Lucy's Travels

Following my adventures through USA, South America and Australia

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Key West

Key West Harbour
Side note: I wrote this blog on Key West at the end of May but wanted to keep my destinations in order so have only just posted it online.

I am writing this post sitting on the floor of the Atlanta Greyhound bus station. This is definitely one of the less enjoyable sides of backpacking with hundreds of people squeezed into a small dirty room, queuing for sometimes hours for a long bus journey through the US without wifi despite their advertisement that there is (to the annoyance of all their customers with numerous complaints every bus ride). So far I have taken 3 buses from Key West to Miami, then to Orlando and Atlanta, and finally I will arrive in Nashville 28 hours after first boarding the Greyhound. But anyway, this isn't what this post is about. Instead I want to talk about Key West and my 3 nights spent there at the most southerly point of North America.

I took the bus from Miami (just 4 hours) on the 23rd May and befriended a nice Aussie girl called Jackie who I ended up booking a snorkelling trip with for the following day. I checked into my hostel in the evening which was closer to a hotel than a hostel with very clean and spacious rooms and five, yes five pools! As it was late I had a quiet night in the room and met my two room mates, one Texan guy in around his 70's whose first sentence to me was he needed the bathroom and it wouldn't be pretty so I might want to stay away for awhile (fantastic introduction and I cannot be held responsible for the giggling that followed for the next 5 minutes, poor guy), and a stripper! So quite interesting roommates. They both ended up being really great and we had some interesting conversations that I shall not repeat. I went to bed early ready for my 'double dip' snorkelling session the following day (weird name I know).

Me and a random Chameleon we found!
Thursday was a great day. I met Jackie (the Aussie) and we went with Fury a company who do tours of all sorts in the Keys. We went out on the catamaran for about 30 minutes before stopping for our first snorkelling session. Unfortunately due to storm Alberto the visibility was poor and I barely saw anything, but was lucky enough to eventually have 3 huge stingrays pointed out to me by one of the crew which were directly below me. They were bigger than me by quite a way, and after a brief panic that a similar Steve Erwin situation could happen to me, I was able to enjoy the experience of seeing such amazing sea creatures, even if they looked like large grey blobs. The second session we had at a spot just 10 minutes away was a whole different story. It was a lot shallower and the coral was incredible. Lots of vibrant colours with hundreds of tropical fish to be followed and chased. It was a fantastic experience and reminded me of my time on the Great Barrier Reef, but perhaps not quite as spectacular.

Afterwards Jackie and I were taken to a seafood restaurant on the harbour by a lovely American couple who insisted that if we were going to try conch (a local delicacy) then it should be done here rather than at the cheap shack we had opted for. It was certainly worth it (thanks for the recommendation Liv)! I went out that night with Jackie and an American from Indiana that Jackie had met at her hostel for drinks and some delicious shrimp tacos (YUM)! I proceeded to find out that his grandparents were actually Mormon and that in his area approximately half of the population were Mormon too. Pretty fascinating as I didn't know much about it before speaking to him. Did you know they don't own cars but have a horse and carriage instead, and that they don't use electricity either?

Turtle Hospital on Marathon Island
On Friday the rain turned from light to a huge rain storm and my kayaking trip through the mangroves was cancelled. Instead I went with Marie (my Norwegian friend I met in New York, Miami and then Key West) drove us to the most amazing Turtle Hospital on Marathon Island, about an hour East from Key West! This has been one of my highlights from the trip so far with almost a hundred sea turtles being rescued by the team each year with most having their lives saved. There were turtles that weighed hundreds of pounds, and turtles that were about the size of my hand. Some were suffering from tumours all over their body caused by pollution in the sea, some had been hit by boats, others had been attacked by sharks and needed flippers amputated, and others who had swallowed garbage from the sea and were starving to death. Did you know that if a sea turtle is sick in anyway it will float, no matter what the problem is? This is how the hospital can find them as fisherman will call their 24/7 line if they ever see a floating turtle that can't dive back down. Pretty amazing! It was fantastic to see the turtles being rehabilitated and hearing the stories of how they had been rescued and when their expected release date would be. Occasionally a turtle cannot be released back into the sea due to the type of injury or repercussions of their illness (for example if they get air in their shell and will always float), in those cases the hospital rehouse them to a safe place such as an aquarium so they can live out the rest of their lives. It truly is an amazing place that I highly recommend you visit if you ever find yourself in the Florida Keys.

