Monday, March 11, 2013

Philadelphia- The Birthplace of Our Nation and Home of Cheese Steaks

Although our time was short in Philadelphia I already want to go back, preferably when it is warm. My mom and I flew up to attend the Justice Conference but we went a day early so that we could explore Philadelphia since we knew our conference schedule would be pretty busy.

City Hall
Part of Philadelphia City Hall lit up at night. It was massive!
We stayed downtown in the center of it all at the Downtown Marriott (I like to pronounce it with a British accent similar to Downton Abbey) which connects to the Philadelphia Convention Center. This is a great location, especially if you don't have a lot of time and need to be close to it all.

The night we flew in we got there too late to go see anything but too early to just hang in the room or go to bed. Thankfully my mom is an awesome trip planner and found out that there was a Macy's across the street from our hotel. I know what you are probably thinking, "You go to a famously historic city and you go shopping?" Before you judge us for being shallow or unpatriotic or frivolous, let me explain.

Macy's in downtown Philadelphia has the largest functional pipe organ in existence. The organ was built in 1911 and has 30,000 pipes and sits right above the shoe department. The best part is, they have organists who play it twice a day Monday-Saturday, once in the morning and once in the evening.


My mom, a pianist who took organ lessons in college, loved it! It was probably the highlight of her trip. We were able to go and hear it played twice, and, yes, do a little shopping as well (only because they had an unbelievable sale going on though!).

The next day was our official "touring day." Although I'm sure many people think it is cheesy, our family has found that one of the best ways to see a city for the first time is to do a "hop on, hop off" bus tour. Our favorite is the Big Bus Company which has locations all over the world, including Philly. Unlike every other Big Bus Tour we have taken, which has been a double decker bus, our tour was on a trolly car. Later the tour guide explained that during the busy tour season they use the big double decker buses but during the off season they use the trollies because they are warmer. It was really cold so I didn't mind.

Our tour started right outside our hotel and took us by almost all of the famous sites and learned a lot of neat facts about Philadelphia. For example, the inventor of the game Monopoly was from there and that is where all of the railroads, the electric company and water works come from or that we get the word "penitentiary" from Philly's East Penitentiary because the Quakers would give each prisoner there a Bible and tell them they needed to ask for penance. These are some of the things we saw:

Me and the Rocky Statue
Betsy Ross
Betsy Ross's House
Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin's Grave- Awful picture but the best I could do. The tour guide said people leave pennies on his grave. Ironic since Franklin was the one who said, "A penny saved, a penny earned." 
We rode the trolley around straight through the first time and then got off at Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. It was so cold we had to pretty much run from building to building.

Me and the Liberty Bell
Of course if you have read my previous blogs about DC or the Capitol you know how much I love historic sites. Philadelphia was no different. There is nothing quite like standing in the room where our nation's government began, where men, knowing the risk, made the decision to break away from tyranny and establish a "more perfect union." More simply put, there is nothing quite like standing in the footsteps of history.

First House Chamber
Me at a Congressman's desk at the first House Chamber
Needless to say, we couldn't go to Philadelphia without getting a Philly Cheese Steak. We didn't have time to seek out the best in the city, but we were able to get one at Reading Terminal, which has hundreds of food vendors. Reading Terminal (pronounced "redding") is the former home of Reading Railroad, an actual train terminal that is now out of commission.

Reading Railroad

Our Philly Cheese Steak

Reading Terminal is also where you can find Bassett's Ice Cream, America's oldest ice cream company, which began making and selling ice cream in 1861. Naturally we had to have a taste and it didn't disappoint.

Reading Terminal
Bassett's Ice Cream

Reading Terminal Market
Another great trip in the books! Can't wait to go back to Philly and explore some more!

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