A diary of my visit to two cities in the center of the founding of my country: Boston and Philadelphia Oct. 14 - 24, 2005

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

October 22, 2005 – Renoirs, Cézannes and Van Gogh’s, Oh My

Saturday morning was another rainy day, but it takes more than a few showers to dampen my spirits. Saturday morning was a relaxing time. I had a full breakfast at the B&B. I sat with a lady who is a professor at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. She was doing theatre research in Philadelphia. It was nice to have a conversation with someone…it had been a while!

I had 10:00 AM tickets to the Barnes Foundation, an art museum just outside of Philadelphia. I had no idea where it was, so I took a taxi. Of course, the driver had no idea where it was either. He called someone though, and found out. It’s a good think I had the address! Anyway, it was in Marion, a suburb of Philly. Entering the museum was a breathtaking experience. It is not a typical art museum. Dr. Barnes was a collector of art for educational purposes, and built a house in a residential neighborhood to house his collection. He had a small living space, the majority of the building being reserved for art. The art was hung on the walls in a seemingly random matter. Each wall had many pieces, from floor to ceiling. On one wall, I counted 27 paintings! That particular wall had smaller paintings. Most of the walls had about 10 – 15 works of varying sizes.

The most incredible part of the experience was the collection itself. The Barnes Foundation has 180 Renoirs and 60 Cezanne’s!! There are more Renoir and Cezanne paintings than in all of the museums in Paris combined. It is amazing. Just imagine being in a room surrounded by Renoir paintings. Everywhere you look, there are rows and rows of Renior’s works, along with many Cezanne’s, some Van Gogh and Picasso, add a Matisse here and there, and a couple Cassatt’s, and Titian’s. I was in art heaven. I stayed for about 3 hours and tore myself away. My eyes can only handle about 3 hours of art. There were no plaques on the walls describing the painting and listing artist, date, etc. There was a tiny nameplate on the bottom of each painting with the artist’s last name, but that was it. They had a few “maps” in each room to help you figure out what the paintings were, but there were usually being used by someone else. Anyway, it was a strain trying to read all of those nameplates.

I walked around Marion looking for the train station in the rain. I found it, after about a half mile walk. Not too bad. I took the train back to Philadelphia and finished up my schedule.

I wanted to visit Library Hall, where, according to my guidebook they have an exhibit including William Penn’s original charter of Pennsylvania, an original copy of the Declaration of Independence, and Benjamin Franklin’s will (along with other things). I found Library Hall and it was locked. Across the street was Philosophical Hall, with a sign saying that the exhibit is there. Unfortunately, that door was locked as well. The only way to get to the exhibit was to go back through the Independence Hall security and enter through the park. Getting through security takes about 20 minutes, but I had the time and really wanted to see the exhibit so I did it. It was pretty good, except Benjamin Franklin’s will wasn’t there. I don’t know where it was. Maybe whomever called in the bomb threat a couple days before stole it. Hmmmm…I think I’m on to something!!

The exhibit was small, so it didn’t take too long. When I was finished I walked down to Betsy Ross’s house to buy a couple souvenirs that were heavy. I didn’t want to carry them around the day before. Just for the record, the Betsy Ross house has one of the best gift shops I saw.

I walked down the street from Betsy Ross’s house to Elfreth’s Alley, the oldest continuously inhabited residential street in America. It is a cute little alley of row houses, one of which is a museum house, showing how they were lived in in the 1700’s. The rest of the houses are privately owned. I took the tour of the museum house. It wasn’t that big of a deal. I had been through so many house tours over the past 8 days that I think I can pretty much conduct a 1700 house tour even if I’ve never been in the house before. Seriously. I know what a brick of tea looks like, a cone of sugar, a fire bucket, a toaster, a fireplace shield, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

With that, I had finished everything on my list for Philadelphia except the Old St. Joseph church, the oldest Catholic Church in Philadelphia. One of William Penn’s unique ideas in his charter is the freedom of religion. He allowed any religious domination to build churches and meet in Philadelphia. It is still evident as you walk around and see the variety of churches. There is much more variety than in Boston. Since it was a Saturday, I decided to go to their service at 5:30. It was only 3:30, so I went back to my room for a little rest and relaxation. I started packing for the next morning, and then went to church. Old St. Joseph’s was a simple Jesuit church. The mass was rather short and simple, but it was good.

After church on my way back to my room I stopped by a nice little Italian restaurant called Pizzicata. I was starving since I hadn’t had anything since breakfast. They had lentil soup. Yum. It was nice and hot…perfect for a cold rainy day. Of course, since I was starving, the soup wasn’t nearly enough. So, I had a four cheese pizza. That was delicious as well. Top it off with a cup of coffee and I was ready for a good night’s sleep. I needed one, since I was leaving at 7:00 the next morning.

Last day in Philadelphia: 13,698 steps, 5.62 miles My feet aren’t hurting anymore, they are numb.


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