New York: Day 2

Good morning! Hope you slept well. Some streets in the neighborhoods I mentioned to walk up and down: In Nolita: Elizabeth, Mott, and Mulberry between Broome and East Houston.

In Soho: Mercer, Greene, and Wooster between West Houston and Broome.

When you walk over to the West Village from Soho, walk along Bleecker.

In the West Village, check out the whole area between 10th street and 14th street south and north, and between Washington street and 7th ave east and west.

Then there is the Highline, which starts on the corner of Ganesvoort and Washington and runs all the way north to 30th street.

Have fun!

These are the instructions my cousin left me on my second day in New York.

And because Google is super creepy and I have an Android phone, I can actually show the exact route I took that day:

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All of the wandering…

I decided that I really needed a good bagel so my cousin suggested I start at Katz’s Delicatessen. Katz’s, as it turns out, is a little overwhelming.

When I first walked in, someone handed me a ticket and told me to go straight to the counter. The counter is huge and takes up on entire side of the restaurant. Men in butchers outfits run up and down on the other side of the glass, grabbing orders and making sandwiches as fast as they possibly can. I didn’t want to be the person who gets in the way, so when I didn’t see bagels I decided that a reuben with matzo ball soup sounded just lovely. The guy I ordered from gave me a sample of pastrami while I waited. It was amazing (but also I don’t eat meat all that often so it pretty much always tastes amazing). Really, everything was amazing. And enormous.

I ate as much as I could, stuffed the rest in my bag, then carried on my way.

Nolita is probably one of my favorite areas in Manhattan. I don’t have a real reason for that, it’s just a place I could actually see myself living. Or…maybe it’s what I picture when I picture New York, I’m not sure. It’s very artsy and there are a lot of small, individually owned shops selling quirky things that you wouldn’t necessarily find anywhere else.

I wandered into the Broadway market co (and I just learned what that was called from my creepy Google map!), which I think is a collaboration effort where artists can sell their wares all in one place. I bought most of my gifts for friends here, including a last minute birthday gift for my friend whose party had brought me to New York in the first place.

The rest of the day saw me wandering in and out of shops, up and down random neighborhood streets.

By the time I made it to the High Line it was later than I’d realized. I wanted to walk on a little bit of it thought, because it’s an incredibly, uniquely New York thing. It’s an elevated park that was converted from a disused rail line. It has amazing views of the city and tons of cool buildings, as well as plants and art and pretty awesome people watching.

I didn’t stay on the High Line for long. I had it in the back of my mind that I might be able to get into a last minute Broadway show if I just got to Time Square at the right time.

After a brief mishap (I ended up on a subway going the wrong direction…haaa), I bumbled my way into Time Square.

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Bright lights, big city

TCKTS under the red bleachers has last minute discount tickets to shows on (and off) Broadway. I’ve seen Phantom of the Opera several times before, including once in London, but never in the place of its birth, so knowing which show to choose wasn’t hard for me (don’t get me wrong, if there’s any way I could’ve gotten a ticket to Hamilton, I 100% would’ve done that instead). Because I was by myself I got an amazing seat about ten rows back from the stage for at least half the price of what I’d seen online. It was amazing, I’m seriously contemplating always going to shows by myself from now on, just for the sake of the killer seats.

The play was wonderful. I’m disappointed in myself for not making it a higher priority to go to, but I’m so thankful I convinced myself to try. It was absolutely perfect. I’d recommend it to everyone (although that was always the case, I love Phantom).

Pleasantly exhausted after the play, I met up with my cousin and his husband for drinks. They had just seen Glenn Close in the Broadway production of Sunset Boulevard and completely loved it.

I think this was my favorite day in New York. I’m not sure if I actually “accomplished” much; I kind of just wandered around. But that’s one of my favorite things about visiting new places.

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New. York. City!

I went to New York a few weeks ago. For the first time ever, which seems impossible because everyone has been to New York. My friend invited me for her 30th birthday with a bunch of other girls from throughout her life.

Because I’m a ridiculous tourist and I’d never been before, I decided to go out a few days ahead of time just so I could see all the things that New York is known for. Luckily, I have a cousin who lives in Manhattan just a few blocks from Grand Central Station.

Ceiling at Grand Centra Station

Showing up here at 8 in the morning after just a few hours of sleep was absolutely surreal.

