Friday, 28 September 2012

I Pledge Allegiance...

Or I don’t. Because as every person I spoke to today now knows, I am not American. The repeated question of, “oh, where do you come from?” has yet to get old and has sparked some great conversation.

Today I was a very grown up girl and travelled to Washington DC, capital of the US of A, via metro by myself – planning a day of tourist bliss. Those of you who know me will know just how obsessed I am with lists and planning, and this day was no exception – I knew what I was to do today, how I was going to get there etc etc and it seemed to all go to plan, even negotiated the Metro system.

Safe to say, I visited the Washington Memorial, the Abraham Lincoln memorial, and the Capitol amongst other things and it was all I thought it would be and more; overstated, political and very proud (not that the Americans don’t have anything to celebrate, don’t get me wrong!). Someone (I’m hoping Michelle or someone equally fabulous) was leaving the White House at my time of visiting so I unfortunately wasn’t able to get very close, but I have several awkward tourist shots to compensate. 

WWII Memorial at the top of the Reflection Gardens.
Awkward tourist shot no. 1 - the Washington Monument and I.
Oh, America.
Chillin' with Lincoln (awkward tourist shot no. 2)

At the bottom of the Monument, I struck up conversation with a wonderful group of American tourists, I walked down the Mall (which is not quite the same as our London one leading to the Palace (cue nostalgic sigh of England) but incredibly impressive) and climbed up to see Lincoln. Despite the rain the night before, the sun didn’t let me down and I basked in it as I admired the Reflection Pool.

Walking up from the memorial, I stumbled upon the White House (almost accidentally) then treated myself to a wander around the National Art Gallery, both contemporary and older buildings, which was very interesting with my favourite exhibition being Turner and the ‘British Landscape’ – quite fitting! I saw some brilliant Gris and Picasso too. The sculpture gardens, both inside and out of the gallery were wonderful ceramic and it felt nice to be out of the chaos of the real tourist areas, and into the air conditioning. All the museums on the Smithsonian are totally free, so if you have more time than I did to spare, I would advise you to definitely do as many as you can. The cafes are to die for, and the air conditioning is a God send. A must do in Washington.

After an hour or so spent admiring the paintings, I continued my walk up the Mall towards the Capitol, stopping off at the Botanical Gardens of Washington (a well kept secret) then making my way up to the main dome which was shut off to prepare for the Inauguration of the Presidential candidate who isn’t to be voted in for another month – talk about forward planning. 

'Winselowe Park, Essex'

National Art Gallery, Washington.
Botanic Gardens - gorgeous!

Awkward tourist shot no.3

Fourth and final awkward tourist shot (thank you Canadian-London couple!)

Can you believe I managed, whilst looking for the Eastern Market, to stumble upon the most beautiful used book shop? Safe to say, I attract them, even when 4860 miles away from home. I treated myself to a few books and gawped at its mismatched books.

Capitol Hill Book-Store I love you, Capitol Hill Book-Store I do!
Expect no more blogging until the beginning of next week, as I'm flying tomorrow lunch-time to Houston where I shall begin my stint with my Houston family - I am so excited to see both them and the south! Will update soon but for now, I'm exhausted. Note to self: wear better shoes to capital cities. 

Jet Lag - My Old Friend.

Hey y'all, today (and yesterday afternoon) were super exciting but I am exhausted, even after my first full night's sleep. Yesterday, we took a trip to St. Michael's - "the town that fooled the British" and Annapolis, Maryland's state capital, to look at the local area. On the way, we also stopped at an Amish food market. Amish! Such an experience. St. Michael's was across the bay, and absolutely beautiful. Houses with slatted walls, quaint little shops and a lovely marina. I couldn't help but laugh when I was told St. Michael's is an 'old' town when it's only 200 years old - compare that to towns from the 1500s in England! For those of you who adore history, this is a real steal as, with war of 1812 when the Americans fought the British, this is a hotspot for American History.

