OCT 30, 2015 – I visited my friend Sonia in Seattle for a few days. We went hiking on the Olympic Peninsula for three days, and were relatively lucky with the weather – it was raining less than half of the time. At the end of a two-day loop hike near Elwha, leading us to Happy Lake and Boulder Lake, we came to a group of hot springs. Taking a bath in the natural stone pools was a great reward, and it felt special to walk around in the autumn landscape in a swimsuit to look for more hot ponds along the trail. We then drove to a campground near Forks and hiked along Bogachiel River the following day. The forest there was much more humid and full of chanterelle mushrooms, of which we picked a pound – luckily this area is not part of the National Park. On the way back to Seattle, we visited Port Townsend, a hippie town along the coast with a nice historical center. I then spent the last three days in Seattle and went to visit Marisa and Sam, whom I hadn’t seen since my last US trip. Today I am heading to Sandpoint, Idaho, where I will do more hiking with my friend Ryan. I probably won’t have any Internet access in the next ten days, so please be patient for the next update!
OCT 24, 2015 – Milwaukee was really just an intermediate stop – part of the reason to go there was that I could save $100 on my flight to Seattle that way. But I was very lucky to be hosted by a guy named Jim there. I had decided ahead of time to make my first Raclette of the season at Jim’s house, so I bought cheese and other ingredients in Chicago before leaving. Once I found a way to melt the cheese without a raclette grill (a toaster oven worked fine), we were both very happy with this Swiss dinner. Jim then showed me some of Milwaukee’s nicest bars: Patty’s Irish Pub, with a lovely interior full of little details to discover, a set of old church windows, bathtubs with bronze figures in them, Irish live music, et cetera. And a German-themed bar, again with a stunning interior, and with a larger selection of German beers than the “Bavaria” in Lausanne. Apparently even German visitors were impressed! After a good night’s sleep, we spent most of the Saturday in the city, discovering the Public Market, the riverside walk, and a sausage factory, among other things. When Jim dropped me off at the airport in the afternoon, I felt very satisfied with my short visit to the state of Wisconsin, and grateful for the great hospitality that I had encountered.
OCT 23, 2015 – I was surprised by the warm weather when I arrived in Chicago. Even though it is called the Windy City, it was much warmer than Detroit, where I had needed my jacket most of the time. When I walked through Millennium Park and looked back at the skyline, I got my first impression of Chicago’s amazing architecture. The park itself played an important role in that, with its art installations that interact with the skyline, and a climbing wall that fits perfectly into it. I spent a lot of time walking and biking around, and enjoying the look and feel of the city. Since evenings with my host and with other CouchSurfers had kept me away from Detroit’s nightlife, I wanted to make up for that, so I went to see a theater show and a musical, both of which I liked. The “Million Dollar Quartet” with impersonators of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins was the shorter of the two shows, but probably the more memorable one. After the theater night, I went to Kingston Mines, where good blues music was played even on a weekday. My CouchSurfing host worked late, so I was still able to spend time with him after these cultural events. All in all, it was an intense couple of days, but I left with a very positive impression of a city that I hadn’t known what to expect of.
OCT 20, 2015 – I spent three nights in Detroit, which is often called the “Motor City” or simply “Motown”. This poorest city of the US was interesting in many ways: Its downtown has a few spectacular buildings like the Renaissance Center, which is General Motors’ global headquarters. The city has one of North America’s largest theater districts and a remarkable nightlife. And because the crisis has taken away many jobs, there are probably more grassroots movements, citizen initiatives, and alternative life approaches than in any other American city. I went to visit a few interesting places by bike: The Heidelberg project, a big art installation around abandoned and destroyed houses; the Universe Building, a community center, home and guesthouse in a poor neighborhood, and the Golden Gate project, which occupies, renovates and decorates a number of abandoned houses and runs alternative businesses such as a bike shop. One of the biggest issues for me as a visitor was how to get around – it might have been worthwhile to rent a car, but instead I used the infrequent buses, a rental bike, and Uber cars. It was my first time using Uber, and I was somehow forced into it because I went to a CouchSurfing potluck one evening, and suddenly realized it was 50km away without any public transit option to get there. The quality of service convinced me, and while I do still have some doubts about the ethics of Uber’s business model, I chatted with my drivers about it and got the impression that they get paid enough to be able to work full-time for Uber.
