Philadelphia – History or Hollywood?

Today, I spent the day in Philadelphia. A place steeped in the history of the USA or so we are told.

The day was a beautiful day and started off well as I got to chat to Michelle for more than an hour. A good way to start the day Smile

After breakfast I checked out of my hotel and headed off into the centre of Philadelphia to visit the Liberty Bell Centre and the historic sites related to the Declaration of Independence and the early days of the US.

After leaving the visitor centre, the first thing I came across was this building.


This is Independence Hall. now, look a bit closer and you will see the top of the picture is actually a picture hung over the scaffolding of the works they are carrying out. So people have a photograph of a picture of what the hall will look like when restored!

Next up was this building which is called the presidents’ house and refers to George Washington and Samuel Adams. Now, this is a structure built on the site of the President’s house, it is not the actual presidents’ house.


What is interesting is that when he lived here as President, George Washington had nine slaves. Now, cast your mind back to the Declaration of Independence which contains near the beginning the following text

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness

Now also remember that George Washington was the first President of the USA. Can you see the slight conflict in everyone being equal and have the unalienable right to be free? Perhaps George Washington was not the great and honest person we were lead to believe!

It gets worse when one reads the plaques there. If the slaves had remained in Pennsylvania continuously, they would have earned their freedom under state law, so Washington ensured the slaves were rotated out of the state to prevent this happening.


Next to the presidents’ house is the home of the Liberty Bell. A quick Google search reveals the following statement

The bell was probably rung at the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia (on July 8, 1776). It rang to announce many important events in early American history, including Presidential elections and deaths

Again we are lead to associate the bell with the Declaration of Independence. This is quite simply not the case. The bell was commissioned by the state of Pennsylvania in 1751 to remind residents and visitors to Philadelphia of its important position.

1776 the bell rings out at the Declaration of Independence? Well not so it seems


The photo of the bell below is interesting. Can you notice what is unusual about it?


Well this picture is made up of 25,000 soldiers! – see the close up below. A quite novel picture.


The campaigners for the abolition of slavery renamed the bell the Liberty Bell. So, some 50 years after the Declaration of Independence that all men are equal and have the inalienable right to liberty. The so called land of the free still has slavery.



The bell itself is displayed for all to see in a permanent building only yards from its original home.



Amongst the other places I visited was the Franklin Museum. This was under the site of where Franklin owned 3 houses only yards from the Independence Hall. This museum is a strange place. Look at some of the inscriptions accompanying some of the exhibits.


Hmmm, a museum that has exhibits that MAY have belonged to the subject. Not items that did belong to the subject.

Now, lets move to another exhibit – this one an interactive exhibit.


Now, the plaque introducing this exhibit that consists of lots of telephones also makes it clear Franklin never used telephones as they did not exist, so why have a hypothetical exhibit in what is supposed to be a museum, not a fantasy world.

Nearby to this is the first post office in America. This post office pre dated the formation of the USA and as such is the only one in the USA not to fly the Stars and Stripes




Now, it was time for me to return to the visitor Centre and view the advertised 30 minute film on the history of Independence. The electronic display board indicated the next one started at 14:30, so at 14:30 we all gathered to watch it, only to be told there was no film and instead there was a talk on Asian Immigration into the USA. So, once again what people are led to expect is not what it seems.

Oh well, off to gift shop. Now amongst the usual gift shop fare including key rings, copies of the Declaration of Independence sayings of Benjamin Franklin and historical items etc..






Benjamin Franklin


I found the following the following items.


Yes, that’s right, in a historical gift shop dedicated to the Liberty Bell and the Declaration of Independence, there are T shirts and other memorabilia relating to that historical character Rocky Balboa. Sorry, did I say historical character, I meant to say Hollywood invention Rocky Balboa.

Actually, I thought it was quite appropriate as lots of other things about American History seems to be more Hollywood rather than historical.

I did however find someone who clearly models his clothing style on Simon Cowell.


Look at the waistband of those trousers – sad!


This evening I went to see Philadelphia Union play Chicago Fire in the MLS at PPL Park in run down Chester. I will be writing about the game in a separate Ground Hopping post. However, I could not pass up mentioning that I was re united with an old acquaintance at the ground. Well, when I saw acquaintance, I really mean an old foe.

The ground is situated on the North bank of the Delaware River in the shadow of the Commodore Barry Bridge. This was the big bridge we rode over towards the end of Day two of the PUT ride. We had done 80+ miles before we rode over the bridge. The bridge is 4240 meters long and is a long climb from river level to the top.


The above pictures show the height of the bridge above the river. As we cross the bridge it begins the decent and even after passing the length of the football ground it is still way above the height of the football ground. Some 200+ yards after the river the bridge is still a long way above ground. It descends much more slowly than it rises from the New Jersey side. We rode up the steeper side.


