Monday, 20 August 2012

10 places I still want to go in America.

When we moved to America, we decided we wouldn't be heading back to the UK every time we had a holiday. The reason (apart from the ridiculous cost of flights) was that there's so much to explore right here in the US and we wanted to see as much of it as possible before we left.

Of course, there's no way that's going to happen. The USA is such a massive country that even driving to somewhere that seems relatively close on the map, like Cape Cod, is a pretty big endeavour. But I do think we've made a fairly good effort so far. As well as living in New York State, we've visited Vermont, Virginia, California, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Georgia and Florida, spent nights in Maryland, New Jersey, Delaware and North Carolina and have driven through a whole load of other states on the way to and from those places. Of the U.S. cities, I've also been to Chicago (both for work and for an expat blogger meetup), Boston, San Francisco and San Diego. Next week we'll be visiting the White Mountains of New Hampshire, and we plan to visit Washington DC in September.

But there a whole lot of other places on my list. I'm a great reader of travel articles, and (as you've probably worked out by now) have huge wanderlust. So I wanted to list them now, and then maybe revisit the list later and see how I've done.

1. Sonoma/Napa Valley, California.

Well, the girl from Nappy Valley really ought to visit Napa Valley, shouldn't she? And what with vineyards, fabulous restaurants and gorgeous scenery, it sounds like my kind of place.

2. The Grand Canyon, Arizona.

An obvious choice maybe, but everyone I know who has been there says it is amazing. This is on my list for next year, before we leave America, and I truly hope we'll get there.

3. Colorado.

The Rockies! The forests! I'd like to go in both summer and winter, please, for the ski-ing. I'd also like to see Denver (as a long ago Dynasty fan, I was amused to hear from my German friend that in Germany the show was known  as "Denver-clan" ).

4. Charleston, South Carolina.

I've heard it's like Savannah, Georgia, where we spent a memorable couple of nights, only perhaps even nicer. I'm a sucker for Southern charm, and I've heard mixed reports about New Orleans, so I'm picking Charleston for my return to the deep south.

5. Portland, Oregon.

It's supposedly the capital of all things hip. The coolest ad agencies are there, it's environmentally friendly, it even has its own ironic sitcom, Portlandia. It sounds more like Amsterdam than America, and although I'm not sure if I'd want to live there, I would be intrigued to see it.

6. Yellowstone Park, Wyoming.
Just as long as a bear doesn't get me. And I'm not talking about Yogi.

7. Maine.
We know some Swedish people here who went to Maine for their summer holiday and promptly left, saying it was "too much like Sweden". Well, that doesn't put me off. It's a long drive from just about anywhere, but I'd love to eat a real Maine lobster roll with lobster that just came out of the ocean.

8. De Smet, South Dakota.
As a huge fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder, I would just love to see the "little town on the prairie" where she lived. It sounds rather remote, but I would definitely like to make the pilgrimage one day and maybe it could be combined with a trip to....

9. Mt Rushmore, South Dakota.
Well it's so iconic, isn't it? I bet it's terribly touristy but it would be nice to say you've been. And I'm sure you'd get a real American history lesson at the same time.

10. Seattle.
The home of Starbucks, Microsoft, Frasier, Grey's Anatomy and (er) Fifty Shades of Grey. I feel as if I know Seattle already. I'd like to do a city trip one day and maybe use it as a jumping off point for a trip to Canada's west coast. Because that's another whole country I could write a top ten list for......

Where else in America should I add to my list?

Monday, 13 August 2012

Littleboy Olympic quotes

So, the Olympics are over. And I'm sure life in London will slowly return to normal. As it will for us. No more waking up and immediately switching on the TV to see Britain win a gold medal (rowing was particularly well-timed for East Coast US viewing) or falling asleep to Gaby Logan's evening show. No more cooking to the sound of a boxing match on Radio 5 Live or excitedly checking Twitter at a kids' party to find out how many more medals we've won. We actually have to listen to the American radio again now, and are already getting bored of the Election build-up, with over three months to go. Meanwhile US TV is preparing for an onslaught of new September shows - they actually put a pilot show of some sitcom about vets slap-bang into the middle of the closing ceremony on NBC.

But before I sign off on the Olympics, I'll leave you with some of my favourite Olympic-related quotes from the Littleboys.

Animal Kingdom

LB2: Is Usain Bolt faster than a cheetah?

Partisan support

LB2: Are we going to beat China? I hope we get more golds than China. Why do China always win everything?

LB1: What if we won all the golds, USA won all the silver and China won all the bronzes? Do you think that would ever happen?

LB1: Is Tom Daley the best diver in the Universe?

Laws of physics

LB2: Do they get medals in diving for staying underwater the longest?

Existential ponderings
LB1: Will Bolt ever die?
Me: Yes, of course, we are all going to die one day.
LB1: But God doesn't, does he?
LB2: If China dies, will another country be better than them?

Happy post-Olympics, everyone - hope the hangover isn't too bad!

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Team GB vs Team USA: gold for enthusiasm.

I have never watched so much of the Olympics as I have this year. The combination of its being in London and the British team's astonishing performance have just made it incredibly exciting, and we've been glued to it every single night, as well as a lot of the weekend. Having found a way to bypasss NBC's abysmal coverage, we've been enjoying the BBC commentary, especially Gaby Logan's rather naff, but entertaining, Olympic highlights show and relishing in every rendition of Spandau Ballet's Gold.

One thing I've noticed is that my American pals are NOT so excited about the Olympics. Despite the fact that Team USA has tonnes of medals, and US athletes have broken various world records, especially in swimming, several of my friends have not watched it at all and most are not really aware of what is going on. One guy I spoke to was amazed that the US was second in the medal table - he just hadn't taken it in. Others are aware of some results - like the victory of the female US gymnasts, who are constantly being interviewed on US TV now - but don't really know about anything else. There's usually more excitement over the latest series of American Idol than I've seen over the Olympics. I partly blame this on NBC (again) as everything good is tape delayed and its four hour highlights programme goes on far too late - most of the best events are screened between 11 and 12 at night. And of course, I'm sure Americans would be more excited were it on US soil.

But also I think it's because America is so used to being top dog. Winning all the medals just isn't a big deal for them - the only real accolades have been for people like Michael Phelps (although in the early days of the Games when he wasn't winning, this all went a bit quiet). Whereas we, in Britain, are just elated; it's as if we can't believe that we're doing so well, after years of feeling as if we're crap at sport. We're always the underdog, the team that hasn't won the World Cup since 1966, the country whose players never actually win at Wimbledon. But that is all changing with the Olympics. Finally, we can believe that the UK can be successful at something. (And not just sport - we seem to have organized a world class event, with fantastic venues, great atmosphere and not a hint of the chaos that some people predicted).

One of the boys' recurring questions while watching the Games is whether Team GB is going to get more medals than China/The USA. (An alternative spin on this, from Littleboy 1 just before he went to bed last night: what would happen if we won all the golds, USA won all the silvers and China won all the bronzes?). They just can't understand when The Doctor and I try to explain that the US and China are far bigger countries and there's no way we're going to beat them.

But as I look at Team GB's count on the medal table creeping upwards, I wonder if I'm not being positive enough? This article from the Guardian suggests that the UK is definitely punching above its weight. Maybe I need to stop telling the boys that the UK can't do it. I've never felt hugely patriotic, but maybe it's time they learned the words to our national anthem as well as "God Bless America" (which they march around singing all the time). Perhaps, if they growing up thinking we're a great sporting nation, it might dispel some of the cynicism and negativity that the British are famous for.