Shrimp burger on the water with Marie
We then went to a restaurant on the harbour nearby for the most delicious shrimp burger and the biggest portion of fries you have ever seen! If I don't come back to England 3 stone heavier after this trip it will be a miracle. That evening we went for key lime pie (native to the keys and totally delicious) and had some drinks before wandering back to the hostel and preparing for my 28 hour journey to Nashville the following day.

Two different types of Key Lime Pie
All in all I enjoyed my time in Key West. There are plenty of fun tours to do in the water from snorkelling, scuba diving, kayaking, fishing etc. but I have to say the rain made it more difficult. I missed the famous sunsets due to the constant clouds, and I didn't explore as much as I would have liked. I think it would be the perfect spot if the weather was just a little sunnier, but I still had a fantastic 3 days there.

Lucy B x

Turtle Hospital on Marathon Island

Thursday, 2 August 2018


South Beach, Miami

What can I say about Miami...? It was exactly how I think you would picture it. Extremely glam, very 'showey-offey' (I know that isn't a word but it really is the best way to describe it). Most people walk along Ocean Drive in bikinis looking like they are ready to go to the club, it was pretty surreal. The prices for food and drink were astronomical, if you fancied a cocktail near the beach it would cost you $25!!!! Don't get me wrong, I did still like it, but more as an experience rather than because I was particularly taken with the city. I must add here that my opinion is based purely on South Beach and my particular experience as I only ventured into the main part of the city once to Wynwood Walls, and it was also not great weather with plenty of clouds and showers (thanks again storm Alberto).

I arrived in the evening of Sunday 20th May with a Canadian girl called Lauren who I met on the bus. We ended up being put in the same hostel room which was great as we were able to hang out for the rest of my time in Miami. My friend Marie (who I met in New York) had already arrived and invited us to a night out with the girls from her room. We popped out for some Cuban cuisine across the road (lots of rice, beans and chicken, delicious), then headed back to meet the girls for some beers. We went to a club called Nikki Beach where we were met by a promoter who gave us a booth and free drinks for the night but it ended up being on some sort of stage like set up, with only girls allowed. The 'stage booths' were surrounded by the dance floor but sectioned off so we were practically on parade for the rest of the club. Personally for me it was a pretty uncomfortable and bizarre experience which I don't wish to repeat, I prefer to be dancing and relaxed and not 'on show'. I still had some fun as I was with some lovely girls from the hostel, but left early. 

Marie and Lauren at Wynwood Walls
The following day I went with Lauren and Marie to Wynwood Walls to see the graffiti which was on all the buildings and even had a special exhibit. That was pretty cool and certainly not something I had seen before as street after street was lined with the artwork. We eventually headed back to the hostel and I ventured to the beach with the purpose of swimming, but with no lifeguards and a rough sea I chickened out (mum would have been ashamed) and enjoyed a delicious pizza on the Lincoln Mall (lots of restaurants shops and bars all on one road). I then headed back and met Marie and the other girls for some drinks at the hostel bar and pool.

On Tuesday 22nd May I went with Lauren on the Everglades day trip to see the alligators in the swamps. This was great fun and we had quite a few up close encounters, perhaps a little too close for many of us. It was fascinating to see them in their natural habitat and a lot of fun to hold a baby alligator at the end who was in their sanctuary. The alligators are seen as nuisances in Florida and often shot when found in peoples gardens or pools (which happens frequently), but at this particular sanctuary they capture them and keep them or give them to Zoos or Aquariums. At first this upset me as I could not understand why they would not be put back into the wild, but this had previously been tried and unfortunately the alligators were able to find their way back to wherever they had been captured from, even when it was many miles away, so by doing this they risked the alligators being shot by "pest control".