My cousin and his husband were just about to leave for work by the time I arrived at their apartment. They strongly suggested I take a nap before venturing out. I kind of hate naps (I take forever to fall asleep and always wake up groggier than I was before) and I really didn’t want to waste the day, but as soon as I sat down I realized how exhausted I was.

I dreamt of cars honking, people yelling, and policemen blowing whistles; as it happens the stories are true, New York is every bit as loud as they say (and what is everyone honking at anyway??). I woke up to about a zillion text messages from my cousin, which was worrisome at first – I was totally convinced I’d done something wrong. But of course it was nothing like that, in fact it was something way better: walking instructions.

My cousin, in his infinite wisdom (and years of experience having bumbling out-of-towners come to visit), sent me a path to follow. I’m not normally one to follow instructions, in fact I normally try to do the opposite, but this, this was wonderful, welcome guidance. I’m not actually sure what I would’ve done without them.

On the first day, I saw everything

Not really of course. But man I saw a lot. And took so many selfies (which my mother hates).

Seriously though, I saw a lot. My cousin’s suggestions (and I know you’re curious) were these:

Have some suggestions for your morning “orientation” once you head out. From our apartment walk over to Bryant Park. New York library is there on 5th and 40th street (the park is behind). From there maybe walk up 5th avenue toward Central Park. Detour left at 49th and check out Rockefeller Plaza. If you want there’s a great view at the Top of the Rock. Great view of uptown and downtown. Perfect day for it. Then head north again on 5th. Lots of fancy stores. Bergdorf Goodman is on the left when you get near Central Park. Walk around the park a bit. When you head back from the park, walk down Broadway which will take you through Times Square.

For some reason, even though I was there in February, the weather was amazing (global warming). I barely needed a jacket the whole time I was there, which made it great for walking around. Not so great for being on the top of a tall building, but I guess it would’ve been a lot worse in the freezing cold.

I decided to go to the Top of the Rock like my cousin suggested and on a whim also signed up for the tour. Part of me thought it was the same as the page tour, like on 30 Rock. When I realized it wasn’t I almost left, but I’m glad I didn’t. I definitely saw a lot more than I would’ve normally, like this mural on the ceiling of the lobby to 30 Rock for instance:

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Those thighs tho

Central Park was everything I wanted it to be. Even though it was the middle of winter and everything was dead, it was still beautiful and bigger than I realized. In my head it was always only a few blocks, but I went for a run several days later and only made it to about halfway (but also, I’m not a very accomplished runner).

The one thing I failed to do on my cousin’s list was discover Time Square. I ended up getting slightly lost (which is the best thing about traveling, really) and missed it entirely (even though you’d think it was impossible to miss).

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Tale of a Peruvian birthday

I spent my birthday in Peru.

That was of course intentional. I tend to get caught up in birthday expectations, which causes me to always be disappointed. I decided to take the occasion into my own hands this year by being out of town for my birthday – in Peru.

Ideally, I would’ve been hiking the Inca trail, but I just couldn’t make the timing work. Instead I was in Lima, by myself. Here’s what happened:

I should warn you before we get too far, this turns into a poop story.

I woke up early on the morning of my birthday. I had signed up for a cooking class through my tour company, and I was supposed to check in to my hotel by 9am. While I was packing the last of the items I’d strewn around the room, I let out a small fart. It was morning, it happens. It wasn’t a big deal. Except shortly thereafter, I heard a spatter on the floor.

I don’t eat meat very often. I won’t lie and say I’m a vegetarian; I love a good ribeye and Chipotle steak burritos are my go-to comfort food. But for the most part, I avoid meat when I can. Traveling is a little different though. I feel like you miss out on some of the experience if you limit your diet unnecessarily.

In Lima for some reason, whenever I asked for recommendations, the waiter would give

me a list of meat options and then look at me and say, “but you don’t eat meat, so try this fish dish instead.”

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The culprit.

It was really odd because I never told them that I wasn’t a big meat-eater. Nevertheless, given the option, I went with the fish.

The night before my birthday I had pretty much the most amazing swordfish I’ve ever had. I honestly don’t know if I’ve had swordfish before, but if I did it certainly wasn’t as good as this.

So back to the spatter.

It took me a few seconds to realize that…what happened had actually just happened. I cleaned up as best as I could using some of the Kleenex I’d brought. But the spatter was incredibly oily and very yellow for some reason. Unfortunately, because I decided to stay in a hostel, the bathroom was shared and down the hall from my room.

