LA, Seattle, Vancouver/Whistler-Blackcomb, NY, Washington DC, Boston and Littleton
02.05.2007 - 22.05.2007
And then, just like that, it was over. Years of dreaming, years of hard work and a few days preparation and just like that it was over. Nearly three weeks in South America and over a month in the Caribbean had come and gone. Although at times when I was lying prostrate on the floor, reeling in pain from the previous days antics and wanting nothing more than for it to be over, I wasn’t really ready for it to end. Nonetheless time waits for no one and so it was time to move on. Like so many before me, the English, the Spanish, Americans and Dutch; I had gone to the Americas in the hope of conquering it and moved on defeated. Not all was lost though; we had the cup in the bag and a stack full of memories (photos).
Regular readers will remember a long-forgotten character called Libby. Well finally, it was time to reunite with her in LA. After 7 weeks of longing for one another, umpteen text messages and phone calls the moment had arrived. Lib was to pick Rosie and I up from the airport and we were to spend the night in a nearby hotel. Only problem was Lib had lost track of time in a local drinking hole with her mate and left Rosie and I scratching our nuts. Lib eventually arrived, somewhat apologetic and we reaquanited ourselves. Rosie stayed with a nice American we had met on the Inca Trail and just like that it was Rosie who? Not quite.
The next day we all lived out our childhood dreams and visited Disney Land. There are two parks at Dinsey Land: the crappy traditional one with ‘it’s a small world’ and the ‘tea cup’ ride and the good park with the Hollywood Hotel, California Screamin’ etc. We bought the double park pass with our concierge’s words ringing in our ears, “theres no way you can do both in one day”. We learned quickly that most Americans are large and as such move relatively slowly between rides. Needless to say we covered both parks with enough time to drop by Mickey’s House and get some photos with the old mouse. The day was complete and we were spent. Rosie and I hadn’t moved as quickly [in our lives] in a couple of months and were absolutely knackered. All of a sudden the pace had suddenly gone up a notch. The American Rosie was staying with had offered to pick us all up and we decided to grab some Mexican on the way home. He explained he practically grew up in the place and as if on cue his mum walked in and sat at the opposite table. We finished a wonderful meal, complete with the obligatory margaritas (Rosie and I felt at home again) and a couple of coronas. Full as boots we went to pay the bill and discovered that the Yank’s mum had paid the bill in full! Bloody Americans, just when you think you’ve got them pinned they go and do something nice like that. In all honesty though they were really good people and this is only one example of how hospitable they were. Our whirlwind tour of LA was over.
The next day we boarded a jet bound for Seattle to see Leanne at the University of Washington. Leanne met us at the airport and before we knew it we were in a campus the size of (insert large simile). Leanne was generous enough to let us stay in her dormitory (actually a house). Lib scored a single bed and Rosie and I couched it up (along with the pace, our accommodation had suddenly increased). Before we crashed though it was off to a few of the local spots in Seattle. Leanne took us to a fantastic eatery and Rosie and I had to remember how to use a knife and fork. We fumbled our way through a couple of courses and made our way to a few bars. Compared to Barbados… compared to bloody anywhere, Seattle was cold. We attempted to drink in the outside area but gave up when our digits when numb. We had a fun night and the highlight for me was seeing the bar where Nirvana and Led Zeppelin used to play. Eventually we made it home and discovered a frat party across the street from Leanne’s house. Leanne had already warned us, much to our disappointment, that unless you’re in the frat only girls are allowed in (actually seems very reasonable to me if you’re running the frat). Needless to say Rosie and I saw this as a challenge. Leanne called out to us but it was hopeless. Before Lib and Leanne could say where are the boys we were witnessing grinding first hand downstairs on the dance floor of the frat. For those folk who don’t know, grinding is what young Americans call dancing. Picture two (or more) people having sex standning up, now put their clothes on and put some music in the background. Wala! You know what grindning is. They basically do this all night grinding against one another until they’re too tired to actually take a girl home. Anyway that was that, tick that box we had been to a frat party.
The next day, sporting mild hangovers, we did the tourist thing in Seattle. First stop was the Seattle market made famous by the fish throwing guys. These crazy guys who throw fish to one another when it is ordered make an all-together good market even better. If the Australian cricket team want to know how to take their fielding to the next level they ought to get a bucket of cold and wet fish out on the field and start throwing them at each other. These guys were awesome. One handed grabs and all. Some time later I tired of people throwing fish and saw the rest of the market. I neglected to mention that upon entering the USA I rediscovered caffeine. So seeing the original Starbucks across the road was a highlight and called for a celebration- a Venti (huge) sized Mocha Frappachino with a shot of vanilla. After that we saw the Space Needle and gazed out across Seattle and did a walk around the University of Washington (UW). UW is so big and amazing- their football stadium is bigger and better than any cricket stadium we had seen in the Caribbean and their indoor gym has about 4000 treadmills, an indoor running track, many basketball courts and a rock climbing facility to boot. I’m sure they have lovely lecture theatres too but I stuck to the sport fields.
