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Round the World 2007

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I had to put a post in for my first day back.

Mum, Dad and Nain were meeting me at the airport. I joked about wanting a sign or banner, saying ‘Welcome Home’. The banner was a huge piece of yellow material with red writing, which Mum had made professionally! It was awesome. Nain and Dad were watching the luggage, expecting to see my blue backpack. So they totally ignored these fancy white flowery matching suitcases and only realised it was me when Mum had dropped her end of the banner, and could hear me cackling.

I was really nervous about coming home, but it wasn’t really necessary. By the end of the day I felt like I’d barely been away. I also ran into Gillian on town, and she told me some of the girls were going out that night, so I joined them.

Good to be home.

Round the World 2007 USA

The End of RTW 2007

Breakfast, with the worst coffee I’ve ever had. No joke. It really was mud. I had to add so much milk to be able to put up with the taste, that it went totally cold.

Checked out. Spent some time on the internet. Left.

I met the two nicest people in New York today. The first saw me trying to get down to the subway with my two big cases, and carried the bigger one down for me. I wanted to thank him, but he was gone before I could: he wasn’t even going to the subway! The second carried my big case down the second lot of stairs. It was touching. There are some good people in New York.

Getting to JFK airport was simple enough. I had to change trains once, but it was on the same platform. Long journey though. The journey on the air-train round the airport was quite long too.

I managed to check in early, then spent ages in the departures lounge, just reading and drinking coffee and eating. Our flight was delayed because our cabin crew were held up by some UN conference, but we still made up the time in the air.

Round the World 2007 USA

Lost in New York

Woke up, straightened my hair, and had breakfast. I packed the last of my stuff, then headed over to the bus stop. I met some interesting characters on the bus, including a guy who thought Welsh people could walk on water, and that I had an elephant in my suitcase. He wished me well too. And the bus driver asked if I was going to write a book about my travels.

The journey to New York was uneventful. We got in at 3pm, and I caught the wrong subway uptown, so had to walk three blocks across and three up. New York doesn’t believe in many cross-town trains.

I checked into Jazz on the Park, and headed out again. I got totally confused downtown and walked north when I wanted to go south. I found a cafe called Pecan to get a coffee and find my bearings. I got chatting to a guy there, who was a photographer. Pretty good too: showed me his website: I’ll link to it when I find his business card!

Heading in the right direction now, I found Century 21 and bought the smaller version of my suitcase. I then got the subway back up town and spent the evening packing and on the internet.

Round the World 2007 USA

Ocean Drive and Cliff Walk

Had breakfast in the hostel, then moved my stuff down to “The Cave”, aka the cellar. I also packed up a lot of stuff too.

I went to the library at 10am and spent an hour on the internet. I then came back to the hostel and borrowed one of the bikes to do the Scenic Ocean Drive. It wasn’t that fantastic (and my arse was still sore after Martha’s Vineyard), but at least I could see the coastline without all the boats! Got quite a waft of salty sea air too!

The ride took about 1 1/2 hours, and I went to a cafe for lunch after. I returned the bike, had a coffee in the hostel, then headed out on foot to do the Cliff Walk. First Beach was OK, but looked better at the far end. The walk itself was quite pleasant, but as usual when something gets talked up, it was a bit of a let-down. The mansions were grand. Beyond grand in fact. I didn’t go in because it was getting late and apparently you should allow an hour in each.

I went down to the Coffee Grinder and hung out there for a while. Saw a dog in a life-jacket. Got a gelato on the way back. I spent the evening chatting to Paul, then showered and watched Legally Blonde, Along came Polly, and Cat Ballou, until I decided it was time for sleep.

Round the World 2007 USA

Well Do You Have A Flag?

OK, so if you don’t know anything about Newport…Firstly, it’s not the one from The OC. It is the home of the America’s Cup when America win and they host it over here. It therefore has a lot of boats. Hundreds of boats. It also has a lot of mansions. Old money billionaires built extravagant homes here. You can visit them too, and go on tours.

The title of this post is a reference to an Eddie Izzard sketch about the British taking over the world with the cunning use of flags. I only bring it up because there are a lot of houses with flags outside. Imagine driving along Ruthin Road and seeing a Welsh flag outside every other home, and that’s pretty close. That whole “pledging allegiance to the flag” in school stays with them!

