Bar Trip.

While I’m in town for 3 straight weeks with no travel (absurd!), I’ve been daydreaming about a potential Bar trip.  It’s kind of a tradition for people to go on a big trip after taking the Bar.  Basically, I graduate on a Friday, the following Monday my Bar Review course starts, and I’ll essentially be studying for 2 straight months until the last weekend in July!

That leaves August for travel!

I have 4 competing ideas:

1)  relaxing but beautiful and adventurous option: travel around Italy for a week or so, and then relax in Greece of 10 days or so (I haven’t been to either country yet!)

2)  not very relaxing but very adventurous option: hit up a string of the western european countries I missed last time in a 3-4 week travel extravaganza!  (Berlin, Germany; Prague, Czech Republic; Budapest, Hungary; Vienna, Austria; Venice, Italy; Rome, Italy; Athens, Greece).

3) lifelong dream option: finally take my “cross country” U.S. roadtrip and hit up a lot of the landmarks I’ve always wanted to see (Crater Lake in Oregon; the Grand Canyon in AZ; Mt. Rushmore in SD; Niagara Falls; etc.)

4) safe option: stay home and save money.  In these unsure economic times, it’s probably not a good idea to be dropping a lot of money to travel.  The downside to this is that it is likely that once I start working I won’t have a chance to do any of 1-3 for a VERY long time.

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How the West Was Won (Not Really).

This post isn’t travel related, but I just wanted to say that on Friday I won the grand prize in a raffle at school.  If I remember right, I have never won anything in a raffle! (Unlike my lucky brother who has won a big screen tv, a laptop, a Wii, etc.).

My win wasn’t nearly as cool as his, but the raffle was very specific: it was for PMBR which is a Kaplan program that helps people study for the multiple choice part of the bar exam.  The raffle was part of the annual Dodgeball tournament at my law school.  I didn’t participate in the tournament, but I did enter the raffle solely because I hadn’t had lunch yet and I’d get a free piece of pizza and a bag of other goodies (tshirt, coffee cup, etc.) if I entered.  I later found out that they announced my name as the grand prize winner of a 6-day and 3-day course (the 6-day one is early, the 3-day one is right before the bar… If I remember correctly).  Anyway, the combo package costs about $1000, so not bad 😉  Apparently the announcers at the tournament (fellow students) said “and the winner of the grand prize is… someone who really doesn’t need it… Michelle _____.”  Psh, everyone could use a little help 😉

North Carolina Recap.

Sorry for the delay.  I would like to say “I’ve been so busy” but that’s not exactly true.  I don’t really know what I’ve been up to!  So without further ado, a little recap of my trip to North Carolina last weekend.

I had to wake up at 3:00am to drive to LAX for my flight.   Unfortunately, I had played a rousing game of Settlers before my planned bedtime of 8pm, so I was unable to sleep.  As a result, I was awake when breaking news came across the screen that a plane had crashed in Buffalo, New York.   I flipped to one of the news channels and could not stop watching.  I was so freaked out.  And what made it even worse was that they interviewed a guy at a command center waiting for news… and his sister, a 24-year-old law student, had been on the plane coming home for the weekend to visit him, his kids, and family (!!!).  That is exactly what I was going to do: a 24-year-old law student flying for the weekend to visit my bro and his kids.  I was fighting the urge to “take it as a sign” that I wasn’t supposed to fly the next day.

Needless to say, I couldn’t get to sleep until I passed out from sheer exhaustion some time after 1am, and then was back up at 3am.  Ahh!  Thankfully, both of my flights were incredibly smooth and uneventful. Well, except for one moment where I had fallen asleep and the guy next to me (a FedEx exec dealing with a huge work drama) was tapping his feet.  I shot awake thinking the bottom of the plane was falling off.  But except for that, the flights were excellent 😉  Also, on a random note… there were gorgeous, huge houses with lots of trees around them near the airport in Raleigh (which I saw as we were approaching landing).  Usually there are not particularly nice houses near airports, so that was kind of surprising.

