States… oh the glorious States…

lincoln memorial, washington dcI’ve never been more glad in my life than when I could finally stop pretending to speak Spanish when we flew into Miami!!! Mind you, Galapagos wasn’t at all bad because we had an English speaking guide; it was just such a relief to finally be in a land of the mother tongue!!!

So we get to Miami and the weather is beautiful. We spent the first night kicking back a bit before checking out the awesome Lincoln Road in South Beach. Next morning, we take a nice walk along the beach, checking out the beautiful people in their beautiful bikinis and also the gay section which was quite colourfully highlighted.

Somewhere along the line, we get the idea to go shopping!miami Hey, not long to go now we figure (where on earth did that notion come from), so we set out to get all the things we’ve been craving! For me it was runners, gym gear and jeans and for Kim it was jeans and Jordan’s (a childhood dream). People who know him would wonder why he didn’t get a cap, but don’t worry, he took care of that in New York.

So we pretty much wrote off a day shopping – mainly because we found TJ Max. Heaven! But the next day we decided to actually see some of Miami and surrounds. So I get a great idea to rent a scooter. No biggie. Stay tuned for Kim’s blog on this adventure πŸ™‚

After our ‘adventure’ with the scooter, we get a bus to the Everglades where we are entertained by a guide who plays with his alligators. Next we jump on an air boat where we take a very loud spin around the waters and over the grasses.everglades Pretty damn cool! We even saw an alligator in the water just outside the docks, but Kim thinks it was fake and just put there just for tourists to spot!

That night we chilled at the cinema to watch a film without subtitles! Whoo! And then came home to try and cram all our shopping into our tiny bags before our flight to Washington the next day.

We arrive in Washington DC early, and head to a Tourist Information counter to grab a map and find out how to get to our hotel. They guy was extremely helpful (although we think he was lonely because he kept us there for a very long time talking), but we had to laugh when he said our hotel was a long way away from any metro station. When he told us it was 8 minutes, we had a bit of a chuckle! So we walk our 10 minutes – add 2 for time with the packs stuffed with shopping – check into our gorgeous (and cheap thanks to an online deal) hotel on the edge of Arlington.

We investigate the NBA situation and found there was a game on that night – Wizards vs. Pistons. So we headed into town to grab some tix, and then took advantage of Chinatown just around the corner for lunch. Yummo! After lunch, we wandered around taking some cool Fall shots before ending up along the Mall about halfway between Capitol and the Washington Monument. It was pretty exciting! We wandered around looking at some of the beautiful buildings and some lovely sculptures before heading to the game.

basketballUnfortunately Washington lost, which is never a good game to be at (i.e. when the home game loses), but Kim was happy that he got to see a game and we were quite entertained by the guys yelling behind us and the guy next to Kim who couldn’t get over the guy who gave away a free car because he couldn’t shoot a 3 pointer.

Next morning, we had a nice sleep-in before heading to DuPont Circle to the fresh farmers market where we had delicious fresh apple cider and some lunch.

It wasn’t very big, so we jumped back on the metro and made a beeline to the White House. We were surprised at how big the place was, and also surprised by how close you couldn’t get, but it was nice to visit such an iconic place anyway. Unfortunately Obama was in China, so we didn’t get to see a glimpse of him!

Next we had decided to do the Washington DC by Foot tour. Similar to BA, it was based purely on tips and it was a good choice. The guy was a retired teacher who absolutely loved doing these tours (you could tell). And it was kind of entertaining how loud he was – Kim and I had to hang back for fear of bursting some ear drums! But he was definitely fantastic and very knowledgeable.

On his tour, we visited the Washington Monument, Capitol, the White House from afar, WWII Memorial, Vietnam Memorial (where I got goose bumps and had tears in my eyes – if you ever get a chance, don’t miss it, and read up about its history) and the Lincoln Memorial over the reflective pool. We learnt a lot about American History that day. A fantastic and worthwhile tour.

washington memorialAfter he left us, we visited the Korean Memorial and then took our time to wander back toward Capitol as it was twilight and the lighting was perfect for photography. The photos turned out beautifully – and I’m glad they did as I was contorting my body every which-way to get them at night!

For dinner, Kim had found a Washington icon called Ben’s Chilli Bowl. So we headed there to give it a try. After I spilt a whole cup of lemonade over the table, chair and floor, we did actually get to taste the Chilli Dogs that are apparently so famous. And we must admit they were pretty good!

