One Day in New York City

This week we are hosting an exchange student from France whose one wish was to see NYC.  Since we love the city as well, we decided to go up for a one day excursion. Given how often our guests want to go and see NYC, we decided to create this useful reference for first time visitors. 

We left Bethesda at 5:45am, got to Jersey City around 9:30, and parked at the Park One Garage, 10 Exchange Pl, Jersey City, NJ 07302 (tel 201-432-7380). During the weekend the price is $15 if you stay less than 10 hours. It's a great place to park as you can quickly get to the city, either by taking Path trains ($2.75 per person per ride) or the ferry ($4 per person per ride on weekends). The beauty of parking in Jersey City is that the Hudson River Waterfront Walkaway provides you with an amazing view of New York, and it is a great photo op for your guest.  


We took the ferry that takes you near the World Trade Center, and our first stop was the One World Observatory . As we didn't plan this stop in advance, we  paid the regular $39 per person ticket, but if you book it online, it is $34. There is an option for priority admission, but there was no line when we got there around 10:45, so no need for it. I am usually not crazy about these towers with the view, but this one is really exceptional and definitively worth the visit. It gives an excellent overview of what you will see later during the day, and it allows your guest to see things they will not have time to explore, like the Statue of Liberty or Ellis Island.


When you leave the observatory you will pass by the 9/11 Memorial Plaza . No matter how many times you have seen this, it is always heartbreaking. If you haven't seen it, please visit. 


Then we continued walking down the Vesey Street to the Brooklyn Bridge. There is really no need to go across it- you can just go up to the first tower, or not even that far if you have enough of good photos. 


By this time it was already 1pm, and everyone was starving. We recommend doing your research and deciding what you want to eat before you get tired and hungry, and then just ubering to the restaurant, otherwise you will spend precious time just looking at restaurant reviews. Uber is not cheap, but it beats the subway when you are exhausted. We opted for Buenos Aires, an Argentinian restaurant in the East Village, where we ate excellent milanesa and of course panqueques con dulce de leche (caramel crepes). Malbec is a must. 


After lunch we took Uber to the Flat Iron Building (Fifth Avenue and the 23rd Street) for more photo ops. Then we strolled up the Fifth Avenue and Broadway, peaked into Macy's on the 34th Street, and finally reached the inevitable Times Square.  


Few hundred photos later we took Broadway to Central Park, and as it was slowly getting dark around 5:30pm, we entered the park for a very quick glance.  Completely tired and exhausted we started walking, looking for a coffee place where you can sit and relax. We recommend that you decide before the 40-block-walk where you want to rest in the afternoon, and then just take a taxi or uber to that place, preferably far away from tourists.


On the way back to our car we took the famous subway (so that our guest can experience it) and then Path train back to Jersey. The Hudson River Walkaway didn't disappoint us at night either- the view of the city was even more beautiful than during the day.  We made it back to the garage before 8pm. Short and Sweet. 

15 Tips for Iceland Travel

  1. Decide what you want to get out of the trip- Northern Lights are fascinating but that usually means visiting Iceland in the winter.  Going in winter on the other hand may limit some glacier adventures- glacier hike is more challenging and glacier lagoon is closed.
  2. Compare prices, miles earned, and extra charges between low budget WOW airlines  and Icelandair for the dates of your travel.  Icelandair may be more expensive at times, but if you are collecting Alaska airlines miles, you will get some miles. Furthermore, WOW baggage fees can be very high. 
  3. If you plan to drive, reserve a car ahead of time. We used PROCAR Car Rental and their representative picked us up from the airport and took us to the lot. We opted for all possible insurance they offered, based on numerous trip advisors reviews (super CDW, sand storm insurance, etc.).  Total cost of one week car rental in August, with all the insurance, was app. $1,300. If you decide to rent a camper and save on the hotel cost, a week rental with insurance costs app. $1,800. It is a cheaper option, but less comfortable. 
  4. For U.S. drivers no international driver's license is necessary, you can rent the car with your regular license only. 
  5. Reserve hotel ahead of time, at least for the first few days. If you plan to go to Blue Lagoon first, find an apartment that has a washer/dryer so that you can dry your swimsuits. 
  6. Weather/season permitting book the Glacier Walk and Glacier Lagoon tours ahead of time. They go fast. The glacier lagoon tour is only open May to October. 
  7. Pack waterproof/warm clothes, hiking shoes/boots, warm hiking socks, etc. Most of these items you can buy in REI (being dry is worth every penny). They carry plus size as well.
  8. Chances are it will rain a lot. Forget about the umbrella and focus on waterproof jacket. You will also need a rain cover for your backpack
  9. Pack swimsuits and hair conditioner (many hotels have shampoos but not conditioner). If you are going to volcanoes in Myvatn region, bring a fly net- you will need it. The annoying flies aim for your nose and eyes as you climb up.
  10. Dress in layers. Dress in layers. Dress in layers. Did I mention to dress in layers?
  11. Iceland is very expensive and most of Reykjavik hotels do not offer free breakfast. If possible pack food (ramen noodles, instant oatmeal, energy bars, peanut butter, etc.). 
  12. If you are on the road, buy food in supermarkets and make sandwiches for the next day.
  13. No need to bring lots of cash, they accept credit cards almost everywhere. Even in the bathroom stalls.
  14. The water in Reykjavik slightly smells of sulfur but it's not horrible. It's nothing compared to Myvatn in the north. 
  15. Pay attention when driving, the signs on the road are very small and inconspicuous. The bridges are often one-lane bridges, so adjust and watch the road ahead before deciding to cross the bridge. Most bridges are short enough so that you clearly see if there is incoming traffic competing for the same lane. 



