Unfortunately, I am terribly late on my notes. We had very bad internet in our first couple of hotels and then we stayed with Alex’s cousin for two nights. We have not seen him for over 20 years and his wife since late 70-th so we spent our nights talking. I am still planning to publish my notes even if it happens few days after the fact.
Our 10 days in Tallinn were very busy and rainy. We had only a couple of days with OK weather with limited rain and occasional sun so I did not take too many photos this time. However, I must admit that Tallinn is getting more and more beautiful every time we go there.
Day 1, October 8, Monday - After spending 10 days in Tallinn on October 8th we finally arrived back to US. Time in Tallinn was extremely tiring and nerve-wrecking so badly we needed positive emotions and better weather (it was raining most of our time in Tallinn). Our first positive emotion was our rental car. Alex wanted to try out Ford Focus. It turned out to be fully loaded very comfortable small car in fire-engine red color. This was NOT the color we would ever buy but it felt good to try something very different from our comfort level. In addition as we learned later this car had unbelievably great gas milage.
Our first stop was Princeton. We love visiting old universities and wanted to spend couple hours on a campus. Princeton University is an American private Ivy League research university and is one of the eight universities of the Ivy League, and one of the nine Colonial Colleges founded before the American Revolution. First we checked into our hotel - BEST WESTERN Princeton Manor Inn & Suites. It was OK – nothing fancy but large clean room with king size bed. After spending 10 nights on extremely uncomfortable sofa in my mother’s apartment in Tallinn this bed felt heavenly.
It was getting late and we were becoming hungry so we decided to visit university campus next day. It happened to be a bad idea; it was raining next day so we ended up just driving around hoping that we can visit it on our way back to New York,
However, our dinner at Blue Point Grill was very nice. They specialize on seafood. We shared two appetizers – Seared Tuna in Sriracha Sauce and Buffalo Calamari. Tuna had light sesame seeds crust and barely seared but extremely tender and tasty. Waitress could not tell me much about the sauce but it had Vietnamese flavor to it and light salmon color. My guess was that it was made from mayonnaise with some added Sriracha sauce and possibly some ginger powder. The dish was served with some slightly bitterish greens and was topped with coarsely chopped roasted peanuts. I am planning to re-create this dish at home. Calamari were fried first and then lightly covered in buffalo sauce so they had nice but not overpowering degree of spiciness.
For main dish I had Seafood and Sausage Paella and Alex had fried oysters with garlicky mashed potatoes; all very good but way too much. Alex finished his oysters but was ready to burst and I was barely able to eat half of my paella. We should’ve limited ourselves to just one appetizer or go with three appetizers and no main dish.
One other complaint was that they do not serve alcohol so we had to eat all this wonderful food with iced water. However, they allow bringing it with you as many of their regular customers did. By the way, we were their first customers but within half an hour this place was completely full which is rather impressive given that it was Monday night.
Day 2, October 9, Tuesday – We had breakfast at our hotel – eatable but nothing special (bagels, pastry, cream cheese, yogurt, waffles). As I mentioned above, it was raining so we skipped Princeton University tour and went directly to Philadelphia. It was raining on and off during our drive but luckily for us by the time we’ve reached Independence National Historical Park it stopped raining completely. We parked our car at the Visitor Center and spent couple hours walking around. Independence National Historical Park is a park that preserves several sites associated with the American Revolution and the nation's founding history. The park has been nicknamed "America's most historic square mile" because of its abundance of historic landmarks. We had limited time and decided not to take any tour but just see it on our own pace,
We started with visiting the Liberty Bell building. The bell is an iconic symbol of American independence. Bells were rung to mark the reading of the Declaration of Independence on July 8, 1776, and while there is no contemporary account of the Liberty Bell ringing, most historians believe it was one of the bells rang.
We did not visit the Independence Hall since it was possible only with a tour which we had to wait for; however we walked around it and visited the Congress Building. The Independence Hall was the location where both the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution were debated and adopted. The United States Declaration of Independence was approved there on July 4, 1776, and the Declaration was read aloud to the public in the area now known as Independence Square.
