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19 November 2010

A Full Day in Philly

When traveling, it is completely natural to compare each new place you visit to places more familiar to you. This comparison of what's different in each culture is exactly where the beauty of travel lies - in learning how and why things are done a different way, you can't help also thinking how and why things are done the way there are at home. In thinking about the very things you have taken for granted, your mind is broadened and you grow as a person. And even in Philadelphia, the birthplace of the United States, I was able to learn a bit more about myself not just as an American, but as a Californian.

It was Sunday morning and my second day in Philadelphia. Alisa, Leslie, and I walked to the train station and caught the train into the city. The train was about 15 minutes late, but we were able to pass our time by playing more 20 questions, which we continued playing on the train (we couldn't guess "avocado" but a nearby passenger chimed in to get it!). Laura joined us on the train.

My transportation for the day was covered by the "Independence Pass" - a one-day ticket that provides unlimited transportation on trains, buses, and the subway in Philadelphia. For $11 it was a no-brainer (our one-way tickets on the train would be $7 each).

13 November 2010

GUEST ENTRY! Arriving in Philadelphia, from Leslie's Perspective

What follows is a guest entry written by the amazing Leslie!

I took the Megabus from DC to Philly, although I ended up on a later bus than Jason because people in DC know how to take advantage of a three-day weekend - hence the 10:15 bus was full. After a three-hour bus ride (which arrived early) I found myself sitting in the Philly Amtrak station waiting for Alisa, JT and his friend Vy to arrive. I read people's blogs on my smartphone and "checked in" (receiving the "Pennsylvania" badge). JT and Vy arrived (searching for me in the station like Waldo), and soon after Alisa arrived in her car to pick us up.

Upon arrival, JT presented Alisa with the coveted treasure box of Porto's pastries [which you HAVE to try if you are ever around LA], and Alisa just about died from the excitement right there in the taxi/pick-up area.

12 November 2010

From DC to Philly Cheesesteak Heaven

I woke up on Leslie's couch at 8am. I had a bus to catch at 10:15am. As I had some cereal and packed my bags, I watched some CNN (the TV stations here seem to emphasize national news more than entertainment) - the program was debating Marijuana legalization; specifically, Prop 19. Yet another example showing that wherever I go, I can't escape California.

I said bye-for-now to Leslie (she's going to Philly too, but on the next bus), and I walked to the bus stop in the same parking lot as yesterday's food truck festival. The city was much quieter this Saturday morning. People queued and boarded the bus. Our bus driver was an entertaingly loud and friendly black woman named Carolyn. She prodded us passengers to say "good morning" like we meant it! (Unfortunately all these east coast people were more interested in getting to their destination than talking.) Carolyn then proudly proclaimed without any hint of timidness, "I HAVE MENOPAUSE."

Okay, now she got my attention. "This means that the temperature in the bus can either be TOO HOT or TOO COLD. Feel free to come up here and tap my shoulder or slap me in the face so that I'll adjust the a/c."

I was happy to finally encounter someone with a shred of genuine personality.

As the bus left DC, I began texting my friends in Philadelphia to see whether they'd meet me there or wait until Leslie arrived. After a few minutes, I looked up from my phone and saw that we were already driving through the forest (aka suburban Maryland). The rest of the ride went by smoothly.
  • I kept my ipod on as the scenery flew by. As I tried to take a picture of the scenery, I had a difficult time juggling my camera, phone, and ipod; I wish there was some gadget that combined all three into one! IF ONLY!
  • The bus passed through a tunnel underneath Baltimore harbor, and suddenly the freeway signs read "95 North - New York" ... but what about Philadelphia? Isn't that the next city?
  • The bus stopped in a suburb north of Baltimore to pick up more passengers. I noticed that the bus driver announced the stop as "Murryland" - is that how the locals pronounce it?
  • Every car on the freeway is from a different state - Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland, New York, DC.
  • I noticed the couple in front of me, about college-age, were playing a luge/bobsled game on their iPhone.
  • Traffic is bad. Especially with all these toll plazas every few miles. The worst backup was trying to cross into Delaware.
  • I just crossed from The South into The North. Interesting.

Before I knew it, the bus had whizzed through the industrial areas south of Philadelphia and I arrived in the city of brotherly love.

    Bringing Some California Cool to DC's Bureaucracy

    Many people just stared at me, confused...

    It was my second day in Washington DC, and Leslie and I walked to the Curbside Cook Off in a big parking lot near Chinatown. We had learned our lesson from the previous day's lunchtime rush, and we arrived there just after 11 AM. Nevertheless, the queues at each of the trucks ran almost across the entire lot, with at least 50 people waiting for each truck.

    We chose the Sâuçá truck, serving "globally inspired food." Each dish on their menu represented a different region of the world. I went for an Italian sausage wrap while Leslie got an Indian butter wrap. The food was delicious, but not completely filling for $8. The owner was really nice, though, going out and passing out samples of their lemonade to all those waiting in the warm sun. I also got him, and several other people in line, to give me high-fives. Only about 1 hour in, and I was at over 60 high-fives. OH YEAH.

    The next stop: Ford's Theatre. Most famously known as the place where President Lincoln was shot, the theater is still a functioning one, and in fact my visit just happened to coincide with a rehearsal of that evening's show, so I was not allowed in. (Yet another building in DC with restricted access! Lighten up people - it's not like I'm climbing in your windows and snatching your people up.) Across the street, the Petersen Boarding house, where Lincoln actually died, was closed for renovations. So Leslie and I had to be content with browsing the exhibit of Lincoln's life and presidency. At least the entry was free.