We spent the 4th of July in Philly by way of Amtrak! It was my very first Amtrak ride which I’ve romanticized over the years so I savored every minute of it. Actually I didn’t. I was up too late the night before, I woke up ridiculously early for the ridiculously early train, I didn’t have any coffee and was overall not a very happy traveler that morning. I closed my eyes and tried to sleep.
As soon as we arrived in Philly we took the SEPTA to Independence Park. Let’s take a second to discuss the Philly train system. First it’s called SEPTA which stands for Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority. This is all fine and dandy but seriously doesn’t it sound like a toilet? Whoever thought that SEPTA was an acceptable acronym must have had a sense of humor. Also, the SEPTA is way cleaner than any NYC station I’ve ever been in. It was so clean I could see the sheen on the floor!
Our first stop straight off the train was a photo op with the Liberty Bell. The bell is pretty big and also pretty awesome and cracked for those of you non-history buffs out there. It was awesome to beat the crowds.
I won’t’ spend valuable blog space to mention the horrendous restaurant we went to for breakfast on the hotel front desk’s recommendation of a place locals eat at. Ok, I will. Thinking back on it, it feels like a train wreck that I have to share in order to move past. It was called “Honey” or something like that and was supposed to have great pancakes. I mentioned before that I hadn’t had coffee yet right? Well, Honey was jam packed with tourists and cops. We found two stools at a bar and waited for our food. My coffee never came so eventually I went to go get it and realized that there was one guy cooking all the food which totally enraged me. Also the coffee tasted like mud. Who planned the schedule? Then after people who came in way after me started getting their orders but people who came in around the same time as me were not I went up to the counter to ask about my order. When I told them that I was 42 and they were sending out orders in the high 50s the guy freaked, apologized, checked with the kitchen staff and promised it was next. Suddenly, all the 40s that were skipped were being sent out asap. I sat back down and in spite of myself, I cried over nothing and everything. I eventually grudgingly ate the blandest eggs and potatoes ever cooked and tried to shake it off. So, there, now you know I’m a crier on no coffee and little sleep.
On to happier things. Paul scored a silly red, white, and blue hat that he wore with the bill pointing up and we joked all day that he was the spitting image of Will Smith after that. We found a shady spot to watch the parade and figured that it was going to be a really short one since the route was really just a couple of blocks. As it turns out every municipality within 200 miles had to have their fire department and police department represented in addition to what was probably 300 Bolivians dressed in a terrifyingly bright array of costumes that made absolutely no sense to me whatsoever. It was actually a lot of fun and we got free American flags. There were tons of Ben Franklins, floats, monks, asian community groups, mascots, and more firemen and officers from New Jersey and Pennsylvania. It was silly and fun.
Later we decided to fullfill my husbands nagging curiosity and trekked in search of the famous philly cheesesteak. It was actually a long walk, mostly in the sun (which made me think about how in New York we are rarely in the sun because the buildings are so tall) but we made it to the corner where both Geno’s and Pat’s are located. They were surprisingly small but busy. We scored a table at both locations and dug into our treasures. Only they weren’t that good. I don’t mean to blaspheme but that is not what I grew up imagining them to taste like. We walked through an area that was supposed to be the Italian area but it was really a bunch of Mexican bodegas and like 2 Italian restaurants.
After finally checking into our hotel and taking a short respite we went out again to the WAWA Welcome America Party on the Parkway which is basically an outdoor festival leading up to a free concert leading up to a huge fireworks display. It was fun but it was also a little like every other outdoor festival just in a different city. You know, funnel cakes, hamburgers, italian ice, someone trying to sell newspaper subscriptions. After walking the festival we found a shady bench to wait for the fireworks. As time passed we chatted & did some people watching. There were some people at a nearby bench opening 6 pack after 6 pack which I feel was likely illegal, a guy near us gathered a crowd as he did his spray paint art, a couple of ingenuitive women had a couple of coolers full of ice and kept refilling it with bottled water that they were selling for $1 each from the comfort of their lawn chairs. Actually there were tons of people in Philly selling both water and pretzels from grocery carts. A couple napped in the grass until some kids who I have termed hooligans tossed their contraband fireworks near them as they made their mad dash to avoid the officers that approached on hearing their fireworks suddenly going off more than once.
The concert leading up to the fireworks was pretty awesome. We chose positions pretty far back so that we could avoid the inevitable crush of the crowd and manage to exit whenever we wanted to but the audio was still great and the video screen was awesome. The Roots were the backing band and DJ Jazzy Jeff made a surprise appearance which was fun since we’d been joking all day that Paul looked like Will Smith in his ridiculous America hat. Then when we thought it was over Lauren Hill came out and did a set too! Oh and a ruckus broke out right beside us wherein a gap formed in the crowd and some guys face was firmly pressed against the concrete by an officer’s knee as he was getting handcuffed. Somehow though we made it back to our hotel safe by opting to walk rather than squeeze onto the train with thousands of other revelers. We got a decent night’s sleep before starting our tour of Philly again in the morning. More on that later…