The Reunion Tour, Day 10: Yes, Philly is where they signed the Constitution, and no, National Treasure was not filmed here


This morning I woke up after a refreshing sleep in Carolyn and Greg's guestroom, which is just as cute as a button with its faded orange color scheme. Seriously, this place is out of a catalog.

After grabbing some cereal and hanging out a bit with Carolyn, off I went to the downtown area to explore. My first stop was the Independence Visitor's Center. Today I'm gonna learn some HISTORY!

After an uneventful subway ride to the Washington West area, riding with what seemed like all of the construction workers of Philadelphia, I arrived just a couple blocks away from my destination. Independence Hall is run by the National Park Services, or NPS, which means FREE ENTERTAINMENT!

I grabbed a map and a ticket for a free tour of Independence Hall, which would begin at 11:45am. I had about an hour to kill, so off I went to see the Liberty Bell as it was early and I had some time.

So...I went through security and saw the Liberty Bell. I equate this to some of the "look at this thing!" stuff I do on the Monsoon Diaries trips, of which I am not a fan. I don't like just looking at a thing to say "I saw this thing!" I like to experience things and learn things and just enjoy myself. Staring at an object/building with lots of history just doesn't do it for me. Regardless, I took a picture with the bell and left.

I wandered around towards Independence Hall, went through security again, and walked over to the Great Essentials exhibit, which explains how the Constitution came to be. I'll be honest...this was a super boring exhibit. It didn't help that a group of 4th graders entered in a tornado of screams and chit-chat, ruining any chance I had to read the information on the walls before me. Not that I was even interested. I don't even know why I thought Philly would be interesting if this is the major tourist stuff here. I really loved learning about American history in Boston, but none of this was doing it for me. This all just felt like I was reading out of a lame history book.

The original Constitution and Declaration of Independence are in Washington DC in the Smithsonian, but the Great Essentials exhibit has original printed copies of them. Well, sometimes. According to a sign, they are often removed for cleaning/restoring, so oftentimes you are staring at a fake. Also, I want to mention that there is an inkwell on display that "may have been" used to sign the US Constitution. MAY HAVE BEEN. Well, now we're just grasping at straws. I was unimpressed and left.

I wandered a bit behind Independence Hall, which has a large courtyard surrounded by the various museum buildings. I eavesdropped on a tour led by a Ben Franklin impersonator, and overheard a child ask if this is where they filmed National Treasure. "No, they filmed that mostly in Hollywood." God, at least I don't have to spend time on a tour with a bunch of kids.

Well, was I wrong. I queued up for the line for the 11:45am tour and look who it is...the giant group of fourth graders. I proceeded to take the tour of Independence Hall, which is, in case you didn't know, the location where both the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution were debated and signed. Well, sort of. The shell of the building is the original, but the inside has been reconstructed and repainted. The furniture isn't the original (except for the chair behind the desk where the Constitution was signed...that's original), but it is from the correct time period.

We walked into the actual room (well, the shell was the actual...the reconstructed bits weren't) where the famous American documents were signed and the guide let the group take a moment of silence to enjoy this historical place. I've unfortunately felt much more moved by nature than I did of the place where the foundation of my country was built. The tour was a little dumbed down for the school children, as they made up a majority of the tour. During the question and answer period, one kid asked if the inkwell on the desk was the actual one used. The guide explained, "No, but the actual one is in the building next door, in the Great Essentials exhibit." I wanted to butt in and declare "MAY HAVE BEEN! May have been used. Not the actual. May have been the actual."

After explaining some of the basic history of the Constitution, the guide says, "Your teacher indicated that you had something special prepared to perform in this room." Then, in unison, all the children recited the preamble of the Constitution by heart. And not even to the tune of the School House Rock song. I was impressed. I remember the time in 8th grade when we had to memorize and write, by heart, the entire Declaration of Independence. I don't know how others fared, but I only got one sentence down and failed the test.

The only "fun fact" I learned on the tour was that Ben Franklin's son was against the independence of the US, as he believed it to be treason against England (it was). I think this is fascinating that a father/elder would be more progressive than his children. Apparently Franklin's son is buried in England. He's a die hard fan of England.  GET IT?!

After Independence Hall and the boring room upstairs that held a dining room table and nothing else of note, I went to meet up with Carolyn for lunch.

Remi recommended a pizza place with dollar slices called Rosa's Fresh Pizza. A slice of plain cheese pizza is $1, and extra toppings are 50 cents each. The slices are thin but generously large. The coolest part of the place is you can donate any extra amount, which they use to make pizzas to give to the homeless. For your donation, you get a post-it to stick anywhere on the walls of the tiny dive restaurant, on which you can write some inspiring message. When a homeless person comes in, they take a post-it off the wall and can exchange it for a free slice of pizza.

