6 Week America Road Trip in 3 Minutes!

The world of travel may be different as we know it, but to satisfy those blues check out my America road trip recap on my YouTube channel!

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Make sure you read the below posts too:

The California Travel Diaries | Welcome to San Francisco

30 Lessons I Learned As a Brit in America

A New York Minute | Day 38 – 44

30 Lessons I Learned As a Brit in America

Being a Brit in the USA can have it’s perks. It’s easy to strike up conversation, as people seem to instantly like you for your “cute” accent. However, it can also be quite interesting to be a Brit in the USA for other reasons. Here is a list of things that I wish someone had told me before I visited America for the first time, as well as some of the downright obvious differences between the two!

Everyday Life

  • Everything is back to front. The doors lock on the opposite way to the U.K. This is a good reminder if you’re fumbling at the door with your keys at 2am whilst slightly inebriated…
  • Washing machines are not in the kitchen, but are in a separate room
  • Only the minority of people hang their washing outside (at least in California). This was very surprising considering California is one of the hottest states, yet everyone uses tumble dryers – even in the Summer. In comparison, there are us Brits who run outside when it’s raining to collect the washing from the line, come Winter or Summer!
  • All cash looks deceivingly similar. Just use your Monzo or Starling card to save the hassle for larger purchases, and save your dollar bills for tipping
  • TV adverts come on (what feels like) every 5 minutes in America
  • Farmer’s Markets are a great way to support local businesses, save money and have an enjoyable evening out
  • Kettles just aren’t a thing in the USA
  • Plug outlets don’t have on and off switches, unlike the U.K.
  • Marijuana is legal in some states
  • Even me (a very positive and optimistic person), fairs slightly cynical in comparison to my American counterparts
  • Despite the same language, the lingo is quite different. My brother’s wife (an American herself), sent me this message me before we travelled and I’m glad she did!
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Driving

  • To rent a car you typically need to be at least 25. If you are younger than this, expect to pay heftier prices!
  • In the U.K. you drive on the left hand side of the road, vs in the States you drive on the right hand side. I did have one scary but short incident, where we accidentally drove on the wrong side of the road. Luckily (or not as it may be) it was dark and there were no other cars around
  • You can turn right on a red light
  • Everyone pretty much drives an automatic car in America vs. “stick” (manual) which Brits learn to drive on!
  • When filling up petrol, prepay first with your card or go into the petrol station and say how many dollars worth, you want to fill up your tank. Proceed to fill up your car’s tank, clicking the button to hold up the pump. If you filled up less than you paid for, go back into the store and collect the change
  • Some streets have cleaning days; remember to read the signs and move your car if necessary to not get fined
  • Read the parking signs everywhere and double check with passers by so your car doesn’t get towed…! (3 guesses what happened to me)
  • You don’t pay for parking in shopping malls unlike the U.K.

Tipping

  • In the U.K. a standard tip is 10% for your meal. Although, I was aware that tipping is a big part of hospitality culture, I learned that (roughly) you should tip 15%= good service, 18% = great service and 20% = excellent service
  • Tip a dollar per beer, but more if you’re ordering (a complex to make) cocktail, like a Mojito
  • What I didn’t know is how to tip. For anyone who hasn’t been to America I’ll state what seems obvious to Americans. If paying by card, when the waiter comes out to collect payment, don’t input your card pin straight away. The restaurant/bar will scan your card first, The waiter will return with a receipt for you to write down how much you are paying plus the tip. The tip will be collected from your account at a later date. In the U.K. just add your tip at the end of the meal either by cash or card, and it will be taken at the same time!

Going Out

  • Baseball fans of opposing teams sit all mixed together in the stadium, rather than on separate sides like they do in the U.K for football matches
  • (As a tourist) if you wish to buy an alcoholic drink at any baseball game etc., take your passport with you. Without it you won’t be served even if you have another form of identification, such as your driving license
  • You need to ask for “ice water”, if you would like some water with ice
  • Expect to pay more at the end of your meal, as tax is added on afterwards
  • The National Parks are huge and amazing! Plan to spend extra time to really explore these beauty spots
  • Be safe and ask for recommendations from locals or hospitality staff, on which areas or streets to avoid on your travels
  • Buy travel insurance to cover any medical costs – unlike the wonderful NHS, health insurance is essential in America
  • There is and never will be an establishment that compares to a British pub!

