NYC Part 6: Our final day

A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I spent a long weekend in NYC. Catch up now with part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, and part 5.

We woke up on Monday morning, our last day in New York feeling blue. Our flight home wasn’t until 8pm, but we didn’t have much planned for our last day. Another of David’s friends, Ella, was in the city visiting family, so we made plans to met her at a Swedish coffee shop in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

After showering and storing our bags (thank goodness our Airbnb had a locker we could use after checkout!) we walked to the subway and headed from Astoria to Greenpoint. The coffee shop was a little chain store called Konditori, but David was excited because it was Swedish. We got drinks at the counter, Ella and I both ordered hot chocolate, while David and I split a muffin, then crowded around a little table in the back of the shop.

swedishcoffeeshop

We chatted and enjoyed our hot beverages, then decided to explore the neighborhood we were in, which is known as “Little Poland.” Little Poland wasn’t as strictly defined as Little Odessa; while it had something of an Eastern European feel, there were still sushi restaurants, people speaking English, and Swedish coffee shops. We stopped in a few little shops in search of Prince Polo candy bars, my favorite Polish treat. There’s a cute Polish Deli not far from my work, but I still wanted to find Prince Polo in New York.

We wandered all over the neighborhood, explored bodega after bodega before finally finding a shop selling Prince Polo. You could tell right away we were in the right place: the store took me back to my study abroad days. They had a selection of Polish snacks and drinks, and a small deli counter. Everyone but us was speaking Polish. We picked up 3 Prince Polos (Ella was excited to try the chocolate bar) and headed back into the bitter cold.

prince-polo-1

Next on the agenda: Polish food for lunch. Between google maps and some good, old fashioned wandering around, we found ourselves in a Polish market. We ate potato pierogi dipped in mustard and chatted until Ella had to head back to her brother’s. She told us about a bookstore in Manhattan that supposedly had Urdu language books (David speaks Urdu) so David and I decided to check it out.

LittlePoland

We said goodbye to Ella at the subway; David and I made our way uptown to the Upper West Side. Upon entering the bookstore, we looked at each other–it didn’t look like we’d find any Urdu books there. It appeared to be a children’s bookstore, and while we found a handful of Spanish learning materials for kids, we didn’t find anything close to Urdu resources.

What were we to do? Our uptown adventure was a bust, we only had a few more hours in New York and we weren’t at all familiar with the neighborhood. So we decided to just walk around in the cold and see what we could see. Two broke 20-somethings quickly saw the Mexican restaurant having happy hour $5 margaritas. Sold.

margarita

The restaurant was really cute and the bartender was nice. We ended up hanging out for a while and ordering their happy hour boneless wings to share. Finally, it was time for us to go. We took the subway back to Astoria to retrieve our bags, then ubered to La Guardia. Our plane was delayed because it was SNOWING in NC, but otherwise our trip home was fairly uneventful.

PlaneDelayed

Whew! When I set out to share my NYC journey with you, I did NOT plan for it to go on for 2 months nor for it to expand into 6 posts. I hope you enjoyed it, because I certainly enjoyed experiencing it and sharing it with all of you. Tell me about your experiences in New York or your favorite city in the comments below. If you liked this post, be sure to hit the subscribe button, share this post on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest and keep following me here on WordPress for more GREAT content like this!

Margarita picture: https://www.houstoniamag.com/articles/2015/1/27/a-margarita-a-day-january-2015

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Photo of the Week: Poznań, Poland 2014

Four years ago, in May 2014, I rekindled my passion for traveling.  That’s not to say the passion ever truly went away, but finances and school, and blah blah blah, life in general just got in the way.  Between my first international trip in the summer of 2006 and my study abroad trip in May-June of 2014 I traveled within the US.  I became more comfortable on a plane, I saw more big cities but I did not have the opportunity to experience a different culture.  The idea of studying abroad in 2014 was scary, but I am eternally glad that I did it.  I needed to step outside my comfort zone and really start working towards the things I was passionate about.  Na zdrowie!

International Festival

A few Saturdays ago, my husband and I were hanging out in our pajamas and looking through a local radio station’s list of local weekend events. “Oktoberfest with…” I giggled “wiener dog races.” Scrolling with my thumb, I looked over the list. “International Food and Music Festival!” I poked my husband “And it’s free!” After finishing up my blog post (“Sweet Baked Chicken” in case you were wondering) we threw on some clothes and headed out.

