There’s always a place for some, don’t you think?
We’d worked out a pretty foolproof schedule for our time here but someone put a spanner in the works and sold all the tickets to the Barnes Foundation for Tuesday, so we needed to do a quick rethink. Thankfully, my Hero was of clear and decisive mind this morning, so having grabbed a hot drink each from the lobby, we were straight out this morning and to City Hall, to book ourselves on a tour of the place around lunchtime. We’d snagged tickets for the Barnes Collection for 3pm, so the day was shaping up nicely.
The sky was a brilliant blue on this, the first normal working day we’ve been here, and we joined the office workers in their rapid walks down Market Street, thinking that we could probably manage a couple of hours in the heritage area around Independence Hall before the City Hall Tour.
It was about half an hours walk, but hey, it was sunny and the air was good, we’re young and reasonably fit…
Arriving at the visitor center, we added Chuck to our list of incredibly helpful and friendly National Park Rangers. Not only did he give us the benefit of his wisdom as far as planning effective use of our morning, he found us places on the 10am guided tour of Independence Hall and equipped us with maps and everything we needed to know to get there. What a star.
We were a relatively small group touring the building at this time of a Monday morning and had the benefit of another great Ranger to tell us all about the place.
Independence Hall was where the Declaration of Independence was debated and signed in 1776. Ranger Palmer Forbes explained the background clearly enough for us foreigners to understand and put the events into context, bringing the place to life with his stories and profiles of the people involved.
The rooms inside the building were nicely staged, though little of the furniture and none of the artefacts were original. Nevertheless, they lent a realistic feel to the story and the whole place was very attractively presented.
George Washington’s chair was original however, and although it was alone in that distinction, the other chairs had been sourced and the artefacts arranged to reflect the men who were there.
Benjamin Franklin’s chair, for example, just left of centre, front row.
On then, to view the Liberty Bell – which has a crack in it but doesn’t really have legs, whatever this photograph might suggest!
Then, the final thing to do here, as in all National Parks – stamp my notebook with the date stamp. Mind you, there was quite a collection here and it was quite an operation!
Anyway, book duly stamped, we made our way back down Chestnut Street, thinking it’d be a good opportunity to nip into Dick Blick’s to pick up the lino cutting blades I didn’t buy on Saturday. They’d got discounts on Silhouette spares too, so I gathered a few of those as well, before continuing to the meeting point for our tour of City Hall. Some people we’d spoken to yesterday had really rated this experience and so we were pretty keen.
The building itself is magnificent and our guide – whose name neither of us caught, sadly – was enthusiastic, informative and entertaining. He kept a lively pace throughout and crammed so much into the hour and a half we were with him that we left feeling somewhat breathless.
We saw beautifully designed staircases
lavish ceilings with huge chandeliers
I was able to take my traditional “seal” photograph, too.
But the best was yet to come. After a few flights of stairs, a couple of escalators and a lift, we found ourselves in a waiting area. Only four people at a time could board the smallest lift to the top of the tower and guess who was in the first group?
Oh my. On such a beautifully clear day, the views were super. We could see miles in all directions and since the other couple who’d come up with us were relatively local, they were able to point out a few landmarks.
We could identify the major streets ourselves, stretching out into the suburbs. Broad Street, Market Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway were all easily identifiable from here, as were the bridges and a couple of the ships which are docked here.
But the best thing was looking up! There he was, William Penn, standing right there almost on our shoudlers. How cool is that? He’s way larger than life of course, and one of the guides had said that this particular statue isn’t much like him at all – he was a portly-petite, plainly dressed Quaker and this chap is tall, slim and dressed up with sufficient ruffles and frills to embarrass a man of his faith, but hey, that didn’t matter. We’d seen him from way down there on the street and here we were, standing just at his feet.
We were viewing him through a glass window, though and I guess this panel was #3. A pity they didn’t clean that off first, isn’t it? Builders, eh?
Once down at the bottom again, we looked up, to see where we had been and sure enough, there was the small viewing platform where presumably, four of our group were still – though we had beaten a hasty retreat to make our way down the boulevard towards The Barnes Foundation. We had a 3pm slot and the time was marching on.
But oh my goodness, were our feet beginning to complain! Those light and youthful steps of this morning, as we stepped out towards the Independence Center were a mere memory!
It didn’t look too far on the map, but after a few hours walking, it seemed much futher. Still, once it came into view, we felt better!
This new home for an established collection looked rather ordinary from the front, but once around the side and approaching the entrance, we were very taken by the peaceful reflecting pools and the calm pathway.
Sadly, no photographs inside, but plenty to report and to reflect upon, so I’ll simply leave it here for now, suggest you take a look at the website, maybe download the app and I’ll return with my impressions in a while.
Suffice to say, I would need a week to do it justice!
For now, though, I’m going to put my feet up and think cool – the temperature soared to 71F this afternoon, which for a December day is pretty remarkable.