My summer started with a bang in May, when I flew from Paris to New York with the dream team: Michel, Celine, and Aurelien. We all traveled together last year to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon, so this year we had to keep the tradition going. It was all of our first time in New York City, so it was no surprise that we paid way too much for a non-yellow cab to take us from the airport to our hotel, we were amazed when the lights of Times Square bombarded us, and we made it our goal to see as much as possible while we were there.
We spent hours in Central Park on our first full day (and only beautiful day) there, eating hot dogs, laying in the grass, exploring the different areas like Strawberry Fields, taking a horse and carriage ride through the park, and even Skyping with families back in France so they could live vicariously through us.
We took the ferry to Staten Island, seeing the Statue of Liberty on the way, so I could visit my cousin Shannon and her family (and drop off my gigantic suitcase that I used to bring everything over to France to lighten my travel load).
Another day was spent viewing the 9/11 Memorial Site, wandering around the Financial District, spending time by the water at the old piers, and walking the Brooklyn Bridge. I even took the Frenchies to a Johnny Rockets to show them an example of the “classic American diner” that they all have in their heads.
Of course, we spent hours in Times Square, soaking in the energy and life that the space is constantly buzzing with. I was more than excited to see the “30 Rock” building, which was perfectly followed by a stroll down 5th Avenue. We saw Grand Central Terminal (and the Apple store inside) and the Flat Iron building, and finished our first stay in New York with a fabulous burger from Shake Shack.
After that, we headed west on a 6 hour flight to San Francisco! I hadn’t been there since I was very young, so it was something fun for all of us once again. Our cab driver was weird, our hotel situation was confusing, but it all worked out. Michel and I even found an Irish pub where we spent our first evening there.
We took a classic cable car ride from Union Square to the coast, where we enjoyed a foggy view of the Golden Gate Bridge, lots of wind, the cries of sunbathing sea lions, and bowls of clam chowder. Afterwards, we climbed up the hundreds of stairs to the top of Coit Tower, providing 4 out-of-breath young people and stunning views of the city.
Since we were already in California, why not drive down Highway 1 to Los Angeles? We left the next morning to spend a weekend there. North Hollywood, Disneyland with my high school friend Scott, the Hollywood Sign, the Wax Museum, Santa Monica beach, a great hotel with a pool, the Walk of Fame, and more made our drive down worth it. I even got to catch up with my cousin Zack and meet his awesome wife Kim (and we got to taste Zack’s latest home brewed beer!).
We took the less scenic (and shorter) route back to San Francisco where we spent out last day there taking a free guided tour through the city, seeing sights like Chinatown and the Cable Car Museum.
What did we do after that, you ask? We went back to New York for another three days! Oh yes, we soaked up every moment of those two weeks. We mostly wandered this time, stumbling upon things like Little Italy and Chinatown, East Village, Harlem (where we found a legitimate French restaurant – the hostess was Parisian), the public library, and more.
Traveling with foreigners in your own country teaches you things that you wouldn’t learn otherwise. You notice things through their viewpoint, like non-included tax and waiters who tell you their name. You sense a strong feeling of pride when they gush over something that your country is famous for. And most of all, you are reminded how much there is to see in your country – not just in Europe.