As I may have mentioned, a few times, I’ve spent most of January travelling America. And before you say anything, Yes, I had intended on a three-month travel trip across America that would have taken me to many amazing places. But, for my own reasons, I had to cut the trip short at 3 weeks and travel home. Don’t worry, I’m ok. I just didn’t feel quite myself out there and I’m happy to be home. I won’t go into too much detail as to why I’m home, but, however, I will share with you what I got up to whilst I was away;
After a 6 hour flight to JFK from Manchester, via a stop over at London Heathrow, we arrived into New York with our heads full of anticipation at what lay ahead. After landing, we had a nice 2 hour wait at passport control due to their systems being down. We were tired, hungry and desperate to get to our hotel. Eventually, we made it out of the airport, rucksacks on our back, in search of an all american, yellow taxi cab. We were met by a few men trying to throw their taxi service at us at silly prices. We eventually gave in to a guy, dressed in a suit and sunglasses (despite it being gone 6pm, raining and practically dark outside) offering us $89 for an hours journey to our hotel. Despite him being very friendly towards us and taking an interest in our pending travels, he ended up charging us a total of $150, tax & tip included. We felt robbed. However, too tired to argue, we grabbed our bags and made our way into the hotel. The Paramount Hotel.
Our first day in New York was amazing! From our hotel, a 2 minute walk took us to the centre of Times Square. It’s hard to describe how I felt standing there. In one sense, I was truly amazing and lost for words at how big and bright it was, lights everywhere. It was just like the movies! But then on the other hand, I wasn’t prepared for the busyness of it and the noise. I couldn’t quite work out if I was in love with NYC or a little underwhelmed? We decided to spend the day exploring the City via one of the many tour buses available. After haggling with one company, we managed to purchase a 4 day ticket to ride the hop on, hop off buses for $53. This is a great choice for travelling around the City, however, I’d recommend that you buy from Big Bus Tours as they are more frequent and a little nicer looking. Something I’ll know for next time. We managed to see so much! Empire State Building, Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s, Radio City Music Hall, Rockefeller Centre, plus the M&M Factory, a movie at a NYC Theatre and Grand Central Station too!
Our second day, we were moving from The Paramount Hotel to a little apartment in East Harlem. Wow, that was an experience! The Apartment was lovely, a typical NYC apartment. However, the location was a little scary. It reminded me as one of those places that you’re warned about and told to avoid. But, despite all this, we had no trouble and we found many of the neighbours very friendly and helpful.
Over the next few days, we did so much! I was even beginning to get used to the ‘New York Lifestyle’. We went right to the top of the Empire State Building, visited the big Victoria’s Secret store, visited Ground Zero and the 9/11 Museum, which was such a sad, yet surreal place to be. We went on the Statue of Liberty tour which was quite possibly, one of the coldest & painful moments of my life! I also saw the Staten Island Ferry which I discovered through my love of Impractical Jokers and even went to a Comedy Club, where we were picked on for being British! (Very funny though). But, the highlight of New York, for me anyway, was when we visited the Rockefeller Centre…
For those of you that don’t know what the Rockefeller Centre is, It’s where the famous New York City Christmas Tree is placed every year, along with the Ice Rink. It’s the most magical place on earth. I mean, we visited it on the 6th January, Christmas was technically over, yet, it was the most Christmassy I’ve felt in a very long time. I honestly can’t describe the feeling. You’d have to be there yourself to understand. The Tree for starters was HUGE! it was decorated in so many pretty coloured lights with the Ice Rink below. The cold didn’t seem to bother anyone as the Home Alone music played through multiple speakers. They then had a light display of a castle that lit up to the tune of the music. It was just Magical. i absolutely loved it! And if you ever get the chance to visit the Rockefeller Centre then PLEASE DO and try to go around Christmas time too. You’re Welcome!
