Well, I am finally back in eastern Washington, and it feels so good to be home again!
Last week, I went on a much-needed vacation. It was supposed to be a restorative, exciting adventure trip with one of my best friends–a girls trip to NYC and Orlando, Florida. We were going to go sightseeing, eat some delicious food, visit some yarn shops, and visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Disney World. It was going to be amazing!
While it started out well, it quickly spiraled into an anxiety-ridden nightmare of a trip.
In the weeks leading up to this vacation, my friend and I carefully and constantly checked the weather in NYC. We knew that snow was coming, but as the trip got closer and closer, the forecast looked more and more mild. Everything looked good, so I hopped on a plane to Buffalo on Saturday afternoon.
Aside from feeling a little nervous that I might be separated from my luggage if the airline decided to gate-check my bag, that first day went well! My friend and her husband met me at the airport late that night. We got tacos and watched the latest Pixar movie, Coco (spoilers: I cried!). It was a very good night filled with uneventful travel, good food, and the best company.
My friends live on Grand Island, so Sunday was an adventure day for us. We headed first to see Niagara Falls which was cold, beautiful, and slightly snowed in, so you couldn’t get to the lower viewing platform. Even still, the Falls were amazing, loud, and absolutely massive. I smashed a penny at the gift shop for my collection, and then we headed on our way.
I no longer wonder why they call them the Great Lakes! Lake Eerie was absolutely massive. It was a relatively clear (if windy) day, and if you looked extra carefully, you could even see Toronto standing on the other side of the horizon. The sheer size of Lake Eerie gave me goosebumps–it looked like an ocean, stretching from one peripheral edge of my vision to the other.
After seeing Lake Eerie, we went to Fort Niagara. I wish my husband had been with us, because he definitely would have loved this!
If you have a chance to see Fort Niagara, I highly encourage it. The fort is made up of several smaller buildings, a massive gate, and the castle at Fort Niagara, which is pictured here. We were even treated to a live musket firing demonstration, which was as fun as it was informative!
It was quite cold, so decided to head into Buffalo proper. The city was absolutely amazing, full of great food and some absolutely gorgeous houses. We drove around for a long while just admiring the architecture of some of the older homes, and they were so pretty. My friend Tanya is trying to convince me–and, by extension, my much more stubborn husband–that Buffalo is amazing and that we should move there, so she tried to win my heart with beautiful houses. It almost worked!
We stopped for a drink at The Founding Fathers Pub and then had dinner at Toutant, a southern-inspired restaurant that makes a drool-worthy jambalaya. We even found the Welcome to Buffalo mural while trying to find food, so we had to stop and take a photo!
This was probably the best (and least stressful) day of this entire vacation; I wish I would have known that at the time, because I would have tried to enjoy it more and fight back the homesickness I was starting to feel.
For multiple reasons, we decided to rent a car and drive to NYC. So, early Monday morning, we made the nearly 7 hour drive into the city. The drive itself was actually very lovely–we didn’t hit traffic until we were just headed into the city. The weather was nice (a little windy, but blue skies), and we spent a lot of time catching up. I hadn’t seen my friend since she moved to New York the previous summer, so there was much to discuss!
After turning in the rental car at La Guardia, we got a Lyft ride to our Airbnb, located in Harlem. The neighborhood was gorgeous and full of life, and after resting for a bit in our room, we headed out for dinner. Seeking some comfort food, we opted for some delicious burritos.
Our plan for our one day in NYC was simple: we’d wake up early, drop our luggage off at the luggage check place my friend had booked the night before, and then try to fit in as many things as we could into our planned 7-or-so hours in the city. Then we’d hop on our flight to Orlando and get ready for some theme park fun!
We slept in, which put a damper on our plans. Then, Google Maps kept getting us lost on our way to the luggage place (which took us about 2 hours and many flights of stairs to find). Eventually, we found the place, checked our luggage, and hopped back on the subway.
At this point, we only had about 4 hours of fun left. What to do? We decided to go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (which was a wonderful decision and one of the highlights of the entire trip), so we figured out the best subway route and made our way there.
Friends, the Met is, in a word, breathtaking. There is so much to see that in the three and a half hours we spent there, we didn’t even see the entire first floor!
My favorite part of the Met was by far the Egyptian wing, which went on for miles (probably–it felt like miles!). We also saw the Medieval Europe wing, the American wing, and the Greek & Roman wing. There were so many amazing things to see! We spent over three hours there (closer to four) and we didn’t even see the entire first floor, let alone the second!
Even after all of the trouble and anxiety that filled this trip, I still want to go back to New York City–if only to see the rest of the Met! I am so incredibly grateful that we were able to fit this gem into the few hours we were able to spend in the city.
Now, here’s where the trouble starts.
We left the Met and returned to the luggage place to pick up our bags. We made good time from the luggage place to the subway, but then the expected arrival time for our subway trip doubled inexplicably. I’m still not sure what caused the delay, but we sat stopped on the tracks for a long time.
Cellular service on the train was very spotty, so when we stopped at the next station, a notification from our airline popped up on my phone: our flight had been cancelled.
We abandoned the subway and found our way to a Dunkin’ Donuts across from where the subway let out, thinking of course that we could charge our phones and call the airline.
Unfortunately, the Dunkin’ Donuts didn’t have any charging outlets–or wi-fi, for that matter! My friend’s phone had died, mine was dying, and we had a laptop with us with about 50% battery, but no way to connect to the internet.
So, we plugged her phone into the laptop to charge and used what was left of my cell phone battery to make our calls.
