Well, things are “back to normal” on the blog. Whatever normal means in the current Coronavirus era. Last time out on the blog I rounded up my time in Washington State, reluctantly announcing I’d be returning to England four weeks early. I’m sad to be home but I’m pleased to at least say I made it back safely. So I’m “back to normal” and blogging in England after a number of weeks blogging Stateside.
Before I get on to today’s topic, I suppose I’ll answer the question that’s on your lips. What is it like flying during the Coronavirus pandemic?
I might actually do a blog post in much more detail about this but it’s obviously pretty weird. With so many travel restrictions and flight cancellations right now, everything about it was much quieter but also smoother. Ironically aspects of it were perhaps even more preferable than usual.
I’m not suggesting to book a flight somewhere and go travel right now but there were definitely perks to traveling at this moment in time. It’s probably a better social-distancing exercise than something like grocery shopping with countless people in close confinement haha.
Anyway I’ll leave that story for another time. My Washington trip may have come to its conclusion early but that’s not to mean that there is going to be a decline in USA-related blog content, the opposite infact!
I promised my upcoming posts would be dedicated to my BIG summer trip of 2018. Long time readers will remember various posts in anticipation of my “Big 3-0” trip, which finally saw me settle on a rough itinerary in this post here.
For those yet to read it, let me summarise the plan for you. I would be spending 30 days in the USA. A trip that would see me visit six states, celebrate two friends getting married and also celebrating my own 30th birthday, hence the title of “The Big 3-0”.
I was leaving England on July 28th as a 29 year old and landing in England on August 27th as a 30 year old. The wait for July 28th was excruciating! For a month long trip it was worth it but I’d not stepped foot in an airport since February!
One hundred and fifty days ago to be exact, not that anyone was counting. Five painstakingly long months for this spoilt little brat who wasn’t used to going so long without a “proper holiday”. Short trips to Manchester, Lincoln and Lille had fed my fix of wanderlust but finally my “struggle” was over. It was time to return to Heathrow for my flight to Chicago!
My journey to Heathrow felt reminiscent of my journey to Heathrow five years earlier. On that occasion I was flying to Sydney and embarking on my first real adventure, a solo adventure at that. I was a rookie traveler going in to 2013 and it’s amazing to see the contrast in such a short space of time.
I’m credited with being an experienced traveler now but just five years earlier I was incredibly nervous and unsure of myself going to Sydney. I didn’t believe I could do such a trip, certainly not by myself and it took me so long to find the courage to even book that trip.
That journey began with me waving off family and my dad then driving me down to Heathrow. My dad got a photo of me outside Heathrow before waving me off and, looking back, it’s noticeable how nervous I look in that photo (see above!). I was going to bloody Australia by myself – a million miles away or close to it at least. Google suggests it’s “only” 10,000ish.
Here I was five years later and reminiscing. I waved off the family and me and my dad got in to the car for this, now, all too familiar journey. Unlike Washington’s mountain views or California’s gorgeous Highway 101 drive, this was a bog-standard trip down the A1 I’ve done countless times. There’s nothing to look at, nothing remotably interesting about the drive down to Heathrow. We made a pre-airport stop off at McDonalds which kicked off my American trip in proper fashion.
Shortly after I was saying my goodbyes to my dad at Heathrow, this time with no nerves. As I said, the contrast in five years was mind-blowing in many ways but at the same time this was now what I did. I was the traveler of the group – be it family, friends or colleagues. I’d done this countless times now, Heathrow itself was becoming all too familiar and a little busier than normal. The fact it was the first weekend of the summer school holidays probably played a part.
Nevertheless I was soon “on the other side” and through security before submitting to typical “British etiquette” of any holiday – off to the nearest Wetherspoons!
Forget tea and crumpets with the Queen, if you want a real insight in to English or British culture then the affectionately named “Spoons” is the place for you. The bar is inevitably always the busiest place in a British airport and I wasn’t about to break tradition and have my passport revoked. I ordered myself a second lunch, accompanied alongside a pint of Brewdog’s finest.
The next however many hours passed by with little to tell. It was a standard flight, the only real memorable point was watching the film ‘Black Panther’ on board. Eventually we’d landed at Chicago’s O’Hare airport and I prepared myself for another round of “fun and games” with the US border control.
This was, at the time, my 10th visit to the US and you never really know how the experience is going to go. Sometimes it’s a breeze, other times you’re being whisked off for interrogation because you’ve failed the first round of testing with border control.
This experience went smoother than some of my other visits. Although the officer looked just about ready to stamp and return my passport to me before he caught me off-guard and asked how long I was visiting for. I obviously advised him I was here for 30 days.
and there it was. Hesitation! I knew 30 days was a long time for a holiday so I was now bracing myself for another round of the border control hospitality. However it seemed to be my lucky day and despite a raised eyebrow he sent me happily on my way. I’d escaped unscathed!
It was about 7pm by the time I’d got through and collected my luggage. I didn’t want to waste any time in exploring, given my limited amount of time in Chicago, so I made a quick exit and hopped in a taxi to take me to my hostel.
My first sight of Chicago was a beautiful sunrise peering through the window of the taxi. However my first real impression of Chicago was the noise on the road and the endless honking that followed us.
Admittedly that might have been a one off and purely because traffic laws seemed to be somewhat of an inconvenience to my taxi driver as we repeatedly weaved from one lane to the next effortlessly and with little notice. I tried to focus less on the honking following us and more on the sunset before he pulled up outside of my hostel – to his credit, still in one piece!
I quickly checked in and then pondered where I could grab dinner. One place I was keen to visit was Navy Pier and I was hopeful that in being by the water it might have good food options. I thought I’d see on Google Maps how far it was from where I was staying. Fortunately it didn’t look too far to walk. Better yet, flashing up on the map was notice of a firework display at Navy Pier tonight!
Anticipation of my visit to Chicago was so high that they’d arranged a firework display in honour of my arrival! Or, you know, it may have been completely coincidental (psh!) but either way it had cemented my plans for the evening.
I walked down to the pier area and there was definitely a bit of buzz in the air. My search for food however was a little less promising. I either couldn’t find anything that took my fancy or the queues were so long that I was too impatient to wait. I figured I’d enjoy the fireworks first and worry about eating after.
The welcoming committee turnout for the firework display was quite large. People were finding a comfortable viewing point to admire the imminent fireworks to light up the sky. All jokes aside, it appears that during the summer months there is a firework display on every Wednesday and Saturday at Navy Pier. It was just good fortune on my part that I knew nothing of this prior to visit so it was a nice last minute surprise for me.
The firework display itself was actually pretty short. I think I timed it at around 10 or 15 minutes but it was still enjoyable to watch and also a good way to kick off this trip. I couldn’t have wished for a better start or welcome to America.
Everyone dispersed from Navy Pier pretty quickly following on from the fireworks, all heading off in their own direction. I personally decided to just head back to my hostel and call it a night. I was a little resigned to not eating before bed and just getting a good start to the next day. However across the street from my hostel I discovered a “Shake Shack”.
Shake Shack hasn’t really taken off in the UK (yet, but surely will?), with only a handful of UK stores so for anyone not familiar with the fast food chain they specialise in American classics such as burgers or hot-dogs. I’d only previously been to Shake Shack once, back in New York City in 2016, but reminiscing of the good food on that trip was enough to tempt me in and get a late night burger and a milkshake.
After eating I was tempted to swing by the hostel bar and attempt to make some new friends. However it was probably around 11pm by this point, effectively 5am UK time as far as my body was concerned so I was flagging a bit.
Had I been in Chicago longer I might have made a different decision but I wanted to ensure I got an early start the following morning and a hangover wasn’t going to help me do that. I sensibly headed up to bed, feeling excited to get a proper look around Chicago tomorrow.
Welcome back dear readers! Those of you following for a while will know I’m currently Stateside! Back in September I announced on the blog some big news!! I was leaving my job to spend February, March and April in Washington State for a sufficient amount of time with my girlfriend.
You can catch up on how month one went here, but if you didn’t read that post then I guess I’d sum it up by essentially saying I’d grown accustomed to being unemployed. I’ve contemplated writing a blog post about this previously but one word that I think describes me pretty aptly is “unambitious”.
Society’s definition of ambitious is one I struggle to align with. Ambition is associated with progress in your profession. If you’re a window cleaner or road sweeper or whatever you’re nothing compared to the CEO’s of the world and the concept has always bemused me.
Why can’t ambition be to become a parent or to travel the world or to own my own house or to fall in love? I’m not suggesting it’s impossible to have both but society seems to judge your ambition or your importance dependent on your profession. It’s not okay to just float along in life – “What do you want to be when you grow up? Where do you see yourself in five years?”
My ambition was to become one of those “skilled workers” the government talk about. I wanted to be an accountant and once I got my foot in the door, I realised the accountants I was aspiring to be were sending me emails at 11:30pm on a Wednesday night or 5:30am on a Friday morning or spending their weekends working.
My sister got married on October 5th last year and whilst my job role was a very different job at that moment in time, in the back of my head there was this little voice screaming “Quarter-end”. I’d already made my mind up on coming to Washington by that point but I could just envisage this alternative lifestyle of the “ambitious accountant”..
The first Saturday of October? The first after September? It’s quarter end, I’ve got to work.. “Sorry Natasha but..”
“BUT IT’S MY WEDDING JASON!!”
How many ambitious professionals have missed something of significance because of work commitments? I quickly learnt that I didn’t want to be that person. Over the last few years I’ve watched my sister get married, I’ve celebrated New Year’s in Paris and Edinburgh, I’ve attended countless games of football in multiple countries, I’ve bar-hopped in Nashville, danced in the streets of New Orleans, fallen in and out of love, laughed, cried and most importantly lived..
I know I’ve gone off on a bit of a tangent but that brings me back to the original point. The morale of month one was happiness. I made the point in that post that, finance-permitting, I could happily never work another day in my life. Just give me more of this life. Drinking tea in coffee shops, walking by the lake, watching football in a bar, spending my time visiting museums, date nights, catching up with friends. If being ambitious means sacrificing all of this, I don’t want to be ambitious! Work just isn’t that important to me (P.S – if you’re reading, please employ me!).
Anyway, I published my month one post on March 3rd and a few things have changed since then. I think the cruelest thing about my first four weeks here was truly appreciating time and freedom. Time seemed to stand still for the entirety of my first month here and it was bliss having the freedom to just enjoy the simple things in life. I don’t think I’ll ever be a “small-town” person but I was certainly appreciating the perks that come with it and living somewhere like this.
The last couple of weeks in particular has often been described as “this is the new normal” but I’d only just escaped the restraints of “the old normal”. So it has been an interesting second month, I’m not sure it’ll read as fun as the first month here but there have still been some highs and noteworthy moments that I hope you enjoy hearing about. I plan to go in the same format, week by week, as month one. Here goes!
I call this FA Cup week. Whilst not working certainly has its merits, the lack of routine certainly makes tracking the days a little trickier. Haleigh’s work schedule helped of course but I’ll be honest and say the football was probably one of the things helping me keep on top of the calendar – “what game is on today or this weekend?”
Week five was FA Cup week with games on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Unfortunately the FA Cup isn’t shown on TV out here but fortunately is on the ESPN app that is sold with the Disney+ bundle which meant Haleigh’s family were already subscribed to it. At the very least I’d pinpointed Wednesday as a “day at home” to watch Tottenham’s FA Cup game v Norwich.
I thought about what else to do this week and I decided it was going to be a bit of a recovery week as far as my bank balance went. Week four in particular had been a little spendier than I’d anticipated and I didn’t want to blow all of my money halfway in to this trip, I didn’t want to be financially dependent on Haleigh whilst I was here so this was a week to cutback a little.
