Thursday, April 5, 2012

Camping like a maniac in 16 hours

After my first trip to Jordan Lake last month, I was keen to go back at some point, and luckily I was able to for a lot longer than the half hour I was there before. I can’t remember exactly how it came about, but the suggestion of camping was bought up in conversation, and obviously me being me was incredibly keen to do. It was decided to go for one night, with 6 of us sharing a tent; Emily, Michael, Laura, Lindsay, Travis and myself.

We left late afternoon Friday, very lazily (may have been partly my fault there not realising the time!) and after numerous trips to the store for booze, ice and then another stop for food and a pickle bucket (yes, you read correctly), although I hasten to add it was empty. At least we thought it was until it spilt pickle juice all over Michael… The campsite was on the edge of Jordan lake, about 20-30mins drive away from Chapel Hill (longer with all the stops we made!) and we pilled out of Travis’ care just in time to receive a lecture from the park ranger about no drinking water, pick up the trash etc etc. The site we picked to camp was a fair way from the car (vehicles not being allowed onto the actual site), which involved such a large amount of effort to lug down that a beer was needed straight away as reward. Obviously! The site itself is right on the edge of the lake, in the pine forests that are abundant in the area. The area is protected as a state park, and incredibly beautiful to wander around (not that we did much of that...), and really quiet which is such a change from the hustle and bustle of the UNC campus.

We managed to get the tent set up and fire started way before darkness fell which was lucky (because in my personal experience this is a bitch to do once its dark and everyone’s had a little to drink!) and then the real business started. Of eating camp food, singing songs and playing guitar. Because that’s clearly what college kids do when they go camping for the night…
Setting up the tent

Looking out over the lake
Travis attempting to cook...


No words to explain...
Needless to say it was a late night, with some great merriness occurring and good banter flowing. The fire was kept a roaring by the use of Travis’ blowtorch (as you do!) and Lindsay deciding to scare of all manner of living things big and small by a combination of her voice and country music. And that’s before Michael’s conversation about circumcision!  Laura had the great idea of doing the old chocolate-and-marshmallows-in-banana-wrapped-in-foil-in-the-fire-trick.  Which was amazing, but she missed out on it for reasons not going to be mentioned here (that me in trouble now!) 

Emily and Lindsay

Lindsay and I. Being mature as usual...

Tent shenanigans
Unfortunately it began to storm about midnight/1am, which lead to a  scramble to get everything cleared up and into the tent, leading to Michael and myself getting drenched when the heavens opened and we were still attaching guy ropes to the tent. What great ex-scouts we are! The merriment continued in the tent, with the cards being wacked out, and me trying to teach the Americans games such as ‘fives’ and ‘international drinking rules’. Which didn’t work out too well… Crawling into bed at some ungodly hour lead to me having a rather uncomfortable night with sticks and pine cones sticking in everywhere, as Lindsay had decided to nick my sleeping mat. Typical women!

Walking through the site

The morning was still a wet one, meaning the tent had to be taken down in the wet, and everything quickly ferried back to the car. It was then off to Bojangles, which if I haven’t mentioned before is AMAZING in the morning! A chicken biscuit cannot be beaten when you’re tired and not-very-merry anymore. After probably annoying everyone in Bojangles by moving tables around and causing no end of carnage to trays we trundled back to Chapel Hill, where I collapsed into bed and dozed for the rest of the day. So hardcore I am I know…

Great night with some great people and lots of laughs though!


Drinking in the City of Irish (Well, generations ago at least....)

March 2012

With a huge Irish population and considered THE place to be for St. Patrick's Day, Fiona and I arranged a trip to Boston months in advance. Even then however hostels were booking up fast, plane tickets were higher than the usual extortionate rate and the web was filled with sites dedicated to what to do in Boston over the weekend.

As these things happen, when it came nearer to the weekend Fiona wasn’t able to go herself (much to my dismay!) so myself and Katie, who’s an exchange student from Kings at UNC just for the semester, departed to Boston together. After a fairly straight forward journey, which included a $12 bus ride to a place nowhere near where we needed to be and thus needing to get a taxi for more money than I wanted to spend on transport, we arrived at our motel waaaay out on the outskirts of Boston, at a place called Braintree. The motel itself looked like something straight out of Psycho (ok exaggeration maybe…) but was pretty clean and decent for what it was and, crucially, located right outside a T stop (Boston’s transport service). After dropping our stuff we both headed into town to have a poke around, a journey itself which took around 30mins. But did offer some cracking views of Boston on the way in!

Katie and I. Being all Irish...

We spent the first evening wandering around the north end of Boston, and found an interesting dive bar, voted the best dive bar in Boston. Not sure how that works but whatever! The end of the UNC game was on too which pleased me no end as I was worried I wouldn’t be able to see any of it. The rest of the evening was spent trying to find another bar in which we could get a drink in the Quincy Market area (after sitting on a tram for hours that is. Long story that one…) but everywhere was being strict with IDs and so had to settle for a coke in Hard Rock cafĂ©. So hardcore...

