Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Welcome to the USA.

So, we're finally in Chicago after a terrible 26 hours journey...well, at least we saved $500...

We left Banff on Monday evening, and were overjoyed to find there was free wifi at Calgary Airport (at last, I have found something to like about that city!). Our flight to London was fine. We flew with Westjet, Canada's budget airline. Although, less cheap, and less awful. We even had televisions in the seats! Seamus watched Star Trek and I tried to sleep, but it wasn't proper sleep. Because of the time difference, we got to London at 6am, still feeling like it was the night before, and discovered our snacks had leaked over everything in our bag (seven-grain salad with a very sticky and toxic-coloured vinegarette...). Strike 1.

All we knew about London was that they have a really good public transport system, and it's true! So we took two buses to the Greyhound station for a couple of dollars, thanks to very nice and helpful bus drivers. We had a couple of hours before our bus to Detroit, so we put our stuff in lockers and went for a wander. We got breakfast, the only thing I liked on the menu was pancakes, but all those who've been to North America will know that pancakes over here are not the same. What I got was pretty much cakes in the shapes of pancakes. I hate food which is to be intended to be savoury being sweet, and I can't eat sweet food in the mornings anyway, so I sulked for a bit and then pushed my plate away. Strike two.

So, surprise surprise, London, Ontario has all the same street names as our London. Plus, a Covent Garden, a market a million times better than our one. It was indoors, but filled with gift stalls, cakes, organic, I could have stayed forever. But by then, it was time to get our bus to Detroit, so our journey continued...

You will notice that a bus from London, Ontario to Detroit, Michigan crosses the Canada-US border. I had gone to great lengths to ensure we were ready for this border crossing, contacting our visa organisation, the embassy, Greyhound....and was told all we needed was a passport. Luckily, I am effecient, and also carried US money, our flights home from Canada, our train tickets out of the States, our visa info (all of which had a yellow residue from the aforementioned leak). As it turns out, prior to June 1st, it was really easy to cross the border via Greyhound (especially for British holidaymakers) but unfortunately, the regulations changed on June 1st, the day before we travelled.

Here follows ninety minutes of threatening questioning from the US Border Control, who have a big sign claiming they will treat everyone with equal respect and courtesy. Unless you're Seamus and me, apparently. I'm not sure if they were just exercising their power for kicks, or if it was our Canadian visas that confused them, but they were rude, intimidating and very stupid. We told them we were going to Chicago for seven days to visit family, that we have Canadian visas, that we will return to Canada next Wednesday, that we have over $12,000 to support ourselves (plus British accounts, containing more money, and credit cards). It seems they thought it was suspicious that two young people had so much money. Or that we are a couple (because we're from different countries). Or that we have family in Chicago. Or that we went to Russia once. Or that we have Canadian visas (they tried to tell me that we won't get back into Canada next week, because they don't understand our visas). At one point, they'd let Seamus through, but seemed to be backtracking on me. One guy on our bus, Pedro, was taken into a back room and never returned to the bus. I was worried the same thing was going to happen to me, as all around me, chirpy British tourists were let straight through for their week-long holidays in the States. But we weren't. Strike three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten.

FINALLY, they allowed us through (after demanding my money for a tourist visa...which I am happy to pay for, but would have appreciated a please or thank you somewhere in the transaction) and our bus took us to the Detroit bus station, by which point I was angry and tired. We had to take a train to Chicago, which involved a lot of walking in shady areas, and another bus. Thank goodness Amtrak was good to us. I watched movies on the train, and ate fudge. We got into Chicago ten minutes early, but had to wait an hour for the train to the area Seamus' family live. Strike eleven...I was so tired and cranky and Seamus called me a 'stinkyface'. Eventually, at 12.30am, Wednesday morning, having left our hostel in Banff at 8.30pm, Monday night, we got to bed in a comfy bed in Seamus' uncle's house. I hate travelling.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

a great post! haven't heard of a stinky face since i watched the rugrats back in day lol i never want to go to the states!

paddy in liverpool... still jobless