A Travellerspoint blog

Ridin the greyhound into Atlanta

Days 6-9

sunny 34 °C

My experience on the greyhound (the US national bus service) was one that shall not be forgotten quickly. I arrived at the Washington terminal 2 hours ahead of my scheduled bus, not wanting to fall foul of greyhounds advice to arrive an hour early and partly because I had nothing else to do that evening. It was a miserable sight, rows of plastic grey chairs, panhandlers wandering around and staff who looked like they couldn't wait to get out of there. I bought a Jamaican patty at the cafe and then wished I hadn't, quickly wrapping it back up in the cellophane it had been handed to me in. A woman came up and asked for change to buy a banana cream cake (very specific of her I thought) and I offered her the patty instead. She looked at me, laughed and said no thank you. I have to admit, I felt a mixture of guilt and outrage. I thought I was doing the right thing.
After waiting an hour and a half, in which nothing much happened, I joined the line to board my bus. Now greyhound have something called express buses which I had initially taken to mean they got to their destination faster. However, as I later found out, they were actually a kind of business class service in which you got bigger seats and free wifi. Trying the wifi out though, it's not something I would gladly pay for in future. It was spotty at the best of times. The seats were comfortable however, and I settled into the first part of my journey ( Dc to VIrginia) with ease. We got to Richmond, Virginia at midnight where I knew I had to get another bus to take me to Virginia. It was scheduled for 00.01 and I was there 5 minutes earlier. Somehow me and another dude who I was keeping an eye on because I knew he was also going to Atlanta managed to miss the damn bus! I went to the service desk and she very helpfully transferred me on to the next bus due 3 hours later. I mentioned about the other guy needing another bus but unfortunately I had been given the last ticket. For the 2nd time that day, I felt a twinge of guilt and for some reason was going to offer the guy my ticket. However, I realised that this was pure stupidity and settled down next to him as he formulated a plan to get home.
The next 3 hours passed fairly quickly as we chatted about all types of things. I couldn't shake the fact that he seemed to be coming on to me though- offering me coffee, wanting to find out all about my life, asking for my Facebook. He was a 50 year old guy who evidently had children but the fact he had just returned from a HIV rally in dc did nothing to lessen my opinion that he was interested in me. The time came to get my bus and I was grateful to him for having kept me company. He assured me he would be in touch.
The next part of the journey was the longest and I should have slept but I couldn't get comfortable. At about 10 am, we stopped in south Carolina and I started chatting to the guy who had been sleeping next to me. He was doing a similar thing to me but in a more interesting way, staying at peoples houses through a site called airbnb. He was gonna be in new Orleans at the same time as me, so we exchanged numbers and agreed to meet then.
Nothing much happened in Atlanta suffice to say I went to coca cola world which was corny as corny can be but also fairly interesting in some of its depiction of popular history. E.g. They had a letter sent from a soldier during ww2 to his parents asking them to send coca-cola. However, the rest of the letter which described troop life and asked about the family was far more interesting. Also went to the Georgia aquarium which was incredible. I'll put pics up for that on fb. Besides that, the only other interesting thing was meeting a boy who was selling his hip hop album which I bought with loose change. He was surprised to find I was from London mainly because of my Adidas trainers. And thus my Atlanta leg ended with me still thinking Americans are pretty insular.

Posted by wavell.blades 13:27 Archived in USA Tagged people greyhound aquarium dc atlanta coke Comments (0)

