Blogs > Millennial Traveler

New and traditional ways of exploring the globe, and your own backyard.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

My Thai Shadow

If you've never heard of Diane Conroy-LaCivita, I'm surprised. She's everywhere - business owner in Cohoes, former city official in Watervliet, advocate of local goods (especially wines), and she works with the International Center of the Capital Region.

It was in her latter capacity that I recently worked with her since she had a Thai resident visiting the area and she wanted to find someone for her to shadow.

In my six years at the newspaper (I can't believe it's been six years), I've had a lot of shadows and interns. This one was one of my favorites. She was smart, inquisitive, funny, personable. Too bad she wasn't actually from the area so we could hire her.

Though, her being from Southeast Asia was probably part of the charm too since I learned a lot about her culture while she learned about mine.

Three things struck me as interesting from our conversations:

1) Thailand is cheap. I'd heard this before but it's always nice to get this confirmed, especially by someone who lives there. You could get a nice meal at most restaurants for literally $1 - and it's not dollar menu quality.

2) The Thai residents appreciate and acknowledge the beauty of their country and actually do some of the touristy things. In my experience, people in touristy areas rarely appreciate what they have around them - in fact, they usually avoid it at all costs to also avoid the tourists and crowds. She prided herself in going to the beaches in the south of the country and the hilly areas in the north.

3) I found it amusing that she really thought we used gas (as in a type of fuel in a gas form, not liquid) to fill our cars. She kept talking about "liquid petrol" and I was wondering if there were any other kinds but I guess our term of "gas" really made her think we used an actual gas product. It was interesting. Don't worry, I eventually explained it to her - after a good, solid internal chuckle.

Is your car covered during a state of emergency?

So, I was out for my boyfriend's birthday recently with his mom and step-father. We got to talking about the recent flooding and his step-dad brought up how he heard car insurance, in a state of emergency, will not cover a car if it is damaged.

Apparently, this isn't entirely true but he was partially-right, according to this website.

A car insurance agency cannot deny coverage without proper notice - however, if the driver is disobeying a mandated curfew or driving during a time when non-emergency vehicles are not allowed on the road, then the car insurance provider could possibly not be liable for coverage.

Something to think about during the next state of emergency. And now that we've had a hurricane, tropical storm, earthquake, and tornado....I guess the next disaster scheduled will be a volcanic eruption, in a dormant nearby volcano, if that exists, somehow.

(photo from Carlo Allegri, Reuters)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Free Ice Cream!

You may have noticed a trend with me...if it's free, I'm usually there.
That's the case for the Bomber's free burrito day, Ben and Jerry's free ice cream day, when there's free concerts, etc. There's another annual free day I've come to add to this list. And that's the free Cold Stone Ice Cream day which happens to be Sept. 26 this year from 5pm to 8pm at the Cold Stone in Stuyvesant Plaza.
I first heard about it since I volunteer with Make A Wish and the donations/proceeds from the event, dubbed the largest ice cream social, go to Make A Wish.
There's a minimum $2 donation to enjoy the ice cream which, this year, includes brownies, sprinkles, fudge and was crafted by a Make A Wish child.
So, I'm helping Make A Wish, eating fudge/brownies, and it's technically free (or free-er than the usual high Cold Stone prices) - um, yes please.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Adirondack Hiking Post-Irene/Lee

I've only been a "hiker" for a few years but, in my opinion, fall is the best time to hike and be outside in New York - it's not too hot, not too cold, no snow, no after-thaw mud. It is crisp, blue-skied, foliaged, and perfect. Usually.

It's a tad different this year, what with the hurricanes/tropical storms coming through the region and all. Along with the flooding in the Albany area and major affects in places like Binghamton and Vermont, I heard the Adirondacks' Keene Valley along Route 73 was hit pretty hard with mountain streams overflowing and mudslides down the nearby 4,000-foot High Peaks.

Route 73 was closed for a bit and basic community resources like libraries were destroyed and are being rebuilt.

I couldn't help but wonder where this left the trails, swimming holes, and campgrounds. The DEC has kept people pretty up to date on the status of these and other sorts of locations in the state that might have been affected. But, it's one thing to read about a trail's condition and another to experience it first hand.

