POD PLANET V: Where you lead I will follow

Trip Start Sep 25, 2006
Trip End Nov 01, 2006

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Flag of United States  , Connecticut
Monday, October 16, 2006

We were very happy to be leaving Vermont and go somewhere with even less to do - Hartford, Connecticut. Hartford is the setting for the 80's classic TV series, "Whose the boss", the "Hey Dad" of US TV which bought Alyssa Millano the greatness she truely deserves today. Connecticut is also the setting for the Gilmore Girls and home to many of the locations used in the TV show. Hartford was intended to be used as a sort of base from which we would explore several towns in
Connecticut but nothing could prepare us for what can best be described as the only city in North America that doesn't have a downtown area. Hartford is nothing more then Hollywood's joke on the rest of the world. It is easily the most boring place I have ever been (including Berne) anywhere in the world. Mark Twain once described it as the prettiest city in the world (and he got around) but the entire city offers less then what Canberra did in the 1980s. An insurance capital we were told by a local that the city contains nothing more then corporates and restaurants but even this is a lie. Having gone down every street in the downtown area we counted a grand total of 6 restaurants. The city is clean and neat and contains numerous historic buildings but where have all the people, restaurants, bookshops, department stores and culture gone? Indeed I can only presume that these sorts of things become invisible when Allan & I go past them or there is some magical "Diagon Alley" that we don't know the password for. I feel cheated that shows such as the Gilmore Girls talk about this as such a happening place filled with funky cafes and restaurants, its almost as if nobody in Hollywood has ever been here and they've made up this exciting cultural centre that is actually nonexistent.

I couldn't even take something positive from this place. It's a total wasteland. Apparantly there is some stuff in the suburbs but to get there you need to walk through dodgy black neighbourhoods. I managed a visit to Mark Twain's house, a cultural icon of American History and answer to 25% of all literature trivia questions. If the question is on American literature, and you don't know, always answer Mark Twain cos there's an excellent chance he is the answer. His house is situated right next door to another American cultural icon, Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom's Cabin, a book I could never even get started on cos the dialogue was so hard to follow. The tour was filled with irritating Americans asking stupid questions on the fireplace's used in the house and numerous other insignificant things like the toilets, cupboards, servant's quarters and stitching. Traumatised by doing a tour with such annoying people I couldn't bring myself to go next door and visit Harriet and spent the rest of my time here drinking coffee (in the 1 cafe I could find) and sleeping (cos I thought I might be getting a cold).

Our hotel, the Holiday Inn, was the worst we've been to this trip. It has no ventialation and I got a cold by keeping the air conditioning on all night, whereas Allan knew he'd get a cold if he did this, so he kept it off and suffocated due to lack of air and got gastro. The rooms also smell. Overcome by a lack of excitement and a dodgy hotel, we checked out of Hartford early and left for the university town of "New Haven" on the Connecticut south coast. Home of Yale University we
figured if a university town shows no sign of life then America is essentially a country filled with many places not to visit. Yale turned out to be better then expected, but as we weren't expecting much it's hard to describe how much we like the place. The town is interspersed with the university campus and is very decentralized. This means you get a few cafe's, a bit of campus, and then a few other shops. It's fustrating for the tourist not having anything together in the same place. Its quite pretty though, and surprisingly very warm at the moment due to unseasonal weather. The town is famous for serving America's first pizza and we went to the restaurant that served it. Weordered the small (which was bigger then a large in OZ) and it was oily but I really liked it. Allan didn't like it so much but he doesn't like oily pizza's whereas I in fact think the oil enhances the flavour making America's pizza's better then Australia's. I also need to say this in order to take 1 more positive thing from my trip to America.

A tour of the Yale campus proved to be quite interesting and we got to touch the foot of the Theodore Wiesel, which is meant to give you good luck. However it was in New Haven that I discovered a Cafe that took ordering sandwiches to a level greater then anything else I have seen so far in this country. In order to get a sandwhich you needed to complete an A4 sized "sandwhich order form". I was overawed and in shock. There were tick boxes for the bread, sauces, salads, meats and options for bagels, panani, fochacia etc... There was a seperate section for coffee. Traumatised I couldn't even take a form and complete it having a coffee (cos you needed to complete the form to get a cup!) and I was forced to leave the shop because I just wanted a sandwhich and didnt want to spend 15 minutes filling out a form to get one. I dont even know if you get it on the same day, maybe its a 24 hour waiting period.