Congress Hall served as the seat of the United States Congress from December 6, 1790 to May 14, 1800. During the almost ten years it served as the capitol, Congress Hall witnessed many historic events including the admittance of three new states Vermont, Kentucky, and Tennessee. The United States Bill of Rights was ratified at Congress Hall in 1791. The second Presidential inauguration of George Washington took place in the House chamber in 1793, as did inauguration of John Adams in 1797. Congress also used the time to establish the First Bank of the United States, the Federal Mint, and the United States Department of the Navy. This is actually the place where the very first peaceful transfer of power occurred when presidential power was transferred from George Washington to John Adams.
This was rather small and very modest building. The House chamber on the first floor was pretty simple looking and featured mahogany desks and leather chairs. The room eventually accommodated 106 representatives from 16 states: the 13 original states as well as the representatives from the new states of Vermont in 1791, Kentucky in 1792, and Tennessee in 1796.
The second floor, reserved as the chamber for the Senate, was more ornate and adorned with heavy red drapes. By 1796, the room featured 32 secretary desks very similar to the desks that are still used in the current Senate chamber in the United States Capitol; 28 of the desks at Congress Hall are original. A fresco of an American Bald Eagle is painted on the ceiling, holding the traditional olive branch to symbolize peace. Also on the ceiling, a plaster medallion in the form of a sunburst features 13 stars to represent the original colonies. The design mirrors a similar pattern on the floor, where a carpet made by William Sprague, a local weaver, features the shields of each of the 13 original states. The carpet seen today is a reproduction of the original. According to our tour guide, the original carpet was sent to a new capital in Washington, DC but never arrived there.
We walked for a couple of hours along Independence National Historic park.
Next we visited Christ Church Burial Ground - an important early-American cemetery. It is the final resting place of Benjamin Franklin and his wife, Deborah and four other signers of the Declaration of Independence are buried here.
Just a reminder, Benjamin Franklin was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. A noted polymath, Franklin was a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, musician, inventor, satirist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat. As a scientist, he was a major figure in the American Enlightenment and the history of physics for his discoveries and theories regarding electricity. He invented the lightning rod, bifocals, the Franklin stove, and many other things. He facilitated many civic organizations, including a fire department and a university. He was born in 1790 and lived to the age of 83 which was rare in these days.
Our next stop was the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It is among the largest museums in the United States, with a collection of more than 227,000 works of art and more than 200 galleries presenting painting, sculpture, works on paper, photography, decorative arts, textiles, and architectural settings from Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the United States. They have many important portraits, landscapes, and figure paintings by 18th- and 19th-century masters, as well as magnificent examples of Colonial and Federal furniture and silver.
We arrived to the museum around 1:30pm and stayed there till closing at 5pm. The museum was huge and very interesting; we were very tired by the end but loved every minute of our visit. Besides the fact that it had great collection of art by famous artists (Rembrandt, Rubens, El Greco, countless impressionist, etc.), and huge collection of decorative arts (furniture, porcelain, silver, tapestry), they have very interesting presentation. There are multiple rooms that are recreation of actual period rooms from specific places and times. They are furnished with items (art, furniture, silver, china, paneling, etc.) from the era they represent . Seeing all these items in their natural environment creates much more powerful impact relative to seeing them on display.
From Philadelphia we headed toward Wilmington via the Brandywine Valley. There we were planning to visit Winterthur Museum that was established by Henry Francis Du Pont.
As we arrived to Wilmington, DE the very first thing we did was to have dinner at small Peruvian restaurant called Juliana's Kitchen. It was very highly (100% recommend) rated on the Tripadvisor. We got somewhat mixed impression from our dinner. While our appetizer was great – Ceviche Mixto (a combination of seafood and fish, marinated w/ lemon juice and onions) the main dishes were rather uneventful. Alex had Lomo Saltado (stir-fried stripes of beef served over French fries with other fixings) and I has stewed pork (Adobo something). We decided that Peruvian food is significantly inferior comparing to good Mexican food. However, the overall impression was still positive – clean tactfully decorated room, super-friendly service and if not gourmet but still satisfying meal.
This night we stayed in BEST WESTERN PLUS Brandywine Valley Inn in cutely decorated room with French country poled bed and furniture and funky wallpapers, curtains and upholstery in tropical birds’ pattern.
To be continued...