Travel Guide For Life; M.A.C.

What I See From Mountain To Sea

Ticket stubs from my very first overseas trip.

First of all, I do not intend to drag anybody through the way I find and book flights and reservations. Times and methods change. Now there are hundreds of mobile phone apps and websites available for ticket sales and hotel or event services and reservations. Shoot, when I traveled over seas the first time, I booked a ticket to India by using a booking agent, contacted via landline, connected to the ISKCON Vaisnava temples USA and received a plane ticket on Pan Am airlines. They do not even exist anymore. 🙃... So, as far as finding good deals on air flights and hotel reservations, I generally just wait for them to be advertised on sites like HotelTonight and Booking.com which have been very helpful for me. My favorite sites are HotelTonight, TripAdvisor, Get Your Guide, Google Maps, Booking.com, TripScout, and Delta Airlines website (because I am connected with their frequent flyer sky miles program and they are a good airline). I also like FiveStars and TravelZoo. Of course, we have to be careful about fake reviews that can be posted by people connected to hotels, shops, and restaurants. Such posts will always give rave reviews that make a place sound perfect. Other reviews can be posted by competitors to make a place sound like a dump. I often give a review that makes a place sound wonderful but I always give real, truthful reviews because I have no personal connection to any hotel, restaurant, or shop (besides having my favorites). I also have no affiliate links on my website although I hope to some day. Such websites also announce good deals during certain times of the year. The best way to get real reviews by real customers is by using sites like OpenTable for real restaurant visits and Expedia.com or Booking.com for real stays at hotels. On my cell phone, I have the apps for each of the websites mentioned above and a combination of these will carry me through the planning of every itinerary. Oh, and it is good to follow a few professional travel bloggers on Instagram and Pinterest. Both of these sites provide lots of eye candy with plenty of information. I also watch YouTube videos about transportation options in the cities I travel to. I often watch YouTube videos that show how to use subway systems in the cities I visit. 

Many cities have wonderful sites that are really useful for booking and purchasing tickets for events, transportation, and reservations in the region of the city. One of the sites I have in my travel bookmarks folder is the Paris, France Tourist and Convention website that has a clear, easily navigable list of events and sites that everyone can use to choose, research, reserve, and pay for right there on the website. There are even several price ranges included for many sites that we can choose from. What the tickets include and the prices are made clear and payment options are also straight forward. I always buy the Paris PassLib' package which includes all transportation fares (besides taxis), free entry to some 60 museums, discounts for many other places and events, and a free ride on the Hop On Hop Off bus for one day and a free ride on the Paris Bateaux which is an hour on a tour boat up and down the Seine River. We are also able to reserve a "time slot" for the Louvre Museum through the PARiS Convention and Visitors Bureau website. This is going to be a necessary requirment going into the future for Louvre Museum entry.

I have also bookmarked the Copenhagen, Danmark tourism website because it is also very useful for booking and paying for the same kind of reservations and packages we receive with the Paris PassLib' package. Paris and Copenhagen are both cities we will be visiting often in the future. This is why it is helpful for me to have their websites in  my travel bookmarks folder. Many cities will have their websites that can be very useful for visitors. City maps, including metro, train, and bus lines are also included with these city card/pass packages. The Copenhagen Card is definitely worth purchasing for access to many museums and other venues and I am sure this is the case for many cities throughout the world. I just purchased my first New York Pass which is similar to the Copenhagen Card. The New York Pass is only for museums and other places and does not include a transportation pass like the Paris PassLib' package does. In fact, we can't even purchase a transportation pass for New York City on line. We have to purchase them upon arrival. I chose the digital version of the New York City Pass so it is on my cell phone with the New York City Pass app. It is great, with descriptions of all the places I will be able to use it for free admission. I will just scan it at the entrance of each place.

