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Tag: US May 2015

US May 2015

I didn’t do a lot of writing about this trip while I was on it, because I was SO TIRED the whole time. You’d think I’d learn by now that I shouldn’t try to cram so much into a short trip because of the burnout it causes, but it’s really hard to do that when I go to the US because there are so many people I never get to see and I just want to see as many of them as I possibly can when I get the small chances I do.

I had grand plans to do a lot of travel planning for the big trip, a lot of writing (blog related and not), and a lot of reading, particularly on my two 6 hour train trips, but I spent most of those hours listening to music, dozing, and staring into space thinking about stuff because I couldn’t handle much else at the time. And that’s ok. But it does mean I have a lot of writing down of those thoughts to be getting on with.

Here’s all the awesome stuff I did that tired me out so much:

A day of wandering around Georgetown with Liam and Bobby. A ridiculous brownie at Baked and Wired. Happy Hour Mexican food and a mojito. A brilliant, brilliant Ben Folds and yMusic gig at the Lincoln Theatre.

Driving out of the middle of DC in a rental car, fairly terrified and mostly lost the entire time. Steak for lunch at Kelsey’s house, watching the chickens and talking about life. Dinner with most of her family (who are pretty much my second family) in downtown Frederick. Sharing the couch with Miss Betty.

Buying lots of random stuff in Target while I waited for the rest of the wedding party to arrive in York. Sampling the hotel pool experience. A rehearsal dinner while flanked by some kind of optometrists’ party in one ballroom and a high school prom in another (high entertainment value). The nicest hotel beds. An amazing wedding on a gorgeous day.

Driving back into DC again, terrified and lost again, this time with added Hellish Nation’s Capital Traffic and nearly hitting a pedestrian. Lunch at ShopHouse to recover (very good). A 6 hour train ride on which I did very little aside from think too much.

A dark beer called Duck Rabbit (how could I resist THAT NAME) with Josh. Breakfast with Rachel and their two awesome kids. A trip to the Raleigh farmers’ market. Really good salsa (god I miss really good salsa). Fast food, North Carolina style. Sitting in on a high school creative writing magazine meeting, which was so great and so bizarre and so the same as I remember it. Real North Carolina barbecue including hush puppies, which are one of my favourite things. Wyatt Cenac at a local comedy club (very funny, recommended). Lunch and local beers in Fuquay-Varina. And a super chilled out night of dinner, chat and whisky.

Another 6 hour train ride, not bad considering it was right after a pretty awful day for Amtrak. Again, didn’t do much but doze and think. A mojito sorbet while killing time waiting for happy hour with all the DC Washington College Dramalumni at the District ChopHouse. More beer than I should have drank, which is easy when it’s only $3.50 a pint. A Trader Joe’s dinner back at Liam and Bobby’s while watching a whole lot of Daily Show.

Lunch with my parents at Farmers Fishers Bakers and a walk along the river on a lovely day before my long trip home.

It was a lot, but it was worth the exhaustion. I’m lucky I got to see so many people in such a short space of time.

I was also incredibly homesick on this trip considering how short it was. I feel more like a foreigner than ever when I’m in the US, and I was probably realising that’s going to be standard now. I’m ok with that – I love the UK – I guess I just didn’t expect it to hit me so hard. I was VERY happy to see Edinburgh when I got back (and my fantastic friends who I spent the rest of the day with at the Summerhall FestiveALE – a lovely way to force myself to stay awake and fight the jet lag).

Cost

I was under budget again (£1500), which hooray! But as usual with trips to the US, I didn’t have to pay for much accommodation, and lots of people bought me food and drinks and things, so most of the cost was transportation.

Trip total: £1334.47

That’s an average of £121.32 per day.

£899.75 on transport. SO MANY DIFFERENT KINDS of transport. This was Planes, trains and automobiles for real.

£144.77 on food. And I finally got my airport sushi in Dulles on the way home.

£36.28 on entertainment. Ben Folds!

£72.56 on accommodation. Two nights in a shared hotel room in York PA. Pool view. John Oliver on HBO. Beds to die for.

£55.05 on gifts. Stuff for people I was staying with. Chocolate and whisky mostly.

£65.49 on drinks. At least half of this was for other people. I drank relatively little on this trip.

£60.57 on miscellaneous. A bunch of random stuff at Target and a bunch of cold and heartburn related medicine. FUN.

Posts

In which I realise there IS such a thing as too much research

Another reason to be excited about DC

Delayed (again)

Weddings!

In the headphones

Nico

Ray Charles

Lucy Schwartz

On the Kindle

Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel

QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter by Richard Feynman

Keeper: A Book about memory, identity, isolation, Wordsworth and cake… by Andrea Gillies

In-flight films

Shaun the Sheep Movie (SO MUCH FUN)

Wild (more on which later)

Weddings!

I love weddings. I LOVE THEM. There is happy crying and food and booze and laughing and dancing like idiots and LOVE. And I am a sucker for it all.

