Travel before the semester

My so-called side travel was undertaken before the fall semester began, from the 1st-28th of August. Onwards from the end of August my exchange studies began at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. Given the large break, the opportunity to travel through the cities of America’s central east coast was essential. So there, I spent two weeks in New York, 4 nights in Washington DC and Chicago, before arriving at Boston.

From entering JFK airport, New York at 2am, it wasn’t the surge of overwhelming happiness I expected. I was jetlagged and could hardly see the city through the window of my cab. For a second I thought it was time to adjust my expectations, but of course things changed by morning. The travel fatigue diminished in days and I began the Big Apple in stereotypical fashion; of course I needed to observe the city from above first:  at the Rockefeller Center observation deck.  The deck has the most amazing view of Central Park, and I later visited there plenty of times, particularly on the more humid days for lunch. Other notable visits included SoHo and the downtown Villages – taking a look at the bohemian culture, which it’s known for.

Ellis Island (Statue of Liberty) was interesting, although I wouldn’t recommend arriving after 1pm unless you’re patient with queues. Walking though Columbia University through to Greenwich Village was interesting, peering through the archetypical Yankee architecture and strolling past TV sets (The Blacklist). But Broadway was outstanding.  Before seeing Chicago and Kinky Boots, like many I had my reservations,  and I didn’t think I was the type for stage musicals. But this changed within minutes of watching the ridiculous talent of these people. But it does come at a hefty price; nonetheless both shows optimised my time in NYC.

On the morning of Robin Williams’ death (it was massive deal over here) I commuted from Penn Station New York, to Washington DC. The capital has similar qualities to Canberra; it’s clean, home to the political gentry and doesn’t necessarily appeal to everybody like New York does. But the one-of-a-kind Smithsonian experience was surreal, particularly the Air & Space Museum – basically every piece of aeronautical space history lives here.  Georgetown,  DC is the perfect oasis to escape the tourist craze in Washington, it’s an old commercial district blending eclectic shops into old town houses, if you travel out there you will be sure to appreciate this town. The view of the Washington monument is breathtaking.

Before visiting Chicago I knew two things – both by reference from New Yorkers – that it’s famous for deep-dish pizza and the evening Blues Clubs.

Thankfully the Hotel was situated between the Downtown and Chicago harbor. Walking distance to the CBD, Millennium Park and the T station. Chicago felt significantly slow paced after NYC & DC. The demographics were different too, there’s an insane number of homeless, on arrival somebody heard my observation and quickly blamed the Wall Street crisis, which was quite funny.

Because the first day was lost to travel delays, we could only squeeze in the House of Blues. The particular musicians we heard had been playing for more than 30 years, a 4-part African American quartet, felt authentic and it was. The venue itself is within the gritty part of Chicago making for an interesting walk home.

We spent the entirety of the following day at the Museum of Contemporary Art; it was interesting to see the impact of the Great Chicago Fire and World War 2 on pop culture and art. The identity of Chicago changed completely following the fire, which destroyed the bulk of Chicago’s infrastructure.

At this point the summer heat was at its peak, the next two days had to be passive, cruising Lake Michigan and watching the symphony orchestra rehearse in Millennium Park.

The last stop before the fall semester started was Boston.  In the evening I watched the Blue Man Group – impossible to explain, but 3 blue painted men in onesies mix music with comedy in the most unusual way possible.

By the end, I was smothered in blue paint and toilet paper. Originally I hoped to purchase a couple of New England Patriots grid iron tickets, but most tickets sell before the season starts…. prices start at $120 anyway. Bostonians are known for their love of their sports teams, we experienced this first hand on the Fenway Park (baseball) tour, through the eyes of a 40-year season ticket holder. By chance, this day I wore without realizing, some New York Yankees stuff, and I could hardly cross the street without being heckled.

The remaining time before orientation I used to find accommodation, with another 3 months to be a tourist….