Myths About NYC Living

Often, when I tell others that I live in Manhattan, I am met with wide-eyed amazement. For many, the New York borough of Manhattan is the place where dreams are made. If you think about it, most television shows we watch are centered in Manhattan. Random photos of city scapes we see in magazines are from New York City. Everyone can recognize the New York skyline in any given moment.

Yet – some people know about visiting The Big Apple – but few people know about living in The Big Apple. As a New York City resident for nearly four months, I’d like to address a few myths that many have about those of us dwelling in the mystical New York metropolitan area.

  1. We do New York “stuff” all the time. The average New York resident does NOT do New York stuff. You know – visiting the Empire State Building, journeying to the Statue of Liberty, or going to Times Square (avoid at all costs). If you were born in the tri-state area, odds are, you’ve probably been to these places once, twice, or three times at the most. It’s just not what city dwellers do. We usually leave those sites for the tourists. Oh, and visiting Times Square on New Year’s Eve? ABSOLUTELY NOT.
  2. Life is always glamorous in the city. Watch any television show or movie about New York City – and you’re presented a glittery, and cozy, image of Manhattan. Every window has a skyline view, people always eat leisurely brunches in sidewalk cafes, and Central Park is never crowded. Alas, New York is like any other city on the planet. Once you cut through the tourist-y veneer, New York is found to be dirty and crowded. At the same time, it’s an amazing city in which I feel instantly at home.
  3. New Yorkers are rude. It’s a common misconception that that New Yorkers are rude, crass, and will run you over without a moment of hesitation. I, however, have found this to be largely false. In many moments, New Yorkers have helped me find my way around a crowded subway system or have pointed me the way to the right city bus. Sure, if someone bumps into you, they won’t say “Excuse me,” but that’s normal here.
  4. It’s expensive. Sure, lots of places in the city are pricy – thanks to tourist demands. But, if you know where to look – you can find $1 pizza slices and $1 hot dogs on the same street. You don’t have to break the bank eating in NYC, and it’s easy to find cheap eats. Likewise, you’ll find that many museums have pay-as-you wish or totally free admission. Entertainment in the city is often cheap, but you just need to know where to go. With a little research, NYC can be done well.

It’s not just New York City that has it’s myths. If you live in a rural area, there are many misconceptions about those places as well. Do you live in NYC or a major metro area? What are some common misconceptions you’ve experienced? If you live in a more suburban or rural area, what are your experiences? Let me know below.

As always, may God bless you and thank you for reading.

New York Faves

New York City has no shortage of things to do and places to see. I’ve lived in the heart of Manhattan for a little over 2 months and I still have yet to do everything that I want to do. However, I’ve experienced the privilege of going to many wonderful places during my time here. Here’s just a few of my favorite NYC places (in no particular order):

  1. St. Patrick’s Cathedral
  2. John’s of Bleecker Street Pizza
  3. Green Bo Deluxe Shanghainese Restaurant
  4. Holy Innocents Catholic Church and Shrine to the Unborn
  5. Central Park Zoo
  6. The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  7. Ferrara’s Bakery
  8. Little Italy
  9. Koreatown
  10. Chinatown
  11. Central Park
  12. Greenwich Village
  13. Chelsea Market
  14. Fifth Avenue
  15. Tiffany & Co. Flagship Store
  16. Ichiran Ramen (Brooklyn or Manhattan)
  17. Spa Castle
  18. 9/11 Memorial
  19. Broadway / Herald Square
  20. Flushing, Queens
  21. New York Public Library – Bryant Park

What are your favorite NYC sites? Where should I go next? Comment below and let me know!

The Webster Apartments: A Review

When I was 11-years-old, I made my first journey to New York City with my mother on a school trip. Though I was born into a rural community, I’ve always been city(ish) at heart. Without a doubt, the trip was magical and I was stunned at the big city: the lights, the sounds, and the never-ending hum of activity. Shortly after, I told my mother I was moving to New York. Like many young pre-teens with dreams, I wasn’t for sure I would actually move to the Big Apple. But, after meeting my Long Island boyfriend (now fiance) and securing a teaching job in the city, my long-held dream of living in New York City, specifically Manhattan, has come to fruition.

