I grew up in Western Pennsylvania. It is practically another country from Eastern Pennsylvania. Through a friend's urgings, I found myself agreeing to a trip back East to tour Eastern Pennsylvania, the seat of our forefathers, the genus of our history, from which everything else sprang. I did not expect to be blown away by the quaintness and charm of Bucks Country, brought to tears at Gettysburg or experience the BEST Greek dinner in Lancaster! (Amish country).
The Hyatt Regency Penns Landing sits in the most convenient spot, right along the Delaware River. This puts you in walking distance of this historic city, with Independence Hall, Liberty Bell, Bookbinders Restaurant and so much more. We had a room that overlooked the river and faced the Ben Franklin Bridge. At night the bridge is beautifully lit and during the day, barges, paddle boats and leisure craft ply the river.
Having done sightseeing in Historical Philadelphia, we headed for the Barnes Foundation in Merion, PA. Barnes was an art collector of mass proportions. His collection boasts over 185 Renoirs, more than any one museum. He has also has some dark and disturbing pieces by the Russian artist, Chaim Soutine, a wall size Picasso, many Manets, Monets and Van Goghs. They are displayed in a hodge-podge array on every wall in a multi-room, multi level mansion that will make you dizzy. I think it is well worth a trip by the art lover and the curious.
We moved on to Lancaster via two-lane country roads that passed by verdant countryside with incredibly blue sky. Passing small towns, you could pick out the very orthodox Amish houses by their lack of power lines to the houses. Horses and buggys were in abundance. Lancaster is a nice town, with a rectangle of blocks that take you by amazing antique shops, bistro-like eateries and wild boutiques. Our stay was at the Lancaster Arts Hotel, an old tobacco warehouse. All rooms have exposed brick walls with French doors to the bathrooms. They showcase a different artist’s works on a rotating basis, and they are for sale.
From there we moved on to Gettysburg, where the only place to stay is the Best Western Gettysburg Hotel, circa 1797. It has ties to both Lincoln and Eisenhower and takes up one side of the main square in Gettysburg.
From here you can walk the incredibly historical town that belonged to the Confederacy for a short time during 3 days in July in 1863. I hired a private guide from the Gettysburg Visitor Center. He was amazing and he made Gettysburg come alive. Many instances of brother against brother and, in some cases, father against son, fighting for that in which they believed. We stood on Little Roundtop, from where Colonel Chamberlain, of the 20th Marine, had his men affix bayonets to face the oncoming Confederates because their ammunition had run out. Being greatly outnumbered, they turned back the onslaught to save the hill. Many, many stories like that can be told all over the battle site, which is huge. This is why you need a private, certified guide. Our guide was Jim Martin and I highly, highly recommend him.
Our last stop was in the beautiful, bucolic, covered-bridge-laden Bucks County. It's so close to Philadelphia, but you believe you're in another country. This could be a village in France or England. We stayed in a plantation-style bed and breakfast named Porches on the Tow Path. Unfortunately, the barges on the canal are not operating right now as the water level is too low. The buildings in this sleepy village date back to the mid and late 1700's. There is a huge playhouse that is a two-story barn, and we saw their production of Spamalot. Washington crossed the Delaware at this site, and Valley Forge, which we visited, is not too far away. There are amazing restaurants, some right along the river. They have some of the coolest shops I've seen anywhere. We went covered bridge hunting and got lost on some of most beautiful back country roads, finding the bridges totally by accident.
This area is our historic beginnings. It reaches down inside one and makes one so proud to live in this country, regardless of ones political beliefs. If you get the opportunity to travel to this incredible and moving part of our country, you will know what I mean.