Leanne’s friends were having a party that night and Lib, Rosie and I had watched enough American teen movies to one day dream of drinking from a keg in red cups. The day had arrived. $3US for a red cup at the entrance was your ticket to drink all night. I bought two and made my way to the keg. Soon enough word got around that there were some Aussies in the house and we were invited to play some traditional American drinking games. Beer pong. We played a variation of this American classic and the scores were tied 1-1 when the fuzz showed up. I wondered to myself whether I was perhaps in a movie because it was playing out like a Hollywood classic. The disappointment of not getting more value out of my $6US was tempered when we were in a photo with the police officer. We later learned he gave the kids a ticket for having loud music or some such minor offence. Down but not out we made our way to the local Irish pub and proceeded to hit the black stuff in big glasses.
The next morning and Seattle was over and it was time for Vancouver. We boarded our greyhound and four hours later we were in beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia. We were staying with Elg family friends, Tom and Geniveive Hassan, a Canadian couple we had met some years earlier. They took us into their home and I was absolutely thrilled to meet their two children. We sat down for a quick debriefing on where we’ve been and how it’s been when Tom mentioned that there was still 300cm of Snow on Whistler/Blackcomb. Before we could say “but it’s bloody May” we had organised to borrow their car, three sets of ski gear and a packed lunch for the next day. The snow was about average but it felt incredible. Less than a week before I was on a beach in Barbados and only the day before we hadn’t even contemplated skiing; the fact that it had come out of nowhere made the experience that much more enjoyable. Lib and I with our limited but decent skiing experience carved up Blackcomb and persuaded Rosie with his less and indecent skiing experience down some slopes he might otherwise have feared walking. In fact, we knew we’d pushed it too far in some tress when he removed his skis and started walking. We couldn’t quite make it out over our chuckles be we thought we heard him curse us when he finally made it to the lift. Typically, it was yours truly with the stack of the day. I had earlier pleaded with Lib to talk me out of any stupidity but I saw a hill I liked and wondered if I could do it without a turn. About 90% of the way down with a grin from ear to ear I made the mistake. I thought about it. I wondered in my head if I’d get hurt if I stacked and before I could answer my own question I was one ski down and one ski up tumbling ass over tit. With a sore groin and badly bruised ego I decided to finally get up out of the snow and find a beer. Fortunately it was a small ski down the hill I tumbled to the next watering hole. After the skiing had finished I decided I had to give Lib and Rosie a guided tour of the village, me having actually been somewhere that Lib hadn’t. Memories of 2003 flooded back and it was only time that forbade me going back to the Mongolian Grill for one last meal. We did however whet the whistle with a couple of ales at Sam, Nash and my old drinking hole at Cito’s.
And again a visit to another city was over, our whirlwind tour of North America was rushing by and sadly we didn’t get enough time with Tom and Genevieve and the boys. But the pain was eased when our American Airlines jet glided over Manhattan Island and Frank Sinatra’s words began playing in my head on repeat “I want to wake up, in a city that never sleeps- New York” familiar readers should also note that whilst they were indeed Frank Sinatra’s words, it was indeed Brett Walker’s voice that I heard.
