A Travellerspoint blog

Washington D.C

18th - 22nd September


View Flying the Coop, U.S, Canada, Oz, South Am and On on davidt.ontour's travel map.

Starts with ‘D’ and ends in ‘C’ and that’s all I need to spell….. It’s DC (The Washington variety!)
I got to The capital of America, early evening on Sunday and headed the wrong way out of the greyhound (I should’ve taken left turns instead of rights) nevertheless I found a metro station and followed the easy directions to my hostel, The Washington International Student Center, (Review will be at the end) Id booked two nights and feeling still a little worse for wear I had a relaxed sorting my clothes session and a small walk around the streets and a drink before heading to bed!

The Horrible feeling still hadn’t lifted in the morning but I felt a little better, an easy morning spilled into the afternoon and I headed out a little after 4 to explore (Rhyme intended) I walked to the centre of Washington, towards the White House (north front) It is was very elegant and as I write this I know that is forms part of an extremely elegant city, from there I walked over to the Washington Monument to take some sunset pictures and to people watch, (the amount of joggers around the centre is incredible, it’s always nice to feel relaxed whilst others around you have swissues (sweat issues) and look absolutely tired!)

7pm arrived and it was time to start a free walking tour

  • the only company that does free walking tours http://www.freetoursbyfoot.com/dc/ check out their website for schedules!

It took a 2 hour route from the Washington monument, all the way down to the Lincoln memorial, which should really take 15 mins to walk but the guide, Chris was so fantastic with his history knowledge and the animated approach he had to talking about everything, as it was 7pm it was dusk, turning into night and the lights on all the monuments we saw made it even more stunning and powerful to be around, The WW2 memorial was beautiful and silencing especially in the darkness of the night and along with that the Vietnam memorial, which I could remember looking at when I was here at 14 on the exchange, again Chris was clued in on the history and the stories he was telling made it so much more interesting.

We ended at the Lincoln memorial, again my memories of 14 hit me again although when I came the reflecting pool that lead from the WW2 memorial to the Lincoln was open, but now at this time its undergoing some major work to make it a lot prettier, which means I have to come back! I took some time to sit on the steps and relax and let the world go by really, it was peaceful and the lights made it a stunning place to be sitting.

In my inspired state I decided to visit every other monument! The Korean war memorial, which In the evening certainly has a bigger effect on me, it features grey/ silver statues all walking into battle and as you walk you can see their reflection to make it look like your walking amongst them. I visited the newly opened Martin Luther King Junior memorial, with my new found love for MLK from the Memphis trip I stayed along time reading his most famous quotes
‘the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy’ enough said.

From there I went to sit at the edge of the Potomac lake east where it was silent, no one was around, possibly had a little sing song to myself, but I’d never tell you for sure, lots of mozzy bites though so maybe I didn’t put on such a good performance.
Monuments still in my mind I walked round the lake to the Jefferson memorial, which was deserted (as it was about midnight) so (apologies mother/ father) I skipped over the barrier to walk inside and sat on the steps to look at the lake, and planes coming into land (which do get scarily close to the city) technically I was trespassing, but I was relaxed and when people say they are at one with something I guess that was me. Lovely evening. Bed

Morning and before I headed out I decided that I needed two more nights to really see everything in Washington without rushing it!

I had a weird obsession to visit the Pentagon as it is kind of important in America,

  • it’s on the blue line heading west towards Franconia

At first I took the wrong metro, got off at a stop close to the blue line but quickly realised there was a huge highway in the middle of my route back to the blue line community! So defeated I had to re-board! I stopped briefly at the Arlington cemetery which is a stop before the Pentagon, I didn’t do it justice, I walked briefly towards it and at the entrance realised I wasn’t too excited so headed back to blue line for one more stop!

When you get out at the Pentagon, you are either a tourist or someone very important with several passes to help you get in and out, in my Hawaiian shorts I was immediately placed in the tourist category and pointed the direction to a pentagon memorial, ‘No pictures’ huge signs were labelled everywhere but I sneaked a quick pentagon pic as I headed to the memorial, Unfortunately I took my picture of the memorial in a restricted car park (best view and all that) Called over by the security guard he wanted to see why I was there, he checked the first picture (which I got away with) but then when asked to flick through he found my Pentagon snap, (He was not impressed) he took me to an office where he took my SD card from me put the pictures on a computer screen where he deleted the picture, along with one of the station! (I think I was in the rebellious mood from my trespass the previous day) I walked away with in one piece but without my two pictures and also my dignity!