When I arrived in Raleigh, and finally met up with the fam (minus Kevin since he was working), everyone was hungry so we drove around trying to find somewhere to eat and ended up at a pizza place in a strip mall on the side of a random freeway that we probably couldn’t find again if we wanted to.  My brother actually lives in Fayetteville which is 88 miles from the Raleigh airport, so they are not familiar with that area really at all.  The food was delicious, but my niece Kaylynn, contrary to my mom’s promises that she wasn’t shy at all, seemed really shy and unsure about me.  Luckily, I quickly figured out that the way to her heart was to give attention to her little brother, Jackson.  If I tried to talk to or play with Jack, Kaylynn would instantly do something to try to get my attention.

I was only there for a very short trip, which consisted of going out to eat at various places and hanging out at the house playing with the kids.  The weather was pretty bad while I was there, and since I had never met Jackson, and hadn’t seen Kaylynn in nearly a year, I was perfectly content just hanging out and playing with the kids.  I managed to teach Kaylynn several nerdy dance moves of mine, and several random words (like “octopus” and the color “yellow green”).  My favorite thing was probably when we were on the trampoline and I started doing a little dance move that looked like I was making a pizza and saying “making a pizza, making a pizza.”  Kaylynn turned her palms up and wiggled her hands around saying “Make Pizza, Make Pizza.”   So cute!   She’s only 2, but like a typical big-for-her-age-Pulley, she already looks like she’s pushing 4.  I am ready to assume my tall auntie duties and get that girl to love being tall and bigger than everyone else from a very young age (which wasn’t the case for me… I was not thrilled with my own 6’4″ tallness until sometime in college).

One particular highlight was that on Sunday we went to my brother’s church with them, and the pastor did a message on couples, and at the end he had a “renewal of vows” thing where all the couples could come up and renew their vows if they wanted.  Pretty much all the couples went up there for it, and I was like “Mom, we actually get to be here this time!” (since my bro eloped 3 years ago in North Dakota, nobody was there for it).

Since I was mainly hanging out with the kiddos indoors for the trip, unfortunately for my readers, I don’t have any photo excursions through North Carolina to share.

Oh, one last thing: we discovered this very addicting quiz website called Sporcle.  They have a bunch of different quizzes on a variety of topics and they are all fill in the blank type stuff.  Like “name all the U.S. presidents” or “name the cast of friends” or “complete the Fresh Prince theme song.”   Each quiz has a time limit for you to figure out all the answers.  Once the kids were in bed, the “grown ups”  (wow it feels so weird saying that referring to my little brother, his wife (!!), myself, and our mom)  would do Sporcle quizzes.

You would think from the description above (just hanging out at the house playing with the kids and doing quizzes, etc.) that it would have been a very relaxing weekend.  However, it was also very exhausting because my sleep schedule was thrown off so much.  When I finally made it back to L.A. on Monday, I slept until dinner, woke up to eat a little bit, and then slept until 9am the next day, missing my Monday night class.  Woops! And now, for a couple of photos:

Grandma (my mom) with Jackson (such a cute faux hawk!)

Grandma (my mom) with Jackson (such a cute faux hawk!)

Can you tell were related?

Can you tell we're related?

North Carolina, Here I Come!

Tomorrow morning, at a crazy early hour, I will be flying to North Carolina!  For those who don’t know, my younger brother, Kevin, who is in the Air Force, was transferred there from North Dakota after he returned from Iraq.   He lives there with his wife, Kristin, and two children: Kaylynn, age 2, and Jackson, almost 1 (and another baby on the way!).

I was in Katy, Texas last March with Kristin just a couple of days before Jack was born, and since he stubbornly waited to come out, I unfortunately haven’t had the chance to meet him yet.  My mom is out there already, so I’ll get to hang out with the fam and the babies for a couple of days.  Many pictures will follow!

Sidenote: I’m a little freaked out to be flying on Friday the 13th!

Malibu Coastline Anxiety.

