Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

Trip Start Aug 24, 2011
Trip End Sep 30, 2011

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Flag of United States  , Pennsylvania
Tuesday, September 6, 2011

I absolutely exhausted myself yesterday from all the running around. We really didn’t stop once from the time we left New York that morning until about 10:30pm. I figured I deserved a sleep in so left all the blinds and shutters closed the night before leaving the room pitch black and me sleeping in late.
We weren’t ready to get moving from the Hotel until about 11am and intended to go to a tour at Independence Hall today, the one to see the Liberty Bell and all the other sights we’d whizzed passed yesterday. All of which would occur AC (after coffee) of course. Chris had been for a run and said it was ‘drizzling’ outside, but by the time we left it was definitely well past a drizzle and on to raining. No umbrellas to speak of we walked as quickly as possible to a cafe we’d noticed on Spruce street called ‘Spruce Street Espresso’. 
We were wet with very squeaky shoes when we entered but the coffee I had in front of me in minutes made me forget all that. The ladies in here make some seriously good coffee. I could have been at any one of my favourite haunts in Sydney with what I was tasting. I was very impressed and won’t be looking for anywhere else tomorrow morning! It’s such a cute little cafe and the two ladies are both so friendly. This cafe is only a block away from our hotel too, such a bonus. We shared a coffee infused muffin for breakfast to accompany the coffee, and were on our way.
We were making our way over to the Independence Visitors Centre again to get the info and tickets we needed to get into Independence Hall. They give you an allocated time to go on a free tour to ensure the building is not crammed with too many people all at once. We were desperately trying to find somewhere to stop along the way so we could buy an umbrella which wasn’t easy, neither was staying dry. It seems Philadelphia is devoid of both shelter and shops that miraculously produce umbrella’s at a hint of rain. We did find one eventually, but not before we were drenched and cold. Chris refused to buy one saying “I’m fine, I don’t need a umbrella”, which is so annoying. I know that means he’ll squish under my tiny one when he starts getting too wet and then we’ll both be soaked. Hmph! Men! They can’t do sensible things like ask for directions when they’re lost or buy umbrellas when it’s wet. Crazy race!
We got a time allocated to us when we arrived at the Visitors Centre which was about 30 minutes away but we entered the Independence Hall site anyway to have a look at the other buildings first. You have to pass a security check to get in here as with a lot of other buildings we’ve been to on our trip so far. Independence Hall is currently under heaps of scaffolding so we couldn’t see the building much from the outside, we’d just have to wait and see what it contained within.
The building we entered while we were waiting for our tour was The West Wing that housed the original inkstand used to sign the Declaration of Independence and an original draft of the Constitution. They were fantastic to see and I found out a lot of things I didn’t know, actually we both did because neither one of us studied American History nor have we read much about it. One thing that stuck in my mind was the very early thoughts around what a government should represent. The founders of government felt that well-crafted government played a crucial role in human happiness. The Great Essentials of Government state that “The role of government is simple; government exists primarily to secure these unalienable, individual rights using power that flows from the consent of the governed.” The ‘unalienable’ rights they refer to are “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”. Who knew the government was created to help us in our pursuit to happiness?! They may have strayed from that path over the years, it would do them well to remember why ‘Government’ began.
From there we went back to join the queue and entered Independence Hall. We were with Ranger Cos who talked us through the significance of the building and what has taken place here over the last few centuries. We learned that the building was mostly original, with original fittings etc and that the signing of the Declaration of Independence took place here. A very important part of American history clearly. Ranger Cos talked the crowd through some of the men that were involved in the signing of the Declaration and what occurred at the time. All fascinating stuff when you know nothing about it. It was also interesting to see that the majority American crowd didn’t know very much about the specifics of what had happened in their history. For some reason I thought this was drummed into them at birth.
Cos told us that Philadelphia was the nation’s capital from 1790 to 1800 and that the President’s house stood on the lot adjoining the Liberty Bell Centre until 1834.
From our introduction room we moved on into Independence Hall and the first stop was a court room. We were told that all sorts of trials took place here and it was the highest court of the land at the time. The Supreme  Court of the State of Pennsylvania. It was set up in the British style and had a dock (where the prisoner on trial would stand) which the Americans later took out.

