Cleveland – “It’s not too bad”

Oh Cleveland, Cleveland… how did we end up in you!?

It all started back in Canada when we were planning our US travels for the next few weeks. We realized that we had a 3 day gap between leaving Washington D.C and had plans to arrive in Chicago and we needed to decide on a travel route. I had already cracked a joke or two on Cleveland’s expense (“worst case we’ll just go to Cleveland, ha!”) because what you hear repeatedly in American tv-shows and movies are that Cleveland sucks. Cleveland is the worst. Cleveland is so boring. You get the picture! We knew it was kind of in the middle of our two destinations, but were looking at ways around it.
Anyways, whatever route we looked at the one through Cleveland ended up being the cheapest one and as we are travelling on a budget we gave in and suddenly had plans to go to Cleveland for 2.5 days.

Early in the morning on February 5th we dragged ourselves to the Washington D.C Greyhound bus station and got on an 11 hour (!!!) bus with final destination Cleveland, Ohio. How fun! We were so excited! Yay!

Actually though, the journey wasn’t actually that bad. The drive was mostly, for my part at least, spent listening to true crime podcasts and reading a book. We even got to stop at a rest stop in Pennsylvania along the way, so I can now cross off that state from my list.


We arrived in Cleveland around 5pm and walked to our AirBnb, which was located not too far from what is considered to be “Downtown”. We then headed out to a Chili’s restaurant nearby to have dinner.

The following day we decided to walk into Downtown and explore all that Cleveland had to offer. We headed towards the water (Cleveland is situated by Lake Erie, one of North America’s great lakes) because waterfronts are always nice and to our delight we found a massive Cleveland sign! Obviously we had to sit inside it and take pictures, which you can view below. You’re welcome.


Cleveland is also famous for having a Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame and it was situated right nearby. We decided to head there to check it out but we didn’t really feel like paying (budget you know), so we settled on walking around the gift shop for a bit.

After this we thought, “time to finally explore Downtown Cleveland!”. Now let me tell you about Downtown Cleveland. There’s nothing there. Like really. You might think I am exaggerating, but it’s true. We kept walking and walking and looked for anything that resembled a city center but all we found were the occasional café and like 5 Subway restaurants.
We did see one cool place and that was the Cleveland Arcade, an old shopping mall that still looks exactly like it did back in the 1920s. Unfortunately there was not much happening inside the mall, but it was pretty to look at.

We also found a Cleveland gift shop nearby that had t-shirts with slogans such as “Cleveland – it’s not that bad”. So they say.

After our Downtown experience we headed back to our room. Matilda wasn’t feeling too well at this point as she had caught some kind of cold (Cleveland Cold) so as the good friend that I am I decided to check out a climbing gym I’d found on Google that seemed pretty cool. Since it was in another part of the city and I didn’t really feel like wandering around by myself after dark (fun fact: Cleveland has the 5th highest murder rate in the US per capita) I got an Uber there.

Warning: This next section will be me geeking out about climbing so if you’re uninterested… Keep scrolling.

The climbing gym is called Climb Cleveland and is a bouldering facility, and it’s seriously awesome. The owner, who apparently built it himself, had focused on adapting it as much as possible after outdoor climbing to make it the ultimate training facility which meant there were a lot of features I hadn’t seen before at a bouldering gym. They have a massive section where you can actually top out onto the floor above like you were climbing a real boulder, a big crack climbing area to destroy those knuckles on and a massive traverse section with holds made from real rocks – just to name a few features. I spent the next 3 hours there climbing and chatting with the staff and other climbers and had a really fun night. By the end of my session I was even offered a ride back from one of the staff members, which I happily accepted. So if you’re a climber and are ever in Cleveland, I can highly recommend Climb Cleveland – it’s definitely one of the coolest bouldering places I’ve been to.

Moving on to Cleveland, day 2. When researching “things to do in Cleveland” I had come across the Cleveland Museum of Art which was supposed to have a great collection of paintings and artifacts. I’m going to be honest, I’m not usually the type of person who goes to art galleries and museums but this one had me intrigued.
We spent a few hours at the museum and indeed, they had a range of cool collections. My personal favorites were an exhibit with old medieval armor and weapons which always fascinates me, as well as a collection of landscape paintings of North America showing scenes of the land before it was developed to the US we know today. They also had a massive collection of artifacts from ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt that you could geek out about for hours if you wanted to.

After a few hours at the museum we headed back to “Downtown” and bought some groceries for our bus journey the following day. Since we were both quite tired we then decided to go back to our Airbnb, watch a movie and pack. Our bus to Chicago was leaving at 8am the next morning which meant another early start.

