A Travellerspoint blog

Paris

Hi everyone, it's Corry writing from Budapest, we've travelled a lot of the mainland since the last update. We did spend a week in Paris which was great, we stayed in one of the nicer hostels of the trip and met heaps of people we then were able to catch up with in Spain and Venice (mostly Australians of course). It was a little bit out of the main part of town and near a man-made canal where at night time if it was warm enough would be lined with people drinking wine and smoking until the early hours. On the first couple of days We saw all the touristy things there is to see around Paris on the first couple of days; the Eiffel tower, Arch de Triumph, Champs de Elysee. All were of course packed with tourists and young kids walking around trying to get you to sign their "petition" before demanding a donation. We did a couple of walking tours around the city, the first of which was of Notre Dame. Didn't see any hunchbacks but we learned a lot about the history of the building, including the importance of the book and how it saved Notre Dame from being torn down. The tour took us around the outside of the building and the guide gave us some of the meanings behind the various statues and artwork. After that we were able to go inside and see the rose window and everything.

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On Wednesday we rented our little Renault and drove up north to the town Villers-Bretonneux to visit the Australian War Memorial for ANZAC day, or rather a smaller town about 4km's away from it for reasons I'll explain in a minute. Driving out of Paris was a nightmare but when we eventually got onto the highway it was a nice drive through open fields and scenery very different to Australia and America. We got to our town at about 3pm and parked in the town square, as all the hotels and accommodation was booked out for the night this was to be where we would sleep that night. We made use of the remaining hours of daylight and walked the 2km's to the Memorial for a look and then continued on to Villers-Bretonneux to check it out. There was Australian stuff everywhere! Every car had a flag on it or a kangaroo in the window, there was an Australian pub and another memorial, they really get into the spirit of it during April. Villers-Bretonneux was a town that was captured by the Germans during WWI and on the second ANZAC day was recaptured by Australian soldiers, effectively ending the Germans advancement in that area further west into France. We spent the night desperately trying to get some sleep although we didn't have much luck, Matt got about three hours in and I got one cramped up on the back seat in the fetal position. We got up at 3.30, downed half a litre of red bull and made the trek back up to the memorial in what surely looked like a scene from Dawn of the Dead. We had some great seats though in the second block of chairs from the front. It was about what you would expect from a dawn service, some school kids and officials got up for some readings and prayers, both national anthems were sung and Bob Carr was there to give an address. There was a surprising amount of French people there in fact, which was nice. It was a very memorable ceremony after which some went on to other services in the area, but of course we just wanted some sleep so we got back into our car and took off back for Paris.

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During the rest of our time in Paris we visited the Louvre briefly. It wasn't really for us though so we spent about an hour looking around, saw the Mona Lisa and took off. Not very cultured of us I know but it just wasn't very interesting for us. We took another walking tour of some more of Paris where we were taken around the Opera house and given some stories behind the architecture in Paris and some of the famous stores and people who had visited. On one of our last days there we went underground into the catacombs and for a while we found it pretty anti-climatic just walking around old tunnels, we eventually walked into the rooms with piles and piles and piles of human remains. They were all neatly stacked piles of skulls and femurs and arms, oddly no rib cages or spines (that we could see). There must have been thousands of people worth of bones down there, and that was only the areas we were allowed access to! Very creepy.

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We both liked Paris although it really wasn't our favourite place. I don't really know what to say about the big attractions because they're exactly what you'd expect them to be. Nothing really interesting happened at the Arch de Triumph or the Eiffel Tower, we just kinda saw them and moved on. The people were not as rude as they've been made out to be but they were by no means pleasant, and if you asked someone if they spoke English their face would always drop and then mutter "a little bit" and then speak it really well. As I said we're in Budapest after an abysmal journey here from Croatia, Matt will write a blog about Spain in the coming days and I'll write about Venice and Croatia so that we should be up to speed shortly. We've been enjoying some amazing weather for a change and are making the most out of the cheapness of eastern Europe, in a lot of places beer is cheaper than bottled water or coke. Five weeks today until we arrive home, it will be sad to finish the trip but we're both kind of looking forward to it at this point.

