A Travellerspoint blog

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Philadelphia and the Amish

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The bus to Philadelphia was leaving already at 7am from 125 Park Avenue just across from Grand Central Station. But our hostel was really close so it took us only 5 minutes to walk in the morning traffic. The bus had air conditioning and Wi-Fi onboard and it was well-needed later today. When we arrived in Philadelphia it was about +30 °C, sunny and no wind.

Facts about Philadelphia...
The first Swedish expedition arrived in 1638 to the area we today call Philadelphia. On the west flood bank the New Sweden colony was established with trade marketing place and settlements. During 1650ies Netherland colonizers took control over the area and in 1664 it eventually got concord by Englishmen. The English man William Penn does counts as the founder of the city and the city got formally city rights in 1701. The first American congress was gathered in Philadelphia and 4 July 1776 signed the declaration of independence and in 1787 the American constitution was signed in the city. Temporarily between 1790 and 1800 Philadelphia was actually the capitol city of the United States.
Liberty Bell is a bell in Philadelphia since 1752 and the story about the bell is considered being a myth. The story tells about an old man ringing the bell at the same moment the American congress claimed independency. It’s possible a man did ring the bell in the exact same moment in 8 July 1776 when the citizens gathered for the first reading of the declaration of dependence but there are no proofs of that. When the bell arrived in Philadelphia and was ranged for the first time a crack developed.


The heat hit us when we got off the bus at the first stop at Independence Hall, where the first American congress was seated. Because of the Government Shutdown the Independence Hall was closed so we couldn’t go inside and se the Liberty Bell. But we could still see the bell through a big window. Then it was finally time for breakfast, or rather brunch. It was a huge buffet and you paid after the weight.
Then we were supposed to visit the United States Mint, where all the coins are made in America. The main office is in Philadelphia and a few other offices in the rest of the US. But because of the Government Shutdown it was also closed. Bummer! It would have been fun to see.


We walked on the streets of Philadelphia and came to Elfreth’s Alley – the USA’s first street. The street is about 50 meters long and was created around 1703 and the cobbles still there today are the original cobbles from 1703. Elfreth’s Alley is today a National Historic Landmark and the houses have been kept the way they were when the street was created. After that we walked to Betsy Ross House - the house where Betsy Ross lived. This is the woman according to the history handmade the first United States flag and during that time there were only 13 states. Today Betsy Ross is buried next to her house which today is a museum.

Later we took the bus and drove to Philadelphia Museum of Art and walked upstairs. But the heat made it difficult and sweaty. But from up the stairs you get a nice view over Philadelphia and in front of the stairs there’s a statue of George Washington sitting on a horse. Nearby the museum stood four guys disguised to Ghost Busters. I can only imagine how warm they were in the heat. Even a Sylvester Stallone copy-like was there hoping to earn money by letting people taking their photos.


The bus picked us up later and drove us to Lancaster County and the Amish community there. One buggy ride was included in the price we already had paid for this day-trip. But this buggy ride was big enough for 15 people and the coachman was born Amish but wasn’t anymore. He didn’t even wear typical Amish clothing. What a disappointment. But he was well familiar with the Amish way of living. This is a short version of what he told us during the buggy ride… The Amish children are schooled for 8 grades and after that they start working at home. The youngest son in the family is the one inherits the farm. The rest of the family (in average 7.4 children per family) must leave and start their own families elsewhere. When the Amish people came to Pennsylvania, they were about 250 people. Nowadays they are estimated to 300 000 Amish and now living in 30 of the American states.

After the buggy ride we drove to Kitchen Kettle Village, a shopping center in the middle of the Amish area. We ate food, looked around in the shops. Our guide had told us to try out the Amish homemade ice cream, and we did. Both the ice cream and cones were handmade it was the best damn ice cream I’ve ever eaten! At 4pm we gathered at the bus and drove back to New York again. We got off at Grand Central Station and when we passed Bryant Park, we noticed a lot of cars, trailers and trucks. We wondered what was happening… and we soon found out. On one of the cars a note was posted “Law & Order”. They were shooting sets for the TV series Law & Order in Bryant Park. We started fantasizing a murder and that we would ask the film crew if we could be walkers-on... haha ;)

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in USA Tagged cities traveling Comments (0)

Madame Tussauds

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And the rain came as predicted, or at least I was cloudy and drizzled. And half of New York had planned the same thing so we weren’t exactly alone visiting Madame Tussauds today. It was barely unbearably hot in the entrée so lucky us who had pre-booked tickets so we could skip all the waiting in lines and just passed through them. Inside the museum the temperature was better.

