Ever since I was a kid, I have always wanted to go to the United States of America–mostly due to the number of relatives we have over there, but also because of what I saw in movies. In high school, I even had an “American dream” which was to study fashion abroad and live in an upscale apartment in Manhattan. Fast forward to the present, and traveling to the US has finally become a reality!
So here’s what happened–our cousin Jonathan was going to get married to his fabulous girlfriend, Tina–in Denver! Lolo said that he wanted Chiara and I represent him at the wedding. So we applied for a US Visa, got approved, and on June 24 of last year, we were on our way to the US! If you want some tips on how to get a US Visa, I wrote about our experience here.
Chiara, my younger sister, basically did the whole itinerary and coordination to make sure that our three week adventure would be nothing short of exciting. The objective? Aside from attending the wedding, we wanted to be able to visit most of our relatives.
So here goes! I’ll just be sharing the highlights for each state we visited but will also write a separate post for each one (please give me time).
NEW YORK, NEW YORK!
New York was a blast–and a beauty in every angle. Even just walking along the city gave me goosebumps. We were able to do the MUSTs– see a Broadway Show, go to Times Square, see the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, and Flat Iron, stroll in Central Park, do a Big Bus tour, go to the Museum of Modern Art, see the 9/11 Memorial and World Trade Center, and even ride the subway! Auntie Anne even bought us each a bag of treats from Dylan’s Candy Bar.
We were also in the city for the Gay Pride parade, and though we didn’t witness the parade itself, we saw a lot of people who looked like they were on their way there. It was just a really fun and festive day wherever we went.
So here’s the exciting part–WE JUMPED OFF A MOVING TRAIN.
Our uncle then put us on a train to Maryland. We rode an Amtrak and we fell asleep due to jet lag. When I woke up, the train was not moving and I saw that it was our stop already. I woke Chiara up and told her, and she started panicking like “Why are we not standing?!”
Chia started grabbing our stuff and then I dragged them towards the door–on the wrong side! Then we couldn’t get the right door open. I finally saw a sign above saying “Pull lever to open door” but being a short person, I couldn’t reach it. The train started moving as I told Chiara to pull the lever. We finally got the door open and she jumped. She started screaming “Throw the baaaags!” I threw one of the bags, then jumped off too while holding on to my luggage, a backpack, and a handbag. I landed on my side, then stood up like nothing happened. Miraculously, no one was injured or harmed, except maybe that lady who was screaming “OH MY GOD!”
Our Uncle Eddy who had come to pick us up approached us and asked if we were okay. He didn’t look it, but we know he was panicking. Like, what a way to meet your nieces who you haven’t seen for almost more than 10 years, right? Chiara and I were pretending like it wasn’t a big deal, but once we were inside our room we couldn’t stop laughing-crying.
MARYLAND (and also Virginia and Washington DC)
And that was the start of our stay in Maryland. To sum up our stay in Maryland, it was awesome too. We had lots of food–if you stay with our aunt and uncle, you will never. stop. eating. They will feed you, and feed you more! One of the highlights was getting to taste fresh cherries! Yumm.
They took us to Mount Vernon in Virginia, which was the plantation house of George Washington. They also took us to Fort McHenry where we learned a lot about the US Flag and the War of 1812. Another stop was Washington DC where I geeked out, being a fan of Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol.
We also got to go to Michael’s (HEAVEN!) where Auntie Bannie works. In fact, we attended her cupcake decorating class—a first for me. And then we met some of our distant relatives for the firs time when they came over for a crabby (literally) dinner. Staying in Maryland was awesome—it was fun being around family you rarely see.
We rode Southwest Airlines to Florida where Lola Thelly and Lolo Bill were staying. They are the parents of Jonathan, our cousin who was going to get married. We were just going to stay for two days before going on a roadtrip to Denver.
In our short stay in Orlando, we were able to go to Kennedy Space Center. Here’s something crazy—I have never heard of Kennedy Space Center, so I was really really surprised and amazed when we got there. It was another major geeking out session. The following day we went to Disneyworld. Which park you ask? Well, all of them! Yes, we did all four parks in one day. If that isn’t crazy, I don’t know what is.
ROADTRIP! (Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, and Kansas)
It was a four day road trip with side stops along the way. Chia, Lola Thelly, and I worked on the wedding souvenirs during the ride while Lolo Bill and Aunty Janna switched driver roles. We also stopped at each Welcome Center. I looooved the Welcome Centers and started imagining if each province in the Philippines had one. I grabbed the interesting brochures and maps I could see for future reference for designs and creative whatnots.
In Alabama, we stopped by the Ave Maria Grotto which was essentially a museum filled with a monk’s miniatures made from scrap materials. It was a quirky experience to say the least. In Missouri we took a short river tour along the Mississippi and checked out the Gateway Arch—the world’s tallest arch. Trivia says it is as high as it is wide and I could not believe it.
And in Kansas, well, what else? We went to the Wizard of Oz museum of course. It wasn’t just about the movie, but about the book and how it has touched the lives of people around the world. Oh, and their gift shop was one of the best shops I’ve ever been to.
Colorado is such a pretty state! Even though it was summer, you could see the white-capped mountains. Absolutely gorgeous. Lola Thelly gave Tina the veil she wore during her wedding, and this made a lot of us tear up. I love Tina—we all do! She’s super cool and super nice. I’m glad she’s now a part of our family.
The wedding itself was a simple, fun, and geeky wedding. There was even a couple that came in Hogwarts robes! There was an open bar (yey for me!), and Filipino food was served for dinner (another yey!). The groomsmen had Lego Avengers for boutonnieres along with DIY paper flowers. Even the bouquets were all DIY paper flowers—so pretty!
After the wedding, we headed to Steamboat Springs for a few days so we could just chill and relax and bond with the Thomases. I loved Steamboat Springs. Since it’s a popular winter holiday destination, I could only imagine the crowd in winter. We were able to see the ski slopes from the town, though of course there was no snow. It was a nice experience though, just strolling around and experiencing a different place. ALSO—dogs everywhere! We also found this bookstore that we loved called Off the Beaten Path which served coffee drinks named after literary characters.
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA
And finally to the West Coast, our very last stop. Our stay in LA was fast-paced as we were able to drive through Beverly Hills and Sta. Monica, walk along the streets of Hollywood, go to Universal Studios (Harry Potter, hello!), and walk around Paul Getty Museum.
I think my favorite part of the LA leg of our trip was reuniting with two of my closest friends—Paul from my first job ever, and Pam, one of my best friends who migrated to the US some almost 16 years ago. We haven’t seen each other since we were nine!
Will probably be writing about each destination so I can elaborate on some things that might help you if you plan to visit those places. Overall, it was a jam packed and adventurous time with a lot of awesome memories.