You may have noticed that I recently changed the photo in the header at the top.  The current picture is a picture of part of Malibu’s coastline taken from the Malibu Pier.  It’s a photo I took a few weeks ago when my mom and older brother were in town.  Pictures of the Malibu coastline used to make me think “ahh, for a little while I get to live in paradise.”  Now, pictures of Malibu fill me with a bit of anxiety.  I’ve got a “been there, done that” feeling with regard to Malibu.  I’ve caught the travel bug baaaaad.  I just want to get out and see somewhere new!

I am a lucky girl, because last weekend I got to go to NYC and this coming weekend I’m headed to another new place: North Carolina.   Additionally, I’ll be headed back to Portland in March, and headed to Arlington, VA in May.  However, I still feel like I just can’t get enough.   I need a job that requires world travel, pronto! 😉

New York City, Sunday.

Sunday we had to be up “early” so we could get ready, get breakfast (luckily Lindsey had a starbucks right on her corner) and get over to a massage place for 11am massages with our friend Abbey.  Due to it being Sunday, and possibly because it was Superbowl Sunday, there was NO traffic.  We got a cab and were at our destination extremely quickly (and cheaply!).  There is this “no frills” massage place that Lindsey knew about where you can get amazing 60-minute massages for $60.  Apparently it’s a favorite of several celebs.  Each room (which would just be one room in a regular salon) is divided into 2-3 “rooms” by curtains.  Basically, there is only maybe a foot on all sides of the bed between the walls and curtains.  The massage was awesome, but I forgot to grab something to put my hair up with so I had wild lion hair by the time the massage was over.

Post-massage, we stopped in a diner on the corner called Moonstruck Diner for a little brunch.  It was delicious and then we were on our way walking to Central Park.  We stopped in a few shops now and then and they all had security guards which made me think of that Seinfeld episode where George gets a rocking chair for the security guard.   The shops in the village the day before didn’t have security guards for the most part.

Walking through Central Park was a lot of fun.  Oddly, one side of the park was snowy, and as we made it further in the snow was all melted and it was warm and sunny and I took my jacket off.  It was like walking through a movie montage of the seasons.  Check out the two pics below (of the snowy part, and then later of the sans-snow part):

Me in the snowy part

Me in the snowy part

Me and Abbey in the warm part!

Me and Abbey in the warm part!

At some point we tired of walking and stopped in another Starbucks to sit and chat for awhile. There were two older men sitting at a table when we walked in, and they offered us their table since they were about ready to leave and even found a third chair for us.  It was so nice! I’ve never heard of New Yorkers being particularly “nice” so it was a pleasant surprise 🙂

(I took the picture above while we were walking and the girls said that up ahead I would see the famous “plaza” that is now being turned into condos.  I didn’t catch the “plaza” reference, and thought they were referring to this square.  Thinking the square must be famous for some reason, and wondering how they were going to build condos there, I took this picture.  Turned out the girls were referring to the Plaza Hotel… which is the building on the right side of this picture.  The famous hotel, most notably to most of us from Home Alone 2 ;)).

After coffee it was time for Abbey to head home to work on a brief, and I decided since I was in NYC after all, and we had a little spare time, that I should try to see the Statue of Liberty from Battery Park.  Although I’m not much of a “tourist attraction” kind of girl, I am a sucker for views, so next time I go back I hope I can actually take a ferry out to the island and look back at NYC from there.   I also saw Ground Zero since it was close by.  We got approached by a few people on the street trying to sell us photos of 9/11.  That struck me as incredibly distasteful and I am sure had 7.5 years not passed already (can you believe it’s already been 7.5 years??), there would have been a lot more vendors like that.

Statue

Statue

(In the picture above, I’m standing in Battery Park.  You can (barely) see the Statue of Liberty behind me.  It looked a lot closer than that in person though)

Ground Zero 7.5 Years Later

Ground Zero 7.5 Years Later

From there we caught a cab part of the way and walked part of the way back to Lindsey’s place, stopping at a bakery to pick up half a dozen “Black and White” cookies for me to bring back for Alexander.  I would have bought more but that’s all they had!  Back at Lindsey’s place, we ordered dinner in and hung out for a little while before I had to leave.  I took an adorable short video of her dog playing soccer that I need to figure out how to upload.