OCT 17, 2015 – From Kingston I took a bus to Toronto. Since I already knew the city, I had only planned one night there. But as it turns out, Brandon, my other roommate from Kingston, now lives here. He hosted me and took me to a nice bar near Greektown. Being reminded of Toronto’s nightlife made me regret a bit that I had so little time. At least I went for a little bike ride the next morning and was able to secure a cheese cake from Uncle Tetsu’s shop – a new and very hyped Japanese bakery in downtown. I only went there because there was no line, but the cheese cake was really delicious. A shameful detail that remained unchanged is the arrivals hall of the bus terminal – since 2010, passengers get dumped in front of a locked building with an unhelpful sign on it (see below). One would expect a more welcoming reception in such a large and generally well-organized city.
OCT 16, 2015 – On my way to Toronto, I stopped for a few hours in Kingston ON, where I had lived for five months in 2010-11 and done an internship at CMC Microsystems. My former boss gave me a tour of the offices, where I met many familiar faces and some new ones. CMC has since built a new prototyping lab, which I got introduced to as well. The city itself still looked much the same – the most notable difference being a new microbrewery called Stone City Ales on the main street. After tasting all their draft beers, I concluded that the 12 Star Session Ale was my favorite, but I liked Beau’s Kissmeyer Nordic Pale Ale even more (this was on their guest tap). Further down the street, the cinema had closed its doors and apparently a large building with expensive condos will replace it.
OCT 15, 2015 – I visited my former roommate Nolan in Ottawa for a few days. He lent me his bike and I went on a ride along Rideau Canal, crossed Ottawa River, and biked up to Pink Lake, inside Gatineau Park. The autumn colors were beautiful. The city itself has not changed much and its transit system is still very badly accessible for visitors, with buses accepting coin payments only, and a very complicated network of lines. Hopefully things will improve with the new light rail that is scheduled to open in 2018.
OCT 13, 2015 – For my night in Montreal I chose the Central Hostel, which I had been to several times in 2010 and 2011. I was not disappointed – this hostel is still excellent and very affordable. Since my train was only at 4pm, I had almost a day to spend in this wonderful city. I walked through different parts of it, looking for worthy photo subjects. At Marché Jean-Talon I was amazed by the diversity of Québec produce, and in Boulevard Saint-Laurent, after having a sandwich at legendary Schwartz’s Deli, I found a lot of breathtaking graffiti art.
OCT 11, 2015 – Once I arrived in Boston, I quickly regretted that I had only booked two nights here. But I am in a bit of a hurry to get to the west coast, so I had to make some compromises. The city has an abundant nightlife with a lot of live music, and many relaxed places to hang out. It has the atmosphere of a student city, similar to Toronto for example. I also like its architecture, a colorful mix of small and large, old and new buildings. My friend Elitsa from Bulgaria showed me around and gave me access to the beautiful Harvard Library, which is not open to the public.
OCT 9, 2015 – Due to bad planning I missed my flight for Aruba by a few minutes. The flight options from Cayenne are limited, so I had to stay for two more nights and shorten my stay on Aruba to a single night. My CouchSurfing hosts helped me out, and I spent two lazy days around their house. I also had time to cook dinner again and to go for my first run in more than three weeks. On Aruba, I had a great airbnb host named Willeke, whom I’m happy to recommend. I rented a mountain bike and went for an afternoon ride in Arikok National Park. This was a lot of fun, also thanks to Tri-Bike Aruba who had provided me with a great hardtail bike.