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September 24, 2008

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WHERE'S JOHNNY JET?                                 NYC
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Greetings from Southern California! I'm happy to be back home after spending most of the summer on the east coast. In this edition, we travel from Toronto to New York City and then to Los Angeles. Along the way, I learned some helpful tips about New York City public transportation, where to get free Internet and even where you can find $1 tickets to travel between New York City and Washington D.C.! If you're interested in all of this, plus taking an autumn Circle Line Sightseeing tour, then flying across the country with my dad using American Airlines' new Wi-Fi, then hop on for the ride! This week, we're also featuring a review of Air Canada's executive class service by Natalie Bahadur and my sister Georgie-Jet is back! This week, she continues her story about traveling to New Zealand and introduces us to the country's capital, Wellington.

TORONTO TO NEWARK
Last week, I left off from Toronto, Canada. From there I flew to Newark Airport (EWR) on Canada's newest and most convenient airline: Porter. They fly in and out of Toronto's little-known but super-convenient Toronto City Centre Airport, which requires a free two-minute ferry ride to or from downtown, depending on if you're arriving or departing. Flight time was just 55 minutes and I almost got goose bumps seeing the Statue of Liberty off in the distance on descent. The only problem with Toronto's City Centre Airport is that they don't have U.S. Immigration like Toronto's Pearson (YYZ) so I had to go through customs in Newark. Fortunately, I arrived early in the morning (8:30am) and none of the international flights had landed yet, so the huge corridor was completely empty. I was the third passenger to reach to the counter so I cleared in just two minutes. But they definitely need more than one agent because the folks in the back of the plane had a good 30-minute wait. It still amazes me that the best country in the world can't get immigration and passport control right. This is no way to welcome citizens home and, more importantly, visitors. TIP: If you take this flight, be sure to hustle down the stairs rather than taking the long, slow escalators; it will save you some serious time.



TORONTO TO NEW YORK CITY
To get back to the city, I took AirTrain for a 10-minute ride to the Newark Airport Train Station and then hopped on a NJ Transit Train; they come every 50 minutes or so and the ride takes 24 minutes to Penn Station. Buying a ticket using the automated ticket machines in the airport is easy as can be. Just three simple steps (1, 2, 3) and the total cost was $15. That's pretty darned good compared to the cost of a taxi, which would have been at least $70 and comes with the headaches of stop-and-go traffic. Speaking of the AirTrain, did you catch the ABC News story, JFK's AirTrain Security Question? I take this train all the time and I don't ever recall seeing a police officer on-board but then again, I've never felt unsafe on the eight-mile ride. I doubt the 50,000 passengers it carries a day do, either but I'm sure after reading that story, some might.

NEW YORK CITY PIZZA
On Saturday, my dad and I were about to go to the airport when my brother Frank suggested we get some lunch first. I explained that we were running late so we'd just grab a slice but he said, "You can't do that to Dad." So we ended up eating a big Italian meal at Due (1396 Third Ave., Tel: 212-772-3331). It was good but not only did it cost a lot more money than a slice but I didn't get my last fix for some good New York pizza. In my opinion, there's really nothing like a slice of New York pizza. Seriously, if I were ever on death row (God forbid!), my choice for a last meal might very well be two slices from Don Filippo (1133 Lexington Avenue, Tel: 212-744-3610). I would have a slice of cheese pizza ($2.45) and then a Caprese ($4). But you don't have to make a special trip to Don Filippo to get delicious pizza because it's tough to find bad pizza in New York City. BTW: Did you know that there are supposedly 410 pizzerias in Manhattan alone? The most famous is Ray's but trying to find the original one is no easy task. I read that there are 9 "Famous Original Ray's" pizza joints in the city and 43 other pizzerias have "Famous", "Original" or "Ray" in their name. Unless you have a better suggestion, I'll stick to Don Filippo.

CIRCLE LINE SIGHTSEEING CRUISES
Last week, Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises had a naming ceremony for its newest vessel, Circle Line Manhattan. It took place at their headquarters at Pier 81 on West 41st Street. When I strolled up, dressed in semi-casual clothes, I had no idea what a big deal it was and why there were so many photographers and TV news vans. I guess it helps to have a great PR company and a big name celeb like Whoopi Goldberg to act as the vessel's godmother and christen the ship. It was the company's first ship in 63 years so it made for a good story. Whoopi also had stories about growing up around the corner on West 26th and 10th and what Circle Line meant to her (you can see the video). Afterwards, everyone went to lunch on one of the company's dinner cruises. It was a swanky luncheon filled with tasty food and politicians. Dessert was served on the Circle Line Manhattan for its maiden voyage, a typical hour-long cruise up the Hudson and around the Statue of Liberty. I was pretty excited because I have always wanted to go to the Statue of Liberty. Can you believe that I grew up just 42 miles way and had never gone? This was the closest I had ever been. The new ship is 165 feet long, holds 600 passengers and is made entirely of steel. If I go back to New York in October, I think I might just have to take a date or my brother on one of their five different leisurely tours. For a limited time, they have a Fall Foliage all day trip (8:30am to 5:30pm) to Upstate New York. Adults: $45; Seniors: $40; Children: $30. For more information, visit Circleline42.com.

