Philadelphia Part 2.

It was 5.45am and I was being woken up by my iPhone alarm.

I had set the alarm the previous night with all the intention in the world of waking up and joining my roommate Kieran on his 2.5 mile run to the Rocky steps. However, it appeared that drunk Michael had been slightly too optimistic about how he would feel in the morning. It turned out I felt like crap. The $1.50 beers and 4 hours sleep had taken its toll on my body and all I wanted to do was curl up in my bed and stay there for the foreseeable future. However, Kieran didn’t have an alarm and I knew how much this run meant to him, so I woke him up to get ready and informed him that I was in no fit state to join him. He said it was fine, got dressed and left the hostel for his run. He was a man possessed. I gulped down a pint of water then fell back to sleep…..this time with no alarm set.

The Famous Steps.
The Famous Steps.

I re-awoke at about 9am to find Kieran waking up on the other side of the room, he had obviously gone back to sleep after his Rocky Run.

“How’d it go mate?” I asked

“Ermm, well I got within 600m of the steps, they were still setting down the stage and stopped me going up them!….I’m pretty devastated if i’m being honest….”

Other than feeling even better about my decision not to join him, I felt so sorry for the guy. He had drunk a fair bit the night before and probably didn’t feel great on the run. Also one of the main reasons he came to Philadelphia was to run up the Rocky steps and catch the sunrise but now he couldn’t; he was leaving at 3am the next morning on a bus to Washington DC so this morning was his last chance. This was going to play on his mind for a while.

That day was a pretty chilled one as I had done all the touristy stuff I wanted to do the day before. The hostel we were in has loads of things to keep you entertained so I played a few game of FIFA with Kieran on their Xbox and got some food from the trusted 7.11 down the road. I came across a bunch of 7.11’s in SE Asia and they always had what you needed from mosquito repellent to cheap food. The ones in America were also good with cheap food that kept you going throughout the day without breaking the bank! Kieran went out for some more sightseeing and I met him and Dan later that night in a pub on South Street.

South Street was recommended to us by the hostel staff as the other go to place other than Market Street. It was about 9pm and I was walking there on my own from the hostel. Arriving on South Street you can definitely say it has a different vibe to Market Street; let’s just say you didn’t walk around with your phone on display. I met up with Dan and Kieran in this little pub where we had a couple of pints and got talking to a middle aged guy about the differences between England and America, namely our lack of guns. He eventually left us to go home, smoke some weed and ‘get some’ from his wife…fair play.

We decided South Street wasn’t really our scene so we popped back up to our trusted market street. And went into a karaoke bar where we met Kyle, Marc, Raska and a friend from camp who was living in Philadelphia, Heather. We sung many karaoke songs between us. Then suddenly at about 1am Kieran said to us “I’m doing the rocky steps now!”

“Kieran, you have a coach to DC to catch in 2 hours!”

It didn’t matter what we said to him, he was going to do it.  After a weekend of not being able to do the one thing he came to Philadelphia for, he saw this as his last chance, 2 hours before he left the city. His plan was to go back to the hostel, pick up his backpack, run with his backpack to the Rocky steps and then run and meet his coach to DC. He said goodbye and we wished him well not knowing if he was going to make it to the steps or his coach for that matter as he had consumed a few beers! We stayed at the Karaoke bar for a while then headed back to the hostel. Dan and I had booked a coach for 10am the next day to take us to DC. There we would meet Kieran and we would find out if he finally managed to make his Rocky run.

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Did he make it?

Philadelphia Part 1.

Over the years I’ve found that wherever you’re travelling, there’s always one or two main travel companies that are relatively cheap which you turn to in order to get from place to place. America was no different…… All hail the Megabus!

 Booking a Megabus is a great way to get from city to city in the USA and is far cheaper in most cases than a trip on the railway or a budget flight. They’re even pretty comfortable; with air con, Wi-Fi, power outlets and enough legroom in some seats for someone as tall as me (6ft 4). Knowing this, I booked a Megabus from New York to my next stop Philadelphia where I was going to be spending 3 nights. I arrived in the early hours of Friday afternoon, in the centre of a city steeped in American history and basking in glorious sunshine.

