This week we talkto Liz Jarvis, journalist, blogger, mother and frequent visitor to the USA. (Toni couldn't resist adding a few comments in italics.)
PP - We know you've visited the States a lot; any favourite spots, and why?
Liz - I'm a huge fan of Hawaii - we've been there twice in the past five years and it's somewhere I could imagine myself emigrating if I could get a Green Card! The pace of life there really appeals to me. I also love Florida, particularly Key West, and California - I've done the Highway 1 drive and I think everyone should do it at least once in their lifetime. My favourite US cities are Washington DC - for the architecture and sightseeing - and New York, I love the atmosphere. We visited Chicago last summer and it had been nearly 20 years since I was last there so I was pleasantly surprised - it's a fantastic city. I've travelled all over the States, coast to coast and I'm still finding new favourite places.
I'm convinced that one of the reasons Americans don't travel abroad so much is because there's so much to see here. The vast differences in climate, lifestyle, architecture and topography means you can go somewhere completely different every year.
PP- What do you like most about the States?
Liz - As an American Studies graduate I'm very interested in the history of the US, but also the culture. I also think the US has some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. I've seen a lot of it by train and I would definitely recommend travelling like that at least once.
Even though this country has hundreds of years of history compared to the thousands we're used to in Europe, it's still rich and interesting, particularly with regard to how towns and cities grew, and where the immigrants spread to.
PP- Anything you dislike?
Liz - The enormous portion sizes and the fact you need a cardigan in some restaurants because the air conditioning is on full blast.
Tip for all visitors - American restaurants are extxremely flexible in what you order. Ask for two appetizers/starters instead of ordering the huge main courses.
PP - How do you think the reality of the USA differs from people's perceptions?
Liz - It really depends where you are. If you're in LA for example and you walk down Rodeo drive or in Beverly Hills it's exactly as you'd imagine it would be. I think the cities - particularly New York and Washington - are maybe a lot cleaner and safer than people here would imagine them to be.
PP - What do you think the USA could learn from the UK?
Liz - I don't want hate mail, but there's one fundamental difference between the USA and the UK. We can make chocolate. You can't.
There are "hoax" Cadburys items here, which are actually made in Canada and other non-UK places. You have to be very careful to avoid disappointment!
PP - And what could the UK learn from the States?
Liz - We don't really have a service culture in the UK. I like the fact you can go into any store or hotel in the US and the staff will be utterly polite and respectful. Here, not so much.
Mind you, I do love going into British shops and being ignored until I need to buy something.
PP - Describe Americans in one sentence.
Liz -That's far too tough, it depends on what state they're from!
Our thanks to Liz, who can be found, followed and Tweeted at the following places:
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