Posted by mattandcorry 06:26 Comments (3)

London Calling

Hi everyone, Matt and I are currently on our 8 hour bus ride to Paris so I thought this would be as good a time as any ro write about Iceland and London. We flew in to Keflavik, a small town in Iceland at about 6am local time with not a wink of sleep the night before. By the time we caught a bus to the bus staion in Reykjavik and a cab to our hostel it was nearing 8am and we crashed straight away. By the time we woke there wasn't much time to do anything big so we just explored the town and got some dinner. Reykjavik is an interesting capital, it only has about 100,000 people which represents a third of the country's population, there are no skyscrapers and all the buildings are quite unique and painted in odd colours, the air smells nice and the water smells and tastes really awful because they get their water from underground so it's full of sulphur. The following day we got up at 7am which hurt a bit and boarded a bus for a day tour. The morning was devoted to "The Blue Lagoon" which is a huge geothermal hot spring that they've made into a really touristy must-do experience. It was really nice though, we stayed in the water for about nintey minutes and just relaxed, it was a nice way to start the day and we felt great afterwards. They had a really fancy restaurant adjoined which sold expensive Icelandic food (pretty much just fish cooked different ways) so naturally Matt and I sat outside it while we ate our pringles and water we bought beforehand. After that we were back on the road to tour the golden circle. We were driven out to a cliff face which was the edge of the American continental plate and taken to an enormous waterfall called Gulfoss. It was much more impressive than Niagra Falls, especially with the backdrop of Iceland. Out there it was really prehistoric, there's so much untouched land out there and actually looks like it's from another time. From there we were taken to an area with a whole lot of geysers, the most famous of which being "Strokkur" which erupts every four minutes or so. There were some smaller ones and one bigger but they're very irregular and we didn't get to see them go off, which was fine because Strokkur was more than enough entertainment. It shoots up twenty meters into the air and the sulphuric smell that hits you is so bad, but we got some great photos and video.

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Strokkur just before it erupts

That night we went on another tour with the same company in search of the Aurora Borealis, we where driven all around the area but all to no avail. It was too late in the year and too cloudy to really see anything unfortunately. That took us through to 2am which made it a 19 hour day so we collapsed in exhaustion when we got back to the hostel. The next day we weren't feeling very motivated to do anything so we just walked around the city a bit more and went up to an observation point in a church's clock tower. The next morning we were up at 4.30 to head to the airport, it felt just like getting up for work.

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The crazy rooftops of Reykjavik

We flew into Heathrow and immediately got on the tube to get to the other side of London, a trip which took three trains and an hour and a half. We checked into our hostel and met up with two of my friends from back home, Claudia and Ulrike, they're German but were in Perth for six months and I met them at work. We were staying in an area a little bit outside of central London called New Cross, which actually reminded me of Queens a little bit, with identical double storey buildings everywhere and abundant in small businesses. We were blessed with typical London weather for the first five days, I'll let you use your imaginations to interpret that. We were up in the morning the next day in time to get to Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guard, where a whole procession marches through the street which is probably the most movement they'll do all day. We walked through the old part of town and saw Big Ben and parliament and all that. Then we walked up to the Tower Bridge and London Tower and saw all the street performers along the Thames.

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The day after (we're at Friday the twelfth for those playing at home) the girls wanted to go shopping so we left them in Oxford street and Matt and I explored a bit of Hyde Park and the surrounding area, not the most eventful day. Saturday however we went to the London Tower and took a tour of the place from a Beefeater. He himself couldn't explain why they were called Beefeaters, the best answer he offered was "because we eat beef". It was interesting hearing all the stories of the torture that used to go on, and the executions that was considered a family's days entertainment. We did go through the room with crown jewels which was nice and got to walk through the areas that the royal family used to live. Maybe in three hundred years people will be able to walk through Buckingham Palace.

