A Tale of Two Cities

A Tale of Two Cities

What got me out of bed and over to Union station at 6:00am this Saturday?  I had a train to catch and a friend to see. Destination unknown = Philadelphia!


But first, rewind to Friday:


Festivities on the 4th

What better place to spend July 4th than our nation's capital.  Friday morning started with an Independence Day Parade down Constitution Ave. I was warned countless times that the metro is a nightmare, and the city is a tourist's haven.  There were floats, ice cream, vendors, and music - nothing out of the ordinary, but my favorite part was watching the bands.  I was in marching band at my high school and felt so bad for these poor musicians; it was hot enough as is, but they must have been sweltering in their uniforms!  The militia band in particular was neat to watch, but I'm pretty sure I'm the only history and music nerd who enjoyed the fife and drum corps.  We had a great view directly across from the Museum of American history, but the heat and crowd were almost unbearable, so after a bit we left to get some A/C inside the Reagan building.




Since we planned on going to the Mall later that evening, my friends and I didn't see the point in going back to the RAF so we killed time perusing the Smithsonian (never gets old), a mid-afternoon read at Barnes and Noble, and dinner in Chinatown. By the time we returned to the Mall, the temperature had dropped considerably. I actually contemplated buying a sweatshirt.





The Mall is a magical place, and being there on Independence Day, I couldn't have been more honored to work for its betterment.  There were families picnicking, friends celebrating, and couples dancing on the lawn.  The Sylvan theatre had an outdoor concert, as did the lawn of the Capitol - with performers like Jordan Sparks and Phillip Phillips!  As the sun set, the Washington Monument set the quintessential patriotic backdrop for fireworks.  It was one of those postcard-perfect moments.


Sisterly Love in the City of Brotherly Love

Isn't it a great thing when you make really idealistic plans months in advance, and they actually turn out perfectly?  The beauty of being in D.C. is that the big 3- Boston, New York, and Philadelphia - are only hours away.  In Florida, my university is hours away.  I had never been to Philly before, and this summer presented the perfect opportunity to change that.  Plus, my sorority sister, Emily, lives in a suburb of Philly and so kindly let me stay with her.





Emily is one of those friends who I can see after 2 months, and it feels like just yesterday we were walking around campus together...easy to say, I missed her!  I'm a huge planner, but I didn't have to lift a finger because she already had an whole itinerary mapped out for us, tours booked and all - how wonderful is she?!


The train ride was quick and easy, and once I arrived in Philly, we began checking things off our to-do list immediately.  Independence Hall, the Betsy Ross House, Reading Terminal Market, Constitution Center.  We ended up skipping the Liberty Bell since there was a 3 hour line, but it's a bell with a crack in it.  Or at least that's how I justify it.


Philadelphia was founded over a century and a half before Washington D.C. was and has a much more traditional feel.  Brick buildings, cobblestone streets, windowboxes and taverns add a rustic charm that D.C. lacks.  Signs posted on street corners denote places of historical significance.  Every few feet, I'd walk past something that indicated something along the lines of "Ben Franklin walked here".  Too cool.


That evening, we had dinner on South Street, watched some street performers do magic, and walked along the river for Independence Day celebration part two.  The army band gave a concert, complete with fireworks and a spectacular view.  Again, it got cold - not sure what's up with the weather or if I'm just too much of a Floridian!  Either way, that didn't stop us from getting Rita's, a Philadelphia tradition.  A former Rita's employee herself, Emily always raved about their gelati, so that's what we got.  Custard layered beneath water ice layered beneath more custard.  "Water ice" = Italian ice.  Emily insists it's "water ice" though, so in true Philadelphia style, I adopted the lingo for the 36 hours I was there.  Now, I'll have some Italian ice, please :)


Day at the Museums

Saturday evening we had stopped in at the UPenn Museum of Archaelogy and Anthropology but arrived just 20 minutes before closing, so Sunday Emily and I channeled our inner intellectuals and toured some fascinating exhibits.


First was The Franklin Institute, one of the largest and oldest science museums in the country.  It had a lot of interactive exhibits and for someone not particularly interested in physics, astronomy, and anatomy, was quite interesting.  Each section was thematic and allowed us adults to play like little kids.  I got to heavy lift 500 lbs, climb through a human heart, and test my surfing skills, all in one place.




Next up was the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  Art museums are one of those things I really wish I could enjoy more.  Perhaps it's my lack of creativity, but there is something about staring at photography or abstract splotches for hours that just isn't redeeming.  Some of the contemporary works look like something my little cousin could have fingerpainted. Luckily for Emily and I, there were entire wings of the museum dedicated to the old stuff.  The GOOD stuff. As in not only art, but ARTifacts from as early as 10th century Europe.  Still hard to conceive that only an inch thick of glass separated me from a host of medieval javelins.


Having sacrificed sleep for the weekend, Monday morning would have been an ideal time to play catch up, except errands awaited and programming was on the agenda.  But no complaints - it's part of the gig.  And tired or not, I love it.


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