The Journey To Samana

The long awaited blog post is here. Well, I feel it’s long awaited. I’ve been promising to fill you in on what happened in the Dominican Republic but I’ve found myself recently inundated with tasks that need to be completed by an upcoming deadline (more on that in a new post).

But now, I’m ready. I have a moment to catch my breath and spill it back out again just so you all can know about my DR experience. So read on.

At around 11PM on a Friday night, I arrive at JFK to meet my boyfriend coming from London. We thought it’d be cute / more fun to fly together since he was coming into my city for a layover. I decided to greet him at JFK despite the fact that our DR flight wasn’t scheduled to leave until 9AM the next day. After about an hour and a half awaiting (border patrol was no joke for him), I finally saw him.

Knowing it was late and that we’d only get four or five hours sleep at a hotel in the city before having to go back to the airport, we decided to wait it out at JFK. Sleeping near check in, we tried to get very uncomfortable rest in some Delta chairs. At around 4 or 5AM (can’t honestly remember), we check in for our flight and make our way through security.

We’re sitting at the gate for a few hours when a trip debbie downer happens. My phone is no where in sight. I had in my hand and then stuck it in my pocket, never getting up once from seat at the gate but somehow it went poof. My boyfriend and I began picking through our belongings and searching next to us. Ultimately I report it to the gate and they offer no real help. My boyfriend then tries to get security involved and they direct him to find the police station in the terminal (talk about drama). I keep searching and re-opening the same bags when after an hour or more of this a woman behind me asks “Are you looking for something?” Cue the eye roll.

I say yes and she asks what for and then I say my phone (I mean she literally sat right behind me and heard me talking about this and looking for the past hour). She then tells me she found it in a place that there was no way in hell it was (I never left my seat). She then asks me to tell her the color of  my phone to confirm it’s correct and then signals her man friend to give me my phone. She says god is good while he digs to the literal depths of his bag to give it back. After a few minutes of fumbling, he pulls it out and gives it to me. It is at this point I realize my phone was turned off. Thieves! No one who finds a phone turns it off. If you lose your phone, you will call it so it was obvious they didn’t want whoever who lost it (me) to find it.

At that point, I take the phone and accept her lies. My boyfriend and I move seats and learn an early lesson. Be extra attentive to your things. Putting it in your coat pocket is risky when your coat is not on your body.

After that we board are plain, phone in hand, and get ready to jet off. Or so we think. We sit out on the strip for like an hour and a half before having to get off the plane due to some sort of broken or incorrectly functioning thing on it. HUH?

We wait an hour or so more and then board. Flying for about four hours, we finally hit Santo Domingo.

I don’t have any pictures from this day I realize but I was too exhausted to do any photos.

The next morning, we went to the bus station to head off to Samana.

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We took a gua-gua (a rickety bus) in the rain from Samana to our place in Las Galeras. It was amazing but a rough journey getting there. Stay tuned for what’s next!

 

Overnight At The Bernic

It’s no secret that long overnight layovers suck. Not only is it likely that the city you’re visiting is likely to have nonexistent or crawling transportation, attractions and bars tend to be closed and more often than not, you decide to stay at the airport sleeping uncomfortably at the gate with your belongings tucked under your arms so they don’t go missing. This is no way to travel. At least, not a comfortable one.

I was recently faced with another late night layover dilemma in JFK. Either stay at the airport for 10 hours getting terrible rest or pop out of the airport for a bit of rest and to discover a city. I choose the latter.

Why you may ask? Traveling is amazing. New sights, new cuisines, new cultures. It’s a shame to waste that opportunity to explore by staying inside the airport or only looking to stay right near the airport for convenience sake. I wanted to explore NYC. Enter The Bernic Hotel – a boutique hotel in midtown that’s only a 45 minute cab ride from the airport.

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Inside The Hotel

The hotel is quite large. Larger than what you’d expect when pulling up to the building. The quaint yet chicly decorated lobby was small so it couldn’t fit a large group of guests for the purposes of hanging out. It did offer a bit of standing room but if you want to relax, I suggest going to the cool bar attached to the hotel or explore the city.

I did however end up staying on the 17th floor. So although it may not be that wide, boy oh boy is the hotel tall, lending itself to beautiful midtown views.

