Word on the Street

Personal essays from a young journalist in the Sunshine State.

Tag: Travel

A Trip Worth Remembering

After 10 days of traveling to New York City, Cape Cod, Providence and Boston, I’m back in Florida. The trip was packed with fun activities and little rest, but I still came away feeling rejuvenated.

One of my favorite parts of the trip was going for a late-night run across the Brooklyn Bridge. My friends and I were planning to get up at 6 a.m. and run, but we didn’t want to have to get up that early. After seeing “Mama Mia” on Broadway, we thought, “why not just run now?” So at 11 p.m. we went for a six-miler and ran over the Brooklyn Bridge and back. There were lots of people still walking and biking along the bridge, which I didn’t expect that late at night.

On one side of us was the Empire State Building. On the other, the Statue of Liberty. Wide-eyed, I looked at the lights, the view and the full moon above us. When we turned around and ran back across the bridge, it seemed as though we were running into the city. I felt so small and insignificant in comparison. There was something humbling about the experience of feeling dwarfed by something that’s so much larger than you’ll ever be.

Sarah McLachlan singing "I Will Remember You."

My other favorite part of the trip was going to the Lilith Fair with my cousin and two of my best friends. It meant so much to me to be with them and to have them all meet one another. The concert, which featured a variety of female artists, was a let-down for some. Ticket holders had complained prior to the concert because several big-name stars, including Norah Jones, Kelly Clarkson and Carly Simon, had backed out. But we still enjoyed it, and because of the low turnout, we got to move from the lawn to seating closer to the stage.

We caught up, sang loudly and got overly excited when Sara Bareilles came on stage. (She’s my favorite singer and is a pretty entertaining performer.) Sarah McLachlan, who runs the Lilith Fair, came on stage last. She sang “I Will Remember You,” the song my mom dedicated to me before she died. My friend put her arm around me and we sang together. I got the chills and called my dad so he could hear the song, too. He texted me to say “Thanks for sharing that with me. Love, Dad.” (Don’t you love when parents sign their IMs and text messages as though they’re writing a letter?)

That song will always carry a special significance. It often comes on the radio when I’m thinking of my mom or wishing I could ask for her advice. Seeing Sarah and visiting New York City reminded me of my mom, as she loved Sarah’s music and the city. The day I started my vacation to New York City was actually her birthday. She would have been 54.

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Things to Do, Sights to See in New York City

This Friday, I’m heading to New York City to visit two friends I grew up with. After four days in the city, I’m going to visit my grandma for two days in Cape Cod and then I’m heading to Boston for three days to visit family and friends. It’s going to be a jam-packed vacation!

I haven’t been home in the summer since I moved to Florida three years ago, so I’m looking forward to experiencing the Northeast without having to worry about the snow that usually falls when I visit  at Christmastime. And I haven’t been to New York City for five or six years.

My mom, dad and I used to go together every other summer. Mom loved going around Christmastime and seeing the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall. And she always had to stop for lunch at Tom’s Restaurant, aka “the Seinfeld restaurant.” When Mom died, Dad kept taking me to NYC  to keep the tradition alive. The trips gave us a good excuse to have some quality father-daughter time and share memories of Mom. No doubt, I’ll think of her while I’m there.

Since I haven’t been there in a while, I asked my Facebook friends for recommendations of places to go. I like putting together lists of places to visit, as I did upon returning from my three-month stay in Dallas a couple of summers ago. Here are some of the places my friends recommended:

Bookstores

  • The Strand (love books, so definitely going here!)

Restaurants/Bars

  • Momofuku (a few people recommended eating here)

Touristy stuff/sightseeing

  • Go to a Broadway show (definitely on my list!)
  • Shop at H&M (duh.)
  • Walk along Bleecker Street in So Ho (I love cities where walking and public transportation are encouraged.)

…. Wow, I wish I was going to have more time to explore the city! What else should I do while I’m there?

Window Seats Make Way for Curiosity, Good Stories

I’ve always loved window seats. So it was with great interest that I read this New York Times story about a pilot’s pleasure for seats with views. The pilot, Mark Vanhoenacker, explains his reasoning and writes about which cities offer the best views for passengers who are lucky enough to snag a window seat.

