The Trip 2013 – North Carolina

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Note: This is a condensed version of the pictures I took with some added narrative. The rest of the pics can be viewed in the album The Trip 2013 – North Carolina. Each picture can be clicked to see a larger version and comment / like

After leaving Chicago behind I was desperately in need of some time to R&R before the Central American leg of my trip began, fortunately I was heading to North Carolina where I would be getting just that.

I arrived into Charlotte early afternoon on the 18th of May, due to the flight being domestic I wasnt hassled at immigration for the first time. David Wilson brother of Martin (my travelling buddy and old friend whom I stayed with in DC) met me at the airport and we headed back to his place. Lindsay his wife was up in the mountains filming so we went out and grabbed a bite to eat and sampled some of the local beers.

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I was totally shattered so I went to bed early that night and awoke late the following morning. We had organised to go to Carrowinds, a theme park about 20 minutes away from his home in Charlotte.

carrowinds

We picked a great day to go as the weather wasnt great but that meant that there were far fewer people there and we were able to go on the rides several times in a row often without queueing.

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One of the best rides was a giant swing that simulated free-fall / hang gliding. You have to wear special harnesses and are winched up to the top of a huge tower. After the count of 3.. 2… 1… you pull the rip cord and fall.

I had a great time. We had a go at some of the game stalls during the down time (thunder shuts the rides), David managed to win a basketball and I incredibly managed to remmeber enough of my scool rugby hooker position to throw an american football through a hole and thus win it as a prize.

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All in all a great day

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The following day we woke early, I had a 4 hour train journey to catch to Wilson North Carolina where Lorna (mother of Martin and David) was picking me up and taking me to Greenville, about an hour away from Wilson.

Lorna and Colin live in a beautiful house in Greenville.

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I had a great time there catching up on some much needed sleep and recharging my batteries. Peter (the youngest son of Lorna and Colin) drove all the way down from his home in the mountains (5 hours away) to come visit me. It was really cool to hang out with him again.

We all went out to get some traditional North Carolina bbq one lunch time. Pulled pork and sweet coldslaw with cornbread. I enjoyed the pork and the coldslaw though the bread was a little tough.

pulled pork

Their house had a swimming pool out the back which they very kindly opened early so I could work off some of the callories I had accrewed over the past coupple of weeks of (a little too) tastey American food and beer.

They also still have their elderly gent of a cat Ashley which I remember from the last time I visited 13 years ago.

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After just a few days in Greenville I was off again, taking the train in the rain back to Charlotte.

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The next day was spent with Lindsay (David’s wife) wile David was at work. We decided to head down to the centre of Charlotte where hill billies were gathering for the NASCAR themed Speed Street.

speedstreet

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There was some interesting tens there where we managed to blag a load of free stuff. There was even a Tony the tiger where I managed to get a GRRRREAT thigh rub.

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I even tried funnel cake for the first time which tasted like donut but nicer.

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Unfortunately that was my last day in North Carolina, my flight the next day was taking me to LA where the Central American leg of my journey would be beginning.

I had a great time in NC and it was exactly what I needed, massive thanks to David, Lindsay, Lorna, Colin and Peter for letting me stay and showing me some of the awesome North Carolina.

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The Trip 2013 – Chicago

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Note: This is a condensed version of the pictures I took with some added narrative. The rest of the pics can be viewed in the album The Trip 2013 – Chicago. Each picture can be clicked to see a larger version and comment / like

May the 15th just 8 days after I had started I took a flight from Toronto to Chicago. I was flying into the windy city to see the sights and meet my good uni mate Mark. Mark was due to arrive the following day with a few other friends of his from back in England they were all over here visiting their friend Damien.

I arrived late afternoon and made my way to the hostel I was staying at downtown. This place was quite a change from the hostel in Toronto, it was HUGE. 6 floors of dorms with each dorm being about twice the size of the ones in Toronto. Apparently it is one of the biggest hostels in the world. It felt more like a hotel than a hotel.

That first night I headed north to meet Damien for the first time. We hung out is his local, drinking local beers and Jager (ughh). We went for some food around the corner and I managed to sample Chicago style pizza, which is odd with the tomato and cheese positioning reversed so the cheese is on the bottom with tomato on top. It tasted great still.

The following day I spent downtown doing some touristy things. I visited the flagship McDonalds:

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I spent some time down by the waterfront updating my diary.

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I saw some wierd mushroom buildings.