Tuesday I spent at home, watched the FA Cup football and popped to the apartment complex’s gym afterwards to work off some of the beer from week four’s Brews and Tunes festival haha. I then spent the evening relaxing with Haleigh.
As I’ve already alluded to, Wednesday was Tottenham’s FA Cup day so one I intended to spend at home. The FA Cup was the one remaining shining light in this shit-show of a season for Spurs. It has been a disaster but if we could win the FA Cup, for the first time since 1991, for the first time in living memory for me (born in 88), then this season could still go down as a memorable one.
Sadly Spurs were dreadful. We took a fortuitous lead and then spent the next 70 minutes sleeping instead of trying to cement the win. Our manager’s complaints for weeks had been how the injuries were taking its toll on the squad and instead of ensuring we avoided an extra 30 minutes of football we sat back and waited for the inevitable Norwich equaliser late on which took us to extra-time.
From then on we tried to win the game, 80 minutes too late and ultimately got what we deserved for our negativity by losing the penalty shoot-out. I’ve joked all season that I couldn’t have wished for a better season to have pissed off for 3 months and this was the “cherry on the top” – another pathetic display and result in this shambles of a season.
I am missing the football but one thing I can credit the virus for is in ridding me of having to watch this Tottenham team. I’m sure for any Liverpool fan the prospect of a cancelled season is agonising but there will be celebrations long in to the night on Tottenham High Road if we void this season and start over.
It was another football-inspired mood-changer on this trip. Four games without a win and I’d only been here just over four weeks at this point. Ridiculous. Fortunately Thursday was less football-filled and consequently a positive day haha.
Two of Haleigh’s co-workers wanted to meet up and the invitation stretched to me to impose on a “girl’s night out”. As it was, one of the colleagues wasn’t able to join us so it just ended up being myself, Haleigh and Kristi. We went along to one of the restaurants I’ve mentioned previously on the blog, Michael’s on the Lake, it’s a nice place that unsurprisingly is situated along the lake.
We chatted over drinks and good food before saying our goodbyes. It was nice to spend a little time together, Kristi kindly paid for us, refusing any notion of us contributing towards dinner. We promised to do it again before I went home with us returning the gesture.
Thursday had been the one thing I’d budgeted for this week so with a cheaper night than expected I decided to get out and wander in to town on Friday. I re-visited my usual favourites. I kicked off my morning with some tea and a book at Mason’s Place which has become one of the nicest ways to pass the time here. It’s a cosy and friendly place in town. In the home state of Starbucks I’d still much rather visit and support little places like this, even if Starbucks is to an extent a “local business”.
Moving on I went to grab lunch and popped in to Midway Pub. I usually only visit when there’s football on but in spite of there being no football, it’s still a nice lunch spot and again just friendly to visit. Oddly enough the previous week I’d got chatting to a barman I’d yet to see in there, who just so happened to be leaving Moses Lake and moving to Seattle in the imminent future. Today I got talking to a barmaid I’d yet to see in there, who was leaving Moses Lake and moving down to California. Two born and bred Moses Lake barstaff moving out of town – bizarre! She was friendly though and offered a few recommendations of local things to see and do before I left Washington.
I headed home before Haleigh got back from work. Friday has typically become our date night so we went out to Rock Top for the first time on this particular trip. It’s become a bit of a regular for us, it was the place we had our very first date back in September 2017, but oddly we’d yet to come here after almost a full five weeks in town. I don’t know why but I was really in the mood for a burger and surprisingly opted for my first ever Veggie burger.
I appreciate vegetarians and vegans who impose that lifestyle for a number of reasons, and perhaps this just wasn’t a great veggie burger, but those kidding themselves they’re a substitute in taste for a meat burger are mistaken. As I said, perhaps it just wasn’t a great veggie burger or perhaps I was just consciously aware that it was a veggie burger but I felt like there was a noticeable difference in taste. That said, it was still enjoyable. I had no complaints with the burger itself but it was no substitute for the “real thing”.
Following food we tried our luck at going bowling, we’d talked about going a week earlier but when we phoned they suggested all of the lanes were fully booked so we decided against it. We had better luck this week so went along for a couple of games. I bowled pretty well, particularly in the first game, but I found myself mesmerised by the guys in the lane next to us.
I’m guessing they participate in a bowling league of sorts and were getting some practice in but it was entertaining to watch. I’ve no doubt they knew what they were doing, partly as I used to watch my parents play bowling in a league every week, but I’d just watch them seemingly aim for the gutter on each throw and watch the ball do its magic and swerve back inwards and see all of the pins drop. As I said, mesmerising bowling!
The rest of the weekend was pretty relaxed. I don’t think we really did much other than hang out. We’ve spent most of our time at home either watching Netflix, watching movies on Disney+ or playing CTR on the PS4 haha.
Ah, the last week of normalcy out here in Washington! The first thing I did this week was unsurprisingly football related again. I’ve been trying to get out at least once a week but generally aiming at twice a week. With midweek football being a frequent occurrence at this time of the season I’ve generally been able to squeeze in a pub trip most weeks.
This week Tottenham were playing their second leg of their Champions League tie against Leipzig. Ironically after all my complaints of visiting Germany too frequently in recent years, if I’d not been in Washington I would likely have been in Leipzig for this fixture. It’s a German city I’ve yet to visit but heard good things about.
Leipzig are one of those football teams that cause a little controversy due to their ownership, particularly in Germany where football clubs are generally majority owned by fans (supposed to have a 51% majority even with other investors). Leipzig are owned by Red Bull and have quickly risen through the German football ladder which makes them quite unpopular amongst football “purists”.
Their quick rise in football also means they’re relatively inexperienced on the big stage so my hope was, with a manager familiar with the “dark arts”, that overturning a first leg defeat in London wasn’t impossible. However so it proved, we were comfortably well beaten by a really good footballing team. It was hard to be bitter about a team beating us that played the kind of football I could only dream of watching us play.
Before the week was even out pretty much most European football had been suspended so this was the last game I’ve been able to watch out here. Although as I alluded to above, now on a winless run of six I feel blessed that the football has been placed on hold. I don’t know what the solution is for the remainder of the season to be completed but Tottenham’s season essentially ended at this defeat anyway. Removing this season from the history books would actually be welcomed by me haha.
Moving away from the football, I decided I’d go out on Thursday too. I think signs of the panic setting in were really starting to show by this point. It only seemed a matter of time before Washington followed measures being placed elsewhere in the world and in the States. Likewise the signs of hoarding was already clear to see on shopping trips.
As usual I visited Mason’s Place to kick off my day however with the uniqueness of some in-house entertainment. One of the customers was sat with a guitar and practicing a few tunes which created a really nice atmosphere whilst I sat down and read for a little while.
I decided to go and check out somewhere different in town today for lunch. I’d not really noticed it until recently but this little building, that looked like a bar, was placed across the street from Safeway and having looked it up online actually looked bigger than it’s outside appearance suggested. I made my way over to “The Ripple Tavern” and sat down at the bar.
I was really surprised to see how busy it was. There was no sign of any fear amongst the locals here but more importantly, I was just surprised at how busy it was for a Thursday afternoon. I’d go as far as saying this is the busiest place I’ve been to during the day in Moses Lake across multiple trips here and just multiple weeks on this trip alone.
It seemed largely full of regulars but it was still a surprise to me. I ordered myself a beer and some food, the beer I wanted was this mango-flavoured delicious beer that I got a small taste of but seemingly they ran out of so I ended up with something else. The food was good, the staff were friendly enough and it was nice to discover a new spot in town. That said, I didn’t really see it as a regular haunt.
Not that it mattered too much, that proved to be my last outing in Washington for the foreseeable future. Before heading home I popped in to Safeway, I knew we needed a couple of bits so thought I’d pick up some stuff for breakfast and things. I also knew we were running low on toilet rolls so I was hoping a daytime afternoon trip might be a good opportunity to get some. The aisle was inevitably sparse but I at the very least managed to grab a pack of four which I figured would keep us going without a need to start getting creative! It’s just as well because we would have run out before we were next able to find any!
Earlier in the week, I’d said to Haleigh not all of our dates had to be about going out and spending a tonnes of money so we agreed to have an “at-home” date on Friday night. With the benefit of hindsight maybe we’d have done this Friday night differently but we decided to stay in, get some food (pizza I think) and just hang out with a couple of movies. Haleigh introduced me to ‘The Great Race’ which was a fun little comedy released back in the 60’s. It wasn’t a film I was familiar with but one I enjoyed nonetheless.
It snowed overnight on Friday so we didn’t really do anything over the rest of the weekend. They announced school closures in Washington on Friday which meant, after Monday, Haleigh would be off work for the next few weeks. We were both excited at the prospect of more time together, ultimately the reason I’d come here in the first place.
However on Sunday night the governor of Washington imposed further measures and ordered the closure of most, non-essential, businesses. Restaurants and bars could only operate a take-out or delivery service whilst most other retail and leisure businesses shut down. Those measures would take effect immediately for King County (the Seattle area) with further detail announced on Monday morning for the rest of the state (us!).
Being honest, I was hoping the lack of clarity in Sunday’s statement might mean I could squeeze in one more lunchtime outing on Monday. I don’t think everywhere in the town actually closed but the ones I’d intended to drop in on had made it clear on social media channels that they’d be closing immediately so it scuppered any hope of going anywhere on Monday. I just stayed at home and prepared myself for “the new normal”.
Washington’s closures were for an initial period of two weeks to help “flatten the curve”, so I apologise if weeks seven and eight feel a little boring in comparison to the previous six but I guess we’re all in the same boat right now. Although there were still memorable moments of course. Just spending more time with Haleigh was nice enough and we’ve been able to do more at home together.
The week was plodding along nicely before reaching Friday – date night! Obviously this was another one spent at home but wouldn’t go forgotten! We had dinner together whilst watching whatever on the TV. Following on from dinner we tidied up a little and I made a point of heading outside to dispose of the trash – on somewhat of a secret mission!
After ridding myself of the rubbish I took a little detour and swung by our mailbox we’d neglected over the past few days, anticipating a little package inside that I’d had confirmation had been delivered. I’d ordered it under very different circumstances, expecting Haleigh to be working and also under the premise that we’d be free to do as we pleased but the restraints and closures scuppered my plans somewhat.
After collecting my little box I returned to a confused Haleigh, pondering why it had taken me so long to walk to the skip and back. I was expecting this to come so had pre-planned my excuses!
I mean, obviously, I’d just wanted a little fresh air and walked to the skip all the way on the other side of the complex to stretch my legs.
“Alright, you weirdo..” – buahaha! My secret mission had gone without too much suspicion!
I got myself back in to a relaxed state, returning to the pyjamas that myself and Haleigh had been wearing all day before conversation led to the fact today marked exactly two and a half years together – a nice little landmark in our relationship. Of course there was cause for this direction in the conversation, that little package I’d gone to collect was an engagement ring.
I can’t say I’d pictured any engagement being in our pyjamas on the sofa during a quarantine of sorts but it felt like a meaningful date to do it and just so happened to be the date the ring arrived too – I was so pleased they’d not come to the door to deliver it and spoil any sense of surprise.
I shamefully didn’t go down on one knee, as I said nothing about the scenario really went quite as pictured but even in the circumstances I think it came across as sweet and more importantly came as a surprise to Haleigh who, even with my lengthy trash-taking outing, hadn’t anticipated a proposal was coming. I’m pleased to say the proposal was met with a yes so some good news to share with the world during these extraordinary times!
