Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right B A
September 20 to October 4, 2012
7 hours (overnight, 7pm to 7am)
This time my transatlantic plane was a normal 747 with three seats on each side of the plane. It could have been going anywhere not very special.
Back in Ireland again. This time I’m prepared. I have left over Euros from my last trip and a working ATM card. Let’s do this. Grab the Airlink 747 into town and we’re on our way.
The hostel I stayed at previously, Kinlay House, didn’t have availability for two weeks this time. So, I picked another hostel from hostel bookers. Sky Backpackers. It sounds nice, doesn’t it? Well, names are deceiving. It wasn’t very nice.
After four days at Sky Backpackers, I found another hostel up the street.
I moved to Spire Hostel which is just across from, you guessed it, The Spire. The Spire Hostel had large rooms with seven bunk beds in a room (14 beds total), and a bathroom in the room with two shower stalls and two toilet stalls with two sinks. Most nights, the room was less than half occupied. It worked out nicely. The Spire Hostel is close to groceries (an M&S) and a short walk down to Trinity College and the bar parts of Dublin.
M&S. Burdock’s. That’s about it.
Same as the first time. Walk walk walk. Bus to and from the airport. Luas out further. If you want to experience more country settings, they have day tours and multi-day tours out to Galway or other Irish-themed places too.
Since I was last in Ireland, AT&T let me unlock my iPhone 4. So, this time I had a real phone to use. I went to a Carphone Warehouse (yes, that’s a thing there), told them what I needed, they found a SIM for me, and two hours later I had working data on my phone.
Correction: working unlimited data. Unlimited data with tethering.
Unlimited data with tethering and free Ireland<->UK roaming for under €25.
If you find yourself in the same situation, pick a SIM from Three. They have great rates and won’t kill you with roaming fees when bouncing between Ireland and the UK.
For phone calls, you can use Skype over your cellular data plan. Perfection.
Things to Do
Work work work. Walk around.
Open your eyes. While walking around, I saw a promo poster for a Joshua Radin concert while I was still in town. Awesome. Joshua Radin rocks. Slowly.
There was a Mumford and Sons concert too, but it was overpriced and overbooked as usual. There was also some sort of drinky festival while I was there, but it wasn’t entirely useful to me.
We’ve got this down now. Find the bus stop, use your return ticket (you did get a two way ticket when you arrived, right?), then jump out when the airport shows up.
October 4 to October 18, 2012
1 hour 20 minutes
This flight was free because I had banked British Airways Avios points during some purchases earlier in the year.
We’ve got arrival down to a science here too. Arrive, gather luggage, go to subway, get ticket, go to gate, enter subway, jump towards Cockfosters.
I stayed at YHA Central again, and they were nice enough to not complain I’m technically staying more than my allowed “14 days per year” if you count the few days I stayed back in April/May.
YHA is the same as it was before. The weather is still about the same.
Food is about the same, but I found much better fish ’n chips chops this time. There are a few within walking distance of the hostel. Ask Google Maps. Some of them have weird hours, but it’s worth waiting until they’re open.
M&S is still down there on Oxford Street. Grab your three packs of chicken and throw pieces in the microwave for dinner.
Walk walk walk. Tube it, if needed.
Things to Do
I was fully into work mode by now. I fell into a nice pattern of waking up early, going downstairs to the couches to work for two hours, grabbing my backpack, going out for lunch, walking to the Regent Street Apple Store to work in their theater for a few hours (and download shows from the night before because they have free fast wireless network access), walk back to YHA Central, eat M&S groceries, shower, work from bed and watch downloaded tv shows until sleep hits. Start over the next day.
Parting is such sweet sorrow. This year I’ve been able to spend over a month in the UK and Ireland, but now it’s time to go. Time to drag my luggage down to Oxford Circus and head back to the airport.
October 18 to November 11, 2012
8 hours (10am to 1pm) (LHR to EWR)
4 hours (3pm to 6pm) (EWR to AUS)
Once again we have a layover on an arriving-from-international flight. We have the privilege of picking up our luggage, dragging it through customs, redepositing it back to the plane, then going through security all over again.
After that, we’re back on our way.
Austin has a tiny airport. I didn’t pre-book a van, so I just picked a taxi. The taxi didn’t know where the hostel was even given the address. I didn’t know, because, well, I’m not a taxi driver. I pulled out my phone to navigate him there. We eventually found it.
Austin doesn’t have a wide range of hostels. When I was booking Austin, there were two hostels. The first was in the middle of downtown, but it wasn’t open yet. The second was a HI hostel (HI Austin, obviously) a few miles away from the city center. I booked the un-opened hostel because it was supposed to be open by my checkin date. Supposed to be. A week before I arrived, they emailed me saying they weren’t opening on time, my deposit was useless, and I need to find other accommodations. They were nice enough to schedule my booking at HI Austin instead of having me call them myself.
