Part 2 - USA East Coast
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Off on our journey at last - Thursday 3rd September
I arose bright and early at 6am today. The only time I ever manage to
spring out of bed early is when I'm going on holiday - it's a shame I can't
apply the same rules for getting up for work. I said farewell to my mum
and Zara the mad Alsation dog (will it remember me after a year ?)
and set off for the airport with my dad for the 7.40 am shuttle down to
London. I met Gavin inside with his mum who snapped lots of
photographs of us as we left (much to my dismay as I felt about 100
years old with my massive lack of sleep induced bags under my eyes.
Our flights to London were pretty non-eventful with the exception of
a single moment of fear. As we were about to board the shuttle the
British Airways rep noticed that one of our tickets was not inside our
boarding pass and informed us that we couldn't board the plane
without it ! Panic set in as visions of us spending the first night of
our travels in Scotland flashed across my mind. Luckily she still allowed
us on the plane - the soor faced girl at the check in desk had mixed all
our tickets up, putting them in the wrong boarding passes and
"losing" one of them.
We arrived in Boston 10 hours later(after a 1hr and a 7hr plane
journey) at 12.40 local time (17.40 our time). We took the subway
for 85c to our B&B (You can also get the boat for $8 or a taxi
for around $20 but we decided that we should start are travels
in true backpacking style with the cheapest form of transport,
instead of jumping into the first cab !). We are staying in a
private B&B in St Stephen's street for five nights. It's in the
South end at the edge of Back Bay on a very picturesque tree
lined street of Brown Houses. The room is huge with a comfy,
but creaky double bed, lots of cupboard space, a setee bed and
a tree ! We've only met the landlady once so far and her
Dalmation Dog tried to bite me - lucky I'm used to that sort of
thing ! We spent the rest of the day wandering around Downtown
Boston and the Boston Common, eating burger and chips (or fries
as they are known here - chips to them are crisps to us !). We
had a couple of G&Ts in the bar round the corner and collapsed
in a heap on the bed at around 9pm, ready for tomorrow.
First Full Day in Boston - Friday 4th September
We did the big touristy bit today. First the 2.5 mile Freedom
trail which is a walking tour of Boston. You follow the line of
red bricks on the pavement passing churches, shops, gardens,
museums etc. It was a really good way to get a feel of the
place and a good way to work of all the burgers ! I think we've
walked about 6 miles in total today (at least), so I'm feeling
a bit tired, I've got a big horrible sore toe from smacking
it against a metal thing sticking out of the ground and my thighs
are aching from climbing up and down the 294 steps up the Bunker
Hill monument. Apart from that, it was a great day !
We did lunch at Quincy Market which has lots of different fast
food stalls, then headed across the river on the underground
to Harvard Square, the home of Harvard University. We wandered
for a while round the area which is really nice then headed
down Massachusets Avenue for about half an hour trying to find
Cafe Liberty - an Internet Cafe from the Lonely Planet Guide
Book, but just our luck it had closed down. The only other
Internet cafe in Boston charges $13 for 1 hour so we decided to
give it a miss.
At night we headed to China Town which not
surprisingly is full of Chinese restaurants and Cafes, but it
also has Malaysian and Vietnamese places as well. We stopped
in Pho Pasteur which serves nothing but Noodle Soups (Pho)
and had a huge plate of chicken noodle soup for $4.95. Very
Tasty ! We later read in Lonely Planet "...The Combat Zone
extends about a block in each direction from the Chinatown
subway. The X-rated movie theatres and topless clubs have
recently disappeared from this area, but it's still the seediest
in Boston. Use Caution after dark" ! We always pick the classy
The Harbour Islands - Saturday 5th September
We decided to go easy on the old feet today and took a boat
trip out to the Boston Harbout Islands. It took about 50 minutes
to get to Georges Island and we didn't have time to shop for
picnic things so lunch was a hotdog, crisps (chips) and biscuits
(cookies !). Oh, how healthy we both are ! The tourist info
leaflet said to take half a day to explore Gearge's Island
and a full day if you want to explore other islands too. If
we'd had a huge picnic and lots of beer I think we could have
managed the half day, but it took us half an hour to explore
the island then we spend a couple of hours lying on the grass,
resting our weary legs ! Afterwards we took the free water
taxi to Gallops island (you can also go to islands by the
name of Grapes, Bumpkins, Lovells, Deer and a few more) and did
another half hour walk. It was a good day out, but if you go
bring a picnic - there is only one snack bar on only one of the
islands ! The boat trip costs $8 return and you can get $1 off with the Harbour Islands Tourist Information leaflet.
