13/11/13 – Home. We’re coming home again

Up earlyish, mostly so that I could have my last waffle for breakfast. We stayed in the room for as long as we could before checking out, since it was then a day to be spent in the lobby because of our crappy flight times. We holed up in a couple of chairs by the vending machines. My taurine addiction started roaring again so I had to settle for a can of Monster. Eh, it wasn’t as bad as I remembered. Though I’d still only use it as a last resort. It was even colder today so we definitely weren’t brave enough to venture outside. Instead I got comfy with the first That Anime Show Halloween special.

Oh man, how have I not listened to these before? They each consist of collections of ghost stories and encounters told by various voice actors. They’re the real deal too – it’s some freaky stuff! Tatum told a totally creepy one about an abandoned cabin, which really freaked me out. Jamie and Jean-Luc shared a re-telling of Jamie’s mother’s story about her old house. It genuinely made my hair stand on end. And then Tia told this gorgeous tale about her last moment with her grandaddy. It made me really tear up. It was just so sweet and, if anything, I was actually really jealous that she got to have a moment like that. I’m still happy for her though.

We broke for lunch and I had another steak and cheese panini, then had to help Kel with her big-ass pizza. That is officially the last pizza I’m ever going to eat. If anyone suggests pizza to me now they’re going to get punched. We migrated to some new, comfier chairs after and I listened to my next Halloween special. Again, more fantastic stories. Tia spoke about an infamously cursed doll that is now in a museum in Florida, eek! Glad we didn’t go to that one! Josh told his story about breaking into an old church and Terri shared about her real-life horror movie stalker. Terrifying!

By this point it was time to get our shuttle to the airport, if we wanted to be on the safe side, so we did. Had a good four hours there with our flight being delayed. Listened to the last Halloween special I had and watched some Durarara!! The first flight and airport stays passed in a blur of Psych, Spirited Away and not-so-great attempts at sleep. It was light again by the time we got to Denmark, but then dark only a few hours later. Way confusing. Did manage to get some crazy cheap Coco Mademoiselle for only twenty-six quid though! (even if it took me a little while to figure out the crazy Danish conversion). I always seem to find good perfume bargains. Then when everyone was boarding our final flight – and last leg of the journey – I had a hairy builder’s crack shoved in my face. Thanks for that, Denmark.

The last flight felt longer than it actually was – likely because it was the very final trip of our adventure. I did manage to get a huge chunk of writing done though, so I was at least pleased about that. We were met at the airport by Auntie Ann and Sarah, still in part of our scheme of telling Mom and Dad that we were coming home a day later than we actually were (we’d given them fake flight times and everything – because we’re sneaky like that). It was so, so nice to see familiar faces in the flesh again! Kel had a little blub and we all had a goss on the way home, after some silly confusion of not being able to get onto the right floor of the car park (of course we couldn’t end our journey without there still being something).

We left all our baggage in the car when we pulled up at home. Auntie Ann went to go drag Mom and Dad outside with some inane excuse whilst me, Kel and Sar hid behind my car on the drive, ready to jump out. It worked a treat. Mom went from a scared scream to a happy scream. We then had our own surprise as we accused them of replacing our dogs, since one had no teeth and one was three times the size as when we’d left! And of course I was starving by this point, so I broke open some of my old traditional Super Noodles. Ah, home sweet home.

So that’s it. It’s been a whirlwind of two months. We’ve seen some fantastic places, done many amazing things, met both new and old people and finally learnt the damn knack to packing and re-packing. Now my only thought is… where to next?

12/11/13 – Braving the cold… and then chickening out

Since we didn’t have any particular plans we got to have a lie-in and a much more relaxed morning of very slowly getting ready. We wanted to Skype the oldies since we wouldn’t have chance after going out, but messenger Sid told us they were at the Harvester. Rude. We decided to wait for them to get back and watched some old videos from when we first got Izzy in the meantime. Aww. I miss my woofies pretty much more than anyone! We then Skyped Mom for a while, and also Dad for a little bit. Told some porkies about only just flying to Chicago today.

We then layered up as much as we could (five layers and three pairs of socks!) and got the shuttle back to the airport. Oh my god… We’d prepared for the worst but it was still way colder than we’d expected at minus something degrees. We had a little wander round the airport to gage the temperature a little before we got the tram downtown. We decided it was just too cold without either of us having coats, so Chicago will have to remain a mystery for this trip. Before leaving we went further into the airport because I was still craving Red Bull. It was ridiculously expensive, but I didn’t even care by this point. We then hopped on the shuttle back to the hotel.

