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Following in Rocky's Steps

A morning sightseeing in Philadelphia

sunny 31 °C
View 2013 Round the World Trip on FrancisRTW's travel map.

Before going to watch the Philadelphia Phillies Baseball Team play the Milwaukee Brewers in the afternoon there was just enough time to get a bit more sightseeing done in Philadelphia, I had to see where Rocky was filmed!

But first we did a bit more history by going to see Congress Hall, the only building around Independence Square I didn't manage to see on my previous visit. Philadelphia was the original capital of the USA when there were just 13 states with Congress Hall being used as the Capital Building from 1790 until US government moved to Washington DC in 1800. During this time 3 new states - Vermont, Kentucky and Tennessee - were admitted.

The House Chamber on the ground floor of Congress Hall

The House Chamber on the ground floor of Congress Hall


The Senate Chamber on the upper floor of Congress Hall

The Senate Chamber on the upper floor of Congress Hall


The Senate Chamber at Congress Hall including the carpet with the shields of the original 13 states

The Senate Chamber at Congress Hall including the carpet with the shields of the original 13 states

The House Chamber has mahogany desks and eventually accommodated 106 representatives from the 16 states; the Senate Chamber is more ornate with red drapes and 32 secretary desks (28 of which are original) very similar to the desks that are still used in the current Senate chamber in Washington DC. There are portraits of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, gifts from the French monarchy following the American Revolution, hanging in the adjoining committee rooms.

Portrait of Louis XVI (a gift from the French Monarchy) in a committee room next to the Senate Chamber

Portrait of Louis XVI (a gift from the French Monarchy) in a committee room next to the Senate Chamber


Portrait of Marie Antoinette (a gift from the French Monarchy) in the other committee room next to the Senate Chamber

Portrait of Marie Antoinette (a gift from the French Monarchy) in the other committee room next to the Senate Chamber

On the far side of Independence Square with their corners just touching is Washington Square, the south-east quadrant of the five original planned squares laid out on the city grid for William Penn, the founder of the city. Originally used as a burial ground for citizens and troops from the Colonial army and then as pasture, it is now the site of the tomb and eternal flame of the Unknown Soldier of the American Revolution.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier of the American Revolution in Washington Square

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier of the American Revolution in Washington Square


The central fountain and Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Washington Square

The central fountain and Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Washington Square

The oldest residential street in the USA is believed to be the cobblestoned Elfreth's Alley in Philadelphia. Its 33 brick houses were originally built circa 1702 and despite being registered as a historic landmark are still privately owned; a few of them had 'for sale' notices which did somewhat spoilt the historical effect!

Elfreth's Alley - the oldest residential street in the USA

Elfreth's Alley - the oldest residential street in the USA


Water pump in Bladen's Court just off Elfreth's Alley

Water pump in Bladen's Court just off Elfreth's Alley

A short distance away was the Betsy Ross House built about 1740. Betsy Ross is credited with sewing the original Stars and Stripes US Flag in her bedchamber while under risk of being arrested by the British for treason. The house is furnished to look like it would have done at the time of the American Revolution; complete with a very enthusiastic actor pretending to be Betsy Ross who was offering to take on new sewing commissions!

The Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia

The Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia


Betsy Ross' bedchamber where she sewed the first Stars and Stripes

Betsy Ross' bedchamber where she sewed the first Stars and Stripes


The actor playing Betsy Ross offering to take on new sewing commissions

The actor playing Betsy Ross offering to take on new sewing commissions

The Philadelphia Museum of Art is one of the largest art museums in the USA containing over 227,000 objects of which probably the most famous is Van Gogh's painting of a Vase with twelve Sunflowers. However what I really wanted to see were the iconic 72 stone steps out front that featured in the 1976 film Rocky and four of its sequels! A bronze statue of Rocky now stands near the bottom of the steps, both of which were popular locations for tourists such as myself to jump around with fists raised above their heads doing Rocky impressions!

