Let New York Begin!

From New Jersey I travelled to New York City! I have to admit, it was only this summer that I learnt that New York is, in fact, NOT the capital of New York State. One of the girls from Camp goes to college in Albany (the actual capital of New York state) and she informed me of my mistake. Apparently a lot of Americans are also unaware of this fact, which made me feel a little bit better about my ignorance up to this point!

Once again I’m sofa surfing with friends. Although, perhaps that’s not quite the right way to describe it since I’m staying in a four star hotel at the moment. Believe me when I say, this is not the kind of place that I would be staying if I was paying for it myself, so i’m trying to enjoy it as much as I can whilst it lasts.

The great thing about the hotel is that it’s located only a half hour walk from Penn station. As soon as I dropped my bag off I decided to go out and explore around Times Square, only nine blocks away from the hotel.

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Being a self confessed geek, I love to have a proper read of my travel book, or look up the history of places online. So here comes the geekiness! Times Square – sometimes referred to as ‘The Crossroads of the world’ – stretches from West 42nd street to West 47th Street. The Square got its name in 1904 after The New York Times moved its office there. Formerly, it had been known as ‘Longacre Square’ when it was named in 1872 after Long Acre in London. In 2009 the area was made a pedestrian only area, apparently in an effort to ease traffic congestion. (It also means that it’s possible to take pictures without the fear of being run over by an unnoticed car!)

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I did, of course, go into the most important shop on Times Square – DISNEY! Because honestly, i’m a child in an adults body. An adult who was kind of upset that there were no dresses in her size, and that she couldn’t buy any of the stuffed animals because I have no room in my suitcase (it will simply have to wait until another time)!

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Whilst I’m sure that the area has become increasingly ‘disneyfied’ over time, it is no less impressive. The gigantic, flashing billboards are always the first thing that comes to mind when I think of Times Square, and they certainly did not disappoint. The seemingly never ending crowds of people, the flashing signs and colours and the background of cabs and people is exactly how I had imagined New York. In short, Times Square did not disappoint! It’s very obvious to me why Times Square is near the top of every ‘must see’ list for New York, and it certainly has a place up there in mine as well!

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‘Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.’ Mark Twain 

A new day, a new state!

After Fishkill I spent two nights sofa surfing in New Jersey. One of my primary school teachers (in England primary school education goes up to the age of 13 in case you don’t know how it works) moved to America with his family years ago. When my mum put a post up on Facebook asking if anyone would mind me staying with them for a few days he agreed to let me stay for as long as I wanted, which was incredibly generous of him! It was strange, even though I hadn’t seen him in seven years, my first instinct when I saw him was to say ‘hi sir!’

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His family live in a town called Randolph, which is in Morris County New Jersey. It was a real pretty area and whilst I was there the weather was absolutely beautiful. They took me to my first baseball game, which was to see the Somerset Patriots. It was actually Star Wars night there (I have no idea why) which meant that sometimes you would turn and see someone dressed up as obi-wan or a Stormtrooper which was quite amusing.

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As the rules were explained to me I guess most of my comparisons were made to rounders (a sport traditionally played in England by girls, which seems to have some similarities). It was great to see a traditional American sport (even if my interest did begin to waver during the second hour of the game). It also means that I can take something else off my American bucket list!

‘Like all great travellers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen.’ Benjamin Disraeli 

The real travels begin

Camp has now officially ended and so my real travels can finally begin! Whilst at camp I decided to go on a trip with a company, instead of organising everything myself. I decided this partly because it meant that I could see a number of places in the US (even if only very briefly), and the fact that it means that I don’t have to worry about organising how I’m going to get to places and where i’m going to sleep each night. The company i’m going with is called Trek America, the website is below if you’d like to have a look.

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I decided on the trek called ‘Atlantic BLT’ which goes to nine different places in 13 days. This suited my time frame, and also you you sleep in hostels and hotels on this trip instead of camping, which I have to admit I don’t enjoy doing for more than a couple of nights at a time. The only slight problem was that the tour closest to the end of camp was fully booked, meaning that I had to keep myself busy for about a week before the tour started. Of course, this isn’t a problem with New York City so close by!