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A New York Minute | Day 38 – 44

Five jam packed weeks had passed since we first arrived in New York. Throughout those five weeks my boyfriend and I had a trip of a lifetime driving around California, wine tasting until our hearts were content, taking wonderful hikes and exploring many, many beaches. We had seen a lot and were running low on energy. In hindsight, we should have planned our week in New York at the start of our California trip, when we were fresh faced and full of energy. When we returned to the city at the end of our trip, it was mid-July and the humidity was a challenge within itself. Nonetheless, boy did I fall in love with New York! It was a change of pace in comparison to California, but the city has an unwavering energy, incredible views and mouthwatering pizza which was better than anything I could have imagined.

Wednesday 18th July – Day 38
After our one night stay in Manhattan Beach we packed our belongings for one of the last times into our suitcases. We were quite excited to return our car back to the rental company as it meant our last week would (hopefully) be relatively stress free, as we could rely on New York’s subway system and walk everywhere. Charlie from Marriage Story definitely had a point about being able to walk around New York vs sitting in LA traffic!

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The view from our apartment

We had a really pleasant flight with Delta Airlines from LAX to JFK – flying domestically is so easy in the States! As soon as we arrived on the East Coast we ordered an Uber to our new accommodation in Astoria. We had learned from the mistake we had made when we first arrived in New York back in June, where we decided to stupidly walk from New York’s Jamaica stop at 11PM for 40 minutes to our somewhat dodgy Airbnb. This time around, we took an easy Uber ride and lugged our (now much heavier) suitcases up 5 flights of stairs to our new temporary home. Although we built up a sweat, it was worth it for the view of New York from our apartment. After a day of travelling, we kicked off our shoes and began our New York stay setting the precedent of what was to come with some pizza.

Thursday 19th July – Day 39
It was a hot day in New York but that didn’t stop us from exploring. It had been a couple of weeks since we were able to do some laundry and the idea of dragging our cases to a local laundromat was unappealing. I was running out of stuff to wear, so used this as the perfect excuse to take a seat on the Subway to Prince Street to do some light shopping. Afterwards we decided to have our first meal of the day as it was already lunch time. Nonetheless, with only a few precious days left of our trip, my boyfriend and I were determined to try the best pizza joints in town. On that list was Rubirosa, where I enjoyed one of the best meals I have ever had. During the meal I noticed how every single customer shared the exact same testament. Every first bite was followed by satisfactory lips being smacked and expressions of pure delight. After the best pizza of my life, we continued some shopping at Century 21 picking up some gifts for family members along the way.

82544176_471096640255041_7218135090063212544_nNew York, July 2018

Walking around New York is fascinating, down every road there is something happening and each street has its own vibe. One of the most humbling experiences was paying tribute to those lost in 9/11 at the Memorial.

That day, a steam pipe burst in the Flat Iron district which was then deemed unsafe to visit for a few days until it was resolved. So we grabbed a pint at O’Hara before catching the subway home and picked up some basic groceries to get us by the next few days.

Friday 20th July – Day 40
This was one of my favorite days in New York as we ventured around Manhattan. Imagining my lifestyle on this elegant side of the pond, we strolled around 5th Avenue choosing which house would be ours when we make the big bucks. This being one of the most expensive streets to live on in the world, it would require a few wins of the lottery too! For lunch we went to the bar Jeffery and enjoyed the Happy Hour deal of a sandwich and a pint. Here you can easily catch the Roosevelt Island Tramway if you want to explore Roosevelt Island. Instead we had a wander around Central Park on a glorious Summer’s day and watched the world go by; local teams playing a game of Baseball, many a picnic being shared, runners getting their miles in, it was a different side to the city.

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Me in Central Park

Late afternoon we had a drink at the Empire Hotel Rooftop Bar which turns out to be the bar where Gossip Girl was filmed! You get a fab view of the city from here and I wish I visited more rooftop bars during my visit to NYC. Sadly this was the last hot day of the weekend and I had a pounding headache so we didn’t do much that evening.

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The view from the Empire Hotel

Saturday 21st July – Day 41
Waking up refreshed but to a more cloudy and overcast New York, it was evident a rainstorm was brewing. Until then we took advantage of the weather and had a day out in central New York. By our subway stop in Astoria there was the Brooklyn Bagel & Coffee Company, where we bought a wrap and panini for brunch and caught the next train to Times Square. I am a huge theatre fan and have always wanted to see Chicago on stage. Cuba Gooding was doing a stint in London but we thought it would be a great show to watch on Broadway. Before the show began we went to Faces & Names and spoke to the bargirls who gave us some great recommendations for the next few days! I love how friendly people can be to tourists, it’s so useful particularly when you only have a few days to explore a city.

