Philadelphia - a very 'historic' stopover

Trip Start Sep 01, 2008
Trip End Nov 19, 2008

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Flag of United States  , Pennsylvania
Saturday, September 6, 2008

After a quick trip to the UN building in New York on Friday morning (sadly just as visitors, Laura's job-hunt is still ongoing), we boarded a train for Philadelphia. Now the Amtrak train network is verging on pricey, but you definitely get good value for money. Loads of leg room, comfy seats and (theoretically at least) free wireless internet 'en route'.

We arrived into Philadelphia's 30th Street Station and headed for Chestnut Street where I hotel was located. It's a nice long street, Chestnut Street. Very, very long. We started out optimistically at number 2400 and made our way, wheely suitcases in tow, to number 1628. It was worth it. We were greeted warmly at the hotel and - even though we arrived before official check-in time - were able to go straight up to our room. We were on the top floor, so had sky-lights instead of windows, from which we could admire the shiny sky-scrapers opposite the hotel. Just in case anyone reading this is heading to Philadelphia (or in case we go back and want to remind ourselves where to stay): Club Quarters Hotel, definitely recommendable!

Back out on the street, we followed Market Street all the way out to Penn's Landing, where things were looking very out-of-season. Penn's Landing, where some bloke called Penn presumably "landed" once (and claimed the entire region as Pennsylvania?) would have offered stalls and concerts had we been there a few weeks before or an ice-skating rink had we come a bit later in the year. As it was, there wasn much going on. So we crossed back away from the river onto South Street and sat outside Bridget Foy's Bar and Restaurant. Another highly recommendable place - great service, drinks and snacks. And the South Street area was gorgeous, loads of quirky shops and cafés and a very bustling feel to it. We walked a long way back along it before turning back up towards Chestnut street and stopping at an Irish pub near the hotel for dinner.

This morning we went to see what everyone comes to Philadelphia to see: Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. Independence Hall is where, surprise surprise, the Declaration of Independence was devised and signed. We picked up tickets for the free tour and listened as the guide explained why these events were so important. The American colonies were saying "get lost" to their King back in England, an example that the French and Spanish later followed in relation to their own monarchies. The Hall was beautifully dressed with the furniture and fittings that would have been in place at the time that the idea of declaring independence was raised. Well worth seeing. Liberty Bell - slightly less worth seeing, but we were there anyway and this, too, was free. It is a rather unremarkable bell that, over time, enjoyed a special status as the symbol of independence, then of the freeing of the slaves and later of the women's and civil rights movements.

All this history had made us hungry, so we followed the suggestion of one of our guide books and wandered along to Reading Terminal Market to pick up a cheap and tasty lunch. Top marks to the guide book for this recommendation. Reading Terminal Market is a very lively covered market with stalls selling all sorts of fresh produce, much of it biological and locally grown. Many of the stalls also served prepared food and had bars that you could sit at. So we chose... "The Dutch Eating Place". Tempted, of course, by the name at first, we were really pulled in when we saw that this stall was run by the Pensylvannia Dutch, so we were able to enjoy "homestyle cooking from the Amish of Lancaster County". It was delicious! On our way back out of the market, we succumbed to another easy temptation: a stall that claimed to sell "The Famous 4th Street Cookie". Never heard of it, but who can turn down a cookie. We'll have to check their website sometime ( of course), to see what their story is.

There was just time for a quick trip on the "Phlash" 2-dollar trolley bus, past some of the other sights of Philadelphia, such as the statue of Rocky next one of the art museums, the front steps of which were made famous when featured in one of the film's scenes. Then back to the station to catch the train to Washington DC and eat our (if not famous, then definitely seriously tasty) cookies...
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