USA ’22 #24: Philadelphia, the site of Independence

USA ’22 #24: Philadelphia 1

Monday 30th May and Tuesday 31st May 2022

Leaving Washington, we took the subway, which is extensive and has tracks on multiple levels.

The subway took us to Washington Union Station.

This is another great example of American railroad architecture, both inside [above] and out [below].

It also has sweeping staircases to rival those in the Rookery Building in Chicago.

Our Amtrak service took us to the William H Gray III, 30th Street Amtrak Train Station, to give it its full title, in Philadelphia which is another imposing edifice.

Having walked to our hotel and settled in we took a stroll and, curiously, Robert’s route seemed to lead straight to the Hard Rock Café.

We then dropped in to Brü where, with a little help from the quizmaster who advised us not to gamble too many of our point score on the final question, we won the quiz. The prize turned out to be a voucher for $50 which came in very handy when it came to settling our tab.

The next day we set out to discover the delights of Philadelphia.

No visit to the City of Brotherly Love would be complete without seeing the J.F. Kennedy Plaza, better known as LOVE Park.

We had not realised that the different planes of these iconic letters are coloured green and blue.

We planned to walk along Benjamin Franklin Parkway up to the Philadelphia Museum of Art where the steps leading to the east entrance are better known as the ‘Rocky steps’.

Leaving LOVE Park we came across the the nation’s first public Holocaust monument. Nathan Rapoport’s sculpture Monument to Six Million Jewish Martyrs, has been sited here since 1964.

Eakins Oval is a roundabout just in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and home to the Washington Monument and fountains. The sculpture was dedicated in 1897 at the Green Street entrance to Fairmount Park but was moved in 1928 to its present location after the parkway had been completed.

It looked a long way up the ‘Rocky Steps’ in 32 degree heat.

The first Rocky film was released in 1979 and Sylvester Stallone, who was born in New York but grew up in Philadelphia, gave the Rocky Statue to the city in 1982. This may have been an astute piece of self-promotion to ensure the Rocky franchise continued but it has also been a profitable focus for tourists to the city.

People were queueing to take a photo with the statue which was moved from the top of the steps to its current position in 2006. Robert decided he was happy with just the upper torso as this meant he didn’t have to join the end of the queue.

Robert wasn’t the only person who felt the need to emulate the famous scene, some with considerable more youth, energy and speed.

Matilda walked up but felt that the view back towards downtown from the steps is worth the climb.

Although the Rodin Museum itself was closed until Friday, there are Rodin sculptures on display outside in a beautiful setting, including including this version of The Thinker.

We went passed the Free Library where a sign informed us that there would be a free tour of the building at 10:00 the next day.

The Shakespeare Memorial in a square opposite the Free Library features two figures representing Comedy and Tragedy. The sculpture, made in 1926 at the Roman Bronze Works, was unveiled to the public on Shakespeare’s birthday in 1929. Tragedy is depicted as Hamlet with his head leaned against the hand holding a knife, and the comedic figure is is Touchstone, the jester, sitting at his feet, and bursting with laughter. Engraved beneath is the famous line from As You Like It, ‘All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players.’

The Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul was closed when was passed.

Walking on to the Reading Terminal Market we visited one of America’s largest and oldest public markets, which opened in 1982 and has been housed in this historic building since 1893.

From here we walked to the President’s House, which is now just a shell with a few walls standing and the outline of the property. Foundations have also been uncovered.

Philadelphia was the national capital between 1790 and 1800 while Washington DC was being built and this was the third mansion used by US presidents. Both Washington and John Adams lived here, with Adams moving to the White House in Washington DC on November 1st 1800 before it was fully complete.

We had failed to plan ahead and book entry tickets to Independence Hall and when we looked on line there were non available for the following day so this is another site which will have to wait for a return visit.

It is free to visit the Liberty Bell, but as a large school party had arrived shortly before we did and each student was carrying a regulation issue red bag which would need to be scanned we peered through the glass at the side of the display room.

Matilda went into The Bourse Food Hall in search of Philadelphia cheesecake but unfortunately it seemed to have been hit hard by Covid and very few of the pitches were in use. It was however a beautiful building.

Declaration House is on the site where Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence in 1776, attended by his 14-year-old enslaved servant, Robert “Bob” Hemings. The house was demolished in 1883, but was reconstructed by the National Park Service in 1975.

McGillins Old Ale House wins the prize for having the most pro-active PR we have encountered. Robert posted a photo and Matilda was seen to be blogging and shortly afterwards Gaby, the manager and Chris, the owner came to introduce themselves to us.

Video of the day:

Dexy’s Midnight Runners’ Come on Eileen is guaranteed to get Matilda

Selfie of the day:

Dish of the day:

Philadelphia Cheesesteak [far right] – not to be confused with cheesecake

Route Map:

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