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Sunday we had tickets booked for the London Dungeon which allowed us to skip the massive line. It was really cool and had all the haunted house tricks with people jumping out at you and everything, but you'd move from room to room with characters telling you about Jack the Ripper and Sweeney Todd and Guy Fawkes and all that. It was really interesting and was quite funny as well, they'd done it well. For the Sweeney Todd segment everyone would sit down in these tall chairs with speakers either side of you and the lights went off and it was made to sound as if Todd was going around the room talking to everyone, then a brush would hit you across the neck and everyone screamed. There was of course the over-reactors in the tour group. After that we walked up to the London Eye, that was really great too, it wasn't raining much and we got a good view of the place. It was cool being able to see up the Thames and you had Buckingham palace with the surrounding parks and everything, very pretty. The next day we said goodbye to the girls and to each other temporarily as we'd planned for a while to take a few days apart in England as we were getting a bit sick of looking at each others faces.

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I went south-west to a town called Exeter which was really enjoyable, it was great seeing a bit more of the country besides London. I spent three nights there and didn't do a whole lot, it was more to just recharge a bit which was needed. We were both a bit burnt out but we're feeling good now that we're on mainland Europe. But it was a cool town with some really old looking areas like what you see in the movies. Matt went north to see some family in Oxford and from what I'm told he had a really nice time and enjoyed some home cooked meals and a comfortable queen sized bed. After that we had two more days in London, we signed up for "Londons Biggest Bar Crawl" on Friday night which was a LOT of fun, it cost a bit but we made the money back by getting free entry to places and cheap drinks. So now we're in France hopefully not too far away from Paris where we'll stay for about a week. On Wednesday afternoon we're doing a roadtrip up north to Villers-Bretonneux to attend the ANZAC day dawn service at the Australian National Memorial which will be good. I hope everything's going well back home, I see the Eagles aren't having a great start to the season and the Dockers seem to think hitting the post gets them more points.

Posted by mattandcorry 08:03 Comments (2)

New York, New York

Hi everyone, it's Corry. Sorry for being slack with the blog again, we have been pretty crazy busy though. Since the last update we've been through New York, Iceland and London. For this I'll keep it focused on New York though as there's too much to write about, and in a couple of days I'll write about Iceland and London. We stayed for a total of ten days in a hostel in Queens, so most days we had to make the commute into Manhattan which took about 40 minutes on good run. For the first couple of days I was plagued with sickness again unfortunately but after a day in bed I was able to function in a semi-conscious manner. We took the first couple of days just to walk around the city and explore Manhattan, walked through central park, saw 30 Rock and the Empire State Building etc. Times Square is pretty great, it makes for an interesting view however it's really just an area with a lot of really in your face advertisements and tourist shops. Still, it was really busy and made for some great photos and was one of my favourite places in New York.

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We bought an "Explore New York" card which gave us entry into 5 attractions of our choice and saved us a bit of money. The first thing we did were a couple of things back at 30 Rockerfeller Centre, we went up to the observation deck which of course gave amazing views of the city around us. We didn't go up the Empire State but we think this would be better because we had unobstructed views of Central Park on one side and on the other we could see downtown and get the Empire State in our photos! We stayed up there for about an hour and timed it around sunset so we could see the view in daylight and at night. After that we headed back inside for the NBC tour which takes you through some of the TV sets and behind the scenes stuff that goes on at NBC. It was good but I think we had our standards raised after doing the Universal and Warner Bros. tours in LA, this tour didn't quite live up to them. We were taken to Dr Oz's stage where he performs his daytime health program. Don't really know much about him but it was interesting seeing the stage, it's a lot smaller than we'd expected and rigged with all kind of mic's all around the room to pick up the audience. The highlight for me would have to be seeing the Saturday Night Live set, it was so much smaller than it looks on TV but the guide explained that's because the camera lens makes it looks wider when we see it on TV. She gave us a few stories about some of the past performers and how the show got started.

