Getting where?

Menu Close

Tag: US October 2014

New York, Philly and Delaware, October 2014

Happiest dog in the land.

A video posted by Kate (@kateamann84) on

For a super short trip, I managed a lot this time in the motherland. In New York, I got to hang out with my cousins and their friends at the bar, had dinner with the Grandmas which is always the greatest, saw the MoMA for the first time, managed an impromptu meetup with Val, who I haven’t seen in forever and happened to be in NYC on the same day I was, and ate most of the New-York-y things I always miss. Chocolate egg cream for the win!

In Philly, I had an AMAZING brunch at Mixto (I had the Costa Rican, which was amazing, but every other option on the table made it hard to choose. The pork on the Cuban alone was enough to make me weep with joy), including many guava mimosas and friends I wish I’d had even more time with. And I also got to go back to Silk City with Sara just before flying out, where we sat outside in the gorgeous weather and talked about life and schemed our next adventure. (Originally that was going to be Greenland until we discovered how freakin’ expensive the flights ALONE are to get there. So now it may be Morocco or a cruise to St Petersburg or something equally awesome. Watch this space.)

And in Delaware, I saw my parents’ new (enormous) house, hung out with the dog, drank a lot of wine, and took another trip to Dogfish Head, which is still my favourite. If I ever have to move back to the US, I’ll just go work there, thanks. But I’m quite happy my parents live right down the road from it now. I also got to go down to Salisbury to see my friends and their farm and their kid. And I got a Delaware driver’s license. Crazy!

All great things. But the kind of whirlwind trip that also makes you happy to be sitting still at home again.

On the kindle
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Wool by Hugh Howey

Headed to the airport in Philly.

Headed to the airport in Philly.


I didn’t do a flickr set for this trip because I mostly just instagrammed everything. US trips to see family aren’t usually photography-heavy anyway. Not because there’s nothing to take pictures of, but more because I’ve got other stuff to concentrate on.


As with photography, trips to see the family are not really representative of normal travel spending. I don’t have to pay for places to stay, relatives are super generous and pay for most of my food and drink (of which there is TONS), and then I end up buying a lot of clothes and stuff I can’t easily or cheaply get in the UK. And this time I didn’t even pay for the airfare. This trip only happened because originally my parents were meant to meet me in Ireland around the same time. They decided they didn’t want to go but still wanted to see me so my Dad bought me a ticket. Sweet deal!

Still, I actually set a budget this time and pretty much stuck to it. Which was surprising as I arbitrarily chose £40/day without thinking much about it at all because I’d forgotten to set up the trip before I left and was rushing to get all the info in.

Trip total: £407.84

That’s an average of £40.78 per day. As I said, there’s a lot it doesn’t include. Most notably airfare, which was £639.56. I milked it for all the Avios (frequent flier miles) I could though. I paid with an Avios American Express which got me 1598, plus the flights themselves which were 8104, PLUS the entertainment system on the flight home wasn’t working, so they credited my account an extra 5000 miles. That’s 14702 Avios, which is more than enough for a return flight somewhere nearby in Europe, or a return Eurostar ticket.


£122.88 on food. Including a VERY tasty brunch in Philly, and CHIPOTLE! (in New York). Plus bagels. Lots of bagels. And a fair few trips to Dunkin Donuts.

£99.61 on transport. Amtrak and various local public transport.

£49.92 on drinks. About half of which was a bottle of bourbon in Duty Free. I shudder to think what this figure would be if I actually personally paid for all I drank on this trip. Let’s just not think about it.

£10.73 on gifts for other people. Candy, mostly.

£102.65 on gifts for myself. Not too bad considering this included a new waterproof jacket and three pairs of smartwool socks (god I love good socks).

£22.06 miscellaneous. A load of random crap at Target.


Travel-friendly design from the MoMA

Whatup, America?

Driving is a novelty

Flying home

Flying home

Edinburgh just before landing

Hey, I can see my house!

When you fly into Edinburgh, the plane always comes in the same way. From the south, you pop out of the clouds somewhere over Dunbar and turn left over the Forth, slingshotting around Bass Rock like it’s some kind of waterfowl-covered moon. You then continue to drop, more or less parallel to shore from North Berwick, sloping in over the coast just before Cramond and skimming over the rail line just before touching down.

This sometimes makes for a bumpy ride, as there is often WEATHER over the Forth. The time I came in from Orkney in a very small plane, I was pretty sure we were going to be tossed unceremoniously from the sky, and had visions of my unsecured backpack conking me out before I knew what was happening as it flew off the seat adjacent (the flight attendants get very laid back about luggage the smaller and more rural the flight).

However, it also makes for one of the loveliest returns home I have ever known. Despite being an aisle seat lady, this view ensures I pick seat A on the last leg of any trip whenever I can. Preferably somewhere just behind the wing. I can stand to be cramped up for an hour or so if it means seeing Edinburgh from this angle. In any light or weather, it’s just the best. To visitors and natives, I highly recommend it. (If you end up on the right side of the plane instead, you’ll get a cracking view of the bridges.)