At night we went to Casa Mexico in the Harvard area - recommended
by our trusted Lonely Planet guidebook for some tortillas and
enchiladas. The food was OK, but not a patch on Miro's Cantina
Mexicano in Rose Street (Edinburgh) ! Gav thinks I'm too fussy
about my Mexican food - he's probably right ! Afterwards we
went for a couple of drinks in an Irish bar - I couldn't
actually see anything Irish about the place apart from the fact
that it sold Guiness, but it was a pub and that's the main thing ! Later on when we got back to the B&B Gavin fell asleep sitting
reading his book for over an hour and I didn't have the heart
to wake him - life is so hard sometimes !
Wandering round Boston again - Sunday 6th September
Another hot day without a cloud in the sky (oh, this is the
life !). We went to the bus station this morning and booked
tickets for the express bus to New York City ($32 one way) for
10am on Thursday morning. We did lunch at Quincy Market again then wandered round a big shopping mall in Copley Square with shops like
Tiffany's, Gucci and others a wee bit out of our price range.
Afterwards we went up the John Hancock Tower to the 60th floor
Observatory ($5) - the tallest building in New England. I've
got a thing about tall buildings and like to go up as many as possible as we'll no doubt find out in New York. It was well
worth going up the John Hancock Tower - we had views of 40
miles from all angles round Boston.
Later on we visited another shopping mall in Lechmere
called the Cambridgeside Galleria which had shops like Sears,
Foot Locker, Record Tower, Gap and Filene's - a bit more within
our price range. I managed to resist the temptation to buy
anything. I weighed myself on a horoscope telling weighing
machine and I seem to have put on 7lbs since I left Scotland.
Please don't let it be true !!
We returned to the B&B for our usual 2 hour "siesta" then headed
out to the North End, otherwise known as "Little Italy" for
some Italian Cuisine. I don't know if it was because the place
is really popular or if it's because it is Labour Day tomorrow,
but the place was heaving, with queues of people waiting
outside most of the restaurants (or should I say "ristoranti").
After wandering about for 20 minutes we found one with a couple
of tables left and blew our daily budget on one meal. It was
one of these places where they put salad and bread on your table
whether you want it or not and charge $8.50 for the pleasure.
It was tasty food though and we went home happy with bellies
Salem - Monday 7th September (Labour Day)
We seem to getting up later and later every day - I suppose
that's what happens when you don't have work to go to !
We headed up to the North Station late morning and caught the
12.15 commuter train to Salem ($5 return). The train windows
were rather mucky and looked as if they hadn't been cleaned
since last year, but the scenery didn't look very exciting
anyway. We arrived in Salem about half an hour later and had
a wee wander about then visited the Salem Witch Museum
($4.50). This consisted of a half hour audio-visual presentation
about the Salem Witch Trials which took place in 1692. Hundreds of men
and women were impisoned, hung and one man even pressed to death
by the end of the summer of 1692 - many wrongly accused.
The town is full of witchcraft shops, psycic & palm reading
places, new age shops and lots of other places with a witchy
theme. There's also the Witch Dungeon, The House of the Seven Gables and Dracula's House, but we decided that one museum was
enough and spent the rest of the afternoon wandering round
town, looking at the shops and walking round the harbour. Later
on we ended up in a bar - our excuse - it was pouring with rain
and we had to go somewhere for shelter ! I actually
got ID'd at the bar which was quite bazaar, but nice I suppose
(hasn't happened for about 6 years !). Apparantly in a lot
of places they ask for ID if you appear to be under 30, as the
legal drinking age is 21. Gavin has not yet been asked - either
he looks much older than his 26 years or he's just big and scary.
Talking of bars & pubs - I've not seen many of them here in
Boston. Maybe it's just because drinking is a national pastime
in Scotland and every corner you turn there is another 3 bars !
Tonight I have the evil task of squashing all my worldly
possessions into my backpack again. I've definately brought
too much with me, but I have a second chance to pack less in
New Zealand for the second part of the journey.
Tomorrow it's New York, New York,
New York !! Tall Buildings - can't wait !
New York City - here we come - Tuesday 8th September
It was an early rise at 7.45am today and down the stairs for
our last "continental" breakfast. I always thought a continental
breakfast was cheese, ham, bread, toast, orange juice, tea etc
but it's been cake on Thursday, cake on Friday, cake on Saturday,
cake on Sunday, cake on Monday and yes, you've guessed it - cake
on Tuesday !
We arrived in NYC at about 2.30pm after a 4.5 hour bus journey
on Greyhound and I caught my first glimpse of those amazing
skyscrapers. Unfortunately we don't have a Lonely Planet Guide
for New York so we were missing those vital independent opinions
and price guides to hotels and hostels. I had printouts of a
few cheapish hotels from the hotel guide on the web and we also
had a wee city pack guide to New York. After a few unsuccessful
phonecalls to some of the hotels we wandered to the Sherman Hotel
on West 47th Street since it was the cheapest at $45 a night.
