Arriving (January 10th)
Jim’s Philly Cheesesteaks
To be honest, I wasn’t that impressed with Jim’s! It has won awards for best Philly cheesesteaks and I had high expectations. I found it to be a bit dry and just not that special. Maybe I’m just spoiled by Texas meats. This being said, it’s Philly! You HAVE to try a Philly cheesesteak. Above is my adorable friend Kristy digging in.
Yep, I got my cartilage pierced on our first night! I’d been wanting to get it done for a while and when I saw all of the tattoo parlors down the main strip I got impulsive. The shop where I got it done was fantastic. It was a bit pricey, but the quality service and real metal earring definitely made it worth it! If you’re looking for something slightly rebellious to do, this is it.
Day 1 (January 11th)
Independence National Historic park
(Independence Hall, Congress Hall, Liberty Bell, President’s House)
Definite Kodak moment with Kristy
Independence National Historic Park was a great start to our sightseeing in Philadelphia. We rose early and the sites were only a short walk from our hotel.
It was clear from visiting the various sites today that Philadelphia is a city rich in history. Our day started with a visit to the Visitor’s Center where we watched the two orientation films that were offered there. The first video, Choosing Sides, told stories of various people that lived during the Revolutionary War and the difficult decision they had to make in choosing which side to support. Some were loyalists who stayed true to the British, some Patriots who vied for independence, some Patriots who thought a declaration of independence was too risky and some thought war wrong altogether and did not know which side to support. The second video was a story of independence that explained the thought process behind the revolution and writing of the declaration, which was thought to be a death sentence. It was not until 1787 that a national government was finally founded and a constitution was written in America’s original capitol, Philadelphia.
Next, we crossed the street to see the Liberty Bell Museum. The Liberty Bell is on display in Philly and is well known as a cultural icon that can be used as a symbol in relation to almost every American cause. It was originally named the state house bell and later renamed by the abolitionists. The Liberty Bell is a symbol of liberty and the struggle for freedom and is an inspiration for patriotic sacrifice. After the Civil War, the bell becomes a symbol of national reunification. The bell was also used symbolically in the fight for women’s suffrage. Despite the cracks, the bell symbolizes the never-ending quest for freedom giving it the ability to resonate with people of different cultures from all over the world.
To be quite honest, I had trouble staying focused during the tour guide’s explanations of Independence Hall and Congress Hall that we saw later in the day. The information seemed to be repetitive from the things we have learned by reading 1776 and the Moodle Articles and the tour guides spent too much time droning on about each minute thing that had happened in each room, particularly in Independence Hall. Both put emphasis on the “fact” that what happened in those rooms changed the course of American History forever.
The first time I walked by I completely missed the President’s House. I was expecting it to be an actual house and instead it was just a few little signs. It explains that history is not “neat” and instead we must think about the contradiction of our country: the rising of liberty during a time of slavery. The plaques pay tribute to the slaves and explain in detail the hardships they were forced to endure while crossing the sea and in American homes across the country. President George Washington owned and transported slaves, a troubling thing to think about. Learning that some of history’s greatest heroes made mistakes are important because we as a society need to learn from those mistakes. Hearing that our Constitution required the return of escaped enslaved people to be returned to their owners is shocking and sad. The President’s House does a wonderful job of teaching visitors about the horrors of slavery in hopes that we can learn from our predecessor’s mistakes. I hope that the President’s House will set an example for other parks and museums around the country.
Mrs. K’s Coffee
Cutest little place to stop for breakfast or lunch!
This afternoon (the 11th) my group chose to visit the Liberty Museum – my favorite place we have been thus far! Upon entering, we watched a short orientation film that greatly encompassed the themes of museum as a whole. It began by asking, “what does liberty look like?” Liberty looks like people working together and choosing their own path. Liberty is an opportunity that sometimes it requires that you risk it all. Liberty is not a destination, but a long journey. Liberty is not about what you can’t do, but about what you can do. Both the museum and the video emphasized that there are all different kinds of heroes. There were exhibits dedicated to political heroes from all over the world and exhibits dedicated to young kids who have stood up to make a difference. Some honored have faced jail time for standing up for what is right while others have even faced death.
I really appreciated how inclusive this particular museum was. People of all different backgrounds, cultures and religions were recognized. There was a room dedicated to America’s religious roots that had several displays incorporating Native American religion. It is so rare to see them included despite the fact that they were technically the original settlers of the America’s. Although there were more sections dedicated to the United States than any other country, I felt that the museum did not put America on a pedestal. On the contrary, they showed that America could be a tough cruel place at times. In one part of the museum we had the opportunity to write down mean things that we have been called or that we have called other people and then shred the paper, symbolizing those words leaving our vocabulary. I left the museum feeling inspired, refreshed and free. Philadelphia has already managed to steal my heart and we had only been here one day.
Cute lil’ tea cups
Chinatown is an absolute must-see in Philly! It is quite the adorable neighborhood. We looked online to get some recommendations on where to eat and settled on a place called the Peking Duck. Upon first approach, this place absolutely terrified us. There were tons of dead ducks hanging in the window and it didn’t look the nicest. However, we took a chance and the food was absolutely incredible. I ordered Kung Pao Chicken and it was the best I’ve ever had. I’m sure any of the duck dishes would be amazing as well. Additionally, they serve ice cream for dessert!
