A Travellerspoint blog

Florida pt.2 - my final weeks in the US (for now)

Everglades, to Key West, back to Naples, then last stop Miami....

sunny 28 °C

The trip to the Everglades hostel was a fun one, the weather decided to be the hottest day since I´d arrived and I only needed to catch a greyhound, train, metro and then another bus with the huge backpack. So when I turned up to the hostel in a sweaty mess it was nice to be greeted with open arms (perhaps not for them!).

Everglades Hostel

Everglades Hostel

The hostel was in Florida City and sits just at the top of the Everglades. So although its not right in the wilderness and actually near a fairly busy road - you´re none the wiser as the grounds are large and the relaxing waterfalls make you feel a long way from commercial civilisation (of course the Walmart is within walking distance).

Everglades Hostel Gazebo

Everglades Hostel Gazebo

There were several volunteers at the hostel, all very nice people each with interesting backgrounds and stories to tell. With a lot of people coming through the hostel it was interesting chatting to guests about their travels and getting tips on places I still plan to visit. Whilst staying at the hostel I was a volunteer and my main responsibilites were laundry. Although there was a constant flow, bed sheets, towels etc usual hostel stuff, it was not strenuous by any means and pushing a button, loading/unloading was fine by me.

Me and fellow volunteer Mario

Me and fellow volunteer Mario

Half way through the week my friends from back home (Nick & Mark) who I had met up with in Tampa came down along with a chap (Ryan) they´d met whilst staying in Miami the previous 2 weeks. We all signed up for the everglades tour for the following day and as I was a volunteer I benefited from it being free! It was only us four and a german girl who went on the trail, so we got a good personal tour, from the knowledgeable yet sense of humour lacking guide. He didnt like it when we made a joke (i suppose it was dangerous surroundings) but that didnt stop him from making several awkward comments towards our fellow german explorer. Don´t mention the war....Unlike Basil, he certainly didn´t get away with it.

Yes they were as big as they look!

Yes they were as big as they look!

Anyways, the tour was great and lasted most of the day. It included walking through swamp water up to our knees, a nature walk and best of all kayaking alongside the many alligators and crocodiles. They are huge beasts and extremely scary once you´re up close, especially when the guide pokes them with his oar and they go a little crazy. One came up and rocked Nick and Marks boat, scary indeed.... Until later we were speaking to a family who were staying at the hostel and the children said how they fell out of the kayak, which then sank when they got back into it and had an alligator chewing on the oar. But I still think we were brave!

Three English men out of their depth in the Swamp!

Three English men out of their depth in the Swamp!

Yep that´s a lot of Alligators!

Yep that´s a lot of Alligators!

I really enjoyed volunteering at the hostel and I met a lot of nice people. Another benefit of staying in the hostel was that the number of guests coming through the doors usually creates opportunities for sharing travel arrangements. We did just that and shared a lift down to Key West on the Friday (26th March) with a couple of people we´d met in the hostel. I´d arranged accomodation with a couchsurfer and he was kind enough to even let Nick and Mark come and stay. Eric was an extremely laid back host and actually had 9 people stay at his place during the 2 nights I was there. A real CS hostel - including guests from the US, Luxembourg, Switzerland and the UK. He works as a pilot and gets to travel for free, so it was great to hear some of his stories.

Eric´s House - The CS Hostel

Eric´s House - The CS Hostel

Couchsurfers United all descended upon Key West for the night and we went to a great cheap bar ($1 beers), me and Eric smashed the locals at 'Corn Hole' (basically chucking a bean bag through a hole in a piece of wood). The next day we headed to the beach and ended up with a serious volleyball competition on our hands with a friendly american family we met. I dont think geography was a strong point though, as they kept referring to friends of theirs living in England but when asked where abouts, said it definitely was not in Britain! You hear many stories like this, our island is very confusing to some.

Volleyball, Key West Style

Volleyball, Key West Style

We dropped Nick and Mark off at the Greyhound (who had a 24hr trip to Atlanta to look forward to), then went to get something to eat and watched the college basketball that was on TV (its playoff time). Eric was expecting 3 more cs'ers to turn up that evening so another busy house was expected. We just played cards until the early hours with the nice bunch of new surfers.