One of the most daunting tasks of moving to a new city, any new city, is finding a place to live that is affordable, in a great location, and safe. Unfortunately, apartment searchers often have to compromise one or more factors in order to find a place to lay their head. Thankfully, before moving to NYC, I came across The Webster Apartments, a short-term, women’s only residence in the heart of Manhattan. Thankfully, when I applied for a room, there was an opening in early July. After nearly 12 days of living in Manhattan, specifically at the apartments, I want to give you the grand tour of big city life, offering the pros and cons of my new living arrangement.

The Pros

  1. Location: The Webster Apartments are located on West 34th Street in Midtown Manhattan. This is a prime location, just a short walk to multiple subway stations and Penn Station, a hub for travel from New York and beyond. Just down the street is the flagship Macy’s store, alongside a Target and Kmart for your grocery needs. Just a few blocks away is the Empire State Building, Koreatown, and a variety of other attractions. It’s nearly impossible to say you’re bored while living at the Webster.
  2. Affordable: Compared to other apartments in Manhattan, the Webster Apartments is a steal. In your bi-weekly rate, you receive two meals a day, weekly housekeeping service, free wi-fi, and 24/7 security at the front desk (among other services). While this sounds like a recipe for terribly expensive for living in NYC, the rent rates are dependent on how much you make before tax. The minimum a resident can make and live at the Webster is $30,000, while the maximum is $80,000. For reference, I pay around $1400 a month in rent. Some women pay more, some pay less. Thankfully, the Webster understands that starting a new job in the big city doesn’t always accompany a big paycheck.
  3. Safety: The Webster does not take the safety of its guests lightly. All visitors are required to sign in and the front desk is staffed by security personnel 24/7/365. Moreover, as part of her applications, a prospective resident must consent to a very detailed background and credit check. One cannot simply apply to live at the apartments with a criminal record an/or a poor history of repaying debts. And while the Webster does not keep tabs on when its occupants come and go, women are to scan in upon entering the building after a day of work or leisure. Also, for better or worse, no men are not allowed above the first floor. If you want to show your dad or boyfriend your room, you both must be accompanied by a Webster staff member. Personally, I think this is a great policy, as it cuts down on tomfoolery. But, if you have a boyfriend or fiance, he can visit with you in one of the many beau parlors (read: small, decorated rooms with a TV) on the first floor. Finally, any male guests you have can eat with you to the dining room for a small fee.

The Cons

  1. Community is hard to find: Contrary to what you might think, living in the Webster is not like a college dorm. Most women here to work, eat, and sleep. This contrasts with a college dorm, where many young women are eager to make friends and connections to sustain them through the college experience. Therefore, at the Webster, there’s not many guests sitting together at lunch and dinner. Most eat and leave, not saying much to anyone else. At night, you won’t hear loud music or boisterous laughter. Most women are turned in by 11pm. As an introvert, this vibe at the Webster doesn’t bother me. I’m fine to come in, go to my room, and sit in solitude. But, if you’re looking to make friends right away, you may have to work at it.
  2. The Food: Honestly, the jury is still out on this one. The food here at the Webster is unique, has variety, and one has plenty of options to choose from. There’s always two meat-based options and one choice for vegetarians. For example, tonight you can choose to build your own taco and burrito, with a wide range of toppings. Veggies are always available as a side dish and there’s a salad bar once you go through the line. However, I would say that the food is lacking in the flavor department. Maybe I’m just used to down-home cooking where cooks use something called salt to season up their dishes. Here, far north of the Ohio River, it doesn’t seem that they’ve received the memo. Overall the food is edible, but don’t expect Michelin-star quality.
  3. Restricted Appliances: My one reservation about moving to the Webster (though not a deal breaker) was that guests are not permitted to have big appliances in their rooms (mini-fridges, coffee brewers, etc.). I understand why this is a rule: the building dates back to the 1920s and too many extra appliances plugged in to outlets could cause a shortage, or even worse, a fire. But, I had grown attached to my Keurig brewer back home. It pained me to know I would have to leave it behind (a total first-world problem), but I did. Guests are permitted to have a small cooler, which they can fill up with ice from the ice machine on the 2nd floor. While it doesn’t quite function like a mini-fridge, it can keep foods cool as needed.