Alligator in the Everglades
Alligator in the sanctuary

Miami was definitely an experience, but I am not too interested in going back. I had some delicious food and the beach was nice but again it was on and off rain with constant cloud so I'm sure it would be a lot nicer when the weather is good. It would also be nice to visit when I wasn't on such a tight budget and could afford $25 for a drink by the beach... Actually on second thoughts, I don't think I would ever pay that!

Thanks for reading!

Lucy B x


Tuesday, 24 July 2018

My favourite place in the world...

Hogwarts Castle - Islands of Adventure
Did you guess where my favourite place in the world is...? None other than the magical world of Harry Potter of course, hidden in the depths of Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure in Orlando, Florida. My expectations were about as high as you can get for this place, being a Harry Potter obsessed muggle who is still totally convinced that my acceptance letter to Hogwarts got lost. I have been dreaming of visiting Harry Potter World ever since its opening in 2010. The closest I have got was visiting the Harry Potter studios when I was 19 with my poor unsuspecting parents for my birthday. We were advised it would take around two to three hours to look around and there I was, six hours later, still admiring every artifact from the film, and reading every sign available. I was so proud of my parents that day (neither of which are particular fans of the books or films), as not once did they ask me to hurry, or even sigh as they twiddled their thumbs waiting for their daughter to end their torture. I forget how damn lucky I am sometimes. Anyway, back to Orlando...

Gringotts Bank - Universal Studios
This stop felt like the beginning of my solo travels as it was the first time I would be on my own for the foreseeable future, having spent the past few weeks with friends and family. Unfortunately there were no hostels in Orlando within close proximity of the parks, so I had to opt for a hotel. This meant no friends for me and I would have to brave a theme park on my own, something I would never have dreamt of doing before this trip!

I had only planned to visit Universal studios as I had believed that was where all the main Harry Potter attractions were, however upon arrival at the hotel I discovered that it was spread between both Universal and Islands of Adventure. Universal featured Kings Cross and platform 9 and 3/4, as well as Diagon Alley and Knockturn Alley, whilst Islands of Adventure had the Hogwarts Castle and Hogsmeade. Well what was a girl to do? Obviously I had no choice but to buy two tickets to both parks on alternate days, completely blowing my budget, but convincing myself it was a once in a lifetime treat. As I was spending such a huge amount on just two parks I naturally believed that this would include riding the Hogwarts Express, because who visits Harry Potter World without travelling on the most famous train in the world?! But oh no... you had to pay even more to have a park to park ticket, which would mean I could visit both parks on both days and ride the Hogwarts Express. At this point I just thought f**k it, YOLO, and bought the whole damn package... thank god it was at the beginning of the trip when I clearly thought I had money to burn! But in all seriousness, despite the huge hit to my savings, it was worth every penny!

Me at my happiest posing in front of Hogwarts Castle
On Friday (18th May) I took an Uber to Universal Studios as I missed the shuttle due to being too busy scoffing my face with breakfast to notice its arrival, and I was not wasting a whole hour waiting for the next one. As I walked into the park it was the first time on this trip that I had started to experience anxiety from going somewhere on my own. As I looked around all I could see were friends and family happily chatting away in big groups, excited for the day ahead. I could not spot a single person on their own. It reminded me of how mum would always take the boys and I to theme parks every year as a family treat (dad stayed behind due to a severe disliking of any rides, even the flying pink elephants that I would force him on as a child). Those days were always filled with so much fun and laughter as we are all theme park ride fanatics. It made me so sad to be on my own unable to share it with my brothers, mum, or even a friend. I started to get paranoid that people would be staring, thinking how sad it was that I came alone. Eventually I took a deep breath and told myself to get a grip (which probably only attracted more stares) as I decided that I would not let my own fears and anxieties ruin something I had been looking forward to for eight years. I ignored all the horrible feelings bubbling inside, and fought the urge to get a taxi straight back to the hotel. I marched straight to Harry Potter World, convinced that if anything was going to make me feel better, it would be a butter beer. 

