Sunday, January 10, 2016

“In my mind I’m goin’a Carolina”

First written in December 2013

It's been a year & a half since returning back to the UK from Chapel Hill. I had always meant to do a ‘farewell’ post, but with the mania of final year of university, getting a job and spending months catching up on previously put off blog posts I sort of lost the desire to finish it off. And then Blogger/Google decided to completely change and deny me access to the blog for quite a while!

As I left Chapel Hill it seemed as if it was a chapter of my life that was ending and being fully closed behind me. I didn’t think I would return there, or even remain in close contact with the guys and girls I had become close. Thankfully, and I guess unsurprisingly, this didn’t happen at all. Whilst it’s natural that I fell out of contact with some people, simply due to the nature of human contact and the sheer distances and time differences between people, the beauty of modern forms of communication means that in a way I haven’t at the same time. Furthermore, the phenomenon of airplane travel means I have seen certain people way more than I ever expected!

I guess this is probably a good point to put down a bit about the ‘returning home’ experience. I was told both before going out to the USA and before returning home about the reverse culture shock I was likely to experience. And it be honest, it was bad. What made it worse was whilst I missed Chapel Hill and the way of life I had lived out there, at the same time I was thrilled to be home with my family and seeing my home mates again. But I was also very conscious of having to always be so excited to be home, when at times I truthfully wasn’t. I felt bored and out of place. Added to this was also the personal need to not be the ‘year abroad guy’ who only ever chatted about the time he had spent abroad. Yet for the past year that was all I had done, and all my stories and experiences etc revolved around that. I found myself purposely giving non-committal responses to questions about my time abroad, in a way (as I saw it) to not bore people. I really did find it hard to adjust back to home life.  Also, the jet lag back was an absolute bitch. Especially as for the first few weeks of being home I had nothing to do with myself! Starting a summer job helped return a routine, but it was hard. Top tip for anyone there: when you get back force yourself back into a routine!

I was lucky going back to Manchester, as I moved into a house with other Geographers who had gone abroad as well, and so there was the common ground on which to share stories and experiences. All of the ‘study abroad-ers’ tended to stick together, some more than others, due to being placed back a year as a consequence of going abroad and as such not knowing many (if any) of the year we were joining. Furthermore, quite bizarrely, we felt a little bit of animosity from the other students; a sort of ‘who the hell are you?’ attitude. Thankfully, this seemed to fade as we assimilated into the year and got to know some of our course mates.

The housemates. We regularly looked this damn good
Back with the lads
Many of us ‘study abroad-ers’ struggled in our return to Manchester. Not only were we returning to a city where we had previously known a lot of people but now very few, but also the way our course was run had changed too. I personally found it quite jarring, especially coupled with having to adjust back to actually having to seriously study after a year of scrapping by doing the bare minimum. It was here that the support network of each other became so important, and I found it amazing how quickly I bonded with people who before going abroad I had hardly known (and in some cases not at all) to become really firm friends with many.

Manchester Study Abroad-ers really struggling with being back...

I feel I maintained a greater connection to Chapel Hill than many other returners due to my dissertation topic being based upon my time at UNC (specifically focused on the rivalry with Duke if you are interested!). This meant I still talked to many people back in Chapel Hill to get further research and information. The dissertation was also a cheeky excuse to return back to Chapel Hill for the October reading week. In the name of extra research of course….

The disso. The pint was a regular appearance throughout!

Anyways, I have been very lucky in being able to maintain contact with a fair few people from Chapel Hill since being back in the UK. Almost immediately after arriving back home I had both Jess and Abe come to stay for a few days whilst on their European travels. Even more excitingly, Pat came and visited for a few days as well, and took great delight in ensuring all the old pubs of London were thoroughly visited! Pat also visited a year later whilst working on the John Mayer tour, which meant a cheeky free ticket to the gig!

Working hard. Clearly.
Casually drinking John Mayer's beer...

 In Manchester I also managed to see Lexi & Emma again for a few days whilst they were in town (Lexi having studied in Manchester the year before I was in CH), which was great fun and despite my work load being rather hectic at the time we still managed a cheeky night out together like old times. Fiona and John still pop into my life on a semi-regular basis, which is always great fun but never as often as I would like.

With the terrible two in Manchester
With the amazing-ness of modern technology it is pretty easy to remain in contact with some of the guys who live in various parts of the world, and a few months ago a number of us who were studying in CH together managed to get around a table in a busy London restaurant and have a catch up. It honestly was like nothing had changed (after the obligatory “what you been up to?”), with the same conversations and banter flying about. It was quite funny who had ended up in London and really nice to be able to see everyone again.