The afternoon I decided would be a museum time! With so many free Smithsonian places to visit without paying means you can see and learn for free for as long as you like, They are all found on the National Mall and the first was the air and space, where I spent a lot of time looking at the space side of things, with developing technology in the telescope department, the potential world’s largest is being built now and will be finished in 2015, Space is fascinating. I spent the shortest time here, possibly a combination a random placing of exhibits and also because I was still in shock of ‘Pentagon-gate ‘

American Natural history was the next and I won’t bore you with the things you’d expect to see in a natural history museum, although the exhibit that shows evolution is huge and so detailed it took at least 30 minutes to go through it (which I did) it really has hard hitting facts and evidence!

I stopped for a small pit stop in the sculpture garden where my favourite was a house that created illusions, it was a relaxing place and being a big fan of fountains I sat around a gigantic one for a couple of minutes just to have a break! I also caught a faraway look at the capitol building, which I maybe should’ve gone to see up close.

American history museum was last in my tour and it was set out really well, lot less random like the air and space, I spent a long time reading about the civil war (im becoming a really big fan of history) also enjoyed the objects from the media, where I saw a Baywatch poster that (according to a 60 year oldish man) was in every boys dorm room back in his day, I could see why! (What a lad)

I headed back to the hostel and was greeted by several different people in my hostel room, with whom I chatted too all evening, then went out for eats and drinks, One very interesting guy, Wamara is a journalist that is well and truly on his way, he showed me pictures of him and Obama, actual pictures not the touristy things you can make yourself, this guy was some serious stuff. Drinks were expensive but good beer, I ate a chicken Caesar salad which was absolutely amazing!

A self-inflicted headache greeted me the next morning so I took it easy for the morning, in the afternoon I went down the old post office, which has the second highest viewing point of the city, (the first is the Washington monument but it was closed due to the recent hurricane) I spent a long time in the place, up in the tower and down in the food/shopping court I definitely remembered it from my Year 9 visit, the weather was clear and I could see miles from all four sides of the towers, got some good pictures!

Then I managed to get over to the National archives to see many different forms of media from old to new, and of course the declaration of independence and the bill of rights which both were hugely popular, queuing for at least 15 minutes to get into the room, but it did feel special to see, one of my choices to see again is the world war 2 food media exhibition that was there, im not sure whether some of them were meant to be funny but I did see some comedy posters!

On a recommendation I headed to a shopping mall to finally buy myself some new clothes, a place called Marshalls which I would compare to TK Maxx was the store that had been suggested, I came out with some new jeans, shorts and other bits and bobs, it was a good shop I would say.

With half a day left on the Thursday I decided to make sure I saw the Capitol building up close and also see the grandeur that is Union station, both were beautifully structured and built, it was two great sights to see before I headed to the greyhound for my next trip!

Washington has set the bar high as far as places go, such a well thought out and beautiful city to be in, it’s the first place ive visited where I know I want to coming back again and again!

  • Washington international student center was an easy place to find and right in the heart of all the action as far as restaurants and bars go, the place is busy all the time meaning that you can meet and speak to a whole range of different people, the owner, Steve takes time to get use to but if you take him with a pinch of salt every time he says anything you can easily get along with him, one tip that I found he likes good reviews so if you deal with him to stay one more night for free for a good review he usually will go for it.

Breakfast can’t really be called breakfast although there is free milk and bread throughout the day so take advantage!!

Posted by davidt.ontour 09:10 Archived in USA Tagged night history dc washinton Comments (0)

Harrisonburg

10th - 18th September


View Flying the Coop, U.S, Canada, Oz, South Am and On on davidt.ontour's travel map.

Harrisonburg!
I hope I spelt it right, Harrisonburg, but I got scared for the car drivers of Charlottesville maybe Id spelt it wrong as I stood there with my A3 sign, made from a sign I found on a lamppost advertising a garden sale, with Harrison-burg written in bold letters!

I arrived early on Saturday morning, with the intention of getting another bus to Harrisonburg but found that asking anyone produced either a shocked look or a sly chuckle, I realised there was no possible route on bus and on foot would’ve taken 13 hours according to Google maps,
A Taxi, easiest solution, so I rang and found a great quote of….. $125 so with that in my mind you find me standing on the side of the road with my sign and hope in my heart of my first hitch hike!! I feel really cool, although after 2 hours that hope had faltered slightly, not helped more by a group of girls pulling up to give me a lift and pulling off when they heard my accent, (others have said that it can’t be the reason but I stand by it!)

I take a time out from holding my sign and eat a Burger King, then head out refreshed for more thumb waggling, It took another hour but finally two guys pull up and let me in, their reasoning… I looked reasonable and the fact I was dancing a bit made them think I was a fun guy! Got to love some dancing whilst you try to hitchhike!

