It was sad to spend such a short time in New York but my budget was being stretched to the absolute limit. I was also faced with the decision on what to do next as my plans for the USA consisted of one flight in to New York and one out of LA. After quite a bit of research I decided to leave the East Coast as I could return for a fairly reasonable sum at a later stage.
However, the flight to LA from Baltimore didn’t leave for a few days so I decided to head to Philadelphia.
Although the business district contained the familiar skyscrapers, Philadelphia also has a preserved Historic District which is awash with information concerning the Civil War. There are also original and refurbished buildings from that era which are available for tourists to look around. The scenery was a breath of fresh air from the constant metal and lights of NYC.
This was also my first chance to use AirBNB, a superb service that allows locals to rent out couches, spare rooms and even their entire home. I was staying with Steve and his dog, a hounddog called George. The apartment is located in a quiet, friendly Italian neighbourhood. Children play on the street corners, everyone owns a dog and you’re never out of view of a church. If I could choose from anywhere I’ve been in the States so far, it would be here.
The next day I took a trip to one of Philadelphia’s most popular tourist attractions : The Rocky Balboa Steps. On the way, I passed by the City Hall which is a really impressive building. Unfortunately the top of the clock tower looks like it’s been finished with a different type of stone which dampens the look a little but it’s impressive nonetheless.
The pool you can see in the foreground is in a recreational area called “Love Park” which was a great place for people watching. Skateboarders, street dancers and families playing football all come together to share the space and make the most of it. It’s quite an amazing thing to find spaces like this so close to the city centre and it reminded me of Central Park on a much, much smaller scale.
The walk down to the Balboa Steps is great and the area is well maintained. There are parks on the north side of the road where the school teams play baseball. From the games that where on I could tell children’s sport is much more closely followed than I’ve seen from England, with huge numbers of parents turning up to see their children play.
Once I got to the steps and did the standard run that must have been done by millions of people, I sat down at the top and took in the view. Philly had been a fantastic city to come to after the fast pace of NYC and it was well worth sitting down for a half hour to realise how far from home I’d come.
The next day I headed for Baltimore but not before grabbing one last piece of Philly tradition:
The Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich. Having got talking to some locals at a bar the night before, I learnt that there are many places that claim to have the best sandwich, but there were two places that came the most highly recommended, Pat’s and Gino’s.
Apparently Pat’s set up over 70 years ago as a standard diner and was largely successful, only for Gino’s to move in right across the street with bright neon lights and huge orange signs. I went for the original so I can’t say which is better but it’s a popular talking point amongst the locals and tourists. I’d highly recommend trying one for yourself!
Next Up: Los Angeles !