Arriving in Philadelphia.

We arrived in Philadelphia this afternoon on our last time of using the Amtrak. Leaving Washington was quite tricky as the train left on a low platform so I had to get Faye, the bags and buggy up onto the train, that was a challenge.

We got a taxi from Philadelphia 30th St Station to our hotel The Cromwell Inn which is situated on the Temple University campus. It was $13 for about a ten minute drive.

We got checked in and unpacked and went out for a wander to see what was around. There is a 7 Eleven shop just around the corner so we stocked up on goodies and came back to the hotel.

We popped out for a quick dinner at Qdoba, which was a 5 minute walk away. Qdoba is like Subway but with Mexican food – but it was surprisingly tasty and only cost 12 bucks.

The hotel is lovely and rated well on trip advisor but at the moment I am unsure on the area. We are slightly outside the city centre but only a five minute walk from the train so it should be easy to access.

We’re now tucking into our 7.30 feast.

Night!

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Washington DC.

I’m not going to lie when I arrived I was worried. I was doing so well on the Amtrak, I got off there and even navigated our way through the Metro system with Faye, the pushchair and the rucksack to where the hotel directions told me to get off BUT once I got off the Metro could I find the hotel, NO! The hotel had given me directions for something like an 8 minute walk but I got so confused, walked around for 45 minutes and then gave up an resulted in getting a taxi which embarrassingly took about 4 minutes. It turns out I came out the wrong side of the Metro station AND there are two N Nash Streets and I followed the wrong one – how confusing is that!?

Major differences I noted instantly from New York are; the air – it’s SO clean, it feels so quiet as there’s half as many people and its got a few killer hills whereas New York was flat!

Anyway, this hotel is The Virginian Suites, Arlington. Arlington is famous for its cemetery and is ten minutes from Washington. We paid £80 per night here for five nights. The suite is huge, it has a full kitchen, then bedroom/lounge, a walk in wardrobe, a bathroom and a dressing room. Faye loves it and it is nice to have a bit of space. The hotel also has a gym, sauna and outside swimming pool which we’ve used everyday. As we have a kitchen, the day we arrived I went to the supermarket and got food for the week. I wanted to use this time to save money by eating in when possible. The hotel is a ten minute walk to the nearest Metro station, Rosslyn, and supermarket, Safeway. The hotel runs a continual shuttle to and from the Metro during week days between 7am and 7pm which has been very reliable. The wifi has been a bit dodgy here in the room but we are up on the top floor so that may be why, but there are also four computers free to use in the lobby.

We mainly used the metro as a way of getting around. I purchased a ‘Smart Trip’ card which is like an Oyster card. The card is $10 of which $5 can be redeemed as travel credit. I also put in another $20 for the rest of the week and didn’t have to put anymore money on. Children under 5 travel free. If you don’t buy a SmartTrip card you have to pay an extra dollar on top of your fare for a paper ticket so purchasing the card is much more cost effective if you’re going to be travelling everyday.

We didn’t dine out at all whilst here in Washington as we had our own kitchen and I wanted to save some money. But we grabbed some snacks in one of the cafes that are located by all the major memorials (i.e Lincoln, Jefferson) which sold souvenirs and light lunches – they were good value and easy to find. We also ate in a ‘Fro-zen-yo’ which is a self serve frozen yoghurt bar. We both loved it. They have like 20 flavours and you fill up your pot and add toppings with are either fruit or sweets/chocolate. The payment is calculated by weight. I paid $7 for both of ours and neither of us could finish them! It was located right outside the Smithsonian Zoo.

The first day we were here we went to see the Pentagon and the Pentagon memorial which was a really beautiful place. You are actually not allowed to take photos of the Pentagon and security was very tight so I didn’t dare try! That evening we went to a baseball game. The following day we went on a DC Duck tour. That cost $68 for the both of us. Faye wanted to do that as opposed to an ordinary bus tour. It was around 90mins and really informative. Faye enjoyed the fact it went on land and in the water. They’re more enjoyable for children I think. We then spent the rest of that day and the following day finding all the memorials and statues up an down The Mall. Theres so many things to see along the way and Faye enjoyed photographing them all. It has to be said there is a lot more walking to do here than in the other cities we’ve visited so far and for Faye it was a necessity to have a pushchair.

I would of liked to of had a few more days in Washington as there is so much to see and do. Some days i was walking from 9am to 6pm and pushing Faye in the pushchair which was quite challenging on my own, so if i had a few more days i could of taken my time a little more.

The Smithsonian Institute is a collection of around 18 museums and exhibits as well as a zoo, all of which is owned by the government and is all free to enter. We managed to spend an afternoon at the zoo which was fab, but didn’t get much chance to get to any of the others. I would highly recommend the zoo, always one to please the children and its FREE. Head straight for the Giant Pandas as they’re a huge hit and queues can sometimes build there. When it gets hot they have mist showers along the pathway which are nice and refreshing. Wear comfortable shoes as there’s a fair amount of uphill walking and allow a good few hours to get around it.

We are up and onto Philadelphia tomorrow. It’s going way too quickly!

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On the Amtrak Again.

We’ve just got on the Amtrak again to go from New York to Washington. It was a mad rush from New York Penn Station and people are pushing you left, right and centre but i just drove the pushchair into them and they soon moved! It seems the trains are used by a lot of business people to go between Boston and Washington. This train, like our other one is fully booked so getting to the station early is important. Also even though it is very hot here you need to bring a jumper as the trains are fully air conditioned and can get a little chilly.

I just thought I’d upload some pictures so you could see what it’s like…

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Apologies the quality of photos is quite grainy. The lighting is very dingy down here.

Amtrak.

Okay so we made our way to New York on Wednesday and we got here via the Amtrak train.

We are using the Amtrak three times on our trip – Boston to New York, New York to Washington and Washington to Philadelphia. We booked our tickets around January time, so well in advance. I did this because you can get some great discounts. We paid $199 altogether for both of us. Faye as a child gets a half price fare (when accompanied by an adult). The only disadvantage to this is you need to pick the exact train to go on and if you miss it or want to change it, you can end up paying the most expensive last minute rate for it. The trains are often fully booked by the day of departure so it’s not advisable to turn up hoping to get a seat. If booking in advance online you get emailed your ticket which you print out so when it comes to boarding the train you hop straight on and the ticket guy checks it once the train has left.

The tickets are for unreserved seating so it’s best to get there early to sit together with family/friends. The seating is two on the left and two on the right with the aisle in between.

Boston to New York took just short of four hours and the train was efficient and on time with good announcements of all the stations along the way. There was plenty of leg room and there is tray tables in front of you. Each window seat has two plug sockets so you can take chargers for phones, cameras and games consoles which is handy. It also has free Wifi which worked with no problem all the way. As well as a food cart half way down for snacks.

They are quite strict on baggage, two bags per person, no heavier than 50lbs. Bags have to be put on shelves or in overhead lockers so make sure you can lift them or ask someone to help, people are pretty friendly here towards parents with young children.

I had looked into flying but it was much more expensive and with the faff of checking bags in it would of taken just as long as the Amtrak. There are also Greyhound buses which are a cheaper option but they can take a long time. I felt the Amtrak was good value for money (so far, I still have two trips to do and may hate it by then) and its also another mode of transport for children to explore and Faye found it quite exciting doing something new. Just make sure you pack snacks and activities to do on board.