Friday, September 21, 2007

A Journey to the States: August 25th - 28th

Yeah, so I'm still catching up... I've been lazy and busy lately, but I'll get caught up by... umm... December. How's that? Hehee, just kidding. I'll get them done by the end of the month - or something like that.


This summer, we planned to go somewhere far. We were waiting for a last minute deal to go somewhere south. Somewhere called the Dominican Republic. Unfortunately due to my brother and me procrastinating in applying for our passports, we couldn't go. Hurricane Dean was the second reason.
That was a no-go, so we resorted to Plan B: taking a trip to the States. This second plan was influenced by my cravings to some things that I saw on the Food Network. I wanted to try a Philly cheese steak sandwich, some New York bagels, and some jambalaya. The plan was to go the States on a bus tour, but because we waited too long to buy the tickets, they sold out. My dad decided that we would drive to the Northeastern states ourselves.

Day 1: August 25th
After a bit of planning, we decided that we would start our trip early in the morning. That meant, on this particular trip, that we left at 2:30am. I didn't mind that because I love driving at night, not that I was driving; my dad is always the driver when we go on road trips. At night, people are sleeping, the roads aren't that busy, and everything is relatively quiet. Something about that is comforting to me. Unfortunately heavy rain and strong winds made me very uneasy, very quickly. The visibility was close to none when we were driving 100 km/h. There was practically no oncoming traffic, making it hard to see because of the lack of light. What's worse, cars and trucks were passing us at high speeds. I couldn't even see the reflectors on the side of the highway driving at 80 km/h, so how are these people able to drive quicker? We slowed down to 60 km/h, and turned on our high beams to increase our visibility. After half an hour of driving slowly through the rain, it stopped. I finally relaxed enough to fall asleep.

I woke up just in time for the toll bridge. A few minutes later, we got to US Customs. They asked us the same questions: "where are you coming from?", " where are you going?", "why are you going?", "for how long are you going for?", etc. After checking the computer, the customs agent told us that we were selected for a random search. Immediately I thought that they were just bored because there was almost no one crossing at this time. We got out of the van and went into their office. It’s almost exactly 4 am when I looked at the clock. They ask us the same questions and give us a sheet to fill out. They let us go and we continue driving to our first destination: Washington D.C. Again, I slept as my dad drove.

At some gas station in Pennsylvania, I woke up sweaty and nauseous. We didn't have air conditioning because the pipe had a hole in it. It was 35 degrees Celsius outside. Imagine how hot it was inside the van.

We stopped at a KFC and had some lunch. Actually, I was too sick to think about eating KFC, so I didn't eat anything. What made my stomach turn more was that there was still some Denny's in my stomach, from the night before. I could taste breakfast sausages. This made me sick. Why? 

Well, when I was younger I ate way too many sausages and got sick of them. Then after 5+ years of not touching it, I had some and fell in love with them again. I think that this may have scarred me for another 5+ years. 

My lunch consisted of a cup or two of some lemon-lime carbonated drink and two Dramamines (aka Gravol). Even though I didn't have the stomach to eat any of the KFC, the chicken did look and sound good. My mom happily devoured it and even gushed at how juicy it was.

We hit the road again and arrived in Washington D.C. around 2 pm. (Have you ever wondered what the "DC" part meant? Before this trip I just thought that that was just part of the state's name. Now I know that it stands for 'District of Columbia'. You see, you do learn something new everyday!) Once we arrived, we started looking for the
Best Western that we had booked. Now fully awake, I realise that the weather was like Florida's - hot and humid. We drove around the city and took a couple of pictures. Here is one with the US Capitol Building.

We arrived at the hotel and took a needed break. Dinner time rolled around, and my parents wanted seafood. In fact, they wanted to go to a specific area that they once visited in a previous trip a handful of years ago. I, 
on the other hand, needed some sort of soup to settle my stomach. We headed to a seafood market and picked up some crabs. We got about 50 blue crabs for around $20 USD (US dollars). I was surprised that the market didn't smell that bad. I had expected that I would have a hard time breathing. There were a couple stalls selling all sorts of seafood. We bought ours at Captain White's Seafood City.

