I’ll be having a busy November with two trips! These were both quickly planned and fairly unexpected!
My first trip will be to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (USA). I’ve never been here before, and it’s been on my list. I have a friend who lives there, and I planned on going when a cheap flight sale came around. I got an email from jetBlue about a Halloween sale, and I booked a round-trip ticket for $78. Pretty lit. I’ll be staying with my friend, and we’ll be exploring Philadelphia by day.
The Philadelphia trip will be October 31-November 5, and then a few days later on November 10, I’ll be heading to New York City (USA) again with my mom! We haven’t done a trip together recently. We did fly to New Jersey for a concert when I was in late middle school or early high school, but that’s been the only “far-away” trip anytime recently (and that’s been about 10 years!)
We’ll be doing a few of the same things I did on my last trip, like the Statue of Liberty and Immigration Museum, but also some new adventures as well. I planned the trip around the 10th American Beatbox Championships which I’ll be going to myself on Sunday night (our trip is Sunday – Tuesday). I went to ABC back in 2017 with Brady. Maybe I’ll make a back-dated post about that trip someday (and perhaps New Jersey, too).
Our flight is fairly early Sunday, and then late afternoon back on Tuesday. We’ll be flying into LaGuardia, which is an airport I’ve never been to. But, we’ll be flying out of JFK, which I’ve been to a couple of times.
We’ll be staying in a hotel because, like last time, when looking at costs of AirBNBs and transportation to central areas, a hotel is fairly comparable. We’ll be staying at Pointe Plaza Hotel, which seems fairly nice and in a good location for things.
I only had a few hours until my flight, but I wanted to explore one more thing. I was already in downtown Manhattan, so I decided to check out Wall Street, NYC’s financial distract. I simply walked around and took a few photos before my couple hour subway ride back to JFK Airport.
Federal Hall National Memorial. Statue in front is George Washington. This building, located at 26 Wall Street, served as the first meeting place of the Congress of Confederation and was where the Stamp Act Congress met to draft their message against “taxation without representation.” It was also the the first meeting place of Congress as it is now and was where George Washington was sworn in as president. It also served as New York’s first City Hall.
Next, it was time to make the trek back to the JFK Airport.
After that adventure, I got checked into the airport quite a bit early (perhaps 8:00 PM?) and hung around for a bit, got dinner, called a friend. And then, it was time for the flight back to Maine! It was a bit delayed with take-off, but the flight only ended up being around 45 minutes, so I was back to Maine right around midnight. Until next time, New York!
The museum itself is huge, plus there’s other parts of the island to explore. You could easily spend a whole day there if you were really interested in every part and exhibit of the museum. I did an overview and visited most of the exhibits using the included audio guide. I probably spent about three hours there, but I felt like I missed so much detail and analysis! I did see a lot, though.
The ferry takes you from Liberty Island to Ellis Island.
The island is shaped a bit like a “U” and the ferry enters and docks in the middle. The museum is to your right as you exit the ferry.
Photos courtesy of Encyclopedia Britannica and Wikipedia
The history behind Ellis Island is pretty cool. It originally was a military fort and detention center. In the 1900s, it was an immigrant processing center and also had medical quarantines. Over 12 million immigrants entered through Ellis Island, and it’s estimated that 40% of US citizens can trace at least one ancestor who entered through here. When the “era of mass immigration” slowed down, the Island was primarily used for detention of immigrants who were to be deported. During the time when it was an immigrant processing center, only about 1-2% of immigrants who came through were deported. If they were, it was primarily due to illness or disability. Immigrants went through a long processing time, complete with interviews and medical screening.
The Island closed for this purpose in 1954. The buildings began to deteriorate and collapse, but in the decades to come, there were plans to restore the Island for historical purposes. They kept parts of the building the same, such as the main hall in the main building and the original floors in a few of the rooms, but much of the museum had to be restructured and rebuilt. They also have displays with some of the original items from the the processing center. It reopened in the late 1900s as a museum.
The Great Hall: one of the spaces that was restored to look nearly identical to its original form. First photos courtesy of History.com.
