Category Archives: By Topic

Soccer Game at New-To-Me Yankee Stadium

TravelBetterPodcasts.com at Yankee Stadium, New York City
TravelBetterPodcasts.com at Yankee Stadium, New York City

When my friend said he had an extra ticket to an NYCFC soccer game at Yankee Stadium, I was elated. Not only have I not seen my friend for a couple years, but I haven’t been anywhere near the South Bronx since the old Yankee Stadium was in use.

I debated trying to get a tour of the new stadium, but then I learned from thwir website that I will actually get to see more things if I go when it is not baseball season.

So instead, I got to the South Bronx  just early enough to meet my friend at a nearby bar called The Dugout before the game.

The video below is from our walk leaving the stadium.

A quick note about transportation to Yankee Stadium

If you’re coming from New Jersey and you’re not driving to the stadium, it can be rather challenging to get to Yankee Stadium in an easy way. What I discovered on this outing was that I could  get home from the stasium by takung Metro-North from Yankee Stadium to Grand Central in Midtown Manhattan and then it is an easy walk to Port Authority or Penn Station.

Adventures in Sensory Deprivation: Your Guide To Flotation Tank Experiences

Yesterday I posted a video stating that I had just had one of my best floatation tank experiences in a space called Art of Floating in Bloomberg, Pennsylvania, but I never got into what exactly floating is.

For those of you who are spa fanatics (like me), you will probably love floating as a nice alternative to the traditional spa experience.

Essentially, you get into a tank filled with water that has been mixed to hold as much Epsom Salt as possible. This makes your body effortlessly float.

The temperature of the air and the water matches the temperature of your body/skin so after a little while in the tank you don’t really feel the water or the air, and it is soundless and pitch black in there so you don’t see or hear anything either.

This allows you to lose a sense of your physical body in space (except for occasionally brushing up against the wall of the tank).

The benefits of this kind of experience are numerous, ranging from pain management to right brain/left brain balancing to improved athletic performance.

I find the floatation tank to be the ideal way to meditate because there are very little distractions that typically come up and you don’t have your eye on the clock because the floatation location will let you know when your session is complete.

You can float away in  both body and mind!

Here are the 5 locations have been to so far and what I liked and what I thought could use some improvement about each location.

Q Flatiron Infinity Float (New York, NY)

This was a fantastic first floating experience! They were thorough about telling me exactly what I needed to do before I got into the floatation tank. I loved how spacious it was and wish they had one more so that I could bring someone with me next time and we could float at the same time. When I left Q Flatiron after my float, I felt like I was Neo from The Matrix, walking amidst all of the hustle and bustle on the streets of Manhattan, but felt so balanced and calm that I could easily dodge the mayhem in the same way Neo dodges bullets at the end of the first movie!

 

Serene Dreams (Kearney, NJ)

The actual experience at Serene Dreams was really nice. They had a great locker room and spacious floating rooms. The pods they use are very nice and spacious.

The next day I had a terrible headache and I am not sure why but I was told that they use chlorine in the water which to me sort of defeats the purpose. Epsom Salt (magnesium) has a number of health benefits, but if you are also absorbing chlorine during your float I don’t think that is very good. They told me at Serene Dreams that the State of New Jersey considers this location a pool and therefore requires chlorine. That’s a shame. FYI, every floatation tank I have seen in every facility I have visited is cleaned after each client’s float with a very thorough and precise filtering process and all floatation facilities require visitors to shower before they float to keep the water clean. Chlorine is unnecessary.

Mountain Float Spa (New Paltz, New York)

Maybe my experience was unusual because I visited this location in winter on a day that was not so busy, but I found myself cold in this location. The room where the pod was located was cold, my feet were cold before and after the float and I was cold floating in the tank because the air was cold in the tank, which made the hour rather uncomfortable instead of meditative.  The relaxation room (after the float) was nice and I spent some time reading before getting on the road.  The people were nice.

