A Travellerspoint blog

Chicago

Although traveling around the world is fun and exciting, the reality of it is that things can go wrong. When I arrived in Chicago is a perfect example of what can happen.... as once I got off the plane and waited for my backpack to arrive, it was nowhere to be seen! The woman who worked for the airline that I flew with was quite helpful, but when I left the airport with no bag, it was not a satisfying feeling. The best thing you can do - do not let it put a damper on your trip. I just had to let myself realise that I was in Chicago and the sun was shining and there could be a lot worse things going on. Luckily, I was traveling with two girls so that did help, although there is nothing more satisfying than your own clothes! (I did eventually get my bag back, two days later)

Chicago is a lovely city. It literally has something for everyone. The skyline is very beautiful too. We decided it would be a great idea to go along the majority of this, and what better way to do it than by bike, right? Wrong. Now, don't get me wrong here, we did enjoy the bike ride and when we first rented them we were all more than excited (it had been a while since any of us had got on a bike!) But after two hours or so we began to get tired, plus the fact that you are getting charged by the minute. We had looked up beforehand on the information where we could deposit our bikes, but could not for the life of us find this place, or any of the others it stated. We carried on for a little bit further and eventually decided to turn around and look again. We got over halfway back before we found somewhere. Thank god we had a map! It was still a great experience seeing it all by bike but the whole stressfulness of finding somewhere to return this did put a little damper on the trip.

I've been to a fair few aquariums in my time, but none of them come close to Chicago's Shedd Aquarium. It really was fantastic; there was so much to see in there! The best bit by far had to be the jellyfish display they had. There were so many different ones, different shapes and sizes and colours. Some even had lights in them. It was so cool. We saw the shows as well which were okay, not great. But you can't beat watching dolphins jumping out of water. It really was a fun place and 100% worth a visit.

On the other hand, Lincoln Park Zoo was not such a good experience. Although I do feel bad for caged-up animals, I am generally a sucker for a zoo. But never have I been to one that has made me feel so depressed. The cages and enclosures are smaller than any other zoo's, and the animals are either moping around in a depressed manner, or nowhere to be seen at all! My heart really did go out to them. The zoo is actually free, so it does make me wonder if this is why. Either way, if you are against animal cruelty I would suggest giving this one a miss.

Millennium Park is a brilliant way to kill an afternoon. Being outside with the sun shining down on you is great, but also there is a lot to see. The best and most famous attraction has to be The Bean, also known as The Cloud Gate. It's such an unusual thing but is really cool. And you can see the majority of the city reflected in it! Another cool feature is The Crown Fountain. It features two giant block columns with video screens that display over 1000 different faces of Chicago residents. The face changes every five minutes and, with water spouting out of puckered lips, can keep you entertained for ages!

As with all major cities in America, there is a skyscraper just waiting to be climbed. In fact, in Chicago, there are two! The Sears tower and The John Hancock buildings are both worth a visit, offering spectacular views across the whole of Chicago. Some do prefer The John Hancock as opposed to the more famous Sears tower, mainly due to the reduced queues! At the top there is an observatory deck which is glass that you can step out on to, and it doesn't half scare you! Got to be done though.

Magnificent Mile is also worth a visit, if you can be strong-willed enough not to spend all your money there!

Posted by LaurenF3 02:08 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Boston

The best thing about Boston...the accent! My word I love it so much. It certainly makes being and walking around in Boston so much more entertaining.

One thing that must be done when in Boston is going to visit Fenway Par, home of the Boston Red Sox. We went to the park but didn't actually go inside, but as it was a game day the atmosphere surrounding it was electric. I can only imagine how buzzing it would be inside the park. There was hundreds of people around with stalls and shops everywhere. It really was so much fun.

When we were in Boston we did not have a lot of time so one thing that we did do was get on one of the hop-on-hop-off bus tours. It was a great way to see as much as Boston as possible in such a little time. We went all around and got off at the pier where we had a beautiful lunch. We were all pretty hungover from the previous night's antics so the bus tour was the perfect way to not waste any time with as little effort as possible! We even got to see the famous [i]Cheers[i]bar!

