Sun 15 Nov, 2009 01:58 pm
Philly in Five Days.
This is not a travelogue of some exotic foreign land, but in our own back yard with enough history to keep many American History buffs busy for ages. I'm talking about Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, and where our forefathers etched out some major documents called the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.
My wife and I spent five full days enjoying the sites and sounds in Philly, Chadds Ford, Gettysburg, Strasburg, and Valley Forge. We're going to include some travel hints for people who plan to visit this area, and make a few recommendations on places to visit and eat.
We took the red-eye from San Francisco to Chicago to Philly on United, because the fare for the two round trip tickets cost only $10 plus frequent flier miles. The good news is, we flew home non-stop from Philly to San Francisco. If you fly into Philly and need transportation into downtown, you can get door-to-door shuttle service for $10 per person. However, a taxi will cost $28.50 (fixed rate), so if you travel with a companion, it's better to take the taxi.
To get our orientation for the City of Love, we took the 11:30AM double-decker bus tour that runs for 90-minutes that passes by most of the (21) major sites for $27,50 pp. The starting point is across the street on Market from Independence Hall Visitor's Center. It's a good way to get your bearing of where most things are located, and the double-decker tour bus fare is good for 24 hours. During the tour, you'll pass by some interesting places such as Betsy Ross' Home, where William Penn is buried, Elfreth's Alley (supposedly the oldest residential street in the US), Chinatown, City Hall (supposed to be the biggest in the US), Rodin Museum, Fairmount Park (supposedly the largest park in the US; second largest in the world), Philadelphia Museum of Art, the zoo, the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. You can jump off and on the bus at all 21 sites.
After the tour, some of us stayed on the bus to get off at the Reading Terminal (stop 5) that has been converted into a market with many good eating places.
I made a two day car rental from home at Enterprise, because they pick you up and drop you off. I paid about $80 for the two day rental for a compact KIA. The original plan was to visit several places including Gettysburg recommended by farmerman, so my wife and I agreed on the Brandywine River Museum.
After we picked up our car, we drove towards Chadds Ford to visit the Brandywine River Museum that houses a large collection of works by the Wyeth family and Rockwell Kent. There are also works by Howard Pyle, Frederick Church, Alice Stephens, and Remington. The museum is located in a renovated 19th century grist mill next to a creek, and the winter landscape there is just beautiful.
When we met farmerman for dinner on Friday, he told us he knew Andrew Wyeth, and even developed a friendship with him. Talk about six degrees of separation, you never know who your acquaintances are or who they are related to or who their friends are.
Although most people have some knowledge about the Wyeth family and their art works, not many know about Rockwell Kent. Rockwell Kent did the art works for Moby Dick, and the original sketches and final art works for that project is on display at this museum. Also, Mr Kent also did artworks at Alaska, Antarctica and Argentina that are really creative and outstanding. Mr Kent understood perspective and contrast very well, and used them to their best advantage. Some show the deep translucent blue glaciers against the white background and foreground of snow. I just love his stuff!
I would highly recommend a visit to this museum for anyone visiting Philly. It's about a 40-minute drive from downtown Philly.
Today was our trip to Gettysburg, the location of the great battle commanded by Robert E Lee of the Confederate, and George Gordon Meade, commander of the Union army. The three day war at Gettysburg cost 51,000 soldiers dead, wounded, and missing. However, what I have found to be of great interest is that the majority of the buildings that existed in July of 1863 still survives today, and the building where Lincoln wrote they Gettysburg Address can be seen as well as the Gettysburg train station.
The bus tour at Gettysburg provides an overview of the battles on July 1, 2, and 3. On July 1, the two armies collide during the early morning hours on the northwest of Gettysburg, but by 4PM the defending Federal troops are defeated and retreat through Gettysburg. The remaining Union force regroup at Cemetery and Culp's hills. On July 2, General Lee attacks against the Union from the left and right, but Federal reinforcements are able to check Longstreet's assault. Ewell's Confederate troops are able to seize part of Culp's hill, but are held back elsewhere. On July 3, Ewell sends 12,000 Confederate infantry into Cemetery Ridge to break the Federal lines, but is held back with heavy losses. East of Gettysburg, Lee's calvary is checked in a huge battle, and crippled by huge casualties. On July 4, Lee begins to withdraw for Virginia.
The bus tour stopped at several locations including Little Round Top where General Warren, chief engineer of the Union army, arranged the last minute defense of this hill that determined the outcome of the war.
