Travel - United States

  • Texas - Big Bend National Park

    Not a whole pile to say on the drive to get to Big Bend. I stayed in Albquerque as a stop point, passed by Walter White's house and then stayed in Alpine for the two nights as it was one of the closer areas to the park that I could afford. I say closer but it still took at least 70 minutes to drive to the park.

    Alpine is just a small rural town basically. Not a whole pile of anything there. I was hoping I'd be able to head out at night, drive the car somewhere particularly dark and check out how the star gazing was as that part of Texas is particularly well known for that. Unfortunately I was around when there was a full moon so that never really happened, the moon was incredibly bright. So without that, it was very much all about checking out Big Bend during the day.

    So I spent two full days in Big Bend. I thought on both days I'd do a few hikes but in the end I actually decided to spend the first day driving around the West and East side as they are very far apart and it'd let me spend the last day up on the mountainy area. Also there wasn't a whole pile of long hikes in those particular areas. It was mostly viewpoints that you could stop at and take a look around. There were some short ones but honestly I didn't find them too interesting, maybe it was because they were shorter. The last place I stopped at was a fossil exhibition which was pretty cool. I have to say as a kid I loved dinosaurs but I feel like every new scientific study makes them look worse so I've lost a bit of interest. Still though they had some cool fossils (or at least replicas) of a bunch of stuff like a T-Rex skull.

    On the second day I got up early and headed straight to the central area. I planned on doing the South Rim Trial which takes they say takes about 8 hours so I wanted to make sure I'd plenty of time. Obviously I found this one a lot more interesting because it's actually a bit of a workout, it involves a nice bit of going up and down hill so you don't need to be in great shape but still, it'll take you a while. A lot of it is quite nice but it is the area when you get to the South Rim that's particularly amazing. It's also the perfect spot to sit down, enjoy the breeze and take in the view. You can just see this huge drop and the landscape going for miles. It's well worth the trek out to rest there. I'm probably being a little harsh on the rest of the landscape but it's just because that's so clearly the highlight. There are still lots of different areas you go through along with several trails you can go on while doing the south rim trail so there is plenty to do and plenty of campgrounds to stay in too if you want to do more.

  • Okay, this is probably going to be rough as I've been so lazy and it's been a while.

    San Antonio

    I spent a day here meeting up with a friend who was nice enough to show me around the place. I met up with him and one of his friends early in the morning to grab some breakfast in Blanco Cafe. Extremely popular place and really good if you're looking for a Mexican fix.

    After that we drove to the Alamo, which was a pivotal fortress during the Texan Revolution. You're free to walk around the area, check out some buildings and read information on it. I believe there is a charge to get into the building itself but we didn't even bother to check as there was a huge queue.

    From there, the waterfront is pretty close by and it's really nice and chilled out walk along the river. it allows you to cover a lot of that area without going near a road and there are plenty of places to shop, eat and drink and I think that's a good way of thinking of San Antonio from what I experienced. The city was just very chilled out. I wouldn't say there was anything in particular that was amazing there but it seemed like a good place to hang out with people.

    The last main thing we did was go to the Japanese gardens. The area was pretty busy but there was a lot of different paths around and a big open area with paths going through the pond. Of course I got myself some BBQ while I was there (can't remember the name of the place for the life of me) and the very last thing I did was play a few rounds of the Puyo Puyo Tetris demo before heading off to Austin.


    The good start here is that I finally found myself a hostel which was nice as I'd definitely been spending more than I wanted on accommodation.

    I actually don't have a huge amount to say about Austin. It's a very cool place that would be a lot of fun with friends. Every night there is some live music, there are a load of food trucks and just good food around the place. I wasn't around for long and I wasn't really interesting in heading out drinking with the crowd that was in the hostel. I'm not the most social person and this is more apparent towards the end of the trip.

    The main thing I did was head to Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge where thousands of bats come out at sunset. While it was very cool to see, the bats did seem to come out pretty late so they were actually very difficult to see. It was only the boat spotlights hovering under the bridge that allowed me to see hundreds of them come out. Obviously it would have been better if they came out maybe 20 minutes earlier when it was a little brighter but it could have just been bad season timing.

    By the way the name of the place was Hostel 512 and I would recommend it.

