Italy

Europe, Travel

Italy is somewhere I never really expected to travel to, but wow I am so glad I got to. Each town and city surprised me more than the last. By the end of our 10 days in Italy, I was head over heels. The little alley ways, the food and the people are all part of Italy’s charm. Genoa was our first little taste of Italy, a gorgeous coastal town up the top of Italy with a population of close to 600,000. It set a high standard for the rest of the trip. Old buildings, passionate people, phenomenal architecture and Fiat Bambina’s everywhere.

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Our accommodation throughout Italy was through Air BNB which I have raved about before and cannot recommend highly enough. Willem’s Mum booked each apartment for the cities we visited and she NAILED it. Our apartment in Genoa was up in the hills, with a balcony overlooking the city. It was perfect for drinking wine and eating all the Italian food you can possibly think of – olives, cheese, prosciutto, salami and bread.

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2 nights later it was arrivederci Genoa and hello Florence. We caught the train to Florence and on our way popped in to Monterosso al Mare planning to do the Cinque Terre coastal walk but unfortunately the weather decided it didn’t want to cooperate. Instead we found shelter in the form of a beach side cafe and ate our weight in Lasagne.

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Time to emerge ourselves in Florence! Our apartment was right in the city centre so everything was within walking distance. It wasn’t love at first sight with Florence. Because it was a bigger city it didn’t have the same charm that Genoa and Monterosso had. It wasn’t until we got to the Florence Cathedral that my breath was taken away. The outside of the cathedral is insane. Such intricate detailing on every inch – inside and out. Willem, Brendan and Julie climbed to the top of the dome where they got incredible views over the city.

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After 2 nights in Florence it was time to say goodbye and make our way to Rome! We spent 4 nights in Rome and we definitely didn’t run out of things to do. Vatican City and The Colosseum were my favourites, obvious I know. Standing inside The Colosseum was such a strange feeling. The history of that place is so bizarre so to be where it all took place gave me goosebumps as soon as I walked in.

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Again, our apartment was in an amazing location, less than 100m away from The Spanish Steps. So each night we would stand at the top of the steps looking out to the city and each night people would hassle us, trying to sell us stuff. People had approached us in every city to try and sell us stuff but Rome was the worst. At the top of the steps guys would come up to girls and force bunches of fake roses in their hands and then follow them asking for money. It got so bad I just had to yell NO to get them to go away. I have very little patience with people trying to sell me crap. Our last day was spent walking across the Bridge of Angels and exploring Castel Sant’Angelo. We had lunch at the castle with a view straight across to Vatican City. A perfect way to end our time there.

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Our time in Italy was drawing to a close and we finished in style – Venice! Julie outdid herself booking our apartment in Venice. It was located down the cutest wee alleyway overlooking a canal – bellissimo! Venice was the perfect way to end our time in Italy and it was my favourite place by far. Each day we would get lost, turning down different alleyways. Venice was far more shopping orientated than I had expected but it didn’t feel too touristy. Our last night was fantastic. We got dinner and decided to eat it by the water. Willem was leading us and it seemed like we were getting lost and further away from the water but ended up in a perfect spot by ourselves on the waters edge watching boats and gondolas go past.

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Well Italy, well done. I wasn’t sure what to expect but you blew me away and I can’t wait to get back.

Thank you and Farewell New York

New York, Travel

Well New York, it’s time for us to say goodbye. This post has taken me days to write as every time I start I just can’t come up with the words to correctly explain just how incredible this year has been and how devastated I am that it is over. I cry every time I think about it.

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I hope it’s not for good, but it will never be the same. I arrived a na├»ve, shy girl who had always dreamt of some version of New York. I leave a strong, confident, broad minded woman who has experienced every aspect of the multiple versions of New York.

Thank You New York

- For making me laugh and for making me cry, usually in the same day.
– For challenging me but allowing me to thrive in new opportunities
– For making every night out the craziest and greatest ever
– For showing me things I would not see anywhere else in the world.
– For introducing me to life long friends
– For showing me a side of myself I didn’t know was there
– For teaching/forcing me to speak up for myself
– For your unique beauty that will live inside of me
– For all the times you tested my character, my patience, my well being, my spirit all to forge a stronger, more capable version of me.

