Thursday, January 25, 2018

Livin' It Up At The Hotel California

I've been to California many times because a lot of my family lives there, but this trip was like no other. Since my family was busy with wedding plans, my husband, Jason and I were able to travel a bit and see things that I've never seen before. It was certainly a trip to remember. As soon as we arrived in California, Jason and I rented a car and went to my favorite restaurant, Aappakadai. In my opinion, they have some of the best South Indian food I've ever had (aside from homecooked meals of course). After dinner, we checked into the Palo Alto Four Seasons Hotel, which is always a luxurious treat, and stayed there for 2 nights. Then we drove to Tracy where my grandparents live and stayed with them for 1 night and continued on to Napa. Jason and I booked the Collective Tour on the Wine Train, which was an amazing experience. We visited 3 wineries: St. Supery, Beringer, and Raymond Vineyards. Each vineyard was unique in decor and its experience. Some stops required a brief shuttle ride from the train to the winery, which looked like a party bus. The Wine Train is also great because you can keep to yourself in your little booth, or you can socialize with the rest of your group. I highly recommend going in the off-season. Even though it's not as nice of weather, it's worth it to beat the crowd. Jason and I had a blast with our little group of 6. By the last winery, we called each other the "Wine Train Fam." The only thing that I wasn't thrilled with was that after the large amount of money we paid, the wine was not included on the train; the ticket included tastings and food. The service, however, was superb. They were very friendly, personable, detailed, and have great balance on those wobbly trains! After Napa, we stayed in Menlo Park in an Airbnb. Although fancy hotels like the Four Seasons are beautiful, some Airbnbs are way more cost effective and can be in really cool places! Ours has a gym, pool, hot tub, and was central to a lot of food, shopping, and attractions. Some attractions we were lucky enough to see were the Google and Apple Campus. Yes, the Apple Campus is restricted to the public, but I have a family friend who works there and was able to show us around! My husband was in techy heaven. As for Google, you can walk onto the campus and go to the gift shop; you just can't get into the buildings. After staying in Menlo Park and nerding out, we drove back to Napa for my cousin's wedding at the Meritage Resort. You know when people say they need a vacation after their vacation? I understand what they mean now. Jet lag + thousands of miles = exhausted!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Lake George - a local trip for those that love the outdoors

For Jason and my 2nd wedding anniversary, we decided to do a fun and local trip to Lake George, New York. Lake George is a beautiful and cute town, but its prime season is the summer; there isn't much else to do the rest of the year. Jason and I drove up from Queens, NY, which took about 3 1/2 hours. On the way up, we stopped at the Taste New York rest stops, which are AWESOME! Taste New York is fairly new. It's a small store chock full of locally made food! We got these amazing cheese crackers from Saratoga and fresh ginger ale from Brooklyn. When we arrived at our hotel in Lake George, we dropped our bags and went out on the town. Before you go to Lake George, it's good to know in advance that it is not a fancy town with the best food or hotels. You go there for the scenery, wineries and breweries, and outdoor activities. Jason and I went to Lake George Distilling Company. We were able to taste 3 whiskies each for $5 and we got a free shot glass with the tasting! Although I'm not a huge whiskey fan, it was a great experience. We also went to the Adirondack Winery. We purchased the 2-person tasting, which was well worth it. We got to taste 9 delicious wines with incredible homemade apple cider cheese. We ended up buying a case of wine and 2 small containers of cheese. Our last alcohol experience was at the Adirondack Brewery where we bought a case of cider after sampling different beers and ciders. For a very affordable price, you can get a flight of beer, which contains 5 beers to sample. You can tell that Jason and I enjoy our alcoholic beverages. After being good and liquored up, we went parasailing. I have been parasailing twice in my life, but it was Jason's first time. We got our life vests and harnesses put on and went out on the lake with another couple and 2 of the parasail crew. Jason and I went first and the crew was nice enough to take photos and videos of our whole experience. It was just as amazing as I remember. While we were in the boat for parasailing after our turn, one of the staff members recommended that we go zip-lining. So immediately after parasailing, Jason and I jumped in the car to Adirondack Eagle Flyer. When we got to Eagle Flyer, we had to sign waivers, get weighed, and get our gear on. Then we took a 10 minute bumpy and dusty drive up the mountain to the 2nd biggest zip-line in America. I was ready to have an amazing adventure until I got into the truck. I saw how high it was and how there was a bit of a drop in the wire. I panicked all the way up the mountain and as I sat hooked up to the line watching the guy's finger on the button to open the gate. As I was saying, "I DON'T WANT TO DO THIS," he pushed the button. Jason and I went shooting out the gate at 50 MPH. It was amazing and there was no drop! Thank God. I enjoyed it so much that we did it immediately after for 1/2 price. It was one of the coolest experiences and I'm glad I didn't chicken out. After zip-lining twice, we went to the saloon next to the zip-line. The drinks were great and the decor of the saloon is amazing. FYI if your into horseback riding and target shooting, they also do it at Eagle Flyer. You can certainly spend your whole day at Eagle Flyer doing fun outdoor activities. Jason and I weren't thrilled with most of the food in Lake George except for S.J. Garcia's. I don't know why the ratings are so low on Yelp for this place because it was Jason and my favorite place in town other than Caffe Vero. The food was great along with the service, but the drinks were so-so. Caffe Vero on the other hand was the greatest in every way. The pastries were so fresh including the bagels and they had an awesome selection of cream cheese. This family-friendly establishment is a must-go-to in Lake George.

