Friday, 30 November 2012

All Shook Up like a Hound Dog. Uh Huh Huh.

I'd been looking forward to this day for months. No, years. Actually, since my inception, so approximately nine months before the 12th of December.
Finally, after all the waiting, debating and angst about quitting my job and shlepping around the US, intense internal struggles over which shoes I could be arsed to lug around for three months, getting here and traipsing across the north east of the country, finally >>>


Elvis Aaron Presley's actual living, breathing pile on the edge of Memphis. There were probably a few of his cell particles still knocking about. I was so excited I broke out into star jumps by the ticket desk. Just writing about it now makes me feel a bit weird. So, in order to keep the hysteria at bay, I've decided to portray the wonder, garishness and downright opulence of the King of Rock and Roll in this here pictorial.

Feed your eyeballs.

Platinum ticket purchased sending happiness levels buzzing at full volume. If you go onto the Elvis website, you can get a coupon for $4 off the entry price. More money for souvenirs, such as Mr Potato Head Elvis's:

Elvis accumulated such a vast amount of wealth that by the mid 70's, he was able to buy a Convair 880 aircraft, gut it, restyle it and name it after his only child, Lisa Marie. Who's the daddy? The plane has a conference table, bar and king size bed with a gold plated seat belt over the entire thing. No cattle class on this vessel.

Sitting in the huge chamber that is Elvis's Car Museum is the magnificent piece of poetry that is this pink Cadillac. When I was little, my dad bought a miniature version of this for my grandma, and it now sits on my shelf at home, next to a set of Russian nesting dolls and an alligator head. Elvis bought this for his own mum, Gladys.
Seeing it in real life is something else. It's dainty and feminine, like a sugared almond, but also a beast of machinery that could smack you up if you got on the wrong side of it. I like that Elvis embraced pink - he also had a pink striped golf buggy that he used for tooling around the Hawaiian islands and later, the grounds of Graceland.

Across the street from the restaurants and exhibitions on the man and his life sits the Graceland Mansion itself. From the armies of shuttle buses we thought the house would be an arduous trek away, the sketchy path prone to bear attacks and prowling packs of Elvis fanatics. It was in fact, just across the four lane road which go-getting pedestrians could easily walk across thanks to a efficient zebra crossing. Still, keen to fit in and intergrate, we hopped aboard the shuttle and slid the cheap headphones attached to the personal audio guide onto our ears. Through the front door on the right was the Presley living room, decked out with festive decorations so we could imagine the yuletide extravaganza that would have taken place here every December before 16th July 1977.
Out of respect to Elvis and the Presley family, visitors are denied access to the upper rooms of the mansion, where Elvis's private quarters would have been. That's a shame - I'd have liked to see his bedroom for interior design tips to deck out my own house, when I get it together enough to get one.

This was my favourite room in the house. It's Elvis's billiards room and the walls and ceiling are completely covered  in what looked like antique oriental fabrics, pleated towards the centre of the ceiling.

It was the weirdest thing, but throughout the tour, Leah and I had been gawping at pictures of the young Elvis, slowly crushing hard on this dead guy who was gone long before either of us were a gleam in our respective fathers' eyes. Yet when we found ourselves in front of Elvis Presley's grave, we both clung to each other looking folorn and sniffling slightly, feeling this loss for a talent we never knew for ourselves firsthand.
 What a wardrobe. What a legend. What a man.

(what a cheeseball I am)

Monday, 26 November 2012

The Sweet Memphis Hello

One of the things about travelling is believing in the ultimate good of people and that they will not screw you over. Obviously there are times when some skanky girl might try to steal your £6 battered Primark gladiator sandals that are patterned with the faint splatter of vomit (slore) or attempt to roofie you in a Cape Town dive bar, but most people are alright. Throughout our time in the States so far, we've experienced unparalleled hospitality whenever things got tough and we needed it the most.

A kind grandfather rescued us from the roaring highways of Toledo, a legion of MegaBus drivers have cheerily hoisted our backpacks onto our shoulders waving farewell as we tripped along yet another set of unfamiliar pavements. One Knoxville hostel manager readily winched us to safety from the seedy, spunk-stained sheets of a motel hurriedly booked the night before.
But so far nothing has compared to the sweet, syrupy hello of Memphis, Tennessee.

