Today was half exploring Philadelphia and half traveling toward our next destination, New York City.
When we woke up, we packed our things and “checked out,” since we didn’t know how long we’d be out in the city. We had reservations for a tour of Independence Hall and needed to be there by 9:30. The tour was brief, but provided the very special opportunity to see the room where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were discussed and ratified. The tour guide was a bit odd, but ultimately the information he gave was very meaningful and interesting. There is also an exhibit in the adjoining building that housed some historical documents, including George Washington’s working copy of the Declaration (with corrections in his own hand) and an original copy of the Articles of Confederation. I learned that they disagreed about major points and it took 3-4 years from when the process started for everyone to agree to the terms. Also, it is not the Articles of Confederation – it’s the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union. The total experience in Independence Hall was relatively brief but meaningful. One of the key points, they want you to take away from the experience is the realization that, in establishing our Constitution, George Washington voluntarily completely gave up the power he had (as Commander-in-Chief) — and how often does a ruler offer to give up the power he already has for the good of the group?
After this, we stopped for coffee and frozen yogurt at a little place that looked like a hole-in-the-wall from outside, but was very cool and modern inside. It had a lot of creative and quirky artwork displayed.
After this, we went to Christ Church which is the nation’s first Episcopal church, created after something was needed to replace Britain’s Anglican church. This was the home church of the Penns, the Franklins, the Washingtons, and several other people influential in the founding of our country. We could see exactly where they sat, as families rented particular pew boxes and detailed maps still exist. We got a really nice tour – there are docents standing around to answer questions and they seem very eager to walk with you and explain as much as you are willing to listen to. She also knew answers to every specific question that I asked about- from Benjamin Franklin’s eldest son to the President’s pew to the history of Puritan gravestones. There was also a girl sitting outside – she is a storyteller and tells stories about the people who went to the church. I didn’t ask for a story but we talked for awhile because I saw her reading a book and I like to know what people are reading. She was reading a memoir (as a collection of letters) from a British woman opposed to slavery who came here, married someone who attended Christ Church and found out he owned slaves in his property in the South.
We walked toward Independence Park again and decided to pop into the US Mint, were coins are made. It was free, extraordinarily informative, and we could actually look down on all parts of the factory. No photos allowed, sorry.
Our final goal for Philly was the Reading Terminal Market – priority #1 on Steven’s list. It is an indoor market with fresh food, meats, produce, crafts, …about 40 stores in total. The highlight is the several Amish stores – it lets one ‘see the Amish’ without driving into the rural area. Besides, it’s sort of a novelty to buy an Amish product. I had a lot of food here. I eschewed (haven’t used that word in a while) modern products and instead bought Amish goods. This included a bottle of homemade root beer, which did not have cheap rootbeer-flavored HFCS and did taste slightly alcoholic. I also had some fresh, organic, raw (non-pasteurized, non-homogenized) milk. I had a freshly-made soft pretzel, and Steven bought quite a bit of landjaeger, a jerky-like meat stick. We also bought a half-dozen doughnuts. I am not a doughnut person at all, but one vendor sold hand-rolled fresh doughnuts in lots of designer flavors. I think we got Boston Cream, Key Lime, Fresh Peaches, PB&J, Harvest Apple, and a regular glazed. We are splitting each one 50-50. We also sat down to eat at a BBQ place that has been featured on food TV shows. I think it was called DiNics. It was really good. In this same area, we also walked through JFK Plaza and saw the “LOVE” art piece. The nearby plaza had public art in the form of game pieces.
Back to the subway, back to the car, and on the road north.
At about the time we felt like stopping for coffee, we were passing Princeton and exited there, driving by the prestigious university. We found a metered spot and walked along the main street toward Starbucks. The town was populated with young people, which was very nice. I like being around people. It was also nice to see so many students looking at the sale racks outside the independent bookstore. It was nice to see a running group getting ready just outside the running store, and it was nice to hear people having intelligent conversations with others in their free time (I was listening to people’s conversations). It was a very enjoyable place. From here, we drove through a semi-rural area north to our hotel in Piscataway. This is where Rutgers is. We stayed at a Motel 6, but it is one of the nicest, remodeled Motel 6s I’ve seen. Modern furniture, flatscreen LCD HD TV, comfortable beds, the works. I even got WIFI for free…because I’m cool like that.
Oh, before we arrived at the hotel, we were following GPS directions toward a beer/wine/liquor store. I am on a mini quest to try as many regional craft beers as I can while I am in this area away from home. I’m not going to share how many I have had in the last 11 days – it’s borderline embarrassing. I’ll tell you at the end; I am keeping a list. Today, I drank “Mother’s Milk” (stout) from Keegan Ales in Hudson Bay. I also tried America’s oldest beer, Yuengling, which I still can’t figure out how to pronounce. This store gave a 10% student discount! That just seems wrong. They also had full-strength Everclear (the alcohol). Washington state doesn’t even sell this, but California sells the 140 proof stuff. Well, New Jersey sells 190 proof Everclear!
RIght down the street was a White Castle, the famed restaurant. I’ll say it was slightly unique, slightly quirky to see a burger priced at 74 cents, and I’m also going to say “shame on White Castle” for creating so much waste. They actually pack each 2″ x 2″ burger in it’s own box. What a waste!
Preview of tomorrow: The Big Apple, Art, the Lower East Side, and trying Dunkin Donuts Coffee (I was not impressed!)