A friend invited me to go hiking for their father-in-law's birthday at Cascade and Porter, the easier hikes of the 46. I was nervous about the flooding's affects but read that that the trails were at least open.

We went last weekend, a few weeks after the tropical storms, and it was still pretty wet on the trails. If you've ever hiked in the Adirondacks in the spring, that's basically what it was like - very wet and very muddy - but still do-able. Actually, my feet didn't get nearly as wet and dirty as I expected, which was good considering I was doing exactly what I told my friend not to do....I wore shoes that were not waterproof. It was fun jumping around the mud, testing my agility (and I'm not very agile).

It was like ninja hiking. And it was fun.

I'm not sure how the other peaks are right now but you should be good on similar mountains for hike leaf-peeping in the next couple of weeks.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Birthday Beverage T-shirt Trifecta

It's amazing what you learn when you go to enough bars.
For example, while at trivia night at The Ruck on Monday (it's a really good trivia night, by the way, I highly recommend it 7pm on Mondays), a friend told me that he heard there would be a new free birthday libation at the Olde English Pub that opened this month and, on top that, there was a new birthday challenge.
I facebooked owner Matt Baumgartner about it and he got back to me today and sent out this Twitter announcement around the same time.
Here's the deal: You can go to any of his three bars (Bomber's, Olde English Pub, or Wolff's Biergarten) to pick up a postcard. Upon finishing that establishment's birthday drink (the huge margarita, the massive teacup, or das boot, respectively), you get a staff person to check off the postcard that you completed that section of the fun challenge. Or, as I'm calling it, the BOW chicka postcard. (get it? I've made each bar's first initial into an acronym and paired it with...oh, never mind....)
After you drink all three, you get a T-shirt (the one pictured, actually).
I know, I know.....that's a lot of alcohol for just a T-shirt. And, personally, I do have a lot of T-shirts just piling up - got another one at the Over the Edge rappelling thing last week too. But, as a Troylette and native Albany area resident, this seems to be almost a rite of passage. Not necessarily just for the just-turned-21 folks but for anyone who has drank that sour, sour margarita or been belligerent after the boot.
And I'm looking forward to checking out the tea cup (which, again, I hear can also be filled with cider like Strongbow instead of just beer).
This birthday T-shirt activity starts officially on Sept. 23. As it turns out my boyfriend's birthday falls on that day.....I have a feeling it's going to be a long - but fun - day/night.
(BOW chicka postcard)

Update: The postcard now also includes Sciortino's Pizzeria, which is the old Miss Albany Diner and next door to the Biergarten. You get a free slice of pizza there and have your postcard checked. If they're closed, you'll get a stamp at one of the other businesses and still get your T-shirt.
Also, for those wondering, the tea cup is fabulous - w/ options of beer or cider in it - and my boyfriend's 30th of doing this trifecta was memorable, from what he can remember. ;)

EZ Pass Error

It was pretty much one of the worst driving experiences I have ever had - and I've driven across the country.
The Record had picked me to do a "video boot camp" down at our corporate offices in Pennsylvania near the border with New Jersey. The camp was slated for a Tuesday and Wednesday, so I decided to drive the 3.5 hours on Monday after work.
It had been a very busy few weeks with weddings each weekend in three different states and this trip.
It was drizzling out when I left but it was still light out too and I only really hate driving in the rain when it's dark. I thought....
The rain picked up, then stopped, then became heavy again, and then stopped again - all in about two hours of driving. It was around the time I was near the end of the toll section of the NY Thruway that it just started down-pouring. Traffic was going maybe 20 mph and I could barely see five feet in front of me.
I turned my windshield wipers at full blast and it was soon after that one of them fell off - luckily, it was the passenger side one. I then got to the intersection where you could take Exit 16 or continue to Exit 15 and the end of the thruway. I became confused with the signage (and from the rain) and accidentally went through the EZ Pass lanes for the end of the thruway when I was supposed to take the ramp for Exit 16 and the Exit 15 cash toll plaza.
I made it down to the bootcamp where a few people told me they had heard of similar experiences over the years and they all had varying results - one person's aunt ended up just having to pay a toll, someone else somehow evaded the toll plaza cameras and didn't get notified, and someone else ended up having to pay the toll and a fine.
A week or so later, I got a letter from EZ Pass saying I owed $25 in administrative fees and more than $18 in tolls, since that is what the toll would have been from Buffalo to NYC.
On the back of the letter, however, there was an area to appeal and you would almost miss it if you weren't looking for it since it's not really marked on the front. The options include appealing because your car was stolen or saying you weren't even there.
I appealed and gave my story of the ridiculous rain, windshield wiper issues, and realizing too late that I should have taken the ramp to pay cash.
After returning home from my European trip, I was greeted by a letter from EZ Pass. I knew that it would be either good news or bad news (I really didn't want to pay more than $40 for a $5.25 toll).
As it turns out, the state can be kind and I just have to pay the toll. I sent in the payment today. I just hope this helps people to know 1) You do have to take that ramp if you're paying cash and 2) There is an appeals process if you make a mistake.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Last chance to be in "The Place Beyond the Pines"

