It’s that time again - the time where I say goodbye to another lovely city
Unlike my previous destination (SF), I didn’t go on any big tours or long drives in NYC, but boy have I been more tired than ever before! I found myself averaging 15km and 30k steps each day, with my days starting and ending at ~6.30AM and 2AM respectively. This is by no means a complaint but it goes to show how much I loved the hustle and the bustle of the city (obviously, as a city girl!) - there was always another attraction to see, another train to catch, another street to photograph, another part of Central Park that I was yet to explore.
I’m not going to recount everything from this trip (I mean I covered a lot of ground in NYC) so here are some key things I wanted to share. There are plenty more to say about this city outside of these, but I’ll mention those once I put a post up with photos. :)
Top of the Rock VS Empire State Building
I had the pleasure of going to both observatory decks in the last couple of days, and I must say - the feeling I got from the minute I set foot at the Top of the Rock made so much more impact than the feeling I got at the Empire State Building. If I was to compare this feeling with one of my San Francisco moments, it’d be the same feeling I got at the bottom of Bridalveil Fall at Yosemite National Park - it was absolutely breath taking (even if it was absolutely freezing at the Top of the Rock). Again, I can’t exactly pinpoint one thing that made me feel this way, but personally felt more emotional at the Top of the Rock.
I’d love to hear what you guys think of the two, which one you guys prefer? And for those of you travelling there in the next few months - if you have to make a choice between the two, I’d highly recommend Top of the Rock!
So on my first day in NYC, I was on foot the entire day - making my way from the Upper East Side, down towards Midtown, and back to the hotel. I did this mostly to explore, to get my bearings around the city before hopping on public transportation. That night, I was chatting to mum’s old friend who’s a NYC local, and was giving me tips on using the Subway - she reassured me that it wasn’t as complicated as it looked, but I was still very anxious about doing it. (To you Sydney folks, have a look at the Subway network and let me know if at a glance, you are not overwhelmed at all!)
The following morning, I anxiously left the hotel for Grand Central Terminal where I met my first hurdle for the day - buying a weekly unlimited Metrocard from the vending machine. I must have tried 4 different machines but all of them refused to let me buy one, so I figured that settling for a $25 Metrocard would suffice for the next 4 days (which was actually perfect).
Once I swiped my Metrocard through the gates for the first time, my anxiety slowly diminished. Having downloaded the NYC Subway app, I was able to follow which line to jump on for each destination. I must say - the research I did the night before really helped, like ensuring I knew how to distinguish between Uptown and Downtown trains and which ones I needed to catch; or even what the letters and the numbers meant (really just the name of the line, instead of our words back in Syd).
By the end of that day, I felt like a bit of a local using the subway. I can confidently say I didn’t get on the wrong train, didn’t miss any stops or ended up in the completely wrong destination. I’m definitely proud of myself for this achievement!
Old Friends, different cities
As I mentioned in the previous section, I was fortunate enough to meet with one of mum’s old good friends from back in the Philippines. (Tita J) She’s been living in NYC for numerous years and was not only a great resource for me for tips and insights, but it was good to be around someone close to family while being on the other side of the world from mine.
My mum and Tita J haven’t seen each other for years, but I absolutely love the fact that I can feel the love and care between them, from an outsider’s perspective. I’ve actually never met Tita J before (I think she knew me as a baby, but I definitely don’t recall meeting her), but I was overwhelmed by the kindness she showed me regardless. This just reiterated how strong the bond between her and Tita J must’ve been/must be!
I wish that one day, years from now, I will also encounter and keep the same kind of friendships that mum and her friends had. Talk about friendship goals, right?
Of course, this one deserves a special call out. Not much to say here, but I’ve had Shake Shack 3 times in the last 5 days and you know why - because it’s so good! I definitely prefer it over In N Out back in California. I didn’t get to try the hotdogs, but I did try the Single & Double Shack Burger and Cheesy Fries - definitely loved all of the above! I’m slightly lactose intolerant so I wasn’t daring enough to try their shakes since I was always on-the-go!
