Michael is Amazing

At Home With Mike

Welcome to the start of a new series (kind of) of blog posts where I talk about myself, what I get up to, and such things.

I wanted to take this opportunity to talk about my recent trip to the United States of America! Specifically, Chicago and Washington, D.C. I visited for a week each. It was my first time over to America and my first time travelling outside of Europe!

Michael is Amazing

I did some research before heading out on how to get from the airports to where I was staying. Watching YouTube videos helped with this a lot as it provided a visual reference for when I arrived. As I was travelling solo, I wanted to make sure I didn’t look like I was lost at any point. This worked very well, as I had other tourists at times asking me for directions!

I’m not a fan of heights so I was nervous about the long flights. It turned out to be fine though, aside from the lack of a working TV in my chair on the way there! Luckily, I had some magazines with me and the drinks were free. I also got a free upgrade so I guess I can’t complain too much.

Arriving in Chicago and riding the metro I was surprised to see a large amount of snow, seemingly which had fallen over the past week. I didn’t quite engage my brain, however, and immediately handled the metal banister as I was exiting the metro station. It was a bit of a shock how cold it was! What was truly shocking, however, was that despite being in the centre of the third biggest city in the USA it was dead quiet. I barely saw any other people walking around as I made it a few blocks over to my hotel.

As I was staying for seven nights the hotel upgraded my room. I now had an impressive two TVs in my room. I’m still not sure why – although I could see one from the toilet if I left the door open.

After setting my stuff down, I grabbed my camera and headed immediately out into the cold city to wander around the local area. I had been awake for a very long time by this point, but I knew I had to try to stay up for as long as I could. And I had an hour to kill before the hotel bar opened for food. The hotel bar was nice, and the staff (who got to know me as a regular for my week’s stay) were also very friendly. Their burger was also great! I did have to ask the staff how all the receipts and tipping stuff worked – not something we have to worry about on this side of the Atlantic.

The next week I spent exploring the city and ticking things off my “want to see” list. I only thing I missed was the Van Gogh Experience, which was fine as it turned out there was one in Washington that I went to instead. I also met up with a few of the locals to try and get a better authentic experience. What I mean by this is that I had the inside scoop on where all the best pizza places were!

Whilst I did thoroughly enjoy myself in Chicago, I was struck by the laissez-faire attitude towards the high violence rates, high poverty, and relatively clear social inequities. Whilst Washington did feel safer (partly due to the huge police presence) the vast number of tents spoke to a very different America than you might see on TV.

The flight to D.C. was uneventful for the most part. It was my first time flying domestically so the differences were amusing to me. Although I did appreciate the Wendy’s next to my gate. The best part about the flight was as we were coming to land. We were circling the city – waiting for our slot to land I assume – and by this point, it was dark and the lights of the city were on. I looked out the window by myself at one point and got the perfect view of the entire mall, from the Capitol Building right up to the Jefferson Memorial. It was beautiful and I just wish I had my camera to hand for it.

Compared to Chicago, Washington felt relatively quaint. Well, it would have if it wasn’t for all the massive monuments, impressive architecture, and broad streets. I immediately felt at ease and at home in the apartment I was renting.

One of the best things about staying in an apartment over a hotel I found was being able to cook your own meals. America is not a cheap place to dine out three times a day! Another great thing about this apartment was the smart TV. I spent most of my downtime – not that there was much – watching Madame Secretary on Netflix. Watching D.C. whilst I was in D.C.!

I’ve always wanted to visit the city since studying American politics back in college, and from all the American political drama shows I watch. I felt like I could skip down the streets at times from the joy of being in Washington! It helped I also found a good pizza place on my first night in the city.

Again, I met up with a few locals over the week to do sightseeing and get the scoop on D.C. life. I also had my first Cheesecake Factory experience!

Washington D.C. was considerably busier than Chicago for tourists. One day I found myself getting up as early as I could to get some great shots of the city and monuments before the crowds descended.

It is quite hard to get unique shots on your first visit to any city, but particularly D.C. This was reflected in my photos when I was looking at them on my return to the UK. I had many great shots from Chicago, but not as many from D.C. You can check out the pictures I did take on my Instagram! You can also buy some of the photographs to adorn your walls from my print shop!

Michael is Amazing

In terms of photography, the National Geographic Museum was really inspiring. It was full of amazing shots from across wildlife and was also home to an exhibition about the first to climb Mount Everest. I only dream that one day I will be able to take such exquisite photographs.

Most of the museums in Washington D.C. are free to enter which is great. There’s a lot of great stuff to see, and the Native American Museum which I visited on my last day was probably my favourite one. That being said, having been to several Nature History Museums before, including one in Chicago, I didn’t enjoy the one in D.C. as much. Although the jewels, gems, and stones galleries were quite good.

Spending so much time alone, something I’m really not used to, was quite the experience. I’m not sure I can say I truly enjoyed that aspect of this trip, but it was nice to be able to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. It was also lucky that everyone I met was very nice!

That’s all for now, see you next time!

Michael is Amazing
Michael is Amazing

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