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  • Boston

    So in the week since I last updated my blog, I've traveled from Cleveland to Pittsburgh (which I only briefly got to see as delayed buses and stupid bus schedule meant I arrived at midnight, and left at 11 am the next day.....There were some pretty, lit up bridges but can't share any more than that with you unfortunately. I did however meet quite a character in my taxi driver, who loved bellowing the phrase "You BLOODY BASTARDS!" in his aristocratic English imitation....quite hilare. His cab was unmarked, which I was a bit wary of, but was so desperate to get into my Hotel bed I just went with it and crossed my fingers.....then he started trying to persuade me to let him drive up this famous hill to get a really good view of the city....at this point I thought maybe my luck had just run out, but thankfully he hesitantly agreed to take me straight to the hotel, then gave me his taxi firm's number to order a taxi the next morning back to the station. I did ring the number the next morning, but it no longer existed...maybe he just took pity on me. I'll never know. Hotel was really nice, part of the hilton family (definitely wasn't aware of that when i booked it having had no luck finding any hostels in the area. There was a punn on the elevator door advertising their free breakfast saying even a piece of fruit can make all the difference and it exclaimed "Orange you glad you had breakfast this morning?", it must have worked, I did indeed have a bowl of fruit for breakfast, whilst reading the complimentary Pittsburgh Tribune. Felt very sophis. Got to Philly late afternoon, just as England lost on penalties to Italy, and boy did Mikey take it hard... rang him up when I arrived to see whereabouts in the city he was and his reply? "Er yeh I'm sat in a bar drinking whiskey.... alone. I'm so sad." Having dropped off my bags in the hostel which was situated slap bang in the middle of the old town part of the city, right by Independence Hall, I rushed to his rescue (waited an hour for the number 9 bus, as it was a sunday) and found he'd at least left the bar, but was considerably intoxicated at Brittney's apartment....so we decided to go meet Britts outside her work and go to another bar before cooking dinner. It was already 10pm by this point. We ambled down some steps which, when walking down you dont realise they're actually 181 of them and you're going to have to walk right back up them again having gotten drunk....Bloody stairs of death, that's what they were. STAIRS.OF.DEATH! It was great seeing Brittney again. She's exactly the same, but has this swanky recruiting job where she works on the 25th floor of one of the tallest skyscrapers in Philadelphia. Not too shabby, she seems to be really enjoying it as well, which is always a bonus. Met some of her work colleagues, they seemed nice, went to a couple of bars with them and played some pool (not to blow my own trumpet, but I am definitely progressing in skills,UEA red bar, watch out!) Mike and I walked around town the next day after meeting Brits for her lunch break. Went to the Barnes foundation exhibition centre. Barnes trademarked the medicine used to treat gonorrhea, which made him a a millionaire, allowing him to collect art, which is now on show for public viewing at this building. Nice little fun fact for you all. Had a day full of drinking once Andrea and Henry arrived, really fun, but my goodness, the energy levels of all of us the next day were severely depleted. Andrea managed to wake up for a shower and once I went to skype my friend, the sofa became officially hers for the entire day, dont think she moved until the mention of having a bbq gave her motivation to come to the supermarket with us to buy food. BBQ area in Brittney's apartment combo is really nice, it was just the constant dog owners bringing their pets out to relieve themselves that kinda ruined the whole atmosphere....there are a lot of dog owners where she lives, one dog could have been mistaken for a bear, humongous! Mikey left with Henry and Andrea in the car to New York, whilst I went to catch a bus to Boston ( which as stated above, was over an hour late, and meant I got quite sunburnt and drank all the fluids I had for the journey.....resulting in being more than ready for the restrooms when we made our one and only stop in the journey an hour after boarding the bus. probably the worst bus journey I've had in America, crying babies the entire 8 hours and to top this off, one lady forgot to get off at her stop which meant we hadto do a 40 minute loop right outside New York, which was utterly congested as you would expect. honestly how do you miss your stop when its the only stop the bus makes for the entire journey? what an idot! So got to Boston and decided it would be easier to get a cab rather than getting to middle of nowhere off the subway and find out the bus had stopped working. Only, I had a taxi driver that didn't seem to know any more about Boston than I did, and in fact asked me for the entirety of the journey which way he should be going.... all taxis should have gps, it's a no brainer really. Even having told the guy the nearest bus stop to the hostel and the number and street it was on he was still none the wiser. Once again a taxi ride that should have taken 10 minutes took 20 and therefore my fare was also doubled. however the driver did turn his clock off about 5 minutes before we got to our destination, so I thought 'ok I just won't tip him well, maybe a couple of dollars, that will still show him' but his damned card finger pad thing wasn't working, and as I was trying to get it to ork, he simply chucked my bag from his cab, so I thought '***k it, you're not getting any extras!' One qualm I have with his hostel, is lack of A/C or fans in the rooms. Ridiculously hot! apart from that though, it does exactly as it says on the can, so can't complain. Also, not too expensive. Walked around the city today. Got an overwhelming sense I was back in London when I first emerged from Down Town Crossing subway station. cobbled streets, old(ish) buildings, trees... then you see the skyscrapers, and excluding the Gherkin and Canary Wharf, London doesn't really encompass skyscrapers. Boston Gardens was really pretty, as was the old town quarter. Saw John Winthrop's grave which was cool and walked to the harbor and Quincy Market, which kind of reminded me of Covent Garden a bit. after about 6 hours I got the train back to the hostel and wrote some e-mails. Also popped to the shops with one of the girls in my dorm who's been working at the hostel to earn board here for last 3 months. She's trying to find a job here, but so far has only got cleaning jobs. She's originally from Vietnam but grew up in Portland. Wish I'd managed to visit Oregon; I will do the next time I come to America. Can't believe I have less than a week left! madness, what is time DOING?!!
