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Freezing New York in February 2014

Posted in cold, cold weather, family trip, family vacation, NYC, personal, snow, USA, weather, winter
on February 13, 2014

I love the cold season but not the freezing one where the temperature dips to negative. We were in New York from Feb. 7 to 10 for a short winter break. I checked the temperature and knew it was below 0 for all the days that we would be there. I didn’t know how cold a -4 to -8 Celsius is until we were there.

We’ve been to NYC countless of times already but mostly during spring and autumn. This winter was the first time we visited the freezing and cold NYC. I could feel the bitter cold piercing through my down jacket even with my thermal sweater as an additional layer of clothing. I wore my thermal leggings as well underneath my jeans and yet, I could have sworn, at one point, I couldn’t feel my buttom already.

One thing I liked though, my daughter and I enjoyed watching the falling snow. It was a first time for us because it wasn’t snowing when we visited Niagara. It was just flurries but this time, it was snow and I could touch it for a fleeting second. Too bad, we couldn’t make snow angels because it’s not possible. But, seeing all these wonders of nature is a dream come true.

Freezing New York is the least of my favorite time to visit it. I still prefer going around on low 5 – 10 Celsius because that kind of cold will be bearable for us. So, are we visiting NYC again during winter time? Maybe but I will bring thicker jacket next time!

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What To Pack For Your Winter Getaway

Photo credit: energiaesociedade.org

The onset of winter is one of my favorite time to travel. The weather is not yet unforgiving and there is still a remnant of the last season’s foliage that can be viewed and enjoyed. However, not all places have the same kind of pre-winter. And if you are considering a winter getaway, you have to make sure that you’ve done your research, you’ve checked the local weather in that place and other weather forecast to ensure you pack the right stuff.

Important things to pack for your winter getaway are listed below to help you bring the essential ones and not leave you bitter and cold.

Boots with warm lining
This can be a snow boots or an all terrain boots with rubber sole for anti-slip and warm lining to prevent cool draft biting your skin.

Thermal shirts and sweaters
Some places may be ultra cold so be prepared to wear thermal clothing that you can layer because most establishments and public places will have the heater on and you may need to shed of some layers of clothing for that.

A long scarf or shawl
These are good bet for warming your neck and face area. It’s a nice addition to insulate you from the cold.

Ear muffs
This can be optional in some places because it may not be as cold as what you imagine. However, there is no harm in packing your ear muffs just in case it gets too cold.

Hat, beanie, umbrella
Yes, anything to cover you head and protect it from the cold. The umbrella will be very useful for some days with rain.

Parka/wind-breaker/Insulated jacket
You can bring any of the above winter garment as long as it will keep you warm and dry.

Medications for cough and cold
Winter is the season of coughs and colds and just be prepared and pack your meds if in case you acquire the sniffles.

Thermal leggings
Carry some lightweight thermal leggings you can wear underneath your jeans or pants for extra warmth and protection from the cold weather.

So, don’t be caught unaware. Keep your winter essentials ready for your getaway!

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A Honeymoon in Heaven: The Magic of the Maldives

Photo credit: honeymoonguide.com.au

The Maldives is one of the most popular destinations in the world for love-struck honeymooners, and it’s not exactly hard to see why. Beautiful deserted islands surrounded by the warm, clear waters of the Indian Ocean, stunning scenery, world-class luxury resorts, golden sands and perfect weather combine to make it a dream destination for honeymoons. Here are some of the highlights of this island paradise to keep in mind should you be looking for a romantic destination for your honeymoon.

Photo credit: guidetomaldives.co.uk

Enjoy Your Own Private Island

Wherever you stay in the Maldives, you will never be far away from a deserted island. You should not have trouble arranging an excursion to one of the nearby islands, where you will be able to enjoy a meal for two while watching the sun set and knowing that the island is yours alone to enjoy. You can’t get much more romantic than that.



Head Beneath the Waves

The Maldives is a diver’s paradise, and even if you don’t dive yourself, you will be able to discover the world beneath the waves with a simple snorkel and mask. Discover turtles, stingrays, starfish, tropical fish and stunning coral formations just outside the door to your luxury accommodation. It does not matter where you stay because the waters around all the islands are bursting with life.

