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More From Me Later, For the BBC I'm Matt O'Grady

semi-overcast 25 °C

I beat the jet lag this morning and it felt good! Getting up at 4am every morning is overrated so this is a welcome change to my travels. Right now I'm on a Concord Trailways bus heading to Portland and boy is it impressive. Not only do these buses have movies and free snacks and drinks for passengers, but Wi-Fi as well, which is letting me post this up this morning.

Getting to Bangor turned out to be easy, and actually very helpful. I was joined for the hour and a half journey from Bar Habor by a couple of American tourists. They gave me some great advice about good places to go/see where tourists wouldn't normally head. On the back of their advice I've got my venue for England v USA lined up - a cool seafood bar called the Barking Crab on Boston's harbour. In the short time I've been here I've heard some dodgy stories about some places in the South and they confirmed them. I'm going to be changing some of my route. Instead of visiting Atlanta, Georgia I'll be going to Savannah, also in Georgia (a town that General Grant of the Union Army called too beautiful to burn as his army marched south).

I knew I'd have a long morning and afternoon of travel ahead of me and wouldn't have the opportunity to get any lunch so I headed to a Breakfast Restaurant called Jordan's, famous for its Blueberry Pancakes (they were really good). It started out as a relatively straightforwards event, I was sat up at the bar chatting with the waiters, waitresses, chefs and other customers about my travels and about the US. We quickly got onto Barack Obama and it was interesting to hear their thoughts on him. The recent health care legislation appears to have had a major impact on public perceptions. However, when I asked them what they thought about the legislation there was very little objection to its substance. Most people that I spoke to weren't happy with the process through which it was achieved (a series of deals with swing legislators) or with the cost (but most approved if they thought it could be afforded).

Well anyway, it was whilst I was sat at the bar chewing on my pancakes that a Russian waiter came over to say hi (by this time I've become a bit of an attraction in the restaurant). So whether it was because of my camera sat up on the bar, the conversations about US politics or a combination of the two, he asks me if I'm the journalist from the BBC (maybe John Simpson or Rageh Omaar are in town or something). Well ... I thought this was an opportunity too good to miss, so I took a leaf from the improvisation actors I saw last night and obliged his curiosity by saying yes .. then proceeded to tell him about how tough life is working in the media and traveling all over for the World Service. Needless to say the details were thin!

Time for me to get back to the movie. More news when I get to Portland.

For the BBC this is Matthew O'Grady - Maine, New England


So I promised an update:

Well anyway I got to Portland and met my Dad's cousin (which I suppose also makes him my cousin), Hugh. Hugh took me back to his place and we dropped my stuff off and he asked me if I wanted to use his car whilst he's at work - well of course I do! Driving an Automatic is easy, in fact it is the perfect way to get around in America - it personifies the laziness of the nation, they can't even be bothered to push a clutch pedal down.

The real difficultly with driving in America isn't getting used to there being only two pedals, it isn't even driving on the incorrect side of the road - it's the traffic signs and their equivilant of the Highway code. Oh Lordy, they will blow your mind. For example, what do you do if you come up to a junction with what appears to be a pedestrian crossing and a light somewhere is flashing orange and there are pedestrians waiting? What if they're already in the road (drive on through?)? But, what if that same light is flashing red (as opposed to solid red) and there are no pedestrians?! Just shut your eyes and accelerate seems to be the answer to most of the problems the American driving system throws up.

I went over to the restaurant where Hugh works and had a great meal. The restaurant is called Ribollita, so check it out if you're ever in the Portland area.

Posted by MattOGrady 08:14 Archived in USA

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