The next day we took a daytrip to Haleigh’s home town to share the news, and show off the ring, with some of the family. We did restrict who we visited because of the measures in place and made it as socially-distant a trip as we could. There was obviously nothing to do in Walla Walla either but it was still nice to briefly see the family and share the happy occasion in person. Breaking the news to family and friends back home went down equally well, although was obviously something we weren’t able to do in person. It rounded off our first socially-distanced week nicely though.
Further sanctions were imposed going in to week eight. On Monday the UK government advised all nationals currently abroad to head home at the earliest possibility, which was somewhat ironic because on the same day the governor of Washington added further measures and placed a “Stay At Home” order on all of Washington’s inhabitants for the next two weeks.
With no mention of restrictions entering the UK, nor any sign of my flight being cancelled I’ve been a little reluctant to cut this trip short. Ultimately does it matter too much where I’m isolating? I’ve largely adopted a “wait and see” policy to this trip.
So this week kicked off as relatively normal as possible in the circumstances. We really needed supplies for the week. I think a week earlier we’d tried to do a meal plan for the week and found we couldn’t actually find half of the stuff we wanted so it was a bit of a redundant shopping trip. So going in to this week we decided we’d wing it and just shop dependent on what was available.
Surprisingly this was a rather successful shopping trip. It seemed the crazy had balanced out a little and we were able to actually get much of what we wanted. The most encouraging sign for us was seeing other shoppers with toilet rolls in their trolleys – “does that mean..?” – after weeks of looking we found a store with toilet roll in stock! Not much admittedly but enough that we even have a very limited choice of which brand of toilet roll we wanted. We grabbed a pack of 12 and rejoiced in a successful shopping trip!
Friday’s proposal was undoubtedly a highlight of my time here but perhaps, in the circumstances, this could be considered a close second! No need to find dodgy toilet-roll-sellers on the black market!
After shopping I Skyped with the parents for a bit to have a post Mother’s Day and post-engagement catch up. It was nice to have a proper chat.
The rest of week eight has been largely non-eventful – which was disappointing because it was probably set to be one of my more sociable weeks here. I’d agreed to co-host a little Twitter-based chat on Wednesday with a friend (Eric) based in nearby Union Gap.
We’d also agreed to meet up so he could show me the local area and some of the ‘sights’ so I was going to head over there on Tuesday. The aim of the chat is to spread and promote tourism, plus engage with other travelers and Twitter users, so it’s always fun and I was quite excited at the prospect of meeting up. Eric had even set up a radio chat for us on the Wednesday morning which was both exciting and nerve-wrecking haha.
Thursday was then going to be the opening day of the baseball season so myself, Maddie and Cassie were going to head over to Seattle to watch the Seattle Mariners. I figured I could spend Tuesday night in Union Gap, see some of Union Gap (and maybe Yakima), do the chat, spend Wednesday night in Ellensburg and then drive out to Seattle with Maddie and Cassie on Thursday.
I already knew the baseball had been cancelled but then myself and Eric sensibly agreed to postpone meeting up, which was prior to the “stay at home” order which would have taken the decision out of our hands anyway. With nothing open it just didn’t seem worthwhile.
So Tuesday was uneventful before doing our little chat from our respective homes on Wednesday. It was quite fun and certainly kept me busy for a good hour or two in responding to all of the different people engaging on Twitter.
Not content with just one day of Twitter engagement, another friend (Ian from England), asked if I’d submit a little recording for his podcast. He was doing an episode on people who specifically traveled for sporting events and I, unsurprisingly, sprung to mind. We’d met up in England just shortly before my trip to Madrid in June so I was one of a few people that sprung to mind. It was only a short piece, one of several to contribute, but Ian’s episode went live over the weekend. For anyone interested in my podcast debut, you can listen here!
Then on Friday I’d also been invited to co-host another day-long Twitter chat which gets a hell of a lot more traffic than the one earlier in the week. It was also a lot of fun but rounded off a really blog and Twitter heavy week. Aside from being fun to engage with other travelers, one of the perks is it helps promote your own profile and it’s of no surprise that my Twitter and blog traffic soared this week.
You’d be forgiven for thinking I’ve spent all of my time on the internet and neglected Haleigh but I promise we’ve still been enjoying eachother’s company too haha. We’ve made small and early steps towards wedding planning, continued watching Disney movies and binge-watching Supernatural, read and just generally basked in all of the time together. The circumstances certainly aren’t ideal and we’re probably suffering a little cabin-fever but there’s nobody I’d rather spend this quarantine era with haha.
Month three? Sadly it hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows. On Sunday Trump did a press conference which suggested these social-distancing and stay-at-home measures would be extended until April 30th which has made me a little more wary.
I was due to fly home on May 1st which felt just a little too close for my liking. I’d personally have no issue about staying here longer but I’m here on a 90 day visa and I’d pushed this trip to the limits. I think May 1st is something like 88 days in the country so a last minute flight cancellation would really cause some problems.
As I said, I’m not personally opposed to staying longer but unfortunately the USA don’t treat visa breaches with the same attitude. I’ve seen suggestions you can be banned from returning to the country for up to 10 years which would bring a host of new problems.
I planned on phoning the British embassy in San Francisco on Tuesday to see what my options were. Unfortunately they’d seemingly decided to close! I was on the phone with this automated message telling me what the opening hours are but they’d closed irrespective of those opening hours. On the 14th of March Trump banned all Brits from visiting the country so I don’t know if that played a part in the closure, perhaps they thought nobody would require assistance if nobody was visiting but it scuppered any hope I had of extending my visa a little longer.
It did make me chuckle somewhat though, it’s the first time I’ve ever felt the need to phone the British embassy on my travels and they weren’t available! That’s encouraging for the future!
I did a little further online research but nothing that suggested it’d be easy for me to stay any longer so I reluctantly phoned my airline (Virgin Atlantic) to see if they could change my flight for me. They were able to but they didn’t have a single direct flight for the entirety of April, I didn’t particularly fancy transiting anywhere, certainly if somewhere like New York City was going to be my best option.
Annoyingly Virgin weren’t able to offer me a refund either, I’m guessing I’ll have to wait and see if that flight is cancelled to claim a refund. They did suggest they’d be able to offer me flight credit so at worst I might take them up on that or move the flight to later in the year and re-use it as I’ll certainly be returning to Washington at some point.
However my more immediate concern was getting a flight home with their competitor, British Airways, who still seemed to be offering direct flights. I succeeded so it’s with a heavy heart that there will be no post on month three in Washington.
I’ve made the difficult decision to fly back to England early and I fly home on Sunday evening. I wouldn’t change anything about the whole experience, I’m so pleased I came out here but of course I’m also sad that my trip has been shortened due to circumstances completely out of my control.
It wasn’t how this trip was supposed to end, I feel like I still have a bit of unfinished business here. I’m very much a laid-back individual with a “go-with-the-flow” attitude but this stings a bit. Yet that’s the unpredictable nature of travel I suppose, even as somewhat of an experienced traveler sometimes things don’t go as planned.
On a more positive note it will be nice to go home and see familiar faces from a socially acceptable distance. I’m also optimistic that my flight home will be largely empty, I’m crossing my fingers for an upgrade (are you reading BA?) given there will presumably be space on board!
Anyway, hopefully you enjoyed month two in spite of the difficult circumstances. Fortunately the coming posts will feature much more to talk about as I’ll be kicking off my big summer trip of 2018. If you want a little taster of what’s to come, here’s a pathetic summary of that trip.
I’ll be sharing a day by day telling of “The Big 3-0” trip to the USA. 30 days celebrating my 30th birthday in 2018. Next up is day one of that trip! Stay tuned!
It’s unusual for me to blog twice in a week but I wanted to offer an update on my time here living in Washington and Tuesday being the four week / one month landmark seemed a suitable time to do it.
My usual weekly Thursday posts have recently been covering my trip to this state two years ago and I’ll be rounding that trip off in this post. I split this particular trip in to three parts. For those following along you’ll know I spent a night in Seattle before visiting Haleigh in Moses Lake which was the main reason I was in Washington State.
I first visited Washington State in September 2017 where myself and Haleigh really hit things off! However we’d had such little time together just one on one – little more than a day together so although it was a trip that really began our relationship, we definitely needed more time together to see how successful our future might be.
Perhaps a little selfishly, I really wanted to see how things went before I started planning my big summer trip to the USA so I decided to head out there in early 2018. The reason I visited in February is because it was a typically quiet month for me at work and additionally Haleigh teaches and she had a “Winter break” fall within February so it seemed a perfect time to visit.
It meant we’d get the best part of two weeks together and a long weekend where she wouldn’t have to work – we decided to spend that winter break in the city of Walla Walla!
Why Walla Walla? Well although Haleigh lives in Moses Lake, her hometown is Walla Walla so this was an opportunity to also meet some of Haleigh’s family for the first time – daunting!
Next question! Where is Walla Walla? Well, you’ll find Walla Walla down in the South (Central/East-ish) of Washington State. It pretty much borders Oregon. Infact we even crossed the border briefly as her grandpa worked in Oregon at the time so we took the five / ten minute drive across the state line and back. I didn’t count this as an Oregon visit mind you, probably helped by the fact I knew I’d tick Oregon off properly later in the year.
Anyway, that’s a little introduction for you. Here’s how that trip went down!
After spending the previous day in Moses Lake & Ephrata we woke early to go and make the couple of hours drive to Walla Walla. We kicked off our day first by grabbing breakfast at Bob’s Cafe – a popular little spot just off the busy i90. It’s always busy at Bobs! I also always make the mistake of ordering the pancakes, they’re very good but far too big a portion for me to ever finish (I think I have once out of countless visits).
With our stomachs filled we were on our way via a little detour. On route Haleigh showed me where her school was so I got a little tour of her classroom and a proper look at the American school set up.
Having had a little glimpse in to Haleigh’s work life we got back on the road and drove onwards to Walla Walla. This side of the state is a little more desert-like than the West side of the mountains with all the (supposed) rain Seattle receives. It’s not a Sahara-like sandy desert but pretty dry and mild.
One of the surprising moments of the drive, for me at least, was seeing tumbleweed in the flesh for the first time. Perhaps I’m in the minority here but my experiences of tumbleweed was limited to cartoons and such up until this trip. I’d not anticipated tumbleweed being quite so big, essentially a huge ball of mess causing a hazard in the road.
I vividly remember jumping out of my skin at one point as I was looking out of the window to my right at the (minimal) scenery and suddenly there was a loud bang as this huge ball slammed in to the front of the vehicle (aided by the wind).
It felt like Haleigh spent various moments of the next few days playing her own version of Mario Kart as she attempted to avoid and drive around the tumbleweed rolling in our direction. It was comical in some respects, until you remember this is happening on largely single-lane roads at relatively high speed. I’d love to see some statistics regarding tumbleweed-related car accidents. Forget the current Coronavirus outbreak in Washington, it’s that damn tumbleweed that will get you!
So after a successful ‘race’ of Washington’s version of Mario Kart we’d reached the outskirts of Walla Walla and BAM!
Don’t worry, not tumbleweed this time but mountain views! It was such a pretty sight to see, helped by the fact it was February and there was snow up on the mountains. We inched closer and closer and I could only admire and envy what it must be like to live this close to the mountains. We parked up at Haleigh’s grandparents, who we were staying with, with the mountains still in sight. It was perfect.
The first afternoon / evening was spent getting acquainted with various members of Haleigh’s family including her mum, brother and both sets of grandparents. After running around all over town we went out for dinner and then settled in to our place for the evening. I’d hoped to have made a good first impression with the family.