All in all, Cleveland wasn’t too fun as a city – but I am all in favor of that a place is what you make of it and the people you meet along the way. Climb Cleveland was amazing and really added some extra points to the city from my part, and the art musem was also a good timewaster. It might not be a place I’d choose to go back to just to simply visit Cleveland, but if I ever randomly travel through it again, I won’t suffer.
Thanks Cleveland!

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On your left! (Washington, D.C.)

[Matilda]

Next stop: Washington, D.C. and the start of our “epic” Greyhound roadtrip! The express bus from New York got off to a rocky start when the bus driver decided not to show up to work. We ended up being delayed by an hour before we finally made it out. I fell asleep almost instantly and woke up in Delaware. We arrived around 3 hours later at Union Station in DC. While trying to figure out how to get to our Airbnb (and probably looking very lost), we were approached by a very nice man heading home from work in the city. He showed us to the DC Streetcar which is free to ride from Union Station down H Street Corridor and Benning Road. We were given lots of information about the area, and advice on what corners to avoid during the night. He then proceeded to walk us to the Airbnb, to make sure we got there safe, and gave us his business card in case we needed any help.

Our Airbnb room was really nice and located not too far from the U.S. capitol. If it weren’t for my inconvenient knee “injury” we could definitely have walked there, but on this occasion we did have to settle for public transport.

On Friday we had a guided tour of the Pentagon booked. It was completely free but subject to application and background checks in advance. As you come out of the metro there is a strict no photography policy around the Pentagon – they mean serious business! We were around 15 minutes early which meant that we weren’t allowed inside and had to take a short walk and come back. We were then subject to airport style security checks before being allowed in the waiting room and eventually invited to a tour group of around 10 people. Our guide was walking backwards while taking us through the history of Pentagon’s different departments and we got to see quite a few areas of the building, including the 9/11 memorial.

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After our guided tour, we got the metro back into the city and visited the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum which was really cool. They had lots of stuff from NASA, such as satellites, astronaut training facilities, and a piece of the moon! We were very fascinated by the space part of the museum but also enjoyed learning about the history of air travel.

We did become a bit tired of looking at airplanes towards the end and decided it was time to find something to eat. As we walked around the city looking for food, we were struck by how empty it was. There were virtually no people, which in contrast with the wide streets and grand buildings made us feel like we were walking around a model city rather than a real one! It was definitely very different from New York.

 

Our main aim for the Saturday was to visit the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. We ended up spending most of the day inside the museum, and there is so much to take in that your brain just starts shutting down after a few hours. We particularly enjoyed the exhibit about human evolution, but the mammal and narwhal rooms were amazing too. The nature photography exhibit on the second floor is also something that you do not want to miss.

After frying our brains with information we spent some time sightseeing. It was a beautiful and sunny afternoon/evening – not as cold and windy as the day before.(Warning: when it’s windy in DC, it’s reeeeally windy! Too many open spaces!) There were a lot more people out and about on the weekend, which made it feel more like an actual real life place.  We started out by Capitol Hill and made our way to the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial and the White House. Unfortunately we did not manage to find the exact bench that Leslie Knope was sitting on in an episode of Parks and Recreation, but we did get to walk where Captain America and Falcon used to go for daily runs so it’s okay.

 

On Sunday we had arranged to meet up for lunch with my friend Faith, whom I got talking to online through a very dedicated group of Alex Lambert fans a few years back. (Actually, this was back in 2010 so it’s almost a decade ago… what’s up with time, guys?)

Here is a thing that happened while we were waiting for the streetcar in the morning:

Random man: “Are you watching the Superbowl today?”

Us: “No, don’t think so.”

Random man: “What?”

Us: “Well, we’re Swedish so we don’t know much about it.”

Random man: “That’s no excuse.”

MOVING SWIFTLY ON. We had some time to kill before lunch so we popped into the National Archives to take a look at the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights and the Constitution of the United States. It was very interesting to see the original documents up close and then to be able to read about how things lead up to each and everyone of them being signed.

 

At 1 PM we headed over to the Hill Country Barbecue Market to meet up with Faith. It was really cool to finally meet face to face after all these years! The restaurant choice was Faith’s idea and it was mine and Moa’s first introduction to a real Texas barbecue. The food was absolutely amazing and we had a very nice time, chatting away. We are hoping to visit California later this year and got some great tips on what to do there.

After lunch we decided to check out the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. It was cool to learn about how American culture developed through various different cultures coming together over the centuries. A huge amount of Swedes moved to the USA in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s so it’s not uncommon for us to have American relatives. Two of my great grandmothers popped over to work in the USA in the early 1900’s. One of them was in Chicago for around 12 years before going back to Sweden, but her brothers stayed in the U.S. and had families. A third great grandmother was actually born in New York!