I really enjoyed the show but I think I put too much pressure on the casting and expected Catherine Zeta Jones and Renée Zellweger to come out! I’ve seen that Erika Jayne is now playing Roxie Hart and I would love to see that if I had the chance.

When we left the theatre, the weather was turning so we had a drink at Valhalla then chose to go back nearer to Astoria. We kept up with the pizza diet at Milkflower and certainly weren’t disappointed. Soon after, the rain had started pouring so we had a cocktail at Sweet Afton before running home for refuge.

Sunday 22nd July – Day 42
On Sunday we explored Chelsea and began the day with our new found favourite, Breakfast Bagel & Coffee Company. We travelled to see The Statue of Liberty, took a wander around Chelsea Market where nearby I found some amazing fitting Free People denim shorts (which I grabbed learning from my Palm Springs regrets!) There is so much to do and see in this area and would recommend it to anyone! This was also the perfect timing as it was set to be thunderstorming later on that day. That afternoon, we had a shmooze around Ganservoot Market and a drink at a Dutch Bar called Trinken. When the rain came pouring down we spent the evening having drinks and playing games in a Barcade followed by a Chinese takeout. Initially this was meant to be our last night in New York before we flew back home, however due to issues with our flight we stayed one extra day. This was somewhat lucky as I don’t think I could have flown after all this alcohol, but it was also somewhat unlucky as our limited budget led us to a risky choice to stay in a not so chic area of Brooklyn.

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Brooklyn

Monday 23rd July – Day 43
The next morning we left our loft apartment with the incredible view, trudged our suitcases down the 5 or 6 flights of stairs and got an uber to the subway station. Paying homage to our new found favourite café we had one last breakfast wrap and braced ourselves for the subway journey. As good as New York transport is, it is not made for suitcases filled with 6 weeks’ worth of belongings. I recall thinking that hoisting our suitcases on this journey was more challenging than hiking in Yosemite! We arrived in our Airbnb to an area of Brooklyn that we clearly hadn’t researched and was one of the most rough areas to stay in. Although the apartment was decorated nicely, I’m pretty sure the host didn’t clean or change the bed sheets over from the previous guest. We were grateful we were only staying there for one night. As soon as we dropped off our bags we went into more central Brooklyn checking out DUMBO and Manhattan Bridge as we walked along the Hudson River. For dinner we ate at the famous Grimaldi’s; at least the New York city food never let us down.

Pizza

Pizza at Grimaldi’s

Tuesday 24th July – Day 44
For our last 24 hours in New York we planned to do a half day of exploring. However, this was by far the hottest and most humid day so far in New York. As soon as we stepped outside the sweat began to pour down our faces. With only a few hours left before we were to leave America we soldiered on. First we took shelter in Bagelsmith at Williamsburg for a famous bagel. We walked around a few vintage clothing stores around Bushwick. Soon enough the humidity was too unpleasant so we hit up another bar, this time Sea Wolf, before getting the subway back into more central New York to finish off with one last pizza slice at Joe’s Pizza – a staple in the pizza list before it was time to bid goodbye to our New York adventure.

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DUMBO

It had been an eventful six week long journey across California and New York, where we had only touched the surface of what America has to offer. Some may argue that this isn’t “real” America, but for us it was the taste of travel that we needed and we created memories to cherish for a lifetime. I’d highly recommend an extended travel trip that goes beyond your average holiday. You learn to budget, meet cool and interesting people, learn about yourself through some difficult times and open your eyes to more of the world, broadening your thinking. I can definitely understand how people get the travel bug particularly during their 20’s.

Thank you for following me throughout this travel series, I hope that you enjoyed it!

I would love to know where is somewhere you have always wanted to go? When will you make the time to do it? Where should I go next?