New York you truly are the greatest city in the world and I cannot thank you enough for the experiences I have had which have changed me for the better.

Until we meet again,
I Love You.

Sincerely,
NYLuva4eva
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Being Sick In America As A Foreigner

New York, Travel

Some of you may find this post interesting, some of you may not, some of you may think it is too personal but it is something I need to talk about to keep me sane. I had always heard horror stories about healthcare in America. The cost, the doctors, the mistakes. As part of the visa that I came over on travel insurance is compulsory with your choice of excess between $250, $100 and $0. When deciding which excess I would go with I didn’t think I would get sick and was adamant I wouldn’t get involved in the healthcare system over here because of said horror stories. I chose the $250 excess because it was the cheapest option and thought I would not have to use it. Well, I was an idiot to put it lightly. Always go with the $0 excess when you are going to America and healthcare is extortionate. Always.
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At the beginning of August I started getting a sore throat and thought I must have been getting a cold so treated myself accordingly. After a few days I noticed I had no other cold symptoms and the sore throat was still very present. It was then that I noticed white patches on my tongue which is not normal. I Googled symptoms as everyone these days does and asked my best friend who is a nurse what it might be. Oral thrush was the conclusion. This is caused by a low immune system and an imbalanced pH level. This was the conclusion for 2 months. Even after multiple prescriptions did not work and hundreds of dollars were spent. I was becoming increasingly frustrated and concerned. In New Zealand I would have been able to get on top of this straight away because healthcare is affordable even without health insurance. But over here, i was extremely hesitant because I didn’t have $135 to spare for each doctor’s visit. that’s correct – $135 for every doctors visit and that’s just for the initial visit! Any tests or prescriptions are extra on top of that. So each doctors visit I went to (3 in total) I put off until I really had to go. At my final doctors visit, the doctor told me I should see a throat specialist because there is only so much she can see.

Had to give up coffee for a while

Had to give up coffee for a while


My excess is $250, which until recently I thought was for each doctor’s visit but it is actually for each incident so because all my doctors visits have been for the same issue it is just the one $250 excess. I called the insurance company and explained what was happening. I had to talk to a customer service representative, then a case manager and then a nurse. Explaining my situation each time. They couldn’t guarantee that I would be covered straight away. My heart dropped when I heard that because there is no way I could afford a throat specialist without cover. A doctor had to review my case and another nurse. The first nurse I spoke to was the absolute worse. She was so condescending and was saying she thought it was extreme to send me to a throat specialist especially when I leave the country soon. Like you can just put your health on hold. Unbelievable. When I called them I was expecting them to just be like “Yep, that’s fine you’re covered go to the specialist now!” But instead, it took them 5 days for them to decide if I would be covered or not. Each day someone different would call and I would tell them the exact same thing each time. On the 5th day I called them to follow up and the person on the phone said “Oh yep, you’re covered you can go to the specialist.” So they had approved it without even calling or e-mailing to let me know. Anyways, that doesn’t matter because I had the cover which meant I could go to the specialist and find out what the hell was going on. The specialist I was going to see was at a 24 hour emergency care ear, nose and throat clinic. I had to wait 3 hours to see the doctor. First I saw a nurse who was taking calls while seeing me and I was getting sent around from person to person on a wild goose chase. It was ridiculous. I fell asleep in the waiting room, eventually awoken by the doctor calling my name. The doctor thankfully made up for all the bad service so far because he was lovely. He listened, was very understanding and empathetic of the fact I was in a foreign country which happened to have an awful healthcare system. He sprayed some strange substance up my nose which would numb my airwaves for when he stuck a camera up there to go down into my throat to check it out. I closed my eyes and prayed for the best. As he pulled the camera out, he began to tell me how disappointed he was, how he was expecting to see something really cool but it was really boring for him. “That’s great news for me”, I said. The correct conclusion? A sinus infection. He explained that the other doctors wouldn’t have been able to see that though as they didn’t have the camera. It was my back sinuses (obviously not the technical term but how i think of them) that were the issue rather than my front, usual ones (again not the technical term).
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So with a dosage of antibiotics, 2 nasal sprays and Sudafed in hand I was off home to try and kick this thing. It’s been a torturous 2 months but fingers crossed I am on the mend now and can enjoy the rest of my time in New York. There ain’t no way I am going back to a doctor here!