The Washington Monument with the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Rocky Steps behind

The Washington Monument with the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Rocky Steps behind


The grand stairway leading up to the Philadelphia Museum of Art

The grand stairway leading up to the Philadelphia Museum of Art


Me doing my Rocky impression by the Rocky Balboa Statue outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Me doing my Rocky impression by the Rocky Balboa Statue outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art


The view down the Benjamin Franklin Parkway from the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art

The view down the Benjamin Franklin Parkway from the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art

The mile long Benjamin Franklin Parkway from the Rocky Steps back into the city centre is a very scenic boulevard lined with museums and bedecked with the flags of 109 countries modelled after the Champs Elysees in Paris. Amongst the museums is the Rodin Museum which contains the largest collection of Auguste Rodin's sculptures outside Paris. This includes one of the 28 original castings of his famous statue The Thinker which sits outside in the museum's entry courtyard.

The view along the flag lined Benjamin Franklin Parkway towards the Philadelphia Museum of Art

The view along the flag lined Benjamin Franklin Parkway towards the Philadelphia Museum of Art


The statue of 'The Thinker' outside the Rodin Museum

The statue of 'The Thinker' outside the Rodin Museum


The UK Flag lining the Benjamin Franklin Parkway near the Logan Circle

The UK Flag lining the Benjamin Franklin Parkway near the Logan Circle

Midway along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway is the Swann Memorial Fountain in the Logan Circle with 3 sculptures of native American figures representing the local Wissahickon, Schaylkill and Delaware rivers spurting out water at its base. Even closer to the city centre is the John F Kennedy Plaza aka Love Square; so called because of the iconic fountain-side 'LOVE' sculpture by Robert Indiana placed there in 1976 which I somehow managed to totally miss despite being evidently having stood directly beneath it taking photographs!

The Swann Memorial Fountain midway along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway

The Swann Memorial Fountain midway along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway


Philadelphia City Hall behind the Love Park Fountain

Philadelphia City Hall behind the Love Park Fountain


View back along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway towards the Philadelphia Museum of Art... from beside the iconic LOVE statue which I somehow managed to totally miss!

View back along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway towards the Philadelphia Museum of Art... from beside the iconic LOVE statue which I somehow managed to totally miss!

At the city end of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in the middle of Penn Square is the majestic 548 feet (167 metre) tall City Hall completed in 1901. It's the tallest masonry structure in the world without a steel frame and is topped by a 37 feet (11.2 metre) high bronze statue of William Penn.

Philadelphia City Hall in the middle of Penn Square

Philadelphia City Hall in the middle of Penn Square

For many years there had been a gentleman's agreement in Philadelphia that no building taller than this statue would EVER be erected. Then in 1987 One Liberty Place (945 feet - 288 metres) was built breaching this rule and the idea of "the Curse of Billy Penn" took hold as all the professional sports teams based in Philadelphia (baseball, ice hockey, basketball and American football) failed to win any championships. Then in 2007 the Comcast Building (974 feet - 297 metre) was built with a small statue of William Penn amid much ridicule placed on top, the following year the Philadelphia Phillies won Baseball's 2008 World Series - was the superstition of the curse true after all?

Close up of William Penn's Statue on top of Philadelphia City Hall - was the 'Curse of Billy Penn' true?

Close up of William Penn's Statue on top of Philadelphia City Hall - was the 'Curse of Billy Penn' true?

Time go and see, in the afternoon we had tickets to watch the Philadelphia Phillies play against the Milwaukee Brewers :)

Posted by FrancisRTW 02:00 Archived in USA Tagged museums city philadelphia us_east_coast film_locations external_links Comments (0)

Philadelphia Phillies Baseball - keeping my 100% win record

Watching baseball and eating cheesesteaks with the Phillie Phanatics

sunny 31 °C
View 2013 Round the World Trip on FrancisRTW's travel map.

Having spent the morning sightseeing, we boarded the Philadelphia Subway to get back to our car and drive on to the Citizen Park Baseball Stadium, home of the Philadelphia Phillies, to watch their game against the Milwaukee Brewers.

