Most things we write come out of a moment of enthusiasm
Let’s see…there’s so much to recap!
Loved it. The people were happy and friendly, the architecture gorgeous, and while the weather could use some improving, it certainly wasn’t the most awful thing ever.
I made a new friend just about every day, and people were quite willing to strike up conversation. They also delighted in telling me that New Orleans was the murder capital of the US, which was usually said after I noted how friendly people were. Maybe there is something in that?
I got to couch surf with Abdulla for a few days and then he inconveniently nicked off on holiday, so I went and stayed with another gentleman called Tim. Except Tim was not there, his friend David was looking after the house while Tim played professional poker in Las Vegas. David was a nice enough guy, but the sort who thought he knew everything and wasted no time “educating” me. Granted he is well travelled and educated, so he isn’t completely wrong. Maybe I just take issue with the assumption that I don’t know anything, haha. I got to meet three other surfers too, all ladies. Two were late 20-ish from New York on a road trip across the country to discover themselves. Another was a bit older and just thoroughly enjoyed travel and had recently gotten divorced.
Abdulla came back from holidays so I was able to spend one more night at his place. We spent the day catching up with other travellers at a gourmet hot dog place called Dreamy Weenies. They were awfully good hotdogs! I also got to meet Abdulla’s friend Jannick, who is also a paramedic. After lunch we all had separate things to do so we split up with plans to regroup later in the evening. We met up at a rum bar on Frenchman st with the two travellers, Urszula and…I forgot her name We got some drinks and dinner and Jannick joined us too. Abdulla and Jannick were going to go see World War Z and in the end us girls all went too. I normally don’t like zombie movies, but that one was quite well done and I really liked the plot. After the movie we went to Lafitte’s on Bourbon, the pirate/blacksmith bar. We spent quite a few hours chatting away and arguing the small discrepancies in the film (there are always a few). Finally Jannick dropped Abdulla and I home about 1am. I had a train to catch at 7am so spent a few hours packing and fitfully sleeping. In New Orleans they have a habit of staying up all night if there is something to do early in the morning, especially travelling.
With a sad heart I rolled out of NOLA and went on my way to Washington DC. I have nothing to say about that 24 hours on the train except that there is such a thing as too much air conditioning.
Washington looked very new compared to new Orleans, and people usually got a giggle out of that considering how historical the city is! The Greek revival architecture was very different that the French/Spanish inspired buildings in NOLA’s French quarter, and the grand “plantation” style homes along Esplanade St.
I got into Washington about 10am and couldn’t meet up with my host until after 7pm. It was very hot and I was exhausted from shivering all night on the train. I wandered out of the train station at Washington and ended up collapsed on the grass out the front of Capital building, reading my book. Due to my poor grasp of physics, my bag was poorly packed for weight distribution, and felt like it weighed a ton. That was mainly due to my laptop, a fairly sleek but 17.4” beast. Anyway. I stayed lounging on the grass all day, watching squirrels and eating M&Ms. Hose delightful candies are quite cheap here compared to Australia, and I am mildly addicted. In the evening I met up with Sam, who analyses things for the local university. He used to work in Brazil analysing the best way to transport soya beans for efficiency and profit. You can imagine the kind of guy he is based on that alone.
We got sandwiches for dinner and went down to the Pontomac river to watch the sunset of Washington, and the planes land. After 9/11, all planes have to follow the Pontomac river to the runway. It was a nice evening chatting away with Sam and another surfer he was hosting, a German called Luke. Sam lives in a tiny tiny apartment, literally one room and you have to walk through his closet to get to the bathroom. I collapsed onto the couch and slept soundly.
My time in Washington seemed to go fairly quickly. I spent two nights at Sam’s, one night with a guy called Micah and then ventured outside of the District to Columbia to a couch host located in Maryland.
Micah is a fun guy, I wish I could have spent more time with him! During my time in Washington also happened to be when the Washington Couch Crash was on. During the Couch Crash lots of local hosts go an extra mile by organising fun stuff for people to do while they are in town. This particular evening there was a “happy hour” with drinks less than $5. Sadly, I am underage. In the end about 50 people were there and it was incredibly loud. I got to chat with lots of different people though and met some interesting characters. It had been steadily raining all afternoon and we had a bike tour planned for the evening, rain or shine. It looked like we were going to get very wet Micah supplied ponchos and we set off. In Washington they have this cool thing called Capital Bikeshare. They have stations all over the city with ports for branded bikes. You can buy an annual pass or a day pass and then you can take the bike out. The first half hour is free and then $1.50/half hour after that. So if you make sure you check the bike in within 30 minutes, you don’t pay any more than you $7 day pass. Sadly, you need an American credit card to use the bloody thing. Micah came to the rescue again, letting me use on of his annual pass keys.
The bike tour was fun, we peddled all over the city and visited the Lincoln monument, the World War II monument, Washington monument and around the Capital Building before heading home in the early hours of the morning.
I visited quite a few museums in Washington too. The main reason I wanted to visit the city was to go to the Smithsonian buildings. I got to explore the Natural History, American History, and Holocaust museums. I wish I could have visited more but ran out of time a bit. On the Friday I went and did a tour of the Capital Building. It was organised as part of the Couch Crash but due to some poor organisation it was only me and the guy who organised it, Eric. I only just spotted him on the end of the line about to go through security, so I almost missed it altogether. It was really interesting though, and gave me a brief crash course in American political history.
