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A "Revolutionary" Journey Part II (Washington D.C. & Philadelphia)Author: Host Ciao (More Trip Reviews by Host Ciao)
Date of Trip: December 2008
Since I sat at the end of the car, it was a bit bumpy, but not bad. The Acela train is a business train with lots of seats facing each other with tables in between. It also had luggage bins above the seats like an airplane as well as racks at the end of the car. The seats are very comfortable.
I arrived in Philadelphia about 10:30 a.m. The trains are all down one level from the main station, which is full of places to eat. I took a taxi to the hotel, pretty much across town. I stayed at the Penn's View Inn, which is right by the river and also only a few blocks walk to the main sights. The hotel is in two older buildings, but has great amenities including a workout room. My room, which wasn't quite ready when I arrived, had a big double bed, desk, table and chair, TV, and a very nice bath. My cost was $150 a night, well worth it to me because of its location, more on the hotel later. The staff was very friendly, and I left my luggage with them and took off. http://www.pennsviewhotel.com/general_information/index.aspx
At the Visitors Center I checked to see what was open on Thanksgiving--only the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, but I planned a fairly long walk for after those. I bought a trolley ride ticket for Friday. I figured this would be a good way to see more of the town in the short time I had. http://phillytour.com/
I watched a short movie at the Center and then went out exploring. Luckily I found a camera store right away because I had to have two of my memory sticks put onto CD's. I went to Christ Church Burying Ground and paid the $3 entrance fee to go in and wander a bit. That way I could also see Ben Franklin's tomb without having to work my way through the crowd outside the fence. Lots of coins are tossed onto the flat tomb, and a custodian was sweeping them up while I was there.
I went on down to the Betsy Ross House and paid the $3 to get in. This was fine and the displays, all behind glass, were interesting. However, no pictures were allowed. I asked the two people dressed in colonial garb why that was because any picture would have to be without flash because of the glass. Neither of the two answered me, but a man standing there talking to them told me it was because so many people were loading the pictures on line and identifying them wrong. After further conversation with him I began to doubt this as a real reason. I told him that pictures were allowed all through the buildings in Williamsburg. He proceeded to tell me none of those were original like the Betsy Ross things were. Since I know this is not true, I didn't argue. He told me to buy postcards--which I would have done if there had been any in the shop. Oh well--he was a real expert!
At Christ Church a docent was giving a lecture to a school group, and I listened to part of it and then bought some postcards there. On the way back to pick up my CD's I stopped at Bon Bon, a small shop on Market Street and had some really good gelato for lunch. My next stop was the National Constitution Center. The cost was $14 including a new exhibit called on "The Way to the White House."
Lots and lots of school groups, mostly middle school, were there accompanied by chaperones who had to wear red tags. The introduction was a multi-media presentation called "We the People," narrated by one live performer. Seats range upwards and pictures were flashed below in a sort of large pit and also along the walls above the seats. It was well done and interesting. This is the website of the Center: http://www.constitutioncenter.org/ncc_visit_Landing.aspx
There are so many exhibits--displays, film clips, computer use, lots of words written rather high on the walls which are not too easy to read. In one display you can see yourself taking the oath of office for President, and then, of course, buy the still picture later. In another spot you can vote for the best President. This is not a place for only a couple of hours if you want to sample a lot of it. I didn't want to miss the special exhibit so I had to rush a bit because I didn't get there until a bit after 2 p.m.
The special exhibit had speech clips of McCain, Clinton, and Obama. Also there was a display of old campaign souvenirs and ends with a cardboard cutout of Obama standing in front of a picture of the President's desk in the Oval Office. It was an interesting exhibit, but I had to rush because the Center closes at 5.
Back at the hotel my room was ready so I unpacked some. I decided to eat in the hotel's restaurant, called Ristorante Panorama, which has won awards. The hotel also hosts Il Bar, which has the world's largest wine preservation setup and offers 120 different wines by taste, glass, or bottle. This is also an award winner. The restaurant is a bit fancy for me. There was only one antipasto I thought I would like--Antipasto Misto for $12.75. (I am not a fan of mushrooms so that cut out quite a few. This was good with a couple of slices each of two sausages, some prosciutto, bland marinated mozzarella, a couple of good olives, two small pieces of good cheese, some roasted peppers, and some marinated eggplant, which had a good taste but chewed like rubber bands.
Only two of the pasta courses sounded good to me so I had gnocchi with a tomato and smoked cheese sauce. I ordered the appetizer size for $12.75. Since I am no wine expert and no fussbudget about it either--just so it's red and dryI ordered two of the cheaper glasses at about $7.50 each. One was a chianti and very good; the other was a multipulciano from Abruzzo, also go. My bill with tip was $55 much higher than I would normally spend, but the food was very good. Of course, there are also more courses depending on what you want to eat and pay.
What a great bed--on Thursday I actually slept until 7 a.m. almost unheard of for me. A "continental buffet" breakfast was included in the room rate. It is served in the restaurant dining room with white table clothes and cloth napkins! There were lots of food choices: cut up fresh fruit, whole fruits, scones, mini muffins, cereal, bagels or I could make waffles or boil eggs. My only quibble with this feast was the extra wide coffee cups that caused the coffee to cool fast.
I knew the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall would open at 11. http://www.nps.gov/inde I strolled down to there and found out where to go. At that time I read some info on posts under a shelter about an archeological dig last year that had been able to figure out the layout of President's House, just to the north of the Liberty Pavilion. A metal outline can be seen. The Park Service is planning a structure there that will tell the story of the hour and also about Washington's slaves and indentured servants.
It was nice and sunny and fairly warm so I read for a while on a bench in a garden area near there. When the line began to form I went over to the Liberty Pavilion and through security. This consisted of opening my coat and all bags. There are lots of interesting displays to be read there, and I skimmed many of them. With more time I would do a better job of reading. Most people just pass them up on the way to see the bell. By the time I got there, lots of people were standing around the bell and taking pictures of each other in front of it. I finally got my picture though there are legs showing under the bell--night pictures are much better since there are no people and the bell is well lighted and very visible through windows.
I had to go through the same type of security in a tent next to Independence Hall. After the tent we were actually at the front of the Hall with a large plaza there, Independence Square. It was a struggle but by getting down on a knee I managed to get the whole building in from that front part. In the Hall the ranger lecturing in the courtroom was very interesting. He pointed out the original seal of Pennsylvania over the judges' bench which had replaced the seal of George III, a copy of which he showed us. The ranger in the room where Declaration and Constitution were signed did not speak as much. But pointed out that the desks with quills, ink pots, pipes were set up just at they were. Both rooms are furnished with antiques.
Once outside the building back on the more familiar side I found the plaques showing where Lincoln and John F. Kennedy had spoken. There is an excellent statue of Washington there too. My next spot was Washington Square where there is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier of the Revolutionary War--both American and British. There are plaques to read in the park too, and it was also used to bury victims of a yellow fever epidemic in 1793.
From there I walked for quite a while through the area called Society Hill, where there are many old houses that have been restored and kept up well. I saw Old St. Mary's Church, the city's oldest Catholic Church still in use. This is where a ceremony marking the end of the Revolutionary War was held. I also walked through two gardens around the church and looked at the cemetery through its gate, which was locked.
I headed toward the river to see some of the monuments shown on the map and also more sculptures. I first found the Korean War Monument which was not shown on my map. And then I walked to the nearby Vietnam Monument, which is shown on the map. I had several maps of most of the places I visited and I found that some show some sights/sites, which others might not--makes for a bit of confusion. I could also see the Christopher Columbus Monument but did not walk over to it.
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