Over the next few days I got to enjoy spending time with all of the family. The grandparents hosting us were kind enough to provide us some home-cooked meals too, which with Italian-heritage meant delights such as home-made meatballs or lasagne in addition to American favourites such as “biscuits and gravy”. All of the food we had at ‘home’ was delicious!
Whilst getting to know Haleigh’s family was lovely, I was also here to get to know and explore some of Walla Walla. It’s a city I can’t say I’d heard of prior to being introduced to Haleigh.
Walla Walla is ‘famous’ for a couple of things. Firstly “sweet onions” – so much so that it’s the official state vegetable of Washington. Secondly Walla Walla is well known for its wine and that’s certainly shown in its downtown area with winery after winery after winery. Haleigh doesn’t really drink and I tend to drink beer more than anything so I can’t really back up how good any of these wineries are but if you like wine then it’s probably not a bad city to include on any Washington road trip!
With wine-drinking not really on the “to-do” list whilst in Walla Walla we decided to go and check out the history of the area instead. The main place we went to visit was the Whitman Mission national historic site – the Whitmans being missionaries who came to the area in the 1800’s. Following conflict they were later killed and it seems this is a site to commemorate their arrival to the area. It was an interesting place to visit and nice to learn more about the history of the place aswell as Walla Walla, it also offered some great views of the mountains so definitely worth a visit haha.
Away from Walla Walla we also spent a day with Haleigh’s brother visiting the “Tri-cities”. The three cities that make up the tri-cities (Kennewick, Richland and Pasco) are all in close vicinity and have a bit more to offer for locals in this area of Washington.
The three of us ventured out to the tri-cities with the intention of doing a little shopping (or window shopping in my case) as its home to a fairly good sized shopping mall with a bunch of brands and stores you can’t get in Walla Walla (or Moses Lake).
However our first stop in the tri-cities was in a park that runs along the Colombia river. It was a pretty place, and whilst I expect its busier in the summer, it was pretty peaceful too. After having a little wander we popped in to this small store which seemed to specialise in artwork for sale. It was a nice little spot with friendly staff.
We soon moved on to this comic store that Ben and Haleigh were keen to check out. On the side of the building was this little dragon mural that I thought was pretty cool. Inside was a huge range of comics and other memorabilia and things to buy – good fun to look around and tempt yourself if interested in comics and superheroes and other popular movies and tv shows.
Our next stop was the main shopping mall which had huge well known department stores such as Macy’s plus some other stores that I was less familiar with. One that has proven a popular must visit on such trips to the Tri-Cities is the chain bookstore ‘Barnes and Noble’. It’s a good sized store, more Waterstones than W.H.Smiths for my UK friends and family who perhaps aren’t familiar with it.
After popping in to a number of places we grabbed some lunch and pondered what to do before heading back to Walla Walla. We decided to pop in to the East Benton County Historical Society Museum. It was pretty interesting and had lots of displays focused on the history in the local area and collections from local people throughout time. I don’t remember it being particularly expensive, the website suggests it’s $5 for admission, so a worthwhile visit if you’re in the tri-cities.
That had killed a bit of time before returning to Walla Walla for the evening where we then spent the next couple of days. It’s a city I’ve grown quite fond of, mostly due to the people based there that I associate it with, but I can’t say we did anything particularly noteworthy or memorable for the rest of our break. It’s somewhere I think I’d be content enough living in but it’s not somewhere that is a must see in Washington State, nor the USA, but a nice stop if you’re driving through or near the area.
The rest of our time was just spent with good people and eating good food before saying our goodbyes and returning to Moses Lake. A few days later it was time for me to say goodbye to Washington completely as my two weeks up Stateside was over with. It was a wonderful trip and one that cemented my plans to spend most of my big summer trip with Haleigh.
More on that to come soon but next up on the blog? A bit of UK travel, starting with a weekend trip to Manchester! Stay tuned!
Welcome back folks! Last time out on the blog I promised you’d get a bonus post this week! As many of you will know, either from this post or elsewhere, I made the decision to spend three months living in the USA. I’ve spoken with a few of you already but naturally everyone wants to know how things are going, so what better way than a blog post, right?
Anyway I arrived in Washington on Monday the 3rd of Feb (one month ago) and in Moses Lake itself on Tuesday the 4th of Feb (four weeks ago). So it’s a good chunk of time for me to ramble about, update you on and just let you know how life in general is going. It’s just a bonus it’s fallen within my little Washington series. Last time out on the blog I said Moses Lake wasn’t somewhere you’d plan long term travel for (i.e a two week holiday) so being here for three months was certainly going to be interesting.
I’m not entirely sure how this post is going to go (it might be long) but I’ll break it up in to little sections I think and see how it goes. Here’s month one!
Arrival First things first, get in the bloody country, right? Long-time readers might remember my ordeal of daring to visit the US in 2016. I was very fortunate to visit the US growing up on four occasions on family trips to Florida but in truth the parents took the lead on each of those occasions to ensure a smooth arrival.
I thought going to Georgia in February 2016 for romance was nerve-wrecking enough but I hadn’t at any point considered I might not even get in to the country. I was wrong and had to go through a thorough interrogation before US border control deemed myself worthy of visiting the delights of Atlanta.
“If you don’t pass this test you’ll be on the first plane back to London” – god forbid!
A few US trips later I was at least prepared for this fun and games with border control but I knew it was seemingly inevitable that I was going to run into trouble.
“How long are you here for, what do you do for a living?”
“Well, you see.. I’m here to stay with my girlfriend for 3 months after quitting my job of eight years.”
“Good luck mate, hope it all works out for you!”
Needless to say, it didn’t quite go as smoothly as that. I was fine for most of the flight to Seattle but the nerves hit me in the queue for the border control (“Come on, get a grip of yourself Jason”). I knew there was no real reason for my entry to be denied but it’s America, you know? Do they need a great reason to send you on the first flight home?
“This bloke blinked funny. Send him back to London!”
I knew the two above questions were the two big red flags that were going to raise suspicion, the plus side being that I was at least prepared for it. I figured if I was honest I’d have no problems, I had printed my return flight details so they could see I had intentions of going home but it was the unexpected third red flag that caused me problems.
I’d got through the fingerprint checks, the retinal scanner, the passport check and a couple of questions and then I was asked “Have you ever been arrested?” – “No..”
Great! Then shortly after I heard some officer at a desk behind me ask his arriving passenger “Have you ever been to the US?” and the overthinking kicked in. US.. Arrest.. that sounds awfully similar in the accent, did I mishear my guy earlier?
I’ve not been arrested, however I have been to the US so two very different answers. I didn’t want to cause any confusion or reason to deny my entry by giving false information so I figured I’d double check. “Sorry, did you ask..?”
That was a mistake! “Yeah.. why?.. Have you?”
No, no, no.. too late! I’d offered some doubt in my credibility as an arrival in to the country. I could instantly sense the change in mannerisms and tone. “What’s your social?”
My social what? I had no idea what he meant? Social security number that US residents have? I don’t have a social.. My confusion or non-compliant response didn’t help matters. Strike two!
He looked at my passport again and started tapping away at his computer, hoping to find some criminal record linked to my identity. He now appeared convinced that I was a criminal mastermind that was trying to escape the authorities!
The officer behind me chirped up again. I heard him ask “What do you do for a living?” and it seems my officer had heard it too as he immediately followed it up by asking me the same question. “Thanks mate, excellent question! I’d forgot to ask that one!”
That was it. Strike three. Three piss poor answers on the bounce. “Okay, follow me..” and I was quickly escorted off to some screening area for further interrogation. Much like in Atlanta I’d failed again.
Fortunately the woman handling my case was much friendlier. After waiting around for a while we had a little chat which ended along the lines of “I want to get you on your way..” which was a sign of encouragement. They inevitably phoned Haleigh to cross-check our responses and soon enough I was successfully allowed into the country! Hurrah!
Week one! After that point I was pretty relaxed. The worst part of this whole trip, this whole process, was over with. Whatever happened from here was at least largely in my own hands.
There was no guarantee that things would go well once I was here but I at least felt I had control over that situation. Having someone sat behind a desk determining the fate of your future, and potentially your relationship, is a horrible feeling. I don’t really know what I’d have done had I been refused entry – it completely ruins any plans for 2020 and the immediate future.
Whatever happened with me and Haleigh, at least I was definitely in the country now. If Haleigh threw me out after 3 days of living together then I’d cross that bridge when I came to it but I was here and ready for this experience.
The only plus side to the ordeal was that I had plenty of time to kill in Seattle. I’d be spending the bulk of the next three months in Moses Lake but Haleigh had to work on the Monday that I arrived and the public transportation and Greyhound schedule is pretty rubbish.
I landed in Seattle between 2 and 3pm. There are no afternoon buses to Moses Lake, the first bus I could catch was at about 11pm so I had hours ahead of me. By the time I got in to the actual city it was closer to 4pm so I still had a good 6-7 hours to find something to do.
I got the link as far as the ‘SoDo’ area of Seattle. It’s an area I’ve passed many times before on some mode of transport but never actually explored. With numerous walls covered in murals and street art I thought it’d be fun to look around for a little while. Unfortunately the pedestrianised walkway makes it difficult to get any decent photos of the artwork so although there were some impressive pieces it felt like a bit of a wasted detour.
I figured with my evening it best to find a bar or restaurant near to the bus station. Had I not been to Seattle before I might have ventured further in to the touristy areas of the city but over a few trips I’ve seen various parts of the city.
Unfortunately the area near to the bus station is Chinatown and I wasn’t particularly hungry for Asian cuisine so I wandered a little further (uphill, always uphill Seattle!) to find myself a bar that looked like a good spot for an evening.
I popped in to Seattle’s Flatstick Pub. It wasn’t somewhere I’d been before but is a new favourite of mine. There was a good range of beers to choose from, cool murals painted on the wall, a nice atmosphere and a bunch of games and things that provide further entertainment.
Sadly the food options were limited so I left after a couple of beers and moved on. I found food in one bar but the sole barman behind the bar seemed to actually spend little time at the bar. I eventually grabbed his attention to order a second beer but he either misheard me or decided I needed to bugger off as instead of a pint he brought me my bill – I took it as a sign to leave haha.
The last bar I popped in to seemed a little posher and I’m not sure would ever be a regular for me if I was a local in Seattle but it was quiet and the barman was really friendly. So much so that as they neared closing the guy said I could stick around for a bit if I wanted somewhere warm whilst waiting for my bus – I really appreciated that but didn’t overstay my welcome (although I was the last to leave) and made my way on to the greyhound bus station – surprisingly busy!
Four hours later I’d arrived to a freezing Moses Lake in the early hours of Tuesday morning with Haleigh waiting to pick me up. After a fun few hours in Seattle by myself, it was now real. I was living here for the next three months!
The first week in Moses Lake was largely about settling in and trying to get some sort of routine going. I thought it’d take me longer to feel like I was “living” here but I think unpacking on my first morning helped. For the first time I was visiting here living out of furniture opposed to a suitcase. It makes you feel a bit more like it’s home rather than just a holiday.
I think the question on many people’s lips over the last few weeks, from family and friends, is how it has been living so far from home. In all honesty, it doesn’t feel that different to being back in England. Perhaps that’s partly down to my comfort of being around Haleigh but I feel like it has just been naturally easy.
I think some of the bigger struggles have been simple things like shopping. What brands do you buy in a new place? I’ve spoken about my predictable nature on the blog before (Weetabix boy) but you become accustomed to buying the same things because you like those things at home.