Original floors in one of the exhibit rooms. Followed by exhibits of some remaining items taken from the deteriorated building. Last image is an exact replica of the court room in its original location in the main building.
There’s so much more history on Ellis Island and the Immigration Museum that I simply can’t do justice! Read more about the museum and its exhibits on the National Park Service website.
Next, it was time to take the ferry back to Battery Park, New York. It ended up being super sunny that day, and I didn’t realize this until I was already on the islands. If you’ve kept up with my travel blog, you know I have a chronic problem with getting sunburned. The ferry wait ended up being pretty long because there was too many people in line for the first one, so I ended waiting an additional 20 minutes for the second one.
I made it back to the main land, and then it was time to find a short final adventure before my flight back to Maine!
Tuesday was my last day in NYC as part of my short three-day trip. I started the day by packing up my small bag of things and heading down to the lobby of the hotel for breakfast and a leisurely cup of coffee.
Today’s adventures were going to the Statue of Liberty/Liberty Island and Ellis Island. For this, you buy a ferry ticket for Statue Cruises which provides you a roundtrip ferry ride and entrance onto both islands and both islands’ museums. Entrance into the Statue of Liberty pedestal or crown is separate, though. I purchased pedestal access. Crown access was not available (typically, you need to purchase this 4-6 months in advance). Something important to note is that Statue Cruises is the only legitimate place to buy tickets for the ferry and the islands. There’s plenty of scammers on the streets.
The ferry route looks like this:
After arriving in Battery Park and crossing through Battery Place, the security screening to enter the ferry was pretty intense and similar to airport security. One thing I did not realize was that the 10:00 AM referred to my entry into the pedestal, not my ferry time. I was still able to get into the Statue, thankfully. The ferry leaves every 20 minutes from New York’s Battery Park and a bit less frequently from New Jersey’s Liberty State Park (see departure schedule).
There were strict regulations on the size of bags (thankfully I packed light because I had all my luggage with me after checking out of the hotel that morning). Even so, you couldn’t bring any bags/purses/etc into the Statue, but there were lockers available (make sure to bring quarters!). No food or drinks were allowed, and they searched for anything relatively sharp or weapon-like. They also had metal detectors. After the three-part screening process, you were able to board the ferry.
It was perhaps 15 minutes until arriving at Liberty Island. This island has an extensive history and most recently was Fort Wood, a defensive fort that was constructed with an 11-point star to mark the perimeter. It was completed in 1811 in preparation for British invasion. It received its name following the War of 1812 after Lt. Wood who was killed in the Siege of Fort Eire.
In the 1880s, it was selected to be used to house the Statue of Liberty, a gift from France that was delivered to the US in pieces and formally unveiled on October 28, 1886, to mark the American Centennial. The stone walls of the fort were used as the base for the Statue, but the rest of the military fort was removed. The 11-point star base outline is still present and can be seen clearly when one is atop the Statue pedestal or crown.
The statue was designed by Frederick Bartholdi, a French sculptor, and framed by Gustave Eiffel (who also designed the Eiffel Tower).
I had a ticket to go up to the pedestal, which is 89 feet (27 meters) tall. It’s 215 steps from the lobby to the pedestal, but an elevator is available to the pedestal, not to the crown. From the pedestal to the crown, it’s 154 spiraling steps! Only for the brave at heart to make the trek up there.
Looking up at the Statue from the pedestal. Check out this video.
Views from atop the pedestal.
There is also a Statue of Liberty Museum on the island which shows the history and also holds the original torch (which has since had to be replaced) as well as a few other pieces of the Statue that have been restored over the years. There is a small museum in the lobby at the base level of the Statue, which is where the original museum was. Now, there is a larger museum that exists on one edge of the island with more artifacts, displays, and history about the Statue.
Replicas of the face and foot.
Other cool facts:
The seven spikes on the crown represent the seven continents and oceans.
The tablet in the left hand is inscribed with Roman Numerals with the date of the Declaration of Independence.
The Statue of Liberty is now a green color due to oxidization.
The Statue weighs 450,000 pounds (204,116 kilograms).
