Reviews and Other Stuff

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Travel Back In Time. New Wilmington, PA. Amish Country.

Hello, travel bugs! You may have read my travel diary when I went to the quaint little town of Lawrence Country, called Volant, PA. Link HERE. In that trip, I detailed my desire to see the rural life, especially to see the Amish and check out their businesses and some other shops. Volant, PA is a very scenic sleepy little town that will truly put you in the mood for some fresh air and peaceful disposition. I found several Amish stores there and did see some Amish people but never really interacted with them. I would say that Volant was a place that showcases Amish shops and businesses but it wasn’t really where you could actually see their way of life. To truly get a glimpse of the real Amish culture, I knew I would have to go elsewhere. I had two places in mind – either visit Lancaster, PA or check out New Wilmington, PA. Last Spring, I decided to visit the latter.

 

new wilmington pa amish road

 

Why did I decide to visit Wilmington, PA? And why was I so interested with the Amish people? Well, New Wilmington seemed like the most feasible place for me to visit, and also, I saw a really interesting Amish Tour from there. For the second question, I have always been fascinated with Amish people. I’m curious about their way of life and how they really live in this fast-changing modern world. Also, I wondered what it’s like to be an Amish? Would I be able to survive in a simple fuss-free lifestyle, devoid of my beloved cellphone and makeup? LOL. Oh my, probably not.

 

New Wilmington, PA is about an hour drive from its closest populous city, Pittsburgh, PA. I’ve seen an Amish tour there that I’ve been so curious about and have always wanted to book it. It’s called “Simple Life Tours”, and it’s rated highly in Tripadvisor.com. The Simple Life Tour is a personal private tour with a vehicle that will take you up close and personal with the Amish. The tour guide is Susan, a sweet, lively, and friendly lady who grew up in New Wilmington, PA and have been doing business with the Amish for years. She also happens to be the former owner of The Tavern on the Square Restaurant that features Amish-style country cooking. This restaurant also serves as the meeting place for the Amish tour. When I met Susan, she told me how she came into the tour business while running the most iconic restaurant in town. She said that her restaurant guests would ask her where they could see the Amish. At first, she would just tell them to drive around some roads. But Amish people can be hard to locate, and you definitely need a local as a guide. So she decided to ask permission to some Amish business owners to let people visit their shops. She also said that most Amish don’t market or advertise their businesses well and that some people may feel uncomfortable visiting Amish shops, apart from not knowing them. So her tour is meant to give the Amish the exposure needed for their businesses and to let people avail them.

 

Susan’s Simple Life Tour is very friendly and respectful to the Amish. She told me that Amish people are very shy and that they don’t like their photos being taken. She answered several questions of mine regarding the Amish way of life, their culture, and she took me to several Amish businesses. She said these people became her friends with time and that she almost feels like they’re part of her family. According to her, the Amish people at New Wilmington are part of the Old Order Amish, that means they’re more traditional.

 

amish house new wilmington pa

 

amish house with clothesline

 

The tour started with a car stop outside an Amish house. It looked very minimalist, clean, and with several clothes hanging on a clothesline. Susan said it’s a typical Amish house and that most Amish houses are like that – white-painted with a blue door. She mentioned that Amish women use wringer washer to wash their clothes, which adheres to their technologically restricted lifestyle.

 

amish covered bridge new wilmington pa

 

Next up, we stopped at a covered bridge where some Amish Buggies would pass by. I took my selfie there, LOL. We then continued and passed by an Amish School House where Susan mentioned that Amish kids typically go to school only up to the eighth grade. Further, she pointed to a lone phone box that pretty much resembles a wooden phone booth and it was situated several yards away from most Amish houses. She said Amish people can use the phone box in times of emergency or even to call a cab, but it should always be farther away from their homes. Susan explained to me how the entire Amish community helps each other in times of need, they are very united in that sense.