Nothing a Butterbeer could not fix!!
As soon as I entered Diagon Alley I was in pure heaven. All my worries fell away and I was ready to soak up every minute whilst I was there. I actually voice noted Rim (my friend from University) on Whatsapp as I was desperate to voice my excitement to someone. She replied wishing she was a fly on the wall so she could see my face and how ridiculously happy I was, on my own, exploring Harry Potter World! I also messaged Rachel (my home friend) describing everything I could see and sending photos and videos as we are Harry Potter fanatics together, and I knew she would have loved it as much as me. I spent the next two days hopping on and off the Hogwarts Express, riding all the available rides multiple times and occasionally making friends with people in the queues without a care in the world, and all negative thoughts had vanished. Once I had gotten over the initial fear of doing things on my own and had realised just how much fun it could still be, I felt so empowered to carry on as a solo traveller and do all the things I wanted to do, and stop worrying about what others may think. And this was just the beginning...

Lucy B x

All aboard the Hogwarts Express!!

Friday, 20 July 2018

The Capital - Washington D.C.

Washington monument
Next stop on my USA trip was the not to be missed capital, Washington D.C. I arrived late on Sunday 13th May straight from New York. This stop was kind of a strange one for me with the country being in such a 'different' political climate. Without going too in depth on my own personal feelings of Trump (not a good idea on the internet as everyone has a right to their own personal beliefs,) I would have been a lot more excited to be outside the White House when Obama and Michelle were inside, but anyway, still really interesting!

I was incredibly lucky when I visited Washington as one of my closest friends, Cara, has her lovely sister Beth living in the city. Beth was a dream host, giving me my very own queen bed and bathroom to use. At this point I had only been traveling for 3 weeks,  but the luxury of having my own room and an apartment to hang out in was utter bliss. So good in fact I spent my first day relaxing inside, washing clothes and making plans for my future travels. I finally ventured out in the afternoon to explore the local area and pick up some ingredients for a home cooked meal, another thing I had been missing. I had a lovely evening with Beth, eating and chatting and getting lots of great tips on where to visit and what to eat over the next couple of days.

My second day was a lot more active. My first priority was to visit the White House, something I have always been very keen to see in person, but at first look I was extremely disappointed by how grey and dull it was, nothing like the bright white building you see in the movies. It probably took me a full five minutes before I realised that the building I was standing in front of and taking pictures of was in fact not the White House, but actually the U.S. Department of Treasury. Honestly there is no excuse for this, I can't even pretend they were that similar, it was just a very dumb moment and I felt extremely silly when I carried on down the path to find the real White House, which really does look like the pictures!
The White House
World War II Memorial
World War II Memorial

Little ducklings without their mum
I spent the rest of the morning exploring the surrounding area enjoying the views of the Washington monument which can be seen from quite a distance and is a real landmark in the city, as well as the World War II memorial, which I think was my favourite of them all. It had a beautiful water fountain with pillars surrounding it etched with the names of all the states in the US, and a wall full of stars representing all the thousands of US soldiers whose lives were lost. It was here that I also saw the cutest little ducklings next to a large and powerful waterfall looking stuck with no mum insight. I must have watched them for about 20 minutes, then couldn't wait any longer and decided to go on a hunt to find their mum. I am not exactly sure what my plan of action was as A) how on earth do you know which duck is the mum of the ducklings when you are looking in a park filled with ducks, and B) if I did somehow miraculously figure out which duck was the mother, how would I take her back to her ducklings in the memorial? But guess what... I found her! Well more accurately she found them, but I felt like I played my part in a beautiful family reunion and it was amazing!
Afterwards I ventured to Georgetown which Beth recommended to me as a really nice area of Washington with bars, restaurants and shops all near the water. It was here I stopped at the 'Baked & Wired' cupcake store, which I have crowned the best cupcake shop in the world. I haven't actually been to that many cupcake stores but I feel so confident in the superiority of their cupcakes that I will crown it the winner anyway (thank you for suggesting it Beth)! After a long day of sightseeing I decided to treat myself to a drink on a gorgeous rooftop bar. The sun was glorious and the views were stunning as I looked over the city with a Frose (frozen rose, yes it was delicious) in hand. I even topped it off with a cheese platter whilst Facetiming my parents and filling them in on the last week or so. I was in pure heaven! After that I headed back to the flat for a relaxed evening of Netflix.

