The birthplace of our nation and its first capital. Our first stop is at Independence
Park. Here are several monuments to the start of the USA. Independence Hall was
the State House of the Colony of Pennsylvania. It was in here that the Declaration
of Independence was signed and 11 years later the Constitution was signed.
We went to the visitors' center and got tickets for the tour. They are free but
must be gotten in advance. They are timed and you can wander around the Park until
1/2 hour before your time. Then it is through the security/bag/weapon check station
and you're inside the fence again waiting for your tour time. But it was worth it
to see the rooms where our forefathers discussed and argued about what to do about
British Rule and then about how the new country would be ruled. This room was furnished
as when our Founding Fathers used it. The furnishings have been replaced with originals
or recreations to match those found in paintings of the events. The head chair is
the actual one George Washington sat in for the signing of the Constitution.
At the City Tavern, built in 1773, the men who later wrote the Declaration of Independence
gathered to discuss politics and the events of the days leading up the Declaration. At
the time it was an upscale tavern with food, a news reading room and rooms for travelers
to rent. Today this is an exact replica on the original site, the original having
been torn down in the 1800's to build row houses and stores. We had lunch here.
They serve food that would have been recognized by the founders of this country. We
had a corn soup and a bean/barley soup with bread and a cheese plate as the second
John Adams called it "the most genteel tavern in America".
Ben Franklin lived in Philadelphia in a three story house with a group of businesses
around it. His house, that would have been down the tunnel, no longer exists but
some of the businesses have been recreated, including the Post Office and a print
Various papers are actually printed here on the same kind of paper (made from cloth
and rags) and are for sale in the shop.
Nearby is the US Mint. It has a nice tour but no pictures are allowed in the production
The last thing we saw that day was The Liberty Bell. It was not rung on July 4th
1776, it was just a bell in the State House. It was rung to call assemblies and
announce readings on the State House steps. In 1777 it was removed before the British
captured the capitol city of Philadelphia.
It didn't become associated with "Liberty" until the emancipation of slaves became
a national cause. It had already had a small crack in it that had been repaired,
they thought, when the 1846 ringing for George Washington's anniversary cracked it
The second day we went on the Mural Mile Tour. A self guided tour with a phone number
to call at each mural for descriptive information.
The tour is actually 3.5 miles. When you add in the wrong turns, the side trips
and the return to start, the mileage was over 5 miles.
Much of this town is old and we saw several of these lanes of houses on a cobblestone
street. Pictur esque but not where I'd want to live.
We stopped for lunch in the Reading Terminal Market. This is an old 1800's railroad
station that early farmers would bring their produce to and sell at small market
Today the market sells fresh and prepared foods. We walked all eight aisles and
looked at all the different cuisines available.
When we had made our walk there was one stall (Tommy Dinic's) that had all 18 stools
full and had a waiting line of a dozen or so for take out. And this was at 11:30. We
decided that the locals probably knew something and we decided to eat there. We
got into the take out line to order our food and take it over to the communal dining
area when a couple sitting on stools right beside us got up and left. We immediately
sat down on the stools before anyone else had a chance. We ordered the pulled pork
sub sandwich with cheese and grilled peppers. And it was very good, and big. No
wonder the place was full and had a line the entire time we were there.
The third day we went to try out the Philadelphia signature food, The cheese steak
sandwich. They were started here at Pat's in 1930.
It comes on a sub roll with sliced steak and onions and Cheese Whiz as the standard
topping. There are other choices but we had the standard.
When Pat's was so successful Geno's decided to open across the intersection. They
face each other nose to nose.
We had heard about these both on a Food Channel production about famous sandwiches. We
had to try one of each, just like they did. Which one is better? The Food Channel
couldn't make up their mind, but I liked Pat's better. The meat was a bit more flavorful. I
would of been happy with Geno's, if Pat's was unavailable. They were both good,
but Pat's was a little bit better.
The last stop of our Philadelphia trip was to Eastern State Penitentiary. In 1822
it was the first to use the radial design where a guard could stand in the center
and see down each wing of prisoner cells. This was also the first time a prison
was designed to change a criminal's attitude instead of just parking him for a period
of time. The prison was abandoned in 1971 and left to ruin. Today it is being cleaned
up and fixed up but there is still a long ways to go.
Life was not good for these men and women. Locked in their cells 23 hours a day
in silence. The cell walls are 22" thick. The prison was not too bad for one guy. Al
Capone, while visiting Philly from Chicago was arrested for having an unregistered
gun. He spent 10 months in comfort here. (This is his cell refurnished as he lived
in it.) Some people accused him of hiding out from the violence in Chicago but he
denied it. (Of course he would, wouldn't you.)
No visit to Philadelphia would be complete without a visit to the "Rocky" statue. I
had been told it was at the top of the steps to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. As
the museum is only about 5 blocks from the prison we walked over to see it. Sylvester
Stallone ran up all the steps in the movie, we walked.
It wasn't at the top of the steps, but we found it in some trees near the base of
the steps. It is much larger than life-size, an adult human comes up to to his knees.
That does Pennsylvania (I have gotten tired of typing that word, and Philadelphia
too) and now we are going to the mid-Atlantic coast.