Friday 17 May 2013

Summer is here, and we go exploring

After braving through the cold winter spring is here, and with it an invitation to go exploring. So when the oppurtunity presented itself, with a moments notice we were off. This time to Pennsylvania.
My desperate need for some outdoors, fresh air, and someting completely different landed us in the Dutch Amish Country.

In researching places to stay I was very excited to find a bunch of listings that said they were B & B on Amish farms, but had no websites. Suddenly not seeing any pictures of where we were going to stay, the positioning of the bed in the room, the view from the window, and the table we will sit at while eating breakfast seemed very appealing. If an adventure - all the way. We ended up staying in Jonathan & Lydia's house in a tiny village called Gap. Jonathan & Lydia belong to the New Order Amish, which means they are slightly less strict, but they looked Amish enough for us.
So Erev Shavuot was celebrated on a dairy farm, and eating ice cream in an extremely bizarre, unbelievably American buffet restaurant. I found the recommendation on a blog of a guy who dedicates his time to reviewing all you can eat buffets around the country. I have to share the introduction to his blog -

There is an art to eating at an all you can eat restaurant. There are Do's and Don'ts that you need to know to get the most out of this dining experience. The rules will be presented as we go along ...

It's definitely one of those experiences one has to have while here. The kids absolutely loved it. To be fair the food was good and fresh, and the display of dessert meant the kids rushed through dinner, to get to the end.

The next morning we walked through Intercourse, Bird-in-Hand and Paradise. Walking through these villages it felt like someone might feel walking through "Mea Shearim". Strange-looking people who just go about their daily business in such a different way to ourselves. They dress differently, they have a different language, and here they also ride around in horse and carriage as if it was the most natural thing ever. We decided we need some explanations about the Amish. Wikipedia could only take us so far. 
The designated area for the horses behind the bank
"push bikes", bikes with no pedals

We resorted to doing the the tourist thing and went on a buggy ride, through Amish farm lands, hearing explanations about their lives, and habits. The kids couldn't get over the fact that the guy who took us around had 26 grandchildren. We continued to have a terrific lunch in Lancaster at the Lancaster Dispensing Company.

Kids sitting on the buggy
We took the scenic route back to the farm and visited a few of the 29 covered bridges of Lancaster County.
So glad to be running around in the fields
At the end of the day we returned to the farm we were staying on, and went on a lovely walk through some fields all the way to a little creek. Everyone was very excited when we spotted water.

Pay close attention to who is wearing what on the way to the creek, and on the way back. Despite the water being very cold, and Poppy tumbling in, a great time was had by all.
The sunset. You don't get that view in NYC

On Thursday we went to Philadelphia. Not really knowing what to expect, but with anticipation of plenty to do.

We started off at the National Constitution Center, which talks all about "We the People" and was actually a really good introduction to America, how it came to be, and why they think they are the Greatest Nation in the World.

Poppy being sworn into office

We met some really important people there

Nomi having a moment with Benjamin Franklin
Can't remember who's lap Tomer decided to sit on,
or shake hand with...

From there on to hamburgers in Franklin Square and on to the Liberty bell, which is treated as an icon and a national treasure. After seeing it, reading about, and hearing what it meant to people - I still don't get it. This is definitely not the first time, and I am sure not the last when facing an American national monument and not quite understanding the fuss. I recall visiting the sight of the Boston Massacre along the Freedom trail in Boston. 5 people were killed in the massacre.  Sorry, but where I come from, you really need to try harder to impress me.
From there we walked on through the lovely streets of Old City of Philadelphia, beautiful homes and gardens, quick visit into the Quaker meeting house, and then Betsy Ross's house, ending up walking along Elfreth's Alley, aka "our nation's oldest residential street".

Much to the children's disappointment we didn't get to the Please Touch Museum. We promise to be back.

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