Ohio: Goodbye and Good Morning
I have three hours to kill during my layover in Istanbul, and as 6 am is a little early for kebabs (wait, is it?), what better time to resume blogging! To catch you up to speed: I was home for six weeks, and while I’m sure you’re all dying for some Cleveland-centric posts, I didn’t really do anything too blog worthy. In fact, I didn’t really do much at all. So, with an extra “winter layer,” I’m setting out for the Middle East to Africa leg of my ever-extending journey.
As much as I love to travel, I’m really quite atrocious at coming home from trips. And as preparing for them. Naturally, this time was no exception. The week before my departure was rough: sleepless nights, a racing heart and general irrationalness. Like, for a very short period of time I was contemplating canceling my trip. Cleveland, the city that I have been doing my best to avoid, suddenly seemed so welcoming and comfortable. Why leave and go to some foreign country by myself when it would be so much easier to stay? And don’t even get me started on packing. Inevitably I manage to destroy every room in my house in the process. Honestly, it’s a minor miracle that someone with my level of anxiety can travel at all. Somehow I managed to pull it together (and make my new, much smaller backpack as heavy as my old one) just in time to leave for New York City, where I was visiting some of my oldest and dearest friends before catching a flight to Tel Aviv, Israel.
However, I made a total rookie mistake and tried to save money by taking an overnight Greyhound bus to NYC instead of flying. It seemed like such a good idea at the time, and I figured after spending the equivalent of a couple weeks on busses in Asia it would be a piece of cake. Wrong. Being the Greyhound newbie that I am, I didn’t realize you needed to check your luggage in and have it tagged, so I had to get out of line to figure that out and ended up being the last person to board. Trust me when I tell you you don’t want to be the last one to board a full Greyhound bus. Suffice to say, I didn’t get any sleep.
When we finally arrived at the Port Authority Bus Terminal, I could have easily been mistaken for a drifter with my haggard appearance and many bags. That didn’t stop the crazies from approaching me though (always). In the 15 minutes that I sat in the corner waiting to be picked up I was actually offered crack cocaine from someone’s personal stash upon them finding out that I had never tried it. Touching, really.
[box] Where I ate in NYC that you should eat at if you’re in NYC:
BaoHuas in Union Square: Seriously mouth-watering buns, good tunes and like, 10 seats.
Xixa in Williamsburg: Pronounced “Shiksa,” the name is an homage to the owners — a Jewish dude and his non-Jewish wife. Delicious and (sometimes) Mexican inspired small plates. I have no doubt I will be dreaming about the foie gras topped pineapple french toast and bone marrow crepes while I’m in Africa. Xixa is located just down the street from Traif, another amazing and possibly more popular restaurant by the same proprietors.
Basil in Crown Heights: Kosher and expensive, but probably the only time that I will ever feel okay about spending $8 on french fries. Their pizzas are also amazing, and there is a lot of potential for some serious people watching. Or you can just stare at the cute waiters.
Mayfield Restaurant in Crown Heights: Fried oysters over smoked salmon, grilled octopus and pork belly, banana bread pudding — I’ll probably take a taxi directly from the airport to Mayfield Restaurant on my way back home. [/box]
After what seemed like only a few hours in NYC it was time for me to head to the airport. Most people dread this part of their trip but I absolutely love long, international flights. Imagine you have nothing to do all day but sit on your couch, watch movies on demand, have delicious food (ok, I’m really in the minority here) delivered to you and cleaned up, and unlimited alcohol. For me, that’s pretty much what flying is like, just maybe slightly less comfortable. This was my first time flying Turkish Air and it was a really good experience! My favorite part was that they pass out a menu before they serve each meal, because really, how are you supposed to decide between grilled salmon and spinach and cheese cannelloni without at least 20 minutes to weigh out the pros and cons of each option? (If you were wondering, I went with the cannelloni.)
I finally made it to Tel Aviv, and while my plan of immediately getting falafel was foiled by an overwhelming need to sleep for 36 hours straight, I’m not in Ohio anymore! I can wear flip flops! Let the adventure begin……
Fun fact: Ohio means “good morning” in Japanese!
[box] Tel Aviv is expensive, and true budget accommodation (by my standards at least) doesn’t really exist. Israelis are passionate travelers and hosts, making the country a great place to use Couchsurfing. I stayed in Mugraby Hostel, which is only a few minutes walk to the beach, and at $18/night for a bed in a dorm room, one of the cheapest options.[/box]