We still had half of the American Revolution Museum to see, so in themorning we went straight back to walk through the rest of it. We are now really well versed in Revolutionary War history! Including how to prepare a musket to fire:
Our next stop was the American Jewish Museum. Another museum with so much information that the ticket is good for 2 consecutive days. We thoroughly studied the first two floors, 1600-1900s, which focused on immigration to America and how Jewish society developed throughout the US during these time periods. We lost focus by the time we got to the 1900s to present, but I know we will have plenty of opportunity to learn about those issues in the future. FYI – they have beautiful Judaica in the gift shop if you ever need a good gift while you are here.
We had so many options of what to do the rest of the day. There were about 20 different special events happening during this weekend. The communities really take advantage of the ideal weather in September and October (although it has been close to 90 degrees this weekend). We opted to join the Great Philly Tour – it is a 12 hour walking tour of Philly hosted by the Philly Tour Guides Association. Our Free Tours by Foot guide, Marianne, had told us about it. We chose to do the last of the 4 segments of the walk which went from City Hall to the Museum of Art. The Philadelphia City Hall is the largest in the country and it is beautiful. Not sure if they do tours of it, but it definitely would be worthwhile.
While we were waiting for it to start we hung out in the courtyard of City Hall which was also the location of one of the Monument Labs – a series of temporary artistic monuments set up around the city.
The last segment of the walk started at 5pm and we luckily ran into Marianne who had walked the other 3 segments of the tour (guiding one of them) so we joined her and her BF. It was really fun to be with them on the walk. The walk basically followed the Benjamin Franklin Parkway which includes the Franklin Institute, The Rodin Museum, The Barnes Foundation Museum and multiple other statues, parks, fountains, monuments, and significant buildings. This trip we are not going to have enough time to see the inside of all of these places so at least we got to see the outside. Of course we ended up at the top of the steps of the Museum of Art (you know – Rocky!)
Then we went over the back side to the waterworks (when was it going to end!) and finally to dinner which was so kindly hosted by the Tour Guide Association. Afterward we tried to get a ride on one of the Firefly Pedicabs, another temporary art installation, but they were sold out. (Picture borrowed from their website).
We finally made it to the highlights of the Revolutionary History segment of our trip. We started the day with a tour of Independence Hall. I think Shayna was really excited to see the main room where it all happened. The only original artifact is George Washington’s chair at the front of the room.
The tour is led by one of the rangers who had us all sitting in a room discussing what resources we would need to start a revolution in today’s world and then compare that to how things happened in the 1700s; definitely a novel approach to discussing how the Declaration of Independence developed. Then we walked through one of the courtrooms and then into the chamber where the Declaration of Independence was designed and signed.
After that we fit in a tour of the Philadelphia Mint. It is a self guided tour with descriptions that discuss all of the steps and equipment used to produce coins, all set up around the windows that let you look into the working factory. It was really interesting!
By the time we were done it was already time for lunch so we walked over to Reading Terminal Market. It was packed! But we enjoyed a sandwich and some fresh pretzels.
From there we walked back to the new American Revolution Museum. There is so much to see that one ticket lets you in 2 consecutive days. This museum just opened in April, it is so new it still has that “new museum” smell! You enter the main exhibit through a door titled “Concord” and exit through a door titled “Yorktown”. Clever! We covered about 1/2 of it before it closed. The exhibits are incredibly informative with lots of preserved artifacts, including George Washington’s tent – that was cool!
We arrived in Philadelphia on Wednesday and had a mellow day of just getting settled into our place – sooooo much nicer than our place in New York – and finding a place to leave the car. Parking is IMPOSSIBLE in the city! 150 year old streets are not conducive to modern day transportation.
At the last minute we decided to attend Rosh Hashanah services on Thursday morning. We took an Uber to the Rodef Shalom Temple which is fairly close to here, and enjoyed the “Multigenerational” service – i.e. babies crying and parents using little kids as an excuse to talk and walk around. The temple itself was gorgeous but the rabbis (both relatively young) seemed to have some difficulty keeping the congregation engaged. But the sanctuary is gorgeous!
We took the subway home (quickly figuring out our way around), and decided we needed traditional High Holiday food, so made deli sandwiches with crudite for lunch and bought groceries to make kugel for dinner. Unfortunately, I inadvertently bought cottage cheese with pineapple in it (yuck!). I figured out how to make a half portion to fit in the small pirex that fits in the mini-oven – everything is mini here because space is so limited.
After lunch we hopped on the bus that stops at the corner. It dropped us right at the Independence National Park Visitor Center – so EASY to get around! We went straight over to see the Liberty Bell.