Sure, there’s something to be said for aisle seats — you have a little more leg room, you feel less claustrophobic and you don’t have to clumsily climb over other passengers on your way to the bathroom. (I’ve had to do this more times than I’d like to admit. Note to self: Lay low on the water consumption before boarding a plane!)

But window seats make airplane rides entertaining, and they make for a good escape. “Indeed,” Vanhoenacker writes, “as new security rules and ever busier airports continue to change air travel, rediscovering the romance of the window seat may be the most practical way to make flying more enjoyable.”

I couldn’t agree more. I’ll sit in the very last row of a plane if it means having a window seat. I start staring right after takeoff. Like a little kid, I practically press my nose to the window and gaze at the happenings below. I like to look at the tiny people, the cars & the boats and wonder where they’re at in their journey. If it’s nighttime, I look at the lights until they grow dim and there’s nothing left but darkness.

My curiosity then turns to the people on the plane. Where are they going? What’s their story? Maybe it’s this curiosity that compels me to always want to write on planes. No doubt, there’s something about the experience of a shared journey that lends itself to good stories and that makes you realize there’s value in looking out from within.

Highlights from My Trip to Costa Rica

After two weeks of traveling through Costa Rica and having family in town, I’m now back to a regular routine — which means I’ll resume my regular blog schedule. My trip to Costa Rica, which I took with five of my close college friends, was one of the best trips I’ve taken. We went to Monteverde, Tamarindo, San Jose and Miravalles, among other places. Here are a few photos from the trip …

Went on a mini hike to a beautiful waterfall near Miravalles Volcano.

Went on a mini hike to a beautiful waterfall near Miravalles Volcano.

Us getting ready to swim near the waterfall.

Us getting ready to swim near the waterfall.

Just before doing a canopy tour and zip-lining in Monteverde. Seeing as I'm afraid of heights, I was a little worried about the canopy tours, which include a Tarzan Swing, a 50-foot rappel and a "Superman" zip-line. Ended up loving it. Soared 263 feet above a forest canopy and said goodbye to fear.

Just before doing a canopy tour and zip-lining in Monteverde. Seeing as I'm afraid of heights, I was a little worried about the canopy tours, which include a Tarzan Swing, a 50-foot rappel and a "Superman" zip-line. Ended up loving it. Soared 263 feet above a forest canopy and said goodbye to fear.

Zip-lining crew.

Zip-lining crew.

My friend Colleen and I did our fair share of cartwheeling, running and skipping along the beach.

My friend Colleen and I did our fair share of cartwheeling, running and skipping along the beach.

Friends. We were at a restaurant in downtown Tamarindo called FT's. Served delicious Casados here. Casados come with rice, beans, fried plantains and your choice of meat or veggies. Yum.

Friends. We were at a restaurant in downtown Tamarindo called FT's. Served delicious Casados here. Casados come with rice, beans, fried plantains and your choice of meat or veggies. Yum.

Three-quarters of our college crew, FBW. Fun before work (FBW) was our college motto. Always served as a reminder that we had to find time for fun amidst all the papers, exams, etc. ... Photo taken on our last night just before sunset on la playa Tamarindo. Did I mention how much I love my friends?

Three-quarters of our college crew, FBW. Fun before work (FBW) was our college motto. Always served as a reminder that we had to find time for fun amidst all the papers, exams, etc. ... Photo taken on our last night just before sunset on la playa Tamarindo. Did I mention how much I love my friends?

Looking for Suggestions of Where to Go in Costa Rica

In less than two weeks I’m heading to Costa Rica with five of my 10 close college friends. Eight of us took a trip to Fort Lauderdale two years ago after graduating and have wanted to explore another place together. The trip means a lot to me especially because I live so far away from my college friends, most of whom live in the Boston area.

We’re flying into San Jose and then taking a bus to Tamarindo, where one of our friends is teaching for the summer. Seeing as I’ve never been to Costa Rica before, I’m looking for recommendations of places to go, sights to see, things to do. We hope to travel outside of Tamarindo to the extent that we can and explore some less toursity areas. Any suggestions?

Where to Go When Visiting Minneapolis?

This week I’m going to Minneapolis for the American Copy Editors Society conference and to visit one of my best friends from college, who just recently got engaged. I’ve never been to Minneapolis before, so I’m taking suggestions as to where I should go and what I should do.