The full name is Liberty Enlightening the World.
After exploring the museum, I went over to the ferry line, realized I forgot my bag, ran back to the lockers, and back to the ferry line, and still had a good amount of time before the next ferry arrived. As it came into port, I got excited for the next adventure: Ellis Island and the Immigration Museum!
On Sunday morning, I started the day by going to The Museum of Jewish Heritage. Their current exhibition was Auschwitz: Not Long Ago, Not Far Away, which was a chilling title given the current political climate particularly in America.
The museum exists to educate individuals about Jewish life in the 20th and 21st centuries – before, during, and after the Holocaust. They have a range of permanent and special exhibitions in addiction to the Auschwitz exhibition. Ticket prices vary depending on whether or not you wish to see that exhibition. Hours, general ticket prices, and visitor information can be found here. Special exhibition ticket prices can be found here.
More than 1.1 million people were murdered in Auschwitz between May 1940 and January 1945. It was the largest Nazi-run concentration camp and was located in Poland. A vast majority were executed almost immediately upon arrival. Out of 1.3 million deported there, 1.1 million were murdered – primarily through means such as gassing, shooting, exhaustion, starvation, disease, or medical experiments.
“Featuring more than 700 original objects and 400 photographs, the New York presentation of the [Auschwitz: Not Long Ago, Not Far Away] exhibition allows visitors to experience artifacts from the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum on view for the first time in North America, including hundreds of personal items—such as suitcases, eyeglasses, and shoes—that belonged to survivors and victims of Auschwitz. Other artifacts include concrete posts that were part of the fence of the Auschwitz camp; fragments of an original barrack for prisoners from the Auschwitz III-Monowitz camp; a desk and other possessions of the first and the longest serving Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Höss; a gas mask used by the SS; Picasso’s Lithograph of Prisoner; and an original German-made Model 2 freight train car used for the deportation of Jews to the ghettos and extermination camps in occupied Poland” (About the Exhibition).
After I finished at the Jewish Heritage Museum, I got a bus ticket for CitySightseeing New York, which is a common practice so that I get an overview of a city I’ve visiting. I actually regretted this this time around because it was a whole lot of time spent in traffic with not a lot to see at least in the first tour I took, which was the Brooklyn (and part of Manhattan) tour. The next day, I had plenty planned, so I didn’t have time to use the other tours, and I was too tired to stay up for the night tour. So I wasn’t necessarily super pumped about doing this, but I hadn’t ever driven around Brooklyn, so it was nice to see. But, if I had to do it again, I would’ve chosen another tour if I only had time for one. We did get to drive over the Brooklyn Bridge, as well as see the United Nations building, so those were two highlights.
After the bus dropped me off about 10 blocks or so from Times Square, I decided to walk over there. I’ve been there before, but I had time and decided to wander. Well, I also regretted this a little bit because I hate walking in crowds, and it honestly took me over an hour to get to where I wanted to go, which wasn’t that far.
After visiting a couple shops and deciding I wasn’t going to go all the way to 42nd Street, I turned around to get to the subway station, which I ended up not being able to find after about a half hour of walking. So I turned back around and ended up having to go to the 42nd Street subway stop anyway. Times Square is the picturesque New York City, but in my opinion, at least for me, once you’ve seen it once, you’ve seen it. And I was ready to get out and be able to walk at a decent pace again without dozens of people smushing me! After I got on the subway, I had a somewhat long train ride back to the hotel, but when I got back, I watched some TV, relaxed, and headed to bed after a long day out on the town.
On Saturday afternoon, after breakfast at the infamous and bougie Russ and Daughters, we headed to the Museum of Sex, an interesting choice but why not! It came up on the list of “Things to Do in NYC” and caught our attention, so we took an Uber on over to the museum which is in Midtown Manhattan on Fifth Avenue at 27th Street.
Tickets are usually $16.50, but we got an online $5 off discount code. They also have a student, senior, and military $3 discount with valid ID. Additional costs apply for their amusement games towards the end of the museum, though.
