Washington DC


What is there to see in the capital of USA?


For a Scandal fan like me, traveling to Washington DC was like checking off a bucket list. Sadly, I didn't see Olivia Pope on our sight-seeing! :P

Being the capital of United States of America, you can find almost all the government agencies here... Including the presidential office and residence-- THE White House!

Sadly, President Barack Obama was not there, too. He flew somewhere. We guessed. ;)

As the capital of a nation, it is understandably the home of famous national monuments and museums. So aside from THE White House...

You can also find-- the Capitol Hill, also known as the United States Congress. I learned that there are 540 rooms inside, that is almost as many as the lawmakers (both congressmen & senate)-- which are all connected by winding halls, tunnels and an underground train!

The best way to see most of Washington DC's monuments and museums is to actually stroll down the Mall, a green-way crowned by the Capitol and lined with treasure all the way to the Lincoln Memorial, by foot or by renting bicycles...

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The Lincoln Memorial is of course, the infamous statue of the 16th President of the United States, that sits immortalized in marble as an enduring symbol of unity, strength, and wisdom...

On the ground floor of Lincoln Memorial is the African American Museum honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights movement...

As you stepped outside of the memorial, you can find the exact spot where Martin Luther King Jr. had his speech...

Washington Monument, named for this place, is located at the center of the mall, is in honor of President George Washington, being the founder and the first president of the republic...

National World War II Memorial is dedicated to Americans who served in the armed forces and as civilians during the World War II. It consists of 56 pillars arranged in semi-circle. Each pillar inscribed is the name of the 48 states of 1945, including the Commonwealth of the Philippines...

Smithsonian Institution Building, nicknamed as the Castle is a picturesque landmark in the mall...

It was built in red sandstone with Romanesque motif. It houses the Smithsonian Institution's administrative offices and information center...

As book nerds, our favorite landmark in Washington DC is the Library of Congress...

It has 23,592,066 cataloged books inside!!!

Although the Library is open to the public, only high-ranking government officials may check out books and materials...

The Library promotes literacy and American literature through projects such as the American Folklife Center, American Memory, Center for the Book and Poet Laureate...

There's so much to see in Washington DC. But we only spend a day and a half, so we didn't get to see everything. You can always check out their official website for monthly and free activities.

TRAVEL TIP: You can tour the White House and other museums for free! If you are a US citizen, you need to submit a request through your congressional office, six months in advance. For Non US, you need to contact your country's embassy in DC for the tour arrangement. (For Philippine passport holders, you need to befriend Kris Aquino!) 

As for our #frenchiatpinay tip: Always start planning with a map! 


What's your favorite capital city? What did you like about it?

Niagara Falls-- US side

 

Did you know that Niagara Falls has two sides?


Niagara Falls is the waterfalls that serves as the international border between Canada and USA (specifically in the state of New York).

From downtown New York (Bronx) is almost a 7hour drive-- one way! It's one ultimate road trip, so to speak! And that's the best thing about the US, you can literally drive to the ends of their country and picnic by the road, just like what we did! ;) A big shout out to my Balcos family for this trip! Love you to the moon, guys!!!


There are three falls that comprise the Niagara: The Horseshoe, the biggest of the three which can be beautifully viewed from the Canadian side

The American, which is obviously on the American side because of its name, looks like a modified W! 

And THE BRIDAL VEIL, that well, looked like a veil from the US side.

You can explore and see the beauty of Niagara through the boat cruise of Maid of the Midst$17/adult. On summer time they're open from 9:00-8:00 PM. So get ready to be soaked, although they give you (thin) raincoats! Yellow raincoats to be exact...

If you have a Canadian visa or can legally cross the other country, you can do so, through the Rainbow Bridge which was built in 1941 that connects US and Canada.

Niagara Falls is the largest electricity producer in New York State, with a generating capacity of 2.4 gigawatts (million kilowatts).


Trivia: A lot of jumpers and plungers have dared to jump off into the falls. In 1829, Sam Patch, who called himself "the Yankee Leapster", jumped from a high tower into the gorge below the falls and survived. And a school teacher from Michigan, Annie Edson Taylor was the first person to go over the falls in a barrel as a publicity stunt; she survived, bleeding, but virtually unharmed in 1901. She was 63 years old! How's that for Girlpower?!? ;)


Niagara is a huge tourist attraction and favorite spot for honeymooners & couples, especially after the release of a 1953 movie of Marilyn Monroe, Niagara.

Most of the attractions in the US side, lie within the Niagara Falls State Park. The Niagara Scenic Trolley offers guided trips along the American Falls and around Goat Island. Panoramic and aerial views of the falls can also be viewed from the Flight of Angels helium balloon ride, or by helicopter.

We were lucky to have a nice, sunny, summer weather where we had a glimpse of the sunset!


There are plenty of group tours or buses to choose from if you're coming from New York City. The cheapest ones are the tours organized by the Chinese. No wonder, we were surrounded by them!!! ;)


Have you been to a falls before? Have you been to Niagara Falls?