Long road out of Key West

Long road out of Key West

The next morning I zig-zagged on the greyhound across the state, up to Miami and then back across to Naples, where I was going to stay with Jessica and Anna again for a few more days. The weather in Naples this time was very nice so I got to go to the beach, play some more sports with Anna as she was on school holidays and eat very, very well!

Jessica and Anna

Jessica and Anna

Can not remember if I mentioned it last time but Jessica is a chef on a private boat, so certainly knows how to prepare a feast. Unfortunately for her (fortunately for everyone else) one of the dinner parties she had been preparing a long time for got cancelled, meaning there was a lot of nice food that just had to be eaten! So one evening Jessica´s brother and friend came over for some gourmet prepared salad, duck and specially imported salmon. It was seriously good, and not quite what I expected to be eating whilst on my travels.

Nautical House in Naples

Nautical House in Naples

The night before I left Naples, I layed down the challenge of some mini golf at the local course (where I learnt about the curious rule of the restart!) before being introduced to the troubles of american school kids as we watched ´Diary of a wimpy kid´at the cinema. It was great spending more time with Jessica and Anna and not only for the food, they are great company and fun to be around. They have their own trip to California to look forward to and i´ll be interested to hear the places they recommend.... Jessica is also a keen Southpark fan, this is usually a good indicator that I will get on with someone :)

I´m in Miami Beach! (lame t-shirt)

I´m in Miami Beach! (lame t-shirt)

Thursday morning I left for Miami, where I was going to be meeting up with some of the nice cuchsurfers i´d met in Key West. Aline and Nadine from Switzerland and Tanner from the US who was riding his motorbike on a huge circle of the US (very impressive). I met up with them at the beach during the day and then in the evening we all had tickets to see the Arctic Monkeys. As with most gigs I made sure we got down to the front. It was a great concert and nice to see them in a relatively small venue compared to what you would usually get in London.

Arctic Monkeys not Agile Beast

Arctic Monkeys not Agile Beast

Fellow CS gig goers!

Fellow CS gig goers!

The next day we spent most of the day walking around Miami Beach and watching the large amount of posers who frequent the area. I´ll never understand why some people like to sit in their huge cars pumping out music stuck in traffic just to look cool.... though my favourite was a huge muscle man struggling to walk down the beach due to his own rediculous bulk whilst his wife paraded along by his side in high heels and a thong (sadly no picture). There were many more perculiar sights that strangely became all very common, even in the short time I spent there.

My first Film Role

My first Film Role

Plum!

Plum!

Wedding on the Beach

Wedding on the Beach

As Aline and Nadine were also flying out from Miami on Saturday morning (3rd) we decided it was a good idea to spend the night at the airport rather than pay to stay in a hostel. We managed to have an extraordinary amount of fun during the 10hrs spent in the sterile airport environment . When 6am rolled around we went our seperate ways, me to Lima via a stopover in colombia and the much fun Swiss contigent to San Francisco. Again it´ll will be nice hearing their tips on the West.

Time to Fly

Time to Fly

My flight to Lima was pretty tiring, much because of the lack of sleep. So when I finally arrived at my hostel at about 7pm I was ready for a loooong sleep. I woke up the following morning and took a walk round the local area, then in the evening went to a water fountain show.

Fountain Show

Fountain Show

I was up early the next morning to fit in some breakfast before going to the airport to catch my flight to Cusco. My taxi journey to the airport was an interesting one, with a driver who had to sit in an awkward position so that he could see out of the non-cracked part of the windshield, whilst singing to Barry White on the radio (he also needed to stop enroute to splash his face). This combined with the heavy traffic meant I cut it very fine and checked in with a few mins to spare. This all worked in my favour however, as my sudden rise in anxiety when hearing ´Samwell Pre-or´followed by a spanish message was swiftly quelled when I realised I had been upgraded to business class!

I arrived to Cusco in class and that´s where i´ll have to leave it as I´ve typed enough. Needless to say i´ve been here for 2 weeks now and loving every minute.

View from my room for the first week!

View from my room for the first week!

Posted by Sampri07 07:11 Archived in USA Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Florida: Life's a beach...