The night camp finished I stayed one last time with Lyanne in Fishkill. She and her dad then very kindly agreed to drive me to another friends house in New Jersey – seriously, these people are incredible!!! And so, my American adventures could officially begin…

‘Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less travelled by.’ Robert Frost 

My first diner!

IMG_4790Well, another day off! I started my day by being taken to my first American diner! I can’t quite believe that I was in America for almost a month before going to one, but at least it’s something else I can take off my American bucket list! We went to the Red Line Diner, which was a five minute drive away from Lyanne’s house in Fishkill. Once again I can’t really compare it to anywhere else yet, but I thought that it was a fab place to eat. It was exactly how I imagined a diner to be since it certainly seemed to fit the stereotype given off by movies!
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For breakfast I had three chocolate chip pancakes with strawberries. I must confess that perhaps my eyes were a little bit larger than my stomach on this occasion. I managed to finish two of the pancakes, although I couldn’t even manage to make a start on the third one I was so full. The pancakes were good, although I have to admit that they weren’t the most delicious that I’ve ever eaten in my life.
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I would definitely go back to this diner though. It was a nice place to eat, the service was quick, the staff friendly, and the food was good enough that I want to have a second helping!
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‘Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.’ Ralph Waldo Emerson  

Adventures in Poughkeepsie and Beacon

IMG_8722For lunch, Lyanne wanted to introduce me to Hibachi food for the first time, so we went to a restaurant called ‘Kobe Hibachi Sushi Asian Cuisine’ in Poughkeepsie. In America, ‘hibachi-style’ refers to Japanese teppanyaki cooking, which is where gas-heated hotplates are integrated into the tables people eat from, with the chef cooking in front of the diners – often in a dramatic fashion. IMG_8725
Although of course I don’t have anything to compare it to, I thought that the meal was fantastic. The restaurant was a great blend between modern and stereotypical Asian design. The food was delicious, and I thoughtthe show that our chef put on was very impressive. One of his tricks was lighting a volcano shaped stack of raw onion hoops on fire, which the childish side of me was delighted by!
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I also experienced deep fried ice-cream for the first time, another American delicacy that Lyanne insisted that I had to experience. I must confess that whilst it was good fun to try something new, it’s probably not something that I would order on a regular basis!
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To give us some time to digest our food we then headed over to the local mall, Poughkeepsie galleria. We didn’t spend much time there but there was a good selection of shops, and it’s definitely somewhere I would go again if I wanted to have ashopping afternoon. I actually spent most of my time in a shop called ‘Travelling Buddha’ which sold oriental clothes, jewellery, decorations etc. I found a cute little anklet there which wasn’t too expensive, so it definitely gets a thumbs up from me!IMG_8796
We ended our day in Beacon, a city in Dutchess County, New York. It seemed like a really cool place, with lots of arty styled shops, and there were even art exhibitions all over the streets which made it really interesting to walk around. The highlights for me were probably a shop called ‘Hudson Beach Glass’ which unsurprisingly, sold objects made out of glass. My favourite finds in there were the glass animals (specifically the birds) which were hanging up in the shop windows. There was a variety there, including owls, parrots and kingfishers. It’s the type of place where, if it was in England and I was able to take it all back home with me safely, I would spend far too much money!
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IMG_8812As I said there were lots of art exhibitions all up and down the street. Sadly I don’t  know who they were done by, or if they’re for anything in particular, but they certainly made the street more interesting.
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I didn’t actually get to see a huge amount of Beacon. We didn’t have much time there and, according to Lyanne, most of the places she wanted to take me were for food – a slight problem since we had already eaten so much that we could barely walk. It was a great place to spend a couple of hours though, and if you’re interested in slightly odd, artistic places then I would definitely recommend it as a place to check out for an afternoon.
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‘Not all those who wander are lost’ J. R. R. Tolkien