Requiescent Float Center (Ballston Spa, New York… Near Saratoga Springs which is north of Albany)

These floatation tanks were a work of art! They were clearly homemade which added to the charm. The one I was in was huge! I can’t say for sure how big it was, but it was twice the size of many of the floatation tanks I had been in so far. Also, the ceiling was very high in the tank. I don’t mind low ceilings in the floatation tanks, but people with claustrophobia might and I have one relative who does not like some tanks because they look like coffins. These tanks did not look like coffins. They offered plenty of room. I also liked that I walked into the shower and then went through the shower directly into the tank. It is a smart set up.

Art of Floating (Bloomsburg, PA)

This was my favorite location for a number of reasons. This is a large but quiet facility with a simple set up that is also beautiful. The tank is compact but I don’t mind (some people might) but it was in a very beautiful room. The relaxation space (where you go after floating) was large and offered a number of rooms to stay in after your float. There was also a sitting space outside on the porch. The people are very nice and helpful.

 


For more information about the benefits of floating, please watch this great documentary: Floatation Nation


PS: If you have been keeping up with my videos, I just want to let you know that video 4 has nothing to do with traveling, so I didn’t post it here, but if you want to take a look it should be up soon at https://youtu.be/WltQ_Q1eFpk

Video 1: Beginning Road Trip

When I am traveling, I am aways thinking about blogging my discoveries but I struggle with finding the time to post.

I am hoping that short video recaps make things better.

It is part of a 30 days of video challenge by Blossom Benedict (#RightVoiceForYou, #30dayvideochallenge).

I can’t promise I will make it past day 1, but at least I do have day one for you today.  🙂

https://youtu.be/vnb36n2CPBk

Toronto’s Planet Traveler Eco-Hostel

When I read that the Planet Traveler Hostel  in Toronto was not only an new Eco-Hostel but also in the center of Kensington Market, one of the coolest areas of Toronto, I thought that the price-tag was going to be outrageous, as it sometimes is for shared rooms in major cities.

I was delighted to find out that not only the price was on par or less than several of the major cities I have hosteled in, but also offered me some very comfortable accommodations that came with a very friendly and social atmosphere.

TorontoPlanetTravelerEcoHostelWeb_98
First floor of Planet Traveler Hostel

The smartly designed rooms are small, but visitors are automatically provided with a key to a tiny locker that not only fits all those shiny electronics that we all like to bring with us, but also includes two electrical outlets so that you can charge your gear while you are resting without worrying about someone grabbing it.

TorontoPlanetTravelerEcoHostelbyLeslieLelloWeb_100
Multiple doors with Swipes for Keycard to get into the room – very secure.
TorontoPlanetTravelerEcoHostelbyLeslieLelloWeb_101
Didn’t need this while I was there. Room was nice and dark

Not that I felt that was ever an issue.

When I first arrived at the hostel the room was a mess (sanitary and clean, but clothes everywhere), which made it feel very small. Once the two women that had made the clutter had left, I got to know my other bunkmates very well and we removed all of the remaining clutter the messy roommates had left behind.

From then on, our room was tidy and pleasant.

There was a steady stream of friendly travelers in the room throughout my stay. I felt my belongings were safe in the room, but sometimes outlets are at a minimum in hostels so I am grateful for the lockers with outlets at this location and that they had the foresight to include such helpful innovation.

Speaking of helpful innovation, all guests are REQUIRED to take a tour.

The reason?

The owners of the Planet Traveler hostel want people to know about the ecologically friendly technology that went into the place, like the geothermal heating from the alley next door and the copper wrapped pipes that keep the water piping hot whenever needed.

TorontoPlanetTravelerEcoHostelbyLeslieLelloWeb_102
Part of the eco tour at Planet Traveler Hostel

Breakfast, consisting of fruit, toast, spreads and coffee, is served until 1pm in the afternoon incase visitors have a late night. I like that this hostel appreciates that people are on vacation and sometimes don’t want to get up at dawn in order to catch breakfast.

