MetroCard Art

In my humble opinion,В few things are asВ quintessentially NYC as MetroCards. They’re literally your keys to the city, allowing you to travel pretty huge distances (e.g. my Washington Heights apartment to Coney Island) with a single swipe.

That’s why I’m loving Single Fare 3, a new exhibit that showcases art created on MetroCards. More than 1,000 artists submitted pieces for a chance to have their tiny works displayed. The exhibit runs at Tribeca’s RH GalleryВ through February 22, and individual cards are available for purchase through March 15.

Some of my favorites:

McKean Thomas MetroCard

Dina Brodsky MetroCard

Stacy Seiler MetroCard

Jeff Faerber MetroCard

Jeff Bellerose MetroCard

Not all the cards are NYC-themed; those are just the ones that I was most attracted to. (Surprise, right?) Check out all of them here.

(Images fromВ Single Fare 3В via WNYC)

Happy V-Day (from the West Coast)!

I’d have to say that this is one of my best V-Days ever—and it has everything to do with being out of NYC and away from the cold. I’m in L.A. for a few (crazy-packed!) days for work and the weather here is just gorgeous. It really doesn’t take much more than warm weather and sunshine to make me happy!

Hope you’ve had a warm, wonderful holiday, however you’re celebrating!

palm trees

los angeles

(How funny is the photo below? It’s faux New York at Universal Studios Hollywood. I was so amused when I saw that!)

faux NYC

A Round of Applause for NYC Commuters

In this city of nearly 9 million people, I think you’d be hard pressed to find a single person who enjoys commuting. Yet it’s something we do every day, cramming into packed subway cars and scurrying through a vast network of underground tunnels.

That’s why I’m loving this video of NYC commuters being greeted by a cheering crowd at the Times Square subway station. For years, on my way to and from work, I trudged up and down that same steep ramp connecting the 1, 2, 3, 7, N, R and Q to the A, C, E. This occurred at the end of the day, but boy, would I have loved this during one of my morning commutes!

I haven’t seen any mentions of the group behind this, so if you know, please tell me—I’d like to thank them for brightening a lot of peoples’ days!

(Video from Transportation Nation, via Gothamist)

Holland’s Tulip Fields

This morning, while I was shivering on my way to work, I counted how many months of cold we have left. I was feeling a little blue when I realized that warm weather is still a ways off, but my day brightened after I stumbled uponВ Normann Szkop‘s photos of Holland’s tulip fields, via Weather.com. (Which, coincidentally, is predicting lots of snow for theВ weekend. Yay. You know how much I love being cooped up in my apartment!)

If you’re also in need of a cheery dose of spring, take a look at Szkop’s gorgeous photos below and on his Flickr page. I can’t even imagine how brilliant those colors must look in person!

tulip field

tulip field

tulip field

(Photos viaВ Normann Szkop’s Flickr set)

Spirit Airlines’ Baggage Fees: Yet Another Reason to Avoid Flying with Them

spirit airlines

No, thanks.

While I generally avoid rants—and negative posts, in general—I feel like I have to say something about my recent experience on Spirit Air.

I’m all for budget carriers—they’re great for giving travelers more options and keeping fares competitive. But for some reason, on Spirit, more than on any other budget carrier, you really feel like you’re flying with a bare bones operation:В They cram so many seats into each plane, that there’s virtually no legroom. They don’t offer free drinks or snacks. Flights are notoriously late. And they always overbook.

All that makes for a not-too-comfy experience. But if you’re in a pinch and they’re the cheapest carrier, flying with them is doable. That’s what I convinced myself when I was searching for a last-minute, cheap flight to Miami. Spirit’s round-trip fare, of about $375, was cheaper than anything else I was finding, and was just below the maximum I was willing to spend ($400). So I selected my flights, letting my excitement about going away override my misgivings about flying Spirit.

That’s when things got dicey. I was directed to a screen I had to read multiple times: It asked me how many carry-on bags I wanted to pay for. Yes, that’s correct. CARRY-ON BAGS. And it’s no small fee. If you’re not a member of their $9 Fare Club, a single carry-on costs $35 each way. $70 in total. Which would have made my cheap flight not so inexpensive.

I was shocked; nothing on their site mentioned that a carry-on would cost so much—or that I’d have to pay for one, at all. I thought I was mistaken. It was late and I’d been at my computer for hours. I went ahead and paid for my flight without the extra $70 for a carry-on. Or dropping another $20 to select my seats.

The next day, I still couldn’t believe it, so I did some research. And found that, yes, Spirit does charge for carry-ons—calling it an “Optional Fee”—and their policy is even harsher than I thought. If you don’t pay the fee online and later decide to pay at check-in, then it jumps to $50. Even worse: If you’re boarding and they deem your bag larger than a personal item (the only thing you can bring, sans fee), they’ll charge you $100.

I was so annoyed, that I opted not to pay the fee. I packed my weekend bag with three sun dresses, a bathing suit, two pairs of sandals and a few toiletries. At the airport, I put my purse inside, as well, so they couldn’t say that was my personal item and that I’d have to pay $100 for the weekend bag. Luckily, I didn’t have to. But I saw many people pulled off the boarding line and charged $100 for the bags they tried to carry on.

My beef with carry-on fee? 1) It’s not optional for most people in most situations. I managed to avoid it this time, because I was going to a warm destination for just a few days and didn’t need much clothing—and, as a 5’0″ woman, my summer clothing is tiny. But that’s not feasible for most people. 2) It’s not a small fee, and therefore should be mentioned when you’re browsing for flights. My flight, without the carry-on fee, was $375. If I had to pay $70 for a carry-on, my fare would have been nearly 20% more. That’s a lot!

Were you aware of Spirit’s policy? What would you have done?

Seeing Stars

thierry choen's darkened cities

I never saw stars until I was 20 years old. As a kid in Queens, I sometimes glimpsed the occasional one or two, but never a sky filled with them. It wasn’t until I was camping in the Australian Outback, during a college semester abroad, when I saw a night sky completely lit up with countless stars. The sight both wowed and shocked me—until that night, it had never dawned on me that I’d never anything like it before.

That’s why I’m loving Thierry Cohen’sВ “Darkened Cities.”В The French photographerВ juxtaposes photos of, well, darkened cities, with the night skies of less populated areas along the same latitude. So this is NYC with stars from the Nevada desert. If we didn’t have so many bright lights, that’s what we might see, every evening. (NYTimes.com has a gorgeous gallery featuring several other cities from the project, including Paris, Rio and Hong Kong.)

And speaking of stars, check out this brilliantВ StoryCorps video—it’s sad, sweet, funny and inspiring!

Have a wonderful weekend!

(Image by Thierry Cohen via Socks Studio)