The musings and misadventures of a girl unprepared

Saturday, 31 March 2012

I HEART Knoxville

I think this has got to be my favourite place so far!!

We had a little bit of a shakey start to the day just before we arrived. It was kind of funny really, just the other day Aimee and I had been discussing what you would do if your car broke down on the motorway. And well let's just say we found out! Luckily the bus driver got it going again after about 10 minutes, reassuring us with the line 'with Megabus it's not just a ride, it's an adventure' in that amazingly awesome voice.

Once we arrived at our hotel (where we have a double bed EACH) I slept for a while since I got barely a wink on the bus. And in response to Aimee, I only snored because I have a cold... However I managed to do this throughout the majority of the nice weather and by the time we left to go into town there was a thunder and lightening storm just over head with hail stones that were so big I thought they were gonna smash car windows. No exaggeration!

The downtown area near the uni is SO nice. I could totally live here. We had tea at a place called Tomatohead and had the best pizza I have ever tasted. Garlic, chicken, cheese and tomato all together in one delicious meal, my mouth is watering just at the thought. I also had a red velvet cupcake for dessert, with my best description for it being 'better than normal cake', so I'd defo recommend.

After dinner we wandered around all the cute little independent businesses, luckily without my purse otherwise I'd be SO skint. I think we might be heading back tomorrow though, I'm going to have to exercise some self control. I got rather excited too because a guy was sitting in the street playing. 'Push' by Matchbox Twenty, a band I adore but aren't really bery big in England. So I made Aimee hang around with me to listen :D

Also, I love how friendly Americans are. The hotel owner has given us loads of advice about where to go in the area and offered us a lift into town if the buses aren't running, the bus driver was really helpful and all the shop assistants ha¿e been dead chatty. I do not know why more people don't visit here.

Durham, Bristol and Dublin?

It's silly o'clock in the morning but I can't sleep because my knee hurts and every time I come close to dropping off the bus driver turns the lights on and gives some announcement. I have to say though he does have the COOLEST voice I've ever heard, like a mixture between Morgan Freeman and Michael Bublé.

So far we've driven past signs for Durham, Bristol and Dublin... Which is sehr confusing when your half asleep. I think that the USA is just so big they just ran out of place names and had to borrow some of ours.

We've also been lucky enough to meet a cool guy from Knoxville called Brian, who has given us a big list of things to do whilst there, which was rather lovely! So now we've no need to worry about having nothing to do (my guide has like one page on Knoxville and the majority of that is about how it's the underwear capital of the US...?!)

I'll stop rambling now and try and think of something constructive to do with my last three hours... I should probably get some sleep but there's a guy snoring proper loud behind me... I don't know how I'm going to survive the 21 hour journey from Lima to Cusco without my iPod.

Friday, 30 March 2012

Last Day in DC

A few snaps from yesterday:

Washington DC has been a lot of fun, I've really enjoyed our stay here! Today we went for a hike through Rock Creek Park, starting around the middle then trekking right down to the National Zoo which was WELL bigger than the one in Central Park and free, which is always a plus! Rock Creek was really pretty and at the zoo we saw a REAL LIFE PANDA. It was SO cool, just chilling surrounded by bamboo it looked like it was in panda heaven.

Tim was having the time of his life in the gift shop.

We then headed back down to the National Mall and tried to find the exhibit on Julia Childs (a famous cook on whom the film we watched last night was based on - Julie and Julia) in the American History Museum but it was under renovation. BOOOOOOOOOOO.

EN route to the Lincoln Memorial we passed by the Reflection Pool (I think that's right) where Martin Luther King Jr made his famous 'I have a dream speech' and Forest Gump finds Jenny again. I'm sure that it usually looks lovely, but unfortunately it's being renovated (blooming renovations!) and just looked like a building site. I'll have to come back and see it when it's done.

I then face planted on the Lincoln Memorial (see previous post) and consequently spent the rest of the day hobbling around. Silly em. I'm glad we managed to see it though, I didn't realise it was here in Washington DC! Is it bad that I only really know of it's existence from Planet of the Apes?