Cheese platter on the terrace
Rooftop bar

The next day was the beginning of the dreaded storm Alberto, which proceeded to follow me down the entire of the East coast for the next two weeks. I don't think it would have been quite as annoying if it hadn't also been so hot. I had to constantly prioritise whether I wanted to be dry wearing my jacket, but incredibly hot, or cool without my jacket but soaking wet. I usually chose the drowned rat look which made for some great photos that you shall never see. I also explored the Library of Congress which had a great exhibition on the Europeans first coming to the US and discovering its beauty and plants. I also visited The Supreme Court and the US Capital, both extremely impressive buildings with plenty of history. I then walked around the Washington Basin to see the Thomas Jefferson, George Mason, Franklin Roosevelt, Martin Luther King, Lincoln, Korean War and Vietnam War Memorials. It was certainly a busy day. With so much to see I never even made it into one of their famous museums, but it is already on my list to come back and visit again one day.

That night I said my goodbyes to Beth (and the beautiful apartment) and got up on Thursday morning to catch my flight to Orlando!!

Lucy B x

 P.S. Thank you again so much for having me Beth, it was such a treat to stay with you and I am so grateful!
Korean War Memorial

Library of Congress

US Capital


Saturday, 14 July 2018

New York New York!!

Times Square
I was lucky enough for this to be my second time in New York, my first being a year and a half ago with Mum and Dad on our 3 week trip around New England during the fall. The Big Apple was always at the top of my bucket list of places to visit with its huge skyscrapers, beautiful views, Times Square, Broadway, the Statue of Liberty and all the rest of the iconic tourist destinations you see in most blockbuster movies. Knowing my Uncle Jon had also lived in the centre of Manhattan for many years and hearing how much he loved it only spurred my determination to go. On my previous visit we only managed to fit in two days in the city, so when I visited again it still felt brand new. Not only that but I was lucky enough to have one of my closest friends from home, Ruth, meeting me out there for the entire week!

On Monday 7th May I travelled with my Uncle Jon from his home in New Jersey to his office in Jersey City where I planned to have a wander until I was able to check in at the AirBnB I had booked with Ruth in Brooklyn. I was able to meet some of his colleagues and have a tour of the office which was amazing, featuring a lego wall, games room, coffee station with real coffee and a delicious free breakfast (I certainly got my fill including a scone I stole for later)! I then attempted to walk to Liberty State Park, however got completely lost and never actually made it, but the view of the water was great and it was nice to stretch my legs. Uncle Jon then treated me to a delicious lunch before I said my goodbyes and headed to Brooklyn. The apartment we were staying in until Thursday was perfect, small but cute and a bit alternative with some very bizarre statues and keepsakes. It was also in a fantastic location in Brooklyn right next to Williamsburg, a must visit when in the city.

Ruth arrived later in the afternoon and after a much needed catch up we headed out to catch the ferry near our apartment for views along the river before nightfall to Wall Street. We had a quick look around the Wall Street area before heading back on the ferry to North Williamsburg where we walked around for a couple of miles and then sat down for dinner at a restaurant called 'Five Leaves', a place our AirBnB hosts had recommended. We were not disappointed with our typically huge American burger and fries. It was incredibly busy in there so clearly a popular destination for locals. As it was now past 11pm Ruth was beginning to drop, however I am still impressed she lasted that long as in England it was 4.15am and she had been travelling all day (well done Ruth)!

