Philly Cheese Steaks, The Amish and Washington DC!
Trip Start Sep 14, 2010
10Trip End Nov 16, 2010
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Courtney thought she was going to Philadelphia just to have a Philly Cheese steak (a stack of juicy, tender, thinly sliced beef, topped with fried onion and covered with melted cheese in a roll) but she was wrong. The Independence National Historic Park houses buildings from the Revolutionary War amongst beautiful shaded park areas. Inside the park stands Liberty Bell - Phildelphia's top tourist attraction and Independence Hall, 'the birthplace of American Government' where delegates from the13 colonies met to approve the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.The US Constitution was also signed here. Not only did Courtney further her knowledge of American history, she also ran up the famous 'Rocky' stairs outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art
From Philadelphia, it was back in the car heading southeast, to Lancaster County - Pennsylvania Dutch Country. In an area roughly 20 x 15 miles east of Lancaster, The Amish community settled in the 1700s after being persecuted in their native Switzerland. They speak in German dialects and became known as 'dutch' from 'deutsch'. Most Amish live on farms and their beliefs vary from sect to sect, but many do not use electricity and nearly all opt for horse-drawn buggies and foot-scooters for transport. The strictest believers, the Old Order Amish, wear dark, plain clothing and have a simple, bibe-centered life. The Amish farms and houses are immaculate and it was interesting to see that many farms of the area had no fences, corn and other crops often acting as borders. It was a delightful sight and sound to see the horse-drawn buggies and the Amish in their plain clothes and bonnets. The majority of the horses were slender, and dark and trotted beautifully, though on two separate ocassions, we saw them rearing and getting quite stroppy. On both ocassions, the young teenagers driving them stayed calm and got them under control very quickly. We spoke to an older Amish man and he told us many of the horses were reject trotters. Many of the Amish supplemet their incomes with craft - lovely quilts and fantastic wood furniture.
As we have done in every area, we had to try the specialty food and we were lucky enought to go to two great places for some Amish cuisine.
Our next stop was Washington, and on the way we stopped briefly at Gettysburg, the place of one of the Civil Wars most bloody and decisive battles and where Lincoln delivered his Gettysburg address. The Gettysburg National Military Park has a great museum including a fantastic short movie detailing the Civil War and Gettysburg, and a truly spectacular cyclorama
Travelling to Washington was difficult with torrential rain and tornado warnings (we had already had one in New York whilst we were there!). To make it worse, the 'maintenance required' light came on in the hire car. Getting to Washington late in the evening, we had to find the rental car place and swap it over. We dropped off the gutless Camry and drove out in a brand new Chevrolet Impala with heated leather seats and all!
Washington DC surprised us all - it's not a boring, beauracratic city at all. Only having a day in Washington we saw a lot more than we expected. Again, to see everything, such as the fantastic (and free!) Smithsonian museums, we would have needed days, but we went to the main sights, including National Mall (think Forest Gump) that is between the Lincoln Memorial (where the Gettysburg Address is inscribed and Lincoln sits overlooking the reflecting pool) and Capitol Hill. The World War 2 memorial is also here. The Mall was the place of Martin Luther Kings "I have a dream" speech, and the day we visited, they were setting up for another demonstration
No trip to DC would be complete without a visit to the White House - unfortunately no sightings of Obama.
Just out of Washington DC, in Northern Virginia, is Arlington National Cemetry - the burial ground for more than 245,000 military personnel and their dependents, with Veterans from every US war since the Revolution. Arlington carries out on average, 27 burials every weekday and is the home of the Tomb of The Unknown soldier and the graves of John F Kennedy, Jackie Kennedy and two of their children. John F Kennedy was at the cemetery not long before he died and reportedly said it was so peaceful, he could spend the rest of his life there. The cemtery is peaceful, but is so sad.
The police and security presence in Washington (and throughout the rest of the US as well) is mind-blowing. Police cars are even posted at the beginning and end of roadworks! Leaving Washington this morning, we came across one of the best signs we have seen yet, a sign for the George Bush Centre for Intelligence
Tonight, we are at Charleston, on our way to Nashville and Memphis(Dawn is looking forward to this). Today has been a big driving day (about 6 hours) and tomorrow is expected to be the same. We have travelled some distance already and have been through many of the states already - 12 to date.
This afternoon, we came across a college football game. It was a home game for the Virginia Military Institute and it was great (albeit a little strange) to see the band and many of the supporters in their miliatry whites! Not knowing the rules or having seen the game before, we had to ask spectators some questions and couldn't get over the amount of players - 42 per team, plus the 2nds and 3rd also watching on the side-lines, all in uniform, including helmets. Unfortunately for them, it is only the 1sts that play, the 2nds and 3rds have to settle for games between themselves in training and watching the 1sts, waiting for their chance to come one day!
We hope you are all well and we send our love.
Courtney, Dawn and Pete.