Monday, 30 March 2009

Big Trees!

California is so totally utterly amazing. I love it here. It's this mixture of sunny days in England with scenery and flora from Aruba, it's so cool! And it's only springtime!

Saturday we went to Muir Woods (pronounced Meer Woods) to see giant sequoia's. This was also the place where the last part of Star Wars Episode 6 was filmed, which I only found out on Sunday when we were watching it at Jessica's brother's house in Berkeley. The trees were huge (though this grove is not one of the older ones, the really massive ones are elsewhere) and red and very very pretty.

Seeing the rest of the woods was very cool too, though the highlight just had to be the giant trees. They're really cool too, they share a root system so when one of the trees is blasted by fire or falls down or something, a group of trees grows up right around it, because it's the same organism. They also have burls which look like massive growths on their bark, which contains all the genetic information and can form a new clone tree if it falls to the ground and conditions are right. Fascinating!

After Muir Woods we headed down Highway 1 which is a windy path carved into the cliffs and mountains to Stinson Beach where I touched the Pacific Ocean for the first time. It was so very very cold, but also far too much fun. We walked up and down the beach, poked a dead bit of jellyfish, found a freshwater stream and bathed in the sun for a bit.

Jess and I then went to see a soccer game, San Jose Earthquakes vs the Houston Dynamo's. It was quite exciting in it's way. Then we sampled some lovely American cuisine, In-n-out Burger. It was actually very yummy!

On Sunday we went to Berkeley to see Jessica's brother. We hung about his house with his housemates (where I found out that Endor in Star Wars is secretly Muir Woods) and tried to play the Battlestar Galactica boardgame (Brian is a Cylon) and then had a look around Berkeley campus, the dinosaur exhibits inside Valley Building there. These are the real fossils, while the open exhibits in museums are mostly fakes. Had amazing Indian food too. Nom! Just like in England!

Today we did an epic San Francisco day where we took the ferry from Oakland to the main bit of city, did Fisherman's Wharf and looked around the shore and saw the Golden gate bridge and Alcatraz and sea lions and then Jess was attacked by a seagull. It was a bit traumatic. But then I rode a cable car and we went to the Library and then went home for a lovely cooked dinner, so all in all a lovely day. We'll do another day like that tomorrow but a different area. Hurrah!

Saturday, 28 March 2009


Since leaving Philadelphia I have been in Buffalo to visit Doug, where I met his friends and family and was taken to this cool place called Jack Astors to eat food and really got a feel for American highways and dependence upon cars to get ANYWHERE! Saw the Niagara Falls (awesome!) and crossed over the Canada for the day where I got a Canadian dollar (also known as a Loonie) and met some fantastic friends, a very pleasant day! Also in Buffalo we tried to go to the world's only Kazoo museum, and we drove all the way there... to find that it's closed on Mondays. Bah!

Took an Amtrak train to Chicago where I had lunch/breakfast in Sears tower, which was the tallest building in the world, and is now merely the tallest skyscraper in the US. I had lunch in the basement, so I can't really judge... back on the Amtrak train at 2pm (after changing time zones, very confusing) and was in Mount Pleasant, Iowa by evening! Met Lena there who drove me to her parents house, picking up one of her friends on the way, and then finally back to hers where I could do some much-needed laundry and shower. It was so lovely meeting her! 24 hours later we were back at the train station again and I was back on the train, this time for three days. Luckily each night-time I had an empty seat next to me so I could lay down as much as possibly (it was squished) and get a decent night's rest. I took out my sleeping bag and they provided pillows, so it wasn't terrible. The landscape of America was so beautiful though! On Thursday I woke up in Denver, Colorado and then we went through the Rockies in a snowstorm. We passed through some gorgeous canyons and then got into the Utah desert and then I woke up in Nevada, which is more of a grey scrubland kind of desert, before getting into California where it started out at snowy mountains and pine trees and ended up being lush green fields full of flowers with palm trees waving in the background. Beautiful! Pictures will come later... had some company on the train in the form of two young brothers who were captivated by my DS, so for most of Friday I was sat on one seat, and the both of them on the other playing DS while I knit or took pictures out of the window. It worked quite well. And I kept them out of their parent's hair for a bit. The whole family is going to New Zealand for two months, very exciting! Amtrak trains have diners (well, they should if a train journey lasts about four days!) and I ate there once, but the food was far too overpriced. Apparently it is included in sleeping car price if you pay for one... hmmm. Mostly I ate my own food and when that ran out, I bought cheeseburgers from Johnny in the snack car. Very nom!

