I have not had a vacation since the pandemic began. But I finally completed a trip I was planning before the pandemic. I spent three days and nights in Lancaster PA. Since international travel might still be risky, I decided to travel within my home state. I usually don’t stay overnight at a place I could visit on a day trip. But Lancaster is kind of far away. I have to drive far south on Route 15 and then far east on various highways to reach Lancaster. It takes over two and half hours of driving and that is a long drive for me. There is plenty to see in Lancaster County so it made sense to spend a few days there. I should note that driving to the Harrisburg International Airport requires following almost the same route.
Fortunately I managed to drive to my destination without making any mistakes thanks to my GPS device. I reviewed the major exits before I left but I accidentally left my cheat sheet at home. It was the only thing I forgot. I was able to pack as much luggage as I liked because I was taking my car. So I had my usual suitcase, my laptop bag, and the small backpack I use on bus trips. My laptop was my HP Pavilion Gaming Laptop and this was the first time I’ve taken it on a trip. I recently got a new smartphone, a Samsung Galaxy A01, but I did not have a case for it.
I stayed at the Holiday Inn Lancaster hotel on the corner of East Chestnut Street and North Queen Street. This hotel is right downtown so it was ideal for exploring the city. I parked in the Duke Street Parking Garage which is right next to the hotel. The entrance to the parking garage is on Duke Street, a one way street going south. I pressed a button to get a parking ticket which I had validated at the front desk. My validated parking ticket was good for three days with in and out privileges. I parked on the 3rd deck.
I did not check into the hotel right away because check in time was not until 3:00 p.m. I did ask to use their restroom which required a key. The restroom was about to be cleaned but the attendant allowed me to use it first. On my first day in the city I took over 400 photos. This was the only day that was not cloudy so I wanted to take advantage of the good light. I had a long list of things to photograph because many establishments in Lancaster are not well documented online.
The first thing I did was cross North Queen Street to the Lancaster County Government Center. I saw a lot of homeless people hanging out around there and Binns Park. I then walked south to Penn Square, the heart of downtown Lancaster. Along the way I saw the 101NQ Building which houses the Cargas software company and the large Rite Aid across the street. When I reached Penn Square I took photos of the Civil War Monument, the Lancaster City Visitor Center, and the Penn Square Fountain. I also found Steinman Park and took a photo of the bronze sculpture of man reading a newspaper. I heard some Spanish being spoken on the streets of Lancaster here. This was interesting to me because I have been studying Spanish for the past eight months.
From King Street I quickly found North Price Street and walked up that street to take photos of the Fulton Opera House, the major theater in Lancaster. I’ve even read a book about this theater “Staging Ground:An American Theater and Its Ghosts” by Leslie Stainton. I had breakfast at the Prince Street Cafe. I ordered a coffee and a Classic Egg Sandwich, which was a fried egg and sharp cheddar cheese on a croissant. They gave me a table flag and brought the sandwich to me after a long wait. But I was only given a cup for the coffee and had trouble figuring out where to get the coffee.
After breakfast I continued walking up North Prince Street and came across the Pennsylvania College of Art and Design. This was one of the major institutions I wanted to photograph because surprisingly there are no decent photos of this private art college online. I then got a hankering to do some shopping so I went to DogStar Books, an independent book store far west on West Lemon Street. I don’t quite recall but I must have walked past the CVS Pharmacy and the Lemon Street Market along the way. DogStar Books seemed to be strict about wearing face masks so I put one on after being in the store for a few minutes. Unfortunately this made my glasses fog up and made it hard to browse for books. But eventually I settled for a travel guide to Argentina published by DK Eyewitness Travel. The cashier could not find a price but the store owner let me have it for $5.00 which was very reasonable. I did not get a bag so I had to wander around carrying a travel guide to Argentina. I was thinking of joking that I must be in the wrong country because my travel guide was no help in Lancaster. I returned to the Duke Street Parking Garage to put this book in my car but along the way I took a lot more photos.
The second bit of shopping I did was at Stans Records on Prince Street. It has been a long time since I was in a proper record store. This was an old retail store that looked a little shabby but that just made it seem authentic to me. I bought a Debbie Harry “Backfired” 45 for old times sake and 3 CDs; Berlin “Love Life”, Enya (self titled album), Joan Jett “I Love Rock N Roll” (double CD with live show). I then returned to the Duke Street Parking Garage to put this purchase in my car. I didn’t keep anything in my hotel room because I didn’t have a room safe and there was no need to pack stuff in a suitcase when I could just leave things in the car. I know I checked in around 2:00 p.m.
