Whilst we’d already managed one large trip, from Chicago to Sandusky, which took about four or five hours. Now, we’re going from Sandusky to Philadelphia – a considerably longer trip of about seven.
It should be noted that we looked all the times up on Google beforehand and managed to beat it each time – in this case by two hours (Google said nine). And no, we weren’t speeding – at least not that much. Not that we noticed, having gotten rid of Bessie’s ability to protest.
An early start in Sandusky then, having eaten at Friendly’s the night before (sob). Breakfast is included but, all the previous days, we just didn’t have the time. Which may have been a mixed blessing – whilst there was indeed food, it wasn’t all that good (including small children pouring some sort of concoction into a grill thing and producing extremely-unhealthy looking waffles).
Setting off at about 9-ish, it’s a pretty long way. There are a few long tunnels going through the mountains which was, well, different – suddenly going from nice, hot sunshine to the shade was odd. But there was all sorts of nice scenery – a lot of green, as the trip before. Whilst there’s nothing new, it’s still nice.
Sweets were still to be had, and as we changed over drivers one of us had to literally shove Moams into the other’s mouth (yep, we still had some British sweets with us). We also ate at a bloody huge service station with big foodcourt and all, and a strange pizza sandwich thing that I had.
Philadelphia itself was upon us quite quickly, though there was a lot of traffic around the roads going into the centre. We’d decided to stay in a hotel right next to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway – a large grassed public area where the majority of the July 4th celebrations would be held. We were, in all fairness, approaching it near rush hour.
And then Bessie decided to confuse us. Well, more like the Benjamin Franklin Parkway confused us, and Bessie joined in the fun. Getting around that thing is a bit of a nightmare as it seems to be several roundabouts with several different lanes going each and every way. Of course we hadn’t encountered this before and were doing several circuits before we found where we needed to go, and even then we ended up going along a one-way street, the wrong way, and coming across a cop car (which fortunately didn’t have words with us as we quickly found somewhere to turn around, tails between our legs).
Finally we find the hotel and, checking in, go up to the room to unpack. It’s early-ish and the hotel does have a pool, so we go in that for a little bit. A small pool on a raised patio, you do unfortunately have to cross the car park to get there. It’s not great, but it’ll do.
After going back and getting a quick shower, we endeavour to find something to eat. Asking at reception for the nearest Wendys (again, sob – WHY ARE THEY NO LONGER IN THE UK?) doesn’t give us much hope – it’s too far away for us to want to walk right now. Instead, we decide to go to China Town.
China Towns are everywhere, and they’re ace! And this one wasn’t far from the hotel. Well, not for Philadelphia. See, Americans have a huge amount of space to play with, and the gift of hindsight. Our towns in the UK generally wind all over the place, are shaped irregularly and finding somewhere isn’t really easy. Roads have this nasty habit of curving. Not so in most American places – they’ve watched how towns and cities have been built elsewhere and planned accordingly. So, everything is built in squares, with roads going through them like grids. The roads running north to south in Philadelphia are numbered, as they are in many American cities, running from east to west. So, if you’re on 11th and looking for somewhere on 16th, keep walking west. It’s only the streets running east to west that are named. As such, it’s quite easy to find a place, especially if you know the junction it’s near.
Our hotel, and Benjamin Franklin Parkway, is located in right in the north-west corner of the main city area of Philadelphia. To get to the China Town area, we walk down it south-east, then keep walking east and end up right in it. It takes about 20 minutes, but there’s lots to see on the way. Philadelphia is obviously nowhere near as busy as New York, and it’s late afternoon or early evening when we set out. But on the main way into the city itself from the Benjamin Franklin Parkway there are all sorts of huge museums, galleries and general public spaces.
In the China Town section there are, of course, lots of chinese shops and restaurants. As you’d expect really. We look around for a little bit and find one that looks nice – a small place that’s apparently won a few local awards. The meal is indeed pretty good, though I must confess that we always compare chinese meals to one that we used to get meals from all the time near us – the owners unfortunately went on holiday to China and haven’t come back in the past 2/3 years.
One nice meal later and it’s back to the hotel we go. It’s actually a pretty nice area, though still definitely inner-city. On the way back we pass all sorts of buildings, the Logan Circle (a nice fountain area which has a few kids playing in it) and a small baseball field for various little league teams. There are also quite a lot of trees and, though there is some building going on nearby, the area still looks nice with a fair bit of foliage.
We get ready for the next day, heading off to the nearby (ish) Six Flags Great Adventure, which is home to one of the most awesometastic rollercoasters known to man…