Washington DC

So today marked the last stop of the tour. We were all telling each other how much we would miss one another, and the trip wasn’t even over yet!

We arrived in Washington DC, and left our bits and bobs at the hostel before getting changed for dinner. I went down to the lobby to take cash out of the ATM but it wouldn’t work. I realised I had no money left on my Caxton card, so I logged onto my bank to move my last bit of spending money over, which I was trying to do week by week so I wouldn’t run out. Something on screen looked odd- my main account was missing from my online bank account. I tried to call my bank in a panic, but it wasn’t working, so I had to call home and wake my mum up to ring the bank for me.

At this point everyone was congregating in the lobby ready to head out for dinner, so we headed off to walk to the restaurant whilst I was on the phone. Turned out someone had been trying to use my account fraudulently, so whilst they could refund me the money they would have to dance my card. Crap. I needed that card to top up my Caxton card! Luckily my mum was able to email me the details of one of her debit cards, so I could transfer my money over to her account and top up that way. Crisis averted!

We ended up eating in this little German restaurant, which had this lady playing the accordion and singing VERY loudly. We all felt a bit rude giggling but it was pretty funny when she began to yodel at us!

After dinner our tour guide took us on a walking tour of Washington, which was great. There are plenty of monuments and buildings to see. We were all surprised at how small the white house was:

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And we were all in awe of the war memorials:

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Other highlights included the Lincoln memorial:

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And the Martin Luther king memorial:

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Along with some great views:

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We all voted for an early night as the walking tour really took it out of us! It’s longer than you might think but totally worth it, especially seeing everything all lit up at night.

The next day Katie and I went in search of a specific tattoo parlour she had found out about, for her to get a very permanent souvenir! It came out really well, she was really nervous but they did such a good job at talking to her to distract her. It was done very quickly and she was a very happy girly.

My treat was a massage. After the money stress of the day before and all that sleeping in the van I’d decided that my back and I deserved it! I found this great spa, and the lady there did an amazing job. I have to admit that I nearly fell asleep, it was so relaxing.

The whole group met up in the evening to go for our final meal together (sob!) our tour leader took us to fuddruckers, and the food there was amazing. Nobody was brave enough to try the elk burgers though! Our tour leader presented us each with a shot glass necklace with our awards written on them. I won most easy going!

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After our meal we all went for one final drink in a posh bar. We were all a bit tipsy and sentimental, so went to bed ready for the sad goodbye the next day :(

Virginia

Today was the longest driving day of the trip. It was an 8 hour drive with only one thing to do during that day- white water rafting! This took place on the pigeon river. Myself and my roomie Katie didn’t fancy it, as I’m not much of an adrenaline lover, but we were able to chill out in the sun whilst the others got soaked. We made sure to take time to rehydrate with radioactive lollies:

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The group all had a fantastic time, so it would be well worth doing if you’re not a total wimp like I am!

This is a bit of a short post as the rest of the day was literally just driving, with frequent stops for toilet and snack breaks of course! We were all starting to feel a bit sad as we knew the end of the trip was coming up fast, so we all got a good night’s sleep ready for the capital!

Nashville

When we arrived in Nashville we were confronted by a hostel called music city hostel. We all started freaking out as it looked seriously dodgy…not dangerous exactly but it didn’t look amazingly clean or drug-free. We were all delighted when our tour guide came back to the van and announced that they had lost our reservation so we’d be staying elsewhere. Some things are obviously meant to be, phew!

The hostel we stayed at that night was actually not technically open, so it was all bare but brand new so very clean. Much better than the first place! We also felt very special as they opened up just for us.