Then we walked over to our scheduled Free by Foot tour of Old town Philadelphia which started at Betsy Ross’s house, went through the longest existing residential street, through Benjamin Franklin’s home and printing press office,
and then to Independence Hall. We also had a chance to see the archeological excavation of the first presidential house (used by George Washington and John Adams) which is just next to the Liberty Bell center: President House. These remains were just discovered in 2007 and this installation is fairly new. It focuses on the incongruity of slavery that existed within the household of George Washington while he was fighting for Independence. The issue of slavery is a major focus of many of the historical artifacts and locations here.
A great introduction to the area to give us ideas of what we wanted to cover the next couple of days. Afterward we headed home to prepare our Rosh Hashanah dinner which we ate on the floor of the living room – there is no dining table. (We really are happy here – very clean, quiet, safe and comfortable – the polar opposite to the place we had in Brooklyn!)
Our last day in NY started with a quintessential NY tourist agenda. First we tried to rush tickets for Come From Away which is a play about 9-11, but it was standing room only, so we passed on that idea. Then we had our NY bagel experience – they tasted just like the NY bagels in Santa Monica!
Yesterday was slated to be quite rainy so after surveying everyone we talked to about which museum to prioritize, we decided on the MET. I have never been in such a large museum. We were constantly trying to figure out where we were and how to get to the next room. We started with the Egyptian temple, then went to the American wing where we saw an assortment of Colonial era furniture and furnishings, but this was the high end stuff. Everything we have seen to date on our tours (Lincoln, Paul Revere, etc.) have been from poorer family homes so it was a nice comparison.
After seeing the American history related art, we checked out the modern art and of course the 20th century European artists (Monet, Manet, Renoir, etc.). There was no way we could see it all and spend any significant amount of time in any one area. I can see how New Yorker’s must love to just stop in on a weekend day to check out one or two exhibits, and just come back anytime for others.
Afterward we met up with Ruth and Bailey for some more quality friend time. After a couple hours we had to say goodbye as they had evening plans. On our way to meet Diego for dinner we got to see all the diplomats leaving the UN for the evening.
We met Diego for some local ramen and decided to catch the subway at Grand Central Station for our last NY venue.
This week there was a special exhibit honoring women scientists and engineers. They were projecting some celestial designs and the women’s names on the ceiling of the station. It was really cool! (This picture was not staged – just good timing!)
Fast forward 200 years, I thought it was important to visit the 9-11 museum so Shayna could learn a bit about recent history. This is another “must see”. Be forewarned, it is really intense. I did not know how Shayna would respond to what we would see so I opted out of the guided tour, but I STRONGLY recommend it if you go. This museum was was the most crowded venue we have been to so far. It was PACKED. More amazing, despite all of the people, the museum is almost silent. There is such a sense of reverence in the space. Of course, I could not make it much past the first display without crying. I am not sure if it impacted Shayna quite the same way. I think it is much more heart wrenching for anyone who was alive at the time and watched the events unfold vs. the younger generations who have only read about it.
There is so much to see and we ended up moving through many of the displays rather quickly, one to protect Shayna from some of the vivid displays and second to get away from the crowds (it was almost impossible to see the displays in some rooms). Of all the incredibly artwork that commemorated the event this flag was designed by an artist. The red and white stripes are made up of pictures of each individual that passed, or a candle for those who did not have a picture and the blue is of the police and fireman who perished.
At the end of the museum (it has an IKEA format where you wind through a set pathway) there is a place you can write a message and then if appears on a map that everyone can see. Here is Shayna’s message:
And here is what the display looks like:
After the museum we decided to do something a little lighter. Since the next day was going to be rain, we had to fit in our outdoor activities. Shayna really wanted to check out Central Park. We decided the best way to see it was by bike.
After our bike ride we met up with some old McKinley friends. Bailey was in Shayna’s class and a good friend. They moved back to NYC about 3 years ago. We had such a nice visit. It has been so comforting to have friends and family to be with, not only while we are on the road, but particularly in New York with all the crowds and chaos. Since it is UN week it has been particularly crazy, especially where Bailey lives which is right near the UN.
Sunday was a really special day. When I was researching for this trip, I found a woman in New York who conducts historical tours. Her company is called Patriot Tours: Patriot Tours. When I contacted Karen, she offered to do a special tour for the kids (a bit shorter and focused than the adult version). I reached out to anyone I knew with kids in NY and we managed to pull together a small group for our tour.
Ruth and Bailey are friends who used to live in Santa Monica, Melissa is one of my synchro teammates who happened to be in town and then Marika is the sister of our wonderful next door neighbor, and her son Clyde.
We had a great time together on our tour learning about revolutionary history in New York. I think the locals had a special appreciation of what we learned about since they have been walking the same paths as our forefathers from 200 years ago. Of course, the tour had to include some Hamilton history.
We ended our tour with a quick stop at the Fearless Girl.