Go Whale & Dolphin Watching

It may be spectacular beneath the waves, but you can also enjoy the thrill of watching wildlife from the surface, namely whales and dolphins. Boat tours are easy to arrange, and you will be able to head out into the great expanse of endless ocean where you can see spotted dolphins, sperm whales, bottlenose dolphins, whale sharks and more. The chances of making a sighting are very good, and seeing a whale in the wild is an experience that you will always treasure.

Water Sports

Romantic honeymoons are not just about moonlit dinners on the sand and lying around on beaches. You may also want to get involved in some activities, and if so you will be in luck. The main activities here consist of water sports, with the most popular being surfing, windsurfing, sailing, kayaking, jet skiing and kite surfing. You can also arrange a fishing trip if you want, and if you catch anything you’ll be able to get it cooked up for your dinner.

Sightseeing

People do not tend to visit the Maldives for sightseeing opportunities (they are far too busy lazing around on the picture perfect beaches), but there are a few things that are certainly worth a visit, mainly in the capital of Malé.

If you head to the capital at some point, consider taking a trip to the National Museum where you can enjoy a unique collection of artefacts that bring the history of the Maldives to life. The Maldives Fish Market is also interesting, and here you will able to enjoy the bustling atmosphere as the fresh catches are sold.

Enjoy Pure Luxury in the Maldives

With all of the above, including optional extras such as beach barbecues, massages on the golden sands and sunset cruises, it just does not get any more romantic, so find out more about a luxury break tothe Maldives. Sound like the place where you want your married life to begin? Then start thinking about booking your honeymoon today.

Alex Norman is a travel consultant with a penchant for coordinating wedding parties. He enjoys blogging where he gets to share his insights.

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Melbourne Heatwave Ends in Thunderstorm

Melbourne’s February spell of dry weather and high temperatures unceremoniously ended with the return of rain to the city towards the end of the month. City residents and visitors had been enjoying the warm weather and therefore were shocked to awake to the sounds and sights of stormy rainfall and all-day flooding. The sudden change in weather conditions caused particular problems  during the city’s busy peak traffic periods too.

Nightmare Conditions On The Railway Lines
Train operators and passengers suffered severe delays due to the harsh weather conditions.  While the majority of the problems related to the impracticalities of passengers boarding and leaving trains due to the wet platforms, there was at least one incident that caused significant panic.

Early in the morning, a person was hit by a train, and although police are investigating the incident, there does not appear to be evidence to suggest foul play. Furthermore, a train also became entangled in some power lines, which had been knocked down by the severe weather conditions.  Not only did this cause damage to the train and other power lines over the city, but thousands of passengers were unable to get to their destinations. The local authorities quickly set up some replacement buses to help get people where they needed to go.

Water On Road Is Driving Hell
As well as train commuters, those who were taking the bus or driving to work and school were also caught short by the bad weather. Freeways, roads and even small suburban streets were affected in one way or another.  Many of these places experienced delays because of earlier collisions on the roads, while other roads were completely shut down due to dangerous levels of flooding.  Although no one can control the weather, nobody likes to be stuck in traffic for longer than they need to, especially in a thunderstorm!  

The freak change in weather is a stark reminder to travellers looking to book last minute, which tends to mean cheaper flights anyway, to check the expected and forecasted weather for the dates you are looking to fly out there.  By paying attention to the news and weather you can pinpoint a safe time to travel so that you avoid getting caught in a Melbourne style thunderstorm.

Diverse Weather
The Bureau of Meteorology commented on the weather, saying that the average rainfall for the month of February was 48mm, but as the thunderstorms hit, over 42 mm of rainfall was recorded in the first few days!

Before the month-long thunderstorm conditions began, the last major freak weather was the previous February, where 28mm of rain fell in the space of a few days. Although these conditions are very dangerous for commuters to travel in, too little rainwater is not good for the many plants and flowers.  Fortunately, were able to forecast the length of the thunderstorm, and measures were put in place to reduce the damage caused to Melbourne. This allowed train operators and other travel companies to strengthen their services, helping people to get to their final destinations. 

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Spring, Come Soon

Okay. I’m not yet in panic mode right now but soon I will if this snowy weather disturbance in the East Coast in the US does not clear.