We had tea at this AWESOME cafe bar thingy called 'Busboys and Poets', where everything was Fairtrade and Organic etc etc (which just added to the awesomeness). The muscles were INCREDIBLE and for dessert I had the biggest slice of chocolate cake in the world and it was amazing. YUUUUUUUUUUUUUUMMY :D Also the taps in the bathroom were cool.

A few hours of chilling at the hostel now before our bus at 11. Knoxville is supposed to be the place where we do loads of walking in the Smokeys but the weather forecast is thunder storms and I'm limping, so I'm interested to see how that goes :P I am very excited about going to Tennessee though!!

Face Plant #2

Just as the swelling has begun to subside on my right thigh, I have now fallen on my left knee. And this time I took Aimee down with me! Well I couldn't go down twice without embarrassing her too. Especially in front of hundreds of people on the Lincoln memorial. Once again all the americans where lovely, checking if we were ok and making jokes. Where as two european boys laughed their heads off and pointed at us. I'm not going to lie, it made me feel a little homesick.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

We couldn't find the White House...

If you didn't get chance to check out the page on trip advisor, here is a snapshot of our night in Philly (and a handy youtube video to give you a further insight. Also our room looked NOTHING like Chucks.):

I got about 3 hours sleep, spent the majority of the night staring at the ceiling contemplating possible escape routes if someone were to break into the room and if that wasn't bad enough a mice stole my crunchy cheetos. For those of you who don't know, I am terrified of pretty much any living creature that isn't human. So I loved sharing a room with some furry friends.

I was also convinced in the morning that there was a mouse hiding in the cheetos packet (which by now had been flung to the other side of the room in an attempt to coax them away from the side of our bed and bags) so Aimee decided to implement a cunning plan of throwing bars of soap at it to try and scare the mouse away. However I was wrong, the mice were long gone. But the crisp packet had indeed been moving, due to the water dripping from the pipe above it. I should have known not to actually turn that tap on. Silly em.

The rest of the day in Philly was basically spent killing the hours until we could get out of there. I feel mean saying that, since Philly didn't really get a fair chance. Msybe I'll go back in a few years when the memories have faded a little and stay somewhere where I don't have to spend the night fearing for my life.

We visited the Liberty Bell, the National Portrait Gallery, Benjamin Franklin's Grave and then sat and played cards for a little while until it started to rain and we finally gave in and headed to the station.

I have to say that Washington DC is a complete breath of fresh air. The hostel is great (it has a Wii and everything) and the beds are clean and breakfast is included and the people are lovely and the shower isn't mouldy. So for anyone travelling in the DC area I would highly recommend the International House of United Tel.

Today we saw THE WHITE HOUSE. Well after about an hour and a half of looking for it. We walked around for AGES, saw Washington Monument and the World War 2 memorial, which were both pretty impressive until we eventually saw it in the distance. In fact, it turned out to be right where we had been looking for it, but for some STUPID reason we didn't turn to look to the right and walked straight past it... I think we may be the first people to have ever walked past the White House and not actually notice it. However once we did find it was really quite cool, but some of it was blocked off so we couldn't get too close. We hung around to see if we could get a glimpse of Obama coming in/out but admittedly that was a bit of a long shot.

After that we decided to follow signs to what we thought was a shopping mall, but apparently the word mall can also mean 'big street with lots of important buildings on it'. Who knew?

The Museum of Natural History was awesome, I got to see DINOSAUR BONES and insects and butterflies (do they count as insects?) and egyptian mummies and sea life stuff and stuffed animals (ew.) The museum was PACKED full of school kids, we reckon it must be chool trip season or something. It's so weird that they don't have to wear uniform.

On the way back to the hostel we made a brief detour to Chinatown and Urban Outfitters, before spending the rest of the afternoon browsing the local super market and watching a film. We also made tea tonight (chicken pasta if you must know and rather yummy too, if I do say so myself) and discovered that we've eaten all of our five-a-day today! Rather proud of us to be honest.

Sorry about the lack of pics, I'm far too lazy to climb three flights of stairs to get my camera lead. Maybe tomorrow if I remember!

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Our night in Philadelphia.

For a much better summary than we could ever manage search 'Parker Spruce Hotel, Philadelphia' and look at the reviews.

