Saturday, August 26, 2006

Sightseeing in Washington

The key to sight seeing in Washington is to get up early before the heat really hits, we started the day by walking up to the US captiol to get a free ticket for a tour, although you don't get to see much it is still a good experience. Then we ventured up to the Library of Congress, which is massive.

We headed towards the Eastern Market, but I didn't realise that there the numbered streets repeat in both the north and south parts of the city, so we ended up the wrong end of town but managed to find a festival that had the most amazing soul food. The heat was getting too much so we went back to the hotel for a siesta.

Unfortunately we didn't pre book a tour of the White House (you have to go through the British embassy) so we went to have a look around the white house centre and then headed up to have a look from the outside.

Luckily we found two amazing places in the evening, a mexican restaurant in Capitol Hill, a very friendly american saw us looking at our rough guide and asked if we needed help. She told us about a great mexican and then we went to Murky coffee for a coffee.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Ben's Chilli Bowl

We went to Ben's for some authentic Chilli Dogs. Great hot dogs and great chilli. As with all the good places, constantly busy and fast albeit frantic service. Great Milkshakes too. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


Started the day with a great coffee in Borders, at a placed called Seatle coffee which is much better than Starbucks. We headed down to Union Station to go on a duck tour. We have wanted to try a duck tour (in a 1940's amphibious craft) for a while, but to be honest it's not the best way to see the city, the trip on the river is just slow and boring and the general ride is pretty authentic 1940's.

We went to the Senate, but discovered you need to have a ticket for an internal tour, the earlier the better, so we will have a go tomorrow. Next stop was the Botanical Gardens, which are well worth a visit.

We strolled along the mall to the National Space museum, it is probably the best space museum in the world and Dan took about three hours looking in detail. We did pay to watch Einstein's Planetarium with all the latest discoveries in space. We decided to buy some space food to try which tastes exactly like the real thing, strange stuff a $4 oreo cookie - probably not worth the money but interesting nonetheless.


We didn't have much time in Pittsburgh so we just popped along to the Andy Warhol gallery. It's an amazing 7 storey loft style building. It was a great exhibition, in a very spacious gallery. We then set off for our journey to Washington. Unfortunately I decided to navigate rather than drive when we arrived in Washington and that resulted in a 1 hour additional cruise around Washington.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Niagara Falls

After a long journey we finally reached Niagara Falls, the traffic looked horrendous on the main route so we turned off and followed the map in the rough guide. I had been warned that the falls were surrounded by commercial food outlets trying to make money, but it is still worth a visit.

Saturday, August 19, 2006


We arrived in Toronto last night and went out with my 19 year old cousin into the bar area. Had a great time and got back around 1am ready for a full day of action today.

Friday, August 18, 2006




We decided to go and do some more white river rafting. Having spoken to the rafting firm they suggested the nearest hotel was in a place called Hawkesbury.

Well we booked for 2 nights and headed down there. Unfortunately, Hawkesbury seems to be the most boring place we've seen on our trip. Avoid at all costs.

I wasn't feeling too great so we took a miss on the rafting and checked out a day early from the hotel....oh the relief.

Montreal Underground City

We were amazed to find out that Montreal has 40km of shopping buried under the surface. Probably to save all the poor residents from the freezing winters. We went for a wonder, but I have to admit we didn't get close to seeing it all.

Went to a great place for lunch called Vasco de Gama -- a great food concept. Premium sandwiches and salads, premium prices and fast food ethic. I.e. get em in, charge em up and kick em' out. Dropped £20 on 2 sandwiches and drinks and didn't even feel i'd been robbed.


We decided to go for a slight detour into Canada given that we were so close. Montreal is a great city -- its got a nice urban feeling but isn't so big to become unmanageable. Went on a tour of the city which was tremendously boring.

On the first night we went to a restaurant called la rapiere. The food was truly superb and although the setting was formal the waiters were great and totally non stuffy which is always nice. We got out for about £100 for the two of us with wine and I would say that is about half of what the same meal would have cost in London (with the bonus of some nice service).