Ruth in Five Leaves, Williamsburg
On Tuesday 8th May we headed out early, determined to track down our first New York bagel! We both opted for the rainbow bagel, which although looked very pretty, was very disappointing, mainly because of the ridiculous filling of cinnamon, walnut and raisin that was piled so thick in the bagel I honestly couldn't eat it (for those who don't know me, this is a rarity). We had to squeeze almost all the filling out just to make it bearable, promising ourselves that we would stick to plain old butter in the future. We then set off to the 9/11 memorials and museum at the World Trade Centre. I think the two water memorials commemorating all the thousands of lives lost on that treacherous day in September are perfect. The atmosphere is somber and incredibly moving and I think they have created a wonderful place for loved ones to come and find some peace. What I find most heartwarming is that if you see a single white rose next to someone's name on the plaque, it is there to mark their birthday; all these years later not one person has been forgotten, nor will they ever be. I think that is beautiful.

9/11 Memorial
The museum was equally as incredible, there were so many artifacts on display from the Twin Towers, including pieces of the actual buildings. There was also many photos and videos of survivors and there experiences, and families of those who were lost. It was very tough walking around and hearing all the stories, but something I felt it was important to do. Their stories will be forever remembered by the many visitors who come each year, I shall certainly never forget that day.

Afterwards we headed through Chinatown to Little Italy for a delicious pizza lunch! It was great to be in the middle of it all with delicious food and great people watching opportunities. We then took the subway to Madison Square Garden and enjoyed a beer whilst walking around. It was at this point I was lucky enough to have a pigeon poo right on my head as I was posing for a picture, Ruth very kindly came to my rescue and cleaned me up. It is lucky right?! We then met our friends Anisha and Emily from home at this amazing locals rooftop bar that Emily had heard of for some cocktails and a catch up. We couldn't believe we all happened to be in the city at the same time, such a great way to spend an evening with friends!

From left me, Ruth and Anisha, Emily is behind the camera
Enjoying pizza in Little Italy
The next day we bought some ice cream and ate it whilst walking over the world famous Brooklyn Bridge and it was AMAZING! The views from it are spectacular and the sun was shining. I can't recommend this enough if you choose to visit New York (and the ice cream was a great bonus). From here we walked to the ferry port and took the boat to Governors Island which was fun but also bizarre. It had a sort of apocalyptic feel as there was barely anyone around and many of the buildings looked abandoned. Occasionally you would spot someone who I can only assume worked there but they didn't acknowledge us, creepy but cool. Once we reached the other side of the island we enjoyed a hotdog and swinging on awesome red hammocks (there were hundreds). Eventually we reached the lookout over the Statue of Liberty. I don't care what anyone says, it is so impressive!

Statue of Liberty
Brooklyn Bridge

We then caught the ferry back and went straight to the Highline which is a walkway through the city that is elevated above the streets; a genius and effective idea that is lots of fun to walk on with plenty of places to sit and admire the plants that feature alongside the path. We finished the day by exploring the Chelsea Market (I highly recommend the mini cinnamon donuts here), and enjoyed a Sangria dinner at Dos Caminos with incredible food!

Ruth on the Highline
On Thursday we packed up our things and checked out of our AirBnB and crossed the city to our hostel located right next to Central Park (after a delicious pancake breakfast in Brooklyn of course). We had a busy day starting with visiting Grand Central Station where some of my favourite movies and TV shows have filmed great love scenes. We then went to 'Dough', famous for its huge donuts. Unfortunately I found mine too bready and have definitely had better in the US. Next up was the infamous Rockefeller Centre for views over New York City. Safe to say this was spectacular, and really awesome to see the Empire State Building too. We then ventured to Times Square where we enjoyed sitting for a few minutes and soaking up the buzz of what must be one of the busiest streets in the world.

Top of the Rock!
Lastly, we ended the night in Ellen's Stardust Diner which was recommended to us by both Liv and Ellie (thank you ladies) and we certainly were not disappointed. The waiters and waitresses are performers trying to make it to Broadway and sing whilst serving you, it really is fantastic and so much fun. My favourite place to eat in New York! If you like musicals then this is a must-see when visiting the city.

