My trip to Richmond, Virginia took me further south than I have been before in the States. After spending the last 24 hours in NYC, I was feeling a bit disgruntled by the high costs of food and drink over here – $23 for a stack of pancakes and coffee! It even made me long for London prices. However I was pleasantly surprised arriving in Richmond to a reasonably priced iced coffee and muffin ($5). And I needed iced coffee because the temperature had soared to 21 degrees! The people I met were also super friendly. With just 20 of us on the tiny plane to Richmond from NYC we had pretty much become best mates by the end of our journey.
The following 48 hours in Richmond was a foodie’s dream. My friends from England, now living there, were fantastic hosts and tour guides. So much good food and delicious local beer was consumed. A highlight was tasting my first cheddar grits – a cheesey, gooey dish that resembled something between polenta and porridge. By the time I boarded my Amtrak train to Philadelphia I was feeling uncomfortably full and a few kilograms heavier. Ah well… It hadn’t been my plan to come here and lose weight…
I arrived in Philadelphia after five hours aboard the train. Another hour later I had reached the lush, green small towns west of Philly where I was picked up by the wonderful Teacher Natalie.
It has been over a year since Natalie and I were last roomies in various Thai establishments; our school accommodation, Kanchanaburi and Bangkok hostels and our Koh Samet beach side hotel. Despite the time that has passed, and despite living on opposite sides of the Atlantic, we are very much still as ‘in tune’ as we were when we taught English and enjoyed Thailand together. In fact our personal missions, current career paths and aspirations are now incredibly aligned.
West Chester, Natalie’s home, is a quintessentially Pennsylvanian small town. It has a high street full of independent stores, cafes, restaurants and bars. The chains are there too – but why would you bother with Starbucks when you can feel at home and cosy in an independent cafe? There is so much I could write about just four days here, but instead here are my top five highlights:
5) Discovering the self-serve coffee (in a MASSIVE coffee cup) at the local Wawa. And getting to mix a tonne of brews together to make my own signature brew (which didn’t taste too good to be honest).
4) Taking Natalie’s pup to the local dog park (next to Wawa) and witnessing the biggest canine social event I’ve ever seen.
3) Dining on The Izzy at Green Street Grill (Natalie’s workplace). (Picture to follow shortly).
2) Meeting Natalie’s wonderful friends and family and constantly being referred to as Teacher Jenny. Then realising that Brits and Americans speak different languages, (ok I already knew this after summer camp, but it was further validation). My favourite instance was receiving a look of horror from Natalie’s Mum when I said I was “gutted to be leaving” – ‘gutted’ simply means to be dead and have your insides ripped out over here.
1) Going to the stadium to watch the Philadelphia Sixers win their game against Brooklyn Nets. With the addition of chicken, fries, cheese sauce dip and a Bud light, I was living the American dream.
As I waited to board my Amtrak train to NYC (yes you can’t keep me away from trains) I had a heavy heart to be leaving so soon. However, the past four days had reassured me that a strong friendship can survive distance and time. I’m very sure I’ll be back to watch the Sixers win again next season.
And on that note, I’m about to arrive back in NYC…