We found a little corner at the museum about Swedish immigration to Chicago and a note recommending a visit to the Swedish American Museum there, which we immediately wrote down. (More about that will come when we tell you about our Chicago visit…) When we left the museum we were absolutely drenched by heavy rain. What better way is there to end a day, really?

That’s a wrap on our Washington, D.C. tourist adventures! I bet you can’t wait to hear about our next stop. You are going to be SO jealous… but I won’t spoil too much. I’m sure Moa will have some fantastic things to say about it.

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Moa, thinking about that next blog post… probably

New York, New York; The Sequel

[Moa]

So while I’m writing this blog post I am actually sitting in Cleveland, Ohio. What better way to spend a morning than reminiscing back to what we did in New York? (This is also an excuse because we’re trying to catch up with our blog posts…) 

In our last blog post (which you can find HERE) Matilda covered the first half of our wonderful New York week, so if you haven’t yet; check it out! Before I dive into the second part I just want to add to her post that the climbing place which I went to on the Monday morning is called Brooklyn Boulders and is AMAZING. So if you’re a climber, I highly recommend that you check it out if you’re ever nearby!

Anyways, Tuesday!
We were approaching the end of our New York stay and by this point we had already crossed of quite a few things from our bucket lists. While we had already spent a significant amount of time hanging around the NBC building at 30 Rockefeller Plaza when lining up for Saturday Night Live we didn’t get the chance to check out their gift shop properly (I love me a good gift shop), so that became our first destination of the day. A lot of both mine and Matilda’s favourite TV-shows aired on NBC (Parks & Recreation anyone?) so they were bound to have some pretty cool stuff!

As soon as we walked through the doors we were approached by a staff member.
“Hi, do you have anything planned for this afternoon?” 
We didn’t. 
“Do you want free tickets to the monologue rehearsal of Late Night with Seth Myers?”
Uhm, yes? You had us at free! 

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Yay – free tickets!

We were handed a ticket each and were told to come back at 3.30pm and suddenly we had a plan for the day. Since we didn’t want to go too far from the Rockefeller Center we decided to check out a building called the Citigroup Tower which I knew was nearby. This building is quite famous as it’s a skyscraper built on stilts and it has an interesting background story; basically the design ended up being flawed and there was a big risk of the tower collapsing! Who could have known that a 59 story building on stilts wasn’t a good idea? You can read more about it here if you’re interested, it’s a pretty cool story!

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The Citigroup Tower

The above picture isn’t mine as I sadly couldn’t get any good pictures of the building, but regardless it was impressive to see in person. Whilst on this little mission we found out that our Australian friend Harley, who we volunteered together with at the farm in Canada, had just arrived in New York. He also had time to kill so we decided to meet up and spent the next hour wandering around Midtown Manhattan together. 

Fast-forward to 4pm and suddenly Matilda and I found ourselves back inside the NBC building for the Seth Myers monologue rehearsal. If you’re unsure what a monologue rehearsal is (which I was – we had no idea what we had signed up for) it’s where they try out the jokes written for the upcoming show with an audience for the first time and decide which ones are funny and which are not. This was a really cool experience as it was quite relaxed – Seth Myers was dressed in a hoodie and was stood chatting with the audience for a bit before they started and then they did a few takes on the monologue. It was basically a free comedy show which lasted for just under an hour – Thanks NBC! 

Below is the bit we got to see;

At 5pm we found ourselves back outside the studios. We felt that we might as well keep this NBC-related day going, so we decided to sign up for last minute standby tickets for The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon that same evening and were once again told to return a few hours later to see if we could get in. 

We decided to head over to the Marriott Marquis which is in the centre of Times Square as they have a spinning 360 restaurant and bar called The View, located at the top of the building. Yeah that’s right, the whole restaurant spins and gives you an amazing view over all of Manhattan – I can highly recommend to go here if you’re travelling on a budget! It’s completely free to go up as long as you order something from the bar, so instead of spending $30 on a ticket to the Empire State Building or Top of The Rock, this is a great and cheap alternative for a skyscraper view of the city. 

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Our view from The View

Around 7pm we had made our way back to Rockefeller Plaza (again) but sadly our luck had now run out – as we were last in line we didn’t manage to get inside to watch the show. We didn’t really mind though, as we had already gotten to see Saturday Night Live a few nights before and this also meant we could go for NEW YORK PIZZA! 

Our Airbnb hosts had recommended Joe’s Pizza for this activity and luckily there was one located 10 minutes away from us. As a pizza lover and advocator for Swedish pizza being the best kind of pizza (if you’re a Swede you know what I’m talking about) I was doubting this hype about New York pizza. However, this doubt was quickly knocked sideways because damn – That was some delicious pizza. I just mentioned the word pizza 7 times in for sentences by the way, go me. 