Taste of politics

Days 5-7

overcast 31 °C

I haven't written an entry on here for a while, partly because of spotty Internet access and partly because I've been too tired to keep it up. It's not that I don't want to but hostel life means something is always happening which kind of distracts from the writing things up part of the holiday. Nonetheless i have safely arrived in Atlanta and thought I should better document the rest of my dc trip before I forget. Last thing I wrote, I had met some nice Washingtonians (dc'ers) at a bar and proceeded to drink fairly heavily with them. Not as heavily as the Irish guy who worked at the hostel but I kept up and took my share which is unusual for me.
Next day, even though my head begged me not to I decided to go see the monuments of dc. I woke up to find my roommate packing. First thing he said was "you snore very heavily". I apologised but I wondered if it was a coincidence that he left the hostel later that morning. After studying the map closely, I deduced that it should take me an hour to walk from my hostel to the Lincoln memorial. This of course was clearly a mistake but everything looks so close on the maps they give out. I need to teach them a thing about making those maps to scale. I did get a good lesson on American politics and spent a few pleasant hours looking at the Capitol building and the attached visitor centre (on the face of it American politics is much fairer than ours, how did it get so screwed up?) , the Washington monument, the Lincoln memorial, the ww2 memorial, the milk memorial, the supreme court , the smithsonite institute (from the outside only) and finally the white house. Probably the most exciting thing I've seen on my trip so far-it brings to mind so many movies that it's a bit like being on a film set. Met an interesting grandmother on the way to the Lincoln memorial (1.why do the elderly always want to talk to me? 2. I was actually looking for the white house at the time and didn't realise if I turned my head to the right I would have spotted it quite easily), she was showing her grand kids from Florida the sights. She didn't seem to be having much success with them. Both girls, they were attached to their phones the whole time and gave their dear old grandmother evil looks when she mentioned anything about them to me. After a while of walking (and me privately thinking where the hell am I, this doesn't look like the white house), the younger girl asked if I was from England. I answered yes and she started gabbling about Harry potter. To be honest, it made a change from the granny going on about the royal family. Although she seemed to have no time for Charles, believing he was so upset about not having the throne, he was willing to kill his own mother. "he's just no good" she muttered, "mmm" I said.
We got to the lincoln memorial and I lost them in the hustle of the crowd as they ran to take pictures. This was no bad thing, but I sat on the steps thinking about that episode of the Simpsons where Lisa goes to the memorial to ask for help with her essay on America. I tried to see if people were asking Lincoln for things but mainly there were lots of people taking pictures. After a while, I went to get a hot dog, passing by the reflecting pool (under refurbishment) and then continued my wander down the mall alone.
When I got back to the hostel, I ate Chinese from down the road and then sat on the sofa watching movies. The owner of the hostel later asked if I had enjoyed movie night which I thought was a bit cheeky of him. The channel was on fx and no one could be arsed to change it-hardly an organised night of fun.
Next day I got up late to find there were 2 women sharing the bed beneath mine. Apparently they were a Korean mother and daughter and there had been a mix up over their reservation so although there were spare beds elsewhere in the hostel, they had to share a room due to customs when travelling. The daughter was profuse in her apologies (the mother looked at me like it was my fault) but I didn't really care beyond the fact that it was now going to be 2 people unneccesarily disturbed by my snoring.
Went to DuPont circle which from what I heard, was meant to be some sort of rich shopping neighbourhood just outside dc. When I got there, I didn't see anything particularly impressive about the area so I went to a coffee shop and ready my book for a while. After getting back, it was party night at the hostel so quite a big group of us went to this bar which the people at the hostel knew about. Called my brothers place, it charged 15 dollars for unlimited drinks. Which turned out to be bud light and vodka with a mixer. I quickly chose vodka as americans pour it liberally to say the least. Had a lot of fun with people from the hostel, but the bar was a bit of a dive. Looked like college ppl mainly although there was some impressive dancing going on. They kept playing the same songs over and over again, I mean "round of applause" has lost all (little) meaning it had. I was assured my accent would get the girls but aside from the elderly barmaid, no-one was interested really. Went home and found it funny watching the French guy still trying it on with the German girl. Was told the next day that they had had sex on the sofa, obviously not knowing that there was a camera right on that area. Ah-hostel life!
Next day was the journey to atlanta, which to be honest deserves its own entry. So thats what I'm gonna do!

Posted by wavell.blades 13:10 Archived in USA Tagged sleep hostel bar washington dc white_house national_mall capitol_building lincoln_memorial strangers Comments (0)

In the capital

Day 4

storm 33 °C

At the start of day 4 I was ready to leave new York- not that there's anything wrong with the city, I like it a lot; it's 24 hour, you can buy anything, do anything it's great- its just that I'd done so much of it before and I wanted to see something new. I love going away by myself but after a few days I wanted to talk to someone, not even about my experiences, just to shoot the breeze as they say. I got my wish quicker than I expected as I began my journey to Washington Dc-the nations capital. I was travelling by train from penn station and when I was waiting found it amazing quite how far you could go by train in the USA. Most routes were going down the east coast but there were some being advertised to the other side of the country. Even though I'm going to be on one of those trains soon it was still weird to see them being advertised so casually.

Anyway I boarded my train with the crowds, mostly American tourists, day trippers and a few early commuters from what I could hear and see. I had my ticket checked at least 3 times before I even sat down. Very unlikely you could just push through the barrier on these trains. There are attendants everywhere. The conductor was this very short native American woman (from what I could guess) who had the highest voiceive ever heard- it wasn't shrill, just very high like she had inhaled a lot of helium before she came to work. So I settled down with my iPad, a 3 hour journey which I intended to spend watching Videos and looking at the major cities as we passed them. But as fate would have it, that was not to be as I found myself talking to mrs dingle from Philadelphia ( I really wanted to ask whether it was west Philadelphia and had she been born and raised there but I held my tongue)

