Sunday, August 26, 2012

Going Around the Walking City

I was riding a Greyhound bus from New York back to Atlantic City when I received a call from my dad. He was anxious because he told me to go back earlier as we were heading straight to Boston that night. I had calculated my travel time perfectly and I knew I just had enough time to quickly rest at home (I’ve already packed my bags before leaving for NYC) but my dad being his panicky-self again (but I still love him) was worried that I will not make it on time. It was Memorial Weekend after all and the First Lady would be in Atlantic City to watch Beyonce’s concert that very same night. He thought all the odds were against me. Having traveled enough in Asian cities before, I knew the importance of time when you're on the road and I was confident I would make it right on time-- which I did.

Boston, or The Walking City as some would call it, was not originally part of my itinerary. It was a last addition in my aunt's effort to show me more of the East Coast and maximize my 3-week vacation. Because it was so last-minute, I didn't have time to research about it so I really had no expectations. However, to my surprise, Boston turned out to be my second favorite US city, next to NYC. 

From my uncle's place in Egg Harbor City, we had to ride the NJ transit to Philadelphia's 30th Station. From there, we rode the Amtrak to Boston's South Station. Travel time was around 7 hours in total and because I was dead tired from my NYC trip, I immediately fell asleep. The Amtrak was a comfortable and quick way to travel around East Coast's big cities. The train was what I thought the modern Orient Express would look like if it was still operational. It was huge and clean (vs. the NJ transit), had its own cafe in the middle car and has wifi-- my ideal mode of transportation. 

What I like about Boston is that it's mainly a college city, so it's not as busy and fast-paced as New York. Everything seems walkable-- they have Freedom Trail, a path you can follow so you can walk to 16 historic sites. It also has parks in almost every other corner. It's always nice to just sit on a bench, watch people go about their everyday lives and not worry about anything-- something I always look forward to when traveling because I never get to have that special moment when I'm home.

Here are a few places that are forever instilled in memory of Boston:

1. We got to visit Harvard Square, which made me miss my Ateneo days. I was trying to look for the next Mark Zuckerbeg and was trying to search for the dorms mentioned in the movie.

2. Y'all know I love food and Boston's China Town has good and cheap restaurants! Because we didn't research where to eat before going, we decided to look for restaurants in China Town and it was a very good decision on our part. We ate in Empire Garden and Dumpling Cafe in Washington Street for two straight nights. It's always great to have a sumptuous dinner after a tiring day.

3. For more food options, Quincy Market is also a nice place to grab some delicious grub. It's an indoor market with hundreds of food stalls, so many that I had a hard time choosing!

4. One of the first things we did was to go on a Harbor Cruise along Boston's Waterfront. It was a nice way of getting to know the city and looking at it from spectacular views.

5. We also got to see and go inside the USS Constitution, the world's oldest commissioned naval vessel still afloat. We met a Filipino girl who joined the navy to get a college scholarship. She grew up in the US but can speak Filipino very fluently because it's the only way she can communicate with her grandmother.

6. Boston is said to have 24 fountains. I didn't get to see all of them but I immediately took a liking to the Christian Science Plaza's fountain. It was huge and amazing! I wish we had something like that in Manila. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Travel Quotes That Inspire Me

Sometimes when I have so much things to say but can't find the right words to use, I look for popular quotes that capture my thoughts best. And tonight, all I can think of is TRAVEL. So I'm sharing with you the most inspiring words that have made me hit that book button, one too many times.

“Still, despite all this, traveling is the great true love of my life. I have always felt, ever since I was sixteen years old and first went to Russia with my saved-up babysitting money, that to travel is worth any cost or sacrifice. I am loyal and constant in my love for travel, as I have not always been loyal and constant in my other loves. I feel about travel the way a happy new mother feels about her impossible, colicky, restless, newborn baby--I just don't care what it puts me through. Because I adore it. Because it's mine. Because it looks exactly like me. It can barf all over me if it wants to--I just don't care.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

"You know what drives me crazy? It's all these people talking about how great technology is, and how it saves all this time. But, what good is saved time, if nobody uses it? If it just turns into more busy work. You never hear somebody say, "With the time I've saved by using my word processor, I'm gonna go to a Zen monastery and hang out." I mean, you never hear that." 
Jesse, Before Sunrise

"I told myself spreading news was part of a traveler’s nature, but if I was being completely honest, I was just like everybody else: shit-scared of the great unknown. Desperate to take a little piece of home with me."
Richard, The Beach 

"The core of mans’ spirit comes from new experiences." 
Christopher McCandless, Into The Wild

"Never lose your childish innocence. It's the most important thing."
Katherine, Under the Tuscan Sun

“There is never any ending to Paris and the memory of each person who has lived in it differs from that of any other. We always returned to it no matter who we were or how it was changed or with what difficulties, or ease, it could be reached. Paris was always worth it and you received return for whatever you brought to it. But this is how Paris was in the early days when we were very poor and very happy.”
― Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast 

“Never to go on trips with anyone you do not love.”
― Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

Sunday, June 24, 2012

NYC Hotel Reviews: Marrakech Hotel and The Jane

A promise is a promise, however late it is. So for the hotel hoes / accommodation-obsessed scouts, this post is for you.