Off we went to the dekalb county fair. What an experience that was! If you got the ball in the dish then you won a bunny or a pig:

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We also checked out some mud racing, where big trucks raced in the mud and saw who got the fastest time. It goes without saying that we made full use of the fairground rides and sideshows! Is worth mentioning that this fair was small and literally just full of locals, and as the night went on we became more and more aware that we were outsiders. This came to a head when the owner of the fair asked us to do an interview with the local radio station and have our pictures taken for the local papers. I’m not even joking, check it out here:

http://www.wjle.com/news/2012/trekamerica-international-sightseers-visit-dekalb-county-fair

This was seriously bizarre but soo funny. The laughs continued when a few of us asked the tour leader if she would keep a fish if we won her one. She said yes, thinking we would never win the sideshow game to get them. Obviously she underestimated us as she ended up with two:

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We did eventually give the two fishes to two little boys though, who were mega excited at the prospect of owning two little fishes!

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Memphis

On the way to Memphis our tour leader found a really pretty little park to stop and have lunch in. The temperature was pretty perfect so we hung around for a little while. The downside to today was that it was another long driving day, and all the one night stops were beginning to take their toll. We all fell asleep in the van for a few hours, and as there were only 6 of us we all had enough space to lie down and stretch out to get a decent sleep ready for Memphis. When we got there it was well worth it…we had two nights in this gorgeous place:

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The first thing we did when we got to Memphis was head to sun studio to check out where rock and roll was born. We saw some pretty cool memorabilia and heard some great stories of how world-famous acts recorded their first songs here. We even got to rock out with Elvis’s microphone on the same spot he did:

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After the studio we went over to Beale street to get some food and take in the atmosphere. After hanging around the square for a while checking out a band and the market, we went to a few different bars to find some live music. The first was a typical jazzy bluesy rock and roll band:

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When we made a move for somewhere inside with aircon, we discovered how cool Beale street was at night

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We eventually found a really cool rock bar on the main strip, and just as we were getting pretty tipsy and enjoying the music they were playing over the jukebox, a band called brimstone jones came on stage and blew everyone’s minds. This band were definitely a highlight of the trip and I didn’t want the band to stop playing!

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The next day we all got up to check out what we were told were ducks at the Peabody hotel. I figured they’d be dancing or something, but after a long wait and a big build up it turns out they were literally just ducks walking into a fountain in the hotel lobby. Pretty lame! Next up was Graceland though, and even though I’m not an Elvis fan I found it pretty interesting to see his home and his vehicles. The house is to as big as you’d expect but it’s still seriously gorgeous:

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After that a few of us decided to check out the Gibson guitar factory whilst the others went back to the hotel. I absolutely loved this tour but I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re not really into guitars, it did get a bit snobby and technical in some places. We all met up for dinner At the end of our free day, and decided to have a Chinese as it would be a bit lighter than the food we’d been eating every other night of the trip!

Memphis was very kind to us and I would definitely return!

New Orleans!!!

The morning before New Orleans we went to check out a swamp tour. This would have been a great experience if we weren’t on a boat on the middle of a swamp in a thunderstorm…bit scary! It was a very cool experience though and we even managed to see a gator:

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So we finally made it to New Orleans! this was the one stop on the trip that I ad been most excited for all along, and it did not disappoint.

Our hotel, the best western, was absolutely gorgeous. Probably the best of the trip so far, check it out:

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The hotel had a pool and everything. Seriously happy Trekkers! We had a few hours to get ready before our tour leader took us on a walking tour of the French quarter, and a few of us took e opportunity to buy the hand grenade drinks that it’s so famous for:

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These things went down like fruit juice but were seriously alcoholic. I’d finished mine by the end of the walking tour and had to try really hard not to slur my way through my food order once we hit the restaurant. I figured as I’d tried alligator in Lafayette I should try gumbo in New Orleans, so I ordered it and was very happy with my choice. It was delicious and soaked up the alcohol nicely.

After our food we all headed over to bourbon street to begin our night of boozing. The hand grenades were taking their toll and a few members of the group (naming no names!) were pretty drunk early on into the night. Not that you can tell from the photos.

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Bourbon street was seriously cool when the sun had gone down. We did our best to ignore the naked ladies wandering around trying to get people into their clubs and had a blast.