NEW YORK CITY TIPS
Okay, I'm no New York City expert but I did make some personal discoveries this summer. First of all, good luck trying to hail a taxi when it's raining or between 4:30 and 5:30 in the afternoon or in the morning! That's when most drivers change their 12-hour shifts and go off duty. The best way to get around this is to always carry a small umbrella and to take the subway and/or bus. I refill my Metro Card for $20, which gives me a $3 bonus and it's good for the bus and/or subway. Each trip costs $2 unless you take the bus within two hours of taking the subway -- then it's a free transfer. Metro Cards are available inside any station and the minimum is $2. A great website for directions is HopStop.com.

NEW YORK CITY PUBLIC LIBRARY
If you don't want to pay your hotel's high Internet fee or if you're looking for a quiet and interesting place to work on your laptop on a daytrip into the city, then mosey on over to the New York Public Library. You probably recognize it from the 1984 hit movie Ghost Busters. I can't tell you how many times I've walked by this building just staring at the lion statues out front, to see if they would come alive like in the movie. But I've never gone in. This week I did. There's no admission and after a security guard quickly and not-so-thoroughly checked my laptop bag, I was in the historic lobby. I wasn't sure where to go so I just followed the crowd ... most were European tourists. The massive building felt more like a museum than a library and in fact, there's currently an exhibit titled The Stadium: Daily News Photographs of The House That Ruth Built that's going on through October 26. Some of the photos are rare or have never been seen before. It's even more fitting since the final game at Yankee Stadium was played just this past Sunday. So, with the Yankees photo exhibit and the invention of the Internet, I seriously questioned if people even used this place to study or just to tour around. But sure enough, on the third floor near the men's restroom, is the main study hall. And what a place it is! There were plenty of tables, chairs and electrical outlets and best of all -- everyone was quiet and there was free wireless Internet with a strong signal.

UNION SQUARE GREENMARKET
Besides the public library, Grand Central Terminal, and Central Park, one of my favorite places to pass time is at Union Square Greenmarket. They have all kinds of fresh fruits, vegetables, juices, baked goods, flowers you name it. I sometimes just go through to get a double shot of wheatgrass ($4). If you go (it's open year-round), the most entertaining person to see is the carrot peeler man. He's an older gentleman dressed to the nines in a three-piece suit and he sells a ton of his $5 peelers, mostly because of his winning personality. Union Square Greenmarket is located at Broadway and E. 17th St. at Union Square Park. It's open Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 8am to 6pm.

BOLT BUS TO WASHINGTON D.C.
I almost went to Washington D.C. this week for a tour of the Capital building but I just couldn't find the time to swing it. However, I did discover some amazing deals when pricing out my transportation options. A one-way plane ticket for the 225-mile trek costs $320! A one-way Amtrak ticket, on the other hand, started at just $73. Clearly a much better deal. However, it turns out that taking the bus is definitely the way to go. Did you know there are about six different bus services traveling between the two cities? And the competition is so great that tickets are sometimes just $1! That's not a typo. I bought a ticket on Bolt Bus (it's operated by Greyhound and has six to 12 daily departures), for $10. The trip takes just over four hours and they offer free Wi-Fi. Incredible, I know. You can't even take a taxi for two miles for $10.

AIRFARES JUST DON'T MAKE SENSE
When I was in Erie, PA a few weeks ago, I wrote how airfares just don't make any sense. Well, they still don't, which is why you need to price out all of your options before booking anything. My dad needed a one-way ticket to get to Erie from New York and of course, having me as a son, I'm his (and all my family's/friends') designated travel agent/whipping boy. Get this: to fly from New York City to Erie, a last-minute, one-way ticket was pricing out at $382. Just for the fun of it, I checked to see what fares to L.A were like and guess what? Using the search engines on AirlineNumbers.com and JohnnyJet.com (they are powered by different companies), I priced out one-way tickets between JFK and LAX for $159 on American. Then, it was $130 to fly from LAX to ERI (via PHL) on USAir. Both fares include taxes and fees, which meant my dad would save over $100 and get a free ticket to California. Is that crazy or what?

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Pictures From

The Trip

 

Air Canada Story

 

Wellington, NZ Story

 

Toronto Skyline

 

Toronto City Centre Airport

 

Newark Airport

 

AirTrain At EWR

 

Frank and My Dad

 

Slice Of Cheese

 

Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises Naming Ceremony

 

Circle Line Manhattan

 

Whoopi Goldberg

 

Geraldine Ferraro

 

Statue of Liberty

 

Outside New York Public Library

 

Inside NY Public Library

 

Exhibit titled The Stadium: Daily News Photographs of The House That Ruth Built

 

Grand Central Terminal

 

Union Square Greenmarket

 

Fresh Veggies

 

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