By Christopher Tenant-Flowers (North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina, USA).
So having just returned from that holiday made famous in numerous American TV shows and films: Spring Break! Now seemed like a good time to tell y’all about some of the trips I have been luckily enough to go on during my time here. What follows are the much abbreviated highlights. Sorry for skimming over some things but otherwise you would be confronted with an almighty essay. Hopefully this gives you a brief taste though.
This was a great little holiday roughly half way through the first semester here which I guess equates to the NCSU version of reading week that we all get in Manchester…except its only 4 days rather than a whole week, but I know I can’t really complain too much. For this break my room mate and I as well as a few other friends decided a trip to the city of Asheville was in order. This is a city out in the west of North Carolina located in the stunning Appalachian Mountains. The timing of this was all too perfect. It was still warm enough that we wouldn’t have to worry about freezing up there whilst also being far enough into autumn that we would get to see some of the great foliage that parts of the USA are known for during autumn. The views didn’t disappoint. We managed to kill an entire day simply driving up possibly the most stunning road in the world, the Blue Ridge Parkway and admiring the views out over the mountains whilst occasionally stopping to wander around rivers and waterfalls that dot the landscape. If anyone is ever in North Carolina in the autumn this is a must do trip. Asheville itself is a great little city. The city is known to be extremely liberal buy the states standards and it showed where on the very first night we were there we encountered an open air drum party in a small park in the city. Luckily another girl from our halls is from the area and so was able to show us around and even house us one night which resulted in wondrous home made pancakes and the always amusing demonstration of how we in England say aluminium. Overall it was a great break and is somewhere I would highly recommend.
Whilst my room mate was kind enough to offer me his house for this break I also had the opportunity to stay with up in central Massachusetts for this break and so I decided to head up to New England for my turkey dinner. I will confess that this trip did make me slightly sad that I wouldn’t be having a full Christmas dinner a month later as I would be staying in the USA over Christmas and the traditional meal is slightly different here. However the only reason that Thanksgiving inspired this reaction in me was because it was an equally epic turkey dinner that left me unable to move for a few hours. I can safely say I will be campaigning for its introduction to England because why not have another great big celebratory meal in the year? You can never have too many. As with many things in the USA I appreciated the fact that it was perhaps slightly less formal than what I am used to in England. Sure I like all the stuff that goes along with Christmas but it was nice to just eat and then relax (and not have to deal with family). This was also the first of what would be much snow over the course of my year.
I again found myself up in New England, this time with even more snow! Having slightly more than 4 days to explore the area this time was very nice. I have been to Boston before but it is such a historic and rich city that there is always more to see. I have to say I liked Boston a lot. It felt a bit more like home than many places I have been too in the USA whilst still being very American. It is amazing how much of a difference a city having curves and winding roads as opposed to a grid layout makes. It being so old certain parts looked especially good in the snow such as Harvard. There was also the chance to see some pro sports here in the flesh. It did occur to me that it was slightly odd to be considerably warmer inside at the ice rink for the Boston Bruins hockey team than it was to be outside to see the New England Patriots American football team, especially considering how all of my previous experiences of the sport at NCSU have been in bright sunshine. A stereotype of America that I was very pleased to see was true is the over the top decorations that many households employ. Indeed there is a house near to my host where they actually close off of part of the road so you can pull over and admire it such is there decorating enthusiasm. As previously mentioned the meal wasn’t the vast turkey dinner I was used to but was still fairly substantial which is all I really want. I must also thank their hosts. They gave me a wonderful time, constantly took me out and about and allowed me to be amused at things that to them must be very every day. They also gave me so many presents that they confirmed the suspicion that I was already having that I am going to have to buy another suitcase at some point in order to accommodate all the things I have gathered.
This is the big one that we have all been looking forward to. For those of you who are unaware Spring Break is famous for partying in the most American way. Films and TV have portrayed it to us in a way that makes it look so much fun that none of us could wait. Now due to some slight financial constraints placed upon me by my desire to have even more trips in my future I was unable to go to Cancun (Mexico), Jamaica or Americas #1 spring break destination, Panama City Beach (Florida). However a group of us did bandy together and rent out a beach house in the outer banks in North Carolina for the first half of the week. The outer banks is a huge sand bank off the coast of North Carolina running the length of the state and pretty much existing as a beach/summer home locations. So we had a good few days there checking out the area. There is actually a lot of history there e.g. the Wright Brothers first flight and one of the first U.S colonies. There was also a fair few shenanigans and spring break fun but I’ll leave it at that.
Spring break this year ended on the weekend before St. Patrick’s Day so for the second half of the week I went to where I figured I would get the most Irishness and St. Patrick’s Day fun probably anywhere in the world, back up to Boston. This trip was made even better by a band called Dropkick Murphy’s playing their traditional St. Patrick’s Day shows on this particular weekend. This band epitomizes and is loved in this city. Barely an event happens that they are not invited to play and they really represent a lot of its spirit and so it was awesome to see them there around the time the city was celebrating its heritage.
Alas all good things must come to an end and I am now back here at NCSU. Never fear though, my travelling isn’t done. A group of us are off to Chicago for Easter and I am finally making my way to Washington D.C. not long after. Following that we then have 30 days to explore the USA between classes ending and our visas expiring so I am sure there will be many adventures during this time. Currently I am definitely going to Colorado but who knows where else!