Philadelphia

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It was raining when we reached Philadelphia, and I remember finding great comfort in it. It was so long ago (damn me and my dilatory blogging) that I can’t really recall why. I’m going to allow myself romanticise here a little and suggest that it was probably down to something incredibly poignant or life changing. And who knows, it may very well have been, considering I was in the midst of an incredible trip. I have written about Massachusetts and New York so far, but getting from one destination to the next meant passing through a new state here and there (New Jersey, Connecticut and Delaware if you’re curious) so by the time we rolled up to Philadelphia, I had experienced so much already; loving every minute.

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These shots were taken on the Benjamin Franklin bridge, which crosses the Delaware river; and has done since 1926. A rainy overcast day compliments its pallid colouring, don’t you agree? From what I do remember, we crossed the bridge slowly, and while I watched the rain through the sunroof and took some pictures I do remember us all recounting movies we knew that were set in Philadelphia, chiming in occasionally with movie quotes.  Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington’s fight on AIDS in Philadelphia was of course set here…as well as all the Rocky films and The Sixth Sense. Most quotes we remembered came from Trading Places; which I’ll be watching over the coming weeks. It’s a movie that always sets off this time of year for me, even if I am completely disgruntled by all the Christmas stuff around since early November.

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The rain must have known we were coming. By the time we reached our hotel the weather had cleared up. We again choose an Embassy Suites (fave for life!) which was attached to a TGI Fridays next door. Not something you see every day, I was pretty excited about this, knowing there were cheap cocktails and mozzarella sticks mere minutes from my room! I did take full advantage of this convenience later on.

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We took a quick trip up to the room to check things out and I spent a little time on the balcony, watching the city below. I like to do this when I arrive in a place I’ve never been. I like to get a sense of what’s going on from above before immersing myself in full city slicker mode. From my balcony view, without having seen much of Philadelphia streets, I loved it immediately; there’s just something about it I can’t put my finger on. My brother was also easily sold, for different reasons than mine. Coming from New York (a place he really doesn’t have any love for) he commented on how clean Philadelphia was. He enjoyed the city’s style and the fact that it wasn’t overcrowded.

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We leave the hotel, and not a full minute later we found ourselves outside an Irish pub; clearly a sign that we had to go in and try it out. We just had one drink though – we had lots of things to see! Like…

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Philadelphia City Hall, Penn Square.

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The LOVE statue, by Robert Indiana, signifying The City of Brotherly Love in John F. Kennedy Plaza.

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More Irish pub options. I like the name of this one.

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The Liberty Bell. It’s location on Market Street and Independence Mall, one of the loveliest parts of the city. To visit the Liberty Bell, entrance is free; and the visitor centre is open until 5pm most days, excluding holidays. It was so cool to see it in real life. I’m ashamed to say I never knew what caused the crack, although I don’t feel as bad now, as it’s not entirely clear for anyone! When the bell was originally ordered by the Pennsylvania Assembly from London in 1751, it transpired that the metal was just too brittle, so the bell cracked during a test strike. The final version that sits in the visitor centre today was recast using copper, tin and small traces of arsenic, gold, silver and zinc. How and when the stronger and recast version cracked is still unknown, though there are a few theories. But aside from when the crack appeared, the bell symbolises American independence and freedom.

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Right across the street from The Liberty Bell, you’ll find Congress Hall. A little slice of serenity in the middle of Philly city. Congress Hall served as the first meeting place for the United States Congress from 1790 – 1800. Entry is also free, with tours running every 20 minutes from April – October, and every 30 minutes in November, December and March. In January and February you’re on your own; self guided tours only! The grounds are the perfect place to take some time to sit quietly. I did exactly that under the newfound sunshine, circled the grounds a few times and took note of this sweet quote:

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After visiting the first congress meeting place we kept with our theme of firsts and stopped by the First Bank of the United States. The First Bank was built when the United States found themselves in debt after the Revolutionary War, and each state had its own form of currency.

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I crossed the street to try fit the entire bank in one frame (it wasn’t easy) and saw these plants and flowers growing from baskets on the wall behind me. Old and grey facing new, vibrant and green. Parallel juxtaposition in Philadelphia.

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Last but not least, we visited at the entrance to Philadelphia’s Museum of Modern Art. We wanted to follow Rocky and tackle the 72 steps but sadly we couldn’t start from the very bottom, as a stage was under construction for the Pope’s visit a few days later. Above is a picture of my siblings and I, taking in the view from the steps and pointing out our hotel, located in the distance pretty much in the middle of the Benjamin Franklin parkway, lined with the world’s flags.

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We went to Happy Hour at our hotel (Embassy Suites do the best Happy Hour!) and walked around the block visiting various bars and stores in the area. Philadelphia, you’re just as handsome at night.
One of my favourite stops on the trip, and I’ll definitely return one day, at least to eat a Philly cheesesteak – something I can’t believe I forgot to try in the city they’re famed for.

For more information on Philadelphia tourist attractions, click here.

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