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Celebrities, presidents and athletes all made in wax were exhibited at all floors of the museum and they were really well-made and look-alike. When you got into a crowded room you couldn’t really tell who was a wax doll or human sometimes. A little creepy when "a doll" started to move around. We walked through the museum in an hour. After that we decided to walk on our own and meet up later for dinner in the evening. I visited a lot of dressing stores hoping to find real bargains. I walked along Broadway, 7th Avenue and 6th Avenue without finding something truly exciting.
However, I had started to get a sore throat so I bought something at the Pharmacy to ease the pain. It wasn’t a question IF you would catch a cold here in New York but WHEN. Half of New York were coughing and had nasal catarrh so it had to be a miracle if I wouldn’t get any of it. We met at the hostel later that evening and went out to an Italian restaurant and ordered pasta. Unfortunately, they had a little too much garlic in their salad.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in USA Tagged cities new_york madame_tussauds Comments (0)

Shopping at Woodbury

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A cloudy and all grey morning in New York. This day was planned spending on shopping at Woodbury Common Premium Outlet. Unfortunately, about 500 other people were thinking the same thing. But they called in extra buses so all people could travel. My cold was not getting any better and thank God for the sore throat lozenges I bought yesterday.
We arrived at the shopping center ten minutes prior opening so we had time to get maps and the book of discount coupons that they handed out for free. When the stores opened at 10am and doors opened you could just run crazy. I had loaded my credit card with almost unlimited amount of money so I could just go for it. Discount signs here and there, all in between 20-70% off. And we are talking brands like Banana Republic, Adidas, Nike, Hugo Boss, Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Disney, Izod, Gucci and so on. My favorite became Calvin Klein since the clothes did fit my “special designed” figure ;) We met for lunch. Then we went back for some more shopping as my credit card were almost glowing. But when the time was around 3pm we felt exhausted finished shopping and decided to take the bus back to New York.

But now all the trouble started. First of all, none of the buses back to New York did departure in time. And when you spotted a bus it just drove by! Second, it started to rain like hell. Yes! Awesome (not)! Without an umbrella holding like 72 shopping bags in my hands… And I felt my nose started to flow. So, I had to stuff my nose with paper handkerchiefs so I didn’t have to blow my nose all the time. Haha, I can only imagine how funny I looked! But finally, a bus came and stopped. But all people in the line (which had become quite long by now) couldn’t embark this bus. But we finally could embark the next bus. All wet and tired we sat down at our seats.
But don’t think the trouble ended here! After half an hour the driver drove off the road to a bus depot and none of us passengers understood what was going on. Apparently, something was wrong with the bus. Something with the air conditioning so the driver couldn’t see through the window because of the condensation. So, for safety reasons the driver changed to another bus. And of course, if the driver can’t see I don’t want to ride on that bus! So now all passengers had to get off the bus with all their shopping bags and get onboard the new one. When everyone finally was seated on the new bus the bus driver announced that this was the WRONG bus… My first thought was, “What the f***?! Are you kidding me?!” So once again we all had to disembark the bus with all shopping bags and embark a third bus. And when I was grabbing my shopping bags the paper bags had almost dissolved from all the raining and fell out. YES! Then I lost my patient. This was not happening! After crumple everything up in plastic bags I boarded the third bus and sat down on the first best seat. Angry, cranky, with a cold and now probably even fever I sat there and thought that if something else happens now before we got back to New York - I’ll explode.

Fortunately, nothing else happened. But we had run late so we got stuck in the rush hour in New York. The drive back to New York would have taken 1 hour, but according to Murphy’s Law the bus drive took 3 hours! As soon as we got off the bus I went to the nearest Pharmacy and bought nasal spray because now my nose had swollen up so I couldn’t breathe. So, after a hot shower, nasal spray, sore throat lozenges and pills reducing the fever I managed to sleep all night. And those of you who wonder why on earth I could go to Woodbury with a cold I can just tell you I don’t regret it at all. I haven’t made so many bargains in years.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in USA Tagged new_york shopping Comments (0)