 

amish school house

 

amish furniture store

 

I saw several Amish men at work, either plowing their fields with their horses, working in a dairy factory, or making different types of furniture. FYI, Amish people make the best quality furniture ever at a much lower price than most furniture stores, provided that you buy directly from them. Now if you’re wondering how they could build such solid high-quality chairs and tables without electricity, well, the Amish men use a diesel generator to help with their work.

 

amish dairy factory

 

new wilmington pa amish dry goods store

 

My favorite part of the tour was visiting the local Amish Dry Goods Store that is exclusive to the Amish community. I had the chance to get a good glimpse of what’s inside and was able to purchase some homemade stuff, as well as some handmade items from that store. I also talked to some Amish kids who were working there, they were shy but they were very courteous as well. There were two little boys which have cute hairstyles and they were holding a map. The asked me to point on the map where I came from, and they put a mark on it. LOL! I must have been an alien to them. I did sense that they seem to have a slight accent. As you all know, Amish people speak Pennsylvania Dutch, especially among each other. They learn English in school. If you ask me how a Pennsylvania Dutch sounds like, is it more German or is it more Dutch? I’d say, it’s all German to me, LOL!

 

amish quilt shop new wilmington pa

 

Halfway through our tour, we took a look at an Amish Souvenir Store that sells a mix of quilts, pastries, pieces of furniture, as well as some other handmade items. Here we were greeted wholeheartedly by several little Amish kids with a cute Pug running toward us. They’re so cute and so friendly, and they were waiting for Susan’s gifts. They wanted to play some games with Susan’s phone and they seem to be really fascinated by it. Oh, I bet they would love to play my favorite game- Gardenscapes. LOL.

 

amish greenhouse

 

amish greenhouse

 

Our final stop was at an Amish Greenhouse that was full of gardening accessories as well as several different kinds of flowers and some other plants. I talked to two Amish kids whose parents are the owners of the Greenhouse and they also have two cute and chubby dogs that greeted us as we entered. Susan told me that the dogs are fat because they like to raid and eat the eggs of the chickens, LOL, and on top of that, they also beg for some treats from Susan. Ha! What a nice life, right? I definitely won’t mind being an Amish dog. LOL.

 

susan hougelman from simple life tours

 

amish buggy

 

All throughout my stroll and drive around the area, I saw a lot of Buggies on the road and they are pretty much everywhere there. It was nice to see something so different from my normal environment, and I had learned a lot and admired the Amish’s simple way of life. My trip to New Wilmington, PA was definitely one of my most unique and unforgettable tours.

 

the tavern on the square new wilmington pa restaurant review

 

the tavern on the square sticky buns

 

Before I left New Wilmington, I made a stop at The Tavern On The Square and chatted with the new owners which are both very kind and very friendly. I had a nice meal where I ordered their Hand-Battered Cod with Fresh Brewed Iced Tea. My meal came with a crisp garden salad, a cup of soup, and of course, their very famous Tavern Sticky Buns. The food was amazing!

 

the tavern on the square restaurant new wilmington pa

 

To visit New Wilmington, PA and get a glimpse of the Amish way of life, you can book a tour at Simple Life Tours by Susan Hougelman. Click HERE

 

 

London To Stonehenge. A Trip To The English Countryside

Hey Mate! Several months ago, I took a trip to visit a cousin and an aunt of mine who lives down South of England. We’ve been dying to see each other for years, in fact, I haven’t seen my aunt for 15 years and my cousin for 10 years. They’ve been asking me to visit them for a long long time, and me wanting the same, but for some reason, life happened and years had passed without us seeing each other. That is until finally, I decided to make the move and travel down to Southampton.