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Matilda is excited for the pizza

After pizza we found a desert place called Junior’s Restaurant & Cheesecake which served… you guessed it, cheesecake. If you’re going to be unhealthy you might as well go all the way right? This place was also AMAZING and the cheesecake pieces are massive, definitely worth the money. Go here, you won’t be disappointed. Eat all the food. With our bellies full and an awesome day behind us we took the subway back to Brooklyn.

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Don’t trust this picture – she loved her cheesecake
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This is how much I enjoyed mine!

Wednesday morning came around and Harley met up with us in Brooklyn to spend the day exploring together. We didn’t really have a plan on where to go but the weather was beautiful so we just started walking. Somehow we ended up in Queens and Long Island City which offered some great views over the Manhattan skyline along the way. We decided to cross Queensborough Bridge which was not as pretty as we had hoped and ended up just being a very cold half hour walk next to a highway. Oh well, not everything can be picturesque and perfect, so I’ll forgive New York for that. Or just blame Queens. 

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Beautiful Manhattan

After some coffee at Starbucks (there are a million Starbucks in New York by the way) the three of us headed to Central Park. Matilda and I had already been there on our first day but as we were about to find out, we had barely seen the start of it. We spent a good few hours exploring it further, walking around the lakes and making friends with the squirrels and birds. In the middle of Central Park we found Belvedere Castle which you can go up in and it offers an incredible view over the whole park.

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When the sun started to go down and we all realised how cold it actually was becoming we headed to 30 Rockefeller Plaza (AGAIN) to grab some food at one of the restaurants there followed by a drink at an Irish bar nearby. It was now 7pm and time to say goodbye to Harley before we headed back to Brooklyn for our last New York activity – Another comedy show! 

One of the things both myself and Matilda had wanted to do in New York was to s hopefully catch a show by one of our favorite comedians as they quite often do last minute shows here and there. Luckily enough, we found out that comedian and SNL cast member Chris Redd was doing a standup show at a venue literally 3 minutes from where we were staying, so of course we had to check it out. 

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This is how close we were…

The show was called Comedians You Should Know and was located in the back of a bowling alley/bar called The Gutter in quite a small room. As we got into the venue quite early and were seated at the very front of the stage – the last place you want to be at standup comedy if you want to avoid getting pulled into the jokes… I’m happy to say that I managed to get through the evening without this happening to me, but Matilda was not so lucky. She had Chris Redd do a handful of jokes on her expense which was something I thoroughly enjoyed watching. I’m such a good friend. The night eventually came to an end and the show was AWESOME – all the comedians on stage killed it. I’m pretty sure I had a full core workout just by laughing so much.

We headed back to our Airbnb to pack our bags and prepare for the next day, all of which seemed bittersweet. By this time I had completely fallen in love with New York and knew that I would be returning to this amazing city.

So that’s all of our New York adventures! Like you’ve probably understood by this point I am in complete awe of “The Big Apple” and I know that I still haven’t seen more than just the surface of it. I’d love to come back again and explore it even further, but all in good time right? 

So thanks for everything New York – we will be back! 

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New York, New York

[Matilda]

Before I get started on our first few days in the city, I just need to say that I absolutely LOVED New York. The atmosphere is amazing and if immigration laws and money were no object, I’d probably move there right this instant. It’s like London on crack – in a good way!

Like every good trip, we were thrown into a panic before even arriving. During the train ride down, we ended up having our original Airbnb cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances and had to chase up new accommodation (thank goodness for wifi on trains). After half an hour of looking around, we found a place in Brooklyn hosted by musicians. The apartment was great and located in a really nice neighbourhood with a beautiful view of Manhattan so we definitely felt like we hit the jackpot.

 

Friday morning we got up bright and early to head into Manhattan. We got off at a random stop and started walking up towards Central Park to get a feel for the city and pass some landmarks, such as the Empire State Building, on the way. Tip: if you’re in New York on a budget and don’t want to cash out on the Central Park Zoo, you can still catch a glimpse of it as you’re walking by. The sea lions can be seen from outside the zoo for free!

Moa at the High Line Park

The rest of the day was really just spent walking around the city and we eventually made it to the High Line Park just before the sun began to set. The High Line is definitely a place I’d recommend anyone to visit when in New York – especially if you’re going later in the year when it’s warmer and the plants come to life. It’s an old freight rail line that has been turned into a park and runs along a large part of West Manhattan. Check out the High Line website to read more about it: http://www.thehighline.org/visit

We walked from the Hell’s Kitchen end and down to the Meatpacking District where we grabbed a quick bite at a diner before heading back to Brooklyn. It was an awesome but exhausting first day, and we weren’t exactly about to get any rest… As we got back at around 20:00, we headed straight for bed with our alarms set to 00:30. To read about our Saturday adventure, click HERE!