Ellen's Stardust diner - yes there was confetti!
The next day we spent five hours walking around Central Park visiting the various lakes, ponds and other beautiful areas. We could have easily spent longer but our feet were aching and our stomachs were rumbling. The turtle pond was definitely a highlight as there were literally hundreds of turtles swimming and sunbathing not fussed by our presence at all. The experience was also improved by our slight detour from the park to visit Levain Bakery which boasts the worlds best cookies, well of course we had to test the theory. I am thrilled to say that these were in fact the BEST COOKIES IN THE WORLD. They literally melted in your mouth and were worth every penny; we had the dark chocolate chip but I am sure they are all delicious.

Central Park
Central Park

That evening we visited 'The View' in the Marriott Marquis hotel for sunset so we could see views of the city both in the day and night. We both enjoyed a (highly expensive) cocktail and beer in the revolving restaurant and bar and it was a perfect evening with breathtaking views. We both left about two hours later feeling slightly giggly and very hungry. We had planned to visit a posh cheese restaurant but it had closed for food by this stage so instead opted for a slightly less sophisticated McDonald's burger.

Having drinks in the Marriott Hotel with views over the City
After an extremely busy week we decided to have a relaxed Saturday by just wandering around the shops and having a better look at Times Square. We also decided to treat ourselves one last time to lunch a Ellen's Stardust Diner as a farewell meal from New York and each other! We then went back to the hostel and got ready for the bar crawl. This was a lot of fun and a great way to see the nightlife in the city. We met people from all over the world and I even managed to get quite a few travel tips from various drunk Americans who grew up in cities all over the country. These came in handy later on! I also met the lovely Marie from Norway who became a great travel friend as we were able to meet up again all the way down the East cast.

On Sunday we were both going our separate ways, Ruth to the airport and back to the UK, me on to Washington. We enjoyed a delicious breakfast in a typical American diner (like the ones you see in the movies) and eventually said our goodbyes. I was very sad to be leaving Ruth, but excited for my next destination... the capital of the United States!

New York is truly one of my favourite cities in the world. The buzz you feel when wandering around is indescribable, and there is so much to see and do. No matter how many times I end up visiting in my lifetime, I don't think I will ever feel like I have done everything I want to there. The opportunities feel endless and I can't wait to go back. Hopefully next time I can visit just before Christmas as I think the atmosphere would be magical.

If you managed to get to the bottom of this post then you truly are a great friend (and slightly mad), thanks for reading!

Lucy B x
New York City skyline


Sunday, 17 June 2018

New Jersey - my adopted home in the US

(A photo after we had watched Wicked on Broadway, from top left: Uncle Jon, me, my cousin Stephanie; and bottom from left my cousins Alison and Natalie, Auntie Adriana took the photo!)
From 29th April until 7th May I stayed in New Jersey which has to be my favourite stop in the US simply because I have the greatest family! The Vernon-Browne/Herrera clan live in New Jersey which means I don't see them nearly as much as I would like to. Luckily for us in the UK they make sure to visit every Summer and every other Christmas, and sometimes we even get bonus visits! This is only the second time I've stayed with them in the US and now that I've seen you can get some really reasonable flight deals if you can be flexible with dates I would definitely like to make the trip more often!

They have a wonderful family home which meant I was treated to my very own bedroom and kingside bed (every travellers dream). The whole week consisted of playing games with the girls (really satisfying my inner child) catching up with my Aunt and Uncle including a delicious Italian dinner in a nearby neighbourhood one evening just for the grownups, spending time learning Spanish with Laura the girls nanny, planning the next few stops on my trip, playing in the playground, eating far too much, celebrating little (or not so little) Alison's 7th Birthday with the family, helping to organise a Birthday/Easter egg hunt in the garden filled with fun challenges, reading to Alison's class, helping the girls bake cupcakes, helping at Alison's cooking party with her friends, being adopted by Adriana's family by being taken to some nearby beautiful waterfalls, to the shopping mall and being fed Columbian food; watching Natalie and Alison play tennis, going out with my cousin Stephanie to an awesome bar that looked like an old style saloon, visiting my Uncle Jon's workplace (coolest office I've seen even featuring a Lego wall), and finally finishing with a bang by watching Wicked on Broadway for Alison's birthday.