 

longmede

 

My trip to the UK was probably one of the most exciting trips I’ve ever done in my life. That’s because it was my first time setting foot in the Land of hope and glory, not to mention finally seeing my relatives after several years. Coming from the Land of the free, I first took a connecting flight to the Land of the Maple Leaf (Canada) and from there I took the 5-hour flight to London Heathrow. I didn’t really plan to see a lot of places on this trip since I only allotted a few days to stay in the UK. I have also made plans to go to Spain right after that, so I wasn’t really sure whether I would be able to see some tourist attractions in London or not. My goal was mostly to see my relatives. Right after landing in Heathrow which was almost midnight, I took a cab straight to the Hilton Ageas Bowl in Southampton. It’s a hotel with a stadium attached to it and it’s one of the few hotels near my cousin’s place. While I was in the cab, I remember being shocked at the Brit’s “left-hand side traffic” way of driving and how weird and different it was compared to the US. I also remember falling asleep in the cab several times only to wake up and realize that I was still in the cab and that it was really dark and scary out there. We’ve passed by a lot of looming woods, vast lands and whatsoever, and I thought “this is so far away” but my cousin told me that it’ll only take about 30 minutes drive to the hotel without traffic, and yet there was no traffic around that time but the taxi was still going and going. It seemed like forever. Oh well, anyhow, It took me about 2 hours to arrive to the hotel and it was nice but I didn’t have a nice view of the Cricket stadium, instead, I had a view of the parking lot with a small golf course around it. It was too dark for me to see things around when I arrived, so off I went to sleep immediately.

 

Bishop’s Waltham, St. George’s Square & St. Peter’s Church

The following day I got a better view of what was around me, the Hilton Ageas Bowl is a nice and quaint hotel with good food and is a great place to do some sports. I saw men with their golf accessories and some other people who looked like they were into sports or something. The weather was gloomy and kind of windy that day but I loved it. It makes for the perfect South England atmosphere. My first impression of Southampton is very interesting. It felt like I was in this magical place, kinda like The Lord Of The Rings vibe, somewhere down in Middle Earth, LOL. The grasses are lush green, the pines look healthy and vibrant, it’s quiet, it’s peaceful, it’s rural, it’s relaxing, it’s so quaint and so dreamy. I freaking love it. I saw some farm animals, like goats, cows, fat pigs and chubby sheeps, along with some very beautiful horses. My cousin lives near the ruins of Bishops Waltham Palace, which was once a residence of the richest Bishops of Winchester but was badly damaged and abandoned during the Civil War. Now it has become an open field Farmhouse Museum. After a few exchanges of Hi’s and Hellos, a hearty seafood lunch (which they are big on, especially shrimps and crabs) and lots of jokes and laughs, we drove a short distance to the ruins of the Bishop’s Waltham together with my aunt and her husband. Here are some photos.

 

ruins of bishops waltham

bishop's waltham ruins england

bishops waltham ruins

bishop's waltham

bishop's waltham ruins united kingdom

ruins of bishop's waltham

 

Afterwards, we walked to the St. George’s Square nearby, which is full of quaint shops and houses. Then we strolled towards St. Peter’s Church, a parish with a small cemetery close to it. The view was absolutely beautiful.

 

st. george's square bishops waltham

st. peter's church united kingdom

st. peter's church cemetery bishop's waltham

 

 

Stonehenge

The next day, my cousin and her family took me to a two-hour drive to see the world famous Stonehenge. My cousin told me that she wasn’t really impressed when she first saw the Stonehenge. For her, it looked just like a pile of large stones. But for me, it was really impressive when I first saw it from afar. As we get closer and closer, I thought the stones were beautiful and the way they were arranged was interesting. My cousin also said that they were able to touch the stones before, but now it has been fenced and you have to pay the entrance fee at the Visitor Center in order to see it close enough. Once you park your car in the designated parking lot and pay the entrance fee, you will need to get into one of their buses which will then take you close enough to the Stonehenge which is just about a few minutes ride. You’re will then walk around it and see its majestic grandeur together with the rest of the mesmerized tourists. Curious about the Stonehenge? Here’s what I know. Stonehenge is a circular pile of large stones (monoliths) that was thought to be constructed by the prehistoric tribes around 3000 and 2920 BC, which is basically the Neolithic period. The people that constructed it left no trace of what it was meant for and why. However, archaeologists found bones and other fragments in the area, which led them to believe that Stonehenge served as a ceremonial and burial site, but apart from that, Stonehenge’s real history and purpose still remains a mystery up to this date. After circling around the Stonehenge, I then took the bus back to the Visitor Center and I saw some replica of the houses of the tribes that built the Stonehenge. There was also this depiction of one of the large stones that showed how the tribes managed to haul it to the site. As far as I know, it would take about 100 people to pull that one big stone in the picture. Now that’s impressive!