Life at The Webster Apartments has proven to be a fun, convenient, and exciting way to encounter life in New York City. I highly recommend this living arrangement to any young woman looking to relocate to the city for work or internships. The Webster provides a nice place to live and thrive, and acts as sort of a safety net as you make your way into the hum of the Big Apple. For more information on The Webster Apartments and its eligibility requirements, click visit websterapartments.org.

All the best,

Sarah

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Though my review of The Webster Apartments is favorable, this post or blog is not sponsored or affiliated by the Apartments. 

 

Another Miracle on 34th Street

One week ago today I moved to New York State and on July 5th, I moved to 34th Street in Manhattan, New York City. Somewhere between the Hudson River and the flagship Macy’s store, I am now home (if but for a temporary time). Because I am not adept at cultural references, the 34th Street name did not strike a chord with me. But, for many friends and family, it did. One favorite response to my newfound address? Look out for miracles! And looking out for miracles, I have surely done.This past Sunday, July 1st, the Gospel reading at Mass recounts the story in Mark chapter 5 of Jesus, a synagogue official named Jarius, and Jarius’ daughter. In short, Jarius begs Jesus to heal his daughter who has been sick for a long period of time. However, in the time it takes Jesus to respond to the desperate father, people from Jarius’s house arrive bearing bad news: The little girl is dead and Jarius should trouble Jesus no longer. However, Jesus turns to Jarius and says, “Do not be afraid; just have faith.” Jesus goes to Jarius’ home, where He informs everyone that the girl is not dead, but merely asleep. Jesus then takes her hand, and says talitha koum, meaning “Little girl, I say to you, arise!”How many times in our lives have we been like Jarius? We’re desperate and at the end of our ropes, only to see the death of someone or something in the form of a dream or hope die. Or, maybe we’re paralyzed by fear and we can’t bring ourselves to believe in the words of Jesus when He says, “Do not be afraid; just have faith.” Jarius is a lot like all of us: scared, worried, and troubled by circumstances that we can’t quite understand or comprehend. We can barely function, much less “arise” like Jarius’ daughter.I don’t believe in luck or coincidences, but I do believe that God speaks in mysterious ways. Before I moved on Monday, I was terrified. I wondered if I was making the right decision to leave Kentucky and a life that was calm, even if it was boring at times. Yes, I wanted to move to the city. Yes, I wanted to live closer to my fiance. Yes, I was ready to mix up my teaching career. Everything had fallen into place from the job offer to securing housing right in the heart of Manhattan. Yet, I was very afraid that I had made the wrong decision and that everything would be a sure disaster.But, the Gospel of Mark spoke to me in a profound way during Mass.When reading the Bible, I try to stay away from reading each individual verse as if it’s written to and for me. I understand that Scripture has a context for a time and place. While Jeremiah 29:11 was written for Jews suffering the Babylonian exile, it doesn’t mean one cannot derive some comfort and courage from the verse. Similarly, while I am not Jarius’ daughter, I too can also sense the freedom that Jesus offers when He says, “Little girl…arise!”The day before my move, when I heard this Gospel reading, I was filled with hope. I knew that with Our Lord, I had nothing to fear in my new transition. Will it be tough? Yes, sometimes. Will I sometimes fall prey to anxiety and weakness? Yep. But, each time, I can remember the words of Jesus when he says “Little girl…arise.” It is in Christ that you and me and everyone else can persevere, rise to sainthood, and enjoy the wonderment of Heaven. We just have to rise up day after day and trust that God is always with us – whether we live in secluded cabin or we’re looking for miracles on 34th Street.–Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this post, please consider liking this blog’s Facebook page. Also consider subscribing through WordPress or email. I look forward to connecting with you! 