Long story short, Winter Storm Toby was headed our way, and hundreds upon hundreds of flights were cancelled. After calling the airline, we learned that there were virtually no planes leaving that evening. Trains were stopped, and hotels and Airbnb reservations were filling up fast.
After we had a mutual anxiety attack and a chocolate-covered donut with rainbow sprinkles, we figured the next best plan was to abandon our trip to Orlando, get a rental car and then drive out of the city and head back to her place in Buffalo. So we used the last few remaining minutes of battery life on my phone to make a mobile hot spot, connect her dying laptop to the hot spot, and booked ourselves a rental car.
The weather still seemed fair enough, and we had a couple of hours until our rental car pick-up time, so we decided to treat ourselves (and our anxiety-ridden nerves) to a fancy, expensive, and delicious Italian dinner. After all, we weren’t going to be spending our money on Hogwarts robes, so we might as well enjoy the little bit of vacation we had left, right?
And enjoy ourselves we did!
We opted for a very yummy (and actually not very expensive!) dinner at Tony’s Di Napoli Italian restaurant at Times Square. We had the Zucchini Friti as an apetizer, the Tri Colore Tortelloni Alfredo pasta as our main dish (which was plentiful enough for two!), and we enjoyed two mouth-watering desserts: the New York style cheesecake and the Tartufo Exotic, which is a Mango, passion fruit and raspberry sorbetto covered in white chocolate (so yummy!) and served with homemade whipped cream. I’m going to be dreaming about that dessert for a long time!
After dinner, we took a two-second detour to take a look at Times Square. By this time is was well past sundown, and the lights in the Square were amazing to behold. I didn’t take any photos of Times Square, but I did manage to snap a one of the Empire State Building all lit up!
We then began the very long drive back to Buffalo and Grand Island. By this point, both my friend and I were extremely exhausted, but we didn’t want to stop until we were sure we’d be out of the storm path.
Once we got out of New York City, the traffic died down quite a bit, and the roads were fairly empty–and, more importantly, snow-free. We didn’t see a single snowflake (or even a rain drop) on our drive back to my friend’s house.
All in all, it was a very uneventful–if exhausting–drive. We did stop at a rest stop in New York though, where they had this pretty cool little icon:
Naturally, I needed a photo! Plus, the darkness helped hide the fact that I’d been awake at this point for about 22 hours.
We reached my friend’s house by about 5:30 in the morning. The plan was to sleep in a while, then head into Buffalo and look for yarn shops.
Of course, the plan kind of flopped.We slept in until probably 2pm, made some chowder, and spent the entire rest of the day watching Sex and the City instead.
I also had to change my flight back home, since I was no longer flying out of Orlando, so I used the ever-handy Delta Airlines app to adjust my flight. I also decided to treat myself and my stressed-out nerves by upgrading to first class. I was so tired, so stretched thin like butter scraped onto bread, that all I wanted was to be home with my husband.
I’ve never been so tired that I felt hung over, but that’s exactly how I felt that entire day. I went to bed at, like, 9pm, hoping to catch up on some much needed sleep before my new flight, which was supposed to leave the next morning.
I woke up at 4am, turned off the alarm on my phone, and happened to notice a tiny notification on my home screen from the Delta Airlines app: my 6:30 flight from Buffalo to Minneapolis had been delayed six hours, which meant I’d end up missing my connection.
In a scramble, I looked to see if there were other flights leaving that morning that I could switch too (for free–thanks, Delta!), and there were several leaving at 6am instead of 6:30. After some thought, I decided on what I thought was the best option and tried to select that flight in the app…but it didn’t work. “Unknown Error”, said the app. Boo.
Eventually, I tried selecting any flight–every flight, actually–but the app still wasn’t working.
By this point, my panic had woken my friend, who suggested we just drive to the airport and talk to someone at the desk (since the wait time on the phone was an hour and a half), so I packed up my things and we headed to the airport, which was only about 20 minutes from her house.
The line at the Delta Airlines counter was very long, and my friend very patiently waited in the parking lot for me to get this all figured out.
In line, I had a panic attack and broke down crying, feeling extremely stupid for doing so but knowing full well that this was my body’s uncontrollable response to the stress and anxiety that travelling had caused me during this trip. When I finally got to the counter, a very kind woman did her very best to get me on a plane home–and after a long time of looking at all of the flights going towards Spokane and Seattle, she was able to book me on series of flights later that day–and she kept my first class tickets for my flights.
Bless you, Angela from the Buffalo Delta Airlines branch!
I returned with my friend to her house, where we watched some more Sex and the City (I’m officially hooked).
Later that day, I finally boarded a westward-bound plane. To make a very long story short, I arrived home in Spokane at about 1am PDT, a full 24 hours after I had woken up the previous day. I don’t even remember my head hitting the pillow, but I still don’t think I’ve caught up on my sleep.
In the end, I’m still glad that I went on this trip, even if my anxiety skyrocketed for most of the time. I didn’t go to see New York, and I didn’t go to see Disney World–I went to see my best friend. Sometimes life is full of struggle, and those struggles help to strengthen the bond between two people. During this trip, we laughed until we cried, we cried until we laughed again, and we got to see, do, and eat some pretty amazing things. I’d call that a successful vacation!
Yarn note: my husband felt bad that I hadn’t been able to go to any yarn shops during my trip, so he took me shopping to our local yarn shop over the weekend. I bought six hanks of beautiful Malabrigo Rios yarn in the color Pocion. Aren’t those colors just stunning? I can’t wait to show you what I’m making with this lovely yarn!