23.05.2013 - 23.05.2013
Having spent just a couple of days in New York, I was already infatuated with the place, and disappointed to leave. Fortunately, this was tempered a little by the excitement of getting the long road-trip underway. We all gathered, like the good little group we were, in the foyer, ready to hit the highway. Then came news that our bus had broken down. Anyone would have been forgiven for seeing this as a bad omen, but we took it as a chance to have one more wander around the streets of New York, and by the time we got back our very capable and experienced tour guide had waved down a passing mechanic, slipped him some cash, our bus was fixed, and we were ready to go.
The tour proper started with our guide Mary laying down some of the ground rules, and assuring us that during her many years of tour guiding, there had never been a disaster. Just as she said that, a car pulled out in front of us, our driver slammed on the breaks, and our tour guide screamed. I face planted the seat in front of me and by now was suitably impressed that if it was an adventure I was after, I was damned well going to get one, private tour bus, or not. Before we left, my daughter and I had agreed that we would have turn about in the window seat. New day, swap seat. It worked really well, and day about we either had the window seat to sit back and gaze out at the great American landscape, or the aisle seat with a good view out the front window and a chance to chat with our fellow travelers seated across the aisle.
I actually got quite attached to that damn bus
Our first destination after New York was Philadelphia. The grand total of our knowledge of Philadelphia is summed up in the theme song from the Fresh Prince of Bel Air. We arrived to a grey sky and bitterly cold weather. Most of our group headed straight for the excellent information centre once we'd braved the elements and trapsed around the lawns in front of Independence House. I, on the other hand, was determined to have at least a little look around. We trotted off down what appeared to be the main road and came across George Washington's original post office and other suitably historic buildings.
The other must-do was to have a Philly cheese-steak. Yuck. It was disgusting. Granted, my choice of eatery was a shopping mall, complete with plastic plates, and there are most likely much more delicious ones to be found elsewhere, but I wasn't about to try a second one to find out. After that less than satisfying lunch, we joined the throngs in the Information Centre but not before sneaking a peek at the cracked Liberty Bell on display. The Information Centre has people dressed as they would have been all that time ago, and doing various chores of the day like tailoring.
Despite the weather, I found the historic center of Philadelphia to be quite quaint and interesting. After just a couple of hours, we were back on the bus and bound for Washington DC. Our hotel was located in Alexandria, which gave us the opportunity to see some of the nice buildings in that area.
Alexandria - new houses with an old look
Once we'd had a rest and a general look around, we heading into Washington to have dinner at Tony Joe's and take a night tour to see some of the monuments lit up. This included the World War II monument, Lincoln and Jefferson memorials, and a side trip to the Kennedy Centre where we also got to see the infamous Watergate Building.
Jefferson Memorial at night
The bust of JFK in the Kennedy Centre
The Watergate building in the background
By the time we got back to our hotel in Alexandria it was late, and we were starting to get a sense of just how much we would see on this trip. Already we'd seen and learned an incredible amount and looking back now, we really had no idea how much we would end up seeing.