April 2, 2013

Philadelphia with Flat Stanley; Day 1: Gonna Fly Now

The last time my family and I were in Philadelphia was July 4, 2010. The Goo Goo Dolls were giving a free concert in the middle of Benjamin Franklin Parkway and the skies above were being illuminated with a seemingly endless barrage of the red glare of fireworks. It was as wild a party as I have ever seen. Our prior visit came in summer of 2003. We were very lucky at that time to have been the two-millionth visitors to come to the newly-constructed Independence Visitor Center. As we strolled through the front doors of the building, streamers, balloons, and confetti showered down. We were featured on all of the Philadelphia news stations for the entire day and people were stopping us in the streets to congratulate us as we made our way around the city. I think it's safe to say that we already had some very fond memories of the city of brotherly love. This time out, we had our cameras at the ready to work on the photo assignments that I described in my last post. I had no idea that Flat Stanley is such a well-known celebrity. People seemed to recognize him everywhere we went. (*Note - there are 4 Flat Stanley pictures in this blog post. Try to find them all.)

After leaving our house at 6:00AM and spending a little more than three hours in the car, I figured that the kids would enjoy making our first stop at the Please Touch Museum. This is a great indoor activity center filled with things for children to do. The moment I entered the doors, my eyes immediately went up. I couldn't help but wonder what this building was before becoming a museum; the vaulted ceilings and architectural details are very impressive. The museum itself is wonderful. It features giant sculptures made entirely of toys, a rainforest of musical instruments, an Alice In Wonderland garden complete with a two-story tree house, a miniature layout of old Philadelphia, a monorail, a rocket ship, and so much more. My kids loved it and I really did too.

Back at the car, I put on a mixed CD that I had created just for this road trip. Most of it is made up of pop songs, except for the first tune, which I included just for the ride to our second destination. The song: "Gonna Fly Now" from the Rocky Soundtrack; the destination: "Philadelphia Museum of Art." As I drove by the crowd of people standing in front of the fictional boxer's familiar statue, I rolled down the windows and cranked the music. Several of the onlookers turned and raised their firsts in the air, Stallone-style. It was so much fun to run up those steps made famous by the movies. During the few minutes I was there before I entered the museum, I noticed at least 15 other people do the same thing. From what I understand, that happens all day everyday.

Aside from being a popular cinematic landmark, the Philadelphia Museum of Art is every bit as spectacular on the inside. There is an entire wing of the building dedicated to Asian artifacts, statues, and pottery that included an indoor Japanese tea house and a Hindu temple. Another section showcased armor, shields, and weapons dating back as far as the 1400s. This was my favorite area; the suits of armor are magnificent. Of course, the museum is also a veritable cornucopia of works from the great painters throughout history -- Monet, Renoir, Picasso, Gauguin, etc.

Our next stop was at the Philadelphia Insectarium, a place dedicated to all things octoped and creepy-crawly. There are rows of tanks showing scorpions, spiders, beetles and bugs of all shapes and sizes. I have to admit that I, like so many other people, have always had an unwarranted fear of spiders. When I think about it, a spider is really no threat to a human, yet, for some reason, it gets a bad rap. It's probably because of the way it looks, spindly legs and all, and it usually ends up being unduly squashed beneath a shoe. This fear is something that I'm now trying to overcome. The last few times that I've encountered a spider in my house, I let it walk on my hand. Once I was able to fight off the initial knee-jerk reaction, I found that it wasn't a horrifying experience in the least. I'm hoping that eventually I won't mind spiders at all. I heard that the Philadelphia Insectarium has an area set aside for allowing guests to hold tarantulas and scorpions. I was looking forward to this, but, unfortunately, this part of the tour wasn't being offered during my visit.

The last stop on our first day of Philadelphia adventures was to be the Simeone Automotive Museum. This facility features a fantastic array of classic racing sports cars -- Alfa Romeos, Bentleys, Bugattis, Aston Martins, Hudson Hornets, etc. All of these former pinnacles of automotive excellence are in sparkling condition. Very impressive.

"Be of good courage,
and he shall strengthen your heart,
all ye that hope in the Lord."

~Psalm 31:24