Peru. Home to the Inca’s one of the worlds largest empire in Central & South America, in Pre-Columbian America. The Incas capital, Cusco, happened to contain the highest point in Peru, Machu Picchu, to be closer to the Gods, and remains of the civilization still are here. I guess the Spaniards weren’t completely able to destroy EVERYTHING they conquered. The Inca’s had a strong military, and hard-core religion. Sacrifices were made, with their prisoners that they captured during war. They had complex farming systems, and supplied surplus’ of food in stone warehouses, so if there was ever a famine, they would be able to survive. Also, the Inca’s had a complex communication system in which they tied certain strings called quipu, to send messages around the empire. Their language was called Quechua. In Machu Picchu, they didn’t have roofs, since earthquakes were often, considering the Nazca Plate and South American plate kept converging into one another, earthquakes happened to be the result of this plate movement. Now, because Machu Picchu is really high in elevation, the sun is stronger, because it is closer, and the air is thin, making it harder to breathe. It was fascinating to see how advanced the Inca’s were.


When we visited Cusco, the city was filled with cobblestones, donkeys, and food. We visited it’s plaza, and had to climb some stairs, but took us a while considering the lack of oxygen. The city was filled with poor, wearing traditional clothing. The city had a few tourists, and you could tell because they had hiking backpacks, and gracefully climbed the steps, unlike us, in which, after every step we needed a breather. We woke up early the next day, and went to the train station, which would lead us to Machu Picchu.


I was sitting, and just admiring Mother Nature. I saw farmers cursing at their livestock, kids pushing one another to get a scrappy soccer ball, and rivers flowing freely. We got to the top, and there with all its glory, was Machu Picchu. When we arrived, there was fog, but once we climbed to the top, just like it was out of a movie, the fog slowly lifted and the sun shined on one of seven modern wonders of the world. Machu Picchu’s use, is actually still unknown to us, it’s hard to tell what it could’ve been. 


The high altitude meant it was really cold in the winter, and really hot in the summer. It was the beginning of April, so it should’ve been nice, but once that sun came out, it burned. The sun is dangerous, when you’re so up high, and you can get sunburned…very quickly. The Inca’s were tan, I guess genetically they had skin that could last in the sun all day. Anyhow, we walked amongst trails, and took pictures in front of the iconic mountain, with the remains of stone lying peacefully amongst it. We wandered through the terraces that had different crops, that would keep the Peruvian families alive, and we took selfies with llamas, that loved to take pictures with tourists. It was truly amazing, being “on top of the world”, well at least to the Inca’s.


No matter how many pictures we took, it can never truly substitute actually being present in that moment. When time stops, and its only you and this peaceful place. No matter all those time you click the shutter button, its not even close to feeling the breeze, and watching the fog slowly lift, to reveal it’s hidden treasure. None of the descriptions from the Conquistadors, which blindly decided to  ruin something so beautiful, could match to actually being on top of the mountain, looking down at the creations of Mother Nature.