I am in a hostel in Philadelphia, & catching up posting a few already-written things. It is *weird as hell* to be here -- I was last here (in this hostel, not just in Philly) almost exactly 10 years ago, after the whole door-to-door-sales disaster. (I lasted 3 days before I quit & came here instead.) Walking into the front room was peculiar; the shock of recognition I got on walking into the dorm was far, far more so. (I was quite emotionally erratic at the time, for various reasons, and I was never entirely happy with how I made the decision I eventually made to go back home again; so, hm. I will see this as an opportunity to process that!) Off on the next ship tomorrow; due into Tilbury on Saturday week, I think. Gosh. Anyway! Various things about the USA, in list form
Things I like about San Franciso:
- The Haight. (Spotted on this occasion: a chap offering free high-fives; someone else being towed along the street on a skateboard by his bull terrier; an advert for a monthly peace demonstration -- just peace generally -- with cookies, signs, and humor (sic) available.)
- The Goodwill shop on the Haight (this time: one top and one dress th at is the Correct sort of several-blues, $11 all in). The other second-hand shop I bought stuff in last time I was in SF (a decade ago now, slightly alarmingly) is still there as well.
- $1.50 bus fares.
- Friendly people generally.
- More specifically, friendly people I actually know! (hello to Simon and Skud)
Things I like about Amtrak long-distance trains (Superliner or something, I think they're called):
- Lots of legroom.
- Proper legrests.
- Surprisingly good veggie pasta in the dining car.
- The observation car.
- Being double-decker! (I know lots of countries have double-decker trains. I still get unreasonably excited about them.)
- The women's washroom on the lower level. Lack of showers, but the washroom was big enough to have a reasonably proper wash. No lock though, possibly as it's intended I think for doing, I dunno, makeup or something (there is no men's washroom; all the toilets are unisex), and it has a couple of seats in and so forth. It also has electricity, and is thus a good place to sit and recharge your laptop, except that people keep trying to come in and getting confused.
Things I noticed from the train window:
- Colorado has lots of mountains (some still snow-covered even in June) and canyons and so forth, and is terribly pretty.
- This is however made a little less true by the fact that it is apparently the Done Thing among certain sorts of white-water rafters to moon the train as it passes. And there are a lot of white-water rafters along the Colorado River (or whatever the hell it's called). And all of them would do much better to keep their trousers on.
- Iowa and West Virginia look like places where one should grow many things. Unfortunately too much of it is monoculture, grumble grumble.
- Lots of houses (mostly those very American-looking wooden ones -- clapboard, is that the stuff?) and people's backyards and so forth. This is one of the things I really like about train travel, and always have been, ever since I was little and first took the train up to Victoria, peering at all the back gardens and backs of terraces along the way.
Other random notes:
- Do not assume that you can find a hostel bed in Washington DC when you show up. Furthermore, do not decide to walk to Hostel A (only 10 blocks or so...) rather than phoning first in order to discover this.
- However! It is possible, starting from Union Station, to dump one's bags in the left-luggage; walk past the Capitol, Senate, Library of Congress etc (all helpfully in the same place), up the National Mall and to the Washington Monument, and then north to the White House; get the metro back to the station, and rescue one's luggage; all within 1h45. I'd have had time to grab some food as well if there hadn't been a problem with the metro (later turned out to be a fairly serious train crash) necessitating an extra 15 min of walking.
- Washington DC in June is really very warm, and the Mall lacks any shade.
- The Lower East Side of New York has lots of lovely tiny garden-park things, and is in general a really interesting place to wander round. I like NY a lot.
- NY also has friendly people (hello to Mike!), and a really rather good vegan restaurant on 6th & Ave A (Lower East Side again), called Caravan of Dreams.