Love the Shoes

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This was our last whole 24-hour day in New York. I woke up and felt pretty alert compared to yesterday. And the nasal spray had done its miracle against both nasal catarrh and swollen nose. We just relaxed today. Went out and visiting stores one last time checking out we hadn’t missed anything. We also went to Aerosol again, the shoe store with great and service minded staff. I did end up buying a pair of shoes with heels (!) that’s wearable to everything – jeans, leggings, skirts, dresses – you name it! And I’m not someone who can wear high heels but thanks to Aerosol I now own a pair! I love them :)

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We stopped at a restaurant and ate before we walked on our own. I walked up north to Central Park. Sat down on a bench at the Mall and enjoyed the sunshine. After half an hour I started walking towards 5th Avenue and looked around in the clothing stores to see if I found something I wanted to buy. But I actually felt quite finished and happy about my shopping yesterday… in fact I began feeling finished with New York too (this time around)! Homesickness had starting to crawl up on you. Getting home to the food I’m used to, drinking water out of the tap, watching TV, driving my own car… but most of all my bed! We had a day-trip to Washington D.C. planned for tomorrow though.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in USA Tagged cities new_york Comments (0)

Washington D.C.

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Woke up early in the morning for the day-trip to Washington D.C. The bus departed from 125 Park Avenue at Grand Central Station at 7am. A fully seated bus with air-conditioning and Wi-Fi, thank God. Our guide Eddie was born and raised in the United States but had Albanian parents. He guided our tour in both English and French. One couple from India had to complain about pretty much everything! Before the bus even left Grand Central Station, they wanted to get off the bus (on the way back) somewhere along Interstate 95. They claimed the bus driver had promised them that. Eddie, who must have had an angel's patience, tried to explain that they had bought return-trip tickets to Washington D.C. and that they couldn’t let people off on the highway. The Indian couple then changed their request and just wanted to get off the bus somewhere in Maryland. Once again poor Eddie had to explain that he and the driver had the responsibility to get all passengers back and forth. But if they wanted to, they could get off the tour in Washington D.C. They said they had to think about it for a while.

And eventually after long discussions with the Indian couple the bus could leave Central Station only 20 minutes late. About an hour later Eddie announced the bus would make a stop at a service area in Baltimore for breakfast. We had only 40 minutes before the bus where leaving again. And the Indian couple just had to argue with Eddie again. They wanted more than 40 minutes and demanded at least 1 hour. Sigh! And poor Eddie (with a heart of gold) had to convince them that 40 minutes was all the time they would get but we were more than welcome to bring the breakfast with us on the bus to eat. Finally, they accepted it and everyone was back on the bus after 40 minutes (even the Indian couple). We continued our drive south towards Washington D.C. After a while the Indian couple was argumentative again. Now they thought the bus driver looked tired and they wanted him replaced. And once again Eddie had to discuss with the couple. It was actually a second driver on the bus just in case but Eddie explained that if the driver would get tired, they would switch immediately. All passengers on the bus just shook their heads and sighed loudly and got annoyed over the Indian couple. We finally arrived in Washington D.C. The first distinctive feature knowing you are in Washington D.C is the lack of sky-scrapers.

Facts about Washington D.C...
Washington D.C. or Washington District of Columbia is the US capitol city with wide avenues, parks and many white buildings and monuments. The city doesn’t belong to any state but its own district geographically. District of Columbia covers a 180km2 area along the Potomac Rivers’ west side. But later on the city has been counted in to a big metropolis area together with Baltimore, the so called Baltimore Washington Metropolitan Area, which makes Washington D.C. the fourth biggest city in the United States (after New York, Los Angeles and Chicago).
The city history begins July 16 in 1790, when the Founding Fathers liberated the country’s capitol city from the states and was placed in its own district, District of Columbia. United States first president George Washington had personally chosen the area by the Potomac River in Maryland. They bought a rectangular area from privet owners and in 1791 the city got the name Washington honoring the president. Officially Washington D.C. became capitol city and home for the government in December 1st 1800. Since the city is outside the state system the region answers directly under the congress. Washington D.C. has been spared from violence with exceptions from the war in 1812, when British troops invaded the city and lit the White House and Capitolium on fire. The city development was difficult because of the partially non drained swamp in the area and not many people wanted to settle there. First around 1900 when the city plans came alive the drainage pipe systems developed and avenues and streets planted with trees. New monuments (Lincoln, Jefferson and Washington among others) were built and the city government grew. In year 1945 the United States military headquarter Pentagon was ready.
The White House is the official residence and primary office for the United States President. The White House was built after a congress decision in December 1790 and the architect James Horban got the honor to design. The blue print of the White House was greatly influenced by Leinster House where the Irish government is seated in Dublin. The White House was open for the public until beginning of the 20th century.
Washington D.C. suffered from the 9/11 attacks when Pentagon was attacked by one of the hijacked airplanes. The airplane had just taken off from Washington Dulles International Airport. Some believe a fourth hijacked airplane, United Flight 93, was meant to hit the White House or Capitoleum. The airplane went down in Pennsylvania most likely after the hijackers were overpower by the passengers.


