Sunday, July 3, 2011

Exploring the City

This morning was a very relaxing one (mostly because we got to sleep in until 10:00). On our walk to a nearby restaurant I was surprised at how hot and humid the weather continued to be despite forecasts of possible thunderstorms (which were fortunately inaccurate).

After a lovely omelet, we familiarized ourselves with the public transportation that is available in Philly. Although at first rather confused, we got the hang of the SEPTA/trolley system by the end of the day. It's quite convenient and although the heat makes the low-cellinged stations slightly uncomfortable and the trains suffer from the same unsanitary and crowded conditions as nearly every city's public transportation, it is not much worse than BART or AC transit. The important thing is that it got the job done and we were at the heart of the city soon enough.

Once there, we took another open-top bus tour. This one, I have to say, was far more entertaining than the one we took on Friday. The tour guide was a real person (as opposed to the CD recording that played for us in D.C.) and he was very enthusiastic. On our tour we went past the US Mint (were coins and medals of honor are produced), Betsy Ross' house, Love Park, Logan circle, the Liberty Bell, countless museums, and Chinatown. Although we did not get off at any of the sites to look at them a little more closely, many of the museums and landmarks we passed are on the UPenn calender as optional outings so I am looking forward to taking advantage of that as much as possible.

Our tour guide told us an overwhelming number of interesting facts about the city from its founding as a colony to the last time their baseball game won the world series. One of the most interesting facts to me, personally was that more people walk and bike to work in Philadelphia than any other city in the United States.

Another particularly appealing aspect of Philly is its the amazing amount of public art and murals that are scattered around the city. According to our guide, there is an ordinance in place that requires a certain percentage of the budget of every city project to be dedicated exclusively to the arts. This results in a number of interesting statues and beautiful paintings that more than make up for the trash and graffiti that builds up on some of the main streets. They give Philly a very unique vibe.

After our tour, we set out on foot to explore for ourselves a little. We walked around Old City and saw the site where Benjamin Franklin's house once stood. We also walked past a street from colonial times that holds the record for longest continually inhabited street in the US. We ran into a couple historical re-enactment actors dressed in colonial clothing, some of them in the traditional red-coat uniform of British soldiers. It was entertaining to say the least.

Once we had gotten out fill of Philly and chowed down on some delicious Italian food, we took the trolley back to our hotel (but not before buying some UPenn garb at the bookstore). Today, because of the few extra hours of sleep this morning, instead of napping, I used the few hours of spare time we had before dinner to check out the treadmills in the fitness room and look over some of the reading material we were given for our first week of Penn. I was planning on simply skimming a few articles, but I found it very interesting and ended up reading all the way through a coupe of them. I learned a lot about light waves and vision and the parts that I didn't understand just got me more excited to learn more about it. I genuinely think I am going to have as much fun in the labs and classrooms than I will exploring the city, which is extremely exciting.

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