Month: May 2020

“Non-Essential” Spouses Separated by Borders During COVID-19

Medical travel concept

Pointless Passports

Immediate Family is “Essential”

I’m compelled by personal tragedy to work to increase awareness about a significant story that is not getting the attention it deserves in the media, or from the governments, at this time of Coronavirus. As you may be aware, the Canada-U.S.-Mexico borders are closed to all but “essential travelers” at this time of COVID-19. You may agree or disagree with this decision. But whether or not the general public, including shoppers and tourists, should be allowed to cross the border is beyond the purview of this post. I want to talk specifically about a category that by all standards of common sense, ethics, and moral justice, should be considered “essential travelers.” The borders should open to them immediately. This category is immediate family, specifically the spouses and children of citizens of the U.S., Canada, or Mexico.

US/Canada Border, Peace Arch, Washington State, USA. Empty border lanes at crossing between US and Canada.

U.S.-Canada Border Crossing Closings

Spouses and Children: Separated by COVID-19

An untold but significant number of citizens of the U.S., Canada, and Mexico have foreign national spouses who are citizens of a neighboring country, and these people are currently being denied border crossing, despite the wording in the regulations that “essential travelers” are allowed passage during the Coronavirus outbreak. There are also an unspeakable number of children who are being denied access to their foreign national parent across the border, despite court orders enforcing visitation. This is outrageous, unconscionable, and indescribably inexcusable.

I’m an American Citizen and my newlywed husband is Canadian. We’re stranded, separated – myself in Florida and he in Ontario. Neither he nor I can cross the border to reunite right now. According to the governments, our travel is “non-essential,” our relationship disposable and irrelevant. The worst part isn’t even the separation itself – it’s the fact that we have no idea when the border will re-open or we will see each other again. It’s an agonizing waiting game, and one where I’m glued to the news desperately hoping for an update that would be encouraging in light of our desperate desire to be reunited. While the border closure was extended to June 21, it’s already been extended twice, so there’s no indication it won’t be extended again – or how many more times the border closure will be extended. Keeping immediate family separated for months on end, and with no end in sight, is extremely misguided, and, I would argue, immoral.

I don’t mean to suggest that spouses and children from countries outside of North America shouldn’t be included in the “essential travelers” category – they should. I’m only focusing on the North American numbers because the number of Canadian, American, and Mexican citizens suffering through the border closing, and separated from their immediate family members, is especially staggering due to the proximity of these three countries.

Young woman communicating with man via video call application.

“Non-Essential” Spouses

Safety Precautions Against Coronavirus are Possible

I get that governments are concerned about the Coronavirus and that they may not be ready to open to a flood of border crossings by “anyone and everyone.” But I contend that NOTHING is more important than immediate family, especially at a time like this. An exception should be made to the border closure for spouses and children of citizens, effective immediately!

I have some suggestions to include in my plea to make the plan safer. Require a 2 week quarantine for the spouses and children crossing the border. And, if necessary, download of an app to track the person could be required, to assure compliance with the quarantine. A negative test in the past 48 hours could also help if a COVID-19 test would be readily available to both parties. Although I consider these measures intrusive and an invasion of privacy that I would reject utterly under ordinary circumstances, I would gladly temper my ethical standards and comply with any of these requirements if it meant being reunited with my beloved husband.

A bad situation is being made much, much worse, and unnecessarily. There are mitigating safety measures that can be taken to allow truly essential travelers: spouses and children of citizens, to be added to the border crossing exemption, not just truckers and health workers.

There’s Other Factors, Too

Another thing to consider is that when spouses are from different countries, and share two different residences, they are more likely to have urgent business and property matters that need attention across the border. My car is stranded in Canada, and I’m stuck in the U.S. without transportation, since my husband and I came to the U.S. in his car and he was forced to return to Canada. I also have other personal property in Canada right now that I need, and don’t have, access to. This is a very complex problem with a very simple solution!!!

A Plea to Our Governments

Due to the close friendship between our countries, many, many people have developed relationships and created multi-national families, and being separated indefinitely is an extreme emotional hardship for them. A plea to our governments: you brought us together; let us stay together. Please make an exception for immediate family members to be considered “essential” travelers, and grant us permission to cross the border.

How You Can Help

First, I hope you will subscribe to my YouTube channel where I will be posting video on this issue shortly. You can find it at: Heather Anne Ultimate Travel Adventures.

Secondly, I hope you will consider signing these petitions. There is no cost, and I receive no benefit (unless it helps change the situation so I can see my husband!) There’s also an option to share the petition with others.

There’s an online petition to allow immediate family of citizens to cross the border here:

Canada: Allow Family Reunification During COVID 19

and there’s another one here:

Justin Trudeau: Love is Essential

What do you think? Do you think spouses and children of citizens should be allowed to cross the border? Please leave your comments below!