Next day we visited the Iowa Jima Memorial which was only a 2 minute walk from our hotel. It’s located in a memorial garden in Arlington which overlooks the Mall. Another iconic symbol of American history.

Today was the day we decided to museum ourselves to the max. So we started with the Natural History Museum and were pretty excited to get in with the dinosaurs in there! They were huge! We also checked out the Ice Age, Sea Life and African exhibits which were all fantastic, though Kim kept saying we didn’t need to be in the African one!

From here, we took a detour to go up into the Post Office building Clock Tower. From here we could see the Mall from a unique perspective and we also checked out the bells that were given to America as a gift from the UK.

Our next stop was the Library of Congress where we took a guided tour of the building itself. It was pretty special to be able to see the very first printed book in Europe (made from movable letters or something like that). Once compared to a hand made book that took 2 years to write, it was pretty impressive.

After walking past Capitol and wondering if we were going to be killed for joking about bombs, we headed to the Air and Space Museum – apparently the most visited museum in the world. Who’d have known? Anyway, we saw a race to the moon exhibit and a moon landing one as well. Also outer space and aeroplanes… and we were starting to get tired! The poor feet! But the exhibits were pretty cool (except for the spaceship made out of cardboard that is).

Our last stop for the day was the National Archives. And we’re glad our feet didn’t give up before we made it here! There were tonnes of interesting documents that had been released to the public and plenty of things on display like Shaq’s shoes, a bathtub, and secret phone recordings of presidents amongst many others. But the most amazing and interesting was the original Declaration of Independence, original Constitution of America and the Bill of Rights all tucked away safely in a beautiful vault called the Rotunda. It was fascinating to see these original documents!

After dinner, we headed to Union Station to book some bus tickets to NYC and headed home. On the bus the next morning, we experienced a lovely new concept here in the States. Wifi on buses πŸ™‚ Awesome. So our trip to NYC was quite productive!

nyc_nightOnce we got to NYC, we met up with a client of Kim’s who let us leave our bags in their office and then gave us drinks and a mobile phone – it was so lovely of them! We felt really well looked after and everyone was so nice πŸ™‚ So nice in fact, that the IT manager had offered us his house to stay at in New Jersey. Loving the idea that we would not only see the metro side but also the suburban side of New York, we accepted. His little girls were off school sick that day, so he had people help us out.

We spent a few hours walking around and visiting the incredibly cheap B&H to check out the photography gear before heading back to the office to pick up our stuff and get escorted to Ngoc’s house by a friend of his. So lovely! So we took the bus (had a little nap), saw NYC at night from afar and got dropped off at their beautiful home. We were just in time for a delicious Vietnamese home cooked meal. Yes, we were in heaven! And Kim started to get homesick!

We spent the rest of the night checking out all the renovations they had done to their house and Kim getting beaten by a kid at ping pong πŸ˜› I had my work cut out for me entertaining (or rather being entertained) by the two girls who were obsessing over origami and bunny copters (which are sooo cool). We slept so very well that night!

The girls were still sick the next morning, so we were able to wake up late, have a beautiful walk around their neighbourhood (checking out all the houses), a quick drive around new jersey checking out some huge mansions (but unfortunately not the batman house as the road was blocked off) and also Ngoc’s friend Danny’s house to see their pond that freezes over during winter making a cool ice skating rink!

grand_centralWe then caught a bus into the city where we walked up through Times Square, NBA store, Museum of Modern Art (where a Tim Burton exhibit was starting and Monet’s Water Lilies are on display), a train to the Upper East side for a wander, then walk back down through Grand Central before jumping on a bus back to the ‘burbs for another awesome Vietnamese soup. Oh man, we normally wouldn’t accept a second meal as they were far too generous, but this food was to die for!!!

An earlier night this night – thank goodness, because we were stuffed from all the walking. Next day we were up for an 8am pickup by Ngoc’s friend again (so sweet!) to get to NYC.

We walked up 5th Avenue in the direction of Central Park but it started to rain, so we decided to wait 5 minutes until the FA Schwarz (Toy Store) opened. We were glad that we did, because as the doors opened, all the staff lined up (about 50 of them) and applauded us as we walked in! It was like rocking up to a premier event! Fantastic!!! We saw loads of things that were so cool, including an owl that flapped his wings… sometimes and tonnes of lollies that a certain sister would have loved.

squirrelWe then made a visit to the apple store and headed to Central Park where we took some shots before heading to Chinatown to meet Ben for lunch. We decided on Viet again πŸ™‚ After catching up on the last few weeks apart, we all walked up through Soho and along Broadway checking out the shops. We stopped when the rain got really heavy at a hot chocolate stop… great excuse I say!

