Providence, (USA)

“The Creative Capital”, “Renaissance City”

Providence, USA, September 2018

And here we are at the end of our trip across some of the major cities of the USA, reaching one last city before the return back to London: Providence, the capital of the State of Rhode Island. In fact, another city and State I’ve never been before hence adding to the list one more place visited in this huge country. Leaving this city to the end of the trip was also nicely appropriate since it is small enough to enjoy without any rush, and knowing how tired we already were after three full weeks non-stop, it was great to have this day out from our base back in Boston for a rather chill-out and relaxing tour.

The city is one of the oldest in the country, founded back in 1636 as one of the original Thirteen Colonies, almost at the time of Boston merely couple of years before; but was the first to renounce its allegiance to the British Crown on May 4, 1776 yet the last of the now ex-colonies to ratify the United States Constitution on May 29, 1790. That was the 9th largest city at the time at less than 8000 people, but thrived through the following years, especially after the American Civil War when it became one of the wealthiest cities in the country at the turn of the 19th century in part due to the heavy industrialization and manufacturing. Not so positive was the collapse of the heavy industry from the 1970’s that took toll on every city with a dramatic increase of poverty and crime.

Likewise it was in Baltimore or Milwaukee (but many more of the “belt-cities”, only listing here the ones we’ve visited this time), the urban regeneration set in place from the 1990’s onwards have transformed a decadent city into a great example not only in the country but in the world on how a proper plan, good management, great ideas and a good will can switch and drive a city into a thriving place and a boom in tourism. Believe me when I tell you Providence is a city that will surprise you and overturn your expectations. (more…)

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Boston, (USA)

“Athens of America”, “The Cradle of Liberty”, “The Freedom City”, “Olde Towne”

Boston, USA, September 2018

One last base in this very complete trip across some of the main cities and states in the USA; this is the time for one of the most historic city in the entire country: Boston. Leaving behind massive Chicago for this very cute, elegant and although quite large; still feeling small and compact enough to call it cosy and charming if you like. Welcome to the capital of the state of Massachusetts and by difference, the main city in importance in the whole region of New England. “The Freedom City” as it is known by one of its many nicknames, here is where the Freedom was proclaimed.

This is now my 4th or 5th time in this beautiful city, although the first time was quite complete as well since I came to be with an American family for 5 weeks, living nearby in the smaller city of Hudson, MA; hence why I spent more than one time coming downtown. Still, that was very long ago in the year 2000 and I was too young. It took another 12 years for me to return, and now, 6 more years to finally be back here. This time with more experience in travelling than ever before, and more time to enjoy as much as possible every corner there left to discover and re-discover.

One of the most culturally influential cities in the country, home to some of the most exclusive universities in the world. A magnet of knowledge from all over the world and very important ever since its foundation back in 1630 by settlers from England. Some of Boston’s firsts include the first public park in 1634, the Boston Common; the United States’ first public school in 1635, the Boston Latin School. In 1852 the Boston Public Library was founded as the first free library in the United States, while the first subway system was opened in 1897, only third in the world after London and Budapest. (more…)

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Milwaukee, (USA)

Cream City”, “Brew City”, “Beer City”, “Brew Town”, “Beertown

Milwaukee, USA, September 2018

Coming next in our trip while in our base Chicago, we spared one of the days for visiting nearby Milwaukee, the largest city in the State of Wisconsin. Referred by many nicknames, most of them leading one way or another to beer. The Beer City, Brew Town and many more. Not difficult to know the reason why of this. it was back in the 1850’s with the arrival of many German’s immigrants that they created many beer breweries all over this region, not only producing beer for the city but for the rest of the country at the time is was home to four of the world’s largest breweries. Nowadays only one of these remain, Miller.

The city’s architecture is clearly influence by its mostly German past. At points in the city such as the City Hall you can feel as if you were in a German city. Quite elegant and imposing buildings, although unfortunately many great ones have succumbed in the past decades for creating larger blocks and towers. Another most recognisable brand in the world, the Harley-Davidson is from this city. Here you will find the only museum in the word dedicated to these motorcycles in a great building worth for its architecture.