Friday, August 11, 2017

A Newbie's Guide to New York City

Before my husband, Jason and I knew each other, he ventured out to New York on a J1 summer visa (and later received the J1 year-long visa). Through his experiences, now knowing a lot of Irish people on visas, and being a native New Yorker, I've compiled a list of critical things you need to know before you depart on your New York J1 Journey: 1. Don’t call New York City “The Big Apple.” You’ll be spotted as a tourist in seconds. 2. When you land at JFK, Newark, or La Guardia Airport, taxi drivers will come up to you asking if you need a ride. Don’t take these cabs! They’ll charge you an excessive amount as soon as they sense any sort of accent or unfamiliarity to the city. Either download Uber, Juno or Lyft and request a ride, or stand in line and take a yellow cab. It’s handy to know where you’re going before you get in the cab and approximately how long it will take so they don’t lead you out of the way and charge you more money. 3. NEVER buy a full priced Broadway show ticket. You can either stand in line at Times Square or South Street Seaport at TKTS or the better option is to download the TodayTix app and get even lower prices right from your phone (use promo code DOMAU to get discount tickets on TodayTix!) 4. Don’t eat in Times Square chain restaurants unless you want to get ripped off. Yelp is always helpful when looking for delicious, but inexpensive food. 5. Most New York neighborhoods have Facebook pages. There’s even a page specifically for J1’ers. Network through as many pages as you can before coming to New York and it’ll be a lot easier to find a job when you step foot in the US. 6. Make a copy of all of your important documents (license, passport) and send a copy to close family members and friends in case of emergency. 7. Know where your local immigration center and consulate are. Immigration centers can also help you find employment. 8. If you already have a smartphone, make sure it is unlocked prior to coming to the US. Buy an American SIM card, and you’re ready to go. If you plan on staying for a couple of months or longer, Walmart has great ‘no contract’ plans for a low cost. 9. After you get your phone and you have oodles of data, you can download the app, Moovit. Moovit lets you know what buses and trains are near you and the times they are coming. It uses GPS to track where you are in relation to any type of transportation in NYC. It's super handy (especially for directionally challenged people like me). 10. Everyone has to eat, but not everyone has the money for luxurious meals on a budget. Don’t fret, my pet! Dollar Slice to the rescue. That’s right. 1 slice of pizza costs $1. You just have to know where to look (or know how to Google). FYI Dollar Slice pizza places are mostly in Manhattan. 11. Many people think they’re going to go on a shopping spree when they get to New York not taking into considering the astronomical prices. If you want to get American brand-name clothes, check out the Jersey Gardens Mall. Take a bus from Port Authority Bus Terminal in Midtown Manhattan. Don’t forget to bring your passport! Your passport is the key to getting a huge book of coupons so you can shop til you drop and it’s all tax free. 12. There are so many free/cheap things to do in the city; you just have to know where to look. Check out to see what’s happening near you. Museums, botanical gardens, zoos, etc. have specific days that have discounted or even free admission. Another handy site for the whole state of New York, not just NYC, is Know before you go! 13. If you plan to stay in New York on an extended visa or even for the summer and don't plan on getting your driver's license, get a New York City ID. Click HERE for the application. The NYC ID will also get you discounts into museums, zoos, etc. Some bars and clubs take this ID. FYI Age cards are not acceptable form of ID when trying to enter a bar. I know, it states your age, but NY and most states want a state ID or a passport. You might as well get the NYC ID so you don't end up losing your passport. 14. People don't realize how much they'll be using the subway in New York until they get here. Check out the best ways to save that work for you by seeing the different metro plans the MTA offers: If there's anything I missed or if you need recommendations, give me a shout!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

