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Trip Report Father/Son Trip to the Heart of American History: Philadelphia & Gettysburg

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Didn't Faulkner say that the past is never dead, it's not even past? I didn't read that quote until college or maybe even later, but when I did, I knew immediately what he was talking about. I grew up with grandparents on both sides of my family who talked often about the Civil War. My maternal grandmother told me stories of a great3 grandfather who left his wife, seven children, and small farm and went with his brother to join Lee's army in Virginia. He never returned. My paternal grandfather spoke of his grandfather, a German immigrant who drove wagons for the Union Army shortly after his arrival in America. So when I visited Civil War battlefields as a young boy, they had a personal dimension for me as I wondered if either ancestor had walked those fields or driven those roads.

Those stories gave me an abiding interest in history. Needless to say I've been elated that my children have shared some of that interest, and was particularly pleased that my youngest son had been badgering me for some years now to take him to see Gettysburg and famous Revolutionary Era sites on one of my frequent business trips to Philadelphia. A school holiday several weeks ago afforded us that opportunity. His other passion is sports, but since the Phillies, Flyers, and 76ers weren’t in town, we decided to focus on history and food. I hope other parents will be able to take a similar trip with their children.

FRI., APRIL 10

Hotel: Windsor Suites

Arrived mid-afternoon at Philadelphia International Airport and took a $35 cab ride to our hotel in downtown Philadelphia, the Windsor Suites (1700 Benjamin Franklin Parkway - 877-784-8379 - www.windsorhotel.com ). I had reserved our room on Expedia for what I thought was a very reasonable $99 per night. We thought the room was large, even though it turned out to be one of the smaller rooms in the hotel. The room had older furnishings, but was clean with modern bathroom tile and fixtures. Add in the full-sized refrigerator and microwave in the small kitchenette and it suited us just fine.

Afternoon & Evening: Continental Midtown and Capogiro

We decided to walk Center City in the late afternoon sunlight to whet our appetites for both sightseeing and food, touching on three of the four squares William Penn had originally laid out when he planned the city in the late 1600s. We started at Logan Square, admiring the beautiful fountain in Logan Circle and the dramatic view up the Ben Franklin Parkway to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, hiked south to beautiful Rittenhouse Square, then turned eastward to Washington Square where the statue of George Washington and tomb of the unknown (Revolutionary War) soldiers are located. We then walked several short blocks for my son’s first view of Independence Square, the Liberty Bell, and Independence Hall. He didn’ say much, but was clearly impressed. We circled back to the hotel, washed up for dinner, and rewarded ourselves with a super delicious, teen-friendly meal at Continental Midtown (1801 Chestnut St. - 215-567-1800 – www.continentalmidtown.com ) — sharing udon noodle soup, a pile of Szechuan shoestring fries with really spicy Chinese mustard, a spectacular cheesesteak eggroll, and a BBQ chicken quesadilla. We spurned dessert, because youngest son is a gelato fanatic. We headed to Capogiro, 119 S 13th St. - 215-351-0900‎ - www.capogirogelato.com ), in his never ending quest for the best stracciatella (well, dad settled for sorbet). Fortified, we returned to the hotel in the cold evening air. Since all reservations for the Independence Hall tour were already booked at the National Park Service-affiliated website: www.recreation.gov/tourSearchResult.do?parkId=77815&contractCode=NRSO ,
we were psyched to get up early on Saturday to try to get walk up tickets.

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