Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Reunited with a best friend and travelling to New York City!

Hello everyone! I know it's been a while since my last post, but I have been extremely busy finishing up my last semester of college, moving home, and then working on the job search. I am now officially a college graduate which still hasn't really hit me yet. This summer is going to be so great, and has already gotten off to a great start. The first exciting event of my summer happened a couple of weeks ago when my friend Ciela came to visit.

Ciela is from Holland and now lives in London, and we met and became good friends when we studied abroad together in Lyon, France. Even after leaving Lyon, Ciela has been one of the people I have really stayed in touch with and talk to on a regular basis. But since we live thousands of miles away from each other, we didn't see each other, other than through Skype, for a year and a half... until she decided to book a trip to visit the US for the first time! She landed in Boston around noon on June 11, which was a Wednesday, and was here until the following Tuesday.

As soon as I picked her up from the airport, the fun began! Since we didn't have a full day to hang out, we decided to have a more low-key day and stay on the South Shore. I drove her around my town a little bit and she was so excited to see the beach and ocean from this side of the pond. Then we headed down to the Plymouth waterfront where there are a bunch of cute little shops and restaurants and there are really pretty views of the water. And unlike a lot of tourists in the area, Ciela was not all that enamoured by Plymouth Rock haha! Us locals always like to giggle about tourists who come from all over the world to view the rock, and we never understood how it can seem so exciting to some people when it's literally just a rock with "1620" carved into it, and it's not even the real first rock the Pilgrims stepped onto! After exploring the area and getting some ice cream, we headed back to my house to have dinner with my family.

The next day, we headed into Boston! When we got there, it was around noon so we decided to stop for lunch. We got burgers from an outdoor restaurant on Newbury Street, which was amazing! Then we walked all over the city. We walked down Newbury Street, which is like the Rodeo Drive or 5th Ave of Boston, then to the Boston Common and Public Gardens, Faneuil Hall, the harbour and everything else in between! Once we got near the North End, it was too early to get dinner from one of the amazing Italian restaurants, but we did decide to stop and get a snack from Modern Pastry. Mike's Pastry may be the more famous of the two pastry shops, but I have always loved Modern Pastry more! I got strawberry cheesecake and Ciela got chocolate mousse cake, and we went to sit by a relaxing fountain to eat them. Unfortunately, then it started to rain a little bit, so we headed to the nearest T station and went to the Prudential Center, which is the big mall in Boston. Once the rain had cleared up, we walked around some more and made our way to Chinatown where we grabbed some dinner. Then it was time to head back to my house to pack for the weekend because we were heading to New York City! :D
Boston Common
Quincy Market in Faneuil Hall
delicious snacks from Modern Pastry!
Friday morning, we left the house around 6am to catch an early bus from Boston into Manhattan. Throughout most of the bus ride, it downpoured all through Massachusetts and Connecticut, but once we arrived in New York, the weather had cleared and it was sunny and warm out! We think New York had known we were coming and made sure the weather was good for us :) After checking into our hostel in Williamsburg, we didn't waste any time and headed back into the city to start sightseeing! First we went to the 9/11 Memorial which is so cool. I had been there in January, but it had still been under some construction then and was closer to being finished this time. The main focal points of the memorial are the Freedom Tower and two huge fountains where the two original towers had stood, with the names of all the people who died carved around the edge. It's a really nice memorial and a good way to honour all of the people who died on September 11. After that, we walked by the Hudson River and went over to Wall Street to see the New York Stock Exchange and the Federal Reserve.
the 9/11 Memorial
the Freedom Tower
Wall Street (the NYSE is on the left and the Federal Reserve is straight ahead)
Then we went to the nearby TJMaxx, but when we were going to leave, I guess the rain we had experienced in Connecticut made its way to New York, because it was downpouring! We managed to run to a subway station though and took the subway to Grand Central Station and then Chelsea where we made our way to the Chelsea Market for some Thai food. Once the rain had cleared up, we decided to head to the best place to see in New York at night—Times Square! I always love going to Times Square and this time was no exception. It looked so cool and we even saw the Naked Cowboy! (It was a younger, different Naked Cowboy, though, so I wonder if the older one retired!) After walking all through Times Square (and taking lots of selfies), we walked over to Rockefeller Center which is also cool to see at night! After that, we headed back to our hostel to rest up for our full day of exploring Saturday.
Grand Central Station
Times Square!
I have my own company in NYC, no big deal ;)
Rockefeller Center

