Tuesday, July 17, 2007

the final leg, or three

Pittsburgh, PA

the first thing we thought was "woah, there's loads of cool tunnels and bridges" which soon turned into "oh bugger, the sat nav doesn't like tunnels and bridges, we keep getting lost". finding the hotel involved a few pedal to the metal lane changes and a couple of U-turns but we made it in the end. by this time the weather was getting really hot, Kathryn was lapping it up, walking everywhere facing the sky while i followed behind in the shadows, hoping to avoid another burnt forehead. the first day we got there we just sort of lazed around, called home untill it was teatime and we went to pizza hut. we ate buffalo wings for the first time, they were hot and they were good.

we had one full day in Pittsburgh....that was plenty enough. we headed into the city, there is a state park at the tip of downtown where the Ohio (i think) River splits in two. That was the first port of call....it was closed for maintenance. you could still walk around the edge of the park and it had some brilliant views of the houses on the hill that borders the river to the left and Heinz Field (the home of the Pittsburgh Steelers american football team) to the right. we then got attacked by these wierd mutant daddy long legs things that were loitering on the trees near the edge of the park, that was enough for us. we headed into the oven (it was about 90 degrees fahrenheit at this point) to see if we could find any redeeming features, we found...... a submarine! at the Carnegie Science Centre. the place was overun with kids, but did have a sweet basketball playing robotic arm that could shoot 3 pointers. luckily the submarine docked outside was pretty quiet so we got to take a look below decks at how US Navy folk lived while out at sea, pretty cool. after that we went to by far the biggest shopping mall i have ever seen, we watched Evan Almighty then walked around the shops there for aaages, it just kept going.

that was us in Pittsburgh

Frederick, MD

not much to say about frederick, it's a small town, they have an unusual amount of tattoo parlours for a town that looks like it's inhabitted by pensioners and the front desk lady at the hotel was really rude, that's about it.
we went to the Gettysburg national cemetery on the site of the famous civil war battle and even more famous address made by President Lincoln, four score and seven years and all that.....

Washington DC

we got to washington DC real early. the room wasn't ready so we parked the car, left our luggage at the hotel and headed out on foot. it was a twenty minute walk from the hotel to the central part of Washington and the many monuments and museums located there. the first thing we came across was the whitehouse, although it took about 5 minutes for us to be sure it was the whitehouse as it looked nothing like it does in Independance Day..... lucky for us Will Smith was nowhere to be seen either. we soon realised we were looking at the back of it, which i think is officially the front of it. it certainly wasn't the side they show on TV. We took a stroll around to the famous side and stood with a bunch of other tourists for a few minutes before heading off to the World War II memorial. after that we took a walk along the reflecting pool towards the Lincoln Memorial. i resisted the urge to run through it screaming JENNNNNNYYYYYYYY as it looked pretty dirty and i only have one pair of shorts. We took a look inside the Lincoln Memorial, it's a pretty awesome sight, a 19ft statue of the man himself with his gettysburg address engraved on the wall to his left and his second inaugural speech to his right.

we then headed past the Washington monument along the national mall to look at some of the smithsonian museums. Washington is a cool place to hang out if you have plenty of time to kill and little/no money as there are loads of museums and galleries and they're all free to get in (maybe that's why there are so many homeless people about? probably not....). the first place we went in was the air and space museum, it's full of planes and space and air craft as you'd expect, and has some awesome exhibitions showing the history of space travel and the influence computers have had on modern aircraft. this was definately one of my favourite places we visited during the trip. next stop was the national museum of the american indian. we were a little dissapointed in this place, it appeared to be mainly full of shops selling trinkets and pan pipes cds, boo.
by this time we'd been walking all day and we realised we had a 40 minute uphill walk back to the hotel, double boo. we stopped at an italian pizza restaraunt on the way back where we had yet another starter that was big enough for a main meal followed by a main meal, by this point we were both starting to wonder how much cheese we'd consumed over the past 4 weeks and how bad it had been for us. we finally made it back to the hotel to be greeted by a room straight out of a horror movie. it was nice and clean but it was very erm, vintage looking and way too big for the amount of furniture they put in it which gave it a bit of a creepy vibe. we had been considering going to watch ROOM 1408 at the cineama but that was now 100% off the cards.

the next day we went to Georgetown which is a small college town on the edge of Washington. we did some shopping, bought some gifts, walked some more and that was pretty much it. that night there was a news report about the street we had been walking down hours earlier being closed off as someone had seen a "suspicious" looking abandoned bag. i'm not sure how bags look suspicious, i thought they mostly just looked like bags. this was the day after the foiled/bungled terrorist attempts back in the UK and so the American News were reporting everything approaching a story with their usual delirious extravagance.

