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OK, I wanted to do a single post with my best pictures from 2010. Maybe I still will but I will start with some pictures from New Orleans. As part of my month of travel with JetBlue’s All You Can Jet Pass, I visited New Orleans in September 2010. Click on any picture to see a full size version on a new page.
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© 2010, Charles McCool
“Who is this old man staying in our room?” the two young women must
have thought when I returned to my assigned dorm room. I had checked
into the Seattle City Center Hostel during the early afternoon, made
my bed and set out to explore Seattle. Only one of the four bunked
beds were made when I was there earlier and the thought never crossed
my mind that the rooms would be coed (really).
At 10:30pm, I was tired since I had been awake for 19 hours.
I would have preferred to go right to sleep but these two young women
were on their beds playing on their computers. So, I dropped off some
things and headed back out. When I returned after midnight, one was
asleep and the other was on her computer (again or still, I wondered).
Words were few. Earlier, I said hello, they said hello. I asked if
they were late sleepers since I planned to be up early. Computer girl said
that she is a deep sleeper. The other said nothing other than hello. I
assumed later that she did not speak English since she looked Asian. When I
returned after midnight I whispered good night to Computer Girl,
whose bed was diagonal to my upper bunk.
Sure enough, I woke early and left by 6am. Neither appeared to be
awake. I returned after 10am to check out and CG was, yes, in bed
playing on her computer. It was a gorgeous Seattle day and she seemed
like a nice, normal girl. I wanted to urge her to get out of bed or
call a hotline but it was none of my business, I ultimately decided.
I had a great deal of internal conflict during my stay. First was
the thought of even staying in a hostel. Since the focus of my trip is budget travel alternatives and spending as little as possible,
a hostel was definitely the correct lodging choice. I last stayed in a hostel
eight years ago after a late flight into Anchorage. I am accustomed
to having my own hotel room when I travel, when I am not staying up
all night or sleeping in a car.
Second is my age. I am old enough to be the father of most hostel
stayers. True to form, everyone I saw hanging in the lobby and in the
hallways were early 20 somethings. Same with the staff. The one
exception was Brian, the guy who appeared to be running the show
(managing/owning the place). Brian seemed to be about my age and
enjoyed being there and getting along with everyone. That allayed my
Third I suppose was the security of my things. There were
lockerroom-style lockers in my dorm room but I did not bring a lock. I did
not want to ask the staff to borrow one because that would bring
attention to the issue that I needed one. See, internal conflict. So I
brought the valuables my daypack and left mostly clothes in the room.
Fourth was personal safety. I was not concerned inside the hostel. The
neighborhood surrounding the hostel was not great. It was just fear
though since the worst that actually happened was a street dude
offering “really fat cigarettes.”
Fifth was just the whole hostel vibe. I just wanted a cheap place to
sleep. I did not want to commune in the kitchen or social room. I was
even reluctant to go to the free breakfast; so unlike me.
While I am checking out, down the stairs stroll a couple old enough to
be my parents. Yep, that squashed my whole dysfunctional hostel
thinking and put everything into perspective. Proved to me that
attitude is internal not external, that you are as young (or as old)
as you want to be.
© 2010 Charles McCool
After yesterday’s friendly and efficient New York City transportation, I had high hopes for the same in Boston. I was disappointed. Boston transportation is more frustrating than NYCs. I had lunch with my niece who said that people in Boston walk everywhere rather than taking the T. Boston is so much smaller than NYC so this makes more sense.
The frustration started with the complimentary bus from Logan airport to the Blue line station. Several other buses, including three airport employee buses (with no one getting on or off), teased the two dozen persons waiting for the privilege of trying to get to the T.
The bus that eventually came was dirty and leaked from the ceiling even though it was not raining. The driver decided to take a five minute break at the next terminal stop. It was not to wait for passengers as no more got on.
The T ticket buying process was fine and the signs are clear but the train waits were too long. I had hopes of making it to a 11am Fenway Park tour but I did not get to the Kenmore stop until 11:15 (my plane arrived at 10:25). I bought a ticket for a later tour and decided it would be quicker to walk across town for lunch. My niece said that is what most people do.
The Boston T trains are older, dirtier and noisier than NY subway trains. If they were not so inefficient they might be considered more fun. The prices are about the same. I was told that each ride costs $1.70 but my $5 Charlie card had $1 left after two trips. I gave the card to a resident that was on the return airport bus trip. At least when waiting for the return bus I could watch the soccer games on the adjacent field.
There is another option for leaving Boston’s Logan airport. A Silver line bus goes to South Station. I would have had to do a double transfer to Kenmore but wonder if it would have taken less time. It would be a good test for two persons to try.
As for Boston to-dos, I did much walking. I walked around Fenway Park and to the area around the Prudential Building. I had lunch at a Boloco and then walked back to Fenway via the Fine Arts Museum, the Back Bay Fens, some of the smaller colleges and neighborhoods.
The Bleacher Bar is actually inside Fenway Park and offers views of the field from the eating/drinking areas and the bathroom. Superb!
After the Fenway Park tour, I walked up Commonwealth Avenue, through the Boston Common, Old Granary Burial Ground (burial sites of John Hancock, Paul Revere and many more) ending at Faneuil Hall. There I had a touristy and overpriced bowl of clam chowder and a lobster roll before catching the T Blue line back to the airport.
