Lancaster, Pennsylvania, is a lot like Cork.
Except that there are no hills and no river and it’s a lot smaller, population-wise.
Ok, maybe it’s not a bit like Cork and, you know, that’s alright.
It is a very green city with avenues and streets all lined with trees. What first struck me was the range of wildlife that is so abundant here. On my first walk around the neighborhood, I spotted countless squirrels and rabbits, and this is in the centre of the city. Also, there are vultures; that’s right, vultures patrolling the city skies always on the lookout for a feeding opportunity. When I heard ‘vultures’, I immediately thought of tumble weed, bad omens, impending death and sun-bleached carcasses picked clean on the roadside.
However, I have been assured that even if I were to drop dead on West Chestnut Street or King Street, the vultures wouldn’t get me. Well, not before the emergency services got there anyway…
I really like it here. Although, my insistence on walking everywhere has left the natives a bit puzzled. In a country where the car is king, walking to get somewhere seems to be a cause for much amazement.
But the city is flat and the block and grid system makes it almost impossible to get lost, whereas I have found driving around the city much more trying as there are numerous one-way streets which make it, in my opinion, much more difficult to get from A to B.
Lancaster was once the capital of America. Or of the emerging United States that is. After the British captured Philadelphia back in 1777, the fledgling Continental Congress moved to Lancaster where, for one day, the little town became the capital, until the Congress moved again to York about 30 miles down the road.
When I arrived, the first place I wanted to see was the much spoken of ‘Central Market’. The Central Market is an indoor market that was set-up back in 1730 so that the local farmers from the surrounding rich agricultural land of Lancaster County could sell their produce. Today, it is as the sign says ‘Still Fresh’ and, forgive me for mentioning my home city again, it all seemed very familiar when I stepped through the doors.
Like the ‘English Market’ back home, the stalls are over-flowing with fresh fruits and vegetables, local meats, breads, cakes and lots of other good things to eat not to mention flowers.
I was introduced to some local delicacies including a pie called, and I’m not making this up, ‘Wet-Bottom Shoo Fly Pie’ and for all the carnivores out there, a ‘meat cup’. I was somewhat disappointed to find that the cup was not made of meat but did contain a range of different salamis and cold cuts for you to eat while you make your way around the stalls.
The Central Market is a wonderful place to sit and watch the people go by. Here, you see locals shopping for fresh fruits and veg while Amish farmers proudly display their produce harvested from their fields outside the city. You can get watermelon the likes of which you have never tasted before, or corn-on-the-cob still in its husk, harvested only that morning, the biggest steaks I have ever seen, and cakes and breads warm from the oven.
Just outside the Central Market, I came across the Lancaster Dispensing Company. At first I thought it was a pharmacy and, I suppose, in a way it is as you can get the best local beer on tap inside. I had a glass of Tröegs Sunshine Pils, which was recommended by the barman and went really well with my Reuben sandwich. Oh, and chips here are in fact crisps…lesson learnt the hard way.
Here’s another bit of advice. Never have a starter (appetizer) in America; they are twice the size as we are used to and would serve as meals in themselves. I would also advise when given the option of small, medium or large of anything in America, choose the small. Believe me, choose the small.
Eating out here is, well, a bit ‘different’. Now, it could be that I’ve just been unlucky but I found the food to be either over-salted or, in many cases, tasteless. The best burger I’ve had so far was at pub in Gettysburg called The Appalachian Brewing Company. I think I see a pattern forming here and in Lancaster I have to say that the ethnic eateries are the best. I had an incredible slice of pizza from a real Italian place called the House of Pizza, fantastic sushi from Sakura Sushi Bar, but it was the steak, cheese and onion Stromboli that nearly put me into a food coma.
The guy behind the counter at Rossa, Rossa, the local pizza place at the end of the street where I am staying, said: ‘Do you want a medium or large Stromboli?’
When presented with only those two options, ‘Medium,’ I said, lesson learnt.
What arrived was, well, big enough to feed a family of four. But boy did it taste good.
I can’t imagine how big the ‘large’ Stromboli would have been.
To me, it looked like a calzone but I was informed that a calzone is a folded pizza; this, Stromboli, is not a folded pizza. Whatever you want to call it, it was delicious. I think there was some form of narcotic in it because I just, no matter how much I tried, couldn’t stop eating this delicious…whatever it was.
The Stromboli was full of good meat, cheese and just the right amount of onions, all baked until the cheese formed a delicious blanket of gooey goodness surrounding the onions and the meat, all wrapped in the best dough I have ever tasted.
I think I blacked out for awhile.
While I was walking back from the city library the other day (that’s right I am working as well), I had a funny encounter with an elderly lady who was out for her walk.
Everybody here is very polite and you can’t walk down the street without the usual ‘good morning’ or ‘good afternoon’ from all those that you meet.
As I was making my way slowly up Chestnut Street, I saw an elderly lady making her way towards me, walking cane in one hand and shopping bag in the other. It was very hot and humid and as we approached one another I prepared myself for the usual polite greetings.
She smiled, I smiled.
‘Whoa, hot!’ I said fanning my face with my hand.
The little old lady replied, without missing a beat, ‘Why thank you, dear, you’re not too bad yourself’ and walked on!
That just made my day.