taste test, comparing Jameson to scotch and American whiskey). On our way out, we picked up a few souvenirs and the gift shop and headed back to our hostel.

Euro Trip Summer 2014 369

That night, we went on a pub crawl with other tourists throughout the city. We started at this swanky pub down the street from our hostel. I remember most about the place that the walls were covered in portraits of breasts. Pretty interesting. Sarah and I met this couple from Wisconsin who became our barmates for the night. Sean and Felisha were delightfully honest and we enjoyed countless laughs with them. We also met a few Australian boys and a pack of frat guys from Florida. They were fun, but we didn’t talk to them too much.

The pub crawl headed to a few other pubs throughout the night (the names are escaping me!), and we continued to enjoy ourselves amongst the good company and lively atmosphere. The pub crawl ended at a club, but Sarah and I didn’t feel up to dancing, so we headed out early and went back to the hostel.

BUT I wasn’t done yet. I was only in Dublin once, so I had to make it count. So I headed back out alone ready to make friends somewhere. I ran into a couple of street performers on the corner who Sarah and I had met earlier. Recognizing me, the main musician flagged me over and told me they had just been victims of an attempted robbery. She asked me to watch over their instruments as she went to contact the police. I stayed with them for a while, going over what happened and doing everything I could to help. The robbers, a group of young girls who tried to push them over and steal their money, had managed to escape only with a few euros and some flyers. I was happy the girls didn’t do any real damage, but I was worried for the musicians nonetheless.

After everything was squared away, I stayed and listened to the band start playing again. While I was standing on the street corner with them, I met a few German people who came to listen, too. I started talk to the Germans, who were there on a business trip, and they ended up inviting me out with them. Again, I thought why not? So I left with them to go to another pub where we met some more people and listened to more live music. We stayed for a while and had a blast, until finally I realized it was past 3 a.m. and I needed to head back to the hostel.
In all, Dublin was more than I ever dreamed. The city was full of character, the people were just the right amount of mysterious and charming, and the music spoke to my heart. Leaving early the next morning was painful, but we packed up our things and made our way back to the ferry and back to London. I slept the whole way home, so I don’t have any more stories about people I met on the way, but I got the sleep I much needed!

How we’re squeezing in a weekend trip to Dublin

The-Temple-Bar-Dublin

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

Sorry about the exclamation — I’m just really, really excited! This summer, I’ll be spending a week in London with my travel pal, Sarah. And in our planning, we figured that we might as well plan a trip to Dublin while we’re in the U.K. We both have a love for pubs and Irish jigs and figured we could spare a couple of days stepping away from England and exploring the Emerald Isle. And going to Ireland means I get to check something off my bucket list!

When we’re going

While Sarah will be in London for nine days, I will only have six days there before I leave for my Contiki tour. So we’re taking a short weekend trip to Dublin — leaving Friday morning and returning Sunday afternoon. Yes, we know we should avoid weekend travel when we’re on a budget, but a weekend trip was the only option that worked for our schedule.

How we’re getting there

Sarah discovered a transportation company that is perfect for our schedule and budget. Called RailEasy, the company lets us find and book a train ride from London to the west coast of England and a ferry from England to Ireland. We booked a train ride from Euston to Holyhead, where we will then hop on a ferry to Dublin Port. The journey takes about eight hours — six by train and two by ferry.Though the ride will be long, it’ll be totally worth it because of the stunning views of the countryside we’ll see along the way.

Here’s a short video of the highlight of the London-to-Dublin journey:

Where we’re staying

We used Hostelworld (as usual) to search for places to stay in Dublin. There are other accommodation options featured on the site than hostels — such as budget hotels and bed and breakfasts — but Sarah and I prefer hostels because they allow us to meet and hang out with other travelers. And we love making friends. We searched Dublin hostels based on price, ratings and location and found several that fit our criteria, such as Isaac’s Hostel and Backpacker’s Citi Hostel.

But the one that caught our attention most was Abigail’s Budget Accommodation. With an 98 percent location rating and a Hostelworld recommendation, Abigail’s stood out as the best place to stay if we want to be centrally located to Dublin’s main attractions. It’s located on Aston Quay overlooking the River Liffey with Temple Bar only footsteps away from the doorstep.

abigails

Since we’ll be tight on time, we need somewhere that is within walking distance of most sites we want to visit, and a few minutes’ car ride away from the rest. Not only is Abigail’s centrally located to all the historical sites we want to see, but the hostel offers free 3-hour walking tours every day at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. This bonus means we’ll have to do way less planning for where to go and what to see.

Nightly bar crawls are another prized feature for the hostel, one that we will happily take advantage of. Have I mentioned that I’m obsessed with Irish pubs? We’ll be visiting the Guinness Brewery and the Jameson Distillery while we’re there, of course, we’ll be sure to salute the local spirits on our night(s) out.

In my next post, I’ll share our tentative itinerary for the trip!

Have you been to Dublin? How did you get there and where did you stay? Comment below!