In the bathroom (and I’m sorry for the details here, but…it’s part of the story) I took care of business. But for some reason my poop was incredibly oily. It was completely liquid, but it sat on top of the water just like oil and wouldn’t flush with the water. Fun fact about Peru: they don’t like it if you flush toilet paper down the toilet; you have to just throw it away.

If you Google “oily poop” the first thing to show up is “gallbladder failure”. Naturally. I spent a good five minutes convinced that I’d somehow eaten something in Peru that had caused my gallbladder to fail.

Then my logical brain took over and I remembered that the Internet is designed to terrify you before giving up any reasonable information.

It turns out, if you eat foods that are high in fat you can have an oily, yellow poop. It only lasts for about 36 hours. But for me that was 36 hours of being afraid to fart.

The rest of my birthday was spent…afraid of farting, but otherwise uneventful.

I took a cooking class through my tour company. I learned to make ceviche, pisco sour, and a crab cake appetizer. It was amazing. Cooking classes while traveling is one of my new favorite things.

I also went for a run. I love running. Running is how I center myself; it stops me from being crazy and gets me out of my head. I run every year on my birthday, no matter the circumstance, because it is the thing that makes me the happiest. And running to explore cities doesn’t hurt either.

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I ran to here

And that’s how I spent my birthday in Peru. Run-sploring, cooking, and afraid of farting :).

 

 

Solo travel

Have you ever travelled with a significant other?

I like to use it as kind of a test. Some couples travel really well together, and some just are never on the same page. Traveling is important to me though so I’d rather be with someone who can handle that side of me.

I went to South Africa with a significant other for Christmas last year and…it wasn’t everything I’d hope it would be. There honestly wasn’t anything specifically wrong with traveling with him, we just weren’t excited by the same things.

I realized I’ve kind of felt that way about a lot of people I’ve traveled with, not just significant others. And then it dawned on me, perhaps the issue wasn’t them…

And that’s why I decided to go to Peru by myself.

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All for that postcard view…

I picked Peru of all of the places to go in South America because more than anything I wanted to see ancient ruins, the rainforest, and the Andes. All those things when typed into a Google search = Peru.

In all honesty, when I first started planning this trip, I chickened out a little bit.

I love the idea of traveling alone, but I also no me pretty well. I tend to get really nervous and talk myself out of leaving the hotel room when I’m on my own. I also like to pretend that I’m almost as extroverted as I am introverted, but making friends with strangers is definitely not my forte.

So I reasoned with myself. I decided I was going to spend three nights in Lima without the help of a guided tour company. Then I was going to meet up with a tour company that would take me to Cuzco, the Inca Trail, and the rainforest. (G-Adventures, seriously they’re awesome. Look them up.)

What I learned traveling alone

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So many selfies…

  • Traveling alone is amazing but (somewhat not unexpectedly) lonely
  • You end up taking a lot more selfies
  • Tour groups are not the horrible things I always though they were

My first day in Lima was wonderful. I didn’t have to ask anyone what they wanted to do or where they were interested in going. I just wandered by myself, ate when I wanted, and walked to all the places I’d picked out for myself.

But then I kind of ran out of things to do. Lima doesn’t have many tourist-friendly areas and I was too nervous being by myself to really…do anything else.

I intentionally booked my stay in Lima in a hostel, in hopes of meeting people there. But alas, my introverted nature kicked in.

When I did finally meet up with the tour group I met a bunch of really awesome people who more than made up for my lack of friend-making at the beginning. My roommate in particular (or my Peroomie, because word combinations are awesome) was exactly what I was looking for in a travel buddy.

I loved the tour company. They did a great job of giving us enough freedom to still get in trouble, but showing us the right path in case we did (huh, I should write this in their review maybe).

Stay tuned for more posts about Peru!

There and back again

I get that this title is overused. I promise it’s relevant.

It’s funny, I had grand plans to start this blog with my most recent trip to Cusco. But I was thinking about it last night and a different story came to mind.

Sun Valley, Idaho.

Of all the places I’ve been in my life this seems like a really odd one to start with. And I honestly don’t know why it’s what I picked, except it has a somewhat entertaining story attached.

Some things to know about Sun Valley, Idaho:

  • In spite of being in Idaho, it’s actually kind of a cool place to visit.
  • A lot of celebrities have summer homes there. Or winter homes maybe? It’s a ski town…
  • Ernest Hemingway died there. Or near there anyway.