As soon as I booked my ticket to the US, I knew I wanted to go to NYC and just experience the city all by myself. It took my parents, especially my dad, quite some time to say yes to the idea (I use the “I’m-freaking-24-years-old-and-it-will-only-be-for-a-few-days" line) of me going around the oh, so big and scary Big Apple. But eventually, they did say yes.
Despite being in NYC for only three short days, I got to stay in two very different hotels. The first one was Marrakech Hotel in the Upper West Side.
Their website was convincing enough but what really made me hit that BOOK button was the $29 price tag. Yup, you read that right. I got a $29 Queen Room (good for 4 people, yo!) in the UWS in late May. The sweetest deal I’ve ever seen! Unfortunately, it wasn’t their standard rate. For some crazy and unexplainable reason, their reservations system had, what I could only think of as, a typographical error for that exact night I was coming. The price read $29 when it should have been $229, like the rest of the nights that followed. I guess, I just got lucky!
Anyway, if you’re looking for a luxurious hotel (and Egyptian cotton sheets), then look away from the Marrakech Hotel.
What did I like about it?
-          Big rooms and soft beds
-          Has its own bathroom and it’s clean
-          TV has several channels
-          Quiet—I didn’t hear any noise from the streets
-          Staff is quite nice and helpful
-          Good location – generally safe neighborhood, Subway 1 (103 st.) and Starbucks are a few steps away and Central Park is just 5 minutes away
What did I not like about it?
-          No elevators (not really a huge problem because really, how many hotels in Manhattan have one anyway?)
-          Hallways and rooms are generally dark
-          Room carpet, I felt, was not quite squeaky clean (just bring and wear your slippers)
-          No refrigerator in the room
Will I stay here again?
Yes, if I chance upon a good price again. But I won’t pay $200 for it.

My second hotel was The Jane in the West Village. I paid more than what I wanted but I chose it because of its charm, history and neighborhood. I got the Standard Cabin for $125, without taxes.
What did I like about it?
-          Neighborhood—comparing it to UWS, the West Village is more young and hip. Restaurants and bars are everywhere. There are a couple of parks, too. Oh, and did I mention there’s a nearby Barney’s Co-Op (with GORGEOUS sales staff!) and a Magnolia Bakery (quite a disappointment though).
-          Rooms are cute and very affordable.
-          CafĂ© Gitane, which serves delicious Moroccan fare, is located in the lobby.
What did I not like about it?
-         No elevators (surprise, surprise-- NOT!)
-         Courteous and helpful staff
-         Small rooms – yes, it’s cute but it’s TINY. If you’re taller than 5’5”, then you’ll probably be uncomfortable in the bed
-         Shared bathrooms—I knew this from the very start and I thought I was fine with it, but I realized I wasn’t when I got there.
-         Nearest subway station is quite a walk
Will I stay here again?
Yes, but I’d make sure I get it during the low season for a better price.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Tease, tease baby

Contrary to what you might have expected (thanks to my misleading posts and photos), I did not stay in NYC for the entirety of my vacation. I stayed with my relatives in South Jersey and went around the major cities in the East Coast including, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. and Boston.

What I love most about the East Coast is that it's mostly commute-friendly. I was never a fan of driving so I very much enjoyed traveling by railway train, subway and bus. It's also very convenient as you won't need to bother your relatives, who are probably busy with their jobs, to drive you anywhere.

Another thing I like about the US (and I don't know if this is exclusive to the East Coast) is that trees and parks are everywhere. Everyone who knows me know that I am a sucker for parks... and I wish we had more of that here in the Philippines. Oh, and did I mention the museums? There are a lot and they don't cost as much as I thought they would, given the number of awesome (and I mean AWESOME) installments and galleries they usually have.

 Here are some photos to tease you:

Graffiti in Philadelphia

Philadelphia Museum of Art

One of my favorites: Central Park

Don't be fooled, it's a casino in Atlantic City

There's more to D.C. that the White House

Heaven for me: Longwood Gardens in Philly

Back to regular programming

I'm back.... for over a week now. And I'm still in denial. I had so much fun that I didn't want to go back. :( Anyway, please stay tuned for more posts as I re-live my 3-week vacation bliss. And now that I'm back, I can't help plan my next adventure! Where should it be?

  Wanderlust: that's one city off my list
 View from the MET steps

 One Friday afternoon in Bryant Park

 Empire state of mind

 Well, hope to see you again very soon NYC

Monday, May 14, 2012

Thank you Mom!

Dear Mom,

When I was young, I remember waking up, sitting on top of our staircase, staring blankly and thinking I wouldn't see you until you come home from work that night. I was a kid and all I wanted was for my mom to be there when I wake up each day.

I know we've been through a lot and we'll always have our differences. But I still love you no matter what.

Thank you for taking care of me when I was sick. Thank you for staying late every night just to review our homework and teach us our lessons. Thank you for buying me things I need and don't need. Thank you for cleaning my room when I'm too lazy to do it myself. Thank you for always saying I'm not fat even if I am. Thank you for listening to my problems. Thank you for always supporting my decisions. Thank you for not forcing from me the answers to uncomfortable questions. Thank you for teaching me to be strong.

Happy Mother's Day!

I might not say this a lot but I love you and I miss you. See you (and dad) in five days!

Your daughter,

I'm no athlete but this video hit me right where it matters. Thank you to all the moms in the world! This is for you!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

A quick post

And the countdown resumes... seven more days until US trip! 

I hope you can feel the rush of the almost-electrifying excitement running though my body right now.
Nothing gets me more giddy, energized and thrilled than traveling.
Time for some crunch-time preparations!

Spring coat, Forever 21 / Yellow shorts, SM Dept. Store / 
Rayban-inspired sunglasses, SM Dept. Store / Passport holder, Longchamp