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Many Adventures of a Nomadic Poet A young poet with Asperger's makes travel his passion, and away he goes...

Grilly Philly

USA | Sunday, 11 June 2017 | Views [555]

Over the weekend, I'd visit my sister in a city that's famous for cream cheese and being the birthplace of the USA. Philadelphia, that is. My third sister, Ashley works at a law firm and lives with her boyfriend, Juan, who is from Colombia. Before our drive from Easton, Juan's parents would stock us up with grilled chicken topped with sun-dried tomatoes, which came out tasty.

On my list for yesterday were the three essentials: the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and the US Mint. My mother has labelled Ashley as the "prima donna" of the family due to her intelligence and all-business mindset. Most definitely she's the "bossy one" of the family. All this had me surprised she hasn't discovered geocaching as it takes a lot of thinking skills. On the subway we'd listen to this awesome busking musician.

Philadelphia is very cold and snowy in winter and very hot and humid in summer so it could be thought of as either "Chilly Philly" or "Grilly Philly." It's been very hot so I'm experiencing the latter. Outside of the African American Museum of Philadelphia I'd solve a short multicache, and Ashley and Juan are intrigued by the game. From there we'd have a brief look at the small but interesting museum. As Philly's population is predominantly black, African American history has a major foothold here. Martin Luther King Jr., and Rosa Parks are two of my heroes and I've always had an interest in African American history.

Known as the "City of Brotherly Love," Philadelphia comes from the Greek words philos and adelphos, meaning "love" and "brother," respectively. William Penn founded Philadelphia in 1701 and wanted his colony and city to be a place where Quakers could worship freely, hence the name.

On this hot, hot day we'd stroll toward the Liberty Bell. I always thought it was outside but it's protected from the elements. Being a Sunday, the queue was long and we had to go through airport-style security. The actual bell is much, much smaller than I expected it to be.

Little do people know is that the famous crack in the bell wasn't by being dropped, but was enlarged when trying to fix a small crack. As a result, the bell no longer rings. In primary school we used to sing a song called "Here we go round the Liberty Bell, the Liberty Bell, the Liberty Bell...so early in the morning" so it brings back memories.

As a big gay pride parade was going on, Ashley, Juan, and I would next visit Independence Hall.

Much of the hall is inaccessible without doing a guided tour, and tickets for the day were sold out. The original printed version of the Declaration of Independence is on display, which we were able to view. The original handwritten version is in Washington DC. Ashley and Juan have lived in Philly for a few years and this is the first time they've been to either of the city's top two attactions. Unfortunately the US Mint is closed on Sundays, so we couldn't go yesterday.

Famous for cheesesteaks, cream cheese, water ice, soft pretzels, pork roll, and Tastykakes, Philadelphia's food scene definitely stands out among both foodies and waistlines; Philly is no place to go on a diet!

Ashley and Juan opted for hot dogs from one of Philly's famous food carts, and I opted for pork roll on a soft pretzel bun. We'd wash it all down with a few glasses of wine at Fado Irish pub. After all that walking in "Grilly Philly" I think we were all tired but not before stopping for two of my favourites: Trader Joe's peanut butter pretzels and a bottle of cabernet.

Ashley would leave a subway token on the table for me, and I opted to take the bus back to Easton instead of hitchhiking. Since the bus leaves at 4 PM, it would allow me time to visit an attraction that would take an awfully long time for a coin connoisseur to visit: the US Mint. It was another Philly scorcher today and I had to walk at least 3 km to the subway. A school crossing guard would point out "you'd better have some water on you today" as I'd be surprised later...

Ashley and I would meet up at Starbucks for lunch and we'd share one last hug before my jaunt back to the southern hemisphere. It's been very nice to see my entire family on this journey, as for the first time in my life I've seen all six of my siblings in such a short space of time. In search of a few geocaches on this 95 degree day, I was getting thirsty. Six different fast-food restaurants I asked for a cup of water, and none of them would give me one. McDonald's wanted to charge me the price of a soda just for a cup of water. Finally I called in at a small Asian-run convenience store to buy a bottle of water and their card machine wasn't working and I had no cash! Eventually a girl at Panera Bread would give me a cup of water and explained how many places are reluctant to give out cups due to Philly's high vagrant population. My response was "what about the people who are not vagrants?" as it's an extremely biased thing to do. What if someone asked for a cup of water and they had a medical condition that required them to urgently have water? Some people just don't think!

A geocache would lead me to the Reading Terminal Market (the first syllable is pronounced like the colour red). Formerly the main station on the Reading Railroad, it was converted into a market in the 1970's and today you can sample Philly's famed cuisine from its many stalls. I wasn't up for something fatty or sugary but I got a doubleshot of espresso.

Just down the street from the Reading Terminal Market is the original US Mint.

In operation since 1793, the Mint has changed a lot over the years. It used to take several minutes to make one penny, but sophisticated methods allow the Mint to produce thousands of coins per minute. As a child I always had wishful thinking of visiting the Mint, where I'd get VIP treatment and receive a free gold coin. At my age, I know better now. It's hard to believe that I've been a coin collector since I was six years old and I didn't visit the Mint for the first time until I was 32. Photography isn't allowed in the Mint but I was able to observe coins being bagged, coin dies, planchets, blanks, shotgun rolls, and all this numismatic terminology. As I browsed the gift shop, there are many things I would have bought years ago but my lifestyle these days is too nomadic to carry coins around.

Philadelphia isn't exactly the prettiest city but it's most definitely worth a few days and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Just remember, in winter bring a coat, and in summer bring a large bottle of water.

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