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On Sunday we woke up to rain and the sad news that IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad had died. We therefore concluded it was our duty as Swedes to visit IKEA Brooklyn and have a meal in Kamprad’s honor. We both opted for the Swedish meatballs and a classic Swedish dessert: the princess cake. Unfortunately, I must admit that the IKEA restaurant in the US was nowhere near as good as its Swedish and UK counterparts. But I guess that’s down to differences in American/European taste and culture. After lunch, we headed straight for the food market which is generally a gold mine for Swedes abroad who are missing home. This was again very different in comparison to IKEA in the UK or Sweden, but we found our Marabou milk chocolate which was the most important thing. Note to Americans: if you think the cinnamon buns served in the US IKEA food markets are Swedish… think again! We definitely do not glaze our cinnamon buns. In fact, I’m a little offended that IKEA is selling glazed cinnamon buns.

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This picture has no relation to the above or the below. It’s just Times Square. You’re welcome.

Sunday evening was dedicated to waiting in yet another line. Moa and I are both huge fans of Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation, Saturday Night Live, etc.) and wanted to check out the Upright Citizens Brigade theatre which she co-founded. On Sunday nights they do improv shows in Hell’s Kitchen – one show at 19:30 and one at 21:30. The late show is free and tickets are distributed to those who line up at 20:15. We had never been to see improv before so we were excited to learn what it was all about. The show was fabulous! I was really impressed by the actors ability to think on their feet and create a scene that was instantly hilarious. Something to remember is that the theatre does welcome donations at the end, so bring some cash with you. You don’t have to give much and the free show is worth it!

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Monday morning began with me sleeping in while Moa went off to climb walls somewhere, so we both got do do things we enjoyed. I’m a firm believer in “what goes up must come down, and it’ll probably break a few bones on the way”. I therefore do not climb things unless I have to. Can you tell I’m the person who keeps this duo grounded? ANYWAY. We met up by the Brooklyn Bridge after each of our individual activities and walked across to Manhattan. It was super windy and super cold but we managed to look happy in at least one picture (above, if you hadn’t noticed).

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We took a sharp left after the bridge and made our way towards the older parts of New York. One of the things I didn’t know before this trip was that New York was initially New Amsterdam, founded by the Dutch (they also gave name to Manhattan). Then the British came along and renamed the place. Does Brexit mean New York will go back to being New Amsterdam? No? Britain still gets that one? Okay.

The older parts of New York are in lower Manhattan, where you’ll also find Wall Street and *drum roll* the Staten Island Ferry! Now, our knowledge of Staten Island is pretty much limited to this video clip…

… but hey, the ferry is free and goes past the Statue of Liberty so we thought we’d go for it. The ferry itself isn’t much fun but you get a nice view of Brooklyn Heights, Manhattan and the statue. You will also get to see the US coast guard side by side with the ferry. They have a big-ass gun at the front. (The coast guard, not the ferry people.) We did the touristy thing, which means we did not stay on Staten Island. We got off one boat and ran around the hall to catch the next one back.

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Once back in lower Manhattan, we figured it was about time we visited the 9/11 Memorial. I think it’s a place that everyone who remembers that day needs to visit at least once in their life. When arriving at the memorial, my first impression was that it was beautiful and incredibly well thought out. Moving around the pools was emotional. I found myself jumping between admiration of the memorial, waves of sadness, and annoyance at tourists inappropriately taking selfies smiling. I tried to somehow wrap my head around the whole thing, remembering the tv images I saw when I was 10, looking upwards at where the towers used to be. After we left, my brain was kind of itching to go back to keep trying to make sense of things, but I’m pretty sure that’s impossible. There is also a museum at the memorial but as we are travelling on a budget we did not go in there this time around.

So those were our New York adventures from Thursday 25th to Monday 29th of Jan. I’m gonna let Moa wrap it up with a post about the remaining days, so look out for more New York shortly!

Can you tell we’ve done a lot of walking? I may have busted my left knee. No joke. I didn’t know you could do that just from walking…

 

We attended Saturday Night LIVE!

[Moa]

What’s up folks!? We’re in NEW YORK!
We’re having a blast here so far and I can pretty safely say that we have both fallen in love with this city. There’s going to be a few blog posts about our activities here, but first of all I want to tell you about one of the coolest things I have ever done that happened this weekend… WE WERE AT SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE!!! Here’s the story of how it happened.

