Tuesday, January 06, 2009

The City of Brotherly Love

The graveyard where Ben Franklin and several other Signers of the Declaration are buried.

Taking the ACELA (high speed) train from Baltimore to Philadelphia afforded me the opportunity to add my 48th visited state to my list ... Delaware. We had a two-minute or so stop in Wilmington. Only North Dakota and Alaska have eluded me now.

The train pulled into the beautiful Philadelphia train station. We found a taxi and made our way over to the Delaware River where we stayed at a Hyatt Regency on the water. It was a beautiful view and a great location for visiting the older part of town. The only downside was the traffic from the interstate below. But the view of the Benjamin Franklin bridge made up for it.

Philadelphia's Old Town is very walkable. Our first foray (for a meal) found us following the cobbled Dock Street towards Walnut and Chestnut (where most of the restaurants are located). Of course, we had to have a Philly cheesesteak sandwich, so we found a very nice sports bar with a small eating area on the second floor (Rotten Ralph's), and filled our tummies. We walked the area, trying to become familiar with the streets and checking out places to dine later that night. There is certainly a great choice, but don't expect anything to be cheap.

For breakfast, we found a small hole in the wall called The Snow White Diner which looked as if it were Greek-owned. Very reasonable prices and the food was good. We ended up eating there twice. We then walked towards Elfreth's Alley, one of the oldest preserved streets in the U.S. People still live on the Alley, cobblestones and all. The houses are townhouses (see photo above). It was very charming. We were there too early to visit the museum.

Elfreth's Alley -- one of the oldest preserved streets in the U.S. And people still live here.

We next walked past Betsy Ross's house, also not yet opened, so we headed up the street to the U.S. Mint. Uh-oh. A security guard met us half way up the steps. No bags allowed, no cameras allowed, no real tours. No lockers to store anything, either! So we walked over to the Constitution Center (next door), where they graciously allowed me to sit in the lobby with all our crap while husband walked back over and went inside the mint. No big deal, he said. We ended up paying the entrance fee to the Constitution Center, which was interesting, but unfortunately, we had to fight busloads of school students who were there on field trips. They had a special exhibit on Presidential elections that was interesting. My favorite part was being videotaped taking the Oath of Office of the Presidency. But when we left, I completely forgot to go look for it to see if I wanted to buy it! Another interesting display were the full size bronze figures of all the men who helped write and pass the Constitution. (See photo.)

Hubby with a group of patriots who worked on the Constitution ... at the National Constitution Center.

Next was a trip over to the Independence Center, with several interesting displays, and then across the street to the Liberty Bell. The window behind the Liberty Bell reveals Independence Hall, just across the street. You can get the park rangers to help you get an individual (or group) shot of you and the bell. It's pretty chaotic, though.

The Liberty Bell

We didn't go into Independence Hall, thinking we'd get back later, (which we didn't), but it was still awe-inspiring to stand there and realize that our nation was given birth right there -- all the famous figures of history who had gone through those doors and stood on that land. It was very moving.

Independence Hall

Some of the other sites we visited include

Reading Terminal Market: A former train terminal is now host to about 100 vendors -- restaurants, knick knacks, souvenirs, fresh food, butchers, bakers, herbs, Amish food. Yum! We ate there once, but went back several times to get containers of food to go -- mostly desserts for after dinner.

The Franklin Institute. Also very interesting -- and crowded with school children! It's especially set up for children from older elementary to middle school. But there's enough there to warrant adult interest and the adult entrance fee.

The Art Museum: Well, we just walked up the stairs and did our Rocky imitation and took pictures. There is a fantastic view of Philadelphia from the top. At the bottom is a statue of Rocky, and we even saw someone dressed up like the Italian Stallion standing nearby.

South Street: Don't go there before noon -- nothing is open. However, there are bars and restaurants and specialty shops for those who are looking for such things. Jim's on 4th and South has (supposedly) the best cheesesteaks in Philly. We ate there and the lines snaked all through the restaurant and almost out the door.

Market Street: If you want to shop, here's the street. Everything from Macy's to Burlington Coat Factory.

Tip: Get familiar with the Philly subway station. Buy your tokens in bunches and save some money.

People in Philly were extremely nice (believe it or not). I can't tell you how many times we stopped to consult a map, and had someone ask if they could help -- I mean, well-dressed NORMAL people. It sure went against my idea of Philly's sports fan.

That's not to say they don't love their teams!!! We watched them during an Eagle's football game and, gaah, Phanatic is a good term.

So now I only have one more BIG population center to visit ... and I'll have seen them all. And that one is ... Las Vegas.