Florida - Roy and Shaun - 1990
Boston and the Massachussets Coast - Roy - 2000
New York City - Andrew and Jacqui - 2004
New York City 2 - Andrew and Jacqui and her Mum - 2005
New York City and Niagara - Andrew and Jacqui and their Mums - 2006
New York City - Andrew and Jacqui and her Mum - 2006
San Francisco - Andrew, Jacqui and thier Mums - 2007
Washington DC - Andrew and Jacqui - 2007
Anchorage - Andrew - 2008
New York City - Andrew, Jacqui and his Aunt & Uncle - 2009
Miami Beach - Andrew, Jacqui and her Mum - 2009
Philadelphia - Andrew, Jacqui, her Mum and her Uncle - 2010
Click here for a more detailed map
The United States of America is without doubt the most powerful and influential country in the World ... sometimes to the good and sometimes to the poor.
It has a variety of scenery unparalleled from the prairie of the south to the ice floes of Alaska. Washington DC on the eastern seaboard is the capital, but other cities are far more interesting; New York, San Francisco, New Orleans ... and many more.
Disneyworld in Florida is the most visited single destination for British tourists.
In 2004 Andrew became the last of the RLP team to visit adding the US to the list of Greece, Spain and Italy which all three have visited.
Florida - Roy and Shaun - 1990
Roy and Shaun taking the Mickey!
Roy - Out for a Duck!
The Goofy One - along with a Disney character
Venice - Florida?
An odd looking building
Come on - Join the Parade!
CAPE KENNEDY SPACE CENTRE
Shaun filming Roy filming Shaun
Roy about to get blasted!
Shaun with giant hairdryer
Boston and Massachussets Coast - Roy - 2000
There are a few places where even the most gifted people with the highest IQs are compelled to use only sheep-powered memory. I always found airports were one of those place. Most certainly not the kind of place you really want to be on your own for a few of the following reasons.
If youre with someone who can still just about use the English language at the check-in then you can let them get on with it. If youre with someone that cant even manage gibberish then you can feel smug and superior. On your own you can do neither. You just about finish castigating the moron in front of you at check-in when it becomes your turn and you react in a similar way.
After successfully completing this challenging obstacle things should get easier but you feel an ever growing sense of amazement and sheep-brain as you wander around the shops. Personally I preferred to waste a bit of time in a bar as the surroundings were at least reassuringly familiar. One other note of observation which amused me was that the McDonalds in Gatwick South is not in the food hall. Obviously someone was scared of a charge of misleading the public so it is positioned away from that area.
On finally getting to the plane, itself a Herculean task and an adventure which Indiana Jones may have been proud of you get the idea that some peoples idea of hand-luggage is somewhat disproportionate to yours. Particularly the guy sitting in front of me that filled up the whole of the overhead compartment with his one-piece. So as I write this I am sitting here, casting ominous looks up at that holder, because if it falls open under the weight and his bag falls out there wont be any more pages left to write. It certainly didnt seem very light when I opened it up to try, unsuccessfully, to put my piece in, then struggled to close it again.
Well onto the flight and Boston is a mere seven hours away and the good crew of the Virgin Boeing keep us all well stocked up with food and drink as we head off there. Not been on one of these transatlantic carriers for a few years and the changes to the insides are quite amazing. TVs in the head rests and several choices of film to while away the time, which itself gets shorter with more powerful engines getting you to your destination. Altogether a smooth and relaxing flight that left me ready to face the mysteries of America on my own.
BOSTON - MORE THAN A FEELING
OK got here and still suffering from a cold I picked up a few days beforehand.. Thankfully not as bad as it has been though, but the dry air in the plane cabin has dried my throat out and left me croaky, so the cold has almost gone, but so too has the voice. Well the airport is a bit of a maze and one of the most daunting tasks facing any traveller is getting through the customs desk. The credentials in every country appear to be the same - dont show any sign of emotion and treat everyone to a stare of suspicion. When I was asked why I was here there were a few tempting ideas that entered and swiftly exited my head under a withering gaze, I muttered back in a fairly jovial manner that I was just checking the place out but it was met by a stony-cold stare. Decided to forego the option of booking a hotel at the airport and made my way to the outside world with a decision, brave or foolhardy, considering the fact that I had only just got there, to find one once I had picked up the car and set off out of town.