Ground hopping: DC United v Colorado Rapids 14th May 2011

This was ground hopping with a difference for me. This was the first soccer match I had been to outside of Europe.

As you will remember I was in Washington DC on 12th & 13th May having completed the Police Unity Tour and attended the Candlelight Vigil on 13th May. I was due to leave DC on 14th, but having realised that DC United were playing at home that night, I decided to extend my stay there.

Unusually perhaps for US sports venues, this one is well served by public transport, being on both the blue and orange lines on the underground / metro / subway. As there was extensive engineering works on the metro I left central Washington early to ensure I got to the ground in time for the game.

As sod’s law would have it, I managed to get a train easily and was at the ground around 1 3/4 hours before the kick off. The ground looked rather familiar when I got off the train. Why? Well only54 hours earlier I had arrived here at the RFK Stadium in the Police Unity Tour. It was at RFK that we met up with the other rides.


Getting there early was very useful. I had been in touch with the club and had been given a code to buy tickets at a discount price – thanks to Brad Snook at DC United. Sadly, when I tried to buy the tickets online I was unable to as the Ticketmaster US site cannot cope with anyone from outside the US. As I could not put down a state in my billing address!!! I went to the ticket office and explained the situation and after speaking to a second person there I was given a ticket at a discount price. I bought a ticket for the cheapest section. The game would be the same wherever I watched it from.

I knew from the last two PUTs that RFK was not a new stadium, but that is all I knew. Once I got my ticket, I went straight into the ground. Turnstiles are much less imposing than in the UK, but it seems that people in the US are more honest and do not try to force their way into grounds without tickets.


Immediately inside the ground, there was a table where they were giving away programmes and team sheets for free. Are you listening Mike Ashley? That price was FREE. Oh and they were giving away free DC United T shirts to the first 5,000 people in the ground. So, I got a ticket for the game, two programmes and a T shirt for under £10. I call that a deal.

The ground itself was originally built in 1961 and was the first major stadium designed specifically as a multisport facility for both American football and baseball, It is rented by DC United from its owners. Looking around the ground, it was clear it was not built for soccer. The seating is set out for baseball and American football. There are no lower tier seating sections behind each ground. It has hosted international soccer matches in the 1994 FIFA World Cup, 1996 Summer Olympics and 2003 Women’s World Cup.



For DC United games, only the lower tier of seats is opened. That is a good thing as the lower tier alone was not anywhere near full. The ground capacity is 45,243 and the crowd for this game was 12,499.

I was in the ground early so had a walk around the ground. Under the stand there are wide open walkways with lots of food and drink concessions. The prices are not cheap though. This did not seem to stop the locals feeding their faces during the game. Crowds at sporting events in the US tend to “tailgate” i.e. have picnics or BBQs in the parking lots before the game, so I was surprised how busy the concessions were.

After wandering around the ground, I found my seat – which was located near the corner flag at the one end of the ground that had seating behind part of the goal line.


The teams came out onto the pitch and lined up together before the national anthem. They play the national anthem before every Major League Soccer game. The game itself was a classic game of two halves. Colorado played the way my neighbour told me they would – i.e. very physical. At half time they were leading 1-0 and it looked as if there was only going to be one winner.

However, the second half was a very different game and DC dominated. They should have been awarded a penalty when there was a clear foul in front of us. Somehow the referee despite being perfectly placed waived play on. I suspect he knew he was wrong as a few minutes later he awarded DC a very soft penalty from which they equalised.

I must give a mention to the two males sat next to me, Kyle and David who were with their wives, Robin and Jamie ( hopefully I have their names correct). They were good company and very knowledgeable about the game, both in the US and across Europe.

They pointed out and explained about the “Screaming Eagles” who were stood on the halfway line area to my left. This is effectively the singing section of the ground. They did their best to make some noise and atmosphere despite numbering around 1000 at most in a huge open bowl of a stadium.


The day had been a beautiful sunny day, but by the end of the game it started to rain, so we had to move seats further back in the stand. This is one advantage of a big ground – you can move seats.


What about the standard of the football? Well, it was a lot better than I expected. I would have said that both sides would easily hold their own in the Championship in England. Both sides lacked someone to lead the line for them. The approach play was there but the goal scorer was lacking.

In the second half, Colorado showed themselves to be tactically naive. DC had a man wide on the right touchline and he was not once picked up by either the Colorado left back or another player. All DC’s attacks came this way. I would have expected someone to have marked the wide player, but no one did. Strange.

After the game, I made my way in the rain back to the metro station and got on the train next to someone wearing a Manchester city top. After chatting to him about their FA Cup win that afternoon. He turned out to be a Colorado fan. I must have found the only travelling fan at the game – a distance of some 1500-1700 miles each way. Not exactly a local derby then!

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and would happily go back to watch MLS games. Surprisingly given that there is no rivalry between fans, there was still an atmosphere and noise at the game. Due in no small part to the Screaming Eagles