Arriving at around 11pm, I was quite out of it after having been through an entire day of travel (thinking long three hour shuttle bus rides, hours in an airport, tight gua guas with luggage (local Dominican Republic transportation) was greeted by the most pleasant hotel representative. She gathered all of my details, told me about the amenities (WiFi, heated floors, Nespresso, etc) and even provided a bit of helpful information on taxis and shuttle options back to JFK.

She handed me my keys and off to elevator bank I went.

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Inside The Room

Swiping my keys, I opened the door to an amazing room that did nothing but impress. My room had a large bed, two balconies, two TVs, a sitting room, a special treat for me and a bathroom fully equipped with heated floors. Yes, you read that right – heated floors!

Imagine waking up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom only to have your system completely shocked by stepping on an icy floor. This isn’t the case at The Bernic. Upon entering, the bathroom immediately begins heating up providing you with warm and toasty floors. It takes a minute to get going but it’s a must-have feature.

Walking about the space and checking out all the other pieces in the room, I realized I needed to get a move on as it was 11:15pm and my time in the city was running out. I dropped by my stuff off and went into the city to grab a quick and affordable bite to eat (something you can’t do at the airport or airport hotel) and check out some attractions.

After a bit of wandering, I entered this pizza shop near to the hotel that was delicious. I ordered myself a slice and some garlic knots. So so good and worth the walk. Bringing it back to my hotel, I opted to spend the rest of my night cozied up on my bed, eating pizza and lounging with some T.V in the background. Better than spending it tightly coiled up on the airport floor eating a bag of overpriced chips.

The Last Bits

At around 5am the next morning, I woke up feeling like a VIP ready to jet off on my next flight. I took a great shower (amazing pressure) and got ready to jump into a cab to go back to JFK.

Only a 45 minute to and from, this stay at a hotel in the city was definitely worth it for me. Treated to a luxury stay with fantastic amenities, hotels in the city are definitely the preferred way to handle an overnight layover when traveling.

Restoring a bit of magic into the travel experience, giving yourself the opportunity to rest and recover after long days in transit is a must. It makes for a better trip overall and allows you to check off a new and unexpected city to visit. If you are in NYC overnight and need a place to stay, The Bernic is amazing. Definitely worth the money and time. It’s an experience like no other and I plan to be back the next time have a long layover!

 

Tenerife – A Canary Island Story #1

This year (or rather last) was my golden birthday. 27 on the 27th. I’m glad to be alive and get older but really, that much closer to 30 and still moving through life like “huh?” I guess there are worse things. And at least, I have a better idea or inkling to do something but back to the point.

As it was my golden birthday, I decided to keep the Birthday travel tradition alive and go away this year as well as rendez vous with  my boyfriend. The meeting point, Tenerife Spain. One of the canary islands. It’d be an island getaway full of romance, sun and adventure.

To begin the trip, I left from JFK on the 26th. Desperately trying to over come some cold or flu thing that tried to take me down on Christmas Eve. I didn’t care though, I wanted to see my boo, my bags were packed and the trip had been paid for. See ya NYC!

I took two flights. A long flight from NY to Madrid and then the next leg was Madrid to Tenerife. I actually got to Tenerife at around 2:30 PM on the 27th – my birthday. I then spent an additional five hours waiting for my boyfriend’s flight to arrive so the holiday could really start. At around 8 PM, we picked up our rental and were off to our Airbnb. Yay!

Although the 27th was my birthday, we didn’t go crazy doing much. We ended up missing all the restaurants so had a dinner of scrambled eggs and bread before heading to bed and exchanging Christmas gifts. Low key but very sweet. The next morning though, we were ready to run about the island.

We tore through Puerto de La Cruz, grabbing pastries, walking about the town and taking a few pics!

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Cabello Pastry  #yum

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After that, we jumped in the car for a windy road adventure toward Buenavista del Norte – sun was out but there was also a bit of wind.

Got a little bit vain but we also took some time to take in the scenery!

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As we only really ate a light breakfast and coffee treat, we ended our day grabbing pizza and ice cream. Was really delightful! No pictures unfortunately cause we were starved but I did Snapchat it (it’s gone now).

Tenerife part 2 coming soon!

Traveling While Black

I feel like my title might be controversial but this is a topic that has popped into my head whilst I’ve been traveling about Europe and living a life that always seemed like something that could NEVER really happen.

