A Day in the Big City

The closest “big” city to us is Philadelphia, I think.  Baltimore is about an hour away, but it is about half the size.  This past Sunday night after church, Andrea and I were searching for a fair or something to go to on Labor Day, but couldn’t find anything reasonable.  So, instead of just going to a park, we thought we would take a little day trip somewhere.

Researching a little bit, I found that Philadelphia sounded like a great place to go for a day.  I figured that if we left early in the morning, we could be there at mid-morning.  I thought about it being a surprise, but eventually just told Andrea where we were going.  I printed out directions from Google Maps to the famous Geno’s Steaks in South Philly.  Have I ever been to Philly before?  No.  Have I ever been close?  The closest I have been is where we are living now.  But this couple is very adventurous…

We left around 9:00am, filled up with gas, grabbed a few donuts, and were on our way.  The trip begins by travelling southeast on State Highway 74 towards the Maryland border.  Half of this very scenic road is our route to church too, so that was pretty familiar.    We then head west on 274 across the Susquehanna River past Muddy Run and into Lancaster County.  Travelling through the southern part of Lancaster C0unty is typical old Americana.  You see flags flying everywhere, rolling hills, farms, and the common Amish abode.  After 45 minutes in Amish Country we hop onto US 1 east.  Slowly but surely, the countryside turns into suburbia.  We passed over Brandywine Creek, scene of a large battle in the War for Independence, then took another arterial road to the busiest highway in America: I-95.  Soon after coming onto the busy interstate, we realized we were approaching a megalopolis.  “Philadelphia International Airport: Next Exit”, a sign said.  Just after the airport, we rounded a big bend, climbed onto a bridge, and saw close at hand the huge bridges spanning the Delaware River, and in the distance: the City of Philadelphia–Birthplace of America.  The two-hour drive took us to a completely different world.  We got off of I-95 11 blocks short of downtown.  We drove several blocks through South Philly on Reed Street; meanwhile passing by row house after row house of people from all kinds of different nationalities.

We came to one cramped corner, looked to our right and saw the two famous Philly Cheese steak joints in the city:Pat’s and Geno’s.  We parked two blocks away from Geno’s and kind of based our day from there.  The once Italian neighborhood has in the past decade and a half become Latin American–particularly Mexican.  Of course, Andrea enjoyed that.  York County definitely is not the most Latin part of the nation, if you get what I mean, so this was a welcome surprise and treat for her.  After eating a delicious meal at a place called La Lupe (Andrea had something called a Oaxaqueno [torta with ham, egg, guacamole, cheese], and I had a beef taco), we trekked a mile  north to the Independence Square and downtown area.  The walk was perfect with a 65 degree temperature most of the day.  Around us most of the way up was the Italian Market: a daily “old world market” on the street side of 9th Avenue.  We had the chance to talk to an old Italian man named Vinnie (Italian or what?) who has run a crab shop for almost sixty years in the Italian Market neighborhood.  We had no clue about this part of Philadelphia, but it was sure a treat.


We got to our destination of Independence Hall around 1:30pm and took a tour of the landmark.  This was THE place that the Declaration of Independence was drafted and signed, as well as our constitution!  It was amazing to see all of that, being the history enthusiast that I am.  We were also able to see the Liberty Bell, Philadelphia Mint, Penn’s Landing, the first House of Congress, and Penn’s Landing.  Because of it being Labor Day, there were not as many “touristy”  people (like us!) around, which made the day even more enjoyable!


Independence Hall

At the Liberty Bell exhibit, we found a picture taken during the First World War of the “Human Liberty Bell.”  The ironic thing about that is that I KNOW my great-grandfather Speckhals was in that picture with a few thousand other men!  My grandparents have the EXACT same picture hanging in their house from that era.  It was inspiring to find that link to the past through my own relative: Louis Speckhals!


After spending most of the afternoon around Independence Hall, Andrea and I were getting hungry again!  We parked right by Geno’s Steaks for a reason!!!  We walked the mile back, hopped in line, and ordered “two whiz, wit”, as the natives say; that meaning two steak sandwiches with Cheeze Whiz and onions.  I almost stepped into paradise!  We both loved our sandwiches, and the place we ate at.  From what I have heard, Pat’s is just as good.  Personally though, I like the owner of Geno’s patriotism.  Joey Vento has a few days a year where EVERY CENT of the money that comes through the window in 24 hours goes to the family of a policeman or firefighter who lost their lives in service.  Good job!  His memorial in the front of his place honers an officer named Daniel Faulkner who was killed by a radical Marxist.  Good for him!

The people working there were very nice to us too.  The man we ordered our sandwiches from–Tony, a long-time employee–took a gospel tract from us and asked a few questions about it–in the middle of a very busy line!  Amen!  The lady gave us our fries and drinks did almost the same thing.  Now, how often does that happen?!  And all in the middle of the busiest steak shop in Philadelphia!  We will definitely be going back some day, and are now big fans of Geno’s Steaks!


After eating, we jumped into my little Saturn and headed back to “countryville.”  We enjoyed our time together so much!  We look forward to family visiting and being able to take a day and venture into the “Big City.”