Hello Everyone! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!
Also, Happy Thanksgiving! I know, I know, it was ages ago (November 26th) but I really didn’t get a chance to write another blog entry before the winter break so I thought I’d include it in this entry. Thanksgiving is a big deal in America, I knew this before I got here even though I’d never celebrated the holiday before (I just watch American TV way too much) so I was very excited to experience it, especially after my lovely friend Tess invited me to join her family (as it would have been a little bit expensive for me to fly home to see my own family. And they don’t celebrate Thanksgiving. So it would have been a bit pointless.) Anyway, I had a great time with Tess and her family! They live in Columbia in Maryland, about twenty minutes away from UMBC (which was not decorated enough. Points deducted!), so I got to see another new part of my home state!
I can’t say that my Thanksgiving was exactly like you see in the sitcoms, but it did have some great traditions. It was a big neighbourhood gathering so I got to meet lots of new people (always a good thing!) and most people came dressed in pyjamas! It was such a great idea; I mean, who wants to eat loads of food in uncomfortable clothes?! The food itself was also not what you see on Friends; it was all vegan. This was fantastic for me as I’m vegetarian, and it was a very nice change to be able to eat everything at a big meal (FYI, being vegetarian when your family suddenly decides to go stereotypically English and have roast dinner every Sunday night gets very boring very quickly.) All the food was so nice, and it was really cool to have so many different dishes to choose from!
The next day, we watched the Macy’s Parade which had been recorded from the day before; and it was nice to watch it after hearing about it for so long. Then that afternoon, we went to the cinema to see Coco (which was amazing!! Everyone stop reading this and go and see it!) All in all, it was a great Thanksgiving, and I’m thankful I had such lovely people to spend it with. Although I have yet to become vegan (I like chocolate too much. Also cheese.)
The rest of the semester went well. My finals were a bit stressful, but it was completely worth it to not have exams or work due in January. I had the whole winter holidays to do whatever I wanted! I can’t remember when that was last the case. But after my last exam, I flew up to Boston to meet my family, who had arrived there a few days ago from the UK.
It was so good to see my family again!! Aside from a Skype call on my birthday (and many pictures of my cat that my mum sent to me throughout the semester) I hadn’t seen them since August. They were just the same as always – except my eldest brother is now even taller than me than he was before I left. But my siblings were as hilarious as always (funniest people I know, no joke) :). We spent the next day in Boston which was very nice for me, as I’d spent two weeks at Boston University a few years ago in a summer program so it was great to see the city again. Then we headed to New Hampshire, to the White Mountains which were absolutely gorgeous, especially when it snowed, and most especially at Christmas. I’ve never had a white Christmas before so it was a very festive experience.
We then headed south to New York City. I’d been there a couple of times before, and it was nice to go back again. However, it was also extremely cold, about -10 degrees Celsius, so walking wasn’t much fun and having to stop at the end of every block to wait for traffic lights was horrible. New York is amazing, but its better in the summer, when you can stop and look at the sights without risking your toes. But Macy’s is for all seasons! 😀
Our next stop was Maryland. I was very excited to show my family Baltimore and UMBC, but first we headed to Annapolis, the capital of Maryland, and the city with the most Colonial buildings in America. Instant love! Not surprisingly it has gone on my list of favourite places in America. It was so, so nice to be completely surrounded by my main reason to coming to Maryland. The buildings were gorgeous, the history was fascinating and my dad’s colleague and his wife were very nice, and have invited me back to stay with them so I’ll get to explore more. 😀 😀 We spent the rest of our time looking round Baltimore, at UMBC and on a quick drive through Washington DC, where we had the unexpected chance to walk on water…or frozen water in front of the Capitol Building. It was pretty cold, to say the least.
After DC, we all headed back to Baltimore to the airport. Fortunately, instead of heading home after my family had left; sad, with a desperate need to watch something funny, and wishing I’d joined them on the flight back to London, I had my own plane to catch. I was flying to Dallas, Texas, to meet up with a tour group to travel round the Southeast of America. The trip was amazing! I got to see so many places and meet so many people! The company is called Contiki and they organise trips for eighteen to thirty five year olds so there was a big variety of people, but the age limits meant that we all had things in common, other than a love of traveling. I was away for twelve days, visited seven states, took hundreds of pictures and have a shedload of memories, so I can’t write down everything that happened. But I’ll give a brief account of each city I visited.