One of the first things I did here was go shopping on Wednesday whilst Haleigh was at work, equipped with a list of things to buy for us to eat, and there’s just so much choice for everything (“oh, you bought the expensive butter..”). Where do you start in a brand new place? It’s a little weird.
There have been some other minor oddities to get accustomed to, such as having to use a kettle that isn’t electric. I’m back in the dark ages! Although the bigger surprise is probably that Haleigh even owns a kettle. For one, many American households don’t have one but Haleigh doesn’t drink tea or coffee either so seems even more bizarre in this instance. I genuinely thought I’d be rushing out to buy a “proper kettle” but it didn’t seem a necessary purchase so I’ve just got used to using it.
The biggest adjustment I’ve had to make is largely unrelated to being here but just time. There’s a time difference of eight hours between here and England but as far as I can tell that eight hour time difference seems to be a thing called work.
Time just doesn’t move when you’re unemployed. You make breakfast at 8am and you’re jumping in the shower ten minutes later at 7:30am – how did that happen? The first few days I’d wake up early, eat breakfast, go shopping, go find a coffee shop to drink tea in, go to the museum, go home, do the chores and I’m still waiting around for Haleigh to come home for us to spend the next forty hours relaxing before bed.
You’d be forgiven for thinking it’s a criticism but it’s the complete opposite. Time feels like such a luxury at the moment. There have been countless times I’ve just been sat drinking tea at Mason’s Place (a coffee shop in town) without a care in the world – it’s bliss!
I don’t know how I’m ever supposed to go back to a working life when time goes this slowly and I can just enjoy my days walking by the lake or swigging on tea in this cosy little coffee shop. My days feel longer. The company helps of course in making me feel relaxed.
The highlight of my first week was probably our first date night of the trip. We ventured down to this brewery in town that has to be relatively new. I’d never heard of it on previous visits but it popped up in Facebook events with an open mic night so we went down and checked it out. It was a fun evening with good company, good drinks and a bit of Uno (I thrashed Haleigh!) before calling it a night.
After what felt like four weeks of not working I’d completed a full week in Washington State. Honestly, work felt like a distant memory. It was unbelievable to me I’d only been here a week. It’s still unbelievable to me I’ve only just reached four weeks in the US. I feel like I’ve been here for SO long (in a good way). My last memory of England feels really really distant.
One of the first things I did this week was get in touch with our friends Maddie and Cassie. We’ve arranged to go and watch the opening day of the Seattle Mariners baseball season in March but there was definitely a part of me that was concerned I’d fall in to this trap of assuming they’re nearby but never actually arranging to see eachother properly.
I didn’t want to be here for three months and only actually see eachother that one time for the baseball. So we arranged to meet up on Thursday this week which gave me a few days to kick off week two by pottering around Moses Lake.
I’ve been trying to share ‘stories’ over Facebook and Instagram to offer some insight of what I’ve been up to whilst I’ve been here. Some of you will see I popped down to the Japanese Friendship Garden on the Tuesday (after another morning tea session at Mason’s Place). I’d visited here in September 2017 and it had been rather pretty but also really peaceful.
What I didn’t realise is that it’s actually closed for the season! I walked up to find the fence locked and consequently I was denied an opportunity to wander around. I am rather fond of this little town but there is a limited amount of things to do without the inconvenience of things also being closed seasonally! Haha.
A couple of days later we were off to Ellensburg to catch up with Maddie and Cassie. Maddie was performing at some (spoken word?) event so myself and Haleigh went and grabbed some food at some cute little diner first before having a little wander around Ellensburg.
We then drove over to hang out with Maddie, Cassie, one of their friends and the many four legged members of the house – Olivia being particularly excited by our visit! It was a lovely night catching up and one of the highlights of the week here.
February just so happened to coincide with Haleigh’s Winter Break (as a teacher) so she actually had a long weekend this week so on Friday we drove out to Haleigh’s hometown Walla Walla.
Walla Walla is actually the next post in my Washington series so you’ll hear more about it on Thursday but it’s another city I’ve grown largely fond of, largely because of the connection to the people I associate with the city. We were once again kindly hosted by Haleigh’s grandparents which is always appreciated.
It was an opportunity to see some of Haleigh’s family once again, whilst also getting to meet a couple of family members I hadn’t yet met. Haleigh’s cousin (Michelle) drove up from Utah with her boyfriend (David), whilst another of Haleigh’s cousins (Kylie) drove down from Spokane with her little newborn.
The Friday was Valentine’s Day too so myself and Haleigh went out for wings and beers (I think I was the only one actually drinking but still.. haha) with Michelle and David on somewhat of a double date. It was a really fun evening getting to know eachother a bit better and cemented our spring break plans to go down and visit Utah in April! I’m pretty excited for that!
The weekend was really about visiting the family but we did squeeze in a short trip to the Tri-Cities too which is always fun to visit. We only had a little look around to do some shopping but it was fun. It was a bit of a spendier weekend than most will be whilst I’m here but worthwhile and a lot of fun, definitely one of the highlights thus far!
Week three! We got back to Moses Lake on the Monday with Tuesday spent at home together relaxing before Haleigh’s return to work on Wednesday – which kicked off week three!
Tottenham were playing in the Champions League on Wednesday night back in England so I made a lunchtime trip down to my favourite bar in the city. I mentioned this in my recent post on Moses Lake but they’re always so friendly when I go in here. They even asked on this trip what beer I was drinking whilst I was here as they were planning to phase out my usual and wanted to ensure there was an alternative they had in for me – how sweet is that?
I assured them I’d drink whatever but I appreciated it nonetheless. Sadly the football was less positive as we succumbed to defeat by the Germans. On the plus side, this has been a shit-show of a season so I picked a good one to disappear for three months. I think we’ve lost the subsequent two fixtures since this one so I can’t pretend to be missing it too much haha.
Date night this week was spent visiting some steakhouse in town. I’ve had their steak before (and since) but I opted for fish and chips on this occasion and honestly, it’s one of the better (if not the best) fish and chips I’ve had in the US. The service was particularly good on this night too so it was a particularly lovely evening.
We had a pretty relaxed weekend after that. Other than plan out our meals for the week and go food shopping it was a pretty uneventful weekend. We’ve been binge-watching Supernatural (I’ve never really watched it until now) and playing the PS4 a bit but it has just been nice spending so much time together. The only disappointment of the weekend was that North London rubbish losing once again.
Week four! Wow, I’ve now spent four whole weeks here. It has been a great experience up until now. In some respects this week wasn’t hugely eventful in comparison to some of the previous weeks, in another respect this week probably felt one where I’ve felt most acclimatised to my new surroundings.
Each week kicks off on a Tuesday for me as that’s the day I arrived in Moses Lake. So I kicked off week four by checking out this diner in town that I’d yet to visit. It’s laid out a bit like a train car which is pretty cool. I’d been meaning to visit for a while and pancake day seemed like the perfect excuse to check it out.
There are better pancakes in town but it’s a cool little place, I was surprised it wasn’t busier although I’d purposefully timed it to try and avoid the breakfast and lunch rush so maybe that was a factor.
I also went back to the museum on Tuesday because I knew they’d brought in a new exhibit in the past few days so I figured it had changed since my recent visit. Oddly the exhibit hadn’t replaced the previous one on wine, the new exhibit was actually within the gift shop which seemed bizarre to me. Had I not known to look for it I probably wouldn’t have thought to check there.
Friday I popped in to town again during the day and this was probably one of my more sociable days here. As usual I kicked off my morning with a tea at Masons Place and the owner thanked me for giving it a shout out in my Instagram stories recently. I moved on over to Midway Pub and got chatting to a barman I’d yet to actually see in there so we were chatting for quite a while.
Strangely it’s the first time I’ve walked in there without having to ask them to put the football on, I walked in and the Norwich v Leicester game was already on which was refreshing.
I was going to head straight back to the apartment after the football but decided I’d quickly pop in to this art gallery that I’d passed a few times but yet to visit. I knew another opportunity would present itself very soon but I figured it’d be quieter today and so it proved. I had a good chat with the owner who seemed pleased to have a visitor from overseas.
Friday also brought another date night. We went back to the steakhouse for food (I got steak this time) and thought we could go do something after. I suggested bowling but as it was all the lanes were taken so we went to my favourite bar which had karaoke on Fridays. I’d yet to visit at anything other than lunchtime so I was interested to see how the atmosphere differed, I also think it was the first time Haleigh had ever been here.
It was certainly a lot livelier than any previous visit. One of the barmen I’d not seen for a while was working and seemed to remember me which was nice. I’m slowly making my face known in town!
Some of the karaoke acts were surprisingly good, it certainly wasn’t a drunken evening of terrible acts which was an upgrade from my last karaoke experience (watching some Spurs fans butcher Britney Spears in Brussels). Haleigh even plucked up the courage to get up and sing herself, I did not! Probably for the best! Haha.
The next day (Saturday) the town was hosting a festival called Brews and Tunes. Twelve locations in town were hosting a brewery each and some of those locations would also have live artists / bands playing.
It wasn’t the cheapest day out but it was something that would support the businesses and musicians in town so after debating whether or not to go I decided to go. Haleigh wasn’t as convinced so decided to give it a miss which gave us some rare free time to ourselves. Admittedly I’ve had plenty but Haleigh has either been at work or with me 24/7 so was probably pleased to get some space and alone time anyway haha.
The ticket for the event provided you with a little tasting glass for the breweries and 8 beer tickets to taste your way around the town. If you wanted to purchase more beer tickets you were able to for a fee.
It ended up being a really fun day out and another highlight of my time here. The first brewery of the day were in the same building as the registration hall so it seemed the best place to kick off the day accompanied with some local artist singing some of his own stuff.
The second brewery took me to a carpet store. Some of the locations were quite bizarre in truth but it was nice to see 12 businesses along this stretch all get involved. Location number three saw me return to the art gallery from the day before, the owner came and sat with me for a little while which was nice before attending to a spillage elsewhere (one of the strongest beers of the day too – what a beer to waste!).
The rest of the locations took me back past the first building. A couple of girls in the carpet store were already speculating about buying more beer tickets and it made a lot of sense. You started the day with 8 beer tickets but there were 12 breweries. You had the option to buy additional single tickets or a batch of 5 which would take my total up to 13 tickets in total. It made sense to taste one from each brewery and consequently check out each location so in passing I went and picked up a few more tickets.
I then moved on to location number four – a real estate firm with a blues band playing outside. The music was good and ‘Lake City Blues’ were the highlight of the three acts I’d seen thus far.
However this was then bettered as the next step on my tour featured a band called ‘Free Beer Nuts’ who were probably the best act of the day, playing in a cosy little room. I would happily have stayed there a bit longer but it was only a four hour event and I was only five out of twelve breweries in.
Reaching the halfway point was probably the oddest part of the day. I arrived to a packed jewelery store! I think it was just the timing of things that had made this a halfway point at which ever end you started the event so this was by far the busiest place I visited all day. There was quite a lengthy queue for the beer which I didn’t experience at any other point in the day. I might have been better placed coming back here but I waited it out with this older couple providing entertainment via some country music.
On to the second half of the breweries! Oddly I bumped in to a familiar face at my 7th location. We’d made a friend on our first date night at Squirrel Fight who spent most of the night singing at Open Mic night. He recognised me and came and had a chat, it was a bit of a surprise but he was such a character I’d obviously remembered who he was too. We chatted for a few minutes before heading our seperate ways.
The next few locations were odd ones. A couple of stores, a skin care company and then a yoga studio which was actually probably one of the best locations of the day for live music with a guitarist (Rylei Franks) set up nicely in the corner of this backroom. It was also here where I was again recognised by the guy who runs one of the breweries (Squirrel Fight) in town who thanked me for coming out!