Mrs dingle was a grandmotherly black woman who was returning from new York after seeing her grandchildren. She bustled to her seat and after making some niceties with me about people rushing around etc she went quiet and I thought she was just going to read or knit or whatever grandmothers do on the train. But noo, after about 5 minutes, mrs dingle ( and by the way when we exchanged names I said I'm Wavell and she introduced herself as mrs dingle which is just pretty awesome by itself, first name mrs, last name dingle?) launched into a story about how she used to drive to new York but got into a terrible accident a couple of years ago and affording a new car would have left her in debt and she has just fully paid off her debts and anyway her son lives in Boston and that would have been too long a drive and he might be getting a divorce but she thinks the woman is to blame for the end of the marriage and so on and so on. And this was just all in the first 20 minutes! As I said before though, I was pretty keen on some conversation so I went along with her stories and added a few of my own. She now knows that I'm a teacher, my family history and their current doings (ESP my brother ) , where I live, medical history etc. although I'm not quite sure she understood the geography of England since she proceeded to ask me if she visited the uk, should she visit London or England? I was temporarily nonplussed by this question and my response made no sense but then neither did the question and she didn't seem to care much anyway.

Before she left the train, she compared me to designer oswald boateng completely out of the blue and that was the last I shall ever see or hear of her. Mrs dingle...

Coming out of union station in DC has much the same effect as arriving in trafalgar square for the first time except its cleaner and the buildings are whiter. There is history everywhere and you can see the Capitol building (where congress meets) from the station. I was looking forward to exploring the next day. But I had to find my hostel first. This wasn't too difficult and it's located fairly close to downtown which is helpful. It looked dilapidated from outside and I thought it had been a scam to get money from me but it was there and I got myself checked in fairly quickly. The first couple of hours are always the hardest in a hostel- either there's lots of solo travellers, the drinks are flowing and it's easy to join OR there's lots of little groups tapping away at laptops ( like I'm doing now but it's different because theres only 1 other person in here) and when I got here it was the latter. The we're like 7 people sitting the talking quietly in foreign languages and I felt like an idiot. But to paraphrase rick James, alcohol is a helluva drug and it wasn't long before I was getting steadily *involved*. A couple of us went to a bar nearby and had the American version of a lock in with the manager who was a bit of an Anglophile and enjoyed winding us up. Was a great end to a good day-my best so far in the states.

Posted by wavell.blades 15:49 Archived in USA Tagged people train usa hostel bar capital washington dc amtrak Comments (0)

Heatwaves and floods!

Day 2-3

storm 33 °C

Having no Internet is painful. I know travelling is meant to be about cutting yourself from those types of material needs but being on my own it's nice to share pics, tweets, status updates etc. Even now I have to find a Starbucks (which isn't hard admittedly) in order to just found out where I am and where I'm going. I didn't bring a guide book and my hotel seems to be having trouble getting Internet access to my room. I probably wouldnt have paid for it anyway. How can hotels justify charging 20 dollars a day for access when you can get it free in most hostels around the world. It's disgusting! Anyway I set off on day 2 in NYC to find a data sim for my iPad which would allow me 3G or even 4g access anywhere I go. I don't want to speak much about the experience suffice to say that I wasted 105 dollars which I am unlikely to see again simply because the very nice woman at at&t thought it would be a good idea to give me a fake social security number. I think for now I will just take the free wifi at Starbucks...

On my search for the sim card I walked through all of manhattans main shopping districts ostensibly looking for a day bag to carry my iPad around. I've seen them all before but Macy's , Bloomingdales are still impressive nonetheless. Even went into foot locker which is like a department store in its own right. I always hear that America has got customer service sorted but the woman I spoke to their was chewing gum in my face and offered no help whatsoever. It must be going downhill...

Finally found what I wanted near Madison square gardens at one of those little leather knockoff shops like the ones you find on tottenham ct rd. the guy didn't understand me when I said my max spend was thirty and kept repeating thirdy at me like I was a moron. Finally I held up my hands and flashed them three times. He then found me a bag which was clearly marked 50...I was about to leave and then he just said I'll take thirdy for it. I was chuffed with my bold negotiation skills but the zip has already gone funny...
I'm pretty sure I saw Chris brown in the area as well but since no one else seemed to notice him and he had no minders or anything I guess I was wrong.

Random: there's a woman outside who's doing pressups with her chihuahua , the baby sitting next to her is gurgling like a fool.

Day 3 I decided to be cultural and went to broadway to see James corden in 1 man 2 guvnors. Considering this play has had rave reviews and awards galore I was pleasantly surprised that I could just walk up to the box office at 1.45 for a 2pm performance and get a cheap ticket. Admittedly it looked like all the old fogeys had been coached in for the afternoon. I was the only black man in the theatre younger than 40 by the look of it although not the only bald person from the look of it (and I use person consciously). The play was fantastic, I have a new found respect for mr corden especially after the way he flaunts himself about on tv at home. He was very funny, interacting with the audience, great physical comedy and he looked like he was having a good time which I think is an amazing quality to get from a theatre actor. To be honest, I was surprised that the play has done so well with American audiences - there are so many British idioms that I think a lot of the script must pass over their head. The elderly pair I was sitting next to certainly didn't laugh that much although everytime the old,deaf waiter came on they cackled "oh no!" still it must have got tiring for them as one of them kept asking her friend what everyone was laughing at during the last 30 minutes.