...especially for the Snowbirds and Springbreakers

sunny 24 °C

Things got off to a good start in Tampa, Alec picked me up from the airport and we dropped my stuff off at his house before joining a bunch of couchsurfers at Kahuna bar to watch the Olympic Ice Hockey final between the US and Canada (they have some sort of rivalry apparently). Chatting to the people at the bar was interesting, one had been to Peru and said how great it was and another was an actor but he also did voiceover work. He had done voiceovers for a lot of the Hollywood celebrity TV shows (funny as he said he hardly ever watched TV). In the end Canada beat the US but it was a great game, last minute equalisers and overtime.

Tampa

Tampa

During the week staying with Alec I offered to help him out at his Mums house where he was renovating the guest outhouse. It was pretty impressive the work that he'd already done, his education as an architect helped and he knew a lot about construction. I stuck to sanding and painting! The house was over in St.Petersburg, so it also meant I was seeing a new area each time we went.

Alec's Mums house

Alec's Mums house

Outhouse that we worked on

Outhouse that we worked on

Alec was a keen hockey player so I went to watch him play and whilst we were there his teammate gave us 8 free tickets to see the Tampa Bay Lightning (NHL Ice hockey team) for the Tuesday and also 3 tickets for the Saturday. More free live sports, what could be better. The Lightning lost in the Tuesday game against the Philly Flyers but then turned it around on the weekend against the Atlanta Thrashers. I've not seen too much ice hockey before i came to the states but i'll definitely watch it again, the speed of the game is incredible and the fighting can turn the most boring game into a spectacle.

As it turned out, a couple of friends from back home actually arrived in Tampa on the same day I did and we met up with them at the hockey and then went out to a bar with them the following night. It was good to see them and hear about their adventures so far. Some of the most amusing stories come from their trips around the West coast on the Greyhound and the crazy people that like to ride them... Something I have to look forward to! As Alec did such a good Scottish impersonation we turned him into an honorary Brit (for which i'm sure he was grateful), and when chatting to people we'd say we were 3 Brits and a Scot - which doesn't really make a whole lot of sense. The following day we met up with them again and went for a short tour to the historic Yabor City and also visited the Buccaneers stadium (i was excited about that).

Me, Coops and Mark at Buccaneers Stadium

Me, Coops and Mark at Buccaneers Stadium

It was great staying in Tampa with Alec and Jen, as we spent a fair bit of time at his mums house I met the rest of his family, parents, 2 brothers, grandparents.....friends,neighbours... They were extremely welcoming and we had several huge dinners round there, especially when Alecs mum's friend had flown in from New Mexico. She cooked us all a huge Mexican feast one night and tapas on another. It was great to meet so many friendly people and hear their stories.

Miller High Life - The Champagne of Beers!

Miller High Life - The Champagne of Beers!

My tampa host Alec

My tampa host Alec

On Saturday, we had an action packed day as before the hockey in the evening we went on a Kayaking trip around the mangroves. We loaded up the car with the two Kayaks and prepared some supplies (subway and a cookie) for the adventure ahead. It's crazy how so quickly you can escape all the busy traffic on the road to then feel like you're in the real wilderness. I think it was that feeling which led to us making our groundbreaking wildlife documentary....yes we did get a lot of strange looks from passers by and yes the accents are very bad (introduced as Brits yet we sound more australian/south african - just sounds more wildlifey. Steve Irwin would be proud)

Deep in the Mangroves

Deep in the Mangroves

I had a lot of fun in Tampa and that's mostly down to my hosts. It was great to stay with them and I hope to see them again some day.

My Tampa Hosts

My Tampa Hosts

On the monday (8th March) I continued my journey around Florida and headed further down the coast to Ft Myers Beach to stay with Deanna my CS host. She lived just a short cycle from the beach, and when the weather was good the traffic was up past her road anyway (driving would take an hour, cycling about 15min). Also the crazy golf (here its know as putt putt) just up the road was conquered on the second day - every time i mentioned crazy golf people thought I was referring to the Mexican Gulf, some funny confused faces would follow.

Why not just Cycle?

Why not just Cycle?