The fare system on the Philadelphia Subway was the most old fashioned I had seen on my travels; we needed coin tokens (costing $2 each and purchased from kiosks) to get through the platform turnstiles at the start of each journey. At the Delaware River the subway climbed out of its tunnel and crossed the river on tracks running along the side of the Ben Franklin Bridge from where we got a terrific view of the WWII USS New Jersey Battleship moored along the Camden Waterfront on the opposite side of the river.

A train on the Philadelphia Subway

A train on the Philadelphia Subway


The subway comes out into daylight and climbs onto the Ben Franklin Bridge to cross the Delaware River

The subway comes out into daylight and climbs onto the Ben Franklin Bridge to cross the Delaware River


The USS New Jersey Battleship from a subway train crossing the Ben Franklin Bridge

The USS New Jersey Battleship from a subway train crossing the Ben Franklin Bridge

After we parked the streets were remarkably quiet as no traffic is allowed on the roads immediately north of the stadium. As we walked we passed rows of parked vehicles with people sat on folding chairs sharing beers and barbeques at pre-game tailgate parties; although something of an American institution tailgating wasn't something I had encountered previously at the baseball games I had seen in Los Angeles and Denver.

Tailgate parties on the way to the Baseball Stadium

Tailgate parties on the way to the Baseball Stadium


Citizen Bank Park - home of the Philadelphia Phillies - with an advertising plane flying overhead

Citizen Bank Park - home of the Philadelphia Phillies - with an advertising plane flying overhead

As with all major baseball grounds Citizen Park Baseball Stadium had several statutes of Philadelphia Phillies baseball stars from the past. The first we saw was of pitcher Steve Carlton just outside the Left Field Gate entrance. However the one that matters most to the local fans is of Richie Ashburn on Ashburn Alley, a raised walkway behind the center field. Richie Ashburn played for the Phillies 1948-1959 and then was broadcaster for them until his death in 1997.

For me however Ashburn Alley will always be remembered as the place where I finally tried the much hyped local delicacy known as a Philadelphia Cheesesteak, a sandwich made from thinly-sliced pieces of steak and melted cheese in a long roll. I enjoyed my cheesesteak, it reminded me of good kebab from a takeaway back home.

Steve Carlton's statue outside the Left Field Gate Entrance... with Phillie Phanatic making his first appearance on the screen behind him!

Steve Carlton's statue outside the Left Field Gate Entrance... with Phillie Phanatic making his first appearance on the screen behind him!


Richie Ashburn's statue on Ashburn Alley

Richie Ashburn's statue on Ashburn Alley


Looking across the baseball field from Ashburn Alley

Looking across the baseball field from Ashburn Alley


Mike Schmidt's statue outside the Third Base Gate Entrance

Mike Schmidt's statue outside the Third Base Gate Entrance

The Philadelphia Phillies have a large, furry, green mascot called Phillie Phanatic who seems to get everywhere; we'd already seen on the large screen above the entrance on the way in. His job seems to be race around the stadium on an all-terrain vehicle taunting the opposition as much as possible and playing pranks on them! Phillie Phanatic certainly seems to be the most active of the baseball mascots I have seen.

Phillie Phanatic, the club mascot, racing around the field while the players warm up

Phillie Phanatic, the club mascot, racing around the field while the players warm up


Phillie Phanatic has a go at being catcher

Phillie Phanatic has a go at being catcher

The game got underway and the Philadelphia Phillies soon took a 5 run lead in their 1st innings including a 3 run homer which prompted the 'ringing' (i.e. illuminating and swinging) of the 52 feet (16 metre) high replica of the Liberty Bell that stands 102 feet (31 metres) above street level beyond the right outfield.

A batter for the Phillies prepares to hit the ball

A batter for the Phillies prepares to hit the ball

The sea of red shirted Phillies fans celebrate a 'triple' (batter reaching 3rd base)

The sea of red shirted Phillies fans celebrate a 'triple' (batter reaching 3rd base)


The Stadium Liberty Bell that 'rings' after every Phillies home run or win

The Stadium Liberty Bell that 'rings' after every Phillies home run or win

Action shot as the Brewers pitch at the Phillies

Action shot as the Brewers pitch at the Phillies

By the end of the 2nd innings Philadelphia were 7-0 ahead which remained the score until the 8th and 9th innings when Milwaukee managed to score 5 runs. It wasn't enough and Philadelphia eventually won 7-5, maintaining my 100% record of watching my cousins' baseball teams win; perhaps I am a lucky charm?