In Maryland I stayed with a lovely lady called Margie, her husband and adult son. They are upper middle class people with an amazing house in a nice neighbourhood. Margie has travelled quite a lot, her husband and son not so much. I spent Friday night at their home just recharging and I slept well. On Saturday Margie and I went to a farmers’ market which was great fun, and we got fresh blueberries and veges. There was an Amish group there selling cheeses, but I didn’t realise they were Amish at first. I almost commented on them going to such great effort with their outfits for the market, but luckily didn’t. That would have been awkward.
It was heritage week on the Rockville area where they lived so we went out to a living history display of plantation life. It was more geared towards kids who got to crush corn to feed the chickens etc, but was fun to see anyway. On the way home we stopped in at an indoor market that was run only by Amish families. We got some fresh ingredients and had a bit of a picnic which was lovely.
I caught the train from Washington to New York at 9am Monday. I was sad to say goodbye to Margie, she truly was lovely and it was nice spending time with a “mum”. They just take care of you better, and the fresh food was amazing after so many weeks of trying to balance convenience, budget, health and authenticity.
Overall I liked Washington DC. It doesn’t have a reputation of being a super happening town, but there is actually quite a lot going on, and the museums aren’t just for the travellers. It is quite a professional city, and the people that live there have a reason for living there. I think it would be nice settling down in Maryland, just outside Washington itself but close enough to commute if you had to.
New York City
New York City, well. What a busy place. I got into Penn Station about 12 noon. I would suggest they signpost things a bit better, it took me while to find the A line that I had been told to take uptown to my next host. Once I did find it and get my metrocard, turns out the train was delayed by 20 minutes due to an “investigation”. Well, it did finally arrive and I made it up to Dyckman/200th st. I got to meet my new host Gary. Gary is a photographer and also works as an editor at CBS. I had posted on Model Mayhem I was headed to NYC and he offered me a place to stay in exchange for a photoshoot.
By New York standards, he had quite a large apartment, although he had managed to fill it quite well. He is a collector, mainly of things. Vintage and random photos, advertisements, bill boards and items adorn the walls, and even randomer items are on the shelves, window sills, and floor. Some of my favourites were the green ceramic demon jar/vase, the small bat preserved in resin and a taxidermy pheasant that lay about the house on a footstool. There was a lot more though, including quite a number of vintage suitcases and chests. There was still lots of time left in the day so I ventured out into New York City. I decided that I needed to get a hair cut. I had dyed it black a few months ago, and once since then. Now I had about an inch of my natural blonde regrowth and I could either dye it dark again for the photoshoots, or cut it all off. I decided on the second option as this gave me a rare opportunity to have regrowth time before I had to go back to work. I got it cut at K’s Salon and they did a great job. They were very supportive of the decision too which was excellent. It would have been awful if the girl has spent the whole time lamenting the loss on the hair. The downside was that now I looked very boy-ish, especially as I usually wear t-shirt shorts and a back pack. I got called sir on more than on occasion before I found a solution in a blue fake flower I can clip into my hair.
I won’t give you a blow by blow account of the week, it was quite haphazard. I spent one whole day doing a photoshoot with another photographer in Pennsylvania and New Jersey state, which was nice to see but the shoot wasn’t the most fun. I got to see two Broadway shows. The Nance, starring Nathan Lane, and Potted Potter. Both were very well done and I loved them. I got student rush tix for the Nance, and Gary got me free tickets to Potted Potter which was even better, hehe. I wandered around Manhattan, took in Times Square at night. It is a monument to consumerism, and I kind of hate it. Or maybe it is all the people. There are just too many people.
One of the highlights in New York was getting to go for a walk in Central Park and meet up with two Great Danes and their guardians. Joan and Bob were kind enough to invite me along to meet Finnegan, who is 7, and Leah, who is 4. They have another girl Maggie, but she is quite old and can’t get out much any more. Bob and Joan are an older couple who run their own real estate business and have successful children.
On July 4th, Independence Day, there was a BBQ organised by the Couchsurfing community. It was in Prospect Park on Brooklyn and it took me a long time to find as there were a lot of BBQs going on! I got chatting to a few people and made some friends for the day. There was way too much food. In the evening I met up with a called Rory, who sounded nice chatting on Couchsurfing, but turned out to be a bit of a self-centred douche. But I got to see the fireworks before trudging my underage butt home.
In the end Gary was kind enough to let me stay the whole week at his place and gave me my own key too. We went out for dinner one night to his favourite place where I got the biggest plate of nachos I’ve ever seen for $10.
Some other highlights of New York City were stumbling on a huge ribbon shop (for my collar making adventures, look up Four Leaf Collars on facebook), and also a shop called Burlington Coat Factory that actually is the biggest discount clothing/accessory store I have ever seen. I got some new Tommy Hilfiger boots of $25, and thankfully they fit in my backpack too. That was Monday morning, and Monday afternoon I caught the train to Chicago, and th2en on to Los Angeles which is where I am typing this up.
Once I get to Los Angeles I take another train north to Salinas and finally a bus to Monterey, where the Great Dane specialty show is happening on the 12th. I am so excited! After that there is a quick adventure out to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon before eventually and finally flying back home to Adelaide. I’m so looking forward to seeing my friends, family and most of all my puppy
The Grand Hall, Union Station, Chicago
There is a father playing chasey with his son, running around and around the clock. Now he is playing the banjo quietly while his children watch and play. A little girl is spinning in circles, falling over, getting up just so she can spin around again and again with her dress flung out on all sides. Her peals of laughter fill the hall, the high pitch noticeable over the dull echoing chatter.