So we arrived in New York. We were finally in a place for a decent length of time (a week) and had a fabulous place to stay. Lib’s parents had generously given her a week in a hotel on Broadway and even more generously Lib had allowed Rosie and I to stay with her free of charge. We had also brought a straggler. AB who regular readers will remember from the Caribbean was also in NY for the night and he made good use of the couch for the night. We checked in at nightime, changed in to some fresh clothes and made our way down Broadway to Times Square. What a place. Honestly, photos do not do it justice so it would be folly of me to expect that I could describe it with enough detail. The same can be said about the whole week in New York. Times Square for me was a New York welcome mat, as if to say “You’re here!!!” It sets the tone for the whole city: loud, bright, big, in your face and charming in an ‘only in America’ way. We wandered around, in and out of various concept stores and before we knew it was 2am. We walked back uptown to our hotel room and crashed for about 5 hours before Lib marshalled the troops and we were off again. First stop was the Gugenheim- famed architectural design and renowned Museum collection. Disappointingly the façade was covered with scaffholding due to refurbishment and inside was reduced from five floors to two. Unsurprisingly the cost did not change. The limited display was impressive enough but I guess with the name came expectations and we left feeling a little short changed. We made our way back over Central Park, cross-town, to the Museum of Natural History. Now THAT is what I call a museum. Lots of bones, fossils, animals, Incans, Aboriginies and much more. Rosie was getting a little cranky after all the walking so we mistakenly got his hopes up for the whale exhibition. When we arrived at the whale exhibition to see the exhibit closed sign I immediately made my way away from Rosie in the full knowledge of what was about to happen. Unfortunately for Libby and AB they had not yet seen Rosie make a scene. Anybody who has ever seen a small child in a supermarket make a scene knows exactly what took place that fateful day in the American Museum of Natural History. He grabbed AB’s arm and cried real tears. A large part of me thinks that this emotion was the result of both liver failure and exhaustion but I can’t help but believe he really just wanted to see the whales. That night we bade farewell to AB and went food shopping. Shopping in NY is an experience and one I am unlikely to forget. It is a madhouse and no one is afraid to use elbows. When one finally has all the items they need you make your way to the check out. Each aisle has four checkouts and God help you if you don’t hear “next! called out.” Attitude is served up in super size and is the only thing they give you for free.
In the full realisation that it took me 500 or so words to describe the first day in NY I shall shorten the rest of the week to dot points.
• Cruise around Manhattan Island to the Statue of Liberty and between New Jersey, Brooklyn and Staten Island.
• Going to the top of the Empire State Building (on the only overcast day of the week).
• Metropolitan Museum- absolutely fantastic and huge. Would need a week to see this properly.
• Museum of Modern Art- Andy Warhol, Van Gough, Picasso and some great contemporary art.
• Grand Central Station- could be a museum in itself but still functions as an efficicent train station.
• NY state library- so many books and a beautiful building
• Wall St- cool bull statue down the road
• World Trade Centre- was surprisingly emotional standing at the sight looking at some of the photos. A bit surreal standing in a spot you feel like you already know when you have never been there before. I suppose a strange one to have in a ‘highlight’ list but it is to be in a spot of such enormous historical and current importance.
• Tiffany & Co.
• Apple Store- my heaven on earth
• FAE Schwarz (Tom Hanks in BIG- giant keyboard)
• UN building- was closed when we went but nice building and some strange stautes out the front
• Strawberry Fields (tribute to John Lennon in Central Park opposite of where he was shot)
• Little Italy
• China Town… honestly it is endless, I’m sure I’ve left a lot out.
Aside from all the sights I had one my best nights on tour out on the town in NY. It wasn’t necessarily where we were, because on our budgets we couldn’t afford to drink at the ritzy NY spots, but really just the people I was with. I couldn’t have asked for two better people to be traveling with and it was never more evident than on this night- certainly the parts I remember. The parts I couldn’t remember were ably captured on video by Libby and to my horror the next morning I discovered I had brought some of the dance moves I picked up in the Caribbean to NY. I will never forget the look on Rosie’s face when I showed him the footage of us and his words will never, ever leave me… “not in New York… you can’t pull that off in New York… The Caribbean but not New York…”
NY is massive and every corner has something to see. I mean even the street art is a level above anywhere else and the buskers would win Australian Idol. The beggars even do a rap for you. If you can’t already tell we were absolutely overwhelmed with things to do in NY and I can honestly see a time where I would work/live/study there, if only for a year or so.
At the end of an exhausting week we were scheduled to fly to Boston but instead we decided to get a bus to Washington DC. As well as this it was also time for Rosie and I to say goodbye after 9 weeks or so on tour. To honour he and the time we shared together I penned a poem, titled: Dreams and Smells
Dreams and Smells
For a long time it was a dream
For a long time it was only in our heads
But it wasn’t long before our drink was Malibu, not Beam
On a budget, money put us together, not 2 beds
The hot sun made us burnt, “mate, pass me the cream”
South America was fun
We saw Chile and in Brazil the soccer
Our friend’s friend was held up with a knife, luckily not a gun
Remember our friend who picked up the shocker?
After the Inca Trail there was another mountain climb, I asked if you wanted to do it and you said we’ll run
Next stop was the West Indies
For the cricket and Aussie victory we went
When we drank, we acted like kids in kindy
Andew Symonds was great, there’s a county side called Kent
Fortunately on the beaches, it wasn’t windy
After that it was the USA
To meet Lib and to change the pace
First off it was Cali-for-nye-ay
Lib taught us that drinking is not a race
In NY, like a local, you often said “fucken A”
Now we are apart but at our peek
Me in Russian and Scandanavia
You in the Islands that are Greek
Just in time to better our behaviour
But at least now, our clothes do not reek
The night before we parted we shared a victory cigar and a couple of beers to compared notes on an unforgettable and never repeatable trip.
