The Happiest Place On Earth

Yes! Finally, Disneyland! My daughter’s only wish for her 7th birthday was to visit Disneyland and without second thoughts we let her wish come true just like fairytales. Also, the adults are a bit excited to visit the happiest place on earth. It’s not just for kids okay? So last year, we went to Disney World Resort in Florida to visit 2 theme parks there (Magic Kingdom and Epcot) and spent a day in Clearwater Beach in Florida. But what would have been a 4 day trip was magically extended to 6 days! Our plane going back was cancelled due to a tropical storm in NY leaving us no choice but to visit Universal Studios in Florida. lol

Just a bit background, there are 2 States in United States with Disney Parks. California has Disneyland and Florida has Disney World Resort which has 8 theme parks namely: Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Theme Park, Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park, Disney Springs, ESPN Wide of World of Sports Complex. It is highly advisable to spend a day at each them park since there are lots of rides and things to do. A day wont be enough actually if you want to try all the rides and attractions. A park ticket must be purchased beforehand through online on Disney’s website.

New York to Orlando, Florida is approximately a three- hour flight, luckily there is no time difference between the 2 states.

We checked-in at the Springhill Suites by Marriott in Orlando, Florida. Note that one can either purchase hotel accommodations inside Disney World. They are a bit expensive given the location and attractions so we decided to choose one that is outside the Disney World Resort. Our hotel was just 10 minutes away via Uber to the park entrance. From the airport, it took us 30 minutes to the hotel though. Florida’s streets are so vast though if you compare it to New York City’s grid-like streets.

Late night yogurt after we landed at the hotel

We visited 2 Disney Parks during our visit, the first day, we went to Magic Kingdom and the second day we visited EPCOT. There is only one entrance to Disney World, all visitors regardless of which park go through the same entrance. And from the entrance, you ride your way to the parks through the monorail.

Inside the monorail. Feels like riding the subway.lol
View of the Cinderella Castle from the monorail.

MAGIC KINGDOM

Most of the photos you see about Disney (especially those with fireworks) is the Cinderella Castle which is located in Magic Kingdom. This is the most visited of all parks as this is where all the magic happens! Kids and the feeling kids (including me) love this park. Most Disney characters I grew up with are here.

Entrance to Magic Kingdom

Upon entering the park, we were greeted by the parade of Disney princesses. Since this was a time when Disney has just reopened after the pandemic, there was no hugging and meeting with characters. Apparently, these magical characters still has to practice social distancing. lol

Disney Princesses meet and greet at the balcony.
The most fun rides we had at the park were the Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. The park’s rides were mostly for kids but we enjoyed the Jungle Cruise and the Pirates of the Caribbean
Before getting wet at the Splash Mountain
Big Mountain Railroad

We most probably rode most of the rides and a day won’t be enough if you want to experience all the rides and attractions in Magic Kingdom.

One of the most memorable was dining at Cinderella’s Royal Table. It was like dining in a castle!

While waiting for our table.
The food was a delight 🙂
Cinderella made an appearance when we were eating.lol

And to cap our day at the MAGIC KINGDOM,

DAY 2 We went to EPCOT, short for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. But prior to this, we had our daughter’s birthday breakfast at Chef Mickey’s

Minnie Mouse is also practicing social distancing

Chef Mickey’s was fun. Seeing Mickey, Pluto, Minnie and Goofy in chef costumes and singing songs is something every kid (also adult) would wish for. lol

EPCOT with it very large golf ball

At first I thought EPCOT attractions and rides was mostly for adults but then it’s not. My daughter is a fan of Elsa and Anna in Frozen and she was so happy seeing them.

One of out favorite rides was the Soarin’ Around the World attraction where you get to go to different tourist attractions all over the world through a flight simulator. I remember we were the only ones screaming Wooow! ahhhhh! ohhhhh… or so we thought?!

EPCOT also has the World Showcase which shows 11 pavilions representing countries around the world, and with each pavilion, there are also attractions and restaurants and drinks! It was so huge that we were not able to visit all the pavilions.

This is France. One of the attraction here was the Beauty and the Beast Sing along. It was so funny as everyone was singing!

We did lots in EPCOT but due to severe excitement, I wasn’t able to snap decent photos

The day was once again capped with fireworks just like Magic Kingdom. We promised to be back again and try a different park, after all, there is 6 more left.

A Glimpse of the Nation’s Capital: Washington D.C.

