Tag Archives: Travel

Syddersss

24 Nov

I’ve been in Sydney now for nearly three weeks, and despite a spate of bad weather for the last couple of days, I am loving it. I’m writing for Australian Geographic in  the week, and start a new job tonight at a bar. Sydney is such a fun, vibrant city, it’s hard not to love it. It seems to have all the charms of a smaller town with all the electric excitement of a large city. It’s beautiful – those who have been down to Circular Quay and seen the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge will testify to that – and has everything I could ever want. In fact, it’s going to be difficult to leave.

Not that Australia is perfect. It has a real gambling problem: one government website claiming 70% of Australians playing the pokies (gambling machines) regularly, and one in six of those having a real problem. It’s also expensive, in some cases more so than New York, which surprised me. I thought I’d left those days behind me.

Before I go, I’ll just leave you with some cracking music from Chris Thile and Michael Daves.

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It’s been a while.

25 Oct

Since my last post, I have been working in New York as much as possible to afford to get to Australia, and then made my way West, often without any WiFi or internet access. My bad.

But here is what has happened in a nutshell (or a few).

I was working hard in NYC, right up until my last day in the city. It was tough, but I made it: I got my plane ticket, and a series of buses and trains totalling just under 4,000 miles, all for under $1,000. Which made me happy. So I said my goodbyes to New York, and got on my first bus.

Washington DC. 

The capital of the USA is an odd city. It’s laid out in an odd way, it has a massive social disparity and an eclectic atmosphere. On the one hand, there is the National Mall, the face of the United States of America, built in imposing white marble which is unfortunately falling apart. On one end is the Capitol, looking a little like a cleaned up Ion Cannon that the Rebels take out a Star Destroyer with in the Empire Strikes Back. Following it down, a green expanse, flanked by the Smithsonians, until it is broken up by the tatty Washington Monument, and the White House. Then, the memorials: the World War Two, Korea and Vietnam memorials, with the incredible Lincoln Memorial at the far end, with the reflecting pool dug up, echoing a scene from Fallout 3. Across a small body of water, the Jefferson Memorial watches over it, and the new Martin Luther King Jr memorial is just to one side.

Firstly, the Smithsonian Museums are incredible. The Air and Space, especially. They are chock-full of so much amazing exhibits, the Hope Diamond, the Apollo 11 reentry module, John Glenn’s Mercury spacecraft, SpaceShipOne, the Bell X-1, the Wright Flier, the Spirit of St Louis, the original Star Spangled Banner… if I had to describe the Smithsonian in a word, I would just say ‘go’.

Then, Arlington. Devastatingly sad, I spent my few hours there in the blazing heat whizzing around the massive expanse of graves trying to find the couple of ones I wanted to see enough to fit into my short time there. John Basilone, JFK, RFK, the Unknown Soldiers.. Kids were walking around with T-Shirts bearing pictures of the fathers they had just buried, veterans were finding the graves of their close friends, it was a massively sad few hours.

Washington DC is a fantastic city. All it needs is some form of local government with a say in Congress – it is wasting away with its current lack of money. But perhaps Obama’s successor will be more open to Change.

Lost in Translation

26 Jul

America is an English-speaking country, but anyone who’s spent a reasonable amount of time here should know that Americans don’t speak English. Whether you like it or not – my good (American) friend Nick likened American English as OS X Leopard to British English’s Tiger (I tend to lean more towards American being the Vista to British’s XP – if it ain’t broke…) – but it is there. Some translations are impossible, as my British friend Ellie directed me to the brick wall that is reached when asking about certain food items in menus: we don’t have a clue what arugula is, and on the other side of the pond, they only know rocket as a medium for sending people into orbit, or raining fire down on threats to world peace.

So, foodstuffs are the worst, as they’re often difficult to explain as well. Arugula/rocket is a leafy vegetable. Cabbage? No, more of a salad vegetable. Lettuce? No, it has more of a bitter taste. You get the idea. And there is a long list: cilantro/coriander, eggplant/aubergine, zucchini/courgette, oatmeal/porridge, frosting/icing, meatball/faggot (that was fun to try and describe), graham cracker/digestive biscuit, chips/crisps, fries/chips, bap/bun, clingfilm/saran wrap. The list is by no means exhaustive. Some translations can land you in trouble, for instance asking an American if he can bum you a fag (procure for you one of his cigarettes) may get you nothing but an odd look. In a similar vein, asking for a biscuit won’t get you anything closely resembling a cookie, but a scone.

So here goes. My attempt at an American English/British English dictionary.

Eggplant/Aubergine

Cilantro/Coriander

Zucchini/Courgette

Potato Chips/Crisps

French Fries/Chips

Fag/Poof (not that either should be used in common currency)

Clingfilm/Saran Wrap

Subway/Tube

Couch/Sofa

Commercial/Advert

Dessert/Pudding

Pudding/Mousse

Aerial/Antenna

Aluminium/Aluminum (please note that as per Linnaean classification, -ium is the correct suffix. Britain is correct.)

Anti-clockwise/Counterclockwise

Banger/Sausage

Autumn/Fall

Nappy/Diaper

Frying Pan/Skillet

Sweets/Candy

Tap/Faucet

Bin/Wastebasket

Jumper/Sweater…

You get the idea. Next week, the pertinacious American exemption of the letter ‘U’ (armour, clamour), use of the letter ‘Z’ (apologize, realize), the switched letters ‘E’ and ‘R’ (theatre, center) and the ‘S’ (defense, offense). I jest.