Finally arrived in California an hour early (Amtrak is seriously odd) and met Jessica and her mother and her drove me to their house. It's so very warm here! Feels like an odd mix of Aruba and England. Had Thai dinner with Jessica's friends and then they took me to a bar here which was very fun.

Going to see the giant sequoia's tomorrow! :-D

Friday, 20 March 2009

Philadelphia! (And happy birthday Dad!)

Yesterday I left New York and took the Amtrak train to Philadelphia, and then the local train to Swarthmore College. It's a dinky little station, just two tracks and an underpass connecting them and you're right at the college. Very cool! It's such a pretty place too. Markus told me it's an Arboretum too so there are odd plansts all around the campus with little Schilder in the ground next to them with their latin and common name. The buildings are beautiful (most of them) and everything is very central. Since it is so small (1500 students in total) everyone pretty much knows everyone by sight. There is a communal dining hall, which, I have to say, is the most amazing thing ever. There is a salad bar and a grill bar and a meat with sides bar and a vegetarian with sides bar and a vegan with sides bar and a bar where you can make sandwiches and then you can also get a drink from the drinks machines with everything you can think of. Nom! And of course I forgot to mention the dessert bar and the fruit bar! You get your money's worth!

This morning I went to a seminar on Prophetic Judaism (because I could) where the Enlightenment was discussed. Lunch was again a fantastic affair and then I took the train from the dinky station to Philadelphia to explore. I have to say, there isn't much to see. But the streets are big and clean and the people are friendly and helpful and it's an easy city to walk around. The historic section of the city, is less than 200 years old and they think that's old old old, there's just so little history in the cities here! I saw the place where the Declaration of Independence was signed and the Bicentennial bell and Washington Square and the outline of the house where George Washington lived (so unexciting) and the Liberty Bell (not all it's cracked up to be! Har har) and Penn Landing, where William Penn first landed so many years ago. Philly is basically a nice, but boring city. We saw a show in the oldest theatre in America, the Theatre on Walnut Street (where Audrey Hepburn first started her stage career) which was disappointing too (a comedy, where only one character was making the laughs). I also managed to eat a Philly cheesesteak which was very yummy, though so not healthy!

Tomorrow I am up earlyish to catch the train from Swarthmore to Philly and from Philly to New York (again) and from New York to Buffalo where I will be arriving around ten in the evening... urgh!

Oooh, pictures from New York have finally been uploaded and can be seen in the links below.

Happy birthday Dad!

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Random Connection Day

Truly a day of random connections! It was my last day in New York, and Cassy was leaving today (sad!). We were sitting on a rock in Central Park soaking up the sun when these two guys came over while filming holding a damaged apple and a burnt piece of paper meant to look like a flag. Quite odd, I asked not to be filmed but Rebecca didn't mind, so they reshot the scene with her. Turned out one was a Czech buddhist travelling around with his funky old camera that you powered by cranking a lever on the side, and the other was this really odd Jewish guy that was very very stoned and apparently really liked Bob Marley and obscure films we had never heard about. They sat and talked for a while until Cassy came back and we made excuses and left.

Next we met a German girl right outside the park who said that down the other road they were filming Gossip Girl, so promptly Cassy and Rebecca disappeared to go and spy while I talked to this girl and ate an ice cream in the sun.

After I had hailed a cab for Cassy (first time I've done this in New York!) and she had gotten in to go to the airport, Rebecca and I went to watch Watchmen at the IMAX Theatre near her university. Got some food at Subway and the man next to us starting talking to us about his wife and cancer and how she left him and his kids and what he did (american football coach) and blah blah blah, which was all quite interesting really. He was called Nelson I think and Rebecca is going to mention him and his company in her blog, or so she said.

