October 29, 2012

Philadelphia, PA

Wednesday afternoon it was time for us to return the rental car. We had had the Fiat for almost a month, and it was a bit sad letting it go. We had kept a mileage total going for the duration of our rental, and when we dropped it off we had driven just under 2,550 miles. Also, according to the car log, we had gotten an average of 35.3 miles to the gallon. This, compared to the measly 13 miles to the gallon that the truck gets (when not towing, towing its closer to 10), was a huge improvement. If I just do the simple math of the better gas mileage, factoring an average price of gas in New England at being $4/gl, the savings in just gas comes to $495. So, this plus the added benefit of no extra wear and tear on the truck, we pretty much came out even after taking into account the actual cost of the rental car. (I’m pretty sure all the finance nerds are still with me here…and everyone else has dropped off from boredom…but I LOVE math, so sorries!) Driving the Fiat and parking it was a heck of a lot more enjoyable than driving and parking the truck, so either way, it was totally worth it.

On Thursday morning we packed up our trailer, hooked up to the truck and left our New England “home”. When we’d gotten on the highway I turned to Sky and asked if he thought something was wrong with the truck. I hadn't remembered it being THIS slow. I guess that’s just how it seemed in comparison with the zippy Fiat. Ha! We drove through Massachusetts, through Rhode Island and onto Connecticut, the same way we’d gone to visit Lindsay over the weekend. To get to Philadelphia, our next destination, we two options next: go through the Bronx during a mid-day lunch hour OR circumvent all of NYC and go a wide radius around. After weighing our options and looking at current traffic on Google Maps we decided to go through the Bronx, brave souls that we are. Well, here is what I have to say about that: the roads are crappy, there are pot holes everywhere, the lanes are tight and everyone drives like an asshole, BUT the good thing is that we got through the Bronx much faster than I had expected, and we were out of there in no time (minus one taillight cover…that popped off when we hit one of the many potholes).

Crossing the Hudson River, views of Manhattan
Crossing the Hudson River, views of Manhattan
We crossed the Hudson River into New Jersey, our 29th state on this trip. We had an RV park reservation at a campground just across the river from Philadelphia. The following morning we took the subway from near our park in New Jersey to downtown Philly. This was the very first subway that I've been on that allowed passengers to sit at the very front of the first car. We literally sat across the aisle from the conductor and could see the exact same view he was seeing as he was guiding the subway through the underground tunnels. It made me surprisingly queasy, and I would liken it to riding on a roller coaster  I’m thinking to be a subway conductor you can’t be afraid of small spaces. We were within inches of the walls on both sides!

The view out of the first car on the subway in the subway tunnels!
Riding at the front of the subway!
We got off at the 8th street and Market stop and made our way above ground. Fall was in full swing in the and there were gorgeous autumn colors everywhere. We’d gotten off to a late start on the day and it was close to lunchtime, so we asked around for recommendations on places to eat. One of the locals recommended Campos on Market St. and we headed there. Sky ordered a (you’ll never guess this…) a Philly cheesesteak! Surprisingly, it wasn't the best Philly cheesesteak he’d ever had, but my Rueben was to die for!

Campos restaurant in Philadelphia, PA
Where we ate lunch in Philly
After lunch we walked up 2nd street through the Old City district to the Christ Church. The church was founded in 1695 and housed several very old graves. We stopped by Andrew Hamilton’s mausoleum and then continued on to Elfreth’s Alley. The residential alley of 32 homes is one of the oldest continually inhabited streets in the county. The street has been impeccably preserved, there are still people living in the houses today, and you can see all kinds of clues to the history of each house. Each home still displays its fire department subscription placard on the front!

Elfreth's Alley in Philadelphia, PA
Elfreth's Alley
We then walked to the Philadelphia US Mint, the first mint facility in the nation. We took a free self-guided tour of the mint and got to see the process of making new coins from beginning to end. Afterwards we walked through the Independence Mall, a section of lawn that stretches from Independence Hall to the National Constitution Center. We swung by the Liberty Bell, and then got tickets for the free tour of the Independence Hall. The Hall is where Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution were both written. On the tour we got to see the actual room of where the documents were signed. The tour guide called it the “most historic room in the most historic building in the most historic square mile”.

Statue of Washington overlooking the Independence Mall in Philadelphia
Washington looking over the Independence Mall 
The Liberty Bell in the Independence Mall in Philadelphia
The Liberty Bell 
Inside the Independence Hall in Independence Mall in Philadelphia
The hall where the Declaration of Independence was signed 
Following that we strolled by Washington Square, by the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and then walked up Market St to the Reading Terminal Market. The Market is really similar to the Seattle Public Market in the sense that it’s inside and vendors sell their wares from permanent stalls. There is even a fresh fish counter, but I don’t think they toss fish around like they do up in the northwest. Then we walked by the Chinatown gate, and from there continued on our way around the city by walking down the Avenue of the Arts. We made it to Walnut St., the high end shopping street in Philadelphia, and headed west from there to Rittenhouse Square, where we caught our subway back home to New Jersey.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Washington Square in Philadelphia
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier 
Chinatown gate in Philadelphia, PA
Chinatown gate in Philadelphia
View of City Hall from the Avenue of the Arts in Philadelphia
View of City Hall from the Avenue of the Arts 
Saturday morning we found a pick-up soccer game for Sky at Fairmont Park. I sat on a bench and watched them play while reading a new book I borrowed from Lindsay. When they were done we ate a quick picnic lunch and stopped by a cafĂ© for a warm cup of coffee. It had turned out that we’d gotten lucky again: we were in Philadelphia, in Fairmont Park right when the Head of the Schuylkill Regatta was going on! The Schuylkill riverwalk was full of activity as rowing teams sped by on the river and spectators cheered from the riverfront. We strolled to the Start line and then came all the way back to the Finish Line. It was a really pleasant walk, though a bit chilly. I think we ended up walking about 5 or 6 miles that day, and combined with the miles we’d walked in downtown the day before, we were pooped. We finished out our time in Philly watching movies on Netflix at the RV park. It was glorious!

Boathouse Row on the Schuylkill River
Boathouse Row on the Schuylkill River
The Head of the Schuylkill Regatta in Philadelphia
The Head of the Schuylkill Regatta in Philadelphia
Walking along the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia
Walking along the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia
Philly turned out to be a very pleasant surprise for us. We really liked the historic feel of the city combined with the modern architecture. I’d almost say that Philadelphia reminded me of Portland. Philly is now on our top ten list of our favorite cities in the US! It seems the cities we least expect to like are the ones that we end up liking the most. 

To see more pictures of Philadelphia, click here.

Happy Philly exploring,

M.

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