Now we have arrived at the day we've all been waiting for - the 4th of July.
We (and 50 or so other people) started out the special day by having breakfast with one of Philadelphia's most well-loved former residents, Benjamin Franklin. There are several 'Bens' in and around the city, who go around giving talks and presentations and such. The most famous Ben, the one who married the woman who plays Betsy Ross, unfortunately, suffered a stroke at the end of June. He appears to be recovering nicely, so we'll hope to see him out and about very soon.
We had a great Ben for our breakfast. He looked to be a younger Ben. All I can say is, if you find yourself in Philly on a Saturday morning, you have to do this. It was wonderful. When we made the reservation online, I remarked that we'd be the only people there with no kids in tow and how it would probably be geared toward children, blah, blah, blah.
It really wasn't.
When you first get there, you get a name tag and your party has their picture taken with Ben on the balcony of the Visitor Center, overlooking Independence Mall (the photo is included in the price of breakfast - woot!). Once everyone gets through the buffet and back to their tables, Ben starts his presentation. He talked about where he grew up, his family and how he came to be one of the elder statesmen at the time when our country was being formed. It. Was. Riveting. Ben talked for about an hour and then opened up the floor for some questions. We had an ex-history teacher next to us at our table and he asked a very pointed question and Ben was spot on with his answer. It was like this guy was channeling the real Ben. He really knew his stuff. One of the kids asked about his reputation as a 'ladies man', and Ben answered that he wanted to respect the ladies whose company he kept and would limit his remarks to say that they shared some very enjoyable times.
This guy was good.
This guy was good.
With full bellies, we wandered out to Market Street to wait for the start of the parade. I love me some parade.This guy:was right where you see him in this picture for a half hour or so and then I walked away to get a closer look at the parade. He disappeared shortly after that, then mysteriously came back and was all creepy and stuff for a while longer. Freakshow. What you have to understand is that this photo was not taken near the curb. It was taken by the entrance to the Visitor Center. As you can see in the picture above this one. In the wide-freaking open. Weirdos gravitate toward me - I don't know why. Must be the red hair.
The parade started. There were military units from the different branches:The guy in the hat. He saluted every American Flag that went by. I didn't notice it when I was taking the pictures, only when I downloaded them. I believe that the front of his hat identified him as a Vietnam Veteran. That is dedication, and I heartily respect it. Good on you hat-guy. And thanks for your service.
We also had Mummers. Mmmmm-mmmmm Mummers. I don't know what a parade in Philly would be like without them. Get your strut on. My grandfather always did. Youse guys that ain't from Philly don't know what youse are missing. Aight?
Notice: no flag, no salute. :) Rock on hat-guy.
Fire trucks! I always get excited by the fire trucks. There were a lot of them in this parade too. Yay me.
And the obligatory photo of us. One thing I've been noticing over and over is that my teeth are going crooked again. My parents paid an arm and a leg and I spent the better part of 3 years in braces. WTF? May be time to investigate some Invisalign to restore those pearly whites to their former straight fabulousness.
After the parade, we had some time to explore before our next scheduled event. As an aside, I am one of those people who love to plan. I don't want to wait until I get there and then find out that we can't do this thing that we really wanted to because we needed to make a reservation 4 weeks ago. When we go on vacation, I make dinner reservations months in advance. I just like to know where at least one meal a day is going to come from. Luckily, GeekBoy is happy to go along with my OCD scheduling, as long as I leave enough time for us to wander about and maybe find some cool stuff that's not on the menu.
On our way back around the Liberty Bell Pavilion, I noticed a field of hostas! Hi guys!
We strolled over to the Mint to have a look around. However, we could not get in because no cameras or camera phones are allowed in the Mint. At all. Not like they have a spot right inside the door where you can leave them for the duration of your visit. If you have any sort of a camera on your person, you are not allowed in. That's a great policy. Especially on July 4th weekend. When every man, woman and child has a camera of some sort on them. And chances are, their car (or hotel) is nowhere near where they are at that moment, so there is no stashing it for a bit while they visit the Mint. This was the only sore spot for me during our weekend with regard to the different sites and visiting them.
So here's the Mint.
After we were turned away from the Mint, we noticed that Christ Church Cemetery was directly across the street. There are many prominent Philadelphians buried in this cemetery, including one Benjamin Franklin. GeekBoy and I wandered on over to have a look.
We paid the $2 to enter and had a nice walk through the burial ground. We, of course, visited Ben's grave:All those little dark spots you see on it are pennies. Apparently the story goes that if you flip a penny onto his grave and it lands face-up, you will have good luck. I wanted to flip a penny, GeekBoy thought it was disrespectful - no penny for me. He's always spoiling my good times.
The cemetery was very peaceful and a nice, quiet respite from the antics taking place all over the Mall. But, we had to get over to where our next activity was taking place - the DUCK TOUR!Ahhhhh - quack-quack. I love the Ducks. Geek and I went on them in Boston in May and I was absolutely delighted with our ride. I think one of the keys is getting a good driver. For this tour, we had Tony:
Tony was a doll. He was high energy and a blast, playing great music to go along with all the sights we were seeing on our tour. We saw:
Ed Rendell, our current Governor and former Mayor of Philadelphia. I love Ed, Ed is THE MAN. He's such a down-to-earth person, and a 'Philly Guy' at that. I may not always agree with him politically, but he truly loves Pennsylvania and Philadelphia in particular. The Merchants Exchange
The Library Company (the very first lending library, founded by Ben in 1731)
The Irish Memorial Then we splashed into the Delaware River, right at the base of the - can you guess? - the Ben Franklin Bridge!We got to see where Will Smith bought his mom a loft
And Penn's Landing, and the Adventure Aquarium in Camden, and a whole host of other sights that I didn't take pictures of.