More awkward bride selfies. #Debergman

A photo posted by Kate (@kateamann84) on

Lindsay and Dan’s wedding – the reason I’m currently in the US trying to cram as much Seeing All The People Possible in the days flanking it – was at Historic Shady Lane near York, PA. It’s an old house with lots of other little buildings on the property and a ton of space and good photo op locations, so, perfect for an outdoor wedding. It was a gorgeous day (super hot, but there was a breeze and plenty of shade). Everyone from the wedding party and the families pitched in to get things set up. There was good beer. There was pulled pork. There were old college friends I’d not seen in years. There were doughnuts instead of cake. (YES. DOUGHNUTS.)

THIS HAPPENED. And it was good.

THIS HAPPENED. And it was good.

Most importantly, one of my best friends got married to one of the nicest dudes on this earth and I am so freaking happy for them.

I always feel a bit weird about sweeping into town from Scotland like a novelty on these occasions, because I don’t want anyone to pay attention to that. It’s a privilege to be involved in Significant Life Events, and I’m lucky to be able to make the trip for it. I’m glad they wanted me here and I always just want it to be a nice day for the people who’ve been planning for ages. And I think it was.

This trip hasn’t been the smoothest I’ve done, but my poorly-timed cold seemed to clear out for the day of the wedding, which I tipped my hat to the universe for. And the minute I got to York and answered my hotel room door to find Lindsay on the other side, any of my personal internal grumbling about my health-related discomfort or anything else just disintegrated.

As is often the case, I only wish I could stay longer and have more time with people. But there is never enough time, and I’m not the only one on the planet wanting to see my friends. And I know weddings are NUTS for the bride and groom, so they are no doubt enjoying the crap out of their fancy airbnb honeymoon where they don’t have to talk to or see ANYONE (let alone me). Or wear super constricting garments in the heat.

Delayed (again)

I am becoming a zen master at spending many hours in airports. And I even have a cold!

My flight out of Edinburgh boarded on time but sat on the ground for 45 extra minutes because of the weather in London. Landing slots all pushed back because of high winds. It ended up squeezing my already short connection time to an impossible-in-a-massive-airport 30 minutes once I was off the plane. It wasn’t gonna happen. In fact they had already re-booked me onto a later flight before we even landed.

So, things I will not be doing today:

  • Getting my first ride on an A380, which, even as someone who dislikes flying, I was kind of excited about
  • Seeing my parents (and seeing how many of Islay’s 8 distillery names my Dad can properly pronounce, which was going to be an amusing game)
  • Eating dinner at this place, which I was sooooo looking forward to
  • Running through Heathrow T5. A plus! It was definitely nice to be notified of the futility of such an action before I attempted it.

However. This is all ok. I mean, it’s kind of annoying, but also, what am I gonna do about it?

Due to said cold (it’s kind of a bad one) I’m slightly more miserable about sitting around in public for 7 hours than I normally would be, but I’m doing pretty well considering the circumstances. I loaded up on cold meds and bought myself a smoothie full of ginger and stuff from Giraffe the minute I got through flight connections. No airport beers for me today.

There’s a giraffe in my smoothie.

Then I managed to find the Quiet Area of T5 A gates, which is tucked away behind the massive Duty Free shop between gates 12 and 13. There are lounge chairs here. And they aren’t luxury sofas or anything, but they’re… loungey.

It’s easy to forget how bloody crowded the place is sitting here because it IS actually pretty quiet, save for the announcements. Not too many people walking by. Charging sockets at every seat. A nice view of the planes (and the rubbish weather). I spent two hours stretched out lazily reading (Station Eleven, which I’m loving) and watching silly airport vehicles in the rain. It was nice! And hey, I’m not at work!

Loungin’

Then I went and used my £10 voucher from the delay on some head-clearing noodles at Wagamama. Any day on which I get to eat noodles can’t be all bad. Particularly when someone else is picking up the bill. There was a lot of chilli and ginger and lemongrass involved, so I feel like I’m working on healing myself. Although now I’m a little soup-bloated. But no matter! I’m back in the loungey chairs to write this while I wait my final hour or so.

I must apologise to whoever ends up next to me on this flight. I am the girl you do NOT want to be sitting near. I am the one who is doling out the post-flight colds. I have often been on the receiving end. I’m trying to keep it to myself as much as possible but I’m sure everyone pretty much hates me. WHO GETS A CHEST COLD TWO DAYS BEFORE A FLIGHT. Well done, body! Also it’s kind of weird reading a book about life after a flu that wipes out most of civilisation when you’re going around plaguing fellow air travelers. I’m sorry, world. I am. Truly. Hopefully I’m not patient zero of the apocalypse.