“Where are we?” I asked about half an hour later.

“Eastern Wake county” It felt like the middle of nowhere compared to our urban home. I began to feel trepidatious. Would a tiny town in the middle of nowhere have a good international festival, or would Wendell, NC disappoint us by presenting only a handful of stalls?

As we reached the main stretch of town, we knew we were in the right place. Cars lined the street and several hundred (if not a few thousand) people were gathered in the town square. After driving around for a few minutes we found street parking less than a 5 minute walk from the festival.

Live music was being played on the left and a temporary rock wall, inflatable bouncy castle, and various other carnival games were spread out to the right, with about a dozen food stalls in the middle. Each stall represented a different country. Honduras, El Salvador, The Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Mexico, Ireland, Poland, the Philippines, and Louisiana were all represented. We walked from stall to stall, practically drooling, and tried to decide where to eat.

“Let’s just get it all.” My husband suggested. Instead of paying with cash, tickets were purchased at the entrance and food cost anywhere from 1 to 8 tickets. Pulling out a $20 bill, my husband bought 20 tickets and we headed back to the food stalls.

“Where do you want to go first?”

“Hmm…” I thought for a moment, overwhelmed by my options. “The Philippines” I decided. So we headed to the Filipino booth for some barbeque chicken.

“Three tickets please” The attendant said, and we dropped 3 tickets into a bright red box. She handed us a shish kabob with mouth-wateringly delicious looking chicken skewered on it. We moved into the shade, because despite being mid-September it was probably creeping up towards 90F and the sun was beating down on us. The chicken was heavenly. We devoured it in record time, and moved on to the next stall.

Our next stop was Poland for vegetarian pierogi, followed by plantains from Honduras, and veggie tamales from Guatemala. The sun was still beating down, so we went over to the boy scout’s tent for a bottle of water. A polite young man gave us an icy cold bottle of water for 2 tickets. We took turns gulping it down before returning to the food. After getting chicken and rice from the Dominican Republic, we decided it was time for dessert, so we picked up some Irish cream fudge from Ireland.

Standing in the shade near the Irish booth, devouring our fudge, I wondered aloud “Why isn’t there an Indian booth? There’s a huge South Asian population in this area.” Then it hit me: “Theses are all Catholic countries”

“What? No.” My husband countered.

“Yeah, yeah they are! Latin America, Poland, Ireland….”

“What about the Philippines?”

“I think they’re Christian too!” (They are, I looked it up.) “And I guess Louisiana too…” I looked at the map of the festival the smiling middle-aged woman at the entrance had given us. It said “Saint Eugene Catholic Church presents their 15th Annual International Food & Music Festival.”

“Perhaps the booths are run by church members” my husband suggested.

“Maybe so….”

 

Having spent the last of our tickets, we headed back to the car. We drove away from little Wendell, NC with full bellies, and discussions about how far Catholicism has spread, and different the cultures it has touched are. Even only including Catholic countries, this international festival incorporated so much diversity in culture and food. It was an interesting lens through which to see the international community in our area.

Did you enjoy this post?  What are your experiences with international festivals in your area?  What are your thoughts on the spread of Catholicism?  Share your thoughts in the comments below!  Share this post via Facebook or Twitter and, as always, follow me here on WordPress for more GREAT content like this!

Photo creds:

Downtown Wendell: http://www.fabriciuslaw.com/photos/downtown-wendell-nc

Food festival photo: http://www.thefoodfestival.com

Auschwitz

I don’t believe in ghosts. I don’t believe in spirits or monsters or witches or anything of the sort. Auschwitz, however, is the most haunting place I’ve ever visited.

We entered in a hot, sweaty crowd of tourists. German, French, Russian, Polish, Spanish, and English conversations swirled throughout the crowd. It was June and dozens, if not hundreds of people swarmed to the site of one of the greatest atrocities in human history, cameras ready, bright red fanny packs bulging around their waists, prepared to take in the sites.

The tour guide lead us from room to room, peppering us with facts and figures through a microphone headset in accented English. I could barely pay attention. The entire tour was a blur. It was uncomfortable. It should be uncomfortable.

I didn’t take pictures, I couldn’t bring myself to take pictures, but images are still burned into my mind; a list of all the lives lost in the holocaust, covering both sides of a long hallway in terribly small print; the ashes and hair of people burned alive; the grooves in the walls, dug by human fingernails as desperate people tried and failed to escape certain death.

