Thursday, January 12, 2012

A big big sandwich, organ and prison - Plus, climbing the Rocky steps!

I left New York on the 10am bus toward Philadelphia after missing one subway train as it was as packed as it could be. But, when the 2nd subway train arrived it was almost empty. So, I’m glad I missed the 1st one as I had a nice comfortable sit down on the way.

The bus was only half full and it was freeway all the way to Philadelphia, so I sat and watched The Lion King – the movie, to see how it compared to the stage show. I was surprised at how similar they are... almost exactly the same dialogue and scenes, but somehow an hour shorter then the stage show. Still, it was good to see it finally and compare it. I think I prefer the live version though -a lot more spectacular.

On arrival in Philadelphia, I walked to the Hostel, booked in and saw that the one large dormitory has 24 beds. I have my fingers crossed that I am not close to any snorers. After sorting out my stuff I went out to see some of the sights. Firstly, I headed for the mint, to see some coins being minted – But unfortunately it is closed so that the tour can be renovated. Its a shame as I was looking forward to seeing it, but I went to independence hall instead – and saw the actual American declaration of independence and the building it was signed in. Then a quick nip across the road and I saw the Liberty Bell – a historic old bell that has a massive crack in the side, but is still well known for what it represents.

One last stop today was as Penns Landing – down by the waterfront. This is where the founder of Pennsylvania landed when he arrived from England. It was mostly closed up and very quiet, but it did have a nice view down the river-front. It was starting to get dark, so I went back to the Hostel to do some much needed laundry.
Where the declaration of Independance was signed in 1776

The Liberty Bell

City hall at night

This wall is a screen that.....

...shows videos like this stream... COOL!

In the evening I went out for a Burger King and also to see the city centre and around. The City Hall is very impressive, with a massive clock tower with a bright yellow clock face that can be seen for miles. Then I went to The Comcast Centre. In the lobby there is a series of rails that criss cross the lobby above your head – on these rails are life size models of people that look like they are walking along the rails. That is cool enough but a tech geek like me loved the other thing there. On the wall in the lobby is an LED screen that claims to be the best definition screen of its size in the world. Supposedly, it is so good that it can disappear into the wall, like a chameleon, by showing a picture of the wall on the screen. I didn’t believe it, but when a video of a river started showing on the wall before I HAD EVEN noticed the screen – I did believe it. It is really cool and I stood and watched it for a while as it showed video clips and then disappeared again.
In the comcast building

Cheesesteak for munch....mmmmmmmm  mmmmmmmm!!!

The organ!

The next morning, a good lie in was followed by lunch - a massive Philly Cheese-steak sandwich. - probably the biggest thing I have eaten in America and absolutely delicious!! Well worth $4. I have been stuffed all day since and don’t need anything else to eat! My first stop was to see a big organ ((hurhur hur). It is actually the largest operational pipe organ in the world. Obviously you would expect to find it in a church or a cathedral. But no. Here in Philadelphia, it is inside a branch of Macys. A department store. But what a department store. The centre is a 7 storey high Grand Court, with the 10,000 pipe organ as its centrepiece. It is beautiful and as I entered the store I could hear it being played straight away. I spent a good half an hour just wandering around the 2nd floor of the store trying to get a good view,which I managed in the end. A strange place to find an organ, but a good start to the day!! 

I took a metro train north and visited Eastern State Penitentiary – The first Penitentiary in the world, that was built in the 1830's with central heating and flushing toilets – the first building of its size to have them in the USA.

It closed in 1971 and was left for 24 years to rot and decay, but is now open as a tourist attraction. It is a spooky place, with paint peeling from the walls and doors hanging off hinges. It was also the first prison in the world to use the radial plan – so it has a central hub and spoke like corridors coming from it, that house the cells. One of the highlights is the cell that was used by Al Capone – complete with carpet, armchair, whiting desk and mellow music playing – just as it was when he was there. There are also 2 art installations that are a bit strange – One has a cell that has been knitted – Yep – Knitted. The other has the whole cell interior covered in stainless steel, which is quite scary really.
The penitentiary entrance - looks like a castle!

A standard cell

Al Capones cell

Me in block 2

Knitted cell!?!?

More cells

Death row

After the Penitentiary, I walked a couple of blocks south and found myself at Ben Franklin Parkway, that leads up to Philadelphia Art Museum. I have done enough museums lately, but I wanted to climbs the steps up and see the view down the parkway, back to the city centre. Plus these are very very well known steps – It is these steps that Sly Stallone runs up in Rocky 3. Haahaa- There were people there running up al l 72 steps and doing the Rocky pose at the top, as well as taking photos with the Rocky statue, donated by Sly, which is at the bottom, just beside the steps. If you look on a map of Philadelphia, the steps are now even known as 'The Rocky Steps'.

My last stop today was along the river where there are a series of boathouses, that supposedly give a spectacular view across the river with a great reflection. Unfortunately, for me it was cold, misty and raining, so the view, while OK, didn’t blow me away. But it was a nice stroll on a warm wet afternoon. I’m only in Philadelphia for one more night, so I will pack my stuff once again and get ready for my bus south, along the east coast again – Tomorrow I travel to Washington DC. 
Me and Rocky - (Im the small one)

The steps, with Rock statue far right (you can see people posing with it)

Awesome view into Philly, shame about the mist and rain

Looking up the 72 Rocky steps 

Boathouse Row

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