Day 2 (January 12th)
Friends take on the Magic Gardens
National Constitution Center
The National Constitution Center is a very modern museum. You start off going into a large circular stadium room where a live play is shown. Then, you are shown upstairs to another big circular room full of loads of information. My main issue with this museum was that all of the text was overwhelming and not broken up well. It seemed as if they were trying to spew every pro-American text and argument at us.
We must keep in mind that at big national historic sites they are trying to inspire patriotism and unity among us all. It makes sense that they would not bring up problems that arise with the Constitution and instead focus on what all it accomplishes. The short play at the Constitution Center focuses on the fact that the Constitution allows for change and opportunity for people of all different cultures and backgrounds. Some would argue that the Constitution does not provide a true democracy though. Nonetheless, many nations have modeled their own governments after the United States and it is important to remember how lucky we are to be born in this great nation.
Overall I found the museum to be very pretty and appealing, but with an overwhelming amount of information. Everywhere I looked there were paragraphs and paragraphs about every section of the Constitution and how it came to be. While this is all very interesting, I found myself struggling to decide what I needed to read and what I could skim over.
Marlies and I
Our second visit was to Fireman’s Hall. This is a two-story museum filled with different old-school fire station gear and information about Philadelphia firefighters both past and present. This site is meant to pay tribute to the men and women who have bravely worked to keep their state safe. I was glad to see that they had an area dedicated to discussing segregation of the fire station and how that segregation came to an end. Fireman’s Hall was a cool and fun place to visit clearly geared towards families. It definitely does heroify the men who have served as Philadelphia firemen. I’m not sure however, that this is a bad thing. Firefighters risk their lives every day and are either volunteer or underpaid. In my eyes, they deserve the upmost recognition and praise. It is men like them that keep our country running strong.
This site was cute, short, and entertaining. You get to dress up in uniforms! I highly recommend it.
Betsy Ross’s House
My group’s third visit was to the Betsy Ross house. We walked through the home and stopped in a small room where “Betsy Ross” explained her line of work. She explained that she is not a seamstress but an upholsterer. Before making flags she focused on curtains and other cloth items. Then, according to legend, she was asked by George Washington to make a flag for the colonies. Considering that this was treason against England, she had to sew the flag in her chamber. It is so interesting to me that even though we have no evidence that Betsy Ross actually made a flag, thousands of people tour her home and listen to her little speech every year. Symbols in America catch on so quickly that it is tough to decipher what is true and what is false. If you (Dr. Bissett) hadn’t mentioned that Betsy Ross hadn’t actually done anything, I would’ve gone my whole life believing something that has no evidence to back it up. We heroify people who have done nothing at all.
This site is really nothing special. It is a completely fabricated and yet they are collecting money for people to go see it! We walked through this one quite quickly.
Race Street Cafe
Chicken Roulade and Ricotta Gnocchi
The Race Street Cafe had phenomenal food but terrible customer service. I’d still recommend it for a lunch, but make sure you go with a small group and ask for separate checks beforehand! I would recommend both the chicken roulade and ricotta gnocchi and the deconstructed quinoa Napoleon.
Happily Ever After
Marlies and Megan
My pal Sully
Macaroons and a caramel macchiato
Chocolate Belgian waffle
GO TO THIS PLACE. Book your flight, do it right now. Not only are the Belgian waffles, macaroons, and espresso drinks incredible, but they have Disney stuffed animals all over the place. You can’t go here and leave unhappy. If we had one of these in my town I’d be there every single day.
Day 3 (January 13th)
Eastern State Penitentiary
Eastern State Penitentiary was probably my favorite mandatory site that we visited despite the frigid weather. Something about old creepy jails is sort of fascinating. It was also a nice break from the typical museums. The “hands on” method of teaching reminded me of our trip to Yorktown where we got to explore the soldier’s barracks and try to all fit inside a tent. Stepping inside the jail cell at Eastern State made the experience all the more real to me. I also found it interesting that a lot of current jailing tactics were learned during the time period of Eastern State Penitentiary.
Before Eastern State came to be there was the Walnut Street Jail. All of the jailors were kept in one room and antics ran rampant. Guards were corrupt and inmates did not learn their lesson. Eastern State Petitionary’s goal was to change this with the separate system. This required inmates to be in their cell 23 hours a day with only an hour allowed for exercise. Over time this proved to be unmaintainable and unrealistic. The jail became overcrowded, inmates began to go crazy and security began to fail. Although security at jails has improved, America has yet to find the “perfect method.” Our tour guide showed us a shocking statistic comparing how many people were in jail during the time of Eastern State compared to now. It has risen almost 600%. This is not only bad for society, but also a bad use of tax money. Clearly, something needs to change.
Over the last few months’ legislation has been passed to decriminalize some drugs and even legalize it in some cases. America cannot afford to continue down the path of jailing so many. A solution must be found. Eastern State is an important part of American History because it is a great example to teach that learning and progress never stop. Like we discussed in class, mistakes repeat themselves. In order to stop that cycle, we must learn about these mistakes and how to fix them. America must keep the spirit of experimentation and progress at its forefront in order to stay ahead. Perhaps there is no “perfect” solution to jail or anything else, but it is vital that we continue to try to better ourselves.
Franklin’s Ice Cream
Rachel and Katie
This place is WAY overpriced, but is adorable and has fantastic ice cream!
On to Boston (January 14th)
First time driving through NJ and NY
Brb, currently craving that Belgian waffle. Follow my journey to our next stop – Boston!