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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A Whirlwind Philly Weekend

After finding out that he could have the weekend off, Josh and I made plans to leave bright and early on the train and head to Philadelphia for a little getaway.  It sounds like Josh is also going to have to start working 6 days a week from now on, so this was probably our last chance for a while to get out of NJ overnight.  

We thought the train would be a good idea, so that we didn't have to drive and could just relax on the way there.  It would only take us an hour more and we could get there for the price of what our parking would cost at the hotel in downtown Philly.  I've never really been on a train, besides from Cusco to Machu Picchu and back and 30 mins to Meadowlands for a Jets game so I was actually excited.  We needed to take the PATH to Newark Penn Station and catch the real train from there.  It was easy, and although Newark Penn Station was a bit shady (which I already knew), I was surprised how clean the train was and how safe I felt while on it.

We arrived at the train station in Philly around noon and it was a five minute cab ride to our hotel, the Courtyard Marriot right downtown.  We dropped out bags off at our room and headed out to the Reading Terminal Market (just a hint for anyone that is going to visit the city, Reading is pronounced Redding, not reading... so you don't sound like a tourist).  The market, is like any other market filled with unique and delicious food and hand crafts.  Its actually a lot like a smaller Pike Place Market in Seattle or St. Lawrence Market in Toronto for anyone that has been to those ones.  It is also known for having the best Cheesesteak in the city at Carmen's.  When we walked up to the stand, there was a HUGE line, so we knew it must be good and worth the wait.  After eating we also bought some pickles, beef jerky and cheese.  Pretty much the things that I buy at every market haha.

In total, we ended up waiting about an hour, but man it was SO worth it.  Wow.  We pretty much inhaled them, and headed on our way to check out the Liberty Bell. (Did I mention all of these amazing places are within a mile of the Courtyard Marriot?  Best location ever and reasonable prices)

 I was pretty shocked with the fact that the foliage was still amazing in the city.  It was gorgeous!

For anyone that doesn't know, the Liberty Bell was put in to commission in 1752 to commemorate
the 50th anniversary of William Penn's Charter of Privileges. It was first rung in 1753 and cracked upon that first ringing due to brittle metal.  It was recast a few times and finally after a couple tries they decided to just use it as is.  The bell was rung to call the Assembly together and to alert the public of special announcements and events.  It was rung at the enactment of several important bills as well as the crowning of royalty and the reading of the Declaration of Independence.   The crack in the bell finally made it unringable on Washington's birthday in 1846.  It was also adopted as a symbol of the abolishment of slavery.

Anyway, after another line and realizing that a lot of American's don't know much about the Liberty Bell either, we got to see it.  Pretty cool stand beside one of the most iconic symbols in America.

We also got to take a look at Independence Hall where both the Declaration or Independence and the Constitution were debated and adopted.

Another amazing, be it, sobering place to visit was Washington Square.  During the revolutionary war it was used as a burial ground for thousands of citizens and troops of the Colonial Army.

Also in the park is the Moon Tree, a sycamore tree planted in 1975 from a seed that was taken to the moon on the Apollo 14 mission.

Probably the main attraction in the park is the Tomb of the Revolutionary War Unknown Soldier.

It is also home to many very fat, tame squirrels.  This one resembles Smudge, if she were a squirrel.

The Rose Garden was a beautiful addition to the area, it is so quiet and peaceful, and although rose season is over, there were a few left, that were so beautiful.

 The First Bank of the United States

Carpenter's Hall, where the First Continental Congress met.

The Merchant's Exchange Building, gorgeous, and there were a couple getting engagement photos taken in front.

We visited City Tavern because we were freezing and needed a drink.  It was established in 1773 and is the oldest (non continuous) tavern in Philadelphia.  Josh got a flight of their craft beer (it wasn't great) and I got a hot apple cider with spiced rum that was amazing!  While we were there,  Chef Gordon Ramsey happened to come in, although we never saw him, the manager and wait staff were not very good at keeping the secret.

As the photo states, the passage way to Benjamin Franklin's house.  The whole area is a museum dedicated to him.

The original location of Ben Franklin's privy.

The printing press and bindery where Franklin worked.  The whole thing inside is still functional and they do tours and printings inside.

We didn't want to have much to eat so we stopped at McGillin's Olde Ale House for an appetizer and a drink.  This is the oldest continuous bar in Philly, established in 1860.  The food and service were both awesome and they have self serve beer taps!

A picture of City Hall at night, beautiful!  

We were then headed to the most exciting part of the weekend, a NHL game between the Flyers, and one of my favorite teams, the Colorado Avalanche.  Despite some major home ice advantage in the reefing, the Avs still lost but came back from a 3 goal deficit.  I was so sad that I don't have my Sakic jersey here!  It really was a great game though!

After the game, it was definitely time for bed, more for one of us than the other, but we were up bright and early again for more touring around the city.  Right beside our hotel was the Masonic Temple.  Like most of the other buildings in the historic area, totally unbelievable.

The area outside the hotel is also filled with a huge amount of statues like this Ben Franklin one and the people holding up the government.  

Kind of random, but the Board Game Art Park is filled with giant dominos, Chess and Parcheesi pieces and Monopoly pieces.

City Hall in the daytime.  That is Ben Franklin on the top.

The famous Love Park.  Unfortunately, they were just putting up the Christmas tree behind it and weren't done until later in the day when we were leaving.

The Swann Memorial Fountain in Logan Square.  Sadly, the water was drained but it was still really pretty.

 I think the highlight of the trip for Josh were the steps in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, mostly famously known for being the steps that Rocky runs up in the movie.

I'm not really sure, what this statue represents but it is almost exactly like a dream I had a couple nights before going to Philly.  Creepy.

 Another one of the things that I was super excited for was the Eastern State Penitentiary,  built in the early 1800s and closed in 1971.  It was a groundbreaking prison at the time and became one of the most notorious prisons in the US.  It also housed such criminals as Al Capone.  It is terrifying in the day, and The night before we went was the last night of a special tour of terror in the the dark. I can't even imagine.

The most terrifying gargoyles I have ever seen.

A typical cell.

The exercise lawn.

The door to the guard tower.

An art installation of people that were murdered in Philadelphia and who's killers ended up in the prison.  There was a book telling how they died, and the fate of their killers.

Al Copone's cell.  It was said that he was actually hiding out in prison to avoid being killed by opposing gangs.

Pep the dog was also housed here.  He was convicted of killing the governor's wife's cat.

The prison was honestly one of the highlights of historic places I have ever visited.  highly recommended if you ever visit the city!

Our final stop for the day was the Mütter Museum, started by doctor who was interested in the macabre and unusual.  It is filled with items, some that are disturbing and terrifying and some that are just plain crazy.  There are actually few things in it that I think the "freaks" in this season of American Horror Story.  The last four pictures are from the Mütter Museum website since pictures were not allowed inside.  

The "Soap Lady"- a mummy whose body basically turned to a form of soap because of the conditions in which she decomposed.

A view of most of the museum from the upper balcony.

Slices of Albert Einstein's brain.

The wall of skulls.  Each skull tells who it was and how the died.  The museum was fascinating, and made us a little less hungry for lunch, but definitely worth the admission, just don't go on a weekend if you can help it!

We boarded the train back to Jersey and this time I slept most of the way, I really do like the train!
The whole trip was so much fun, and I have to say that Philadelphia is one of my favorite US cities that I have been in and I cannot wait to go back,  So much fun!

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