USA Adventure: Mini-Vegas and Maxi-Patriotism

In October and November 2006 I was lucky enough to go to the USA for work, so I took the opportunity to travel around while I was there. My travel emails were well received back home, so I’m posting them here for all to enjoy.

Original Date: 7 November 2006

Hello again,

Got some time to kill while I let my camera battery charge, so here's an update on the last few days.

For those of you who know what I was up to for work, it went really well. I wasn't as nervous as I thought I would've (should've?) been, and the presentation was really good. We had a few small issues with our demo though, but nothing major, and not enough to spoil the three days. I also ended up with a bunch of IBM merch! I like freebies :)

After upstate NY, I decided to continue with the countryside theme and head up to Niagara Falls. I think this is the most expensive waterfall in the world, for me anyway. I think just getting there and back cost me over US$300! The worst part is you have to fly into Buffalo, and the shuttle bus to the falls, one-way is US$60... a random local I met on the plane saved me the money to get to Niagara though, so thank you Carol, wherever you are.

Niagara Falls is located right on the border between the US and Canada. The Canadian side is much, much nicer so that's where I stayed for the night. They even welcomed me to the Falls with a fireworks show as I was walking over the Rainbow Bridge, which combined with the Falls themselves being lit up made for quite a spectacular view. The Falls themselves are amazing, but the town is really, really touristy - hence "Mini-vegas". They have so much gimmicky crap there - for example, they have at least three different Wax Museums within two blocks of each other, a Ripley's Believe It or Not, random haunted houses, and mountains of other sh*t designed to extract dollars from the tourists.

Fireworks over Niagara Niagara Sky Wheel Mini-Vegas

Canada itself, well the bit I saw anyway, was really nice. The people really do say "Eh?" and all the cliched accents are all true. I had a few beers with locals while I watched the NBA on TV (hell yeah). However, silly me asked for a schooner at the bar, without realising that a Canadian schooner was about the size of a jug! Don't ask how big there jugs are...

Big Jug! Niagara From Above Niagara From Below

I only stayed there for a night and a day, then flew to Washington DC. Just getting back across the border into the US for the flight took an hour... the Canadian entry is free flowing though. The flight to DC was a killer, especially the two hour stopover (inc. a one hour delay) in Philadelphia when the Philadelphia to Baltimore leg was about 20 minutes airtime!

DC is really, really nice.  Polar opposite to NY, though. NY is like the brains of the US - lots of different parts, each doing their own thing, but all vital to the whole of the city (and country). DC is the penis of the US - it's where all the decisions actually get made. They even have a massive phallus - the Washington Monument!

Seriously though, DC is super clean and super organised.  The subway stations are modern and really cool, the streets are clean, everything is signed and easy to get around, and the lawns are well manicured. Massive security presence, as expected, but it hasn't felt overbearing like I thought it would. What's overbearing is the patriotism though, American flags everwhere - you could never forget where you are...

I really haven't seen too much of the city yet, but I did manage to see the White House (what little you can actually see), the Washington Monument (massive), the WW2 memorial (moving), and the reflection lake and Lincoln Memorial (absolutely breathtaking).

The President’s Place Washington Monument

For a lot more photos from the trip, have a look at my Flickr set. I've geotagged them, so the map is pretty interesting too!

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