• 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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  • grace

    :Amie Grace Woodgate

    In the 2 weeks I have slowly been making my way from San Francisco to my current location of St Louis, Missouri, via Santa Cruz, Santa Ana, Las Vegas, New Orleans and Memphis. Attempted to write a blog jst over a week ago, but couldnt get internet access so here is it in all its glory: Blog Entry 07/06/12- All Change Here Currently sat on an Amtrak train from San Jose to Los Angeles, although has more similarities with a plane! SO much leg room (I know that doesn’t sound like a lot coming from myself, but even a 7 foot legged man would be comfortable). Listening to a bit of the old Kings of Leon, how did they digress so much from their early days? Scenery outside (hills, miles of vineyards and farms) is making the prospect of another 9 and a half hours on this train a little easier to process, but still, over 10 hours to get somewhere a car can get to in half the time? It’s like the opposite to trains in the UK. Leaving Santa Cruz lads and lasses was a bit too much at 7:00 this morning, didn’t help that I fell asleep before properly saying bye to everyone before going to bed, feel terrible! Woke up and first thought was “wow, I’m a dick!” I wrote a note apologizing and sent a text to Tom, so hopefully they’ll find it in their hearts to forgive me. Had so much fun hanging out with all of them this past week. All the girls were lovely, really easy going, so thank you for making me feel so welcome Jena, Kaitlin, Sasha and Sarah. Our trip to the Garden of Eden is also something I’ll never forget, so beautiful there, and the walk to it down a still functioning railway track made it all that much more exciting. Was a shame Charlie had to leave so early on in my visit, she seemed to have knowledge about everything! And Kaitlin and my attempts at creating mini red velvet cupcakes for Jena’s 20th didn’t fail quite as epically as we had expected after mixing the first bowl of mix and only being able to smell/taste the olive oil we were instructed to add. Also saw a dolphin at Natural bridges beach with Charlie and Jim, which was then abruptly switched from being a majestic moment by the arrival of their friend Ben who informed us that there is a real problem with dolphins raping people…. This then led to a very long discussion on the most uncomfortable and disgusting youtube videos we’d all seen, which included one about terminally ill people competing in their own Olympics to win money for their family when they die by cutting off limbs and other horrific contests. Also saw my first banana slug, so called for its vibrant yellow colouring. Apparently in Santa Cruz it’s custom to kiss one of these slugs if u see one, for good luck, so when neither Otis or I were willing to uphold this tradition, Jim took it upon himself to do the honours. Think the last week of drinking is catching up on me, absolutely exhausted, might just sleep for the entire train journey, but don’t want to miss out on where I’m going through. Almost feels like the end of an era! I’m really excited to start my trip across the U.S but at the same time I don’t want to leave California. It’s also going to be weird not having Otis around after living with him these past 10 months, but it’s ok, our house can’t be entirely split, planning on meeting Mikey in Austin (that’s if he actually puts words into actions) sure he will, might just need to nag him a little  Actually, really thankful to Mikey for his bluffing and negotiation skills with our pedant landlords, who were asking for $2000 out of our $2400 security deposit. Nearly had a heart attack when he informed me that a grand of that was being appointed to a tiny paint job of 3 walls! It doesn’t cost that much to paint an entire house, let alone 3 measly walls in an apartment. Douchebags! They must think we’re absolute mugs! (which mikey informed them quite diplomatically that we’re not) Ooh, just passing one of those totally anonymous central Californian towns, seriously they all look so alike, it’s kinda disconcerting. Anyway enough ranting! On my way to LA to meet up with these Irish girls I unfortunately only really got to know in the last two weeks in SF, but they seem sound, and pretty hilarious. Off to Vegas with them. Was going to go to Grand Canyon with them as well, but they decided it was better for them to do vegas first rather than GC, which I completely understand. I would just go see it on my own, but trying to play catch up with Henry and Andrea, who are steaming ahead, think they’re on their way to Austin now, and if I do end up flying there, it won’t be till at least Monday (4 days from now) so time really is of the essence right now. Got a month to get to Boston, via New Orleans and cities along the Mississippi. Just want to start actually organizing transport for it, but kind of need to know plans of others to do this. What I really don’t understand about American transportation is that a bus that takes 2 days is MORE expensive than a flight that takes 4 hours….honestly it really is just flip reverse to England, where the faster a journey is the more pricey it’s likely to be. Was looking at Cait-Lynn and Mandrea’s photos from New Orleans the other day, and it looks so amazing, I can’t wait