Highlights of the Eastern US & Canada

Arriving the first day in New York I was so hot, 30 degrees or more. I waited
to meet my tour group in the evening, 4 Austrians, 3 Germans, 2 Russians and
3 Australians – very surprised I was the only English one! All the Aussies
were solo travelers, and I spent most my time with them, although all the
others spoke good English and were also nice. Every time I was in a hotel I
was put in a room with a similarly aged girl from Melbourne, she was
lovely so we decided to share a tent every night we camped as well.

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So on our first day of exploration we got a free ferry to Staton Island where we went past the Statue of Liberty and got a great view of the city skyline on our return to Manhattan Island.

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But it wasn’t long before we were on the bus heading to Philadelphia for lunch. I saw the site of the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the Liberty Bell as well
as trying a traditional Phili Cheesesteak from a cart on the sidewalk (freshly cooked meat in a cheesy roll, yum). Then before we knew it we were on our way to Washington DC.
We set up camp in a trailer park (very different to European campsites in that we were potentially the only ones with tents, but it had a pool do no complaints!) In the evening our guide drove us around the city to see everything lit up, such as the Washington Monument, the White House and the Lincoln Memorial.

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The next day we had all day to explore the city, so first we went to see the Jefferson Memorial and from there you could even see the Pentagon.  Then I went to the Air and Space Museum to see the Hubble Telescope and Amelia Earhearts plane as well as suits and ships from the Apollo landings, Natural History Museum, National Art Gallery, the White House, the Capitol Hill Building and the FBI headquarters, but all this in the 30 degree heat soon made me tired so the pool was a must on our return to the campsite, while our driver made us some yummy burgers on the BBQ.

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The next day we headed to Allegheny National Park, but it poured with rain and we arrived quite late so we didn’t see much at all and ended up making the most of Taco Tuesday at a local bar, followed by drinks with some crazy red neck locals – definitely an interesting experience!  The following day however was much more satisfying with a visit to the incredible Niagara Falls.

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Included in the trip was the Maid of the Mist boat tour that takes you right up next to the falls and the spray from the water absolutely soaks you – even with the complimentary bright coloured ponchos given to you at the start! We all looked pretty attractive to say the least!  That night I made dinner for the tour group as it was a participation camping experience where everyone takes turns.  I marinating lots of fish pieces our guide had bought, and it was nice. Every day we got a really enjoyable breakfast of cereal, fruit, yoghurt, Nutella and bagels, I was in my element and naturally stuffed loads in my bag to last me the day haha. We set up camp in the afternoon at another nice park again and headed to town of Niagara to see the evening light show on the falls. They projected multicoloured lamps onto the falls so they looked like a rainbow. The town itself is crazy, like a giant amusement park and a kind of mini Vegas as this is the first place gambling is legal in the USA. I went on a big ferris wheel with a friend and saw the whole city and falls from above, it was wonderful for just 10 bucks.

Day 6 we went to Toronto. We didn’t get much time to explore here at all as our guide always wanted to get to campsite early so he could “chill out”. At this point we started to realise maybe he wasn’t a good guide at all, he didn’t really know where anything was or seemed to be very enthusiastic about his job, but luckily we were all independent enough to make sure we got the most out of each stop.   In Toronto I had my first experience of blueberry pancakes with Canadian maple syrup and fresh lemonade, it was amazing but sooooo filling, as was everything I was starting to realise – portions are veeery different on this continent! That night the Aussies made chicken skewers that night that was scrumptious, followed by marshmallows around the fire.

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Day 7 we went to Algonquin National Park. It was so huge that there was actually a highway to get around it. This was bear country so we had to lock all the stuff in the van so bears didn’t come sniffing out our tents! It was hard to explore or hike as you needed to drive to get to a hike. The second day there though was awesome. We rented canoes and went out for 4 hours across these giant lakes surrounded by peaceful wilderness, was so beautiful. I went for a swim in the lake too but it was very cold.

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We then went for a short hike later around a beaver dammed lake which was pretty interesting and impressive but unluckily we didn’t see any beavers.  The nights were pretty cold here in the tents, but we made it through with the help of the fire and marshmellows to build up our fat reserves 😉

The following day we headed to Ottowa to see the parliament building then on to Montreal. Our guide drive us to the Olympic park and through the city and eventually dropped us in town, where myself, the Aussies and Austrians went to a German pub for dinner and sangria. We went for cocktails after in the art district which was cool too. The next day was free to explore Montreal alone. I stuck with the Aussies again and we climbed the hill aptly names Mont Real where the city gets its name – nearly 200m high. It was a tough walk in the heat but the views were more than worth it! We then made our way back down through the city down the harbour, passing lots of churches and museums.  We drank sangria by the sea and then explored the Latin quarter which was so vibrant and buzzing, like a 24/7 festival.

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Day 11 was a long drive to Boston. Half way we stopped at Ben and Jerry’s ice cream factory where we got to sample cookies and cream and be toured around to see house ice cream is made. Was a crazy place but well worth the visit.

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We finally got to Boston at 5pm, and we immediately set off for a baseball game in the city – the Red Sox vs. the Anaheim Angels. It was very fun, especially buying merchandise so we looked like real fans, but really nothing like football, everyone is always just wondering around getting food and missing most of the game, very strange!

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The following morning was allotted to exploring Boston, so we first visited the infamous Harvard University, followed by independently walking the Freedom Trail.  We got to see so much history like the Boston Tea Party and the revolution; I even got to meet a very friendly naval officer!

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That afternoon we drove to Cape Cod, where the rich go to holiday, we went here via Plymouth where the Mayflower landed with the first pilgrims. We had a whole day after in Cape Cod to explore/chill out, the town was cute but also very strange as it was heavily Portuguese and gay friendly with rainbow flags lining all the streets. Unfortunately our guide couldn’t explain any of this but it definitely made the whole town very charismatic and enjoyable.  In the afternoon we went to the beach near the campsite which was gorgeous and an excellent way to relax and read, a refreshing change from the constant moving on and exploring we had been doing.  Was a bit nervous of the sea at first as there were lots of “Recent Shark Sightings” signs up…great white sharks! But eventually the heat was too much and the sea was simply a requirement! Even got to see some seals that came right up to the shore, was awesome.

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The last days were back to New York which took a loooong time, 8hrs travelling in total! We stopped in a town called Mystic, where Julia Roberts filmed Mystic Pizza, was cute. That evening the group all had a last dinner together in a snazzy Italian wine bar where we enjoyed freshly made pasta, bloody brilliant! I then went to the Rockefeller centre with the German couple and got fantastic views of the city skyline at night and really enjoyed seeing everything lit up.

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The following day was spent meeting old friends, while managing to explore at the same time, ticking off Central Park, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Natural History Museum, Jacky Kennedy Reservoir, The Empire State building, Times Square, Central Station and Fifth Avenue and Madison Avenue with all the expensive posh shops, and I even got to see the Hotel where Home Alone 2 was filmed!

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I had such a brilliant time on this trip with gadventures, and met some really wonderful people! I would definitely like to go to some of these places again and spend more time taking it all in.  Washington DC was really beautiful, with such wonderfully white building against blue skies and green grass, and Montreal really made you feel like you were back in France.  And then of course Niagara Falls and New York were fantastic places to experience up close. Overall it was worth every penny!

 

 

 

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About wilsoemi

A 1st Class Biological Sciences graduate, with a Masters degree in Conservation Biology. Dedicated to nature and conservation, with over three years voluntary experience in environmental and conservation charities and NGO's. Currently working for the World Society for the Protection of Animals and volunteering for London Wildlife Trust.
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