I can’t believe it’s already been a whole month since our Eastern Tour. After the Christmas overload in New York City, we took another train to Princeton, New Jersey for some much needed quiet and family time with John’s brother’s family. I’m always surprised at the big open spaces and rolling fields in the area. It’s easy to imagine what these towns were like 200 years ago. I’m charmed by the old homes and architecture, some dating back to the 1700s! Nat and Mimi’s home is not quite that old, but full of beautiful detail and classic style. It’s so comfortable and welcoming.
On our first night in town, we piled into the car (along with John’s two nephews) and headed to Shady Brook Farm to drive through their spectacular Christmas light tour. We found a static-y radio station playing Christmas music and pointed out our favorite light displays (mine was the Grinch!). So fun! We had a scrumptious family dinner back at the house.
In the morning, Mimi took us on a beautiful walk with Bella (the dog). What an interesting parallel between this New Jersey trail system and my home trails in Park City; both include happy dogs, pleasantries with strangers, and incredible views. Afterward, we met Nat for a yummy lunch near the university. Then, we picked up a coffee and strolled around downtown Princeton. How fun to be a student and have this be your stomping grounds!
When we got home, John showed his nephew, Perry, some of his street hockey moves and I dove into some old family albums. I might be the most nostalgic person ever born.
For our last night in town, the adults headed out on a double date to an incredible farm-to-table restaurant called Agricola in downtown Princeton. Yum! That night, we managed to get a decent family photo before calling it a night (a minor Christmas miracle).
The three kids are so much older each time we see them. Someday they’ll roll their eyes at that shot.
A couple of days is not long enough with family; even though we had quality time together, we felt like we were leaving far too soon. We boarded another train for Philadelphia. Despite all of the train travel on this trip, it didn’t get much easier for me. Thankfully, it wasn’t long until we arrived in Philly and checked in to the Hotel Monaco near Independence Square.
The last day of our trip would be a big one: we’d dive into some serious American history, visit the Liberty Bell, and hit a Flyers hockey game. After a delish lunch, we wandered around the square, touring the actual buildings where our country’s founders signed the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution. John is a descendent of John Witherspoon (a signer!) and our tour guide pointed out the desk where he likely sat in the 1770s. Amazing.
Next, we visited the Liberty Bell. The actual Liberty Bell. As we meandered through the museum, my eyes welled up with tears at the significance the bell has held for generations of Americans. If there’s one thing time spent in Independence Square will give you, it’s pride in your country.
After a power nap and some food, it was time for the finale event: a Philadelphia Flyers game. When John was young, he had a bad experience and fell out of love with the local favorite New York Rangers. That same year, he met Mark Howe, an All Star for the Flyers, at a fundraiser for an injured classmate. His loyalties have stayed true to the Flyers since, so this game was a big deal (despite the team’s current record).
First things first: I figured that a hockey game would be the perfect place to get a good Philadelphia cheesesteak. We picked up a couple of sammies and found our (awesome) seats. I spied the Mark Howe banner above us and watched the Zamboni swirl around the ice.
Truth? My cheesesteak wasn’t what I’d hoped it would be! But that didn’t deter from the fun of the game. Here’s what a happy John looks like: GOOOOOAAAAL!
Sadly, the Flyers were not victorious, but we had a blast. In our Uber car on the way back to the hotel, our driver heard us talking about the less-than-stellar cheesesteak experience. He took us to an old-school family-owned sammie stand with a line of 20 people waiting for cheesesteaks. LEGIT. The perfect ending to our night in Philly.
We were up at dawn to catch a flight home, back to the West and snowy mountains and our crooked eared fur-ball. Five states in 12 days, full of family and friends and love and memories… what a fabulous trip. But after a whirlwind vacation, there’s no denying: home sure feels good.
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