When I left, I had my first experience with trying to hail a cab by myself.  It sucked.  The seasoned pros of NYC kept jumping out and stealing cabs from me.  Finally, as I was realizing that not only was I freezing but I was going to end up missing my flight if I didn’t catch a cab soon, I ran frantically out into traffic violent waving my box full of cookies in the air, and a cab 3 lanes over saw me and signaled that he saw me and for me to come over to him.   This other couple who showed up out of nowhere tried to get in the cab and he told them no and pointed to me trying to get across the street. Phew!  I was so grateful!   Somehow in the process I also got muddy water all down one of my legs. Lol.  So I had to walk around the airport dirty for the night.

Luckily I did catch a cab when I did, because when I arrived at the airport it turned out my flight was 30 minutes sooner than I thought it was.  I got to my gate 5 minutes before boarding started!

New York City, Saturday.

Saturday morning we slept in. Lindsey has this adorable little maltese named Mischief, and when I woke up I saw her sitting there with her arms up on her pen/crib, and I decided to pick her up and take her out to the living room with me. Of course, two seconds later she bolted back into the bedroom, onto the bed and woke up Lindsey. Here is a picture of me and Mischief (although it was taken later in the trip). She is just so cute:

Me and Mischief

Me and Mischief

So we were up and Lindsey wanted to know what I wanted to do for the day (until our dinner/Broadway show date later that night). I’ve got to admit… as much as I like traveling, I’m not much of a “tourist spot” kind of a girl. Honestly, some of the best times I’ve had while traveling involve just eating, shopping, and just being around the local people and experiencing the city. So while I was in NYC, I wasn’t particularly dying to see the Empire State Building, or even the Statue of Liberty (among many other things people love to see in NYC).

With that in mind, I told Lindsey I’d like to just walk around her area and shop and explore. We had a fantastic morning/afternoon in the village. I learned that “NOHO” and “SOHO” are parts that are north and south of Houston street (pronounced “how-stun”). I think we spent most of the day in Soho. I joked that I wanted a “Prado” purse, so Lindsey took me down to Canal Street which totally reminded me of Queensway in Bayswater (London)! Queensway is a pretty dirty, busy street in Bayswater, and it is lined with these “gift shops” and the people who work in them give off a pretty shady vibe… but you get really good deals on souvenirs! 😉 I was particularly fond of the scarves that only cost 1 pound (close to $2 when we first moved there, down to about $1.50 by the time we left).

The Arch at the end of 5th Ave

The Arch at the end of 5th Ave

My only picture from Canal Street--Me enjoying a Dunkin Donut!

My only picture from Canal Street--Me enjoying a Dunkin Donut!

Anyway, back to Canal Street. It’s lined with shops too, except the shops sell knock-off purses and sunglasses and whatnot. The funny thing is that when you go in the shops, you see all these purses that are obviously fakes. None of them actually say “Prada” or even “Prado”… the style just looks a lot like designer purses. But while Lindsey and I were in one of these shops, one of the workers said, “Come look, I have some more purses back here” and she took us through a secret passage way in a wall into a backroom FULL of trademark/copyright/patent infringement! (I haven’t studied intellectual property enough to know which apply… but I know having the exact logos that say “Prada” and “Coach” and “Gucci” is definitely trademark infringement). I’m pretty sure it’s only illegal to sell these products and not illegal to buy them, but I still couldn’t get my mind off of the issue and I made some comment to Lindsey about us being in the “secret trademark infringing room” and the lady overheard us and kicked us out. Haha. So, sadly, no Prada or Prado purses for Michelle.

Before and after Canal street we walked in and out of various shops. The Soho area totally reminded me of a lot of the city areas I’d been to in Europe. Since the New England area was the part of the country that was settled first when people moved here from Europe, I guess that makes sense! The west coast cities (seattle, portland, sacramento, los angeles, san diego) do not remind me of Europe. I can’t place my finger on exactly what it is, but there is a big difference. It was so cold that day, that we had to keep going in and out of shops just to stay warm. It was perfect actually, because we’d stay in a store long enough that we started to roast in our five layers, then we’d go outside and just about the time we’d cool off and start noticing the freezing temperatures again, there’d be another store we wanted to check out.