Now getting around from the airport is a lot easier than I thought it would be. Hotels and car-hire firms lay on courtesy buses to take you to their places and it takes most of the hassle out of getting anywhere when you first land so a big thank-you to all those who laid on the transport. Though I guess it does make you feel obliged to check into one of these places rather than just find the subway. So I jumped on a Hertz rental courtesy bus and proceeded to pick up a automobile. Despite the fact that I had never driven in the States before I managed to pick up the car, figure out how to change the automatic gears (it does have a system, believe me!), get out of the rather interesting one way system and out of Boston without incident, and even with a few interesting detours, more of which I shall explain about later, I reached Salem in good time.
Salem, unfortunately, is not best endowed with any kind of hostelry and so I picked one of only two hotels I could find, the Hawthorne, named after a famous son of Salem. Fortunately it wasnt too expensive despite its rather nice furnishings and so I decided to make it my bed for the night. An en-suite room with all kinds of amenities including a hair-dryer - knew I should have grown my hair before going out there. Also had an iron and board and TV with a multitude of channels. Enough there to keep me occupied for the night - except I found the bar!
Now the last time I went out to America the Monty Python joke was still true about their beer. Not so this time. For starters they now brew English beer out there, Bass seems to be one of the major players. I still took it for granted that I could probably drink two or three times as much as I could back home until I realised too late that I couldnt. I made it up to my room before the full impact of that session finally hit me and half way through the night I couldnt tell you what country I was in any more. I felt quite fortunate to get up early in the morning without a hangover, though the sight of a pile of pancakes with honey dripping off them and a side-plate of salad did me no favours.
Right - lets get one thing straight before I continue - driving in America is easy! However getting anywhere in particular is damn difficult and can be quite frustrating. A few things become obvious after a while, directions and road signs can be non-existent, rare or signed too late for you to do anything about them, leaving you in the wrong lane and going in completely the wrong direction. Sign-posts, where they do exist, only advise of the next town, not very helpful when heading for a place some distance from where you are. Fortunately nearly every driver there is completely laid back, so if you feel you need to cut in front of someone, they generally tend to let you. Because of all this an hours drive for a non-local can take double that.
OK thats the first driving observation out of the way - now back to Salem.
Salem at 9 in the morning is about as busy as Salem at 9 in the evening, so not the most happening place in the world, which is quite an achievement for a town that used to be the sixth biggest in the country. However there is plenty to see and do, mostly chronicling the three most important periods in it's history - the colonies, independence movement and, of course, the witch-trials. I chose to go to the pioneer village and the Salem witch-dungeons.
The pioneer village almost has a history of its own, built seventy years ago to mark the three-hundredth anniversary of the first colony, it is well worth a look. Also one of the few places where you will see the flag of St.George flying around out there. Everything about the village is as authentic as possible and charts how the settlers would first have sheltered before making their permanent homes there. All the guides wear costume of the period and are very knowledgeable. It is very authentic-feeling too, and you can imagine these actually being the original dwellings of those early pioneers.
The witch dungeon is also a must do. It is in two parts. The first part seats you in a court at the time, watching a witch-trial take place with very fine acting from all. The second is a tour round a dungeon, which gives the visitor some kind of idea of how harrowing it must have been for all involved. At the end of the tour is a very well-stocked gift shop with anything you could wish to buy.
The only place I was able to get to was Gloucester, though there were a few other small towns around. This is a really serious fishing town and everything that has grown up around this area is because of the trawlers. It has also been made famous by a George Clooney film, whose name escapes me at present, but its still showing at cinemas in this town. Other than that it is a nice walk round, quite hilly, with a few nice buildings and a mock medieval castle just a few miles down the road.
Anything you have ever seen or heard about New England and, in particular, Cape Cod, is absolutely accurate. Every town and village you travel through has a nice preserved look about it and it has a great, friendly relaxed atmosphere. I decided to take a look round Chatham, as it seems quite fitting to travel 3,000 miles to get away from Chatham in the first place.