Shayna and I had a very special evening planned. As part of Shayna’s ELA studies, we have doing a poetry unit, reading TS Elliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, studying the poems and listening to the music while following along with the poems. We concluded this poetry unit with a trip to see CATS. Shayna was so excited. We found a nice family owned Italian restaurant in the theater district, had our NY Italian food and went to see the play. Needless to say, Shayna loved it!
Once people were released from Ellis Island many of them settled on the lower east side of Manhattan. In the late 1800s/early 1900s it was the Irish and Germans, followed by the Eastern Europeans, Italians and Chinese. So, to stay with the theme we decided to visit the Tenament Museum on Saturday. You have to reserve tours, 1 hour walk through the tenaments or 2 hour walking tours around the neighborhoods, all with different themes. Because these tours are so popular we could not get the tours we wanted until the afternoon. So, we started the day by walking around the lower east side. We started at the Essex Street Market, which is the only remaining NYC indoor vendor market (think Grand Central Market without the restaurants).
Next we checked out the Hester Street Fair (think a farmer’s market with just the prepared foods). It all looked great, but too early to eat.
So, we wandered around China Town and Little Italy. It was the annual St. Gennaro festival (think carnival and restaurant outdoor seating with people walking around all fitting within the narrow streets of NY). It was crazy but looked like lots of fun.
We finally were hungry enough for lunch and found a cute little Dim Sum restaurant which turned out to be well known for its Bao. Yum!
Finally it was time for our tours. We started with a 2 hour walking tour titled Then and Now. Our guide provided a great review of the LES neighborhoods and buildings discussing how the landscape has changed over time and questioned us about which buildings/streets should be preserved vs. rebuilt. It really provided perspective on all of the factors to consider with change and development of neighborhoods.
Then we met my nephew Diego who joined us for a 1 hour tour inside the Tenament building. It was a hot day, so we definitely got a little perspective on what life was like inside these buildings. This tour really rounded our 2 day exploration of immigrant life in NYC.
Of course a day on the lower east side would not be complete without a visit to a deli, so we had dinner at Katz’s Deli. The 3 of us split one meal – matzoh ball soup, brisket, kugel, potato pancake and pickles – can’t get more DELI than that!
Even though summer is over, there are still plenty of tourists here, from what we are seeing, mostly English, Australian and European. We decided to do the most touristy thing on Friday hoping it might not be as crowded as the weekend. It was still pretty busy.
We headed to Battery Park and hopped on the ferry to the Statues of Liberty. We walked around and enjoyed the view of the statue and the city but we were not able to go into the statue. For future reference you need to book those tickets a few months in advance. But we did take a tour with National Park Ranger which is always very informative.
From there we took the ferry to Ellis Island. We were there for at least 3 hours and still did not see everything. Another fascinating day. The exhibits provide a comprehensive review of Ellis Island history, who came here and how they got here, how they were processed, what happened to immigrants while they were on the Island and what happened after they left. It was REALLY interesting.
The Island was basically shut down in the 50s and was totally abandoned until some journalist came over to document what was at the Island, which then led to the renovation process. But they did save and have on display some of the original beds, kitchen equipment, medical equipment, etc., which was pretty cool to see. There are tons of first hand stories about experiences at the Island which are incorporated into all of the displays. (We were so engrossed in it all, I forgot to take pictures which would have been great to share – sorry!)
We caught one of the last ferries back to Battery Park and found a pretty good Mexican restaurant for dinner before heading back to Brooklyn.
Thursday was a travel day. We arrived in New York just around 4:00 so got to experience some NY traffic. After a week in NY I will never again complain about LA traffic!
We found our rental unit in Brooklyn. We are in an area called Bedford-Stuyvesant which is a traditionally Jewish Orthodox area, but it is quite a mix of cultures. It is also known for its African American population, the owners of our unit are Puerto Rican while the area is becoming gentrified with Millennials.
We texted my nephew Diego who also lives in Brooklyn about dinner and he suggested a trendy Moroccan restaurant in a very trendy part of Brooklyn called Williamsburg. So, we bought our subway passes and took our first subway trip over to Williamsburg. We had great dinner and a lovely walk around the area. So much fun to be with Diego.
It was difficult to decide what to do for our last day in Boston. So many options. We contemplated a whale watching tour, hop/on off trolley tour, or following one of he American Women’s Heritage Trail. We opted for the AWHT which started at the Capital. While in the Capital we saw that you could take a tour, so we decided to join a tour. We ended up with a group from Ireland so the tour guide focused on the many statues, murals and portraits of historical figures and events and provided a thorough discussion of the historical significance so it fit very well with our history focus.
Afterward we were a little too tired and hungry to continue with our AWHT walk (we will resume it the next time we in Boston!) so decided to go over to Quincy Market for lunch. Afterward we walked down to the water and walked around the boardwalk. We then went home to make a special dinner for Marilyn and Peter and watched the Red Sox game.