365 photos [99 - 105]

I’ve reached the half-way point of my America travels. A quick summary of my progress so far. I made my way down the east coast from Boston to Washington DC via Martha's Vineyard, New York City, Philadelphia and Baltimore. On Friday, I flew across the country to Los Angeles, California. Over the next three weeks I will trace the west coast northwards, passing through San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Vancouver and ultimately Whistler, where I will arrive jobless, skint and unsuitably clothed for the winter.

Anyway, photo time. There are some corkers this week. Enjoy!


Philadelphia → Baltimore

Let’s be completely clear about this: I only visited Baltimore because that’s where The Wire was filmed. But while I still did my fair share of Wire tourism, it was actually the unfamiliar things I enjoyed most about the city. You know, the stuff Baltimore is actually famous for in real life.

On my first evening, I explored the Inner Harbour with Cosmo, a Chinese girl I befriended at the hostel. It was nice. As we were getting ready to leave, we heard the sound of hundreds of starlings roosting above us on a boat mast. Naturally, I shook one of the supporting ropes, launching the entire flock into a glorious aerial display that lasted several minutes. Also naturally, I got shat on. Definitely worth it though. It was especially cool for me having recently written a 83-page dissertation about this exact phenomenon.


Baltimore

Fort McHenry was where the newly independent Americans fended off the British (those bloody British) in the Battle of Baltimore, 1814. The American flag flown during that battle inspired someone to write “The Star-Spangled Banner” (America’s national anthem) so it’s become quite a famous landmark. Nowadays, they fly a replica flag in the centre of the fort which occasionally needs changing when it gets too windy. The park rangers enlist tourists as cheap labour to help with this task. In America they have a lot of respect for their national flag to the extent that if one ever touches the ground, it must be burned. The park rangers were very careful this didn’t accidentally happen, presumably because having to burn such a large, nylon flag would have serious financial and environmental consequences.


Baltimore → Washington DC

The Lincoln Memorial at night. Not photoshopped, just beautifully lit.


Washington DC

The dome of the Capitol building, where the US Congress is based. They’re not just based in the dome, they use the whole building. Sorry if I wasn’t clear.


Washington DC

The iconic Washington Monument beside the National Bureau of Printing and Engraving, photographed from the steps of the Jefferson Memorial. I had intended to climb the Washington Monument but a recent earthquake closed it to the public, which is fair enough I suppose. Fortunately we still got to visit the Bureau, where half of all US paper currency is printed. The tour snaked around the factory floor where huge stacks of bills each worth $64,000,000 were casually dotted around. Very surreal.


Washington DC → Los Angeles

The Grand Canyon, as seen from flight UA319. I could have taken a better picture had the man sitting between me and the window been less fat and asleep. Pretty amazing to witness though. The scene just kept panning and panning for about fifteen minutes, revealing giant new ridges and craters and ravines. It's something that can only really be fully appreciated from the air, like a Big Art Attack.



Los Angeles

The beautiful Santa Monica. The difference between here and anywhere I visited on the east coast is incredible. It genuinely feels like I'm in a different country.

365 photos [92 - 98]

Photos from week two of my America travels.


New York City

Sunday was September 11th, the tenth anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Centre. I had an unforgettable day which I intend to write about in a separate blog post before I forget about it. This photo shows the amazing "Tribute in Light", taken just outside Battery Park in lower Manhattan.


New York City

A gorilla at the Bronx Zoo. I love watching gorillas because they're so similar to humans. This one was in the middle of eating a pile of celery he had stashed behind his left leg. I didn't get it on camera, but a cheeky chappy snuck up behind him, checked the coast was clear, grabbed a handful of celery and dashed behind a nearby tree. The older gorilla did that thing humans do when they hear something behind them which doesn't quite intrigue them enough to actually get up and investigate. He turned his head one way, turned it the other way, faced forward again, paused for a moment, then picked up another stick of celery.


New York City

The UN General Assembly, where representatives from each of the 193 member states gather every now and again to discuss things like global poverty, Palestinian statehood, and Big Brother. A couple of interesting facts you might not know about the UN General Assembly:
  1. Each nation has equal voting power, so nations like Tuvalu and the Marshall Islands have exactly the same influence as nations like the USA and China. 
  2. At the beginning of each session they randomly allocate seating so nations late in the alphabet like Zimbabwe aren't always at the back. This session, Turkmenistan got the front left seats. The remainder follow alphabetically, with Turkey at the back. Sorry Turkey.


New York City

Me being an inconsiderate tourist, blocking the only exit of an obviously congested subway platform. These people are just trying to get home to see their families.


New York City

My friends Anna, Valerie and Geoff halfway across the Brooklyn Bridge on my last day in New York. Miserable weather but good company. That night we played cards and shared a four-litre, fifteen dollar bottle of red wine which my coach ticket to Philly somehow ended up inside (???). I miss these guys.


New York City Philadelphia

When you visit Philadelphia you have to do at least two things. You have to eat a world-famous Philly cheesesteak, and you have to see the world-famous Liberty Bell. I did both of these things on my first day in the city and both pleasantly surprised me. Something in particular at the Liberty Bell exhibition made me laugh. The bell was cast in Britain and sent to America to hang in the Pennsylvania State House. It broke soon after arriving. The correspondence from the Americans upon receiving the bell reminded me of feedback left on Britain's 1752 eBay profile:
"In that letter I gave information that our bell was generally liked and approved of but in a few days after my writing I had the mortification to hear that it was cracked by a stroke of the clapper without any other violence as it was hung up to try the sound. We concluded to send it back by Captain Budden, but he could not take it on board."
Not quite "GOOD EBAYER WOULD RECOMMEND A++++++"


Philadelphia

Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution were written and signed.

