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New Jersey Summer Camp Experience Part 3

15th March 2012
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Travel after camp, for most, is one of the selling points of the whole experience. Able to go anywhere in the US, for up to five months, in any which way you please. Realistically, most people have to face the dull reality of getting back for university and jobs, so don’t spend longer than two weeks. But, if you have the time to spare, and the money to spend, then it’s really up to you.

WashingtonCamp Merry Heart is based in Hackettstown, New Jersey, so the east coast, was the focus of the Merry Heart staff. Elys and I went to Philadelphia as our first destination. The Eastern State Penitentiary, the historical section of the city and City Hall made great tourism sights. The old prison, in particular, was very interesting; it was a more unique and quirky visitors’ destination. We also experienced Philly cheesesteaks, tax free, reduced price shopping - £9 pair of Converse; win – and ran up the famous Rocky steps. Philadelphia, in parts was quite a rough city, with a lot of homelessness, but, had a very loveable charm, with a more relaxed feel to its closer rival cities.

After four nights in Philly, we moved onto Washington D.C. We travelled by bus, either Megabus or Boltbus; both being the cheapest form of transport we found, at around $15 - $20 each.

Arriving in D.C, we heard the news of the earthquake that had occurred earlier in the day. This meant that the famous Washington monument was closed due to cracks found at the top. Usually, tourists can walk up to the top in order to see D.C from high up, but for us, it simply wasn’t to be. Just to add to our misfortune, the reflecting pool, which runs next to the Washington monument, was nothing but a building site. Due to a pipe leaking, it had to be dug up and fixed.

Other than that, the best sites we saw were the Lincoln Memorial and of course, the Whitehouse. For me, the Whitehouse wasn’t as exciting as I imagined; you’re actually quite far away, and it’s, well, just a white house. No presidential speeches, or balcony waves, there wasn’t even a case of someone hanging their baby out of a high window. For me, the best thing we visited in D.C was the Crime and Punishment museum. From medieval times, right up to present day, the techniques in, well, crime and punishment were explored. ‘Twas a bit expensive mind, but that just summed up D.C – everything is overpriced. It’s terrible for shopping too.

So, our next destination was New York, in order to meet Elys’ family, who had flown over for four nights, y’ know, as you do. We were stood in a parking lot, waiting for our 12pm bus.

11.55am; still no bus, or more importantly, any other waiting passengers. Assuming he would have the correct information, I asked the man in the yellow coat, he confirmed the bus was coming.

12.10pm; still no bus. I decided to ask a bus driver, only to find that, “All of Bolt Bus services are cancelled due to the hurricane”. Down to the Amtrak train desk we go, $111 each – Damn. We didn’t really have a choice, so, next stop – New York.

By the time we got to New York, the streets were bare and everything was closed, yet more misfortune on our travels. Hurricane? We’re British! Out we went to look for somewhere to eat, we seemed to be the only people out, and Manhattan was on lockdown. After a bit of overnight rain and wind, for New York at least, everything was back up and running. Some more money was spent in Soho and Times Square, a nice boat ride over to the Statue of Liberty, an emotional visit to Ground Zero and the surrounding sights, and a short stint in Central Park and we were nearly done with the main sights. However, the highlight of the trip was the view from the 86th floor of the Empire State at night. Simply mind blowing.

As Elys’ family left, we rushed for our bus to Montclair, New Jersey. We had both been invited to stay with the family of a camper Elys had looked after during camp. A two night stint with them, visiting Patterson falls and eating traditional American Ice cream, we were ready to return.

A six hour flight back saw our feet firmly planted back in the UK and our heads firmly planted to our pillows, in order to catch up on three months of exhaustion.




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