Friday, March 4: After we pick up our car from Reading Terminal Market, we drive to The Independent Hotel, where we drop our bags curbside, run them inside, and check in. Parking is scarce in the city, so Mike has to take the car to a garage a block down the street; they have arranged with the hotel to provide its patrons with cheaper parking. Because it’s one of those parking garages where they keep your car keys and have to jockey the cars around, we decide to leave the car parked for the whole weekend. We figure it will be easiest to go everywhere on foot than to try to deal with parking conundrums.
The lobby of the hotel is multi-story, and I capture a small bit of a painting of Independence Hall, which we’ll see tomorrow.
Right across from our hotel is one of the city’s well-known murals: Philadelphia Muses by Meg Saligman, at 13th and Locust Streets.
I enjoy doing urban hiking to discover the treasures of a new city. You see things on foot that you would never notice when driving by.
Some of Philadelphia’s architecture reminds me of buildings you’d see in Europe.
We make our way from Spruce Street to Avenue of the Arts. As we approach City Hall, we can’t help but be bowled over by one of the largest municipal buildings in the United States and one of the largest in the world. It has almost 700 rooms and houses three branches of government: the Executive (Mayor’s office), the Legislative (City Council), and the Judicial Branch’s Civil Courts (Court of Common Pleas). (Wikipedia: Philadelphia City Hall)
The building is topped by an 11.3 m (37 ft), 27-ton bronze statue of city founder William Penn, the tallest atop any building in the world. It’s quite an impressive sight.
The Ritz-Carlton faces the Avenue of the Arts, flanking the approach to City Hall.
Mike takes a picture of me in the center island in front of City Hall. As you can see, I’m quite bundled up and my hair is blowing all about. It’s a cold and windy day.
As we go into the courtyard through the southern entrance, we can look up and see the tower looming overhead. At least some blue skies are peeking through this afternoon.
After walking through the courtyard of City Hall and coming out of the northern entrance, we drop into the Masonic Temple. However, it’s 4:15 p.m., too late for their last tour, which started at 3:00. We’re told Saturday’s tours are at 10:00, 11:00 and noon, but we’ve already bought our ticket for the Independence Hall tour at 10:00. It means we will have a lot of walking tomorrow if we want to make it back for the noon tour. At this point, we don’t know what we’ll feel like doing, but we’ve heard the inside of the Masonic Temple is an “architectural wonderland,” not to be missed.
We head next past Reading Terminal Market down Arch Street, where we see the Chinatown Friendship Gate. This is a symbol of friendship between Philadelphia and its sister city of Tianjin, China, dedicated in 1984 by officials from both cities. Artisans from China helped create the colorful 40-foot-tall portal, which says in large Chinese characters: “Philadelphia Chinatown.”
We make our way to the Independence Visitor Center to see if we can change our 10:00 tickets scheduled for tomorrow morning, hoping we might be able to stop at the Masonic Temple before coming. We’re unable to do so because the ticket office is already closed.
We then walk back toward our hotel, quite some distance away, passing buildings glowing in the late afternoon sunlight.
We walk past Independence Hall, which we’ll take a tour of tomorrow.
Mike has a hankering for a craft beer, so we stop at the 2nd Story Brewing Company, where we’re able to imbibe and rest our weary feet. We sit here for quite some time, drinking and talking with our friendly waiter.
We run across an Afghan restaurant named Ariana, which happens to be our son Alex’s girlfriend’s name, so we take a picture to send to him.
We make our way back to the hotel where we rest for a few brief moments and then walk down the street a block to have dinner at Indeblue, which serves modern and traditional Indian cuisine. We enjoy an exotic atmosphere, wine, stuffed long hot pepper appetizers; I order the noorani shrimp skewer. No surprise, as I almost always have shrimp when I eat out.
My fitbit tells me we’ve walked 16,361 steps today, or 6.93 miles. This is nothing compared to what we’ll walk tomorrow! 🙂