Normally, when I travel somewhere I write about it after the fact, as I’ve done with my trips to Dallas, San Diego, Washington, D.C., and more. This time, though, I want to find out about the city’s worthwhile museums, parks, restaurants, bars, etc., ahead of time. My friend I’m staying with knows the area well, but I’m sure there are new places we could both explore together.

I’ve spent a little time on vita.mn, which is a great guide to the hotspots and latest happenings in the Twin Cities, but I’d like some more personalized suggestions, too.

So, where should I go/what should I try to do while I’m in Minneapolis?

Places to Go, Sights to See in Dallas

I made it to Florida. I’m slowly settling into my new apartment, reuniting with friends and getting back into the Poynter work mode. I’ve missed this place.

I miss Dallas, too, and all that a large metropolitan city has to offer. Someone told me before I went to Dallas that “there’s nothing to do in that city.” Apparently, that person didn’t do much exploring. Dallas, and some of the surrounding suburbs, are full of fun places to go. I’ve compiled a list of recommended restaurants, shops, places of worship, etc. Please feel free to add to the list.

Avila’sThis Mexican restaurant looks like a hole in the wall. You’d never know that it’s home to what I would consider some of the best Mexican food in Dallas. The food and atmosphere seem much more authentic than some other Mexican restaurants I tried. I’d recommend the spinach enchiladas.

Barcadia — A fun bar on North Henderson that has a friendly wait staff and lots of outdoor seating.

The Buffalo Exchange — I found both fashion and frugality at the Buffalo Exchange. There are lots of stylish clothes here with price tags that never made me cringe. I once bought three cute dresses and a pair of yellow hoop earrings here for $50, as well as a pair of cowgirl boots for $22. Not a bad deal. Oh, and I saw Jason Castro here.

Cafe BrazilThis restaurant serves breakfast all day and night. The service is sometimes slow, but the food is pretty tasty for a chain restaurant. The French toast with fruit is my favorite. It’s served with cream anglaise, raspberry sauce, powdered sugar and walnuts.

Cafe San MiguelGood Mexican eats with a bit of an upscale feel. (My guacamole was served with a tortilla chip sticking out of it. A little strange, I thought, but it added a nice touch.)

Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe — A beautifully designed church that offers several Masses in Spanish. Whenever I went to the Spanish Masses here, they were standing-room only. It always felt uplifting to see so many people attending church.

Central Market — This grocery store is like Whole Foods on steroids. It’s full of organic food, fresh produce, gelato, and salad bars. It’s also a haven for fruit mix fanatics. There are bins upon bins of different kinds of fruit mixes that customers can scoop into plastic bags. Same goes for coffee beans and candy. And I can’t forget my favorite part: Free samples! I left feeling full.

Chuy’sI wasn’t especially impressed by the Mexican food at this restaurant, but it’s a popular chain that you should visit at least once for the lively atmosphere. The restaurant boasts lots of Elvis memorabilia, and the menu even features an “Elvis Presley Memorial Combo”: chicken, beef and cheese enchiladas, chile con queso and a crispy taco. Why the obsession with Elvis? Chuy’s owners explain on the restaurant’s Web site: “When we started plans for decorating the original Chuy’s back in 1982, we had less money than you probably have in your wallet right now. Twenty bucks to be exact. Mike went out, spotted a vendor selling velvet paintings, bought two – Stevie Wonder and Elvis, and brought back the change. (Hey, we needed to buy nails to hang them, too.) After that, people’s natural love for the king inspired them to bring their own Elvis memorabilia to the restaurant.”

Corner Bar & Grille — Located at the corner of McKinney and Monticello avenues, the bar has karaoke nights that usually attract a lively crowd. Request your song early, though. The bar gets crowded quickly.

Cosmic Cup Cafe — A great vegetarian restaurant with an atmosphere that will leave you wanting to redecorate your house, if only for a day. The restaurant is brightly colored and has a lot of character. I had difficulty deciding what to order when I went. I decided on the pizza mystica — black beans, sundried tomatoes, mushrooms with mozzarella cheese and basil, all served on nan. Good choice. The restaurant also offers dance meditation and yoga classes.

The Crow Collection of Asian Art — This museum currently has an impressive display of Chinese art from private collectors in Texas. There are photographs, paintings, sculptures and more. The museum, which is free of charge, left me feeling cultured and inspired by art.