New York City (Part 2)

 

Because NYC gives so many things to do and to see!


With so many things to see and do in NEW YORK CITY, it is rightful to have more than one blog entry about it. Read my first one here.

Now, let's talk about interesting things. As a major city tourist attraction, New York city has a lot of tours around-- that caters your interests and what you wanted to learn about. Frenchie, as introvert as he is, is surprisingly a hip-hop fan! Apparently, growing up in France, hip-hop has quite a huge demographic following with the Frenchies! So he was really happy to have found a tour that we will learn so much about the history and birthplace of hip-hop! We signed up for HUSH TOURS.

It was a fun and interactive tour! It's quite pricey for $75 each. But we've seen a good detail of the history of hip-hop as we went around from Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx, and Harlem!

In this tour, there was hip-hop dancing tutorial!

We even have hip-hop rapper & singer, Grand Master Caz as our tour guide!


We went to the NEW YORK YANKEE STADIUM!


We went to see the graffiti exhibit at the New York City Museum. Graffiti as you may or may not know, is an art form associated with hip-hop!


And stopped by the APOLLO THEATER!


Another famous activity when you're in NYC is to watch a Broadway musical! But tickets can be quite expensive! I wanted to see this...


Now let me tell you this: there's a not-so-secret way to save money for a Broadway musical: try a ticket raffle or get a SRO(Standing-Room-Only). For raffle tickets, check out the website of the play you wanted to watch. Like THE BOOK OF MORMON, they have their raffle draw five hours before each show, everyday. So just show up at their venue and fill out their raffle tickets. They only give out 10 (2 free tickets) before every show. Sadly, we didn't get a chance.



The other option which we opted for, was the SRO! Since The Book of Mormon is quite a famous and great musical, getting a SRO had a very slim chance. You literally have to line up from 11 am at their ticket counter for it! Phew! So we tried the almost as famous show, CHICAGO! 

We just went straight away to their ticket counter and ask if they still have a Standing-Room Only, and it is for $27 each as compared to the $100 regular. Horrayyyy!!!

Standing-Room Only literally means you will have to stand for the whole duration of the show. Fortunately, we were able to grab two chairs at the back row. Yay! ;) Chicago was phenomenal! I have to watch more musicals because of it!


After watching a Broadway in NYC, you might as well go to TIME SQUARE which is a block or two away from the musical theaters! Here, you will be among the hundreds and hundreds of tourists from around the world that come to NYC to visit this infamous landmark!

My (twin) cousin, Vida who is now a certified New Yorker was our tourist guide! She also introduced us to the most well-loved Halal Guys of 53rd & 6th! Who are selling the yummy goodness of Halal (meat on rice) food! Since we're on the topic about food, coming to the US, we've realized that it's all about quantity! What do I mean?! Just look at the sizes of their servings! 


My aunt took us to Stardust in Broadway street, for a total American-diner experience! And this is where you can find the hopeful Broadway singers while waiting for that BIG break. Think: singing cooks & waiters! :)

Just look at the sizes of these dishes! It can feed four people! Their milkshakes have refills with the same size of your order! Kalooka!!! Nonetheless, Frenchie is one happy diner! ;)


While walking around 74th Street, we spotted this underground Hummus Place.

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And it was worth every tip we gave! ;) (In the US, you have to tip at least 15% of your total cost.)


But if there's any food or place to eat we love in NYC, it would be the "food by the pound", which you can find at almost every Deli around the city. Basically, this is a self-service atmosphere where you can choose from the variety of ready-to-eat-dishes and place them into a container. When you get to the counter, the cashier will weigh in your container and you will pay according to the weight of your food. They're usually around $6-9 per pound. We really love the healthy options it gave!


So if we have to sum up New York City in one word?! Well, it's just simply f-a-b-u-l-o-u-s!!!


Is NYC on your travel bucket list? Or do you have an NYC travel-must-see?

New York City (Part 1)

 

WHAT TO DO IN THE CITY THAT NEVER SLEEPS?


To describe New York City in one word is way IMPOSSIBLE! A sentence-- will be even harder.

The moment we stepped out of JFK airport, I knew we stepped into a whole new world of its own.


So much has been said about the BIG APPLE-- there were movies, poems, and songs inspired by this city. And it's pretty remarkable for Frenchie and I that we've experienced it together for the first time, as we only used to sing Jay Z's Empire State of Mind, as some sort of dreaming to visit New York one day. ;)

To say that there's so much to see in New York is really an understatement. This is one city that you'll never get bored. And they mean it! It's the city that never sleeps after all!

As Serena Van Der Woodsen said, "How can anyone not love New York?" For me, the whole experience was so surreal. It felt like a dejavu because it's as if I've been here before. I'd have to thank the Sex and the City and Gossip Girl, for that sense of familiarity to every side and corner of this city.


So if you're in the BIG APPLE, the best view to see the whole city at the ROCKERFELLER CENTER. Or the TOP OF THE ROCK!