Another trip around the UK found Lindsay &I staying in Glasgow with John, including a visit to Linlithgow to see Fiona and Wevine (who had casually popped over the pond for a short time!). Linlithgow is a tiny little town between Glasgow & Edinburgh, with a massive lake, castle & strong accents – just what one would want from a small Scottish place! This was a fantastic few days, especially partying in Edinburgh with everyone. Although Fiona got boy-eyes and I got beer-eyed…

Yeah, I was beer-eyed for sure
Whilst I know it is unlikely that I will keep in close contact with everyone I met during my time in CH, I would like to think that I will stay in contact with everyone from CH. More likely I guess is remaining in contact with a few people regularly that I was close with from time to time. Which is fine: as long as everyone else still offers me a place to stay when I next go gallivanting around the world!

Still repping UNC in Manchester with UNC study abroad-ers

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

"I'm thumbing my way to North Caroline"

July 2012

I had spent a few days in Chapel Hill before heading off to Key West with Lindsay, but after the months of traveling and few weeks of farming hell, these were spent chilling out, sorting my stuff and life out and not doing much whatsoever. I caught up with the Pritch girls again, and it was a great feeling to punch the code into the door and swing it open to be greeted with a scream of surprise (I hadn’t told them I was coming!) from Emma, Lexi and Lexie. Lexie Kendra I hadn’t seen since before Christmas (she had spent the semester in Scotland) and it was especially nice to see her again, and catching up with them all. Unfortunately that was the last but one time I saw Lexi before I left as due to her jet setting summer work commitments she was all over the place and we never managed to be in the same place again.

After returning from Alabama I had about 10 days left in Chapel Hill before my flight back to the UK. Chief on the list of things to do was Independence Day, that staple of American traditions that I was keen to be a part of. Even if that meant being ripped to shreds for being British… Independence Day (AKA 4th July), if you don’t know, is the American celebration of independence from the ‘dam’ Brits. It is characterised by a BBQ (called a cookout), fireworks and lots and lots of beer. My idea of a great evening! A number of people rocked up at Lindsay’s house, including some of the RA’s still in town for the summer and some of the Graham 3rd lot which was great to see. Getting grilling and drinking early was the order of the moment, with lighter fluid being ‘liberally’ applied to the BBQ, resulting in a ‘flame grilled’ taste! From there it was over to Kenen Stadium on campus where a free firework display was being held. The place was busy, with everyone only allowed to sit in one part of the stadium (health a safety and all that – including the placement of loads of firemen approximately 5 meters apart from each other in all directions). Obviously I envisioned everyone being British there, so was quite disappointed to see hundreds of Yanks. Ah well, wear the British t-shirt I had with pride! I did spot another guy wearing the union flag, and catching his eye there was a mutual understanding between us: “we’ll let them have this moment for now; we still had a better empire than they ever will”. 
Getting abused for being the better nationality

 Kenen Stadium

"Oh my... look at the British kid!"

The fireworks were pretty impressive (not as good as Guy Fawks night of course – you Yanks better look that one up by the way), with live music and a bit of a spectacle going on. Though the pure patriotism did amuse me intensely, as did Sam chanting USA repeatedly on his own for about 5 mins. As you do of course… Once it was over it was back to the house to continue drinking and set off our own illicit stash of fireworks from Lindsay and I’s road trip. Fireworks are illegal to buy and set off in NC. So we bought them in South Carolina (where they’re legal) and set them off anyways. Which was a drama in itself as no one had set off fireworks before. So it was a massive guesswork fest of rather dangerous proportions, with the first one falling over before erupting and shooting over the fence behind the house in the housing estate behind. Ooops! From there it was a little better, relocating to the front of the house and next doors gravel parking lot to set the rest off one by one. They were pretty cool, and added to the beer, remains of food and good company the evening progressed well. Until Vijay wigged the fuck out and had a panic attack over something or other…

The Illegal stash of fireworks. That were set off in a completely safe and sober manner. Of course...