SOAKING UP THE LAST OF SUMMER

New York, Travel

Well Summer has ended and Fall is approaching. Personally, I can not wait for Fall. It’s my all time favorite season. The colors, the temperature, the layers of clothing. To me, it is perfection. The temperature is being as stubborn as ever here in New York City and refusing to drop. While I write this from a lovely, air conditioned coffee shop in Brooklyn, it is a sweltering 33 degree celsius outside. Time to quit my complaining though, because before I know it i’ll be back in the snow having to deal with -17 degree celsius days. Just calm down aye New York? I can’t deal with your extreme mood swings.

To try and make the most of these last warm days Will and I decided to tick something off our New York list that we had been meaning to do all Summer. In Central Park there is a large lake where you can hire boats and row yourself round. For a tourist attraction it was surprisingly affordable. You pay $15 for 1 hour + a $20 deposit and then $3 every 15 minutes after the first hour. It ended up costing us $21 in total, which is unheard of for a tourist spot in this city. Rowing around the lake was amazing, although we both got quite sunburnt the views of the gorgeous buildings on the Upper West Side made up for it. Will did most of rowing while I was appointed photographer. I did get to do a little of the rowing and to my own surprise did not make us crash into anything, kill anything or tip us out of the boat. I take that as a huge success!

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It was like a scene out of The Notebook you guys…except there were a lot more people, a lot more sweat because it 30 degrees and a lot more turtles. Ok so it was nothing like The Notebook but let me get back to the turtles. While you row around the lake you can spot turtles swimming all around you, their lil heads poking out every now and again. If you are looking to get up close and personal with these lil guys, row to the outer edges of the lake and you can find them sleeping on bits of trees floating in the water. There is even a part of Central Park dedicated to looking at the turtles called Turtle Pond. Turtles aren’t the only animals making the lake their home. We were surrounded by Geese as we rowed around. They were really getting amongst the action and would float along beside you.

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You could definitely get around the whole lake in an hour but if you are looking not to rush and just take your time it’s good to know it’s not going to cost you and arm and a leg. We saw one couple who had planned ahead to have a great time on the water. They had bought a bottle of wine, some lunch and just parked their boat in the middle of the lake to enjoy the view in style. Genius.

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This is one of the tourist attractions that you have to do in New York City if you visit in the summer. It’s something a little different and a little more peaceful than getting shoved around in Time Square.

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Until next time friends…
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Governor’s Island

New York, Travel

Hey Y’all and Happy Labour Day! Do you say that on Labour Day? I’m not sure. Anyway, here in America it is Labour Weekend which is considered the ‘official end of summer’. It does not look like those sticky 31 degrees celsius days are going away anytime soon though. Will and I kicked off our long weekend with a day at Governor’s Island. Governor’s Island is open everyday May 24 through September 28. New York City is surrounded by little islands that come alive during the summer months. Governor’s Island can be found between Brooklyn and the southern tip of Manhattan. 172 acres in size, this island has a vivid history. After having a variety of names, the current name derives from the British Colonial era when the island was reserved for New York royal governors. From being an army base, a prison to being run by the Coast Guard, Governor’s Island is rich in culture.

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Getting to Governor’s Island couldn’t be easier. You can catch the ferry from both lower Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridge Park, both only taking 10 minutes. On Saturdays and Sundays, the 10AM, 11AM and 11.30AM ferries are free from Manhattan as well as the 11AM and 11,30AM ferries from Brooklyn. All other times it is just a $2 return fare. For all you cyclists, the island encourages you to bring your bike. Bikers are welcomed onto the Ferry first and there are great bike tracks spanning the island. Wherever you walk or cycle on the island you are met with breathtaking views of Lower Manhattan and The Statue of Liberty.