It was a shame, but at least it was warm in our room. I watched a couple of episodes of Psych, Durarara!!, then we both watched a bunch of Whose Line clips. That was pretty much it. It beat being out in the cold though. We’ll have to try and cover Chicago on another trip. Preferably in the summer. I repacked my case so that it was basically ready for tomorrow. Our last night here if you don’t count the one of travelling tomorrow! If I’m honest though I feel I’m ready to go home now. The cold’s put me off more than anything. And I miss my family, my friends and my woofies. Plus I’m dying for some real fish and chips.

This is what happens when we’re stuck in one room for two whole days.

11/11/13 – We were not prepared for this

Painful get-up for half two to get ready and finish packing. We headed to the airport and bid farewell to Klaus! I had a bit of a Psych day and watched an episode whilst waiting in the airport, then another on the plane. I also finished off Jet Lag, my Cobie and Crispin one-shot. The flight to Chicago was about four hours – it was actually our first direct one this whole year. But oh man, were we in for a shock when we landed… I’d been anticipating it would be cooler than the west coast, but I hadn’t expected it to be even colder than back home. And I certainly hadn’t expected it to be snowing! It was really horrific!

Also Chicago, why do you have cling film on your toilets? That’s just a bit weird.

I was worried our hotel wouldn’t be near anything, since I was starving (and certainly didn’t want to go wandering around in the snow!) But amazingly, there was actually a restaurant right in our hotel! So I was happy – I had a steak sandwich for lunch. We lost two hours in the timezone changeover, but it did mean we were only six hours behind home instead. We Skyped Sid for a while and drew on Kel’s chin, which was pretty hilarious. I watched another episode of Psych too. I had a huge Red Bull dilemma, in that there was nowhere for me to get any (the vending machine in the lobby only did Zero, sob!) so I had to break into my Elvis energy drink from Winter Park as an emergency. Hopefully the empty can will still survive the last trip.

We ordered Chinese for tea. I don’t know what it is about American ordering systems, but we have a variety of problems every single time we try ordering takeout. Whilst we were waiting I ran down to get some drinks from the bar to bring back to the room. I was glad I wasn’t staying – I got hit on within the first thirty seconds! The Chinese was amazing though. I had lo-mein and fried rice. I just love the novelty of those cute little takeout boxes too. We then watched an awesome episode of South Park that played on superheroes, Totoro and the idea of Kenny having reincarnation powers. “I die over and over again and you assholes never remember anything!” Brilliant! I also got interviewed by a girl on Wattpad. Awesome.

Welcomed with bad weather. Feels like home!

12/10/13 – The witching hour

Skyped Mom and Dad this morning. Got to see both Star and Izzy on cam. Izzy’s getting so big! We’re hoping we’ll be able to Skype Nan tomorrow too. Had some pizza for breakfast and it was still so good! Still only eaten half of it between us though – hoping the maids don’t throw it away whilst we’re out! Actually dressed in layers for the first time in forever today. It feels so weird wearing jeans again! But Boston has been the coldest place yet, so we needed to be prepared to head into the heart of the city.

We liked Boston instantly, despite it reminding us weirdly of Birmingham. We walked back and forth through the park a little, which was lovely, and followed part of the Freedom Trail. I’ve been hunting for a city to set my Argo series in during my travels and Boston is currently topping the list. We even found ourselves in a place called McKinley Square (McKinley being the name of my main character) – it must be fate! I’d like to hold off on deciding until the end of the trip though, as I feel San Francisco and Chicago could be contenders too. We got down to the wharf and found out that our whale watching was cancelled because of rough seas. Absolutely gutted! There’s a chance we’ll be able to do it in the morning tomorrow instead, but again it’ll depend on water conditions. Fingers crossed!

Feels scarily like home… Isn’t Pigeon Park just up there?

Kain, you’re famous in Boston! I’m such a proud character momma…

Because our plans were so cocked up we decided to head into Salem earlier so that we could get a good look around. I felt like I was going to a convention. A horror convention. There were so many people dressed up! We even heard someone playing ‘Sally’s Song’ on some kind of wind instrument. Safe to say that’s been stuck in my head since. We saw inside one of the buildings that there was actually a month-long convention going on for the whole of October! That certainly explained a lot. We then went for a late lunch at Thai Place. I’ve never eaten Thai food before but I will most definitely be doing it again! We shared a starter of wonton type things filled with onion, potato and curry powder, served with pineapple sauce. I then had BBQ chicken with steamed rice and sweet chilli sauce. It was all gorgeous! I feel this was an experiment that turned out very successful.