So on Saturday we got to fulfil a dream that both myself and Matilda have had for years – we got to sit in the audience of the Saturday Night Live dress rehearsal. To add some extra cherries on the top this week’s show was hosted by Will Ferrell (!!!) and the musical guest was no other than Chris Stapleton, one of my all time favorite singers and songwriters.

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Pictures property of NBC ©2018/Mary Ellen Matthews/NBC

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the show, Saturday Night Live (SNL for short) is an American live variety show with different comedy sketches and has been running since 1975. Some of the most successful comedians and actors in the world have been part of the SNL cast, including our host for the week Will Ferrell who used to be on the show as a regular cast member. Even if you’ve never seen the full show, you’ve probably seen some sketches here and there on Youtube!

Anyways, the past few years Matilda and I have both watched every episode of the show once it’s come out and have talked about how amazing and cool it would be to see how they put it all together live and to see some of our favorite sketches come to life for real. So when we planned a trip to New York, trying to get SNL tickets was on the top of our list of things we wanted to do!

However, getting tickets to SNL is not an easy deal. On the morning of each show you are able to get so called “standby tickets” which is basically a piece of paper saying that IF there’s extra space in the evening, you will be able to fill that space. However, even if you get a standby ticket you’re not guaranteed to get in as it all depends on how many spaces they have in the evening. If the host of the night decides to bring a lot of guests for example, there might be less space. To get these tickets, you have to be at 30 Rockefeller Plaza (the heart of the NBC studios) at 7am when they are distributed – and there’s usually a line which means you have to line up several hours in advance.

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30 Rockefeller Plaza, the NBC headquarter

So that’s exactly what we did. We set our alarms for just after midnight, packed our warmest clothes and headed into Manhattan to start a very, very cold night of waiting! When we got there at 1.30 in the morning there were about 70 people in front of us who had already waited for hours, so it was a good thing we left when we did.

The waiting wasn’t as bad as I thought though, the first few hours seemed to pass quite quickly and we were keeping relatively warm thanks to the emergency blanket I’d brought with me – that’s what they’re made for right? After a few hours a food truck came by giving everyone in line complimentary breakfast and hot beverages on behalf of SNL, which also helped. The last hour was the worst, because that’s when you were starting to really feel the cold (it was about 3 degrees) and no matter how you were sitting you’d be uncomfortable – turns out that pavement isn’t very soft. Who knew? By this point I was wearing 6 layers of clothes…

 

Fast forward until about 7.30am and SNL staff suddenly appeared and started handing out standby tickets – the wait was over!

At this point you need to decide which show you want to attend – you can choose between the dress rehearsal at 7pm or the main televised show at 11.30pm. We had heard that the chances were bigger to get into the dress rehearsal and that you get to see more sketches too as that’s when they try out what will and will not work for the TV live show, so that’s what we chose. We ended up getting number 40 and 41 in line for the dress rehearsal, which was supposedly really good! Happy and excited to have finally gotten our sought-after piece of paper, we took the subway home and fell asleep at 9am.

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The highly sought-after ticket which unfortunately they didn’t let us keep after the show

We woke up later that afternoon feeling slightly drunk on the lack of sleep, but in great moods none the less. We were (probably) going to see Saturday Night Live that evening! At that point I was still nervous something would go wrong and that they would turn us away at the door. We decided to walk towards the Williamsburg bridge where we found a pizza place and had a well-deserved breakfast/lunch/whatever you call it. Then we walked over the bridge to Manhattan and kept walking until we reached 30 Rockefeller Plaza yet again! Turns out that walking from Brooklyn to the middle of Manhattan is further than you’d think and my feet were to pay for this decision later…

The entrance for the people with standby tickets was through the NBC shop in the middle of the building, so that’s were we went. The staff lined everyone up in the order they had tickets and looking around us we could see that number 40 and 41 was in the first group of people they were going to let through security. Almost there!

After another 40 minutes or so of waiting they started letting our group through security. Except for a minor freakout over that I had forgotten to take my pocketknife out of my bag (what if they won’t let me in!? Turns out I could leave it in a box to collect after the show, phew) everything went quick and smooth. The security staff kept repeating that even though we were now through security we were not guaranteed to see the show until we were actually in our seats – they could still turn us away if they had to!

After even more waiting they finally led us further into the NBC building and gave us a wristband with “Saturday Night Live” printed all over and we were told to all turn off our phones – it was getting close. We were led into an elevator and were taken through corridors decorated with pictures from the show over the years, and finally through a curtain that revealed the actual set of Saturday Night Live. We were taken to our seats and sat down and then realised – WE MADE IT! One of our main bucket list items were to come true!

