Friday, June 24, 2011

Day 6 - Washington, DC (1st day)

Washington, DC was not initially part of our plans but it was highly suggested to us by my in-laws. Moreover, my husband's boss resides there so it's a good chance for them to meet up and talk business for a night.

After debating how to get to DC, we settled on taking the Megabus. I'm glad we did as even if the trip was longer (at 4 1/2 hours), the bus had free wifi and you can charge whatever equipment you want.

We also booked a hotel online, Windsor Inn, which was the relatively cheap hotel/inn that we found. It's supposedly near Dupont Circle but I've forgotten what constitutes "near" here in the US. It was actually 4 LONG blocks away from Dupont! Here's their front door.

We arrived in DC after lunch time. As we didn't bring any food on the bus, we were very famished when we arrived at the parking lot bus stop. We made the mistake of not hailing a taxi and taking up the offer of one of the people standing their for a taxi. He charged us $20 but according to Leo's boss, it should be around $10 only. Oh well, lesson learned.

When we got to the Inn, our room was not yet ready. So we left our bags with the Front Desk and looked for a place to eat. We walked four blocks to Dupont Circle and found a Starbucks. I readily devoured my sandwich and water afterwhich, we walked the four long blocks back to the Inn where we checked in.

After freshening up, we decided where we wanted to go. Feeling very touristy, we decided to make The White House our first stop and walk our way towards the Lincoln Memorial. Here's a summary of all the places we've visited.

So we had a cab drop us off at the White House. Here we are posing for mandatory pics:

We realized later on that this was the BACK part of the White House and not their front door. Oh well, at least it's still the White House.

From there, we walked towards the Washington Monument. We passed by The Ellipse and arrived at the Washington Monument. Though it's just near, we didn't want to walk towards it was just too hot with no shade at all. So we just contented ourselves taking pictures from afar:

After another short walk, we arrived at the World War II Memorial where The Philippines has its own marker. I wanted to take a picture of it but there was this group of obviously Filipinos hogging the area. We decided to just take a picture in front of the Memorial:

Here's another view of the Washington Monument from the vantage point of the WWII Memorial:

We then made our way to Lincoln Memorial. We saw the Memorial from afar and tried to find the Reflecting Pool but all we saw were dirt and machines. It took awhile to register that the pile of dirt was the Reflecting Pool and was being renovated:

We took another picture of the Washington Monument and Reflecting Pool when we got to the Lincoln Memorial. It would've been perfect if they left the Pool alone:

The Lincoln Memorial was just awesome. I wanted to just stand there and reflect on the history that this place inspired but there were too many tourists around jostling for a nice shot. I just had to make do with the moment and took a few pictures of our own.

After the Lincoln Monument, we caught a cab to take us to the Smithsonian. We were supposed to walk but we were so drained by the heat. Being from Manila, I know we're used to the heat but in this case, the sun got the best of us again.

We first visited the Museum of American History. Their exhibits are more on the mode of transportation in the US. I like the trains more. Here are some of our photos:

We decided on the Air and Space Museum next. Turns out we had to cross The Mall to get to the next museum which is on the other side of the complex.

The National Mall is between Constitution Ave. and Independence Ave. surrounded by the different Smithsonian buildings. Here are some of our pictures there:

The Air and Space Museum showcased space shuttles, planes and such.

We went around for awhile and waited for Leo's boss to pick us up. We had dinner at a restaurant at Georgetown called Das. It features Ethiopian cuisine which was interesting. It's not something I would rave about but at least it was something different.

After dinner, we walked around Georgetown and had dessert at a place called Sprinkles.

I had a Milk Chocolate cupcake as shown below. Quite yummy. I was told that they're part of a show called "Cupcake Wars" although I have yet to see it. I did see the DC Cupcakes store but we were not able to go inside the store or take a picture of it.

I found Georgetown charming with its red brick buildings although populated with yuppies and young people (probably because of the university nearby). The photo below was taken between 830 to 9 in the evening.

And that's our first day at DC.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Day 5 - Six Flags and Atlantic City

When I was in the US more than 20 years ago, my main frustration was that I was not able to visit any amusement park except for Universal Studios. Back then, the only ride was the tram where you see the different sets of movies. During this trip, I asked my sister to take us to 6 Flags to at least fulfill my wish to ride a US rollercoaster.

Together with my sister, Claudine, brother-in-law, Jeff, their daughter, Madison, Jeff's sister, Jermaine, my cousin, Micaela and Leo, we left the house at 9AM to make it to 6 Flags (Jackson, NJ) before its 10AM opening.

This was the first sight that greeted us from the parking lot:

The rollercoaster on the left is the Kingda ka. It's the tallest rollercoaster. The one in the middle is the newest ride of the park, the Green Lantern where you ride the coaster standing up. The one on the right is the Superman where you ride the coaster on your belly.