We had a wander around some shops afterwards. There was a Harry Potter themed shop where I was totally tempted to get a golden snitch aerial topper for my car, but then was worried it’d get nicked (oh the woes of living amongst British hooligans). There was a pretty awesome Snape standing outside too. We also visited one of the cemeteries. It’s the second oldest cemetery in America (and also seemingly the most popular – never seen so many live people in a cemetery!) A lot of the grave stones were broken and you couldn’t see the writing anymore. The oldest one we found was from 1790, wow! There also seemed to be a hell of a lot of Abigails back then.

We then finally had our witch walk tour on the evening. By then it had gotten completely dark, which made it even more awesome. Our tour guide Tom looked like Russell Brand and Tim Minchin got together and had a baby. This is by no means a bad thing. He was totally cool – he really knew his stuff (Kay would have been impressed), he was funny, fun to watch and made the whole thing much more interesting than it already was. I even found some of my old knowledge from learning about The Crucible coming back. Tom went into quite a bit of depth on how Salem was never really a home of witches and that it had only happened more recently as it gained popularity for the idea, which I’m sure Kay would have been pleased about.

Me and Kel were the nerds who stuck at the front of the group the whole time (though mostly it was because we got frustrated being stuck behind all the snail people when we were moving from one place to the next. Why do most Americans have no sense of urgency about them?!) At one point Tom even started playing ‘This Is Halloween’ on a little cassette player as we were walking. Needless to say me and Kel were both singing along. An awesome touch! During the witch walk we participated in a Wiccan ritual and also all joined in blessing pieces of rose quartz that we’d be given as a group.

We had a drag of a journey back, consisting of a half hour train ride and then two separate subways. And we got stuck with all the teenies coming out of a Selena Gomez concert (though at least it wasn’t One Direction or I would likely have been forced into punching someone). We were happy to find that our pizza was still in our room and hadn’t been chucked out by the maids, so we had another munch and watched some of Zoolander. I put my rose quartz into my makeup bag, because you’re supposed to keep it in a pink bag to improve your love life. Ha. Good luck, little rose quartz. If you actually work then I promise I’ll turn Wiccan.

The busiest cemetery you’ll ever see! And the only one where there’s more live people than dead.

9/10/13 – End of the line

After a terrible sleep I ended up getting up and showering crazy early. Like six o’clock early. The morning was quite nice and slow and I even got to watch some Psych in between packing and getting ready. We then all packed into the van for the last time. Cry! The drive was around four hours, but it genuinely felt like it was over in a flash for me (you can have three guesses why but you’ll only need one). Did manage to get everyone’s Facebook details though, which I was obviously happy about. We stopped at a hotel in Newark, which was our final destination as a group. We said goodbye to Derek at the hotel. Sad times!

We all then piled into a taxi that we really couldn’t fit into. Man, I hate goodbyes. The traffic into New York was ridiculous and we all went a bit delirious again and were just laughing at nothing (this suited the mood better – I really didn’t want to have a blub in the taxi!) We then had more goodbyes before me and Kel went to find our bus. We checked into our motel in New Jersey, then grabbed some food from Sonic – the weirdest fast food place ever. We had to sit outside after speaking to a board. They didn’t even let us inside! They did play Come On Eileen though whilst we were waiting, which was unexpectedly awesome.

Got back to the motel and caught the end of Tangled. Watched X-Men after and also saw the trailed for Bad Grandpa – looks hilarious! We’ve also decided that we love the Geico adverts. That was pretty much the highlight of our night though. I felt pretty weird all evening and ended up having to watch some Whose Line and Improv-A-Ganza clips to cheer up. The perfect cure! I know that this is still pretty much the start of mine and Kel’s adventure, but a fantastic part of it has now ended and I just feel sad right now. Damn group, why did I get so attached to you?

Pay attention to the two stuffed toys and hear about their kidnapping in the next post!

8/10/13 – Shae day!

Woke up from more annoying dreams. Weh. We got ready and headed over to the White House first. Kel forgot her watch so we had to go back to the hotel and meet Tanya, Jayda and Robyn over there. It really wasn’t all that exciting – didn’t look anything like it did in the movies. Plus all I could think was that this was where the country had cocked everything up from. We then walked round some of the memorials again in the daylight. We also saw a black squirrell. Very exotic. We checked out the Arlington Cemetery too and saw the graves of the Kennedy family. We couldn’t see the eternal flame because it had been closed off for maintenance, so we got to see the replacement instead. I don’t know why, but temporary flame just doesn’t have quite the same ring to it…

Standing at the reflection pool… reflecting. And casting reflections.

