Take 12 Trips 2015 January: Getting Collegiate in Princeton

2015 is here (I know you’re all thanking me for sharing this groundbreaking news). I’ve set a couple of goals for the new year, like running two half marathons and a couple of 5k races, but one that I’m most excited for is my Take 12 Trips challenge. I first read about this challenge over at On the Luce: Clare over at Need Another Holiday came up with this idea in 2013, so I’m a little late to the game, but the idea behind the challenge applies still today. Few of us can uproot everything to travel for months at a time, and people who do that can be harder for the rest of us to relate to. So, why not take one “trip” a month? A trip can be anything from a well planned, one week vacation to a day trip in your hometown. This year I’m going to do it, and I started the game off strong with a road trip down to Princeton, New Jersey on New Year’s Day with my sisters and my sister’s fiancé. Nothing like a little trip to kick off the year, right?

IMG_7404We drove down New Year’s Day and binged on Serial, fitting at least four episodes into the car ride. I’ve never listened to podcasts before, but after hearing a friend talk about it in Italy and then seeing this parody on SNL, I wanted to give it a try. I must say, it’s probably one of the best ways to pass time on a drive like this because everyone is engaged in the same thing and it doesn’t require the same type of focus as reading but is more active than watching a movie.

IMG_7445At any rate, Friday morning my sisters and I drove into Princeton and explored. The town is really cute and filled with little shops, good looking restaurants, and obviously Princeton University. New Jersey undeservedly gets a bad rap from almost everyone: it’s stinky, it’s ugly, it’s the armpit of America. But Princeton has this quaint, almost New England vibe, and everything feels very local. We got great grilled cheeses for lunch from Olsson’s Fine Foods and coffee from Small World (try the super smooth, NOLA iced coffee). There are plenty of little squares and lawns where you could sit down with a picnic or go for a walk enjoying a coffee from Small World, and the downtown in general is super walkable. For some history, we visited the Bainbridge House where there was an exhibit on Princeton resident Albert Einstein’s life. Finally, for some shopping, check out the Princeton Record Exchange for a great record store, JaZams for toys, Paper Source for stationary, Labyrinth for books (and loads of sales), and the Farmhouse Store for decorations.

The Dragon grilled cheese from Olsson's
The Dragon grilled cheese from Olsson’s
The Princeton Record Exchange

IMG_7479On Saturday, we drove down into Philly, grabbed lunch at Tela’s Market, where the food was good but the service not the friendliest and easily confused, and then trekked through the rain to the Eastern State Penitentiary. This prison was shut down in the 1970s but had been a model for prisons all over Europe and South America before that. Internment here meant silence and isolation: prisoners were kept in solitary cells, weren’t allowed to speak, and could spend their whole sentence in Eastern State without seeing another prisoner. The audio guide was very informative, and once you finish the guided tour you’re welcome to explore some parts of the prison that the tour doesn’t cover: there are a couple of art installations and some more placards with info. At the end of the tour, there are some alarming statistics about the incarceration rates in the US compared to the rest of the world, and the audio guide speaks a bit about prisons today across the world. IMG_7470

Overall, ESP was definitely a different thing to do in Philly: it has a spooky, abandoned, and haunting vibe as a lot of the cells are in ruins, and the fact that you could see your breath due to the freezing cold rain only amplified that. Finally, to top off our rainy day in Philly, we went to the Franklin Fountain to split a Vesuvius sundae at an old school, soda fountain venue.

This weekend was a great way to kick off a year of travel and the Take 12 Trips Challenge. Cara and Kevin have me convinced to come back to Jersey to see Cape May, Asbury Park, Lambertville and New Hope (PA), and explore more of Princeton and Lawrenceville.

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