If I weren't already taking off Thursday and Friday this week (yes, I'm taking two days off after already taking 8 work days off for my trip), I would be very interested in doing this.

The crew for the movie being filmed in Schenectady and Scotia is doing a big scene Wednesday on the steps of the Schenectady City Hall. They need like 500 extras and this could be your chance to be in the movie.

Here's what my friend sent me:

"This is your last chance to be an extra in this major motion picture. On Wednesday September 21st theywill be filming a rally on the steps of Schenectady City Hall celebrating Bradley Cooper’s (his character actually) election victory. It is the final big scene being filmed and they want a huge turnout. They are looking for hundreds of adults to participate. Judging by the response they received in their request for extras for the High School scenes, these 500 slots will fill up very fast. It is likely to be a full day of filming so plan on being there for the entire day.

If you are interested, please send an email to: with the subject line “Wednesday Shoot – Rally” In your email please put your name, age, phone number, and email address. And if you are interested, do it right away! I expect the demand for these spots tobe intense. The casting staff will respond in an email on Tuesday letting you know when and where to report, as well as what to wear.

In particular they are looking for adults of all ages from the business and professional community."

I, personally, have to laugh at the email address. It almost looks like they need people for a completely different type of editor said I could do it and take the day off but I'd have to write about it and do video - which doesn't actually sound like taking the day off.

There are a lot of local connections with this movie aside from the location - a friend of mine said her twins were in the final running to be Cooper's sons and other friends have worked behind the scenes. It's been a great shot in the arm, economically, for the area.

So, since I can't, I hope you can experience this for me...and maybe write me about it--especially about working with Bradley Cooper. ;)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

My last night in Iceland

Well, it's the last night of my trip calves still hurt. This time from walking around Reykjavik. (The j, by the way, is pronounced as a "y")

It was a full day. On the Golden Circle tour, I - along with 36 other tourists from a total of 19 countries - walked from the North American tectonic plate to the Eurasian one. From there, we saw a pretty big waterfall. It actually kinda reminded me of the Cohoes Falls only just a tad bigger and with two levels.

I tried a lamb soup while talking with a guy I met from California. I kept hearing that the country's lamb was something I had to have before I left and I'm glad I did. It was probably the best lamb I've had - and it was only in a soup. Though, anything hot after being blasted by water and wind would have been awesome at that point.

Following this, we went through a nearby national park and saw snow covered mountains in the distance and a few volcanoes. I keep hearing one of them has been rumbling recently. I was also told most volcanoes are named after women because they erupt like women and get large like women. Let's hope I wasn't right about that volcanic eruption while I'm here.

We also saw a volcanic area with hot springs and geysirs - actually one of them was named Geysir and I'm told this is where the natural wonders get their name from.

Lastly, we saw a large crater formed from a magma chamber in an old volcano.

It was a full day and I finally made it to the geothermal pool near my hostel which was definitely needed. While there, I met two more Americans.

Reflecting on the people I've met, there's definitely been more interactions with Americans than non-Americans. I guess, it's nice being able to easily converse with someone. And it's nice talking with someone who knows that saying you're from New York does not always mean the Big Apple.