After the court room we moved over to see the room in which the Declaration of Independence was signed. We saw rows of desks set up like a school room with one desk at the head of the room turned around to face the others. Cos talked us through the fact that the Declaration was actually finally signed by all states on August 2nd 1776 and not the 4th of July. The first state to sign was Delaware who now have on their number plates ‘The First State’, as in the first state to sign. New York were the last and at the time there were 13 States.
We also learned that it was Thomas Jefferson who wrote most of the Declaration of Independence and at 33 years old he was one of the youngest men in the room. He was an exceptional writer which is why the task sat easily with him, but the Declaration went through many iterations before all 13 states agreed to put pen to paper and sign. Seriously fascinating stuff!
From here we moved up to the second floor to have a look over the dining area and various other rooms which apparently only opened up again last week after receiving required maintenance. We were lucky to get in and see it all.
The building that houses the Liberty Bell is just across the road from Independence Hall so we ran over in the pouring rain to find yet another security check, but thankfully got straight in. There was a crowd formed yesterday which is why we gave it a miss but I dare say the crappy weather kept everyone away today. Fine by me.
We entered to find a small museum that gave the history of the Liberty Bell but I’m far too impatient for all that. I left Chris reading everything and went straight up to find the bell, sitting behind a small barricade. It was another one of those ‘wow’ moments to be standing in front of such a relic and to know the things it had seen in it’s day. This is the kind of thing that really brings you in touch with your past. From seeing the bell I then moved back into the museum area and found out that the huge crack in the Liberty Bell was actually caused by attempts to fix a very small crack which destroyed the bells tone. From what I understand, the bell was rung at George Washington’s birthday (in 1846 but don’t quote me) and another crack formed from the base of the original crack which had lengthened in size and silenced the bell forever.
Throughout it’s lifetime the Liberty Bell performed duties such as summoning members of the Pennsylvania assembly to meetings, it’s ringing announced noteworthy events like the Coronation of King George III and at the end of the Civil War it became a symbol of National reunification. I also read that slavery abolitionists drew inspiration from the Bell’s inscription, ‘Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto the inhabitants thereof’. They claimed the Bell as their icon and they named it the Liberty Bell when it was previously known as the State House Bell.
What a history filled morning! An excellent way to start a day after a sleep in. It was well into the early afternoon once we’d finished going through these buildings so we were up for a late lunch. I wanted to go and check out the Reading Terminal Market that we’d driven by yesterday. It’s a produce market that you can also sit down to lunch in and the thought of it reminded me of The Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne. It was roughly 20 minutes walk from where we were and I was glad we made the trek, I was so right. It’s exactly like the Queen Victoria Market. Very cool and so much to see. We had a walk around to check it all out but Chris wasn’t keen to stay for lunch, he was in more the restaurant mood and wanted a beer with his lunch. Since no-one in the market appeared to be licensed that wasn’t going to happen.
We found an Italian place using my trusty apps and made our way over to Broad St to find it. Still sharing one tiny umbrella we were absolutely soaked when we arrived, and found the restaurant was closed for a break. Princess was not amused, but a sign in the window said to enjoy a meal at the Perch Pub just above it, so we did.
We entered to find the pub empty which I never think is a good sign, but there was something cool about this place. I asked the bar tender for a wine list which was clearly lacking in anything Italian, Prosecco most notably, but I settled on a red and Chris a local beer. 
We started chatting away to the young chappy behind the bar and were keen to know what was with the Philadelphia licensing laws. It can be quite difficult to find restaurants that serve alcohol but there are a lot of BYOs. Also, at the market earlier we found you couldn’t even get a glass of wine from anyone. He explained to us that Pennsylvania has some of the most restrictive licensing laws in the States. It got a bit complex from there but basically there are 2000 different types of liquor licenses here which can be really expensive so most places tend to go with the BYO option which is cheaper and easier. Interesting to know. He also filled us in on the fact that Philadelphia is a really big beer town, and one of the biggest brewers in the States. They even have seasonal beers and Chris got to try a couple today. Seasonal beers had come out for Oktoberfest which they also celebrate. They have about five or six special releases each year.