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The show. Was. Incredible.
Obviously we had no doubts about this already, but it was just incredible to get to see the whirlwind that is SNL happen right in front of you and to see a comedy legend like Will Ferrell do his thing. Chris Stapleton was incredible and performed two of my personal favorite songs from his new album, Midnight Train To Memphis and Hard Livin’. But the highlight was still to get to see the SNL cast in their sketches and running back and forth to wardrobe whilst the crew moved the sets around the room in a speed that was highly impressive to witness. Halfway through the show, when they were changing over from Chris Stapleton’s performance to our favorite segment Weekend Update I realised that at that moment right there, that everything about this evening was perfect. Ahhh!!!

When the show had finished we walked down the Manhattan streets and found a Wendy’s where we stopped for a late dinner. We kept repeating “we JUST SAW SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE” to each other and felt like we were on a high! This kept being repeated for several days after, just to kind of remind ourselves of it every now and then…

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So that’s the story of how we were in the audience of Saturday Night Live! We’ve done several other very cool things during this stay in New York too which will be up in seperate blog posts eventually, but this one event deserved it’s own post. Because it’s something we have talked about wanting to do for so long, it felt so surreal when it actually happened. If you want to see the episode that we attended it’s the one which aired on January 27th, Season 43 episode 14! Below are some pictures from the show, as we couldn’t take any ourselves;

 

2018 = MADE!!!

22 Hours in Montréal

[Matilda]

Yesterday, the time had sadly come for us to leave the cozy farm life in Kenmore and start our 22 day travel run, beginning in Montréal and ending in Calgary before our next Work Away stop in Golden. It was a bittersweet feeling as we were sad to say goodbye but also excited (and nervous) to head out. Our first, and shortest, stop was Montréal. The train ride between Ottawa and Montréal was only 2 hours which is pretty comfortable. We had booked a cheap hotel for the night which wasn’t too far from the train station.

Upon arriving, we made the poor and very regrettable decision to walk the 26 minute distance between the station and the hotel. The temperatures around Ottawa and Montréal have been very weird lately, going above 0 and raining, only to fall back down to -15 or lower. There is now a pretty decent layer of shiny ice on everything. It can even be hard to tell if you are going past a field or a lake. Why am I telling you this? Well, because of the ice being literally everywhere, I guess the city of Montréal had to prioritise where to salt and sand. Unfortunately for us, this meant most of our walk went over uneven ice and slush. Now, imagine that I was carrying a backpack + a guitar in a hard case whilst dragging a fully packed, medium sized suitcase along. Are you feeling the regret? I am feeling the regret.

That’s not the end of it, by the way. When we arrived at the hotel, we realised it had a long and narrow staircase up to the reception. No elevator. We were then shown to our room which was *drum roll* on the upper floor! Another narrow staircase! What joy.

After this, we were both pretty sweaty and exhausted so we relaxed in the room for a bit before heading out again. We got the metro to downtown and went looking for a nice place to eat poutine. It is apparently very important to have poutine when visiting Canada, especially if you are in the Québec province. We found a great place called Frites Alors. Moa went for a coleslaw poutine and I got the pulled pork. YUM. We both think poutine would do great in Sweden. It has all the things us Swedes enjoy the most – fries, cheese and sauce. Future business idea?

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My pulled pork poutine. In the background you can see Moa thanking the food gods for this gift (that we had to pay for).

Post poutine, we were on the lookout for a pair of gloves for Moa. She really wanted a thinner pair with the Canadian flag on them, so we went through a few souvenir shops before finally finding some that she liked.

We continued our icy adventures by foot and found some really beautiful sights. I have no idea what these buildings are called, but if you’re ever in Montréal on a winter night, you should definitely seek them out.

We spent the rest of the night in the hotel, snacking and watching Saturday Night Live clips before going to bed. Our wake up call was at 7 AM to prepare for the next stop on our trip… New York City! We are still on the train from Montréal to NYC as I’m writing this post. It’s a 10 hour train ride but that’s fine as there are some really nice views and trains in Canada and the US have been very comfortable so far. Thank you, VIA Rail and Amtrak!

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Somewhere between the states of New York and Vermont.

You always hear about the US border being intimidating and I’ve never been outside the EU before this trip, so it’s still a little nerve wracking going through border control. It was all fine though. The US border officials were strict but friendly as it was clear we weren’t up to anything sneaky. Moa and I both agreed that if music doesn’t work out, we might look into border control. After 3 years in customer service, we have learned a great deal about sniffing out BS. Working in a call centre is totally the same thing as policing a country’s border, right?

We are now pulling into Schenectady, a place I did not know existed until just now. Below is a picture of Moa enjoying her time in Schenectady.

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Over and out!