We were supposed to start with a visit to Smithsonian Space Museum but it was closed due to Government Shutdown. So, Eddie took us to Arlington National Cemetery instead. It is a famous graveyard that has been sets in many movies and TV series when they are having military or naval burials. On the way over there we passed Pentagon.

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Then we stopped at Lincoln Memorial which is a memorial for both Vietnam and Korean War. The security here was extreme. Mounted police officers rode the streets, helicopters flew in the air and K9-units patrolled the ground.

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A visit to the city’s local Madame Tussauds was included, but it wasn’t as big as in New York and I think my friend and I walked through the museum in 10 minutes. Then we had time for lunch before gathering at the bus again. The bus was parked on the same street as the theatre where the president Lincoln was shot. He died in the house just across the street though.

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When everyone was seated on the bus again, we headed for Capitoleum and later the White House. Outside United Secret Service guarded the White House and Eddie told us that sometimes you can actually see the snipers up on the roof. But I couldn’t see anyone. Outside on the street a woman named Conchita has lived since 1981 protesting against pretty much everything. And she was there even today.
This was the last stop in Washington D.C. before the bus drove back towards New York again. And thank God the Indian couple had decided to stay here in Washington and not travel back to New York. I think all passengers on the bus could exhale now, even Eddie. We managed to drive into rush hour traffic in Washington D.C, Baltimore and New York which made us coming back at 10pm. So, this trip took 15 hours instead of 13 hours as promised.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in USA Tagged cities madame_tussauds white_house lincoln_memorial Comments (0)

Leaving for now…

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Day of departure. In the morning at breakfast the TV was on as usual and the only thing they spoke about was the Government Shutdown. Now the population had start revolting across the States since families to soldiers killed in combat didn’t get their payment. So, people had started collect money meaning that these families shouldn’t need to worry about how to pay rent or for food now when they had lost a family member in battle. And all federal employees stayed at home since they also didn’t get paid, which affected us as tourists. We missed visiting the Statue of Liberty and other attractions in Washington D.C. But there wasn’t much we could do about the situation.

Then we packed our baggage. We had managed to fill up our new suitcases we bought here in New York with clothes and shoes so we felt very pleased. We checked out from the hostel. We could still put our baggage in the reception until we had to leave. So, we went out checking the streets of New York one last time. Then we took the tube to Jamaica and from there we took the Air Train to JFK Int’l Airport. Since we had booked different flights back home, we got off at different terminals. I had to wait for another 30 minutes until the check-in opened. I passed the security check and then I had to wait for like 2 hours until boarding. So, I bought something to eat and bought water before I could board the flight. The flight took off at 8.40pm and as usual I got a seat with a lot of over energetic kids and young adults that wouldn’t sleep. But I could only plug my ears and try my best to get some kind of sleep. The aircraft landed at Keflavik Int’l Airport on Iceland at 6.15am local time. I had like an hour to change flight and then it took off towards Stockholm and Arlanda Airport. So, at 12.30pm I was finally standing on Swedish ground again. Picked up my baggage and took the train back home. I’m so glad I had a pre-booked cab waiting for me at the train station taking me home to the door now when I had to large suitcases to handle.

Summarizing the trip, I must say it was an amazing trip! The western riding was great. Nice horses, lovely staff and amazing nature. And New York… what can I say? I LOVE IT! The people in the streets, the attractions, memorials, patriotism and kindness of the citizens… what else is there to expect? Only negative thing was the Government Shutdown that affected us tourists. But on the other hand, that means I still have things left to see in New York – so I have to get back again ;)

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in USA Tagged traveling Comments (0)

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