We went to Chinatown because my brother and I weren't in the mood for blue crab. Stopping at the side of the road, we picked up some BBQ pork, chow mein in soup, and soy sauce noodles at a quiet restaurant. The menu said that it was rice noodles in the soup, but instead we got egg noodles. What lies! Although my mom tried to order my saucy noodles, she accidentally asked for soy sauce noodles instead. We drove back to the hotel and ate our dinner. The broth was a bit too salty for my taste, and I was very disappointed that I didn't get rice noodles. Egg noodles just doesn't go right with soup in my opinion. The soy sauce noodles weren't that bad. They had a nice smokey flavour. They even gave us a lot of meat. Sadly, the BBQ pork was tasteless. In the end, I was very happy with dinner because the soup settled my stomach. Just thinking about how I felt in the car made me feel worse. And those sausages... *shudder* After we finished eating some of the Chinese food, my parents cooked half of the crabs they bought. Again, I expected the room to smell REAL bad, but it didn't. After dinner, we cleaned up and went to bed.

Day 2: August 26th
It was around 9:30am by the time I woke up. Everyone was packing up getting ready to leave again. We warmed up some leftover Chinese food for brunch. (It’s too bad that there wasn't any more soup, even if it wasn't that good *tear*) We left the hotel by 12pm and drive around the city taking pictures. This day was also hot and humid, as you can see in the pictures. Here is the White House and a bit of the Washington Monument.

A close up of the Washington Monument.

Here is the Jefferson Memorial Building.

By 2pm, we headed toward Philadelphia. My dad drove around 130 km/h on the highway and cars and pick up trucks passed us! I was so amazed that people drove so quickly here. If you tried driving 130 km/h to Montreal, from Ottawa, you'd most likely get pulled over. Around 6 pm, we arrived at the
Red Roof Inn. Hot and sweaty, again, we unpack some things and took showers before having dinner at the Philly Diner. It was either that or Denny's. Hahaha, yeah... definitely not Denny's. I was still slightly car sick and so I ordered some french onion soup to share with my brother. The first and only time I've had french onion soup was at a friend's place. It was soooo good! Words cannot describe it - sounds can, but not words. This one, however, was very dissapointing. The croutons they added ruined the whole soup. I suspect that this was made with croutons so old that they tasted like cardboard, rather than bread.
My brother, on the other hand, loved this soup. He was the one who ate the rest of the soup.
My mom ordered the seafood linguine. This dish actually surprised me when I tried it. I assumed it would taste boring and powdery, but the sauce tasted like sweet shrimp juice. Sounds nasty, doesn't it? Well, it wasn't. I think there was also crabmeat and scallops, but the star of the dish had to be the jumbo shrimp.

My dad ordered steak with potatoes and brussel sprouts, while my brother and I shared an ordinary club sandwhich with onion rings. That was it for that day.

Day 3: August 27th
We were on the road again by 10:30am, heading towards what many people claim is “the best Philly cheese steak sandwiches.” No breakfast pour moi (we reheated leftovers, bleh). I was too excited to finally get to taste a Philly cheese steak sandwich. I was so pumped cause people on the Food Network made cheese steak sandwiches look so tasty. 

By 11am, we arrived at Geno’s Steaks. They didn't take credit card here so my parents had to withdraw some cash at a nearby bank. We ordered 4 Cheeze Whiz steak sandwiches with sautéed onions. 

I was deeply disappointed. I didn’t add any condiments to my sandwich, and I doubt it would’ve made it taste any better. I found it so plain. I got sucked into the hype. But when I think more about it, I think it wasn't our favourite because we never grew up with steak sandwiches. 

Look, you can see the owner, Joey Vento, being interviewed in front of the store.

This is my dad's sandwich. Mine looked too boring, so I didn't take a picture.