We arrived at dawn at the curbs of the North End Bus Terminal, rubbing sleep from our eyes and trying hard to discourage the two dogs riding with us on the MegaBus from marking their territory on my cherished Primark wheelie-bag. A security guard bloomed out of the darkness, letting us know in that we could wait inside the warm station. Once he'd discovered our status as backpacking job-chucker-inners, he couldn't do enough, pointing out the downtown trolley stop and batting the tramps away whenever they got too brave. He had sons about our age, so perhaps we reminded him of them. People seem to feel a sense of responsibility when encountering female travellers. It's nice, like finding an uncle in every city.

His kindness was not a quirk either. Everywhere we went, Memphites were displaying that famous southern hospitality and were genuinely thrilled that we'd stopped by, leaving us with that contented, looked-after feeling you get when your gran makes you a packed lunch to take to work at the age of 25.

A shuttle driver for Marriott Hotel, who gave us a lift back from the airport when we were stranded one evening, told us that the hospitality stems from a time when fields and farmland separated you from your neighbour by ten miles or more. So even if all you wanted was a cup of milk because your own cow was on the fritz, you'd go over to Neighbour Ned's and make a day of it. People would visit their relatives in neighbouring towns and stick around for a fortnight or longer, yet never outstay their welcome.

The New England states are a lot like home, with cobbled streets and European architecture, but it also comes with a bit of attitude. None of that down south, no siree. They all want to have a chat and you can see the excitement rippling across their faces when they hear the British accent.

Example. Leah and I were on our way back from Graceland on a packed public bus. We stuck out straight away by being female and non-black. The homeless (but friendly and hygenic) guy we were talking to at the stop stealthily told all and sundry that we were from England. We didn't clock on because the fast southern twang is virtually indecipherable to a Londoner's ears. As soon as the cat was out of the bag, that was it. Absolut chaos.

'WHAT?? Grrrl, you from INGLAN'?!' A drunkard stared in wonder at you've-left-the-Gasson. 'You the first English person I ever met! Sheeeiit. England? You a celebrity in my life!' He shook his head, 'WOW... England'. It looked like the proudest day of his life. The whole bus was agog. Leah blushed Irishly. Once the firing shots of conversation had been fired, there was no going back. Everyone wanted to tell us their stories about the time they went to the UK and discuss the finer points of Skyfall, everyone wanted to know where we were going and what we had seen in Memphis. And when they got to their stop, they came over to say goodbye and shake our hands and lament over how much they wished they could take us out to dinner, if only we were only staying one more night.
It was completely nuts.

This bus episode, again, was not an anomaly. We caught quite a few of them and every last one felt like joining a private members club. Compared to London where all commuters are experts at avoiding eye contact and masters of passive aggressive mumbling, Memphites board the bus with a 'hey, how y'all doin' today?' And they want to know. They might not know anyone on the bus or be addressing any particular person. They greet and joke with other passengers because it's normal, polite, genial. It only seems to be London where friendly conversation is treated with the kind of suspicion usually reserved for bearded men loitering around playground gates. 
Another time, we were sitting in a bar off Main St named Bar Dog, stacking up cheap happy hour drinks while telling a barman about our travels. He looked impressed with our 'insider knowledge' (visiting Clarksdale, eating at Gus' World Famous Chicken) and poured us two measures of Jameson whiskey - on the house. Because he said, he knew what it was like travelling on a budget. Sweet.

What's the likelihood of that happening in the UK? Even if happen to have an 'exotic' accent. About as likely as half past NEVER.

