Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Celebrating Ben Franklins Birthday--2006

In September 2005 I read an article in the SF Chronicle about Philadelphia, PA preparing to celebrate Ben Franklin's 300th Birthday in 2006. Having been a history major this was of interest to me. For the next few months I mulled over the idea of going to Philly and joining the festivities in celebrating one of America's greatest citizens.

Finally in mid-January 2006 I decided that I would, indeed, fly out to celebrate. And, what better month to go than the week of my own birthday in April! So, I did some research and finally booked my trip.

Can you believe I got roundtrip airfare through Southwest (non-stop) from Oakland to Philadelphia for $226.00??? My tickets to Las Vegas, NV cost more than that--seriously! Since I got such a deal on my airfare, I splurged on my hotel. I stayed at the Sheraton Society Hill.

The morning of my flight I had a terrible sinus headache which resulted in my vomiting before I left for the airport. Yes, I know, TMI (too much info). I was afraid I may be too sick to board the plane. My parents drove me to the airport while I slept in the backseat. Luckily, by the time I arrived at the airport I felt a little better. I slept for most of the flight and felt almost human by the time I reached my destination.

I left a rainy California and arrived in a rainy Philadelphia. So, because of the weather & the fact that I wasn't feeling my best, I decided to change my plans and just take it easy for the rest of that first day. I unpacked and than ate dinner at the hotel's restaurant The Wooden Nickel Steakhouse. Yes, I had a NY Steak and a couple of drinks (my drink of choice was Malibu Bay Breeze). It was my birthday dinner to myself--haha

I remember being incredibly excited to be in Philadelphia and anxious to start my exploration of this great city. So I went to bed early so I would be well rested for my first full day of being a tourist!

I started the next day walking to the Independence Visitor Center to get my pre-purchased ticket to Independence Hall. After I picked up the ticket for later in the morning, I walked over to the building which housed the Liberty Bell. You have to go through security before they will let you in to see it up close. Amazing that anyone would want to do anything to this symbol of freedom, but I guess nothing should shock us anymore...

I wasn't prepared to feel so patriotic standing before this big Bell. I've seen it in pictures many many times, but somehow it wasn't the same as standing right in front of it! Afterward, I moved on to Independence Hall (including the old City Hall, the Great Essential Exhibit, & Congress Hall) for my tour. I can't really put into words how it felt to stand in the same room as some of the greatest Americans who have ever lived. I can only speak for myself....but I felt honored and incredibly proud to be an American!!

After the tour, I decided to have lunch and went to the Bourse and had a ham & cheese hoagie (yummy). Then I was off to the National Constitution Center to see the Franklin Exhibit...which was the original basis for me coming to Philadelphia! I spent so much time in this exhibit, I ran out of time and didn't get to visit the rest of the Center. Well, a good reason for another visit!

The morning was cold & windy but by the afternoon the weather had cleared up. It was a good time to do some walking around. Luckily most everything historical was close so no public transportation was needed. I walked by & through several historical sites before arriving at the Betsy Ross house. I did the tour--which I enjoyed. Later in the afternoon I found a Starbucks where I sat and enjoyed a hot beverage & pastry before continuing on.

I visited the National Liberty Museum which should be a mandatory place for all to see. It has to do with freedom all around the world. The very last thing I saw at the museum was a short (and silent) film about 9/11/01. It showed both planes crashing into the twin towers and all of the aftermath. WOW---is all I can say. Even though almost 5 years had passed since 9/11, it was still the most powerful thing I had ever seen! A small group of us stood there and watched it. We were all moved to tears.

I visited Washington Square and saw the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. And, being half Irish, I had to go see the Irish Memorial! I had a fabulous dinner at the City Tavern, which was right across the way from my hotel. I had prime rib, which was delicious and HUGE! What I love most about vacations is not feeling guilty about anything I eat or drink because I end up walking so much, I never worry about gaining weight!! Oh, yes, of course I had a Philly cheesesteak--twice!! What can I say but yes it was most delicious!

The only time I took public transportation was when I went to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. I was able to see the steps Rocky Balboa ran up in the movie Rocky. And, no, I didn't try to run up the steps! I love art museums and this one didn't disappoint, although I do wish I had gone to one of the other museums in town. Oh, well, another trip, perhaps?!

I guess I didn't look like a tourist because people stopped me to ask for directions. I think I should take that as a compliment! Because of my thorough research before going anywhere, I am never seen with a map or tourbook (don't worry, they're hidden in my purse, just in case) & I always look like I know where I'm going. Being familiar with street patterns, street names, & landmarks help, fyi.

I met lots of people on my trip so even though I was traveling alone, I was never lonely (a big difference!). I met a lady at Independence Hall who was from Seattle WA & there on a business trip. She asked if I was there on business like her and I answered no, just for vacation. She asked if I was traveling alone and I answered yes. She told me she was impressed that I could do that as she "could never do it alone". Funny, I used to think that. Now, I enjoy it!

I actually did a lot of sightseeing in this beautiful city but somehow I didn't take too many pictures. So much of what I saw was very moving and had deep meaning for me. I was caught up in the moment & wasn't thinking about my camera. Besides, there was just so much to absorb it couldn't really be captured in pictures. It's something you have to experience individually and in person.

If you ever get the chance, please visit this fabulous City of Brotherly Love--I highly recommend it!!

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