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


Decided to leave Bar Harbour and head up towards Canada, realised on the way that it was slightly further than we originally thought so we decided to stop in Burlington on the way. We ended up visiting the Ben and Jerry's ice cream factory to see how ice cream is made and have a free taster of their new release 'Apple Pie'.

Burlington has a very cool west coast feel to it and we eventually found a good coffee shop. I don't know what it is about the U.S and bad coffee, but most of the brakish water i've got is a translucent disaster. No doubt thats why they give you free refills.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Bar Harbour

We left northern outdoors and headed back to the coast in Maine. We stopped at around 10 hotels/motels/cabins on the way but a combination of non availabilty and third world accomodation led us to the most expensive hotel in Bar Harbour - The Bay View. Having said that the view from our room is breathtaking and they have free cookies at reception (ok, no such thing as a free lunch but delicious nonetheless)

Whitewater rafting on the Kennebec

The next morning we met in the main lodge and signed a stack of release forms for the white water rafting. It's a testament to the USA that people need to sign a form to acknowledge the fact that white water rafting can be dangerous -- but there you go.

We had a safety instruction and then headed out on some old school buses to the Florida Electric dam. Armed with our lifejackets, paddles and helmets we met up with our group and our tour leader Nick.

Our trip started and took in some very fierce class 4 rapids. It was really good fun and we got totally soaked. Some guys were scooting down the river in mini canoes and they were performing some ridiculous tricks. It's difficult to put into words the pleasure of getting wet and fighting the rapids. Nick our guide was expert at setting the boat up for the rapids and we had some great 'hits'.

After about 6 miles we pulled over to a small beach area where the northern outdoors team treated us to a nice lunch.

After lunch we set off on the remainder of the trip. This section of river was far more tame. However we got to use a inflatable kayak -- which I fell out of and also got to swim in the river being dragged along by the current - I've never swum so fast.

All in all a great day and very well organised (this is starting to sound like an advertorial but it was genuinely fantastic).

Northern Outdoors

Northern Outdoors is situated near to the Forks in Maine, it is well worth the trip up there. We stayed in a one bedroom cabin, which was superb , there is also a main lodge with big comfy leather sofa's and a bar. We decided to head down to the lake and have a go at kayaking, we both capsized straight away but eventually got the hang of it.

The following day we decided to sign up for white water rafting on the Kennebec.

Mount Washington

We stopped at a place called the Blueberrry Muffin for breakfast -- more out of curiosity than anything else and had some great blueberry pancakes. Then we set off on our trip to Mount Washington.

The trip up Mount Washington can be quite hairy given the fact that the roads going up MW are very narrow and there is a large amount of traffic. Claire couldn't watch some of the time -- but I quite enjoyed the drive. Having reached the summit there was a total change of climate -- it was 6 degrees C and there was a howling wind. We had a quick look around and then made the return journey -- it was certainly far less challenging going down hill than up hill.

Settlers Green Outlet

The next day Boston was pretty humid and sticky so we decided to take a trip to Settlers Green Outlet in New Hampshire. Buoyed by the fact that New Hampshire has no sales tax. We bought some great stuff in Banana republic. Our hotel the North Conway Inn was right next door to the outlets so we didn't have far to go. That evening we went to a nearby restaurant called Bellini's. The food was absolutely first class - in fact I couldn't find a bad word to say about the place. I would certainly return and would recommend it highly.


We escaped the Holiday Inn in Raleigh for one much closer to the city, which was both cheaper and nicer. We had some great views from our 9th floor bedroom. We took the courtesy bus into town and took a trolley bus tour of Boston. We had a particularly amusing guide who made the trip that much more enjoyable. On his advice we went to pizzeria Regina in the Italian district. After a short wait outside we went inside for a fantastic pizza - one of the best we've ever had.

That evening we went to Comedy Connection in Quincy market. The comedy was pretty poor that night, but the compere rubbed salt in the wound at the end of the night by telling us that Cedric the entertainer was playing a few days later -- how's that for luck.


After returning from Martha's vineyard we drove down to the tip of cape cod in provincetown. It was a great drive with some stunning scenery. There was a beautiful salt marsh at the tip of the cape. We decided to try and head towards Boston. Unfortunately as it was Saturday night we popped into many hotels off the interstate to find that they were all booked. We ended up in a Holiday Inn outside Boston. The floor of the room was soaking wet but they didn't seem to be too worried - am finding that service in the states often leaves a lot to be desired.