At this point I was getting a little hungry so I decided to try one of the Latino restaurants on my list where I might hear some Spanish being spoken. I walked north on Queen Street to reach El Rincón ponceño, a Puerto Rican restaurant. There I ordered a Cuban sandwich and a Sprite although the woman taking orders had trouble figuring out what I wanted. It took them forever to make the sandwich. While I waited she gave out some pick up orders. Eventually I got my order but she gave me two Cuban sandwiches and no drink. She even had trouble figuring out how much change to give me. I sensed something weird about the place but maybe it was just poorly run. Since I was given take out, I went back to my hotel room to eat. I bought a bottle of Coke Classic at the lobby store which had a self checkout machine. Scanning the bottle gave me a little trouble and I was unable to charge it to my room so I used a credit card. The Cuban sandwich was really good but I could only eat half and left the other sandwich in the room’s refrigerator. I never did eat that other one because I figured it would have gone bad by the time I was ready to eat again. These sandwiches cost $10 each so I was out ten dollars.
It is a little difficult to remember in what order I did things because I took 400 photos on this first day and wandered all around the city. But I think the next thing I did was take a bus to Franklin & Marshall College. The Queen Street Station was just north of my hotel so it was logical to use the bus to get to the more remote areas of the city. I could have used my car but finding parking would have been a hassle. I bought an all day pass for $3.70. This proved to be merely a receipt print out with a QR code that has to be scanned on the bus. I could find no bus schedules in the waiting area and unfortunately my notes was missing the topic for the bus route I planned to take. But fortunately I remembered it was Route 1/Park City A – Southeast and I got on the right bus. I also knew exactly which stop to look for but the bus window had a shade which made it a bit difficult to see where we were. I got off near the entrance to Franklin & Marshall College and proceeded to walk through the campus to the Phillips Museum of Art. Unfortunately, the Phillips Museum of Art was closed for the summer so I went to the North Museum of Nature and Science instead. This was primarily a children’s museum and I was planning to skip it because of that but it did prove to be interesting enough for an adult. It only cost me $9.00 for admission. I saw some exhibits on dinosaurs. The basement had many display cases of stuffed birds and minerals. The top floor had some art work. It did not take long to see everything. I did use the restroom.
Before leaving the area I walked along College Avenue and found the Philadelphia Alumni Writers House. I also discovered the Susan and Benjamin Winter Visual Arts Center and a statue of Abraham DePeyster. Abraham de Peyster (July 8, 1657 – August 3, 1728) was the 20th mayor of New York City from 1691 to 1694, and served as Governor of New York, 1700–1701. A duplicate of his New York statue was donated by John Watts de Peyster to Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where it is currently placed on Buchanan Avenue. So this statue seems to have little to do with the college.
After a short wait I managed to flag down a bus going back downtown. I did snag a RRTA Ride Guide from the bus before getting off but I forgot to look at it to see when the bus was coming. On the ride back one of the passengers was bugging another passenger for a Spanish lesson. He especially wanted to confirm the word for uncle was tio. As I recall I got off the bus before it reached the Queen Street Station because it was more convenient to get off on Chestnut Street to go back to my hotel room. The hotel never cleaned my room even though I was there for three days. I had to keep using the same set of towels and filled up the trash cans. Eventually I had to buy a travel size bottle of shampoo and replaced the trash can bags with plastic bags from CVS.
At this point it is hard to remember the order in which I did things but I’m sure I did the following. I walked up North Queen Street and found the Building Character store which is located through an arch way. The Candy Factory co-working space can also be found by going through this arch. Building Character is a cool antiques mall in which the booths are artistically designed to be very attractive. But I was looking for The Caffeinated Bookworm book which sold used books. I found this but the selection was not very good so I did not buy any books. I exited the Building Character antiques mall through the Heritage Press Museum which is connected to the mall.
I think I then walked backed to Penn Square and eventually found my way to Bravo Supermarket where I bought a Cherry Pepsi and a small jar of instant coffee which was labeled in Spanish, Bustelo Supreme. The Bravo Supermarket is a supermarket chain which offers specialty items for the Hispanic community so it was interesting to see what kinds of food items they offered. My receipt shows I was there at 6:01 p.m. On the way back to my hotel I passed the Lancaster Public Library and saw the Juliana Bookstore sidewalk sign so I entered the library and found the book store. They did not have many books for sale but I did find a Common Usage Dictionary for Spanish, although the print is very small.
At some point I went to the Lancaster Sweet Shoppe which is right across the Duke Street Parking Garage and bought a mini sugar cone of coffee ice cream. From there I walked east to Musser Park. This was small park in the midst of a packed residential area which I thought was quite tranquil. The Lancaster Museum of Art is located within this park. I would be tempted to wish Williamsport had such a nice park but we do have Ways Garden Park which is comparable. This was definitely later in the day because the sun was going down and cast strong rays almost horizontally. After visiting the park I returned to my hotel room for the evening. Although I might have wanted to see the city by night, my feet were killing me by this point.