First of All –
- First time ever viewing the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall
- Miles Cruised today: Power: 0 – Layover Day
- Total Miles Cruised to date: 4,681
- Hours Underway: NA
- Fuel: NA
- Morning House Battery Reading: 13.4 (plugged in)
- Wind Speed: light
- Daily High Temperature: 66
- Water Temperature: 56
It’s overcast, with a promise of rain by midmorning. Dockmaster Richie gives us a ride in the golf cart down the breakwater walkway and over to the Market Street pedestrian overpass which takes us over I-95 and into the heart of the historic old city. We walk up Market Street, toward the Independence Hall visitor center. We get there by 10:30am and are disappointed to learn that tickets for touring Independence Hall are already gone for today. They’re isssued on a first come/first served basis. We figure we’ll have to return early next day and stand in line if we’re to have a chance of getting in. We watch a couple of excellent films at the visitor center and then head out to see the things which are open to us. First on the list is the famed Liberty Bell. We get in line and while waiting, I notice a sign stating that we’ll need to pass security. No weapons allowed, including pocket knives. Darned! I’ve got my Leatherman multitool on my belt. I take it off and, while hopefully no one is looking, I quickly stash it in a planter bed beneath a thick covering of vinca, hoping it will still be there after our visit to the great bell. The line moves along fairly well, with interesting signs to read along the way. We’re finally standing with a group of people in front of perhaps the most famous bell in the world. It doesn’t seem quite as large as I imagined, but it definitely does have a presence. The only thing separating us from the bell is a thick rope and the watchful gaze of a security guard. A Park Ranger is on hand to tell stories about the bell. Behind the bell a high glass wall affords a dramatic view of Independence Hall, where the bell once hung and pealed out for all to hear. The last time the Liberty Bell rang was in 1846, when its great crack occurred. The bell was then taken down from the tower and has been silent ever since, although her message of Liberty for All has continued to be proclaimed.
We then walk over to the courtyard behind Independence Hall and walk through some historic buildings next to Independence Hall, which don’t require a reserved ticket. While in one we talk with a Park Ranger about being too late to get tickets and she suggests that we go over to the Ranger at the head of the line. Sometimes they’re able to work folks in without reservations. We do just that and are amazed when we’re added to the 12:30 tour group. The tour of this great building, arguably the most famous and significant building in our country, is an experience not to be missed. Inside, we view the room where the Declaration of Independence was signed, where the Articles of Confederation were signed, where the Constitution was ratified, and where the Bill of Rights was approved. We see original prints of the famous documents, made shortly after the originals were signed. We also see the chair which President George Washington sat in when the Constitution was ratified. On its back is an engraving of the sun, half way up. Ben Franklin sat directly in front of Washington during the Constitutional Convention, and after ratification famously remarked, “I’ve been sitting here contemplating whether that sun is rising or setting. I can now proclaim that it is indeed rising.”
All this history has given our appetites an edge so we walk back toward 2nd Street and the restaurant district. We select a Cuban restaurant for our lunch spot and are delighted with the choice. The food is outstanding, and the interior decor, done up to look like old Havana, is striking in its atmosphere and attention to detail. After lunch we head back up to the historic district, but seem to arrive too late for one place after another. We get to the cemetery where Ben Franklin is buried 20 minutes after it closes for the day. We’re still able to view his grave since he had the good sense to be buried near the edge of the cemetery, where we can pay respects through the iron grating. We next walk down to see the Betsy Ross house, and miss it also, by 20 minutes. Our last stop of the day will be Christ Church, and we definitely expect to find it tightly buttoned up. As we draw near, however, we see an open door, and we walk in. This remarkable Anglican congregation was founded in 1697 and the current church building was begun in 1727, finished in 1758. Engraved slabs of marble are inset on the floor within, marking burials of significant church members from the early years. Other marble, granite, and copper plaques adorn the side walls, attesting to the remarkable history of this place. Sandy locates the pews where George Washington, Ben Franklin, and other great figures from the earliest days of our republic sat and worshipped. I have a great conversation with a fellow who is collecting money from the donation boxes. He’s a wealth of information about this church, its early history and its current status.
We depart the church with just enough time to walk over to the City Tavern, a faithful reconstruction of the 5 story tavern which was built on this site in 1773. They feature entree’s as well as drinks and ales which are based on Revolutionary era recipes and menus. A costumed musician playing the harp provides background music. Sandy orders rabbit and I have rack of lamb. The food is expertly prepared and presented. My meal is accompanied by a mug of George Washington porter. We finish with a slice of Martha Washington’s chocolate mouse. Delicious. Following dinner I engage in conversation with our harpist and he turns out to be a highly knowledgable historian, who shares some great stories with us. All in all, it’s been a remarkable day.