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Trip Report Egg Rolls at 9:30. In the morning.

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Another day in my continuing series :) of exploring Philadelphia:

I took 21 fifteen-and sixteen-year-olds on a brief "ethnic Philadelphia" tour; I could have gone to so many places, but due to time limits I kept it to just a few. The day was really raw and damp, but we had a great time nonetheless.

A first glimpse of the ethnic diversity happens as we drive past the huge mural "History of Immigration" at 2nd and Girard Streets. At 600 feet, it's the largest in the city, but there are many, many murals throughout the city (available as a tour) due to the Mural Arts Program, a part of the Anti-Graffiti network. Not everyone is a fan of the murals, but I love them! Lots of color and life to areas that otherwise might be rather bleak or boring.

Our first stop was Chinatown: Philadelphia's Chinatown is small but vibrant, with wonderful restaurants, shops, and bakeries that happen to be open at 9:30! We visited the beautiful Friendship Gate, did a walking tour around, then back to 10th Street to the shops; "Chinese Arts and Crafts" was not only open, but friendly and packed with delectable things like incense and tea cups and...ninja suits. (It was only $58; I had to keep assuring one of my 6'3" sixteen year olds that a) it wouldn't stretch to fit him and b) for that price, the powers weren't included.)

Since we had walked at least half a mile by this point, everybody was hungry, and right across the street was Zhong Gang bakery: egg rolls for 75 cents, cream buns that looked wonderful, and a host of other treats. I couldn't face anything at that point, but the kids happily purchased and chowed down as we walked over to the Visitors' Center at 6th and Arch. (I mention this because it has what anyone who is traveling with 23 other people needs: toilets, and lots of them.)

Our next stop was the Polish American Cultural Center, at 3rd and Walnut. It's a lovely little museum, with lots of Polish folk art, artifacts, paintings, and a small gift shop, but the highlight was definitely our guide, Richard Klimek, who "practically lives there" and has a wealth of fascinating information about the Polish experience both in Europe and America. (He does re-enactments of Thaddeus Kosciuszko, too; the Kosciuszko house is just a few blocks down, at 3rd and Pine.) Our group was greeted with soft pretzels and Poland Spring water; a nice touch. Philadelphia has a large Polish population, especially in the Port Richmond/Fishtown neighborhoods.

Lunch was at the Bourse; I would have preferred the Reading Terminal Market, but it was in the wrong direction and would have taken quite a lot longer. The Bourse has a reasonably satisfactory selection of standard food court places, the building itself is beautiful, and downstairs there are huge tables for school groups. Yay! Despite the eggrolls and pretzels, the kids were quite ready to eat.

After, we made a visit to the newly finished President's House site in front of the Liberty Bell pavilion; Washington lived here during most of his administration, and had nine slaves with him. The exhibit frames the topic of slavery and abolitionism, both quite significant to the site, particularly as the Liberty Bell was much more of a symbol of the abolitionist movement than of the Revolution. There were a number of other famous occupants of the site, including Richard Penn and Benedict Arnold, but its time as the President's House is, of course, the most compelling. The reconstruction shows the framework and incorporates some of the archaeological dig, as well as giving information on the early African American experience.

We went back to the vans to drive to our next stop; whilst it is a great walk, there just wasn't time. Plus, you can park for $3 for two hours in a lot on Washington Avenue near 9th, which was our next stop: the Italian Market. Bypassing Pat's and Geno's, amazingly enough, we trekked the length of the market checking out the Italian, Asian, and Mexican stalls for produce and looking into the specialty stores like Fante's for cooking supplies and DiBruno brothers cheeses. Each group of four kids had $5 to spend on fruit (for making fruit salad for lunch the next day) and had a great time comparing prices and cheering for their own choices and bargaining skills. (We had mangoes, bananas, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, grapes, oranges, grapefruit, and limes. It was delicious.) The Italian Market is unique, for sure, and the barrels are still smoking to keep the vendors warm. Very atmospheric, wonderful food, and a glimpse of an earlier/different time and place for the kids.

By this time we had to go back, but all in all it was a great little glimpse into some of the variety that is Philadelphia. Here are some pictures; most of them had the kids in, so of course those aren't there: http://travel.webshots.com/album/580001282ivlXSY

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