We then headed over to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Wow! The inside of the Cathedral is spectacular, out of this world! It’s impossible to put its beauty into words! I felt so happy and content being there and the photos do it nowhere near enough justice. I’m not an over religious person, I don’t go to church every Sunday and I don’t know much from the bible. But, I always feel a sense of calmness being in a Church or a Cathedral, even more so since the death of my Grandma and my Poppops. And as soon as I walked in, I found many areas within the Cathedral where you could light a candle of remembrance for a loved one. I decided to light 2 of the candles, said a few personal words in my head and asked them to keep me safe. I miss them both so much and I felt it was the right thing to do.
On our last night in NYC, we decided to head to a bar and celebrate the end of our first week in America. We asked around and were pointed in the direction of a bar named Jimmy’s Corner. We were promised a great, lively atmosphere and cheap drinks. We were not disappointed! Everyone was so lovely. We got chatting to a big American black guy who was wearing a suit and a Trilby hat. He had a big, friendly smile and I soon discovered he has worked with Ellie Goulding and Taylor Swift through his line of work…however, I was slightly drunk at this point and didn’t take in all the important bits. I can’t even remember his name, but, he was a local and a super nice guy. We then got chatting to a lovely couple, who we discovered, lived a few blocks away from the apartment we were staying in. They gave us some great tips on places to visit and we’ve even become Facebook Friends!
Overall, my time in New York was pretty amazing, and despite being a little unsure about the place at the start, I’ve discovered that I do in fact love the City. However, I probably won’t come back for a long time. I feel as though I’ve done the tourist side of it and if I do come back then it’ll probably be for a well deserved shopping trip.
Our next stop was Washington DC, and after a 3 hour coach ride on the Greyhound, we arrived! Out of everywhere I went, Washington DC was by far the prettiest. Everything was so clean and white! My nana would have had a field day, she was known for painting everything white, we even had the saying “Stay still long enough and you’ll be painted white”.
Personally, I fell in love with the coach station. It was so big and grand, almost as amazing as Grand Central Station. After asking a few people, we were finally on our way, by foot, towards our next place. The ‘Downtown Washington Hostel’. When we arrived, I instantly became uneasy. Personally, I prefer my own space. I’ve always been quite a shy person and usually shut down a little when I’m forced to interact with people I don’t know. Eventually, I do come out of my shell a little and become more relaxed, but I like to do this in my own time.
Having to share a room with 7 other people was horrible. I felt I couldn’t relax, I couldn’t unpack and going to the bathroom proved difficult, due to them being occupied by another person most of the time. Don’t get me wrong, It wasn’t all bad and we did meet a few people, but just for me, personally, I’m not a fan of Hostels. Lucy & Kirsty, the girls I went away with, loved the Hostels and I really wish I would’ve relaxed a little and enjoyed the experience, but it just wasn’t for me. That’s ok though, they won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. However, if you are a fan and wouldn’t mind staying in hostels, then I’d highly recommend it for the price.
After our first night, we had a whole day exploring in Washington. It was great! We visited a few museums, the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum, the White House Visitor Centre and the National Museum of Natural History. All of which were interesting in their own way. My personal favourite was the Natural History Museum. I just loved learning about all the animals and evolution.
We then went in search of the White House, and might I add, it was a difficult find. But, when we did, it was pretty exciting! We only managed to get photos of the back of the White House due to everything being set up for Trump’s Inauguration and roads to the gates being fenced off. We also saw a load of police cars and police bikes with flashing lights speed past us, followed by 3 blacked out SUV’s with American flags on the front bonnet. We’re not sure who was in the car, but we’d hoped it was Obama.
We also visited the World War II Memorial. That was lovely. A very Sombre place. We just spent a little time sat there, thinking. It was hard to imagine being alive during the War and the effect that it had on not only the world, but the friends and family of the service men and women that were injured and killed. It was a beautiful and momentous place.
One thing I will say, if you’re planning on visiting Washington DC around winter time, then number 1, WRAP UP FOR THE LOVE OF GOD! I don’t think I’ve ever been in a place as cold in my entire life. And number 2, prepare for A LOT of walking!