Deanna lives with two other people and so it was good to have company at the beach when she was working. Her boyfriend Aaron plays in a local band called the drunk monkeys and they're pretty good so have a busy schedule playing in the bars, especially around Spring Break. We got to go and watch them a few times during my stay which was always enjoyable particularly when crazy audience members liked to get involved. A huge 300 pound guy putting in a birthday song request springs to mind, who then sat in front of the stage to get a lapdance form his girlfriend (....or perhaps hooker). Ah memories.

Aaron on Bass with the Drunk Monkeys!

Aaron on Bass with the Drunk Monkeys!

Watching the Drunk Monkeys in full unplanned colour co-ordination

Watching the Drunk Monkeys in full unplanned colour co-ordination

We met up with Deanna's friends Jess and Tara at the gig and they offered to show me around the next day as Deanna was at work. So I went down early so I could have a walk on the pier and then we met up and went to a few places along the beach. Then off to get something to eat and they even refused to let me pay - thats American hospitality for you :) thank you

Who gets the fish first?

Who gets the fish first?

On Friday a crowd of us went to Beach bowl, the place had not changed in the last 30 years and even the staff hairstyles matched the decor. It was like the film Kingpin. Somehow I managed to win the second game!

Bowlerama!

Bowlerama!

Saturday saw Shrimp Fest come to town, which is a popular event but particularly lacking in the shrimp department. More entertaining was the cringing entertainment on the beach for spring break. It was led by a buch of guys who look like aged wrestlers (sagging muscles, perma tan, and weird spray on looking hair) who then gave way too much attention to the (female) participants in the hula, limbo and booty shaking contests! The crowd all loved it though, and they were making money for charity....so I guess its acceptable, just.

Approaching Ft Myers Beach

Approaching Ft Myers Beach

More fun at the beach over the weekend ensued and nights out at the bars. When Monday rolled around - Deanna, Zach (housemate) and myself went to Captiva Island for a day at a differnet beach. The island itself, is home to many a rich folk. Some of the houses are absolutely huge and must cost an absolute fortunate. It's actually the island where Deanna works, not a bad place to have to go to work. On the way back we stopped off at a restaurant which is famous for hosting crab races...dont ask, but it was fun and certainly a spectacle to behold!

Burned Willie's Crab Race!

Burned Willie's Crab Race!

The next day I was heading further down the (west) Florida coast onto Naples with my new host Jessica. Deanna was extremely kind and offered to drive me there. I arrived in Naples in the evening and spent the rest of the day chatting with my new host and her daughter Anna.

Naples

Naples

Naples is an extremely nice area, and certainly a place where a lot of money rolls around. Probably not a place usually on the travelers budget, but thanks to my CS host it was a possibility. The following day I got to explore the town and beach and then in the evening we all went out for a sunset cruise around the bay. The tour pointed out some of the houses around the area, the prices are unbelievable - the average was probably about $60 million. The craziest thing we were told, is about 70% of these houses are lived in only 2 weeks of the year. So I rounded up the rest of my travel savings and bought a square cm plot of land - my plans to build an inverted pyramid may annoy the neighbours.

My new next door neighbours!

My new next door neighbours!

Sunset Cruise

Sunset Cruise

The next day the sun was out and a day at the beach followed. When I came back I gave Anna a quick football lesson and she then thrashed me on the Wii. Later we went to the mall to pick up some braces (Anna wanted to dress as a geek for school) and then got a bite to eat. Although my stay in Naples was short, I had a lot of fun and it was a pleasure to meet my hosts. Jessica is a great mum and part of the reason for joining CS was to show her daughter how the world is not always as scary as what you may read in the papers etc. Very refreshing. She also has great taste in music and was the person who made me aware that the Arctic Monkeys were touring the US and had a few dates in Florida. Needless to say I snapped up a ticket to see them in Miami two days before I fly to Peru. What a way to end the first installment of the States.

Back garden view

Back garden view

Friday (19th March) saw me boarding another Greyhound and starting to venture across the state to make my way to Florida City to stay at the Everglades International hostel. More good times awaited me but that'll be for the next blog....

Posted by Sampri07 07:49 Archived in USA Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Cold, getting colder,warm, warmer.....

Thermals to flip-flops!

0 °C

The last few weeks have been incredibly busy and everyday has been packed with fun.