The bus tour plus a short film and Cyclorama cost $65 for the two of us (seniors).
After the bus tour, we attended the short film about the war, but the Cyclorama was really an amazing experience where a huge painting (42ft high and 365ft wide) by the French artist Paul Philippoteaux depicting "Pickett's Charge", the climactic Confederate attack on the Union forces during the Battle of Gettysburg on July 3, 1863, is shown with some sound and light effects of cannon explosions.
We left Gettysburg for Strasburg at about 3PM. Strasburg was recommended by farmerman, and I'm glad he did because we were able to see those Amish horse and buggies, visited a couple of Amish stores and restaurants, and enjoyed a nice dinner at the Fireside Tavern a short distance from the main street. We purchased some coconut-white chocolate and peanut brittle candy. We were back at our hotel, the Omni at Independence Park by 7PM.
After returning our rental car, we were dropped off at the Independence Hall Visitors Center to get tickets to see Independence Hall (free) for the 9AM tour. We had a little rain, and maybe that's the reason we had only six people in our tour group. After a short orientation by the docent, we were taken to the Grand Jury room (PA Supreme Court Chamber) where the state's coat of arms is above the bench. There are also jury boxes and a prisoner's dock where the defendant had to stand for hours every day during the trial. The Pennsylvania Assembly Room is the location where the delegates of the thirteen colonies assembled and adopted the Declaration of Independence of July 4, 1776. However, most come to see the most important treasure of our country, the chair used by George Washington during the Constitutional Convention with its rising sun on the back.
After our tour at Independence Hall, we took a taxi to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, a place with an overwhelming treasure trove of art works, antiques, and replicas of famous rooms from the US, Asia, and Europe. I especially enjoyed the large collection of impressionist art that includes van Gogh, Renoir, Cassatt, Monet, Manet, Cezanne, Gauguin, Kandinsky, Miro, and O'Keefe.
From there, we took a taxi to the Mutter Museum where they have a huge collection of fluid-preserved anatomical and pathological specimens, medical instruments, items of memorabilia of famous scientists and physicians, and medical schools. You should visit after a few hours between meals, because what's on display can bring on nausea very quickly. However, it's very educational and fascinating to see and learn a bit about human pathology, and what medical students must learn to practice their art. They even have the tumor of Grover Cleveland, and the thorax of John Wilkes Booth on display. At $10 pp entrance fee, it's a bargain.
We had dinner at Zento, because their chef was trained and worked at (iron chef) Muramoto's restaurant in Philly, and it was only a couple of blocks away from our hotel. Besides, my wife selected this restaurant.
Fifth Day (our last):
Since we were planning to meet with farmerman and Thomas for dinner at the Legal Seafood restaurant in King of Prussia, we decided to spend the day at Valley Forge. We took the SEPTA 124 bus from 13th and Market (southeast corner) to the King of Prussia shopping mall. (To go to Valley Forge from 13th and Market, one must take the SEPTA 125 bus.) We were pleasantly surprised to learn that they have a display of all the Norman Rockwell Post magazine covers on display spanning 40-years, so that's were we found ourselves. They also have on display three dimensional replicas of Rockwell's paintings including a couple of self-portraits where he's looking in the mirror to paint himself. Many decades ago, my brother and his wife, and my wife and I, did the New England tour and visited Stockbridge, home of Norman Rockwell.
From the mall, we took the SEPTA 125 bus from the transportation station located next to JC Pennys to Valley Forge.
If you're a senior traveling to Philly, make sure you bring your red, white, and blue, Medicare card, because seniors ride free. Although we didn't pay for our 124 bus ride to King of Prussia mall, the bus driver insisted I had to have my Medicare card to get a free ride, so I ended up paying $2 to Valley Forge. He seemed in a very bad mood that day; he even grumbled at another passenger on the way to Valley Forge.
Upon arrival at Valley Forge, we looked at their small museum that displays some artifacts from that period and explanations of the history of Valley Forge. They also have a short film shown at the theater at another building that is worth seeing.
Valley Forge is best toured in a car in November, because the walking distance to see all of it requires walking about 4-5-miles, and organized tours do not operate during the winter months. We opted to walk to the log cabins about a 15-minute walk from the visitor's center, and I walked alone to the arch that commemorates George Washington, his officers, and troops, because my wife didn't feel up to walking further. There are also included in the ten sites, Washington's headquarters, and Washington's Memorial Chapel which we missed.
