I got back from the States on Sunday night. Still haven't quite recovered. It was great to have three weeks away and see such amazing stuff. The Grand Canyon is very big, and sequoia trees are too. Lots of big things. However, I'm not going to run through my holiday here as that is dull for 99% of you, so instead, here are my observations of America:
- There is lots of good seafood to be had along the California coast. However, all restaurant owners seem compelled to call themselves Italian or Irish or something.
- Driving is generally ok, although everyone speeds. On the highways and interstates the speed limits seem to only apply to tourists. In fact people get a bit angry if you stick to it, or 10mph above. Also, the signs are rubbish. No warning for motorway turnoffs, and as for the cities? Urgh.
- Talking of the roads, they are long, straight, and pretty boring. A lot of them are in a sorry state of repair, even the big highways. Not as bad as the ones in Moscow, but pretty poor. It's quite bizarre though, being the only car on a fairly main highway in the middle of the day.
- There are far, far more poor people than I imagined. Lots of homeless in the cities (especially San Francisco), and loads of little towns along the highways where people are living in crappy corrugated iron houses with smashed-up cars in the garden. This seemed to be the norm in the more desert areas of California, and pretty much everywhere in Nevada and Arizona. The level of poverty in some people seems much worse than in the UK. Utah, on the other hand, seems really quite nice. No evidence of poor housing there, although I'm sure there is some, somewhere.
- They still use lots of polystyrene (or 'styrofoam', as they call it). Coffee cups, takeaway containers... loads of it. It's like the 80's
- Everyone is very friendly, or at least the 'real' people you meet are. The people in shops and restaurants seem the same as here, or perhaps a little worse, when it comes to being friendly. The US customs people have a real problem though. Jeez, it's like you're the scum of the Earth when you walk though there
- American TV is insane. There are adverts every two seconds. And the news? I knew Fox News was pretty bad, but even CNN had items called things like 'Know Your Enemy' about the meeting of non-aligned nations in Cuba. People like Hugo Chávez were presented as 'hating America'. Man, no wonder a lot of Americans have mad ideas about the world! I thought CNN was meant to be a serious news source. I think they tone it down for the UK and the rest of the world and make it more sensible.
- It's almost impossible to eat healthily if you depend on diners etc. for breakfast. It's pancake with syrup, or bacon, or anything else that's fried
- Vegas is mad, in a great way. You really have to see it.
- Petrol is really, really cheap. However, beer isn't really
I'm sure there's more. I had a great time. Some of the sights were pretty amazing. I've got lots of photos that I will put on Flickr soon, that way I can show you the amazingness rather than having to describe it.
Christmas in New Zealand, birthday in the US - makes me feel quite the international traveller! I've been feeling a bit odd since I got back though - not really had a chance to get over the jet lag, I think. I've found myself having strange emotional bursts, like being bothered a bit too much that some people hadn't remembered my birthday, which is unlike me. I need some sleep...