Viking River Cruise’s Rhine Getaway: A Review

Happy Tuesday! Here’s a note before we begin:

Last week, I mentioned that I am taking a break from blogging until mid-July due to my upcoming vacation and my move to NYC next week. On Sunday afternoon, I returned from Europe after experiencing a most unique vacation with Viking River Cruises. My trip was so special that I believe it merits a break from my break in order to help you determine if river cruising, especially with Viking, is a good choice for your future travel choices. Please note that though my review is overwhelmingly positive, I am not affiliated with Viking River Cruises in any way. 

I watch a lot of cable news. In between breaks of talking heads and other pundits, I’ve watched this (now dated) commercial many, many times:

My initial thoughts? Sure, that looks fun…if you’re over 50 and have retirement money to spend.

Personally, I consider myself a semi-budget traveler. I like to go as fancy as I can for as cheap as I can. From the looks of the Viking commercials, the cruises fit the “fancy” criteria of my travel desires, but more than likely would not fulfill the “as cheap as I can” part of the equation. Also, how much would I enjoy a cruise where the age of the average cruiser would easily hover around 55?

Then, in 2017, my parents cruised with Viking on the Elegant Elbe itinerary. Later that year, they traveled to South America with Viking, only to turn around and sail a few months later down the Danube River. For my parents, who are under 55 and very active, Viking was their top, and now only, choice for cruising.

Yet, I was still suspicious: Would I enjoy a Viking River Cruise? Even if I enjoy European history, but I’m not a buff? Even if I am “old at heart,” but still like to talk about the concerns of a younger generation?

So, when the opportunity arose to go on a Viking River Cruise presented itself, I hurried to take advantage of the occasion. To make a long-review-short, even though I harbored my own concerns about the trip, all of my assumptions of a Viking cruise were shattered within seconds of boarding our longship on June 17th, 2018 for our sailing on the Rhine River.

Please note that like any vacation, there are pros and cons to any journey. Throughout our Rhine Getaway, I noted specific aspects of river cruising with Viking that I loved and three aspects that others (not necessarily myself) may not prefer. With that, let’s start with the positives of the Rhine Getaway.

1. Service: Service to and on our longship, the Viking Hlin, was impeccable from the start. The moment we landed in Basel, Switzerland, we were escorted to a comfy Viking motor coach which whisked us away to our dock. Check-in on the Hlin was a breeze and we were directed to a lunch buffet that was prepared and waiting for us. Our servers were attentive, but not overbearing. Within a day, our server at breakfast, Aries, knew both mine and my mother’s name. He knew what we wanted to drink without having to ask. Our room attendant, Annamaria, was equally as impressive. She knew how many washcloths to leave in our bathroom and cleaned our stateroom twice a day. At dinner, when we ate on the Aquavit Terrace, our server Goska also knew our names and dining preferences within a day. These examples of fine service are only the tip of the iceberg.

2. Dining: The dining experience on our longship was exceptional (and included in your fare!). In the mornings, we were treated to a wide selection of egg and pastry-ish dishes from a menu, accompanied with an extensive breakfast buffet. The buffet hosted traditional American-style bacon and eggs, but also European fish dishes, salad, and muesli. Lunch and dinner service was no exception. While you can order from a three-course menu for lunch, my mom and I often ate on the Aquavit Terrace, which was a lighter option. Lunch on the terrace often included the selections featured in the restaurant, but in smaller portions (which was perfect for our dining needs). For dinner, dining featured a wide selections from a regional menu and a standard menu that remained the same for those with more American tastes. On our first night, I enjoyed a sirloin with fries, Cesar salad, and vanilla ice cream. Throughout the week, I tried German sausages, Dutch beef stew, and a few delicious cheeseburgers.