to just be there. Really got that travelling bug now, kind of couldn’t be bothered with it all last week, but think that was because of the stress of moving out and cleaning up and deciding what things I’ve accumulated over the last year was worth keeping or sending home, and what was just junk that could be thrown out or given away. And back to the present. New Orleans was as amazing as I had expected, if not more so. The French Quarter was beautiful, although Bourbon Street was a bit too cheesy and touristy for my liking, but went out for a night out on Frenchmen street, and that was far superior. Live jazz and blues bands playing in pretty much every bar, and you could just saunter in and out, enjoying and soaking up as much of the atmosphere as you could. Henry foolishly drank two hand grenade cocktails too fast, as the alcohol was barely detectable, but it was there, which Henry soon found out.... he just kinda wondered behind us, not really knowing what was going on. We were able to watch quite a lot of the Euro football matches which was a good and bad thing, always great to watch nationalistic sport, but it did delay our exploration of the city to a certain extent. Went to try and see the remnants of devastation Hurricane Katrina left 7 years ago, but the lady at our hostel (The India House,really good hostel may i quickly add) directed us to the completely opposite part of town for this, could have been because she was looking at the map upside down, but that's no excuse! Ended up having really good bbq in that area tho, so every cloud has its silver lining. Then Mikey, Henry and I walked through the french quarter again (stopped to watch some guys break dance as they threatened the crowd that if they didnt donate some money for the show hey'd be robbing their houses) I gave $4. Decided to walk all the way to the warehouse and arts district to see the guide book labelled a house constructed of debris from the hurricane by an artist. At first when we got to the spot it was supposed to be at we thought maybe because the book was slightly dated, the house had only been temporary, but then we came out of the park we thought it had been, to find this tiny little sculpture of a house in a tree.....yeh, not so much a house, more of a statue. But hey ho, it was still kinda cool, if not what we'd exactly envisioned. Anyhow, since then I've travelled northwards with henry and andrea and stayed in Memphis with them for a couple of nights (they were couch surfing, I was doing chores to earn my keep in the Pilgrim Hostel, not actually as bad as it sounds, I just had to wipe down the surface of the hob to get my deposit back, which I didnt actually end up giving them as they wanted it in cash, so I basically just cleaned for the fun of it). Oh nearly forgot, one last thing about New Orleans, watch out for the huge green Io Moth caterpillars. One unfortunately took a liking to the inside of Henry's pj bottoms.....the girly scream that echoed in our dorm was kinda hilarious, but the caterpillar was massive and terrifying and did cause quite a lot of pain on Henry's part.....was close to being his more private parts, but once again, every cloud, could have been a WHOLE lot worse! Memphis was alright, didn't really do it for me though. Bit of a mismatch of things, I mean, what is a mid-town part of a city? Uptown i understand, downtown, I understand, but is there really any need for a mid-town? Also the neighborhoods there are manic, one minute you're commenting on how beautiful the houses are, next minute you see a shack with barred windows and posters declaring unsettling religious statements about how everyone's going to hell unless they sacrifice a dog, by gouging its left eye out whilst also drowning it simultaneously and then eat its spleen, chewing only on the right side of your mouth! or something along those lines. MADNESS! Had a quick glance at Graceland and bought a t-shirt from sun studios, standard procedure. Went to the same suchi place we'd gone to the night before and went for drinks, where i parted ways from Henry and Andrea, who are off to nashville, the smokey mountains and ashville. Really hope they managed to replace their tyre. It's the second time a tyre has burst whilst ive been in the car on this trip, and Andrea's wheels are pretty much brand new....perhaps i should stay away from cars for a while, obviously not the luckiest of companions. Had to get up at 5 this morning to get a bus from memphis to st louis. Was really hoping there would be lockers at the station so i could have a look round downtown as the only hotel i could get was like 10 miles out and a good $40 cab fare, but alas, st louis is stupid, so didnt really get to see much more than what i saw from the bus on arriving, and been cooped up in my room all day! But HEY, CHICAGO tomorrow, hostel and bus all booked, and already have a vague plan of what i want to do when im there, so that's something. This whole being organised thing is such a foreign concept to me, but i really dont want to have to sleep on the streets so kinda making it happen, had to book another hotel in Cleveland because, like St Louis, they dont believe in hostels, absolute travesty! Anyway, I should probs be getting to sleep, got a long day ahead of me tomorrow.
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