1. Spending time with friends and family.
As well as seeing my parents, grandparents and assorted other close relatives, we also visited some of my mum's brother's wife's family (got that?!) who live in an incredibly beautiful part of the world in the western Virginia mountains. John and I got to know them when we came to America by ourselves as children, and when I calculated how long it was since I'd last seen them I wished we'd planned a much longer stay. However, we were en route to see more friends whom I knew from Bristol, now residing near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. We were greeted not only by the Ewings but also a couple more Bristolians, so it was a veritable reunion! I'm always touched by how warmly American families welcome you into their home, sit you down in front of a delicious meal, and offer to lend you anything and everything that might make your stay more pleasant. Thanks y'all!
2. Enjoying the James River
via canoes, kayaks and our own two feet! In Richmond we saw bridges, dams and a wealth of industrial history; in Scottsville we paddled past birds, trees and beautiful scenery.
3. Taking the Duquesne Incline in Pittsburgh.
Built in 1877, this still uses the original cars to give you an awesome view over the city. Downtown is packed with interesting buildings and an old graveyard, where there is a tombstone to a lad who died at the age of 23, a week before his wedding, of a broken leg followed by a "swift and fatal mortification". Just as we were about to suffer a fairly severe mortification ourselves, due to lack of food, an Indian restaurant appeared like an oasis before us, rounding off a pleasant afternoon perfectly.
4. Eating ice cream by the Potomac River.
We went to Washington D.C., as all good tourists do. It was hot. And busy. And contained lots of big buildings which look exactly like they do in the photos. After viewing large hunks of stone commemorating everything under the sun, a cold ice cream and a park bench was all I could wish for.
5. Sampling some local brews.
If you're ever in Richmond, go to the Capital Ale House. It has a beer list that runs to about 6 pages, and the coolest thing ever - a stripe of ice down the centre of the bar to keep your drink cold! Virginia has a fair scattering of micro-breweries, and of course trying the local delicacies is an essential part of the travelling experience. And an enjoyable one.