What we learned last night: mice like cheetos.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Travellers Aid = Lifesaver

Things haven't exactly gone to plan today... On arriving at the train station we got into a taxi, but when we gave in the address of our hotel the driver told us that our hotel wasn't actually in Philadelphia but a different city and that the zip code wasn't right. So we went into the train station and asked for help from a really lovely, very camp man from Travllers Aid who told us the same thing and rang hostelbookers for us, who told us they didn't actually have a reservation under our names and that the hotel was a THIRTY FIIVE MINUTE drive away. This lovely man then went crazy at the hostel booker people because they said they couldn't help us...

Luckily the lovely man referred us to this cheap hotel that's in a better location and cheaper than the one we'd orginally booked. Grear right? Well... The hotel is errr interesting. I wouldn't use the words clean, safe, secure, nice or not-dodgey to describe it, let's put it that way. In fact if you wanna see some photos Aimee will be uploading some pictures in a few minutes if you wanna check it out! :)

We've decided to escape for the evening and spend as little time there as possible. It's not all bad though! We're in the gay area and everything is REALLY nice (except the hotel) and we're currently calming down in a cute little cafe called 'Cafe 12', in which I would highly recommend the mango smoothy.

I hope things are going a little better for Rach and Rach, who we said our goodbyes to in NY and should be making their way to the airport around now. Fingers crossed!!

Face Plant #1

We're now on the bus to Philadelphia but I managed to have a little episode as we got on. As we were power walking to try and get to the front seat of the bus I tripped over a bus stop sign and fell face first, giant backpack and all, and face planted on the ground. Somehow though nothing hurts but my right thigh, I must have done some kind of not-so-graceful twirl on my way down. So of course I looked flipping hilarious. But the weirdest part is, nobody laughed. All I got was genuine concern... Awkward! Obviously american humour is a little different to ours because once Aimee had picked me up and realised that I was ok, we both fell about laughing.

A great start to our backpacking adventures.

The journey isn't too interesting so far. We're sat behind a guy with the biggest ear plug IN THE WORLD. Ok slight exaggeration, but it's pretty impressive. But the roads are really just motorways with lots of none-descript factory type buildings and fields. Though I am pretty chuffed that we get free WiFi on the buses and power on the buses, not bad for $3 eh?

Last day in the Big Apple

It's fair to say that yesterday was our most jam packed day so far! We were up and out by 10 in order to beat the queues to the top of the Empire State Building and the view was fantastic. So windy we all came down with that feeling you get when you've eaten too much ice cream, but totally worth it.

For some stupid reason Ferris and I then decided it would be a good idea to invest in large McDonalds meals at 11 oclock in the morning. Probably not the best plan I've ever had but it was proper tasty. The drinks machine was WELL cool, they had over 100 choices of fizzy drinks to choose from, like raspberry and strawberry flavoured Sprite and all sorts of crazy things like that. I just got normal though because I'm a wuss.

We then rolled off to do a bit of shopping and check out Macy's which I was rather looking forward to. However once we got inside we realised it was very similar to the seventh circle of hell and left rather quickly after Rach and Rach purchased so rather tasty Ben amd Jerry's treats. YUM.

Surprisingly, we got bored of shopping rather quickly and decided to check out Grand Central Station. I thought it looked oddly out of place, like someone had built it somewhere else then airlifted it into the middle of the city and plonked it where here was a space. It sure beats Preston Station though! HUGE and beautiful though. I got my picture taken next to the clock that Melmann the Giraffe gets his head stuck in in Madagascar :D

Aimee and I then tricked Rach and Rach into coming with us to the United Nations building (hehehehee) which was SO cool! Well I thought so anyway, some people just don't appreciate culture... :p As in the others were really bored so we just had to get pics and do, but at least I got to see it :D

Heading back to the hotel we came across a comic book store called 'Midtown Comics' so RACHEL (as in my sister, who always makes fun of my for being a nerd) bought some comics. Of course, I took pictures of this:

It was actually a pretty cool shop, I'm glad we came across it. It might just be because it's on the Simpsons but I felt like I was doing something proper american :P

After a few more stops we headed back to the hotel to get ready to go out for tea at Planet Hollywood. The food was SO SO SO good but there was so much that none of us could finish our meals. I accidentally ordered a sharing dessert (apparently that's how restaurants sell desserts in the USA, who knew?) which was like a massive bowl full of brownies and ice cream and general chocolatey goodness.

