New York to D.C. to Fort Lauderdale in 7 days – Part 2

As much as I love New York and D.C., sometimes it just gets too cold up here. At least that’s what my school friend Michelle and I decided when we made plans to go stay with her family in Fort Lauderdale over winter break.

My plane from D.C. landed in Fort Lauderdale around 6:30 Friday evening. Michelle had flown down a few days earlier, so she and her one of her cousin’s picked me up from the airport. I couldn’t believe I had just left 20-degree D.C. for warm, sunny 80-degree Florida. I used to airport bathroom to change out of my heavy sweater and boots into a sundress and sandals. Then we headed to straight happy hour…because why not?

Twenty minutes later, there we were on Las Olas Boulevard to meet up with her cousin’s friends for 2-for-1 drinks at Tarpon Bend Food & Tackle. After a few hours of mingling with the SoFla locals (who are all extremely tall, by the way), we left to go a family friend’s place to hang out some more. I’m not sure how I managed to stay up past 3 a.m. four days in a row, but somehow I did it. And I had a very good night’s sleep that night.

The rest of the Fort Lauderdale trip was very uneventful, but in a wonderful, relaxing way.  Saturday, Michelle and I went to the beach for a couple hours and listened to the waves crash as we talked about how happy we were to escape the cold for a while.

**Note: I didn’t bring my DSLR for this trip, so please excuse the quality of the photos from my iPhone!

That night, we hit up The Manor Complex, a wildly fun gay nightclub downtown. Neither of us are gay, but we love, love, love the Manor’s atmosphere (we had been there before) and we love to dance – and the Manor is the best place to get your groove on. We had a fantastic night.

IMG_0672Sunday morning, Michelle’s cousin’s mother, Ginger, cooked us a mouth-watering brunch complete with mimosas. Stuffed, we spent the rest of  the day walking around downtown Fort Lauderdale to burn off those waffles, eggs and potatoes.

That night, we headed to another of Michelle’s aunt/uncle’s house to have dinner. I loved spending time with her family and hearing wild stories from her great uncle. Even though I had just met them, I felt like a part of the family.

We retired early that night and got a long night’s sleep. On Monday, we just lazed around by the pool in her family’s complex and soaked in the sun. We met another of her cousins for lunch and then walked around Sawgrass Mills Mall for about an hour. Afterward, we met up with my godfather for dinner at an incredible oceanfront restaurant called JB’s On The Beach. I only see him once every few years, so it was great to catch up over a fantastic meal and great scenery.

We left dinner to meet Michelle’s cousin Alyssa and her friend for drinks. Since Michelle and I were dressed up from dinner, we decided to go an uptown bar called YOLO (really, it was the name that drew us to it) in Las Olas. We each got one of the bar’s specialty drinks and talked about life, school, and the fact that Michelle and I were dreaded going back to D.C. the next day. We had a good time nonetheless, and headed home around midnight.

IMG_0589Our plane home was scheduled for 6:30 p.m., so Michelle and I took our time packing up the next day. We took a packing break to have one last lounge by the pool before we had to leave the warm weather for good.

I’m going to pause for a second to talk about how wonderful Michelle’s family is. Her cousins and their mom let us stay for free with them and even paid for several of our meals. Ginger is the absolute sweetest woman in the world and the most selfless person I have ever met; she made sure we were comfortable at all times, offered to give us rides anywhere we needed to be, and even let us borrow her car for the weekend when she didn’t need it. The day we left for the airport, she took off from work early so she could drive us to the airport on time. I have met some amazing people in my life but none quite as selfless as this compassionate woman. I am so grateful she let us into her home and I hope she is blessed with all of the happiness in the world.

Our flight home was quick and smooth and we made it back to our apartments on campus by 11 p.m. It was another blissful trip that was way too brief. I grudgingly went back to work the next morning, as always, but at least this time I got to show off my fresh tan.

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.