So I made it in one piece to Harrisonburg, dropped off in a gas station I felt like I needed to walk more to find Bens apartment, but when I rang he asked me to turn around and he was there, no more walking for me!!

Harrisonburg isn’t a massive tourist destination but I really wanted to come here, 7 years back (don’t worry this won’t be a long reminisce) I came here on an exchange to stay with Ben and his family for four weeks, I loved it so much and met a lot of people that I got on with really well, I reckon this trip when I was 14 years old really was the main starting point for me wanting to travel America, so I of course had to come back!

I was there for a week and don’t want to bore you with a play by play but I will run down the highlights! (and there are a lot)
Visiting the house that id spent four weeks in when I was 14, to meet Ben’s Mum and two sisters, everyone was just how I left them even the house brought back memories as the layout hadnt changed from my visit, so i had a great tour of a house that i recognized a lot!

Tailgating (which is the next KMESO episode, an absolute beauty) with lots of games involving flipping cups (American when they drink love to flip cups) we tailgated before a JMU game (Ben’s college and a Virginia Tech Game) both fun but very different! The Vtech Tailgate can be found later!

JMU football game (I borrowed, Ben’s Roomate Brad’s card to get in) The game was alive, and the best thing for me was the Band, they fired everyone up and half time show did a great rendition of You Give Love a Bad Name!! The game wasn’t a high scorer and we left at halftime!
Virginia Tech weekend extravaganza, we headed there on Friday and met up with friends from Ben’s Middle school and High School to make a massive weekend meet up, the Campus is about a threeeeeeeeee hour drive from Harrisonburg, so we had a road trip down, listening to huge amounts of Kanye West! Friday consisted of a game called ACP (agrresive chest pass, literally the best game involving a ball ever!) A circle of people and you chest pass to someone else, that is the extent of it! This particular game (there were several over the weekend) involved drinking if you dropped it, you shotgun duelled with another dropee, a shotgun is where a beer Is pierced at the bottom and when you open the can at the top you suck it all in from the bottom, its some good drinking fun!
We later headed out to some downtown bars, tequila is a common drink to be buying so there was a lot of that going on! I didn’t have my passport so for two of the bars, I was not allowed in! stupidly
I tried to use a friends card straight after getting rejected which ended in the bouncer leading me out, then calling to the friend who had obviously lent me the card ‘do you want your card back?’ and then making sure neither of us got back in! Also I managed to leave my card behind the bar and forgetting about it, only then think later id lost it, so Ben and I decided to look! So in amongst the drinking dancing people we had torches on the floor looking! We didn’t have any luck but the bouncers did feel like we were doing it because we were stupidly drunk (which wasn’t the case) and nearly threw us out before we both stared him down and carried on looking!

Saturday of the VTech extravaganza started very early much to my dismay, after going to bed at 4 I awoke at 7 and the party started all over again! We started the Tailgate at 9.30! The size of the Tech tailgate was huge and the atmosphere was amazing, there were all sorts of weird and wonderful games to get involved in, mostly drinking but also some more family friendly games involving bean bags, Frisbees etc, such a fun thing to do and like I say something that ive filmed for the next KMESO episode! One of my favourites was a drinking game called ‘POW’ (it could be called something else but I think that is a deserved name) It’s simple but manages to make one or two people drink a lot! I need to bring it back to the UK! Absolutely amazing atmosphere for the whole morning and into the afternoon.

I didn’t have a ticket for the game, which was a problem to start with, but with seconds to spare at the ticket gate and some quick thinking by Ben, Alllleeen and myself I managed to sneak a ticket out and use that, Oceans 3 springs to mind! The game was amazing and stadium really blew my mind just for the sheer size of it plus the game was really good to watch, end to end stuff!

I left again just after half time, (seems to become the cool thing to do, leaving at half time) to go get some food and I was really craving a pizza, my eyes were to big for my stomach and I ordered an 18inch Hawaiian, it was amazing although I managed 4 slices before putting it in the fridge for a rainy day!

The evening again was led by drinks and going out, there was a bloc party going on which meant the apartments around where we were all had parties going on, we chatted and mingled then headed out!! I think the highlight of the evening has to go down to some drunk ACP and then also some topless dancing… I call it dancing although it consisted of wall banging and swinging shirts along with some minor dance moves it was amazing!

Other Highlights from the week!