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I've kind of lost track of the order that we did things but I'm pretty sure the following day we explored downtown New York and saw Wall Street and the stock exchange building. Wall Street was of course full of suits walking around on their mobile phones and was pretty much exactly how it looks in the movies, we didn't see Gordon Gekko walking around though. While we were there we walked halfway over the Brooklyn Bridge and got some cool views of downtown but for memory it wasn't the nicest day to be out there, hopefully days like that are largely behind us now that we're half way through Spring! The next day we took a cruise through the Hudson river which took us along the length of Manhattan where we hopped off in downtown and went to the 9/11 memorial site. It was pretty grim as expected but they'd made a nice tribute to the towers and victims with two reflecting pools where the towers stood surrounded by bronze plates with the victims names engraved. Right next to it stands the almost completed new World Trade Centre which is absolutely massive and really well designed. From there we got back on the ship and got to go up to the Statue of Liberty. The island itself was closed due to hurricane Sandy damage but the ferry stopped and we got to go outside and get some photos with it from the deck.

The day after we rented some bikes and took a riding tour through Central Park, it's a place I've wanted to go to for so long and it was amazing riding through it and seeing as much of it as we possibly could. They don't lie about the size though, it's crazy that there's this enormous park in the middle of an island of endless city. It took over twenty years to build the park because at the time due to all the rock in the area they wouldn't have been able to build on it, I'm sure if it was today they would have found a way. I didn't know that it was once used for really practical purposes though, they had two huge reservoir's (of which one remains) and a lot of it was used for storing livestock. We rode around most of outside of the park and the guide pointed out some of the museums around the area and took us to some of the more notable locations like the reservoir and the lake and such. We rode around to the apartment building where John Lennon was shot and Yoko still lives (he claims to have seen her walking around one day). Just across from that back in the park is Strawberry Fields, not the original that the song is about but a tribute space to John Lennon which was built pretty much just to give people an area to go and stop hanging out front of the building and annoying Yoko and the other patrons. Many countries made contributions to the area but the main one is a mosaic donated by Italy with lots of little tributes on it like yellow submarines, a walrus and strawberries. That night we went into Chinatown for dinner which was a pretty interesting place and if it wasn't for a few reminders around the place you'd swear you were actually in China.

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Somewhere in there we went to the Natural History Museum as well but didn't stay too long, for memory we were pretty exhausted and after being to the Smithsonian it kinda, well, sucked. Maybe that was just because of our tiredness though. On one of the nights we went and saw a Broadway play. Matt wasn't particularly picky about what we saw so I said I wanted to see this show called "Orphans", mostly just because Alec Baldwin was in it. It was in it's previews still (apparently a show opens about a month after it's already been playing, not sure how that works) and we scored half price tickets by buying them on a day from a place in Times Square which fills in the seats that haven't sold. I'd never seen a play before outside of school productions so I didn't really know what to expect but I really enjoyed it. Seeing Baldwin act in real life was pretty special, as well as another actor who I've liked for a long time called Ben Foster who does mostly supporting roles in films, I like him mostly for his work in the remake of "3:10 to Yuma". The third actor was Tom Sturridge who is the kid from "The Boat That Rocked" and he did really well also. The play was about these two brothers who are, as the title suggests, orphans since young children in Philadelphia (they never say but it's meant to be the 50's or 60's) and have been living a life of crime since to support themselves and avoid going to the services. When the older kidnaps the wealthy looking Alec Baldwin for ransom it turns out Baldwin isn't what he seems and has a past from Chicago following him.

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New York had some really good bars as well including an Australian pub we were able to watch the footy and have a parmigana at which was nice. We both really loved New York and easily could have spent longer than 10 days there, it really is the city that never sleeps with the subway system running all night and people walking around at all hours of the night, Times Square was just as packed at 3am as it was at 3pm. Unfortunately I lost one of my SD cards and therefore lost a handful of photos but Matt should have a few on his iphone, we're separated at the moment for a couple of days but when we meet up again I'll get them off him and add them to this. And in a couple of days I'll write an entry for Iceland and London too.

Posted by mattandcorry 13:41 Comments (2)

Washington, D.C.

Washington D.C.

