juliet: (Default)
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.
Sad lack of powerpoints, though (the second train I was on, Chicago-Washington, had more of them in the observation car). The shorter-distance train, Washington-New York, had powerpoints at each seat. Much better.

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.

juliet: (round the world)
Arrived in San Francisco this morning. We came under the Golden Gate Bridge just after 4am -- which I did get up for, and it was all very exciting. We came right past Fisherman's Wharf, as well, and I could see Grace Cathedral all lit up on the hill as we came into the bay. Docked just before 6am, had a nice chat to a very friendly, helpful Customs & Immigration Official, and was on US soil by 7am. I then hiked about 2 miles to the nearest BART station, which may have been an error (my knees hurt now), but after 24 days of no exercise at all, it felt good at the time.

Other things that are good: the TRULY ENORMOUS vegan burrito I had for breakfast (black beans and tofu!); free interwebs and squashy sofas at the youth hostel; being in contact with people again.

I am bloody knackered though (didn't sleep much at all last night, and haven't been sleeping well for a while now, possibly due to lack of exercise) and hanging on in there for another couple of hrs until I can legitimately go to sleep.

The ship was an interesting experience, about which I may write more anon. The diet (they're not really set up for vegans or even vegetarians; I ate a lot of boiled potatoes, although the cook was kind enough to cook veg separately most days for myself and the other veggie passenger) & lack of exercise I found really fairly tough. Being out of contact for so long was quite good in some ways (can't keep hitting F5... and I certainly found it a slightly stressful shock to get back online today and have an inbox full of 90% crap to deal with); and not good in others (no way of contacting people I actually want to talk to!). And of course it did the thing I wanted it to: I got from point A (Australia) to point B (the US) successfully, if slowly.

More excitingly, I saw DOLPHINS in Mexico & then on our way up the coast. And flying fish nearer the equator! I also came to the conclusion that the Pacific is really very, very large indeed.

It might be nearly dinnertime. I am going to make lentil bolognaise. I am looking forward to this quite a lot.

September 2017



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