Sunday, 12 April 2015

America observations/general ramblings

Blindfolded at the Grand Canyon


Cripes I have been back nearly a week and it feels like I never left and it was all a dream.  I was very lucky and had no jet lag - I like to think it was down to my meticulous planning.  I had a night flight (9.30pm) that arrived at 4pm UK time the following day.  I went straight to sleep on the plane (missed dinner and everything) and then woke up about 4/5 hours later.  Then when I landed, forced myself to stay awake (to be fair it wasn't that hard) until 10pm that night. Low and behold - no jet lag! I mean I have felt tired this week, but no more so than I normally would on 5 hours sleep.

This post is just going to be rambling about America and stuff in no particular order.  I've got into the swing of things again (sort of) but when I first got back I did feel a bit bereft - it's really nice having someone drive you places and tell you where to go and what to do and where to sleep and how much you owe when the bill has been split, so it's been like my umbilical cord has been cut off this week...I think I got used to being reliant on someone a bit too quick and I liked it a bit too much!!!

I started to go through my photos but there's over 1000 of them and I need to edit them to make them resemble something decent so that's going to take a while. I think I'll do what I did with my Asia trip and do a photo essay post on it at some point when I have gone through them all.

Tipping in America is a bit confusing.  Unlike other places I have been to, there seems to be varying rules - like it's expected in most places, but some restaurants where you order at the bar you don't need to tip, and others you do. I got very confused and mostly relied on Ben to tell us what to do.  I also didn't want to tip if the service was pants, but I think the general consensus is you should still tip if it was crap.  The tax is also really annoying - in the majority of places we went to, the menus would state a price such as $4.99, so you'd expect to pay $4.99 right? Except they don't include tax, which would vary from state to state, so you'd end up with a bill of something random like $5.43 plus a $1 tip.  Means it's hard to budget for stuff. First world problems.

Iced tea in iced tea drinks machines isn't iced tea - it's just warm tea that you then have to add lemon and sugar and ice to.

The only good decent toilets I found were in Texas in Buc-ee's and they actually advertise that they have the best toilets in the USA.  Every single other toilet I went to had a really short door so you could see people's feet and legs (and sometimes their pants round their ankles) and if they were really tall you could see their heads when they stood up.  The doors are never flush with the sides and so you could peer through the gaps either side should you do wish.  I don't so wish!  One toilet even had shutter doors so you could see through the slats.  The toilets are also really low and shallow unlike UK ones which are more upright and deeper.  Who knew I could write a paragraph dedicated to toilets. What a weirdo!

One of the really great things about the USA is water from the majority of taps available is 100% safe to drink.  Might not taste so nice (some of the water in deserts is very chemically as it's been recycled and treated so many times).  But means you only have to buy a water bottle once and keep refilling it wherever you go - there's drinking taps in most public toilets and bars and restaurants were happy to refill for me too.

Don't go go the cinema if you've got a longhaul flight coming up - the movie selection on the plane is awesome.  ALSO the planes all have a USB socket now, so I recharged my phone and tablet on the plane with my USB cable, meaning I was ready to go when I landed.  Brilliant!

Ear plugs are amazing.  I have never really got on with them before, but I am a bit funny with things going in my ears (side note - I am in the market for some wireless headphones if anyone can recommend some - not in-ear ones).  However I got a free pair of ear plugs from the hostel in NYC and they were amazing.  A tad too big for my ears and so they hurt me a bit, but blocked noise out enough that I had some amazing sleeps away - even camping and staying in a hogan with 8 other people.  An eye mask is also brilliant - I am still using my free one from Emirates Business Class a few years ago (it's so soft and comfy).

Real pillows and self inflating camping mats are also amazing.  Pretty sure if I had roughed it with no pillow (my original plan was to roll clothes up into a scarf but pillows were less than $3 in Walmart) and had just used a Trek America camping mat I would have been a very grumpy lady each morning. Never overestimate comfort!

I have worked out how much my trip cost me, if anyone's interested.  Breakdown below:
Trek America tour: £1769 minus 20% winter discount - £1,415.20
Flight: £599 return
Shared room at the tour start: £65
Spending money spent: £1164
(this includes £76 for NYC hostel, £120 for optional activities on trek, £185 for the helicopter flight, £102 for the food kitty and a tip for Ben)
TOTAL: the most expensive holiday I have ever had £3243.65

Definitely worth every penny though! Kam Sa!

This week has been fairly busy.  Tuesday I booked to get the bedraggled mess on my  hair cut and coloured.  I love my hairdresser to pieces but he is never on time, so by the time he started working on my crows nest I had been waiting an hour already.  I bailed on getting it coloured as I was falling asleep in the chair, but he did give me a free toner treatment which has magically brought life into my dull barnet which is good news.  On Thursday I went to see a play at Southwark Playhouse with Liz and Sepha, it was called Wasted (written by Kate Tempest) and was good, the best way to describe it would be as the theatre version of Skins.  Friday I fell asleep on the sofa listening to the Serial podcast (no reflection on the podcast), Saturday I went to Putney to see the boat race, put a fiver on a horse and lost, and stayed out much later than I had planned, and hopefully made some new friends (does that make me sound like a loser?).  Sunday was the most perfect Sunday - the weather was beautiful, I had a free yoga class and swim, a sunny pub lunch and caught up with some old friends on the phone, one of which was the beautiful Barbra who I haven't spoken to in far too long.  Roll on the summer!

Photo by Ben Collier on Jonas's amazing camera!



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