One post-it had the message "No person ever went poor by giving too much" which I thought was a little inappropriate in a place like this. Are you telling this to the homeless people? Like, "maybe you should have been a little more giving so you aren't in your current predicament." I don't know, it rubbed me the wrong way. On the bright side, I did enjoy the poetic absurdity of this gem:

Carolyn and I discussed the sights and she told me her favorite was the printing press at the Ben Franklin house, which was unfortunately closed for the season. She clarified that she does not like Ben Franklin, but that the printing press was indeed cool. She told me she read his autobiography once, and he came off as a pompous ass. Basically, Carolyn told me, he was like a Thomas Edison type. "I just hate Ben Franklin. I think it's one of the traits that Greg finds most endearing about me."

Carolyn recommended that I check out Reading Terminal Market, which is a large indoor market much like Granville Market in Vancouver. I'm glad I ate just before this because everything was vying to get money from my wallet. This pound cake. A slice of pie! Ice cream!!! I got a gourmet cookies from Famous 4th Street Cookie Co. that had a deal for $1 coffee with any cookie purchase. SOLD.

After my afternoon treat, I returned to Independence Park to see a few more sights. I purchased a couple of post cards at Carpenter's Hall and the woman there informed me that there was a post office next to the Benjamin Franklin museum where there is a unique stamp they use of his signature when mail goes through there. I went to the post office, which is a quaint little neighborhood one with wooden creaky floors and a wooden desk. The woman behind the counter was chatting with someone on the phone, clearly not business. I waited for her to get off, which was my mistake, as another patron approached the desk and got his stamps and postage needs met between the woman's chitchat with her best gal pal. After he left, I approached, and before she stamped the cards, I asked if I could film her hands with my camera. As you know, I like taking video of my travels, so I kindly asked if it would be alright. "No, you most CERTAINLY MAY NOT," she responded with the over-the-top attitude reserved for me requesting to slap her on the ass in public while shouting Hallelujah. Chill, lady, a simple "no" would have sufficed. Then she continued on a rant of how you may not film USPS workers blah blah blah and I was like "I get it, I asked before I did it, and you said no, so I won't." Her attitude really pissed me off and I really wanted to move on. No need to go postal, lady.

I went to a nearby secondhand bookstore and picked up a copy of The Bell Jar for $2, since (long story short) I lost my other copy while I was in the middle of reading it a few months ago. I recommend The Book Trader, as the people there are friendly and the place is just quaint and adorable.

Next I walked over to Elfreth's Alley which looks a lot cooler in pictures than it does in real life. Yes, the buildings are old and quaint, but it's just a tiny little street with historical houses, and you can't enter any of them. It's a quick sight that takes no longer than 3 minutes to enjoy. Overall, I've been a little disappointed with Philly. As I mentioned earlier, I really enjoyed Boston, but Philly just had less of the interesting sights. You'd think the place that founded the Constitution would be a little cooler.

My final historical stop for the day was the Presidents' House Site, which is an outdoor exhibit in the shell of the area where the Presidents' House once was. Carolyn recommended this one as she liked how it showed some of the negative history of the area, more specifically, the stories of slaves owned by the former presidents. I think it would have been a little better if there was some shade for the TV screens, as watching an LCD TV outdoors is quite difficult. Most of this exhibit centered around TV media, so it was quite difficult to see. It also had me wondering how they kept up this exhibit in the winter/poor weather.

I returned to Reading Terminal Market to get Carolyn and Greg some fun thank you gifts for allowing me to stay at their place and also to get more cookies for me to eat right now. They're too good, seriously.

I hopped on the train, and I began to notice that, appropriately, there were so many dudes wearing the Rocky beanie hat. That type of hat is pretty popular, and in grey/black it's pretty basic, but still. Philly = Rocky impersonators.

Carolyn, Greg and I walked over to Sazon, a Venezuelan cafe, where I proceeded to burn my mouth on not one, not two, but literally every single arepa that I ate. You'd think I'd learn after the first one, but even after cutting the second and blowing on it, it still was one thousand degrees, as were the others after that. I've gotten sick and/or acquired blisters during my travels, but burning my tongue and the roof of my mouth was a new way of feeling horrible. After this meal, every somewhat warm/hot food item hurt, and every time I even swallowed water it was painful. Even so, I ordered a hot chocolate, as the restaurant specializes in gourmet chocolate, and washed my meal down in combined agony and delight.

After dinner we headed over to Bar Hygge, which I know how to pronounce after my recent travels to Denmark. The bar was strangely offering rosé specials for the month, which left us all wondering how many people would actually be into that. After a couple rounds of drinks, we headed back to their place to end the night.

Tomorrow I am taking a bus from Philly to DC, so it'll be an early start!