30 May 2010

No 37 – Across the USA, Seattle to Philadelphia, and a 14 hour Stopover – 26th March 2010

Isn't it nice when a plan works to perfection! 
I was on my way from Seattle to the Caribbean island of St Maarten and had 2 flight options to get there either take an overnight red eye to Philly and rush to connect in just 90mins to the St Maarten flight or take the daytime flight and have a 14 hour overnight stopover in Philly.

I took the 2nd option, I’m sure many people would see a 1 night stop as an inconvenience, but for me it was the chance to see another new American city, have a daylight flight over the whole continent and to be able get a few hours sleep at a hotel rather than try to any in a cramped airline seat, so it was the only option I considered.

It also had the bonus of being on a US Airways Airbus A320, which in case the need arose, was perfectly capable of landing on water! (Was the same airline and aircraft type as the New York Hudson River landing)

My flight left Seattle at 8:30am but wouldn’t reach Philadelphia to 4:30pm  due to it being a 5 hour flight and a 3 hour time difference! I was surprised it was 5 hours with tailwinds, it made me realise how big the USA is.

We flown over many states much of it was cloudy until we were flying over the lakes of Minnesota, my favourite US state! I had recently extended my trip to go back to Minnesota for 3 days in 10 days time, without that extension I would have found flying over and seeing Minnesota without actually going there hard to take and may have even thought about the possibility of demanding a parachute and opening an exit :) thankfully though due to the extension that thought didn’t have to cross my mind!
It was great visibility from this point as we flew over Milwaukee, over Lake Michigan, then over Detroit and Lake Erie before we stated our descent into Philadelphia where the sun was also shining, and had some great city views upon landing.

So here was another new American city for me to visit even though it would only be for a few hours.

I had planned it out really well to stay at an airport hotel just 2 miles from the terminal with free pick up and drop off and just a 5 minutes walk to a train station from where it was only a 20 minute train journey to get into the heart of downtown Philly. 

Got on the train, it was a very traditional
old fashioned system where the conductor would come round and issue huge old fashion paper tickets where the date, ticket type and price paid was punched out, arrived downtown and headed straight for
independence park one of the most historic sites in the USA. I had a good walk around the park and around Independence Hall the building in which the Liberty bell is housed, unfortunately it was all closed up, you could only go in between 10am and 5pm.

I then just wondered around for a while checking out some of the cities architecture before ending up at the impressive City Hall which was the world's tallest building from 1901 to 1908

It is a fantastic bit of architecture and I  walked around it for quite some time viewing it from every angle, 
it remained Philadelphia's tallest building until as recently as 1987 when One Liberty Place was completed since then several more skysrapers had been added to the skyline which having just lit up for the night was a pretty impressive sight too!

After all my walking around it was time to find somewhere to retire for a few pints and a meal, ended up at McGillan's Olde Ale House, which was a fantastic pub that happened to be Philadelphia’s oldest bar it had a brilliant selection of tap beers complete with some free samples to decide on my selection! Now I wouldn’t activity go seeking out a pubs like this… Honestly it just happened to be on my print out from Goggle maps and was near City Hall.

I had a fantastic Philly cheese steak sandwich and chips which went down very well with an McGillin's 1860 IPA. I got chatting to the bartender about my travels and how I was just making a very brief stopover in Philly, but had to get on as have an early flight to St Maarten the next morning, he was impressed that I’d chosen to make a stopover in Philly and come into the city for a look around and he insisted that he bought me a Pint. How could I refuse? another great example of friendliness and generosity that I experienced from people all over the States!

Went to the nearby 8th St Station for my train back to the hotel an impressively spotless Station that is partly above ground and partly under, once on the train the conductor was the same one as on my outward journey earlier he reconised me and guessed I was British and stopped to chat to me for a minute, the friendliness of Philidelpians was really fantastic!
Got back to my hotel by 11pm which really was only 8pm for me due the time difference but had to be up in 5 and a half hours so went to bed feeling like a kid on Christmas eve as I was very excited about the going to St Marteen the next day, somewhere that's had always been at the top on my togo list for many years but had always seemed off-limits until now!

I finally got about 3 hours sleep in what was the middle of what will have to go down as a golden week of my trip, several more Top 40 days from this week to come later!

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