While I was there, I also attended a free barbecue on the hostel’s roof, and there were a few other social activities like trivia night and a pub crawl that I would have attended if my schedule allowed.

And about that gorgeous roof…

The roof is where they keep the solar panels that power everything in the hostel – year round.

The roof also has a gorgeous view of the city, and I spent a couple of my nights in Toronto just sitting out on the roof, gazing at the beautiful summer sunset or watching the lights on the CN Tower.

TorontoPlanetTravelerEcoHostelbyLeslieLelloWeb_99
Toronto’s Skyline from Planet Traveler Hostel’s roof.
PlanetTravelerHostelSunsetFromRoofbyLeslie Lello
Planet Traveler Hostel Sunset From Roof

It would be freezing up there in winter, but it was delightful during the summer and had better wi-fi than in the main lobby.

And if you are looking for groceries or a reasonably priced meal, Kensington Market (which is really a neighborhood) is a half a block away and offers an overwhelming variety of food choices, and also some very eclectic clothing and shopping opportunities.

PlanetTravelerHostelNeighborhoodby Leslie Lello
Planet Traveler Hostel Neighborhood is Kensington Market

More Kensington…

kensington Market in Toronto near Planet Traveler Hostel by Leslie Lello
Eclectic art in Kensington Market
Kensington Market in Toronto near Planet Traveler Hostel by Leslie Lello
Green Grocers all around in Kensington Market
Planet Traveler Hostel Neighborhood is Kensington Market
Great Mexican Food at Nine Lives in Kensington Market

One important thing to know when you are booking is that there are only three parking spaces reserved for the entire hostel, so let them know you want one (cost $9 per day).

If you don’t get one, you can always go to a municipal lot for about the same price. You just have to walk a few blocks to your car.

This is the indoor municipal lot I stayed in for about 4 days (cost was about $35)

Carpark 68, 20 St. Andrews Street (Kensington Garage)

Planet Traveler Hostel Municipal Parking In Kensington Market
Planet Traveler Hostel Municipal Parking In Kensington Market

Remember, if you don’t have wi-fi in this country then you have to figure out directions beforehand or find open wi-fi.

Handwritten Directions to my car in Kensington Muni Parking
Handwritten Directions to my car in Kensington Muni Parking

I try to find local small businesses in the area for this, but if I’m not sure, my go-to open wi-fi place in Canada is Tim Horton’s, which also has good coffee and snacks that are reasonably priced.

Trusty Tim Horton's for Coffee and Wi-Fi
Trusty Tim Horton’s for Coffee and Wi-Fi

(But if you are in Kensington Market, do your best to support the local businesses. They have had to fight to keep this area cool and unusual and to keep big box stores out, so help them to do that by spending money in the local establishments.)

Shuffling to Buffalo Hostel

 

travelbetterpodcasts.com hostel buffalo niagra

 

I am still on the move as I write this, but just wanted to post about my stay at the Hostel Buffalo Niagara (also referred to as Buffalo Hostel), a “non-profit hostel is in the heart of downtown Buffalo’s Theater District”.

I am a little groggy in the video. Sorry about that.

A friendly Indian family had shared some chai with me that morning, but it wasn’t as caffeinated as my usual espresso. At least I’m keeping my media shorter these days.  🙂

And here are a few more shots of the room I stayed in:

 

travelbetterpodcasts.com buffalo niagara hostel
Private room at Buffalo-Niagara Hostel (New York State)
travelbetterpodcasts.com buffalo niagara hostel
Private room at Buffalo-Niagara Hostel (New York State)

 

To read more about the hostel, visit Hostel Buffalo.

travelbetterpodcasts.com buffalo niagara hostel exterior
Exterior of Buffalo-Niagara Hostel (New York State)

I don’t really have much to say about the City of Buffalo because both times I have been there, it was only because I was passing through.