So yeah, last day in New York is random connection day! Tomorrow I go off to Philadelphia to see Markus and then on Saturday I go to Buffalo (9 hours on the train!) to see Doug (and hopefully to cross the border and see Doll and Andrew as well and perhaps explore some of Canada's nightlife). I leave there on Monday and head off to Mount Pleasant in Iowa (17 hours on the train!) to visit Lena and then 24 hours later back onto the train for a 49 hour journey across the States to Emeryville where the lovely Jessica will hopefully pick me up and I can recover from the ordeal and explore the delights of San Francisco. Yay!

Monday, 16 March 2009

In the past few days we have been less touristy and more shoppy... and hanging out in arty cafe's and stuff. Been quite nice! Today Rebecca and I went to Central Park Zoo which was a huge disappointment. There were barely any animals and the habitats were quite shit and it was overall, a pretty crap zoo.

Have found a new favourite street, which we went down to in search of lunch. St Mark's Place, just off Astor Place has lots of exciting ethnic restaurants and the good bubble tea shop which franklin introduced me to. Nom, bubble tea! It is so odd yet so good. Went to yet another bookstore (I love bookstores) and bought a travel guide for California so I know what exciting things I want to do while there. Also bought some damn comfy white scenester shoes for the equivalent of 8 pounds. Things can be so cheap here!

Tomorrow is St. Patrick's day and there is a parade down 5th avenue from 44th street to the Met Museum on 86th Street. We're going to try and wake up early and get a good spot there if we can, hurrah!

Saturday, 14 March 2009


we decided to go to Coney Island. Despite knowing that the whole fairground would be closed and it would be very very cold, we still went, and there was some determined but freezing frolicking next to the sea scaring the seagulls. It was so so so so so cold! We also ate some of Nathan's famous hot dogs which wasn't so very good. Pictures might follow sometime when I'm not using a completely public computer...

After getting back into Manhattan from Coney Island (bottom of Brooklyn) we failed to find Cassy's mum's spice rack around Union Square so went to MoMA again (Target free Friday's!) and took pictures of the arty people trying to understand the postmodern art. Was quite amusing. Ran into Mikey and Markus Kliegl on the steps down when we were leaving which was very amusing, since I'm staying with Markus next week.

Then we walked back to Astor Place to meet Franklin (another JFKer) for dinner and we had Japanese curry (nom!) and bubble tea with tapioca (strange, but also nom) and then bought a huge chocolate cake and put writing on it for Cassy's birthday. Was so fun! Eventually headed back to the Bronx, which I still don't find that scary for some reason.

Today is Cassy's birthday (yay!) so we've bought cupcakes from Magnolia's Bakery (so so so delicious) and eaten cheeseburgers in Madison Square Park again (Shake Shack for the win!) and a birthday cupcake, and now we are in the apple store again. One last stop to double check Pottery Barn on 59th Street for a revolving spice rack and then home to buy chicken and cooking utensils so I can make Jewish chicken for Cassy's second birthday dinner (we are both going to be so fat after this...)

Thursday, 12 March 2009


Haha! Today has been a very good touristy day. This time the sky was clear and blue (though very very cold) and we managed to get the ferry to Liberty Island (many touristy pictures have been taken and I will figure out how to put them up tomorrow) and Ellis Island where I completely failed to look up my ancestors that went through there. After that we walked around the ferry area and managed to find the entrance to Brooklyn Bridge and then walked all the way along to Brooklyn, but then took the subway straight to Canal Street and walked to Bleecker Street (my new favourite street) where Pecan pie was consumed in an arty cafe right across the road from the house where Louisa May Alcott (author of Little Women) lived for a bit. Awesome.

Tomorrow I think we go to Coney Island and then do the shopping for things we promised we would do at the beginning and haven't done. Such as a spice rack for Cassy's mother.... so it goes.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Noho and other places

New York has some very funny place names. I have been giggling at Noho for the past week now, which Cassy has been quite unappreciative of. Yesterday we have had a lovely day shopping, then taking the bus to Union Square and then walking down through Noho and Soho and Chelsea, which was very lovely. We ate at the Shake Shack in Madison Square Park as well (nommy cheesy fries and cheeseburger!) while watching the fat little squirrels and sparrows stealing food in entertaining ways. We found the Chelsea Hotel where famous writers and artists have stayed (Jake, Jack Kerouac wrote there in the 1940's) and sat there for a while listening in to people asking other people to proofread their poems. Walked back eventually through Times Square and shopped at the Virgin Megastore (which is closing down, so everything is on sale!) and then got back to the Bronx where we managed to do some last minute food shopping before heading back for a lovely evening of Daily Show and then sleep (did some cleaning first though...)

