America is really photogenic. The National Parks, instantly recognisable icons, busy streets and empty, stunning scenery on the side of the highway. It’s all so beautiful that there is a dilemma whether to just take in the views or spend the time capturing it on film. My one month trip to America (post-camp) was broken up nicely as pre-car crash and post-car crash: our car was written off in Las Vegas. Following the crash, I bought a new memory card for my camera, so I also have pre- and post- crash pictures.
I don’t really know what my aim is when I take pictures. Sometimes the photos are captured for this blog, or because the views are incredible and I just want to remember it. Other times they’re for Instagram, and sometimes because they are just funny pictures. But I am not an expert photographer, nor do I intend to be.
Anyway, that is a roundabout way of saying these are some pictures from my travels round America post-car crash.
Straight up, I should point out that the only city in America where I spent longer than 3 days was Los Angeles, and that was because I was working there for 3 months. L.A. was not my favourite city however, not by a long shot. While I may not have been able to spend as much time in my favourites (as are detailed below) as I would have liked, they certainly left an impression on me and I would love to go back for more.
I immediately liked Chicago because it had such an amazing atmosphere. It was so laid back and chilled, and everyone I met was lovely. I was in Chicago during the run up to the city being host to a giant jazz festival, so the hostels were full (and more expensive – why I didn’t stay longer) the streets were busy and the music really good. I really discovered jazz in Chicago (and got more involved in New Orleans, more on that later). Before America I hadn’t realised just how good jazz could be as I had never heard it live. I have now decided that it is music that needs to be heard live because it sounds just awesome. Also, I would go back just for the pizza. Amazing.
There is so much to do in Washington D.C. that you just can’t be bored. Aside from L.A., I was in D.C. for the longest amount of time and could have comfortably spent another week, even a week and a half there. I went to so many museums, toured Congress, saw the Lincoln Memorial, the MLK Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial… I walked by the Potomac river both in the day and as the sun was setting, stopped by the White House, explored Chinatown and got some good chow mein. I did so much but there was so much more to do! I didn’t get to see all the museums, or where Lincoln was shot, or the Vietnam War Memorial, nor the wider city of D.C. If you’re looking for a holiday destination this year where you can soak in culture until you explode, Washington D.C. is your destination.
New Orleans is just so cool. I was there during a huge gay pride event and so I’m not sure if Bourbon Street is like that all the time, but that place was crazy. I was a much bigger fan of Frenchman’s, a lot more chilled out and relaxed, with good jazz streaming out the windows of clubs, or being performed right there on the street. I would describe New Orleans as Paris crossed with Coventry (hear me out) – it has the beauty of the French capital, as well as obviously being hugely influenced by French style in general, while having the run down, slightly grimy, ‘but don’t you dare judge us’ quality of Coventry. It’s a fun city where beautiful universities contrast with the eerie cemeteries (featured image) which are only a few miles away. I didn’t get to go to Algiers, but I’m sure that it would have allowed a whole new plethora of contradictions. Definitely a city worth visiting, if only because everyone will be so jealous you’ve been there!
What are your favourite American cities? Would these three make your list? Let me know.
There are some films that you watch and, while you may be completely involved in the story line and the lives – or lack thereof – of the characters, at some point you stop, look at the picture, and think, ‘Damn, I want to visit that place.’ (Or, in the immortal words of Liz Lemon, “I want to go to there.”)
These are a few of the films that fuelled the wanderlust inside of me. They cover a variety of films – and destinations. If you haven’t seen them, check them out (or not. It can be detrimental to your bank account).
1. Before Sunrise
The first in Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy’s trilogy of films is also the one that fuels the desire to travel inside of me the most. Even though Before Sunset, the second of the three movies, uses some of the more touristy elements of Paris, and frames the city beautifully, Before Sunrise captures a romantic quality of Vienna that the other two are missing. Or, while not missing, they are not necessarily interested in capturing a burgeoning romantic atmosphere. However, this romantic quality not only draws me to the characters, it makes me want to go to Vienna and experience the city (and maybe even the romance) for myself.
2. The Lord of the Rings series
Yes, I know that it is a fantasy series, and no, I don’t really think that Rivendale or Hobbiton are real (although I would visit the hell out of them if they were, and, anyway, there’s always http://www.hobbitontours.com/). These films make me itch to visit New Zealand (and with my brother flying out there today it’s safe to say I’m pretty jealous). Say what you will about the LOTR trilogy – I love the series, by the by – it is difficult to argue with how beautiful the landscape hugging the film is. With all the mountains and rivers as the backdrop for scene after scene, anyone who sees those films and then doesn’t want to visit New Zealand afterwards is plain crazy in my opinion.
The picture above is not from Mr Smith Goes to Washington, it’s from my recent trip to the city. I was so excited upon stepping towards Lincoln’s statue in the Lincoln Memorial when I was in DC. I felt like Senator Smith walking up those steps as he closed in on the monument he’d wanted to see for his entire life. This is the film that made me want to experience Washington DC for myself. Surrounded by corruption, James Stewart’s senator is straight as an arrow and naive, and his love and admiration for the city is the best tourist advert I have ever seen for America’s capital.