How I Did Sugarbush This Year: Staying Local vs. Staying in Barre VT

travelbetterpodcasts.com Sugarbush 2015 - 01For the last couple years, I have made sure to get up to Sugarbush, which I feel has some of the best snow and varied terrain in Vermont.

My first time at the mountain was 2014 and it was great… 8 inches of fluffy snow every morning in March! It was awesome!

But there a few things that surprised me at this new-t0-me mountain.

First, leaving in the afternoon from New York after finishing work left me on the dark and windy back roads of Vermont at night, which I do not care for.

Second, I could not find reasonably priced lodging. My choice was to spend over $100 (pricy as a solo traveler) or stay at a hostel.

I chose the hostel, which was fine, but I didn’t get very good sleep any of the nights because of the noise in the shared room and my hostel mates who stumbled in drunk every night from the loud bar downstairs.

The hostel is only 5 minutes from Sugarbush, but I decided this year that I would have to come up with a different plan.

And that’s exactly what I did!

I decided to look for lodging in cities that are on the (few) major highways in Vermont.

This lead me to Barre, Vermont, which is about an hour from Sugarbush.

OMG! AN HOUR?

I can already hear you groan…

“AN HOUR?! THAT SUCKS? WHO WANTS TO GET UP EARLY TO DRIVE AN HOUR TO THE MOUNTAIN?”

Well, let’s break it down and you’ll understand what I think the advantages are:

1. Drive Time to Lodging in Vermont: Sugarbush vs. Barre

Google Maps says it is a 5.5 hour drive from New York City to Sugarbush Resort. Leaving late in the afternoon leaves you at Sugarbush at 9pm, the earliest. But the 5.5 hour drive time estimate is based on daytime hours. Even if there is no traffic, you will be driving slower (hopefully because safety matters to you) at night on the winding, unlit roads of Vermont at night.  For me, driving cautiously added another hour to the trip. It was March and the potholes were cavernous on Rt. 100 and other minor VT roads that year, so I drove slow to protect my car.

At the same, Google says the drive time to Barre, Vermont from New York City is only 5 hours. Again, this is daytime driving, so you have to add a bit of time on to that if you slow down at night, but you will be on well-lit superhighways most of the way, so there is much better visibility.

The first year, I made it to Sugarbush around 11pm. The second year I made it to Barre by 10pm. I left at approximately the same time.

2. Generic Quality Inn in Barre VT offers a Better Choice than the Hotels Near Sugarbush

I arrived at the Quality Inn in Barre around 10pm (getting a little bit of a late start), but my room was right next to my car, which was greatly appreciated on the frigid Vermont night. I brought my gear into the room, washed my face, and was in bed by 11pm.

Oh, and I got a full buffet breakfast in the morning which means I got on the road faster (which means I got on the mountain faster). I can just grab some coffee and a couple of hard boiled eggs and go.

Or I can just bring breakfast from home and leave it in the refrigerator in the room until I am ready to eat it.

When I get back to Barre from the mountain, I can swim in the pool or the hot tub.

This level of accommodations would have cost a bundle (probably at least 2-3 times the price I paid) in the Sugarbush Resort area.

Or you can go the budget route and skip the comfort.

Juxtapose my Quality Inn experience to the year before when stayed at the hostel near Sugarbush. After taking two trips to lug my bags to my dorm room (up a flight of stairs) and making sure I took off my shoes each time (no shoes upstairs in the dorms) and making sure there was not food in my bags (no food in the dorms), and then sorting out my belongings so that I could jump into my ski gear as easy as possible so as to not disturb the other hostelers (who did not have the same courtesy), I was finally able to carry all of my toiletries to the bathroom so that I may wash my face and go to bed around 1am (because I also arrived around 11pm and took 20 minutes to check in to the hostel).

I went to bed at 1am but didn’t fall asleep until 3am, if you can call being drowsy with my eyes closed sleeping. 3am is when all the snoring drunks in my room stumbled up from the bar downstairs after the loud band stopped playing and last call.

