Giant Calzones and a Rainy Piazza San Marco – Venice, Italy

Arriving in Venice via Paris( and the long layover from there is its own story to tell that involves being ferried out onto a snowflake dusted runway by a very rickety bus jam packed with pissed of Italians) we were greeted at the airport by a private driver that would be taking us to a waiting water taxi- transportation arranged ahead of time by the hotel we would be staying at,the Ruzzini Palace hotel. Having never taken a water taxi before, I can say it was one of the coolest experiences, not least of all because I was pretty out of it from having been traveling for the past 24 hours and watching the city open up in front of us, the twinkling lights from open windows reflected on the waters of the canals was a beautiful introduction to the enchanting city of Venice.

We didn’t do much that first night apart from get settled in, marvel at the beyond gorgeous room we had been given and order breakfast in for the next morning. I poked my head out the room windows for a while, just trying to really believe I was actually there, because it all still felt like something out of a (slightly sleep deprived) dream.

The next morning we woke up somewhat bright and early, tucked into a super delicious breakfast and then got ready to go out and explore the city. There was a light drizzle coming down and we were still pretty bone tired from the traveling and time zone juggling of the day before but, we were ready for this new adventure.

We headed towards Piazza San Marco, a supposed easy 7 minute walk from where we were staying. I say supposed because if you’ve never been to Venice, let me paint you a picture : imagine a maze with very narrow pathways that still managed to be beautiful and is also full to bursting with interesting little shops everywhere you look. We got turned around a good couple of times but eventually we made it to the square and by the time we got there I was already holding a couple of souvenir items I’d bought for friends.

The square and the immediate surrounding area holds some of the top attractions in Venice so we expected it to be fairly crowded but we were pleasantly surprised to see it wasn’t too bad- perhaps the rain was a blessing in disguise? Either way, we didn’t want to do any real in-depth sightseeing that day so we just walked around a bit, did a quick currency exchange (that I recommend against doing btw, unless your bank fee’s are insane just take money out of an ATM, much cheaper) and then headed off back into the maze of pretty and winding streets to seek out some more interesting shops and eventually, lunch.

We stopped by a restaurant called Tratorria Casanova, mainly because the menus were displayed outside and I saw that one of them one clearly marked in English. I pointed this out to the boyfriend in a lightly teasing way, “look, they have it in English for you“, and one of the waiters who was outside came over to us and asked me, curious and giving us a easygoing charming smile, “Ah and for you? Italian?”

My Italian was at that time, according to my efforts with Duolingo, at about 50% so I just laughed along and said I could understand it but I was better with Spanish and English. This btw, was something that would happen a lot in Italy over the course of the next week, people assuming I could speak Italian and then being a bit disappointed in my less then adequate attempts- my goal is that the next time I visit, my Italian will be much more up to par. For this visit though, the basics were good enough and with a menu in English, definitely a good choice for us!

The food was amazing and I got to experience the great joy of eating a rather enormous pepperoni and mushroom calzone that cause a number of covetous looks when it was brought out- both because of its size and delicious smell. We ate, got desert and coffee and then we received complimentary savory sorbets that ended up being even more yummy than the desserts we had just finished. Stuffed to the gills, we eventually got on our way and headed back to our hotel to drop off our bags before heading back out foro one last quick exploration (and to find a local grocery store to buy some bottles of water).

Bottles of water procured and a couple of other treats in the bags as well, we walked back to our hotel, rain still drizzling and making the cobblestone streets fairly glisten and sparkle. I had wished, earlier in the day, for a bit more sunshine, but at the moment I took this photo above, standing on a small footbridge over one of the canals and looking towards our waiting hotel, I was content to have a little bit of rain.

~ m

Bits of Advice When On A Roadtrip- East Coast Edition

After a long nights drive Road tripping is different for everyone, I get that.  Some people like to plan things out from top to botton, lunches-bathroom breaks-gas stops-whathaveyous and some people just get in the car and go. Theres the people who need to have a pre approved and vetted playlist at the ready, and then theres the people who switch on the radio and just pick a station to listen to. Some people don’t even listen to music (audio books, news, russian dissertations on eroding social classes, ect ). But when you’re taking a roadtrip, no matter what size, to places you’ve never been to before, there’s a number of general rules/niceties that can apply to everyone. Especially if you’re going with someone you’ve never traveled with before, or this is your first roadtrip.

Sea Scape Motel and CottagesCozy Kitchen place

Always book in advance if you’re going to be making more than 2 hours drive to the destination of the night. It’s always great to have things booked when you set off, instead of trying to do it on the way, or heavens, in the car itself. I know, I know, wheres the adventure, the spontaneity! Mate, that feeling of epic adventure will fade when your dead on your feet and trying to navigate the insanity that is foggy weather or crowded roads that cows frequent.