At this point I really need to say that Americans are really fat. I don't mean a little obese, I mean they are massively huge. I wonder if Civil Engineers need to take this extra weight into account when designing bridges. 80% of people we see over 30 are overweight. Most couples get overweight together, though the guys tend to be bigger then the girls. Teenagers aren't so bad but they have little hope in the smaller cities. It seems all there is to eat here are Burgers, Pizza, Sub's, donuts and Chinese food. Americans hate walking. They have drive through donut shops and ATM's. It is not unusual for people to stare at you when walking down the street and pedestrian traffic lights often don't work. Its like they've never seen pedestrians before. One day they'll become exhibits in museum's along with car parking spaces in New York. Finding fresh fruit here is really difficult. It was only easy in LA, where there didn't seem to be so many obese people. Allan overheard a conversation after these Americans checked in to a hotel and were told there were many restaurants within 5 mins of the hotel. One guy said, "Was she slim the girl that said that? I don't want to walk too far and if she meant within walking distance she can forget about it. I'm on vacation and I'm not walking anywhere."

In Vermont we were often celebrities because we were Australian. At one restaurant the waitress chatted to us for several minutes because she was so impressed we came to Vermont. The question we get asked is,"So you came all the way from Australia to come to Vermont to the weekend?". This is how highly people regard their state, they think we came just for this. Nothing could be further from the truth. One of the things I've noticed about service here is that's its impossible to get through a meal without giving regular status reports to the waitress as to how you are going. Throughout the meal she will come over several times and ask, "Is everything ok over here? How are your meals going? Do you guys need anything?" It gets annoying after a while. Another problem is the huge mega servings you get of everything. Once we ordered an entree of Nacho's and it was at least 3 times bigger then my face. We're never ordering entrees again!

With the slower pace of the rural areas, and lack of public transport, combined with the  disappointment of Quebec, I have had much free time to sample the highlights of American television. I never thought I would find any channel more boring then the Rugby Channel in NZ but here I have found one. It's the US Sports channel, guaranteed to put you to sleep inside 30 mins. The bright light for me has been watching US baseball. A sport that is quite comparable to cricket and filled with all sorts of stats I don't yet understand but you can see all the stuff channel 9 have copied. They have innovated nothing themselves and stolen it all from US baseball. The game itself is surprisingly very slow and I would back myself to win an argument with an American that cricket moves faster. I've also enjoyed Deal or No Deal over here, which is years ahead of the Australian version. In fact Allan and I often have to finish dinner so I can go home and watch it. The host is amazing and there is excellent use of background music and dizty Americans playing the game. Millionaire over here moves incredibly fast. There is no banter, no what will you do with the money, no are you sure,  more lifelines, and if you say final answer they just lock it in. Its like Millionaire on speed and very enjoyable.

1. Watch out for Americans in queues. Often they are served having no idea what they want. They stand there deciding, asking questions and most annoying of all, change their mind after deciding. The servers dont mind at all, its like they are used to dealing with people like this all the time and its part of the service.  Once a guy asked numerous questions over how his slice of pizza was going to be cooked. Did it have too much cheese or tomato? Was he getting all the toppings? Nobody else minded except for me. Sometimes people will interrupt you when making an order to ask a question. Other times if you're standing in a queue they will come up and ask you a question but they don't say "Excuse me" or "Pardon" they just ask it expecting an answer.  Also Americans never get out of your way when walking down the street, they expect you to.
2. John Ritter is dead. He is on so many cable TV shows I thought he was actually still alive until i looked it up. This is why his death was met with so much sadness here cos he is so popular.

This pretty much ends what should hopefully be the "uneventful, laid back, take it easy" section of the trip. Tommorrow we're hooking up with a couple of girls that are going to be showing us around for a few days. It's really a case of "things can only get better".
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