Monday, May 5, 2008

Day Ten!

We checked out of our hotel in the late morning, stowing our luggage for the day there so we could stay and do some more sightseeing. Philadelphia is a very historical place, yet it is easily do-able in just a couple of days. We did even use any public transportation while we were in town. We just walked to everything and it was perfect.

After a wonderful repeat visit to Reading Terminal Market for breakfast, we headed for what is known as Independence National Historical Park. This includes some of the historical attractions such as Liberty Bell Center and Independence Hall. Since we saw the Liberty Bell on our first day in town, we headed to Independence Hall for our free 12:00 tour. It was so interesting! The hall was built in the mid 1700’s as the State House of the province of Pennsylvania. Talk about getting goosebumps to be standing in the very same room where George Washington was appointed Commander in Chief of the Continental Army in 1775 as well as the place that the American Flag was agreed upon, where the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation were adopted, and last but not least, where the Constitution was drafted in 1787. They still have the actual chair that George himself sat in. Outside in the plaza was where the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence was held.

Independence Hall - think National Treasure 1

Inside Independence Hall- there's George's chair in between the fireplaces.

If that wasn’t enough, we then visited Congress Hall, where the first ever passing of presidential power was exchanged – from George Washington to John Adams. The Senate and House of Representatives met here and the First Bank and U.S. Mint were also established here. This building served as the U.S. Capitol from 1790-1800 (Bit of trivia: Pennsylvania was the 2nd U.S. Capitol. It was appointed to be the Capitol for 10 years while D.C. was readied. New York was the 1st Capitol.) We had a superb and very articulate park ranger describe these events. Because she did such a great job, I found myself visualizing our first two presidents in the room, standing where she pointed, making that historic change of power. Totally cool.

I'm entering a little museum; on left is Congress Hall

Up this staircase to the place where the Senate and House once met

One of the meeting rooms upstairs

The place the ranger is standing is where George Washington handed off the presidency to John Adams

We now had a few hours at our disposal for touring some of the other attractions in town. Among some of the interesting places we visited were:

Betsy Ross House (her residence and burial place) – kind of funny to have Betsy Ross’ house on one side of the street, and a Starbucks on the other side!

Betsy Ross House (above and below pics)

Ben Franklin's Grave Even in death, the man is quite savvy. You can go see his grave, at Christ Church, for a fee of $2 each! Sorry, but dead Ben Franklin wasn’t worth eight bucks to us. But we did send Emma in (she was still kid price - $1) and commissioned her to go get a picture and take a look. She came back laughing – right where his grave is, they have removed the brick wall and put in steel bars for viewing from the outside! At least we weren’t TOTAL suckers, anyways!

I don't know why people throw coins on his grave. You already have to pay to get in!

Incidentally, wasn't it Ben Franklin who said "a penny saved is a penny earned" ?

Elfreth's Alley
This alley was built in 1702 and was simply a row of attached houses. Still owner occupied, it is one of the oldest continuously occupied housing in the country. I tried to peek in people’s windows.

The Second Bank of the U.S. Portrait Gallery
When we walked into this magnificent building, a ranger asked us if we had any questions. At the same time, Rich and I both blurted out, “Where’s the 1st bank?” (And I thought I was the only pop-off of the family.) This building, that was once the 2nd bank of the U.S. is now converted into a wonderful art gallery, filled with actual paintings done in the 1700’s of many famous people such as George Washington, many other presidents as well as some signers of the Declaration of Independence. It is stunning that these paintings still exist in such good shape. Most of them were done by one artist, Charles Willson Peale.

Second Bank of the U.S.

Actual painting of George Washington from 1700s

Tasting Philadelphia’s Famous Pretzels
We had to be sure we found an authentic Philly soft pretzel before leaving the city. We walked quite a bit only to find a dumpy shop with one guy inside, selling pretzels. They were smaller in size than what we are used to having, but had five pretzels attached together. We had difficulty in finding out how much they cost. It was hard to believe that THREE of the stuck together pretzel “rows” sold for $1.50. We thought it had to be THREE pretzels (broken off the row) for $1.50. But the guy insisted it was the former, so no argument there. We plunked down $1.50 for more than enough pretzels for all of us (and several cheese sauces for $.50 each, I guess that’s where they get you.). The shop had no indoor seating whatsoever, so we found a little place outside to sit and eat. After one bite, we were all rather unimpressed (think cold SuperPretzel), but Drew tasted it and exclaimed, “Man, if I were a kid walking home from school, I’d stop here every day!!!” But then again, that boy has a passion for all things ‘white bread’. We all did agree that Auntie Anne’s, though they cost $3.50 for only one, is much, much better.

Sorry, but we are definitely not voting for Hillary!

Hillary and Obama were in town for a debate that evening, so people were out publicizing. Did I mention that Drew's only souvenir from Washington D.C. was a "Hillary for President" t-shirt? (as a joke of course.) So, Drew was happy to obtain an Obama sticker here in Philly to go with it.

Here are just some more pics of Philly that I liked.

Cat lovers that we are, we had to go inside this animal shelter and visit.

Well, with tired feet we headed back to the hotel to pick up our car and luggage. We had a great dinner spot all picked out that would be on our way back to NY. You guessed it – from Guy Fieri’s show. This is the website that convinced Rich we had to go to this place called Mastoris (be sure to scroll down and look at the food pics). Upon arrival we found ourselves in a quite large restaurant with a huge menu. You have got to click that menu link and see it! I think Drew counted the menu items and there were 280! I knew after all this vacation food, I needed a salad, and believe it or not I think they had only three salad choices on that huge menu.

Shot of the back side and cool sign

Looks more like a public library than a diner!

Insanely huge menu...

So when you sit down, they plunk down a bread plate with what really should be called danish, not bread. These little mini loaves are made with danish-type dough; one was filled with a sweetened cream cheese, the other a cinnamon-sugar filling. YUM!!! They truly were more like dessert. In hindsight, I should have just ordered a cup of coffee, had one of these rolls, and called it a day! But, instead, I was the recipient of the world’s largest Cobb salad! Seriously, it was bigger than a salad I would make for my entire family! It had a whole quartered avocado, a quartered large tomatoe, a few hard boiled eggs, a least a couple large sliced chicken breasts. tons of bacon, blue cheese and fresh corn, along with a gargantuan pile of lettuce greens! My goodness. I ate and ate as much as I could and 90% of it still seemed to remain. Rich ordered a burger, Emma had the Caesar salad with crab cakes (really yummy) and Drew had this nacho thing that was over the top. Again, way too much food. But, very good food it was. If you’re ever in the New Jersey area, you have to check it out.

These rolls are evil!

Beautiful (but way too big) Cobb Salad

Have a little blue cheese with your burger!

After dinner, we began our trek back to New York, where we had one more night before flying home. Rich was to begin a 2 day business meeting, so the kids and I planned to fly home without him the next day, while he stayed one more night. It was really fun to drive back to New York at night – Emma got the cool picture of the skyline below from our moving car.

Well, that is it! Thanks to all of you who traveled along with us on our trip through this blog. I hope you had a nice time! I look forward to getting back to every-day type blogging soon.

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