Five active days in the City of Brotherly Love(5)

Trip Start Jan 01, 2014
Trip End Dec 31, 2014

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Flag of United States  , Pennsylvania
Sunday, November 8, 2009

Since this travelogue is somewhat of a repeat that I have on, I'll abbreviate this one to a much shorter version.  

INTRO: This is one of the few trips my wife joined me in travel.  Our round-trip flight from SFO to Philly cost me only $10, because I used frequent flier miles on United.  I will also include some recommendations as well as describing some of our activities for those planning their first trip to Philly.  I also welcome comments and questions.  Seniors can ride free on Philly's SEPTA buses by showing your red, white, and blue, Medicare card.   Otherwise, adult fare is $2. 

First Day: We arrived in Philly in the wee hours of the morning, because we took the red-eye.  We checked into our hotel after our shuttle from the airport to the Omni hotel located just one block away from Independence Hall.  We were also pleasantly surprised to learn that the street where our hotel is located on Chestnut Street has many good restaurants

Our first activity for the day was the double-decker bus tour to get a very good orientation for the city and most of its important sites.   It's a 90-minute tour that passes by 21-sites where one can get off and on the bus, and the senior tickets costs $27.50 pp, and the bus pass is good for 24-hours.   Don't lose your bus pass, because they won't let you on the bus without it.   The starting point is from across the street from the Independence Visitor's Center on Market Street. 

My wife and I and several others just stayed on the bus for the 90-minutes, then got off at the Reading Terminal (stop 5) to visit the markets and eateries at the refurbished terminal with lots of people, ambiance, and good food.  It's one of those "do not miss" places in Philly.  
Second Day: We rented a car for two days from Enterprise (cost about $40/day), because we wanted to visit Gettysburg and the Amish country on one day, and another destination that required a car.  We decided to visit Chadds Ford where the Wyeth family has an art museum at the Brandywine River Museum about 40-miles from downtown Philly.   The museum houses paintings by the Wyeth family members, Howard Pyle, Frederick Church, Alice Stphens, Remington, and Rockwell Kent who did the art work for Moby Dick.    The museum itself was a 19th century grist mill located next to a creek, and the winter scenery was absolutely beautiful.

Third Day: Today was our day trip to Gettysburg and Strasburg.   We started early in the morning, but hit into commuter traffic in King of Prussia that delayed our arrival in Gettysburg by over one hour.   We took the bus tour that provides a park docent who describes the battlefields, the battles, and the famous buildings and other sites in the village.   Many of the sites of the battles have monuments, and have the opportunity to see the building where Lincoln wrote the Gettysburg Address, the church, and train station that survive to this day.  As a matter of fact, the majority of buildings in Gettysburg remain from that period.   After the bus tour, we attended the theater at the visitor's center to see a short film about the war, and the Cyclorama, a painting 42 ft high and 365 ft wide, in a huge circular room that was painted by a French artist, Paul Philippoteaux.  I saw a similar Cyclorama in Atlanta some years ago on the Atlanta civil war.

We visited Strasburg rather than Lancaster for the Amish experience, because it was recommended by a friend, Vladzu, who live in central Pennsylvania.  We were able to see the horse and buggy of the Amish as well as the arts and crafts at several shops.   My wife and I had dinner at the Fireside Tavern restaurant off the main road, because it was recommended by a local, and the food and service were excellent!    We were back at our hotel by 7PM.

Fourth Day:
After returning our rental car, we were dropped off at the Independence Visitor's Center to get our free tickets to visit Independence Hall.  Our 9AM tour had only six people, because it was raining.   After a short orientation by the docent, we were taken to the supreme court chamber, then to the assembly room where the delegates of the thirteen colonies assembled and adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.  One of the most important artifact from that period is the chair that George Washington sat on.

After Independence Hall, we took a taxi to the Philadelphia Museum of Art where they have a treasure trove of art works, antiques, and replicas of famous rooms and building facades from all over the world.  I especially enjoyed their large collection of impressionist arts that includes van Gogh, Renoir, Cassatt, Monet, Manet, Cezanne, Gauguin, Kandinsky, Miro, and O"keefe.

From there we took a taxi to the Mutter Museum where they have a large collection of fluid-preserved anatomical and pathological specimens, medical instruments, items of memorabilia of famous scientists and physicians, and from medical schools.  They also have on display the tumor or Grover Cleveland, and the thorax of John Wilkes Booth.  At $10 pp entrance fee, it's a bargain, but picture-taking is not allowed.

We had dinner at Zento Japanese restaurant, because the chef here has trained at Iron Chef Morimoto's restaurant.   I had the Kobe beef dish.   The presentation and flavors were excellent!

Fifth Day
(our last): We took the SEPTA 124 bus at 13th and Market (south-east corner; look for the bus sign) to King of Prussia shopping mall.  To go directly to Valley Forge, you can take the SEPTA 125 bus from the same location.  At the shopping center, we were pleasantly surprised to learn that they had a special exhibit of Norman Rockwell's Post magazine covers that spans 40-years, and three-dimensional replicas of his paintings on display.  

We took the SEPTA 125 bus next to JCPenny's bus station to Valley Forge.   Since the park at Valley Forge doesn't have bus tours during the winter months, it's a good idea to take a car.
Otherwise, it's about a five mile walk to see the important sites at the park.   My wife and I walked to the cabins, but she didn't want to walk more, so I walked to the Washington memorial arch by myself.  

Vladzu drove from his home to Valley Forge to take us to the Legal Seafood restaurant where we met with Thomas for dinner, and Vladzu was generous in taking us back to our hotel in downtown Philly.

At 5:30 AM the following morning, we took a taxi to the Philly airport for our flight home. 

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