The smallest city in this trip so far, and it will remain as the smallest after we continue towards to the last points in this journey, it is nevertheless a great day out from Chicago to enjoy a quiet visit, relaxing in between the sights since distances are short, and enjoying at any of the plenty bars and restaurants serving fantastic beer of course. Said that, a day is well more than enough, to the point of not needing to get here early in the morning nor returning back to wherever you came from late at night. We did spent 7 hours altogether, and it was the perfect time.

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Chicago, (USA)

“The Windy City”, “The Second City”, “Chicagoland”, “Chitown”

Chicago, USA, September 2018

Moving on to our next destination and base for the next five days after enjoying a great relaxing time in New Orleans, we arrive to the second largest city in the USA after New York: Chicago. On the shores of lake Michigan it’s this marvellous city, where the skyscraper was born. Many wrongly still believe it was in New York City where they were first erected but that’s not right. Referred to as The Windy City as the most known nickname, it’s not only because of the likely chance to be windy, but because of years back of political issues and rivalries with Cincinnati and the World’s Fair to mark the 400th Anniversary of Columbus arrival to America.

The city was once the 4th largest in the world, in time after the Great Fire of Chicago that destroyed most of the city in 1871, and thereafter rebuilt in record time with the new legislation in safety on buildings, broad avenues, beautiful landscaping and overall care and beautification. This was the time where the skyscraper was born, the first steel-frame structure in height in 1885 (the Home Insurance Building). Such a vast playground of empty plots to be built opened and unprecedented case in which architects from all over the world wanted to leave their work in Chicago. The architecture of the city is one of the finest collections of all styles. No wonder you can find here a school of architecture that has become a pride to the world, the Chicago School.

The elegant and expensive Michigan Avenue, known as the Magnificent Mile, is the heart of the city. Most of the city icons can be found along its length and it is intersected in the middle by the Chicago River, the next main attraction. Coupled with this, crossing through the centre of the city’s heart you have the Big L, or The Loop. These are the elevated subway trains. A sight on themselves either if riding them or capturing them from the street. And dotted here and there the remaining masterpiece, its buildings and extensive parks, with a fabulous lake front.

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New Orleans, (USA)

“The roots of Jazz”, “The Crescent City”, “The Big Easy”, “City That Care Forgot”

New Orleans, USA, September 2018

Continuing south in the country, after our second base Baltimore, from where we reach the cities of Washington DC and Philadelphia the days before, it’s now time for something completely different. A place I’ve never been before in the States. One of the oldest cities in North America, founded in 1718 by the French, the back then known as Nouvelle-Orleans as the capital of the French colony of Louisiana, although not for long French as it turned hands to the Spanish rule in 1760. Welcome to the masterpiece city of New Orleans, our home for the next 4 days.

One of the most mixed-races cities ever since its foundation, it is still the most authentic  Acadian (Cajun) and Creole in the whole of the USA. The blend of French, Spanish, and African, the primary ethnic and cultural groups in old Creole culture, and the additional input from Native Americans and early German immigrants before the 19th century. And after the United States purchase of Louisiana in 1803, the mix kept growing with Italians from Sicily, Irish, new generation of Germans, Caribbean and Central Americans.

All of this left a clear mark in the city and its traditions, therefore being one of the most unique cities in the country. But for something it is world renown, aside of the birthplace of Jazz music; is its architecture. A truly masterpiece to be honest, with such grand mansions in Georgian, Federal and Spanish style. While the old town is known as the French Quarter, little is left from the French, as it was during the Spanish rule this area had to be rebuilt after a fire destroyed most of the city. The Spanish influence is the prime style here, with the addition of the characteristic metallic balconies. In the districts surrounding the historic French Quarter, the most influential style is Georgian and Federal, and of course, a Business District with art-deco and international style towers and shiny skyscrapers.

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Philadelphia, (USA)

“Philly”, “Athens of America”, “The Birthplace of America”

Philadelphia, USA, September 2018

Yet onto another of our day trips from Baltimore, the second main base in the trip so far. While the day before we enjoyed a great escape to Washington DC, the capital of the nation, today we would do so at the city that is referred to as “the birthplace of America”. for me it’s the second time here, but luckily in this occasion the time spent was way longer than back in the 2012 trip where I was only for just around 4 hours, and even so, still managed to visit almost everything. Running yes, rushing for sure, not the nicest way. Now it was a different story.

