Click here for the video slideshow of our European vacation.
Our Emirates flight back to NYC left Milan past 5 in the afternoon. It was an 8-hour flight. Our scheduled arrival time was around 8pm Eastern Standard Time. I could’ve easily chosen to sleep, but I had this surge of energy in wanting to write my blog. I ended up writing 2 of my blog entries while en route back to New York.
The 8-hour flight flew by so quickly and in no time, we were back on US soil. We breezed through immigration and customs. It was raining slightly when we arrived at JFK International Airport. We took a cab and headed towards Manhattan. For the next 24 hours, it is in Midtown West where we will be staying one last night and milking every single moment of our vacation.
Since I’m a frequent Marriott customer, we were given an upgrade with a city view at the Fairfield. What does that mean? It had views of the Empire State Building and the New Yorker building. It was bit rainy that evening, the skyscrapers presented a different kind of beauty.
So Cal peeps in NYC – A few weeks before our Euro trip, I found out that our friends Edith and Ron Alangui (from Castaic Lake) and their family were headed for NY around the same time. We exchanged text messages and easily agreed on one thing. “You up for some halal?” That meant meeting up at The Halal Guys on W. 53rd St and 6th Ave. Since it was showering quite a bit, Ethan and I decided to take a train up to 50th St and crossed over towards 6th Avenue. We met Ron, Edith, and fam right outside Starbucks. I’ve been a fan of the The Halal Guys for so long that visiting their cart is a ritual whenever I visit the city. While eating our food, Ron and I got to talk about our trip, and I shared some tips for their NYC adventure and their future vacations. After meeting up with the Alanguis, Ethan and I decided to treat ourselves to a cab ride back to our hotel. When he and I got back to the hotel, we saw Nancy and Madison sleeping soundly and realized we best get our much needed rest.
Ramen State of Mind
After the show, we all met up and Ethan couldn’t stop raving about Finding Neverland. He now understood why I wanted the family to watch this show. Now I can only hope to return back to NY and for the rest of the family to watch this show.
Finally headed home
I met up with the rest of the family at Newark Airport by 6:30pm. Check in was a breeze. The best part, I was upgraded to First Class, while the rest of the family had choice seats(roomier seats). That was a great way of ending this European vacation.
When I wrote my blog entries during our trip to Maui, I ended the blog with a takeaway which basically summarized my lessons-learned from the entire experience. For this European trip, there were quite a few takeaways.
Go see the world – I mentioned this earlier. We made a conscientious decision to “just do it”, to pull the trigger when the opportunity knocks. Things will fall in to place, and that’s exactly what happened. We made a decision to try and visit new places and we did. No resolutions…just decisions.
Gotta love hard shell luggage and spinners – And no, I’m not thinking about the spinning hubcaps or wheel covers, but the spinners on our hard case luggage. Since we traveled to places mixed with sunny and rainy days, we didn’t have to worry about our belongings getting wet since our luggage had a hard shell. The spinners also helped in pulling or pushing the luggage wherever we went. There’s this new trend on a luggage, they look lighter, flexible, and meet the size criteria. I gotta look in to that some more.
Apartments vs. Hotels – Since coming back, lots of friends also inquired about our apartment rental experience. We rented different apartments for our party of 8 (or 9 when we were in Paris). We had bedrooms for our group, with access to our own washing machine, kitchen, and private bathrooms. Being in one apartment also allowed all of us to stay together, and we didn’t have to worry about meeting up in a central location since we all stayed in one place. It was such a big gamble to base my decision on simply reading the reviews. But it all paid off. To be perfectly honest, I was simply content with a bed to sleep in and hot shower.
But to have 2-3 bedrooms with 1-3 bathrooms, WiFi, washing machine, a decent kitchen…we couldn’t have asked for a better set-up. Thanks to rental sites such as AirBNB and VRBO. We used them before in Maui and Mammoth, and I’m sure I’ll be using them again in the future.
Talk to the locals – whenever we arrived in a new city, we talked to our cab driver or apartment owner/manager (for instance), and asked for local places they themselves would go to for lunch or dinner. Their advise – simply invaluable.
Take public transportation – for the most part, we took lots of rides using the subway (metro rides), local trains, high speed trains, trams, shuttles, buses, and a few times using a cab. We had to find the best way to take unlimited rides using the combination of all the rides available to us. We were given maps which we used to get around the city. We could’ve rented a car (which would’ve been another adventure). Safety using public transportation was always a question, and we were fortunate that we felt safe in all of the places we went to during this trip.
Use the right credit card/s – Know what your card can do for you. Some cards give you rewards or points for miles or cash back. Before we flew, we made sure that the cards we carried had no foreign transaction fees. Those fees could easily add up to 3% per transaction. Use a card with Smart Chip technology. More merchants outside the US are only accepting cards with Smart Chip. It is also for your security since it is harder for thieves to get data from your card.
No Itinerary, no problem– well, this one is quite debatable. We had a basic idea where (which city) we’d be visiting, and had a basic clue of places to visit. However, we didn’t have an exact itinerary, we had an inkling as to what we wanted to see in the cities we visited. It was too far fetched to visit everything, so we went by what was accessible to us via transportation or by going on foot. We were on our own time. We didn’t have to rush per se. AAnything we missed, we decided to try and go to those places the next day.
Cell Phone Usage – I, of all people, did not take the time to find out the cell phone usage I’d be needing in Europe. We all survived using public WiFi when we were out and about. Lots of restaurants and coffee shops offer free Wi-Fi, so during our break times, we had a little something to eat while we surfed the net. Special thanks to Gemma, she lent me one of her spare cell phones which I used for basic phone calls to the property owner. But other than that, we didn’t have the luxury of having access to a full-serviced smartphone….and yet, we survived.