To top it off, there’s this fantastic truth when you come ambling out of the airport, which I also love fiercely and look forward to every time. It’s great to see when you’re at the start of an adventure too. I seriously hope this ad campaign runs forever.

RBS 'This is home' campaign at Edinburgh Airport

Yes it is.

Driving is a novelty

Driving in New Zealand

I have zero pictures of me driving on this trip, so here’s me driving in New Zealand. On the left! With much more interesting scenery than Delaware.

Since I’ve moved to Scotland, I don’t drive very often. I just don’t need to. And I LOVE that I don’t need to. By the time I was leaving the US, I’d done a few months of a fairly short commute to a temp office job and it made me hate my life even more than the job itself did. People in cars are morons. And that was BEFORE texting was even a thing in the US. But there was plenty of makeup application and reading books and eating full meals while driving going on. And that was just in the morning. I couldn’t take it anymore. I was so excited to get to  a place where I could just walk or rely on public transport and be done with it.

The last time I drove (and the only time I’ve driven in the UK) was over 3 years ago. I rented a car to move flat and it happened to be the day of the Edinburgh Marathon. I’d driven on the left before in New Zealand, so I had a tiny bit of that going for me, but I did fairly well considering how stressed and out of practice I was.

Last Monday, I borrowed my parents’ car, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. They have a Honda Pilot, which is pretty big, and incredibly wide. When I lived in the US, I had a Honda Accord, so luckily I was completely familiar with how everything was laid out, but there’s all this new shit now like SiriusXM radio and a video feed with some kind of crazy overlay for when you’re reversing. And satnav, which I won’t even touch.

I borrowed it to go down to Salisbury to see my friends Dan and Kathleen and their new kid, Liam, who’s only 6 months old. I didn’t want them to have to pack up a newborn just to see me for a few hours, and I also wanted to see where they live. (They have DUCKS!) This was before I went to get a Delaware license since I no longer have a permanent Maryland address with which to renew my license. And the whole time I’m driving, I’m thinking: this is basically my brush-up driving test. So, state of Delaware, you can rest assured I earned that replacement license.

In the course of a few hours, I did night driving, heavy rain driving, and sun-low-in-the-sky-and-therefore-in-my-face driving. I had to stop for a school bus and pull over for an ambulance. I was on country roads and highways and city roads. And I had to stay alert enough to anticipate that, on a green left turn arrow, some dickbag in a huge SUV decided to go barreling straight through a red light from the other direction JUST BECAUSE. So, 5 minutes before I got back to my parents’, I could have been creamed because someone wasn’t paying attention. And by that point, I was well and truly done with driving for another good long while.

It’s so tiring. It’s a completely different brand of concentration from anything I normally have to deal with. I felt incredibly tense and unsafe the whole time, and that’s at least 60% because OTHER drivers are so rarely paying attention. It’s no good for a control freak.

It wasn’t all bad though. I scanned the satellite radio for a suitable rock station, found Lithium (basically the equivalent of mid-to-late-90s 99.1 WHFS), and proceeded to spend a good portion of my drive singing Pearl Jam and Stone Temple Pilots and the like at the top of my lungs, feeling very much like I was in high school again. In the best of ways. In fact, my best memories of driving are always the ones that involve blasting good music on long night drives. So despite the anxiety, it was a dose of nostalgic happiness.

Technotronic tape

There was no satellite radio in the New Zealand rental car. This was the only tape. A classic.

Plus, I got to see my friends and their cute kid. And their border collie Scout, who had understandably incessant interest in his ball and was quite content to try sitting in my lap at dinner. And their ducks and chickens! Kathleen made awesome home made pizza for dinner and pumpkin pie for dessert. Dan and I talked about loads of people we knew in high school who I haven’t even thought about in some cases for years. It was the best kind of catching up. I sometimes hate that I’m not closer to some of my best friends, but it always makes for really, really good evenings where we can pick up as though we saw each other just yesterday and the conversation never stalls because there’s so much great stuff to talk about.

I think I hate driving now more than I ever hated flying, but even this one short stint has proven that, like flying, it’s a means to getting somewhere you really want to go, and when there are good friends at the end, it’s more than worth the hassle. The next time I drive will be to my friend Lindsay’s wedding in May, also in the states, and I have no doubt it’ll be equally worth it. I just hope the rental car has Lithium XM.


Whatup, America?

Visiting the US is always a different kind of holiday. It’s about seeing as many people as possible and eating as many of the things I miss as I can. So I have spent most of this week stuffing myself and drinking a lot with various friends and family members.

The quality of my posts (and my photography) is probably suffering, but I think that’s ok. I don’t get to see family and friend-family often enough.

I’ll get a little deeper later, but for now, here’s a wee photo rundown.

Travel-friendly design from the MoMA

OOF - Edward Ruscha

Love me some Edward Ruscha

I’ve never been to the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. I’m not sure how I’ve managed this. I’ve been the the Whitney and the Guggenheim and the Met numerous times, but the MoMA has always escaped me. So my sister suggested we go when we were in the city because she wanted to check out the Matisse cut outs show, and I just wanted to see ALL of the things.