To get there: By subway, take the F, M, B, or D trains to 47th- 50th Street/Rockefeller Center or take the E or M trains to the Fifth Avenue/53rd Street station. Enter at the main entrance on 50th Street between 5th and 6th avenues.


The tourist crowd was more organized and there was more space for a selfie pic, than in Empire State. We went in the afternoon, so we had a great clear view of the NYC skyline! It's $29.00 for entrance fee.

THE EMPIRE STATE BUILDING was more like a 2-3 hour task! If I'd have to advice you...skip this building. I repeat, skip this building.


To get there: The visitor entrance to ESB is located on 5th avenue between 33rd and 34th streets. The ESB is centrally located, so many subway lines will get you close. Take the 1, 2, 3, A, C, or E to 34th street/Penn station or the B, D, F, N, Q, or R to 34th street/Herald Square station.



With so many tourists trying to get up here, the way they control the crowd really needs improvement. Workers are shouting all over the place! I thought I'm in China all over again! I'm not sure about the SKIP ALL LINES way, though. So I'm not sure if your $50 is even worth it.

In Rockefeller, while waiting in line, you can read through the history of the building. In Empire State, you're given this audio guide, that is only useful when you're at the viewing deck area.

We went at 6ish PM, so we have the night view this time. Unfortunately, my gopro and iphone are both terrible with night mode. :(

When you're traveling in New York, the most essential thing you should bring is: power shoes! Find the most comfortable shoes you can ever find in your closet. Why take a yellow cab when you can fully embrace and appreciate the scenery of the city by walking??


For NYC tourists, it's advisable to get a 7-day Metro Card pass. It's worth $30 and it's already an unlimited subway & bus rides.


New York subway is one of the oldest in the world, and having said that, it's not clean but there's something magical and beautiful that happens each day in here. Like for real! Haha


As cultural nerds, Frenchie and I went to see the different museums around the city!

The best thing about NYC museums-- admission is by donation fee only. You can enter as cheap as $10. We went to THE AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY at Central Park West at 79th street for everything about natural evolution and the world.


To get there: By subway, take the C or B train (weekdays only due to construction) to 81st street or take the 1 train to Broadway and 79th. By bus, take the M79 bus to the stop on W. 81st street (crosses Central Park). Also, the M7, M10, M11, M86, and M104 buses stop near the museum.


We went to MUSEUM OF MODERN ART (MOMA) for everything contemporary art. They have a $25 entrance fee but every first Friday of the month is a free admission day.


To get there: By subway take the E or V train to 53rd street and 5th avenue and walk west to the museum or take the B, D, or F train to 47-50 street Rockefeller Center and walk north to 53rd and east to the museum. By bus take the M1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 to 53rd street.


We went to the MUSEUM OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK for the graffiti exhibition.


To get there: By subway, take the 6 train to 103rd street and walk three blocks west or take the 2 or 3 train to Central North (110th street), walk one block east to Fifth avenue and then south to 103rd street. By bus take the M1, M3, M4, or M106 to 104th street or the M2 to 101st street.


NYC is also bursting with street art...

And of course with eccentric & talented street artists!


If you're tired from walking and want to get away from the high rise buildings, CENTRAL PARK is the best place to rest, unwind, and take a breather. I love NYC simply because of this huge nature in the middle of this modernity!


For lovers, go to Brooklyn to have a romantic view of BROOKLYN BRIDGE and MANHATTAN BRIDGE where you can have the view of the sunset and the New York skyline!


To get there:  Take the A-C Line to the High Street station in Brooklyn. Walk north on Cadman Plaza east until you get to a stairwell on your left that leads up to the bridge.


Of course, when you're in the BIG APPLE, you should never miss the symbol of this vibrant city -- THE STATUE OF LIBERTY! For those who are on a backpacker's budget like us, you can see the statue from afar-- for free, by taking the Staten Island ferry! (Boat trips are every 15 minutes.)


To get there: By subway, take the 4 or 5 train to Bowling Green, the R or W train to Whitehall Street, or the 1 train to South Ferry. By bus, take the M1, M6, or M15 bus to South Ferry.


If you're a foodie, head out to Chelsea Market for a variety of (inexpensive) delicacies and dishes this city could offer.


To get there: 75-9th avenue, between 15th and 19th streets. By subway, take the A, C, E, or L train to 13th street. Walk one block west and one block north.


And once you get out of Chelsea Market, head out to High Line!


Chinatown and Little Italy are also worth a visit in this city.


And if you're a Gossip Girl fan like me, head to Grand Central! It's the best place to people-watch! ;)


For a shopping spree, head to the biggest shopping mall in NYC--Macy's in 34th street! 


Of course, never leave New York without paying tribute to the lives of those who died in 9/11 at the 1 World Center and Museum.

 

To get there: Subway Lines: A, C, E, N, R, 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 trains all have stops within a few blocks of the site.


For more NYC travel tips...read the Part 2 of this blog!