3. Ease of Travel. I am not new to international travel, though I am new to river cruising. Typically when I travel abroad or over long distances, it is a task to get from place-to-place or hotel-to-hotel. Previously, my travel experience in Europe included an 18-hour layover in Paris back in 2006. That was it. So, maybe you’re not a seasoned traveler, but you want to see more of the world in a way that’s not tiresome or stress-inducing. This is where river cruising with Viking steps in. With Viking, we stopped at many cities on the Rhine River, and at the end of the day, we returned to our ship to enjoy dinner and other fun activities. We didn’t have to worry about handling our luggage, finding a taxi, and navigating in a foreign language. All of this was taken care for us by the ship’s staff and crew. For someone who hadn’t visited Europe in 12 years, the ease of travel with Viking was an excellent motivation to return to the continent.

While I could list many more positives of my Rhine Getaway with Viking, there are also some negative aspects to river cruising. Please note, these “negatives” can be interpreted more as preferences based on an individual person, and not to river cruising as a whole. But, nevertheless, these are worth mentioning and considering before booking your first trip with Viking.

1. Not a Party Ship. Viking River Cruise longships are NOT party ships. If you are looking to get sauced every night in the bar with spring break college kids and techno music bumping in the background, then river cruising with Viking is NOT for you. Yes, the ship has a bar and alcohol is provided at meals, but by 11:00 PM at night, most of the ship’s 200ish guests are tucked away in their staterooms. There is no curfew on the ship and you are free to browse the halls at all hours, but don’t expect to join a raving party in the lounge or on the top deck at these hours. Appropriately, Viking Cruises are billed as the “thinking person’s cruise.” Most cruisers are on vacation to relax, visit historical sites, enjoy a glass of wine at dinner, and to read a book from the ship’s library. In this same vein, do not expect children’s programming on these ships. This is not a typically family-friendly cruise, and it’s not geared towards children. Don’t expect to drop off little Johnny at ship daycare while you relax by the walking track. Personally, I am “old at heart,” and I appreciated the mature atmosphere of our ship. But, if you’re looking for a loud, non-stop party (or a vacation with children’s programs) then steer clear of river cruising with Viking.

2. No Room Service. Viking River Cruises do not provide 24-hour room service. For those who have cruised on ocean liners, they may be accustomed to non-stop stream of food at their fingertips. On Viking, you certainly won’t starve due to lack of food and free snacks, but don’t expect to make a phone call for 3:00 AM pizza. Once again, this is a personal preference. Some really want the full-meal access while on vacation, while others (like myself), prefer the formal meals while enjoying free coffee and snacks in-between meals. Personally, I think the three-course meals at dinner, wide selections at lunch, and menu ordering at breakfast adds to the mature atmosphere of the cruise. But, once again, it depends on what you’re looking for in terms of your desired culinary experience.

3. The Price. When my friends heard I was going on a river cruise the Viking, the first question was “How much did you pay for the trip?!” This is a fair question, as river cruising is an investment to be taken seriously. Also, the pricing can be intimidating for those who are uninitiated. A large suite with a balcony on a Viking longship can easily go for $6,000 per person for 8 days. Can you afford that? Probably not. Can I afford that? No.

But, the key is to shop smarter, not harder.

If you’re thinking of taking a river cruise with Viking, sign up for alerts through a travel agent. I recommend using the Roaming Boomers, who often send out unpublished Viking fares in their email updates. That’s how my mom and I snagged a great deal for our stateroom on the Rhine Getaway. Often, these prices are thousands of dollars cheaper than fares on the Viking website. Once you start looking for deals, you may find yourself sailing down any given European river.

My vacation with Viking River Cruises surpassed my expectations. I had a great time exploring Europe along the Rhine River and I made some wonderful memories along the way. Of course, I can’t list every positive about river cruising, and nor can I list every “negative.” In the end, it’s up to you to determine if European river cruising is for you. But, overall, I highly recommend this mode of travel. Have you traveled with Viking in the past? What was your impression? What did you like or dislike? Let me know in the comments below! In the meantime, happy trails.

