Sunday, May 2, 2010

Liz Jarvis on the USA

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:


  1. Good to hear Liz's perspective and I agree with all she says. It is indeed a fascinating country with incredible scenery - you could spend years travelling to a very different place very holiday.

    Having lived here a year now, you do get used to the portions and eventually you realise that you really don't need to eat it all - most locals here at any rate just get the restaurant to 'wrap' the leftovers (and indeed, restaurants are pretty surprised if you don't request this!)

  2. You can actually make meals out of the stuff you bring home in doggy bags. Last night we went out for a family meal and two of us came home with enough linguine to match with a nice chicken and some veg for tonight's dinner.

    As for visiting places, I've been here for 20 years, have visited a lot of states and haven't even cracked the surface. Not yet been to the Grand Canyon other than the bit near Sedona, Arizona, which is spectacular, but not quite like wot you see in the pictures. Not sure I'd ever be able to go out on the glass walkway though. Alsp haven't yet seen the Niagra Falls.

  3. Toni, the glass walkway isn't all that scary, surprisingly. It is fun to boast about having walked on, however, so you might want to pluck up your courage and give it a go when you have the opportunity. Don't miss the included all-you-can-eat buffet, either. The Hualapai are working hard to make something of their little slice of the Grand Canyon.

    I live in "fly-over" country but never tire of all the possibilities near home, as well as those beckoning from other corners of the union. And I love showing it to visitors, especially if their sense of wonder matches mine.

  4. I know what you mean about the wonder. The red rocks in Sedona are amazing. Where I am (Chicago) is pretty flat, and even the lake beaches aren't that spectacular. Chicago's "beauty" is definitely of the man made variety.

  5. My mother does the meal thing from leftovers. I think that is part of the attraction of going for here .... two meals for the price of one. Not very pratical for people staying in hotel rooms though.

  6. I think Liz was spot on about the chocolate ;)

  7. True about chocolate, and most of the bread too!

    Regarding traveling within US, I think it greatly depends on where you come from/ live in America. Most American's I know barely get 10 days vacation a year, often much less, so traveling even in-state isn't much of an option.
    Small Town America is vastly different to life and culture in the big cities here!

  8. That's very true. Plus, the ones that do travel cover extraordinary distances in very short durations in my opinion. Friends of ours went all the way from here to Thailand for one week not so long ago. Heck, even when I go to England I rarely go for less than two weeks because the jet lag is too much.
    Our school's trip last year was a week in Japan. One week!


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