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Comfort Inn Staten Island Review

When I was in the UK trying to find a good value hotel to stay in the NYC area the Comfort Inn on Staten Island kept coming up.  It was cheap, only £53 a night, including a breakfast for 2 people.  That’s way cheaper than almost any other hotel in the New York area.  The reason?  Because it’s on Staten Island, which is a lovely place, but at least an hour from downtown Manhattan.  For our 3 day stay on Staten Island we actually enjoyed catching the bus from the hotel to the ferry terminal and then the ferry to Manhattan.  After a trip to Toronto we stayed in Manhattan, in Harlem, and we did enjoy being a simply train ride to downtown, but the room was more expensive, 100 years older and dirtier, and the breakfast was barely passable.

So in short, it’s a nice hotel, with good staff.  The breakfast is good, and the commute to the ferry and downtown Manhattan is not too bad.  But, it’s not downtown.

Getting from JFK to the Comfort Inn, Staten Island

We found it quite confusing when leaving JFK how to get to Staten Island.  Many of the trains had been suspended due to a fault.  A lot of bus and car drivers were touting for business.  Eventually we took the air train to the Subway station, then caught the Subway to Manhattan, eventually getting to the Staten Island ferry terminal.  That took 1.5 hours maybe, and cost very little.

The Comfort Inn normally runs a shuttle bus from the hotel to the ferry terminal and back.  We called the hotel but on that day but the shuttle wasn’t running due to staff shortage.  The hotel told us the public bus number to get on.  So we did, and enjoyed a bus ride across the island.  We got off the bus to find it a bit of a vague area.  The hotel is not visible from the road, but we walked through some car parks and found it.

On later days we used the shuttle bus.  You need to put your name on a list for the bus.  First come, first served.  If the shuttle is not running you can always get the public bus.  It’s only a few dollars.  Of course you can also take a taxi.

The Hotel

The Comfort Inn hotel is a new hotel, and won’t surprise anyone who has stayed in a similar hotel before.  The staff are friendly and helpful.  In the basement is the breakfast room, and self service machines dispensing snacks and drinks.  There is also a ice machine, which I think was free.

The hotel rooms are clean and modern.  We had a big flat screen TV which I found entertaining to flick through to watch all of the US TV shows.

The bed was king size, which whilst comfy, did take up too much space in the room, leaving not a lot of space to walk around it.  That’s really the fault of a small room and not the bed.

The air-con worked well, which was very welcome on the hot September days.

Breakfast

Breakfast at the Comfort Inn was excellent.  A comprehensive buffet style breakfast meant that there was a good choice for everyone.  There are English muffins, US muffins, eggs, cereal, toast and a waffle iron to make warm waffles.  Lots of coffee and juice.

Definitely a good place to fill up before heading out for the day.

Around the Hotel

There are not a great deal of stores around the hotel.  There is a restaurant and bar near by, across a few car parks.  There is a convenience store located near the main road.

Conclusion

A hotel of this quality in downtown Manhattan would probably cost 3 or 4 times the price.  So it’s great value.  The downside being that you have to take the ferry and bus to get to and from the hotel to downtown Manhattan.

If you intend to stay out late in Manhattan then stay downtown.  If you intend finishing the day early then Staten Island is not a bad place to stay at all.  The ferry ride is lovely in the summer, but probably very cold in the winter.

There are similar hotels on the mainland to the west of Manhattan, from which you could probably catch a bus to Manhattan, which is probably easier than the ferry.

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New York trip booked

All of our bookings for the New York trip are complete. With our departure date only 1 week away, finding accommodation has been difficult. I spent probably 5 hours in total researching and buying tickets and accommodation.

A quick run down of what we’ve booked (per person):

– 1 flight
– 4 train rides, including an overnight sleeper trip, and a short journey in business class (as it was only $2 more
– 3 bus rides
– 4 different hotels, including a lodge overlooking Niagara Falls and a classic brownstone guesthouse in Harlem.

We normally go away for long trips. About 4 months as a minimum. But this is a 2 week trip. It’s also costing £1,000+ per person. Way above our normal budget of £1,000 per month for the 2 of us.

This is a special trip though 🙂

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Going to New York and Toronto

I’ve been supporting the film Baraka for many years now. The follow up film Samsara will premiere in Toronto on 11th September 2011.

I will be attending the premiere, which I am thrilled about. Rather than just fly from the UK to Toronto I am combining the trip with a visit to New York city. The trip will be about 6 days in New York and 2 days in Toronto.

This will be my first visit to north America. I’m very excited.

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Temporary homes

We’re back in Cornwall, my homeland. We’ve been staying with Abs’ sister and fiancé. We’ve been helping them renovate their new house. In return with being living rent free.

This has allowed us to save money for our future travels. We’re not sure what those travels are yet. We’re still considering the options. Either another trip in the campervan to Europe, maybe a trip to Thailand, or even a winter in Cornwall to get some work done for future travels.

Staying with friends and relatives is a great way to save money for future travels. It’s an easy-in and easy-out option.

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Home, Time and Weather

I’m back home. It feels nice to be back. But I’m already finding my home town grey and boring. That’s why I travel.