But today, I was going round some of the historical sights. I started with the Old Stone Mill in Touro Park. No one knows who built it, why, when, or even what it is. Then I went to the Redwood Library, the oldest public library in the US. I then walked down to Trinity Church, which wasn’t as special as I expected it to be. Then I found Washington Square, where I got a coffee and bagel in a cafe.

I did a bit of shopping in a second hand shop, then wandered around Brick Market Place and Thames (pronounced Taymz) St on my way back to the hostel to drop stuff off. Heading back out, I went over to Goat Island, which you reach via the causeway. It has possibly the smallest lighthouse I’ve seen. And the views back to Newport were obscured by all the boats.

I came back over to Newport and sat in Coffee Grinder for a while. I then did some more shopping on the way back to the hostel, then headed up to the library to take advantage of the free internet.

I headed out for supper around 8.45pm. Stupid idea with it being a Monday. The pizza place I wanted to go to was already closed and I couldn’t find anywhere else reasonable and with something other than seafood, so I ended up with ice cream. I got chatting to one of the other guests who was a teacher over in California. Scary stuff: they’re taking geography off the state school curriculum, and they only learn American history.

Round the World 2007 USA

Martha’s Vineyard to Newport

There is a snoring guy in our dorm. I think he managed to wake everyone up. So I got out of bed earlier than planned and straightened my hair. I left the hostel around 7.30am, and caught the bus to Vineyard Haven, in plenty of time to get the 9.30am ferry back to Woods Hole.

I didn’t think I’d get out of Woods Hole until around midday, but one of the Peter Pan bus drivers got me onto his bus, and told me to get the bus to Providence, then get the RIPTA local bus to Newport. I reached the Providence terminal by 12.30pm, and had to wait until 1pm for a connection to Providence Kennedy Plaza. There was a direct bus to Newport at 1.45pm, but I decided to trust them.

I got to Kennedy Plaza and found my stop, but had to wait until 2pm (currently 1.20pm) for the next bus, and it takes about an hour to get to Newport. By the time I reached Newport, there was a Peter Pan bus there…

I then had to walk about 20 blocks to the guesthouse, and just caught Merrilee, the owner, as she was heading out. After checking in I went for a wander into town. It is the last day of the boat show, so it’s quite busy. I got a coffee and ice cream in an Italian cafe, walked around a bit more, then got a hot chocolate and muffin at Coffee Grinder on Bannister Wharf.

I headed back to the guesthouse and met the other guests, and also met Paul who is looking after the place for a week while Merrilee goes away, and was also in the hostel on Martha’s Vineyard.

Round the World 2007 USA

Rain

Lots and lots of rain this morning. There goes my day at the beach. Instead I had breakfast, then somehow ended up on the internet until 2pm, and still in my pyjamas.

I had a quick lunch, then cycled over to West Tisbury and caught the bus to Vineyard Haven. I returned the bike, bought a book, then sat in a cafe reading for a while, before getting the bus back to West Tisbury.

Showered. Packed. Read. Internet.

Round the World 2007 USA

Up Island

The great thing about being here is that there is no rush in the morning. I’m up early and am one of the first for breakfast, but all the food stays out until about 11am, so I’m having two helpings. It was around 11.30am that I set off “Up Island” on my bike. Up Island is what they call the western part, where it is much less developed. It starts at West Tisbury, then includes the towns of Chilmark, Aquinnah and Menemsha. Not that you’re all that aware they’re towns.

Anyway…I reached Chilmark and found the Abel Hill Cemetery, where John Belushi is buried. His grave is the first one as you walk in, and set apart from the others, probably so Blues Brothers fans don’t go walking all over other people’s graves trying to find his. Still haven’t seen any sign of Dan Ackroyd’s house though…

There wasn’t really anything to stop me in the town itself, so I kept going towards Aquinnah. It is deceptively hilly: they look small and easy, but they really take it out of you. Especially if, like me, you only cycle once every two years or so! I followed the Moshup Trail around the coast to Aquinnah. Nothing to do with rock festivals: actually the name of a Native Indian legend.

I stopped at Philbin Beach and walked along it to the Gay Head Cliffs. They’re only about 100ft high, but they’re really colourful, hence the name they were given. I spent about an hour walking on the beach, then got back on the bike and headed up to the Gay Head Lighthouse.