We did venture on a night out in Boston. We went to a preppy American bar and it was so much fun. The Boston Celtics were playing when we first got there so the atmosphere was one again very enjoyable. And the night ended with us walking back to the hostel. On this journey back we had to walk past the Boston Fire Department, where we got talking to a few of the firemen outside. This then resulted in us spending a good two hours taking hundreds of photos of us in/on the fire engines, wearing the helmets and jackets, with the firemen and even with their mascot dog! It was so much fun and the guys were so accommodating. A fantastic end to a great night!

Another thing we did was go to see Harvard and MIT. I was expecting to be a lot more overwhelmed I must admit, but even so they were still fantastic buildings and if anyone was lucky enough to go to University there you would be so grateful. The buildings are very pretty and nice.

After the recent Boston Marathon Bombings my heart goes out to all those that we affected or injured, and my support for those who lost someone is endless. It is a horrendous thing that happened, and having one stood where the bombs went off makes it feel even closer to home for me.

One last point to leave you on if you are thinking of going to Boston - everybody (and I mean everybody) jogs. Some topless. And damn, do they look good. Enjoy :)

Posted by LaurenF3 03:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

New York

One big film set...

New York, New York... I am pretty sure everyone dreams of going there at some point in their lives. I think we all have an idea of what to expect and how good it will be, but the reality of it came nowhere close. It soared way past it! It was a real dream come true.

When we got there and checked into our cheap (ish) hostel we were more than pleasantly surprised. This was made even better when we got out our city map and realised we were within walking distance of Times Square, and from our location could access everything we wanted to do rather easily. Times Square was first on the list. Having seen it in many films and TV programmes and music videos you get an idea of what to expect. But standing in the middle of Times Square next to the iconic steps is a surreal experience. You actually have to give in to your urge to do the cheesy 'twirl around gazing upwards with your mouth open in an amazed fashion' move. The lights and signs and shops all together are breath taking. It is one of my most favorite places in the world (to date).

Now if you are on or near Times Square it is common sense that you must go and see a show on Broadway. Little piece of advise - don't book before you go! (Unless you aren't very flexible or are desperate to see a specific show. The best thing you can do is go down to Times Square on the day next to the steps and check out the boards there. They tell you what is available for that night and are always at a cheaper price. We went to see 'Mamma Mia' and I have to admit it did exceed my expectations. Well worth the watch.

My friends and I were in deliberation whether to visit and go up the Rockafella building or the Empire State. Then it was a case of do we go up in the day or at night. Finally, we decided on Empire State at nighttime. It was honestly such an amazing experience. To be so high up is ridiculous (I can't help but struggle with the idea of people building something so high - it really does baffle my mind!) It is such a surreal feeling to be looking down of skyscrapers. At seeing New York from above at night was awesome too.

There is obviously so much to do in New York it is hard to fit it all in in just a few days. One thing that you really should do it go and visit is Ground Zero. Ground Zero is the 9/11 memorial site. The way they have made it is beautiful and very touching. The bases of the two buildings are made into huge water features, both bottomless which I'm sure has many significant buildings. All around the edges are the victim's names. The best part for me was the fact that the new Freedom buildings (basically the new twin towers) are being built around them, and now there are four! In my eyes a nice little eff you.

Central park really is beautiful too. It is weird sitting in the middle of a park that is so green and pretty with big skyscrapers around you! Statue of Liberty (although for me slightly disappointing) is a must-do. If, like me, you are a Beatles fan, Strawberry Fields is cool (although not the original I know!) and also just outside of Strawberry Fields is the building where John Lennon lived and was assassinated. Another recommendation is the McDonald's on Times Square - it is like a club!!

You could honestly spend so much time in New York doing several different things but either way, whatever you choose to do you will not be dissapointed.

Posted by LaurenF3 11:49 Comments (0)

Washington D.C.

Home of the White House

sunny

I went on a two week trip with two of my friends around America in June 2012. In the two weeks we went to Washington, New York, Boston and Chicago.

First stop: Washington D.C. When I first arrived here after a horrific flight (I was delayed for hours and hours and flew separate from my two friends and had no way of contacting them - stressful!) it was a relief to be in a taxi heading for bed. But even better than this, the taxi driver we had also turned into our tour guide and pointed out a lot of cool and interesting things, including the place the plane crashed into after the 9/11 attacks. He was a brilliant start to our trip and despite our jet-lag and tiredness he got us rather excited for the oncoming days.

There is so much to do in Washington. So many historic sights and museums, quite frankly it was hard to decide which was the better thing for us to do. We wanted to get in as many of the famous monuments and memorials as we could, then slide in a museum or two in any spare time that we had. And to be fair to us, we did manage to get a lot done.