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The city was really beautiful, helped by the fact that there was tons of bushes in bloom:

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That evening I met up with Mark and the lads and we went out for drinks downtown. I met some more of Damien’s friends including a girl named Angee who is Venezuelan and informed me that if I go to Venezuela I am totally going to get mugged / raped, oh joy.

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We went to some really cool bars. One called the Rooftop in the Wit had a violinist who riffed along to the house music that the DJ was spinning out, I was in heaven.

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Needless to say that was a tough night for the lads with jetag.

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The following day we went to watch the Cubs loose to the Mets

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It was fun tho I think I prefer ice hockey over baseball, far more action in hockey. It doesnt help that the wind was really cold making where we were sat in the shade even colder.

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Still, the beer and nachos helped. Mark and Damien even went for the $18 helmet of them.. mental

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After the game we headed across the road to Sluggers, which is a bar with batting nets.

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That was really good fun, I have always enjoyed getting involved with sports more than watching them. The fastball nets however were really tough. The ball comes at you at about 60mph which is fairly slow compared to the real pitchers, but unlike the real thing you have no clue when the ball is about to leave the machine. Also unlike the real thing your belly is full of beer, making things trickier :P

The rest of the evening was spent getting messy. At one point we spotted a group of people who were taking their parrot for a walk. I dont think I have ever seen more emotional in an animal than this bird. Just by looking at its eyes you could tell what it was thinking, it was really fascinating.

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A fitting end to to a great stay in the windy city. I rose early the next day to catch a flight to my next destination; North Carolina!

The Trip 2013 – Toronto

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Note: This is a condensed version of the pictures I took with some added narrative. The rest of the pics can be viewed in the album The Trip 2013 – Toronto. Each picture can be clicked to see a larger version and comment / like

After a short 3 day stop in Washington DC next up on my list was Toronto Canada. I knew I had about 5 days to kill following Washington. I had heard from several people that Toronto is a cool city to visit so I thought why not, I wasn’t disappointed.

I was nervous arriving as this would be my first time staying in a hostel by myself and thus I wasnt sure how a lot of things worked or whether I would be able to make friends. Fortunately within only a few minutes of arriving I met one of my dorm-mate, a great guy called Heeday.

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He invited me long to a meetup he had organised with a local to Toronto through Couchsurfing. We went down to the distillery district to meet a truly lovely girl named Mindy.

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She showed us around and told us a bit more about Toronto and Canada in general. We went to the Mill Street brewery for some beer sampling. They had some odd stuff there like beer soap, which smelt unsurprisingly like beer, not sure why you would want to rub that all over your body.

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After some beer sampling we headed to an Ethiopian restaurant for some traditional Ethiopian grub. It was tasty tho im not sure I really enjoyed the foamy / sponge like bread that you eat it with.

That evening was spent sipping some local beer and meeting some more of the other residents in the Hostel.

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The following day Heeday and I headed off to watch the Toronto Marlies play ice hockey.

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The game was awesome and we were sat right down on the front row, nearest the action. The game was great, plenty of action and violence.

Its quite a hard game to follow because its so fast and action packed. At one point during the game I lost track of the puck, the next thing I know I feel a sharp pain on my shin. I bend down and pick up a puck. Incredibly the thing had somehow sailed over the barrier without me noticing and hitting me in the leg.

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That evening Heeday had organised another meetup with some people that were organizing a Japanese meet and greet. It was an interesting evening talking to a whole bunch of Japanese people tho a lot of work due to their lack of English speaking skills and the volume in the place.

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Later in the evening Mindy drove down and met us and we went next door and ate some Korean food which was similar to Vietnamese / Chinese food. We decided to try some Korean wine too which turned out to taste really very strange and when left to stand “looks like spunk”.

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The following day was really cold, it even hailed on Heeday and I as we wondered around town.

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I managed to get some shots of the CN Tower, the tallest building in Toronto. I even managed to squeeze a thigh rub in

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We tried to go to the St Laurence Market in Toronto which apparently is one of the biggest food markets in the world. We should however have checked online first as it was closed on Sundays.

That evening was spent in the hostel watching the Toronto Maple Leafs play hockey on TV.

The following day I spent by myself walking around Toronto. I went to a huge LCBO (off license) and bought some wierd and wonderful beers

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The next day I woke early with a killer hangover. I forced myself to get up as it was my last day in Toronto and I was going to go and see the Niagra falls. It was definitely worth it as it was an incredible view.

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I even took a boat trip out right to the edge of the falls and got completely soaked despite the plastic coats they give you.

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It was a fitting end to an awesome stay in an awesome city. The next up on my trip, Chicago!