The last location (Michael’s Bistro) was the only one not on this road, admittedly it was only around the corner but it meant walking up a block to tick off my last location! 11 beers and one cider to complete the 12! Of course, that left me with one remaining beer ticket which I used at the place Free Beer Nuts were playing so I could see a little more of their act before calling it a day. Twelve locations, twelve beers, one cider!
All in all, it was a fun day. A little more expensive of a weekend than I’d anticipated as I tipped a few of the musicians along the way but thoroughly enjoyable and one that really makes me appreciate the beauty in enjoying some live music.
Afterwards I walked back the few miles to the apartment and spent the evening with Haleigh, including a quick gym visit (had to work off all that beer somehow!) as there’s one on the apartment complex here which is handy! Sunday and Monday were both relatively lazy days and here we are! Four weeks done!
Overall verdict! Overall it has been a really nice experience so far, I haven’t missed England as much as I thought I might. Although of course there are certain things I’ve missed, I’ve been craving a proper meat pie recently and Greggs have yet to bring a bakery to Moses Lake for me to munch on some sausage rolls. My friend Jenny also reminded me of the goodness of Custard Creams recently which might now require a thorough look down the ‘cookie’ aisles here to find something that isn’t an actual cookie or oreos.
There are other things I’ve missed (like watching football 24/7) but the people more than anything – the family in particular.
All that said, there’s a lot of good about being here too. For starters I’m enjoying my time with Haleigh which made the whole decision to come here worthwhile. We’ve yet to annoy eachother (or Haleigh’s yet to annoy me anyway) which is positive. The winter has been pretty mild too which is nice, aside from one day of snow it’s been sunny most days. There have been a few days where I’ve even left the house without a jacket which is so strange for this time of year.
Additionally the people in general here have been pretty welcoming and I do feel like this is becoming somewhat of a second home. It’ll never be my or Haleigh’s long term base but whilst I’m here I’m certainly going to enjoy it and I think I’ll always have a little fondness for Moses Lake.
Anyway I appreciate this ended up being a little wordy but hopefully offers some insight as to how things are going. I’ll continue putting stories up on Facebook and Instagram so keep following along there!
I’ll do another update in a month’s time but next time on the blog (Thursday) I’ll be rounding off my February 2018 trip to Washington! Stay tuned!
Welcome back to this little Washington series! Those of you following along since last time out will remember I’d spent a night in Seattle, largely due to the irregularity of the Greyhound buses.
I’d enjoyed getting to spend an evening in Seattle but this trip was all about spending a proper amount of time with Haleigh, who lived on the East side of the mountains, in the small town of Moses Lake.
Let me say, from a relationship point of view this was a big step forward and was going to offer a better indication as to how suited we were to eachother. The best part of two weeks in eachother’s company, some of that period Haleigh would be working and some of it we’d be in close confinements 24/7. As an introvert and someone who likes their own space that was a daunting prospect.
Ignoring the relationship viewpoint, from a tourist viewpoint I also had the other problem of what I was going to do in Moses Lake to entertain myself for multiple days whilst Haleigh was working. I consider myself a ‘Londoner’, London born and bred, and I’m very much a person that feels most at home in a big city.
Moses Lake is not a big city, it’s not even a big town – its population is about 20,000! It’s a place I’d largely seen most of in just a day a year prior to this trip. Without being harsh, it’s not a place you’d ordinarily plan long term travel for and it’s not a place (or country) that is particularly focused on public transport. So much so that when you arrive by bus in Moses Lake you need a car to get anywhere – as I joked about in my previous post on Moses Lake here!
Nevertheless I am an optimist so I was positive I’d avoid boredom over the next couple of weeks. I arrived in to Moses Lake on the Tuesday afternoon which was pretty chilled, hanging out with Haleigh after work and getting some good sleep after a long day in Seattle.
The next morning I decided to go out and explore and see what else I could find that I hadn’t seen first time around. Greeting me outside was snow! I talked about the need for a car to get anywhere in the US but the beauty of that is that when it does snow, so much of it is untouched snow. No footprints on the “sidewalk” – just beautiful untouched white stuff – it’s pretty to see!
I find it particularly pretty because we don’t get huge amounts of snow in England. This was a rare snow day for me so nice to wander through and nice to see the contrast from my previous end-of-summer trip. I wandered the few miles in to downtown and popped in to my favourite little independent coffee shop to grab some tea and watch the world go by.
After warming up with a good cuppa, I ventured over towards the lake. It’s always pretty quiet by the lake, you get the occasional dogwalkers or runners but it’s pretty peaceful and probably moreso on days when you’ve got snow and ice on the ground. It was nice to have a wander before hunting for some lunch.
A good option seemed to be the Midway Pub along Broadway which has become a bit of a favourite on my visits. This was my first visit but has since become a bit of a regular. The atmosphere is nice and they’re always happy to put the football on for me, Tottenham had played the day before so I settled for watching the Liverpool game.
I like this bar because it’s usually pretty quiet at lunchtime. Americans seem to live by the “it’s 5 o clock somewhere..” mantra so, unlike the English, seem reluctant to pop in somewhere for a pub lunch as it’s considered unacceptable culturally before 5 I guess.
Additionally to it being quiet, the staff are always friendly – I only popped in once on this trip but they still remembered me six months later when I returned which was nice.
After a convincing Liverpool win, some good food and a couple of beers I moved on and decided to give the museum a visit. I’d been before but long enough had passed that I figured maybe the exhibit had changed and so it proved. It’s only a small museum but killed a bit more time before heading back to the apartment in time for Haleigh getting home and us spending the evening together – Valentine’s Day infact!
We decided to stay in, opposed to going out, and made our own pizzas! A joint effort which was definitely one of the perks in getting to spend a bit more time together and being able to do things such as this. Better yet, the pizzas actually turned out really well! What do you reckon? Not bad for a first joint cooking effort, right? It was a nice first Valentine’s together too!
One of the big reasons for making this trip in February was that it happened to coincide with Haleigh’s spring break (as a teacher), so it meant I could visit whilst she actually had some time off from school! The next morning we had a bit of a lay in before deciding to visit the nearby, and even smaller, town of Ephrata (population 8,000ish).
There was two reasons we thought a trip to Ephrata would be nice. The book addict (Haleigh) wanted to check out a book store in town, secondly there was the Grant County Historical Museum (which Google Maps will advise you opens at 10am) which looked like worth checking out.
We grabbed some breakfast in town before heading on over to Ephrata. The book store in town wasn’t actually open for some reason with a sign in the window / door suggesting to come back in the afternoon. Fortunately further along the street was another cute little bookstore so we settled for visiting here instead and Haleigh still managed to find a book to satisfy her need for more books!
Further along what I’m assuming was Main Street (every American town has a main street, right?) was the museum. We decided to just leave the car and walk up and after half a dozen blocks we’d reached what felt like the end of the town – there was very little activity, nor business around and it felt like there was very little to this tiny town.
Worse yet, the museum was closed for the season! If you look on Google today you’ll still see it’s supposedly open today too but once you go to their website you’ll see they’re only open between May and September! Worth noting if you’re ever in the area (not recommended!). Our two sole reasons to visit were both a bust so after the disappointment of finding a closed museum we decided to head back to the car.
On route we did at least spot this pretty cool mural on the side of a theatre / cinema! It’s one of the very few highlights of Ephrata but had otherwise been a wasted adventure. We made our way back in to Moses Lake for the rest of the day and chilled out, before packing for the weekend’s adventures in Walla Walla. That was a fun weekend but you’ll have to wait until next week to hear more on that.
After a few days in Walla Walla we came back to Moses Lake, in time for Haleigh’s return to work, which again left me to explore the town solo during the daytime. It’s a town I’ve grown fond of, perhaps because it’s familiar and does have that small town feel to it. You continually see the same faces and even if unfamiliar to you, you know someone else knows that person. You go in to certain establishments and know it’s full of regulars.
I’ve quickly established my favourites in Moses Lake but with each passing visit try and seek out a new place to grab lunch at or have a quick beer. The rest of this trip was pretty relaxed, embracing the company more than anything and it assured me that any length of time spent together on my big summer trip would be fine.
That just about wraps up this part of the trip. Next up on the blog? Well, I’m actually planning to squeeze in a bonus post next week so you’ll have two coming very shortly! I hinted at one of those above (Walla Walla) but you’ll have to wait to see what the bonus post is! Stay tuned!
Last time out on the blog I rounded up my time in Germany in November 2017. I did have one more trip in 2017 but I don’t have access to my Edinburgh photos here in the US so I’m going to have to skip that and jump straight in to 2018!
My first trip of the year was a return to Washington State. In quite an unusual manner, my third trip to Washington was actually the FIRST trip planned to the state. As I explained here, my intention was to go out to Washington for the first time in August 2018 to watch two friends get married. Additionally I was to turn 30 in August 2018 so it was an opportunity for a big adventure!
If you’ve been following along on my adventures you’ll remember that I decided to go to Washington a year earlier to meet Maddie (bride 1), Cassie (bride 2) and Haleigh (bridesmaid) properly in person. It was a great trip with me and Haleigh hitting things off which consequently blossomed into a relationship.
Whilst we’d definitely hit things off there was also a case of “we’ve not actually spent much time together..” – in my time in Washington we’d probably only spent about a day of it with just the two of us. I’d spent some time in Ellensburg with Maddie and Cassie, some time in Spokane by myself, a short amount of time with Haleigh in Moses Lake and then a weekend in Seattle with all three.
So there was perhaps two reasons to rush a return to Washington. First and foremost, this had blossomed in to a relationship and to wait from September 2017 until August 2018 was a long time to go without seeing eachother – it didn’t make sense to go a year without seeing eachother.
However there was also a degree of selfishness to my plans. I already knew I wanted 30 days in America for my 30th and logically it made sense that Haleigh would feature within those plans, at the very least we’d see eachother at the wedding, but how much of that time did I want with someone I’d spent next to no time with?
Would we get bored of each other’s company? Would it be awkward? Would it be a miserable 30th celebration?
“What did you do for your 30th birthday Jason?” – Well..
It is selfish but I wanted a positive story, I wanted a 30th to remember and not one I’d be regretting in five, ten, twenty years time because I’d spent it in the wrong company. So I put my summer plans on hold and booked a flight for February. Two weeks in Washington, a proper amount of time spent with Haleigh, a chance to meet some family but most importantly an opportunity to get to know eachother better and to see if this spark we thought we had was genuine. If we could survive two weeks in eachother’s company then it would be a good sign for our future!
Obviously it comes as no surprise to many reading that things went well, I’m actually currently two and a half weeks in to a 3 month stay here in Washington so needless to say we haven’t yet grown sick of eachother.
Anyway, back to this trip. My intention was to spend two weeks with Haleigh but I flew in to Seattle on a Monday and Haleigh had to work. Theoretically Haleigh could have come and picked me up but this was Washington’s Winter and would have meant driving through the mountains in the dark and potentially icy / snowy conditions. I decided I’d just get a bus over to Moses Lake.
The problem with that is unless you drive, don’t expect to get anywhere in a hurry. Greyhound offer something like 3 or 4 buses a day from Seattle to Moses Lake. Two/three of which are before midday, there are no afternoon services and the only evening service leaves Seattle around 11pm which means getting to Moses Lake around 3am.
I didn’t want to get to Moses Lake at 3am, so I decided to book one night in a hotel in Seattle. FYI – Seattle is like many big US cities – bloody expensive! I settled on one of the cheapest hotels I could find in the Queen Anne neighbourhood.