Washington DC has always been confusing to me as there is also a state in the US named Washington. So here’s the thing, the state of Washington is on the west coast, a 5 hour flight from New York City but Washington D.C. (aka District of Columbia) is just an hour flight from New York. It is the nation’s capital city and federal district which houses the executive (president), legislative (congress) and the judiciary (supreme court) branches of the government of the United States. While Washington State on the other hand houses those red delicious Washington apples. lol

Lucky for us, we got the chance to visit the nation’s capital and made a little side trip to Maryland, Virginia and Philadelphia as these are close to each other.

The photo below illustrates the route we took from New York City to Washington DC. I remember making a pit stop at Maryland. For this trip, we did a rental as we have a friend with us who can drive.

Our first stop was the Lincoln Memorial and it was very surreal for all of us. Imagine seeing it only in movies like Transformers and the National Treasure but now we’re here! It’s actually a memorial made in honor of Abraham Lincoln, the16th president of the United States who had a huge contribution to abolishing slavery through the Emancipation Proclamation. Martin Luther King Jr delivered his “I have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Across the Lincoln Memorial is the Washington Monument built to honor George Washington, the first president of the United States.

Photo of the Washington Monument taken from the Lincoln Memorial. We went there after the US eased its restrictions from the pandemic, as you can see the place is almost isolated.
Closer look of the Washington Monument with the gang 🙂

We got a glimpse of the White House from afar.

We were kinda hoping that the president (Trump at that time) would show up from the balcony. lol

Then we went to the Capitol after. The scenery reminds me of the series Designated Survivor 🙂

US Capitol

The visit made it clear to me that the White House and the Capitol are two different entities I always confuse the two as they seem to look alike. From this photo, on the left side is the Smithsonian Museum (although not seen in the photo), it was closed during that time due to the pandemic.

We had a free accommodation set up in Virginia and on our way there, we past by the Pentagon (sorry no photo).

Going back to New York, we made a stop at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in DC. It is the largest Roman Catholic church in North America and one of the largest in the world.

Then we made a little side trip to Maryland’s National Harbor along the Potomac River.

Another side trip we made was in Georgetown, a quaint town in Maryland where the historic Georgetown University is located.

Last side trip was in Philadelphia, a city in Pennsylvania where the Liberty Bell (iconic symbol of American Independence) and the Independence Hall (were the US Constitution was ratified).

Philadelphia City Hall

The trip was very informative. Coming here was like a two- day educational tour since we learned a lot about the nation’s history.

Commuting to Niagara Falls from New York City

Living in New York City doesn’t require you to have your own car, mostly when you have one, its more of a hassle with the high parking fees (Manhattan has rates up to 8 dollars an hour) and complicated parallel street parking. Unlike other cities in the US, most New Yorkers don’t have cars and just rely on the 24 hour subway and buses that covers the five boroughs of Manhattan, Queens, Bronx, Brooklyn and Staten Island. That’s why, when we went to Niagara Falls, we just took the subway to Penn Station and boarded the Greyhound bus that would take us to the magnificent falls. It was one of our first trips while living in New York that made it so memorable.

GETTING THERE:

Commute to the falls is easy. It is advisable to book tickets online through the Greyhound Bus website. We placed a round trip ticket which is very advisable. The place of destination should be Buffalo, New York. It would give you certain times of departure. It would be an 8 hour ride so we chose the midnight schedule so we would just sleep on the bus and when morning comes, we are already in Buffalo. Its a nice choice for those on a time constraint. From Buffalo, we took the NFTA Line 77 Bus to Niagara Falls. Keep in mind too that Niagara Falls is actually a town where the actual falls is located. The bus from Buffalo to Niagara falls would cost around 4 dollars each and would take 40-60 mins to get there. In our case, google maps was our navigator as it would tell us which stop to take to get to our hotel.

WHERE TO STAY:

We stayed at the Hyatt Hotel thru booking.com which is just a walking distance from the falls. They also have free breakfast which was a plus. Our total for a 1 night stay with 4 adults and 1 child is 181 usd.

NIAGARA FALLS:

Niagara falls is the result of glaciation thousand of years ago. It is considered to be a cataract fall meaning it contains great volume of water rushing thru the precipice. Not only it is very magnificent but its flow is also very powerful as it is a source of hydroelectric power. New York’s free household water has been attributed to the bountiful source of water from the Niagara falls.

The falls is actually a group of three waterfalls, the largest is the Horsehoe falls which straddles between Ontario, Canada and New York. The 2 other falls are American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls which are in New York territory.

Horshoe Falls

American and Bridal Veil Falls (left to right); Horshoe Falls on the far end.

THINGS TO DO:

There are a lots of things to do in Niagara. The Niagara State Park serves as an entrance to the falls. Here, one can sit down and enjoy the greenery while listening to the rustling sound of the great falls.

