Departing La Spezia we stayed in Parma for the night before taking a 25 minute train to Fornovo. Here, Andrea, the Son of my Godmother, picked us up. I last saw him in 2010! Boy turns man. And that was the start of two full days of, well, let’s put this in absolute terms: Eating, drinking and catch-up chatting. A big difference for Vivie and I as our regular days consist of exploring and achieving circa 20,000 steps. But not for these last two days and boy, we were thankful with dry 33-35 degree heat upon us! Not nice.

The Five Lands are well known as old seaside villages along a small part of the Italian Riviera coastline. In fact, odds are you’ve seen the iconic images of the colourful, vibrant little villages online or in books. Additionally, Cinque Terre is both a national park and UNESCO protected as an area of “Outstanding Universal Value”. It’s, therefore, no surprise that people come from all over to witness, hike, and enjoy Cinque Terre - ourselves included.

Florence is very much a city that you could enjoy over a weekend and feel contented you had accomplished your sightseeing target. If you haven’t been here, I would add it to your short European city-break list. Admittedly, it’s best known for its art scene as it’s regarded as the home of the Renaissance period but don’t be put off by that, enjoyment can be fulfilled in other ways. I’ve been here twice and still cannot justify paying 40 euros to see a some art museums along with Michelangelo's ‘David’. Does that make me a philistine?

With that crazy 24 hours now behind us (last-minute flight, relentless Covid checks, and tests, then there was the flight itself), we have very much enjoyed adapting to the slower Mediterranean way of life. Although the time zone transition hasn’t been fun. We stayed up past 2 am Rome time (9 pm US time) and woke at 11 am local time.

The difference between the US and Italy was so immediately noticeable, starting with hospitality. We were offered cakes, chocolate, water, tea, and of course, coffee during our stay. It would be a rarity to receive one of the items for free in the States! Then there’s the charming streets, the people, the way of life, all so contrastable and in a much better way. La dolce vita.

We know we need to leave America, both for financial reasons and the fact we’ve been here long enough. Due to only minor changes between the UK and Europe over the months, I was running out of imaginative ideas.

Leading up to three days between Thursday the 20th, I thought I had an ace up my sleeve in the form of Portugal. This was a perfect plan as it would allow a 10 day stay there to then come back to the UK without needing to self-isolate and follow those infuriating rules and believe me, they are infuriating. Sampling policies in 7 countries make that an informed opinion.

There are five boroughs within New York City and you’ll have heard of most, if not all. Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, The Bronx and Staten Island.

The main tourist area is, of course, Manhattan but we wanted to at least venture out to another borough so we rolled a dice, not literally, and went to Brooklyn. We’re glad we did as that one day ended up being our most picturesque single day, probably in all of our time in the US.

10 days into our New York experience and we can understand why people claim it’s their ‘favourite city in the World’. In fact, at least four people reached out to me on my social media feed to wish us a good time and to specifically point out the aforementioned.

Despite how many people I know that have been here, not one has ever explained to me the origin of New York’s name. Specifically, that New York was named by the British to honor the Duke of York, the brother of England's King Charles II.

It was a pleasant five-hour bus journey from DC to NYC and we were dropped off right in the centre - or “midtown” as I now know it to be. I’m talking right next to Madison Square garden so we picked accommodation close by at reasonable rates.

We stayed in midtown Manhattan for the next couple of days and Vivian manages to get us a room with a view of the Empire State building for a good price. The rate doubles on the weekend - that’s how the American hospitality system works. It sucks, believe me.

We find ourselves in some disbelief that we’re in ‘DC’. You know, the city that holds the official residence of the President, the US Capitol building that was stormed by crazy Trump followers just months ago, the Lincoln memorial, plenty of well-known US government agencies, and of course, endless movie footage over the years. And as a bonus, we discovered Arlington County.

Like Philadelphia, we’ve enjoyed 3 nights and 2 full days here so let’s take a closer look at Washington starting with some trivia.

So we’re excited to be here but goodness me it’s cold. Just a two-hour flight north of Orlando and the temperature has plummeted to near-freezing temperature. Now I appreciate that I might get a few scoffs when I describe near-freezing as 14 degrees but you have to remember we’ve averaged 30 degrees for the last 5 months so this temp drop really did hit us. In fact, we soon after resorted to jogging bottoms and a fleece! That felt weird.

You guys aren’t gonna believe how significant Philadelphia is in American history and not in a dull way. More on that later, first a quick tale of human kindness at its purest.