Day 1: Thursday, 11/24, Thanksgiving Day

I had a 7:30pm flight out of Sacramento Wednesday night, which got me here about 7am Eastern after an almost 3 hour layover in Phoenix. Dan had a 7am flight out of Raleigh which got him here around 8:30am. I just hung in the airport and met him at his gate, and we took the train to the hotel. We are at a Doubletree downtown, and they actually had our room ready and let us up despite it being only about 9:30am! We were glad for that though. We settled in, I took a shower, we got a small bite to eat from the lounge just as they were putting that food away, and went out about 10:30 to get on with our day.


Our hotel is at Broad and Locust, which seems to be a good location. Broad is one of the major thoroughfares, and City Hall, behind me there, is the focal point at its center.

We went first to Independence Hall. Built in 1753 as a colonial assembly then the Pennsylvania State house, it was the location of the genesis of the United States of America, since both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were written here. It was only open today from 11-4, and not everything was – it’s a park with several museums – but we knew we could see what we wanted to and it fit into our schedules nicely.

The main hall itself was small and essentially just two rooms on the first floor; you weren’t allowed upstairs, at least not today. This is the room on the left which was designed as a court room. And a British court room at that. In that period, during the trial the defendant stood in that little cage to the far right of the photo. It’s where the term “to stand trial” comes from.

This is the room on the other side of the hall and it’s where both the founding documents were written.


This is the backside of the Hall. There’s a nice little park behind us; we’d intended to go back to it but never made it. We instead went the other direction and across the street to the Liberty Bell museum. The exhibits had an interesting perspective that I hadn’t expected but which made perfect sense in hindsight. It was originally just the State Hall bell.

Most of the displays in the museum focused on the evolving and enduring message of freedom that rings from the bell, and how that message wasn’t always applicable to all Americans. In fact, it didn’t become known as The Liberty Bell until the mid-1800’s when it became a symbol of the anti-slavery movement.

A little kitschy but I liked it: a Liberty Bell lamp, and a chair with an image of Independence Hall painted on it.
In the early part of the 1900’s, the Liberty Bell went on a national tour. This was taken at the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Fransisco.  Some of the text is: Forced to choose between segregation and assimilation that insisted upon the suppression of their unique cultural practices, Native Americans may not have seen the hope of fair treatment and equal rights embodied in the Bell.


The Women’s Suffrage movement used it as part of their campaign as well.



A good chunk of downtown Philadelphia is part of the National Park Service with lots of historical buildings and monuments. This was a cute little park we stumbled across, dedicated to the signing of the founding documents.


We went in search of food, knowing finding something open mid-day on Thanksgiving would be difficult. We ended up at a place called Rotten Ralph’s. Mostly a bar, it had a second floor dining room. Dan got their Thanksgiving dinner and while the turkey was good, most of the rest of it was canned. Certainly the corn, green beans and yams. I got a Philly cheesesteak sandwich that was actually pretty good.

Next we went to the University of Pennsylvania. Dan went to school there for 5 years (double degree in biology and computer science), leaving in 1992 and he hasn’t been back to Philadelphia since. We spent a couple of hours walking around a beautiful and very large campus that has bits of town woven through it, as he pointed out the various places he lived (he moved every year), where some of his classes were, open fields that are no longer where he played football, and the labs he slaved in. None of it was open so we could only see things from the outside; there were still quite a few people milling about, a tribute probably to the park-like nature of much of it.



I have never seen so many squirrels in such a small area as we did here. And they were quite friendly. Clearly, students feed them quite a bit, as they were expectant and approachable. And Dan kept saying “that’s a fat squirrel!” What you can’t see in the photo are the 4 or 5 that are milling around our feet. (Also notice the one in the background on the wall making his way towards us.)


Penn was founded by Ben Franklin in the mid 1700’s. This statue is in the middle of a walk that has many of sayings inscribed in it.


“Let’s meet at the button” is something you hear on campus frequently according to Dan. This is in an open area in front of the Admissions building.


The Admissions building above, and Architecture building below, two of the oldest on campus, both from the late 1800’s.


The back of Admissions above. Below, Penn Field, open to the public, with downtown in the background.

That’s me sitting on the bench bottom left. This is new construction being called a “vertical neighborhood” which incorporates a mixed-use building of residential, office and retail. Being city boys who appreciate high density living, we loved the concept.

We got back to the room about 4pm. Having had only 3.5 hours of unfit sleep on my red-eye flight, I took an hour nap before we headed out for dinner.


We took the bus to Penn’s Landing and at our stop was the Philadelphia Vietnam War Memorial, above and below.


We had dinner at Mushulu, a ship-turned-restaurant. Originally built in Hamburg (Germany) in 1904 as a shipping vessel, it was captured by the US Navy in World War 1 and brought to the states. Mrs. Woodrow Wilson renamed it Mushulu in honor of the Native American Seneca Indian tribe meaning “one who fears nothing.” It served many purposes over the decades until being permanently docked and turned into a restaurant in 1989.


That’s the Ben Franklin bridge in the background, part of Interstate 676, and also essentially the view I had from my seat.


There wasn’t an easy way to get a  good shot of this, but I wanted to try to capture the dining tables from the outside, which you can sort of see at the bottom of the above photo. Dan grabbed the shot below as we were leaving. The ceilings were low, it was sort of crowded, and hard to get a good shot. The food and service were great but we decided in the end it was overpriced. I would imagine there’s a fair amount of maintenance cost. The very first thing I noticed when we got on the ship was it wasn’t level; the floors sloped from the middle down on both sides. Like it was bowed.



This was a fixed price dinner with 3 courses. My appetizer above was a fried pork belly with an interesting slaw of fennel and apples. Dan had the calamari below, which was excellent.


I had the scallops, above, with spaghetti squash – which I love and you hardly ever see in a restaurant. Dan had the duck below.


Chocolate cake with coffee ice cream for me, and a warm apple turnover for Dan with vanilla ice cream.


We took the bus back to downtown and went walking around City Hall a bit to capture a couple of night shots.



Overall it was a great day. This made up for last year’s Thanksgiving, which was spent in the air from LA to Raleigh, no rental car when we got there (an empty parking lot despite the reservation), a cab driver who took us the long way around to the hotel to jack up his fare, and room service that was an hour late. But apparently we got over it quickly, as it took us a minute to even remember what we did last year as we were thinking about it. Or maybe we just blocked it out 🙂

We hope you had a great Thanksgiving as well!

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