The Epic Summer Road Trip - Historical Philadelphia: Day 3

Tuesday, July 7th

You know how after your first day on a trip, when you wake up the next morning, your body yells at you??  Every muscle hurts.  Even though you are normally active.  You know that feeling, right??  Right??

That was this morning.  

Now in my defense, we had walked right around 10 miles yesterday.  So bodies will hurt.  But this morning, like most mornings on a trip, we didn't have time to linger in bed, quietly aching.  Today, we had plans.  Historical Plans.

Of course, our Historical Plans were going to include a Starbucks, because they just do.  I know we could try a local coffee shop or bakery or something.  But honestly, we know Starbucks.  And we love Starbucks.  And Chai in other places is not the same as Starbucks.  Plus, I wanted my bonus stars.  Don't judge me.

The Starbucks we found was right across the street from the Betsy Ross House.  History!!  Elias and I drank our drinks and ate our cake pop (we kind of got the cake pop bug yesterday) and discussed our day.  The Betsy Ross House did have a $5 fee.  And we looked at each other.  Did we care??  Meh.  We saw the outside of the house.  That was enough and we walked to our next location.


Look, I didn't say we were going to see all of the historical places today.

The original idea was to walk to the Liberty Bell.  But we saw the sign for Franklin Square and decided to make a quick detour.  Franklin Square was one of the gathering places in the city that was up until recently a place you did not want to visit if you valued your life.  But a few years ago, the city stepped up and renovated the area to make it very kid friendly.  There was a carousel and places to eat.  Very adorable...if you have kids you want to entertain.  The kid traveling with me was 19 and didn't need to go on a carousel, so we didn't stay long.



On our way to Franklin Square, we passed by the Independence Visitor Center.  It was here that we accidentally learned that if you wanted to visit Independence Hall, you had to get a ticket in advance.  The tickets were free, but you had to get tickets in the Visitor Center first.  We had plans for lunch, so we got tickets for 3p, thinking that would give us enough time to have lunch and make it to the tour.  If you are planning on going inside Independence Hall, go to the visitor's center at the start of your day.  Tickets will "sell out."  When we returned for our visit, there was a sign up saying there were no more tours available, so there was a bit of patting ourselves on the back going on at that moment.

We walked outside and across the street to find one of the big draws for Philadelphia.  We found the Liberty Bell.  Now my lack of research prior to the trip made me believe the bell was in an open air outside kind of place.  It was not.  I mean, it is a very historical piece of...um...history.  It's not going to be exposed to the elements anymore.  And by "the elements," I mean "human beings."  Because human beings are generally awful.


The Liberty Bell, for those not in the know (which honestly was me until I watched a movie in the building), is one of the iconic symbols of American independence.  It began as bell for the city of Philadelphia, calling lawmakers to work and to alert citizens of public meetings and such.  The crack in the bell happened early in the 19th century, though reports are not entirely clear as to when and why it really happened.  One thing I didn't know/remember was there were actually two bells.  Both ended up cracking.  As the years went on, the bell became the symbol for freedom.  At times, the Liberty Bell would travel around the country so it could be viewed by everyone.  And back in the day, people could touch the bell.  Of course, people being awful, there would be those jerkwads who tried to take chunks out of the bell for their own purposes (the old-timey version of a Selfie, maybe??).  Because of this, Philadelphia stopped letting the bell tour after 1915.  It was probably for the best.  I mean, if people were trying to do bad things for their own purposes in the early 1900's, imagine the type of destruction we could do to it now.  This is why we can't have nice things, people.

History aside, we walked into the Liberty Bell Center.  The air conditioning was appreciated, but so was the information the building provided.  There was a 5-10 minute movie, going over the history of the bell and really exploring how the bell brought pride to the country.  It was very interesting, since the last time I thought about the Liberty Bell was during that episode of Sleepy Hollow that planted the seeds of this road trip.

The last part of the building was obviously actually seeing the Liberty Bell.  And like many things...it was much smaller than I'd have expected.  When you think of a bell on the top of a building, or an icon of freedom, you think of a substantial item.  I mean, it wasn't something someone could pick up to ring for Carson to bring you breakfast.  But it was smaller than what I had expected.

Added Elias for scale
We had lunch plans with our friend Blaise from last night's concert, but that wasn't happening for another hour or so.  Elias and I wandered a bit.  In our wandering, we ended up at Carpenters' Hall.

Carpenters' Hall was a meeting hall in the late 1700's and served for a short time as a location for the First Continental Congress of the United Colonies.  It also served as a makeshift hospital for both British and American troops in the Revolutionary War.