At about 10-minutes to 4PM, I walked upstairs to see if farmerman had arrived to take us to the restaurant for dinner. He was waiting inside, and we both introduced ourselves. After fetching my wife from downstairs, we proceeded to the restaurant, but got lost and had to ask several people where the Legal Seafood restaurant was located. Not many knew, but a gentleman who was driving a Cadillac into a parking lot gave us directions. We were about 15-minutes late getting there, but Thomas was waiting for us in the parking lot.
We had a leisurely seafood dinner enjoying good food and conversation. It was a pleasure meeting farmerman for the first time, and Thomas for the fourth time. Farmerman also was gracious in offering to take us back to our hotel in downtown Philly.
The next morning, we had a wake-up call at 5AM, a 5:30AM taxi to the Philly airport, and we were home by 11:30AM.
Another good trip under my belt.
Photographs to follow.
Im so glad that someone can get enjoyment out of a cisit to our area. We who live ina 70 mile radius of Philly get rather hohum about the place.
This was the second time I met Thomas and the first for CI and Mrs Ci. Ci is an amazing ball of energy while I was suffering frrom Post flight adreneline come-down.
THe rule in Philly is simple
If you have no idea where youre at, find someone in a CAdillac SUV , they will know because these are [people who always eat out. Never ask anyone in a BMW because they are always ferom out of town and no Hummers because they will steal yer watch.
Thanks CI. I feel like I've been on mini-trip myself now.
All in all, if there were no Boston, I'd rather be in Philadelphia.
Actually -- you saw a lot of my old stomping grounds -- from age 5 to 10, we lived in King of Prussia and my Dad worked for General Electric in Valley Forge. Plus I went to Law School in Wilmington, DE, which is very close. I guess you did not go to Longwood Gardens. Next time, and go when it's warm out! It's beautiful (plus there's plenty of lovely stuff in Delaware, too if you want to go a tad further South).
Hi jespah, Actually, I'm thinking about traveling north to Boston next year to see you all. At my age, I've gotta begin getting a bit choosy about my destinations, and my energy level isn't what it used to be. I've been sleeping ten hour days lately, and that's a sign my age is catching up. Still enjoying the sites, but probably at a slower pace.
I love the architecture & the feel of the city, ci.
Actually, I had no idea of what Philidelphia looked like, before this thread. Thanks.
All in all, if there were no Boston, I'd rather be in Philadelphia.
They're similar in a number of ways. In particular, their team didn't win the World Series, either.
msolga, You're welcome, and I'm glad you dropped by to visit this thread - and Philly. It was our first visit to Philly, and I must say it exceeded our expectations for the sites, food, and people's friendliness. My curiosity about that city is now fulfilled.
Great pics, ci. You always do a great job with your travelogues. It's almost as if we're tagging along.
JPB, All such compliments are welcomed and encouraged. LOL
So jes, you went to Widener eh? Yeh, I tried to get CI to head down to Lewes Del or Winterthur but he was strapped for time so I was amazed at the amount they actually did in the time they had.
Yep, I went to Widener.
And Winterthur! That's worth a trip in and of itself.
@Thomas - you are evil.
Dont worry, Ill get im next time I see him. Im gonna take him along on a mine blast.
MWAH HAAH hA HA HAAA
Now back to friendlier fare; Love Park in Philly (also known as JFK Plaza).
Amazing. I haven't been to philly in many, many years. I had forgotten how much some of those streets look like Boston. The architecture is absolutely identical. Even the city hall looks just like the old Boston city hall, which was replaced by a monstrously ugly building in the 1960s. There are a lot of other buildings that if you just showed me the picture and asked what city we were in, I would have guessed Boston immediately. (But parts of Market Street in SF have that effect on me, too. Not to mention Union Sq.)
I agree; I've also gotten that Boston-Philly-San Francisco vibe. You can get it in Providence, too.
Great, C.I. and I'm with W.C. Fields.
All things being considered, I think I'd rather be in Philidelphia.
Well, here's the last group of pictures. They're just a few of Valley Forge, because we limited our walking at that historic park. However, for those of you curious about how farmerman looks like, this is your chance to "see" him.
These cabins were built to house 12-men.
The many backgrounds of the folks who were at Valley Forge.
Weapons of the times (muskets).
The "meet" at Legal Seafood.
That's it, folks!