My favourite ended up being the Robert Gober exhibition. He had a few pieces in the Death to Death show that was on when I worked at the National Galleries of Scotland, so I recognised some things, but I thought it was all way, way better in the context of the rest of his own work. I don’t remember what anything was called (I’m terrible at that) but my favourite piece was this giant suitcase that was sitting open on the ground. The bottom was a sewer drain grate and about 6 feet under the floor was a pool of water with a bunch of coral and stuff in it, and if you looked down from a certain angle, you could see some legs and a person holding a baby over the water like they were just wading in. I LOVED it. And I rarely love contemporary art so much.

Of course, any trip to the MoMA wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the shops, which carry all sorts of awesome, covetable design. I thought this would be a dangerous venture, and it WAS, but they also had a ton of travel-friendly stuff that I could actually justify buying. Adventure supplies!

Vapur MoMA bottle

The anti-bottle.

First off, I’ve been wanting a collapsible water bottle forever. And they had one with the (new) New York city skyline MoMA design. I love getting actual functional things that have souvenir-y tat design on them, so I grabbed this without even considering it. It folds down super small when it’s empty, and it’s really sturdy when it’s full. The lid screws off and it’s a wide enough mouth to clean easily with a bottle brush, and the top is a hinged thing that’s not too fiddly. Excellent.

Tote and Able flask

For the whisky.

Further in the realm of travel-friendly drink receptacles, they had this sweet fabric flask that takes up next to no space. AND it’s got a shot glass on the cap. It’s canvas so I feel like I should maybe screen something cool onto it. (The sharks in the background of this are on one of the new BAGGUs I got to replace my old ones. Also good for travel and everything ever.)

Abitax tag light

Tiny light.

And when I was in the queue to pay, I came across this wee super strong LED tag light. You can squeeze it for temporary use or switch it on for steady light. I’m going to clip it in to my waterproof jacket zip I think, but I feel like it’s going to be super handy to have and it’s simple and nicely designed. Not tacky like these things can be sometimes. Impulse-buying at its finest.

Of course all these goodies were merely consolation prizes for what I REALLY wanted: dinosaur cake stands! But you can’t travel with that, so it’s lights and portable beverages for now.


HOLY CRAP YOU GUYS. #Dinosaur #cake stand. It’s like they knew I was coming.

View on Instagram

My (love?)-hate relationship with flying

Plane window

I mean, with that kind of view I guess it’s not ALL bad.

I don’t like flying. Or rather, I don’t like the idea of being in a plane that is no longer flying in a controlled, expected sort of fashion. I don’t imagine anyone does but I’m historically bad at chilling the fuck out about being on a plane that is functioning perfectly fine.

I’m getting better at it though. And to my great surprise, in the past week or so, I’ve been looking forward to the flying bit of getting to the US a week from today. (By the way, I’m headed to the US for a visit, woop!) Not because of the plane itself, but because of the enforced sitting without internet connection for a few hours. For no other option but to watch a movie or read a book or have a gin and tonic and stare out the window at nothing. (Hopefully without turbulence, because that ruins the ideal vision.)

I’ve been so busy, and my brain has been such a ball of chaos in the past few weeks (and always) that the enforced shutdown, albeit stranded hurtling through the air, sounds pretty good if I forget about the lack of control I have over the situation.

Also, and this is kind of weird, but aside from the fact that they designed the place with far too few toilets, I LOVE Heathrow Terminal 5, which is where I often connect. It’s not the best airport terminal ever or anything, but there are tons of good, affordable places to eat, and that counts for a disproportionate amount in my world. I can get a sushi box! Or noodles! Or a smoothie with a plastic giraffe swizzle stick! And a bunch of other things that make me happy to sit in the airport. I even spent the night on the seats of the Costa Coffee in arrivals last year without it ruining the place for me. I don’t know what it is, I just have a bizarre affection for the place.

T5 by night

Heathrow T5 arrivals, sometime in the wee hours in December 2013. Quiet, freezing, and not the most comfortable. But still kind of great.

Anyway. I doubt I’ll ever full-on enjoy flying – even without the actual being in the air bit, there’s never enough legroom or comfort (I’m a tall, fidgety lady with not nearly enough money for an upgrade). But I’m a lot less tense these days on takeoff and landing. And flying pretty much always means I’m going a place I want to go, so it’s plenty reason to suck it up, but I also think that maybe it’s that now I’ve been through enough lack-of-control situations in my life that clearly haven’t killed me, I just handle the fear better. It’s fear I know so well that we just chill out together for a while as I pick the in-flight entertainment that will most adequately distract me from it.

But man, I will never crack the whole keeping my skin from freaking out. And always, ALWAYS catching a cold. And playing tetris with my dinner. I get they’re trying to pack as much food onto that tray as possible. I APPRECIATE it. But surely there’s a better design solution for how all that shit fits together. You want something that’s not going to be an inevitable mess in that situation. And there is just NOWHERE SAFE to put my red wine.


I’m already looking at my film choices though, so, bring on the holiday!

EDIT: And then there’s always this to aspire to: What it’s like to fly the $23,000 Singapore Airlines Suites Class. Absolutely fucking bonkers. All I ask for is one go at a business class flatbed seat in my life. I really don’t think I could handle a whole room.