Monday, November 30, 2015

Philadelphia Museum District

Fred and Rocky
 We ventured back into Philadelphia on Saturday to visit Rocky and to explore Museum Mile.  We parked at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and never even made it inside the building as there is so much to do outside.

The museum is an imposing structure.  It has sky high columns topped by a colorful pediment. The most recognizable feature is the broad stone staircase that was made famous in the Rocky movie. It is surrounded by ornate landscaping and a sculpture garden.  That is where we found Rocky.
The Museum is an impressive Structure. It is even topped with Gargoyles.

Fred enjoyed having his picture taken with the statue and then running up that long staircase to celebrate at the top. 

View of City Hall from the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art
We wandered the grounds enjoying the statues and the view down The Benjamin Franklin Parkway to City Hall which is topped by a bronze of William Penn. The view was so enticing that we decided to take a walk to JFK Park and it's famous LOVE Statue.


Rodin's The Burghers of Calais at the Rodin Museum
 The Parkway is a flag lined Boulevard that is a pleasure to explore. Here you can find some of the most impressive art work in the world.  We passed the Rodin Museum and it's garden filled with bronzes. The Barnes Foundation was next with its collection of post impressionist and early modern art, and then the Franklin Institute.

Electric Plug at the Philadelphia Museum of Art
Holocaust on Benjamin Franklin Parkway
We discovered many little pocket parks that featured fountains and sculpture from many sources.

LOVE in JFK Park
AMORE at the Philadelphia Museum of Art
Fountain in Logan Square

I particularly enjoyed the fountain in Logan Square.

I am so glad that we spent our second Philadelphia day in the Museum District. The walk was a lot longer than we anticipated but worth the effort. Fitbit said 15,000+ steps and our feet were sore enough to make us believe it.

Civil War Monument on Benjamin Franklin Boulevard
There is much that we didn't get a chance to do in this city, as in most of the places we have traveled.    At the beginning of our adventure that made me sad.    Now we try to leave some things undone in each place we visit, to entice us to return.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Valley Forge

This life sized statue of General Washington is in the National Park's Visitors Center
While we were walking around Philadelphia and looking at historic maps of the area we were happy to discover how close Valley Forge is to where we are staying.
Turns out it is a short 30 mile drive to the west.
The timing was perfect. We had just visited Independence Hall and relearned it's history of British Occupation in 1777.
We had to make the trip to Valley Forge to walk in the steps of George Washington and his Continental Army in the place that they retreated to after failing to stop the British Forces.
Cannons in position at the first Redoubt
Valley Forge National Park is beautiful. It is on high ground with views of rolling hills below and mountains in the distance. There are many mature trees now but with a little imagination you can picture the bare landscape that it must of been as the approximately 10,000 troops used them to build shelter and fires to keep themselves warm.
Huts like these were constructed for shelter. Each 12x12 structure was meant to hold 12 enlisted men or 4 officers.

Winter itself must have been difficult on a hilltop with nothing to break the blowing wind. Add to that the lack of food and provisions and it made for miserable conditions. There was no battle fought at Valley Forge yet 2000 soldiers died there from disease, exposure to the elements and starvation.

The house occupied by General Washington and his family was Camp Headquarters as well.

Those conditions could have been the end of the Continental Army, yet in the 6 months of the Valley Forge Encampment only 42 soldiers were tried for desertion.  Battling the harsh conditions and surviving made them a cohesive group.  Prussian officer Baron Friedrich von Steuben began to train the soldiers in precision fighting and military marching. He also instituted sanitation practices in the encampment to fight disease.
Officer Nathanael Greene took over the job of procurement and successfully negotiated supplies for the weary troops by March.

Statue of George Washington representing peacetime years after the War.
The Army left their Winter Encampment in May a force to be reckoned with. Soldiers from 13 States had transferred their allegiance from home States to a united Continental Army.

The National Memorial Arch
Inscribed across the top of the arch is a quote from General Washington, "Naked and starving as
they are we cannot enough admire the incomparable Patience and Fidelity of the Soldiery."