Dallas Museum of Art — It doesn’t live up to New York City’s Modern Museum of Art, but then again, not many U.S. museums do. The museum features an exhibit with artwork that Dallas Museum of Art employees have made — artwork that I wanted to take home and hang in my room. The museum offers free sketching lessons every Thursday from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., as well as several other events.

Eno’sI love this new neighborhood restaurant. The pizza is a little too thin for my liking, but it’s good if you’re looking for a light lunch or dinner. The restaurant, which is located in the Bishop Arts District, tends to attract a younger crowd and sometimes features live bands. There are TVs in the restaurant and even in the bathroom so that you’ll never have to miss Romo making a touchdown. (TVs in the bathroom seem a little unnecessary to me, but hey, I’m sure some people find them entertaining.)

Fearing’sIf you have a full wallet and you’re in the mood for an upscale dining experience, check this place out. The restaurant, which is located in the Ritz Carlton, is a good place to take visitors who you want to impress. I felt lazy after eating here. The employees valet parked my car, opened the doors for me, (including the bathroom doors), frequently refilled my water, gave me free brownies with the check, and more. Note: The main menu doesn’t offer many options for vegetarians, but there is a vegetarian menu. You just have to ask for it.

Greenville Avenue — Lots of shops and restaurants here. If you’re in the mood for live music, check out the Granada Theater. Artists such as Ani DiFranco, Neko Case and the Avett Brothers have performed here in recent months.

Kalachandji’s — A Hare Krishna temple with a gift shop and Indian restaurant attached to it. The temple is open to anyone who wants to worship there, or just catch a glimpse of the ornate decorations. And I’d highly recommend the restaurant. I normally don’t like Indian food, but it’s all vegetarian, and it’s not loaded with curry. The restaurant is cafeteria style and reasonably priced. And the dessert is delicious, too.

Kirin Court Restaurant — This place has amazing dim sum. I had never eaten dim sum before coming here, but I ended up liking it. I even ate jellyfish, which is saying a lot for someone who is not very adventurous when it comes to trying new foods. I’d recommend going with a group of people because then you can order more dim sum and share it. It’s best to get there early. The place is generally packed by noon on Sundays.

Irving Bible Church — Service at Irving Bible Church is a pretty amazing experience, especially if you are used to going to Catholic Mass. Unlike most Catholic churches, Irving Bible Church is set up like a mini shopping plaza with a “Town Square” and a worship area that resembles an amphitheater. The musicians here are extremely talented. One of the singers has a voice that sounds very much like Sarah McLachlan’s. I love signing along with her.

La Calle Dolce — This quaint restaurant doesn’t seem like much from the outside, but on the inside, it’s full of delicious Mexican eats. I had my going away party with friends here and everyone seemed to like the food.

Latino Cultural CenterA great place to visit if you’re interested in Hispanic culture. Read an article I wrote about it to find out more.

Lee Harvey’s — A dive bar that everyone in Dallas has to visit at least once. The bar offers indoor seating, but I’d recommend taking advantage of the spacious outdoor seating area. On a clear fall night, you can get a great view of the Dallas skyline. You’ll be sure to meet lots of characters here.

Nasher Sculpture Center — This outdoor museum features sculptures from artists such as Edgar Degas and Picasso. I expected there to be more sculptures, but I still enjoyed what I saw. Sculptures, I found, seem more beautiful in the outdoors. Sunshine and shadows fall on them, creating an interesting balance of light and darkness depending on the time of day. My favorite sculpture in the center is called “Walking to the Sky.” Sculpted by Jonathan Borofsky in 2004, the piece features seven life-size figures walking up a 100-foot stainless steel post. It looks as though they’re walking on clouds, determined to reach the sun.

NorthPark Center — This mall is huge, and it’s a great place to people watch. For a while, I was walking behind a little old man, who seemed as though he was doing his speed walking workout for the day. At another point, I walked behind a group of five ladies who were all wearing over-sized T-shirts and hats that had pink and purple strands of hair attached to them. Then there were the women in Barneys New York who were buying $600 dresses. I walked inside the store, just so I could say I’d been there. Naturally, I gravitated toward the sales rack. Wow, a T-shirt for “only” $199! This store, and many of the other stores in the mall, are a bit too pricey.

Quarter Bar — A fun place to go after a long day/night in the newsroom. It looks small from the outside, but don’t be deceived. The bar, located in the Uptown part of Dallas, has a couple of different rooms with plenty of outdoor seating.