The two big differences between this trip and my only other visit to Seattle was firstly, this time I was alone and secondly that last time we had a car to get around. It might not seem much for less than 24 hours in the city but you quickly realise how much of a difference those two factors make.
For instance I arrived to Seatac and instead of a welcoming committee waiting to pick me up, I had to find my own way out of the airport. How do I get to Seattle from here? I knew the link was the best way to get to the city so I followed the signs and soon enough was buying a ticket in to down town Seattle – I can’t remember where I decided to get off but I quickly became aware that it wasn’t going as far as I needed it to.
I could have jumped on a bus or something from the final stop but I figured it was a sunny day (it always is in Seattle, seriously, the rain is a myth in my experience!) so why not walk to my hotel, right?
Wrong! Don’t walk anywhere in Seattle! I spent a good few days exploring Seattle six months earlier with the girls but when you’re driving everywhere you don’t appreciate that Seattle is just hills, hills and more hills. By the time I’d walked the couple of miles to my hotel I was happy to just crash – the time difference doesn’t help, it was probably around 3:30-4pm local time by the time I arrived so as far as my body clock was concerned it was around midnight.
I dropped my things off. The hotel looked nice enough from the exterior but looked tired inside, I’m not convinced the lock on my door actually worked which wasn’t encouraging but for one night it was okay. I wouldn’t have wanted to have been there for much beyond that – you get what you pay for I suppose.
I was keen to make the most of my Monday in Seattle – FYI, nothing appears to be open on a Monday in Seattle. There was a couple of concerts on in Seattle that were somewhat tempting – one the night before and one the following night which was terrible and teasing timing. One of the few remaining things I was interested in doing that was open on a Monday was the Space Needle – which just so happened to be under renovation on this particular date – seriously?
I looked what was vaguely near my hotel and Kerry Park stood out, I’d heard it had some of the best views in the city and it just so happened to be nearing sunset so it seemed a perfect first stop for my evening.
To get to Kerry Park I had to, you guessed it, walk uphill! Up Everest in fact! This hill was so steep and all I could ponder is if Seattle had another myth attached to it – “what goes up, must come down..” – Seattle just goes up and up and up. Admittedly when looking for one of the “best views in the city” I suppose it’s to be expected but all I’d done since arriving in Seattle was climb upwards.
The view at the top is worth it at least. At the top were numerous photographers, Instagrammers, influencers etc waiting for the sun to set over the city so they could get their picture perfect shots. I didn’t have the patience to hang around too long. I took a few photos and swiftly moved on, on the hunt for some dinner!
I finally had the opportunity to wander downhill and aimed for the waterfront. Aside from being a continuous uphill struggle, Seattle is a beautiful city with mountain, water and city views to admire.
I found a restaurant along the waterfront and seafood seemed a good idea so ordered myself some (Alaskan) fish and chips alongside a beer. The latter took forever to finish, the time difference was starting to catch up with me.
That said it was still early so after eating I figured I’d wander over to Pike Place, or where I thought Pike Place was anyway. Having been driven there on my first visit meant that I had little knowledge of how we’d got there and I’d convinced myself it was by the waterfront – it’s not!
Admittedly it’s not far from it, only a couple of blocks inland but I eventually realised I’d walked too far and had to turn back to find it. During the day the area is bustling with tourists, after dark the whole area is pretty dead.
I made my first stop the disgusting gum wall. On my first visit they’d recently scraped most of the gum off of the wall so it was quite underwhelming. This time around I was pleased to see a much more gum-filled wall in place, albeit slightly disgusted too at how much gum can go up in the space of five months.
Pike Place looked cool after dark but none of it was open for business so had a very different vibe. With not much happening I contemplated going somewhere to find a drink. As tempting as it seemed, I was also flagging a bit by this point so decided I’d take the (uphill) walk back to my hotel which helped wear me out in time for bed. It was probably about 9-9:30pm (5-5:30am UK) by the time I got back to my room. I inevitably crashed pretty quickly.
The next morning I decided I’d take a slow walk towards the Greyhound bus station. The Queen Anne area seemed like a nice neighbourhood and had a few cool pieces of street art in the area. I wandered over towards the Capitol Hill part of the city. That was the plan anyway, I got a little lost in my detour so couldn’t tell you exactly where I ended up but it was nice to see parts of the city that I probably wouldn’t have done otherwise.
Eventually I abandoned wandering on foot and jumped on the link in the direction of the bus station. The beauty of this journey is that Seattle is on the West side of the mountains and Moses Lake is on the East side of the mountains which means constant mountain views on route. It’s breathtakingly beautiful for a good hour of the journey, if not more.
I used up half of my phone battery taking photo after photo in awe of the view. The other passengers seemed unfazed by the views, I don’t know at what point the mountain views get “boring” but I hope I never reach that day.
A little like my time in Austria four years earlier, it felt criminal to see passengers with their head stuck in their phone instead of glued to the window.
Eventually I’d reached my destination on the East side of the mountains. More on what I got up to over the next two weeks to come in my next post! Stay tuned!
Happy New Year my dear readers! After a quiet December I’m looking forward to getting back in to the blogging groove so I’m kicking things off with my first post of the year! I’m not sure what the blogging schedule will look like this year as lots of change is coming but Thursday’s worked well for me last year and I committed to getting a post out every week so we’ll stick with it for now.
I’ve always considered blogging a hobby more than anything but with the new year in mind I did go and treat myself. I am now part of the dot com crew! That’s right, I’ve finally splurged on my own domain. I’ve not made any other changes (yet) to the website but it feels nice to have dropped the WordPress bit from my website link.
Anyway.. on to today’s post!
With the year ending I wanted to do a travel round up of 2019, it was another fun year for me with some great memories. Long time readers might recall I shared my early 2019 plans with you here. Following January payday I was eager to get planning and booked myself four trips for the first half of 2019. I planned to go to Germany in March, USA in April, Finland in May and Ireland in May. With the recap out of the way, here’s where I went and a (hopefully) small summary of each trip!
March – Germany! My first trip of the year was a bittersweet return to Dortmund. I’ve had the idea to go live in Washington for quite some time and I envisaged getting to the halfway point of 2019 in my best financial position in quite some time. Enjoy the first six months of the year and then seriously consider going to Washington.
That change is happening in a little over three weeks from now, a bit later than I’d anticipated so I was desperate to squeeze in a Tottenham European away day before I went. It was potentially my last for a while and I said in this post (here) that I just really hoped it wasn’t going to be a third trip to Dortmund.
The “football gods” took no pity on me and were cruelly sending Spurs to Dortmund for the third time in three years. I’d done the area to death. Dortmund, perhaps harshly, doesn’t have all that much appeal outside of football so it wasn’t a city I was excited to return to.
The obvious option in that region of Germany is Köln, a city I’d been to three times already. Ordinarily I might have been reluctant to go back but the Dortmund game overlapped with the Kölner Karneval which I was intrigued to experience.
I arrived in to Köln on one of the busiest days of the Karneval, Rosenmontag, which was just crazy! Streets locked down for the parade, fancy dress everywhere you look and of course being Germany plenty of beer too! It’s an interesting time to visit, crazy but interesting. The next day was an absolute ghost town – so bizarre but a fun couple of days topped off with a Spurs win!
March – Belgium!
I’d booked myself four days in Germany. I was excited about going back to Köln but it was my fourth trip, I didn’t need all four days to be in that city so I decided I’d spend the other two nights in Frankfurt.
I started having doubts about going to Frankfurt though, I wasn’t sure how much I really wanted to go. Could I change my mind? I mean, why not? My hotel had free cancellation, I hadn’t yet booked my train from Köln, what if I went somewhere else? Where though? I had a few ideas but Bruges was the one that grabbed my attention.
I went to Brussels in 2013 and took a day trip to Bruges with my friends Kelly and Walker. It was a fun day but I was tempted to go back and experience it by myself and likewise I was also keen to get some photos this time.
Bruges is still every bit as pretty as I remembered it. It’s a beautiful city to just get lost in and I was quite happy to do an overnighter on this occasion, it was also nice to enjoy a bit of the nightlife (the Belgian beer, let’s be honest).
I did a few things I didn’t get to do last time, tried mussels for the first (and last) time and was quite sad to be leaving come the end of it. I was flying home from Köln on a Friday and did debate staying in Belgium for the weekend. I then got back to Köln and contemplated staying there too but my head got the better of me – “Save your pennies, not long until the next trip”
April – Washington State! The “long term” plan was to get to Washington at the earliest convenience but I also had to see Haleigh in the short term so the first thing I did on January payday was book flights to Washington.
Easter seemed like a good time to go, I always try and maximise my annual leave so traveling around public holidays helps. Haleigh had a few days off in April too so it was perfect timing really.
It was a rather chilled trip but I got to see Haleigh obviously, some of Haleigh’s family and we also squeezed in a double date with Maddie and Cassie which was lovely. One of the other highlights was a visit to the unique Bavarian town of Leavenworth – a little piece of Germany on the USA’s West coast – I fully recommend a daytrip at the very least.
May – Finland! What was I saying about maximising annual leave around public holidays? In 2018 I had a HUGE 30th birthday trip to the US which meant sacrificing any football away days in 2018 and it also meant sacrificing any holidays prior to the summer. Consequently no bank holiday fun for me!
In 2019 I was reclaiming BOTH bank holidays. The first Monday of May and the last Monday of May are public holidays in England which means a three day weekend! Perfect for a short European adventure!
I really wanted to get to Finland in 2018 and things didn’t quite pan out so I was adamant I was going no matter what in 2019. For those that don’t know already, I grew up living with a Finnish grandmother so the country has ALWAYS held my heart and been somewhere I wanted to see for myself.
Finally (or Finn-ally? Hahaha.. no?) I got it booked! Finland was happening! I was sad to say goodbye to Haleigh in Washington but I was also so excited to be going to Helsinki in just 6 days after getting back. So excited – dream trip! This perfect little paradise, the adult equivalent of Disneyland in my mind. I was going to LOVE Finland, wasn’t I?
Wasn’t I? I mean hang on a second, I’ve never even been to Finland. I’d somewhat unintentionally built up this fantasy in my head – Finland was obviously a real place but what if it wasn’t the Finland I was expecting or hoping for? What if I didn’t like it?
Suddenly the nerves kicked in, suddenly there was a bit of pressure on this trip. This wasn’t any ordinary destination, this could crush every thought I’d ever had about Finland.
Fortunately I needn’t have worried. I think I’d fallen in love with Helsinki probably in the first hour of arriving. I quite possibly have Finland-tinted-goggles on but even months later there are still little moments that almost made it too magical. For instance on the train from the airport there’s this little girl with her dad singing a nursery rhyme and it just sounded angelic, it instantly brought a smile to my face. I eventually reach the centre of Helsinki, step off the train and snow is falling!
Snow! In May! There was NOTHING about snow in the forecast when I looked before the trip but of course there’s snow because Finland’s the most magical place on the planet isn’t it? It was the most perfect weekend, the highlight probably having a new Finnish friend drag me along on a bar crawl and I’ve just been swooning over Finland ever since.
My only regrets are that it took me so long to visit, that I wasn’t there for longer and that I haven’t been back 150 times since May. Did I mention I love Finland?
May – Amsterdam! “Hang on a second Jason, Amsterdam?”
Germany, Washington, Finland, Ireland! The eagle-eyed among you will note those were my travel plans for the first six months of the year. I’d budgeted the first half of the year perfectly but there was no wiggle room.
“Nor should there be really, is four trips not enough you spoilt little man!”
