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Archive for the ‘USA’ Category

A friend of mine recently announced that he was headed to Boston, Massachusetts for a couple of weeks. As the resident Boston expert (you get that label after four years of university there) we got to chatting about why I loved Boston.

Introding other Brits to Annapolis' delights

Introding other Brits to Annapolis' delights

One of the most important things to me when traveling is food. Pretty sure I’m not alone there and often, from the places I’ve lived, it’s the thing I remember and miss the most.

In Thailand I was all about the Som Tam salad, from Australia I miss the best barbeques I’ve ever had and in the USA? It’s all about crabs. I was an East Coast girl, from New York to Maryland to Massachusetts, and the East Coast knows how to do a good crab feast.

I’d been thinking about them already when my friend returned from her holiday to Florida talking all about her new find – Joe’s Stone Crab. Apparently some crab claws to go, eaten on the cliffs by the beach is up there with top meal experiences around. I almost had my flights to Miami booked, but when it comes down to it, I’m still faithful to Boston and Annapolis.

Sorry Mr Crab...

Sorry Mr Crab...

New England knows its seafood, and crabs are no exception. Legal Sea Foods restaurant is nothing but amazing. Enough said. If you’re in Boston, there are no excuses.

But my favourite crab feasting destination of them all? Drum roll… Okay, it’s not that dramatic, but all Annapolitans (that’s people native to Annapolis, Maryland) should know about Cantler’s. Hard to find by car, but easy if you’re on a boat and you know the way… A big wooden bench, some newspaper, a bucket, a hammer and a big pile of Maryland Blue Crabs. Mouth. Watering. Summer is coming, it is JUNE now (terrifying) and I may love a London summer, but nothing defines summer like a good messy crab feast at Cantler’s.

Working on a way to get them shipped over now…

*This post was sponsored by cheapflights.co.uk however they did not influence the writing of the content.

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A recent catch up with wonderful friends Stateside has had me reminiscing on my days in the good ol’ US of A.

If you’re just getting to know me, then I shall explain: From age 11 to 21 I lived in the States and was lucky enough to travel around a bit and see some of this rather large country.

Key Largo

Key Largo

Being an East Coast girl, I explored the Atlantic side a good amount, from time in the sun on a family Florida holiday to freezing my little derrière off during my university days in Massachusetts. Two very different places. Pretty incredible when you think about it. That’ll always be the selling point of the US (in my humble opinion) – it is seriously crazy how different each region of this country can be. Okay, you’ve heard that before, but hey, I speak the truth.

Swimming with the dolphins

Swimming with the dolphins

In Florida, my best memories are of visiting the Keys. My parents hired a car and we travelled down towards the States’ southernmost point. Road trip: The classic American holiday. Oh yes.

In Key Largo it was all about swimming with the dolphins. The feeling of being pushed through the water by a creature like that was amazing and is hard to forget. We had two different experiences – one was playing with the trained Flippers of Florida, and the second was simply swimming in a natural ocean water enclosure with untrained dolphins. Just hanging out with the dolphins, as you do. The second experience scared me a little. Turns out I’m a bit of a chicken. But looking back, it was truly amazing getting to see these creatures close up.

Got to love those tourist hotspots

Got to love those tourist hotspots

Then of course there was Key West. Florida is fantastic because they live for visitors and that’s visitors of all kinds. I was young when I visited, and loved the street entertainers at Key West’s sunset parties. I loved the Key Lime pies, and I loved the ridiculous cheesy tourist spots like the southernmost point. If I went back to Florida now, I’d love the unrivalled nightlife of the Keys, Miami’s Strip…and probably still the Key Lime pies…

I need to get back there soon. Getting hungry…

*This post was sponsored by Ocean Florida however they were not involved in the writing of any of the content.

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I have returned to England, where it is cold and rainy despite being the middle of July. Welcome home.

Before leaving the States, I spent a day entertaining my friend Naomi in Annapolis and trying to do as many things as possible. When she first arrived, I took her to have a late breakfast at the City Dock Cafe, a great little coffee shop owned by a friend’s mother, located in downtown Annapolis in the Marketplace.

I know that around that same week, the Market House that has been closed and plagued with several problems over the years, re-opened for another try at a successful business model. I did not go to visit the Market House so I don’t know what is inside it, but with such an amazing location I can’t believe it will fail, although I have been wrong about that before of course. There are actually quite a few closed down businesses downtown these days. All around the water and up Main Street there are empty windows, including Riordan’s, an Irish pub/restaurant that yours truly was once a hostess in before the place closed down a few years ago. It is yet to reopen as a new business despite its fantastic location. I am inclined to blame the recession, but Riordan’s and some other businesses closed down long before that word became so commonplace, so what could it be? High rent? Lack of foot traffic? I have a hard time believing that last one because despite a huge new shopping/restaurant complex opening up near West Street, nothing beats the colonial quaintness of downtown Annapolis.

