11 years ago today, Day 39

I wrote three closely-packed pages of journal on this day, and all of them about sightseeing in downtown Philadelphia.  Well, I am something of a history geek, and Philadelphia is full of history.

But first I must mention something I love about hostels.  “Last night I shared my part of the dorm with a young woman from Zimbabwe, and another from the Netherlands.  One of the things I seriously love about hostels.  Tonight I was chatting with an Italian and a Korean.”  I swear, someday hostels and the internet will be the salvation of planet Earth.

I started this day at the museum where Ben Franklin’s house used to be:

That white line, just above the trees?  That’s a metal outline of where his house used to be.

Fascinating stuff.  I made the rather trite comment in my journal that Ben was a Renaissance man, but, well, he was.  As well as a lot of other things, although I suppose that’s redundant.

Over the next few hours I wandered through Carpenters’ Hall, where the first Continental Congress met, and the 2nd National Bank building, where part of the National Portrait Gallery is housed.  “Lots of pictures of dead white men with powdered hair.”  Among them, although not with powdered hair, were what I always think of as the “standard” portraits of Lewis and Clark.  “I always want to shake poor Lewis when I see that picture.  How someone so gifted and intelligent, who did so much for his country and for posterity in general, could think himself so unworthwhile as to commit suicide, is beyond me. … He did so much, and he was a good man, and he deserved much better of himself. … Anywho, I didn’t mean to digress.  Or maybe I did.  I still haven’t figured out whether my feelings about [him], given my own background, qualify me as a hypocrite or not.”  I also saw several wildly-varying likenesses of Mr. Washington — “I do wonder which one really looked like him” — and many others.

Then it was off to Independence Hall, which I saw in the company of a number of school groups of varying ages.

Outside
 
Three views of the inside.

Next I walked over to Edgar Allan Poe’s house.  I like Poe.  I’ve always liked Poe, even after having to dissect him in high school English class.  His house was really nifty, too.  Unfortunately, the only photos I have are of the outside, and they’re not very good, but here they are:

That brick building behind the trees
Is this not the most clichéd thing you’ve ever seen???

At the time, the house was just bare walls on the inside, the park service having run out of restoration money at the time.  I don’t know if that’s been rectified since, but I’d love to go back one day and find out.

After that, I headed back downtown, passed by the building that stands where Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, then stopped by the visitor center again to get tickets and toured two restored 18th century houses, one middle class, where Dolley Madison had once lived with her first husband (not James), and one upper class. 

That was pretty much the end of my day.  I suspected I was coming down with a cold, so I went back to the hostel, and made plans to stay in northern New Jersey for my visit to the Statue of Liberty, having been cowardly enough to bag New York City.  Someday I will go back — without a car.  I will. 

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Categories: history, Long Trip, museums, national parks, philosophy, travel | Leave a comment

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