(Some of) The Graham 3 boys

I also got to see Connor again which I was incredibly happy about. He was in Chapel Hill for something or other, so us two, Lindsay and another friend of Connor’s went to the Durham Bulls stadium in Durham (surprise surprise!) to see my first ever baseball game. Really not sure how I had managed to go that long without seeing one to be honest! It was a good game, long though (as is the nature of baseball games), but I was glad to have gone to one eventually. The time was passed explaining to me in the ins and outs of the rules,  being taught to eat sunflower seeds (actually harder than It looks – you have to crack the shell in your teeth, then extract the shell remains whilst trying to to loose the seed and then eat the seed). The atmosphere was pretty cool, despite the Bulls loosing (apparently that’s a given!) and there was a firework display afterwards which was pretty cool.

At the baseball (with my new Alabaman t-shirt)
There were also a numerous amounts of evening activities with Laura and Michael (including another first of eating at Mellow Mushroom; a pizza place), who again I was excited to spend time with again, the Pritch girls (well, mainly just Emma and Lexie) which was always a mad night out, and a day spent in Cary with Audra (the area was stunning!), and hanging out with Pat for an afternoon which was great to do having not seen him for so long whilst travelling. I had also come to the realisation that with all the places I had been to and stuff I had seen all over the USA, there was quite a lot within the Triangle that I hadn’t seen at all over the year. Prime example of taking advantage of what’s right on ones doorstep… As a way to try and counteract this, a trip was made to Durham, more specifically the Duke Museum of Tobacco museum related to the tobacco production in the area. It was a fascinating place, with numerous traditional buildings that were used over the decades for tobacco production. Seeing as Durham was built upon the tobacco trade, and NC has so much of its history steeped in the tobacco leaf it was a fitting way to actually find out something about where I had been spending my year.

On one of the last nights out with the (remaining) Pritch Girls

There was also one other thing I wanted to do before leaving the USA. Get a tattoo. I had wanted to get one for ages, and it felt fitting to commemorate the simply amazing experience I had had in the USA by getting one. I agonised over the design for ages, and settled on getting a swallow holding a dogwood flower. The swallow represents distance, which I had travelled to America, travelled around America, and also that I felt I had come personally throughout the whole experience. The dogwood flower is the state flower of North Carolina, and it seemed fitting to have an element of the state where I lived for a year within the design. I went to Tar Heel Tattoo (keeping with the UNC theme!) to get it done by one of the artists there. Who smoked like a total chimney and was barking mad. I mean batshit crazy. So I guess the perfect person to tattoo you! To say I was really nervous about getting it is an understatement. Especially as the original design drawn I wasn’t happy with at all, but the artist – to be fair to him – was incredibly patient in taking the time to redraw it as I wanted it. And then the moment came – to be sat in the chair with the needle poised. Jess had come down with me to see it get done, and that was reassuring as she has a couple on her and was a calm reassuring presence. Lindsay was also there, as was Pat who simply wound me up the whole time – good combination of personalities which took my mind of it all a little bit. 

Tattooing hurts. Theres no two ways about it. Having a needle punched into your skin rapidly really kills. And that was just on the skin. The location of the design (the left shoulder blade) meant a lot of bone was in the area. And if tattooing on skin hurts; when the needle hits the bone it’s not nice whatsoever. The three of them had a good laugh at my winces (despite me trying to be all macho and not show emotion), and provided good chat to keep me occupied during the session. Plus the batshit crazy tattoo artist chipping in with crazy shit every so often to nervous laughter and raised eyebrows. Not that it helped at times to be honest with the pain! The session took about an hour, and at the end I took a triumphant look, a picture, and then it was covered up to heal for a bit (apparently I bled quite a bit…). The whole thing wasn’t as bad as I thought, and I absolutely love my tattoo (shame it’s in such an awkward place to look at!), and definitely an awesome memento of my year abroad. From the tattoo parlour it was on to get a well earned beer with Pat!

In the chair
The finished product

The time to leave came around all too quickly. I really did not want to leave Chapel Hill, and I found myself in the last few days looking around the place going ‘this is the last time I’m going to see this, last time I’m going to do that’. On the last night a bunch of us hit Franklin Street and partied the night away in true Tar Heel style. I was genuinely upset to say good bye to everyone, as they had all been such a part of my amazing experience in the States, and I knew I was going to miss all of them. The next morning the journey to the airport was an emotional one, and the plan journey home a long and painful one (on account of the tattoo being done the day before!). Arriving back into London Heathrow to be greeted by the family was an amazing feeling however, having not seen them since March. Although I was bitching as I left NC in the blistering heat wearing shorts and arrived in London in the same shorts but it was freezing. Which meant a not very happy Alex!