The Saturday morning was an early rise, with the plan to meet up with Claire and Maria (two other UNC students in Boston at the same time) at Harvard University. This didn’t happen, so Katie and I wandered around by ourselves instead. Harvard is a beautiful campus, much like Oxford and Cambridge. Except not quite as old. And American. It was also full of tourists like ourselves. Much like Oxford or Cambridge in the UK-funny how old prestigious institutions like these attract those who either can’t or don’t want to actually attend them… From there we headed back into Boston centre, with a plan to just wonder around the Freedom Trail. However we luckily managed to time our wonderings with another group lead by a tour guide, so piggy-backed onto to that. And what a great decision it was too. The tour guide was incredibly good – very funny and enthusiastic about the stories and history he was telling us, leading us around the Freedom Trail and a little more. It really gave an insight to both the history of Boston, but also about the creation and development of the USA as an independent country. Accompanied with rather humorous stories about phallus shaped gravestones, the Queen drinking minging tea and the stupidity of British soldiers. Sort of expected we’d get slated for the benefits of a few American laughs. Its fine, we had the last laugh walking away at the end of the tour having paid about half of the actual tour cost!

Harvard University Campus

Once the tour ended, we wondered around Quincy Market, which was incredibly green and busy. All the bars were rammed with big queues outside, with music pumping and plenty of drunk Americans running around going “I’m Irish!” No mate, you’re not. Maybe about 7 generations ago you were, but your no more Irish now than I am Viking. But whatever - Americans only the slightest excuse for a party (look at what happened when Bin Laden died!).

Wandering around Boston

Quincy Market

Irish Dancing. American Style...

From there we got the T up towards Boston College to link up with Claire and Marie and some guys that Claire knew from home who were on exchange at Boston College. They were all a friendly bunch of Irish, Scottish, couple of English and American guys and girls and the booze was flowing and games being playing. After a few hours of slowly getting buzzing (including having my first Guinness of the day!) we headed towards the halls at BC where a number of parties were going down, including one by the Irish society (didn’t know there was such a thing…). When we got to the place there was a full on party atmosphere going on, with BBQ’s going (that’s a grill to you Americans, not the food BBQ) and everyone standing around outside drinking beer and chatting away. I threw myself into this situation thinking thank god theres a civil and chilled atmosphere and its drinking outside is tolerated here. How wrong I was. After a while of hanging out and having a good time, the police swung by through the accommodation including one incredibly douche cop on a huge bike (which I wasn’t entirely sure they could do in a pedestrian area, but apparently so…) and told anyone with open containers of alcohol to pour them out there and then, regardless of age and pushing people back inside the apartments. Considering there was nothing bad or even slightly antisocial going on, it’s no wonder the police are seen as absolute douchbags when they react as strongly as they did.

Tearing up the Boston Suburbs (the poor neighbours!)

Being sterotypically Irish

Anyways, the party carried on inside an apartment, with some drunken Irish dancing dance off going on and general revelry to Flogging Molly and The Drop Kick Murphys. As expected however, the party came to an end when one of the guys who lived there got freaked out by the heavy police presence and kicked everyone out. Which lead to a rather long hunt for food by the rest of us, and movement onto a house off campus and another party. This was good fun, with a DJ type set up (ok a laptop plugged into speakers) and a keg in the corner. We stayed there drinking away for a good number of hours until the beer ran out and an argument between a member of our group and some girl who lived there meant we were asked to leave. By this point it was around 11:30 and we’d been drinking for a while. A long old while. And staying on the other side of town meant a fair journey back, having to catch the last T’s all the way. So uncharacteristically for me, being SO knackered from the weekend I wanted to head back to bed. 

The next morning I was on my own, as Katie was going to see some family elsewhere in Boston. The St. Patricks Day Parade was being held in town, and so I wanted to go have a look. Being all touristy and that! I got to Broadway (where the parade was being held) waaaaay too early - so early that they hadn’t even finished putting up the railings to keep crowds back – and as such I was incredibly confused as to the route the Parade was going to take. After speaking with an incredibly unhelpful cop (what a surprise not…) I just followed the crowds of people and ended up in quite a good spot. Thankfully! Having to wait a while for the parade (being there so early!) meant I got to chat to a few people, including a couple from Germany (funny that!) and a young family from Boston, whose kids enjoyed jumping all over my daysac I had my stuff in. The parade itself was good, and I had no idea what to expect. It seems however that somewhere over time the Americans have got confused with what Irish things are, as there were a huge amount of bagpipe bands and players. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure bagpipes are Scottish not Irish…. But anyways, there was an interesting mix of music, dancers, formations of vehicles and weird things like Star Wars role players (yeah, my thoughts exactly), Army recruiters, and – bizarre to me -  lots of political candidates for various positions using the parade as a advertising opportunity. Don’t think I would ever have seen that in a parade in the UK. But then again I think our political system works slightly different in that respect! I enjoyed the parade however, until realising the time and having to make my way to the airport, fighting massively against the crowd to get to the T stop. Luckily I made it to the airport in time to watch the first half of the UNC game that day. Perfect!

The Boston Parade

I really enjoyed Boston as a city; a really beautiful place. Very northern though in comparison to other cities such as Atlanta, but a lot more friendly that NYC (in my opinion that is). The atmosphere of St. Paddies day really gave the city a buzz, and it was great to see how other places celebrate St. Paddies day, with Americans going mental for it. Guess should have seen that coming really! Have to say however, I do prefer the South with its warmer weather and more laid back polite ways of life. Just don’t tell those Northern Yankees!