Good morning Philadelphia! The sun is shining, my camera is in my pocket, and today we are going to have a blast. Also, my newest friend (Ricardo from El Salvador who I met in Towson last week) is joining me in the afternoon for some super-frivolity. His bus from NYC gets in at 4, so until then, I’m putting my tourist hat on and going in search of Philly’s finest… everything!
So I’m on my way to the Liberty Bell (I figured it was appropriate since I just finished a Libertarian seminar), which is about 15 blocks away, and I know this isn’t very interesting, but the breakfast I just had was SO GOOD that I’m feeling the need to dedicate at least half a paragraph to it. I don’t even know exactly what was in it. There was definitely bacon, cheese, tomato… and a bit of everything else, I think. It was one of these breakfast wrap ‘specials’ that people who are familiar with the establishment order, knowing what’s in it. I didn’t, but I wanted one anyway, and GOD did that decision pay off! It weighed about as much as a small child, and must have contained at least 700 calories. I didn’t care. This is why I love America. No other country in the world can serve you almost half your daily intake of food in a little bundle of foil-wrapped oozy goodness and call it breakfast. I would happily forfeit all other meals (and quite possibly my British citizenship) if I could do this every day. I’m going to stop now.
Where was I? Oh yes, I’m walking down Chestnut street in the direction of the Liberty Bell. There’s lots of cool stuff to see, so I’m going to get papping! Again, Philadelphia’s reputation for diverse architecture is not disappointing! New and shiny, old and churchy, and quaint brick neo-federal all in a row…
And even the graffiti here manages to look tasteful!
My walk was further enhanced by the many plaques with interesting historic factoids and anecdotes that were stood at strategic points along the way. Like this one:
I knew I had entered the historic district, and was thus nearing my destination, when the signposts started to depict little Liberty Bells beside the street names.
It was early in the day, so there was no queue for the Liberty Bell Center. The Center is basically a museum containing various artefacts and exhibits regarding the American independence movement and freedom in general. The museum was, of course, very interesting, but what we’d all come to see was the legendary bell itself. The Liberty Bell is one of the most iconic symbols of American Independence, and was, however ironically, made in London in 1752, but cracked shortly after arriving in Philadelphia.
The legend that the bell was rung on July 4th 1776 after independence was declared, is somewhat disputed, but nevertheless, the bell was toured around the US as a symbol of their new-found freedom. The Bell, still cracked, and hanging from its original yoke, sits in the last part of the museum, in a glass room from which you can also view Independence Hall (the red brick building in the background), where the Declaration of Independence was adopted. I haven’t mentioned to anyone that I’m British…
I left the museum after getting my fill of Bell-related wisdom, and after continuing down Chestnut Street, I’m now sitting in a quiet little park just across from Independence Hall. The park is called Signers Park, as it is the home of “The Signer”, a statue of one of the signatories of the Declaration, and sits in front of the quaint federal-style building that is Gilbert Stuart House. Fun fact of the day: Gilbert Stuart painted the portrait of George Washington that is on the US one dollar note. The park is a lovely quiet, shady place to sit and contemplate life… Although all I seem to be contemplating are the merits of getting another breakfast.
I kept going down Chestnut Street, until the Delaware River prevented me from going any further. This meant I had arrived in Penn’s Landing, the furthest East you can go in Philadelphia without crossing over into New Jersey. To facilitate said crossing for those who wish to venture beyond the state line is the beautiful (if, like me, you have a strange fondness for suspension bridges) Benjamin Franklin Bridge. I was perfectly happy remaining in Pennsylvania, however, and, as much as I would have loved to cross the masterpiece of 1920s engineering and experience Camden, NJ in all its glory, It was the middle of the day (in a heatwave), and I preferred not to get sunstroke before I’d finished my tourist list. I took a photo instead.
Also on the Delaware River is the USS New Jersey, the Iowa-Class battleship famed for being the only one to provide gunfire support in Vietnam. Big J, as she is known, also served in the Pacific Fleet during World War II, became the most decorated battleship in US naval history… And now she is a museum. (This photo was taken from very far away. Then crudely aged in photoshop for dramatic effect)
Turning around, I decided, for variety, to head down Market Street on my way back towards downtown. Happily, it was nicely labelled for foreigners such as myself.
Market Street was a good choice. Naturally, there was at least one sculpture/fountain hybrid thing…
…And a strangely skinny house
Oh yeah, and a castle. Well actually I think it was a prison… Either way, cool.