 

New York City Hotels: Two Tours

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Homewood Suites Edgewater-NYC Area Lobby

A Tale of Two New York City Hotels

New York City hotels are abundant. How do you find a good one? I have two recommendations, one downtown and another on the outskirts. On my last visit to New York I stayed at two hotels, one downtown (Hilton Garden Inn Times Square South in Manhattan), and one easily accessible to downtown in the suburbs (Homewood Suites Edgewater-NYC Area in New Jersey). Depending on your priorities, one or the other may be more suitable for you, but either one is a great choice!

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Hilton Garden Inn Times Square South Exterior

Hilton Garden Inn Times Square South

The Hilton Garden Inn Times Square South is a stone’s throw from the Port Authority, and very centrally located to all of the action. It’s a short walk to the nearest subway, double decker bus stop, Theater District, and heart of Times Square. The neighborhood is abundant with great restaurants in all price ranges, and felt safe to traverse by night or day. The staff was professional and friendly. The room was small, but comfortable.

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Views from Hilton Garden Inn Balcony

I was fortunate to get one of only two rooms in the hotel with a balcony, where I enjoyed soaking in the city sights and sounds bird-like from my high perch. The refrigerator was smaller than usual for a Hilton room – rather than “dormitory” size it was very narrow. Normal size water bottles or soda cans wouldn’t fit – but the mini size soda you can sometimes find in the store would have. Not a suitable fridge for dining leftovers, either. Fortunately (or unfortunately!) the weather was cold in March and I used the balcony as a fridge…

The bath was trendy, and shower provided good water pressure and temperature. There’s an ample closet, as well as a desk for working. I had a great nights’ sleep on the very cozy bed.

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Hilton Garden Inn Guestroom

Amenities

Breakfast at the Garden Inn brand of Hilton is available but there is an extra charge if you are not gold level or higher in their rewards program. But if you are gold, or pay, it’s made to order fresh and delicious. The menu was not as extensive as I’m used to, but that may have been due to the timing (pre/early COVID in mid-March).

There’s no parking on-site, but there is a public parking garage across the street charging $50 per night. Room rates vary depending on your timing… but usually run relatively steep due to the incredible central location in Manhattan. If location is your top priority, I highly recommend this hotel. If price is your highest priority, I suggest another property…

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Homewood Suites Living Room

Homewood Suites Edgewater-NYC Area

The Homewood Suites Edgewater-NYC Area in Edgewater, New Jersey may not be in Manhattan, but it’s extremely convenient to it for prices usually well below what you’ll pay in Manhattan. It’s also situated in a charming neighborhood of its own, next to lots of interesting shops and restaurants along a pedestrian boulevard.

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Homewood Suites Kitchen

Like other properties in the Homewood Suites brand, this hotel is all suites. Each room has a full kitchen (full size fridge, small stove, microwave, sink, dining table, and dishes and utensils). There are also separate lounge and bedroom areas, and an extra-spacious bathroom. There’s two televisions – one in the “living” room and another in the bedroom. Consistent with other hotels under the Hilton umbrella, the bed, furnishings, and showers are very accommodating here.

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Homewood Suites Bedroom

Some rooms have New York City views – in my opinion worth the splurge. Breakfast is free for all and consists of a small buffet. Socials are held in the evenings on some days of the week where snacks, beer, and wine are offered. Parking here is free for hotel guests. As for the location – if you want to get into downtown Manhattan it’s no problem. There’s a local bus that picks up across the street that goes straight to the Port Authority in the Times Square area. The ride takes about 10 minutes, and only costs a few dollars each way (seniors also get a discount). I suggest buying a roundtrip ticket when you board in New Jersey – it’s easier than waiting and buying a return ticket at the station when you’re ready to return.

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Homewood Suites View

More on New York City Hotels, and More!

Thanks for reading my review of New York City hotels! Both of these options are great places to stay if you visit New York City. If you’re willing to pay more, the Hilton Garden Inn can’t be beat for location convenience, but for a more-budget friendly option easily accessible by bus to downtown, try the Homewood Suites! For a full visual tour of each, view my YouTube video here:

Take a virtual tour of New York City here!:

Read my New York City blog post here!:

New York City Tour! (Pre/early COVID)

And for more travel destinations and hotel tours, visit my YouTube channel here!:

Ultimate Travel Adventures YouTube Channel

 

New York City Tour!

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Times Square at Night

New York City: COVID-19 Edition

I did a New York City tour right around the outset of the Coronavirus pandemic in March. It was before it was really clear what was happening. These are tough times for all of us, no thanks to the COVID-19 outbreak. New York City in particular faces many challenges. I know a lot of us can’t wait until the “city that never sleeps” wakes up again. So in the meantime, I can share some images with you from my visit in mid-March, when news was beginning to surface about COVID but the city wasn’t in full shutdown mode yet.

