We had a few good tour days in downtown Philadelphia before heading to New York.
The entire Independence Hall area is great. The first order of business after getting tickets for the Independence Hall tour, (we got a 3:45 tour time) was to get lunch. We walked past the Constitution Center, Past the Mint (closed on Sunday) and took a short stop at Ben Franklin’s grave. Walking down the block towards Franklin Square, led us to what we really wanted – Cheesesteaks.
We found a nice pub with outdoor seating, local beers, and a nice view of the old Franklin Post Office. It was great. The weather was not too hot yet, and they had some good local beer and Shandys available. The Cheesesteaks were fantastic, the beef was shredded and marinated, with grilled onions and your choice of cheese. Sasha had Provolone, and I had Cheese Wiz. I’m pretty sure that Cheese Wiz has no actual cheese, nor any other natural ingredient, but it was traditional and hit the spot.
We wandered the neighborhood, and hit Christ Church, the Franklin Museum, and a few other really great sights, but still had over an hour to wait for our tour time. I thought we might be able to sneak in wary, so we headed over to the entrance to see what we could do. The park ranger was directing people and cracking jokes as he checked tickets, but made it clear to the crowd that our tickets were good for the tour time only.
I checked my watch, it was 2:45, and out tickets were for 3:45. I really didn’t want to wait, so I set my watch to 2:45 and used my Stupid Tourist Jedi powers. We walked up to the Ranger, and I showed him our tickets. He looked at them.
“Sir, these are for 3:45”
I showed him my watch, “It is 3:45”
He looked at me, and at the long line behind me. Then he took my tickets and gave me three tickets that were for 2:45. He waived us in and said, “Sir, your watch is an hour off.”
We were not the droids he was looking for.
I thanked him with a goofy look and set my watch correctly. The tour was great, we had an enthusiastic guide and got to see the old House and Senate chambers as well. It is impressive to see how small these spaces used to be, and it is really amazing to think that the whole concept of the United States started right there. We have a tour of the Capitol in DC planned, so it will be great to compare them.
It’s hard to describe the total impact of seeing so much of the early American experience in one place, and to get a feel for what was going on within their world. This was a transformation from their lives as Loyal British citizens, towards seeing their value diminished, their position abused, and how it would have taken so little for the King to make things right, but it was decided to just be a dick instead.
The King made things good with Canada, so that worked out well, but since Hockey and Maple Syrup don’t run the world economy, bad call England.
After a bunch more wandering around on our first day, we found a nice French restaurant to grab dinner.
We had walked around the city, including what was supposed to be a quick stop in Love Park, which has the Famous “Love” artwork that everyone takes a picture in front of. We were excited, even for a simple picture, because it is such an iconic picture, and such a great sentiment. We saw the art and park as we drove by a day earlier, so we were excited to get a snapshot on our way to dinner.
We found the park on our map, and could see the big Love sign ahead. We walked into the square of Love, and were right away greeted with the Love Mafia.
We had a well-organized family running a breakdancing blocking move, with donations in tow, making sure that all photography was done in a well organized, and for them, profitable way. This group was running about making sure that any picture of the Love sign was done from just the right angle, with the best lighting and no interruptions, for just a $5 donation.
People were getting pushed back from the sign, making sure that the paying customers were getting a premium view for their picture. Five dollars isn’t much, so naturally my reaction was to say fuck this noise. I have a generally poor reaction to horseshit, and Yulia is much the same. She walked up to another group of people who saw what was going on, and offered to take their picture.
We were disrupting the finely coordinated team of breakdancing and asking for donations to loud 80’s music, and badly done photography balanced with minor extortion. It can surprise a lot of people how simply being bossy and shoving people around can control a situation. And, all it really takes to reverse that is to ignore the assholes.
We walked up as a group and lined up for photos, the mafia mama told us that it wasn’t our turn. We ignored her.
We lined up for photos with the other family, and did ours as well. That’s all it takes usually. We got a bunch of yelling and dirty looks, but that was it. So much for a big chunk of art that said LOVE.
We left that cluster and worked our way along the streets, parks, and fountains. Philadelphia is a big city, but it has an amazing amount of greenspace. Not just one or two big parks, but huge greenbelts running right through the center of Downtown. It’s really impressive.
Once we got hungry for dinner, I used one of the apps on my phone to find us a nicely recommended French restaurant. (We were up for good food, but really wanted to find better wine.) It was easy to track down using the maps app, and we had to cut across yet another park to find it. Walking along the sidewalk, we heard a loud GRIND and CRACK noise, then we turned to see some old guy trying to parallel park in a Toyota SUV with his bumper up on the plastic nose of a very expensive sport Mercedes Benz.
We stopped and watched while this guys pulled forward, and got out. He checked his car, checked the Mercedes, looked to see that no one was watching, and walked off. Once he was out of sight, I walked over to check. His car didn’t show any damage, but the Mercedes and a bunch of scratches in front. I ripped a page out of my Moleskine notebook and left a little note with information on the guy and his car. I tucked it under the wiper, and we headed out. Hopefully the guy in the SUV gets a call later about Hit-and-Run. Asshole.
The French place was right across the street, and was perfect. We got seating on the sidewalk, facing the park. The wine selection was great, and we were able to find a nice Bordeaux to go with our dinner. The restaurant was connected to a pretty posh hotel, and the Valet parking was right in front of us, so we had an evening of dinner entertainment watching the rich weirdos coming to visit Philly, who mostly looked like Jersey Shore rejects. It was hilarious to watch, and a good end to the day.