Cliff Lee pitching for the Phillies

Cliff Lee pitching for the Phillies


More beer arrives for thirsty fans watching the game

More beer arrives for thirsty fans watching the game


Raking the infield after the 6th innings

Raking the infield after the 6th innings


Phillie Phanatic tries to 'hex' the opposing pitcher as John Mayberry prepares to hit the ball for Philadelphia

Phillie Phanatic tries to 'hex' the opposing pitcher as John Mayberry prepares to hit the ball for Philadelphia

Posted by FrancisRTW 03:00 Archived in USA Tagged trains food sport philadelphia videos us_east_coast external_links Comments (0)

Washington Open Top Bus Tour

A tour around a nation's monuments, museums and national cemetery

semi-overcast 28 °C
View 2013 Round the World Trip on FrancisRTW's travel map.

I wanted to see the US Capitol and White House while I was on the US East Coast so shortly before the end of my round the world trip I booked myself into a hotel for a few days in Washington and got myself a train ticket there on AMTRAK.

Arriving on my own in a strange city I started my stay with an open top bus tour to get my bearings; an approach I had also used earlier in my trip in Zurich and Sydney. The tour began from Washington's Union Station and soon after drove past the front of the US Capitol a short distance away for which I had a visit booked in a couple of days.

Washington's Union Railway Station

Washington's Union Railway Station


The US Capitol Building at the east end of the National Mall

The US Capitol Building at the east end of the National Mall

Washington is laid out with the Capitol Building atop Capitol Hill as its focal point and the 1.9 mile (3 kilometre) long open space of the National Mall stretching westwards to the needle like Washington Monument a little over half way along its length and then beyond to the Lincoln Memorial close to the Potomac River.

The view from the Capitol down the National Mall towards the Washington Monument

The view from the Capitol down the National Mall towards the Washington Monument

I'd heard of the Smithsonian Institute but never appreciated before that it was a collective term for the national museums of the USA. The 19 museums that make up the nucleus of the Institute line each side of top end of the National Mall, making it the largest museum campus in the world. I later managed to visit two of its most popular museums while I was in Washington - the National Air and Space Museum and the National Museum of Natural History.

The red-turreted Smithsonian Castle on Independence Avenue on the south side of the National Mall - headquarters of the Smithsonian Institute

The red-turreted Smithsonian Castle on Independence Avenue on the south side of the National Mall - headquarters of the Smithsonian Institute


The American Indian Museum on Independence Avenue

The American Indian Museum on Independence Avenue


The US Holocaust Memorial Museum on 14th Street

The US Holocaust Memorial Museum on 14th Street

About half way down the National Mall (where the White House faces onto it from the north) is the Washington Monument, the 555 feet (169 metre) high obelisk completed in 1884 in honour of George Washington the 1st US President. Unfortunately it was closed for repairs and covered in scaffolding while I was there having been damaged by the 2011 Virginia Earthquake and then Hurricane Irene later the same year.

The Washington Monument half way down the National Mall

The Washington Monument half way down the National Mall


View east up the National Mall to the Capitol Building from the Washington Monument

View east up the National Mall to the Capitol Building from the Washington Monument


The White House looking north from the National Mall

The White House looking north from the National Mall

A change of tour bus took us from the Washington Monument out to the Arlington National Cemetery just over the Potomac River where more than 400,000 military personnel from every US war since the American War of Independence right up until current day Afghanistan are buried. The cemetery was originally the home of Confederate Commander-in-Chief Robert E. Lee and was occupied by Union troops early in the Civil War in May 1861. In 1863 a village for freed and runaway slaves was created and then the following year for both practical and symbolic reasons it started being used as a military cemetery.