TV Show/movie references
I must say that I absolutely loved the fact that I could relate so many different TV shows to what I was seeing! I wonder if the locals feel all giddy whenever they see NYC in movies and TV shows? I definitely felt a certain amount of excitement when I walked through Central Park (yup, endless amount of movies and TV show references there), sat on the MET steps, Grand Central Terminal and so much more attractions in NYC. Being a huge TV show geek (yup, I buy all the DVD’s of the shows I love!), making the connections between what I watched and what I was seeing in person, meant a lot to me.
I learned so much on this leg of my trip, considering it’s a much faster pace here than back in California. I think that being a solo traveller in a fast paced environment such as NYC really pushes you to your limits. It doesn’t really give you much time to second guess yourself. You’ve just got to learn to trust your gut, make your own judgement, take a leap and be prepared to make mistakes along the way.
Once again waiting to board a flight out of JFK at the moment… where am I off to next?
Tonight, my adventure in the Bay Area comes to an end, but with a smile on my face.
These last 5 days in this beautiful city have been so special, magical and undoubtedly unforgettable. San Francisco was my first stop on this 3-week long solo adventure to the United States - and I believe that’s what makes this leg of my trip so special. It’s the part of my trip where I was most anxious and uncertain about a lot of things. Here’s how this trip’s been so far.
Disclaimer: this one’s more of a text-based recount of my experience so far, I’ll do a post on each city with actual photos at some point - probably once I’m back in Sydney.
As most of my friends and family know, I had a bit of a scare when I attempted to check-in for my flight. Upon lining up, I was advised that my flight to SFO was cancelled - which they handed me a piece of paper, advising us to call the 1800 number immediately. Like any other panicked human, I rang the number and spoke to the operator.
Firstly, the operator told me that my flight wasn’t scheduled until ‘tomorrow’. I actually had to tell them that ‘tomorrow’ is actually today in Sydney. What a silly mistake to tell the customer! He’s lucky I was switched on enough to actually correct his mistake, otherwise I would’ve been a confused passenger and maybe even ‘miss’ the flight completely (if it was actually on).
Shortly after he’s finally realised he’s calling from the states and I’m in Sydney, I asked when the next available flight was. That’s when my heart stopped: the next flight out of Sydney and into San Francisco was not until 2 days later… 48 HOURS LATER!!! Of course at this point, I was in disbelief and requested for an earlier flight as this was unacceptable. Without any luck with the operator, he advised that I speak to the United guys in the airport to help me out.
Upon hanging up, I approached the service desk and this lady asked me if I already called the 1800 number, to which I responded yes to, also relaying what the operator told me. “2 days from now? That can’t be right!” She took my passport and did her thing on the computer on behind the desk, gave it back to me and walked away. She kept coming back and forth but wasn’t telling me anything - I figured she was trying to serve other passengers who are trying to check-in to other United flights. During this time, this other passenger sharing the counter with me was telling me that she was actually coming from Perth, connecting through Sydney to SFO, and needs to do another connection from SFO to a small little town in Oregon - she too, was impacted by the cancelled flight which we had no notice for until we got there. She had an epic trip ahead of her!
About 30-40 minutes later (over an hour since I was originally advised that my flight’s been cancelled), I was issued a different itinerary which consisted of a Qantas SYD to LAX flight and a domestic transfer via United from LAX to SFO, leaving about an hour earlier than my original flight, but getting to SFO 3 hours later. I had no issues with this at all for the following reasons: changing to a Qantas flight is definitely an upgrade from a United flight; and this new itinerary lets me leave the country/arrive in the states as scheduled. [I later found out that I was allocated the same flight as the older lady I met at the service desk, yay!]
Words cannot even express my anxiety throughout all of that, considering that was the beginning of the trip! I cannot even begin to describe the sense of relief I felt once I got through Immigration & security checks and finally just waited at the boarding gates. Boy, what a start to my trip.
Meeting amazingly nice humans
So I had the pleasure of sitting next to a wonderful lady from far north NSW on my SYD to LAX journey, who was also American. She was not only a nice human to interact with, but she gave me so many tips for my trip - all of which I’ve taken on board so far, and will continue to do so until my trip ends! We also had some great conversations outside of travelling - ranging from politics, life choices, aspirations and a whole bunch of other things. She also left me her personal details so that I can contact her in case I run into any trouble while I’m on my trip - how nice is that?!
