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.

I made it!

What a long day it has been! But an incredible day at that!

I’ll start from where I left off in my last post:

I made it to New York by 5:45 p.m. as anticipated. But since the Bolt bus dropped us off at a different place than from where I had planned on being dropped off by Megabus, I had to recalculate how I was getting to the airport. I got two different sets of directions from the Bolt bus driver and from a friendly NYC local (I know, a friendly New Yorker seems like an oxymoron, right?), and took the advice from the latter to take the A train on the New York subway to JFK airport.

The line at customs was frightening.
The line at customs was frightening.

I arrived at the airport an hour later, just to find that my flight was delayed from a 9:45 p.m. departure to 11:15 p.m. So all that panic for nothing! I sat around in the airport for about three hours after going through customs, charging my phone and iPad. I flew Kuwait Airlines because when I was purchasing tickets for this trip in November, Kuwait Airlines had the cheapest tickets. I soon found out why. When we finally boarded the plane, I saw it was lacking, uh, modern comforts. The seats were outdated and the inflight entertainment needed some major TLC. But the staff was friendly, the food was fine, and the ride was really not uncomfortable, so I wasn’t disappointed with the flight. I got what I paid for.

Breakfast on the flight was an omelette, beans, yogurt, roll, orange juice and coffee.
Breakfast on the flight was an omelette, beans, yogurt, roll, orange juice and coffee.

I had a new cultural experience with the airline being based in Kuwait, however. All passengers were given moist towels to wash their faces and hands after boarding the flight. Later on, we were given another set of warm, wet clothes to wipe our faces and hands before landing. The flight attendants also gave specific directions as to when to close and open our window shades. No exceptions. I have not looked into why this is the routine with this airline, but I am very curious as to why! I didn’t mind having to shut and open my window at specific times, though I did wish I could have kept it open longer to be able to enjoy the view — but I did like feeling fresh and clean after wiping my face and hands!

We touched down in London at 11:30 a.m., an hour and a half later than scheduled, because of the delayed departure. Luckily my friend Sarah was patiently waiting for me at the gate. After a long, long day of traveling, it was awesome to see a friendly face!

I made it London!
I made it London!

 

My Trip to New York City

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I went to New York City last weekend to visit some of my friends from study abroad. One friend lives there, the other was visiting from Alabama. Since I’m only four hours away from the city, I figured it’d be easy enough to go up for a night and see them. I figured correctly. I had a blast.

My friend who lives in NYC studies at Hunter College, and her dorm is down 1st Ave. She was sweet enough to let me stay with her and sleep on her couch, which saved me a TON of money on accommodations (when I was first looking for a place to sleep, I considered staying at a budget hotel or hostel in the city. Hell no. Even those cost at a minimum $50/night, and those were the sketchy places. While I’m broke, I still do somewhat value my safety. Thankfully, my dear friend saved me from this nightmare).

To get to New York, I took Megabus, of course. Because I waited until the day before I left to get my ticket, I had to spend a little more than I had expected: roughly $60 round trip. Generally, RT tickets from D.C. to NYC cost about $40, sometimes even cheaper.

Waiting for the bus!
Waiting for the bus!

HIGHLIGHTS

1. City Streets

Oh, how I love the city. When my bus arrived at 3 p.m., I chose to walk to my friend’s dorm instead of call a cab. It took about 45 mins, but I loved every second of strolling along those New York streets, skyscrapers towering over my head, eclectic people hustling by, vendors selling hotdogs on every corner and uneven sidewalks making it super difficult to carry my stuff.

2. Mis chicas!

When I got to my friend’s apartment, we spent spent hours catching up over a bottle of red moscato. It had been over eight months since we studied abroad together! Then we got ready for a night out and went to meet our Alabaman friend at West 4th. Mmm, the New York subway. When we finally saw her, of course shrieks, hugs and “I missed you”‘s were in order. After that, we walked around, took in the city air and took lots of pictures.

3. A Night on the Town

For dinner, we went to The Park, an awesome American restaurant with great food. We had some drinks, caught up even more, then went to the lounge area of the restaurant to get cray and dance.  The Park has an incredible, earthy interior, and the dance floors were perfectly situation between the bars. I’ve also got to note The Park’s fantastic music selection, which was ridiculously on point all night. We stayed and danced for a few hours, being sure to watch the dance off that broke out on the second floor; then headed to Finnegans Wake, an Irish pub down the street from my friend’s dorm, to wind down over some cheap IPAs. We stayed til 3 a.m. and finally parted ways as our Alabaman friend went back to her hotel and my NYC friend and I headed back to her place.

I wish I could have stayed longer, but I had to leave early the next morning to get home to study for exams. My sweet friend saw me off in the morning, and then I traveled to the bus port to catch my bus back to D.C.

LOWLIGHTS

1. The Buses

As much as I love Megabus, I’m going to throw the company a little under the bus here (pun intended) and say that I was a bit disappointed with the service. My bus from D.C. to NYC was a late getting to the terminal, and the bus wasn’t even a Megabus bus — rather a generic Dillon’s Bus Service one. I was comfortable nonetheless, but the bus didn’t have wi-fi or power outlets — two things a blogger can’t live without. Also, the bus I took back to D.C. got to the New York terminal late as well. I’m not usually one to complain, but it was not pleasant  having to stand out in that New England cold for an extra 30 mins, nor to get home 30 minutes later than anticipated.

2. Urban America

The Big Apple was majestic as always, but I always take note of the bad smells, polluted air, rude people, crowed streets, trashed sidewalks, traffic jams, street urchins and dirty subways.  I know these are all things that make New York such an iconic city, but I can’t help but compare to the beautiful streets and wonderful people of the cities I visited in Spain. But that’s America for ya.

OVERALL

Despite a couple late buses and bad smells, I had a fantastic  time. I can’t wait to go back in the summer and visit my friend again — after my Euro Trip, of course. 🙂