Starbucks

5 Jul

I’m writing this blog post from a Starbucks, hence the title. I feel a little beatnik, sitting here with my iced coffee.

Happy 4th of July! We spent it on the roof of our building in the Financial District, drinking beer and having ribs on a barbeque, before going to a ‘kegger’ on the roof of another building uptown, the skyline literally sprawled out around us, with the Chrysler and the Empire State lit up the brightest (red, white and blue for Empire). I’ve become acquainted with $1 pizza, 7/11 big gulps and traversing a hell of a lot of stairs. But it’s okay. I still need to get used to American accents, having just completely failed miserably when ordering my coffee by completely failing to understand the word ‘sweetened’ in a New York drawl. What followed was me looking like a twat while the barista said in the most condescending voice: ‘sugar, or no sugar’. Duh.

Also, contrary to what I’ve heard:

a) New York is sunny. The buildings are really tall, but they don’t block out the sun. And it’s quite leafy, pretty much every street is lined with trees, and there are loads of parks. And I’ve only seen one cockroach. New York is actually pretty clean and really nice. Apart from the subway, I don’t like the subway. But then again, the trains are air-conditioned.

b) New Yorkers are actually quite nice. I’ve had quite a smattering of drinks bought for me already, and it’s really easy to strike up a conversation with someone you’ve never met and just chat away. Mostly they just want to know about England, from one perspective or another. The guy I was chatting to on Sunday just wanted to know about how English sports clubs worked and how much the players got paid.

c) New York is cheap for me, but expensive for everyone else. Pretty much everything is cheaper than London, but it is apparently the most expensive city in America. But a dollar for a large slice of pizza ain’t too shabby.

I’m going to go to Central Park now, ’cause I can’t apply for jobs until I get a Social Security number. Which takes a few working days apparently, and yesterday was a national holiday and all. Byeeee

I forgot to give this a title the first time round.

6 Jun

Hello. Sorry, I’ve been a bit rubbish recently. But the clock is ticking down, and it’s now only a few weeks before I go! I even have a tentative date for my US visa interview. I’m also slowly mapping out the next eighteen months of my life – in as much detail as my hodgepodge peripateticism will allow. I’ve also been questioning myself recently, analysing my motives and reasons behind leaving. I’m leaving a lot behind, so it might take a lot of analysis.

I also had a bombshell dropped on me last week – an £850 dental bill. I thought I’d get a check up before I left, and on account of three years of heaving drinking and smoking – the life of a student – I need a bit of stuff done. While I was initially shocked and appalled, I had a look at leaving my parents’ private practice and had a gander at NHS dentistry. And it turns out, I need half as much done as the private dentist said I’d need (would greed be a motive there?), and it’s all going to cost me only £47. It’s one of those moments where you stop being British for just long enough to stop complaining and realise how lucky we are for having this glorious National Health Service. Yeah, it’s a bit stale and bureaucratic, but when it really matters, it really helps.

I have to get back to my D-Day documentary, but I’ll be leaving soon. Keep your eyes peeled. And I’ll try to be more diligent with my updates in future.

Packing

7 May

The neverending cycle of sorting through the interminable dross into three piles – take, leave and throw. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’m probably going to have to leave my musical instruments behind, the worst case scenario is I buy some more when I’m out there. Maybe that’s a good thing – I could leave my English musical instruments behind, and invest in some truly unique and cultured ones as I travel around. I have a banjo already, but who can compete with a truly bluegrass one from the Deep South, or a pipa from China, a sitar from India?

One of the things I try to do when I’m packing is fill up my suitcase (or in this case, duffle bag) and then take out exactly half of the things I have packed. I won’t need that many clothes or things, I’m going to be on my feet a lot and I don’t want to get weighed down. It’s bad enough with all the books I carry around everywhere, they weighed me down like an anchor in Africa.

But until then, it’s just take, leave and throw. Take, leave and throw. Ignore the beehive of complaint about the AV referendum. That is completely irrelevant. If it was going to go through, more people would have voted for it. Just like, if Stephen Harper was THAT bad, he wouldn’t have got re-elected! The trivialities melt away when set against a proper backdrop, like the feasibility of getting lost in a limitless expanse of American sky in just a month’s time.

Kicking it into high gear – The Journey is forming

23 Mar

I began applying for my visa today. Amidst the endless musings and plans, promises of Taco Bell and decision-making, the first stop in my odyssey – America – is finally drawing near. Working and travelling around America has been a dream of mine for a long time, and the promise of fulfilling this dream is something I am very much looking forward to.

So what now? Perhaps, New York. Or Boston. Trips to Tennessee, and Louisiana. Eventually a cross-country trip to California, the very essence of following The Road. I’m getting my visa through BUNAC, and it’s making it a hell of a lot easier, a lot less red tape and form filling. All I need to do now is find a job out there, something to tide me over from place to place.

But until I go, at least I’m going to soak up my last few weeks in Plymouth, and enjoy myself! Time you enjoy wasting isn’t wasted time! This city has borne me for three years, and I am going to miss it. The vibrant mix of history and modernity will be waving me off when I board my plane.

And I have this blog. A blank canvas, with which I can colour and paint as I journey West.