using my inside voice

Day 50 - DC, Philly & NYC (or Museums, Cheesesteak & Pizza)

North American Travel | July 20, 2009

Washington DC was way cooler than I expected. For some reason I thought it would be ugly and boring. Instead, it was beautiful and interesting. It was even beautiful and interesting after spending the night on a bus from Savannah, with a 2 hour stop at 3am, and a line up of 80 people in front of me to get on the DC bus. Yes, we arrived 3 hours later than intended, but managed to check into the hostel immediately, dump our bags, and head off exploring.

The first day we went to brunch, a well-deserved treat after 17 hours on the road, then headed to the Lincoln monument and the reflection pool thingy. Depsite the milling 1000s it was quite an overwhelming and interesting experience, seeing the words Lincoln spoke at the outset of the civil war and realising the mammoth accomplishment of his reign. By the time we had walked all the way there, all the way through the National Mall, and all the way home, I was almost delirious with tiredness. But, we needed food, so sucked it up and headed to the supermarket, another 20 minute walk away.

The next day we wandered around town, checked out the Holocaust museum and the Whitehouse. It was all very informative, and we ran out of time in the Holocaust museum. One thing I was amazed to see was the level of security at the entrance to each museum. Some simply have metal detectors and check your bags, but at the Holocaust museum they have a full-on bag screening. We also found out, a little too late, that you aren't allowed knives longer than 2.5 inches in the museum. And, sadly for us, Luke had not one, but two, 3.5 inch blades (a Swiss Army knife and an leatherman). God knows why, but he thought it would be useful to carry both around for the day. So, we had to make a quick trip to a likely looking bush and surreptitiously drop them in. Lucky for us they were still there when we went back three hours later.

After DC we headed to Philadelphia. Of course, our first stop was for a Philly Cheesesteak. We must have gone to one of the most famous places in Philadelphia, because there was a line around the corner and it took a good 30 minutes to get the goods (I think there must have been about 60 people in front of us). But, it was worth it. The meaty, cheesy, oniony, bready goodness sure made up for an entire day of not eating due to unpreparedness on the Greyhound!

The next few days we spent wandering round Philly. It's not a very big town, but it's pretty, and we managed to once again find a decent coffee shop (which we went to twice). There are actually lots of museums and what not in Philadelphia, as the city is quite steeped in history, but, being an ignorant pleb, with the attention span of a gnat, I gave those a miss and instead decided to picnic in some parks, drink some vodka pineapples at happy hour, and head out to a pub with some of the hostelers on our last night (yes, once again, we were awake until the wee hours the day before we had to travel somewhere else...)

But, luckily, the trip to NYC from Philadelphia is only two hours, so a drop in the ocean compared to some of our horrific Greyhound overnighters.

We arrived in NYC at our hostel in Harlem around 3pm. We were both starving, and needed food asap. As many know, Harlem used to be quite a dangerous neighbourhood, but is now relatively safe. It does however retain some of it's former grittiness, with an in-your-face attitude and sass coming out the ying yang. I asked a couple of girls who had been at the hostel a while where we should eat, and they suggested heading into town because the neighbourhood was dodgy, with nothing much around. At first I considered it, then I thought, screw that, there must be some food around here somewhere! People in Harlem need pizza at 3pm too! So, Luke and I headed north to 125th St, went east a few blocks, and found the best pizza we had on our entire stay in New York City.

I actually really like Harlem. It sure is lively, with lots of folks hanging out in the streets shooting the breeze, it felt real and alive. It's palpable that what you are seeing is real life in New York, this is how these people live, and this is their neighbourhood. So, we just went with it, eating out at a few places, and frequenting the dodgy deli on the corner for the best BBQ chicken hero I've had. You can't really beat two coffees, a bagel with cream cheese and an egg/cheese/sausage roll for $5 total right???

On our first night in NYC we again somehow managed to get roped into a pub crawl (they really twisted our arms okay?) It was actually a bit of a let down. I guess Wednesday night and pub crawls aren't synonymous. I would rather have stayed chilling out on our hostel's rooftop terrace. It was amazing up there!