Across the street from Carpenters' Hall was Benjamin Franklin's House.  Unlike Betsy Ross' House, we were planning on visiting.  But the timing right now didn't entirely work out.  Funny for us, we were going to lunch at Buddakan, which was across the street from Carpenters' Hall and next door to Ben Franklin.  It's kind of funny how it worked out.  I'd love to say it was part of an epic strategic plan.  In reality, like the majority of the crap that happens to us on trips, it was an accident.

As for lunch...normally I would explain everything and post pictures and such.  But I was with two people we didn't know super well.  And I didn't want to be the dork taking pictures of food around them.  I was just the dork eating with them.  Now, Buddakan was an Asian-fusion type of restaurant, and I wasn't entirely sure how Elias was going to dig the options.  But we ate and ate and ate.  We ate so much that we had to bail out on visiting Ben Franklin's House or we would miss our window of time for Independence Hall.

Side note, Elias would not shut up about how much he loved lunch.  If he liked this place, I have a few restaurants to introduce him to in Chicago.


Touring Independence Hall was done with a group.  We lined up and listened for our time.  It looked like tours were done in 15 minute increments.  And each tour probably had 30-50 people (or so...I'm really bad at judging the number of things).  Our first stop was to sit inside of a room while our guide explained what we were going to see.  Our guide was very funny.  I don't remember his name, but he was an older man, with mad scientist type of hair.  He reminded me of my dad in a way (though Dad does not have mad scientist hair).  I even remarked to Elias that we may have found Dad's next career.  Historical Tour Guide.


After we were given the history, we walked into the first room.  This was the courtroom of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court circa 1700's.  On July 8, 1776, Pennsylvania militiamen stormed into the court and tore down the coat of arms of George III.


The original piece added after the coat of arms was removed.
Across the hall was the Assembly Room, where both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution was signed.


There was one more building within Independence Hall that we visited.  Congress Hall is where the inaugurations of George Washington (his second) and John Adams was held.  In addition, the House of Representatives and Senate were housed here until May 14, 1800, when it moved to Washington DC.


By this time, we were kind of done with history.  We wandered for a bit, going back towards some shopping at Rittenhouse Square.  And it was here where we tried our Uber in Philly.


I haven't used Uber much.  It just isn't a part of my life.  But we had walked a ton in the last two days and just didn't want to do it anymore.  So we called for Uber.  Our driver had been driving for around one month and I think I knew the streets better than he did.  But he was a really sweet guy and it was cheaper for us to Uber than it would have been to catch a cab.  He took us to the hotel and we rested for a while.  Because even though we had already had a full day, we still had a big event to go.

One of my stations had provided us with tickets to see Memphis, a musical that had won a Tony a few years earlier.  The theatre was walkable from our hotel and we didn't have any plans on Tuesday night. So we were ready.  The show was at the Walnut Street Theatre, the oldest continually operating theatre in the English-speaking world.  So we just can't get away from history here. 

Going in, I didn't know much about the musical.  Elias and I had been to Memphis a few years earlier, so we liked that connection.  But we were both going in blind.  And it was interesting to see how this entire musical connected with our trip as a whole. 

The musical was about a white guy in Memphis, who was the first to "introduce" African American music (later to be known as Rock and Roll) to the white community.

After the show, we knew we would stop one last time at the Franklin Fountain.  But what we should have done was to Uber over there.  Instead, we walked.  In the dark.  And probably not in the best neighborhood.  I'm kind of an idiot at times like this.  "Sure, we can walk there.  No worries!!"  I know Elias was skeeved out during the walk.  I was at times too.  But we made it to the ice cream shop.  And I promised to Uber it home.


Our final stop at Franklin Fountain was (for me) a bigger success than the first one.  They were not out of vanilla ice cream, so no matter what, it would be a better experience.  I went with a cherry soda and vanilla ice cream float.  Elias had a Philadelphia Egg Cream.  Which is basically soda water, chocolate syrup, milk, and an egg.  He dug his.  I dug mine.  We knew we would miss this place.

And we did Uber it back.  It was a 2 minute drive.  And I apologized to our driver for the short drive.  He didn't care.  We didn't either.

The funniest part of the day though came on the elevator ride up to our room.  There were four of us in the elevator.  Elias, me, and two big dudes.  As the elevator began its journey to our floor, my throat made some kind of gurgling noise.  It's something that occasionally happens to people, just rarely in a silent elevator.  Elias started laughing, wondering what the hell.  I turned to him and said, "It's just my throat.  It happens."  Then, one of the guys comes up with the line, "We didn't hear it either."  It was a perfect delivery and we all laughed the rest of the way up to our room.  Elias and I laughed about it the rest of the trip too.  The body does do silly things.

It didn't take us long to fall asleep.  We had many more days to go, and tomorrow would be a fun one.

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