Here we are posing and waiting for the park to open:

There were a lot of people rushing towards the Green Lantern and of course, I had to have the mandatory photo. This was before the long lines started:

This was the first rollercoaster I rode after so many years. The one in Enchanted Kingdom does not even compare. I was not nervous before the ride but as I got on my seat and the coaster started climbing, the butterflies just started and I just closed my eyes and hung on for dear life.

If you're feeling dead then it's one way to know that you're alive. After the ride, I just kept on saying, "I'm alive! I'm alive!" My cousin was able to film the ride and Jeff was so sore as he had his camera out but he was not able to press the record button. However, when we got off the ride, Jeff and Mica was intercepted by park officials as apparently, they were caught by the park camera filming the ride which according to the park's rules and regulations was prohibited and subject to expulsion. No amount of "pakiusap" would let them stay, they were kicked out and banned from the park for a year. Though we can still stay, we opted to accompany them in their misery and left the park as well.

Jeff and Mica were sore that they were thrown out after just 1 ride and it was barely lunch time. We decided to go to Atlantic City to at least see another big city.

The ride was nice as we borrowed Tita Flor's Yukon. We made it to Atlantic City in 2 hours. We parked at the Trump Plaza and proceeded to the Boardwalk on foot.

Here's a photo of me and Leo on the Boardwalk and the second one with us on the beach:

Leo tried his hand at the slot machine and won five bucks. I also won 8 bucks but that was on a 10 dollar bet. Before we could lose any more money, we went out on the Boardwalk and just walked the whole length up to the end where the carnival was located.

The area of the Trump Plaza is still ok but as you go further down the pier, that's where things sort of look a little run down. The carnival has definitely seen better days but it's sort of charming in a quaint sort of way.

While on the Boardwalk, we tasted the different cuisines that it has to offer. The funnel cake was really good. Fried dough with powdered sugar on top. Yum!

We also tried some salt water taffy which was also good.

After MORE walking and with Maddy trying the carnival a bit, we decided to head back to the car and go home. We all belatedly realized that we have to get home early as we had to return the car and we all had to prepare for an early day the next day. Leo and I had an early morning bus ride to DC while Claudine and the rest of the family has a long drive to Niagra Falls.

Day 4 - Mass and Tinton Falls

I remember attending mass at a Catholic church the first time I was in the US almost 20 years ago. It was still a nice surprise when I attended mass again at the local church at East Brunswick where my cousin is an active member of YFC. I think it was the St. Bartholomew Church and the mass was at 12 noon sharp.

First of all, I liked the mass guides and song books that they have on each aisle. I was especially enchanted by the organ. I haven't seen one up close. I managed to take a short video while it was being played.

He was only accompanied by a soprano singer who sang all the songs. It was also interesting that the whole congregation really participated during the whole mass. I wish the people back home are as fervent in their worship during mass as the people here.

After mass, we went back to my aunt's house as East Brunswick. She and her friend, Tita Mona, took us to Jershey Shore Tinton Falls where we went more outlet shopping.

It was there that I finally bought a Kate Spade bag. I've always wanted to own one ever since I saw one at Rustan's. I managed to find one at the outlet store there that was more than $100 off the original price.

After buying more stuff, my aunt invited us to go to Marshall's for more shopping. Leo and I were still jet lagged so we just sat down after buying a few stuff while we waited for Tita Flor and Tita Mona to finish.

I managed to doze off at the drive back (I think it took us an hour and a half). We had dinner at Olive Gardens where we mostly had pasta. Then after getting our stuff at East Brunswick, we went back to my sister at Avenel where we spent the night.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Day 3 - Liam's Dedication

On Saturday, I attended the first party that I was invited to—one of the reasons why we came here. My nephew had his dedication and I was one of the godmothers.

I started the day early as I woke up at 330 AM yesterday which translated to about 6 hours of sleep. Not bad. I wrote my first entry on our trip and came down for breakfast at about 6AM when hunger pangs called.

Everyone then got ready for the Dedication and the party afterwards. Not wanting to get on everybody’s way, Leo and I got ready way before my sister and her family did.

The Dedication was held at a christian church (Jesus the Healer Filipino Church). It was a short and simple ceremony. Here we are posing with my sister, her family and the other godparents.

Afterwards, we proceeded to the reception at The Rosewood Gardens. My sister gave me an assignment to count the guests.

It was my first time to attend a Filipino party in the US. Other than the good food (it’s really good! My relatives said though that I’ll surely miss Filipino food soon), they had line dancing! Leo’s aunt, Tita Chit, who my sister invited, apparently is a veteran in line dancing and also participated. She said that around 90% of Fil-Am parties usually have line dancing and she can lead too. I tried my hand at it and could’ve participated more if not for my party shoes. It’s really fun!

