Before we left New York, we decided that it would be a good idea to break-up our journey through to Washington DC with a whistle-stop tour of Philadelphia.
We arrived in Philly after a comfortable two hour coach trip on the Greyhound, dropped off our bags at a hotel that very kindly agreed to store them for us and headed into the Historic Centre of the city.
Before arriving, I knew very little about the place and was surprised to discover that it was actually America’s first capital city and could be considered the birthplace of the United States – where the country initiated its independence and formed its constitution.
Our first stop was Independence Hall (previously the Pennsylvania State House), where we learned all about how the Continental Congress of British American colonies met regularly after the Boston Tea Party, and voted to announce independence from British rule. It was also the place where the constitution was created and signed, and where George Washington accepted the role of America’s first president.
Next we went to see the famous cracked Liberty Bell, which rang from the tower of the State House to call congress to meet and ultimately became a symbol of America’s new found ‘freedom’. Since then it has been used by campaigners throughout history as a symbol of liberty – including the anti-slavery movement, which used it to point out the contradiction that slaves existed in the ‘land of the free’, where ‘all men are created equal’.
After working up an appetite from all that history, we decided to take in contemporary Philadelphia with a stroll up South Street which is a bustling street full of delicious looking eateries, full of exciting sights and smells. Our hosts had recommended Jim’s to us as one of the best places to try a Philly cheese steak sandwich and, after having asked for a ‘cheese wiz whit’ (that’s a sandwich with melted cheese and onions in English), we were glad we’d tried it out!
Before heading home, we took a look at the city’s Magic Garden – just a few blocks from where we stayed.
I’d seen something similar before in London, but it wasn’t on the same scale as this! Plates, mirrors, bottles, bikes and even toilet bowls were used to create walls of colourful mosaic in the midst of South Street.
In the morning we headed to Sabrina’s Café (another recommendation) for brunch, which turned out to mean ‘the largest breakfast you will ever eat’. Feeling like we needed to burn off some of this food, we headed across the city, past City Hall, into JFK Plaza, down Benjamin Franklin Parkway and over to the Philadelphia Art Museum – where Rocky famously finished his training by running up the steps.
We finished our day with an early night and another obligatory Philadelphia treat – Bassets ice cream in Reading Terminal Market.
An early start this morning, we fuelled-up at Sabrina’s Café again before the rest of the three hour journey to Washington DC.