While I totally refrain from copying anything from the internet directly into my blog, I must say that the following text given in Wikipedia best describe some of the key facts of the city: “I was founded the city in 1682 to serve as capital of the Pennsylvania Colony. Thereafter played an instrumental role in the American Revolution as a meeting place for the Founding Fathers of the United States, who signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776 at the Second Continental Congress, and the Constitution at the Philadelphia Convention of 1787. Other events occurred during the Revolutionary War including the First Continental Congress, the preservation of the Liberty Bell, the Battle of Germantown and the Siege of Fort Mifflin. Philadelphia was one of the nation’s  capitals during the revolution and served as temporary U.S. capital while Washington D.C. was under construction.

Summarising some of the nation’s first, then by yearly order would be the first Library in 1731, the first hospital in 1751, the first medical school back in 1765; of course as mentioned before, the first national capital in 1774 until Washington DC was built. The first stock exchange was created in 1790, the first zoo in 1874, followed by the Centennial Exposition in 1876 which was in turn, the first official World’s Fair in the United States. Lastly, in 1881 the creation of the first business school.

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Washington, (USA)

“The Federal City”, “The American Rome”, “A Capital City”

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Moving forward continuing with the trip, we spared today for visiting the capital of the country, Washington DC as a day trip from our base Baltimore. Not even an hour away by train between both cities, the easiness to commute here paid off. I recall the trip back in 2012 where we came as a day trip from NYC having to take a very early flight and spend lots of time to/from the airport to downtown and so on. This time was as simple as taking a train and arrive literally meters from the Capitol at the impressive Union Station. And also I take the good chance for remaking this guide to be more complete than before.

The city was founded in 1791 to serve as the new national capital after the American Revolution, as was named after George Washington, the first President of the United States and Founding Father. Washington DC is one of the exceptions that break the rule of what a big city anywhere in the USA looks like. No skyscrapers at all but instead, broad avenues and a lot of parks, squares and monuments. It feels more European than any other city. And although everything looks nice, clean and elegant, most of it is just a pastiche. Buildings designed to look old and classic as if they would have been constructed back in 18th or 19th century. This is the case of most of the museum buildings that align the National Mall. The urban plan is worth to mention here as one of the greatest ever designed for a city. It was the work of genius surveyor and town planner Andrew Ellicott, who later would also design the plan for Buffalo, NY.

Everything is centred around the National Mall. This is where you find at both ends, the Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial and aligned by the sides with all the museums, memorials, federal and governmental buildings. If divided in four, at the height of the second quarter is located the famous Obelisk, the Washington Memorial, from where perpendicular to the Mall is the other green area forming a perpendicular cross leading to the White House. With the main avenues that intersects at grand circus and squares is the same story, an impressive work of perspective and urban landscaping similar to Paris.

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Baltimore, (USA)

“Irish: Baile an Tí Mhóir (town of the big house)”, “Charm City”, “B’More”

Baltimore, USA, August 2018

Moving to a second base in this trip, we reach Baltimore, perfectly located in between Philadelphia that sits north, and Washington DC to the south. In terms of logistic and comfort for travelling and sightseeing, this was the best decision I could come across saving us lots of precious time without the need to keep packing and moving with our luggage from a hotel to another switching cities every other day. A second direct benefit for making a base here is cost-saving for accommodation. Both Philly and DC are more expensive in terms of hotels, but also in restaurants and day-to-day life. And lastly, well, this is a city I’ve never been before in the USA and therefore, and added value to the trip.

While often bypassed by tourists, it is nevertheless a very charming place, yet small but good enough for a full entire day sightseeing. The entire downtown and waterfront been recently revamped and gentrified, it is now a thing of the past the turbulent reputation in being one of the most dangerous and decaying cities in the USA. You can hardly see any sign from such past, unless of course, you get to the outskirts neighbourhoods which in turn, there is nothing there for you to see nor reason to go.

Our base in here worked perfectly for breaking the rather heavy non-stop sightseeing past days in New York City, giving us some resting and relaxing time in between, enjoying the very short train rides to Philly and DC and charging the batteries to continue the next days farther south towards New Orleans. (more…)

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