I like New York.

However today we managed to fail to go to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty because of thick fog.... got a refund, will go again tomorrow.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Have moved to the Bronx apartment, am quite liking the area, reminds me a lot of Walthamstow in London. Cassy feels unsafe in that area though.

It's so lovely to have a TV that we can watch again, that after we'd moved our stuff (since we're both feeling crappy and ill *thanks Alysia! :-P* that we stayed in and watched it all day. Including a new "How I Met Your Mother". Yay! Other such American classics such as the Daily Show and Colbert Report were also watched.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

My camera is fixed!

managed to somehow pull out the lens so that there was no longer a lens error.  Awesome, now I don't need to waste any money on a new camera. Perfect! Since last post have seen the MoMA for free (waste of time, though fun to people watch the people that went there), gone to Books of Wonder, a children's book store to hear Neil Gaiman read from his new book, Blueberry Girl, and see Charles Vess' artwork for the book. Was very good, and apart from the queue for the signing was very good and I got two books signed with little illustrations in them. Hurrah! Went to Wall Street afterwards and saw the Stock Exchange and went to the Staten Island ferry set-off point and saw the Statue of Liberty from far away, before heading back to 5th Avenue for more shopping where I resisted temptation (not enough money or space to carry things) by reading my freshly signed copy of Smoke and Mirrors. Then off to Chinatown, which is like a completely different city, for foods. Nom!

Today Alysia is leaving us for Canada again (boooo!) so we're going to Magnolia Bakery for cupcakes and then we're going to sit outside the Met museum again and take pictures in the sunshine(ish) and then I have no idea what we're going to do, but we're leaving this apartment on Monday for the Bronx I believe.

Saw the most disgustingest insect yesterday in our apartment.... it scuttled from the wall to under my backpack, which was fine because I thought it had 6 legs.... and then it scuttled out and it had very many legs! Ewwwww! Alysia killed it and Cassy laughed at me for being such a girl. Good times.

Friday, 6 March 2009

Big Apple

Have been having quite an exciting though tiring time in New York. Still combatting jetlag a little which means early mornings and very tired evenings dragging our tired feet back through town to the apartment which is in a very nice place on 82nd street right next to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Seen many exciting things: been to a Broadway show (39 Steps, hilarious! Though not a musical), seen the outside of the Empire State building, seen a free fashion museum at FIT, been to the American Natural Science Museum and the Met, eaten lunch in Madison Square Park, seen the Rockefeller Centre, and walked up and down 5th Avenue and through Times Square and up Broadway and through Central park in the snow.

Unfortunately my camera seems to not work anymore (lens error?) so no pictures. I think I need to buy a new canon ixus, which makes me sad as my mum bought me my camera. Ah well.

Off to do more exciting things, as I'm currently in the Apple Store on a MacBook and my friends are bugging me to move on. Yay!

Monday, 2 March 2009

Off I go!

Am very excited, yet also slightly terrified. Everything is packed and only weighs a ridiculous 10 something kilo. How I'm going to survive with so little clothes remains to be seen. The daypack which technically attaches to the rucksack is filled with other stuff, books and the like, and is going to be taken on as my handluggage. The tickets and other service vouchers have been sorted into a folder in order of when I'm going to use them (thanks dad) and my camera memory card has been saved onto my computer, and then various photos deleted to make space (though I kept quite a few to show people).

Just had a few minutes of panic when I couldn't find proof that my ESTA (to land in America) had been approved, but had sensibly put it in the trip folder on my desktop where it was right in front of my nose and I couldn't find it. All good now. Might print it off in the morning...

Have had a flurry of facebooking and IMing people and getting addresses and phone numbers off people. You never know when it might be useful! Turns out an old school friend of mine will be in New York when we're there and that some people who I was thinking I wouldn't be able to visit live closer than I thought to one of my destinations.... I don't think I'm going to have a spare minute this trip! (Probably good that way).

Everything is charged and packed away now. Time for me to go to sleep now too. Eek!