I'll miss it here though - especially the naturally heated pools. But, it'll be nice to see familiar faces and places soon too.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Iceland really is nice...

I came to Iceland more on a whim than anything. I was looking for cheap flights to Europe for the wedding and found that it would be cheaper to take a flight to Iceland then connect to the UK.
And, now that I'm here, I realize there is so much I didn't know about this country and I could have made a whole trip out of coming here.
I'm packing in a lot for the four days I'm here and so I'm leaving bright and early in the morning to see the Golden Circle (yeah, I'd never heard of it before either until I came here).
Here are some photos of what I've seen thus far.
(from top to bottom: a white house that stood out nicely near the Iceland Highlands, that's a shredded fish and potato dish with delicious brown bread that I wish I could get in the states, a faint double rainbow,me standing on a glacier that is the second largest in Iceland, and downtown Reykjavik at sunset)

Dance: The Universal Language

There were 12 nationalities represented at the wedding. And especially considering there were only about 55 guests to begin with, a dozen different countries is a lot. But, I guess it's to be expected when the bride's family is Czech, she's from Philly, and met her Belgian now-husband in Dublin.
We had a bridal shower the night prior to the big day - and, in case you didn't know (because we didn't) bridal showers are definitely an American thing. The guests had no clue what it was. While the event was fun, it was still a little awkward especially since not everyone spoke the same language. The Belgians spoke Dutch, the bride's fam spoke Czech or Slovak, and then most of the bridal party spoke English.
The dinner rehearsal that night wasn't much easier. I felt bad since the two groups basically stayed on their separate ends of the table. It was just difficult since not many felt completely comfortable speaking their non-native language.
Things became a lot easier and more fun following the ceremony. It was like a weight had lifted.
And the mood became even lighter once the music started and people began to dance. Even if people didn't understand the lyrics, they understood the rhythm and let their body do the rest.
I also found it interesting what songs the Europeans did know from America - Cotton Eye Joe being one of them.
I made some friends that night, and picked up some good dance moves in the process.

Pimp Out my Castle

After my experience at Crom Castle for my friends' wedding, I really hope more of my friends decide to get married (never thought I'd say those words)....but I hope they do so in Europe. And then invite me.
The experience was totally worth the missed plane, three flights, two buses and one taxi that it took to get there.
Friends and I stayed in a cute nearby cottage on the estate which was "pimped out", well, as far as cottages go anyway. It had a living room, fire place, full kitchen and even a clothes washer, which definitely came in handy.
Then the castle, where the ceremony and reception took place, dates back to the 1800s and is owned by a couple who is related to the royal family. The room where the bride and groom stayed in (pictured above) is called Camilla's room because she stayed there with Prince Charles.
My favorite part of the estate, though, was the ruins. The old 1600s castle on the property survived two sieges but then fell to a fire. The only ghost story I heard about the property was that when rebuilding the castle the workers found that their tools kept being moved overnight, supposedly by the ghosts of those who died in the sieges, so they moved the location of the new castle to where it is today.

It truly was a beautiful venue and completely worth the 3,000+ mile trip.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

My first missed flight

I'm imagining after my last post you're wondering why I missed my connecting flight from London to Dublin.

Well, let me back up a bit.

I'm cheap. If you didn't know. If I can get a service cheaply, I will even if the quality might not be the same.

It worked out brilliantly (yeah, I'm already picking up the slang here) with Iceland Express. I was worried but my flight from Boston to Reykjavik, Iceland was on time and an uneventful flight, as was the connecting flight from Reykjavik to London Gatwick - in fact, I think both flights were early.

I then spent five hours basically just twiddling my thumbs at Gatwick waiting for my next flight, since they didn't have free wifi or even any outlets to charge my electronics.

After a small delay, Ryanair finally posts the Gate to go to for my second connecting flight. With a rather large group of people, I found the gate and waited in line. Once I got to the front of the line, I was told I could not go on.

Apparently, I did not read the fine print on my boarding pass (Ryanair has a mandatory checkin online and I printed that out before I left) and I had to get my boarding pass stamped by the people at the Ryanair check in, even though I had already had a visa stamp and I didn't have any luggage to check in.

