Stop #5 – Philadelphia, PA – Cross Country
Setting off for the second half of our road trip at 9:45am from Saugus, MA. We hoped to reach Philadelphia, PA by 4pm. We should have left a LOT earlier if we wanted to make that goal. Unfortunately, it’s never easy leaving family and friends that you haven’t seen in months or years.
We hit traffic in New York while crossing the Bronx, taking us an additional 2 hours to reach our destination. Unfortunately, everything of interest to us in Philly closed at 5pm.
Disappointed is an understatement to how I felt. Repercussions of our tardiness was just one of the lessons we were to learn on our visit to Philadelphia. Hopefully, I can learn from these lessons if I ever venture back to the state.
Starting off any trip late in the day is usually a bad idea. Realizing you missed the main attraction because you were tardy only add lemon to the paper cut of a mistake.
Staring at the Liberty Bell from its window, behind an additional ten or more feet of grass blocked with fencing, I scowled in distemper.
The exhibit had been closed for at least an hour. Even the local souvenir shops were closed. I’d been collecting shirts from every stop we made in a new state. No Liberty Bell shirt today, though.
Enjoy the Open Scenery
Despite our tardiness, there were still plenty of historical plaques, videos, and pictures outside for observation to late visitors, like ourselves. In such a historical city, I should have known there’d be plenty to soak in with just our surroundings.
We took pictures of the outside of The Constitution Center, as well as the old tower which included the grave of Benjamin Franklin, and Washington Square, exhibiting a continuous flame for the fallen soldiers on those grounds. The old brick buildings felt like walking through history. It was its own park turned into a museum.
In hind sight, all the history surrounding us, free to the public and always open, was a consolation. Unfortunately, the darkening, desolate park almost made us feel like we were intruding – despite the lit lamps along the walkways. Perhaps we were just tired… and hungry.
Enjoy Local Food
Most everything looks and feels better when you have a full stomach. At least, that’s how my perspective is often altered.
We walked 20 minutes from the old town to get a cheesesteak (the one thing on our to-do list we HAD to do). We stopped at Geno’s, which is across the street from Pat’s – two of the most popular cheesesteaks in the town (gauging from the crowds outside). Despite intimidatingly long lines, there was no wait because of the quick service.
Get a Philly Cheesesteak
There are two options with a Philly cheesesteak: whiz or American cheese. I had whiz, making a juicy, melty sandwich, and my husband chose the American cheese. Both were good with the paper thin meat. The beef is as tender as the sauteed onions and peppers that come with the sandwich.
We watched the lines at Geno’s and Pat’s shrink and expand repeatedly as people came to grab their quick fixes of melting cheese for dinner. There was also basketball court full of young men playing by lamp light in the darkening evening.
With satisfied tummies and a fulfilled glimpse of the nightlife of the inner city of Philadelphia, we began our walk back to the parking garage. For outsiders, strolling through Philly at night can be a little intimidating outside of the old town. It turns from quaint and cute to a bit run-down. But, where the heart of the city was – eating cheesesteaks, playing basketball, and listening to music – is also where I felt a sense of community, despite my own discomforts walking along dark streets at night, holding my husband’s hand so tight.
Watch Your Pennies
Back on the road, we drove 2 1/2 hours to get to a dingy Motel 6 in Washington D.C. for over $100 a night. I’m sure there were plenty of nicer motels available, but none of them would have been within our current budget. We were only half-way done with our trip, after all, and needed to watch our spending. We were about to learn that Washington was one of the most beautiful cities to visit, but for a very high cost.