After City Dock we went on a short tour of the Maryland State Capitol House, once the capitol building for the whole country back in 1784 (which is a LONG time ago in American history even if it is a drop in the ocean for other nations). It is apparently the oldest state capitol still in regular use, and the only state house that was once the nation’s capital! Check that link out for more.

To complete her Annapolis day, I took Naomi on a boat tour of the Severn River with Kelly before digging in to a crab feast at Cantler’s where Kelly, my local Annapolitan, taught Naomi the tricks of cracking in to those hard shells. (Here’s a video of another local Marylander with his own instructions. For the record I DON’T eat the guts and crab juice. Just a personal preference).

After saying goodbye to Naomi at the Metro station and having dinner with my parents, Kelly and I headed to McGarvey’s again where Tikki Tuesdays was happening. Once a month during the summer, McGarvey’s run Tikki Tuesday, with decorations, raffle games, cheap drinks and beach themed dress requirements. I couldn’t have asked for anything more typically American to end my holiday here.

The problems started the next day when, after seeing the new Harry Potter movie with my parents (and helping to ensure its fate as the highest grossing film franchise) I arrived at the airport to find that I wasn’t in the Virgin Atlantic system… interesting… After several minutes and various people and computers, the check-in staff finally figured out that my flight was scheduled for July 14. It was July 15. A full 24 hours late for my flight and it cost me $100 and a small part of my pride to grab a seat on the plane that was leaving for London that evening. Not once did I think to double check my booking, not once did I think ‘if I’m supposed to arrive in London on the 15th, surely I can’t be leaving the same day for an overnight flight…’ Not my proudest moment, but I will certainly never leave for the airport without triple checking my confirmation E-mails first and I suggest you do the same.

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Celebrated Independence Day twice this year. On July 3rd met up with some old friends, then went with my friend Amy to her friends house where I ate a lot of crabs then went out on the boat to see the Sherwood Forest fireworks. Wooo America. I love crabs and I only ever eat them in Maryland and national holidays are a great excuse to eat as many of them as possible. I have become pretty good at eating them too. It does take practice, trust me. You may think you know how to eat a crab, but an expert could probably pick through your shell remains and get enough meat for another half a crab. I used to have that problem but I have now found the technique and pure patience it takes to get everything out that you can. Yes, I am quite proud.

The fireworks were great. Met a few of Amy’s friends including a guy who made his own shirt out of his flannel pillowcase. So genius.

The next day I went with mum and dad to downtown Annapolis to watch the parade, get some dinner and watch the Naval Academy fireworks. Apparently half the town is running for mayor right now, pretty sure at least ten candidates drove by. BIG tip if you’re running – popularity goes WAY up if you walk, don’t drive, down the parade route, if you have a candy and/or other goodies. McConKey – walked, had sweets AND frisbees with his name on them. Also a really hard name to forget anyway. Not that I’m endorsing anyone by the way, I know nothing abut McConkey’s policies; haven’t looked them up as I can’t vote in the campaign anyway. Not an Annapolis resident.

Ate at Cafe Normandie, but I could barely finish my cream of crab soup or my steak. Possibly because I ate an amazing red velvet cupcake at Nostalgia Cupcakes on Main Street. Whatever, it was a good cupcake and I took the steak to go.

Fireworks were good, although we almost missed them.

Since I ate crabs for dinner on Friday, and crab soup for dinner on Saturday…..I had crabs for lunch AND dinner on Monday. What can I say, I can’t help myself. Went to Magothy Seafood for lunch with my friend Morena from DC, then while I was sitting there breaking shells open I got invited to a little crab feast in Baltimore to see my friend Katlin for dinner. How could I say no?? Saw two old friends and ate crabs with both of them in one day! True Maryland style reunions.

I promise to eat something else today. So far I’ve had tuna salad for lunch, and I think it’s salmon for dinner. Sticking to the seafood, but why not when it’s so good!

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Last week I drove down to Washington DC to meet up with Alex, another ex-Severna Park resident living in the capital trying to find the perfect job,

I met him for dinner at Busboys and Poets on 14th Street. I haven’t seen Alex in a long time, so it was good to catch up. Unfortunately, like a lot of people these days, Alex is having trouble with the lack of jobs available these days. He’s been stuck in a circle of food service and while he may have perfected his serving skills, it’s not his life goal to excel at carrying four plates at a time. He’s a very smart guy who knows how to talk to people so if he can’t find a job it doesn’t look good for the rest of us. Busboys and Poets was pretty good. Apparently they do events like poetry slams and open-mic poet nights. We just sat for dinner and I had a really good poached pear salad with chicken. It was great to see Alex, but hearing about his frustrations with the job market just reminded me again why I’ve spent the last nine months traveling the world instead of struggling to find a career.

