United States

Great American Road Trip 2011 – Philadelphia

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Yesterday in Philadelphia was all about the food, so today we dedicated ourselves to discovering the role that Philadelphia has played in US history. Both of us knew about the main attractions/events like the Liberty Bell and the signing of the Constitution, but we were actually very surprised to understand just how much of the American way of life is revealed in the city.

The morning started with a spontaneous walk through Chinatown. As Dani was taking shots of the friendship gate, I was eavesdropping on a pair of women – one black, mid-40s, the other Chinese-American, early 70s – discussing the plight of the Irish during the potato famine, each of their relatives who passed through Ellis Island, and current immigration policies. All this in the heart of Chinatown on a Wednesday morning.
The architecture of the charming buildings throughout the Old City and South Philly are gorgeous, and we were both so interested in the similarity to the streets of some neighborhoods of London.

philadelphia brick housesPhilly is very tourist-friendly, and in addition to what must be a multi-million dollar Independence Visitors Center, these Walk! Philadelphia signs guided us around the city. What caught our eye about these signs is just how much they represent the principles on which America was founded. The religious freedom which attracted both the Quakers like Mr. Penn who founded Pennsylvania and Jewish settlers is prevalent, along with the melting pot of cultures in Philly which are celebrated prominently alongside a more textbook look at American history, including like Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, the Constitution Center and the U.S. Mint.

Philly is also playful, artistic and cosmopolitan… the mosaics, the street art, and music played on so many street corners, like Geoffrey here outside of Reading Terminal Market…

In the end and above all else….Philly is still, for us, a foodie paradise! We finally had one of those delicious Philly pretzels that came highly recommended to us – so good!

And before we left Philadelphia for Washington DC, we stopped to eat again at the Reading Terminal Market. We loved the variety of food there – Classic Philly cheese steaks (not for us vegetarians though), quite possibly the world’s best cookies, Mexican, Vegan, Indian and this very funny fish restaurant below.

No question about it – we will definitely be back in Philadelphia again one day soon! The city is a historical gem and a true reflection of the melting pot that is America! We write tonight from Washington, DC. We’ll be exploring the nation’s capital for the next two days, so stay tuned for more about our Great American Road Trip 2011 as we make our way from New York to New Orleans.

What should we do in DC? Let us know must-sees and must-dos on our Facebook page, or tweet us!

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Great American Road Trip: NYC2NOLA **Extended** (Is there ever really a final destination for nomads?)

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Loving the road trip feeling so much, we decided to extend our NYC2NOLA trip all the way back up north to Chicago via Memphis, TN.

Our last morning in New Orleans we wandered through Lafayette Cemetery, famous for being featured in Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire – both the book and the film. Lafayette Cemetery is fascinating with its white above-ground tombs dating back to 1789 and although the popular tourist attraction is a part of pop culture, we had the soothing, shaded cemetery to ourselves on that last morning in NOLA.

lafayette cemetery new orleans

With a heavy hearts, we finally said goodbye to New Orleans  (made possible only because we know we will be back, one day) and headed north through the swamps of Louisiana and across the entire state of Mississippi to Memphis.  It was late afternoon as we pulled in to Memphis, and we headed straight to Beale Street – the official Home of the Blues.

memphis beale street bars

While countless blues singers officially cut their teeth here, we both felt the street had unofficially become an over-packaged, over-priced memory of what it used to be. While the same could be said for much of Memphis (we were less than impressed), one aspect of our 24 hours here didn’t disappoint – Graceland!

dani at graceland memphisDespite not knowing much about Elvis Presley at all, it would have felt silly to pass through town without visiting this iconic attraction, and it was worth it! Graceland is basically like a walking tour of as-yet unproduced episode of ‘Cribs: 70s style’ . Shag carpet on the floors and ceiling, 8 tracks and 45s stockpiled next to the stereo in the living room, long white leather couches in the family room, and mirrored ceilings in the bedroom really set the tone for the rock star lifestyle of the King. It was just as interesting, however, to see just how ‘normal’ the kitchen appeared, which was, as Lisa Marie explains on the low-tech headphone walking tour, the heart of the house.

graceland kitchen

We saw the $200,000 racquetball house, the stables, the auto museum and of course, the entire Presley family’s gravestones, adorned with the flower arrangements which still arrive  from around the world on a daily basis. If there is one thing we took away from this experience, is that the passion for the King is still very much alive and well around the globe.

elvis presley grave memphis graceland

After a quick peek into Elvis’ two private jets, we jetted off up Interstate 55 on our way to Chicago, where, 3,000 miles and 15 U.S. states later, we sure are happy to say we are ‘home’, even if just for a few weeks. We arrived just in time for my birthday, and it felt great to celebrate with life-long friends!

chicago river

We plan to do more catching up with friends and family and working our tails off before heading to Bangkok next month where we will begin the South East Asia leg of our trip.

Now that we have a stable place for the next few weeks, we will be putting out in-depth coverage on the experiences and destinations of our Great American Road Trip, so stay tuned for that, plus food highlights, post road trip observations on America and more.

Thanks for following along on our Great American Road Trip 2011 from New York City to New Orleans and Chicago, as well as providing such amazing travel tips and suggestions along the way! We couldn’t have had this great experience without all the help!

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Great American Road Trip 2011: Washington, DC

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Rain, rain go away…With the approach of Hurricane Irene, the weather in DC and everywhere on the East Coast has been wet and gray. What was a sunny morning turned into heavy rain by the time we were ready to go, but instead we stayed in an re-arranged plans for the road trip through the Carolinas. We won’t be able to visit Virginia Beach, the Outer Banks and some other coastal stops on the way down to Charleston. Stay tuned for where we are headed next!

Luckily, the rain stopped this afternoon, and we headed down to Obama’s house…

On our walk over, we discovered that DC has the same exact bike rental system as in Montreal, which we loved and used the whole time we were there. Dozens of Capital Bikeshare stations are spread throughout the city, and users have unlimited 30-minute bike rentals for $5 all day.

So we hopped on our bikes and rode through the neighborhoods of DC, finishing the evening with a visit to the National Mall and saw the Washington Monument, the Capitol Building and all the grand buildings along Pennsylvia Avenue regally lit under a clear night sky.

Tomorrow, rain or shine, we’ll be out again for our last day in DC. We’d love to hear your rainy day suggestions for DC just in case, or ideas for where to spend the day in the neighborhoods of the capital.

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