By the time I’d crossed the city and reached the other river (the Schuylkill, however the hell you pronounce that), it was just about time to meet my Central American acquaintance off the bus. This was opportune, seeing as the station was right now right in front of me (cue yet another photo of contrasting architectural beauty).
Let the real fun begin 😉
Between us, we unanimously decided that going to the Rocky statue was our number one priority for the afternoon. This did involve a rather long walk, but, being in Philadelphia, we knew that our trek was not going to be devoid of things to set our touristy eyes upon. We met a man and his cat…
…Paid tribute to the great Bard: All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players…
… Of course, we found another fountain! This one is the Swann Memorial Fountain, a memorial, in fact to the founder of the Philadelphia Fountain Society (yes, really), Wilson Cary Swann. Very fitting.
I forgot to mention earlier that Philly is one of the few places where you are allowed to swim in all of the public fountains, and if we hadn’t been in such a rush to see Rocky, then we quite possibly would also have indulged in this tradition. But alas, no. Onwards!
Onwards took us down an avenue lined with the flags of the world. Much running around and searching later (there were a LOT of flags, and they were very spaced out!), we had located the flags of each others’ homelands, and posed for the inevitable photos!
After an ice cream to keep us sustained, we arrived at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. We hadn’t seen a fountain for about 20 minutes by this point, so luckily there was a big one on the front lawn to give us another fix of civic virtue. The guy on the horse is George Washington, and he is surrounded by interesting things like moose, bears and bison. All very American.
I felt kind of bad not actually going into the Museum after coming all this way. It is, after all, one of the largest art museums in the USA… but by the time I’d seen all 227,000 pieces of priceless art, I would probably have been in violation of my visa waiver by a good few months, and been deported before seeing what it was we really came here for… Rocky.
If you’ve seen the movie Rocky (now is probably not the best time to admit that I have not…) then you will be aware of the deep connections the film has with the City of Philadelphia, and the Museum of Art in particular. It was the steps up to front entrance that Rocky ran up and down when training for his big fight, so it would be rude of us not to attempt to recreate the iconic moment of victory he had when reaching the top on that snowy winter morning. Brace yourselves…
Next was the statue of the great man himself, and we managed to get a nice fellow to take a photo of us (again, embarrassing ourselves trying to mimic the legend… And failing).
Our afternoon’s objectives well and truly achieved, it is definitely time for a Starbucks and a chill-out period. Over our cool lime refreshers, Ricardo (being a man) reveals that he thinks it would be a jolly good idea to go to a baseball game. Conveniently, the Phillies are playing tonight, and we have just about enough time to get a cab to the stadium in time for the start of the game. Oh alright then.
Upon arrival at Citizens Bank Park, a suspicious looking man at the gate says he wants to sell us tickets for slightly over cost price… Naturally, we oblige him, and for 30 bucks a piece we are now in possession of two pieces of paper that don’t really look like anyody else’s tickets…
This wasn’t an issue, however, as the machine kindly accepted them! We got in to the stadium, bought a pizza, and found our seats, which were pretty decent.
The game, as predicted, did not entertain me in the slightest. The general atmosphere, on the other hand, was highly entertaining. Cheering, sipping beer, eating junk food, singing, dancing… You get the idea. What was perhaps even more entertaining was the group of about thirty 6 year-olds from New York, with their less-than-sober fathers, who spent the entire game cheering for the Yankees (who were not playing), and drowning out the Phillies fans to such an extent that they got super pissed off and almost started a riot. Thankfully, management sent a couple of armed guards to keep an eye on the children. PHEW. God knows what might have happened had they not.
Also, during the game was a cringe-worthy proposal…
Directly followed by some inappropriate making-out by the newly-engaged… Joy.
After the game, I couldn’t go without papping a shot of the neon Liberty Bell… A truly delightful ode to the real thing that I’d had the pleasure of viewing this morning.
Then we said goodbye to the stadium (we won, by the way, LET’S GO PHILLIES)
And took the metro back into town where we found the nearest nice bar (a lovely Irish pub called Fado’s) and got very drunk on American beer and the biggest tequila shots I have ever had the pleasure of taking.
Wow, I did a lot today. Philadelphia, it has been an absolute pleasure, and I don’t want to go just yet. The travelling must continue though… the North is calling! I do have tomorrow morning to spend in this wonderful place, and I am looking forward to my massive hungover breakfast tomorrow morning more than I can possibly put into words.