Me, somewhere in Soho.

Me, somewhere in Soho.

There were a lot of street artists out on the street and I was verrrrry tempted to buy this one painting that was $200. It wasn’t a knock-off of this one painting I remembered, but it gave me a similar feeling, and the other painting (which used to hang in a store in Malibu that displayed local artists works for sale) was around $1400. So $200 sounded like a bargain. However, I managed to walk away and “think about it” and ultimately didn’t go back.

Oh, I also introduced Lindsey (who is 5’10”) to this great store Lululemon. They have them all over the country, and it’s kind of a workout/yoga store. However, they carry these incredibly comfy, great fitting work out pants in TALLS and the talls fit me! So as we walked by one in Soho, Lindsey wanted to stop. She tried on a few pairs and ended up buying four pairs! She was so excited to finally have lounge pants that fit her she couldn’t stop thanking me. The downside of these pants is that they are expensive ($98/each). The upside is that as tall girls, it’s nearly impossible to find pants that fit that well. And seriously, if you know me at all you know that I am a bargain shopper, but even I own two pairs of these pants (I bought one in Vegas over the break, and bought another pair in NYC when Lindsey bought four).

After the pants excitement, we decided to grab a little bite to eat and stopped in a cute cafe where we had soup and split a salad. Soup for lunch on a cold day is perfect! When we were done he headed back to her place, and I got to experience my first subway ride! Technically we could have walked all the way back, but there was a subway stop right there and we needed to get back quickly so we could change and head out for dinner. I found the subway to be cleaner than Paris, but dirtier than London. Isn’t it crazy that I can rank the New York subway against other countries? And while I’m on Subways, I’d just like to point out that the one in Barcelona is the cleanest I’ve seen yet. I may have been lucky and just happened to get on a couple of brand new trains, but they were sparkling clean, air conditioned, and had little TVs inside telling you about where you were, etc. However, that was about the only clean thing about Barcelona 😉

After the subway ride, we changed into our dinner/theater attire, freshened up, and headed out to catch a cab. Granted, it was a Saturday night so I’m assuming Saturday nights must be difficult but even Lindsey said that was the longest it ever took her to hail a cab. It was soo cold outside, and took us so long to get one, that I was pretty sure I was going to literally die in a few more minutes, or at least my poor ears were going to fall off from frost bite. (Luckily, after that painful occasion, I got some earmuffs from Lindsey). We finally caught one, and made it to our dinner location, Via Brasil, where we were meeting our friends Abbey and Melanie. The dinner was delicious and fun, and then we walked from there to the theater to see Lion King!

Lion King was really fun! We were up in the balcony, but we were in the middle of a row so that was good, and honestly it was the kind of theater where I doubt there could be a “bad seat.” Apparently, you can go to a place in Time Square on the day you want to see a show and get really good deals on tickets if there are any left, but when someone is coming into town and only has one day they can see a show, that option doesn’t really work. They had that in London too but sadly I never got around to seeing a show in London 😦

(Wow, I’m sorry I keep name dropping Europe in this post. I got my break being back in the U.S. and now I want to go back! Even Krissi, who swore she never wanted to live in London again, especially Bayswater, wants to go back! It grows on you…)

There are several parts in the Lion King that are just so beautifully done (choreography, costumes, and music-wise) that I actually started tearing up. Not because the moment in the play was particularly happy or sad.. just the way it was put together was so beautiful. I’ve had this experience a few times with movies too–I’ll get emotional if the music/colors/settings strike me as particularly beautiful. There were a few parts that I thought were a little cheesy, but then again we were seeing Lion King, which could have been cheesy the whole time. It wasn’t though, it was a very well done show!

A little Times Square

A little Times Square

Me in Times Square (notice the earmuffs)

Me in Times Square (notice the earmuffs)

After the show we walked through Times Square and I saw the tiny little ball that everyone makes a big deal about on New Years Eve. It looks really tiny in person. I don’t know how the people on the ground can even tell it’s “dropping” 😉 There were lots of horse drawn carriages and people on bikes waiting to pick up theater-goers, but we ultimately got a cab back to Lindsey’s apartment where we got into our PJs and watched some TV and chatted before ultimately going to bed.

