Monday, 26 September 2011

Lawrenceville town centre

Location: Lawrenceville, GA, USA
Whitney and I met up today in Lawrenceville for lunch and a wander so she could show me her home town. We stopped off first in the Cornerstone Cafe, a long time favourite and producer of the legendary "honey butter biscuits". These are Southern scones drenched in melted butter and honey, and are one of the most delicious things I have ever had the pleasure of shove into my cakehole. After the cafe we walked to Rita's iced custard shop. I'd never had iced custard before, but it tastes like ice cream's chubby cousin and as such was frickin' delicious.

Suitably engorged, we strolled around the town square, complaining about the heat like proper Southern ladies. There's plenty of cute little shops, very similar to Berkhamsted in a way; antique/curiosities, interior design, barbers, pubs and restaurants sit next to each other around a central court house with a lovely lawn. In the early summer little fayres and festivals are held there, which must be wonderful.

What's happened to Lawrenceville's exterior, however, is how towns in the UK and USA differ, although we're starting to move in their direction a little, I think. Surrounding Lawrenceville is a sprawl of retailers on little patches of land which you'd really need a car to get to. CVS Pharmacies, fast food, big box grocery stores, mobile phone shops, etc, seem to have taken up on these randomly plotted pieces of real estate and to do your regular chores you go from one mini-estate to the next, rather than parking up and running your errands in a town centre.

There are also a lot of drive thru facilities. You can drive thru at pharmacies, coffee shops, banks (actually a really good idea - much safer than standing at a cash point) and even dry cleaners. My USian friends have been amused when I tell them the only drive thru facilities we have are at McDonald's, and it's still a bit of a novelty.

I'm not sure I like the way the retail is spread out - it is obviously geared towards people with vehicles, and as such doesn't really help poorer people, the elderly or kids get what they need. It's also rather ugly, especially compared with the loveliness of the little town centres which remain in many places. It's really a cultural change, or seems to be, still it's one small negative to a huge range of positives this country offers. What are these positives, you ask?

  • The friendliness - people are sweet to each other in a way people tend to be in the UK north of the Watford Gap. I miss that. There has not been a single time I've been made to feel unwelcome in this country, even if it has meant I've answered a lot of questions about the Royal Family.
  • The food - there could be better veggie options when eating out, but in general it's been absolutely delicious. And I've developed a worrying obsession with biscuits to go along with my years of Mountain Dew-fancying.
  • The scenery - I won't ever forget the beauty of the beaches and forest of the Pacific North West,  the mountains of Yosemite, the California desert or the gentle pastureland of Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia. Let's just say I feel the Brecon Beacons might be a bit ruined for me.
  • The openness - As a rule, Americans tend to lay their ideology out there in a way we don't in the UK, whether through t-shirts, baseball caps or bumper stickers, allegiances to political parties, universities and myriad ways of life are displayed. It's saying "this is me, I'm proud of it", and I love that, even if I don't always agree with the sentiment.
  • The museums - whether tiny and crazy or cavernous and scientific or historical and poignant, the USA has some incredible places of record which have been such a delight to explore for a massive nerd like me.
  • The roads - America is designed for drivers, and road trips are probably more fun here than anywhere in the world. There's something soul restoring about putting away miles, stopping at ancient gas stations, laughing at signs for "Wild Wilma's Fireworks" or counting Confederate flags flying on porches. Also, the roadkill here is awesome - I've seen an alligator, an armadillo, and many, many possums.

There's probably a whole lot more, but for now I'll sign off. I need to get some fireworks from Wilma.

1 comment:

  1. Have i mentioned before how jealous I am?

    We need to meet up asap when you get back, i miss wachie!