I saw a sign for a bike ferry over to Menemsha, so followed that a few miles down the road. I hadn’t realised you could only reach Menemsha from this side by the ferry. And it wasn’t operating. So I had to cycle all the way back to Chilmark instead. By the time I could’ve got a bus from there to Menemsha, but I didn’t care that much. It might be were they filmed Jaws, but since I’ve only seen that once and very long ago, I wouldn’t recognise anywhere. So I went to the Chilmark Chocolate factory store and got the bus back to West Tisbury instead.

I’d cycled about 20 miles and didn’t feel up to the last 5 miles! I did cycle from West Tisbury to the hostel though.

Round the World 2007 USA

MV Towns

This is another hostel where they provide breakfast but it’s self serve. I managed to burn my pancakes this morning and set off the fire alarm! After eating my burnt pancakes, I spent most of the morning chatting to Ami, a Japanese girl studying cancer research in NYC.

I caught the bus to Edgartown at 11.45am. Looked around a bit, then bought an ice cream and sat up on Memorial Wharf eating it, and watching the one-minute ferry over to Chappaquiddick. I saw lots of the historical sites, including the Sculpin Gallery (oldest building on the island), lots of grand colonial houses, and the lighthouse. It’s a bit too red, white and blue for my liking: there are flags on almost all the front porches.

I got a coffee in a courtyard cafe, then caught the bus over to Oak Bluffs. It was a nice bus ride, with the ocean on one side, and the “pond” on the other. Edgartown is full of colonial houses, and Oak Bluffs is all about the gingerbread houses. Very colourful and very cute. I took a couple of photos in Ocean Park (not sure if that was a literal name because the ground was waterlogged!), then headed up the main shopping street. I got some lunch (although it was about 3.30pm), then caught the bus over to Vineyard Haven.

I didn’t have much time in Vineyard Haven, so I had a quick wander up the main street, then went to the bike rental place just before 5pm. I cycled back to the hostel the long way (about 15 miles), via Edgartown: basically back along the bus route I took.

Round the World 2007 USA

Boston to Martha’s Vineyard

I left the Boston hostel around 8am this morning, and managed to get on the 8.45am bus to Woods Hole. Fairly uneventful journey, but you feel like you’re really in New England on the drive: all the houses are just like you see in holiday brochures, and there is lots of greenery.

The ferry to Martha’s Vineyard left Woods Hole almost as soon as I arrived, and took 45 minutes to get to Vineyard Haven. I had to hang around a little, waiting for the right bus, but that dropped me off right outside the hostel. It’s a very nice hostel: purpose built back in the 1950s, and with a big garden. But it is in the middle of nowhere: the nearest ‘town’ is West Tisbury, which is a 10-15 minute walk, and there is very little there. It takes at least half an hour to get to any of the three big towns on the island.

Anyway…I checked in, went on the internet for a while, then walked over to West Tisbury, where I had some lunch and bought some groceries. When I got back to the hostel, I sat out on one of the sun loungers reading, and fell asleep for at least an hour!

Round the World 2007 USA

Good Weather for Ducks

I got the subway over to Government Centre today. I waited until around 10am so things could get started. But it was still quiet when I got over there.

I wandered through Faneuil Hall and the market, and found the Cheers Bar (not the original). It was all very old and grand, but it was still quiet and I was still bored. It’s very difficult being in the city when you don’t want to spend too much money and don’t really have room to buy anything else to take home!

I wandered up towards the Meeting House, and then along Beacon Street, until I reached Beacon Hill and Charles Street. This is where all the street are tree-lined, the buildings are red brick and the pavements are cobbled. A lot of antique shops, cafes and salons too.

I got a coffee, and it started to rain while I was in the cafe, so I waited until it let up a bit. I wandered along Charles Street then through the park in the vague direction of the hostel. I passed the “Make Way for Ducklings” statue, which is after a real duck who stopped traffic when her and her ducklings were crossing the street. Then the heavens opened, and I, in my jeans and woollen jumper, soaked up a lot of water, on my 25 minute walk back to the hostel.

I peeled off my clothes, took a shower, and spent the rest of the afternoon reading and on the internet. Later I did my laundry, packed and straightened my hair. The girls left this morning so no Monty Python and Eddie Izzard jokes.

Round the World 2007 USA

Cambridge

I took the subway up to Cambridge today, which is where Harvard University is. Some guy sat a bit too close for comfort on the subway! Luckily he was only going one stop.