My family and I will be travelling to New York this end of March for our annual Spring Break vacation. My daughter is very excited to be there during spring as she missed last year’s vacation. She hasn’t seen the Cherry Blossoms in bloom yet so we are all hoping the weather gets better very soon or else it will be one very cold (and snowy?!?) spring vacation for all of us. It will be cold as well in Niagara if the snow storm does not stop next week. I’m not keen on packing heavy winter clothing.

I don’t mind seeing real snow. In fact, my daughter and I are excited to see it but not in that kind of stormy scene. I am still reliving the memories of Hurricane Sandy the last time we were there. So this time, we are hoping and praying for a nice and beautiful weather to enjoy spring.

So please winter storm, clear up now and bring forth the beauty of Spring!

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An Experience With Hurricane Sandy – Part 3

Posted in calamity, experience, Hurricane Sandy, JFK, NYC, personal, storm, travel, USA, weather
on November 8, 2012

We drove around town on 31 October to check the nearby areas in Brooklyn and Queens especially the ones battered by the water surge. Some of the areas didn’t have power and the gas stations were closed. We had to look for an open gas station to fill up my cousin’s distant relative’s SUV. It took us half an hour to find an open gas station and thankfully, the line was just about to pile.

We headed to Roosevelt and on our way, we saw plenty of small boats washed in the middle of the parking lot of nearby commercial places.  The sidewalk were lined with fallen trees and debris from the storm. Sand and mud were on the side and even on the middle of the main thoroughfare. The water level was still high 2 days after Hurricane Sandy battered NYC and nearby states.

See that mound? That’s sand near the highway going to Roosevelt. It was hard to snap pictures of other areas because we were moving.

Some of the bus operations resumed on the 29th in a limited scale. So, every passing bus we see are filled to the brim.  The subway opened on 31 Oct. in some parts of NYC but not Lower Manhattan due to the flood. Given the current situation around us, we were still left with uncertainties on when we could actually fly out of NYC.

We emailed our bosses about the situation as early as 28 of October because as soon as the flights were cancelled and the closure of airports and mass transit were declared, we knew for sure that we were going to wait the Hurricane out until everything became stable. That would be days!

So, as soon as the airports opened last 31 October, we booked our tickets with Delta Airlines from NYC to SFO. It was going to be a long flight from the East to the West but if it was the only way to get out of NYC then we were left with no choice but to do just that.

We left Brooklyn on 1 November around 4 a.m. The early drive to JFK Airport was a bit eerie. Some open gas stations have long queue of cars waiting to get their supply. JFK Airport was already open and we were glad to see many aircraft on the ground which was a complete contrast of the previous day when we drove around JFK Airport just to check. We only saw one Korean Air Cargo liner parked but no other aircraft was in sight last 31 Oct.

Our ordeal was not yet over. We were holding staff tickets so better pray that we get on board. Otherwise, we would have to wait for the next flight or the flight after that which would make us miss our flight back from SFO to DXB. We were already told in the counter that the flight was over-sold. I told the agent we didn’t mind waiting. We would try our luck. So we waited until 6:00 a.m. and checked the board. Blessings of all blessings! We got cleared from the stand-by list so we are definitely flying out of NYC that day.

It was a 6-hours flight from NYC-SFO. I didn’t even bother checking the snacks served. I just wanted to sleep and relax and pray that when we get to SFO, we would get a chance to board the SFO-DXB bound Emirates flight. Again, we were holding staff tickets so priority-wise we have the lowest.

We arrived in SFO around 10:05 a.m. few minutes ahead of time. We went to the international terminal as soon as we cleared our bags from the carousel. Everything was a blur from the time we got to the international terminal to the time we waited for our names to be called. Initially, there was a payload so we begged the kind Emirates Airline airport supervisor to request the payload to be lifted because there were available seats. We told him our situation and they knew that some staff stranded in NYC were flying to SFO to get back to Dubai. We were one of them. God is really good because he made some calls and next thing we knew, he told all the standby staff that we were all through in the flight.

Reaching for our  boarding pass was probably the cherry on top of the icing for our long and wearisome journey. I just didn’t expect that my much awaited vacation would turn out like this. We were just glad that we were going home. I thought I would never say this but I kind of miss Dubai!