After wandering in and discovering it resembled a jail we
wandered straight back out again. By this time Gavin and I were
being a bit mean to each other and getting a bit tired and hot
and fed up so Gavin said "Right, let's go to the Ramada and I'll
pay !" Who was I to argue ? So in we went. I felt a bit out of
place with the crystal chandeliers and me in my denim shorts
with my backpack. We got a shoebox sized room for $164 + tax
for the night - what a bargain and decided to try and find
something slightly less expensive for the next three nights.
This was not to be an easy task ...
We phoned the Holiday Inn - advertised price $89, actual price
$249 !! The Carter hotel - advertised price $69, actual price
$189. The Excelsior, listed at under $120 in the budget section
of our guidebook, actual price $179. Most of the other hotels
we phoned seemed to be fully booked or quoting huge prices, but
we finally managed to book Hotel 31 on East 31st Street for
$75 + tax (The same as the advertised price !). It is a 4*
and has air conditioning, cable TV, hairdryer, phone etc so
it sounds OK. You can get double rooms in a lot of Youth hostels
and YMCAs, but you usually have to book in advance. We're
generally giving hostels a miss in the U.S as they segregate
the sexes into different dorms which is a bit inconvenient for
went up the Empire State Building just before sunset and the
views were amazing (cost $6 or $14 for a combined ticket
including the virtual skyride). The Empire State Building was
built in 1929 and finished in 1931. It's 1,250 feet high with
102 floors ! We only went up to the 86th floor , but you have
great views of the city from all directions and it is well
worth it. I probably took almost a whole 24 picture spool of
photos, which will no doubt turn out not very exciting ! The
World Trade Centre Twin Towers are the only ones in New York
higher than the Empire State, so I'm sure I'll go up there in
the next few days !
The rest of the evening was spent chilling out and drinking
champagne in our hotel room and eating lots of chocolate.
Gavin got the champagne when he left his work and we've been
lugging it around until we found a hotel with an ice machine !
I'm quite concerned that I'm going to resemble a barrel when I
leave this country and have to be rolled on to the plane !
Tomorrow it's off to our new hotel, lots of salad and lots of
More Tall Buildings - Wednesday 9th September
Got up this morning at 10am which felt more like the middle of
the night - a combination of the dark curtains and last night's
champagne drinking ! We ate the traditional breakfast of pancakes
and maple syrup, then jumped into a New York cab with the
traditional non English speaking driver to our new and cheaper
hotel on East 31st Street. The hotel is nice, we're sharing
a bathroom but the room is comfortable with everything we need
at twice the size and less than half the price of the Ramada !
We planned on doing the statue of Liberty today, but changed
our mind since access to the crown was closed due to the windy
weather. Instead we settled for the World Trade Centre and took
the elevator to the 107th floor. It set us back $12 but it was
worth it for the view. We spent about an hour wandering round
the observation decks and taking almost another spool of photos.
Afterwards we wandered round the streets of New York - Gavin
ready with camera in hand to capture action shots of police cars
and fire engines - unfortunately they were too fast for him !
We wandered round Chinatown, up Broadway and 5th Avenue and then
when we could walk no more we took the subway back to the hotel.
Tonight we visited the all-you-can-eat $8.99 Chinese Buffet.
Let's just say I'll have to wait until tomorrow to write more
when the blood has been re-directed from my stomach back to my
Shop, Shop, Shop - Thursday 10th September
Today we walked and walked in no particular direction. Visited
Macy's the biggest store in the world, The Rockerfeller Center -
more shops and 5th Avenue - even more shops. If I'd had lots of
money and lots of space in my backpack I would have been in
seventh heaven , but unfortunately that will have to wait until
one day when I jet over to NYC for the weekend with Kirsteen
and Judith and lots of money for Christmas Shopping - maybe in
10 years when I've made my millions. Will Concorde still be
around by then ?
I bought some cool sunglasses from Macy's as I managed to lose the
other pair (after 2 years !). The only trouble is, if I
look through them at a certain angle, the pavement looks all
bumpy, when really it is not, then I see a bump which is not
really a bump and nearly fall over as it really is a bump (no
I have not been drinking !). Tonight we planned on seeing
Saving Private Ryan at the cinema round the corner, but
missed it by an hour, so we settled on watching American TV
in our hotel room and found that the commercial breaks are
about the same length as the show itself !