On the Saturday (13th Feb) in Saratoga we went on a hike in the Adirondacks. It was a 10mile long hike and Renata the seasoned hiker certainly sets the pace. It was well worth the hard work though, some of the views were amazing.

An ice Dumb and Dumber moment!

An ice Dumb and Dumber moment!

The timing of leaving Saratoga worked out very nicely for me, as a friend I had made in New York had been up for the weekend so she was able to give me a lift back to Hoboken of monday. Lisa also knew of an art museum that was on the route back so we stopped off there. I stayed with Stephanie in Hoboken (she offered me to stay on my way back through when i had last surfed) again, and was greeted at her bar with free beer and free chicken wings, gooood.

Hoboken, on the street where I live

Hoboken, on the street where I live

Me and Steph

Me and Steph

The following day I was back on the megabus to Philly. My first host was a guy called Ari and from the moment he picked me up at the station I knew I was in for a fun time. He lived up in the northern part of town near his University campus (Temple).

Temple Uni

Temple Uni

We packed in the entertainment during the 3 days including; the liberty bell, independence hall, couchsurfing karaoke bar meet up, vegan chinese food restaurant, i exploited the US education authority by attending one of Ari's lectures on Jewish Humour, visited a Rabi and went on a fun filled road trip to Atlantic City (the east coast version of Vegas) - I also queued to see Michelle Obama at a local grocery but she left before I got in :(

Interview after Michelle Obama's appearance at the grocery store

Interview after Michelle Obama's appearance at the grocery store

Ari sorted me and his friends out with a complimentary huge suite at Caesars casino and free meals, the only thing we had to pay for was the gambling (i lost $15 not bad all things considered). We got to witness one of the most surreal karaoke in the casino, a couple singing a romantic ballad - fine, but no ordinary couple she was about 20 wearing a bad sports tracksuit, he was about 80 a could hardly speak but they would keep kissing each other throughout the performance, bizarre. It was yet another amazing experience that never would have come about if it weren't for the weird and wonderful ways of couchsurfing.

Atlantic City - Saweet Suite

Atlantic City - Saweet Suite

Free Meal, yes please!

Free Meal, yes please!

On Friday joined my new host Rodney, a real nice person who liked to do handstands after eating to help with digestion (extremely impressive considering he's well over 6ft.) In the afternoon I went to explore the city and whilst walking around got a call from Rodney's roommate (Tadek) saying he could get us cheap student tickets to a Jazz concert that night. It was a homecoming for the McCoy Tyner quartet ...introduced as "west philadelphia born and raised". Afterwards we met up with some people for a few drinks.

Philly hosts - Rodney and Tadek

Philly hosts - Rodney and Tadek

Saturday saw my first taste of live american sport in the form of a college basketball game between Temple and St. Joes, rival Philly colleges.

College Basketball

College Basketball

Ari had once again sorted me out with free tickets. Temple won it in overtime and the atmosphere was incredible, cheerleaders, team brass bands and loud support. The rivalry makes for good chants and the banners rolled out by the supporters club are usually funny attacks on the opposition players, coaches, cheerleaders.

Funny Banner - "How do you make the St.Jo's dance team cry: Show them a mirror

Funny Banner - "How do you make the St.Jo's dance team cry: Show them a mirror

Saturday got even better in the evening as I had tickets to go and see Joseph Arthur (fair to say an idol of mine) playing at the Tin Angel. I went along with Lily (a nice local host that i'd met at the cs karaoke) and i think i created another fan, she didn't really have a choice. I've seen him 3 times before and this time it was a solo performance with his usual guitar looping, distortion and sampling, however he added live painting to the mix for this gig. After the show he was chatting to the audience and I got my picture with him and he told me how he used to live in Streatham Common. I was starstruck, quite funny as most people i'm sure would not have a clue who he was.

Joseph Arthur and I

Joseph Arthur and I

When the show was over we headed into town to a few cool bars and then onto a house party. The following day I went to the Philadelphia Art Museum (the one with the steps in Rocky) and then met up with Lily at her work (cheese shop) and had a cheese tasting and a walk round china town. The thing I loved the most about Philly was the street art, on nearly every street corner are huge murals done by members of the community. One of my favourites was right opposite Ari's flat. I met a lot of nice people in Philadelphia and it was great spending time with people who knew the town so well and were eager to show it off. The city itself had the feel and diversity of a larger place like NYC but at the same time was small enough to feel more personal - perhaps thats why it's the city of brotherly love.

