My marvelous US East Coast trip

7 minute read

This March (2019), I’ve taken 3 weeks off to go travel the US East Coast, see some places along there, visit family I got there and all in all have a great time. On my own. It’s been great and I want to write a bit about this experience. Because I’ve seen and experienced so many things (so many!) my plan is to write a few blogs about them, maybe one by one. In this one, I’m just going to give a brief overview of the whole thing.

Places I’ve been to

I’ve visited, in order:

  • Orlando, Florida;
  • Atlanta, Georgia;
  • Washington, DC;
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania;
  • Boston, Massachusetts

I’ve chosen these places because of the fact they had something very interesting for me to go see, and they built a consistent picture. It was all cities I had never been before. You’d notice I’ve skipped New York City: that’s because I’ve been already there not too long ago and with the limited time I chose to favour all places I had never been before.

I’ve left Edinburgh on the 8th March early morning and reached Florida on the same day at night. I’ve flown to move from one place to the next until DC, where I’ve taken the Northeast Regional Amtrak train to continue instead (which was great).

The Southeast: Orlando & Atlanta

Orlando, the Garden Walk leading to the Universal theme parks.

Florida was warm! I had left Edinburgh at about 5/6 °C and found about 30 °C there, so was quite a change. Orlando was the choice because of the vicinity to the Kennedy Space Center, which I really really wanted to visit, plus I thought it would be fun to go see some theme parks and be in this all-holiday/artificial type of atmosphere. In fact, Orlando is pretty much an artificial place: big roads, big cars, big restaurants (all the chains!), theme parks, everywhere, not just the famous ones. Every corner is an entertainment one. Not my kind of place, but was really fun to experience as a one-off thing.

Atlanta from the Centennial Olympic Park.

Atlanta was a choice because of its important role in the history of the battle for civil rights. In fact, visiting the M. L. King memorial and his birth house, as well as the centre for civil rights was an intense experience.

I’ve visited a bunch of other things in the city as well, like the Georgia Aquarium (largest in the world) and the CNN headquarters. Can’t say that I loved the city per se, though it’s a very interesting place and certainly worth a trip. I’ve learned a lot.

The Northeast: Washington DC, Philadelphia, Boston

I absolutely loved all of the Northeast! Quite a change of scenery and atmosphere with respect to the South. The NE is also where I’ve seen my American family so it is a special place for me. Those three cities I’ve seen are really really great.

The US Capitol in Washington DC.

Washington DC is obviously full of political history. You can visit the US Capitol (for free and with a tour, my guide was amazing!) as well as a lot of other things such as the museums of the Smithsonian Institution, all on the National Mall and all free. I stayed 4 days and I didn’t have the time to go see all of them in detail, so had to skim a bit through some of them. Loved the National Gallery of Art (I even did a tour of Italian Renaissance there, because why not!). Visited Memorials and seen the White House from the outside (unfortunately couldn’t book a tour, however there is a very informative Visitor Centre). Great place.

Philadelphia, South Street.

Ooooh Philly, miss you. The city has such a beautiful skyline. I was staying in Center City, which is near the old historical neighbourhood; I’ve visited all the important landmarks there, had great cheesecakes and sweets, and loved the architecture in red bricks. Really, it’s a very pretty place. As one of the highlights, I’ve visited the Philadelphia Museum of Art which is an absolute marvel: it hosts entire structures within it, such as a Japanese teahouse and a buddhist temple and I had never seen something like this within a museum. Also note that this is the museum of the “Rocky steps” (there’s a statue).

I’ve also visited the Italian market and spoke to a nice lady (granddaughter of Italian immigrants), was really nice, amongst loads of other things.

The Boston skyline from the Longfellow bridge.

Boston is great! It has a pretty “European” feel, in that it’s very walkable, full of history, hosts many great restaurants and cafes, there is a subway. Loved it. I’ve followed the Freedom Trail, walking along historical sites. I’ve been to see Fenway Park, home of the Boston Sox, I’ve had local seafood and loads of great chats with people. I’ve strolled North End, visited the USS Constitution and seen many signs celebrating the Boston Marathon (the oldest one). I’ve also toured both Harvard and the MIT, the latter made me a bit emotional because having studied Physics it is a place of great interest and reminded me of when I was a student.

Things I’ve done: running, experiences, food

Running

Because I’m training for the Edinburgh Marathon happening at the end of May, and have hence been following a plan, I had to keep up the running on holiday. I thought it would be fun to go running around anyway, at least once in each place, so did some efforts to find potential routes in each place.

In Orlando, it was quite difficult because it was generally quite warm and the place where I was staying (the International Drive), despite being very long, has sidewalks that often interrupt all of a sudden and is a big road with much traffic. Anyway, I managed to squeeze 2 5km runs in the morning (around 7am, when the temperature was sitting at about 22 °C).

In Atlanta, on one of the last days I was there, the Marathon was taking place. Out of complete coincidence, I went running myself on that day, around the area where I was staying. Turned out the last miles of the ongoing marathon were taking place there so I ended up running alongside people doing the race! The difference was I’ve done 10km total, they were at their 23rd mile. Was pretty cool anyway.

In Washington, I managed to do a quite satisfactory 15km from my place to the National Mall and around: the first 10km was my best (so far) for that distance, at 50m50s. Was pretty pleased and entered the Museum of Natural History afterwards.

In Philadelphia, my first half Marathon ever! The plan meant I was supposed to do a 20km but I thought I’d just add another more. I went from my place to along to the Schuylkill river, then back: a total of 21km in 1h50m, pretty happy with it. It was a very cold day but sunny and the feeling was great. Part of the route was the same Rocky trains on in the movie as I’ve noticed from watching the movie afterwards.

In Boston, my initial thought was running along the harbor, but I deemed it too cold (was quite freezing cold). I went for a 10km along the Charles Rivers between Boston and Cambridge instead, and was great.

Various experiences & food

Domestic appliances are huge. I am still particularly impressed at the size of microwaves, not sure why they’re so big :D.

I’ve been trying to get a feel of a variety of different things and all in all I’ve seen a lot. History of the country, tech and science, family, sport, politics, sun and pool, ice and freezing, fast food of all sorts, sophisticated food. I spoke to many people and exchanged ideas; I had all awesome experiences with people and added to that, as an Italian in the US I was always getting lots of love. The owner of a diner where I went for pancakes even gave me three pancakes instead of two!

Went to watch an American Football game (this was in Atlanta at Georgia State Stadium): I didn’t get a thing of the game and also was naive enough as to not know they stop at the end of every action for commercials ha! A great afternoon though, and a fun atmosphere.

I travelled with cabin baggage only, which meant I had to pack for a temperature ranging from about 0 °C to about 30 °C in a small space. Well, having lots of experience in packing means I managed to squeeze lots of things in a cabin luggage (even brought back unused stuff), organise myself with stuff you can put on in layers and wash along the way. To be fair, I’m small so my clothes are pretty small so I certainly have a non-negligible advantage.

Had an amazing time, thanks America. Will write more about all this.

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