Quack! The best part was that they gave everyone the quackers, rather than making you buy them if you wanted one. In Boston, if you wanted a quacker, you had to fork over $4 or $5 for them. Thus, not much quacking going on on the Duck in Beantown. In Philly, however, we were encouraged to 'quack-attack' throughout the tour. Since I didn't realize that quackers were included, I brought mine from the Boston Ducks and then bought a pink one in support of breast cancer and now I have 3 quackers.
Yet another recommendation from me. Ride the Ducks. You won't be disappointed. Especially if you can get Tony.
From the Ducks, we headed on down to Penn's Landing, where GeekBoy wanted to participate in the all you can eat ice cream festival that was going on throughout the weekend. We got there at 4 (it ended at 5) and the line leading to the tent was hundreds of people long. GeekBoy walked over to the tent to see what the dealio was and reported back that the tent was packed wall to wall with ice-cream eaters. Um, sorry. That's what you get for not letting me flip that penny. There isn't enough $5 all I can eat ice cream in this world, or any other, to get me to go in that tent willingly. So we relaxed and enjoyed the landing for a while.
Once we felt refreshed and revitalized, GeekBoy and I strolled on over to the City Tavern, for some good eats.
There were some actors out front chilling out so we took our picture with them. We're pretty sure that they'd been partaking of the grog - judging from how animated and chatty they were with us.
Notice that I am in flip-flops. And wearing all my beads and a quacker (I had 2 more stashed in my bag). Klassy. The were the only shoes that I had with me that touched the fewest parts of my feet. I was so much more comfortable on the 4th than the previous two days.
The City Tavern is where the Founding Fathers would retire each day, to drink and eat and discuss the days' events that took place during the Continental Congress. The Tavern even serves beers that are brewed from the recipes of some of our Founding Fathers. GeekBoy and I sampled them, and those guys definitely knew what they were doing; God did invent beer because he loves us and wants us to be happy. Amen to that Ben, Amen.
The servers are dressed in period costume and you get your drinks in pewter glassware, and sometimes there is a harpsichord player in the lounge area. It's neat.
This guy came in partway through our meal and chatted with guests and sang a bit. Of course he had a drinky-drink in his hand.Once we finished our meal, we walked back to Independence Hall to see if we could get into the Liberty Bell. We were in luck, the line was not long and moved quickly. There was quite a crowd around the bell so I could only get a few shots.And then there was this guy:I think he was tired of his girlfriend (wife?!) making him pose in front of everything for her pictures. I don't really blame him all that much, they seemed like nice people. I just wonder if he ever thought his sort of 'boobie shot' would be posted on someone's blog. You go buddy, I hate posing in front of all sorts of shit for every picture too.
From here, we sauntered back to the hotel to rest up before the BIG. FIREWORKS. EXTRAVAGANZA. on the (say it with me) Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Sheryl Crow was putting on a concert as well as The Roots, before the works were to go off. Once we got back to our room, I was dreading having to go back out, and especially not looking forward to fighting our way down the parkway in a mass of......ugh, people. So I turned on the news coverage of the event while GeekBoy took a nap to see when it looked like we should head out. I had no interest in seing the musical acts. Maybe if it was Duran Duran, or if Daniel Craig was going to step out on stage in that bathing suit from Casino Royale, I'd go. But Sheryl Crow and The Roots just aren't enough for me.
The longer I sat, the less I wanted to go back out. Luckily GeekBoy had gotten his fireworks on once already this summer, at my works' annual picnic. So he wasn't hell bent on going to the parkway either. But he still wanted to see him some pyrotechnics. He checked to see if we could get up to the roof of our hotel, but the door was locked. So then he started looking out the window of our room to see if there was any other place that would serve as a good spot to watch from. Which is when I saw it.
Remember at the beginning when I told you that our hotel room overlooked New Jersey? Well, NJ is, for the most part, completely flat. From the window of our room, we could see all of the municipal fireworks shows going on all over Jersey. It was miles and miles of fireworks. As far as the eye could see. GeekBoy was in absolute heaven. The bonus was that we could sort of see the fireworks going off over the parkway too - oh SNAP! Two and a half hours we sat in the window, watching fireworks. It was perfect.
On Sunday, we packed up all our things and headed out of the city. On our way out, we stopped in at the White Dog Cafe for brunch. LOVE the White Dog. They use organic, local ingredients in their dishes and the food is fabulous. The owners also ran a store next door to the cafe, called the Black Cat - which sold all kind of artisan items, a lot of them with kittehs on them (of course!). Unfortunately, with the current economy, the Black Cat is no longer with us and closed its doors after 20 years at the end of June. Big bummer for me - I really liked their stuff. This is where I got the parking ticket. Bastard meter maid.
Then we went home and got engaged. :)