  • Louisiana


    I was actually told to stay here by my sister as she had done a relatively similar road trip from Vegas a few years back and stayed in the Blue Moon Saloon. They had dorms so I was happy and it was very much a country home style place. They also had live music and a bar too but they don't seem to have shows on Sundays (I think it was a national holiday too).

    For breakfast, I got myself the cajun eggs Benedict which was pretty damn interesting. I believe I got it in the French Press cafe. Not something I'd get every day but I enjoyed it. Can have a little weird after taste at times.

    And I went out towards Martin Lake where you were able to go on a few small trails (it was raining so I didn't go too far, although the first photo from Louisiana is from there and I really like that one) and you can go on some swamp tours. I went with Champagne's Cajun Swamp Tours and I was lucky enough that the skies cleared up once we started. I believe the tour went on for 90 minutes, maybe longer and it was pretty good. You'll see a lot of birds, alligators and the guides are very insightful on the landscape and animals in the area so I'd say it's worth it. Although now that i think about it, you could also rent a kayak and that would be a cool way to go around too.

    New Orleans

    So, 4000 miles later and this was the end of the road trip part of my travels and New Orleans is a very unique place to finish off in the south. It has a lot to offer, you might think of it just as a party city but it really is a beautiful city to check out due to the variety in the districts, the history, the culture. It's very cool.

    I spent the majority of my first day in the French quarter. This is generally the hub of activities in New Orleans. Lots of landmarks to see, places to sit down and hear music, grab a drink and the same applies to the night where you can head to Frenchmen Street where you'll find a lot of venues. And that's what I did for the day. I went by the pier, checked out Jackson's square, when it rained I went into the museum about hurricane Katrina and the Marda Gras and once night hit, I checked out the Cade du Monde as it was a lot quieter and went to frenchmen Street to watch a band of all different instruments playing outside Dat Dog and they were great. I think that kind of sums up New Orleans really. You'll find something to do if you stick in the main area and go around.

    On the same day I meant to check out the WW2 museum as I'd heard very good things but I left it a little late so I went back the next day and I'm glad I did as I spent a way more time than I expected in there. Seriously give yourself at least 4-5 hours anyway just to be safe as there is a load of different sections. You're given a dog tag too to follow an individuals story so that alone could take you a while since there are several stories and two different paths, Berlin and Tokyo. There's also the cinema showings too which I didn't even go to but anyway it's excellent so if you love WW2 stuff, go there!

    And because I spent so much time there, I had very little time in the National Park to the South of New Orleans. I basically drove out there and walked around for maybe 45-60 minutes. It's hard to really say much about it due to the short time but the walk I went on was on a very good path and the swamp was more pretty than swampy. Lots of foliage, flowers and trees.

    On my final day I walked all over the Garden District to see all the local shops, mansions and Audoban Park. And again, if you walk you'll be around the area for the whole day as it's a huge circle. I went one way on magazine street and came back on St Charles Avenue. I really liked it because I didn't find it as busy with people. The only time I really noticed that was for the cemetery in that area and the park but the park is huge so that was fine anyway.

  • @tokeeffe9 Yay, Louisiana! I come from a family of Cajuns, so I have that muddy water flowing in my veins. I always enjoy my visits back there. Hopefully you get lots of amazing food. Those are good pictures of the bayous. I'm glad you'll get a taste of both the countryside and New Orleans, since they can be very different.

  • @Billy Ya they're totally different. Both very cool places!

  • New York

    I had as small bit of hassle initially before heading to New York. I'd arranged to couchsurf with someone and on the day (while I was in the airport) I was flying over they just deleted their couchsurfing account which was something that made me a little uncomfortable so in the end I stayed at one of the HI hostels. A bit of a pain so late on but it was in a great location, maybe 10 minute walk to the west side of Central Park.

    That's the best place to start too as I spent the vast majority of my time in Central Park. I started off going clockwise from west to east and cut back to take a break and then do the south. In total I probably spent about 5-6 hours going around the area so I don't really need to specify how huge the park is to you! I think what I liked most is that there are a nice few places off the beaten track. You have he main running track around the park but you can find trails (in particular around the north side) that just take you a bit away from the majority of people which I liked. Of course there are just smaller walking paths all over the main parts of the park too and there is so much to see. Closed off areas, open areas, lakes, really wonderful colourful gardens and statues. Any time you want a break from the busy Manhattan area, central park is a refreshing change.

