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15 June 2011

Boring Amish Country and a Chocolate Sugar Rush in Philly

Day 22: Saturday, 11 June 2011
We slept in a bit, and Laura prepared a large breakfast for us - eggs and chicken sausage with Aepfelskiver filled with nutella. It was already around noon when Ueli and I left, and we decided, largely heeding Alisa's advice, to check out Amish country. The drive was scenic. We first passed briefly by Villanova University and then took the 476 to the 76 to the 202, and I somehow missed the exit (the exits seems to appear so suddenly here) and ended up in West Chester. No worries, I took a quick rural road back to the 30, which lead us straight into Lancaster County, the heart of Amish country. There were plenty of small rural stores and houses, and we finally got to see an Amish buggy crossing the street in front of us! Few buildings had street numbers, though, so I easily drove past the Amish House and Farm, our intended destination. I drove us into the town of Lancaster when I realized that we had gone too far. So I turned around and we looked intently for the place - it was right next to a Target, where we stopped for a bathroom and a frappuccino and saw several Amish people shopping right there!

The Amish House and Farm was… well, frankly, it was disappointing. And boring. It cost like $8.50 to get in, and we just walked around an empty (former) Amish house with some farm pens around it with a couple cows and goats. There were things like a well, a schoolhouse, and an outhouse to see, but none of them were actually in use. And then came time for the guided tour, which was just a woman reciting facts about the Amish, and answering questions about "them" and what "their" way of life was like. It was very inauthentic, and it seemed rude to be talking about the Amish as some distant, extinct tribe of people, when there were plenty of Amish right there in the Target next door! I expected that there would be actual Amish people that we could meet and talk to, but none were to be found. It didn't help that I was in a deep food coma throughout the entire 1-hour tour and was bored out of my mind after the first 10 minutes.

Ueli drove back, but we determined that I was truly meant to drive - because I always stay awake in the car, and I always need to be navigating. We were back in Ardmore, but not for long - Laura and Alisa had plans to meet up with old friends for dessert, and Ueli and I needed to leave right away for dinner. We went to D'allasandro's for Philly Cheesesteak. It's a small, local joint, with a walk-up counter and a food bar. It could only fit maybe 20 people inside total, and it seems like a place with a lot of locals and regulars. "Whataya have?", they asked as we came in, and I quickly scrapped together two orders: One with onions, peppers, sauce, and regular (provolone?) cheese, and Ueli's with peppers and whiz. The cheesesteaks were juicy and very satisfying. We split a beer.

We then headed into downtown Philly to meet up with Laura, Alisa, Christian, and their two coordinator friends from Germany. It took about 20-30 minutes of circling around stubbornly before I found a parking space 2 blocks away ($3 - not too bad). We were at Max Brenner, a specialty upscale restaurant that specializes in chocolate. We all got seated soon after we arrived, thanks largely to Laura's attentiveness to making a reservation and arriving early. We ordered a variety of decadent chocolate desserts - a chocolate fondue with three kinds of dips (white chocolate, milk chocolate, and toffee), a chocolate ice cream dip, a chocolate pizza, and a vanilla oreo milkshake for Alisa. I tried to avoid eating much chocolate at first, but somehow I ended up gulping down the leftover fondue on a whim and a challenge. It was amazing and I got pretty sugary afterwards. After dinner, we parted ways with Britta and (?) and the 5 of us got in the car and blasted "Friday" as we drove west to meet Maya. We met up near UPenn and walked around for a little bit, needing to burn off our sugar. Unfortunately it suddenly began to rain so we rushed back to the car and just drove Maya home, and I took everyone else back to Ardmore. There was so much sugar in our systems that Laura decided to do a 1-hour step workout back at the apartment. Then we finally burned out and crashed to sleep.

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