Niagara Falls, Maryland ('Marilyn') & Washington DC
Niagara Falls, 8th - 10th May 2010
When we left New York it was pouring with rain and we had to run to the station with our back packs, day packs and shopping bags. I reckon we must have been carrying 20kgs in total which probably explains why we nearly died when we got to the subway after an uphill run. We miraculously managed to use the subway and get off where we intended.We did try for the express, but somehow ended up on the local, but we got there so we didn't care. The train from New York to Niagara Falls was 9 hours and they are very different to London trains.The seats are huge, they recline to almost laying down, have loads of leg room, foot rests, leg rests and their own power points so you can charge all your stuff.Each train also has a cafe cart and some also have separate dining carts to help pass the time.
We arrived at the Niagara Falls stop - you'll notice I said stop and not station. They just have tracks, a little yellow stall to jump onto when getting off the train and a phone box, and it was freezing. The woman on the train said snow was forecast which wasn't great as we figured we wouldn't have winter weather until we got to New Zealand, so most of our clothes are t-shirt, bikinis and shorts!
"And today Matthew, I am going to be ... the Michelin man!" ;) It started snowing at breakfast so we figured the only option was to layer up. We each had on 2 pairs of socks (including the long sock we nicked off the plane - god send!), leggings, jeans, 2 long sleeved tops, 2 t-shirts, vest top, cardi & hoodie!We could barely move. We were also walking around in our Maid of the Mist poncho for most of the day as it kept the wind off us - soooo attractive!;)
We went on the Maid of the mist boat ride which takes you past the American Falls (the ones in a straight line), and then down to the Canadian Horse Shoe falls. It goes right in to the mist in the centre of the Horse Shoe so you get absolutely soaked - so much fun!! :) The thunderous sound of the water was so loud, and it's unbelievable how close you can get to them. When you're right at the bottom of them looking up you realise just how powerful they are. After we got off the boat we went for a walk up the side of the falls - you could literally reach out a touch it. How people haven't gone over the edge there I have no idea.We then decided to "pop over to Canada for lunch" and to view it from the other side - don't know many people who can say that!We got another stamp in our passports, went for some lunch and then walked along the river to both sets of falls. It was very ominous standing right next to the area of water just before it goes over the edge. They have simple railings and you could still the roar of the water.
Almost the first call for emergency chocolate! So our train was scheduled to leave at 7.15am Monday morning.We got up on time (miracle), packed quickly (more like threw everything in), but didn't check the time on the ticket - school girl error! We thought it was at 07.15, but it was at 07.05, and with the taxi driver being 15 minutes late, it meant it was just pulling out of the station when we got there. Oh my Christ! The taxi driver called Amtrak to see when it was leaving from Buffalo and we speed along the highway to catch it at its next stop, and $80 later! Thankfully we got there with time to spare although the car was out of gas when he picked us up, and he kept insisting that we pull into a drive through for coffee!We decided to save the Emergency chocolate for a real emergency as we couldn't help but laugh at ourselves.
Maryland, 10th - 13th May 2010
Selena's uncle said we were more than welcome to go stay with them in Maryland for a few days before heading down to Orlando. This was great as we actually got to see how normal people live in the States rather than just one tourist attraction after the next.
We spent the next few days meeting and catching up with Selena's family and chilling out, which was very much needed after the last week.
The first thing I noticed was how far everything is from each other. You definitely have to have a car to get around.The first day we were there we gatecrashed Uncle Steve's business lunch, let them talk shop for about 5 minutes, and then took over the conversation with tales of travels. Selena's Uncle has one of the most abstract professions I've ever heard of - he is a Chicken Doctor. Seriously. And at lunch we met another one! :)
We then went for a look around Ocean City and ended up at a hotel bar drinking a cocktail that had nothing but alcohol in it!As anyone who knows me could testify, I'm definitely a cocktail kinda gal, but I have never had one that was purely alcohol (no mixer, no ice, not even a sugar / salt rim) until now, and the pair of us were wasted!
The next day we went out with Aunty Louise for a girls day. We all had a pedicure (yes I know we are back packers, but we desperately needed them - honest), followed by lunch on the river with some more very nice cocktails. We're on the East Coast of the USA and they are renowned for their sea food - honestly its some of the best Crab and Tuna I've ever tasted.
Washington DC, 13th May 2010
We left Selena's Aunt & Uncle's at 5am and got into Washington about 9. It was nice to have the morning sightseeing and I'm glad we can say we've been there, but I seriously wouldn't bother again. I actually took more picture of a squirrel than I did of the sights. The Reflection pool (the massive lakes Forest Gump jumps into), was neither a pool nor reflecting and was actually a dried out mud bed. The statue of Abraham Lincoln was really nice, and the view along the reflection pools to the obelisk would have been stunning if they weren't dried out. The white house is also a lot smaller than either of us imagined and is sandwiched between a treasury building and another political building. You can walk right along the back of it, and it's only the front that you see in all the pictures with the big lawns.
We are now on a 19 hour train journey to Orlando to see the Shuttle launch. Were 4 hours in and have just made a dinner reservation for the posh dining cart at 8pm to help pass the time, as we have started to become slightly deranged! We've been taking pics of Monkeh in various positions, have tried to drink a yoghurt from its pot - simply not possible, so then tried to eat it with a fork as it's all we could find - which probably explains why most of it ended up down Selena's top! And we've been laughing hysterically which is pissing the rest of the passengers off, but as we're on the freak car we're not too worried about it.