I felt as though Memphis had seen us coming up the driveway, thrown open the front door and tackled us to the ground in a fury of love, fried chicken and 'Heyaaawl!!'. It had adopted us, loved and entertained us and set us steady on the trek down the Old South towards New Orleans and beyond.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Rubbery Chicken and Musical Madness at Sun Studios

Memphis. Three-nights of insane good time fun.
Let me break it down for ya now: 

Beale St and Wednesday night's Earnest Warblers.
After a light afternoon snooze and a trip to the airport to confirm we'd be able to hire a set of wheels on the 17th, we headed to the bright lights and hot blues clubs of Beale Street. It's three blocks crammed full of clubs, tat shops, general oddities and bars such as B.B King's, Hard Rock, a voodoo alley and Superior Karaoke. On the hunt for happy hour deals, we meandered along looking into shadowy windows and laughing at the absurdity of one menu selling deep fried strawberries.
Yeah. I know.
I convinced Leah to have a drink at Superior Karaoke. It was loaded with X Factor wannabes yowling their best country n western, heavily obese black women their voices smoother than a tumbler of bourbon and a Lady Thang (imagine an obese Kate Hudson blended with a generous heap of Miss Piggy) who I couldn't work out if Leah loved or loathed. She watched Thang with this intense fire, mesmerised by the furious whipping of her curly blonde hair, laughing at an unimaginably hilarious anecdote. Her false lashes dipped into her pint glass, tinging the amber liquid with streaks of black mascara as she looked seductively across the bar at the MTV camera that surely must've been concealed somewhere in the venue. Why else this show, Lady Thang? She was ridiculous, a star spangled cartoon who clearly thought she was all that and a bag of chips and I loved her.
Between her, the grinding of Leah's teeth, the blinding display of musical talent and $6 glasses of Big Ass Beer, it was the best Wednesday night I've had this side of August.
The next morning, on the advice of the biggest Yankophile I know, we headed towards the waterside to find the hallowed ground that is Gus's World Famous Chicken restaurant. Tucked between industrial looking shop fronts, it doesn't look like much. But the reviews on Yell told a different story. 'I WANNA MARRY GUS'S CHICKEN AND HAVE IT'S NUGGETS!!', one hysterical customer had declared. Another proclaimed it was the best chicken he'd ever had, but please, no one tell his mama, it'd break her heart. GQ Magazine had selected it as one of the top three restaurants to fly across the country for. It had a lot to live up to. We pushed through the glass door and stood in line, gawking at the fried turkey promotions for Thanksgiving, special prices for Ugly Pecan Pie and talking to Kook, a friendly bottle blonde who promised me that we were on the way to Fried Chicken Heaven. She wasn't wrong.


I ordered a plate of dark chicken which came towards my salivating face with chips, coleslaw and the best barbeque baked beans I've ever had. I'm not really into BBQ. I find the sauce can be sickly and sweet just does not go with meat in my cookbook. But these beans. Yes.
They came second to the chicken. Arriving searingly hot from the frier, the chicken landed on the plastic red-checked table, the excess grease dripping on a slice of inexplicably placed white bread.
The succulent flesh, encased in tracing-paper-thin batter hinted at a twist of pepper and peeled easily from the main piece, gently releasing ribbons of steam and fragrant poulty aromas towards my twitching nostrils.
It was deliriously good, certainly some of the best chicken I've eaten. No meat sweats, a huge calorie debt but absolutely no regrets.

We also did a tour to Sun Studios. Obviously. I'd have to slap myself with a rubber chicken if I'd gone all the way to Memphis and failed to visit this womb of legendary talent.
A heavily sideburned man theatrically led us through the studio's history, playing scratchy original versions of Elvis's first song and Johnny Cash's recordings.
Then - and this was by far the best part - we entered the recording room where all these makers of history sang, sweated and breathed. It was AMAZING. The ceiling was rippled like a giant McCoy's crisp to help with acoustics and there were three spots marked on the ground with black crosses that showed where the King of Rock and Roll once really, truly, madly stood belting out the kind of hits that made millions of people mess their pants with excitement. Leah and I stared transfixed at the ground then shuffled towards the spot in silence.
I felt a tiny pea of jubilation seeping into my own gusset.

Super cool.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Supermarket's Weep (with joy)

One of the many things I love about America is her supermarkets. The sheer choice, the absolutely bonkers products and the inventions that sadly never made it to the UK's shores never fails to leave my eyes agog and my mind submerged in wonder. I'm sure the produce on offer in New England varies to that of the South, Mid-West and West Coast.