Aside from Harvard, Cambridge is also known for having a high concentration of bookstores. So I spent a little while wandering around red brick buildings and into a couple of bookstores. I allowed myself a magazine, then struggled to find a place to get a coffee and read it. My only criteria was somewhere that I could get it served in a real cup, rather than a paper one. Just as I was about to give up and go to Starbucks, I found Dado Tea, where I also got a muffin.

After about half an hour in there, I wandered around the town and through the Harvard grounds. I was going to go to the art galleries and museum here, but frankly couldn’t be arsed. I’ve visited way more galleries and museums this year than I ordinarily would! Harvard was really pretty though: red brick buildings and leafy green grounds.

Once I returned to Boston, I went to Copley Square and the library for a bit, then went back to the hostel. Me, Sarah and Jenny spent most of the evening quoting Eddie Izzard and Monty Python, while April looked on bemused. It’s so good to be with like-minded Brits!

Round the World 2007 USA

Boston

This hostel does free breakfasts: bagels and fruit, as well as the free coffee and tea.

After that I walked up Boylston Street, which runs parallel to Newbury. It passes by Copley Square, where the Public Library and Trinity Church are. Then it continues on to the Public Garden. It’s mostly huge old-money buildings: very grand. I walked through the garden, where I saw the swan boats on the “lake”. I expected them to be a little more Alton Towers, where you sit in a big swan, but they were long boats with lots of seats and small swans at the back.

I found my way to Massachusetts State House, then took a bit of a round-about way to the Old South Meeting House, home of the infamous Boston Tea Party. I had a quick look in Borders which was across the road, before telling myself that I didn’t need a book. Then I walked to the Old South State House, home of the infamous Boston Massacre.

After that I took myself on an unguided tour, seeing lots of fancy buildings, but having no idea where I was. I somehow ended up back at the park. I wandered back along Newbury Street from there, then I headed over to the Mary Baker Eddy Library to see the Mapparium: a three-storey glass globe. It was kinda cool, but you only get 20 minutes in there, and have to pay $6 for it, and you can’t take photos.

I did some grocery shopping in the evening, then spent the evening hanging out with Jenny, Sarah and April.

Round the World 2007 USA

Newbury Street

I got the bus to Boston at 10am. I washed and straightened my hair last night, but needn’t have bothered because I was sweaty and a bit frazzled by the time I got to the bus station in NYC.

The journey was about 4 1/2 hours, and we had Man of the Year on, which was about politics and starred Robin Williams. The film wasn’t great, but he was funny.

I got the subway in Boston from the bus/train station to Hynes Convention Centre, then walked the last couple of blocks to the hostel. The subway in Boston is much nicer than NYC: it isn’t air conditioned, but they’ve put big fans in some of the stations!

I checked in and met April and Sarah who are in my room, then I went for a wander. I walked along Newbury Street, and stopped for a late lunch in Trident cafe and bookstore. After that I walked the entire length of the street, to the Public Garden and back. Lonely Planet says it’s punk one end, high street in the middle and old money at the other end. It’s more like old money, high street, and a mix of high street and independent. Not what I’d consider punk though! However it was a very pleasant walk. Kinda what I expected from NYC: big wide pavements and lots of street cafes.

After that I went back to the hostel, where I showered, met Jenny who is also in my room, and made the most of the free coffee. I probably went on the internet too.

Round the World 2007 USA

Liberty

I had breakfast in Picnic, the place up the street, again. Finally got going around 10.30am, and took the subway to South Ferry, where I queued in Castle Clinton for my ticket for the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

You have to queue for the ticket, then go through security, then get on the ferry. It looks like a long process, but I was there just after 11am and still got on the 11.30am ferry.

All tickets for going into the statue were sold out, so I could only go onto the island. You still get to stand under her to get photos though. She’s smaller than I imagined. And I found it hard to believe that the island was 12 acres.

I got the ferry to Ellis Island after that. The building is very grand, especially the main hall where all the immigrants used to get processed. There were lots of people looking up ancestors! I don’t know how Will Smith got the place empty for his date with Eva Mendes in Hitch. But then, I suppose they started at 7am.

I was back on the mainland by 3pm, went back to the hostel and then went to an internet cafe on Bleeker Street, where I spent three hours uploading videos and photos. I got the subway back to my area, then got a “slice” for dinner, before heading back to the hostel, and showering and packing.