Thanks to bagging some super cheap flights back in the January sales, we find ourselves back across the pond for October Half Term. This time we are taking a historical DIY journey through Pennsylvania and Virginia, visiting historical sites ranging from the late 1700s and the American Revolution against the British to a hundred years later in the 1800s and the American Civil War and the 3 day battle of Gettysburg.
After a very long and tiring week at work, we made our weary way to Heathrow late on Thursday night ready for our Friday morning American Airlines flight to Philadelphia. For the first time in ages, we decided not to upgrade our seats to extra legroom – and I had been worried Keith would struggle to fit his 6 foot 4 legs in. I needn’t have worried – the flight was one of the ents we’ve had in ages- bags of room even in basic economy and absolutely bags of food and drink. We touched down in Philly just after 2.15pm local time and were astounded to be through security and bag collection in less than 30 mins! Often this can take up to 2-3 hours.
We picked up our wheels for the week, a Toyota Mav4, and made our way to our air b n b in a residential area of Philadelphia.
After a quick shower we made our way straight out again, eager for a beer as I’d been on Diet Coke all the flight due to picking up the wheels!
Luckily less than a block away was The Old Philly Ale House – what I thought was going to be a bar, but instead was a liquor store with a couple of seats in the back, alongside some interesting characters.
We immediately got befriended by a Russian called Vladimir who wanted to know all about brexit. We enjoyed a 6 pack of local Philly lager before making a quick exit- we’d been invited back to Vladimir’s and a Greek guy wanted to share a drink and probably more brexit chat! Something tells me this place is off the tourist trail!
Next, we made our way to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, otherwise much more famous for being home to the Rocky steps- the iconic 76 steps in which Rocky Balboa runs up and down in the legendary film, Rocky. Don’t remember? Don’t panic, we recreated it!
By coincidence, we chose a wonderful time to visit as we were treated to a wonderful sunset- 6.30pm. It was stunning and had a great view of the city.
After our energetic half hour, it was time to try another legendary experience. Yes, I’m obviously talking about the Philly Cheesesteak. We chose a local dive bar close to our air b n b, Green Room, full of locals watching the game and playing snooker.
We had the best mac n cheese I’ve ever had for starter and then shared a cheesesteak “wid onions” and homemade cheese sauce, and a meatball baguette. It was amazing! By now, despite it only being 8.30pm, we had been up for almost 24 hours so decided to hit the sack.
Of course, jet lag hit, as it always does and we were awake by 03.30am! We tried camomile tea but by 6am had given up, so got up, moved our cases to storage and were out and about by 06.30am.
First stop was coffee and a doughnut on the go, whilst we walked to LOVE park – to see the iconic city of love statue and some great city views. The architecture was just beautiful as was the early morning light.
We made our way to Independence Park, home to the UNESCO Independence Hall and Liberty Bell in time to grab tickets for the first tour of the day.
Independence Hall, the place where the USA Declaration of Independence was drawn up, was amazing. Inside it was just as it was back in 1776, and we enjoyed an interesting guided tour from the park ranger.
We went next door for a tour of Congress Hall- which actually was where the first USA government worked from whilst Washington DC was being built. Fascinating!
We popped in to see the Liberty Bell, which is almost 300 years old. I couldn’t stop humming Sousa’s Liberty Bell March – a wind band classic I’ve played many a time.
From here we walked through the Old time, taking in the first bank of USA, the first Post office of America, America’s oldest street, Elfreth Alley, Benjamin Franklin’s house, Betsy Ross’ house – who sewed the first American flag and much more.
America really cares about its history and as such the buildings are in remarkable condition. We clocked up 7 miles on foot, and loved every second.
We stopped for lunch at Reading Terminal Market, where there happened to be a harvest festival on which was cool, and of course we managed another cheesesteak from George’s. Yum!
It was hard to believe we had only touched down less than 24 hours ago-we’d covered over 10 miles on foot, seen as many of the Philadelphia sights as we could, and had 8hours in bed! But it was time to move onto our next stop of the trip, so we walked back to to air b n b, picked up our cases and car, and headed west 2 hours on Route 76 to Gettysburg.
Until next time