Toyota Prius Hybrid Review, Stopover in Philadelphia and Dinner at Oyster House

I had planned for a roadtrip from New York to Washington in between my stay in New York, and with that plan in mind, I got a rental car for a week, though only utilizing for 5 days. To me, a great feature in every vacation entails a roadtrip and with the interstate being so well developed in USA, what better way to do it there? The route planned includes a stopover in Philadelphia – considered the birthplace of American independence and ends in Washington D.C., the capital of USA. Little did I know that along the way, I would also pass by the state of Delaware, or nicknamed the First State being the pioneering state to ratify the new constitution. This status granted the state free of sales taxes which made it a worthy stopover point in buying any expensive stuff.

Complimentary Snack Bar in the Andaz

Thus with the above plan in mind, I woke up early in the morning, packed my luggage before walking out with a cup of coffee in hand while I sat at some tables set up outside of the Public Library. After the short coffee break, I made a detour to 5th Avenue to return some stuff I had gotten a few days before. Then I walked over to Times Square again as I wanted to check on the availability for tickets to a Broadway show that I am keen on catching. I was thinking maybe seeing those mega billboards of the shows piqued my interest in watching a show. However the lack of availability for the times I wanted changed my plans and I proceeded for lunch at Sapporo Restaurant where I had a bowl of Ramen that was average at best. Let’s just say I had better Ramen elsewhere.

Times Square in the Day

From the restaurant’s location along 49th Street, I was able to pass by MoMA or Museum of Modern Art on my walk back to the hotel where I checked out of the Andaz, storing my luggage with the concierge as I  walked over to collect my rental car from the Hertz Office at 40th Street. With the long route in mind and since I am driving by myself, I opted for a Toyota Prius Hybrid. This would be the first hybrid I am going to drive. Getting acquainted with this blue colour hatchback was easy and the cabin was a nice comfortable place to drive in, albeit not a very luxurious one. It had more than enough space for myself and my luggage which I picked up from the Andaz at 5th Avenue. For my route out of the city, I chose to ignore the Garmin GPS route which I had borrowed from my brother. Instead I took a drive along 5th Avenue down to Broadway passing by the Flatiron district which had rows of nice buildings, and turned left into the Brooklyn Bridge. This long route brought me through Brooklyn and finally crossing the Verazano-Narrows Bridge. It was here I kind of regretted this scenic route, since the tolls to cross this suspension bridge was quite expensive.

Flatiron District along Broadway
Driving across the Verazano-Narrows

It was a chore too driving out of the City as the traffic was kind of slow even with the hefty toll charges. On top of that the cloudy weather and the incoming rainstorm didn’t help things at all. Somehow the drive went off to a little bit of a bad start. Once we crossed into New Jersey though, the rain grew heavier and what I noticed was how the Prius didn’t really perform that well in the highways. In some parts of the journey due to the heavy rain, the tyre grip was even lacking. It was already past 4pm by the time I entered the New Jersey turnpike under heavy rain.

Prius Energy Monitor

By close to 5.30pm, I had arrived in the outskirts of Philadelphia, taking the route of Kaighns Avenue passing by the suburban Cherry Hill Mall. The skyline of Philadelphia emerged as I closed on to the Benjamin Franklin Bridge. Again there was a fee to pass the bridge into Philly but none on the way out, and with that I have arrived into Philadelphia, crossing 3 states (NY, NJ and PA) along the way. But past the bridge, heavy traffic awaited me again and it wasn’t until late in 6.30pm that I parked my car and checked into the Hyatt at the Bellevue which is located along the Avenue of the Arts, the main thoroughfare in the city centre.

Benjamin Franklin Bridge

Checking into the Hyatt at the Bellevue, i was suprised at getting upgraded into a suite for the one night that I would be staying with them. It was a really nice suite which was located by the corner and had a great view of the City Hall and the brightly lit Avenue below. The huge living room had a work desk, a sofa, pantry table and a large LCD TV, while the adjoining bedroom was also as spacious, furnished with another couch, dressing table and a small alcove desk. The Bellevue suite itself has 2 walk-in closets, and  the only drawback to the room was how small the bathrooms are in comparison to the room. It was actually quite cramped but with only a one night stay, and having been upgraded, I shan’t complain further.

Living Room of the Bellevue Suite
Room at the Bellevue Suite

After enjoying my suite for a while, I took a walk around this hotel which is located in a historic building known as the Bellevue. In the 1920s, it was considered the most prestigious hotel in town and had a status akin to that of the Raffles in Singapore and the Peninsula in Hong Kong. While it still has a great location, the old antique decor, and the overall ambience shows how far from grace it has fallen. Somehow the decline of the hotel seems to mirror that of the city of Philadelphia. The Bellevue building is now a multi-use complex with the lobby of the hotel being restricted to a small area by the side, though many of the hotel’s ornate staircases remain along with some nice alcove and terraces overlooking a central conservatory in the building. It was quiet and occupancy in the hotel seems to be running low while I was there. Thus I left the hotel in search for some food for dinner. I started off from the front entrance of the Bellevue facing South Broad Street, turning left into Walnut Street. There was quite a variety of restaurants in this area of town, though they were pretty empty and the city seems devoid of life after coming from New York. Eventually I picked one of the most crowded restaurants – Oyster House, located along Sansom Street.

Oyster Platter at Oyster House in Philadelphia

As the name of the restaurant suggests, oysters were its specialty, and I ordered a starter of a Snapper Turtle Soup which was an excellent treat for the cold weather. It was interesting for me to obtain turtle soup, since I am a fan of the oriental version served in Singapore. The next course would be an oyster platter which has 6 oysters cooked in 3 different styles namely the Rockefeller, Marrakesh and Espanol style. The Rockefeller type was my favourite with its herb butter garnish while the Espanol type was a bit tangy and I don’t really think salsa and oysters work well together. The Marrakesh style was interesting with the ginger crumbs. I ended the meal with a delicious yet filling chocolate mousse. During my dinner at the restaurant I chatted with 2 other patrons and they seem suprised at me picking Philadelphia as a tourist destination given the horrid weather. They were in town to visit the Museum of Art and that gave me the idea for the next stop at night.

Philadelphia Museum of Art

While the museum has already closed, its location in the hill provides a nice sightseeing point with views of the Schuylkill River which cuts through the western end of the city. The Museum of Art is also a fine handsome building located by the riverside and would perhaps be a nice museum to visit but that will be for another time as I head out to the Rutgers University across at New Jersey where I found a nice open air carpark with excellent views across the Delaware River of the skyline of Philadelphia with the Benjamin Franklin Bridge. I got to know of this location from the front desk agent at the Hyatt and it was a nice tip for a great photoshoot.

Philadelphia at Night

I returned to the hotel after the photoshoot at night since it was beginning to get late and I had another day of driving tomorrow. On the return trip to the hotel, I made a point to pass by Independence Hall – considered the most significant landmark in historical America. But the facade of this landmark is undergoing some renovations which meant it wasn’t to be this time round. This led me to take another shot of the Avenue of the Arts since I had my tripod this time. The Avenue of the Arts, whose main street name is South Broad Street is perhaps one of the magnificent avenues in the city with the view of the City Hall of Philadelphia at the end, and would make my time in Philadelphia a bit more memorable.

Avenue of the Arts

By the time I returned to the hotel, I was able still able to have a webcam conversation with my siblings before retiring for the night on what had been a really tiring drive from New York to Philadelphia.

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