We had a great pub style lunch and chatted the afternoon away but decided lovely as it was, we couldn’t sit there forever. We either had to brave the rain to do more sightseeing or head back to the hotel. We opted for the latter because it was miserable weather and I was freezing.
Not five minutes after arriving we both passed out cold so I’d say we were still tired from yesterday. We woke after a good three hour nap and got all the things we needed organised for tomorrow done, primarily the car hire. We’ll now be on four wheels from here for the rest of our trip which we’re both looking forward to. I love the freedom a car affords you. I went without one for so many years because Chris was so adamant we didn’t need one and now he’s more addicted than I am to being a car owner. He adores ‘The Beast’ our beloved Prado at home. In fact I barely get to drive it anymore but that’s fine with me since ‘Bella’ my beloved Vespa came on the scene. We’re happy with wheels as I say so we’re going to love doing the proper road trip from here.
It was about 8pm before we decided we could leave the hotel again and thought at that time of night the only thing one could do was dine...again. We are fortunate to have a very little funky wine bar right across the road from the hotel so that’s as far as we strayed. The place is called Tria and it is fantabulous. It serves tapas style dishes and throws a few larger one’s in there for good measure. We didn’t need those though, we were happy to share a selection of the Italian tapas and enjoy some wine and beer. The mix of plates we ordered was perfect as were the wines. Chris tried out a few more local brews which I was happy to leave him to. They have been a bit too wheaty flavoured for me. I like my  bubbles so I’ll stick to them. We tried a lot of local cuisine here tonight like salamis, cheeses and other fresh local vegetable dishes. The food, ambience and company were all perfect so we had quite the relaxing night.
From Tria it was just back to the hotel to pack and organise an itinerary for the next few days. From here we’re off to Pennsylvania Dutch Country and Gettysburg so I want to make sure we have a pretty tight plan because we have next to no time to get the best out of these places.

Before we leave tomorrow I want to get up and do a very early walk of the Mural Mile which will take me about 1.5 hours and Chris wants to do another run that incorporates the ‘Rocky Steps’. 
The Mural Mile is 17 of Philadelphia Centre City's most iconic murals arranged along a walking route through downtown. The Mural Arts Program began in 1984 as a component of the Philadelphia Anti-Graffiti Network in an attempt to eradicate the graffiti crisis plaguing the city. From what I’ve seen so far, they’ve done amazing work.
The ‘Rocky Steps’ are the 72 stone steps in front of the entrance of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. They became known as the ‘Rocky Steps’ after their appearance in the Rocky films in which Sylvester Stallone runs up the steps to the song “Gonna Fly Now”. Truth be known, Sylvester ran up the first four steps and his body double ran up the rest. Pathetic!
A bronze statue of Rocky sits at the bottom right of the steps and appears to be a huge photo opportunity shot for tourists. We were hoping to make it there to see the statue and the gallery but the rain hasn’t permitted that so we’ll have to be content with what we saw from the bus yesterday.

We have some fabulous days ahead so we’re looking forward to those but there appears to be much more to Philadelphia than we’ve had the time to see. It’s nowhere near the size of New York but it is steeped in history and it has it’s little secrets. We may be back to enjoy it some more one day...depends on where our road leads us in future. If you’re near Philly at any point though, I’d suggest at least a stop over. You won’t be disappointed.

We're told Philadelphia featured quite a lot in the Rocky films, I wouldn't know because I haven't watched them but every man in the world has seen them 12 times over I'm sure, so in honour of them and their wanna be Rocky dreams...."Gonna fly now" is your photo tune.  
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