When Andy and I find a place we'd like to visit, we keep it in mind to see if it might organically fold into a future road trip. Over time, enough destinations accumulated in the Northeast USA to warrant a big road trip. Total Bonus: we live in New England, so no flight or car rental required!
At first, we thought it might just be a 6 day road trip. But it kept expanding...and expanding. And soon enough, we found ourselves with a 12-day itinerary spanning 2,000 miles across four US states and Canada.
The journey began by loading up my little Mazda hatchback and heading east out of the Boston suburb we call home. In less than three hours, we were wandering around Empire State Plaza in Albany, New York. It was a Sunday afternoon and not a soul was around. Oh, and it was a cloudless 99 degrees out there so this lily-white girl was trying to find shade at every opportunity!
Along the plaza's reflecting pools, we gazed up at the New York State Library.
The Egg is a performance venue that I attended a lot as a kid (I grew up around Albany). Architecturally, it's kind of bizarre. Good bizarre. Who-thought-to-build-THAT? bizarre.
There are endless ways to see The Egg but my favorite is from underneath. It just feels like the whole thing might come crashing down on you at any second.
On the other end of the plaza, the State Capitol Building looms large.
We left this abandoned Gotham all sweaty and hungry for dinner. Andy and I have family in the Albany area and we were invited over for a feast of grilled steak and asparagus. It was just heavenly. Knowing we'd be on the road and mostly eating out for the next 11 days, we really appreciated the home cooked meal. We also got to rest our heads for the night with family.
Pro Travel Tip: There are endless advantages to staying with family or friends along the way. No hotel bill! Home cookin'! And, my personal fave, making an appearance without staying for days on end!
The next morning, we set out early for Philadelphia. Although I've been just north of Philly many times (my brother lives there), I've never ventured into the city itself. We started our visit in a very touristy way and got in a long line to see the Liberty Bell. Oh, what a disappointment. I mean, don't get me wrong, I get that the Liberty Bell is a symbol of America and stuff, but did you know the bell on exhibit isn't even the real bell? It's a replica. The original bell has disintegrated into pieces (one of which IS on exhibit in Independence Hall, but if you didn't know that, you'd probably walk right past it).
We drowned our disappoint in the most quintessentially Philly way.
A few of Philadelphia's hidden treasures were next on our agenda. The first was the Magic Gardens.
An artist named Isaiah Zagar created this mosaic wonderland encompassing half a city block. There are a bunch of little walkways to explore. It's the kind of place where you could visit everyday for 30 years and still find something new.
We were so enamored by this guy and his vision.
Okay, so it's not everyone's cup of tea, but The Mutter Museum was next up to visit. It's a place I've wanted to go ever since I was a kid, when I saw a Ripley's Believe it or Not episode that included a segment on the museum. I was hooked. It's weirdness just blew me away. This medical history museum has everything from glass slides of Einstein's actual brain to the conjoined organs of Chang and Eng Bunker. To me, fascinating.
Andy is not so much into skulls or weird medical stuff, so it was really nice of him to come along for the ride. There's no photography at the museum, so I have no images to show you on this blog. But just click here to see what Google images has in store for you.
There are lots of skulls on display. And wax models of diseased limbs in jars. There's a malignant tumor that once resided in Grover Cleveland's mouth. And the Soap Lady is there too.
When we went, there was a special exhibit of Civil War injuries, complete with a photobooth you could enter that would show you what you looked like as an amputee. Andy and I both declined that particular experience. Hey, I'm not trying to mess with the gods.
At the end, though, I'll admit I was a little queasy. There were a LOT of fetuses in jars at that museum. And I'm very much down for interesting medical specimens in jars, but that was just one too many jarbabies for my stomach to handle.
Our last stop in the city of brotherly love was the Kimmel Center. This place is a performing arts center with some truly gorgeous architecture. Andy wanted to photograph the massive glass ceiling. Needless to say, we spent a good long while with our necks tilted back to take in all its beauty.
Speaking of brotherly love, it was time to drive north out of the city to spend some time with my brother and his family.
In part two of our Northeast adventure, we'll:
...visit a tiny village one man constructed over 60 years ...pop our Waffle House cherry ...and spend a day in prison!