    The reason I took a break that day and went back to Central Park was so I'd be around the Manhattan area when it started to get darker. One of the first things I did was go further south to Joe's Pizza as I'd been advised by a few people. It's a tiny famous pizza place in New York that is always busy to the looks of it. As for the pizza itself, I liked it but I've come to the realisation that I don't love the way pizza is cooked in the states. I always find them to be just a tiny bit undercooked for my liking.

    Anyway I did finally make my way to the more iconic parts of Manhattan to see the Empire State building, Rockefeller and of course Times Square in all it's electric city vibes. I think it's a very cool area to explore and soak up the atmosphere as everyone there is just around for a good touristy time really. You're either a tourist or some kind of entertainer. So for me I was happy to get in, have a look around, take some photos and move on as it's just a bit overcrowded for my liking but if you're into that thing then for sure, I'd say go for it.

    The next day involved even more walking. New York really is a city that you can just wander around all day. I got the subway out near the manhattan bridge and walked across it in the morning. You'll find most people on this bridge to be cycling or jogging, it's not too busy and you get some very cool views of street art as you cross and of course Brooklyn bridge which is the more frequented bridge by people.

    Afterwards I walked through Williamsburg and Bushwick in Brooklyn as I'd just been told it was interesting to see the gentrification of those areas and the changes to them. I do always find it really interesting to see the communities that build up in specific areas. It probably interests me so much because I like doing the opposite really. I prefer to be somewhere with different groups of people. Anyhow, that is what made the walk around Williamsburg interesting, I found a lot of the places I walked around to be inhabited by jewish people. If it was Irish people, Italian, etc I probably wouldn't have noticed as much but of course when you see so many people wearing very similar clothing, hairstyles it's far more apparent and made that area a lot more unique.

    Bushwick on the other hand was kinda unremarkable. I'm trying to think about what to write and honestly can't remember much bar it just been a you know, nice neighbourhood. Maybe I didn't go to the more interesting parts, after all these areas are huge but I am struggling. Once I had finished my time walking around I decided to get a subway to lower Manhattan to get myself some more recommended pizza and walk across the Brooklyn bridge this time.

    Again, I wanted to head across around sunset so that I could catch the last bit of light and also night since I generally don't have a huge amount of photography for those times. Brooklyn bridge is of course very very busy and rightfully so really as you have a great view of the skyline and Manhattan bridge. It was pretty spectacular when I did walk across too. Parts of the sky going from blue to that pinkish/red sunset colour and everywhere around you lighting up. By the time I'd crossed the bridge, I made my way down by the shore, in Main Street Park and it was completely night at this stage. So I just chilled out down there, soaking it all in really. It was really nice.

    I'd a few things to plan out on my final day so the only things I really did was grab the free ferry to Staten Island and check out around the memorial area of the World Trade Center. I was told it was a handy way to just get a decent view of the Statue of Liberty and just catch the ferry again on the way back. I was happy with that as I'd no real interest in getting up close to the statue. My only comment, it was smaller than I expected.

  • Illinois - Chicago

    I'd no actual plan to come to Chicago but since I'd been away for home for so long and I was in the US, my mother wanted to use this as an opportunity to see Chicago, meet relations and myself. So every day was split up between doing something ourselves and then meeting up with a relation who showed up around the place also.

    On the first proper day we were advised to check out the boat tours you can get around the lake and city. Generally I'd probably avoid this but it's a pretty different situation when you're with someone else too and what's easiest. So we did do the architecture tour around Chicago with Wendall I believe and honestly it was an enjoyable tour. The guide was very informative regarding the history, architecture, the architects and just some side stuff and some of the architecture around Chicago actually is really cool.

    After that we continued further into the business district of Chicago, the loop, and got a great view of Millennium Park and the lake from Cindy's, a bar/restaurant at the top of the Chicago Athletic hotel. After having a drink here we decided to walk around the park area. We stuck mostly around the northside, walking in the park and around that area before finishing up next to 'The Bean', that bean shaped sculpture that basically looks like the T-1000 liquid so it reflects everything back. I liked just walking around it and seeing the different perspectives.

    We mostly stuck in that area as one of our distant relations (Second/Third/Who knows cousin) picked us up and took us around the outskirts of Chicago really. We went to Andersonville. We had some food here and were shown around the neighbourhood. The nice thing about it is the lack of chain shops, the vast majority are all local businesses. Then we went around Uptown where we got a little history on a cocktail/jazz bar Al Capone used to frequent before heading out for a walk around Lincoln Park where to my surprise there is a completely free Zoo. It had closed by the time we got there but I was still surprised to hear about it.