Here are just a few of the items I found in the north east's aisles:

The original saucy minx, Mrs Butterworth. Don't be fooled by her prim stance; Joy Butterworth loves doing the twist and simply relishes in gushing out her warm, sweet syrup all over the hottest piece of bacon and sausage that lands in front of her. Slag.

Doggy Pick 'n' Mix! Treat Street for your puggly mutt.

Excellent start, but this needs to be pushed further. Where are the LOTR Cheerios? Light-sabre-shaped turnips, leeks and carrots? A Game of Thrones turkey crown? A lettuce head modified to resemble a DeLorean time machine? Pull your finger out food developers, and save geeks the world over from the terror of rickets.

SNAZZMATAZZ! I never know whether it's duct tape or duck tape but I know I want animal print heavy duty tape in my life. It's the simple things. 

This is a rifle, there are many like it but this one could be yours. Who wouldn't want a pink gun called Daisy?Someone who doesn't take pride, that's who. Put it in your trolley, fool. 

Just in case you forget the basic rules of living.


I can't help but think Frieda would have been better placed to sell depilatory cream with all that lush face foliage going on.

Alright BABEZ, fancy a nyt out 2nyt? Juz uz girlz, bcoz who needz a man tho init? OMG LOLOLOL. Get ur bodycon out n ur heelz on cuz we r gna HIT THE TAAAAAN. xoxoxoxoxoxoxox l8rzzz

A scene as old as time.

WHY DON'T THEY SELL THESE IN ENGLAND? So many times I've had to make do with salted popcorn while our American cousins gorge wantonly on Buffalo Wing and Ranch flavoured popcorn across the Atlantic. This injustice must end.

Give your kid a Handi Snack and see if they develop a taste for Mr Salty. 

It's not a party unless you've got cheese in a can.

Seriously, what was the thought behind naming these sweet and salty snacks? They look like they should come with an R rating and a packet of K-Y.

The WINNER: Discounted ammo with every pack of beef jerky. God bless America.

Washington DC: City of the Free

After a couple of days mooching around my uncle's mansion on the outskirts of Baltimore, slumped in front of age-appropriate films and wholesomely decorating ceramic plates with Sharpie markers, the Leahtard and I waved farewell to my tweenage cousins and headed to Washington DC, the seat of US power and government, and home to some right drunkards.

We arrived the day after the election. The delinquents staggering around the pavements might've simply been going heavy on the juice in relief that Romney didn't win the crown of America's Next Top President and a four year modelling contract with US Weekly. I'm obviously glad he didn't get the Presidency, but it might have been interesting watching him and Count Ryan run the world's most powerful nation into the ground. Interesting like watching the massacre and pillage of a flock of disabled lamb. 

The hostel, DUO Housing, was to the east of town, located on the creatively named 11th Street between 'M' and 'N' Avenue. We arrived to the molten hot, screaming vitirol of the manager who was throwing a tantrum in the common room, enraged that he'd had to stay eight minutes beyond his contacted finish time.  'Honey, youth been here long enoth,' he lisped evilly towards the inexperienced but sweet-looking check-in guy, 'I'm NAATH telling you how to do it again! Oh mah Gaaawth!'
He glared through the bullet-proof glass at our smirking faces, his exposed underbelly quivering beneath his too tight t-shirt. Diva in the house. 

We rushed straight out to Georgetown in west DC on a handy little bus called the Circulator. It has three routes and for $1 a ride will drop you off outside the capital's best photo opp spots. Happy hour seems to be between 4 and 7pm most evenings so we hot-footed it to The Tacklebox which was hawking half-price margaritas and discounted calamari. The end result being gloriously half-cut by 7.03pm.
In DC, more than anywhere else we've visited, there was a veritable plethora of free things to do and places to explore. Finally, America was coming good on her promise of the land of the free.

Here's what we did without spending a cent:

1. Spent an entire day at the Smithsonian National Zoo.
Highlights include watching a kindergartener scream 'PANDA!!' while running full-throttle at the enclosure before knocking himself out on the fencing, trying to coax a shy armadillo (crunchy on the outside) out from behind a small rock and watching tiny poisonous frogs rampantly sexing by their leafy lake.

