This might be a bit confusing but I've combined two places into one post because either I didn't have a lot to say about them (Orlando) or I didn't have a lot of photos (Boston/Lowell.) And sorry for posting out of order but in case you were wondering I flew to Boston from Reykjavik because I wanted to visit my favourite writer Jack Kerouac's hometown of Lowell which is about an hour North. So I had a couple of days in Boston and then I caught the train to New York and stayed for a month there, and then I went to Orlando exclusively for the theme parks & the Kennedy Space Centre, and then on to LA.
THE WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER, UNIVERSAL STUDIOS, ORLANDO
Diagon Alley with all the shops from the books that you can walk into, the dragon on top of Gringotts that breathes fire, ice cream from Florean Fortescue's, pumpkin juice with a little pumpkin on top, Harry music playing through the speakers all day, being legitimately a bit scared when Voldemort appears in the Gringotts ride, catching the Hogwarts Express to Hogsmeade, delicious frozen butterbeer from the Three Broomsticks, buying chocolate & fudge from Honeydukes, the awesome dragon rollercoasters and the Hogwarts ride.
KENNEDY SPACE CENTRE, ORLANDO
Seeing the real Atlantis Shuttle which has been on 33 space missions, going on a launch simulator that is meant to be one of the most realistic simulators according to real astronauts, touching an actual moon rock(!!!), buying astronaut glove oven mitts and a bunch of cool NASA stuff, watching IMAX documentaries about repairing the ISS and a 3D one about the Hubble Space Telescope narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio.
BOSTON & LOWELL
Catching the train from Boston to Lowell and being picked up from the station by Roger from Lowell Celebrates Kerouac who was 79 and wore a Kerouac t-shirt and showed me around the town that he and Jack grew up in. He proudly introduced me to everyone we met and told them I had come all the way from Sydney and he read quotes from Kerouac's books that described the places we were in off palm cards he'd typed on a typewriter. Seeing the house Kerouac was born in with a plaque commemorating the occasion, being shown through his primary (elementary) school with a quote framed on the wall near his 2nd grade classroom, and his high school where he was listed first on a plaque of notable graduates, going to the Pollard Memorial Library where Kerouac used to skip school to come and read, and Roger reading this quote to me from Doctor Sax while we were in the children's library:
"By Saturday morning the sun is shining, the sky is piercingly heartbreakingly blue, and my sister and I are dancing over the Moody Street Bridge to get out Saturday morning Library books. All the night before I've been dreaming of books--I'm standing in the children's library in the basement, rows of glazed brown books are in front of me, I reach out and open one--my soul thrills to touch the soft used meaty pages covered with avidities of reading--at last, at last, I'm opening the magic brown book--"
Going upstairs and Roger staying quiet as he let me find the framed Kerouac picture sitting on top of a cabinet of books. My eyes filling with tears as I walked over and realised it was completely full of books by or about Jack. The librarian unlocking it for me and Roger and I silently poring over the foreign language editions, rare biographies and zines about him - the kind of collection I can only dream of having one day. The tiny Kerouac Memorial Park with marble pillars with quotes on them, and Roger explaining the meaning behind the design to me. Visiting the Grotto and Roger telling me funny stories about Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso and Bob Dylan and about the time this photo was taken of Dylan at the top of the monument. Sharing a moment when I described Kerouac as incredibly romantic about every tiny detail of life and Roger saying that's exactly the word he uses as well.
Knowing that the final stop of the tour would be his grave and feeling inexplicably nervous on the way, getting out of the car and walking over in silence and Roger understanding how important the moment was to me and just letting me experience it without interruption. Spilling tears on his grave and communicating to him how incredibly grateful I am for the beauty he has shown me, the endless inspiration he has offered and for truly helping to shape me as a person. After waiting since 2008 to make my pilgrimage to Lowell I can absolutely say this was one of the most significant, wonderful and utterly perfect days of my whole life.