I’ve been back nearly a week. I’ve caught up with my family and most of my friends. It feels great to have seen them.

The weather was good when we returned. Nearly as good as France. But now it is grey and raining.

I have quote a few things to do when I am back home, and I’ve got stuck into them.

Life feels good.

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Weightloss

I’ve lost nearly 1.5 stones in the last 4 months, since we’ve been on the road. This is due to a combination of eating healthily and lots of exercise.

The healthy eating is the result of something that I still find a bit strange. Paul McKenna. Paul McKenna is best known for being a hypnotist, on UK television. He’s very impressive, but his TV appearances seem a bit old fashioned.
However, it seems Paul has been making books, telling people how to achieve certain things, for some time. His best sellers is “I Can Make You Thin”.
I’ve seen this book in the window of the book store. I was very dubious of it, despite it being in the window, which I should have taken as a sign of its success.

Paul’s system works by highlighting how most of us eat when we’re not hungry, and we often clear our plate, even if we’re full midway through the meal. All of these things results in us consuming extra calories, which is where weight gain comes from.

Instead now, Abs and I, eat smaller meals, often leave some, stop when we’re full, and only eat when we’re hungry. We buy fewer groceries, often have a tiny evening meal, and we’ve lost a good deal of weight.

It’s a great system, based on simple proper eating. No magic involved. It does come with a CD, which Abs finds makes here feel good. I listen to the CD sometimes.

The exercise is mainly coming from cycling. We do at least 4 miles most days. Sometimes 10 miles, and yesterday 20 miles.

We also do a lot of walking.

I get to surf sometimes. A few times this week, but not much before as we’ve been on the Mediterranean coast.

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“Everytime I go into that shop they annoy me”

“Every time I go into that shop they annoy me”

That’s the phrase I overhead a neighbour at the campsite here in France say this morning.

I’m a little confused. The shop is lovely. It sells lovely French things, in the French way. There is almost always fresh baguettes available to buy. In the morning there are piles of fresh croissants and pastries to buy. The staff are always bubbly, friendly and lovely.

Every time I go into this shop I feel great. I find it hard to imagine how it would’t lift ones sprits.

So why is this man annoyed when he goes in? I don’t know. But by studying him occasionally over the past few days, it’s clear he is a man with a cloudy outlook on life. He seems frustrated and annoyed by most things.

Life is too short to get upset by everything. Life is too short to not be doing what you really want to do.

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McDonalds, my new friend

McDonalds (the fast food chain) has become an important part of my life. As they offer free WiFi, which is a solution to my internet access problem.

I’ve never really liked McDonalds food. I grew up in Cornwall in England, and I can’t remember the first time I saw a McDonalds, or ate at one. But it was in my late teens or early twenties.

Until a few years ago I would never normally eat there, maybe a McFlurry a few times a year. Almost never a burger.

Then, a few years ago whilst traveling in Southeast Asia I started to eat at McDonalds more. Every so often I would find myself in a big city, like Kuala Lumpur, and the only local restaurants I could find weren’t appealing, so I would have a McDonalds. To be honest I always seem to prefer a Burger King or even a KFC, but occasionally McDonalds will do.

I don’t particular like their food, and I don’t like their business practice (e.g. appealing to kids, whose parents can’t say no), but I don’t hate them. Business is business, kids are kids, and parents should be parents.

On the last few months of this trip I have been using my iPhone as a 3G modem to get internet access on the go. It’s been great whilst in places like Portugal and Spain, where finding a cafe with WiFi can be difficult.

But now we’re France, and 3G access via a phone costs a lot of money. Finding Wifi enabled cafes and campsites is easier in France, and generally easier and cheaper than the cost and hassle of 3G via the French phone providers.

Now enter McDonalds. Almost every McDonalds, worldwide, has free WiFi. So all one needs to do is to buy something, anything (a coffee is about €1.50) and enjoy the wifi. Some of their restaurants (their word, not mine) have unsecured Wifi that reaches a long way, perhaps into the car park. So some people might sit in their vehicles and access the WiFi without even paying. I don’t recommend this as it might be illegal. But I don’t think their business will suffer financially for it.

Still, nothing beets having great WiFi in a great campsite. We’ve just spent 2 weeks at Camping Sitges, and had just that. So we’re missing it a bit, but like everything in out travels, we adjust very quickly.

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The Increasing Price of UK Airport Parking

Many will not have noticed but in recent weeks (article created April 2011) the airport car parking rates have increased at a number of airports across the UK. For Gatwick parking for example the long stay rates have increased from £9.70 to £11.50 per day, an increase of £1.80 per day. That means a weeks parking at Gatwick is almost £100 pounds.

Gatwick is not the only airport to see rises in the turn up and pay rates with the other popular London airports, Stansted and Heathrow both doing the same. A day at Heathrow is £17 per day although if staying for more then five days this is reduced to £16.40.

As the busy summer period looms, car parks know they are likely to be close to full at times and are looking to take full advantage of this after a turbulent 2010. Many of the on-airport car parks offered free additional days travel for delayed return flights and allowed cancellations of reservations effected by the volcanic ash which with the huge number of travellers effected, would have meant a sharp decrease in their parking numbers.