In addition to being a fun day of sightseeing, Saturday was also Ciela's 22nd birthday! It was so cool to spend her birthday with her. We started off the day by heading to Herald Square and the Upper East Side. We went into a few shops and just enjoyed taking in the atmosphere. We went to the Chrysler Building but realised once we were next to it that maybe viewing it from below may not be the best idea because you can't really see it :) We walked all around the Fifth Avenue, Madison Avenue, and Park Avenue area and then went into Central Park. I had been to Central Park before, but I completely forgot just how huge it is! We spent a couple of hours walking around and saw a lake with people boating on it, the John Lennon memorial called Strawberry Fields, Belvedere Castle, and the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir. Even though we spent so much time walking around, I feel like we still didn't even see so many parts of the park! It's so cool how peaceful the park is even though it's right in the middle of a huge bustling city. If I lived in New York, I think I would spend a lot of time in Central Park during the summer. After exploring the park, we went to the Met and sat on the steps to rest and pretend we were in "Gossip Girl" haha. And as our final sightseeing destination of the day, we decided to take the Staten Island Ferry. This was new for me too because I had never taken the ferry, but I've heard it has amazing views of the skyline and the Statue of Liberty. It didn't disappoint and we had timed it perfectly so it was sunset as we were taking the ferry from Staten Island back to Manhattan. It was such a beautiful view and it was awesome seeing the city from a new perspective.
the John Lennon memorial
Sitting on the Met steps pretending to be Blair and Serena ;)
view from the Staten Island Ferry

Then it was time to go out and celebrate Ciela's birthday! She had a friend from London who was also in New York for the weekend, and we went to meet up with her, her husband, and her cousins who were all at a rooftop bar called 230-Fifth on Fifth Avenue. When we got there, there was a HUGE line that probably would have taken two hours to get through, but we were able to skip the entire line and go straight in! Ciela's friend Sandy had a table in the VIP section where they had bottle service. It was so awesome! The view was amazing and it actually felt like we were in a dream! It was such a fun night hanging out on the rooftop overlooking the Empire State Building and Manhattan skyline, and I didn't want it to end! When they eventually made everyone leave at 4am, we had a little bit of trouble navigating the subway back to our hostel since we were both so exhausted. It took us about an hour and a half to get back. We had also been excited to see the Manhattan skyline at night one more time when our train emerged from underground to cross the Williamsburg Bridge, but since we had been lost in the subway for so long, by the time we crossed the bridge, it was already light out!
230-Fifth rooftop bar
the view from 230-Fifth

After a couple hours of sleep, we were woken up to the sound of the guy in the room next to ours loudly Skyping someone, so we packed up and headed out into Manhattan for one last time before we would be taking our bus back to Boston that evening. We went to Washington Square Park to see the big arch. Where Ciela lives in London is right down the street from Marble Arch, so she was excited to see the Manhattan version of the arch! After that, we explored Soho a little bit, and then went to a restaurant called Jack's Wife Frida to meet up with someone for brunch. The girl we were meeting is the daughter of my mom's friend, and we had been next-door neighbours and good friends when we were little kids! She is a year younger than me and goes to school in New York. She brought a friend as well, and it was so cool reuniting in NYC! The food at the restaurant was amazing too! After brunch, we had a little bit of time before going back to the hostel to pick up our suitcases and going to the bus, so we made one last stop at the Flatiron Building, another New York icon that I had never seen before! The weekend in New york was so amazing, and it was the perfect way to celebrate Ciela's birthday!
Washington Square Park
the Empire State Building
poached eggs, pita, avocado, greek yogurt, and chopped veggie salad... yum!
reunited with my childhood friend Catherine
the Flatiron Building

The next two days were more low-key and relaxed, spent on the South Shore. We needed some more relaxing days after our busy weekend in New York! Monday, we slept late and then went to the beach. The beach was a little bit chilly, but it was still fun! We also hit up a few American places that Ciela had never been to before but wanted to experience: Dunkin Donuts and Target! She loved both of these places just like I do! That night, we went back to my house for dinner with my family. My mom had also bought a cake so we could all celebrate Ciela's birthday together! My family loved Ciela too and were sad that she couldn't stay longer.
Ciela's cake and birthday gift
The next morning, Ciela and I went for breakfast at a restaurant down the street from my house that makes the most amazing and huge pancakes! I got banana chocolate chip and Ciela got blueberry. I had been to that restaurant before but had never had the pancakes, which they are known for, and it was definitely a good choice! After breakfast, we went to a couple more American places before I had to take Ciela to the airport: Walmart and also a drive-thru ATM. It's funny how things that seem so normal are so interesting to people from another country! Ciela was amazed by how many drive-thru places there are in the US, since the only drive-thru they have in Holland, she said, is McDonald's. Then it was time to go to the airport and say goodbye, which was really sad, but I was happy that the week had been so great! And I have my flight booked to visit England in October, so I know I will be seeing her again in just over three months—much better than the year and half between this visit and the last time we said goodbye in Lyon. Seeing Ciela made me so grateful to have friends from all over the world, and it made me even more excited for my trip to England in October and being reunited with some more of my international friends :)
banana chocolate chip pancakes! :D