Category Archives: Traveling

birthday adventure in astoria. pt I.

in times of
gluttonous aging (part 1) 

I tend to write a lot so feel free to jump down to the end of the page if you want to skip the fluff & want the bare bones itinerary.

My fiance, Mike, turned 26 this year, and because 26 is such an exciting age, I decided to do something super fun!  OK… maybe 26 isn’t that exciting and I just wanted to do something super fun to begin with because I love fun and planning, but let’s say it is anyways.

So here’s how it began (the brainstorming that is).  I just finished my best friend’s bachelorette party, which had a different theme for each day or even half day, so I was in a theme frenzy.  For Mike’s birthday, I also wanted a theme so I thought of “(his) Favorite Foods Weekend”!

Basically, after a whole healthy week of eating gluten free & meat free, I knew I was in for a terrible hangover on Monday and even possibly Tuesday from the amount of dairy and carbs I was going to eat.  Oh, what I’ll do for love…and food.

In addition to wanting to please his bottomless tummy for yummy foods, I wanted to satisfy my own want of exploring parts of NYC I haven’t really hung out in before. Living in the Upper East Side has been extremely unsatisfactory to me.  It just doesn’t compare to my old neighborhoods, Chelsea & SohoWestGreenwichVillage (I used to live at Houston and 6th, which literally is the border of all those neighborhoods so I used to just mash them together when people asked where I lived).  I miss downtown but can’t be ungrateful for this beautiful apartment I live in now.  Anyways, since Upper East Side has been a BIG two thumbs down for me, and Astoria is practically right next door, I thought I could combine “Favorite Foods Weekend” with “Discover Astoria Weekend”, and woah, what a great combo.

Here’s what we did.

Day 1:

Saturday morning… or call it early afternoon… we headed to our first stop, Cafe Triskell, to have French Onion Soup, which I found on nydailynew’s the Best of NY’s French Onion Soup List.  The owner of this restaurant is also the one and only chef of the restaurant and has been for 8 years since it’s opened.  As the only man behind the stove, you can truly taste the love of cooking in the food.  Between the main course and dessert, it occurred to me that this might be one of my favorite restaurants in NYC.  By the time I was halfway through dessert, I knew, yes, this is one of my favorite restaurants in NYC. We’ll be back again… and again… and again.  Hmm… why haven’t we gone back yet? Read about my Cafe Triskell experience here.

[Favorite food: French Onion Soup]

Cafe Triskell's french onion soup

Cafe Triskell’s french onion soup

After Cafe Triskell, we took the subway up one stop and walked over to the Socrates Sculpture Park.  This park is “an outdoor museum and public park where artists can create and exhibit sculptures and multi-media installations” (Google).  It’s on the East River, which you can peer over and see Roosevelt Island & Manhattan.  Read more about the park here.

After the park, we strolled down to the Roosevelt Island Bridge and walked into to Roosevelt Island.  We walked south all the way until we hit the tram then took the tram home, which dropped us off a couple of blocks from our home.  The tram was so cool and definitely worth riding on at least once.   It only costs a subway swipe ($2.50) and you get a mobile vantage point of NYC you normally never see.  You fly over the East River, the Queensboro Bridge, then rooftops of buildings just like the symbolic pigeon of NYC (obviously everyone’s “If you could be a bird, what bird would you be?” answer).


moving view from the tram

We then relaxed at home, and before we knew it, it was time to hit up Astoria again.  This time, we headed to Queens Comfort, a new age twist on Southern comfort food, for mac & cheese, which was featured on VillageVoice’s & nydailynews’ best mac & cheeses in the city list.  Even more of a plus, this place is BYOB with no corking fee or anything so we brought two large beers I got at Whole Foods: Ale Smith IPA and Eviltwin Brewing Chocopologie Stout.  We loved the vibe here and the food.  It was just so Queens (hehe Manhattan noobs over here obviously).  We’ll be back again with a big group of friends.

[Favorite food: Mac & Cheese]

After dinner, we hit up two bars in the area: Front Toward Enemy, which just opened up recently, and New York Dog House.  Both were cool in its own way, and of course, I’d go back to both.  When I’m not too lazy, I plan on writing a review on both of these places.

On the way home, we found this amazing convenience store that had the best selection of beers I’ve ever seen a store carry… seriously, EVER!  We asked the cashier, “What’s up with the amazing selection of beer?”  He said, “Oh well, the customers want a good beer. They write it down and then I get it.”  Simplistic customer service at its finest.  So impressed!  I wish I lived closer to this place.  If I did, my beer belly would get so big, people would ask me how many months I am (tip: never assume a woman is pregnant unless it’s beyond obvious).  Anyways, the convenience store is Smart Choice Convenience at 3412 30th Ave
Astoria, NY 11103.

 Ta-da. There’s Day 1 of Favorite Food/Explore Astoria weekend, which included french onion soup, mac & cheese, a park, the tram and a couple of bars.  Want to check any of those places out? I will definitely join you! 