Anyway. I got my parents to re-book the restaurant for lunch the day I fly home, so I’ll still see them AND eat the food (and my Dad will have more time to practice his ‘Bruichladdich’s and ‘Caol Ila’s). And I’ll be on an A380 on the way home, so I’ll still deliver on my promises to coworkers – who were even more excited than me when I said ‘top deck!’ – of pictures of the experience.

I do wish this cold medicine was a bit stronger though. And I’m looking forward to a G&T, a film, and a snooze once I’m in the air.

Another reason to be excited about DC

I’ll be in the US in a month and I’ve got a pretty packed schedule while I’m there. I’ve been pretty slow about figuring out what it is I want to do on the few days that haven’t been planned out yet so I’m starting to get to critical ‘figure it out or wing it’ stage now.

Initially, I really wanted to find a regular swing dance night in either DC or Raleigh, NC to check out. While I’m generally socially terrified to rock up to something like that on my own, I know Lindy Hoppers are a friendly bunch, and it would have been really cool to see how stuff goes down in a different city. Plus I’m sure I could have dragged a friend with me and peer-pressured them into taking a beginner lesson. However, it seems The Jam Cellar in DC is on a Tuesday and The Lindy Lab near Raleigh is on a Thursday. And naturally, I will be in DC two Thursdays in a row, and in Raleigh on a Tuesday. WELL PLAYED, ME. So that’s unfortunately out this time around.

So last night, I went back to check the website of the 9:30 Club in DC (the best concert venue ever ever ever) to see if there had been any schedule updates. To my surprise, I found that Ben Folds is playing a sold out show on the Friday I bugger off to Frederick for the night. I kicked myself for not knowing about that, because to see Ben at the 9:30 Club again would make me so happy I can’t even explain it to you. But then I saw a wee link to the Lincoln Theatre show he’s playing on the Thursday that I AM in the city. And it’s NOT sold out.

SO.

I AM TOTALLY GOING TO SEE BEN FOLDS (for the eleventy-billionth glorious time) IN DC! Liam and Bobby are coming with me and they’ve never seen Ben live so that will be EXCELLENT.

Now I just have to figure out what to do during the day. It may be time for a trip back to the Smithsonian Air and Space museum, because after spending $45 on a Ben Folds ticket, free stuff is definitely a draw. Also: SPACE. Also: horrendous freeze-dried ice cream. (And regular ice cream, obviously.)

 

In which I realise there IS such a thing as too much research

I have two trips I’m currently organising: Paris/London in February, which grew out of the need to pop to London to get a bridesmaid’s dress, and the US (again!) in May, where I will be wearing that dress. And recently I briefly fell into the travel research black hole of trying to find the best bargain for these trips to the detriment of all else.

I’m not sure I want to know how many times I checked flight prices and set up Skyscanner alerts for EDI-IAD return trips in the past month because it may well amount to more time that I’ll actually spend on the freakin’ plane. And I wasn’t even thinking about the ridiculousness of this until I called my friend Liam, who I will be staying with in DC, and asked him if he thought it was better to get a train back up north from North Carolina, spend the night and fly out the next day, or fly back up and go from Reagan to Dulles in a few hours. He and his boyfriend pondered this aloud for quite a while, my wifi dropped out, and when I reconnected, he said ‘Well, you could really debate this for ages and find good reasons for either way, so, I don’t know what to tell you. I guess just pick one.’

Talking sense.

And this is when I was like, ‘GAHHHH, WHAT HAVE I BEEN DOING?’

Getting a good price on flights and accommodation and all that is fairly important, but also, so is my actual time. I can’t really put a price on it or anything, but it kind of felt like those times at work where someone goes, ‘Well, if we have many more meetings about this, given the day rates of the people involved, it’s starting to get more expensive to talk about this thing than just DOING IT and seeing what happens.’

Sometimes money and time ARE good motivators.

So I picked one (train, overnight, flight). Then I got off the Skype and booked my US flight. And the next day I picked an Airbnb for Paris and booked that. And made a list of the other things I need to book and put deadlines on them and forbid myself to do any more than half an hour’s research on each one. And I feel a lot better about all of it now. And I’m pretty sure I will give zero shits if the price happens to drop again, because I got some life going on.

This kind of made me realise this is the exact reason people use travel agents. I like the planning, but the research DOES take time, and you can get carried away. If you can trust that someone else is going to do all the best research for you, then why not? I sued a travel agent when I booked Africa for the first time ever. And they were great! (Trailfinders by the way. Recommended.) But I totally didn’t do it right because I was still researching everything anyway. Not because I didn’t trust they’d get me the best deal they could, but I guess because I just didn’t believe it was possible to get a better deal with a company than on my own. But it IS. And I didn’t find anything better than what they got me. PLUS they had all the knowledge I do not. So maybe I’ll do it again. It doesn’t even cost extra!

But I can’t bring myself to use a travel agent for something as simple as a trip to the US, which I do regularly enough that I should be able to book it in my sleep. So from now on, no endless searching and price tracking. I know what it should cost. I need to just get on with it.