Our final trip of the day was to the Rockefeller Centre and went to the Top of the Rock. The view was incredible. Like truly amazing. I could have sat and stared at it for hours on end. However the awe didn't really last long as my Rach decided to tie her coat around her head like a loon and starting making strange noises (she helped me with my dessert, I think all the sugar went to her head). Which is when we decided it was probably best to head back.

We're currently sat in the lobby waiting to head off to catch our bus to Philly! I've been told it's really beautiful, properly excited to see it!!! :D

Monday, 26 March 2012

'I have a spill on my pants, a fluffy top and no money. Life is good' - Rach Storey

I tell you what, if we continue to walk this much throughout the rest of our travels I am going to have calves of STEEL. Honestly, looking at a map it is amazing to see how much of the city we've actually covered on foot. I do think it's the best way to travel though, we have stumble across so many things we didn't plan to just by walking around - things we definitely would have missed had we taken the bus or the subway.

However saying that we did cheat a little yesterday by taking the sub down to the Statue of Liberty. But to be fair, that would have taken up far too many hours and we slept in a little too late anyway :P

First we had to go through airport style security checks and I had to get searched because I set the security alarms off... After taking off all items of jewellery, excess layers and anything else I could think of, it turned out that the problem was... the underwire of my bra. Great.

Even on a cold and windy day, getting the ferry over to Liberty Island and seeing the Statue of Liberty up close was indeed a fantastic experience. It's one of those things that you always see in films or on T.V. but it doesn't really dawn on you that it actually exists. It wasn't as big as I thought it would be, but pretty amazing all the same.





Another thing I love about New York is how friendly the police people are. Not to say that they aren't friendly in England, I don't really know any members of the police force, I have just needed their help and noticed their presence more over here. HOWEVER they are a little rubbish at giving directions. We got so lost on the way to pick up our tickets for the 9/11 Memorial, with different policemen sending us all over the Downtown area, until EVENTUALLY a member of the Memorial staff pointed us in the right direction.

The Memorial really is beautiful. Two large square waterfalls with a 30ft drop into a pool, with the names of all the victims incribed around the outside. Family members and friends helped to decide where each name shoul be placed, in relation to where they worked or who they had close relationships to. Such a simple touch but it definitely helped to make it a perfect way to remember those who were lost. Of course looking at the names and contemplating such a tradgey gives you all sorts of mixed emotions; anger, sadness, empathy. How could someone do this and think that it as the right thing to do? But I suppose that's something I'll never understand. I'm just glad that the governement have provided such a meaningful place for the families and friends of the victims to go and mourn.

By the time we left the 9/11 Memorial we had already done a fair amount of walking, so Aimee and I had to pretty much DRAG Rach and Rach to Wall Street. This was also due to the fact that they have no idea what it is or why I would just want to visit a boring street full of boring business buildings. So as you can imagine we didn't stay to long and unfortunately I didn't get to see any of the Occupy protestors *sadface*, but at least I can say I went there!

Before heading back to the hotel we made a pit stop at Wendy's for our tea. I have to say, I do prefer McDonald's, but you canNOT beat Wendy's BBQ sauce. I may or may not have stolen some to take with me :P


Last night we were so tired we just chilled in our hotel room. To be honest I probably should have blogged about all this then but once I was upstairs I really couldn't be bothered coming back down to use the computers :P I'll blog about today in a seperate post, so that this one doesn't look TOO daunting, considering it is pretty long already.

(Oh, and for those of you who are wondering who the teddy is, he is called Tim and was my eaving present from the crew at Fat Face! He will be accompanying me throughout my travels.)

Sunday, 25 March 2012


I have figured out how to use these silly mac thingys so can now upload photos onto blog posts! Check my Facebook for all the photos so far :D

Pop Tarts for breakfast? YES please.

I keep waking up really early. I don't know if this is due to the fact that I haven't quite switched my body clock to the new time zone yet OR I'm still just very excited about everything. I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing though, it means I wake everyone else up WAY before they'd have got themselves up (hehehehe) and allows us to enjoy our days to the full :D

Yesterday was just as action packed as Friday! We set out around 9.30 to Times Square to head up to Central Park, but of course this took a little while with so many distractions on the way. We stopped to have a look at the shop 'Forever 21' (which is like a cross between H&M and Topshop) thinking it would be a quick look around. However over an hour later and after covering all FOUR FLOORS we finally emerged with a few purchases - I got a top for $5.99, bargain!