I met 22 at work. We went on a terrible date where we walked around and got high then ate fish and chips. Then I had to drive him home because he couldn’t figure out the bus schedule to get to his parents’ house. I was 26 and new to the city and hadn’t had an easy time meeting people. Which is probably why we continued to “date” for a few months after that.

Right before I met him, 22 had gotten a back injurty – not in the paralyzed kind of way, just enough to develop a mild addiction to pain killers.

His parents had a place in Sun Valley and he decided to take a week or so away to deal with his injury. And he invited me to come with him.

Sun Valley has an air of authenticity to it that isn’t common in off-season tourist towns.  Breckenridge in Colorado for example, feels more like it exists only for tourists (and to be fair, it does).

That first day was perfect. The air was thin and chilly. It reminded me a lot of home. We were surrounded by mountains that had just the smallest bit of snow left on them.

He took me to all of his regular haunts. Because 22 had been coming to this town since he was a kid, most of the locals knew him by name. He was also one of those people who just acted like everyone should know him. And it worked for him.

The next day is kind of where things start going south.

22 was on a lot of pain killers for his back. He wasn’t supposed to drink but he liked to pretend he was well-versed in medicine and decided it was ok. We got pizza and beer at a place down the street then went back to the condo to “Netflix and chill”. Except while 22 was trying to set up the DVD player…I’m not sure what happened, he just kind of fell down.

He got up immediately and retreated downstairs, insisting that he wanted to deal with this alone. So I proceeded to watch old episodes of Grey’s Anatomy for the better part of two hours. I tried to check on him a few times but he’d locked the door.

He came back upstairs after awhile. Because he felt better and because he’d just gotten off the phone with his mom.

“My mom doesn’t know you’re here,” he said. “But I think she suspects. She’s driving out here with the dogs and she’ll be here on Friday. I don’t want her to think I lied to her. I think she might be bluffing. But I think the best thing to do would be to buy your flight home for tomorrow instead.”

I was devastated. My heart hit the floor. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t believe he was actually saying this, that this was real. But I also couldn’t let him see my pain. So I nodded.

And so I left. I cried in the airport shuttle the whole way to the airport. I’m sure the driver thought I was insane.

It’s funny looking back how devastated I felt. I didn’t even like the guy that much. He was too young for me and too arrogant. But he was self-assured in a way that made me trust him, that made me want to be kind of like him.

I found out later (much later –  we didn’t talk again for several months) that his mom did come out. And that everyone we’d met in town kept asking her about me. So she knew and it was all a waste.

And that’s the story of how I visited Sun Valley, Idaho.

 

At the beginning

I’ve always been way too obsessed with the “why” of things. As a kid “because I said so” never really cut it for me. Even now I have a hard time following instructions unless there’s a solid reason as to why. This obsession has leaked into many other aspects of my life.

In 2009 I lived in Prague for a semester. As many study abroad students do, I started a travel blog while I was there. The blog was supposed to be my outlet for describing all of the incredible places I traveled to. And of course, I wrote it with the hope that someday I’d be “discovered” by a travel company who loved my work and I’d get paid to travel.

Suffice it to say, this dream didn’t last. I realized very quickly that all of my friends had travel blogs with the exact same hopes and dreams as me. I tried to continue blogging but I couldn’t get past this idea that my blog no longer had a purpose. The only people who read it were my then boyfriend and my mom. It certainly wasn’t going to get me noticed by Frommer’s or National Geographic or anything. Plus it just wasn’t very good.

Recently though I was talking with a friend about our mutual interest in photography. Photography is another case where I can’t get past the “why”. I take thousands of photos on trips and I spend hours going through all of them, then I post them to Facebook all for what? A few likes?

But my friend pointed out that taking photos for him is what allows him to take a step back, breathe, and recognize the beauty in things around him. Which sounds incredibly corny, for sure, but it resonated with me in a way that nothing has in a long time. I realized that while photography is a good way to take a pause, writing (which is what I’ve always wanted to do) is a way for me to reflect.

And so even though I haven’t been “blogging” for the past 7 years or so, I still have a private collection of journals from every trip I’ve been on. I thought it might be fun to build on that material and bring back the blog that once was (revamped and modernized of course).

And thus, Kariba to Cusco.