On the way home we stopped at a local haunt named 'the Jetty' where we had a drink and a bite to eat. I really mean a bite, the portions are much bigger here (and I'm sure I will be when I come home..). We came home then spent the evening in Annapolis, which has another lovely marina. The town was a little like Saffron Walden, in the way that they had tiny, quaint shops and a lovely feel to it. We walked around the State building and then had dinner in a beautiful pizza and wine restaurant with Glenda's daughter and grandson, and the place was perfect; just like someone's house had been opened up and started up as a restaurant.

Country roads, take me home..

Food. So much food.
3 hours sleep, who would know?
When we got home, I was absolutely exhausted and managed to sleep a normal amount but was woken up around 4am (the dreaded 4am jet-lag) to rain and I could have sworn I was in England, rain in the street lights. The weather is beautiful here and I'm not missing England too much...yet.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Good Morning Baltimore!

Hello! It's 6.04am here, and due to Jet Lag I'm wide awake. I haven't quite thrown open the curtains and sung to Hairspray classic, but maybe once I get used to the time zone I'll be cheerier and do so. So, I am actually here, in the USA, safely. Can you believe I managed to do it all by myself? I think this means I'm an adult now but I'll get confirmation later...

Upon my last morning in England, I woke up and slowly but surely completed the last of my packing (which Mum can tell you was an incredibly long-winded process) and set off to Heathrow Terminal 5. Having flown from Heathrow before, I thought I knew what to expect, but Terminal 5 (for BA exclusively) was lovely - the staff were very helpful and everyone very sympathetic when I was crying a tiny bit going through security.

My UCAS reference was finished when I was in Heathrow, so I hurriedly sent my application off - not many people can say they sent theirs off from Heathrow! My flight was delayed for 2 hours, meaning that we took off at 18.15 rather than 16.35, so I had plenty of time in the departure lounge to read trashy magazines and novels - I indulged myself and ignored the 4kg of books I've packed, and bought another, "All She Wants" by Jonathan Harvey and read that on my 8 hour flight. Safe to say, it's awful but very, very British.

I met a lovely couple from Baltimore at the Gate who had travelled around the Med, and they were very friendly - as were most of the Americans I encountered on my journey out. The passenger sat next to me on my flight was a lovely half-Greek man who talked to me about how much he loved London and England, and how impressive the Olympics were, and he made me feel very relaxed; priceless considering I'm quite a nervous flyer.

Not looking like a convincing gap year-er, definitely not enough luggage!
Dad and I in London...right? Right?
Mumma and I before I left, feat. grumpy girl on the right (name, unknown)
I really enjoyed travelling BA (and not just because of the free wine and food...) and I indulged myself further and watched Matilda. Landing in Baltimore, it was a barmy 27 degrees and very humid, but I managed to get through security and get the right bags, then met Steve and Glenda (Baltimore-ian-Godparents) and then drove me to their house on Kent Island in Chester. By the time I got home and settled in, and met their gorgeous cats, it was 11.30pm EST, so 4.30am in the UK, and I was about to sleep when Steve said David Cameron was due to be on the David Letterman show that night and I couldn't resist.

It's strange, seeing as he doesn't complete interviews like that at home. He made a wee bit of a fool of himself, but I couldn't help but smile that English politics had followed me transatlantic. I went to bed very late, and have had a total of 4/5 hours sleep, although, I have found that I can listen to BBC Radio online which I am so chuffed about! It's the little home comforts that make this easier. But hey, only 9 Sundays until I see my parents again. Today I think I might explore Chester, and just grow accustomed to the heat (although it is due to rain today, something else which has followed me from the UK...) and the time zone. I have many books to read, and two suitcases to sort out. Tomorrow I'm going to Washington DC to see the memorial, the museums, and the White House - fingers crossed I bump into Obama...

My room for the next three nights (lush) and after one night, it's definitely not that tidy anymore...

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

First things first.

So hello, I have promised a number of people that I would start a blog to keep the people at home up-to-date with firstly my trip to America but mainly my Gap Year travelling in general so here I am, boy hair, bookselling and all. This time next week I will be in Baltimore, beginning with a trip to Washington and then going down to Houston. Here I shall keep you up-to-date with my travelling adventures. First stop: America.