So, HI Austin. Hello. Austin has a river running through it. The city center of Austin is north of the river, and the hostel is on the other side.
HI Austin is actually in a park. The building is an old boathouse for the river (lake?). It’s a tiny hostel with one floor of rooms and shared bathrooms. I got booked into a six person room and it worked out great.
The layout of HI Austin made it feel the most friendly of all the places I had stayed up until then. You walk in the door, the checkin desk is to the right, couches are straight ahead, an eating area is ahead to the left, and the kitchen is to the left behind the eating area. Everything is out in the open. Large windows look down into the park and onto the river.
It’s nice for what you get.
The bathrooms aren’t perfect, but they are spacious. The shower is one huge area with four curtains separating off sections. If you time your showers at non-busy times (busy times: morning), you’ll not have any space contention. Sometimes hot water seemed in short supply, but jiggling the water knob eventually made the water tolerable enough.
Food around there was simple. You’re walking distance to a grocery store (HEB), various food places, and bus distance to downtown with more food places or you can bus downtown then walk to Whole Foods and take a bus back. Plenty of options.
Bus stops are nearby. A weekly bus pass costs $4 at the hostel. The busses are clean and quickly take you to downtown or to UT Austin or down to malls or up to malls or over to Whole Foods pretty easily.
You can walk to the local grocery store. You can walk to a Planet Fitness. You can walk downtown if you want (it’s about two miles away), and you can walk all throughout the park grounds where the hostel lives.
Things to Do
Whole Foods Prime
I had an early flight on halloween night. Taxis weren’t going to be an option. I booked a SuperShuttle airport ride to pick me up November 1 at 6am. It worked.
Apparently Austin also has fireworks on Halloween. Those woke me up
San Francisco, California
November 8 to November 15, 2012
If you’re going to San Francisco, you land at SFO. There’s three airports in the aires (Oakland, San Jose, and SFO), but nobody really uses the others unless you live near them.
San Francisco’s subway connects to the airport, but it’s loud, dirty, smelly, and generally unadvisable unless it goes directly where you need to go. It’s easier to get a shared airport van to your destination in San Francisco. SFO is a 20 to 40 minutes drive outside of San Francisco proper.
San Francisco has lots of hostels. I picked USA Hostels San Francisco based on online reviews. The rooms are nice. The beds are purpose-built hostel beds with little privacy areas and power outlets.
San Francisco has food. Not much else to say here.
San Francisco has busses. Dirty, poorly maintained busses. You can use them if you have to get around without walking. San Francisco has a subway. It’s dirty and poorly maintained and doesn’t go very many places.
If the weather is nice enough and you can handle hills, try to walk where you can. If you’re in town for a few days, you’ll get stronger every day and by the third or fourth day, you won’t have any problems.
Things to Do
It’s San Francisco. Do things.
If you took BART from the airport the first time, you’ve probably realized that was a dumb idea. Book a shared ride airport van to get back to the airport.
New York City, New York
November 15, 2012 to May 3, 2013
5 hours 40 minutes. 7:00am to 3:40pm. SFO to JFK.
JFK has a subway connection, but it’s $5 on top of your normal $2.50 subway fare. I was traveling with two luggages and a backpack, so I opted for a taxi to my first rental.
This is a multi-step setup.
My first month I stayed in a stranger’s extra bedroom. It was fine except a week into my stay, she had her mother visit whose hobby included power standing furniture in the living room staring at 6am. No mention was ever made of the mother staying or even existing. It was kinda weird. Astoria.
My second month I found a craigslist sublet from someone going back home to Hungary for Christmas. The room worked out nice, but there were two other families living in the house who never really spoke. Astoria.
My third month was almost intolerable. Craigslist room listings dry up towards the end of the year, but that’s when I needed to look for a room. I was two days away from not having a place to stay when I got someone on craigslist to let me stay in an empty room of theirs. The bed was horrible, the roommate was horrible, and the apartment was cold (this was January 2013). East Harlem.
My next three months were better. Someone I met online had a room opening up starting February, so I moved in there for three months. Long Island City.
New York has lots of little bodegas, supermarkets of various quality, and big chain stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. Where you end up shopping depends on where you end up living. Though, sometimes it’s worth going across town to stock up on things only Trader Joe’s has.
Same as before. Subways or walking. This was winter though, so I had to buy snow boots to get around in the snow and slush of after-snow some days.
Things to Do
Live life. Work from the SoHo Apple Store.
Parting is such sweet sorrow. This time, I decided to travel lighter. I got a storage unit, signed up for zip car, drove my three months worth of accumulated cruft to the storage unit, then set out again. This time, without a giant suitcase.