Philadelphia Trip, Thursday June 13, 2002 (Day 2)

This story features information about our trip to Philadelphia Pennsylvania. Join us — won’t you — for this second installment, in which a market is traversed, parking is sought, the terminal is found, more birch beer is consumed, a mall is explored, and history is viewed firsthand.

Thursday morning, we woke up early and drove back to Old Philly, through the Italian Market. The evening before, the market was quiet and vacant. When we drove through that morning, though, it was very different.

This morning, it was full of people, full of carts of food, clothing, electronics, and nearly everything else you can imagine. There was a giant painting of …someone… on the wall. Unfortunately, the picture we took didn’t come out very well, so we’ve got even less hope of figuring out who it is. But here’s the picture. Anyone?

UPDATE: Our new friend, Lorri M., provided us with a clearer view and information about the man in the picture. It turns out that he is Frank Rizzo, a former mayor of Philly. Thanks for solving the mystery, Lorri!

Once we finally made it down to Old Philly, we struggled to find a parking place, and then had a severe reaction to the price of parking down there! Most places were $15-20.00 per day, measured in half-hour increments. We felt fortunate to find a $12 parking garage. Fortunate, at least, until we drove up into it and were surprised by Philly’s definition of a parking ‘space’. Areas that they call two parking spaces would count only ONE here in Cincinnati. I thought that every car in Philly must have a collection of dents in their doors from parking in these ‘spaces’.

To start our day, we wandered into the Lights of Liberty storefront. Lights of Liberty is described as your chance to: Experience the American Revolution, as it happened, where it happened through state-of-the-art technology. The story is told through beautiful hand painted images that are projected up to 50 feet high onto the buildings where the events actually took place over 200 years ago. You’ll hear a moving musical score, performed by musicians of the Philadelphia Orchestra and dazzling effects produced at Skywalker Sound. The voices of Walter Cronkite, Ossie Davis, and Charlton Heston tell the tale. It sounded good to us, and Pat (the Cool Young Man behind the counter) told us that he could not only use two-for-one tickets for the show (saving us a cool $17.76), he could also validate our parking saving us an additional $9.00, for a total savings of $26.76. We immediately dubbed Pat the coolest cat we’d met yet in Philly. Never mind that he was only the fifth or sixth person we met. He was still cool. We signed up for the 9:45pm show, and off we went to explore historical Philadelphia.

When we left Pat, we headed toward the Independence Hall Visitor’s Center to get our tickets to see Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, and all that other stuff. We got our tickets for a 3:30 tour of the Hall, and were told to be at the security checkpoint by 2:45 to make it through in time for our tour. That left us with a bunch of time on our hands, so we headed off, urged by grumbling tummies, in search of something to eat.

That search led us on a walk through downtown Old Philly, amid the weirdos, smelly, and downtrodden, all mixed together with the businessmen in their power suits, the cops, and the traffic. Oh the traffic — both foot traffic and motor traffic. Relentless! We found our way to the Reading Terminal Market. Here’s a description of the Market from their website: Mouth-watering aromas. Produce fresh from the field. Amish specialties. Fresh meats, seafood, and poultry. Unique, hand-made pottery, jewelry and crafts from around the world. The hustle and bustle of a multitude of diverse people. It’s all here in Philadelphia’s historic farmers market, Reading Terminal Market. An exhilarating selection of baked goods, meats, poultry, seafood, produce, flowers, ethnic foods, cookware and eclectic restaurants are peppered throughout the Market. We found the Olympia restaurant within the market and had Gyros, Fries, Spanakopita, and more Birch Beer.

Once done with lunch, we headed off to find a sweater for Wendy. To her surprise, it never seemed to get over a drizzly 65 degrees in Philly. Wendy, having packed for mid-June weather, was unpleasantly surprised with how chilly it was. I, of course, was comfortable. We went to The Gallery at Market East. The Gallery at Market East, the largest retail complex in downtown Philadelphia, has more than 120 stores and eateries, department stores, unique stalls, and specialty merchants awaiting your discovery. With its giant directory sculptures and soaring four-story atrium, The Gallery is a fun and bustling meeting place for some 40,000 people who pass through Philly’s largest transportation hub every day. They come to shop, to eat, and to connect with downtown Philadelphia’s historic and cultural gems.

Now fed and warmed, we headed back to Independence Hall and the security checkpoint that awaited us. Their estimate of a 45 minute wait was accurate, and we got through the gates without incident.

We were allowed into the complex to see the Liberty Bell. While in that line, we were entertained by a big man herding a group of 35 or so excited school kids. He was also telling them stories about the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and other tidbits that came to mind. That is, when he wasn’t busy chasing them down.

Finally, we got to see the Liberty Bell. There was a brief presentation by the Guard, and then we were permitted to take photographs of the bell. It’s rather funny — most people, myself included, think that the giant crack running down the side of the bell is the crack. But it’s not. It is the repair. The actual crack is just a hairline, and part of the original crack still exists on the bell.

We then went into Independence Hall and the associated buildings. Inside we learned about the proceedings that had occurred in those rooms, and got to see THE ACTUAL CHAIR that George Washington had sat in. Puzzlingly, it was the only original piece in the building. The rest was a recreation based on historical records (though Thomas Jefferson, when asked 10 years after serving to draw a layout of the room, could not. He said that they were more focused on the business at hand than to have time to worry about the architecture.). We saw some original copies of the Declaration of Independence with hand-written comments in the margins. Some of the comments were reportedly in George Washington’s handwriting.

One other thing we learned while in Independence Hall is that they do not like cell phones ringing. Which is unfortunate, because my cell phone rang. I was alternately bobbing-n-weaving to elude the miniature docent who was telling me to please turn off the phone and talking to Pat who had called to inform us that our Lights of Liberty show had been cancelled for that night, due to impending bad weather. How they knew, at 5:30pm, that it would be raining at 9:45pm we don’t know. But they were right. And that dwarfish docent never caught me as I scooted around Independence Hall!

Wendy and I decided to go back to the hotel for a bit, and then back out to dinner. We dined at the Philadelphia Fish & Company, which Wendy had found in her online research. We shared a very nice architectural Mozzarella, Tomato, and Mushroom salad with a lovely white balsamic reduction. We also had a bowl of nice Chowder. Wendy’s entree was the Market Trio (tuna, mahi, and salmon) over butternut squash risotto. I had the Grilled Salmon over Citrus Basmatti Rice with a Spicy Sauce. For dessert, we split an Apple Cranberry Crumble. That was a very nice meal, and we enjoyed the restaurant very much.

On the way home, we took the I-95 instead of driving back through town, and what a time difference it made! Once we got back to the hotel, we tuned into SHREK before trying to go to sleep. Tonight, the thing that kept us awake was the constantly running toilet. A little amateur plumbing later, and it was nice and quiet for the end of our second day.

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