2. Tried to count the bricks on the Washington Monument  then strolled along the infinity pool (which is actually disappointingly shallow) before taking approximately four trillion pictures of Abe Lincoln's face at his famous Memorial. I should add here that we obvo went to the White House, but you can't go in unless you have hand written permission on a length of rare Himalayan goat wool and signed by a member of the Senate.

3. Developed cricks in my neck from staring at the interior of the United States Capitol. Inspired by Sir Christopher Wren's St Paul's, it's where senators and congressmen hang out to mull over and make laws.
The free tour and includes watching a patriotic video  followed by half an hour of trotting through security checked parts of the building with a matronly guide. Ours looked like the old lady in Titanic but without the dodderyness and flagrant disregard for precious stones.

4. Paid our respects at the Arlington National Cemetery, where we also got to watch the changing of the guard at the Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier and gawp at JFK and Jackie O's grave sites.

5. Wistfully stroked planes and space artifacts at the Air and Space Museum in the National Mall.
Packed to the literal rafters with all things aviation related, from the Wright brothers' prototype gliders right through to Appolo mission gizmos, the museum gently takes you by the hand and leads you through the story of flight in America.
The Amelia Earhart section was my personal favourite - the first woman to fly across the Atlantic unaided began her incredible career by constructing a rollercoaster at the age of seven.

The Bureau of Printing and Engraving is also on the freebie list offering tours until 2pm most days where you can hungrily watch green bills being stamped, printed and cut. However, due to our trademark faffery and general unorganised nature, Leah and I arrived at the Bureau at 2.11pm missing the last tour and had to make do with a walkway depicting the history of currency which then led us directly to a gift shop trying to sell $100 in disassembled notes for an intact $5. No.


Although not free, we also managed to squeeze in a trip to another DC institution and landmark on the Man vs Food map, Ben's Chili Bowl.

Ben's serves some legendary chili smothered on all-beef half smoked hot dogs tucked in a sweet brioche bun and escorted to your salivating face in a red plastic basket with either ready salted crinkle-cut crisps or an order of fries.

We sat at the bar so that we could soak up the general hub-bubbery of the cafe, entertained by the employee's secondary school playful jibes and being watched over by the grizzly-but-kind-faced manager.

The chili was spicy - but not violently so - with lots of meaty body (nothing worse than chili with a weak physique) and although aesthetically unpleasing, went down like a dream. If tastebuds could body pop, it would have been like Save the Last Dance in my mouth. 

Such is its popularity, the owners have been forced to open a visitors centre selling general tat and merchandise next door. You're unlikely to get done on prices here - despite allowing Barack Obama and Bill Cosby to eat at Ben's for free FOR LIFE, the total cost of my meal barely touched the $10 barrier.

Washington, teeming with shiny marble, grand museums and historic monuments, was one of the cities where I barely made a dent in my gradually dwindling roll of dollars. And as we trail back inland towards Knoxville, Tennessee and beyond, I'm thankful that my final stop on the east coast was priceless. 

Monday, 12 November 2012

A Cheesy Philly Ditty

this is a blog post all about how,
My trip through the States went through Philly town,
I'd like to take a minute - just sit right there,
I'll tell you what we did in the city and who we met there.

bell end
  In east Philadelphia we went to stay,
With an actress who played a lesbian back in the day,
Chilled out, sightsaw, checked a broken Liberty bell,
Ate a Jim's cheese steak; Provolone 'stead of Whizz goes down rather well.

very tasty

 Then a couple of nights, we went out in the 'hood,
Got a taste for tall margaritas; the jalapeno was particularly good,
There was one little bar where we got a lot of stares,
Leah turned to me and said, 'it's 'cause you got salsa in your hair'.

our mate Baz
We got invited on-set 'round seven or eight,
Seeing a TV show get made, watching what make-up can create,
I did the famous Rocky run, I flew up those stairs,
Jumping at the peak, yelling Adrian! and punching the air,

we did it together

I looked out at Philly, glad to finally be there,
To have hot water, light and wifi after the NYC/Sandy nightmare.


Thursday, 8 November 2012

Boston: A Little Bit Magic

I'd wanted to visit Boston ever since I finished watching the fantastic and captivating Martin Scorsese directed film, The Departed, years ago. We arrived in the Massachusetts capital after an epic ten hour Megabus ride across the border from Canada and across New York state.