Of course I had to wake up early to go for breakfast at a cafe 8 miles down the road, because there was no kitchen in this hostel and the only offering the hostel had was an outrageously expensive full service meal (which takes too long, anyway).

One morning I just ate the frozen trail mix I left in my car in order to get on the mountain at a respectable time.

No hot tub or pool to relax in after a long ski day. A line for the co-ed shower. Bleh.

(Editing Note: Haha, but you don’t have to, ya know, shower with the other gender. You just share the facilities with the other gender.)

3. The Drive from Barre to Sugarbush is Usually Not That Bad

50 minutes from Barre to Sugarbush may seem like a lot, but it is daytime driving with minimal traffic. A super-fast ride on 89A to the well maintained Rt. 100.

I know what you are thinking.

“What if there is a storm?”

I can see that would make the drive much less pleasant and in some cases impossible. It is certainly something to consider.

There were a few storms last year in Vermont when not even the locals were skiing because even they could not make it to the mountain (In one case, I was staying on the mountain, so I basically had the whole mountain to myself because I didn’t have to drive.)

So, if there is a storm the Barre option might not work. Or might be rather treacherous and time consuming.

Most likely, though, you might just have to wait for them to clear the roads, which Vermont will likely do very quickly and early because these are major roads you would be taking.

In my comparison, I left Barre at 8am and arrived at Sugarbush at 9am, stopping for a coffee along the way.

The year before I left from the hostel at 8:30am (reasons: wait for the bathroom and I was tired from lack of sleep and no coffee yet so moving a bit slower and, again, had to reorganize my dorm stuff to make sure I wasn’t leaving valuables), but had to go for breakfast down the road, so by the time I got to the mountain it was 9:30am.

So Barre Vermont wins again!

Here’s some bonus awesomeness about the drive from Sugarbush to Barre. You will go past Montpelier and stop for groceries at Hunger Mountain Co-Op, if you’re into healthy food and clean eating.

Conclusion

Milage-wise, it might seem like staying in Barre when planning to ski or ride at Sugarbush is like crossing the Canadian boarder in Alberta when you need to get to Toronto, but I strongly advise you to consider this not-so-obvious option as a value-added choice.

If your intention is to have a great day skiing and be well rested, well fed and comfortable, Barre Vermont is a good choice, especially if you are a solo traveler.

PS: I stayed at the Quality Inn in Barre, but there are a number of similar chain motels where the quality is moderate and predictable and will support you and your needs during your ski/ride vacation at Sugarbush.

 

 

TBP 0025 Holiday Season in New York City 2013

holidays in New York CIty 2013

The Holiday Season In New York City! Even when I was living in Los Angeles, I was watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV and looking forward to visiting the decorated windows on 5th Avenue when I came home for the holidays.

Here is my overview and advice about celebrating New York during the holidays. There are TONS of holiday related things to do… just be sure to wear a comfortable pair of shoes and dress warmly!

For more advice and details, check out this week’s podcast TBP 0025!

PODCAST NOTES FOR TBP 0025 “Holiday Season in New York City 2013”

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade – The kickoff of the holiday season in New York City!
It’s on NOVEMBER 28, 2013, Starting at 9am.

The parade Begins on 77th and Central Park West. The route is south on Central Park West until 57th Street, then continue south on 6th ave to Herald Square. I never knew this but the route is 2.5 miles. Seems shorter than that to me.

To view the parade (and get a good spot) get there early, wear VERY WARM clothes and comfortable shoes, and try to get near a public restroom or a coffee shop so that you can use the bathroom. Bring snacks and beverages (but not too many beverages). 😉

Here are more tips for attending the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade:
http://gonyc.about.com/od/tipsforvisitingnyc/tp/thanksgiving-parade-tips.htm
http://gonyc.about.com/od/thanksgiving/tp/2011-Macys-Thanksgiving-Day-Parade.htm