The Museum of Sex describes their mission as follows:
The Mission of the Museum of Sex is to preserve and present the history, evolution and cultural significance of human sexuality. The Museum produces exhibitions, publications and programs that bring the best of current scholarship to the widest possible audiences and is committed to encouraging public enlightenment, discourse and engagement.
The museum opened in 2002 and was the first of its kind in the world. Its first exhibition was NYC SEX: How New York Transformed Sex in America. Since, they’ve had over 30 exhibitions and 6 virtual installations all tied to their mission of open discussion around sexuality. They currently have over 200,000 artifacts, including “works of art, photography, clothing and costumes, technological inventions and historical ephemera” and a research library and multimedia library.
The museum also has a gift shop which includes some gag gifts, memorabilia, and a wide array of sex toys. The gift shop is off to the side, while the exhibits start with a staircase, and once you enter the first exhibit, you go through each one in order. You have to go through each one to be able to exit the museum. We stopped by the gift shop first because it was first on our left. People from the public are able to stop here without buying a ticket, and it has an additional street entrance. While there were plenty of people giggling and playing around (there were a few bachelorette parties going on, something the museum hosts frequently), there were some serious customers and some very helpful staff committed to guiding people in exploring their sexuality.
The main exhibition was Stag: The Illicit Origins of Pornographic Film. I have some videos of this, but it got removed from YouTube, so I’m sure it would also get removed here. I will include a few photos here that should meet community guidelines (hopefully?). So the Stag exhibition covers pornographic films from the early 1900s until the late 1960s, showing mostly short, black-and-white, anonymously produced films, which were referred to as “stags.”
“Stag parties” were screenings of the films and mostly attracted middle-class, heteronormative, white males. They would gather in legion halls, fraternities, or brothels and drink and watch the films together. The stag era is significant in highlighting cultural and social norms of the time, such as pornography being illegal for quite some time, homosexual depictions being illegal for even longer, male-pleasure focused films, and a degree of shame around sexuality.
The next exhibit we stopped by was Punk Lust: Raw Provocation 1971-1985 which looked at punk culture and the way it used language around sexuality to break through cultural, social, and gender norms of the time. I found this exhibit a little harder to follow and not quite as interesting as the Stag exhibit, but it certainly had some interesting artifacts.
Next, we walked by the Jump for Joy: Bouncy House of Breasts and through some of the amusement type games, which were very funny to watch people play. We didn’t participate in any of them, except one game which we were asked to test out before it went public. It was basically a reverse whack-a-mole where you grabbed, um, a phallic item in a “glory hole” type setting, and the person who could grab the most won. It felt very weird but was also a fun experience to just be open with the idea of it.
That pretty much finished up our adventure! This was a super interesting and unique experience. If you have time, check it out! Buy tickets here.
Next we headed out to grab dinner for my brother, Erik, before he headed out to a concert. After that, I headed to my hotel, the Wall Street Inn. Comparing Air BNBs and hotels and factoring in breakfast and transportation costs, it ended up being about the same cost for me to get a hotel room, so I went with that. I spent about two hours scrolling through Air BNBs and hotels, so I was pretty pumped when I finally had one narrowed down. The Wall Street Inn, as the name would suggest, is right in the heart of Wall Street, which is in Lower Manhattan. This worked well because it was close to the main places I was going (a few museums and then the Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island). NYC is so big that it’s normal to spend a couple hours on the subway depending on where you are in what borough, so I was focused a little bit more on the location for the trip than I usually do.
This is basically exactly what my hotel room looked like. It was a bit outdated and dusty to be honest, but I would rate it 3.5/5. For the cost and the proximity to where I was going, it was worth it. I got settled into my hotel for the night and went to sleep pretty early. I had barely gotten any sleep the night before and had had an early flight, so I was out like a light!
I randomly decided to take a trip down to New York City (New York, USA) for a mini trip this summer. I lined up the trip with a weekend my brother would be there, so we were able to see each other on the first day. NYC is about 6 hours and 300 miles (482 km) from where I am in Maine, but I decided to fly, especially because I had accrued a good amount of points on my JetBlue rewards credit card. After using my points, my flight only ended up being around $11 for taxes and fees! Pretty rad.