A Lazy Afternoon in Central Park - Friday 11th September
This morning we arose late again and decided to do the laundry,
to start the day with excitement. How good it feels to have a
rucksack full of clean clothes once more ! I managed the healthy
eating bit for breakfast with freshly squeezed orange juice and
a fat-free muffin at the cafe round the corner. We then walked
the 28 blocks to Central Park, dropping in to the Manhatten Mall
on the way. Spent a couple of hours, lazing about in the sunshine
in the Sheep Meadow in Central Park with joggers, rollerbladers
and cyclists flying past and a view of the tall buildings all
around. Gee, it was just awesome :-) Our guidebook describes
Central Park as the "escape valve on the pressure cooker",
which seems about right. After lazing about we hired a wee
rowing boat and rowed around the lake for an hour - pretty hard
work, then walked the two miles or so back to our hotel. It
was the middle of rush hour - crowded streets, roads jam packed
with cars, trucks and cabs honking their horns, steam coming
out of the drains. In my opinion walking is the
best way to experience the city. It's easy to navigate as most
of the streets are numbered (e.g 1st Street, 2nd Street
etc) and arranged on a grid system. It's also great for
people watching and hard not to spend a lot of time looking
up at all the tall buildings instead of where you are going !
At night we went to the cinema to see "Saving Private Ryan"
starring Tom Hanks. It's set in the 2nd World War and is a
really moving film, but extremely gory - men getting shot,
intestines hanging out and arms falling off. I hope I don't
have nightmares tonight ! Tomorrow it's off to the Washington
Washington DC - Saturday 12th September
We bought a guide book a couple of days ago and decided on Hotel
Americana as our home for the weekend. It has a good writeup
and costs $70 a night, which apparently is quite a good price
for Washington DC. Accomodation is the highest expense when
staying in DC, but the majority of the museums and tours of
buildings are free, so you can save money on that instead. The
prices of most of the large hotels often decrease by 50% on the
weekend when it is less busy.
We took the 10am Peter Pan bus from New York via Baltimore to
Washington which took just over 4 hours and cost $32. It was
pretty much the same as the Greyhound bus, except for a film
which played on the journey, which I ended up not watching
anyway as it was a kiddies film. We arrived at the bus station
around 2.15pm and stepped out into the 96 degrees heat. It
felt like an oven after sitting on an air conditioned coach
for 4 hours !. We took the metro to our hotel which is actually
in suburbian Virginia, but only 15 minutes from the city centre.
The metro system in Washington is clean, air conditioned and
relatively uncrowded (especially compared to the one in New
York !) and a pleasure to ride. It costs $1.10 at weekends and
outside rush hour and a bit more during rush hour.
Our hotel is about a block away from the Crystal City metro
stop and the rooms are nice and big with private bathroom, air
conditioning, a big TV with cable channels, a small fridge and
We spent the afternoon and early evening exploring the Capitol
area. All museums shut at 5.30pm, so we just wandered up to
the Mall and had a look at the Washington Memorial, Reflecting
Pool, Lincoln Memorial, Capitol Building and Vietnam Veterans
Memorial. The contrast between New York and Washington is huge.
The streets of Washington are so wide, everything is spread
out and the place seemed deserted after the hustle and bustle
of New York.
After a couple of hours our feet were killing us so we headed
to the Dupont Circle area and dropped into the Luna Diner
recommended by our guidebook for some turkey with stuffing,
mashed potatoes and steamed veggies. Very Tasty !
Museum Day - Sunday 13th September
The weather was a cooler 90 degrees today and we managed to get
up reasonably early - probably due to the fact that breakfast
finishes at 10am. We took the metro to the Zoo first which was
quite nice (and free too!). After that we spent a couple of
hours in the U.S Holocaust Memorial museum which was really
interesting. For the main part of the museum you get a free pass
and wait until the time on the pass until you can enter (about
45 minutes for us). You then get an identity card of a real
victim of the Holocaust and walk round the three floors of
exhibits where you can watch and read about the Jewish people,
the years of Nazi uprising. the ghettos and concentration camps
and see a car from a train used to transport victims to the
concentration camps, bunk beds from Auszwich, belongings such
as shoes, uniforms, suitcases and other exhibits. I could have
spent a few hours in there but we were trying to squeeze in the
U.S National Air and Space museum as well.
By the time we got to the Air and Space museum it was almost
4pm and we were absolutely shattered from all the walking
so we only spent about an hour there. It was really interesting
and is the most visited museum in the world, but I probably
would have enjoyed it a lot more if my feet hadn't been killing
me ! I literally collapsed on the bed as soon as we got back to
our hotel room. We managed to muster up the energy later to go
out for some food. We went to a really nice Thai restaurant
called Haad Thai and had some Chicken Satay and Pad Thai.
The rest of the evening we spent packing for our flight to
L.A tomorrow and watching the X-Files (we're only on stop on the
metro from the Pentagon as well !)
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