There is a room full of shoes; men’s, women’s, and children’s shoes, which are mostly a big grey mass at this point, but here and there is a faded red leather pump or dirty red tennis shoe. Other displays show the prosthetic limbs and suitcases of the victims. The most haunting, however, was the hair. A huge display shows an unforgettable mass of filthy hair cut from the thousands of victims’ heads. The inhumanity makes me feel nauseated just remembering it.

We were quiet as we were led through this place, this awful place where so much happened, where so many lives were not just lost but needlessly tortured to that bitter end. I felt cheap, tasteless, touring this the place of so many innocent men, women, and children’s demise. But I couldn’t look away. It was like a horror movie, when you see the serial killer creeping up on the innocent man going about his business and you want to look away before the poor guy is bludgeoned to death, but you can’t. Auschwitz was like this, but 100xs worse because it was real.

I don’t believe in ghosts, but Auschwitz was haunting.

Travel Mistakes I Made (So You Don’t Have to)

So you just booked your first International flight and you’re thinking “what now?” Or maybe you’re a veteran traveler who is looking to save some money and travel backpacker style. Below are 5 mistakes I’ve made, and tips for traveling on a budget.

  1. Paying for a hotel

    Hotelroom

    • Hostels are not scary. If you’ve lived in a dorm, you can handle a hostel. The  biggest downside is sharing your space. The biggest upside is sharing your space! You’ll meet other travelers who are potential new friends.
    • Airbnb is your friend. You can rent anything from a whole apartment to a couch. You’ll have an opportunity to stay in areas you probably couldn’t afford a hotel in, and chances are it’s nicer. The hosts usually put more effort into making you feel at home than a hotel would. I’ve stayed in whole apartments and private rooms in someone else’s home. I’ll admit, staying with a stranger sounds pretty sketchy, but it’s not as weird as it sounds.
    • Couchsurfing. It’s not a service I’ve tried yet, but I know other people have and have had success with it. If you’re nervous about staying with strangers, you aren’t alone but the site verifies both surfers and those sharing their couch. The best part? It’s FREE. You aren’t allowed to offer or accept payment.
  2. Paying $1000s for a flight to Europe

    SadonAirplane

    • I flew to Poland in 2014 and I booked a flight through regular* means. It cost me $1200 round trip and included a 12 hour overnight layover. In October of 2015 I flew to Denmark. I booked through Wow air and paid about $600 round trip (yeah, that’s HALF price). I booked both flights about the same distance out (6-8 weeks). One downside to Wow is that they aren’t in many airports in the US yet (I flew out of DC), but they’re all over Europe. Also, flights within Europe are super cheap ($99-200) so getting across the ocean is the most expensive part.
    • Another airline offering cheap transatlantic flights is Norwegian Airlines.  With Norwegian** you can fly from JFK to Oslo for about $400 (booking 5 weeks out). (Look for future posts specifically about flights!)
  3. Checking a bag

    TooManyBags

    • Checking a bag usually costs extra. You do not need that much stuff. I traveled with someone on study abroad who brought framed photographs for a 4 week trip. Don’t take stuff you don’t need. I haven’t checked a bag in years and I don’t miss it. (Keep an eye on my blog for a full post with packing hacks!)
  4. Not having appropriate converters/surge protectors

    Plugandfeet

    • When I went to the UK in 2006 (pre-smart phones) I didn’t have appropriate converter/surge protectors. This meant my hair dryer just didn’t work! Make sure you look into everything you’ll need for your specific destination.
  5. Buying an international phone plan

    Dudeonphone

    • Find free WiFi and use Skype, WhatsApp, or Facebook messenger. You aren’t traveling abroad to spend all your time talking to folks back home.
    • If you really NEED a phone for some reason, buy a cheap burner phone when you arrive.

There are so many things you can do to make your travel experiences cheaper and more efficient.  If you liked these tips, check out more in-depth posts about packing light, packing for winter, travel essentials, and more.

Have any good travel hacks of your own?  Share them in the comments below.  If you liked this post, share it on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest and follow my blog here on WordPress for more GREAT content like this.

*I flew JetBlue, then Lot airlines on my trip to Poland.  I had good experiences with both airlines, however, there are cheaper flights out there!

**I have flown Norwegian within Europe, but have not traveled from the US to Europe on a Norwegian flight.