Snowflakes in France

Reflections of a 20-something woman in publishing

Category: Travel

Driving about Town (and the city….)

Oh how under-appreciated are urban taxi drivers! 

I took my first Zipcar out for a spin today. Keyed in the parking garage code like a pro, tapped the Zipcar card to the windshield as instructed, and made my way to Jersey City’s Home Depot.

zip

As a naive, public-transit user, I assumed it would be easier to drive than to PATH it over to this megastore across the tracks. Until I realized my destination was right in the midst of Holland Tunnel traffic. Even worse, I realized this at the same moment that I found myself in the middle of Holland Tunnel lanes — 7 lanes across! No escape!

Across the tunnel and into NYC I went, terrified, nail-biting, and constantly checking the clock, as I had only reserved the car for 2 1/2 hours. An hour later, I arrived in the Home Depot parking lot, safe and sweaty. 

A quick note: Driving in NYC wasn’t that bad; the Tunnel traffic was.

I brought home my wares from the glorious world of car-access: A grill, a box fan, a pile of framed prints from my old apartment, and various other treasures. When I began to gripe to myself about the hassle of parking, I tried to imagine lugging all of this stuff onto the subway and then carrying it several blocks. I stopped my griping.

Quite an adventure! I circled blocks looking for the best route among one-way streets, avoided bad neighborhoods in vain, and of course, accidentally crossed the state border. I ended up extending my reservation for another hour and a half. 

I think I’ll be better when I’m a more seasoned North Jersey driver. In the meantime, thank God for taxi drivers who know their way around better than I do!

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Escaping The City

I find myself packing…again. When I first moved up into my apartment, I was amazed at how often my roommates traveled. Every weekend it seemed like. And when they weren’t gone for work, they took the weekend to go back home, to visit friends and family.

Most people in New York City don’t spend their weekends strolling down 5th Avenue and meandering through The Met and The MOMA. They escape. (I’m still looking for a statistic to support me on this, but all I can find are travel guides and tips for all the people who want to escape the city. I decided that in itself was good enough support for now.)

At my job, the traveling seems to come in spurts, and I’m in the middle of the first one. Three weekends ago, I was in Orlando. I spent the last week and a half in DC. I got back yesterday and tomorrow I’m going to Cape Cod.

I can see how it might become exhausting to travel every weekend, to avoid the grocery store because any food would just go bad, to unpack and repack a suitcase every few days. But traveling for work gives me a sense of adulthood. And yet the excitement of it all reminds me how young I am, how new I am to this life.

I didn’t take many photos in Orlando, but I did remember to document the first hotel room I stayed in for business purposes.

A Queen-sized room at Hilton Garden Inn at Seaworld.

A Queen-sized room at Hilton Garden Inn at Seaworld.

As I mentioned earlier, New Yorkers escape for fun as well as for work, so I sandwiched my week-long course in DC between two weekends on the town. Julie and Keith are still there, and as a little group of journalism nerds, we went to see the Library of Congress and the Newseum.

Schweeties at the Capitol!

Schweeties at the Capitol!

Front pages across the nation on Nov. 22, 2008

Front pages across the nation on Nov. 22, 2008

After I get back from a Cape Cod Thanksgiving, I’ll be off to San Francisco for one night, for one dinner, before flying across the country again to my little room in Hoboken, NJ. And as much as I’ve enjoyed all this escaping, I’m sure my suitcase won’t mind hiding under my bed for a few months after all this excitement.

Are we there yet?

“Are we there yet?” Joel whined from the back seat.

“We’ll be there in 18 1/2 miles,” replied Mike from up front in a very fatherly tone. Joel was impressed, and shut up. But Mike didn’t mean it, he had no idea.

“Where ARE we?” he asked Claire immediately afterward.

None of us really knew. The car was winding around back roads in the Catskills, following another car, whose driver apparently didn’t know where he was going either. We had left the cottage at least a half hour before to find a great waterfall, and we had all been under the impression that it was only about 15 minutes away. It was not.

But that driving time, along with the time spent at the lake, the time on New York state highways, the time lying in the hammock, (it was a great, relaxing weekend) provided me with some noteworthy thoughts. Two of them belong here, in this very post.

1. The Kentucky mystery

Contrary to what I had always thought, the Bluegrass area of Kentucky is called that for a reason. The grass down there is by no means a royal, Kentucky Wildcats Blue, so I decided long ago that someone made that up. But compared to the bright, florescent green of the Catskills grass, it is at least blue-ish.

As it turns out, the grass in Kentucky is an Old World grass from Europe, and it grows all over the nation. But there seems to be a bit of controversy as to whether other states that grow the same species of grass can market it as “Kentucky Bluegrass” since they didn’t grow it in Kentucky (Bluegrass Case Study). How did it get to be named after Kentucky in the first place? Who knows.

2. The New Jersey Mystery

None of my companions can quite remember how to pump gas. In fact, as native New Jerseyians, they are hardly ever allowed to. New Jersey law says so.

When I commented that this was an extrememly ridiculous law that didn’t make any sense, I expected them to defend it. Instead, they all agreed with me. Anna immediately whipped out her new iPhone, and announced, “Let’s google it….New Jersey self-service gas, origin.” (Because why would one ever pass up an opportunity to use an iPhone in the middle of nowhere?)

“Apparently it all started around 1949, when a man in northern New Jersey opened a multipump, self-service gas station. Threatened, the traditional gas station owners lobbied the legislature for a law to ban self-service–and they got it,” according to a Chicago Tribune article from June 5, 2006.

It seems that now people in New Jersey are simply too comfortable with sitting in their cars while trained gas pumpers fill up their tanks. HA! What an odd state.

Beaching it up North

The last beach I visited was in Naples, FL. It sounds tropical and exotic, but I think most of that is because it evokes the idea of its counterpart in Italy. If you’re interested, by all means, don’t let me stop you. But I much prefer the northern beaches of Long Island.

(Though before you base your opinion on mine, I would suggest you check out my friend Ed’s blog where he’s posted some lovely photos of the Naples area. He’s been there all summer.)

Last weekend, after a long Saturday at IKEA where people were pushing past me with all sorts of odds and ends (rugs, cabinets, trees, the list goes on), I needed a break. So on Sunday I took a train away from the city, and then caught another train….waited for a while….hopped on a ferry…and finally landed at Fire Island, New York City’s bohemian getaway (www.fireisland.com/history).

OK, so it took me a lot longer to get there than I anticipated, about 3 hours. And I’ve since discovered that a lot of beaches are much closer (Did I mention that Amanda picked the beach? I blame her for our tedious traveling), BUT I think it was worth it.

So Amanda and I arrived, wind-blown hair and sun-screened skin, to Ocean Beach, a tiny part of a very long and skinny stip of island off of Long Island. We walked past all sorts of little bungalows on our way to the shore, and kids were spilling out in separate little gangs, looking like they were up to mischief, until the 80-year-old local behind them called out “Hi Tommy! Hi Joey! Hi Ben!” And suddenly, as they waved and grinned, they became respectful young boys again, just walking down to the dock.

The sand was hot (as it should be), the water was clear and blue (as it should be but usually isn’t), and the lifeguards were attentive… to each other (as expected — why did I never have that job?). The high was in the mid-80s and not a cloud was in the sky, so we struggled to find a spot big enough for Amanda’s blanket, and we settled in for the day.

I felt like a local New Yorker. Here I was, going to the beach for just a day on my weekend, making intervals of tanning and wave riding, and ending it with a few beers, shimp and clams during happy hour before riding back into the city. It was fabulous.

Who needs Florida? I’ll retire to Fire Island where I can have beach and snow!