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Many buildings remain on Governor’s Island like Castle Williams which has been restored for the viewing pleasure of the public. The island is now home to many parks, food trucks, art shows and festivals such as the Unicycle Festival and the Vintage VW Car Show which were both on this weekend.

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Model of Castle Williams on display in the centre of the castle

Model of Castle Williams on display in the centre of the castle

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If you don’t feel like partaking in the events, there are plenty of spaces to just sit and relax. Bring a book, a blanket and find a quiet spot somewhere on the grass or in one the red hammocks. That’s right, Governor’s Island has hammocks for you to swing in. A number of them too. We only had to wait a few minutes for some kids to finish up playing on them and then we were left in peace to imagine we were in the Bahamas.

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For those of you who are wanting to feel that Bahamas vibe, head to Gov’ners Beach Club. A man made beach overlooking the city. They have a volleyball court, table tennis, fooseball and most importantly a bar. The perfect place to hang out in the sand without having to hike out to the beach.

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If you get the chance, Governor’s Island is worth the visit. My calf muscles are definitely in better shape from the cycling. So that’s always a good thing.

Until next time friends..
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Red Hook – The Lyttelton of New York.

New York, Travel

From 2009 – 2011 I lived in Christchurch, New Zealand. This was pre earthquake. There was and still is something very special about Christchurch. It’s got that small town feel in a big city, well big for New Zealand. While I lived there my favorite place to visit was Lyttelton which is 20 minutes drive from the center of Christchurch. It’s the main port into Canterbury and the township has developed substansially over the years. It has amazing views over the water, cute coffee shops, bars and art stores. I still say it is where I want to retire.

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While exploring Brooklyn on my bike I came across the area of Red Hook in Brooklyn. It was love at first site. A small town by the sea? What more could you want. It took me straight back to Lyttelton. Red Hook is filled with parks, coffee shops, books stores and more, it was heaven just wandering the tree lined streets. The hipsters haven’t found it yet so it’s still got those authentic trendy vibes.

Thug poses in Red Hook

Thug poses in Red Hook

Today while walking around Will and I visited the art store Foxy and Winston which plays to the nautical theme of Red Hook, Papillionaire Bicycles which has many of my dream bikes and bike accessories and Kempton & Co which had gorgeous Brooklyn inspired jewelry.

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For lunch we stopped by Red Hook Lobster Pound. It seemed silly to be in a town right by the sea and not test the fresh food on offer. Well, this place did not disappoint. Will and I both got Lobster BLT’s which was lobster tossed in chipotle mayo with thick cut bacon + ‘fixings’ as they put it. It was absolutely delicious. So much taste in such a little space.

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We rode home around the water line and got great views of Ms. Liberty. Another great Sunday in sunny NYC.

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Until next time friends..
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Coney Island

New York, Travel

This weekends exploration took place at the glorious Coney Island. There is something quite wonderful about being able to hop on the subway in the city and end up with your toes in the sand. Coney Island is known for it’s boardwalk, beach and amazing amusement park – the Wonder Wheel Ferris Wheel being it’s main fixture.

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We didn’t go on any of the rides as they were a little outside our budget. Especially because when Summer ends it gets extra cheap – so we’ll go back then. But it was still amazing just walking around and taking it all in. Coney Island tends to be open from April to October each year but the boardwalk and beach are open year round. There is such a diverse culture out there. Spanish, Jersey Shore alums and New Yorkers wanting to escape the crowds that just end up with a different much bigger crowd.

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An event Coney Island is famous for which I know made the news back in New Zealand is the Annual July 4th Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Competition. This years winner finished off a whopping 61 hotdogs including the buns! ‘Murica – you disgusting but impressive son ova bitch. Of course that meant for lunch we had to try Nathan’s hot dogs – they did not disappoint. While we were eating we met a little kid called Jacob who told us he thought hot dogs were disgusting. He also wasn’t very fond of soup. So there ya go!

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Coney Island has the most incredible energy and it is constantly thriving. There are so many stores selling beach equipment like buckets and spades, rubber floats for the sea, towels and memorabilia. It plays the tourist card but does it well. I will definitely be visiting again and getting my butt on all those rides!

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Until next time friends..
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