Click here for Day 2’s blog post (coming soon). 

Day 1:

  • Cafe Triskell
  • Socrates Sculpture Park
  • Walk to Roosevelt Island Bridge to Roosevelt Island to the Roosevelt Island Tram
  • Queens Comfort
  • Front Against Enemy
  • New York Doghouse
  • Smart Choice Convenience

Leave a comment

Filed under Itinerary, Restaurants, Traveling

italy at $690 round trip.

.in times of wanderlust.
A few days ago, Mike and I cancelled our trip to Israel, which had a layover in Ukraine.  It just isn’t the most ideal time to be flying into either of those countries.  I accepted the loss of a $950 ticket each before we even began to try to get a refund because safety & health > money.  However, we got our money back with the help of Priceline and it was so easy!  Took me 15 minutes total on the phone and I had the money refunded within the week. Wow.
Anyways, this is what prompted us to go somewhere else.  After all, I was expecting an international trip and still wanted one.  I found a round trip ticket to Italy for $644 round trip.  Yes, it’s an amazing deal, especially to fly to a European country.  I ended up going with a $690 round trip with Delta because the $644 trip with Air Swiss and Air Canada charges extra to reserve seats 24-48 hours in advance since they were code share flights (whatever that means).  Of course, on a lengthier flight or I guess any flight, I want to ensure that I get to sit together with my favorite traveling companion, my fiance, and get an aisle seat to accommodate my overactive bladder. TMI?
Anyways, here was my process, which is pretty simple.  The key here is to have very flexible dates and to be open to the world and what it has to offer– I guess a few dollars in the bank wouldn’t hurt either.
For this specific trip, I used and  Kayak is usually my go to flight search engine but I just discovered Adioso, which opens doors to the world like no other.
Adioso is a more “human” way of searching.  You can search your arrival city by putting a specific city, state, entire country or if you know you want me to domestic or abroad, you can type in “domestic” or “international”.  Sky’s the limit in how you can search.  As for the dates, that’s also extremely flexible as well.
I’ve always used Kayak for similar reasons.  When you search for a flight, you can make your departure and return dates flexible by adding the flexible dates option.  This will help you fly in a day later or earlier than you wanted but help you save a lot!
On Adioso, I looked up basically any dates that would work with work (oh the dreaded work that rules our lives with an iron first. Work, one day, I will love you. Today’s just not the day) and weddings (we’re going to two weddings in August and September; one that I’m honored to be in as my best friend’s bridesmaid).  That left us with some of July, some of August and most of September.  So after playing around with dates, I saw our cheap flight options lead us to Italy, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico and a few other countries.  It didn’t take us long for us to pick Italy after all of our friends’ tempting recommendations, which I’ll be posting soon.
Once I saw the dates that were the cheapest in Adioso, I used Kayak to search again to have more flexibility in flight times and to lead me directly to the airlines’ direct site to book the flight.  I highly recommend booking directly with an airline to get better service when needing to cancel or change flights.  Third party sites often have rules against being helpful.  Seriously, if you think regular airlines are not helpful, then adding a third party to the mix makes the process more onerous.  There’s been quite a handful of times when I’ve caught myself saying “never again Expedia”, “never again Priceline”, “never again third party site”, and “should’ve booked directly with the airline to deal directly with them”.
So at the end of it all, we’re flying into Milan, but don’t worry, based off peoples’ recommendations, we won’t be spending more than a day there.  Flights into Milan were about $300-400 cheaper than any other airport in Italy so we figured we’d just use it as a landing hub and then train off to other places, which is an efficient and cheap method of getting around Italy and Europe in general.  Oh USA, why can’t we have a similar public transportation model enabling the middle class man to be able to travel around the US more freely?
Per person:
Flight to Rome, Venice, etc. = $1100+
Flight to Milan ($690), train tickets on a super fast train (estimate $80) and super cute smart car rental (estimate $100) = $870
There’s that for this specific trip.  Otherwise, I really love this site-  Its mission is to only provide flights that are under 6 cents a mile and provide reward points.  They don’t believe in simply cheap flights by the total cost of the flight.  They believe in the whole cost-saving package. Sign up for the daily newsletter or peruse their site to see if anything fancies your interest.  They have deals for flights that may be one month away or even 6 months away like during that time when it’s frigidly cold in NYC for way too long and you begin to wonder if the sun will ever come back.
I also like Groupon and know someone who’s been on a Groupon trip deal who said it was totally legit. I found an amazing trip to Budapest and (somewhere else in Europe, I forget) with a flight, various hotels for 6 nights, breakfast, etc. for $1099, but the dates the trip departed just didn’t work for us.  Maybe it will for you!
Happy traveling!
How do you get your flight deals?  Post below to let us know!

Leave a comment

Filed under Savvy consumer, Traveling, Wanderlust