365 photos [85 - 91]

Whoops. I'm slightly behind on this daily photo thing. It's been a hectic couple of weeks. Here are the photos from my first week of travel, the second will be up tomorrow and the third on Sunday as usual. Good.


Long Lake

Ryan, me and Emily working tirelessly at the ice cream stand. Sunday was supposed to be my penultimate day at work, but it turned out to be my last. Scroll down to find out why.


Long Lake

Sunday night was the night of my leaving party which turned out to be perhaps the worst party of my life. Alcohol fuelled two of my friends to have a serious fight and (independently) me to stub my toe with such force it almost disintegrated. It became impossible to walk anywhere without agonising pain. The one doctor in town wasn't available so I consulted the internet instead for advice on treatment. Someone suggested taping the damaged toe to a neighbour for support and that really helped. It still hurts from time to time but I've managed to shake off the ridiculous limp.


Long Lake → Edgartown

Tuesday was a long, exciting day. The Serbians gave me a lift from Long Lake to Glens Falls, where I caught a bus to Albany, where I caught another bus to Boston, where I met up with Dave and Leigh and together caught a third bus to Woods Hole, followed by a ferry to Martha's Vineyard and finally a lift from the ferry terminal in Vineyard Haven to our temporary residence in Edgartown. You might remember I worked in Edgartown last summer. The same family I lived with last year were lovely enough to let us stay in one of their campers (pictured) for free.


Edgartown

It rained for most of Wednesday and Martha's Vineyard isn't very fun when it rains. I gave Dave and Leigh a quick tour of the island, limping around the three main towns and becoming very nostalgic. Eventually we retreated back to the camper and played Parcheesi. Parcheesi ("The Royal Game of India") is an incredible board game that's a bit like Ludo but with extra rules like doublets and blockades. Here is Leigh blockading our sorry green and yellow asses.


Edgartown

The weather turned sunny for about two hours on Thursday so we jumped at the chance to hit the beach. Not literally though because that would have really hurt my toe.


Edgartown → Boston

Before returning to the mainland, we popped into my old workplace for some blueberry ice cream and a reunion with my old boss. It was great to see her and the store again, where very little had changed. I was surprised and delighted to hear that some customers had mentioned reading my blog thing from last year!

We waved goodbye to the Vineyard and returned to Boston where we were due to stay for one night at our friend Lindsay's apartment. During the evening, I travelled into the city centre for a final get-together meal with my Boston friend Shalli and her (rhyming) friends Jen and Ben. Realistically I'll never see her again, so it was pretty sad.


Boston → New York City

We departed Boston at the crack (if not before the crack) of dawn on Saturday morning. We reached New York City at midday and checked into our separate hostels, agreeing to meet up later for the wedding I had been invited to despite knowing neither the bride nor groom. The wedding was in Tarrytown, a small village about thirty minutes north of Manhattan. I had a brilliant time. I'm growing to love American weddings, having inexplicably attended three this summer.

365 photos [78 - 84]

Summer is over. I leave Long Lake on Tuesday and will spend the next six weeks travelling around America spending what I've earned. Hopefully I'll find time to document the whole adventure on here, but for now, sit back (unless you're sitting cross-legged on a cliff-edge facing towards the land, in which case, what on earth are you doing?) and enjoy this final batch of photos from the wonderful Long Lake, New York.


Sunday was when "hurricane" Irene arrived. As with hurricane Earl last year, Irene turned out to be a major let down. It rained a lot but not much else. The town lost power for most of the afternoon and evening so I ended up playing dark monopoly with two Serbians and two Colombians. Halfway into the (three-and-a-half hour) game, I had established myself as the clear leader, controlling a vast empire along the stretch between jail and free parking, but a couple of visits to a Broadway (the american version of Mayfair) hotel ruined me. The eventual winner, Paola, had never even played Monopoly before, which hurt.


But not for long. The ice cream stand closes for the season on Tuesday when almost everyone leaves town and the remaining people aren't in the mood for ice cream anymore.


Tuesday was my final day off work in Long Lake and I spent it waterskiing, tubing, swimming, drinking beer, having picnics, and getting sunburnt. I had so much fun and I'm so grateful to Billy for letting us use his boat all day for free. Unfortunately, this is a textbook example of why the whole "one photo a day" thing is flawed because I took loads of nice pictures but I'm only allowed to include one here. I feel like this one should at least get an honorable mention.


My old, broken suitcase (right) passing the baton to my shiny new suitcase (left). Baton not pictured.


The International Students of 2011. We plan to give this photo to our boss tomorrow to say thanks for everything. I hope she doesn't read this blog because that would spoil the surprise somewhat.


You might remember I tried to climb Owl's Head mountain the other week but I chickened out. Not one to let a reptile get the better of me, I tried again on Friday, this time with company. We made it to the top this time and the views were immense.


My latest package from Josh arrived on Saturday. It contained many wonderful trinkets, including a disposable camera, a Page 3 girl, the equivalent of £1.99 in nine different global currencies (including the Bahraini dinar!), a Freddo bar, and a Magneton Pokemon card. We've established a tradition that Magneton has to be included in every shipment, and so far he's flown across the Atlantic five times. He'll be on his way back to England tomorrow.