19 & 20 October 2014
One of the impressive buildings on the campus of Princeton University
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As with our earlier coach tours, we made our way to Chinatown in New York to board our bus for a two day coach tour to Philadelphia and Washington. The day was fine, (a little too early to tell whether it would be warm later) the morning was crisp and fresh and we decided jackets were suitable for our first destination. On this tour we will travel from the state of New York, through New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland to Washington D.C.
Our first stop was Princeton University, a private Ivy League research university in Princeton, New Jersey. Founded in 1746 in Elizabeth as the College of New Jersey, Princeton was the fourth chartered institution of higher education in the American colonies and thus one of the nine Colonial Colleges established before the American Revolution. The institution moved to Newark in 1747, then to the current site nine years later, where it was renamed Princeton University in 1896. Princeton had close ties to the Presbyterian Church but has never been affiliated with any denomination and today imposes no religious requirements on its students.
The Great Hall at Princeton University
Princeton provides undergraduate and graduate instruction in the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences and engineering. It does not have schools of medicine, law, divinity education, or business. By endowment per student, Princeton is the wealthiest school in the United States. Our student guide was very knowledgeable about the university and showed us around the very beautiful campus, it was amazing to be standing in front of buildings that were constructed hundreds of years ago, and the changes in architecture were noticeable.
The streets around the campus were very vibrant and crowded with people in the early morning, and the cafes and restaurants obviously catered well for the students.
By lunchtime we had reached the historic city of Philadelphia, the largest city in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania the fifth most populous city in the United States and the core of the sixth largest metropolitan area the country. Located in the Northeastern United States at the confluence of the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers, Philadelphia is the economic and cultural center of the Delaware Valley .
Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
In 1682, William Penn founded the city to serve as capital of Pennsylvania Colony. By the 1750s, Philadelphia had surpassed Boston to become the largest city and busiest port in British America, and second in the British Empire, behind London. During the American Revolution Philadelphia played an instrumental role as a meeting place for the Founding Fathers of the United States who signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and the Constitution in 1787. Philadelphia was one of the nation’s capitals during the Revolutionary War and the city served as the temporary U.S. capital while Washington D.C. was under construction.
During the 19th century, Philadelphia became a major industrial center and railroad hub that grew from an influx of European immigrants. It became a prime destination for African Americans during the Great Migration and surpassed two million occupants by 1950. The city is the center of economic activity in Pennsylvania, and is home to the Philadelphia Stock Exchange and several Fortune 500 companies.
After spending a short time seeing and photographing the Independence Hall (where the Constitution was signed) and the Liberty Bell (right), we walked to the Philadelphia Bourse (formerly the Stock Exchange building) for lunch (above).
The Philadelphia Bourse was a commodities exchange founded in 1891 by George E. Bartol, a grain and commodities exporter, who modeled it after the Bourse in Hamburg, Germany. It is a wonderful building (one could imagine the activity in the building when it was a stock exchange) and there were all kinds of food available for lunch (see below).
After a nice rest, a walk to stretch the legs, and some food, we rejoined the coach and we were on our way to Lancaster County, the centre of the Amish community. It is estimated that only 30% of Amish families now continue as farmers, and at the current time about 2000 were running their own businesses, including bakeries, preserved food, building furniture etc. Each Amish family has seven to eight children (phew!) and we were told there are three ways to distinguish the houses the Amish families live in – there is no electricity connected to the house (Amish families do not use electricity); there is a large tank with compressed air on the property (used instead of electricity to power appliances); and there are dark green shades at the windows. We had the opportunity of visiting a museum (once belonging to an Amish family) to see how they live on a day to day basis. There are a number of farms that provide food for the community, also acres of corn growing that is stored to feed the animals during winter.
Amish farmhouse with large silos for storage of corn
That evening we had dinner at the “Good ‘N Plenty” Restaurant, run by the Amish community, and had a delicious dinner of fried chicken, and home baked bread with a choice of whipped butter and apple butter. The coach then drove us on to the Best Western hotel in Annapolis, where we will spend the night – and unfortunately have a very early start tomorrow for our drive to Washington D.C.
A courteous No Parking sign outside the Amish restaurant, and a colourful produce display inside
20 October 2014
The sunrise reflected in the spectacular Lincoln Memorial
Up with the birds again today, chilly but fine morning, and we were on our way to Washington, arriving as the dawn was breaking. Our first stop was the Lincoln Memorial and it was a very beautiful sight to see the sun breaking through on this massive memorial to Abraham Lincoln, it is much larger than I imagined. The Memorial faces a long, placid rectangular shaped p00l with the Washington Memorial in the distance at the other end. The Washington Memorial is the tallest structure in this city, no building is permitted to be taller.
We walked up to the Memorial, then climbed the numerous stairs to reach the pillared entrance to the statue of Lincoln, it is certainly a revered place and it was peaceful and quiet despite the number of people around, even at that hour of the morning. Our next stop was the White House, now heavily secured (right), so the bus had to park a distance away and we walked to the front of the building which is set well back on the property. There are security guards everywhere, making sure everybody sticks to the designated spaces. It is a spectacular building – couldn’t see the President about!
After walking back to the bus, we drove to the Congress building and spent over an hour there inspecting the rooms permitted to the public to enter. There are hundreds of people who pass through Congress, and again security is tight. Firstly we were taken to a large IMAX theatre to see and hear about the history of Congress, then joined a group of about ten people, we all had headphones and could hear our guide commenting on the different features of the building, and its history. The groups are particularly well organised, our guide had obviously been in the job for years and was very knowledgeable (and patient!). Fortunately we were able to take photographs within the building, which is unusual.
I have mentioned previously that there is always some form of renovation going on in the US, and this was evident in Washington – the White House lawns (above) seemed to be having some plumbing work done, and Congress (below) has scaffolding around its famous Dome as repairs and renovations continue.
The Rotunda (left), directly under the Dome, with statues of former Presidents and paintings of early American historical events, and the Old Senate chamber (right) with statues of prominent citizens
Statues of early Suffragettes in the Rotunda (left) and (right) Yes, we were really there!
Our next stop was the very interesting Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (below), unfortunately only a short stay, then we were off for a cruise on the Pontomac River to see the Capital from a different perspective.
Lunch was again at a buffet diner (great choice of food) before heading back on the long drive to New York, and our Holiday Inn accommodation in Soho, New York. That evening we dined in the hotel and talked about where we will explore around Soho tomorrow.