August 30, 2013 in Chocolate! (and other less exalted food experiences), Tales of Inspiration
I couldn’t imagine a visit to Pennsylvania without a side trip to Philadelphia. The richness of the history encased in this one, walkable area was too much to pass up.
After our visit to Hersheypark, we hopped in the car and drove the two hours to Philly, passing by Valley Forge, the site of the American Continental Army winter encampment in 1977-78 during the Revolutionary War. Thousands of soldiers died during this rough winter of disease, starvation, and weather. Yet, the Americans emerged from this deadly cocoon with enough organization, spirit, and skill to tackle the British at the Battle of Monmouth. I only wish we had time to stop and tour the park. Next time, I thought, if we ever get back to Pennsylvania.
We stayed right in the middle of historic downtown Philly, surrounded by cobblestone streets, horse-drawn carriages, and Independence Hall. I wish I could describe how clean and quaint this area is. Where else in the world can you be transported back in time to the birthplace of our country? We tourists walked alongside minutemen as we viewed the Liberty Bell, learned how to write with an old-fashioned ink pen, and stood in the courtyard of the magnificent Independence Hall, where both the Constitution of the United States and the Declaration of Independence were signed. (We didn’t get there in time for an actual tour…maybe next time.)
We toured the US Mint, peered through the bars at the final resting place of Benjamin Franklin and four other signers of the Declaration of Independence, and, my absolute favorite, visited Betsy Ross in her home. Not only was it fun to see how people lived back then, in tiny spaces connected by steep and narrow staircases and with no electricity or refrigeration, but we got to spend some actual time with Betsy Ross (magnificently portrayed by a character actress) who so charmed us with her courage and cleverness that we didn’t want to leave.
She told us the story of how she came to be the maker of our American Flag, commissioned by none other than George Washington. He wanted 13 six-pointed stars representing our original 13 colonies, but Betsy Ross demurred. She didn’t like the arrangement of the stars, stacked straight across in lines, so she delicately suggested arranging them in a circle instead, signifying the unity of our country. Washington agreed, which emboldened her to make another suggestion, she told us with a glint of mischief in her eyes. Instead of six-pointed stars, she thought it would be better to make five-pointed stars. Her reason? She knew, as a seamstress, that with a piece of fabric folded a particular way, she could cut out a five-pointed star with only one cut of her scissors. She could whip out those 13 five-pointed stars in no time, and then she proceeded to show us how. It was like magic! She handed her magic paper star to my youngest son, and I have it now. As soon as I figure out how she folded the paper, I’m going to create an art project for my kids that requires cutting out a lot of stars in this very simple way…so cool!
Visiting the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier…there are no words.
We topped off our historic day with dinner at Max Brenner’s: a chocolate lover’s delight with a dessert menu much longer than the dinner menu. I chose this delectable little number that was as delicious as it was interactive:
The Melting Chocolate Truffle Heart Cake & Shake with vanilla ice cream and an iced milk chocolate shot with a chocolate ganache I got to pour myself.
My son ordered this dessert treat that I sampled many, many times:
The S’Mores Concoction served in this little mason jar with caramel sauce in a tiny glass flask.
We came to Pennsylvania to see our local baseball team compete in the Little League World Series (where they wound up 3rd in the United States: Awesome job, Eastlake!), but we found so much more to enjoy in this lusciously green state. Even though I figured it was to be a once-in-a-lifetime trip, the thought that keeps popping up in my mind these days is that we will be going back…someday.