- Going out with one of my 14 year old romances called Aly, she met me on the Monday night and we went out to a Japanese restaurant where they cook in front of you, so talented flinging knives around, playing with fire and cooking the food to perfection, really great to watch that sort of thing, plus fried shrimp I have no realised is very very good. It was a perfect start, we then headed to a Harrisonburg park where we walked and caught up on seven years’ worth of gossip! Then went for ice cream where I had my first real experience of people going crazy for my accent!! I showed them my idea and said spoke normally and they loved it, that is the easiest crowd I’ll ever meet!! Ended with I Am Legend, (Will smith is a hero!) My only regret is I didn’t take more pictures!

- Driving!! Maybe not the smartest of ideas but I helped Ben make it to class on time and then his housemate Stefan saw his opportunity and asked for a ride down in a nearly brand new Nissan which was when I really got the hang of it! On the way back I had the windows down and music playing; I was left hand drive king! My final night (night time driving people, a step up!) I drove maybe 5 or 6 miles on a surprise visit to Aly’s neighbourhood although I can’t take too much applause here as I did ask Ben’s friend Cody to take me the rest of the way as I wouldn’t find it on my own and quite frankly I was rather scared of Ben’s car! I didn’t crash so therefore I say im a good American driver!

- Two much fat!! Along with two of Bens’ next door neighbours we headed to a place called Jack Browns where I had ‘a true American meal’ (pictures are on my website) it was a burger with eggs and bacon, the bread was substituted out and in its place was a glazed doughnut! Sweet and savoury together as one what a combo! The dessert that followed was a fried/battered Oreo which was so good I ordered another; I felt like my heart took a battering but at the same time I felt great!!!

- Ben’s house for spaghetti! Along with several of Ben’s friends we headed to the family home where Denise had cooked a huge amount of Spaghetti Bolognese and some apple pie as well, it was a proper meal, one which was probably much needed after the huge amounts of fast food that ive eaten so far!

- Breakfast with Ken! Ben’s Dad met us for breakfast where we chatted about my plans, reminisced about the time I spent with them in 2004 and saw some sunning videos from his recent trip to South Africa, which is now on my list of places to visit! Ive had several sausage breakfasts now this one included and I have to admit, American sausages are amazing!

There were so many other things that went on, from bars to truffles to xbox playing and music listening, filming, running, random dancing parties!

It was a week to remember, Harrisonburg is a beautiful place and I know I’ll be back in the near future, need to thank Ben and his family for an amazing time along with Cody who not only drove me when I could drive no more but was around most of the week to party and chill and advise. There are a whole host of others that deserve a huge high five for the week of dreams they all should know who they are.
Loved it.

Just a quick update on my bag contents, at Ben’s I off loaded several things!

My extension cord is now gone (with most of my electricals being American plugs it is not necessary to have it!

Ive had to get rid of two pairs of jeans much to my dismay one has been a wear and tear job and has a hole that is now just too big, the second was ruined by a serious kicking accident, (I tried a high kick to knock a bottle off a pole, as you do, unfortunately I missed by millimetres and slipped to create a serious Jean rip beyond repair)

Ive finished my book so that has now been exchanged for another!

And finally two white t-shirts have had to be thrown out after I struggled to realise how to operate and American washer dryer system!! They suffered and I feel responsible for their deaths!!

Posted by davidt.ontour 13:41 Archived in USA Tagged parties harrisonburg Comments (0)

Memphis!!

7th - 9th September!!


View Flying the Coop, U.S, Canada, Oz, South Am and On on davidt.ontour's travel map.

And I was walking in Memphis!
That Line has never been more true for me as I stepped off the Bus and into my next destination, although the line didn’t last long as I decided to get a cab to my Hostel, so for the next 15 minutes I was ‘Riding in Memphis! I arrived at the hostel with my phone fully charged, (which is a first) I made sure I had the correct code and entered the Pilgrim House Hostel, (review at the end!)

I paid for two nights, costing me $15 a night, which is so cheap, but the conditions of the hostel were that I had to do chores each day, they already had one set out for me for that evening, which was kitchen area cleaning, so after setting my stuff out in my dorm room I started, and I was cleaning in Memphis! ( I apologise to keep repeating this but I just want to tell you how impossible it was to get that out of my head all the time I was there!) After my daily chore I had a small walk round the streets where the hostel was, then bed… and I was sleeping in Mem… Ok ill stop from now on!!

In the morning there was another chore waiting for me, Hanging up the washing! (I felt very at home) then I went for another run and showered before heading out just before 10,

After speaking to the hostel people, they said I should get a taxi into downtown, the buses were unreliable and to walk would be too far, so I decided to walk!! It wasn’t too far to walk, although it did take me close to two hours (this was including a stop at a fruit shop, where I only spent $1.99 for 3 apples and 3 plums woop woop to money saving!)

