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Friday, April 5, 2013

Catch Up 1: Philadelphia

I have been lazy  my down time this week catching up on our activities, but I am on vacation after all.

When last I posted we had finished our delicious Philly cheesesteak on Monday evening.  Tuesday we headed out into a very brisk Spring morning, if the thermometer not quite hitting forty with gusty winds is your definition of brisk; otherwise it was a cold morning.  We walked a few blocks to Mrs. K's Koffee Shop for breakfast.  Mrs. K's being an iconoclastic hold out against sleek design and made name beverage joints.  Two large U-shaped counters with old fashioned stools provide all the seating while waitresses who aren't trying to schmooze you into a bigger tip just do there job--which for me means a bigger tip.

With an afternoon train to New York we had a hard time deadline so we strapped on our walking shoes and headed out.  Our first stop was the very large Visitor's Center to inquire about tickets for a tour of Independence Hall.  We were given tickets for 12:45 which provided us just enough time to get back to the hotel, pack up our great and catch a cab to the station so we would be early for our train.

It also provided us time to play "Catch-Mama's-Friend" as she learned her friend from high school, Diane Brown Sass, was in Philly as a teacher/chaperone for a passel if eighth graders.  Through Benjamin Franklin's burial site (headstones for many entombed there so old the inscriptions worn off from centuries of weather), through Christ Church (still active, current minister is only the tenth since the Revolution; we have had forty-four Presidents and this church has had ten ministers in 235 years), past Betsy Ross' house, and finally a shuffling herd of the American Teenager headed our way, heads down, hands stuffed in pockets, semi-glazed eyes.  We have successfully tracked our target.

While Leslie and Diane caught up we joined the migration, our girls falling into the shuffling pace with hands stuffed in pockets. After a tour of Franklin's print shop we peeled off for our tour.

As a child I had been on countless trips to Independence Hall and just as many tours. Every time we had friends or family visiting, which was often, my mom would be their your guide: Hershey, Amish country, Valley Forge, Art Museum, and always Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell.  In those days you could still touch the bell and sit in the seats in Constitution Hall--I would always sit in the same seat and the guide would say, "that young man is sitting where James Madison day."  In a pinch I could give the tours myself.

Back to 2013, the tour to me was not worth the free admission other than the opportunity for the girls to get an idea of how small the find were where the Continental Congress met.  Void of many details and giving a too broad and empty talk on the whole Revolutionary period in about thirty minutes the tour is doing a disservice to our nation's history.

As we rode the train to New York I thought of my mom and all the days she dragged my siblings and I on tours and sight-seeing trips and laughed inwardly for two reasons.  First because somewhere she is getting a chuckle as she sees me taking he role and dragging my somewhat recalcitrant daughters through history giving them lessons and stories on where they are and what they are seeing.  Second because she and I both know that all those trips paid off--she imbued me with history and knowledge that I still have and care enough about to try to do for my children what she did for hers.

Thanks Mom!


History if Man changed in this room

Ready to change the world

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Let Freedom Ring

The girls at the Liberty Bell

Easter Sunday we slept in a bit, some more than other (singular) and grabbed a late breakfast snack at a Starbucks (while  prefer to avoid the Seattle Empire's colonial outposts spread across our nation and the globe, too often the choice is not that viable) we headed in an increasingly heavy drizzle/shower to the International Spy Museum.

There was a very long line outside and after purchasing our tickets for about eight bucks we found the front of the back of the line.  After about thirty minutes we entered the museum and stood in line for another thirty minutes before getting into a packed elevator.  Exciting the packed elevator we entered a very packed room with various exhibits of spy stuff.  We spent the next hour and a half going from one very packed room with exhibits to the next.  I'm sure it is a great place to visit if it has about one-quarter to one-third of the visitors we had.

We split a small pizza for lunch and headed back to our hotel in the drizzle to get ready for a very nice early Easter dinner and long visit with my aunt and uncle at the Washington Golf and County Club in the hills and woods of Arlington.

Monday morning we packed up our gear and after breakfast at the Soho meal-by-the-pound we checked out of the hotel and headed to the Supreme Court.  At the Court we witnessed about one hundred men and women being recommended to the Supreme Court Bar, being accepted on behalf of the court by Chief Justice Roberts and then taking the oath.

Following a very quick visit to the Library of Congress, sandwiches for lunch and a quick goodbye to Uncle Tony and Aunt Mary we were of to Union Station for our train ride to Philadelphia.  A Red Cap helped us with our luggage and drove us on a cart through the bowels of the station to our car.  The train was pretty crowded butwe were easily enough to grab four seats facing each other. Out came the devices and we spent the next two hours traveling through Maryland, Delaware and southeastern Pennsylvania arriving in cloudy Philadelphia close to the o'clock.

After our cab ride to our one night host, Sheraton Society Hill, and dumping our bags we walked about seven or eight blocks to Independence Mall, home of the Continental Congress, where our Declaration of Independence and Constitution were conceived, debated and written and the Liberty Bell.  As we saw the bell the girls had the glazed over look  again, as I told them of my many visits to the historical sites as a kid and how, "back in my day....." we could actually touch the Bell.

 It was a walking afternoon and he walked around the buildings, saw the Liberty Bell, down to Betsy Ross' home and then down to South Street.

Leslie sold the girls on the shops on the Street my mind was fairly singular in purpose.  Low and behold after walking down towards the Delaware River to the end of the after and then heading back north on the other did of the street a few strokes before six o'clock we found ourselves outside Jim's Steaks.

Casually looking at his watch, "hey anyone hungry?  It's dinner time, we might as well eat here...."  A cheesesteak with peppers and onions and a can of Yuengling was the perfect Philly dinner.  Leslie asked why I had my sandwich with provolone instead of the Philly tradition of Cheez-Whiz and Jenna answered, "he's on a diet mom."  To which Leslie replied, "that's why he only ordered one."  True that.

To finish off our meal we headed back out to South Street where the girls had each spotted a different ice cream shop they wanted to try, and Dad thinking some allowances can be made during vacations headed to Rita's for a chocolate frozen custard.  All in all a great welcome back to my home from May 1970 to December 1975.  Had the Phillies won their opener against the Braves it would have been just a little more perfect.

The Library of Congress is one of our most beautiful buildings

George Washington in front of Independence Hall

A perfect sandwich