When I brought my plane ticket to India, it was for my very first overseas trip. I called the booking agent via landline phone because there were no mobile phones then. The booking agent was referred to me by the temple president of ISKCON Denver, Colorado. I called, told him when I wanted to go, and where I wanted to go, and he took care of everything else for me. You can go to my page, "India " if you want to read about the trip.

Things you will get with the Paris Pass Lib' package. Transportation pass, Museum pass for about 60 museums, free ride on the Hop on Hop off bus, free ride on Paris Bateaux, Map of Paris, fold out list of the museums with descriptions of each one. The cost depends on how many days you want the passes for..

                                                                 NEW YORK CITY

I have been to 21 countries but never visited New York City except to pass through Queens to get from the domestic airport to the international airport and vise-a-versa (La Guardia Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport). Farida told me that she would like to see New York City and I thought that this would be a good year to finally visit a city I probably should have visited many years ago. After all, my ancestors came through New York City and lived there before moving to Hibbing, Minnesota building their houses in a section of Hibbing called Brooklyn (named after the section of New York City called Brooklyn). It is time to visit Little Italy in New York! 

It is scary reading about the subway though. It seems to be deemed one of the worst in the world. It is one of the largest and oldest subways. There is overcrowding, many delays, homeless and transient people everywhere, It will be bumpy at times, smelly, and very cold in the winter and very hot in the summer. That all scares me but one really good thing about the New York City subway (or "train" as the locals call it) is that it is open 24 hours a day (Even Paris does not have that, although their subway does run untill around 0200). Maybe we can ride it really early in the morning to the areas we want to visit each day and just explore within walking distance everything we can see there and then return to the hotel rather late in the evening? I will explore that possibilty. This way we will dedicate a specific neighborhood of the city to "live in" each day. There are also commuter trains but they take commuters between the main 5 New York City boroughs of Queens, Broolyn, Manhattan, The Bronx, and Staten Island and whatever town the commuters live in such as Newark or Long Island. Oh, and Staten Island has its own railway which is not connected to the subway in the other 4 boroughs; you will have to get off at Battery Park (southwest area of Brooklyn) to ride a Staten Island Ferry which is free and payment to get on one subway carries over to the other subway. The New York City subway or "train" on the other hand, never goes further than the confines of New York City. 

Another scary thing about the New York City subway is that most of the subway lines have more than one "service" or train that share part of the same track but end up in different destinations. I am thinking that the thing to do is plan out the correct subway line and correct train number or letter along with the correct subway stop and then confirm everything with a hotel staff member along with any important details about the commute for that day. We will also have to pay attention to whether we need an express train or a local train. Looking at the subway line map indicates that most of the subway lines have both express and local trains. The local trains will stop at every stop on the line of a shared track but the express trains provide faster service by passing by several stops. Also, the express will sometimes become a local train such as when it splits off from the portion of the track that it shares with another train or trains that are local trains. It may also become a local train when it is going back in the opposite direction. It looks like the express trains will have the number or letter of the train inside a diamond and the local trains will have their numbers or letters inside a circle (which are also color coded indicating what subway line it services). Wow, my head is starting to spin now. I did find a really great website called nycsubwayguide.com that explains everything about the New York City subway system in a clear and step by step approach that makes me feel that I just might survive it.

THE PLANE TICKETS:

17th of January, I managed to book the 2 tickets for my wife and myself. First I went to the 4 different price comparison sites; priceline, cheapflights, skyscanner, and kayak search sites. I was not satisfied with what I found because, although all of the first flight options were quite affordable (around $375 average), I found only multi airlines options with very little offering flights with Delta Airlines. I always look for flights that incude at least half of the flights with Delta Airlines because I belong to their frequent flyer sky-miles program. So what I did was write down the price of the flight options that included some legs of the flights that included Delta Airlines. These flights were a little higher than the average of around $375, generally around $400. Then I went to the Delta Airlines website and clicked on "Book a flight" ,filled in the Departure city firld, arrival city field, and the amount of passengers. I then brought up the calender to click on the day I was planning to depart Albuquerque. As I did this, prices came up for each day of the week and I noticed that the price for 5th of August was something like $50 less expensive than my original planned departure date of 6th of August. I changed my plan and chose 5th of August. Then I brought up the calender to chose the return date. Lo and behold, I noticed that the 15th of August was also something like $50 less expensive than my original return date of 17th of August.  I chose that less expensive return date of the 15th of August and the final calculated price for each plane ticket was only $370. 65 which pleased me immensly and that ended my search right there. I booked the tickets and put this aspect of the trip planning behind me. There was one caveat though. It turns out that we will be flying into Newark, New Jersey!!??!! What are we going to do in Newark?!!?  Immediatly take transport into New York City or stay one night there??!!?. I will now spend the next week researching the transportation from Newark into New York, hotel options in Newark, and possible sites to visit and restaurants in Newark (might be interesting).

 

 

 

ONE NIGHT IN NEWARK

I decided to book a hotel close to the Newark airport (it has shuttle service between the hotel and the airport) because  I discovered a couple of interesting places to visit and several hundred thousand 😃 Spanish/Portuguese/South American restaurants in Newark!!! I have never eaten a decent plate of Spanish Paella before and now I see my chance to do that. After reading descriptions and reviews at TripAdvisor and Google Maps, I chose Sol-Mar Restaurant and Chateau of Spain Restaurant for my first plates of Paella in Spanish restaurants. What were the other reasons to stay in Newark NJ one night? I think it would be interesting to see the City of Newark City Hall, GRAMMY Museum Experience Prudential Center, and the Newark Riverfront Park Boat Dock (a little boating anyone?) Oh, and the Newark International seems to be the oldest airfield in USA. I guess that will warrant a photo or two.

     .....HERITAGE HOTEL NYC....

Booking hotels in New York will be a little more complicated because I also like to compare suggestions from my favorite professional travel bloggers on Instagram and Pinterest (I do not go to Facebook very much because it is too busy for me). I always book at least one hotel suggested by Sarah Kim (www.fromlusttilldawn.com blog). I am also finding TripAdvisor quite handy in making reservations for the NYC hotels. I just booked a reservation in the Flatiron Building neighborhood by comparing reviews by travel bloggers and TripAdvisor along with the room prices. We will be staying at an airport hotel in Newark one night, then at the Heritage Hotel Flatiron District for 2 nights. With very reasonable prices, fitness center, free hotel breakfast, and many more positive reviews than negative, it seems to be a great place to stay by comparison.  Their website is https://www.heritagehotelnyc.com or, info@heritagenyc.com (now I must search for a place to stay on Staten Island).

 .........VICTORIAN BED AND.....                           BREAKFAST 

After deciding what areas of Staten Island I wanted to visit (pretty much along the north east coast), I used Google Maps and TripAdvisor to choose the hotel in that general area. I made reservations at the Victorian Bed and Breakfast of Staten Island. I reserved 2 nights at this hotel also. When I travel, I always reserve only 2 nights in each hotel unless it is a favorite hotel in a city where we have stayed before (then  I would book 3 or 4 nights there). That way we can continue to experience various hotels until we have a good list of favorites around the world. All of our favorite hotels and restaurants are stared (🌟) on Google Maps and I keep their business cards. 2 nights will give us a full day in the neighborhood of each hotel. Also, when a hotel is not as nice or comfortable as we hoped it would be, then 2 nights of just sleeping there would be bearable. 

Victorian Bed and Breakfast should be very good. It is a 3 🌟hotel in an old, renovated house built in 1846. Although it has been restored, it still has Victorian chandeliers, original fireplaces with marble mantels, Victorian furniture, and a professional renovation expert as the proprietor who is also a great cook.😃 (She is a former engineer from Poland). A few famous people have spent time here. 2 of those people, I am familiar with; Edward G. Robinson and Bugsey Segal. It is 1.5 miles west of Snug Harbor and the Botanical Gardens. Home cooked country style breakfast, room in private house where famous people have spent time, and only $335 for 2 nights? Absolutely!!! Their website is; http://victorianbedandbreakfast.net and the website is really nice. 