I won't go into detail on each memorial that we saw, as there were just to many! They were the Lincoln memorial, Jefferson memorial, Korean War Veterans memorial, Roosevelt memorial, Vietnam Veterans memorial, Washington monument, Martin Luther King Jnr memorial and the World War 2 memorial. The ones that stood out the most to me were the Martin Luther King Jnr memorial (it is a HUGE statue carved into one side of a big rock over looking water), the Roosevelt memorial (it is a walk-through park with lots of quotes and features and information - very pretty) and the Lincoln memorial (this was the one I was most looking forward to - especially after watching Planet of the Apes before I went!).

Another obvious thing to visit when in Washington is the White House. We did go to see it on our second day there and, although it was amazing in the fact of what it represents and how pretty it was, I felt it was too far away to get a real feel for it. Luckily, the next day when we were heading back to our hostel we accidentally passed it again but this time, instead of passing it from the front, we passed it from behind, and it was actually a lot closer and the view was miles better! So if you do plan on going to see it, I would suggest going to the back (there is a lot less people here too!).

We also went to visit the Botanical Gardens which, for someone who admires flowers but knows nothing about them or does not have any keen interest, was really good. It is separated into different areas of the world with different climates and these change as you walk through it. It is rather cool!

Overall, Washington is an interesting city full of history and information - do be warned, there is a lot to do and an awful lot of walking around involved! Well worth it though.

Posted by LaurenF3 15:17 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Berlin

rain

After talking for a while about how we needed to do a sight-seeing city break instead of the usual messy pissed-up week abroad seeing as how we are now all so mature (yeah right - who are we kidding?!), my friends and I finally took a weekend off and went to visit Germany's capital, Berlin.

Seeing as how we were only there for four nights we managed to fit an awful lot into the few days. Beforehand we hand made a list of everything we wanted to try and see whilst we were in the city, condensed it to the most important few and off we went.

When we first arrived we went straight to our apartment. From the outside the building looked dated and slightly shabby, making the stark whiteness and modern decor of the inside so astonishing; we were made up with it! Granted, when on a city break you do not plan on spending much time inside, but it was a relief to find ourselves staying in somewhere that was so nice, it made us feel classy and sophisticated!

One of the most obvious sights that we went to see was the Berlin Wall. I must admit when I first saw it (which, granted, was from a distance) I was slightly underwhelmed by it. But as I got next to it and started making my way down it I became more and more moved and interested in it. The wall is split into segments and each one is painted by a different artist - people from all over the world. Some pictures are funny and comical whereas others are serious, intense and moving; It is truly amazing how each picture is so unique and different from the rest, yet each one has the same underlying meaning. It is definitely something that you have to go and see if you are in Berlin - the hardest part is deciding which parts to have your photo next to!

Another sight that we visited worth mentioning is the Reichstag building. It is Germany's parliament building and the only one that allows the public access. Although you are not let loose in the building, you do have access to the roof terrace and the dome. The large glass dome offers you a 360degrees view of the surrounding Berlin cityscape. You can also pick up an audio guide on your way in which gives you a guided tour of Berlin - it's pretty cool and you do learn a lot! We stopped for lunch at the roof terrace restaurant and, although it was a hell of a lot more expensive than what we were expecting, it was one of the nicest meals I have ever had!

Other sites that we visited were the Brandenburg Gate, the Holocaust memorial, the radio tower (it has a revolving restaurant on the top and happy hour every day at 5!), the Nazi museum, the Saturday morning German markets and Checkpoint Charlie (you can pay 5euros and actually get your passport stamped here!) All are worth going to see - each one interesting in their own way and very insightful.

One thing I do feel obliged to pre-warn anyone wanting to visit Berlin... we did go on one night out when we were there. On this night out, the first THREE bars we went to were gay bars. I did not realise before I went that Berlin was a hugely homosexual city! Although in a few places we were made to feel slightly uncomfortable for being there, generally everyone was fine and overall we had a really fun night! It even ended up in some tiny strip club....

There is so much to do in Berlin and everything is worthwhile, the best advice I could give is before going make sure you have a list of everything you want to see, or at least the main things, then work out what is near what then go from there. Fit in as much as you can and you will have a brilliant time - guaranteed!

Posted by LaurenF3 15:45 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

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