Martha's Vineyard

We returned to Sparkys for breakfast and then took the fast boat to Martha's Vineyard. On arrival we hired some bikes and went for a brilliant 17 mile trip around the vineyard. Martha's vineyard was very beautiful and seeing it on a bike was an ideal way to get to tour the island.

Cape Cod

We drove out to Hyannis. After looking in some very grim motels, we ended up in a guest house near the harbour. We went to a restaurant called Sparky's for dinner, where we ordered some lobster ravioli. Unfortunately, I think we would have been better off going for something a little bit less taxing for the kitchen. It was expensive and poorly executed -- looking around at the other tables we should have just gone for a and learn.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


We drove up to providence the next day -- home of Brown University and the famous 'brown bear'. Managed to have my first meeting with a police officer for parking the wrong way round - they really are sticklers for the law. The english accent and a look of ignorance saved me from a traffic violation. Took some ridiculous photos of me hand in paw with the brown bear (sometimes you've got to be a tourist).


Took the ferry from orient to Rhode Island. Took about 1.5 hours as we approached Rhode Island the clouds started getting grey. We arrived in Rhode Island and I managed to send us the wrong way down an interstate. By the time we had turned round we were in a torrential down pour the like of which I have never witnessed. On a five lane freeway traffic had slowed to 15mph and even at that speed we couldn't see a thing. Claire insisted on exiting the freeway at the next exit which we did. We came to the traffic lights and there was a huge lightning bolt which caused all the lights to go out. It was freaky...but worse was to come. We drove on about 100 yards and then a lightning bolt hit a power cable directly next to a petrol station. Right next to where we were. There was a huge explosion, we pulled in to Toy R Us opposite. After about 20 minutes we regained our courage and set off again. We pulled in to the first motel we saw although I was a big dubious given the 'god loves you' sign on the freeway. We went to the office and thought better of it. It was about 10pm by this point and we got back on the interstate and pulled into another hotel. We were given a smoking room -- walked into the room and smell of stale fags and bad body odour was overpowering. Being two sweet Brits they upgraded us and we moved to a far bigger non-smoking room. We also found out about the magic Travellers guide (green book) which is a book filled with coupons which is available from all travel stations.

East Hampton

Went for a drive down to the end of the peninsula. Passing all of the main towns in the hamptons - saw a few ferrari's - seems that the money from Wall Street is being well spent. We went to the outlets and then on to Splish Splash (one of the top 5 water parks in the country ... apparently ... wonder where they did that survey). Huge queues for all the rides, witnessed an altercation between a 14 year old latino girl and a middle aged american lady. The girl was trying to push in -- and then threatened to cut the ladies face off for having the audacity to question her queue jumping...welcome to america.

The Hamptons

Having read so much about the hamptons, I was expecting a land of brash and bling. In fact, it's very understated in that New England way. I love the architecture, think ralph lauren preppy. We arrived in our hotel the Enclave Inn in Southampton and were pleasently surprised. Nice room, jumped into the outdoor pool -- nice and warm.

New York

Arrived in new york, suitably excited about a month on tour and dazed after the flight. Although my experience of US immigration has always been pretty poor, for a change they were quite friendly -- maybe that's because now they've got me on their fingerprint file, they know I can't get away with anything.

Got out the terminal and spent 15 minutes on their internal railway going in circles because I hadn't realised there was an inner an outer train...DOH!

Arrived at budget to collect the car and predictably rather than the ford Mustang I was hoping for we got a chrysler Sebring. Looks quite nice although a bit of a gondala when it comes to driving. The words 'precise steering' and american cars don't really seem to go together.

Jumped in for the first journey to the Hamptons where we had pre booked accomodation. Claire was going nuts at me on the interstate for straddling two lanes....hmmmm

Initially quite nervous driving on the other (read wrong) side of the road. But got used to it.

A tour of the east coast

I was meant to start this blog at the begining of my 1 month tour of the east coast. Unfortunately, I got sidetracked so I'll have to start it now and catch up on the first week of our travels.