Memphis wasn’t one of my original stops on my tour so I hadn’t researched it as much, I soon found out it was the reason Elvis was so popular, along with Jonny Cash and many other Bluesy/rock and roll acts! I started my Memphis tour at Sun Studios

  • The tour is $12 but 10 with a student card, totally worth it.

Sun studios is where Elvis recorded his first ever track, before making it big with another record label, the tour was inside the studios and a room full of the history of Sun studios, and the artists that had made there way through it. It was such an interactive tour with different tracks being played and seeing where Elvis actually stood (according to pictures) whilst he recorded his first major track. Already Elvis and Blues music was becoming a lot more enjoyable for me to listen to!

Dominoes square Pizza and a coke was my lunch choice once eaten I decided that the only way not too feel guilty for eating would be to walk back later on rather than any other method of transport! After eating I rode the free coach service that travels round all of the Elvis/blues places,

  • this bus goes at half past from sun studios and on the hour every hour from Graceland!

It was a fantastically fun bus with videos of Elvis and others playing on a TV screen at the front, again i was becoming more and more a fan of Elvis and his fun performances, quick wit and charm!

We arrived at Graceland, which took a moment to take in, it was huge with so many different places to visit, I guessed most of them tourist traps but some seemed genuinely interesting, I bought a Platinum pass which got me into 6 of the attractions…

  • cost me $31.50 with a student ID not sure whether it was worth it, in hind sight I would’ve chosen the lesser option which would cost 27 with student ID

Graceland estate had a self-guided headset tour so I took that option and headed up to the magnificent place, Elvis certainly knew how to live, We couldn’t go upstairs, privacy and all that jazz, even the TV show cribs weren’t allowed up which shows commitment! The downstairs was enough, with other input from his Daughter Priscilla, it was a great tour, seeing how Elvis lived and stories of the pastimes he spent in the rooms, truly magical experience (using words like magical means I was totally sold on everything Elvis) Finally we got to see the grave area where Elvis and his parents lay, it was a really powerful moment! Over the last 4 hours id gotten to know this wonderful guy and then his grave.. How sad, some people were stood there with tears in their eyes which really made it even more emotional….. To lighten to mood I did find one poem from and Essex girl who had rhymed superbly until she tried to rhyme, pictures with bitches! That certainly went down a treat with me

Apologies for the language, but that line has stayed with me until now so it deserves to be in here, plus I felt proud to be British!

Finishing that part of the tour I also saw some of the things Elvis and others said about him in the media, these stretched from testimonials to small ad campaigns that referenced things like a pair of shoes that would make you dance like Elvis! Also saw two of his planes, (he must’ve have been absolutely minted! Although I did learn on the tour that he was so charitable with his money, seeing cheques written to individuals and companies! (More points for the Elvis is a legend pot)

More Elvis tunes as I rode the bus back to Sun studios and then a long walk home to burn off the earlier dominoes and also to find a camera charger as I’d lost mine somewhere in transit!

Friday morning and it was decision time, after my morning chore of sweeping the kitchen area, which I must say I did very well! I made my mind up to risk taking all my bags to the civil rights museum (in a cab, I can’t walk 4 miles with that bag its huge!) and hope I could leave them somewhere!

  • it cost $11 with a student card and I certainly could leave my bags, in fact they seemed happy to be doing something other than… nothing!

The civil rights museum is housed in and next to the motel Lorraine where Martin Luther King was shot, it is a very moving place and really makes you think of the struggle that went on throughout the decades and even centuries, then showed a film featuring a man who was with King at the shooting, and his account of everything leading up to it. Again a very sad but also motivating piece of film.

I left with little time to spare for my bus so I missed the other side of the museum but from what ive heard it is equally moving, so it gives me a reason to be heading back to Memphis, not that I need a reason Memphis has been a beautiful place to be for the past two days, for the 9 days ive spent in America every single one has been amazing, so let’s keep up the good work U.S.A

  • The Pilgrim House Hostel was very open plan and a really relaxing place to live in, the daily chore actually made you feel part of the hostel, everyone mucking in together, with free coffee and pancake mix on a daily basis, a huge living area to read and exchange books, I really really enjoyed staying here, the only problem is that is a little out of town for my liking, depends if you like a good walk or paying $20 a time for a cab!

Posted by davidt.ontour 12:01 Archived in USA Tagged memphis Comments (0)

(Entries 10 - 12 of 15) « Page 1 2 3 [4] 5 »