In a way, I was sad to leave the conference center. I thoroughly enjoyed my stay there. But at the same time, I was ready and raring to go see Philadelphia and New York!!
7:02 a.m. I can’t believe it’s my last day here. I feel like I just got here yesterday. This week has been everything I expected and more. My last breakfast here…I have enjoyed them. And I only ate 1 donut all week!!! Hooray for me!
7:45 a.m. And we’re off! It’s amazing: French Vanilla cappuccino really does wake me up. Or maybe it’s just the excitement.
8:21 a.m. We. Are. In. BALTIMORE! And we’re driving under Chesapeake Bay!
9:56 a.m. Welcome to Philadelphia! Apparently, we’ve been through Maryland and Pennsylvania and have driven the whole length of Delaware. Where did I miss the state signs??
(We parked next to one of the factories of the United States Mint.)
Our first tour guide took us around the square of Independence Hall, and through a few other historically important buildings.
(Independence Hall was undergoing renovations on her bell tower. I hadn’t seen this building in 10 years. No, literally.)
(This is one of the streets we walked. See how the size of the cobblestones differs? The smaller ones on the sides are for pedestrians and animals. The larger ones are for buggies and carriages and wagons. This way, you won’t hurt your feet.)
(This is the Second National Bank. The First National Bank was closed by Andrew Jackson, and the building was sold to a business (or something like that). )
(This is Christ Church, where many of the founding fathers visited at least once. I’m not sure how many actually attended and were members here.)
(I got to sit in the very same pew Benjamin Franklin sat in 300 years ago. How cool is that?!)
(This was our tour guide. We were waiting to go inside Betsy Ross’ house (which I don’t have any pictures; sorry!), and he decided to use Kim as an arm rest.)
One bit of trivia that our tour guide shared with us was very interesting to me. Back in Colonial days, young ladies judged the young men by how stout and muscular their calves were. This sounds pretty weird to us today, but that was just part of their culture. If you had particularly skinny legs, you could put small sandbags in your tights to give the appearance of muscular calves, but you had to take care not to get a hole in these, because you would get fat ankles instead of muscular calves. This concept gave us our saying “Put your best foot forward:” when you presented yourself to people, you stuck out the leg that looked the most muscular.
We finished up with the outdoor tour, and took a break for lunch. I knew I had to get an authentic Philadelphia Cheesesteak while I was here, and the restaurant we went to did not disappoint.
1:35 p.m. I ate my first official Philly Cheesesteak today. It was quite delicious.
Once we got our bellies full, we changed tour guides and toured the inside of Independence Hall.
1:58 p.m. I feel so bad fighting sleep during a tour. But I am tired, and this tour guide has the most ridiculously pompous voice. And he’s loud. I’m tired. (I really did try to pay attention.)
(This is the Signers’ Room, where they, duh, signed the Declaration of Independence. It was a little surreal standing in the same room where, 300 years ago, great men changed history.)
In the summer of 2001, my family took an epic expedition to Washington, D.C., Gettysburg, Philadelphia, Hershey, Baltimore, and Virginia. It was an expedition because we traveled, like, 2000 miles total, I think, and it was epic because my parents carted around 4 kids under the age of 12. And we get pretty loud in the car. Just ask my mom. Anyways, I, my brothers, and my two cousins posed next to the Liberty Bell, of course. Aren’t we adorable?
Well, I thought for nostalgia’s sake I would pose for the Liberty Bell while I was here this time.
Haven’t aged a bit, have I?
Philadelphia was great. It’s awe-inspiring to stand in the same places as great men like George Washington, Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams. I appreciate history, and I don’t think we should ever let ourselves forget about the lengths to which people went to make our country what it is.
But I still was more excited about our final destination. I think our chaperones saved the best for last. I am a drama buff at heart, and I always dreamed about being in New York, that glorious place immortalized in song, dance, and story. Like this.
5:19 p.m. I…am…in…New York City! We’re going into Manhattan. I mean, Manhattan. I’ve never been there. You only hear about it on TV and movies. Oh my word.
(I don’t know what this is, but it’s my first glimpse of the Big Apple. Should I, or should I not, admit that I was so excited I teared up? Probably not.)
(This was on the other side of my frame of reference. I think this might’ve been Staten Island.)
Our first stop in this city was DINNER. We had reservations at the Heartland Brewery, which was located in the basement (it was at the bottom, whatever it was) of the Empire State Building. Yes, it technically was a pub, and no, we didn’t get any alcohol. There was a bar area about 10 feet from our section, but I don’t remember seeing anyone working there, and I don’t remember seeing anyone else in our area drinking. I got tickled because on the other side of the bar area, about 10 feet from it, were the bathrooms. With a large neon sign that said “Restrooms.” I imagined tipsy customers staggering towards the bathroom, and needing the neon sign to see where they were going. That’s funny right there.
The food was good, albeit very plentiful. I think I ate a salad, chicken tenders with honey mustard, a few fries, and key lime pie. Oh, man, that key lime pie was the best.
(This was our table: L to R, JD Fields, me, Kim Parker, and Grace Gist.)
After dinner, it was time for our tour of the Empire State Building.
(They told us that this was in the movie Elf, but I wouldn’t know, because I haven’t seen it. If you’ve seen the movie, there ya go. We were waiting in line to get on the elevators.)
After multiple lines, and multiple elevators, and multiple sets of stairs, we finally reached the 84th floor (I think). We had about two minutes to look at New York City from the windows before we had to get back in the line.
(It was here that I caught my first glimpse of the Statue of Liberty. I tell you, I came this close to screaming.)
(This was the view through a different window.)
Then we hopped on the last elevator to go the famous 86th floor observatory. The view was breathtaking. (Also, a little frightening if I looked down.) There’s nothing quite like viewing the sunset from that high in the air.
We didn’t stay up on the observatory very long, because it was getting pretty crowded. After we stayed long enough to get the effect, we took a couple elevators back down to the street, so we could go back to sleep at our hotel.
(My last look up at the Empire State Building while I sat on the sidewalk and waited for our bus.)
On the way back to our hotel, though, we drove down Broadway. No, we actually drove down Broadway Avenue at night. It was cool, for lack of a better word. Everything was lit up, and colorful, and flashing. This small-town girl had never seen anything like it.
(This was McDonald’s on Broadway. How often do you see that?)
11:17 p.m. Crowne Plaza Motel, Secausa, New Jersey. So we ate at a bar (Heartland Brewery) and all us kids were under 21. Hmm. Then we went all the way to the 86th floor of the Empire State Building. I almost screamed when I got my first glimpse of the Statue of Liberty. The sunset was breathtaking. Kim Parker and I had a great time together. Then we drove down Broadway on our way back to here. Oh, man. Broadway is unreal at night. The lights and signs are surreal. Oh, and Kim and I used British accents almost all the way up in the lines and the elevators. Plus, there were these 3 cute French guys in front of us. I think they were laughing at us. (Sigh. Let’s not dwell on past discrepancies.) And I have never experienced the numbers of diverse nationalities! Here or D.C.! We are the melting pot.
On Day Eight, I learned a good number of things:
Impressions are important to a degree; but first impressions are not always correct. Never judge a book by its cover. Live in the moment. Appreciate history. Don't choose Clay Schmidli as your life partner: he's lousy. Learn the proper way to get attention from the right guys. Respect authority!!