With only three days in Washington, D.C. and so much to do, we were very busy.

When we arrived to our hostel we could not check-in for 3 hours, so we decided to get straight into it and go to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, The White House.

When we initially got there we were looking across the North Lawn at The White House. We knew it was The White House as it was very white and the sign said so but it looked different to what we expected. With a large fence and security presence we could not get within 50m of the place but we still took out photos and then walked around to the south side of the building. From the south side of the building we were much further back from The White House due to the large garden (technically the back yard). We then saw the side of The White House that is shown in the movies, on postcards and all the touristy type stuff. Personally it was much smaller than I expected and I even had a bit of a man giggle because it is made to look so much bigger.

It was difficult to take photos due to the distance and the big fence but here are some of our attempts. The first is the front of the building and the second is the from the back of the building.

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We then decided to walk to the Washington Monument built to commemorate George Washington. It is the worlds tallest obelisk at 169m tall.
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Unfortunately the obelisk was undergoing maintenance so we could not get close and the lower portion was covered in scaffolding but, we got photos and then started to make our way to the Lincoln Memorial.

On the way to the Lincoln Memorial we passed the World War II Memorial, which consisted of a pillar for each state and territory of the United States and a fountain in a pool. It was a very well designed and thought out memorial as it honours those that fought, died and contributed to the effort civilian or soldier but also is tells stories by picturing scenes from the war.

Most of you know what the Lincoln Memorial looks like; steps to a big white marble building, with Abraham Lincoln sitting on a chair inside. The memorial has equally great surrounds and was very impressive, inside and out. The actual statue was huge and from the top of the steps you can get a nice view of the Word World II memorial at the end of the reflecting pool and the Washington Monument in the distance.
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After the Lincoln Memorial we went back to the hostel to do some research into what museums to see the next day.

The Smithsonian Institute has 19 museums in Washington, D.C. most of which are within walking distance from the National Mall. We decided to visit the National Museum of Natural History and the National Air and Space Museum. Both museums were fantastic and enormous with a ridiculous number of exhibits. You could literally spend days in these museums. What made it even better was they were free!

The highlights were seeing the dinosaurs, mammals and the Egyptian mummies exhibits in the Natural History Museum. In the Air and Space, the Apollo 11 command module (Neil and Buzz would have been very cramped), Apollo Lunar Module and the Wright Brothers exhibits where the highlights. While we were at the Air and Space Museum we also went in a flight simulator that turned and spun when you were flying the plane. I flew the fighter while Corry was shooting the enemy. We were not very good as I kept on doing nose dives and spins to get our moneys worth but it was still great fun.

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Later this day we went to the Capitol building, got some photos and went inside. There wasn't a whole heap of stuff to do, so we had a quick look and left.

On our final day we went to the Library of Congress (Jefferson Building). Although we could not roam the shelves, we did go into a viewing room and look down into the main reading room. We were not allowed to take pictures but here is one I found on google images.
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After going through airport type security went into the National Archives and went into The Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom which is the permanent home of the Declaration of Independence, Constitution of the United States, and Bill of Rights. It is dark room, no photography is allowed as people can't be trusted to turn the flash off, both of these reduces the life of the documents. With the lack of light, fancy hand writing, and fading ink the documents themselves were very hard to read. We both watched National Treasure within a few days of going here, we could not see the back of the declaration, but the guard insured everyone nothing is there.

Later that night we decided to see what the Lincoln Memorial was like at night. At 11pm there were still 20 or so people there but, it was much quieter and was lit up. The same view of inside and outside we had before was even more beautiful. We ended up also going to the Thomas Jefferson Memorial as we took a few wrongs turns trying to find parking. The Thomas Jefferson Memorial was pretty much empty of people. He was standing instead of sitting and was in an open circular building with circular stairs and a high ceiling.

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Overall Washington, D.C. was great and it was really handy having all these things in or around the National Mall. I loved Washington, D.C. but it is probably one of those places you only need to go once or twice and is not on my list of places to return to anytime soon. We are now off to Philadelphia for 4 days and then hitting up New York City!