Then there was the Disney store which was AWESOME. Although I would hate to have the job of the woman who just stands at the door with a microphone saying 'Hello, welcome to the Disney store, have a wonderful day!' with a cheesy grin plastered from ear to ear. I think I'd go mad.

Our final detour before our day really began was the M&Ms store. Rach and Rach were (well quite literally) like two kids in a sweet shop. A quote from my sister 'Are you not like in heaven right now??' No. It was so CREEPY. A whole franchise dedicated to a type of chocolate just by shoving a face on it. That's just weiiiiiiiird. So this is where Aimee and I swiftly took our leave and organised to meet up with Rach and Rach later on :p

In contrast Central Park was amazing. On our way down we bought hot dogs from a stand like proper New Yorkers and then rented bikes for an hour and had a lovely time cycling around the park. I did get a little upset that traffic lights, road markings and the idea that a cycle lane is for bikes, NOT people having a stroll, were totally disregarded, but this was soon forgotten and it was so beautiful. Up until now I wondered how people could live in this city, but with something like that in the middle I completely understand. It'd be so easy to live here and just forget that the rest of the world exists.

After that we headed to Central Park Zoo and we got rather excited about seeing a POLAR BEAR's bum. It was asleep so that was all we could see but it was still pretty exciting :D There was also very energtic puffins, a tropical bird enclosure (which my Rach would have hated) and loads of other cool stuff.

Around 3 we headed up to meet the Rachels at the Metrolpolitan Museum of Art which again was HUGE (this seems to be a running theme with everything here) and spent a few hours looking at genuine Picasso paintings, ancient egyptian artifacts (:D) and some really nice old Japanese art (which both Rachs thought was chinese, despite the numerous signs...) If you went early enough it would be easy to spend a whole day there, we didn't get round so much of it! However by this time we were so tired and with a long walk back we though it best to start heading to the hotel.

Then came one of my personal hightlights, The Hard Rock Cafe :D :D :D The food was amazing, the music was amazing and the atmosphere was amazing. It general amazingness really. And there was cool merchandise everywhere and next to our table was a floor tom signed by Chad Smith :D Imma buy a t-shirt next time we walk past :)

Today is Statue of Liberty day (or if you're Rachel Ferris Eifel Tower day :P) so we're all rather excited about that!! I'm also gonna drag the others to the United Nations building too. Which I'm very excited about. Should be a good day :D

It's a bit rubbish but I can't upload photos through the hotels computer because there is no socket thingy to plug my camera lead in it. BOOOO. So you'll have to make do with the ones that Aimee and Ferris are uploading via their fancy phones onto Facebook for now!

Friday, 23 March 2012

Shattered after Day 1!

I can't believe we've only been here for one day, we've already done SO much!!
We got up around 8 and went for a wander to Times Square, visited a few shops and bought lots of sweets from the Wonka shop :D Getting used to the money here is really proving a challenge - where is the sense in having a 25c coin but no 50c?? And why have a coin called a dime with no number on the front to indicate what it's actually worth?? Silly american currency.

On the way back to the hotel at lunch time we stopped at a corner shop and bought theses AMAZING cheesy soft popcorn things, which I now plan to live off for the rest of my time in the states. SO tasty. We also bought a $1 slice of pizza each from the place on the corner of our street, which is convient but probably not the best for our health :P

After that we headed out to an art exhibition called "Heads" that Rach wanted to see on 20th Street in some little art gallery. It was actually pretty cool. I really liked this image in particular, though Aimee said it was creepy:

Then we wandered down to Greenwich to see the big arch and Washington Square Park. There was such a nice atmosphere there, like some cool buskers playing guitars and saxophones and a street artist drawing with sand on the floor. There was also a little area to let dogs off the lead - which looked like my idea of living hell with dogs running around like crazy in packs - and a strange man who was letting pigeons perch all over him... So we took pictures there and had tea in a quirky little italian place on a side sreet.