 

the stonehenge

stonehenge review

visit to the stonehenge

stonehenge picture

stonehene large stones

durrington walls tribes

durrington walls people

 

After the Stonehenge adventure, we planned to go to Portsmouth but my jet lag was kicking in, so I decided to just go back to the hotel and rest. I had to go to Gatwick Airport the next day to catch a flight to Spain, so you can imagine my relatives’ sadness knowing that I basically only had to stay three days in the UK, but at least we saw each other, that was all that mattered. I asked her if there’s a way for me to go and visit London from Gatwick, and she said that I could take a train to London Victoria. So off I went to Gatwick Airport early the next day and my gosh, it felt like another two long hours in the cab, so I was so tired by the time I got to Premier Inn, a transit hotel in Gatwick Airport. I honestly can’t recommend this hotel, even though it is affordable and it is basically right in the airport which is good, but it’s also small and it’s uncomfortable to walk around with its tight spaces, plus it’s really dusty and not quite sanitary. The AC was mediocre as well. There wasn’t much inside this hotel room but a single easy-to-dispense liquid soap. Oh well, at least I didn’t have to stay that long. Next time I’d probably find another place somewhere in Gatwick to stay.

 

London

From Gatwick Airport, I took a one-way ticket via the the Express Train to London Victoria. I couldn’t remember how much I paid for it, but I think it was close to £20 and it took me around 40-45 minutes to get to London Victoria. The trip was pleasant, and there weren’t a lot of people on the train. I kinda felt like I had a “Girl On The Train” vibe during the trip, passing through tunnels, houses, and buildings. It was almost dark when I got to London, so I decided to take the Big Bus Tour. It took me a while to find the waiting spot since the streets are not really well-signed. Somehow I did manage to find it and I waited and waited a long time for the bus to arrive, but apparently, they had some maintenance issue going on at that time, so I basically wasted a lot of my time and was really annoyed that I may not be able to see much of London. I decided to just go and take a cab close to the London Eye or Big Ben. I swear, I love the cabs in London, they’re so comfortable compared to the ones we have here in the US, you can have a lot of legroom plus it’s a cab suitable for when you’re carrying your luggage. Anyway, I really didn’t get to see much of London, which is kind of a bummer. It was so dark by the time I strolled along and arrived at the popular tourist’s spots, but I could tell that the architecture and the entire view is nice. It probably looked very different during the daylight, but at night it’s also really beautiful. Anyway, here are some photos of my short stroll in London. My apologies for the dark photos.

 

red telephone booth

big ben london

london eye photo

st. margaret's church westminster abbey

westminster abbey

 

Overall, my short stay in London and Southampton are, as I have said before, one of the most memorable trips I’ve ever done. It’s a lovely place and it’s different and unique. It sort of reminds of the old vintage America, complete with its clean bricks and quaint houses, along with some beautiful and grand architectures. I definitely would love to come back because there were a lot of things I wanted to see, like how could I miss Bond Street? Hopefully, I won’t be rushing again by the time I’m back, and that I hope it won’t take another ten years for me to see my relatives again.

 

FYI: When visiting the UK, it’s always a good idea to bring your three-pronged adaptor plugs if you’re coming from the US or some parts of Europe and Asia. But if you’re from Hong Kong, you’re all set.

 

To learn more about Bishop’s Waltham, click Here

To book a tour to Stonehenge from Central London, click Here

To see a lot of London if you’re time-constrained, I definitely still recommend the Big Bus Tour, click Here