23 December 2007

Philadelphia II

As I said in part one of this, my camera-to-computer cable has apparently gone to God. I've been holding off on finishing this post, hoping that it would show up, but no luck yet. Hard to believe it's been three months already....

On the second day, we got off the train at SEPTA's Market East Station, a few blocks west of Independence National Historical Park. We arrived at the old State House (Independence Hall) at 1100, just in time for the tour we'd booked in advance. The tour started with a talk about the building's place in history as the place where the Second Continental Congress met and the Declaration of Independence was signed (1776), and where the Constitutional Convention met in 1787.

From there we went on to the main building. First we visited the courtroom, where the Pennsylvania Supreme Court met; then came the Assembly Room, where Congress met.

1776 is one of my younger daughter's favourite movies, and it's my favourite musical. Most of it is set at Independence Hall, so of course we had to compare the real thing with the movie version: Not only the meeting chamber itself, but also the stairs where the Committee of Five sang But, Mr Adams, and the outside of the building, where (in the film) the members of Congress run out to see a fire and the conservatives board their carriages.

Then came lunch.

A few months ago WillyShake, of Unconsidered Trifles, mentioned having visited a Philadelphia restaurant called Fogo de Chão. After reading his post, I of course had to view the restaurant's website* - and as soon as we decided that we were indeed going to Philly, I added it to the list of Things to Do.

The restaurant, a Brazilian churrascaria, offers a salad bar, with such things as artichokes, cheese, and an excellent apple salad. In addition, each table is given plates of cheese bread, mash, fried polenta and fried bananas (wonderful!). All of these are somewhat superfluous, though, because this place is Carnivores' Heaven.

Each diner is given a cardboard disk, green on one side, red on the other. Want meat? Flip it over to green-side-up. The servers are constantly passing through the dining room with skewers of meat, fresh from the grill; when they see the green disk, they'll stop to see if you're interested in what they have. Had enough? Or just need some time to clear off your plate a bit? Flip the disk to red-side-up, and they'll stop coming. Want more? Go back to green.... (Did I mention that it's all-you-can-eat?)

My younger daughter, as I'd expected, loved the linguica (sausage); she also said the beef ancho was very good. Her sister is a very picky eater, but she liked the chicken breast (served in chunks wrapped in bacon). The lamb chops were good, though a little too heavily salted for my taste; I agreed that the beef ancho was very good, as were the fraldinha (bottom sirloin) and the filet mignon (also wrapped in bacon). The picanha, however, was my real favourite - after a couple samples of that, I was about ready to mug that waiter and take his entire skewer.

Wines are available, but we all settled for sodas; my wife and I really enjoyed the Guaraná Antarctica. They have desserts, too, but even the girls weren't interested. Maybe next time....

After lunch we returned to the NHP. We decided to start with one of the horse-drawn carriages, which offer tours of the area, and took a 40-minute ride. Don't remember the driver's name, but her horse was named Truman, and he took us through the historical district while she pointed out various old houses and churches. We ended up back at the NHP, of course, and went in to have a look at the Liberty Bell. From there we went across the street to Congress Hall (immediately west of Independence Hall), where the US Congress met during its stay in Philadelphia from 1790 to 1800. Downstairs is the large chamber where the House of Representatives met; upstairs are the Senate's meeting room (truly an upper house and a lower house!) and several committee rooms.

We'd hoped to get to see the US Mint, too, but by this time it was already closed, so we caught a train back to our car. We were still full from our lunch at Fogo de Chão, so instead of having supper we just stopped off for ice cream, then headed home.

Going back? Absolutely! In addition to the Mint, there's a lot more to see at the NHP. And my older daughter still asks from time to time when we can go back to Fogo de Chão.

And hey - maybe now that I'm posting this, the cable will reappear....

* Amongst the reviews available on their site is one of the Philadelphia location.

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