4. Pride and Prejudice
Unlike the book, where the setting is rather secondary to the story, once you enter Derbyshire in the film, the place takes a leading role. It may not be the most exciting nor the most glamourous place in the world to talk about visiting with your friends and family, but P&P makes Derbyshire look like one of the most beautiful places in Britain and definitely one where you should make the effort of visiting. With incredible trees (seriously, at one point they’re sitting under one good looking tree), stunning houses and Keira Knightly standing on the edge of a cliff, dress going crazy, it makes it look like a pretty appealing place to explore. Hertfordshire and Kent look pretty too, as does Matthew Macfadyen (hello, rain scene), but to quote Miss Bennet, “What are men compared to rocks and mountains?” Derbyshire here wins the beauty contest.
5. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
I’m not sure if this film wants me to visit modern China, or the medieval perfection that is the setting in CTHD. Upon viewing this lovingly shot film I want to walk through a forest and see people fighting each other, balancing on leaves and the thinnest of branches that tower above me. I want to see people essentially flying around ancient cities, floating over beautiful little houses and across the roofs of palaces. The film creates an atmosphere that I would love to think China still possesses, and would hope to see if I travelled there.
When in Marrakech I was told that Casablanca was nothing special, but when I watch the film that shares this city’s name (and is of course set there), I don’t believe them. Much like Before Sunrise, it may be the romance of the story that makes the city seem so interesting and inviting, as Casablanca still seems like a pretty great place to visit, despite being over run by Nazis.
Honourable mention: I don’t even know where Howl’s Moving Castle is meant to be set, I just know I want to go there.
About six months ago I watched this little gem of a film and fell completely in love. I am currently trying to watch all the films on IMDB’s Top 250 list, which I know is really cheesy, but it has introduced me to some wonderful films I didn’t know existed, such as this!
It stars my favourite ‘Golden Age of Hollywood’ actor James Stewart. Before anything else, I have to admit one of the reasons I enjoyed this film so much is because of him. I love James Stewart. He brought an energy to every project he worked in and is simply likeable in everything he did, whether it be a grumpy photographer avoiding committing to Grace Kelly and suspects his neighbour of murder in Rear Window, or a man who may or may not be insane as he talks to his best friend, after who the movie Harvey is named, an invisible, 6ft tall bunny rabbit. I have yet to see Vertigo (for shame!), but even a film that I am not as enamoured with as everyone else seems to be, It’s a Wonderful Life, is made enjoyable because of him.
He plays Jefferson Smith a naïve, easy-going leader of a troop of boy rangers in an unnamed state in America. He’s well liked by the community and loved by the kids he leads. He is made a senator by group of corrupt officials, including the Governor and the other state senator, Senator Paine, as well as the man who controls them, Jim Taylor. They believe they can control him. They do not, however, understand how honest and good intentioned he is. Senator Paine doesn’t want to manipulate Smith more than is necessary – as a close friend to Smith’s deceased father, he is a father figure to Jeff and cares for him. He encourages Smith to create a bill of his own, not realising how it will affect his own corrupt plans. After Jefferson discovers Taylor and Paine’s corruption they turn against him, and he realises just how powerful these people are.
The supporting cast is fun and important, especially ‘Diz’, a journalist, and the President of the Senate. Stewart infuses Jeff Smith with a joy that is uninhibited and infectious. It permeates the film. He can’t believe how lucky he is to be in Washington, to see and discover this great city. As soon as he gets off the train he goes to see the sights, his favourite being the Lincoln Memorial. The shot of Smith standing at the foot of Lincoln’s statue looking up into the marble face, both of them captured in profile, is beautiful, as is the sequence of Smith, a little boy and his grandfather as the child reads Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.
As the film progresses you can feel the loss of Smith’s joy as his enemies attack from all directions. His discovery that the man he idolised and trusted, Senator Paine, isn’t the man he thought he was hurts him and the viewer alike, and as you witness Jeff become steadily more broken, it breaks you too.
I have not yet mentioned another major character in the film as I felt she deserved some space devoted directly to her. For if James Stewart guaranteed that I would like this film, Jean Arthur’s character Saunders made me love it. She is his secretary and knows more about Washington than he probably ever will. She’s smart and sarcastic; if this film wasn’t both made and set in the 1930’s she would have been a senator herself rather than secretary to them. Cynical due to her surroundings Saunders falls for the idealistic Jeff. (But then, who wouldn’t? Of course, my bias towards James Stewart could be blinding my judgement.) The character is wonderful. Arthur allows her steely personality to be warm and not abrasive. Even when hurt she is strong and doesn’t fall to pieces – Smith relies on her far more than she relies on him, something rare in films even now. Funny and intelligent, she is a brilliant creation and makes the film for me.
This isn’t a pure comedy. It will break your heart (at least it broke mine) and cause you to question both those who are meant to lead us as well as the character of people in general. I would guess this is a film that would hold even more meaning if one were American (not being so, I can only speculate). It is funny, but there is more here than just laughs. It is bigger than that; it longs for more than to make you simply chuckle and that’s what makes it wonderful.