Long Island Gold Coast Part 2

Sticking to the Gold Coast theme, I also had the pleasure of visiting Oheka Castle about a month ago in Huntington, NY. It is the second largest private residency in the United States at an impressive 115,000 square footage. It is no longer a residency, and is now converted into an upscale hotel and as a site to host special events such as weddings (Kevin Jonas and Joey Fatone both had their weddings here). Scandalously enough, I learned after my visit that the owner of the castle, Gary Melius, was shot 3 times in the parking lot a mere 3 days before my visit.

I have lived on Long Island for the majority of my life, and have been around the area of these 2 estates several times, but never made it. Now I’m glad that I was able to put aside some time to explore my area more, which enriches my understanding of the history of Long Island and how it forms such a unique culture. Long Island is in the shadow of New York City, yet life remains very suburban and simple despite its proximity to the city. The island is massively overcrowded and traffic is an accepted reality of everyday life. The population is steadily on the rise, and in a place so starved for space it’s interesting to see the wide open acreage of estates such as this.  

 

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Long Island Gold Coast

We all want to be able to travel more, but what to do when we’re in the stages of saving money to travel again? Well I like to look for adventure locally in the meanwhile. I’m blessed to be from the New York City area, so there’s are plenty of options in such a small area. Many may not be as fortunate. However, adventures are what you make it and there’s always a place that you have overlooked for years or just postponed going to. On your days off when you don’t have anything to do, try and do one of those things! I made a list of places that I’ve been putting off for years and have been slowly checking them off.

So yesterday I did one of those things and I drove a whopping 17 minutes from my house and went to the Old Westbury Gardens here in Long Island, New York. I even went for free thanks to a pass from my local library. The OW Gardens houses a rather large mansion known as the Westbury Mansion which is a legacy of the Gold Coast era that developed in the late 1800s and peaked during the 1920s on the 16 mile stretch on the north shore of Long Island from Great Neck to Huntington. You may be familiar with this era through the classic book, The Great Gatsby. It is also the filming location of many famous films such as North by Northwest and Cruel Intentions.

The mansion was gorgeous, filled many lavish pieces from the time period. What struck me as something peculiar was in this mansion-turned-museum they had mannequins in every room dressed as the previous owners would have, adding a more visual dimension to how these people lived in their wealth. The estate is a vast 160 acres and it has its very own lake and also many beautiful, expansive gardens. It boggles my mind that I was born and raised only 17 minutes from this opulence, but at the same time I could drive 17 minutes and be in the worst neighborhood in the South Bronx. Only in NYC my friends. 

Traveling for cheaper – how to save on accommodation

It really flabbergasts me every time when people are so amazed at what I do when I travel. There’s nothing new about budget travel. It’s not innovative, it’s not up-and-coming, and it’s just plain practical to me. As with many industries in this world, marketing is created to have us perceive travel in a certain way. Do you really think that in far off destinations like the islands in southern Thailand, Bali, Barbados etc. that the only way to travel is by a 5-star all-inclusive luxury resorts? Is that what the locals do when they’re traveling within their own country? The sky is the limit in terms of options for the way you can travel. You have the ability to make your own decisions while you travel. If you decide that’s through a hotel, so be it. But there are plenty of other options that can save you money and allow you to travel for longer periods of time, or more frequently. I’ll take the latter choice, every time. Here are a few of the basic options that could save you a buck and help you travel better. 

  1. Hostels – Of course there’s the classic option of hostels – to which I always get the responses “OH MY GOD, haven’t you seen the movie hostel?? I would never stay in one of those places, I could get killed!” Well…first off how do you think those places stay in business if all their customers are getting killed off? I’ll get into this further in another post. But, hostels are a great value option. Most cost around $25 a night in a shared dorm (depending on the country some can be way cheaper). Most people who are staying in hostels are looking for the exact same thing as you – just to have fun and make memories while traveling. Your setting already proves that you’re like-minded in this way, and through my experiences I’ve met amazing individuals in hostels whom I had great nights out with, great days exploring the city together, and have even kept in contact down the line and hosted/been hosted by them later on. Hostels are a great way to meet lifelong friends on the road!
  2. AirBnB – another great budget option if you want to have a little bit more privacy and you wanted to just make a trip with your friends. It is a very reputable website which allows you rent out someone’s apartment or a room in their apartment for a much cheaper price than a hotel. You read through people’s profiles and access whether they are a good match based on the location of their apartments, the pictures of their apartment, and you have access to previous reviews that they have from customers who have rented out their apartment before. (Other rental sites include wimdu & roomorama).
  3. CouchSurfing – my personal favorite. Another aura of negativity surrounds the idea of CouchSurfing to the untrained eye. “Stay at someone’s place with them? What if you stay with a crazy ax murderer?” Another silly fear that I find humorous because I’ve made amazing connections with my time using CouchSurfing. Just like AirBnb, you scout out people’s personal profiles so you already have an idea whether your host is a good match for you based on their interests, you get to read about their past experiences in previous reviews, and of course any good profile has pictures of the individual (many include them traveling to different locations so you can see they’re looking for the same things as you) . And obviously you will already be communicating back and forth with your potential host to explain the details of your trip and you’ll get a sense of who they are before you even meet them. I’ll include a separate post about the great connections I’ve made through CouchSurfing in another post. 

I am the Wanderlust Guru

Welcome to the Wanderlust Guru blog. My name is Nicholas Dragone and my life has been completely shaped by travel. Nothing fulfills and exhilarates me more than discovering new places, meeting new people and making connections, learning about new cultures, and having adventures grand or small. If these are things that you are interested in as well, you’ve found a new home in this blog.

I’ve been urged for years to create a travel blog; most recently was this past Easter Sunday by a distant relative to document my travels better. So I will discuss my overall impressions, give recommendations, and just generally hope to inspire people to travel more such as I have with my friends, relatives, and acquaintances. 

Happy travels! 

Get lost,

The Wanderlust Guru

Beginnings

I’ve been traveling and sharing my stories for a number of years now and have had countless conversations with friends, family, and travelers on the road that have always concluded with “wow you should make a travel blog”. The most recent time happened today in fact. So here we are, welcome to my first and only travel blog, The Wanderlust Guru. 

I’ll try and stay fairly consistent with updates, whether it’s tips, updates in travel plans, stories, or general travel dreams, ramblings, or impressions.