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Martin's Travel Journal Just a few photos and ramblings from my trips.

Pennsylvania and Maryland

USA | Monday, 9 March 2009 | Views [436]

And so I was back in the United States of America. This would be my third trip to this amazing country, but second to the North East States.

Arriving in Philadelphia I was met at the airport by a family friend. Her apartment was in Manayunk, about 8 miles out of the centre of Philadelphia and located on the Northern Banks of the Schuylkill River. The town is the site of the first canal begun in The Unite States (though never completed) and is named from the language of the native Lenape Indians and their word for river.

Basing myself in my friend’s flat this would be where I would discover the fifth most populous city in the USA.

This was my second trip to Pennsylvania but my first real time discovering its biggest city. The obvious first port of call was the Independence National Historical Park. This national park is where the Independence Hall, Liberty Bell and historic buildings associated with the American Revolution reside.

Instantly, after driving through the bedlam of downtown Philadelphia I noticed how clean these streets of this area are in comparison with just two blocks over.

Our first port of call would be the iconic Liberty Bell, which was commissioned by the London based Whitechapel Bell Foundry in 1752 but cracked when first rung in Philadelphia – and was twice recast but then most famous ringing supposedly came to mark the vote for independence on July 4th 1776. This is supposedly not true but has, over time, become accepted as fact.

The Bell is part of a larger museum, though I was somewhat perplexed on how so much could be dedicated to just the bell – but thankfully the rest of museum explained the USA’s journey to independence.

Just across the park is Independence Hall, the location where the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution were adopted.

Thankfully the day chosen to visit these historic sites, though cold, were sunny, but after dinner we retired to the flat and prepare for a night out in Philadelphia. As with any major city there are plenty of clubs and bars to experience – and experience them we did!

The next day was far from bright, but the need for exploration outweighed any hangover and we made our way into the city. We stopped at the Museum of Fine Art. Firstly, the steps. The steps were those run up by Rocky Balboa in the film Rocky. A statue of the actor Sylvester Stallone as Rocky stands at the top of those steps.

We visited the museum and it contains some memorable pieces of art, including Claude Monet’s ‘Japanese Bridge and Water Lilies’, Vincent Van Gogh’s ‘Vase with twelve sunflowers’ and Edouard Manet’s ‘The Battle of The Alabama and Kearsarge’.

The next port of call was Philadelphia City Hall. It is an exuberant building (compared to City Halls back in the United Kingdom) and has an imposing tower that at the top sits a stature of William Penn – the founder of Philadelphia. With this statue came the cure of William Penn.

For decades an agreement was made that no building in the city would stand taller than this statue, until 1987 when the skyscraper One Liberty Place was completed. Until this year the Philadelphia sports teams had unprecedented success. From that point, for the next twenty years no Philadelphia based team won a championship, then in 2007 the Comcast Center was completed and with it the workers placed a small 4 inch figure of Penn on top of the building. The next year the Philadelphia Phillies won the 2008 World Series.

We continued to explore Philadelphia, it’s towering skyscrapers, shops, bars and restaurants. After several days in this wonderful city it was time to head further into Pennsylvania and to the family home in Dillsburg. I had been here before for Thanksgiving, and despite this not being a major holiday but instead Spring Break, it was still a chance to explore ‘real’ America.

Dillsburg is a quiet town with house spread far apart with massive amounts of land. We undertook the usual every day tasks and ate out at a different restaurant each night. We took in a ‘local’ bar, which is exactly what I was expecting – a hick bar is the term commonly used. This was the kind of place where the English accent went down a treat and I talked a number of interesting people that night.

We headed out to Harrisburg one day, the State capital, to take in the capital building. Inside it is simply staggering. The vibrant colours of the painting and the sculptures and murals are amazing, as are the numerous stained glass windows. We explored the corridors, the debating chambers and the offices in which we were allowed before returning home.

After a few days in Dillsburg the weather was becoming brighter and we decided to take a trip out of the state and to Baltimore in Maryland. Upon arrival in Baltimore we visited Fort McHenry, the Fort that defended Baltimore against the British during the war of independence and it was during this battle that the poem ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ was written that would become the national anthem of the USA.

The visitor centre was quite interesting – despite being on the end of some ribbing for being British. The flagpole in the centre of the fort is where the first official 49 and 50 star flags were flown. We witnessed the changing of the flag in the fort – I was somewhat amused by the American’s fears of the flag touching the ground.

From here we ventured into Baltimore and around the harbor area. It is simply gorgeous, full of small boutique shops and restaurants that overlook the harbor that leads out into the Atlantic Ocean. We wandered the boardwalks and experienced the small shops selling handmade crafts, whilst taking in cups of tea to warm us from the cold air whipping in from the sea.

After a dinner of fresh fish bought into the harbor we returned to Dillsburg, it was my penultimate night in the USA.

The following day was relaxed. We did though visit a local attraction in Dillsburg, named Dills Tavern – a tavern that was built in 1794 on a sight that belonged to the Dill Family, along with a farm, mill and distillery. It was impressive how they had rebuilt this piece of American history and was fascinating to speak to one of the people behind the project – though it was amusing when she pointed out to me that this was a relatively new building by British and European standards.

I guess she was right. I took in a lot of history on this trip to America, America’s independence and beyond that historic event – plus some more recent history. In comparison it is relatively new and America is a young country, but with that there is so much to explore and to learn and I still have so much to discover, hopefully in the near future.

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