4th of July weekend in Washington DC

It's been awhile, Ariel Viewers and it's great to be back. This past weekend, my husband, Jason and I went to Washington DC for the weekend to celebrate Independence Day. We drove down to our AirBnB in Cleveland Park, which is a town outside of the city center. Cleveland Park is very accessible to the metro to get you where you need to go and AirBnB was way cheaper than any of the hotels around (and you get an entire apartment to yourself). The metro stations are much cleaner than New york, but it is more expensive. In DC, the cost of the ride depends on where you're going unlike NY where you can travel anywhere for a flat rate. Also the purchase of the card itself is $2. Jason and I purchased 2 Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus Groupons to explore the city. Buying these Groupons saved us $30 total. We bought 24-hour passes and saw all the things we wanted to see. If you want to explore the museums, I suggest buying a 48-hour pass. We also went to the Smithsonian National Zoo, which is in Cleveland Park. We had a great time seeing all the animals and it's totally free! In addition to the sites, we thoroughly enjoyed the food! We visited: 1. Medium Rare - we went here for brunch and we had amazing steak tips and eggs plus bottomless mimosas, bloody marys, etc. 2. Filomena Ristorante - very good Italian food. We had ravioli and gnocci. The best part of the whole meal was the strawberry cheesecake. Jason and I agreed that it was the best cheesecake we had ever eaten. 3. Das - I visited this Ethiopian restaurant about 10 years ago and it is just as good. We had the vegetable sampler and added beef tibs. Ethiopian bread that is served with the meal is delicious and very spongy. I was very happy to have gone back. 4. Old Ebbitt Grill - The steak and eggs on the brunch menu were amazing. I was not thrilled will the alcoholic beverages that were offered during brunch, but the fresh orange juice was delicious. 5. Georgetown Cupcakes - Be prepared to wait in a line down the block, but it moves pretty quickly. If you don't feel like waiting, order your cupcakes a day ahead of time and pick them up! We also visited a few bars: 1. ENO Winebar - This was pretty expensive so we only stayed for one drink. However, the ambiance was great and so was the service. 2. Jackpot - This bar was a fun time. The bartender is hilarious-quite the entertainer. You get popcorn with your drinks, and the bartender can whip you up anything based on what you like. The prices are fair and the atmosphere and vibe is great. Also I found out that I like beer! Normally I hate it, but the bartender had me try a mead beer, which is a beer made with honey rather than wheat. It was delicious! 3. Rí Rá - A super fun Irish pub that livens up at night. We were there during Derek A Dempsey's set and I must say that I have never seen such a great performance at a bar. He is so talented in all sorts of music styles and he gets the crowd on their feet. I can't wait to see him perform in NY this week! Overall our trip was a fantastic one. I can't wait to go back to Washington DC next year for the Cherry Blossom Festival!

Monday, March 28, 2016

There is a better way

Blood is shed daily from terror attacks. Individuals are sexually brutalized, groups are victims of bombings and mass shootings from being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and fear is forever instilled in innocent people. Some say that terrorism is the result of uneducated people. Others say it is the result of mental illness. Although religion may have some outdated messages in its scriptures, the overall message is clear: Peace, do good for others, and be your best self. So how does this message get so misconstrued to the point that murder is the answer? In 2016 alone there have been 3,023 deaths in the US caused by gun violence. This does not include injuries and incidents caused by other means of harm. Therefore, statistically about 755 people are killed by guns each month. These numbers are outrageous. As gun violence and other acts of terror continue to grow, people are becoming more and more racially intolerant. Bad people are not separated into races and religions; they’re separated by morality and immorality. Rather than ostracizing entire groups of people such as Muslims, African Americans, and police officers, remember that there are bad apples in every group of people and it doesn’t make the entire group bad because there are always going to be flaws in every group.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

“Let’s join Isis!” said more people than you’d think.

“4th Brooklyn Man Is Charged in Plot to Join ISIS” (The New York Times.) “More Americans volunteering to help Isis” (CNN.) “The World of American Kids Seduced by Isis.” (Rollingstone.) These are the types of headlines that the public is seeing in the news and the draw to join Isis is becoming more common and more disturbing. According to The New York Times as of August 20, 2014, around 85 Americans had chosen to fight in Syria. The State Department estimates that about 12,000 people around the world have traveled to Syria to fight in groups like Isis. What is the appeal for young people to join Isis? As reported by CNN, Isis runs powerful publicity machine, which uses social media to target these young people. 90,000 Tweets are sent out daily, and Facebook and WhatsApp are used to reach their target audience in a language the generation understands. These young people seem to be flocking to Isis for it promises “the good life.” They provide a “utopian political project.” Additionally, Isis promises free housing, utilities and toiletries all while warping young minds into oblivion so much so that these recruits don’t think Isis is doing anything wrong. I love free things. I love Facebook. However, nothing in the world would make me want to join this group regardless of any post I read or offer I received. I don’t know where the world’s head is at, but it is certainly not in reality or using common sense.

Friday, March 20, 2015

It's All About Networking

As many of you may know, I landed a job with the New York Times and I couldn't be happier. My title is the Confidential Administrative Assistant and I will be fielding news stories and interviews in addition to being the personal assistant to the senior editor. I have applied to well over 300 jobs and I wholeheartedly believe that submitting applications online does close to nothing; it is all about NETWORKING. If you're out alone at the bar or grabbing dinner, talk to the person next to you. I ended up meeting a woman who works for Morgan Stanley, a well-known finance company, and she said she'd pass my resume along. I also have connections at Google and Nickelodeon because my parents met people who work there. I even got my New York Times job because I had an acquaintance on the inside. From there I worked my butt off and 5 interviews later I was hired! There are also plenty of networking events, especially in the major cities, that you can search for on Google. My advice is to perfect your resume and tailor it to each position you apply to as well as tailor you cover letter. Lastly, make personal business cards so the people you meet can add you to their contacts and remember you later. So quit busting your hump on hundred of tedious applications and get out and network!