Fun times in Philly

Trip Start May 24, 2009
Trip End Nov 05, 2009

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Flag of United States  , Pennsylvania
Saturday, September 5, 2009

Right off the bat I'd like to say that I recommend Philadelphia to you all, it's such a great city, really friendly, feels safe and lots of FREE things to see.

We arrived on Thursday after braving the 4 hour Greyhound bus trip from DC.  Not quite sure what people's issue is with the Greyhound but I thought it was fine, it's rough and ready like any long distance coach trip but not sketchy like I've been told.  And as a bonus I slept much of the way so caught up on the sleep I'd missed out at during the last few days at camp!

As it happens a group of girls who had been staying at the same hostel as us in DC and had also worked as camp counselors during the summer (not at Rim Rock) were on the same bus as us and staying at the same place here so we ganged together to find the hostel and some much needed lunch.  Later in the evening the hostel had planned a free pub crawl but of the 5 of us only 2 were over 21 so we couldn't join that, luckily though we found out that the club directly opposite the hostel allowed 18-20 year olds in.  Apparently some places do this and those of us over age were given wrist bands so we could drink if we wanted.  It came as no great surprise that it was far from the best club ever...and that's compared to places I've been in South Wales!  But we had a dance and a good laugh so it was all good.

Dragging ourselves out of bed the next day wasn't quite so much fun but we managed it and wandered up the road to the Honey Cafe, the place we'd had lunch the previous day.  Here I learned an important lesson about US food, the difference between a Hoagie and a Grinder.  Basically they're both a type of sandwich (similar to what Subway serves) but with a Grinder the bread is filled with cheese and toasted and a Hoagie is just served cold.  Once we'd composed ourselves Nutmeg and I took a walk over the Philadelphia Visitors Centre and got a free ticket for Independence Hall, the building in which the Declaration of Independence was signed.  Our tour guide, Ranger Larry was great, really enthusiastic about things which made the brief tour really interesting. 

Just across the road from Independence Hall is the building which now holds the Liberty Bell, an iconic symbol of the US.  Again, this was free and the whole display was pretty interesting, the history of the bell and explanations of it's place in American culture.

Following our visits to main tourists sites we took a walk into one of the recommended historic neighborhoods, Society Hill.  We had a good wander around and started taking pictures when a older lady came out of her house and pointed out that the houses we were talking photos of weren't actually old at all, but built in the 1960s!  The builders did a pretty good job copying the traditional style and the whole area is really well maintained so it was an easy mistake to make (at least that's my excuse) but the lady was really friendly and told us about an a row of houses a few blocks over that had actually been designed by Benjamin Franklin.  She also gave us a handy tip for identifying the really old houses, they have plaques on them certifying them as old!

Back at the hostel we'd signed up for something called the 'First Friday' Gallery tour.  Basically on the first Friday of the month all of the small local art galleries hold an open evening with snacks and sometimes drinks and artists and craft vendors head out onto the streets around them to promote the arts in the city.  We had a look at around ten or so galleries with various different exhibitions, some quite interesting, others just weird!  Apparently the concept of these open evenings has become quite popular across the US and lots of big cities hold similar events once a month.

Today (Saturday) we got up a little bit earlier and four of us from the hostel took a walk down to the city's oldest outdoor (Italian) market.  It wasn't quite as good as I was expecting, just a standard street market selling fruit and veg, meat, fish and general junk, but we did find a real Italian deli, selling REAL cheese, both from the US and imported from Europe.  I couldn't help myself, I had to get some!  We bought a fresh stick of bread and some brie and goat's cheese and went for a picnic in the park behind Independence Hall.  I think it was possibly the best meal I've had in the whole time I've been in the US!!

Well, my bag is packed again and I'm off to bed shortly as we've got an early start tomorrow to catch the 7am bus to Buffalo, New York.  It's an 11 hour trip so I'll be catching up on plenty of sleep on that trip I think!
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