After saying goodbye to Ben, we caught up with Ngoc and Sean (Kim’s clients) and his very pregnant wife and his daughter for dinner at a lovely Japanese place not far from Central Park. It was delish sushi! We had some laughs as Ngoc pointed out the interior design and sucked me right in! He’s now become our dealer from the States πŸ™‚

katz_deliNgoc, Kim and I then set off for Danny’s pharmacy in the Upper East side to catch a ride home. This is a pharmacy with a difference – it’s for pets exclusively! Fantastic idea and ideally located in Manhattan! After Danny had locked up, he was hungry, so he took us to Katz Deli for ‘dessert’ near Chinatown.

The drive there was incredible enough as we were in a huge truck (Ute) where you could fit 4 people comfortably in the back. This thing was massive! The great 90s and classical music and hearing about the rich people in NYC were great!

So we got to Katz Deli and Ngoc and Danny ordered the pastrami sandwich with pickles on the side. Yummo! This thing was MASSIVE to say the least, but sooooo tasty! Our poor arteries were crying out for mercy, but it was delicious! If you’re ever in NYC, you MUST go here!

After ‘dessert’, we drove up the east coast of Manhattan where we heard about Manhattan, the mafia, growing up in the Bronx and people who treat their dogs like their children. We drove over Washington Bridge where we got a fantastic view of NYC at night. Simply stunning! That night, we said our thank you’s and goodbye’s to Ngoc’s family. They had been so amazingly generous and we couldn’t thank them enough.

central_parkThe next morning, we got to do the same thing again – but this time with traffic πŸ™‚ Washington Bridge at 7am was also a good scenic viewpoint! Traffic wasn’t too bad… but it wasn’t great either! Danny made it to work just in time. We left our bags there and headed to Central Park for some more photos (which was only a few blocks away).

We saw some interesting characters on our walk including a guy that spat more than he talked (and he talked a lot) and a guy who’s gorgeous little dog didn’t want to part from Kim! It all ended too soon as we had to lug our now huge packs through the metro to our bus stop, where I accidentally headed the wrong way and we ended up walking about 4 blocks too many. Oops.

boston_waterfrontBut we survived and jumped on a bus to Boston where we would be catching up with Max and Ryah from our African trip. When we got there, we found the train system incredibly easy to use and it wasn’t long before we were knocking on Ryah’s door! It was so great to see her and Max (who arrived later) and it was strange to see them in their regular clothes as opposed to the travel gear we had seen them in! hehe!

We spent the night catching up on the last 3 months with travel the main topic as they cooked up a mean feast of fajitas! Sooo yummy! And to finish the night off, we shouted them an ice cream at a local shop after we wandered around Harvard Square where they lived. Kim and I had pumpkin ice cream (Kim’s was conveniently lactose free) which was for thanksgiving. Different and indeed yummo!

Max and Ryah are studying MBA’s at Harvard and we almost got the chance to take a class with them. They explained the process which sounded pretty awesome, but extremely challenging for people who are shy at public speaking. These guys sure are intelligent beings!!!

boston_nightA very comfy bead, delicious towels and a great night’s sleep – we couldn’t thank them enough for having us I tell ya! We got up early to go into Boston to walk the freedom trail. We decided to bypass the reading and pay the $12 for a guided tour. Best money ever spent because he was so entertaining! He told us loads about American History and filled in quite a few gaps for us. He was also sensitive to the fact we weren’t American (something that others hadn’t really understood).

After that fantastic tour, we took a walk along the docks before a nice hot coffee and then dinner with Ryah at a fantastic Yum Cha place in Chinatown. Yep, we go where the food is! It was sad to say goodbye to Ryah (Max had gone to Yale to watch the Harvard vs. Yale football match which would have been awesome to see!). We’d had a fantastic time in Boston (even if it was short) with fantastic people.

So next day we were on a 12 hour train to Buffalo to see Niagara Falls! And see them we did! After taking some research to figure out how NOT to pay $70 to see them, we found a bus for $2.35 (bargain) that dropped us right in front of the bridge. Though even that didn’t stop us from getting scrutinised by the Federal Police because we walked the wrong way!

It was ridiculous how completely lax security on the border was though. We didn’t even get stamped out – just let through. Strange? So off we walk into Canada!

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