Sunday, our last day in Washington and our last chance to do anything that didn't involve driving, packing and flying.... so we went to the zoo! our hotel was really close to the smithsonian zoo so went to check it out. i don't think i've ever seen a hippopotamus up close before, they are enormous. i always thought they were like giant pigs, these things could eat a giant pig for breakfast, then again for lunch and dinner. pretty cool. after the zoo we headed back dowtown, we exited a different way than we entered, i was sure i knew where we were going, and we only had to run across one freeway to get there... we were soon back in amogst the federal buildings surrounding the whitehouse. we both wanted to go to the national archives building to have a ganders at the declaration of independence, the constitution and the bill of rights (after watching national treasure, nicholas cage is the man). we had to queue for a while to get in but it was worth it. incidentally they also have a copy of the magna carta confirmed by Edward I in 1297........ we win in the historical documents game hands down. after that it was back to the hotel for some room service dinner and an early night, we were both knackered and had been walking all day for three days.

the monday morning we made our way to where it all started, Newark international airport. we stopped at a holiday inn right next to it. we had a view of the planes taking off and a bed that was wider than it was long! we got to the hotel mid afternoon and chilled for a while before attempting to repack our bags, not an easy task. i had bought another bag to take as carry on luggage that was nearly as full as my suitcase when we started the trip. somehow we did it, then went for dinner at the hotel sports bar. i didn't think my accent was that suffolk but apparently i speak in a way that makes it impossible to understand the sentence "can i have fish and chips please?" i think someone needs a change of career.
our final day was spent hanging around the airport, waiting to fly. i would have said it was a wasted day but i saw Mikey from Orange County Choppers eating tacos and kathryn even got a kind of creepy picture of him walking past me eating an ice cream before he dissapeared.

i'm now at home writing this in my bedroom, the view isn't quite as cool as some that we've enjoyed the past weeks but the memories are still vivid and i think they'll stay with us for a
long time to come.

This blog is dedicated to the memory of our nanas, Pam and Joan who passed away not long ago
and who would have enjoyed reading it more than anyone i can think of. you are both missed and will always be loved and never forgotten.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Niagara Falls

Next stop was Niagara Falls. this place is cool. it's a pretty awesome sight, the first time the falls come into view. we were staying at the Sheraton Fallsview hotel which as you can probably guess overlooked the falls. we got out of the lift on the eighth floor to see the falls properly for the first time. we dumped our gear in the room and headed straight down to the falls. we had a bit of trouble actually getting down there. we could see the falls but couldn't find a path down there. needless to say i was getting pretty hacked off, ready to hop over the barrier and run/fall down through the bushes blocking our path untill Kathryn swallowed my pride and asked a gardener for directions. Once down there we had a look around then got some passes that let us on a white water rapids walk, a walk under the falls and a trip on the "world famous" maid of the mist. first up was the white water walk, it's a little further down river from the falls. you go down a lift about 200 feet then come out to wooden walkways that run alongside the class 6 (apparently the most dangerous kind) rapids. it was a cool walk and i was trying to ease kathryn into the maid of the mist as she was less than happy with the idea of cruising so close to the falls.

next up was the "journey under the falls" (everything in quote marks should be said with a quivering, awe inducing voice). you go down another lift then they give you a nice yellow poncho. you then walk through some tunnels to a viewing platform right next to the base of the falls. it was wet. enough said. like rain, but coming from all directions. you then walk through some more tunnels that go under the falls and can see out of some holes at the back of the falls. as you can probably guess, it looks like a ton of white water falling over the edge of a cliff. brilliant.

last of all, the maid of the mist. you get the idea by now.... another lift, a blue poncho this time then a boat that looks like it may have been the very same one to make the first trip back in 1846. i was beggining to see why Kathryn was worried. we got on, took hold of the railings and got underway. we got some excellent views of the american falls and the canadian horse shoe falls. i tried to take some pictures from right in the mist but my camera eventually died and refused to take anymore pictures. plus you couldn't really see anything by the time you got there, it was like going through a car wash with the windows down. nice.

that night we went for dinner at a place called Tony Roma's. i had a bleu cheese burger (that's not a spelling mistake), it tasted like pure gasoline.... never eat blue cheese. we then went down to the falls again to watch some fireworks and take a look at the falls by moonlight. at least i thought it was the moon, kathryn pointed out to me a minute later that it was actually a big white hot air balloon. i think i got too much sun that day.

we took loads of photos, here are a select few (few dozen).

we had a wicked time at the falls, it made a nice change to being in cities for the past week. the next day it was off to America again, heading to Pittsburgh.