If you can’t deal with the crowds, go to the Balloon Inflation in Central Park(79th and Columbus) on November 27th.
http://gonyc.about.com/od/thanksgiving/p/Macys-Thanksgiving-Parade-Balloon-Inflation.htm


Windows on 5th Avenue:

http://gonyc.about.com/od/christmassights/tp/holiday_windows.htm
http://gonyc.about.com/od/christmassights/tp/christmaswindow.htm
http://gonyc.about.com/od/christmassights/l/bl_xmaswindows.htm (This is the link for the map of the Window Display Walking Tour)

Rockefeller Center – tree and ice skating – go late at night!
The Christmas Tree lighting will be on December 4, 2013 – ceremony 7-9pm
http://www.rockefellercenter.com/events/2013/11/01/2013-rockefeller-center-christmas-tree-lighting/

Ice Skating alternative – Wollman’s Rink in Central Park at 63rd street. They’re calling it Trump Rink now. You can pre-book to avoid lines or getting shut out.
http://www.nycgovparks.org/facilities/iceskating/5
http://www.wollmanskatingrink.com/

FAO Schwartz
Not on the windows walking tour, but always fun to visit at xmas, whether you are an adult or a kid.
http://www.fao.com/home/index.jsp

Bryant Park is a park behind the New York Public Library on 5th Avenue has ice skating, shopping (more than 125 outdoor shops) and the restaurant Celsius during the holiday season.
http://bryantpark.org/things-to-do/wintervillage.html

The Party and Ball Drop in Times Square finishes the season. Expect insanely crowded public transportation. Bring games and other things to do. Just like the parade – think bathroom breaks, dress warmth, food, water, comfortable shoes.
FYI, the ball is made out of Waterford Crystal (which is why it sparkles so nicely).
http://www.timessquarenyc.org/events/new-years-eve/nye-schedule/index.aspx#.UoZJsY0Z0tI
http://www.timessquarenyc.org/events/new-years-eve/index.aspx#.UoZJs40Z0tI
http://www.timessquarenyc.org/events/new-years-eve/index.aspx#.UoZKm40Z0tI
http://www.wikihow.com/Attend-the-New-Year%27s-Celebrations-in-Times-Square

This is the best page to read if you are deciding to go to Time Square on New Year’s Eve: http://www.timessquarenyc.org/events/new-years-eve/nye-faq/index.aspx#9

If you don’t want to hang out in Time Square on NYE, but want to get a close up look at the ball, you can go to the Time Square Visitor’s Center.

TBP 0022 How to Plan A Staycation That is Awesome!

 

How to Plan a Staycation: My staycation to the paterson museum
How to Plan a Staycation: My staycation to the paterson museum

VACATION IS A STATE OF MIND.

This has always been my philosophy.

It’s just that it is so easy to stay stressed when in a home environment that most people find it hard to reach that state.

And it is also easy to blow off local adventures because there’s no excessive driving or flying. Because most staycations are only one day with flexible commitments (no car or hotel reservation), one can get to Saturday morning having expected to visit a local park that is an hour away and instead choose to stay in and sleep or do chores because it seems more pressing.

But as we get into one of the most busy seasons of the year, it can become difficult to carve out some travel time.

Mini-Vacations, Local Vacations and Staycations are the way to go when you don’t have a lot of time or resources.

Today’s podcast (TBP 0022)  is about how to plan a staycation that is awesome!

PS: The information on the show I mention can be found here.

 

TBP 0021 Salem Salem Massachusetts – Trip in Review

This is a follow up to last week’s podcast, to round out the bits about Salem Massachusetts that I was not sure about.

Most important additions to TBP 0020 (last week’s podcast):

  • Parking (the main garage in the mall) is $20. Be aware of that so that you don’t get sticker shock.
  • There is a walking tour provided in most of the tourist guidebooks. The tour follows a red line that is literally painted on the ground. Very helpful!
  • If you’d rather take the Salem Trolley, one of the locals said it was awesome and a really good deal for your money. I haven’t done it but probably will on my next trip!

Happy Travel!

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