My flight was for early in the morning, but the evening before, I got the dreaded text about a delay. Of course, you still have to arrive as if it was scheduled as planned in case things changed, which meant I was up around 3:30 AM and at the airport for 4:30 AM. With PWM being such a small airport and not having any baggage to check (plus being pretty certain about the 3+ hour delay), I only arrived about an hour in advance, which is a lot closer than I normally would.
After I arrived, I had an hour and 15 minute subway ride to meet my brother at Russ and Daughters, a fancy restaurant in Manhattan with great reviews. The subway was quite the adventure: AirTrain (JFK Terminal 5) for 5 stops, transfer to A (Brooklyn) for 12 stops, transfer to F (Manhattan) for 4 stops. And then, I was there! I always forget how big NYC is. It’s pretty normal to spend an hour+ on the subway, especially traveling between boroughs.
Aside from not being bougie enough to understand half the menu, it was great! While it was a bit pricey, I’d say it was normal for New York and a middle-to-higher-end restaurant (about $30 each with tax/tip).
Our day was a bit disrupted because of my delayed flight and arriving three hours later than expected, but we made the best of it! He was only in NYC for the weekend and had other plans as well, so it was just Saturday we had to reconnect.
We took a look at interesting things to do in Manhattan and weirdly decided upon the Museum of Sex, which I will cover in my next post!
First Pride adventure of the summer was down to Boston! I took a bus (which I almost missed) and got there Friday afternoon. I spent some time with one of my sorority sisters, and we went to the parade and festival on Saturday!
Portsmouth Pride: June 22, 2019
I went down to New Hampshire just a day or so after returning from my trip to Montréal! It was a super brief trip. I left around 10:00 AM on Saturday, we went to the festival around noon and stayed for a few hours, we had dinner, I spent the night, and left early the next morning! So, about 4 hours of driving and 200 miles over the course of 24 hours! But, I got to see two of my sorority sisters who live down there, and I hadn’t seen them in a while!
To start off our second day in Montréal, we had breakfast at Tim Horton’s – obviously! This is a very popular chain, comparable to Dunkin’ Donuts in the northeastern United States. They used to have some locations in mid and southern Maine but just about all of them have closed. I don’t know what it’s comparable to in other parts of the US, but basically, it’s a fast food coffee/breakfast food type shop. Nothing that exciting and to write home about, but they are notorious for their “iced capps” (iced cappacino) which are delish. When I lived in northern Maine (which is close to the Canadian border so they have Tim’s there still), my coworkers and I had a weekly (or, uh… biweekly sometimes) iced capp date to decompress. Anyway, long story short, Tim’s is a must-do if you go to Canada.
Even though we drove to Montréal, we primarily used public transportation to avoid a few things: parking issues, traffic, and driving in a congested area that we’re not familiar with and signs not in our language. We drove over to Tim’s because it was right down the street, but then we went back to our Air BNB, parked, and walked about five minutes down to the Du College orange line subway station to take the 30-minute train ride downtown to get started on our adventures for the day!
If you are traveling in a city with public transportation, I highly highly highly (did I say highly?) suggest downloading the Citymapper app. You can also utilize it as a website, but I’m not familiar with using that feature. I’m know there are some apps/websites that are similar, but this one has helped me for years without fail. Not every single city is on there, but just about everywhere I’ve been to has had it, including out of country locations. You enter where you want to go, and it guides you step-by-step on how to get there. If you are utilizing public transportation, it tells you what station or bus stop to go to, where and when to transfer, how many stops, etc. It literally has saved me. I wouldn’t have survived living in Boston without it. (Okay, Citymapper, I hope you’re listening; I want some funding for promoting you).