It is generally a mixture of white painted wood and brown/grey slate houses, interspersed at the time with the last of the fall colours. It makes you realise that, whatever time of year you choose to visit, you will see a majestic beauty about the area which is truly hard to beat. The very atmosphere that this provides makes one feel quite satisfied and complete.
Not really the place to go for excitement but if you like nice scenery and relaxed holidays then this is the place.
Right - second tip about driving - nearly everybody on the road is pretty cool about driving and generally happy to forgive you for any late change of plan brought about by poor road directions if you are in front or beside them. I cant really explain how relieved I am that this is the case - but they are, in general, very polite road users.
The fall colours which I vaguely mentioned a few paragraphs back need better explaining. This is November when I am here and the fall colours have lost their early autumn brilliance, but even when there are just a few trees with a cluster of about 8 leaves, 2 were bright red, 2 bright yellow, 2 glorious orange and 2 dead brown ones just waiting for the next breeze, it is very easy to imagine what it looked like just a month or so earlier.
The rock America was built on, famously the landing place of the pilgrim fathers and I have to make a statement here and now. The tourist information office is probably the most helpful you will find anywhere in the world! It is very well set up and the staff are extremely helpful. Maybe a few others might learn a couple of things by going there - both British and American.
Driving rule number 3 - Speed limits! These are plentiful and very changeable and, more often than not, not very helpful. For example, there are plenty of 25, 35 and 46 markers but if your car odometer only goes up in twenties it can be quite difficult judging 35. This is not to say that you necessarily have to observe them most drivers just cruise along at just over or under the limit, most typically under. Not very many are too anxious about getting anywhere fast as sitting inside the car looking at the scenery is quite pleasurable.
OK - Plymouth - Definitely a very historic place with a lot of places to visit. A replica of the Mayflower sits in the water about 200 yards away from the portico that sits on top of Plymouth Rock. A fine stone church, the first church built in America stands next to the oldest graveyard, which was also a fort looking out over the town. Plymouth has remained picturesque despite the inevitable build up over the centuries and once could imagine that the pilgrims would still see some familiar things if they were able to come back today.
Well, I spent a few days avoiding it but I ditched the car for the last day and made Boston my base on the last night. Thought Id do it in style as well so I booked into the Hilton and just relaxed in first-class fashion for the night, preparing myself for big-city onslaught.
Actually, the place is much less fearsome looking once you get in and walk around it. There are some very tall buildings, but taken in context, they are just a recent addition to the best part of 350 years of architecture. They also tend to be built right in the centre so that much of the old city remains almost unaffected by it, though there are plenty of old buildings which nestle snugly in between. There are some stunning churches scattered all around here and a park that sums up the good atmosphere that is prevalent, with an open-air ice-rink in the centre.
Among the many other historical things, there is a replica of one of the boats used in the Boston Tea Party. Although the introduction at the beginning is aimed at the young there is plenty of information to be gained and a museum to understand the rest of the details.
There is also the famous Cheers bar, more accurately known as The Bull and Finch, and it is quite authentic in it's setting. Food is quite reasonably priced but drink can be quite expensive -so be warned!
You can also see the holocaust memorial, probably not the most architecturally stunning work, but it is a deeply moving memorial and a testament to the Nazi atrocities.
To summarise - It was obvious a long weekend wouldnt be enough to see all of the fantastic landscape and beauty of New England, but I feel like I have packed a weeks worth in. I definitely want to get back out here in the spring when there are a couple of things to do which couldnt be achieved in this part of the season. The people are friendly, the places hold their historic features well and everything makes you feel calm and relaxed, even the driving once you get used to it, and Boston.
Prices for some things can be quite high when compared to UK prices, once their tax is added onto bills especially, but petrol, clothes and food are much cheaper. Beer can be as much as £4 a pint in some places though, so its best to shop around sometimes and budget for accommodation as you may do in the UK. Hire the car before you go out there too as this can cut the cost by half.
That just about wraps it up for me - just to say if youre thinking of going to New England then do it - it is definitely a 5-star location.
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© Text copyright - Raving Loony Productions, Andrew J. Müller,
and Shaun Runham
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