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The hostel I was staying at was called Apple Hostel and was about a 10 minute walk from where I was dropped off. Having a large backpack and satchel was tough work in the blazing heat, but once I arrived I was welcomed by some great staff, checked in and met my dorm mates; Dan and Kieran from England and Kyle from Detroit, Michigan. After introductions I soon realised I had somehow developed a layer of sweat and dirt from my short foray from the bus to the hostel. A shower was needed and taken.

Once settled in I learnt that every night the hostel puts on a different themed night to get people to mingle. Tonight was wine and cheese night! Safe to say myself, Dan, Kieran and Kyle drunk the majority of the wine and ate most of the cheese. I don’t know what it was, maybe it was the fact I’d been living on camp food for 8 weeks, but the cheese and wine tasted so good! That night we headed out our hostel, walked for about 20 seconds, and were on Market Street; pretty much the go to place of a night time in Philadelphia with plenty of bars, restaurants and pizza joints. We saw a bar with a sign advertising $2 beers; we were straight in there and didn’t leave till the early hours of the morning. The night was actually one of the best I have had so far in the states. You know that saying it’s not where you go, it’s who you’re with? Well the group of guys I was with were awesome and we chatted all night about various things from Kyle applying to be in the CIA to Kieran driving tanks in the army.

The Wine and Cheese destroyers minus Dan.

The next day Kieran and I decided to be proper tourists and take in the historical sights on offer in Philadelphia. Firstly we visited the Ben Franklin buildings. These showed how during his time in Philadelphia Ben Franklin used giant printing presses to publish newspapers critical of the British policies in America. You were able to see the whole process from creating the print design to pressing to producing the paper – very interesting, free and well worth a visit. The Ben Franklin Museum displays many of his inventions, travels and philosophical thinking; although not free it is still interesting and has many interactive pieces which probably entertained me more than they should have. After I was done playing we headed to the liberty bell exhibition and I kind of think you can skip this because, well, it’s a bell. It’s really historical and all, but you just walk up to it, say something like ‘yep, that’s a big bell’, take a photo, then leave. There are windows that allow you to view the bell from the outside which I think is a much better option as it will save you time and disappointment. The final stop on our ‘let’s be a good tourist day’ was Independence Hall where the declaration of independence was signed. There are tours of the hall every half hour and although free, you need to collect tickets from the visitor centre across the road as numbers are limited. I suggest doing this early as we had to wait 3 hours for our tour and had a lot of time to kill.

The weekend I was in Philadelphia was also the weekend of the Made in America concert where artists like Beyoncé were performing. During the 3 hour wait we had until our Independence Hall tour we wondered over to the concert following the huge crowds. The concert stage was on top of the legendary Rocky steps, which Sylvester Stallone famously ran up in one of his Rocky films. The concert and stage prevented people from running up the steps and taking that classic photo with your arms up in the air. Kieran was rather annoyed about this; one of the main reasons he came to Philadelphia was to run up those steps. We got talking to some police officers at the concert who said that the stage would be taken down over night and people could run up the steps from the early hours of tomorrow morning. Kieran was ecstatic and planned to go up the steps to catch the sunrise the following morning. In a moment of madness, fully knowing I’m by no means a morning person, I agreed to join him. 

That short wonder killed enough time and it was time for our Independence Hall tour. 

Above everything else, this was the highlight of my day. This was down to two reasons; number 1 the building itself was bloody awesome and pretty much untouched from the days it was used. But the main reason for my love of the tour was the tour guide. Each tour group is sat in this little room to start with and our tour guide introduced himself and gave a brief but enthralling history of Independence Hall and Philadelphia, which was previously the capital of the USA. He interacted with the group extremely well and asked questions such as ‘put your hand up if you would of signed the declaration of independence’ ………Kieran and I kept our hands firmly down, common, we’re British! We were then taken through Independence Hall and the Senate and at the end I was looking for an opportunity to tip as I was so impressed by the tour we were given. But nope, the guide just said thank you for coming, showed us the exit and waked straight out! 

Are you kidding me?! In a country where everyone just expects a tip for something as little as giving you directions, the one guy I met on my whole travels who I genuinely wanted to tip just walks out on me before I had the chance?! I was baffled!!