The first official NYC day saw us meeting up with some friends from San Fran. That's probably one aspect of our trip that is dramatically different to the camping tour of Europe. On this trip we have met so many people, some of whom we've stayed in contact with and met again in another city, and even other countries (we are hopefully seeing another San Fran buddy in Antigua, Guatemala). After hot dogs in central park and pizza at Ray's near Times Square we hopped a subway to Brooklyn. We were intending to walk over the bridge at sunset, but as we were a little early, we took the opportunity to hang out in a lovely park. The boys threw tennis balls and had nose bleeds and I napped on the astro turf in the shade.

Our walk over the bridge was really amazing. It provided some excellent photo opportunities and was just a nice stroll. We invited the boys back to our place for some pasta and drinks on the rooftop, ending our first very successful day in NYC.

Day two saw me venturing out alone for... SHOPPING. As we all know too well, taking Luke shopping would be about as much fun as sitting on an overnight Greyhound with someone smoking in the toilets... So I headed off alone and had an incredibly successful day. I did plan on removing thing from my backpack to accommodate the new purchases, but so far I have managed to stuff it all in. I'm finding it very hard to part with any of my meager belongings for some reason, so now I just have an even more crowded and heavy backpack.

Day three was a stroll through East Village, Soho, West Village, and Chelsea. We walked High Line, a new urban park that saw a train track converted into recreational space. It's really cool and required some good sitting, eating and resting time to fully appreciate the achievement. East and West Village are really funky areas of NYC, with so many shops, cafes, restaurants and the like. Soho is far more upmarket, with designer stores, fancy gourmet grocers (e.g. Dean and Deluca) and posh looking people stomping around in their 4 inch heeled ankle boots. Chelsea is somewhere in between all that. The highlight for me in Chelsea was the Chelsea market with loads of artisan vendors selling everything from fruit and fish to bread and big bird cupcakes. We purchased our food for the High Line picnic here and I tell no word of a lie when I say that the cherry tomatoes were so sweet, red and delicious I almost vomited from the excitement of it all...

Some sore legs later and we decided on a quiet night in, with deli treats and diggnation.

Our fourth and final day we went in search of a coffee shop in the Financial Disctrict, only to find it closed. Sad. So instead we went again to East Village, followed our noses, and found the second Ninth Street Espresso location (thankfully on Ninth St, so we didn't head too far in the wrong direction). The afternoon involved chilling in central park at one of the free concerts. Lee "Scratch" Perry was performing with dubblestandart on the summer stage. Lee "Scratch" Perry is one of the founding fathers of dub music, but I actually found the set rather dull. It's like they chose a riff, stuck with it for 5 minutes, said a few words about ganja, mary jane, and marijuana, and called it a song.

To make up for the slight disappointment we decided on overpriced Italian Ices, sat on the grass outside and just chilled out for a while. A quick bite to eat in West Village rounded off our stay in NYC, and I have to say, I'm pretty sad to leave. New York is definitely one of my favourite cities so far. I could even imagine living there for a period of time (so long as the rent didn't render me penniless).

Now we're on a bus, on our way to New Paltz (yes, the bus has WIFI!!!) to visit with the two girls we met in Savannah. They were kind enough to invite us up for a visit and who were we to say no?

More soon...


1. Mick on July 21, 2009

11 days between blogs and then no pictures. Yeah, you took no photos in NYC.

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About Bay Oliver

Bay's career has been many and varied due to a penchant for traveling the world. After completing a double degree in Business Management and Journalism at the University of Queensland in 2002 she was lucky enough to land herself a job at Brisbane's Quest Community Newspapers. A year of roving reporting brought the epiphany that journalism and Bay didn't jive.
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How to be creative...

Creating an economically viable entity where lack of original thought is handsomely rewarded creates a rich, fertile environment for parasites to breed. And thatʼs exactly whatʼs been happening. So now we have millions upon millions of human tapeworms thriving in the Western World, making love to their Powerpoint presentations, feasting on the creativity of others.

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Categories of Published Work

Le Gite B & B on the Plateau in Montreal

Published: September 18, 2008

Le Gite Bed and Breakfast is a quaint, comfortable and thoroughly enjoyable place to stay in the heart of the plateau in Montreal.

Back on the Bandwagon, Vancouver Style

Published: March 14, 2009

Adjusting back to Vancouver life is not so easy for a born and bred Sunshine Coast girl!