As with my previous post, I welcome suggestions for places to visit and eat. On my next trip, I intend to visit Cambridge and North End.
© 2010 Charles McCool
My first JetBlue AYCJ flight was to New York City (JFK) to coincide with the AYCJ launch party. In the terminal JetBlue set up coffee and donuts (with blue frosting, naturally). There was a mob scene at another table.
There were dozens of JetBlue workers greeting travellers and I asked one for details. She said they were giving out jackets at the table and luggage tags in another spot. I went and got the luggage tag and navigated the mob scene for my jacket (seemed like most of the mob were not even AYCJers).
There was a banner for AYCJers to write what they planned to do with the pass. Most people just listed a bunch of destinations. After I signed it, nothing else seemed to be happening. I found two other JetBlue workers and asked about the festivities. They admitted that they did not know much and were asked to come out and greet the pass holders. I asked about getting to Manhattan and they gave me spot-on tips. One suggested that I do not miss the Apple store; he compared it to the Louvre.
So, I asked, should I stick around or go to the city. Both said go to the city, as it was a gorgeous day. Only later, when I saw pictures–including Drew Lawrence with cheerleaders–did I wish I stuck around. Truthfully, I am happy I got out into the city. I understand that magnificent weather days are unbeatable and that trumps dealing with the mob scene–even with the cheerleaders.
So, what I learned about getting to Manhattan from JFK airport is to take the AirTrain to Jamaica Station and ride the E subway train into Manhattan. In fact, the JetBlue dudes told me to exit at 53rd and 5th. I had read online to take the A subway from Howard Beach station but the dudes said that it was a slower train and E would get me there quicker. Love the personalized info.
I also asked how much time I should allow to return to JFK. They suggested leaving Manhattan 2.5 hours before scheduled departure.
I had slight trouble with the AirTrain. From the terminals, two AirTrains make frequent circuits. One path is to Jamaica Station and the other is to Howard Beach station. Both trains operate the same route except from Federal Circle. It was one stop past Federal Circle when I realized I was going to Howard Beach instead of Jamaica Station. No problem, as I returned to Federal Circle and caught the Jamaica Station train. So, tip, look for the AirTrain destination above the rain doors to make sure you ride the right one.
The AirTrains are free to ride around JFK airport. It costs $5 to exit at other stops. When I exited at Jamaica station, friendly staff offered assistance. I felt comfortable with the payment process but asked for help as I was super impressed with the friendliness. A worker showed me how to buy a combination ticket for AirTrain and the subway; I asked about buying the return trip fare at the same time. Really, it was just buying a card with the correct amount of money, like most other mass transit machines. Interestingly, I paid $14 and received a $2.10 bonus. After the two rides, I still had $1 on the card.
To get to the subway is a bit of a walk (past LIRR, Long Island Railroad) but there are plenty of signs. I and others ended up at an elevator to descend to the subway. I asked a custodian if there were stairs or escalator; and he said this was the best way. OK, so far, everyone in NYC was helpful and friendly. Different than reported.
Subway impressions: stations were hot and dirty. Trains were cool and clean. Voices were clear and understandable. LCD panels clearly show 10 upcoming stops and how many stops until the end of the line; very helpful and clear.
With the limited amount of time I had in NYC, I walked up and down 5th Avenue, visited the Apple Store and Saint Thomas Church, and took some photos. I walked a few feet into Central Park (to say I did), on Madison Avenue (same), and ate a slice of pizza from Villagio on 6th Avenue. I plan to return to the city a couple of times in the next month and welcome you Nawyakers to give me suggestions for things to see, places to visit and your picks for best pizza, dogs, etc. Thank you so much.
© 2010 Charles McCool
My AYJC pass starts out with the shuttle ride at IAD, where I met the pilot of my first flight and another fellow AYJCer, Drew Lawrence. While most people (including me) are using the JetBlue pass for fun, Drew is on a mission.
Drew wants to raise awareness about cancer, inspired by his mother’s death from cancer when he was a freshman at the University of Virginia. Drew is submitting daily video blogs and frequent Twitter, Facebook and FourSquare updates. His campaign is organic, using social media and networking to spread the word, meet people and to serve as his travel guidebook.
Drew will be traveling and not see his Albemarle county Virginia home for 30 days. While he booked several flights, he admits that this trip experience may take on a life of its own. He intends to end the trip with three days in Puerto Rico but notes that he can be swayed to change flights for media spots and for fun.
The subtext of his trek is to visit 29 cities in 29 days before his 29th birthday; and fly more than 29,000 miles (his booked flights total over 33,000). His motto is “no limits and whatever possible.” He did not book any hotels in advance and has no real list of must-sees. He has no budget but wants to spend as little as possible.
Tools that he is using include TripIt, Yelp, GateGuru, TaxiMagic and Meetup iPhone apps. He expects to use Couchsurfing to find places to stay in a pinch but hopes to meet enough people to share hotels or, of course, stay for free.
Good luck, Drew. You can follow his progress at 29daysuntil29.com and on Twitter @drewlawrence.
P.S. That JetBlue pilot gave Drew some cash and said that it was for a lunch. Drew said it and all donations are being given to the American Red Cross. I was impressed and inspired by the actions of both men.
© 2010 Charles McCool