Pack your essentials! the tired travelers last minute meal

Pack your essentials in plastic ziplock bags (this goes for both guys and gals btw) or travel bags if you’re fancy like that, especially if you’re traveling with someone else and you’ll be sharing a room with one bathroom. Don’t be that person who takes up all the counter space with their grooming stuff. Both me and Kat were excellent at this and it’s one of the reason we traveled so well together. Secondly, no matter how hard you try, you’re not always going to be able to eat healthy or even eat what is considered real food. It’s a road trip, these things happen. Don’t stress about it, feed yourself with what you can and make up for it later by not getting that extra helping of fries at that one greasy spoon diner…. though really, who am I kidding, I always get that extra helping. Friiiies. Keep hydrated always though, don’t just live off coffee.
Our home away from Home in Maine Sally and the cottage Two little chairs side by side little cottages in Maine

When you can, and usually you can, try to pick places to stay that are run by locals. Not only are they at times less expensive than chains, they are usually brimming with charm, unique touches here and there, and even if the owner gets a bit peeved at you for arriving almost at closing time because you got lost in the fog and ended up in some weird island thing in the middle of the bay, they’re usually fantastic for tips about the area. We stayed at Seascape Motel and Cottages in Belfast when we went to Maine, and it was hands down the best place we stayed at during the whole trip, even including our fantastic boutique hotel in NYC.  We got a huge cottage to ourselves, with it’s own little parking spot, cozy kitchen, and you can bet we’re going to go back one day and spend a whole week there.
Kat working on her fantastic travel journal Morning light in MaineTis green here in Maine Stay up late, wake up early. Or, stay up as late as you need to, to update blogs and friends, write in your journal about the epic things you did, and try and wake up as early as you can manage. A normal sleeping schedule is not a thing that happens on roadtrips, sometimes you’ll get a great nights rest and others you’ll be running on coffee fumes. Let it happen, don’t get worked up about not getting enough sleep, you can get rest when you’re back home, for now just enjoy your time on the road yeah? Learn to be at least a little bit of a morning person, even before coffee.

Also, don’t unpack ALL your bags when you settle in for the night, even if you’re going to be staying for a few days. You don’t need everything you packed every day, do you? Re-packing is a time stealer, pack efficiently with the clothes you’ll need  to change the most (like underwear, sleepwear, shirts) in one bag, and the other clothes (like trousers, jeans, skirts and dresses) in the one with the rest of your things.
Kat and SallyAnd the last bit of advice? If you’re going to travel with someone, make sure it’s someone who is super awesome, wants to see and experience around the same things you do, doesn’t mind that you want to photograph literally everything, christens your rental car Sally and in general is an amazing human being that you can be around 24 hours a day with, in an enclosed space for long periods of time, because in the end, your journey is more than half of the experience, not the destination.

~m

 

NYC Outtakes- Random Photos and Advice for Visiting NYC

View from Hotel BPM in my drawer Out In Brooklyn messy hotel roomthe bed at hotel BPM

Pick a good place as your home base. Know the area you’re staying in and most importantly, don’t be afraid to stay outside of Manhattan. Me and Kat stayed at Hotel BPM, which is in Brooklyn. We got a fantastic room at a really great price through a flash sale they were doing, and with a bit of quick googling I saw there was a subway station a block away, perfect for getting into Manhattan in less than 15 minuets. There’s plenty of overpriced and seriously tiny hotels in Manhattan, as well as everywhere else, find the right one for you, and make it your insta-home. As long as you know how to get to where you want to go from where you’re at, and you can at least blend a little with the locals, you’ll be fine. Eyes open and easy smiles go a long way.

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Visit Bryant Park. Just do it, even if it’s just for a couple of minutes. You’ll end up in the middle of almost everything you could want to visit and surrounded by mostly native New Yorkers reading the paper, chatting with friends and you’ll realize that this is a place millions of people call home and to treat it accordingly. Understand that “NYC” encompasses the boroughs of the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island (as much as they might want to deny that) besides just the glitter of Manhattan, and get an idea of the immensity bred here. There is so much history, pride and love here, you’ll enjoy your time better once you feel that.
Kat looking out over Central ParkCentral park outtakes Processed with VSCOcam with f1 preset near Columbus Circle, outside of Central Park

Take your time in Central Park, if thats the kind of thing you like. Probably it is the kind of thing you’ll like, if you’re even a little alive inside. This place is HUGE, seriously, just ever so huge and you probably won’t have enough time to spend exploring it all, but just enjoy the time you spend there and relish the beauty and calmness that is cultivated here. Also, take a photo of that damn Balto statue that took you and your friend over an hour to find even though you were pretty much on top of it half the time. Watch out for joggers and skateborders, smile to the beverage cart vendors.