However I'd say that one of the highlights was walking back up because we discovered we discovered how to get to loads of places we want to see - Macy's, the Empire State Building (which looks fantastic all lit up) and a few others.

It's funny really, we thought we were staying in a pretty quiet area but the city seems to come to life at night. Nothing is closed yet and there are people EVERYWHERE. It's more difficult to walk down the street now than it was at midday! However I don't feel unsafe like I thought I would, there's so many people about and so much going on that the atmosphere really isn't sinister or threatening at all, even in the dark.

Also the people of New York obviously never ever cook for themselves because we cannot find a single supermarket. Surely they can't afford to eat out EVERY night??

Plans for tomorrow very much depend on the weather. Fingers crossed it'll be really sunny so we can go to Central Park and rent bikes :D

I've left my camera lead in my room and unfortunately that's on the 21st floor, so I won't be uploading any pictures on this post but hopefully I'll remember to bring it down tomorrow so you can see some of our antics for yourselves.

I apologise if I have made a lot of spelling mistakes/I'm not making sense; today we've walked around 8 miles in total and that mixed with jet lag and a lack of sleep is finally kicking in. So we've all crashed back at the hotel with ice-cream, crisps, fizzy pop and a pack of cards. Lovely :)

New York, New York

We've made it!! Long day of travelling yesterday however we did get our seats upgraded for FREE and after a few slight hiccups we arrived at the hotel around 11.
Today so far we've just wandered round Times Square a little, the Toys R Us here is AMAZING.
Off to Greenwich I think now, will give more deatils later!

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Not long now!

I have so much planning left to do, it's getting a little silly. Meeting up with Evie tomorrow afternoon to discuss malaria precautions (if anyone has any advice on this it would be much appreciated since I don't really have a clue) and then I've got to sort out how I'm going to carry my money around with me whilst away (again advice much appreciated for the safest and most cost effective way to do this!). Then there's making sure I've got all I need, sorting out a travel file to leave with the fam and well as one for myself, praying that my final uni choice gets back to me so I can decide where I'm going to spend the next four years of my life and apply for accommodation... Also there's suspending my gym membership, Rachel's 18th birthday, visiting all the lovely people I'm going to miss whilst I'm away and probably a million other things that I haven't even considered yet.

On top of all that Aimee and I just discovered that we accidently booked our most expensive bus journey for the wrong month - because we are absolute morons - and now have to fork out for that again.

And here's me, thinking I was all organised!

On the plus side, we leave in 1 week and 4 days which is very, very exciting :D

Thursday, 1 March 2012

3 weeks to go? AKJGDUHVFJYVKSH.

I'm beginning to get a little nervous about travelling now, as it is starting to sink in that I am actually leaving the country for THREE MONTHS.

So yer, excited but flipping terrified.

Aimee and I recently bought tickets to see the Miami Heat vs Detroit Pistons basketball game, which I am actually really excited about, considering I'm not usually a big sports fan. I've been told that it should be quite a good game... we haven't exactly got the best seats but I don't really think that'll matter since we don't actually know the rules anyway, so I reckon we'll be able to follow it just as well wherever we're sat.

However, I am infinitely more excited about the fact that we get to see SNOW PATROL with ED SHEERAN supporting, which is going to be A-MAY-ZING. EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEK :D


*swoons* :)

ANYWAY, we've also booked all our buses and hostels, so can breathe a little easier about all that. I was having such a massive panic about finances, so getting that sorted felt brill BUT I just got all my taxes back from Fat Face which the greedy taxman stole, which means I got paid £700 this month. Which is AWESOME.

Currently trying to research things for under 21s to do in the US - more specifically New York, if anyone has any suggestions? Apparently the Hard Rock Cafe is pretty cool on weekends but apart from that I can only find like jazz bars etc. (Which I'd love but I'm not sure if the others are into that sort of thing).

On the Peru side of things Evie and I have booked our first hostel, first coach journey which is TWENTY ONE HOURS and hostel at Machu Picchu (whoop whoop!). So if that initial coach journey doesn't kill me, from then on we are literally just winging it. I am yet to decide whether or not this is a good idea, but I suppose I'll find out when I get there. Wish us luck eh?!

P.S. I promise that once we actually set off, these blog posts will be a lot more interesting :)