Saturday 16 October 2010

Day 50 – Who Needs The London Film Festival…

Of the 10 hours we spent today on the streets of Philadelphia we walked the equivalent of 97 blocks. I know, I checked. It’s safe to say we’ve covered Philly! What I’ve started to notice about the downtowns of all major American cities though is they’re all pretty much the same – from government buildings, to flagship stores, to skyscrapers – each set out in neat little blocks. The thing I liked about Philadelphia (and the same went for Boston too!) is that despite the modern day metro moving in, it still has a lot of history preserved in a nice blend of old meets new; much like my former hometown of London.

We started our long day of walking at Independence Hall. Unfortunately it’s currently under renovation, so it isn’t much to look at, but the importance of the building wasn’t lost under all the scaffolding.
The short tour takes you through the two room of the bottom level where not only was the Declaration of Independence decided upon, but also the US Constitution.
It was interesting to learn that Independence Day is celebrated on the wrong day. The actual document was voted for on July 2nd, but wasn’t announced to the people until July 4th, therefore America’s always regarded this as the day they broke free and became their own country. One thing the tour did highlight though was the fact that American politics were overly confusing right from the beginning!
Following on from the boring paperwork involved in creating a country from scratch, we went to look at something more visually inspiring. There are a lot of symbols of freedom in this world, but for some reason few invoke such emotions as the Liberty Bell. The bell itself used to hang in the bell tower of Independence Hall, but now has a more tourist friendly home where you can get up close. Originally called the State House Bell, it was renamed when anti-slavery groups started referring to it as the Liberty Bell, it has been an icon of freedom ever since. Oh, and that big, famous crack down it? Nobody really knows exactly when or how it happened!
History lesson over, we went exploring. There’s a lot of cool stuff to find in Philly. You can stumble across Benjamin Franklin’s grave or the tomb of the unknown solider with its endless flame burning. But if the dead don’t do it for you, over by City Hall there are many statutes to have fun with – this city sure likes its art!
It’s most well-known art piece is probably the ‘Love’ sculpture in JFK Plaza. Having seen a replica when we were in New York, I was surprised to find out how small the original is. If you really like art though you have to be willing to walk for it as the Philadelphia Museum of Art is at the end of a very long road. We took on the challenge---but not to be lovers of art! Right outside the museum is placed the Rocky statute. Those of you who remember the boxing movie will recognise the steps he used to train up as those belonging to the museum. We didn’t have the energy to run up them, so we just casually sauntered to the top for great views of downtown.
Sightseeing done with, we discovered the Reading Terminal Market for a late lunch. The market is overflowing with food to eat on the go or for you to take home and do the work yourself. It had too much to choose from, but Joe knew what he wanted and finally got to have a Philly Cheesesteak.
Yesterday we’d found out there was an arthouse movie theatre near our hotel playing the Keira Knightley film ‘Never Let Me Go’ and we decided to check this out. Although it bored Joe, I found it to be haunting and quite moving. It’s sort of a sci-fi movie without the sci-fi. The best thing about finding this theatre though, was that in the lobby they were advertising the Philadelphia Film Festival.
We were disappointed that we had only just discovered this as they were playing some films we would have liked to have seen, but then we noticed they were showing ‘Blue Valentine’ tonight and they had a few tickets left. Only one problem, the venue was 14 blocks away and we only had 15 minutes to make it…
Never underestimate how fast a movie nerd can move when a chance to see a preview screenings becomes available! We made it with just enough time to grab a seat. The movie itself was worth the sweat, Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams owned the roles in this heartbreakingly realistic movie about young marriage. It’s not for everyone, as it is intense and emotional, but it’s definitely one of my favourite movies this year.

So, until tomorrow…

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