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. 🙂

Yes, I still traveled over winter break

I haven’t written anything for a while and there’s a good reason! I’ve been on winter break and have taken a complete hiatus from everything — blogging, Twitter, working, studying — to save my sanity. I was beyond stressed out last semester with trying to balance work, school, a social life and traveling, and was incredibly burnt out by the end. To make matters worse, next semester, I’ll be working 37 hours per week (with three, maybe four jobs)  on top of five of the hardest classes I’ll be taking in college. So I needed a break.

Of course, a break for me doesn’t mean sitting still. I made sure to fit some travel in where I could. Since I’ve been extremely low on money lately, I couldn’t afford to go anywhere international, but I stuck with cool places nearby — New York, Florida and a staycation in Washington, D.C.

First stop was a day trip to New York City with my friend Brian two days before Christmas. It was super spontaneous, given that we decided to go just two days prior, but we wanted to experience New York at Christmastime.

On Dec. 23, we woke at the crack of dawn (4 a.m.) to catch our 6:30 Megabus from Union Station in D.C.  We got to the city around 11 a.m. and, after some much-needed coffee, headed to Rockefeller Center to see the iconic, 85-foot Christmas tree. Ice-skating at the center was ridiculously overpriced, so we let other people spend $50 to skate and then happily watched them glide and topple on the rink.

Next we headed to Brooklyn to have our share of world-famous pizza at Grimaldi’s. The wait was horrible. There was no waiting space inside the restaurant, so Brian and I along with maybe 50 other people waited outside in a line stretching down the sidewalk. We shivered from the cold as a slushy rain/snow mix fell from the sky. By the time we got inside we were famished, but of course, the restaurant was so packed that  it took at least half an hour to get our pizza. And service was awful; we saw our grumpy waiter only twice; once when we ordered, and once when he delivered the check (which was cash only). But let me tell you, the pizza was delish. We got half pepperoni, half meatball (toppings were a whopping $3 each) and devoured entire large, brick-oven pizza. That being said, the dish was still not exquisite enough to make up for the otherwise unsatisfactory dining experience. I’m glad we went, but I don’t think I’m going to be a repeat customer.

Grimaldi's Pizza
The rest of the day was more pleasant. Despite the cold rain, we walked around Brooklyn and got ice cream at the Brooklyn Farmacy and Soda Fountain, an adorable ice cream parlor with great staff that was recently featured on Food Network’s Top Ten Restaurants, a deserving award. Then we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge for the first time, and went to meet some of Brian’s friends for dinner in the West Village.


The bridge was more stunning than I imagined. The long wires that stretched from the center of the bridge down to the entryways created a web-like network that was intimidating but beautiful. The lights from the cars driving below added an interesting illumination that just added to the overall aura of the bridge. And, of course, the view of the New York skyline from the peak of the bridge looked just as it does in the photos.


Later, during dinner, one of my friends from school saw something I had posted online about being in West Village and messaged me saying she was at a jazz bar just down the street! What a coinkydink! So Brian and I parted ways with his friends after dinner and went to meet my friend Lily at the Fat Cat Jazz Bar. Luckily the bar was 18+, so Brian, who is 19, could get in. I grabbed a cider from the bar and Brian and I joined Lily and her friends at a table where we talked, played games, and listened to the jazz musicians jam. But soon it was nearly 11 p.m. and Brian and I had to make it back to the pickup stop to catch our midnight bus back to D.C.

It was a long, tiring day, but an absolute blast. We were zonked by the time we got back to Union Station at 6 a.m. Christmas Eve and headed home quickly. But I had work at 10 a.m., so I only got a few hours of sleep before I had to fire up the engines again (go figure). But totally, totally worth it.