One of my favourite murals

One of my favourite murals

One more of my favourite murals

One more of my favourite murals

When Monday rolled around I was leaving Philly and making my way to DC. I met up with my host Jess in a bar and she gave me a list of the best places to check out. The best thing about DC is that all the museums are free and they are mainly all in one area. My favourite museums were the Hirshhorn Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery, and the Zoo was very good too. There were so many other museums and famous landmarks to see; Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Pentagon & Arlington cemetary (technically Virginia not DC).

That's very Arty! Washington Monument and Vietnam Memorial

That's very Arty! Washington Monument and Vietnam Memorial

I Miss the Zoo

I Miss the Zoo

What's whiter than the Whitehouse?

What's whiter than the Whitehouse?

My two hosts in DC were great, Jess for the first couple of days and then Nancy & Gil. My days were packed with the tourists sites, but by night I hung around with my hosts. With Jess I went to out to an El Salvadorian bar/restaurant to meet up with a bunch of her friends and volunteered at a food co-op to gain credits for her feminist collective. Whilst with Gil & Nacy we cooked up an absolute feast,went out for thai food to see their friend playing in a blues band and as they both play themselves I was treated to a basement jam.

Basement Jam!

Basement Jam!

On the 28th (Sunday) I flew done to Tampa, Florida to say goodbye to the cold and hello to the sun. My new host Alec picked me up from the airport. It was so nice to see sun, blue skies and palm trees. But that's where i'll leave it for now as this entry is long enough. Next entry i'm sure they'll be some pictures of a burnt little bald head :)

Street where I stayed in Tampa (no snow)

Street where I stayed in Tampa (no snow)

Posted by Sampri07 15:18 Archived in USA Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

The helpeX files - Spirits in the Springs

….my first experience of helpx as a friendly little helper.

snow 0 °C

My first helpx experience has absolutely flown by, although I do still have a few days left here in Saratoga. I’ve been up to all sorts of interesting things, met more great people (a continuing theme on my travels, long may it continue) and seen a lot of amazing sights.

One great sight was the full moon or should I say Wolf Moon, which I now know is the Native American name for the full moon of January! We went to the house that Steve built (his own) and into the fields behind to see the moon rising. Afterwards we continued into the woods and went to see the fault line that runs through Saratoga, luckily no plate shifts whilst we were there.

The Wolf Moon

The Wolf Moon

On the weekend after my last entry (Sat 30th Jan), Renata, Steve and myself went up to the Adirondacks to visit one of Renata’s properties. ‘Pocomoonshine Camp’ is hidden in the forest with views of the Mountains and (frozen) Lake Augur .

Pocomoonshine Camp

Pocomoonshine Camp

Pocomoonshine Kitchen

Pocomoonshine Kitchen

On the frozen Lake Augur

On the frozen Lake Augur

Over the weekend we did a few improvements to the camp, painted walls, sealed a bathtub and gave it a spring clean so its ready for guests. But it wasn’t all work, we had plenty of spare time to visit Ausable Chasm (one of the 3 natural wonders of NY, official) and a frozen beach. The chasm was pretty incredible, who needs the Niagara Falls!

Me, Renata and Steve at Ausable Chasm

Me, Renata and Steve at Ausable Chasm

Upper Chasm

Upper Chasm

Frozen beaches are now becoming a favourite pastime of mine, that is the second one visited on my travels.
At the beach I attempted to make my way across Lake Champlain to Vermont, however I managed only to drift about a foot on my ice raft before I got that sinking feeling and jumped back to shore. Running around on the beach taking photos helped us keep warm but it may have looked slightly absurd to people on the shoreline. I think they were the ones who tipped off the two patrol cars that cruised by observing us slowly - “why would they be on a beach in this weather? Must be tourists, now where did I put that donut!”

Frozen Beach

Frozen Beach

Another house that Steve built!

Another house that Steve built!

We arrived back in Saratoga to find a little visitor had been enjoying my room, a friendly little mouse had taken a fancy to the bedsheets and had left several mouse sized holes. The the two cats (Kicia and Spirit) were introduced to the equation and the mouse was not seen again. With these predatory skills, the little blighter didn’t stand a chance!