    My mother is very Irish so anywhere she goes, she generally likes to go anywhere Irish and due to that we spent most of our times eating and drinking in Irish bars like Lady Gregory, The Kerryman and I believe the Dubliner. For me, they were all just bars basically and I tend to avoid them usually but they all seemed like decent places to go to. Not too Irish though.

    The next day we went to the Cultural center for a bit. It's an interesting building, lots of different pieces of information on the wall of respect, street art and artistic pieces in the building. The main area seemed to involve a lot of unusual community activities. When I was there, they had a HTC Vive and people would go into this small theatre set and basically take in the applause from the audience. Honestly I've no idea what they were seeing on their end but they were definitely having a good time.

    Once again we were picked up by relations and went for a very long lunch. The plan afterwards was to go to the Science museum for a bit but it turned out the place closed at 4 so we only had about 30 minutes there. All we did was wander around the ice area and into a weather area which demonstrated tornados, avalanches etc. It was very cool but we just didn't have any time to do anything. Oh, there was a genetics area where they hatched chicks and mice too.

    And I had very little time on my last day so I basically showed my mother where macy's was again as she does like to shop, we went out with another set of relations for some BBQ and while they headed up to the Hancock building, I had to part ways to get to Toronto so I had to say my goodbyes again here. My mother none the wiser that I was going to be home in a week!

  • IMO, the Art Institute of Chicago is an absolute must see. It's probably the best art gallery in the US, filled to the brim with masterworks of every genre and era.

    The most famous work they hold is Grant Wood's American Gothic, though I was most impressed by El Greco's massive The Assumption of the Virgin. Both are currently off view, though.

  • @tokeeffe9 lol, whoever told you to hit up Bushwick was smoking something.
    Glad you decided to walk around the city, as that's the best way to experience it IMO. I'm not a huge fan of Joe's; it's pretty overrated in my opinion. There's better pizza around the city, and much better food in the village on the same block (Bleecker Street is top 5 streets for me, if that makes any sense). Also, you were in the neighborhood of my old high school! I'm assuming you went into Batter Park proper to see the Statue of Liberty, which is where I would eat lunch almost every day. Some pretty terrible memories from high school, but man do I love that park. Hope you enjoyed New York! You should go back some time to see more of it!

  • @naltmank

    You know I was only in battery park for a short period of time. I did do a lot of walking around that area but you're right, I'll have to go back! And I'll be meeting my friend soon so I'll definitely ask him about Bushwick :)

  • Massachusetts - Boston

    Final stop and a very brief one. After a few hours delay with my flight and having a small visit to the immigration office (probably due to having my ESTA refused on my account and the short weekend I spent in Canada), I got the Silver line in towards South Station (free too, not sure where I had to pay at the airport side). So I didn't get to the hostel until about 12 and I had one full day the next day before heading to Cork via London.

    The slight disappointing thing was the weather was pretty dull. It was very cloudy, kinda misty on the day. Either way the obvious thing for me to do was hit up the Freedom Trail and chill out in Boston Common. Even though I walked through some parts of the trail, I decided to start properly at Bunker Hill monument. I think the trail is really good. It is so spread out that it never feels overly busy. Sure you'll get a tour come in or a lot of people at some stages but you can just relax for a bit and people generally move on at a decent pace from one spot to the other.

    Being someone who really loved history in school and has since let that slide, it was really interesting to read up on the American history and seeing statues for Paul Revere, Benjamin Franklin, famous churches and houses that were key in the history. It's really interesting.

    The actual trail itself that guides you around is pretty damn cool. The symbol and then layer of bricks (always red, sometimes blue and yellow outlines) and other more elaborate designs like the pedestrian crossing in gold, littered in history. I loved it.

    Unfortunately I don't have much else to add. I didn't do much more as I'd only so much money left on my travel card and didn't want to waste more transferring another currency over and I really didn't have enough time to go out and do much else.

    And that ends my insanely long travelling trip. 19 months later, 574, I arrived back in Ireland and I'm currently trying to rehabilitate myself into normality again! I hope people enjoyed these awful posts! :)

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