Category Archives: getting around

Bumming around Guadalajara

A bus ride to the big city so we could hit the used English bookstore. This was the extent of the itinerary my Dad put together for our day trip to Guadalajara, Mexico.

Little did we know what awaited us in the English bookstore in Guadalajara...
Little did we know what awaited us in the English bookstore in Guadalajara…

I’m not sure I’d visit Mexico if my parents hadn’t retired to Lake Chapala, a retirement community about 45 minutes from Guadalajara. But now I go at least once a year for mellow, sunny visits to hang out and catch up with my parents, who are two of my favorite people. This time around there was enough time to weave in a day trip. My Mom stayed behind to hit the gym and her singing lesson, leaving it to me and my Dad to bum around Guadalajara. The city was in capable hands.

Thursday morning we walked down the street and killed some time at the coffee shop near the bus stop. At 9:30 the bus came, and a little less than $5 and an hour later we were in Guadalajara with no Yelp, no Wi-Fi, no GPS—ready for adventure.

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Stuck in the East Brunswick, NJ Hilton

The Hilton in East Brunswick in all its glory
The Hilton in East Brunswick in all its glory

I think I’ve driven past the Hilton Hotel on the New Jersey Turnpike near New Brunswick—you know, the one with the giant, glowing red “H” just off exit 9—at least a million times. It always emitted a roadside-misery vibe to me  every time I drove past it, so I had built up a pretty strong image of it in my head: ancient beds covered in paper thin, scratchy sheets and fire-retardant blankets, vending-machine-only food options, and general highway hotel bleakness inside.

So it was a special treat when I stayed there on a recent business trip for a client. I could finally see for myself what it was actually like inside. I could also skip the airport and take the train, and it was so close to the train station that there was no need for rental car. Which of course meant that I would be stuck.

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Taking the Bus to Northampton to see the Pope of Trash

“What’s your name, beautiful?”

If this is how Greyhound bus drivers greet passengers as they check tickets, I’m giving up my frequent flyer miles.

Destination Northampton: Still on the Greyhound bus route
Destination Northampton: Still on the Greyhound bus route

How to get from A to B when you have no car: my new eternal question. Back in March I bought tickets to see “A John Waters Christmas” at the Calvin Theater in Northampton, MA. Since then I had moved to NY, and when the time came to get up to see the show, I was faced with a travel dilemma. I could fly, but it would require renting a car—more hassle that it was worth. I could rent a car, but the cost for a 2-day rental from the City was so pricey, it was funny. The train was a possibility, but had few options to get out to Western Mass.

That left the bus.

Today, you can be close to God in Port Authority
Today, you can be close to God in Port Authority

I still secretly love taking the bus. When I was an exchange student in Italy, it was my first introduction to getting around on the cheap. When I got back to the States to finish my senior year of college I brought that ethos back with me and took the bus from Amherst to NYC to visit my boyfriend on the weekends he didn’t take it to come see me. One of the happiest days of my life was back around 2001 when I paid $10 for a round trip ticket on a Chinatown bus from Philly to NYC. And in late 2013, in an unexpected gift from a digital Santa, I scored a $1 fare on Boltbus from Philly to NYC.

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From the Pope to Pasolini

Sciopero!

No vacation in Italy is complete without a strike, and I got my fill on day 2. There was a public transportation strike on May 30, which meant that the buses and the metro weren’t running. Except for the lines that were. “Oh even when there’s a strike the Metro runs,” said the barista as he sold me my card. “They don’t even know if they’re going to strike or not.”

I love it here.

Get here before noon
Get here before noon

Since the apartment I stayed in was a ten minute walk to the Metro Linea A line I decided to start at the Vatican and spend the rest of the day heading back to Termini so I could buy my ticket to Florence. Sure enough it was running in spite of the strike (so were more than a few buses), and in a few minutes I was getting off with the other faithful at the stop of all stops.

The last time I was in Rome was just after Pope John Paul II died. Benedict had been Pope for a few months, if not a year—plenty of time to slap his likeness on the endless souvenirs that line the sidewalks radiating out from the Vatican. But no matter where I went the Pope John II souvenirs far outweighed Pope Benedict’s – at least 2 to 1. Why? He was a drag. I don’t think anyone ever heard him say “Discedite ex meus pratum”* after a free Wednesday sermon at St. Peter’s Square, but you never know.

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Neorealism Memory Lane in Pigneto

Time to light up this blog with some fun vacation posts! I used some airline miles to book a last-minute trip to Rome, Florence, and some Tuscan hill towns in between. It’s all working out so far and I’m at the end of day one, in the land between exhilaration and exhaustion, making good on a promise to flex some creative muscles and write about my travels more.

The trip was so last-minute that I didn’t even really have time to get excited about it or make any concrete plans. The only rule I made for myself was that I had to do something completely new in each city. This was a hard rule to follow for Rome.

Street art, Pigneto
Street art, Pigneto

There are so many slices of history in Rome it’s hard to decide which one to take in when you’re physically there. I’ve seen Roma Antica and the Vatican, but I’ve never really ventured out past the city center. So for Rome I decided to stay in Pigneto, an area just a few Metro stops away from Termini on Linea A.

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