Memorial Avenue leading up to the Arlington National Cemetery

Memorial Avenue leading up to the Arlington National Cemetery


The entrance into Arlington National Cemetery

The entrance into Arlington National Cemetery


Wax model of a Honor Guard Bugler in the Visitors Center

Wax model of a Honor Guard Bugler in the Visitors Center


Rows of military graves at the Arlington National Cemetery

Rows of military graves at the Arlington National Cemetery

Deep in the heart of the cemetery with a terrific view over Washington are the Tombs of the Unknowns guarded by a honor guard from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment who also provide the ceremonial escort for the US President. None of the guards wear rank insignia so as not to outrank the unknowns and they perform a Changing of the Guard Ceremony by the tombs every half hour. There are four tombs; the original tomb from WWI with tombs from WWII, Korea and Vietnam in the plaza alongside it. The Vietnam Tomb is empty as modern DNA meant it was possible to identify who it was and return his remains to his family.

Looking up at the Tombs of the Unknowns

Looking up at the Tombs of the Unknowns


The Tombs of the Unknowns overlooking Washington

The Tombs of the Unknowns overlooking Washington


Changing the Guard Ceremony at the Tombs of the Unknowns

Changing the Guard Ceremony at the Tombs of the Unknowns

What I didn't appreciate beforehand is that all US military personnel who have seen active service and have been honourably discharged are eligible for burial at the cemetery if they so wish and this means it has on average seven burials per day. It took me a bit by surprise when I saw a Honor Band and Guard march past followed by a horse-drawn flag draped caisson and funeral cortege for one of these burials.

The Honor Guard leading a funeral cortege at Arlington National Cemetery

The Honor Guard leading a funeral cortege at Arlington National Cemetery


The horse-drawn caisson passes carrying an American flag-draped casket

The horse-drawn caisson passes carrying an American flag-draped casket

Arlington House itself was built in 1802 on high ground in the estate by Robert E. Lee's father-in-law George Washington Parke Custis (the step grandson of George Washington). The now restored house has a terrific view of Washington to its front with the wide boulevard of Memorial Drive and Arlington Memorial Bridge leading straight to the Lincoln Memorial.

Arlington House, the former home of Confederate General Robert E. Lee

Arlington House, the former home of Confederate General Robert E. Lee


The view over Washington from Arlington House

The view over Washington from Arlington House

On the hillside directly below the house is the grave and eternal flame of President John F. Kennedy who was assassinated in Dallas, Texas on November 22nd 1963. His wife Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was buried alongside him 1994 and his younger brother Senator Robert F. Kennedy (assassinated in LA, California June 5th 1968) is buried in an adjacent grave plot.

The eternal flame by President John F. Kennedy's grave

The eternal flame by President John F. Kennedy's grave


Close up of President John F. Kennedy's gravestone

Close up of President John F. Kennedy's gravestone

The cemetery has lots of other memorials of interest including a pair of memorials behind the Tombs of the Unknowns Amphitheatre to the crews of the Challenger and Columbia Space Shuttles lost in 1986 and 2003.

Challenger and Columbia Space Shuttle Memorials either side of the 1979 Iran Mission Monument

Challenger and Columbia Space Shuttle Memorials either side of the 1979 Iran Mission Monument

As we returned to the Washington we drove past the Pentagon, the headquarters of the US Ministry of Defence and the largest office building in the world. Unfortunately (but perhaps not surprisingly) we were not allowed to take any close up photographs!

The Pentagon

The Pentagon


Another view of the Pentagon

Another view of the Pentagon

Returning to the Washington Memorial I took the opportunity before getting back onto the main tour bus to have a look around the nearby Federal Bureau of Printing and Engraving. I had so far been unsuccessful in my attempts to see coins being minted at the US Mints in Denver and Philadelphia so when there was an opportunity to see US bank notes being printed instead I was keen to take it! Not surprisingly for security reasons we were not allowed to take photographs of the printing presses running although in the gift shop on the way out there was a case containing a million dollars and you could also measure your height in $100 bills (I'm $1,607,700 tall!).