Entrance to the Niagara State Park
Niagara State Park

MAID OF THE MIST:

Steam Boat Maid of the Mist. Across is Ontario, Canada

The Maid of the Mist is a boat ride that would take one closer to the falls. The lines could be long so its better to do this first, we were lucky since we went there when NY was just opening after the pandemic. Adult tickets are around 25.25 usd and children 6-12 yrs old is 14.75 usd. Coming closer to the falls was a surreal moment for me. We were so happy seeing it closer, hearing the rush of water so loud and soaking us wet with its mist. It sure does feel like rain and not mist! haha. Mind you, everyone on the boat was just so happy and excited being there.

Sure be ready to get wet!
Photo taken upon exit from the Maid of the Mist with Ontario on the other side.

CAVE OF THE WINDS

If the Maid of the Mist takes you closer to the falls, the Cave of the Winds would place you at the bottom of the crashing Bridal Veil Falls. Entry is time stamped so one has to book tickets earlier on the trip and will be given a time for entry. Entrance for adults is 14 usd and children is 11 usd. Ponchos are provided just like in Maid of the Mist. You will be entering underground beneath the falls where one will travel back through time with photos of the falls taken years ago. From there, there will be wooden decks going up until the Hurricane Deck where one can experience storm like conditions. It was exhilarating!

Before the storm 🙂
During the storm 😉
After the storm. See the smiles on our faces? 🙂

BIRTHDAY DINNER AT RAINFOREST CAFE

Did I forget to tell that it was also my daughter’s 6th year birthday? The reason why we embarked on this trip actually. And to celebrate it for dinner we went to Rainforest Cafe which was a walking distance from the falls. It was a long wait for us to be seated though so its really best if you come in early.

Got her balloons to play with while waiting
And Tim Horton’s for us while waiting for dinner 🙂
And finally, Dinner 🙂

Also, be sure to check out the falls at night. The lights are amazing!

My photo doesn’t do justice to the amazing light show on the falls.

Going home was as easy as visiting the falls. We just took the same bus to Buffalo and from Buffalo, we made a little detour before hopping on the Greyhound Bus. We took uber to take us to where the original Buffalo Chicken Wings started at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York.

It was such a memorable trip especially after the pandemic. Right now we are on the planning phase of getting to Niagara Falls again but this time on the Canadian side. :))))))

New York, New York

I haven’t written for a while now, my last post was June of 2018. Almost 4 years of blogging hiatus! Many things had happened since then but first and foremost, 2018 was the year that changed the course of my career. After 9 years of waiting, I finally got the email that we (me and my family) were scheduled for a visa interview at the US Embassy in the Philippines. The feeling was so surreal having your dream unfolding into reality. My American Dream within the grasp of my hands! December 2018 we had to do the medical and interview in Manila and by January 2019, we were on our way to New York- the city that never sleeps. It was a whole new feeling of excitement coming into a whole new world!

Winter Blues. Not much to our knowledge, January in New York is the height of Winter and I hate to admit, we came semi prepared. Hehe. Coming out of JFK we felt that the winter clothes (no offense to Uniqlo) we were wearing is not enough. We were so cold we were having chills! But still, the excitement doesn’t stop.

Starting here isn’t that easy too. Speaking the English language in front of a strangers and your hubby is intimidating at first and often frustrating as you won’t be able to find words to express it. haha. Housing in the city is expensive. For a family of three, we rented a room for 700 dollars , we had no friends or family near but with the help of our very kind land lady we were able to navigate New York with its intricate subway, got US mobile numbers with tmobile, bought thicker winter clothes for low prices. Help got in unexpectedly, a friend of a family sending us clothes, some meeting us for lunch and telling us tips, a high school classmate giving more clothes, meeting an aunt who I remember last seeing was in grade school. Help pouring in every direction. I call this, the new and modern BAYANIHAN. Soon, we were gaining more and more friends, and some we now consider our family here. Eventually we got used to the life here, me being able to adjust with the new work environment, hubby getting a job that he loves and our daughter being able to make new friends at school. We are still adjusting though as it has only been 3 years in a city we now call home. I’m writing this to let my readers (if I have any.lol) know that most of my travel blogs would be from here. 🙂

First timers at the Times Square 🙂

Beautiful Dinagat

I am at a loss for words to describe what I saw in Dinagat. It was raw and refreshing- like going back to the old times when scenic spots and beaches in the country has not been devoured by mass tourism.

DSC00703-12

My inquisitively curious brain got me here in Dinagat. Back to the time when it’s mayor and also the PBMA (Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association) supreme leader, Ruben Ecleo Jr. became notorious for certain charges, I have always thought of coming here and seeing how its founder, Ruben Ecleo Sr., was able to form and organize one of the country’s biggest and most solid sect.

Continue reading