Woo… That’s the end of my Saturday! Sunday to come sometime soon 🙂

(NOTE: I didn’t take as many pictures as I normally do on Friday night and Saturday because it was too cold to think about stopping for photo ops. But I made up for it a little bit on Sunday, which you’ll see later.)

New York City, First Night.

So, I’ve already covered my first experience in NYC –> getting majorly ripped off by an unregistered cab.  If you didn’t read my last post, read it!  Don’t use unregistered cabs!

Oh, and as a side note, I was over 2 hours late getting into NYC because my flight had technical problems.  We ended up sitting on the plane for that entire delay.  Luckily (or perhaps unluckily) I had bought a book before boarding the plane, so it gave me something to do.  The book turned out to be incredibly depressing, and I would have rather not read it, but at least it helped the time pass, I guess.

(If you would like to read a book/see a movie about three couples who have essentially fallen out of love with each other in the 1950s, have multiple affairs, contemplate abortions and then ultimately the main female character dies from giving herself an abortion at home to get back at her husband, pick up Revolutionary Road.)

On to New York!

One of my favorite things about cities are the skylines at night.  I love seeing skyscrapers all lit up, and the NYC skyline seems to go on forever since there are multiple parts of it.  And my rip-off cab driver, who I have named PT (since I didn’t get his name) gave me a great explanation of the different parts of NYC, and where “the Village” was in comparison to the other parts.  (The Village is where my friend lives who I was visiting).

After I made it to her (fantastic) apartment, and vented about my cabbie experience, we were off to Little Italy for dinner.  We had dinner at a cute italian place (although I didn’t get the name), and I was wise enough to turn down the photographer who offered to take our picture.  (Alexander and I said yes once at a steakhouse in Vegas and were surprised with a $$$ bill).  I figured one rip off was enough for the day 😉

After eating, we walked back to Lindsey’s apartment.  We intended to stop in other places, but I was freezing and felt a little dirty from traveling all day, and as it turned out Lindsey wasn’t feeling well, so we just walked back to her place.  The whole time I just kept thinking about how crazy it was that I was walking around in New. York. City.

One of the really interesting things about NYC is the way they stack cars in parking lots.  I forgot to get a picture of it, but they put a car up on a lift (like at a mechanic shop) and then park another car underneath the lift.  Basically, they make small parking lots into makeshift parking structures.  I can’t imagine trying to drive/own a car in NYC.

Which brings me to another driving point–apparently driving in lanes is discretionary and not mandatory?  Cars just kind of weave around each other and drive in the middle and whatnot.  We were definitely not in a lane more often than we were in lanes while we were in cabs in NYC.

New York, Neewwwww YORK!

I just got back last night from a whirlwind trip to New York City- My first ever either to the State of New York or to any of the North East portion of the United States for that matter.

Over the next couple of days I plan to recap my trip, including photos. In the meantime, a little street smarts warning for any friends who may be planning to visit the city:

When you get to the airport, do NOT take anything but a yellow cab. People will wait near the spot where the yellow cabs are and ask if you need a cab and you’ll think you’re getting a yellow cab. If they start leading you to something different, turn them down and go get a yellow cab. Don’t listen to anything they say!

Yellow cabs from JFK to any location in Manhattan are a $45 flat rate (+ tip). However, I wasn’t aware of this black cab rule, was led astray to a black cab, and was charged $78 (+ a request for tip) for the same trip 😦 I am STILL kicking myself over that. Not only for getting in the cab, but for not complaining at that outrageous fare, and still giving him a regular tip after he totally ripped me off.

On a side note though, the driver was actually a very nice old guy from Brooklyn that supposedly used to be 50s doo wap (?) band, and he gave me all kinds of good information about New York City on the drive. So I’m trying to convince myself that this conversation was worth the extra $30 I ended up paying 😉