This cheered me up, though. How can it not? "Class: Illegal Alien" LOL

After lunch we drove around downtown for a bit and then went to Newark, New Jersey. We got to the Palace Hotel around 5pm and decided to go downtown for dinner. We drove past Time Square.

As you might’ve guessed, my parents aren’t big fans of Western food aka Canadian/American food, so we went to Chinatown. Looking for an Asian-filled restaurant, we stumbled upon the restaurant Big Wong King Restaurant Inc. We were planning to go to the place directly across from it, actually, but there was a long line outside and we were told by the hostess that the wait would’ve been around 45mins. No thanks. Instead of walking around to find another full restaurant, we chose to go to Wong’s place.

Their place was probably half full when we were seated. When everyone else decided what they wanted to eat, I watched the pace pick up. Many people were getting take-out as the restaurant was soon full. The main attraction here was congee and soup with thin Chinese egg noodles - almost everyone was eating those two dishes.

Regaining my appetite, I was in need of my noodles. My brother wanted sweet and sour pork. My parents wanted some seafood. And so we ordered the three dishes: my noodles, sweet and sour pork, and sea bass with tofu. My noodles had a good smoky taste, and the meat was nice and tender too. Other than the smokiness in the sauce, it was quite bland. It needed more salt/soy sauce. The best place to eat my noodles is still in Toronto. I found that the sea bass wasn’t as sweet as the stuff in Ottawa. They were cut into chunks and deep fried, so that could mean that the fish wasn’t the freshest. The chunks of deep fried tofu, however, were amazing! How can you go wrong with deep fried tofu puffs?
The sweet and sour pork was really tender. Just thinking about the smell of it makes me hungry. One thing I didn’t like about this was that they added a bit too much vinegar to the sauce.

We ordered a perfect amount of food. Everyone had enough to eat, and no one was overly stuffed. We happily drove back to the hotel for some sleep.

Day 4: August 28th
Everyone was up in time for the complimentary breakfast at 7:30am. There was nothing special about it. One thing I would like to mention, though, is that the milk they were serving had chunks. Yeah, nasty! I found a couple in my bowl of cereal and almost left them a mess to clean. I couldn’t eat after that. We planned to go to see the Statue of Liberty right after breakfast, so we drove back into Manhattan, bought some baked pastries from Chinatown, and caught the ferry to Liberty Island. We spent a couple of hours there taking pictures and enjoyed the breezy weather.

On our way back to the van, it was decided that we would go to Montreal for the night. We got to Montreal’s Chinatown just before 10pm and went looking for a pho place. I was positive that there would be a pho place that stayed open until early in the morning, because Ottawa has one, and if we have one, then Montreal should have plenty more. Yeah, no. We couldn’t find any, so we went to eat at some place. I forgot the name of it.
My parents had the seafood with chow mien, my brother had a bowl of stewed beef noodles, and I had a bowl of wonton soup with some noodles (taken from Andrew's bowl). After our dinner/late night snack, we went back to Ottawa.

If I could go again, I would have definitely done things different. Until that day, I’ll just keep thinking of how disappointed I was in the Philly cheese steak sandwiches. Oh, and I would make sure that if it were to be a road trip, the vehicle I ride in will have air conditioning. I really want to go on another road trip and eat different "local favourites" without any high expectations. I don't want to make that mistake again.

~ * ~ * ~


Best Western: Capitol Skyline Hotel
10 I Street SW
Washington, DC
(202) 488-7500

Captain White's Seafood City
1100 Maine Ave SW
Washington, DC 20024
(202) 484-2722

Red Roof Inn
49 Industrial Hwy
Essington, PA 19029
(610) 521-5090

Philly Diner
3925 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA
(215) 382-3400

Geno's Steak
1219 South 9th Street
Philadelphia, PA
(215) 389-0659

Palace Hotel
2600 Tonnelle Ave
North Bergen, NJ
(201) 866-0400

Big Wong King's Restaurant Inc.
67 Mott St
New York, NY 10013
(212) 964-0540

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