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Day 50 – June 9, 2007 – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Last night we arranged for a free shuttle to pick us up this morning at our hotel. We figured that it would be easier to take the shuttle, since parking can be difficult and expensive in the city. The shuttle was provided by the trolley company free of charge, provided that we bought tickets for their tour. Seconds after we entered the shuttle, the driver abruptly asked me how I was going to pay for my tickets. I gave him my credit card, he swiped it and we were on our way.
The trolley tour featured hop on – hop off privileges with 20 stops around the city. We decided to take the full 90 minute tour around before deciding on what to do next. The tour was very well done and our guide was informative. In addition, we saw a lot of places that we might have missed since our time here is so limited. Our tour was given on a double decker bus in lieu of a trolley. I was happy with this, since the upper deck on the bus provided better views!
The tour passed several museums and interesting buildings. A lot of the areas of downtown Philadelphia were closed in preparation of a large bike race taking place tomorrow. Perhaps the most famous museum we passed was the Philadelphia Art Museum. It is the third largest in the United States and is where the famous “Rocky Stair Scene” took place. The tour also took us past most of Philadelphia’s landmarks including the U.S. Mint and Betsy Ross’ house.
Philadelphia is a very historic city in many ways. One interesting fact about the colonial buildings is that they were taxed based on their width. We found many skinny houses located throughout the historical district. In fact, there are over 2000 buildings dating back to the 18th century in Philadelphia. That is more than anywhere else in America. Unfortunately, over the years, many of these buildings have deteriorated along with the neighborhoods containing them. While some of the houses have been restored, most of Philadelphia’s colonial areas look run down. In fact, most of the older areas of the city leave a lot to be desired. One of the neat things they have done in recent years is paint murals over the graffiti throughout the city. The murals add a very nice touch to areas that otherwise are very ugly.
When the tour was over, we decided to go to the Independence Visitor’s Center. This is where they give tickets for tours of Independence Hall. We have reservations for tomorrow, but I thought that if we could get tickets for today it would be better. We were able to get tickets for 12:30pm and take the tour.
The first part of the tour entailed a guide taking our group into a room where he proceeded to tell us a little about the history of Philadelphia and the buildings we were about to tour. Our guide was excellent, mixing a lot of wonderful information with a little humor. After the first room, we were led into the main building and a room housing the old court house. The court house looks much like it would have looked 230 years ago. It was used for legal matters during Pennsylvania’s colonial days. After divulging a few interesting tidbits about the court house, our guide led us across the hall into the room that the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution were signed. The history of this room is such, that to be there is overwhelming. The building has been preserved so well that the original chair George Washington used as the president of the constitutional convention still sits at the front of the room. The complete tour took about 30 minutes and was a wonderful history lesson for all of us.
From Independence Hall we went over to see the Liberty Bell. In American culture the Liberty Bell is one of the greatest symbols of our freedom. It rang in the bell tower of Independence Hall when the Declaration of Independence was signed. Shortly after that moment, the bell developed a crack. They tried several times to fix the crack, but never were successful. Today the bell no longer rings, but it is a great symbol of what the United States stands for. After taking a few minutes to look at the bell, we decided that it was time for lunch. We walked about 10 blocks down to a food market and ate at Rick’s Cheese Steaks. (Rick is Pat’s grandson!)
The one down side that we didn’t know about in taking the shuttle to the city, was that the last shuttle back to the hotel left at 4pm. With this in mind, in lieu of going back to the tour and hopping on and off, we decided to walk around the historic colonial areas. We walked through Chinatown, Franklin Square and even went past Betsy Ross’ house along with many other colonial buildings. Chinatown, with the smell of raw seafood everywhere, provided a great change of pace. Before getting back to the shuttle we went past Ben Franklin’s grave where Shawn Reece threw a penny for good luck. Apparently, it is tradition around here, since Ben Franklin is famous for coining =) the phrase “A Penny Saved Is A Penny Earned!” We ended up walking around for about two hours before we took the shuttle back to the hotel.
Tomorrow in lieu of going back into Philadelphia, we are heading west to the Civil War battlefield at Gettysburg. We were supposed to go to Gettysburg before Philadelphia, but sometime in Washington D.C. it slipped my mind. Gettysburg is a place that we don’t want to miss so it warrants a little back tracking. This pushes back our arrival in New York to Monday. We can’t wait!
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The Coomer Family
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