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Know how to use the subway system. Seriously gods, this is so useful. Even if you can afford to take a cab everywhere, just don’t. You’ll be stuck in traffic more often than not, and apart from taking one to and from the airport, they really won’t get you there faster or more efficiently than using the subway. Get an app, use the handy maps at pretty much every station, get one from a station worker. Get comfy with getting on and off trains, listening for your stop (or counting the stops if you can’t hear or see ’cause the car you’re in is insanely packed). Put more money on your MetroCard than you think you’ll need, chances are you’ll miss a stop or get on an express train or the stars will align just right and you’ll end up halfway to the Bronx when you were aiming for the Met. And just consider it a given that you’re going to eventually come across a slightly mentally disturbed person on at least one of your rides, and basically, just be polite if you’re pushed into a conversation and consider it a rite of passage here.

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Go where you want to go. Seriously, visiting NYC can be so expensive, if you don’t make the most of the time you have here, you’re going to regret it like nothing else. So. Go to the museum you want to visit, and take terrible photos to send to friends! Go to the Disney store that smack dab right in the middle of  Times Square to get your boyfriend that Star Wars t-shirt you’ll know they’ll love, even though there seems to be thousands of people already in there. Just, if it’s what you want to do, do it. Wander around Chinatown, a little lost and out of place, enjoy the disorientation.  Explore, walk around and just enjoy the time you have here, if you’re not a native, you don’t have an excuse for not making the most of everyday here.

Processed with VSCOcam with hb2 preset egg rolls, NYC pizza with peppers wtf pizza on the upper west side Chinatown dinner

Eat at that dingy corner fast Chinese food place with the oddly dirty floor, I promise the egg rolls there will be delicious, they’re friend to an inch within their life so you’ll be fine, plus the elderly couple most likely working there will be really nice, probably, and give you two free ones.  Pop into that really fancy and slightly loud restaurant that smells so good walking past it when you’re on the Upper West Side, as long as the menu isn’t dusted in gold, you can probably afford it, just check the menu posted outside if you want to make sure. The service won’t be the best, they’re rushed and it’s a busy night, but the food, no matter what you get, will be excellent, and you’ll enjoy the time you spend there. When you go to China town, because you heard they have great food there, you probably won’t know where to eat, everywhere will look good. So just pick one. Pick the one that shines the brightest and has happy looking people inside. Pick the one that goes down narrow stairs and you can smell something delicious wafting up. Just pick and sit down, smile and laugh with your server and let them give you a fork and spoon with your chopsticks, it doesn’t matter if you DO know how to eat with them. Whatever, really. Order a lot and stuff your face, it’ll be worth it.

Duane Reede in manhattan

Duane Reade will have what you need, they are everywhere, and from that emergency umbrella that you drop in to buy when the skies open up to drown you a little, to the sunscreen moisturizer you come to see as miraculous on overly sunny days, they really will most likely have what you need. If not, there are an insane amount of random specialty shops all over Manhattan, just a simple walk down any street will have you finding that thing you really needed but forgot to bring. Also, buy souvenirs. Yes, for at least 15 minutes of your trip, be a total and unabashed tourist. Buy tons more postcards than you think you really need, and at least a couple of nice keychains. Don’t be the person who visits NYC and doesn’t bring back nifty souvenirs for their friends and family, even if they didn’t ask, they’re expecting it and really, postcards are so inexpensive compared to the slight guilt trip you’ll avoid with them. Also come on, you want a fridge magnet, just admit it.

battery park quiet

Enjoy the time you have here. I know I said that already but, it needs repeating. I was born, grew up here, and yet I cherish the days I get to visit this grand city. It is unlike any other, and from the crowded streets to the places that are almost deserted, you can find yourself both overwhelmed and slightly disappointed when things don’t click like you thought they would, when places you’ve seen so many times on film seem less bright then they were on screen, when you realize you can’t make it to everywhere you want to see in the time you have. NYC is not a perfect place, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. There is so much imperfection here, so many flaws and scars and quietly groaning mistakes…..but that is what makes NYC as a whole, beautiful and amazing and worth the attention. It is most definitely a life changing experience, it’s going to be magnificent and fantastic and worth every minute, and basically you’re going to love it here.

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And finally, before you leave, on the day you leave, take a selfie. Artistically shot, terrible lighting, doesn’t matter. Send it to a friend, share it with everyone on facebook, or just keep it for yourself. You’ll understand after you’re back home, going through your photos of the trip and you finish with the one of your face, bright eyed and slightly exhausted, ready to go home and never wanting to leave this fantastic place.

~m