We’d visited Philadelphia once before- almost ten years ago when Mr. M & I went on a we-just-graduated-college roadtrip from Connecticut back home to LA. My Operation: Roadtrip scrapbook confirms that our principal impression of Philly, circa 2004, was: “The Liberty Bell is a whole lot smaller than you’d imagine it to be.”
Mr. M determined “Small Bell” was an unsatisfactory Bottom Line to draw on the whole city of Philadelphia, so this past weekend we took an hour’s train ride west to uncover, more fully, the City of Brotherly Love.
Day #11,299: When in Philadelphia, one absolutely must get one’s U–S-of-A learn on.
Back to the learning! Independence Hall National Park is ground zero for all the colonial history that we associate with Philadelphia. The Assembly Room of Independence Hall is where the Declaration of Independence and the design of the U.S. flag were adopted.
It’s also where the Articles of the Confederation and the Constitution were drafted in the 1780’s. Can you imagine all that history crammed into one room?
The only minor bummer in the midst of all this historical excitement was that Mr. M & I couldn’t find much background info whilst wandering the park. Informational placards were pretty scarce for my taste… and the one park ranger we overheard was literally killing history in monotone for Philly’s schoolchildren. Apparently you’re meant to study up beforehand.
This mini-concern would’ve been somewhat alleviated by just starting our tour from the Independence Visitor Center, where there actually are abbreviated history lessons… and movies, to boot! I dragged Mr. M into a particularly awesome one with a saucy Ben Franklin chronicling the adoption of the Constitution, and I was hanging on every olde English worde.
Before deciding to go to veterinary school, I spent a year+ in college thinking I was going to grow up to be a Supreme Court Justice. When I was 17, “Supreme Court Justice” sounded like a job to which I would just… apply. It took me a full year to understand that it might’ve been easier for me to become a card-carrying Space Cowboy, or to replace the Tooth Fairy. No matter- I’ve always been really interested in jurisprudence, prison reform, and Constitutional law. (There’s a point to this, I promise…)
My age-old love of law and the Constitution may have been the reason why I thought the visitor center’s Ben Franklin flick should’ve been the Cannes Film Fest’s Best Picture of the Year, and also why I turned to find Mr. M- and everyone else in our row- doing that painful head-jerking thing like they were falling asleep in class. Wha? I suppose the educational film garnered mixed reviews.
In the same Independence National Park area, you’ll find the (still small) Liberty Bell and a whole host of other historical sites. I had a few birthday cards to mail and decided to stop by the Franklin Post Office, the country’s very first post office, where outgoing mail gets a special handstamp.
Benjamin Franklin himself served as the first Postmaster General.
Walking around the Old City, it soon became clear that if there was anything- anything– going down in Philly in the late 1700’s, Ben Franklin had a finger in it. He invented bifocals, helped establish UPenn, organized Philly’s first fire station, and wrote Poor Richard’s Almanack by the time he was 26.
Excuse my language, but how the HELL do you get that much done? Mr. M thinks B.F. must’ve had interns. Perhaps if I had a little more Franklin in my step- or an intern-, I’d be a Supreme Court Justice (or a Space Cowboy) already. Ben is probably judging my sloth from above with his self-made bifocals.
In addition to a whole bunch of U.S. history, Philadelphia is also acclaimed for its yummy eats. Mr. M was determined to get to know one item in particular a little bit better: the infamous Philly Cheesesteak.
With a whole day still left in the weekend, we were beginning to feel a lot more… love… for the city of Brotherly Love.
It’s not the size of the bell… it’s what you do with it.
To explore my next day’s adventure with Steve Buscemi in the country’s first penitentiary, click here!
Details of the Day:
Travel Tips: Here’s to you, Philadelphia City Planner (Benjamin Franklin probably did that, too, who are we kidding). Philly’s Amtrak Station is within easy walking distance of its downtown, so really don’t need a cab if you’re arriving via train and staying centrally.
Plan Ahead: Because our trip was last-minute, I admittedly did a terrible job planning ahead. Don’t be like me. Reserve your free ticket to tour Independence Hall ahead of time here, so that you’re not disappointed. By the time we showed up at noon, all the tickets for the day had been sold out!
Khmer Kitchen: When we realized that one of the top-rated restaurants in Philly was Cambodian food, it took 0.2 seconds to decide that would be our dinner spot. Mr. M & I are always on the search for new cuisines, and neither of us had any idea what Cambodian food entailed. While the restaurant itself was in a semi-sketch part of town (the owners pulled bars over the windows shortly after we arrived), the food was SO GOOD, and we were the only non-Cambodians there.
Spicy and seafood-centric, Cambodian cuisine lost popularity in the U.S. during the horrific Khmer Rouge regime of the 1970’s, but this sorta-kinda mix of Vietnamese, Thai, & Indian is making a comeback. SO GOOD. (And cash only at Khmer Kitchen.)