Thursday, May 19, 2011

Postcards from the Journey - Day Six

First, let me say that it has been impossible to blog every day with all that we've been doing, so I'm writing day six almost a week late!!!

I fully intend to catch up, but it will take me awhile. 

Day six we travel to Philadelphia to spend a few awesome hours.  What a beautiful city!  I don't know what I was expecting, but OMG!  Parks, statues, beautiful architecture, TONS of history, and friendly people.  I wish I had a few weeks to spend there.

Our stop in Philly was primarily to see the Liberty Bell and to see if we could find the library that housed the documents and journals of the Lewis and Clark expedition (hereafter I will simply refer to them as L & C).

Much like Gettysburg there were teachers herding classes of children of all sizes and shapes everywhere.  Unlike Gettysburg there were also tours from China, Japan, Zimbabwe, and Southern Uzbekistan,and each tourist stopped in front of every sign, placard, and crack in the side walk to have his or her picture taken with the wondrous object.  And then of course there were the group photos of each tour in front of each wondrous object.

In the past this would have ended all hope of my enjoying this city.  I HATE CROWDS.  But something amazing happened - None of that bothered me this time.  My inner child was dancing and shouting and having a great time!  Don't worry, my outer adult was somewhat more sensible, but there was a smile there that would have surprised anyone that knew me well.

We found the Liberty Bell with no problem.  It is a free exhibit open to all, first come first serve.  The line was longer than the ones I remember in Disneyland.  No problem.  Worth the wait.  The park ranger giving the history of the bell was fascinating, insightful, and thorough.  He lost most of the school children after the first minute or two, and most of the foreign viewers after "hello,"  but Pam and I listened to the whole thing.

There is also a tour of Liberty Hall where the Continental Congress sat and the Declaration of Independence was signed, but you have to get tickets to go on the tour and with the crowds we were only able to get tickets for late afternoon - so we skipped that and went searching for L & C. 

We didn't have to go far.  On the same block was an exhibit of the American Philosophical Society called "Of Elephants and Roses."  We were advised that they were the keepers of all things L & C.  So we scurried over to the exhibit to see if they could help us.  As we entered the exhibit Pam asked if it would be possible to see any of the L & C journals.  The face of the young man at the top of the stairs lit up.  He almost bounded down the stairs to inform us that he would be glad to take us across to the street to the main APS Library to show us a display of L & C's.  He and the other curator - an older woman - were so enamored at finding another history buff in my wife that they fairly drooled all over themselves, sharing little tidbits about the wondrous doings of former great men.

There were two small exhibits in the main library - most of which is private.  One contained two journals of L & C.  The curator told us that all of the journals are displayed on a rotation that allows them to avoid over exporsure to the elements.  It would have been nice to see more, but a little taste is better than none at all.

The other exhibit was on the writing of the Declaration of Independence.  There was a draft that Thomas Jefferson had sent to Benjamin Franklin with annotated amendments asking for his approval.

Fascinating.  How did the American Philosophical Society end up with these documents?  Their past president happened to be Thomas Jefferson and their membership includes a long list of names of the men that have formed the history of this nation.

From there we went to a display of art of the important men and women in early Philadelphia history.  The work was mostly that of Charles Wilson Peale.

This is the building that held the art collection.

From there we decided to lunch at the City Tavern a place that was frequented by many of the members of the Continental Congress back in their day and has been recently restored.  The chef uses recipes that were common in the colonial period.  Pam had a salmon dish and the Martha Washington Chocolate Mousse Cake.

 I had the George Washington Porter Ale and the beef pie.

From there we visited the site of Benjamin Franklins home and offices.  The home was long ago removed.  The site has been preserved with a metal frame that gives the bare outline of what once stood.  On the floor are quotes form letters and documents of the Franklin family.

Across a square are both the first American Post Office and Franklins printing house.

Very cool stuff but NY beckons.

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