I was so glad to be able to return back to Chapel Hill for a little while (too short a time to be honest) before returning back to the UK, and be able to see those people that were still around. It was a great few weeks filled with lasts and firsts, which just shows that when you go somewhere you can never think it’s just going to be the same old! Writing this muuuch later on a train to London from Manchester I look back on those few weeks with a lot of fondness. To me it was just like the stereotypical American summer you see in music videos – hanging out with great people in the sun and drinking without a care in the world or anything to have to do. A perfect way to wrap up a perfect year.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

"Like In Your Country!"

Leaving New Orleans late afternoon we faced a good few hours drive to Montgomery, Alabama for a stop for the night. I was keen to stop in Alabama as the state fascinated me (don’t ask why!), and I was keen to see if its like the stereotype. The journey wasn't the longest we had done, but had its moments of fun (if that can be the word used), driving up through a another tropical storm, causing torrential rain to come down, causing traffic to come to all of a stop and visibility to like a few meters. However, getting through it and into Montgomery, we arrived at a random motel on the city outskirts late that evening, just in time to see one very sketchy couple rock up and ask for the most expensive room in the place (apparently it had a hot tub in it…). We just crashed...

Driving through the storm
The reason for stopping in Montgomery of all places was due to it being a logical stopping place in terms of getting back to NC, and because I had found online a museum which displayed the history of the South and numerous buildings that were a common design in the past. The next morning we set off early-ish – in part so we could get going at a decent time to NC, but also because of the humidity in Alabama (similar to Louisiana if I’m honest – how anyone lives in that sort of weather seriously astounds me!). After a slight issue of trying to find the damn place, we had to be buzzed into the reception building to pay our dues to wander around the museum. From there we were free to wander around the two blocks of buildings that were across the road. It wasn’t a bad little place actually. It was obvious a lot of care and thought had been put into the way it was layed out, with work buildings together etc, and a few staff members in period costume wondering around answering questions and telling stories. And playing music in one guys case which was pretty cool. 

One of the pioneer houses
A good few hours were spent wandering around the museum, including a very detailed tour of a plantation owners house by an elderly lady. This tour was quite unique as for one when she realised I was from Britain (or Eng-er-land as she put it), she kept comparing things that the plantation owner family would do to what (in her eyes) of British people did. The one comparison that made me nearly fail to keep a straight face was a story about how the wife would take tea with her friends at 4 o’clock. Alright, fair enough… Except for the fact that she then turned, looked me directly in the eye and said “Like in your country”. I had to rapidly look away to avoid laughing in her face… Although really interesting element to the tour was the two other ladies who were with us. They were pretty unremarkable ladies, both middle aged nursery school teachers. The only real difference between them was one was white and the other was black. Now normally this wouldn’t even be mentionable – I mean who cares? But in this instance with the elderly tour guide I was witness to an interesting social situation. The white teacher joined us first (the other was looking after the kids who had come on a trip) and there was nothing out of the ordinary, with the guide taking us around the house, making eye contact and chatting away to the three of us. Then the teachers swapped roles and the black teacher joined us on the tour. This was where it became interesting. The tour guide continued to chat away to me and Lindsay as we walked around the house, however she did not make one comment or even look in the same direction as the black teacher. It was like this woman wasn’t even there. I guess in certain generations segregation is still an issue. Not really sure why I was surprised at it, but I was! 


Leaving Montgomery we faced a rather long drive straight back to Chapel Hill. Made longer by the fact we couldn’t find a damn open place to get some lunch. Or the interstate…. The plan was to power straight through stopping to change drivers. And buy fireworks. Obviously… The buying of fireworks is illegal in North Carolina, but legal in South Carolina (yeah work that one out…) so on the state border there are massive firework warehouses trying to outsell each other. So we pulled into one and spent quite a while trying to get our best bang for the buck (get it?!). This took a lot longer than it should have due to the muppet on the till not having a clue about my British ID despite me pointing it all out to him. Fireworks purchased however we got back on the road North, stopping for dinner at Cook Out (missed it on my travels!), arriving back late into Chapel Hill. 

Our firework hoard
Alabama was an interesting place for sure, and I am glad to have had a chance to stop there, however brief it was. Along our travels (I can’t remember quite when now!) we also stopped for dinner at Crackerbarrel, which is like a centre of all things southern (ALL things southern!). The food was great – deep fried with not much else! The best part of it all was the shop part of the place, of which to note was the t-shirt section. To say these t-shirts were a bit patriotic is a massive understatement. They were hilariously cringey. Gotta love Americans! 