Keep it cool.

Matt.

Posted by mattandcorry 07:39 Comments (2)

The Town

Hey it's Corry writing on our final night in Boston. We've covered some more ground since Chicago and had a big week exploring the North-East. After a couple of days driving we arrived in Niagra Falls, which is a much bigger town that we originally had expected it to be, although it's mostly residential and shopping centres, not much in the way of tourism besides the actual falls. The weather kind of put a dampener on the falls for us unfortunately, we woke up to find the roads and our car covered in about 5cm of snow and being added to. While the cold and snow definitely had an effect on our enjoyment of the falls, we both felt they were a bit lacklustre. They just weren't as big as we'd been led to believe! I guess it would have been better from the Lady of the Mist boat but they weren't running over the winter (fair enough too). So overall it was a bit of a waste of time but no matter, one of the risks of holidaying in the winter!

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I forgot to mention one of the more important stops on our trip so far. On our way to Niagra falls we stopped by the greatest town on the planet: Corry, Pennsylvania. It was a cool little town with a historical district and shopping area and most importantly, my name everywhere. There was a Corry Ford dealership, a Corry police force, a Corry Memorial Hospital and a Corry Journal (the local newspaper I got a copy of). We only dropped in for about an hour and unfortunately I didn't get to show off my ID anywhere, a regret I will take to my grave.

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We took a day off in some motel outside of a town called Syracuse and then headed in to Boston. We checked in to our hostel which is kind of on the lower end of the hostels we've stayed in but definitely not the worst and the staff were pretty good. To those I told it was in Charlestown, the dodgy area of town, it turns out we're not, but we are only one suburb over. We're at the intersection of Main and School St which on google maps comes up as Charlestown but apparently there's another Main St and School St which intersect in Everett, which is where we actually are, fun times. We took Friday to pretty much just explore the town and pick up some ideas for things to do on the weekend. Saturday morning we got up for a tour of the freedom trail, which is a path through Boston that takes you to all the major historical sights. Our tour guide was in character as a soldier ready to fight the British, complete with a costume. It was a good tour that started in the major park "Boston Common" and finished in Faneuil Hall. It was good having the guide as he told us some of the stories behind some gravestones in the historic Granary Burying Ground, the old state house, the Churches and Faneuil Hall which is essentially just a market.

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Beacon Hill

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Our tour guide/Colonial character

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Granary Burying Ground looking very Tim Burtony in the winter

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Part of Old Boston complete with historical CVS pharmacy and McDonald's

That night we went into town for the St Patrick's Day celebrations an-
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Sunday came round and we got out of bed to head into "Southie" to watch the parade. Southie is the reallllly Irish part of town and I'm not sure how many people were there in the end but they were expecting six hundred thousand to a million. The footpaths were absolutely packed, and it was one of the worst train rides of my life getting in. Honestly though the parade itself was a bit lame, it was just local politicians and high schools and such walking down the street and some cars, there were no big floats or anything spectacular. I think the Irish just wanted an excuse to street drink, of which there was plenty! The crowd was honestly the most interesting part of the whole thing just because everyone was dressed up in green and going crazy.

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The crazy amount of people in the train station and at the parade

Today (Monday) we caught the train into Harvard and checked out the grounds there. Everyone had gotten out of town for spring break (can't say I blame them) so it wasn't full of activity like I imagine it normally would be. We explored a good amount of the grounds and saw all the nice old buildings and they were really nice and really old. After that we headed back into town and went to the bar that inspired the old TV show "Cheers", it was a little underground bar and looked pretty similar to the shows set although it was a bit kitschy and they were really cashing in on the whole Cheers name.

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Just stellar photos of Matt and myself at Harvard and the Cheers Bar

Muse - Survival
Also I found this little gem on youtube last week, keep your eye on the pyramid screen. Next up we have Washington DC and Philadelphia before heading to New York to wrap up our American leg. Is anyone even reading this anymore?

Posted by mattandcorry 17:56 Comments (5)

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