If you enjoyed this series you should check out:

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The California Travel Diaries |Solvang to Santa Barbara

Since my teen years I always dreamed of a road trip around California and it remained as only a dream for quite some time. It was an idea, a “once in a lifetime” opportunity you may say. Something I thought I wouldn’t be able to actually afford or do in my 20’s. If I’m perfectly honest, I never really had any intentions of traveling at all during this period of my life, apart from the odd beach break here and there – especially after finally getting a good job out of university. I thought that I would wait for the perfect timing to go on such an adventure. Two years soon passed as a graduate and I quickly learned that the “perfect” timing to do anything, travel included, doesn’t quite exist and cannot be controlled. Instead, I could be in control of saving up some money, carefully planning my route and gaining some courage to do something that I always wanted to do. As confident and open minded as I am, I must admit that leaving the comfort of routine and predictability behind was quite a scary idea … even if it was only for a matter of a few weeks or months. That being said, this trip was the best decision I’ve made in a long time.

If you’re new to this travel series, you catch up on my journey so far here. If you’re keeping up to date with me, I last left you in San Luis Obispo. I next took a quick detour to Solvang, where the famous Californian golden sun was shining bright as I walked through a real life Hans Christen Anderson storybook. Solvang is a town where Danish-American’s settled, and a tribute to the author is paid through the Hans Christian Anderson museum. My boyfriend and I spent some time mooching around the stores, enjoying Danish pastries and soaking up some sun, before heading over the Santa Ynez Mountains to Santa Barbara.

As we drove to our next stop, you could be forgiven for thinking that you were in Europe rather than America. The Mediterranean style apartments with their red roofs and white walls hold a stark similarity to it’s Croatian friend across the pond. The Spanish influence is also particularly strong and is evident within the laid back, community feel to the town; a familiar feeling throughout typical Californian lifestyle and Santa Barbara is certainly no exception.

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On route to the Summer Solstice Festival

The Basics

When? I visited Santa Barbara in late June for 2 days over Summer Solstice weekend.

Weather? June gloom! It was around 22 degrees but the sun had gone away and only reappeared as we left.

Accommodation? Airbnb about 5 minutes drive away from the centre.

To Do? Beaches, Hikes, Rainbow Monument, Casa del Herrero, Stearns Wharf, Presidio of Santa Barbara, Botanical Garden, Lotusland, Deep Sea Tasting Room and more!

To Eat & Drink? Funk Zone, Paxi, Smithys, Wine Therapi, Cold Spring Tavern

We arrived in Santa Barbara unfortunately during the June Gloom period where grey, overcast skies mirrored the English climate far too much for my liking. Luckily for the optimist within me, this wasn’t enough to dampen my mood. The Summer Solstice Festival was in full swing, so we dropped off our bags at our Airbnb and quickly drove down to catch the end of the Parade at Almeda Park. Soon realising that lots of dancing, drinks and good times were to be had, we swiftly returned back to our Airbnb to park our rental car and caught an Uber instead. The entrance fee to the Summer Solstice festival was $20 which entitled us to one drink each, if my memory serves me correctly. Hungry from all the excitement, we ate some Greek food and danced the afternoon away with a few cold ones in hand. After a few hours of people watching, dancing, singing along to some songs, we then strolled along the streets into town and made the most of not having to drive, by getting another drink at Smithy’s. This was a recommended bar from a fellow blogger, that I too would definitely suggest if you’re stopping over in Santa Barbara. For dinner we chose pizza at Paxi and ended with a night cap at Wine Therapi where we listened to more live music (Oh how I loved Santa Barbara – I think I say that about every stop in this series!)

A wedding taking place in the grounds of Santa Barbara County Court House

Our Airbnb host recommended that we go to Cold Spring Tavern for a famous tri-tip sandwich, so the next day we headed on over to this Western style saloon. This eatery is located on a scenic mountainside where families and a ton of (friendly) bikers visit. We filled up on a sandwich along with, wait for it… even more live music! We then decided to use up all that energy on a hike to Inspiration Point. If you have the chance to do this whilst you are in Santa Barbara, I would recommend to complete the hike when there is bit more sun out. Although this sadly was not an option for us, we did enjoy some good old fashioned air as well as having the opportunity to just talk and take in some beautiful Californian nature. After cooling off back home, we explored more of the town in the afternoon from Stearns Wharf, East Beach to Butterfly Beach. We even saw a panoramic view of the town whilst a wedding was happening in the grounds of the County Court House! We then topped off our visit with a date night out bowling. Even though my visit to Santa Barbara was short and sweet, it definitely made a long-standing impression on me. I know for sure that I’ll definitely be back to see it again, especially to capture my missed Instagram opportunity by the colourful Paseo steps!

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