Even with car parking rates experiencing a high period there are several ways around this, firstly, booking in advance. Sites such as airport parking offer pre-booking discounts with rates for the official car parks, often as much as 60%, a huge saving. Another alternative is the use of the off-airport park and rides, here you get cheaper parking for being away from the airport and catch a transfer bus to the terminal, here you can often knock off an extra £10 from the official on-airport long stay prices.

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Rome – 3 Best Things to Do and Eat

Rome

Image by tejvanphotos

The worlds love for Italy never fades. Italy has been attracting tourists ever since the early days of tourism and visiter numbers don’t show any sign of decreasing. Rome is absolutely no exception with its martial monuments attracting thousands of visitors every year.

Rome has been the spotlight of Italy for almost 3000 years as the famous city of the Roman empire and its reputation certainly is justified. With its noisy and colourful markets, its romantic street corners and of course its architecture and artist genius. Rome, is a city that certainly knows how to impress.

The historical centre of Rome is a UNESCO World Heritage site and it certainly deserves its tittle.

Rome is a sprawling city but the main sights and must see attractions are concentrated in the area between Stazione Termini and the Vatican on the other side of the Tiber river.

Rome is a fantastic walking city, walk around and take in the Roman buzz and romantic atmosphere.

3 Must Dos

Colosseum

The 50,000 seat arena is simply breathtaking and unsurprisingly one of Italy’s most visited sites.

This thrilling Roman site was originally known as the Flavian Amphitheater. The Colosseum was started in AD 72 by Emperor Vespasian and finished in AD 80 by his son, Titus. The Colosseum was clad in travertine and 240 masts held in place an enormous canvas awning. In side 50,000 seats surround the sand arena. The great Colosseum was built on top of a maze of underground chambers where caged animals were kept.

The myth that fights between gladiators often ended in death is untrue, the sponsor was required to pay the owner of a killed Gladiator 100 times the Gladiators value. Pricey.

Vatican City

The Vatican City is all that is left of the Papal state and covering just 0.44km its a cultural must. For more than 1000 years the Vatican included Rome and most of central Italy but after Italian unification in 1861 the Pope was forced to give up most of his territory. Vatical City is an independent state, it has its own  currency, newspapers, radio, postal service and even its own army of Swiss Guards. The Vatican City is quite fascinating.

St Peter’s Basilica

Rome is a city of churches but if your going to visit one make sure to visit St Peter’s Basilica. The biggest, richest and most spectacular Church in the whole of Italy. All pilgrims to Rome are expected to visit St Peter’s. The church is built over the spot where St Peter is said to have been buried. Michelangelo designed the magnificent dome that soars 120m above the altar. If the stunning architecture is not enough to get the juices flowing St Peter’s Basilica is also home to two of Italy’s most celebrated masterpieces, Michelangelo’s ‘Pieta’ and Bernini’s 29m high baldachin over the high alter

One of the most atmospheric things to do in Rome is to sit outside of one of the restaurants and enjoy the fantastic Italian food and drink. Some of the best and most authentic places to eat can be found in the more residential areas as a posed to the tourist areas. The best tip for finding a great place to eat is note where the Italians are eating and drinking.

3 Must Eats

Pasta

Image by Tom Purves

Pasta

Simple, but of course an Italian staple. Cacio e pepe (with pecorino cheese, black pepper and olive oil) and all’amatriciana (with tomato, pancetta and chilli) are the Italians first choice.

Ice Cream

Forget the diet when in Rome, the ice cream is to die for. look for a  gelateria with a big ‘G’ out side it, this means that it has a guild association and will probably be a good quality ice cream. You have to pay for the ice cream and then get into que to collect it. If the server says, ‘Panna?’, they are asking if you want whipped cream on top. Remember the rule if the Italians are eating it then its probably authentic gold. If the ice cream is bright colours its probably not great quality, look for the more natural colours for better quality ice cream.

Cornetto and Cappuccino

One of the many sweet pastries and a rich italian coffee, sat on a street corner, watching the crazy traffic go by, is an absolute must if you want to get an authentic Roman experience. Thank goodness Starbucks is not in Rome, Italian coffee is much better and cheaper, Starbucks would face some really fierce competition.

If you ask for a ‘latte’ in Italy you will get a glass of milk. If you want a coffee you need to ask for a ‘caffe latte’. ‘Caffe’, Espresso’ or ‘Normale’ is simply a shot of expresso. If you are feeling really in need of extra energy then ask for a ‘Espresso doppio’ for a double shot of expresso. If you prefer a weaker coffee then an Americano is an expresso diluted with hot water, the Italians don’t care much for this drink. And finally the cappuccino, Italians consider it very ‘un-classy’ and quite childish to order a cappuccino after 11am and would certainly never order one after dinner.

Accommodation in Rome

There are lots of hotels, hostels and other places to stay in Rome.  However, finding somewhere to stay is not always an easy task.  Consider using Oh Rome’s great Rome hotel and apartment finder.