Man, I look so damn American!

Jazzing it up. New Orleans style

Leaving Crystal River it was another 9 hour drive west to New Orleans. Pushing the speed limit meant the time was cut, but it was still a hell of a time sat in a car! The journey passed by with the usual sing-a-longs (although with Lindsay controlling the music at times meant I had no idea at some of the songs being played!), Max Tucker stories (always a giggle) and Radio Lab shows. We hit the outskirts of New Orleans well after dark, and having a few mares with the Sat Nav we eventually found our way to the hotel we were staying in (courtesy of Lindsay’s parents – very grateful!) and then had another mare with trying to find a parking space. Typical! Eventually getting sorted and into the room (which was rather nice I must say!) it was a quick lie down, shower and change and out into the French Quarter to make the most of the short time we had in the city. Wandering around and getting hungry (well I was) we dived into a Mexican place for some food and a bit of a look at some maps and tourist information and the headed towards Bourbon Street.
Bourbon Street is THE party street of New Orleans. Right in the middle of the French Quarter (which is the fancy French looking part of touristy New Orleans) its packed full of clubs, bars, neon lights and revellers. The atmosphere was fantastic. Having a bit of a wonder around we came across a nice little jazz place set into a courtyard towards the top of Bourbon Street and sat down for a Hurricane drink – the archetypical drink of New Orleans. The jazz was really good, and the place was busy but having arrived so late we only heard a few songs before the band ended. Not a massive drama with so many other places on offer, so we picked up our drinks and wondered out onto the street. Bourbon Street area was similar to Key West in the sense that you could wander around on the street with an alcoholic drink in hand. Perfect!

Sunset on the way into New Orleans
Bourbon Street

Jazz band
Chilling with the home boys

Wandering down the street, mingling with the rather wasted tourists we stopped in a couple of different places, some jazz and blues focused, others more mainstream. We found a cool little jazz club towards the other end of Bourbon Street from the first place we were in, which was quite pricy for drinks ($7-8 a pint) but the jazz music flowing out from the door sounded amazing, and the place was small and very intimate for a music venue. Going in we were seated right down the front (perfect!) and ended up staying for a good while jigging to the music and drinking more expensive beer than should have! Leaving the place we both were feeling the effects of the long hours travelling in the day, and so headed back to the hotel room. Well, I was heading back to the hotel room. Lindsay had decided point blank it was the other way, and no amount of logical explanation involving a map could persuade her otherwise. Women, eh?!

Awesome jazz/swing band
The next morning was tourist time. Having had a lovely lie in and thus missing the complimentary breakfast (turns out it was all worth it anyways), we spent a good half hour chatting to the hotel tour guide person, and then headed out into town. Having missed breakfast we went for the brunch option, and chanced the most amazing breakfast/lunch place in the French Quarter. I cant remember its name, but it proclaimed to be world renowned for its Po’Boys (a type of sandwich/baguette style edible thing. If that makes it clear at all…). So obviously I had to have one. And my god it was good! The place was rammed as we left too – guess it was renowned then! The day was spent wandering around the French Quarter, which truly is a beautiful area. Although, with New Orleans being below the water line and therefore doesn’t have great drainage, the place did smell. Not like a gagging foul smell, but certainly a noticeable smell that made one wrinkle their nose on occasion. It was also INCREDABLY hot and humid. I mean INCREDABLY. We had to keep stopping every so often for a drink and sit down! Although this was no hardship as there were plenty of little stalls and cafes with live jazz being played, and local delicacies on offer, so I was more than happy with that! 

Out and about in the French Quarter
Another part of the French Quarter
Being  a muppet. As usual!
Love this sign!
That evening the tourist lady-person had booked us a table at a fancy-cum-traditional New Orleanian restaurant nearby. Creole food – which is eaten in New Orleans and Louisianna – is an interesting mix between French, American and some other styles. Needless to say I was very keen to get stuck in and try some different things, going for some rabbit. I also had an incredibly nice Hurricane drink, which was way better than the one the night before. But also like 3 times the price… The meal was incredible and very satisfying – in true American style there was loads of it; neither Lindsay or I could finish it all! Leaving with rather large food babys and light wallets we managed to burn it off walking across the Quarter to the start of the Ghost Tour. As we got to the meeting place we were treated to the sight of a wedding procession coming down the street towards us – the full on New Orleans experience of brass band, everyone dancing and having a right old jolly and colour everywhere. It had been something I wanted to see but wasn’t expecting and I was incredibly excited to see the procession. Much to Lindsay’s amusement!