Our Travel Itinerary (so far)

[Moa]

Hi everyone, hope you’ve liked our recent updates about the so called farm life we’re currently trying! I thought I would get you all up to speed with not only what we have done, but what our plans are for the next month or so. Our time here at the farm is coming to an end which feels very bittersweet as we’ve had an amazing time. Hans has been a wonderful host and we’ve also gotten to know Harley from Australia and Nicki from Germany, two other helpers who’s been staying here with us. But every ending is the start of something new right? 

So, on Wednesday we are packing our bags and are taking the train to Montréal where we will be staying for just one night before we get on a train to… NEW YORK CITY!
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Yes, we are finally making our way over to the US and I am so, so excited – I’ve always wanted to go and over the next few weeks I’m gonna be able to tick off several things on my travel bucket list. The train from Montréal to New York takes approximately 10 hours and is supposedly one of the “Most Beautiful In North America“. 

We are staying in New York for a week, to give us as much time as possible to explore the city. So far we don’t have much planned except to try to go to a stand-up comedy show and catch some live music somewhere for a night! On Saturday we are also attempting to get tickets to one of mine and Matilda’s favorite shows – Saturday Night Live. More on that if we succeed… 

After New York we are getting a Greyhound bus to the capital of the United States of America – Washington D.C!
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We thought we’d give Trump a hand now that the government apparently has shut down… hehe. Again, Washington DC has for some reason always kind of fascinated me and I really can’t wait to explore it. Apparently all the museums there are free so we will be going to a lot of those, as they’re supposed to be very good. That is of course, if the government isn’t still shut down… C’mon guys! We’ve also applied to go on a guided tour at the Pentagon which would be AMAZING, but we won’t know for sure until a few days before as they have to do a background check – which I guess is pretty fair considering it’s the Pentagon after all. Hopefully it should be fine though, as I’d like to think we’re not too shady. 

After DC is where our journey gets a little weird. We had planned to go to Chicago to visit a good friend of mine for a long weekend, but we realised after we had booked accommodation in DC that;

  1. We have to leave DC on a Monday but are not going to be in Chicago until Thursday
  2. There’s no easy way to get from DC to Chicago
  3. It’s really far to Chicago!!! 

After some searching, comparing and staring at Google Maps we found a route that seemed easy and cheap – So that is why we are going to Cleveland, Ohio, for 3 days.
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All I’ve ever heard about Cleveland are jokes and one-liners in tv-shows and movies always saying that Cleveland is the most boring place in the US… After some research I have found out that in 2010 Cleveland was deemed the “most miserable city in the US” according to a poll – so let’s see if it lives up to the hype! Worst case I’m sure they have cinemas in Cleveland and you can’t go wrong with going to the cinema. 

After Cleveland we are taking another Greyhound bus to Chicago where we are staying with my awesome friend Jared.

We met in Paris a couple of years ago when we were both travelling there and he and his friend Kevin were exchange students in London. Jared is gonna show us the best of Chicago and is so nice that he lets us stay on his sofa for 3 whole nights – we promise to not be too annoying. 

After Chicago our little US trip is coming to an end as we will make our way back to Canada for the next big adventure, which somehow seems to be even more incredibly awesome. From Chicago we will fly to Calgary, Alberta where we then will make our way to a small city in The Rocky Mountains called Golden. In Golden we are getting picked up by our next WorkAway host called Leo who will drive us to his – wait for it – BUFFALO RANCH. Yes, we are going to be living and working on the Rocky Mountain Buffalo Ranch in the middle of The Rockies surrounded by some of the most beautiful nature and scenery in the world. Banff National Park for example will only be about an hour away, which is a place I’ve always dreamed of going to. 

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Our future host Leo and his buffalos – take a look at his website leodowney.com to read more about the ranch we’re going to be working at as well as check out his music!
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Banff National Park, just an hour’s drive away
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Rocky Mountain Buffalo Ranch

I can’t describe how excited I am for this next chapter. It’s always been a dream of mine to go to The Rocky Mountains and explore the nature there. It seems like one of those truly magical places that are still left untouched and I don’t think pictures can do it justice.  To then add buffalos to this mix is just too good to be true. What’s also going to be incredibly exciting is that Leo is a musician as well, so I’m sure we are going to all get along wonderfully and create some beautiful tunes together. So that’s it!

Ottawa ➞ Montréal ➞ New York City ➞ Washington D.C ➞ Cleveland ➞ Chicago ➞ Calgary ➞ Golden

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The travel route between January 24th – February 14th

8 cities, 3 Canadian provinces, 9 US states, 2 train rides, 4 bus rides, 2 flights, 22 days. 

What do you think? Any suggestions on what we should do in all of these places? We welcome any and all and hope that you will stick with us and keep on reading this blog throughout our journey!