Just a short jog down the road from NYC is Philadelphia, our nation’s once capital and financial center. Having thoroughly enjoyed the rich history of both Boston and New York, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to explore another place that the founding fathers held so dearly. With cheesesteaks and preconceived images of the Liberty Bell in mind we dove right in.
As you enter the city the first thing you notice is the enormous Philadelphia Museum of Art. Here, at the base of the steps, you can find the infamous Rocky statue; having been a boxer, I encouraged Clancy to pose with Balboa. Funny thing, I think Clancy is actually taller than Sylvester Stallone but the picture didn’t turn out that way… From here it was just a hop and a skip down to City Hall and Love Park. You will instantly recognize Love Fountain when you think about postage stamps - its likeness was featured for some time. We hadn’t spent 30 minutes in Philly and we had already been immersed in local culture! Not wanting to slow down the pace, we headed promptly to Independence National Historic Park.
Upon our arrival, the Liberty Bell Center reminded us the history behind the American icon that we had learned about in high school. We read about how the bell had cracked after being tested for the first time and how it had been recast only to render an unsatisfactory tone. It was recast a second time only to crack some 80 years later. This time the bell was repaired by drilling (an acceptable method to stop the crack from spreading) and lasted eleven more years until the crack spread to the crown of the bell, rendering it unusable. If you ask me, this seems like quite the amount of tribulation for a symbol that epitomizes liberty; I’m thankful that our actual freedoms have outlasted the use of this extraordinary icon.
Just steps away from the Liberty Bell sits Independence Hall, resting place of a copy of the Declaration of Independence and working copies of the US Constitution. There was something very special about laying eyes on these documents - it’s quite surreal, nearly being able to touch the very words that helped make our homeland what she is today.
As our brains grew more full and our stomachs more empty we made the transition to cuisine. I know ’yall are probably sick of hearing about food, but hey, food is culture too! Because we were in Philly we sought out cheesesteaks (what else of course!?). Not surprisingly, around these parts they don’t call the sandwich a “Philly cheesesteak.” They don’t even call it a “cheesesteak.” In Philadelphia you just order a “steak.” Don’t ask me how you are supposed to order an actual steak in town - I was not able to deduce this from our visit. We opted to get our steaks at an establishment called “Jim’s Steaks,” one of the cities most famous joints. An interesting fact: most people don’t realize that the original cheesesteak was made with thin steak slices (of course) and cheese whiz. Yeah you heard me, whiz - the stuff that comes out of the can! Clancy sprang for the original steak, complete with whiz, and I sampled a steak with provolone and bell peppers. Both sandwiches were sinfully delicious despite their less than glamorous appearance. My steak reminded me exactly how Janette makes hers’ back home. So Janette, if you are reading this, know that you could compete with the big boys in Philly!
Next, we took a stroll down South Street, the hip, new age section of Philly. It was here that Clancy spotted some incredible art that he had previously viewed on the travel channel. Called the “Magic Gardens,” the sprawling alleyways are the life work of Isaiah Zagar. Through the use of mirrors, bottles, bicycles wheels, etc., Zagar has created quite the sanctuary. To be fully appreciated the work needs to be viewed in person but this snapshot gives you an idea of the artist’s intentions.
After some more city wandering and some bicycle maintenance we started heading to our host’s house (I snapped this picture of City Hall along the way). This fellow, named Bradley, had picked up on us earlier in the day, his curiosity having been peaked by our loaded bicycles. Turns out he was returning a favor since he himself had gone cross country by bike back in the ‘70s. We so enjoyed trading stories - he still has the Peugeot bicycle that he rode on his expedition (complete with cracked frame which happened on the trip). We were thankful for the fine company as well as the shelter; it ended up thunder storming something fierce that night with thunderclaps directly above our heads and flash flooding in the streets.