Friday was my first day off work in over two weeks, and I was ready to not see anyone I knew for the entire day. I bought an audio walking tour on iTunes, downloaded to my iPod, and grabbed lunch solo at the cafeteria (Hooray for free food!) before catching a subway to the Old City area.
I had dressed very specifically for the occasion… light shirt, shorts, super comfy tennis shoes. I packed sunscreen, a water bottle, snacks, and my camera. I had a map and my electronic tour guide. I was prepared.
Of course, the first thing I do on my excursion is get off at the wrong subway stop. I was watching with great interest a group of rambunctious preteen boys trying to out-cool each other (mostly by roughly shoving each other when the other wasn’t paying attention), as this is an age group that I know absolutely nothing about, and I looked up just in time to see the subway pull away from 5th Street Station. My stop. Woops.
So I got off at 3rd and walked back. Not that I really minded. Detours and missed stops in big cities are usually pleasant experiences, because you get to see things that you might never get to see otherwise (or you may end up in a bad neighborhood, but that’s not my point here).
Anyway, after another quick detour into a shopping mall to purchase a pair of sunglasses (I’d lost my old trusty pair to the deep depths under the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and needed to replace them before my adventures in the heat and sun), I walked up to Independence Hall Visitor Center, where my audio tour was set to begin.
However, before hitting play and following my little MP3 around town, I stopped at the tents outside the Visitors Center (a weekend festival to celebrate the Fourth of July) to get myself a free hot dog and do some paint-by-numbers for a giant mural that will be going up somewhere.
Random Tangent: Philadelphia has over 2800 murals all over the city. The project started in 1984 to combat graffiti and is now commissioned by the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program. One of the most famous murals is over 8 stories high (I think I’ve seen it before), and a few of the murals were mentioned on my tour, which was fun.
Back to the story:
After painting and loitering for a bit, I started my tour.
Stop 3: Jefferson’s Home
After the Visitor’s Center and a few other random things came the home in which Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence. It was so tucked in with the surrounding buildings (immediately up to the sidewalk without a lawn or anything) that if GPS Gina, one of my “tour guides” for the day, hadn’t mentioned the building’s significance, I would have passed it without a second glance.
Stop 5: the Liberty Bell
There wasn’t much to see when the sun’s glare prevents you from looking through the glass and the line is at least an hour long and not looking very promising. Oh well. I’ve seen it before (when the family came to Philly while Evangelina competed in Miss America), so I’m not too worried.
Stop 6: Independence Hall
Again, didn’t go in. This time, I think the building was closed because they were setting up for a band or some sort of show that evening. But since I wanted to get the entire tour done in just a little longer than the recommended two hours, I wasn’t necessarily dying to stop inside all the buildings.
Stop 8: Old City Hall
The former home to the first U.S. Supreme Court, this was one of the only buildings where I went inside and looked around.
The park ranger who stood by the rail separating tourists from
the room had the most monotone voice I’d ever heard for a tour
guide. As she explained the significance of the room, I had to suppress
a laugh at her complete lack of enthusiasm for being there.
I will always be one of those overly-patriotic
people on the inside, I think. It made me quite
proud to read this quote from de Tocqueville,
a leading French political thinker and historian
(I had to read part of one of his books while in high
school, and while horribly dry, it was interesting to
listen to his thoughts on our government).
Stop 12: The Second Bank of the United States
Modeled after Greek architecture, the Second Bank of the U.S. just might
be one of my favorite stops on the trip. I took a ton of pictures of this place.
I can’t believe that these cobblestone streets have
been here for over 200 years. So cool!
As there were twenty-one stops on my trip and I have a bunch more stories to tell, this blog will be continued later tonight!