It really was the best week and I was totally spoilt whilst I was there. Thank you Jon, Adriana, Natalie and Alison and the rest of the family for making sure I had a really wonderful stay. What a fantastic start to my travels! I miss you all but it is so comforting knowing that I have family I can call at anytime whilst travelling, and a place to call home in the US.

New Jersey I will be back soon, preferably for Thanksgiving as I'm desperate to experience that special American holiday!

Lucy B x

P.S. In my whole stay I didn't get a single picture of you Adriana, I will have to make up for it at Christmas ;)


Thursday, 14 June 2018

The Windy City - Chicago

I absolutely loved Chicago!! I didn't have huge expectations before I went as it was a last minute decision to go there as my first stop and my knowledge was minimal. What I found was a very clean and undeniably beautiful city in the states, perched on the edge of the Michigan lake, with a blissful river running through the middle. Chicago certainly lived up to its name, the wind was freezing but thank goodness the sun was shining everyday.

I arrived on Wednesday afternoon, May 25th, after a good flight with plenty of movies to keep me occupied, including Downsizing and The Greatest Showman (I am now obsessed with the soundtrack, anyone who hasn't seen it yet, go see it). I then spent the next hour looking for a bus I had planned to take to get me near my hostel. After wandering back and forth through the airport asking half a dozen people for directions someone finally took pity on me (they could hear the accent,) and informed me that the bus I was looking for was nonexistent and that I needed to get the train, great start to my solo travels!

I arrived at the hostel shortly after which was in a great area called Wicker Park, had a nap, then met my roommate Maria who I organised to have lunch with the following day with another roommate Veronica. I then headed straight out determined to try my first deep dish Chicago pizza... I was not disappointed. It was everything I had hoped and more, never have I seen so much cheese on one meal, it was so delicious and was the first of many on this section of the trip (unfortunately for my waistline).

Our lunch at Pequod's, the fries were a 'half' portion
The following day I decided to have a look around Wicker Park as I had been told it was a nice area. I spent the next few hours looking at quirky shops, record stores, bars and restaurant, then had a quick march through some of the suburbs. There is something about Chicago that is so different and pretty and I enjoyed getting lost in the streets adding things to my to do list. I then met Maria and Veronica for lunch at Pequod's which had been recommended by one of the hostel workers where I had the worlds largest meatball sandwich and fries - can you believe that was a half portion?

Veronica had work to do but Maria and I had a busy afternoon being tourists walking through the the city, along the river walk, visiting the Millenium Park and Cloud Gate (or the bean as it is referred to) which was great fun, we took so many pictures! Eventually we parted ways as Maria had to pack to leave that night and I headed for The Second City Theatre for some Improv. Anne, my friend from work, had recommended it as her son had just been to Chicago and really enjoyed seeing one of their shows. It was amazing, so funny with brilliant actors I was so impressed. Turns out it's a famous venue with comedians such as Steve Carell, Bill Murray and Tina Fey performing there before becoming famous (thank you for the recommendation Anne)!

Cloud Gate or 'The Bean'
The next few days were busy to say the least. I managed to walk tens of miles along the river walk, as well as along the lake to the various beaches, enjoyed an architectural walking tour of the city which I can highly recommend to anyone thinking of visiting (I do the walking tours in most cities as it helps to get your bearings, meet people and think of things you want to do whilst there, including great recommendations for food and bars), and a boat tour along the river. I was also blown away by the Adler Planetarium (thanks for telling me about it Liv and Dave,) which not only had tons of interesting facts and pictures of the universe, but showed incredible videos of the stars and galaxies and hundreds of things I had never seen before, that was another real highlight. Oh, and I also had one of the most amazing breakfasts ever from Yolk (cheers again Liv and Dave, my pancake was carrot cake flavoured).

Riverboat tour on Lake Michigan
Breakfast from Yolk
In summary, Chicago was incredible and I loved every minute of it. It was my first stop on the trip so I had a few nerves but they quickly disappeared when I arrived and was able to explore what I consider a truly great city. Even after 4 days I felt like there was still so much I wanted to see, oh well I guess I better go back sometime soon...

Lucy B x

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