Dallas/Fort Worth was the first place I saw. It was -4 degrees which was difficult for me but even less fun for everyone else, as everyone except from me, and a girl from New Zealand was from Australia. Because of the weather, it didn’t really feel like Texas until we arrived at the Stock Yards which included a parade of cows and cowboys, saloon doors and steak houses. Austin was next, and it was a very cool place. The Texas State Capitol Building was beautiful and the graffiti and the unique shops kept Austin weird. The bar I went to later that night was amazing, as I got to hear country music live for the first time! After two days in Austin, we headed to San Antonio. History was the main attraction here so I was delighted. The old Spanish missions were fascinating, the Alamo was sad, though I loved that it was right in the city centre. The Spanish market we visited was amazing, and I wished I’d been able to spend more time there; it was one of the most colourful places I’ve been to. Houston was next. I got the chance to meet up with some family friends that I hadn’t seen in years, which was so nice! 🙂 That night featured a trip to a honky tonk which was amazing! I heard so much country music (which certainly makes a difference from the bars on Wind Street!!) and even learnt how to line dance!
After Houston, we left Texas and headed to Louisiana. I was very excited about seeing New Orleans; it was number two on my list of places I most wanted to visit in America, and it did not disappoint! Definitely earning the title of Coolest Place I Have Ever Visited, N’awlins had the most beautiful architecture I have ever seen, jazz musicians on every street, coloured beads scattered on the pavements even though its not Mardi Gras yet, the best food (beignets!) ever (I could have eaten a hundred of them, though I might have regretted it later), the nicest people (the guy who gave me $10 to buy said beignets) and the coolest atmosphere. As you can probably tell, I really liked it there and would seriously consider going back there after I finish uni. I also got the chance to go on a boat tour of the bayou, where I saw enough Spanish Moss to rival Savannah and baby (or small, anyway) alligators.
After Louisiana, we left for Tennessee, through Mississippi. Memphis was a cool place, the Civil Rights Museum was very interesting, Graceland was extremely cool, and it was nice to hear Blues music, which I don’t normally listen to. I also went to a college basketball game which I really liked (and enjoyed much more than the American football game I’d seen in New Orleans). Nashville was what I really wanted to see though. I’ve drenched my ears in country music since I was fifteen and discovered the Taylor Swift song of the same name so it wasn’t too surprising that this was Number One on my list of Cities I Wanted To Visit While I Was In The States. It was really nice to see some of the other things that the city was famous for other than music such as its democratic history and relationship with the Woman’s Suffrage Movement. Broadway was fantastic , the live music was amazing, and the souvenir shop I visited is now a lot of money richer! The day after, I visited the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum was one of my favourite places I have ever been. It was so amazing to learn all about people I’d been listening to and hearing about for years, and to have a whole museum about my favourite type of music. The Ryman Auditorium and Studio B were amazing too. And I got to listen to even more live music on the second night. The bar we went to had seven different acts so I got hear lots of new artists and songs, and have listened to many of them since I got back. Even just walking from place to place, I kept having to stop and stand outside a café or a shop and listen to the music that was pouring out which was an extremely nice experience as its something I’ve never wanted to do in the UK.
Atlanta was the next place on the trip and although I didn’t get to see much of it, I did like the Downtown area. I also got to see Martin Luther King Jr’s grave, the Coca Cola factory, the CNN building and the biggest statue of a bird. Once again, it would have been nice to see more 🙂 We then headed south to Orlando, the last stop on the trip. As the trip ended as soon as we got there, I didn’t get to see much of Florida but it was sunny and there were lots of palm trees and pictures of Mickey Mouse. So it turns out some stereotypes are true.
I had a great time travelling, both with my family and my new Contiki family! I would absolutely recommend Contiki to anyone who likes travelling, and the places I visited to anyone who is interested in the South, likes music, and enjoys BBQ food! If anyone has any questions about travelling, please feel free to ask.
I’m back at UMBC now, I basically slept and watched Netflix all last week, then visited my roommate Sarah in Frederick (the place where I spent my birthday) so now I’m trying to get a load of stuff done before classes start next week. I can’t believe I only have one more semester left at UMBC, my time here has gone so fast already and I know I will be very sorry to leave. But that’s not just yet and I’m sure I’ll find plenty of stuff to write about before then!
I really hope you enjoyed reading this, please feel free to ask if you have any questions about anything, and hopefully see y’all soon! 😀