In my defence.. I’d said I wouldn’t be going to a hypothetical Champions League semi final in the unlikely chance that Spurs would compete in such a historic occasion. So I definitely had the right intentions to be financially sensible. Go me!
Anyway, backtracking a bit – I had to go to Dortmund because it might be my last European away game for some time. If I’d been confident we’d win I might have gambled but the Dortmund tie was a 50-50 tie that could go either way. It wasn’t a gamble I could take.
Our reward for victory in Germany was a quarter final trip to Manchester. Don’t get me wrong, I like Manchester but the only European away trip more underwhelming than a trip to Dortmund would have been a “European” away trip I didn’t require a passport for. Plus it wasn’t really 50-50 this time was it? It was more 80-20 in Manchester City’s favour and those were just the odds on a good day. So I felt quite vindicated in my decision to go to Dortmund as our European adventures were ending up in Manchester.
and then they didn’t. Our quarter final ended in the most bizarre and cruelest of victories but it was our night! We’d reached the semi finals of the Champions League (European Cup) for the first time since 1962. 57 years! Spurs were going to be playing in a Champions League SEMI FINAL!
“The Semi Final you said you weren’t going to?”
Exactly! I wasn’t going and that’s that, okay? I was committed to my original decision. I’d literally just got to Washington, hadn’t even been to Helsinki yet and May was looking like a crazy crazy month with too much on. I haven’t got the money, I haven’t got the time and the game in Amsterdam is on my mum’s birthday, I’ve got to be home for that!
I slept on the (non) idea – first night in Washington State. Then on the first morning in Washington I found myself scouring the internet for travel routes, costs and everything else.
Did you not hear me earlier? 1962 – fifty seven years! I couldn’t wait another fifty seven years for the next one! This was a once in a lifetime opportunity!
My real mistake was my hesitation! I’d given every other Spurs fan a head start and flights and Eurostar prices quickly shot up. In the end I decided to take an overnight coach from London. I got back from Helsinki on Monday night, went to work on Tuesday and caught the coach on Tuesday night to get me in to Amsterdam on the Wednesday morning (Happy birthday mum!).
Amsterdam’s beautiful, it was nice to go back but let’s be honest. I was here for less than 48 hours and for one reason only – football! Finland was probably my favourite place I visited in 2019 but I’d be hard pushed to say this wasn’t the best trip of the year, dare I say this Wednesday in May was quite possibly the best night of my life.
I couldn’t get a ticket for the game but I had to be in Amsterdam for the atmosphere, this was the biggest game in my lifetime! It started horrifically, we were dead and buried at half-time.
I think it’s probably the angriest I’ve ever been at Tottenham in my life. I’m not unfamiliar in watching Spurs lose but at least do it the right way, tonight of all nights. Come on Spurs, you can’t possibly turn up like this on this occasion!
At half-time we needed a miracle and in all honesty I didn’t really want to stick around. I knew I could be enjoying Amsterdam instead of enduring this rubbish but that faint bit of hope always seems to linger – “you never know..”
We scored an early goal in the second half for a lifeline, followed by a quick second which sent the beers flying in the pub I was in – bedlam! 30 minutes to go, just one goal needed now.
The next 35 minutes of the clock ticking down were agonising! Be careful what you wish for I suppose. I wanted some fight in the performance and it was going to be too late, wasn’t it? I’d seen it a thousand times over the years. Spurs play useless, Spurs then give you false hope before falling short. At least when Spurs were consistently useless I was spared that cruel hopeful feeling.
Tottenham deserved NOTHING from this tie and here we were on the verge of a miracle and again we were going to fall short. Five minutes injury time was added on and we go for what the Americans like to call a “hail Mary” – just hit and hope really. 99 times out of 100 it doesn’t come off for you, just an aimless long punt and yet on this occasion Llorente knocks it down to Dele, Dele flicks it on in the direction of “MOURAA!!!”
Miracles (or Moura-cles) are real! As a neutral I’ve seen some incredible footballing moments but as a Spurs fan in the 95th minute of a Champions League semi final in Amsterdam? What the hell just happened?
I think I spent the majority of the remainder of the night in tears. Tears of joy? Tears of disbelief? Who knows? All I do know is the scenes spilled out on to the streets of Amsterdam in an atmosphere I can’t describe. Hundreds of fellow Spurs fans singing, hugging, crying with celebrations likely to run on for hours in to Thursday morning.
I got back to my hostel drenched in beer and still in no control of my emotions – hoping to sleep but unable to stop crying.
It was the best night ever! One stage further than 1962! Spurs had qualified for their first ever Champions League (European Cup) final in Madrid on the 1st of June.
Don’t worry! There’s no long debate here! I was never in any doubt I would go to the final in Madrid in the incredibly unlikely chance we reached it but first..
May – Dublin! Washington, Helsinki, Amsterdam, Dublin, Madrid in the space of four weeks? Really?
Well, sadly not! Firstly it’s clear I hadn’t budgeted for two extra football trips on short notice. However honestly, the real reason I bailed on Dublin is because I was burnt out.
After my big summer trip in 2018 I sort of went through a little rut at the end of the year where nothing really happened – a seasonal rut to some extent I suppose. Spurs weren’t playing at home so going to the football had no real appeal, I seemed to have no social plans, friends were moving away, blah, blah, blah.
I’d definitely hit a social rut and there were lonely spells through that time but I’m also an introvert so there was a degree of comfort to having such few plans. Then life went to the opposite extreme come March 2019 and everything hit me at once.
Travel plans, family plans, catch up with friends, big birthdays. I’d find a rare free weekend and be so grateful for it and then suddenly – BAM!
“Jason, are you up for our first work night out in years?” – Sure, perfect timing, thanks!
Of course I’d wanted to do all of these things but life was busy and quite energy-sapping. I went to Washington in April which was a great chance to actually rejuvenate before Finland and Dublin and then of course Spurs decide to make history this year and I had to find time for two more unplanned trips.
I got to the end of May, knowing a quiet June was coming up but I was just desperate for a weekend of nothing. I felt like I could only do one more hectic weekend – Dublin or Madrid?
I could have struggled through Dublin, I know I’d have enjoyed it once I was there but I just bailed. Had it been further from home perhaps I’d have still gone but Dublin’s so close and cheap to fly to that I figure it won’t be long before I can make up for it with a trip there but I think I’d have enjoyed Madrid less had I gone to Dublin so it was the right decision. Dublin could happen any year, any time. A Champions League final will possibly never come around again for Spurs.
May – Biarritz, France! “Biarritz?”
Don’t panic! This is the Madrid trip! On the 1st of June Tottenham would be playing in their first EVER Champions League final in Madrid. However unfortunately our opponents had qualified an evening earlier and worse yet, our opponents were also from England – Liverpool to be exact!
With what promised to already be an expensive trip, having our compatriots get a 24 hour head start on the flight and accommodation hunt was not particularly helpful. Getting to Madrid within any reasonable budget was looking problematic. It was a “whatever the cost” type trip but I was in Amsterdam pondering what possible route I’d have to take to make it feasible.
Fortunately my dad decided to join me on this one! He’d done his fair share of European away days in his youth and I’d done my fair share of European away days in the 10’s but this was set to be our first Tottenham European away trip together – a Champions League final a good enough reason for a Father-Son adventure to Madrid
Dad: “I’m thinking of driving..”
Make that a father-son ROAD-TRIP to Madrid! It’s a long old drive from Peterborough so we agreed to have a night somewhere in Southern France and we stumbled upon the delights of Biarritz! I’d always wandered what the fuss over the South of France was about and it’s because of places like Biarritz. It was a heavenly place to rest our heads, I would happily have stayed longer and it’s somewhere I’ll possibly return to but Madrid beckoned!
June – Madrid! I actually plan to talk more about Madrid in my next post as I first visited in 2017 so you’ll have to wait to hear about the delights of this city. Sadly we were only in Madrid for about 12 hours on this occasion. It was very much a flying visit due to the costs associated with being in Madrid for such an occasion.
Consequently I don’t have too much to say about this trip to Madrid. Glorious sunshine, a cracking atmosphere between both sets of fans but no fairytale ending. Liverpool won their 6th Champions League final but for us it was a journey that will be talked about for years to come.
July – Paris! The Champions League trips offered a setback to my plans this year, in particular the hopes of spending a few months in Washington with Haleigh in 2019. It was looking increasingly unlikely it’d happen before the year ended but fortunately Haleigh came to visit me for two weeks instead so there were still plenty of memories to be made together in 2019.
This was Haleigh’s second overseas trip, her second time visiting Europe with us spending a bit of time in London on the first occasion. I’d never tire of showing off London but I thought it’d be nice for us to go somewhere different for a weekend this time with Edinburgh and Paris being the two leading candidates – Paris obviously came out on top.
My first trip to Paris wasn’t without it’s disappointments, remember? So I was excited to be going back in the summer and with someone to enjoy it with on this occasion. It already promised to be a special trip but then we got to Paris late on the Friday night and my phone decided it was having the weekend off.
I plugged it in to charge and nothing, I plugged in Haleigh’s phone and it charged perfectly fine, tried a different charger nothing, tried Haleigh’s phone and it charged perfectly fine. Why?
My phone lasted until about Saturday lunchtime with the little battery it had remaining and then I was “off the grid” – unintentionally but it was actually such a novelty. My last proper “off the grid” trip was in 2014 when I went to Berlin, which is probably more recent than most, and it’s genuinely so nice to be completely unattainable.
I feel fortunate to have traveled abroad before the days of being accessible 24/7. If it’s an emergency here’s the number of my hotel, I’ll try and send you a postcard and you’ll see the photos once I’m home and they’ve been developed. I find it impossible now, arguably doubly so given I’m in a long distance relationship. The 8 hour time difference is a killer, every small window of opportunity me and Haleigh get to chat we take.
So in some respects, what a lucky trip to be off the grid. I had the only company I really needed, there was nobody else that couldn’t wait a weekend until I was back in England.
Where are we going? Let’s dig out our paper map!
What time is it? Daytime or nighttime dependent on the colour of the sky.
What’s happening in the world? No idea! Nothing outside of Paris mattered for that sole weekend.
It was completely unplanned but honestly, it was pure bliss! I feel a need for more trips like that – more “Latergram” than Instagram. I can’t speak for Haleigh but it was a perfect weekend.
Lastly I talked about loving Paris on my first visit but France in the summertime is SO much nicer. After Lille (2018), Biarritz and Paris I’ve definitely grown to love France.
November – Washington State! The long term Washington trip got a setback but at the end of August I finally booked my flights. February 3rd 2020 until May 1st 2020. Not long now!
So as crazy as the first few months of 2019 were, the second half of the year has been mostly about cutting back and saving some money.
I’ve done some cool stuff in England but my travels haven’t been as frequent. I found myself with one last week to use before the end of 2019. I knew I’d use it to see Haleigh, it was just a case of deciding when was best.
Haleigh had a few days off for Thanksgiving which seemed an ideal time for me to visit and experience my first American Thanksgiving. It was a short and sweet trip, most of which was spent in the city of Walla Walla but it was great to catch up with Haleigh’s family, share some good food and of course spend some time with Haleigh before the countdown to February could begin.
Anyway, that rounds up 2020. This was probably a bit longer than I’d anticipated it being but I got a tad carried away with the football. In the end it was three trips for Spurs including a Champions League final, three trips spent with Haleigh and one new country in Finland. I’ll talk about all of these trips in more detail in the future but hopefully a good summary of what was a decent year and a good way to end the decade.
Thanks for indulging me in another summary of my year.Next up on the blog? 2017’s trip to Madrid!