The week following, was a busy one and it absolutely flew by. We worked more on listing property and were invited round to dinner by the people who owned one of the houses. They are old friends of Renata’s, a couple who design and built their own home. It’s an incredible place and the offers have been flying in to rent the house since putting it up on the internet…. They also have a singing dog, although when I tried to record it, he ran and hid under a desk!

Renata's friends house

Renata's friends house

I met up with a local CS host and his friends on another evening for a pub quiz at a place called ‘Desperate Annies’ (I wonder what Annie looked like?). It must have been fate, as the first question as I sat down was… “what is the name given to the guards at the Tower of London?”…. I got it wrong! – just kidding.

On the weekend I met up with one of Renata’s daughters friends (a tenuous link!). We went to a bar called Putnam Den to check out some music (Some rapping poets from NY accompanied by acoustic guitar, bass, bongos, harmonica and didgeridoo – it was a good mix).

Band at Putnam Den

Band at Putnam Den

We then went off to meet a few of his friends at a pirate party and returned to the town later. It was good to go out with so locals and see what was going on. It was a good, long night and I walked home the following day in the midday sun along the highway (maybe not highway, but a big road none the less). I spent the rest of the day watching the Superbowl, which was good as the Saints won. WHO DAT!

The long and winding road, to walk home

The long and winding road, to walk home

This week I’ve re-sealed another bath tub, changed the filters in another fish tank, put Renata’s properties on facebook (you can see them if you go to my profile and view my pages) and got a mp3 player for one of Renata’s spa. All the work is enjoyable and its easy to do with such nice company around (Renata, Steve, Judy, Tristan and Lorraine).

The house I’ve been staying in is superb, and I don’t think I’ve given it enough credit on here. I basically have my own private living quarters, king size bed, living room, steam shower and sauna! I’m a lucky boy. I’ve had such a good time here meeting all different kinds of people and learning a lot, especially from Renata and Steve. On the nights that we’ve not been out/busy we’ve listened to a lot of music and watched some great films usually finishing in the early hours (I think we’ve rented about 20 from the library already, though not had time to see all of them).

I’ll be sad to leave Saratoga, as I have done everywhere that I’ve stayed. A great testament to CS and Helpx. I’d definitely like to return at some point, maybe in the summer when it’s a little warmer :)

That’s it for now….. next time on my blog you’ll hear about the last few days in Saratoga Springs, Philadelphia - the city of brotherly love (not in the YMCA way) and Washington where I’ll be couchsurfing with this guy called Barack (from his profile pics, it looks like he has a pretty big house!).

Posted by Sampri07 09:14 Archived in USA Tagged volunteer Comments (0)

From Hoboken to Saratoga Springs and a lot of other things….

Mum, I’ve been eating well bagels, buffalo wings & Sinatra sandwiches!

sunny 3 °C

For the first 3 days after my last entry I was couchsurfing in Hoboken. I stayed in an apartment on the main high street called Washington St. I've never seen one street with nothing but bars, restaurants and cafes, but i'm not complaining. Three people live in the apartment and I spent most of my time with Stephanie and Scott, who were both really nice and easy to talk to. (They've also said I'm welcome back the day that I stopover in NYC before heading onto Philadelphia).

View from Hoboken

View from Hoboken

On the first night we went to see one of Stephs friend playing in a local bar. The following day I got my first real taste of american consumerism at 'Walmart' and 'Babies'R'Us'….. I entertained myself..….one item that caught my eye was an American football babygrow in the 99cent rail which had the player ‘Burress’ on the back, now he’s currently serving a 2 year prison sentence on gun charges! Comforting, I suppose then that it was still on the rack! In the afternoon we went out for food and watched some of the NFL playoffs and then I made my way across the Hudson River into Manhattan to visit the MOMA. It was a great museum but on my way there, whilst walking through Times Sq I saw David Blaine (magician who lived in a box!) doing magic for Haiti. In the evening we went to the birthday of one of Stephs friends.