  ...........THE JANE HOTEL .......

I decided that I wanted to visit Greenwich Village area next so I used the same method of comparison to book a 2 night reservation at Jane Hotel on Jane Street in Greenwich Village. The Jane Hotel is called a West Village landmark boutique hotel. The rooms have a maritime theme, decked out as ship cabins. In fact, the room I reserved is called a Captain's Cabin. This is a really historic hotel. Some of the survivors of the Titanic disaster were put up in this hotel while the sinking of the ship was investigated. The Senate Committee investigating the sinking were working at the Waldorf-Astoria. The Jane hotel was first built as a hotel for sailors in 1908. It was in 1912 that the Titanic hit a bit of ice and sank so that is when the survivors would have been staying there. The hotel was renovated in 2008. 113 Jane Street Greenwich Village, New York, NY 10014 is the address. 1-212-924-6700 is the phone number. The total price with taxes already included will be $523.38. I believe this is a good price for 2 nights at an iconic hotel like Jane Hotel. And www.thejanenyc.com is the website.

          HOTEL INDIGO.      ..............BROOKLYN.............

After we stay in Greenwich Village area for 2 days, I decided that I would like to  explore Brooklyn so I compared prices and reviews of various Brooklyn hotels. I decided to reserve a room in a hotel suggested by Sarah Kim's fromlusttilldawn blog post on Pinterest. I chose the mid-range hotel called Hotel Indigo Brooklyn. The address for this hotel is 229 Duffield Street and hotelindigo@reservations.ihg.com and it is with the IHG hotel group. When I made the reservation, I noticed that they have a rewards club and an affiliate program so I joined the IHG Rewards Club and I signed up for the affiliate program but I do not know what will come out of it. Anyway, the cost will be $440.76 for 2 nights which includes $62.76 in taxes. The confirmation e-mail that the hotel sent me mentions that  guns (both concealed and unconcealed) are prohibited on the premises of the hotel. There is a fitness center, a rooftop terrace, and a lounge at the Hotel Indigo. 

................HOTEL RIU PLAZA NYC TIMES SQUARE ...........

After making this reservation,  I decided that I would like to explore the Times Square and Hells Kitchen area of New York City. Again, I chose a mid range hotel that was suggested on the Pinterest gallery posted by Sarah Kim (fromlusttilldawn travel and fashion blogger). The address of this Riu hotel is, 307-311 46th Street, Hells Kitchen, New York 10036. Phone number is, 1 646-864-1100. I booked a Deluxe Queen for $333.98 and it does include breakfast. 

This Riu hotel is a 29 floor highrise hotel with a 24 hour gym and a good restaurant. They also have The Fashion Bar, The Capital Bar (which serves grab and go snacks), and The Theater Buffet. It is at the edge of Times Square and is surrounded by restaurants and theaters so for our last 2 days in NYC, we will be walking around for no more than 1 square mile (I figure).

 

 

 

AN INTERRUPTION IN MY RESEARCH AND PLANNING FOR MY VACATION IN NEW YORK.

Coronavirus 2019 has created the greatest obstacle that I have ever had to overcome in all of my lifetime in research and planning for my travels. This is the 8th of May 2020 (anniversary of Germain surrender at end of world war II) so we still have 3 more months before the departure date for our flight to New York but we have no idea if we will be able to fly there in August. I can only watch all the news about Delta Airlines and New York, what is happening and what they are doing. Most flights are still being canceled and rescheduled with delays and much fewer flights, more restrictions, and fewer passengers on each flight. Travelers in May and June are more immediately affected than we who have planned our travel later this summer so I will just wait for them to navigate this pandemic disaster, then I will start calling Delta Airlines and the hotels...