And finally, we arrived on 2 November in hot and humid Dubai but I won’t complain about the weather anymore. Whatever weather we have here is fine by me!

So happy to see a patch of blue sky after the storm on the 30th of Oct.

The whole NYC trip we had recently is one in my greatest experience. I grew up in a place where typhoons and other natural calamities are regular occurrence but nothing prepares me in experiencing one of the worst storm/hurricane to hit the East Coast. At the same time, I am very happy that we are all safe and there is no damage to account for. However, the fear and uncertainties brought about by this experience is something I will remember for the rest of my life.

So, are we going back to NYC? Definitely! It’s still my favorite go-to place. But, not soon. And next time, we will check the weather forecast around NYC, the nearby states and countries just to be sure.

Thank God we are home.

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An Experience With Hurricane Sandy – Part 2

Posted in calamity, experience, Hurricane Sandy, NYC, personal, travel woes, weather
on November 7, 2012

My cousin’s place in Brooklyn was several blocks away from the waterfront. However, my cousin who has been in NY for the last 20+ years has never experienced worry and panic. This incoming hurricane was touted as the perfect storm, the one that would wreak havoc and casualties at its wake. True enough, a score of people in Haiti died because of Hurricane Sandy and the East Coast was bracing its tremendous and catastrophic impact on the highly populated NYC. We were already praying really hard that the communication lines and electrical supply would not be disrupted because it would be hard to keep tabs if we lose the power.

Some of my cousin’s neighbors already evacuated the evening of 27th. They were probably scared and in search of higher grounds. The wind was furiously blowing. It was very cold with less rain but more of some serious wind punch. The sky was an ominous shade of dark gray even when it was only 6pm. And the streets were empty. My cousin had briefed us on the possibility of mandatory evacuation so we kept our luggages ready just in case we had to leave for higher grounds.

Projection of the travel path of Hurricane Sandy initially showed NYC as part of the entry of landfall. However, towards the end of the day and early morning of 28th, it had moved towards New Jersey’s coastline. Gov. Cuomo. of NYC announced the suspension of all mass transit including buses on the 28th at exactly 7p.m.  My husband and daughter were still in Manhattan meeting with distant relatives and shopping for some stuff to bring home, not wary of the looming danger of the approaching hurricane.  Thank goodness they got home around 3 pm before the subway got congested. Another problem presented though, we were stuck in NYC! For how long, we really couldn’t tell.

So, come 28 October evening around 8pm, with a gust of 80-mph (from 90-mph clocked earlier), Hurricane Sandy hit Atlantic City in New Jersey. The Frankenstorm whipped surge of water in the Jersey shores and other low-lying and near the water areas in NYC like Lower Manhattan, Battery Park, Long Island Sound.

In NYC, Lower Manhattan got inundated and subway stations were not spared prompting the disruption of electrical power lines in the area.  Some areas in Brooklyn experienced power outage too. Several blocks from my cousin’s place were in the dark and I am very thankful that my cousin’s block in the 65th St. were spared. Most grocery marts have empty shelves. We were lucky enough to salvage some bread and canned goods in the nearby Walgreens as it was still stocked with water, soda and other ready-to-eat food.

Aside from the storm, a fire broke-out in the neighborhood of Breezy Point in Queens, burning hundreds of properties down to the ground.  Most of the residents have already evacuated so the area turned out to be an empty, smoke-filled community.

Flights were cancelled for both international and domestic. La Guardia, JFK and Newark airports had been shut as runways became flooded. We were stuck in NYC because of Hurricane Sandy and I was not very happy about it.

The storm has passed. We checked out the neighborhood on 30 Oct. and thankful that aside from fallen trees, damaged cars and slight damage to properties; there were no casualties around the vicinity of my cousin’s place. We saw part of the clear, blue sky peeping through the clouds on Tuesday morning. I am just happy that the hurdle through the Hurricane Sandy is over. However, people who lost their properties and probably even lost some of their loved ones in the hard-hit areas of New Jersey and other nearby states ravaged by Hurricane Sandy are still reeling up to this time.

(The pictures above were taken near by cousin’s house in Brooklyn. We’re glad it was just property damage and no report on lost life.)

— to be continued —
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