Now - I've only been there a couple of times, so I'm certainly not the expert, but I have had some fairly "typical" experiences....typical that is, of a tourist's point of view, always different from a Resident's.
My visits started off mainly from Airports, and I've always regretted that I was never able to take the 4 or 5 days necessary to "hang on to European tradition" with good food, great wines, deck tennis, swimming pools and things all to be found onboard those luxury liners... but....the price, oh - the price...! Wouldn't have to have been the "Titanic" but something similar would have done me...!
I started off in Washington DC, where I saw all those things you're supposed to see, and some you ain't...!
Then - I hopped onto a Greyhound bus, having been advised that -although longer - it would give me the chance to see more, and it WAS cheaper, and I AM a Scotsman by birth!
Well - it certainly did that...from Washington DC to North Carolina, I saw the insides of countless "KFC's" - "McDo's" - "Pancake joints" and other such local specialities.
The tendence, it seemed, was for Greyhound buses ALWAYS to stop at the same type of things, always on the outskirts of towns and Cities for "refreshment pauses", and I now count myself as an expert on the subject, but I still can't look a fried chicken piece in the face, not even after all these years...!
Another speciality of Greyhound buses, as I found out, was the systematic losing of tourist's luggage. Only TOURIST's luggage, mind you, not the good honest American Citizen's, or maybe they knew about it, and didn't bring any - or sent it on ahead a week earlier...!
All in all, the voyage passed off OK, and after around 18 hours, I arrived in Raleigh, Capital of North Carolina, considerably lighter (no baggage) but with full bowels, KFC - McDO and all the rest, together with Greyhound buses not being conducive to "bowel movement" and the "onboard" WC's - shall we say - "unattractive"....besides, everyone knew where you were going! I would have had the same problem on a plane, frightened that my loss in weight would land on the head of a passing pedestrian 2 miles below...
Tell me - how come pigeons never think of that...? I mean - they read all about it.
Anyway, I'd arrived....ready for the great adventure, and I had vowed to try to see American way of life - the naked truth - and I did!
I wasn't invited for a wedding, just for a visit, so on my programme were "Cawfee Shops" - "Bowlin' alleys" - "Pool halls" and all those clean, healthy little places...
All in all, I did the tour, and I recall particularly the very first day when I went off to "downtown Raleigh"...Strange isn't it - in Europe we tend to say "up" as in "going upwest" or "up to the West-end" - in the States, they ALWAYS go "down" - maybe it's because it's on the other side of the planet...!
I was pleased to find what the Americans called a "brewery" - being a beer man at the time (I'd just come from Germany, after all) I entered with great glee, and came out with the Great Depression on my shoulders - what the devil was that, truly to be described as "gnat's piss", they had served me....?
It truly resembled urine, ice cold (thank god) and as flat as a pancake, but I couldn't say anything, because they were so proud of it, and when they had found out that I was British, but had just blown in from Germany, they just couldn't stop plying me with free samples of all the damned beers in the place, and asking me whether this was as good, or better than "that German stuff"!
It never occurred to them that it might just be worse than (and they all were), but as a polite tourist, and 'cos I wasn't payin', I held my mouth.
They appreciated this, and interpreted my silence as a sort of "mesmerised wondering", by me, on the aspects of their delicious tipple.
It had a second advantage, because I was able to meet Americans of all levels, of all colours, and N. Carolina, being a "proud" Southern State, I was interested to see the relationship between races.
I was able to determine that, at least in the Brewery pub, there seemed to be no tensions, even if I seemed to be the only one moving freely between the "black" end of the bar, and the "white" end of the bar....!
At least they weren't being sold any more, but they weren't buying each other beer either....!
This "european" attitude that I had, seemed to please both sides, and I learnt, for the first time in my life that a black man doesn't like to be called "coloured" as we say in Europe.
He is clear and precise, he tells you:
"I ain't coloured, boy - Ahm BLACK...!" - and he's right.
He's also about 10 feet tall with Schwarzenegger physiques - so you don't argue the point.... and I won't tell you the problems I had to find a photo on Google that I could present to you on the subject.....!
After some innumerable beers, all varying from bad to downright disgusting, I took my "adieus" with that typical shake of hands on the white corner of the bar, and the typical smackin' of hands on the other....Tomorrow was Saturday, there was a market, and there was a Jazz Festival in the city park....and I was invited by my sister and her family...
I passed the evening in idle "family" chitter-chatter, we ate, and then it was bedtime. I had to come to terms with the morning's beer, and with the fact that my niece had grown up in the 25 years since I'd seen her last.....! Besides - it was market and Jazz in the mornin'........
Morning came and I was awakened to the bitter fact that nowhere, but nowhere in the whole house was a coffee machine to be found!
When I sked, I was told , "Well - we just go down to "Starbucklers" (or something) and stop off on our way to work!"
What - even on a Saturday, but you don't work Saturdays.......
"Just habit, and besides - we don't have a coffee machine...!"
American logic - just have to accept it!
Anyway - we finally all set off to the market and the Festival....I tried to show some interest for the strange looking fruit and veg., - couldn't find any oysters, so lost interest....! On to the Festival....and there they all were, all my BLACK friends from the Brewery - all sitting on the wall, all seemingly chewing tobacco, with an occasional "cccccrrruuuuch" here and there - a specially aimed spit into a waste bin that stood handy.
My sister and brother in law, poor things, stood mesmerised as I had to walk down the line and "slap hands" with all these guys.....They took it all in good humour, although they were surely thinking
"My God - he's only been in town 24 hours and he knows all the "riff-raff already....."
So was my first ever introduction to "the American Way of Life" .... in part II I'll tell you how I smashed all the local bowling records, how I got myself invited to "downtown Shanty town..." and how I got rescued...!
iwmpop (mr le marquis) - Vauvert, France - Novembre 2010.
weather at Vauvert, France
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