I really hope I can find a position that will allow me to save up for my next adventure quickly! Eventually I’ll have to find a place to stay and find a steady job, I know, but for now I’d rather enjoy my time seeing the world for as long as I can!

For now, happy Independence Day America! I’ll be spending the afternoon/evening in downtown Annapolis watching the parade and the Naval Academy fireworks. Apparently there has been some financing issues with the fireworks the last couple of years which is too bad because they used to be pretty impressive. Hopefully I won’t be disappointed!

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On Thursday night I was picked up by Ben and his wife Jess. After stopping by his sister Patrice’s house to see her and her new husband, Tim, we met Jessie at Armadillos, another City Dock bar that I have actually never been to before. We went straight upstairs where Higher Hands, a local band, were playing a great set. I had gin and tonics here which were priced normally but came in a very large cup making them a pretty great value drink.

After meeting up with Kelly we headed over to Pussers Caribbean Bar and Grille, where Kelly works. Possibly one of the City Dock’s best known bar/restaurants. This place has a great outdoor bar area right on the water. If you have a boat, you can drive right up to the bar, tie up and hop off for a famous Pusser’s Painkiller or two. I get to do this pretty often with Kelly and it’s not bad! The last time I was out on the dock bar, three people came to the bar by water in a little dinghy that they rowed in! Apparently no need for a fancy boat, or even a boat with an engine.

They also do drink specials this summer. On Thursday they do a ‘Bucket Night,’ that I believe includes a bucket full of five Miller Lite bottles for $10.

Pussers is a great fun place, day or night. As long as the weather’s good the outdoor bar stays open but can also get pretty crowded so be sure not to fall into the water! Also, the food here is really good. I had bacon wrapped shrimp skewers the other day. Anything wrapped in bacon is going to be good, and they were! I’ve always had a good time at Pussers and I’ve got to know a lot of the staff who always have a good time!

My favourite place downtown, but mostly because I can get to it by boat. Oh yea, and the strawberry daquiris are pretty delicious!

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For the last couple of years I have come back to my parents current hometown of Severna Park, Maryland for the beginning of summer. Fifteen minutes down the road is downtown Annapolis – the cute little colonial centre of the state capital. It’s a great little town, but it really comes alive in the summer when the boats come out and the outdoor bars open.

I’ve made it down a few nights so far since I arrived in Maryland about a week ago. Thinking back to last year I seem to remember there being drink specials in one bar or another seemingly every night to save you serious amounts of money. This year, like I said, I haven’t managed to explore all of it just yet, but I’m working on it!

This Wednesday I went to McGarveys right in the City Dock area. I went with my good friend Kelly (who I swear knows everyone in this town) and we weren’t even in the door before I’d been recognized by a girl I went to school with in 7th and 8th grade. I should have expected it since I’ve never been to a Wednesday night at McGarveys without running into someone from my past, but that’s what happens in a (relatively) small town! I fought my way into the very packed bar where people were drinking HUGE plastic cups of Bud Lite. Every Wednesday night (and Fridays too I believe), McGarveys serves huge cups of Bud Lite beer for extremely cheap ($2.50 if I’m not mistaken). The Happy Hour also provides cheap cocktails and other cheap drinks that can save you serious money. But late at night this place turns into a party for anyone aged around 25 or younger. Much older than that and you start to stick out as the ‘old guy.’ Depressing, I know. McGarveys is a good place, but on ‘Big Beer Night’ as it’s called, the place is so packed it’s hard to move around, even with two rooms open. But the place comes recommended by this writer, just avoid late nights on Wednesday and Friday especially if you want to avoid the enormous crowds and the high school reunion atmosphere. After awhile the place promptly emptied as crowds moved on to Acme, a bar further up Main Street which I visited last year when I was here. In Acme you’ll even be the ‘old guy’ at aged 25. It’s a tiny place and pretty popular, but not one of my favourite places personally. It’s a lot smaller than McGarveys but seems to attempt to hold the same amount of people. This place may be better on other nights of the week. I went there twice one year ago and enjoyed seeing my friends but didn’t love the over-packed bar and the lack of elbow room. This past Wednesday, Kelly and I chose to stick it out at McGarveys and order some chicken wings which I highly recommend! These also come with a special price on Big Beer Night although according to one of the doormen, they use a cheaper sauce on these nights and only use the sauce they’re famous for when they sell them at full price. Very cheeky.

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