The Bureau of Engraving and Printing on 14th Street

The Bureau of Engraving and Printing on 14th Street


Tour Entrance for the Bureau of Engraving and Printing

Tour Entrance for the Bureau of Engraving and Printing


$1,000,000 in $10 notes on display in the Bureau of Engraving and Printing

$1,000,000 in $10 notes on display in the Bureau of Engraving and Printing


How tall are you in $100 notes?

How tall are you in $100 notes?

I then got back on the main tour bus and we made our way around the numerous national memorials that pepper the lower section of the National Mall. Immediately behind the Washington Monument is the National World War II Memorial at the top end of the Reflecting Pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial.

The National World War II Memorial with the Lincoln Memorial behind it at the other end of the Reflecting Pool

The National World War II Memorial with the Lincoln Memorial behind it at the other end of the Reflecting Pool

The neo-classical Lincoln Memorial dedicated in 1922 to honour the 16th US President anchors the west end of the National Mall. Inside the memorial is the famous 19 feet (5.8 metre) high statue of Abraham Lincoln with words of his 1863 Gettysburg Address and 1865 Second Inaugural Address engraved on two of its walls.

The memorial has been the site of many famous speeches with hundreds of thousands of people gathered around its Reflecting Pool, including African-American Civil Rights Movement leader Martin Luther King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963 and anti-Vietnam War Protests in the late 1960s. It has also been used a backdrop in numerous films including Logan's Run (1976), Forest Gump (1994) and Planet of the Apes (2001) amongst many others.

The Lincoln Memorial

The Lincoln Memorial


Lincoln's Statue inside his Memorial on the National Mall

Lincoln's Statue inside his Memorial on the National Mall


Looking back up the National Mall from the Lincoln Memorial

Looking back up the National Mall from the Lincoln Memorial

Just to the south of the Lincoln Memorial beside the Tidal Basin are the Martin Luther King Memorial, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial (32nd US President between 1933-1945) and picturesquely on the other side of the Basin the Thomas Jefferson Memorial (3rd US President between 1803-1809).

The Martin Luther King Memorial

The Martin Luther King Memorial


The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial

The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial


The Thomas Jefferson Memorial on the other side of the Tidal Basin

The Thomas Jefferson Memorial on the other side of the Tidal Basin

Amongst the other memorials nearby was the Korean War Veterans Memorial depicting a patrol of soldiers from the conflict and the Albert Einstein Memorial with him holding a manuscript engraved with the formulas of his three most important scientific advances (the theory of general relativity, the photoelectric effect and the equivalence of energy and matter).

Korean War Veterans Memorial

Korean War Veterans Memorial


The Albert Einstein Memorial

The Albert Einstein Memorial

In addition to a grid of north/south (numeric) and east/west (alphabetic) streets Washington also has diagonal avenues named after states and the final leg of our bus tour took us along Pennsylvania Avenue which is probably the most famous and busiest of them. This is where a lot of the federal government buildings such as the Internal Revenue, Department of Justice and FBI Headquarters are and is usually referred to as the Federal Triangle.

Pennsylvania Avenue

Pennsylvania Avenue


View from the bus on Pennsylvania Avenue - all roads lead to the Capitol

View from the bus on Pennsylvania Avenue - all roads lead to the Capitol


The J Edgar Hoover Building on Pennsylvania Avenue - headquarters of the FBI

The J Edgar Hoover Building on Pennsylvania Avenue - headquarters of the FBI

One of the final buildings on Pennsylvania Avenue before the Capitol is the Newseum which apparently contains loads of footage of major events over recent years and looks like something the media mogul baddie in the James Bond Film "Tomorrow Never Dies" would have dreamt up. It looked a fascinating place to visit with terrific reviews but unfortunately I didn't have time to fit it in.

The Newseum on Pennsylvania Avenue

The Newseum on Pennsylvania Avenue

Posted by FrancisRTW 02:00 Archived in USA Tagged trains museums tour washington videos solo war_memorials mints us_presidents us_east_coast film_locations Comments (0)

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