The US – Random snapshots and snap judgements

San Francisco for its warmth, friendliness and helpfulness.
Pedestrian crossings where the time to cross does a countdown – you know if you can dash safely. Also that there is a red hand and a green man – no colour blind confusion.
Scallops – best I’ve ‘ever’ had at the cafe down the corner from my DC BnB.
The California Zephyr – far exceeded my high expectations for beauty of scenery and comfort of travel. More locals should know about it and take a ride.

The paranoia that ‘demands’ such oppressive ‘security’.
Stairs – an unbelievable number without escalators, lifts or ramps. The disability lobby is either non-existent or ineffective.
Hand-operated doors – most doors to most public places. I’d forgotten how heavy non-electrically operated doors can be. Repeat comment re disability lobby.
In line with the rest of the world, with San Francisco being a commendable exception, poor to non-existent signage. Where maps do exist, the almost universal absence of “You are here” stickers.
The willingness to give wrong information rather than say “I don’t know” when asked for help or directions (except San Francisco – yet again!)

State of the roads and many footpaths in all but (again) San Francisco. It was explained to me that the salting of roads and grading of snow has a deleterious effect. But in NYC in particular it was surely well beyond that. More like Sicily (see my 2008 blog for comments on Sicilian infrastructure. Not complimentary.)
Wildlife – a coyote; chipmunks; squirrels (the first one or two I was amazed but soon realised they’re as numerous as, but more visible than, possums; NYC subway rat (yikes!)
The extent to which the country is bi-lingual and that ‘WASP’ is not the (obvious) majority.
Serve-yourself food in food courts. Where this has been long-discontinued as a health hazard in Australia, it’s surprising to see the practice continuing in the sue-happy US (Warning: this coffee may be hot …. if only, you sometimes wish!)
The extent of timber construction, both past (to a degree understandable) and present – including fire escapes. What?!
Public phones still exist – lucky people! Lack of them in Melbourne was why I resorted to a mobile.

1. Being short-changed at an ATM. On a Saturday so no staff inside the bank to sort it out.
2. An aborted take-off – at Newark, en route to Quebec: “Please remain seated”!! Well, we couldn’t see fire or smell smoke. Turned out a cockpit screen went blank. When we finally took off it was with hope rather than assurance that it wouldn’t happen again.
3. Lost luggage – on arrival in Quebec. That’ll teach me to put books, electrical connections and cables, (junk) jewellery and souvenirs, instead of clean knickers and a toothbrush, in my carry-on! Not even a comb!! (It all turned up 24 hours later. And yes, as luck would have it, while wearing smelly clothes I happened to meet some people I know!)

Was it worth it?
Undoubtedly yes, for the wedding alone. One of the happiest events, any time, any place, that it’s ever been my pleasure and privilege to attend.
But also for everything else. I might not be enamoured, as Suzannah and Hilary are, but it’s all been so interesting and so much was so enjoyable.
As for doing it again …… Europe and the UK remain my first loves so on my limited budget, without compelling reason, I’ll be unlikely to pass this way again. But never say never!!

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