I expected the city to be chockful of gruff men talking out of the corners of their mouths with wise guy accents, I wanted to see Mark Wahlberg lunging briskly around street corners and Jack Nicholson's superfantastic crazy eyes glinting out from a gap in the window of a blacked out armoured car. I got plenty of the accent but Mark and Jack sadly remained elusive. Luckily Boston and her surrounding areas had plenty to keep us entertained during our visit.

Salem was our first stop, home of the infamous witch trials of 1692. A couple of girls, hungry for attention, started a rumour that a few women in the village had put a curse on them. I'll call the main girl Lindsay Lohan, because this lot were the original Mean Girls. So, Lindsay Lohan experiences a fit one day but tells her dad that their Carribean slave cast a spell on her. The rest of the girls grow jealous of the attention Lindsay's getting and spin their own yarn to compete: 'Yeah, like, we totally had some black magic cast on us too'.
I don't know, maybe they were starting to get their period and got spooked, thinking their innards were about to fall out. Maybe they wanted to be talked about, discussed, achieve a mini-level of fame. Who knows? Teenage girls are nuts. So they point the finger at two women, both named Sarah in Salem Town; one a beggar called Good and another by the name of Osborne, who was an elderly, impoverished spinster. The Carribean slave is also accused. Instead of rationally questioning Lohan and her cronies and cross-examining their stories, the villagers whole heartedly accept their accusations as truth and set about collecting firewood to build the execution pyre. At this point in time, witchcraft hysteria is rife in the Europe and is infecting the New World with the speed of a student pub crawl in Newcastle during Freshers Week. Everyone is scared shitless of the supposed work of the Devil, so without a shred of evidence, they burn the Sarahs (Tituba, the Caribbean slave is spared this fate).

In the space of about five months, the townsfolk and judges condemn nineteen people to crimes relating to witchcraft and issue death sentences. Many more accused die in prison and a 71-year-old man is pressed to death with stones. It was madness. All this pain and persecution borne from a lie weaved by a group of hormonally charged, naive teenage girls. The killings only ended when the wife of a judge was accused of witchcraftery and the judge thought: 'Actually, this is a load of bollocks'.

We visited Salem close to Halloween to find its cobbled streets crammed with middle-aged Goths wearing unsuitably tight velvet and cheap lace corsets, squealing kindergarten school groups and teenagers mugging passersby in the name of Trick or Treat. It was fun, totally Disney. Not scary in the slightest but full of pantomime characters and cartoonishly creepy houses.

Alongside the witch trial stuff, there was a store selling Harry Potter merchandise (wands, Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans, Butterbeer, brass Snitches. I seriously toyed with the idea of buying a $15 Deathly Hallows ring before giving myself a sharp and orderly slap) while a psychic convention and fair was taking place in the local shopping centre.

All things magick, weird, Wicca, offbeat, gory, Gothic and witchy lived here, in Salem Massachusetts. For some, all this stuff is just a bunch of Hocus Pocus (an excellent movie which also filmed some of its scenes in the town. Probably SJP's finest role) but the 14-year-old in me, who had tried stubbornly to perform the same spells as in The Craft (starring Robin Tunney and Neve Campbell, 1996), relished being submerged in this ludicrous and fantastic world.

Harvard was next on our list. We took the metro to this globally renowned centre of learning and emerged from the station to find ourselves on High Street Kensington. Harvard is a little way out of Boston city centre, a few stops away from MIT, in a town called Cambridge and it looks discerningly like home.

The plan was to tour the grounds with one of the student-run tour groups but we made the mistake of joining one with over-keen expressions and voices that placed heavy emphasis on random words. Their uniform consisted of straw boaters and maroon t-shirts that attempted to mimic the Boston accent by replacing 'r' with 'h'. Hahvahd. Pahk yah cah in Hahvahd yahd. See? Awesome. What was definitely NOT awesome however, was our tour guide Pritti's ridiculously high-pitched voice, crap jokes and game-show host mannerisms.

