Cincinnati, Ohio: an unexpected "hidden gem by Jessica Lee

On our first day driving towards the Deep South, we weren't planning on making a stop in Cincinnati, Ohio. It was supposed to be a straight plow towards Nashville, Tennessee. But we saw the tall buildings and the cityscape and couldn't resist our curiousness so we took the next exit and went in.

It was right about dinner time and the sun was setting. Locals were taking their evening strolls with their dogs and families. We went for our own walk to see the city as well and along the way, we found the most amazing park at the riverfront.

Cincinnati recently developed new infrastructure around the water area and it was so exciting to be there, enjoying the "newness".

Much of the area around hadn't been commercialized yet, but I'm sure this will change in the next few years as more businesses open near the gardens and attractions on the riverfront.

There was a beautifully curated maze garden, swings facing the river (and bridge) and a brand new water park and a very fun-looking playground for children. If I had this kind of playground when I was young, it would have been one of my favourites for sure. (I am still "young" if we are talking about life expectancy - even John F. Kennedy, who was 46, was considered a "young president", but unfortunately much too old to be running around with five year olds on a playground.)

Sometimes I wish I could have toddlers to babysit on particularly amazing playgrounds so I could experience the playground myself without being judged by parents - because no one wants to be the strange overgrown person running around on playgrounds with little kids. If you clicked the link, yes it's a completely different context since the guy was a sex offender and also the movie was a fictional scenario, but you get the idea - parents are overprotective and can sometimes be a little frosty.

Regardless, I was incredibly impressed by the riverfront area and snapped a few photos of the new playground, swings and water park. We did not have time to see the rest of the city before moving on, but if you're ever around the Cincinnati area, definitely stop in for a walk around the water. Maybe you will discover more than we did.

Flirting with trouble: Detroit doubts by Jessica Lee

I am heading out on the first leg of my Central North America tour today and it starts in Detroit, Michigan. By the time you’re reading this, I may be bleeding on the side of the street, about to pass out from stray bullets, who knows? If that is my fate my dear readers, it has been a pleasure writing for you.

There is a scene in 8 Mile (2002), a movie based in Detroit where Eminem and his buddies take a gun and just shoot at random things while driving down the street. I don't want that to happen to me, but I do want to see the city for myself.

I’ve never been to Detroit before and as a way to research the city, I watched 8 Mile. I have never been so freaked out to go to a city alone!

My friend Dave, who is from Windsor, Ontario, on the other side of Detroit says of the latter that the place is a “sh*thole”, for lack of a better word. According to him, houses have been sold for as low as $1 just to get people other than gangsters to move into the neighbourhoods.

I searched craigslist to see if I could find the $1 houses and here is what I came up with: not quite $1, but huge houses over there cost as much as a down payment in Toronto- a fraction of the price!

I'm not sure if the posting below is a "for sale" or just for rent, but it was posted in the real estate section. If the below home really is $3400, I could afford to move out here soon.

The house below is definitely for sale for a mere $11000! That is less than a down payment in Toronto, where I'm from.

Below is a screenshot of the website of a place I'm planning to visit. It says "use caution if venturing beyond the Heidelberg project on foot"!

And here is a screenshot of the Craigslist for Detroit Real Estate so you can see the general prices for homes. The above examples were not anomalies.

Anyway, if you don’t hear from me on this blog for a while or ever, I'm probably stuck in Detroit. Or dead. Send help!!!

Impromptu road trip to New York by Jessica Lee

When I woke up this morning in Toronto, I didn't know I would be going to bed tonight in New York.

I started my day the way I usually do except around noon, I got a message from Sarah, the University of Toronto sailing team coordinator, saying someone had dropped out for the weekend regatta in Hobart and would I like to go?

Umm... YES!

And so, I hurried to the university, finished my midterm, rushed back home, packed, ate and registered in a matter of 30 minutes (a new record) and met with the team downtown.

Five hours of driving later, we are settled in a little motel on the outskirts of Geneva, New York.

Here are some things I have learned about Geneva so far:

1. The food is cheap

Check out how much it is to buy Ben and Jerry's ice cream here, which is a staggering $16 in Australia, and $8 in Canada.

I know, crazy right? Guess who has a pint of Ben and Jerry's Pistachio ice cream in the motel fridge right now.

2. You don't actually need a physical passport to cross the Canadian border to the U.S.

One of the girls on the team forgot her passport, but had a photocopy of it. The guard let her through and we breathed a sigh of relief.

I'll leave you to this practical fact for now. I need to get to sleep. There is lots of sailing to be done tomorrow.

What are some cool things about the U.S. that I should check out?