We were ready to go again. We were actually ready to go from the minute my Hero’s bank decided to phone him at 6am to check an unusual transaction on one of his cards. Thankfully, it was all legitimate and no further action was needed, but it was a sudden wake up call all the same.
So we set off through rather empty streets of Philadelphia on this Sunday morning, negotiating those tramlines and an assortment of potholes which rival those at home in terms of size and frequency. We both remarked on the huge churches we passed by, of all denominations, and the communities around them – schools and seminaries in some cases. The raggle taggle streets of the urban sprawl soon gave way to smarter, more leafy suburbs and before long we were in shopping mall territory.
We’d planned to spend an hour or two this morning at the King of Prussia Mall, where I could look in a couple of favourite shops and get one or two items on my shopping list. As soon as we entered the open space of the Mall itself, there was Santa – and the inevitable queue of parents with their children, dressed up in their party clothes and Christmas finery to have their photograph taken. This little girl was none too sure and the photographer was working hard to get her to smile – or at least look comfortable.
The Mall didn’t detain us long though I made two rather significant purchases in one of my favourite shops, which put paid to any further browsing! We left the crowds who were now pouring into the huge car park behind and drove on into the countryside of Lancaster county.
Yes, I imagine that name does ring a bell, especially if you’ve watched one of the recent TV programmes or read one of the books about the Amish and Mennonite communities in this area. We’d been here before a few years ago and remembered the lovely rolling hills and wide open spaces, dotted with little white farms here and there. And of course, there are the horse drawn buggies too.
We passed several on this fast road, allowing plenty of space as we did. Some, like these two were open to the elements and the couple well wrapped up on this chilly afternoon. Others were little box-type carriages, filled with a family or a bunch of youngsters.
Turning onto a smaller road to reach our destination, we passed this little group walking alongside the road. Just like at home, the two young women were huddled up against the cold, wearing no coats in spite of the temperature.
It was interesting to see life going on in these small communities; such a different life to that of our own, for sure. We simply pass through it, unnoticed, but take away a glimpse of another world and as usual, are inspired and curious to learn more.
Our destination wasn’t far from here and before we’d arrived, we heard the unmistakeable sound of the train whistle blow. We were headed for the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania at Strasburg, and the Strasburg Rail Road, right opposite was running a few Santa Specials this afternoon, it seemed.
We turned up at the little country station just as the train emptied. A group of carollers were singing beautifully, Santa and one of his helpers were greeting some of the passengers and the whole scene was utterly charming.
As the rhyme on his little truck reminded us, “He sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake”, which meant that several children were taking their encounter with him very seriously indeed.
We headed over the street to the Railroad Museum proper, then, for my Hero to see some of the engines he’s known about since his childhood and for me to marvel at the engineering and wonderful mechanics of it all.
I especially love all the nuts and bolts and cranks and spindles, the enormity of it all and how beautifully it fits together and works.
And of course, we both love the old photographs. Isn’t this one great?
By now it was getting on into the afternoon and we were heading back to the city via a couple of my regular haunts. I’d gathered a few coupons for these places, my Hero was comfortable in the car with his Kindle and so off I went in search of a few bits and pieces to delight and amuse.
I don’t think I was the only one in town with a 25% off everything coupon, though. It really looked as though a plague of locusts had gone through – if indeed locusts have a thirst for pots of embossing powder or rubber stamp pads. Never mind, I found enough to both interest and satisfy my requirements and returned to the car with a little bag of treasure.
Repeat twice more, in JoAnns and A.C.Moore’s, each with their little set of coupons and a couple of things on my list. As if to prove my willpower, I came out of JoAnns empty handed – but then their coupons were the least generous of them all and I could afford to be picky!
But by the time I came out of the last of the three, above, darkness had fallen. I had a momentary panic as I couldn’t immediately remember where the car was parked. I’d had enough – we were tired, it was dark and dreary and we were ready to return to a warm hotel and call it a day.
Thankfully, we didn’t have far to drive back and once there, just a few hundred metres to a restaurant we fancied trying. Alma di Cuba came highly recommended, not only from our friends but also in each guide book and review site we looked at. Suffice to say, we were not disappointed and a couple of mojitos made our choice of classic dishes rather easier. I chose Sugarcane Tuna with coconut hearts of palm rice, pickled chayote and sugarcane-sesame vinaigrette. My Hero went for the Lechon Asado, Crispy roasted pork, congri rice and sour orange mojo. Both of us were delighted to have a couple of our favourite Cuban breadrolls too – Jordi, just like Calle Ocho!
So, tired but happy again after another lovely day full of fun and interesting activity. Days like this are to be cherished.