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Times Square by Day

Times Square

Times Square is arguably one of the most iconic locations in New York – and usually one of the most crowded, too. But auto and pedestrian traffic was a little lighter, and became even lighter day by day during my visit. The sea of people I encountered on previous visits to Times Square was noticeably absent this time. But the square was still alive with its signature rainbow of bright neon lights and colorful characters in costume, though…

Views from the Empire State Building

Empire State Building

We managed to visit the Empire State Building observatory two days before it closed due to COVID. What a lucky break for us, not to miss these incredible views. Here is a view of downtown, including the towering One World Trade Center standing guard over the rest of the city, symbolically. In the background you can also see the Statue of Liberty in the distance. We enjoyed the art-deco decor of the structure as we proceeded through the lobbies on our way up to the observatory. Once up top you can walk all the way around the building to see the spectacular panoramic scenes.

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South Street Seaport Pier

South Street Seaport

South Street Seaport is one of my favorite neighborhoods in New York. Here you can inspect historic ships on the pier, or catch the New York Water Taxi for a tour of the harbor. And along cobbled streets stand the South Street Seaport Museum, as well as many opportunities for shopping. There’s a convenient stop for the double-decker bus tours.

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South Street Seaport

New York City Water Taxi

I recommend an outing on the New York Water Taxi from South Street Seaport. I enjoyed outstanding views of the Brooklyn Bridge, Manhattan skyline, and Statue of Liberty from the boat. In addition to giving you a tour of the harbor, the taxi will also take you to additional stops where you can disembark and explore, like Midtown and Brooklyn. It’s a hop-on-hop-off experience, just like the double-decker bus. It was windy and chilly in March, but well worth it!

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Brooklyn Bridge

We managed to catch the very last Water Taxi running, because as soon as our trip was over it was shut down due to COVID. It was a relief to have caught the last boat, but sad to see it have to shut down. This is one of the best experiences for visitors to New York, and I highly recommend it when the outbreak subsides.

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Statue of Liberty

Statue of Liberty

Ordinarily the Statue of Liberty would be swarmed with huge crowds, but not on this day… apparently it was already closed. Still, we got up-close and personal with her from the boat, which swung around to allow passengers on both sides of the boat to catch a glimpse. Possibly one of the most iconic structures in the world, it’s an absolute must-see. If you prefer not to pay, the free Staten Island Ferry will give you a view of her too, albeit slightly more distant.

Double-decker Bus: Great Way to Tour New York

Although the Water Taxi closed after this run we took, we were able to enjoy the double-decker bus for another day. This allowed us to explore downtown, midtown, uptown, Harlem, and Brooklyn, for a couple more days, with the ability to hop on and hop off at various sights. The double-decker bus is a very convenient way to get around the city, and offers great views. I highly recommend getting around New York City and getting a bird’s-eye view from the top of the bus.

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M & M’s World

M & M’s World

If you have a sweet tooth, no visit to New York is complete without a stop at M & M’s World in Times Square! Here you will find rows and rows of tubes of a rainbow of these delights, and samples are available! Many varieties are available here that you won’t find at your local grocery or pharmacy. And you can also shop for an array of branded merchandise. So leave your diet behind and let your inner “kid in a candy store” out!

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Junior’s Diner Cheesecake

Authentic New York Treats at Junior’s Diner

I recommend trying out Junior’s Diner in the Theater District. Here you can indulge in delectable and authentic New York specialties like a Brooklyn Egg Cream, Pastrami Sandwich, and world-renown New York Cheesecake! It’s a little pricey, but portions are huge – take a friend and share and you’ll both be satisfied!

CentralPark

Central Park

Central Park

No New York City tour is complete without a visit to Central Park. And what better way to shed off those calories than a stroll through this iconic landmark? It’s a relaxing oasis amid this bustling concrete jungle. Horse and carriage rides are another fun way to get around the park, but are a better value in a group of travelers sharing the cost. These rides were running about $50 for 20 minutes when I visited.

Tour More of New York City, and More!

First a disclaimer: I realize that this post may be controversial – that there may be some who feel it was irresponsible of us to visit New York in mid-March, 2020. And I’m sure there are others who applaud our determination to keep living our lives. We were in New York anticipating a cruise on the 15th that ended up being canceled two days before embarkation, so we remained in the city a couple more days before departing. At that time, there was a lot of confusion, and news of the virus was newly surfacing. The extent of the danger was not yet clear. To those who may be distressed by this post, know that after our visit we returned straight home and quarantined for 14 days. And to anyone wondering, no, we didn’t get sick.

Thanks for reading my New York City tour; catch my New York City video tour here!:

If you’re looking for places to stay in New York City, check out my blog post here:

New York City Hotels: Two Tours

And for more video tours of many destinations world-wide, check out my YouTube channel here!:

Ultimate Travel Adventures YouTube Channel

When you visit a big city like New York, I highly recommend taking a tour or getting a City Pass so that you’re able to save money and skip the lines! I like the way you can visit several attractions at a discount, without buying tickets at each one. Check it out here!:

Save up to 50% on combined prices for admission to must-see attractions! Shop Now at CityPASS.com!

Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed this virtual tour of New York!

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