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George Washington sat in the big one.
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Original 13 States emblems in the Senate.
Once I had gotten over my confusion we headed back to the hostel which was having a movie night later. That night the same group form the night before went out just off Market Street to a cool bar (link) that had giant Jenga, $1.50 beers and $4 cheese steaks, what more could you want? Another great night was had and we headed back to the hostel to sleep with an alarm set for 5.45am for our Rocky Run.

Rhode Island College Party!

So you know when you think of American colleges (university’s) you think of beer pong, red cups, the different social groups, pristine campuses and high level sports? It looks like so much fun and you wish it was real life right? Well before we visited our friend Katie at a college in Rhode Island I was sceptical whether it was true or not, but alas, the visit proved that the movies weren’t actually lying and it is actually reality!

After a 2 and a half hour drive from Boston where we sped past a cop car and were lucky not to get pulled over, we crossed over from the state of Massachusetts into the State of Rhode Island. The GPS was taking us straight to the campus and to get there we had to cross several bridges over the coastal and bay area of Rhode Island which were beautiful themselves and had breath-taking views.

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We arrived at the college and parked up on a street just off campus. We had no means of communicating with her so just started wandering around her campus kind of just hoping to bump into her. The campus itself was gorgeous; perfectly cut lawns, fountains in the middle of lakes, blue and white wooden cladded blocks of flats and plenty of statues. After a while we eventually accepted that we weren’t going to bump into her wandering around so we asked a couple of groups of students if they knew her (another long shot I know). Unsurprisingly at a campus with 5000 students the answer was no. We needed to contact her. We walked to the college library wanting to the use the computers to message Katie. We were expecting to be turned away as we weren’t students, but somehow we just strolled in, said hi to the receptionists, walked through the barriers with no questions asked and found a computer that somebody had forgotten to log out of. I logged onto Facebook, told her where we were and she said she’d come get us. After a few minutes we saw her walk across the lawn and into the library and we were reunited with one of our closest friends from over the summer!

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The Library

Once reunited we headed to Katie’s accommodation where we were going to spend two nights. The accommodation was great, although we’d be sleeping on the floor, the rooms were like apartments and were really spacious whereas in England you’re stuck with your little cupboard to live in like Harry Potter.

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Meanwhile back in England….

We then headed to the college canteen as we hadn’t eaten all day. This was where we first really had a taste of American college life. The canteen was full of students and It was so interesting to people watch; the groups you see in the films kind of existed to. The food was good as well with lots of choice and some of it was actually pretty healthy! That night we attended a dorm party off campus where we played many games of beer pong, talked to lots of American students and were asked to ‘say something!’ in our accents about 1462 times. It turned out to be a great night and we woke up the next morning all piled into Katie’s dorm feeling a little worse for the wear.

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The day was now Sunday and Katie had Work due on Monday so we decided to leave her be for the day and visit the local coastal town of Newport. Although quite touristy, Newport is a nice place to visit as it has tons of bars, restaurants and shops available at your leisure. Whilst you’re not ogling the Maserati’s driving past or the massive yachts in the harbours there are also a series of cliff walks available as well as multiple beaches that are all worth a visit. Rejects beach, named as there is a beach nearby which you have to pay for and anyone who doesn’t want to pay goes to Rejects, is the best beach to visit in the area.

Once finished at the beach we headed back to meet Katie who suggested we go to Colt State Park to chill out and relax. If you have the time, this place is well worth a visit; there’s a great little jetty where you can find fisherman all day and it has amazing views over the bay and of Patience Island. It’s also a great place to watch the sunset. We stayed there for about an hour and on our way out in the car we nearly bumped into a Doe and her baby who were running across the road. That night we chilled with Katie and some of her friends on campus then hit the hay as Katie had class the next morning. We Woke up the next morning to Katie returning from her 9am class and realised we had to leave ASAP as we had to return our rental car to New York by 1pm that day. We showered, brushed our teeth and packed ready to go. We then said our goodbyes to Katie wo was great to us over the couple of days we were there. I’m sure I will see her again whether in the USA or across the pond in the UK.

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