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Surprisingly for a lightweight welshie I was the last one standing. A few of the group went back to the hotel and those who stayed were sat down whilst I was rocking out with the band. I eventually made my way back to find my roommate a bit worse for wear, with two other group members in our room taking care of her. Pretty good luck as by this point I was too drunk to think let alone look after my roommate…

We woke up the next morning feeling pretty rough, and after chilling out by the pool we ordered some hangover-busting takeaway food to the room:

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After we had sobered up nicely, as it was our free day my roommate and I went hunting for somewhere to get our nails done. We found a nice little spa and sipped on strawberry water whilst we were pampered. We then spent a few hours shopping and checked out all the kooky voodoo shops, making sure to stop by the voodoo museum which was pretty creepy:

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We had a bit of a scary moment in the evening when we all met up for dinner. One member of the group was not there. She was a bit older than the rest of us so we figured she might have gone off by herself or might be chilling out in her room, and after waiting for her awhile we went ahead and got dinner. We got back around 10 and found that she wasn’t in her room. We called our tour leader who gave her til 11, then took the guys out to bourbon street to look for her, as New Orleans isn’t the kind of place you want to be alone after dark. Thankfully she strolled in around half 12 oblivious to the panic. She was safe which was the main thing!

We were all really sad to say goodbye to this place, but we had Memphis next which promised to be a blast…

Lafayette, Louisiana

The drive to Lafayette was another long one. I was actually pretty glad I didn’t stay out in Austin when I saw the state of the group members who did stay out!

We were all expecting a hotel so it was a bit of a surprise to drive up to the blue moon guesthouse. It was seriously cool inside though, all the furniture was mismatched and there were all different colours and paintings on the wall. I really liked it here. All the girls were in one big room and the guys were in another room.

After we had got settled in our rooms, we headed out for some dinner. This was a very special dinner though, as we had decided to have a hat party where everyone had to wear hats. Mine was clearly the best (and I found it in a dollar store so it was even better):

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The restaurant we were eating at was full of serious Christians. It also had a dance hall, which had big windows so those dining could watch those dancing. It was pretty cute to watch the guys in their shirts and trousers going up to girls in their long dresses asking them for a dance. One guy asked a girl in our group for a dance and even showed her all the dance moves and everything. Super cute!

The highlight of the night for me was eating alligator. It’s true what they say, it really does taste like chicken…

When we got back from dinner I got some laundry done. The dryer wasn’t great so I constructed myself a laundry bed which was actually pretty good to sleep in. I felt like a kid who had made a fort out of blankets.

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Austin, Texas

So I didn’t really know what to expect from Austin before I got there. My friend had told me that I would love sixth street as I’m really into live music.

The night in Austin would be the first time I’d ever stayed in a hostel. I admit I had a little pout on because it wasn’t a great place. It stunk of feet and the showers were one room with curtains separating the area into four. Not cool. I sucked it up though as I was looking forward to the evening ahead.

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So we took a stroll to check out the Capitol building. It was huuuuge! Another member of the group has all the great group shots but until then here’s the best pic I managed to get before taking a walk around southern congress street which was choc full of all these unique eccentric little shops and cafes. Really neat. They even had a row of vans selling food:

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First we headed to a Texan BBQ called Stubbs, and enjoyed sone authentic Texan foody goodness. After our meal we went downstairs to check out some of the live music that Austin had to offer.

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The downstairs area was pretty cool. Inside was the main stage with a bar and a pool room, and there was also an outdoors area with another stage. The first band wasn’t up to much, but the second band called Blue Bear (I think) was pretty nifty and really got the crowd going. We watched them for about an hour before heading out to explore sixth street!

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As we wandered down the street there were a few bars promising ‘free rock and metal bands’ but as nobody else in the group is really into rock we wandered round til we found a club. One member of our group was 19 so was unable to get into all the places that we tried as they were checking the ID of everyone entering every bar and club. I was pretty tired and wanted to save myself for a night out in New Orleans so offered to go back to the hostel with her as we were a bit worried about her going back alone. We walked along sixth street, soaking in the atmosphere, before heading back to the hostel for an early(ish) night. It was a shame as I’d really wanted to check out some of the rock and metal bands, but I knew I’d get more chances during the trip.