When I went on a beautiful cycling tour across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito, I met a super friendly Filipino/American man at the bike hire shop. I did this tour on my first full day in SF so any friendly interaction helped me with the anxiety of being in a foreign country, by myself! He was telling me stories about his previous travels as well as some general US tips. I was disappointed to find out that he wasn’t the tour guide, but just before I left for the tour, he showed me a trail in Sausalito on the map that I might enjoy, since he noticed the GoPro strapped to my hand (unfortunately due to time constraints, I couldn’t go on this trail). The day after, on my way home from Alcatraz, I was strolling through Fishermans Wharf and ran into him on his way home from work - it was getting dark at this point and so he asked where I was headed, and asked if I needed a lift anywhere. Having been only a couple of blocks from the cable car turnaround stop, I politely declined, but of course I greatly appreciated the offer!
On my recent day trip to Yosemite National Park, I was against blessed with another nice lady to sit next to on the bus. She was a tourist just like me, and is from Guadeloupe (French Caribbean). Since we were both solo travellers on the bus, we thought it was best to stick together throughout the duration of the trip in Yosemite. This worked well safety-wise and also photo-wise, of course! She had some issues with her phone (like not allowing her to use the rear camera, being stuck with using the front facing camera), so I offered to take a couple of photos using my phone and just send them to her via email/Whatsapp. It’s no bother really, and I can understand how painful that must be, considering photos are such a prominent part of travelling (yes, trust a photographer to say that!).
It’s been such a pleasure to converse with people from different cultures, values and beliefs! Their perspective on certain aspects of life really opens up your mind about the way you actually view things - reminding you that there is no ‘one way, same way’ approach to life. It’s also been so interesting to receive so many random acts of kindness from strangers - something that’s a little bit more rare back home.
I highly value this aspect of my travel so far, considering how shy I used to be, 3+ years ago. I used to be terrified of the thought of approaching someone, ordering at a restaurant, picking up the phone to call someone - anything that involved interacting with people I didn’t know! Seeing that I’m now able to converse and interact comfortably with strangers (& being able to pick up on the creepy ones from the good ones) makes me extremely grateful and pleased to see growth within myself. I hope to continue this growth not only over the course of this trip, but also for the coming years of adulthood.
Being left in awe
Oh my goodness, my visit to SF has been nothing short of amazing. Yes, I’ve been doing the tourist-y things - but God, I totally understand why they are flooded by tourists. Seeing all the things I’ve seen has left me breathless and in most cases, in awe. Here are my highlights, (photos to come shortly).
- Hanging off the sides of the cable car as it cruises up and down the hills of SF
- 14km ride from Fishermans Wharf to Sausalito (across the Golden Gate Bridge)
- Live NBA game: GSW vs LAL, with early entry since I’m an American Express cardholder (yup, got to watch them warmup!)
- Lunch at Pier 39
- Everything I did in Yosemite National Park - especially the magical moment of being at the foot of Bridalveil Fall, wherein its mist wets the heck out of you, but you still stand there because of how exhilirating it is to stand underneath and look up at its beauty.
- Lombard Street
- Painted Ladies - Postcard Row
- Easter Sunday mass at St Patrick’s Catholic Church
Being closer to friends and family from miles away
So I’ve been gone less than a week, and I’ve been so surprised at how much my loved ones have made an effort to check in on me. I’ve been overwhelmed with lovely messages from friends and family, and of course, I showed my appreciation by sending them all selfies from all over the city!
Jokes aside, I just wanted to call out how amazing it has felt to be so far from them but still feel so much closer to a lot of them, when I was back home? I guess this ties in with the whole ‘taking people’ for granted kind of discussion?
p.s. it looks like the itinerary that I created has been useful to them since they’ve all been stalking my flights and tours from back home! :) I’m glad my spreadsheet is of use to more than just myself!
As I continue my solo adventure and board the red eye to New York City in a few minutes, I just want to say - San Francisco, I have fallen in love with you.