We started downtown at the Tourist Information Centre of Montréal. This is in the Old Montréal area. I typically like to start my trips with a bus tour to get an overview of the city, some history, and my bearings on my location. While these tend to be pretty touristy and don’t show you everything, it’s a good start. We overlapped our bus tour with the Montréal Passport, which gives you access to quite a few major attractions in Montréal. Again, these are pretty touristy, so it’s important to explore other things as well. This is something I’m constantly learning – how to get “off the path” so to speak and see more of the city and a better sense of life and culture. You tend to mostly see the “hub” of things and major sites but not the neighborhoods and things like that. But, I certainly enjoy a lot of the common touristy things to start off.
We bought bus tour tickets for the Gray Line 48-hour hop-on hop-off tour. So this is deceiving. It’s not actually 48 hours. It’s two days. So if you buy it on a Monday afternoon, you’re only covered for the rest of Monday and then Tuesday. This was fine because we only planned on taking a few rides. We started by doing a full loop of the bus tour (rather than hopping off, hopping on) and hearing some interesting history from the guide. This was in English, although most things in Montréal are offered in English and French or just French. With this being a common tourist bus tour, it made sense they offered it primarily in English, but I believe they also had bilingual tours. The bus tour was about $44 USD for each person, coming to a total of about $85 USD (or approximately $112 CAD). Before we hopped on the bus, we took in a few beautiful sites around the Tourist Information Centre.
I can’t find a map online that has a visual depiction of the route that the bus takes, but it stops at the following locations:
Place Jacques Cartier
Place Ville Marie
Quartier des Spectacles
Fine Arts Museum
Saint Joseph’s Oratory
While we were at the Tourist Information Centre, we also bought the Montréal Passport, which gives you access to a few dozen attractions/sites. Unlike the bus tour, this is actually for a full 48 or 72 hours from the time that you first use it. We got the 72 hour pass figuring this would cover most of the sites we would see over the first few days. It was fairly pricey, about $98 a person (for a total of $195 USD) or approximately $255 CAD. While it is a bit pricey, it covers quite a lot:
While I’ve had many recent travels to Canada, I had yet to go to Montréal! This was an impromptu trip with no real plans ahead of time, and I was excited to go on this adventure with my partner, Brady! This was his first time in the great land of Canada, so that was another exciting part of the trip.
Montréal is the most populated city in Québec and second most populated in Canada. Its name comes from the large mountain in the city, Mount Royal. The city was originally named Ville Marie (“City of Mary”) when early settlers founded it in 1642 and was formally incorporated as a city in 1832. Montréal is actually an archipelago, with the heart of the city being on the Island of Montréal. It is between the Saint Lawrence and Ottawa rivers. The city has a population of approximately 1.7 million (2016) with a total of 4.1 million (2016) in the greater Montréal metropolitan area.
We left early Saturday morning for the 220 mile (355 km) trek to Montréal! It took us about 5-6 hours with stops added in. First step was saying our goodbyes to our doggo, Sage! Then we were off!
To be honest, I slept most of the way there, even though we were going to split up driving. Whoops. So, I can’t speak to much of the drive, but it went fairly smoothly! Border patrol is intimidating as always, but it’s pretty low-key at Canadian borders so I’m not sure why I get so tense everytime!
We arrived late afternoon and headed to our Air BNB to get settled in! This was my 6th stay in an Air BNB, and it was a great experience! Our host, Dominic, was super friendly and responsive, and the place was great (see listing here and pictures below).
Next stop was making plans for the evening! We decided to head downtown to the busier part of the city. One of the great things about our Air BNB was that it was literally a five minute walk to the Du College subway station (they refer to the subway as the Metro, and the bus as… the bus). This was surprisingly my first time ever taking Canadian public transportation!
It being a Saturday night, I wanted to check out the nightlife! We bought tickets to go to Newspeak Montréal and headed downtown! First things first, it was nearly impossible to find the place. It literally wasn’t labeled at all. This became a recurrent theme in Montréal like everywhere. We finally found the place after circling a few blocks, but then we ran into a pickle with not having our IDs on hand. So, the bar/club scene ended up being a no-go for the night, but we made the best of it!
We walked around more in the “nightlife” area (which is primarily centered around Crescent Street and the surrounding streets). We stopped to have dinner at an Italian place called Da Giovanni. It was good, and then we headed back for the night to rest up for the next day!