My last month

imageDuring the last month of my trip to America I was able to travel around a bit more and visit some friends, both new and old.  My exchange visa allowed me to stay in America for a month after my exams, of which I used every day.

During the first week after school finished I stayed with Madison in Wise.  We spent the week getting our nails done, going hiking to ‘Devil’s Bathtub’, going to Outback Steakhouse and cooking Pavlova.

I spent the second week with one of my roommates, Ashleigh, and our friend Natalie in Woodbridge.  Woodbridge is a short drive from D.C.  During the week we went to King’s Dominion (a themepark near Richmond), went to the Smithsonian National Zoo in D.C., went to the Manasses Battlefield (from the Civil War) and had a picnic.

I then flew from D.C. to Miami where I spent a few days by myself exploring the city. In Miami I did the two day Big Bus Tour (the same company I used in NYC).  This was a great way to see the city and learn some history while travelling solo. I then joined my Topdeck tour in Miami.  My tour group consisted of 16 travellers, mostly Aussies, including 4 other exchange students who had been studying in America and Canada.

Key West sunset market view
Key West sunset market view

The first day of our tour we went to Florida Keys, which is in the south of Florida.  The next day we did all day watersports in Key West, the most southerly point of America (it’s actually closer to Cuba than to Miami).  This ended up being one the highlights of my trip – we went out on a boat into the clearest waters off Key West and spent the day jet skiing, on the water trampoline, banana boating (kind of like donuting but off a jetski), parasailing, kayaking and snorkelling.  They also fed us breakfast, lunch, afternoontea and free alcoholic beverages on the way back to Key West.  After the busy and exhausting day we wandered around the town, which felt alot like Byron Bay.  We saw Earnest Hemmingway’s house with lots of six-toed cats running around.  We had cocktails in pineapples and watched the sunset at the Sunset Markets, with lots of food stalls and buskers.  Needless to say that we all slept exceptionally well that night!

11426825_10207121181330928_533745489_nWe then drove to Fort Myers in Florida, on the way stopping at an Alligator and Crocodile farm in the Everglades.  Surprisingly, the first animals we saw were Emu’s!  We took a boat ride in the Everglades (like the boat at the start of CSI Miami) and saw alot of crocodiles/aligators.  The Everglades is the only place that you find both species living together, due to both salt water and fresh water being present.

The next day 16 very excited adults were acting like it was Christmas, their birthday and the last day of school all rolled into one because we finally got to go to Universal Studios in Orlando, specifically Harry Potter World.  Over two days we managed to spent about 17 hours at Universal, spending most of our time in the Harry Potter areas of Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade.  And let me tell you – it’s as awesome as you’d imagine! We tried Butterbeer, went on every Harry Potter ride, bought so much stuff (including some every flavour jelly beans!) and took a million photos.

IMG_3067 When we were all Harry Potter-ed out (I know, apparently it is possible!) we went to Panama City Beach, which is the Spring Break captial of USA.  Here we went to Club La Vela, the biggest nightclub in America.  It has 8 different rooms with different themes and music.  This is one of the only clubs that you only have to be 18 to get into, which was good because 2 people on my trip were under 21.  We had a good time dancing and drinking interesting whiskey concoctions in the 2 Buck Saloon.

The next day we went to New Orleans!  Going out in New Orleans is unlike anything you’ve ever experienced.  We stayed in the French Quarter, only blocks from the famous (or infamous?) Bourbon Street.  We had a great time in Bourbon Street and surrounds trying Hand Grenades (yum!) and Hurricanes (gross!) and 3 for 1 drinks.  We danced to jazz and country and everything else you could imagine.  We even met up with a guy from Melbourne who heard our accents.  It was such a great night that we were in bed at 12.30am!

Trying the Hand Grenade in New Orleans
Trying the Hand Grenade in New Orleans

The next day my tour finished, but I stuck around until 4pm when I left for the airport.  We wandered around, tried some local foods (Cafe Du Monde’s beignet’s are to die for, but I wasn’t a bit fan of the gumbo from the French Market), went on the ferry over the Mississippi and wandered around some shops that I would never be able to buy anything from! I then flew to San Diego (after some problems with flights) and finally arrived on Tuesday morning!

The last week of my trip I spent with Erica, who had living in my dorm in Bathurst in Semester 2 of 2014.  It was great to catch up with her and meet her family.  We had a great week going to a baseball game, hiking, farmers markets, the Fair and Disneyland.

10850366_10205997246346225_1004233739_n I arrived home on Wednesday morning, with bittersweet feelings! Looking back I’m so glad that I took this opportunity and hope that I’ve inspired others to do exchange as well!

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