Wedding march procession

 New Orleans is one of the most haunted cities in the world – due in part to a huge fire that ripped through the city in 1788, but also has some crazy stories of residents considered to be witches and vampires. Hence why we wanted to go on a Ghost Tour. It was a fair sized group lead by a guide (obviously) who had many interesting and entertaining stories about various places we passed. He would keep saying that if you took a photo of a building you could see the ‘orbs’ of the spirits who died there. I was sceptical, but did it anyways and got a few orbs on the photos. I then later read that these can be attributed to dust particles. Ah well, good activity for the guide to keep everyone’s attention I guess! The tour lasted a good few hours as it got dark. The French Quarter was really cool in the dark, with many of the old lamps still in place, giving the whole area a Victorian street feel in the dusk. I would highly recommend doing a ghost tour whilst in New Orleans – it was really good! And money well spent (of course!). Although Lindsay did later in the evening get incredibly freaked out about ghosts in the hotel room. Which wasn’t completely unfounded as it was an incredibly old hotel, and out room was on the end of the building. No drama, except the floor was the old school wooden floors that you can hear creak every time someone walks over them. And we could hear footsteps and creaking outside of the room on the side facing out onto the street. Freaky indeed…

Haunted house
And with supposed spirits floating around (the white spheres)

Anyways, leaving the Ghost Tour we heading out of the French Quarter for the evening, down to Frenchmen Street, which is renowned for more progressive jazz and music. Despite it being a Sunday night it was buzzing there, with jazz coming at you from all angles from the open doors of the jazz clubs and venues. Going in and out of a few different places – some big clubs and other tiny tiny bars - I was blown away at the quality of music being played on stage. Some bands had only three musicians, others in excess of 10. Yet all of them seemed to give their all on stage, dancing around and playing fast and furiously, sweat dripping of all of them. It was simply amazing to watch and you could feel yourself being drawn in by their vibe. My only complaint of it all was the bizarre policy of some places of ID-ing on the door (sometimes a right pain with a British ID) and then getting ID again at the bar. Minor complain though to be honest! We hung out in the various venues for a good few hours, but with the hardcore day wandering around the French Quarter we were both knackered and headed back to the hotel at the New Orleans early hour of 1.30am. This in itself was an awesome journey as we got a taxi back, and the taxi driver was a total legend telling us about his three kids who “one is a doctor and one an engineer”. Obviously the third was the black sheep then!
The next morning we made the most of the last few hours of being in New Orleans. Lindsay wanted to look around a pharmacy museum that had be walked past on the Ghost Tour the night before, but unfortunately getting there we found it closed. Instead we grabbed some lunch on Bourbon Street (me having some rather nice Jambalaya which is another Creole dish) and wandered across the Quarter to a voodoo temple which I was keen to see.  New Orleans is renowned for its links with Voodoo-ism, as is the Creole culture. But what I didn’t know is the links Voodoo has with the Christian Church from the slaves brought over wanting to maintain links to their traditional ways of life. 

Anyways, the temple wasn’t anything like I was expecting. It wasn’t dark and dingy with satanic symbols and red everywhere. Instead it was quite a normal shop, selling normal christian related things, and the priestess in there was incredibly interesting to talk to (when I could understand her that is!). It really was an interesting experience to go to the temple and see what voodoo was all about. Having said that, I think we had gone to a more ‘mainstream/normal’ place as a voodoo shop we had gone into the previous day was very different, although the basic idea was very similar. It was an interesting thing to go and try and gain some perspective of however, especially with the huge association voodoo has in New Orleans.

New Orleans is one mental place, but I loved it there. It is completely different to any other USA city I had visited, and seemed to revel in the fact it was such a different place. The two nights spent there just weren’t enough – I could have easily spent a whole week there and then some! It was definitely one of my favourite cities I have been too, and I am so glad I managed to get there – also thanks to Lindsay for joining me (and keeping me out of trouble!) and bringing the car!

Looking down the row of tombs in the garden district
As be left New Orleans, there was time for a quick stop in the Garden District where some incredibly nice houses were located, and a poke around the cemeteries around there, which again New Orleans is known for with the huge ornate tombs. Then we had one last stop at a touristy shop for some Mardi Gras beads (which one has to get when ones there!) and then it was time to hit the road to head back to North Carolina. Via that Deep South state made infamous by Top Gear….