NY Veggie Update

If you are visiting the outskirts of NYC, just a bit more upstate it can get a little tricky finding some mostly vegetarian menus.  For the most part you can get by with a salad here and there but if you find yourself near Pine Bush in Orange/Ulster County NY then check out Pure City.  Although the main courses may seem quite expensive, the portions are pretty big.

And don’t leave without trying the vegan cheesecake with raspberry sauce, it is amazing.

Ulster County near the towns of New Paltz and Poughkeepsie also has more of a variety of vegetarian restaurants;  One of my favorites being Lemongrass down the main street in New Paltz.  As a college student living in New Paltz, my roomates and I loved using FastLane; which I could see being beneficial to travelers with no car who just want to stay in for the night.  Check it out!

And if you are further south in Orange County, the town of Warwick has a great café called The Tuscan which offers a variety of super awesome wraps, salads, and sammies for vegetarians.  I honestly can’t get enough of their buffalo tofu wrap, and stop in whenever I’m in town.

Feel free to share your NY restaurant suggestions, meat and veggie alike in the comments below!

Spain Student Visa

So, I have been holding off posting my Spain Student Visa process only because I have not received mine yet and (I’m usually not superstitious but…) I don’t want to jinx it.  Maybe it is due to the 666 in my passport number or the little problems I had with my last visa but it has me crossing fingers and toes til this one comes through.

For one thing, I bought my ticket already.  Once I had the visa appointment and the guy said everything looked good, I just went for it since prices are rising every day.  But let’s get down to it.

For a Spain Student Visa (in New York)

You need to make a Visa Appointment at the Consulado General de España in NYC.  You can set the date online here but first you’ll have to register online.

Then compile all this information:

2 copies of the visa application. If you are unsure about how to fill out certain things on it you can always email me.  But they are pretty helpful at the consulate and probably would help you out if you left one or 2 lines blank.

2 passport sized photos of yourself to attach to the applications.  You can get them at CVS or Walgreens for $7-10.

-Your letter of acceptance from the university you will be attending stating your full-time status, health insurance info, etc.

In my case, since I am in the Auxiliares de Conversacion program I had to show my acceptance letter from my school; which contained information about the grant, the duration of my stay in Spain, the name of my school, address, and phone number and about the insurance policy.

I also made copies of this because you may need it to obtain your NIE card once in Spain.

-You need a money order from the US post office for $160 (this recently changed from $140 to $160)  But don’t worry about filling it out, they will help you at the office and usually they just put a stamp on it.

-A medical certificate.  This is just a letter from your doctor on their letterhead stating that you are healthy and not dying of yellow fever or other crazy jungle diseases.  If you need a draft for your doctor to sign I can send you the one I used.  It doesn’t need to be translated to Spanish and it does not need an Apostille.

State Background check.  This year you only need a state background check not the FBI background check which takes much longer and is only valid for 3 months.  You can get a NY state background check through L1 service.

But since you will need to take it somewhere else to get it apostilled, you need to do this when applying online:  indicate “Signed and Notarized Letter” as the reason for fingerprinting.  This will put the process in their computer as a “Records Review”.  So it will be sent to the right department who then notarizes a letter stating that your background check is official and can be apostilled.  You need this notary in order to get the apostille.

And if you were to get the FBI background check you would have to call them and request an apostille before they process your request otherwise all your waiting would be in vain.

-Once you have the background check you need to get it notarized with the apostille certification.  Don’t forget to fill out this form.  Then go to:

Department of State, New York City Location: 123 William Street, New York, NY 10038-3804 (for one day service)  You pay cash and walk out 10 minutes later with your papers all done.  But get there when they open at 8:45AM.

Or if Albany is closer to you:

Department of State, Albany Location: One Commerce Plaza, 99 Washington Ave, Albany, NY 12231-0001 (but they will probably mail it back to you) which means you may need to bring a self-addressed envelope from FEDEX or UPS to avoid having to go back and forth.

make a color copy of your apostilled background check.  Because they want a copy not the original.  The original is yours to keep because you may have to use it to obtain your NIE card in Spain.

-A copy of your drivers license or current student ID.  I brought this with me but the guy didn’t bother with it.  Sometimes they ask for it.

-you also have to show proof of financial aid or a bank statement for over $1000 per month you will be there.  My letter of acceptance had this information on it already so I didn’t need to show bank statements.  I think you can also have a letter from your parents taking full financial responsibility and have that notarized.

-last but not least bring your passport!

It takes about 4 weeks for the visa application to be processed.  They don’t call you to pick it up, they only call you if something is wrong.  So pick it up 4 weeks from the date of your appointment at the Consulate you had your appointment at. Only between 1-3pm in NYC.  Or bring a self-addressed and pre-paid UPS.COM label to receive your passport back through the mail.

Best of Luck!

Public Transportation

I love public transit.  Every city has its good and its bad; but today I couldn’t even begin to imagine driving around NYC, the traffic, the heat is horrendous and there are detours everywhere.  Although it has its costs, public transport is a great way to get around, in and out of New York City.

First, if you want to navigate around NYC you need some good maps.  For the most part Manhattan is like a grid so usually you can situate yourself pretty easily.  However, Brooklyn is a mess, Queens and the Bronx have their issues and there is always some sort of construction or detour that can throw you off your game no matter wherever you are, so I strongly recommend always having a map.  Some suggestions: Streetwise (http://www.streetwisemaps.com/index.html) , subway map (http://www.mta.info/nyct/maps/submap.htm).  I also have a NYC bike map which is one of the best maps i have because it shows all sections of nyc and it was free.  I don’t remember how i got it but you can find online versions here: (http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/html/bicyclists/bikemaps.shtml) , PATH train (http://www.panynj.gov/path/maps.html) , within  NYC Buses + other rails (http://www.mta.info/maps/) ,  Port Authority Bus Terminal (http://www.panynj.gov/bus-terminals/pabt-terminal-map.htm) , NJ transit (http://www.njtransit.com/pdf/rail/Rail_System_Map.pdf) , etc. etc.

I like to carry hand held maps but there are all sorts of apps you can download to your iphone these days.  Like this one: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/nyc-map/id508925361?mt=8

I’m not sure what the apps are like but just having the internet at your fingertips always helps.  And if you get totally lost just find a subway and there are usually large maps at most stops and even on the trains.

Of course the subway can get super crowded during rush hours, hot during the summer and even flooded during rainstorms.  The bike paths aren’t like marked Portland, OR paths, they are chaos and no one follows rules but the Riverside Park Path is as close to a select bike path as you’ll get in NYC.  The PATH train can get confusing on Sundays because the hours and train change a bit so depending on what train you take, you may have to transfer lines to get to your destination.  The other train lines and buses are pretty frequent and self-explanatory, just make sure you get on the bus/train with the same number that’s on your ticket.  Also, the bus gates can be hard to find sometimes so always ask your agent.

And if you use the ATM-like ticket booths like me, then do some research beforehand on what gate your bus leaves from or you’ll have to go check with a ticket agent anyway after you purchase your ticket because the gate number doesn’t print out on the receipt nor ticket.

You can use your METRO card with the subway, PATH and  NYC internal buses; but will have to buy other tickets for buses at Port Authority and other train lines like LIRR and NJ transit rail.  Your METRO card can be bought and refilled at any subway station at one of those ATM-like machines that have the METRO card logo.  Or you can buy a ride from the merchant at the subway info booth if there is one at your station.

If public transportation isn’t your thing, you can hail a taxi, hire a private car to drive you around, or use a zipcar.

Good Luck!  It is always an adventure.