Philadelphia and Washington DC.

Imagine the looks as you're driving through the toll booth and entering Philadelphia, whilst rapping along to the Fresh Prince of Bel Air intro. I'd like to think it had happened more than once to the toll booth worker as we drove through, but either way, she just laughed at us, tourists. You can't really blame her.


We drove to Philadelphia straight from the Newark Airport in New Jersey, where we'd met with everyone else on out Trek America tour at 8am. Needlessly to say, we weren't all that chatty at that time of the morning to begin with, but once the excitement kicked in we all started to bond - until we found out the vans wifi password. The drive took a couple of hours, but the anticipation of trying a Philly Cheesesteak meant it flew by!

We arrived into Philly, parked up and found some amazing street art straight away. We were then off to have a look at the Liberty Bell - from the outside looking in, rather than wasting precious minutes in the queue and learnt about Theatre Security on the way into the Independence Hall. We had a quick tour and finally headed to get a Philly Cheesesteak.

 


When I say I was excited about a Philly cheesesteak, I mean it. From the moment Philadelphia became part of our itinerary, I knew what I was going to eat. And if Philly wasn't going to be a stop, I'd make it, just to try one. But, if someone ever recommends you get a much wanted and waited for cheese steak with cheese wizz on top - DON'T DO IT. Don't waste the journey for a squirt of fake cheese on top of your sandwich. Don't do it to yourself. Go for cheddar. Monterrey Jack if you're feeling a bit risky. But not cheese wizz. If I could go back and relive that day, I'd laugh at the suggestion of Cheese Wizz.


After a little bit of a disappointing sandwich, we headed back on the road, towards the 'Rocky steps'. Which, turns out, we'd managed to time our trip to Philly to match a local festival, and it was all sectioned off. So we headed straight off to DC instead. The drive took a couple of hours, meaning we had plenty of time to bond and use the wifi. 

We stocked up at the supermarket and headed to camp, where we delegated the tasks of putting up tents and making chilli with chocolate. Because what else do you use when you have no sugar? After dinner we all got back into the van, ready for some more driving. We were heading straight into DC - the long way.


We spent the night walking around the city, checking out most of the monuments, starting with the Lincoln Memorial. We made it to the Vietnam memorial in time to hear what we first thought was a tour guide just doing their job, but what actually turned out to be a homeless Vet, giving us a history lesson. There wasn't a dry eye as we left that inspiring man.

The next morning we were up early and headed into the city. The first stop: The White House - and all the additional security fences. The day before we arrived, Trump had made a controversial decision (what a surprise) so we also got to witness a peaceful protest outside the house as well. We then headed to the Washington Memorial, and onto the National Mall. The day consisted of museums - the Natural History, Air and Space and the Hirshhorn Museums. The afternoon ended with us all sat on the Mall, enjoying the sun with pizza.


The next morning we packed up and started to head towards Shenandoah National Park, with a stop at one of the most heartbreaking parts of the trip - the Arlington Cemetery. As far as the eye could see, there were white gravestones.  It's hard to describe the scale of the place, and it was heartbreaking to see the number of people that had headed out to defend their country and passed away whilst doing so - and that wasn't even everyone.  We also got to see the changing of the guards for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier - it's inspiring to see the amount of respect they have for someone they never met.


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