With our next two days off we decided to head south to Philadelphia and see a little piece of American history. We started out by driving down a very pretty scenic route along the Delaware River and through the Delaware Water Gap recreation area. We passed through many quaint little towns that had stone built houses and were surrounded by thick forests of hardwoods.
The scenery changed drastically when we got to the outskirts of Philadelphia where we started driving through some really depressed looking areas with streets lined by decaying buildings. Interspersed through out these sketchy neighborhoods were really old historic buildings and when we finally made it to the town center the City Hall building loomed impressively over head. After finding parking for the car at the Independence Mall we headed straight into the building that houses the Liberty Bell. In person the Bell lived up to Andy and my expectations, it is fairly large and weighs one ton. What was more impressive to us than the actual size was imagining a time when a large bell was so important to a town, without one there was no way to signal to the townsfolk when something important was happening. Up close one can see the hammer marks made by the craftsmen, and the large wooden yoke the bell is attached to is also amazing to look at. By now all this history has worked us up an appetite and the only thing we could think about was Philly cheese steaks so we bee-lined it to the nearest street cart.
We spent the afternoon enjoying the beautiful sunny weather walking around very old buildings like the first and second banks of the United States among others. Our favorite restored building was the City Tavern not for the architecture like you might think, but for the amazing beer we had there where our forefathers used to eat and drink while having political discussions with one another. We tried a porter that was made following a recipe that was found in the rare manuscripts section of the New York City Library and one of the most amazing beers I’ve ever had; a strong honey wheat beer made following a recipe that Thomas Jefferson used to brew his own with. Definitely a highlight! Eventually we made our way to Independence Hall where both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were written. Both rooms inside the building were preserved they way they had been over two hundred years ago and it was easy to imagine the events that had taken place there.
That evening we left Philadelphia and made our way back to the Delaware River to Washington’s Crossing Park where we cooked a nice meal on our camp stove and watched the sunset and the lightning bugs light up.
The next morning we made a spur of the moment decision to head into New York City so we drove into Staten Island and were insanely lucky enough to find four dollar parking for the day (plus the eight dollar bridge toll) and got on the soonest ferry to Manhattan. Our first stop, of course, was street food where we got falafels and then a quick stop to the nearest Borders to glance at a NYC guide book. We walked from Battery Park to Chinatown, SoHo, Tribeca, and the Villages. My favorite part of the day was walking around the East Village and eating Pinkberry while people watching, we also enjoyed the street performances in Washington Square Park and looking at the different styles throughout the neighborhoods. After a full day of walking we rode the Staten Island Ferry back to the car as the sun set and made our way home.