We caught the Metro back to the Mall and then headed to the Castle to meet Shae and her mom. It was such a really nice day! Shae’s mom was totally sweet and insisted on being our own personal tour guide. And of course Shae was lovely as always! We drove round and saw more of then monuments, then went down to Georgetown since there wasn’t a lot to do in Washington with the government shut-down going on. Georgetown was a really cute, quaint little town. We had lunch in a little Mexican place and then ice cream as well (which Shae’s mom insisted on getting for us, bless her!) I had strawberry with praline and cream – it was sooo good! Shae got me some adorable Jack Skellington stuff for my birthday too, which I shall have to utilise right away! We went down to the harbour as well and to the Georgetown College. WHY are all American colleges so damn gorgeous and superior to ours? Oh that’s right, we live in England… We also stood eating our ice cream and watching some people jog up and down the ridiculously steep steps from the Exorcist. Crazy people. It was really great to spend real time with Shae though – my honourary little sister! First international meet-up, check!

The steps from the Exorcist. Who in their right mind would jog up these?! We had the better idea with standing at the top and having a munch.

Had tea at a pretentious Spanish tapas place. The food was nice but expensive and the service really wasn’t great. I loved the drinks menu though! They did a cranberry McKeown cider, which was lush! After that we went to a different bar. Had more cider – this time a brand called Bold Rock. Nowhere near as nice, but still good. And the bar staff here were much more fun. Everyone went home in groups, but me and An stayed longer with Derek and his friend Pat (who reminded me of Scouse’s Wolowitz friend – not good!) Seeing two opinionated American guys debate over politics was really quite amusing, even if I had no idea what they were talking about ninety-nine percent of the time. Me and An also got chatted up by a couple of suits when we went outside. A little on the old side, but I could at least talk to them about Top Gear.

It was pretty late when we actually got back and by this point I was feeling a bit bummed. I was still sad about the upcoming end to the tour, but it was time to get a grip! Me and Kel still have plenty of adventure ahead of us!

7/10/13 – Mad World

So we all got up ready for our hike… and it was raining. Hmmm, feels like home. So we had a little bit more time to get ready and go to breakfast instead. We quickly Skyped Mom in between, then went back to Cracker Barrel. This time I had pancakes with cherries and cream. They were so so good, but ridiculously huge and I could only finish two of the three. When we got back outside it had stopped raining, so we decided to go for our hike after all.

Our view of the mountains from Cracker Barrel – with our motel in the shot too!

Tanya and An opted out, but the rest of us were up for it. Since this was the first place that was actually cold we decided to rethink our outfits a little. I put a jumper and my cardy on and swapped my usual open-toe shoes for my Skechers and my Flash socks (ready to run up some hills. Not.)

Got a bit lost on the way to the recreation area, so we had more of a scenic tour first. The trail we’d originally decided to follow once we got there was called the ‘Salamander Meander’, but we must have veered away from it somewhere along the line because the trail we did then follow ended up being much longer and we eventually had to double back. There was a lot of uphill trekking as the trail led through the woods around the Appalachian Mountains, but it felt great and refreshing. If only we had areas like that in Birmingham – I’d feel more inclined to do it at home!

Me and Kel pretty much led the trek (think we must be more used to walking than everyone else). We saw several deer and a couple of chipmunks too! On the way back down a rogue, half-eaten apple bounced out of nowhere and hit Kel on the back of the leg. We were all confused as to where it had come from since there were no apple trees around (especially with it being half-eaten!) I said it was a poltergeist in the woods and Derek reckoned it was a squirrel with a sick sense of humour, but the culprit remained a mystery.

We’re going on a bear hunt!

We then collected the other girls and our bags and got back on the road again. Started off with more Tears For Fears, Elvis and some Keane. Lovely! Besides that the drive was long and uneventful, but I did get to watch some more Psych. We got to DC roughly six hours after we’d left, including the usual lunch stop and bathroom breaks. I started to feel a little mizz in the van – the end to our group tour is looming ridiculously close and I don’t want to have to leave our new friends! I’ve become quite attached to everyone, dammit.

Our hostel was a lot nicer than the one in Nashville. All us girls were in the same room this time, for a start. Each bed had its own cute little light and plug sockets. We didn’t have to make them ourselves either. Woohoo. Plus the toilets and showers were right opposite our room, so no trekking around the floor in tiny pyjamas. After we’d eaten we went on our own illumination tour. Derek drove us round to look at the main sites and we were able to get out and walk around some of them. Most of them were memorials, but we saw the Washington Monument too. Because of the government shut-down we won’t actually get to see much more of them during the day. Thanks America. Couldn’t you have done this before we got here?

Overall it was quite an uneventful day. We had our group showering session (they were only protected by curtains so we had to stand guard for each other) and I finally got the meet-up with Shae organised. Exciting times!