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  • Chicago

    I've fallen in love with Chicago! I almost feel like I'm betraying San Francisco but they're such different cities. Say San Francisco was, I don't know, Football (or as the Americans term it, soccer) then Chicago is Hockey! One is played on grass whilst the other on ice and last time I checked there are no sticks involved in football. Honestly though, the buildings are amazing and whilst it is a skyscraper city such as New York, for me personally, Chicago far exceeds New York for beauty. The river that meanders through the skyscrapers and Lincoln Park that is located to the west of the enormous Lake Michigan just singles it out as a winner for me. Was talking to a woman who was staying in the same dorm as I was, and who always stays at the Chicago Getaway Hostel, was telling me the best thing to do in Chicago is to go swimming in Lake Michigan with the whole city skyline just right in front of you. Wish she'd told me this before I was just about to leave to get the bus! Went for a walk along the river walk downtown, all the way from Millennium park (which is also really pretty) and I got completely lost in my surroundings, honestly felt like I'd been swallowed up by the city, but in a really good way. I know this all sounds really cheesy, but I'm in love, people in love get all sentimental and gushy! There's also loads of wildlife around. Was talking to Otis on the phone, and every other minute I was either squealing or gasping because there was a millipede on me, or a mouse running past my feet or a firefly flying into my face (ok, I've become aware that these aren't really the creatures you want to encounter anywhere, BUT the glowing fire flies were really cool, and these were all just right outside my hostel) Needless to say, Otis didn't believe I was in Chicago at all, and had actually crossed the border into SOuth America somewhere. There was also a flock of geese, probs about a hundred of them, in Lincoln Park, but I stayed WELL clear of them, never trust geese, especially when they're in a huge crew! I've also not really overcome my recent habit of attracting birds to fly into my head, not sure whether I mentioned this before, but in the last week in San Francisco there were 5, YES 5!!!! instances where a bird either flew into my head or arm....crazy s***. To top things off, the majority of these times I was hungover. Enough about the wildlife, I did actually venture out and do more productive things than just count the number of millipede species I'd encountered. Went to the Chicago Art Institute, where there was a Lichtenstein exhibit on, which I really enjoyed. Not so much a fan of his more recent work, but his pop art and early abstract work was really interesting and fun to look at. Also saw some other American art and an exhibit of statues found in South East Asia. Got the bus to Cleveland yesterday afternoon, last 3 hours felt SO long. We got one break, and everyone was queuing for starbucks or KFC or Burger King cos the "convenient" store, was closed for inventory and NONE of them realised there was a gas station RIGHT NEXT DOOR, or they did and couldn't be bothered to walk there, either way it doesn't portray them in a good light. So I got back on the bus feeling really smug when I got quizzical (and at times hostile) glances from my fellow travelers. Got to downtown Cleveland, in what I'm guessing is their less touristy/ more run down part of the city at midnight, and once again google maps lied to me, leading me to completely overestimate the distance I needed to walk with my huge hiking back pack (which seems to be getting heavier, despite me actually losing stuff rather than acquiring it). Now, I bet you're thinking that's a good thing right? WRONG. It just meant I still walked the distance I'd been expecting to walk, only to have to turn around and walk that erroneous route all over again, and be smirked at by drunk idiots who'd just seen me walk past them in the opposite direction. I'll be honest, I didn't have very high expectations of Cleveland (in fact, they were pretty much down there with my thoughts on the right to bear arms and religion) but, I was mistaken. Obviously, didn't touch Chicago, but it's not half bad. Downtown is relatively pretty and clean and I found a really nice, old graveyard to explore once I'd walked the entire circumference of the downtown area.... Nah it was fine, although VERY quiet, this could have had something to do with the gay pride parade that was going on today, but something tells me that when students aren't at the State university here, it's not exactly buzzing with life. After 5 hours of walking around 2 of which were through a cemetery (really peaceful, and really interesting/sad because it was an old one and most headstones were surrounded by entire families, most of which had an average of 3 to 5 infant deaths on them) I decided to walk back to the hotel to write this. Still got an hour to kill before I need to leave to get my bus to Pittsburgh, which thankfully is only a 2 hour trip.....Was just offered some vikidin off a guy, maybe that would be a good way to spend the time left..... I kid I kid I didn't buy any...why would I? I've already got some in my bag leftover from my appendectomy surgery!
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