As most of you know, I just got back from an amazing vacation in the United States! Keith and I started by driving to Kennebunkport in Maine to visit some of his family, then spent a few nights in Boston, before heading over to the big NYC for the rest of our trip!
I really have never spent a lot of time in the States. Three years ago, Keith and I spent a weekend in Maine for his cousin’s wedding, but thats been about it. So – this trip was really exciting for me since I was visiting Boston and NYC for the first time, and also getting to really spend a good amount of time shopping and exploring some of the good ole U.S. of A.
In our time there, I discovered a few things that I wanted to share with you that I thought were either interesting… or made me laugh (either because they were funny or shocking!). I hope you enjoy the 10 Things I Learned In My Trip to the U.S.A.!
#1. If you don’t live in Toronto or Montreal, most Americans do not know where you are from.
Especially in NYC, people could quickly identify us as “out-of-towners” so we were often being asked where we were from. Usually I just said “Ottawa, Ontario” which was met with blank stares and required a follow-up of “its somewhere north of Toronto”. Once we mentioned Toronto, people often told us stories of their own visits to the city or compared it to Montreal. It became very obvious that most Americans do not really know any cities outside of these two main tourist hubs – even though Ottawa is our nation’s capital!
#2 – The Cashier at the Banana Republic Outlet thinks Stephen Harper is cute and wishes that he could trade him for Obama.
This was definitely one of the stranger moments on our trip! While we were shopping at the outlets near Boston, the cashier at the Banana Republic Outlet asked us where we were from and when we said Canada, he launched into a little speech about how much he loves Stephen Harper. He went on to say that he wished he could trade Obama for Harper, and that he couldn’t wait until 2016 for a change in office. I couldn’t tell what I was more shocked by – that he was so enamoured by Stephen Harper or that (especially after experiencing so much of #1) that he even knew who Harper was! So, some Americans do know a little bit more about Canada than others. :p
#3 – Trader Joe’s is a great place to find inexpensive organic, plant-based, natural or gluten-free products!
I really wish that we had this store in Canada! They had so many products and brands that I had never heard of before! The picture below is of all the new food & beauty goodies I got during our vacation and the vast majority of them are from Trader Joe’s!
#4 – Chipotle and the Olive Garden are delicious, wonderful places to eat.
Just so incredibly delicious! If we had these restaurants here, I would eat there way more than I should. Keith and I even joked about how rich we would be if we opened a Chipotle here in Ottawa – everyone would go there for lunch! My favourite was the Sofrita bowl, which was vegan with spiced shredded tofu and veggies. So yummy!
#5 – The differences in wealth and income level of Americans is staggeringly evident.
The houses in Kennebunkport, Maine are absolutely stunning – and incredibly massive! Each house was bigger than the next. When we went to NYC, we saw expensive cars, huge penthouses, designer brands, and fabulously overpriced restaurants. These obvious signs of extreme wealth were one thing, but it was another when we were just driving through small towns. There were stark differences between houses on the same street. A house with an obviously well manicured lawn, beautifully landscaped gardens, and a BMW in the driveway was situated immediately next to a much smaller home that was in dire need of fresh paint and basic repairs. We struggle with this in Canada too, but you can often avoid thinking about it if you steer clear of certain “sketchy” areas of cities and ignore the occasional homeless person on the street. In the States, I saw it everywhere we went. You couldn’t avoid it – it was right there in your face. It made me sad, angry and frustrated that we still have so far to go to improve the lives of so many people, but also thankful that in Canada we have certain safety nets that are marginally better than those of our southern neighbours.
#6 – Canada has a lot of the same brands, but America has WAY more product variety.
This was especially true with food. For example, we have Lara Bars and Luna bars in Canada but they had flavours for sale in the States that we definitely do not have here – like Blueberry Muffin and Banana Bread (shown in the picture below!). They also had a line of Luna fiber bars that I had never seen! In addition, they had some brands which are not readily available here, like the “Think Thin” brand of nutritional bars that I bought from Trader Joe’s. I am completely jealous of the wide variety and selection they have compared to stores here!
#7 – Women in NYC do not dress like the girls in Sex and the City (much to my dismay).
If you have ever watched even a single episode of Sex and the City, you will know what I mean by this. The girls are always pushing the envelope and sporting runway-worthy Haute Couture designer fashions. Since SATC is one of my all-time favourite shows, most of my knowledge of NYC comes from watching these four lovely ladies.
So, I was expecting to see at least some “out-there” looks while we were exploring the city, but everything was pretty tame! I definitely saw some higher-end threads, but nothing flashy or extraordinary. It was a bit of a disappointment and made me realize the outfits on the show are mostly good-old Hollywood embellishment. Still love my SATC though – and I definitely made sure to make it out to some special NYC landmarks from the show. That can be a separate post if you want to see it! 🙂
#8 – Things (especially food products) are available in unnecessarily large quantities and sizes.
In some cases, it was comical (case in point – my candy photo!) but in others it was just… pure gluttony. In one gas station, we saw 3/4 lb bags of beef jerky for sale. In my opinion, no one needs such a large amount of processed food! Seeing monstrous servings like that on a regular basis can throw off your own perception of how much to “indulge” and what amount you should be eating in your own version of portion control. Definitely not something that encourages healthy eating habits – although it is something fun to take a picture with!
#9 – American cities are efficiently planned and include amazing green public spaces.
This was especially true in Boston and NYC. Keith and I spent a lot of time walking through public parks in both cities and we were amazed at how well planned out they were. There seemed to be a large number of recreational facilities and places for people to sit, eat or just generally enjoy the park.
We went to a park called “The High Line” located in the meat packing district of NYC. The High Line is an old train track that runs above the street which was converted into green space. There were benches everywhere to sit, public gardens and water features. Under bridges where gardens couldn’t grow, there were spaces for local merchants, restaurants, and small “bar” areas where people could grab a quick drink. On a sunny Saturday morning, it was packed with smiling people and lots of families with young kids.
These type of amenities made us want to spend more time outside, enjoying the outdoors and the available space. I wish that urban planners in Canadian cities would take notice of the strategies being used by these communities to plan out public parks that are built in ways that to encourage people to be active outside.
#10 – There are some really incredible people living in the States.
In every city we went to, we met some really incredible people. Whether it was our amazing waiter at Olive Garden, Robert – an aspiring actor in NYC who made us laugh, told stories about the city and gave us advice on places to visit; or our cashier at Trader Joe’s who was quick to strike up a friendly conversation even though the store was packed and the line up was huge, some of the individuals we met really left an impression on us. This definitely made our trip that much better and left us feeling really good about the cities we visited. Plus – so many people were quick to comment on how nice we were (us friendly Canadians!). This also includes a HUGE thank you to the NYPD officer who pulled me over for rolling through a stop sign as we were leaving NYC. I was so nervous driving in the city and was just focusing on making sure we were going the right way and not getting lost. Once I apologized and told him how nervous I was, he let me off with a warning. I was SO scared! It was a big event for me – I have never been pulled over before for anything. I have never even gone through a ride program while I was in the driver’s seat!
Have you ever been to the United States and learn anything while you were there? Or, if you are from the US and have been to Canada, flip it around! What did you learn from us here?
I did do a little bit of filming while we were on vacation, so let me know if you want to see some of that footage in a quick little vlog! I have been debating on whether or not to do one, so I would love to hear what you all think! I missed you guys when I was away… It feels good to be back!
See you all next week!