David Blaine - man of mystery

David Blaine - man of mystery

On Sunday I woke up and went with Scott to the local Italian deli and got a Sinatra Sandwich and then went on to watch more football in a bar. A local team was playing – the NY Jets, so there was a good atmosphere around the town. After the game, I collected up all my stuff and made my way back up to Saddle River to see my friend Nick again.

On my first visit to see Nick, his aunt and uncle had said I could go back and visit again. So I took them up on the offer and stayed from the Sunday through to the Thursday. It was great staying there and I turned myself into the bands unofficial photographer and documenter whilst at the house. It was an exciting time as the band - the ‘Sexy Heroes’, had a really positive meeting on the Tuesday with a top producer who has worked with many great bands.

Sexy Heroes

Sexy Heroes

They met at his huge studio (where Lady Gaga was going to be the following day) and he showed them around and listened to some of their stuff. He liked it and wanted them to return the following week (the same day Alicia Keys was due to be in), to hear them play acoustically and see how they all work together. So I got to see the band practicing a lot of their songs in a completely different style to what they were used to and it was interesting to see how they crossed over.

(my favourite song Noablo Espaniol.....may be handy in Peru! The boys sound pretty damn good considering only the mic from my camera)

Outside of practice, we went skating (did more watching than actual skating), chilled out with people in the evenings and went to Hooters (a great restaurant famous for two things!).

Just Skate

Just Skate

Hooters!

Hooters!

Thursday saw me leave Saddle River and return to Brooklyn, to couchsurf with Rachel again who I’d stayed with the previous week. I arrived in the evening and the season finale of the Jersey Shore was showing.

I dig Brooklyn, my Brooklyn digs

I dig Brooklyn, my Brooklyn digs

This is a reality show that everywhere I’ve gone people seem to be talking about it. Now people who know me, know I’m not really a fan of reality shows but this one is truly awful. If it starts getting shown in England, do yourself a favour and smash your TV. That said, I still watched the reunion show that followed! The next few days were pretty busy, on Friday I met up with a girl I’d met on cs and went to the Brooklyn museum. My last few days in NY were filled packed full of fun and with Rachel I….ate octopus at a japanese restaurant (and had saki bombs), visited Terra Blues (an amazing blues bar where the band were playing Hendrix covers), had Peruvian beer in ‘Peculiar Pub’, went up the Rokcefeller centre, had an all you can drink brunch (that’s not a mistake), went to a Williamsburg community museum, had mexican food, saw a Leonard Cohen film and went to an improv comedy night, ……and breathe.

Top of the Rock - a New York sunset

Top of the Rock - a New York sunset

Fellow Couchsurfer (Fonzie)

Fellow Couchsurfer (Fonzie)

Monday morning arrived and again I packed up my stuff and left NYC (I’m sure I’ll be back) for Saratoga Springs. This was going to be my first experience of helpx, a site designed where you volunteer help a host in return for the opportunity get to stay in some great places that you’d probably not ever think of. Its now Wednesday and I must say I’m loving it, it’s a great contrast to the busy city and Saratoga is a real picture postcard town. My host Renata is great, a very smart lady who owns her own skin therapy clinic – Esthetiques a European Skin Therapy Clinique and also rents out several holiday homes. Renata and her friend Steve are smart, interesting people and I’ll learn a lot from them during my stay. As an idea of the work I’ve done so far, I’ve prepared information on property for its listing, cleaned the filters on a Koi fish tank and prepared a Valentines shop window (now that’s something I didn’t expect to be writing!). On the weekend we’ll be visiting one of Renata’s properties in the Adirondack mountains, out in the wilderness, snow tipped peaks, frozen lakes, I cant wait.

Outlook from Renata's House

Outlook from Renata's House

So that’s about it for now, next time I write hopefully I’ll have avoided an altercation with a grizzly bear in the mountains (I don’t think there are any), survived frostbite (lows expected to reach -22 °C) and tried Yoga in Saratoga.

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After that long read you deserve some entertainment…..whilst I’ve been here I’ve realised the best things on TV are the adverts. Here are two for you, sadly the first one I was only told about I never saw for real but the second is on all the time…..i’m not saying anything!?

Red House Furniture
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vnOyMSEWNTs

The Shake Weight
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u5ZMACLInG0&feature=related

Posted by Sampri07 13:00 Archived in USA Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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