Saturday, 4 June 2011

Back in the USA

Before we visited the West Coast of America as part of our 2009 World Tour (T-Shirts still available), we'd never been particularly bothered about going to the US. But (Vegas apart) we really warmed to the places we visited and had decided we'd like to see more. We wanted to understand the history of a nation which had become the one and only global superpower whose economic ups and downs dominated the lives of every single one of us. We wanted to get inside the culture of a nation of immigrants, held together by the American Dream. We wanted to see at first hand their unique brand of sport, so different from the ones we understood. And most of all, we wanted to know why they couldn't spell "colour" correctly.

We did the West Coast in around 10 days which, even at our pace, was cramming things in. This time we'd spend a whole month there, hire a car and stay at 14 different places, some big cities, some small towns in the middle of the wilderness. But for reasons that I won't bore you with (you're not bored already are you?) we managed to find ourselves needing to do this trip in 2 weeks time or not at all. So we (and when I say we, I mean Justine) spent 10 days staring at a laptop screen, analysing Trip Advisor reviews, calculating driving routes with Google Maps, juggling flight times and sending emails to Bed & Breakfast owners with exotic and mysterious sounding names like Chuck and Barb.

We board a Continental Airways flight from Manchester and after managing to cram in 3 Matt Damon films we begin our descent into Newark. Jus managed to spot the Empire State Building from the plane window, but it will be another 3 weeks before we actually get to see it close up.

We take a monorail to the Amtrak station and wait for a train which will take us to Philadelphia. A couple of other trains come through while we're waiting and they hoot their horns - it's a sound we recognise instantly from so many movies and TV shows (and so might you) and we can't help but grin - we're in America.

Our train leaves the State of New Jersey (we visited "Old' Jersey in April and it was very different) and enters Pennsylvania, passing towns with evocative names such as Bristol and Croydon. We're just 15 minutes away from Philadelphia when the largish lady sitting next to me strikes up a conversation. She asks about our trip and recommends various places we should visit (each of which seems to involve an all-you-can-eat-buffet of some kind). However, when she says with some concern "You're not staying in Philadelphia are you?" I start to worry. She begins to paint a picture of a world that's lost control, of gangs who roam the streets (I think those were her actual words), and of a population which has turned crime into a way of life. Oh, and apparently it's dirty too! Suddenly our (Justine's) intense planning seems to have resulted in a trip of a lifetime that will start (and end) in "Moss Side, Pennsylvania".

With a final warning of "be careful" ringing in our ears, we get off the train at Philadelphia's 30th Street Station and admire, briefly, its Art Deco marble-columned splendour - it knocks Bradford Interchange into a cocked hat (whatever that means).

After a couple of deep breaths, we emerge, terrified, onto the streets and embark on what may prove to be the last 20 minute walk of our lives. Clutching our cases, our eyes dart from left to right, convinced that every passer-by is assessing how best to mug or murder us. Miraculously, we arrive at the Sofitel, check in, take the "elevator" to the 11th floor and, once inside our room, bolt the door behind us and breathe a huge sigh of relief. We survived!

1 comment:

  1. Ah ! The home of cream cheese, cream cheese with chives and cream cheese with garlic ! Have you got an itinerary so that we can only follow the bits we can be arsed about ?! :-) only joking ! enjoy yourselves !!! Big O