Their policy is that if you're a non-EU citizen you have to get the boarding pass stamped and if you don't, you are not allowed on the plane.

Well, at that point, the woman told me straight up that I would probably miss my flight. Still, I followed her directions, sprinted back to airport information where I had to wait for someone to escort me back out into the checking in area (you need an escort because the airport is it's own entity or country and you can't just walk back on you're own, or so the airport information dude explained). Well, I waited. Then, I thought maybe I could still go on since I already had my visa stamped on my passport. So ran back (didn't sprint this time, I'm out of shape) to the gate and was told the same thing.

They were closing up and I had definitely missed my flight.

What really, really made it hard for me was that the directions to get it stamped really was, in smaller print, on the boarding pass at the top and I did vaguely remember a reminder when I checked in online to do so. And I had five hours to do so.

In a matter of minutes, I went through all of the stages of the grieving process and eventually accepted that I would need a new flight and I would need to pay for it. A woman finally came to escort me out to the checking in area, along with two other men - one who missed his flight and another man who had the same issue as me with Ryanair but with another flight. Kinda made me think Ryanair should have the service within the waiting area of the terminal so people could easily have access to it.

I went to a booking area where a very kind woman walked me through the process of booking another flight. Ryanair charged 110 Euro (it used to be 100 Euro until a week ago) to let you change your booking, if needed. Since the alternative meant paying about $450 with Aerlingus, I went with the cheaper option, again.

This time there were no hitches, aside from the plane being delayed a bit.

I'm not an "everything happens for a reason" kind of person. I'm more of a "look on the bright side" girl. And, in this case, during the chaos I met some really nice people who I would not have met otherwise, learned a valuable lesson that I can now share with other Americans who may use Ryanair, and learned that Gatwick has a free shower in one of their bathrooms.

I wouldn't say the shower was worth all of that...but, it felt very nice and at least now I'm no longer a sweaty, smelly traveler.

So, this is me, blogging while I'm traveling

The first thing that comes to mind after more than a full day of traveling calves hurt.

Actually, overall, things went smoothly. I mean, my sisters brought me to Logan International Airport in Boston on time (despite traffic due to a Boston/Yankees game in town that night), they got home OK (despite my car needing an oil change and new tires), I found the airline I booked with (despite them not being on the Logan website nor on the International Terminal exterior signs), and I made it to Dublin (despite missing my initial connecting flight from London).

Yep....I actually feel pretty accomplished to be sitting in this metal airport chair, using free (illegal) wifi, and charging my laptop and cell phone in one of the few outlets in this arrival hall. Getting to this point took persistence, faith, planning, and a couple fast paced sprints down moving airport walkways - thus the sore calves.

And, did I mention, my friend who was supposed to meet me here was not allowed in the country? He, too, had a flight from the U.S. Thursday and apparently, even though he was allowed to buy his Delta tickets, his U.K visa (long story as to why he has a U.K visa) does not permit him into Ireland.

So, once again, I'm going to have to prove to myself that I can be flexible. Yes, me...the girl who literally cut/pasted every phone number and address of where I would be (even the Giant's Causeway - a natural phenonmenon) while I'm gone and then emailed it to myself, printed off copies, and gave two sets to my roommates and parents. I tend to like to think things through as much as I can and stick to a plan - I think I get that from my dad. (Thanks, dad....)

Now, without a traveling companion, I'm not really feeling up to renting a car, nor driving on the wrong side of the road by myself. It'd be more fun with another person to make fun of how bad I was driving.

My new plan: is to not have a plan. Kinda like what I did with my cross-country trip. I had an outline of what I knew I had to do but no real plans for each location - no motels booked, no activities plotted out. We just kinda went with it and stayed in some places longer than others. It worked out. After 18 days, I got to work that last Monday (despite having to drive through the night that last night to get there and then take a 3 hour nap before work).

Yeah, I'm gonna do something along those lines again. And it starts with staying in this airport tonight and taking the bus to Cavan (which I keep pronouncing incorrectly) in the morning.

My outlined goal is to get to the wedding.

As for whether my bridesmaid dress will remain, all bets are off.