'HELLO EVERYONE and WELCOME to HAAAAAAARVARD UNIVERSITY!', she bellowed at us, punching the air with glee. How could she be so loud on a Saturday morning? Was it nervousness, or had she in fact she been popping Ritalin all night? Ritalin is a form of the class A narcotic, speed. I'd read somewhere that it was popular among college students, especially the freshman class. This could explain her yelling like an olden dayz town crier.

'To start us OFF, why don't we ALL say our names and TELL US AS LOUDLY AS YOU CAN where you're JOINING US FROM THE WORLD TODAY?!' She looked at me, smile stretched across her face. If she'd had a tail, it would be creating its own gale force wind from waggling. What an eager pup. Jeeze. 'London, in the UK'.

She seemed miffed I hadn't screamed my answer at the 20-strong group, but did her best to mask her disappointment behind yet more undiluted enthusiam. 'OKAAAAAAAAAAAY! I actually have a cousin that lives in Leicester! GREAT!' Once everybody had identified themselves, she herded us across the road into the grounds of the Ivy League university, yelping out facts, stories and dates about the institution. This wouldn't do. I felt harangued and we hadn't even begun the tour properly. I wiggled my eyebrows at Leah, silently indicating that I planned to escape as soon as possible and she should remain alert and ready.

The opportunity to do a runner presented itself when I spotted another tour group close to ours, facing a different direction. They were being led by a tall student in a checked shirt and beige shorts who looked remarkably like Prince William.  
Hello, sailor. Time to jump ship. We slid behind a forest of camera lenses owned by a flock of Japanese tourists and joined the new tour. In the next sixty minutes, I learned loads about Harvard because:

1. his voice didn't make me want to saw off my ears.
2. he had interesting, funny anecdotes and his explanations sounded unscripted.
3. he looked like Prince William, who I used to have a massive crush on but who shattered my dreams by marrying Kate instead of coming to North Wembley to ask for my hand.

By the end of the tour Leah and I were crushing hard and laughing our heads off like two completely deranged teenagers.
This was wholly unacceptable because we are in fact, worldly-wise women in our mid-twenties who have a proven track record in looking at and conversing with men. Yet here we were, blushing and giggling and shoving each other towards Prince William as though we were 12-years-old and had been asked to be bridesmaids at K-Stew and R-Patz' Twilight-themed wedding. We didn't even know his name. I had to be restrained from following him down the street at the tour end. We had to retrieve our sanity. What would bring us back down to earth?

The answer was a good old-fashioned burger at another Boston institution, Mr Bartley's. The queue was about 20 deep when we joined it, still laughing like a pair of idiots. Mr Bartley himself was perched on a stool outside, notebook in hand, briskly taking orders which we had to shout due to his deafness and age. It was rammo inside, groups squashed right up against their neighbours and elbows tucked in while attempting to devour the juicy, meaty burgers. They came teetering on a plate overloaded with either fries or Kate-Moss-skinny onion rings. It was a damn fine meal. If you ever find yourself in that neck of the woods...

The last memory I have of Boston, which was about a fortnight ago now, is our night out on the razz the last evening we were there. A TexMex teacher called Marcella in our dorm joined us on our crawl of the diviest pubs and bars the city centre had to offer. Outside the streets were teeming with people in costume stalking about trying their darnedest to pin down fun.

We traipsed about ten metres from the Hostel door to the nearest Irish pub and sat at the bar, listening to stories about gangland Mexico while sipping cheep beer from plastic glasses.

At some point in the night, I must have decided to see how far our British accent, so popular with the Americans, could take us. Would it buy us a couple of drinks? Earn us a proposal or two? Diamonds, pearls or a suitcase full of cashmoney? WOULD MARK WAHLBERG FINALLY STEP OUT OF THE SHADOWS AND INTO MY ARMS, SEDUCED BY MY LAIRY LONDON TONES?

I scored a drink, while Leah earned herself an indecent proposal from an extremely incomprehensible and red-faced man. Marcella picked up George Washington, complete with blunderbuss, silly hat and stoner eyes.

Of all the east coast cities we've visited, and there's been a fair few, Boston has been my favourite. The accent, the people, the familiarity and the chowder. Chaaadah. It was all completely fabulous. Thank you Massachusetts.