I’ve got to be honest – I was predisposed to think there wasn’t much to Philadelphia. I came here before on my US school trip in 2009 and I think we spent about two hours here. I learnt a bit about Benjamin Franklin, and heard there was some old bell that was famous for some reason that we were supposed to see (which I didn’t). I think I spent most of the time in a shopping mall of some sort. So I only booked myself into the hostel here for two nights. Well what is now plain to me is that Philly is an awesome city worth more than a weekend of your time. Not that I made the most of my weekend here particularly…
So my Greyhound journey here was actually completely uneventful and even quite pleasant. I was sat next to a fairly normal middle aged woman (the only crazy thing about her was her fashion sense) and it only took two hours. It was pretty cool seeing the Manhattan skyline fade into the distance as we rumbled through New Jersey. And there was a lot more fall foliage to see!… but I won’t go on.
The day I arrived was beautifully clear, but pretty damn chilly. My hostel was in the historic district of Philly, so I checked out the Independence Center and some of the parks and surrounding streets. Philadelphia was actually the capital city of the US between 1890 and 1900, and there’s loads of interesting history associated with the place. And the National Park service has gone all out to preserve and retell it. But after about an hour of wandering about I realised I was dying of cold and my legs really ached, so I went back to the hostel – just to grab my jumper you know? Wellll I ended up watching The Cleveland Show for the next few hours and the next time I left the hostel was for the pub crawl. Whoops.
Had a few beers before we left. Then we checked out a bar on South Street where the seats were old dodgem cars, the walls were covered with graffiti and the ceiling was covered with skateboards whilst heavy metal music screamed from the speakers. Was pretty awesome. Then an Australian from the hostel said a friend of his who was native to Philadelphia was in a club nearby with her friends. So we headed there next which is where I was given a Gin & Tonic to drink… if you know anything about me you’ll know that I absolutely hate them. But aside from the disgusting drink and the absurdly long wait for the toilets, I had a good time. The Americans we met were super friendly. Also got some pizza on the way back to the hostel, which one of the staff members described as “a slice is as big as your FACE” (say it with the intonations and accent of an American girl and maybe you’ll realise why I laughed). I crept back into my room as not to wake the three German girls I was sharing with and promptly passed out.
Now I don’t think I was actually that drunk when I crashed, but when I woke up, ohhh I did not feel good. This is the other reason I hate Gin. It poisons my brain resulting in a powerful headache all the next day. Also my legs hurt. So for almost the whole day I lay in a painful miserable heap on my bed, afraid to move and unable to even open my eyes or anything. I was indeed a pathetic specimen. Unfortunately Sunday was my designated day to explore the city. It goes without saying that it didn’t work out that way.
I made it out of hostel at 4pm and walked around the historic district again during sunset. Checked out Elfreth Alley and Penn’s Landing, the latter being impossibly picturesque with all the autumn foliage and pink skies. That’s when I realised how nice this city was! Ok so I only explored one small section which isn’t representative of the whole whatsoever (apparently some parts of Philadelphia are really dodgy), but the historic district was so pretty, with red brick houses with cream coloured shutters, orderly laid out between peaceful parks. After the clamour of New York it seemed so refined and calm. There was hardly anyone about and I really appreciated the quiet. But it was soon dark so I hastened back to the hostel.
So I’d kinda failed on all counts of exploring Philadelphia. I spent the rest of the evening getting a Philly Cheese Steak from Jim’s and watching The Way He Looks in the cinema down the road (a really amazing film, I recommend it) before getting a relatively early night.
Now maybe the single most famous thing about Philadelphia is the Liberty Bell. And you’ll notice I haven’t mentioned going to see it yet. It’s been a joke between my friends and I since we came on that school trip that we never saw the bell and that we were really stupid not to. And here I was, in Philly again, and I still hadn’t (except through a window). My bus was in the morning, and the Bell Center opens at 9. So I got there early to beat the queue, and I can proudly declare that an hour before I left on my second visit to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, I went and saw the Liberty Bell. And you know what? It’s just a bell. With a big crack in. Exciting? Nah. Impressive? Not really. Historically significant? I guess…
Ah well. Next stop, Washington DC!