Dutch CountyPeople that do things differently have always grabbed my interest, I think that by understand others, you can understand yourself a little better. So, it was natural that heading north from Washington DC we would take a quick detour via Amish country, or more politically correct – Dutch County.
Looking on a map of where to go I was instantly tickled by place-names such as Intercourse which is situated close to Fertility and not too far from No-Cash. Truth be told, prior to setting off I knew very little about the Amish and their way of life, my extent of knowledge was that the guys sported beards and wore straw hats and the women wore dresses with aprons with their hair in buns. Turns out I was partially right, but not completely.
The Amish are basically a community that speak Dutch, and live a simple life funded mainly by farming, they shun cars for carts and tractors for horses. In many ways it is beautifully simplistic and an extremely attractive lifestyle, however the Amish live by their church and dedicate their lives to not just simplicity, but devout religion.
Heading towards Lancaster the fields open up and quickly become rolling fields of green dotted with typical American farms. Look a little closer and the inhabitants are Amish. Not wanting to intrude I was careful to not stare for too long, and having learnt the Amish don’t like having their photographs taken I was sure to avoid snapping away. The area is completely rural, but gorgeously tendered to, it really is a beautiful area to be in. Setting off from Baltimore I had decided to visit an Amish farm where you pay entrance and get to walk around but the more I saw Dutch county, the more I realised this was real, the farm would be a charade. We would be wasting time. With that in mind we drove around, got lost, bought locally grown fruit, ate homemade ice cream and loved been in a warm, soft and gentle part of the United States where life has grinded to a crawl and the relaxed vibes are far too addictive to ever want to leave.
PhiladelphiaA couple of years ago I drove across the states from LA to New York, I remember wanting to stop off in Philly but seeing mass industry, iron bridges and smoke bellowing out, it put me off and I continued on. This time I had decided that Toby could re-enact the whole Rocky thing so headed to Philly for some movie pilgrimage.
Movie buffs can spend endless days walking through just about every scene from the film which is responsible for drawing millions of tourists for a slice of Rocky nostalgia. The most famous scene is obviously Rocky running up the stairs and then jumping around at the top, and was filmed at the Philadelphia museum of Art. Parking is $10 opposite, but, if you are a cheap skate like me, drive about 20 seconds round towards the right and find free parking with a hefty 4-hour grace period. I was surprised at how many people were at the ‘Rocky steps’ and even more surprised at how many people were running up the steps punching flies and actually thinking they were Rocky whilst their girlfriends tried not to let their cringe ruin the video that would be up on You Tube within 20 minutes. All things considered, it’s a great place to be. Few people actually looked like they were going into the art museum, most seemed content being self-professed world champion boxers for the moment.
At the bottom of the stairs is the world famous Rocky statue, and joining the queue I was privy to the most blatant scum bag scam that I have ever seen in the US. Two guys were touting the people in the line, tattooed, muscles, everything I am not. “Let me take your photograph” they practically demand. The guy in front of me politely said “no thank you” and the aggressive response was “what you think I can’t take a photo, I do this every day. Don’t insult me”. When I was asked I said “I won’t be in the photo, just taking one of my son” and my response was “pfft, joke man” as he walked off. Now that I am a hundred miles away I have no problem calling him an absolute scum bag.
Few people know this, but Trading Places, the classic 80’s movie was also filmed in Philly. For us it’s a great thing because it is the only reason we bothered to negotiate the cities painfully thin one way roads to the Rittenhouse Sq. I say good thing, because having planned to nip in and get out we ended up staying. Downtown Philly is absolutely nothing like you would expect, it is green, hip and brimming with people playing music, coffee shops, craft shops and local run eateries. I could not believe we had passed such a great place by. Our time from there on was literally spent exploring the streets, embracing the gorgeous upper class houses, taking shade in the parks and finding pizza.
AC has had a tumultuous history, things started well with the original Monopoly board game actually being based on the coastal city many years ago. Throw in prohibition, Nucky Thompson and corruption to the core and AC has always been a place of excess and stress relief. Home to the longest boardwalk in the country (4 miles long), largest organ in the world and a load of world class casinos AC has been drawing hedonists since before the word was penned. However, things of recent haven’t been so rosy and the idiots in charge have been left scratching their heads as to why.
It is only natural that I compare it to Vegas, and having been to Vegas a zillion times I feel I can do so fairly. Ok, people go to Vegas to get hammered, gamble and then go home. It works, it is the most visited city in the USA and has spawned an entire industry based on tourism.
Referring back to calling the folks in charge of AC idiots… In an attempt to be the Vegas on the east coast AC fails miserably.
- First of all, you have to pay to park anywhere in the city, the cheapest I could find was $10. In Vegas everywhere is free.
- In AC you cannot drink alcohol on the boardwalk, meaning you can’t drink alcohol outside of a licensed bar. An unnecessary restriction not present in Vegas.
- AC has a beach, great. Except for most of the year its freezing cold or raining.
Point is, Vegas is unrestricted and AC is not. With the rise of cheap air fares there is little reason to head to AC anymore.
So what did we do, well not much to be honest. Upon arrival things looked good, I text my wife “this looks like Vegas on the coast”. I was wrong, it is more like a tacky, dirty, attempt at being Las Vegas that fails miserably. We walked about half of the boardwalk as it literally became a boredom-walk that resembled an old video game where every few seconds you pass the same shops. Drug paraphernalia (typical US common sense, drug paraphernalia allowed – alcohol not). Dodgy looking shops selling years old pizza, gyros, and expensive ice creams. We bailed the board walk and relaxed on the beach, which actually is really nice. The sand is almost white, soft and the Atlantic Ocean refreshingly inviting.
In all honesty, Atlantic city is not really worth the effort, even if you have no plans of hedonism the only thing to do is the beach and the Tanger outlets (which are really good but scattered around a large area). I think coming to AC I expected too much. Toby was bored, I was bored, in trying to fill a 4-mile boardwalk the city has created nothing more than a tacky, ill managed affair with food poison almost certainly guaranteed.