Roamin’ Catholic: USA Edition

Earlier this year, I wrote a blog post regarding all of the Catholic places I’d like to visit. Sites included the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in Lourdes, France. All of these places are wonderful, holy sites that can enrich our faith. But, when you live in the United States and hopping a plane to Mexico City or continental Europe on a whim isn’t an option, it’s favorable to check out the holy places in your own backyard.

Below is a list of a few places I would love to visit, especially in the near future when I move to New York City. Certainly, I will miss some worthy places, so drop a comment below and let me know where I should visit.

Roamin’ Catholic: USA Edition

  1. St. John Paul II National Shrine, Washington, D.C.
  2. The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington, D.C.
  3. Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament, Hanceville, AL
  4. Shrine of St. Therese, Darien, IL
  5. Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, La Crosse, WI
  6. Lourdes in Litchfield, Litchfield, CT
  7. Our Lady of Good Help, Champion, WI (The only Vatican-approved apparition site in the USA)
  8. St. Kateri National Shrine and Historic Site, Fonda, NY
  9. Shrine and Parish Church of the Holy Innocents, New York, NY
  10. Shrine of Our Lady of La Sallette, Altamont, NY
  11. Shrine of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, Philadelphia, PA

Where are places you’ve traveled? Drop a note below!

Snow Day Special: Roamin’ Catholic

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First, let’s be real: the “Roamin’ Catholic” phrase is overused and eye-roll inducing, but it’s fun. Second, let’s talk travel.

For many who know me in person, you all know that I’m a frequent traveler. On any school break, you will not find me at home. Rather, I’ve been known to go far and wide, never leaving enough time for grass to grow under my feet. The cool thing about being Catholic and full is wanderlust is that there are no shortages of holy places around the world to visit. Without delay, here are just a few places I’d like to visit before I cross into eternity.

  1. The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico City, Mexico: It’s one of the most visited shrines in the world, and luckily, it’s on my continent. Also, the opportunity to see St. Juan Diego’s tilma is once (maybe twice) in a lifetime.
  2. The Holy Land: When I was 16, I was privileged to visit Israel with my mom. At the time, I thought I appreciated it. But in reality, I was 16 years old and my mind wasn’t concerned about ancient history.
  3. National Shrine of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, Washington, D.C.: It’s described as the “nation’s Catholic Church.” Only 8 hours away by car, and faster by plane.
  4. National Shrine of the Twenty-Six Martyrs, Nagasaki, Japan: Nagasaki, in the past and today, has the highest concentration of Catholics in Japan. After reading A Song for Nagasaki by Fr. Paul Glynn, I’d like to revisit Japan, especially this shrine.
  5. The Sheshan Basilica, Shanghai, China: I believe that this basilica is now under the control of the Patriotic Catholic Church (think: state-approved Catholicism). Still, Our Lady of Sheshan and Our Lady of China are two of my favorite depictions of Jesus and Mary. I would love to see where the images found their beginnings.
  6. The Lourdes Shrine, Lourdes, France: Where the alleged apparitions of Mary occurred in 1858 (received by St. Bernadette), Lourdes is home to the miraculous water spring. Also, the story of Our Lady of Lourdes has always touched my heart.
  7. Oratory of St. Joseph Basilica, Montreal, Canada: St. Andre Bessette was known as God’s Doorman. A simple man, he was a porter for the Congregation of the Holy Cross in Montreal, Canada. However, St. Andre became known far and wide for his healing ability, which he credited to the intercession of St. Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus. St. Andre never took credit for his gift from God. Before he died, St. Andre saw to it that a basilica was built in honor of St. Joseph: a masculine model of love of Christ. There, you can see the crutches of those were, and are still being, healed.

These are just a few of the places I’d like to visit. Have you been to one or more of the places listed above? What other shrines, chapels, and memorials would you recommend? Comment below!

Happy travels!