Dry your eyes a moment before you move onto the rest.
I absolutely loved DC and would recommend it to anyone between anti and pro-American if for no other reason than the grand architecture. Aside from the architecture I believe it goes some way to explaining American culture. Although it is difficult to decide whether the monuments are the product of or a partial cause of staunch American patriotism, it is impossible to deny their link. The view from the Lincoln Statue across the reflective pond, over the WWII memorial, past the Washington memorial to the Capitol is something to behold. Each one in itself is testament to its country and together they are awe-inspiring. All in all we saw the White House (not as cool as you’d think), Capitol, Supreme Court from afar, Lincoln, Washington Monument, WWII memorial, Korean War memorial and many great government buildings in between. We asked a guard what we had to do to get a tour of the White House and he asked if we had booked 9 months ago… Next time. Lib was quite sick so I finally I caved and said enough was enough. Our quickest stop yet was over and we went back to NY to catch our flight to Boston.
Well Boston was a little miserable weather wise. We were absolutely stuffed so it didn’t bother us so much and we decided to catch our breath and tone down the the tourist stuff. We walked the Freedom Trail and I delighted in learning more about American independence. Many of the founding fathers (Franklin and Hancock to name a couple) were from Boston and of course the historically symbolic Boston Tea Party occurred in Boston… dah. We also went and visited the JFK museum and that was a terrific museum autobiographically on JFK and his presidency. Highlights for me were the exhibits on the Cuban missile crisis and his Irish ancestory (including his Catholicism). The next day was to Cambridge to see Harvard and the Masachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). It was pissing rain so we hid in their amazing bookstore and I accidentally bought three books and Lib accidentally bought two. Boston wasn’t full of highlights but it’s a pretty city and it allowed us to recharge our batteries a little. Next stop was to Littleton, New Hampshire to visit Lib’s aunty and uncle.
The first thing of note about Littleton is that Lib had only ever met her aunty twice and had not ever met her uncle. She was a little nervous but I reassured her that it would be fine and besides, we might see a bear. Well not only did it all go swimmingly but we saw heaps of bears!!! And two moose (they say meese)! It was altogether a fantastic couple of days with Lib’s relatives that was topped by some amazing home cooking from Helen and an amazing tour of the area from Dick. Dick is a classic guy- I hope no American park rangers read my blog, maybe I should give them alias’… Anyway I digress. Dick and Helen (or should I say… Peter and Gina) live in the woods where many wild animals roam. Over the past twelve years Dick has fed and slowly trained some of the local black bears. Every year after hybernation Dick helps them to renourish themselves for a few weeks. He has strategically placed buckets around the house that he fills with seeds (I was a little disappointed with seeds I must say, I was hoping they’d eat meat, not sure why). Well when we get there and Dick picks us up in the morning and says he has to feed the bears I think to myself, ‘yeah righto mate’. I’m an Australian I know this one, we do the same thing and tell tourists about the sharks and the kangaroos. Anyway, we get to their place and as soon as we get out of the car Lib says “Cade… there’s a f&*king bear”. And she was bloody right. Less than five metres away stood a gorgeous 400lb black bear. Thankfully it didn’t attack and Dick calmed us down before he began his feeding ritual. Walking around to his buckets to feed not only bears but birds and squirrels as well. The place is a genuine nature reserve. Soon enough the place is literally crawling with black bears including 2 older cubs and 2 very young cubs that were too scared and stayed up in a tree. Aside from the nature side of things the whole area around Littleton is beautiful and I’d love to go back in winter to ski. The flume and the basin were great sights to see. As well as all this it was really nice to be around Lib when she was ‘reunited’ with her aunty and was able to meet her uncle, cousin and cousin-in-law. We all had a great lunch on our final day and the next morning Helen and Dick drove us to Concord where we caught our bus back to Boston for our flight to Moscow.
If you’ve read all of this in one guy it was a Herculean effort because it took me three goes to write it. I apologise for the length and if it came across a little flat. I was missing Rosie’s diary notes that have been the backbone of my blogs so far and I will attempt to keep my own diary notes from now on to liven it up a bit again!!!
We are currently in Belestrand, Norway. We arrived here today after a night in Oslo and 8 days in Russia (Moscow and St Petersburg). I will attempt to blog again soon as to avoid a backlog of information in one go again. Next stop is Bergen, Norway and after that it’s Stockholm and Gothenburg in Sweden before London via Amsterdam and then Paris. Stay tuned.
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To all the breakfast customers: missing my lattes? I am...