Reunion Tower — The tower is temporarily closed because a Wolfgang Puck is being built in it. I’ve heard that you can catch a beautiful view from the top of the tower when it’s open. I often used the tower as my point of reference because it’s right next to the Dallas Morning News building and it’s near the highway I took to go home every day. The tower, which lights up at night, is one of Dallas’ most recognizable buildings.

Sixth Floor Museum — I loved visiting this museum because of all it taught me about President John F. Kennedy and his assassination. The museum also gave me a greater appreciation for journalism and those who covered Kennedy’s death. It’s weird to think I drove down Elm Street, where JFK was shot, on a regular basis while in Dallas.

Snider Plaza — This outdoor shopping center near Southern Methodist University has cute little boutiques, nail salons and restaurants. It’s three blocks long and great if you’re looking for a shopping area that isn’t dominated by designer stores. I like the names of some of the stores here: “The Blues Jean Bar,” “Goo Goo Eyes,” “Peek in the Attic” and “Peggy Sue BBQ,” (which I’ve heard is pretty good). Heck, there’s even a snoring center. (What?!)

Soda GalleryThis “gallery” sells a variety of different sodas –200 types to be exact. There’s not much else in the shop, but it’s worth a visit, if only to crack open a nice, cold Dublin Dr. Pepper.

Southside on Lamar’s Jeanette Kennedy Gallery — I took a free yoga class here Sunday night. I had only done yoga once before and wasn’t sure if I’d like it, but I found it to be incredibly relaxing. I listened as the instructor guided the class through the motions. “Inhale. Exhale. Oooowwwwwm,” he said. “Breathe, smile. Breathe, smile. Pretend as though your brain is falling to the back of your head. Relax.” At times I felt funny, my head hanging between my knees, my arms and hands folded in a knot. But by the end of it, my body felt like jello, and my mind felt at rest.

St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic ChurchI naturally gravitated toward this church, seeing as I went to a Dominican college. This church seemed more conservative than other Catholic churches I visited, but I always felt as though I got something out of the homilies.

Taverna — I didn’t find too many good Italian restaurants in Dallas, but I was impressed by Taverna’s. The food is tasty, and the cozy outdoor seating area makes for a good date spot. I’d recommend the Risotto and the Gamberetti e Pesto pizza.

The Texas Club — I joined this gym in part because it’s only about two minutes away from the Dallas Morning News building. The gym features a pool, a track, racquetball courts and plenty of equipment. I usually worked out in the evenings and would often be one of the only people in the gym. (It tends to attract more people during the daytime, and during the lunch hour in particular, the owner told me.) One drawback to the gym is that its aerobic classes aren’t at the most convenient times — there aren’t many classes on the weekend or later in the evening on weekdays.

Texas State Fair — If you’re in Texas anytime from the end of September to the end of October, you have to go to the fair, if for no other reason than to indulge in some fried food and to ride North America’s largest ferris wheel.

Thai Soon — I couldn’t find many decent Thai restaurants in Dallas, so one night I drove to Richardson with a friend to try out Thai Soon. The unassuming restaurant with delicious eats was worth the extra miles. I’d recommend the spring rolls and the vegetable fried rice. The restaurant is tiny, so get there early if you don’t want to wait.

Veracruz CafeBy far my favorite restaurant in the Bishop Arts District, and one of my favorite Mexican restaurants in Dallas. There is never a lack of chips and salsa here. Everytime I ate here, the waiters would refill the dishes of salsa and the basket of chips at least twice before the meal came. So much for saving my appetite for the main meal. I’d highly recommend the shrimp quesadillas.

Village Church I was amazed by how young the congregation is at this nondenominational church. The one night I went, it seemed as though everyone was either in their 20s or early 30s. If there were older people there, they hid their age well. The church, which is located in Flower Mound, features beautiful music and attracts people from all over the Dallas area. Two of my friends drive 45 minutes to an hour every Sunday just to go to church here.

White Rock Lake — A good place to run, especially on Saturday and Sunday mornings. I was never ambitious enough to get up super early and run on the weekends, except when I ran road races. I ran the Walk, Wag and Run race here in October and really enjoyed it, aside from the dog that nipped at my feet in the final stretch of the race. …

What other places should I add to the list?