Also got a more decent picture of my sister and I, here we are:

Afterwards, another aunt (my mom’s sister), Tita Flor, invited us to stay with her last night at East Brunswick. We quickly packed an overnight and Leo’s aunt drove us over. Here is Tita Flor's family:

If our house at Manila is in the suburbs, this literally defines suburbs. I feel like I’m in Forks (yes, in the Twilight movie) where the backyard is literally a forest. However, it’s not as overcast or rainy as in the movie/book. In fact, I just saw a squirrel when I woke up this morning! Cool! My only encounter with a squirrel is with Alvin and the Chipmunks and Chip and Dale. :) I couldn't resist taking a picture.

We also visited another aunt, Tita Cora, who lives a block away from Tita Flor's house. Here we are with Tita Cora's family:

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Day 1 and 2 - Outlet Shopping at Jersey Gardens

I was up and early the next day as I could not sleep properly. After breakfast, my sister and her daughter, Madison together with my husband and I left at around 10AM for Jersey Gardens to do some shopping.

Here's my picture with my twin sister. It's the only one that we have so far since I got here. I'll make sure to take more.

I was not prepared when I saw what was in the mall. There were branded stores all around that I could not wrap my mind around what I want to see first. I just told Leo to shop for himself first and I'll just see what I want.

We settled down for lunch at the foodcourt where I had some sort of chicken bourbon meal. I've forgotten how the servings here are just so humongous. I was supposed to share with Leo but he wanted another thing. Anyway, I was only able to eat barely half of it and decided to take home the rest.

Here's Maddy, smiling one of her beautiful smiles.

I survived on caffeine and sugar during the whole time. By midafternoon, I was almost on the verge of collapse. I got a pack of M&Ms for the sugar rush which gave me the strength to get back on my feet and do more shopping. Here's me with Maddy as I shared my last two M&Ms with her. I became her bestfriend all of a sudden. :)

We headed back home around 5PM but briefly stopped over at a local grocery at Carteret to get some supplies. When we got to the house, my mom was waiting for us with her stepdaughter-in-law and her step-grandson. It was great seeing her and gave her my pasalubong. Will spend more time with her next week.

We bought so much stuff at the outlet mall. I can't wait to go back to buy MY stuff. :)

US Vacation - Getting There

The day that I've been looking forward to in more than 20 years has finally arrived, I am able to return to the US and experience its wonders all over again.

We were actually supposed to visit in April 2008, a few months after my husband and I got married. Together with my US visa getting renewed, we confirmed that I was pregnant! So we had to postpone the trip until I gave birth. That occasion finally arrived when my mom invited us for her 60th birthday celebration and my sister for her son's Christening this June 2011.

I booked an EVA Air ticket for my husband and I (we did not bring our son with us) last March for a three week stay in the US. After that, there were a flurry of email exchanges between my mom, sister and I as we planned our itinerary.

On the morning of June 16, we were in NAIA around 3.5 hours before our flight. That's my husband with his rare smiles as we patiently wait for the check-in counter to open and that's me at the Gate waiting for our flight to be called.

Our flight left almost one hour behind schedule at 130PM. It wasn't a problem as our flight does not leave until 650PM so with the almost two hour flight time, we'll surely make it without stressing ourselves too much.

When we arrived at Taipei, we went around familiarizing ourselves with the place and trying to find a place to eat.

We settled on a noodle house where we had beef noodle soup. The serving was so huge that my husband and I shared a bowl.

We boarded our flight right on schedule. The flight though was uneventful and horribly boring for me as I could not sleep. The EVA Air entertainment/interactive system helped me keep my sanity. The movie selections sucked though but I did manage to watch an episode each of Family Guy, CSI and five other shows.

We touched down Newark airport 20 minutes ahead of schedule. I was so grateful that I wanted to kiss the airport ground but that would probably not be advisable. :)

Due to the lateness of the hour, there were only a minimum number of passport control officers who were manning the counters to process our arrival. There were more officers for the US and Canadian citizens and green card holders. We were in line for more than hour until we were up. Our fingerprints and pictures were taken and we were asked how long we will be staying.

After that, we proceeded to the bags carousel to retrieve our luggage. As we've been stuck in line for so long, our bags were already on the conveyor. I got a couple of carts (which costs $5 each!), loaded our bags and was fortunately waved through customs. I don't mind the random bag search but I was so tired already.

It took around 30 minutes before we finally found my brother-in-law, Jeff and got everything loaded in their SUV.

My niece, Madison, and my sister, Claudine, greeted us when we arrived. I still had strength to open our bags and give out pasalubongs. It was already 130AM when I was able to take a shower and lie down. Unfortunately, I was just too tired to sleep that I only had 2 hours of rest. I gave up when I woke up at 4AM and decided to just tough it out that day.

Our Day 1 and 2 kuwento here.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Basti Picture Company Pictures - 5 June 2011

I've been getting lots of comments about my son's overflowing cuteness. To ensure that his cuteness is preserved before it disappears from memory, I paid for an annual membership at Picture Company so he can go there anytime for a studio shot. It's money well spent because my son is as cute as ever!

Here's a collage of his photos:

These are my favorite photos of the bunch:

How cute can you really get???