Valley Forge National Park offers 27 miles of trails for hiking and bike riding. There is a 10 mile road that winds through the park with stops at various monuments and places of historic significance. Along the trail are monuments erected to honor the Free Mason's, the Patriots of African Descent and  the soldiers of the original colonies.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Historic Philadelphia

Independence Hall
We have begun our meandering trip south with a first stop in Philadelphia.  We actually stayed at Timberlane campground in Clarksboro, New Jersey as it was the closest to Philadelphia we could find  that had the space to accommodate our rig.
We found it to be convenient to the bridges and to a train station, making transportation easy.

Philadelphia is great for walking. Our first trip into the city we took the train and got off at 8th and Market near the Independence Visitor Center where we obtained out tickets to tour Independence Hall. The Visitor Center run by the National Park Serve is an experience in itself. It has museum style rooms that offer short films and exhibits that review the history of  Philadelphia and its importance in the birth of our nation.

Our timed tickets gave us 90 minutes to explore Historic Old Town before our appointment at Independence Hall.

Signer's Park
Signer's Park a pocket park located across 5th Street from Independence Hall. The bronze statue there was inspired by George Clymer from Pennsylvania, a signer of both the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

Benjamin Franklins Post Office

Archway leading from the street to Benjamin Franklins house, now the Ben Franklin Museum is here.
We saw the Benjamin Franklin Museum, It was a wonder experience to visit the Post Office and Print Shop and to walk the same covered archway that Franklin did to get to his home. The house was actually located behind the businesses, in a sheltered courtyard surrounded by buildings on 4 sides. The Franklin home is now an exhibit called the ghost house. It is a steel outline of the 3 story building where it once stood, with covered exhibits explaining the purpose of the various rooms.

Architectural details

As we walked back toward Independence Hall there were beautiful old buildings with marble facades decorated with columns and pediments, lions and gargoyles, and stone masks with open mouths and tongues sticking out. What is up with that last one anyway?

Bell Tower of Independence Hall
Independence Hall is beautiful. We entered through a security gate and followed our tour guide to an ante room where we were given a brief history of the building.
The tour began on the first floor where we were shown the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and then the Assembly Room. In this room the Declaration of Independence was adopted. In this room the   Constitution of the United States was debated, drafted and signed. The Park Ranger was kind enough to point out the table for the New York delegates.

Table for the New York Delegation

We climbed and ornate staircase to the second floor where we visited the ballroom. You can see across the street and down onto the glass enclosed Liberty Bell from the second floor windows.
Fred found the staircase to the third floor but there was no joy in his discovery as visitation was limited to park employees.

Second floor Hallway, Independence Hall
Happily there were no reenactments of National Treasure this day. He was jealous to look up and discover our guide enjoying the view from the roof as we left.

There was no access to the third floor for us.
Christ Church Burial Ground is only a few blocks walk to the South. We headed in that direction to place our lucky pennies on Benjamin Franklins grave.

Wishing good luck for ourselves.

Pyramid and All-Seeing Eye

The cemetery is hauntingly beautiful. I was delighted to see pyramids, an obelisk, and images of owls and the all seeing eye. Many of the stones have no markings on them any more but maps are available that will identify them for you. Five signers of the Constitution rest in this shady corner of the city.

Our next stop was the US Mint. We were tired and not sure about how much more walking we wanted to do but decided to follow the self guided tour. We were both so happy that we did. It was a great experience and it was fun to learn about the artistic process in the development of a coin.
Our first day in Philadelphia was great. We were tired and our feet were sore but our hearts were happy.

Note: There was no charge for visiting Independence Hall. It is administered by the National Park Service. There is no fee to tour the US Mint. Both of these venues have security checkpoints with metal detectors and X-ray of bags.
There is a $5 charge for adults to enter the indoor portion of the Benjamin Franklin Museum.
There is a $2 fee to enter the Christ Church Burial Ground.

Fitbit clocked us at 11,685 steps.