I left the theatre and the heavens had opened. Seriously it was like monsoon rain, we have nothing on it at home. I was dressed in tshirt and shorts and refused to leave the theatre until it stopped. You know like at home that type of rain passes after 15 minutes or so-well this didn't let up for an hour. I was trapped with the old biddies in this theatre, hungry and tired listening to all these American women saying obvious crap like " well we'll get wet in that" , "it's a real downpour" etc etc saying that, they started leaving before I did- I was determined to wait until it passed and finish what I started. When I got back to the hotel, I found out that there had been flash flood warnings across the state. Hmph! The Americans take weather far too seriously, the dedicated weather channel that runs 24 hours kept covering it in increasing alarmism although even they did have to admit that manhattan had returned to its muggy state of humidity and dryness by 8pm. That's another thing-American news channels are crazy. I saw mad money yesterday - check it out if you can.

Now on to dc!

Posted by wavell.blades 06:46 Archived in USA Tagged new_york theatre shopping manhattan flood sim heatwave Comments (0)

Goodbye England, Hello America!

Day 1

sunny 33 °C

So I've decided to start a little blog about what I'm up to in the states, partly to remember it for posterity and partly because I'm going to so many places that a little part of me wants to brag about it. But it's not in my modest,generous,intelligent,handsome nature to brag much so I will try and limit that as best I can.

Flight over was uneventful but nice enough. I was on one of virgins newest planes whose nickname was esther apparently. Food was good, watched a couple of movies (tower heist and project x) and tried to sleep but didn't really. Thought I was snoring too loudly so stayed awake for the rest of the flight. Guy next to me didn't talk once which is fine but I was pretty bored after a while and simply watched the map on screen as we came across Canada, Maine, Boston and into new York. Does anyone else just look out of the window for hours? I find it really interesting especially the little islands on the way into JFK . Who lives there?

Got through immigration the quickest ever (no random questions about what I teach and to whom like last time) and then went to find the hotel. Now I've been to NYC a few times and thought I remembered the grid system fairly well so when I got to penn station on 34th street west and my hotel address was 48th street east, instead of getting a taxi, I decided to walk it. Bad idea. Especially considering the temp was 31 degrees and rising. It's never good when you walk close to shop doors hoping to get a short blast of their air con. By the time I got to my hotel after numerous wrong turns and false starts I was dripping in sweat and looked a mess. I also underestimated the standard of hotel I was staying at. I had booked it on Priceline which is this American site where you can negotiate your price. Usually I stay at hostels which are cheap and cheerful but I thought I'd do a bit of luxury for my first stop. So I walk in with my Adidas trainers, sweaty tshirt and baggy jeans and it's like walking into the ritz. Doorman dressed up like a member of the queens cavalry and bellhop after bellhop "can I take your bag sir? Would you like a glass of water sir?" etc. it was strange to be honest but I could get used to it! The room was ok although I forgot how minibars worked and helped myself to a mars bar and bottle of water before realising that had cost me 12 dollars...

Showered, changed and then went to find food. Felt slightly worse for wear considering my body thought it was 10pm and I'd been awake for 17 hours. Walked around the area, missing out 5th avenue by accident and walking over to third. One thing NYC has got right is the number of places to eat. There is no reason a tourist should go hungry. I went to a place called good burger which I think is a small chain in NYC and indeed had a good burger and the best banana milkshake I have ever tasted. The waitress and her friend who was hanging about (waiting for scraps from the size of her) kept giving me the look over while I was eating. I mean obviously I'm a tourist and I'm from England but I didn't understand their overt curiosity. This has been a common theme where ever I've gone though. After eating, wandered round ,went to check out getting a data sim for my iPad, wandered some more and then felt tired and sweaty again. I think the area I'm staying (midtown east ) is only good for shopping so thought I'd do some of that the next day, if only to get some regular fresh cold air.

Went back to hotel, tempted to order room service but everything seemed to come with cheese and it seemed like a waste of money anyway and then fell asleep. Bed is really high and I have to climb on and off...remind me of when I had a bunk bed

Random: the family of 6 next to me in Starbucks look like they're from Scandinavia. All of them have an iPad/iPhone or both. Is that strange?

Posted by wavell.blades 09:11 Archived in USA Tagged food new_york flying hotel flight manhattan hot Comments (0)

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