Our next stop was supposed to be Richmond for 2 nights. But, the night before, we had discussed this with a few of the people staying at the Hostel and they told us it was a bad idea because of the snow and the fact that there was nothing to do there. We were also told it was quite a dangerous area to be too, so during our coach ride from Washington DC to Richmond, we thought about what we should do. Once in Richmond, and seeing that in fact, there was very little to do and see, we decided that we should cancel our reservation and continue on to Florida.
We had a 6 hour wait in the bus terminal, which we spent sat in the little cafe, eating and playing card games, followed by a 16 hour coach ride onto Orlando, Florida. That was a killer. What made it a little more interesting was that we were spending it with a few ex-convict’s. Yes, one had even just been released from jail just a few hours earlier! However, they were no trouble and in-fact, they came across as really friendly.
Once we arrived in Orlando, Florida, around lunch time the next day, we hired a uber and made our way to our hotel/motel, The Rodeway Inn. If you imagine a very basic motel from the movies, that’s exactly what it was like! Personally, I loved it. This, to me, was proper America. Once settle in, we headed to the iHop next door for tea.
Our first day was spent relaxing and tanning by the pool. I took the tanning a little too literally and ended up burning myself to a crisp. I was so sore! Thing is, I’ve done this before, I’ve turned down the sun cream in the hope that I’ll tan quicker but it always turns out I burn myself so bad that I can’t tan no more. And that was the case, for the next 3 days, I literally couldn’t even sit in the sun. Never again.
Throughout our time in Orlando, we visited SeaWorld and Busch Gardens. SeaWorld was pretty amazing, although I have been before , so I kinda knew what to expect. But still, it was great to visit once again and the rides were fab! I didn’t realise this until I got to the park but there has been a video made on SeaWorld and how all the Orca’s are treated badly and held captive. I didn’t realise this before, but during the show, I was very shocked at seeing how much room they do actually have. I last visited SeaWorld when I was about 10 years old and unaware of the situation. I thought it was the greatest thing in the world. Orca’s swimming by, splashing water in our faces and doing all these amazing tricks. I was glued. However, in recent years, it’s surfaced, just how bad the situation actually is. I do believe now, that the Orca’s and the dolphins all deserve to be in the ocean. If you’d like to watch the film documenting this, it’s called Blackfish and all about the Orca, Tilikum.
We visited Busch Gardens toward’s the end of our time in Florida and it was, by far, my most favourite park. I’ve never been before and I’ll admit, the leaflets and posters don’t do it any justice. The rides there are insane and so fun! We saw so many different animals and went on a little train safari ride around the park. I absolutely loved it! I’ll definitely be going back at some point in my life.
We also met a lovely guy named Tyler. He was from Georgia and was in Florida working at one of the Disney theme parks as an electrician. We met him at a place called ‘Logan’s Roadhouse’ which is a sports bar. He hit it off with us all quite quickly and we were soon all laughing and joking…mainly about our accents.
It was during this time that I decided to have a long think about what I wanted to do regarding carrying on travelling America. I absolutely loved my time so far with the girls and I was loving seeing America, state by state. But, I just didn’t feel like myself, I came across as happy, but I wasn’t truly happy. I was missing home, missing my family and missing being myself. It’s hard to explain exactly how I was feeling during my time there, because it’s always been a dream. But, I just know that I’m a lot happier and more myself now that I’m home.
I wish both the girls all the luck in the world, and I’m excited to hear all about their travels once they’re home!
I hope to travel Route 66 with my boyfriend at some point over the next few years and to tick it off my bucket list. It’s always been a dream of mine and I can’t wait to do it with a better frame of mind.
I learnt a little about myself too whilst away for those 3 weeks. I realised just how much of a home bird I actually am, my love of learning new things and my hatred of Hostels, haha! I’ve learnt I can do a lot more than I thought and that the world is a big and daunting place.
Until next time America,
Sincerely, Sophie x