Last night was a peaceful and cool night, which wasn’t a problem as I got up when I woke up at about 06:00 and flicked the central heating on, crawling back in to bed having done my good deed. By the time the alarm clock went off at 07:00 it was lovely and warm, and we were able to have a shower in the railway station car park.
Just as the ferry across to Manhattan had been right on our doorstep in New York City, so the commuter train was right on our doorstep for Philadelphia. We bought our $5.40 return tickets to the city; or rather The Chef did whilst I nipped back to the RV having forgotten to pack the wide angle lens for the video camera.
The train journey www.ridepatco.org was pretty swift and we arrived at the junction of 8th St & Market Street at about 08:45. This stop was quite close to where we’d planned to be today – the Independence National Historical Park www.independencevisitorcenter.com , a protected area consisting of numerous buildings of major historical interest. All admissions were free but two of the tours required tickets, the first was for Independence Hall, tours of which took place throughout the day, and the second was for the Todd House & Bishop White House on Walnut Street, to which there is just one trip a day at 12:45 with only 12 places available and thanks to our early start managed to get ticket numbers 7 & 8.
The tour around Independence Hall was very interesting indeed made more enjoyable by an entertaining, knowledgeable and enthusiastic guide. We saw where the Declaration of Independence was signed, where John Adams the second President was sworn in, and where the nation was basically governed from. From there we went to see the Liberty Bell, now preserved in a purpose built building across the road from Independence Hall where it once hung. We had promised ourselves right at the beginning of the day that we’d go and watch an educational movie about the history of this period so that we had a better appreciation of what we were seeing, but we were now pushed for time as the tour to the Todd and Bishop White House was due to start. This tour was again interesting and gave an insight in to the lives of the Todd’s, who today we would labelled 'Middle Class', and Bishop White, 'Upper Class', a man of independent means due to an inheritance and very influential. He regularly entertained the leaders of the day.
After this visit it was lunch at a nearby food hall, I went for a fast food Chinese meal whilst The Chef opted for a Philly Cheese Steak which is sliced beef, melted cheese, and chopped onion in a long sub roll.
Tummies full we made for the movie which on reflection taught us no more than the guide we had met first thing this morning and after this 30 minute sit down in the dark made our way to the United States Mint. On the way we passed Christ Church Burial Ground where Benjamin Franklin, a signatory to the Declaration of Independence, is buried. The graveyard has a tall wall around it but there is one short section which instead of the wall, has a length of wrought iron fencing where Franklin’s grave is situated right next to the path. If you wanted to pay $2 you could go in to the graveyard but I just put the camera through the railings and snapped a picture, $4 saved. They say 'The Pen is Mightier Than the Sword', but a gravedigger’s spade is sharper than the nib of a pen, and as a consequence 4 other signatories’ of the Declaration of Independence are also buried in this graveyard.
On to the United States Mint, one of two in the nation, the other is in Denver. We were hoping to do the tour but on arrival were told that cameras were not permitted inside and so I waited outside whilst Rosina had a look around. I then had to join 50% of the tourists who were also hoping to go in to the building but who now had to wait outside for some considerable time holding the family cameras. To gain entry camera-free members of the public have to produce photo I.D. The Chef showed her U.K. free bus pass which has her picture on it, it seems anybody could show anything as long as it had their picture on it. One of the people I found myself chatting to told me he did ask the security guard if they checked for mobile phones since all mobile phones now have cameras built in to them, the reply of course was – no they don’t. What a waste of time, besides what’s the big secret with automated machines churning out coins all day long? Even If you managed to break in and steal some of the money you’d need very strong pockets to hold the coins before waddling away, and having waddled away you’d be easy to catch. Finally the security guard of mature years who was checking I.D. and sending about half the hopefuls away with their cameras was carrying a gun complete I’m sure, with live ammunition. He also had hanging around his neck a pair of spectacles. Now since he was able to check photo I.D.’s without spectacles I can only assume that his spectacles were for distant vision. So if he was required to shoot his gun in a hurry, would he have to put his glasses on first, or would he save time by shooting at what he thought was the intended target and risk wiping out 6 Japanese tourists? I felt safer once we were away from the building wondering why the hell they couldn’t install property lockers for cameras etc and charge a fee, even if they were fitted out in the back of a truck which pulled up outside at the beginning of each day.
After this we had a long walk uptown, passing a 'Staples' store where we were able to buy a replacement black ink cartridge for our printer before finally reaching the City Hall. After a look around that area we made our way back to the railway station the long way as we’d taken a wrong turning back at the City Hall.
On arrival at the RV we had a ham salad before moving the vehicle in to another of the many segmented car parks so that technically we’d complied with not staying longer than 24 hours though I’m sure in my mind they’re not the least bit bothered about us being here.
Tomorrow we plan to return to the city and take a look at the Seaport Museum, then make sure there’s nothing else we want to see before making our way back, then out of town bound for Lancaster and Amish country.
LOCATION TONIGHT: Woodcrest Rail Station, Cherry Hill, N.J.