A few days ago, I was coming back from my recent trip to Malta. My flight left late so I arrived later than planned. Not a fan. I make a mad dash to the border control because I didn’t want to wait forever and the trains in London stop running after 12, which would have forced me to take cab when I didn’t want to nor did I budget to do so.

After running for what seemed like 10 minutes, I arrive dat the border to see a massive line that was about two hours long. TWO HOURS! How in gods green earth that was the case, I don’t know. Maybe it was because I was at Heathrow? Any who, I tried to be patient, letting out a few moans, sighs and chats with myself about how ridiculous the line was to finally get to an agent.

I presented my passport and landing card and out of nowhere, I found myself questioned about my travels. I’ve been in London for about 6 weeks and while here, I’ve been to Amsterdam, Manchester and Malta (with a layover in Vienna). The woman/agent started questioning my travel. Asking me where else I was going and how long I would be in London. I explain that I’m traveling for the summer and visiting family among other things. The answer didn’t satisfy her.

She then started to ask about how much money I had, if I was still employed, requested to see my tickets for my other trips and probed into how I was related to my sister. This all seemed extra to me as I know plenty of people and friends of the non color persuasion who have traveled Europe for the summer without any problems. Have you heard of the young millennial backpacker for heavens sakes?

I produced everything she asked for and then she seemed satisfied enough to let me through. Just in time as the last tube into London city center was about to take off in 2 minutes.

Why did she question me so hard? Were my movements really that suspicious or was it that me, a young black female couldn’t possibly travel Europe for the summer without trying to do some shady immigration thing? Could I be digging? Could the woman just have been doing her job? Perhaps, but it was odd.

It was odd because when I do vacation, it is rare to see other brown people traveling and relaxing. There aren’t many of “me” around, only people who live locally and most likely happen to be lower class. I saw it in Malta, I saw it when I went to Mexico, I saw it when I went to Stockholm, I usually always see it.

Then there’s also the case of my friend hand her boyfriend. Her boyfriend just got back from spending a month traveling around Europe for work. He is also brown. Upon returning to NYC, he was detained in a “brown people line” while his white co-workers were able to breeze through. They did the same traveling but why did he get the third degree?

This is just a rant but it is sad that I can’t travel around without it looking odd. Does my last name being Obama as an explanation and would that even be enough?

Traveling To London Part 1

It’s been one day since I’ve arrived in London. Away from the things that are so familiar and routine for me. I feel so excited but now the nerves are coming on full force. My luggage is packed, I’ve spent a week saying goodbye, checked off all the items from my list, and savored my time in NYC.

Although I’ve never been super sentimental, I’ve made an effort to really enjoy everything about my hometown and appreciate it. I am trying to keep the “I Miss You” feelings away now that I’m in Europe. I’m not trying to be a robot but I want to give this the fullest shot I can – this means keeping my head straight ahead (so to speak). But first, let me tell you about my road to get here (London)

Cut to me trying to look cool but fumbling with my luggage at JFK.

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I tried my best to under pack, only bringing the essentials but how is that possible when you’re packing for three months and need to factor in haircare! Low and behold, my fears of being overweight at the airline check in were confirmed when the woman told me that I was 20 lbs over. What that meant was I’d have to pay $15 per extra pound which would amount to about $200. I WASN’T having it. And incase this isn’t stressed enough, please please always weigh your luggage before a flight. It will literally save you the heartache and the pocket shock when you arrive at the airport to have your fears confirmed.

Any who, I’m in a panic about my luggage and the prospect of paying $200. It wasn’t like I had any options (or so I thought) until the sweet bag check lady told me about option 3. I could check a 3rd bag for only $65 and she would just let me on with my overweight baggage. The only problem there was I didn’t have a third suitcase. Again, if you know your bags are overweight, research the airline extra baggage policy. Save you from sweating through your travel outfit. BUT, I did have my backpack so I was able to get away with checking that as my third bag. That woman was literally a godsend.

After that, I zoomed through TSA check in and then looked for my gate.

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Two phone calls and some ritz crackers later, my flight was called for boarding. I was about to get on a plane to better my future with no idea how. The great unknown – how freaking terrifying and exhilarating.

Post To Be Continued