Because we were planning to attend my Family Reunion in West Virginia, we decided to take a road trip which would culminate in the reunion weekend. We decided to begin our journey in Philadelphia, one of the cradles of United States democracy and a destination steeped in history. Philly, at least the old, historical part of the city, is extremely charming and fun. Since it was summertime, there were many activities available. We spent most of our time reliving 18th century pre-Revolutionary War events, such as the signing of the Declaration of Independence at Independence Hall, and the life and times of Benjamin Franklin, displayed at Franklin Court.
The Independence National Historical Park contains these venues plus the Liberty Bell. Check in at the Visitor Center for information, schedules, and an orientation film. Try also to experience the Lights of Liberty Show which begins at dusk during the summer.
Elsewhere in the city, the Reading Terminal Market is one of the finest of its kind in the US, plus it is indoors so that weather is not a problem. It is basically a food market although there are many other items for sale. South Philly is the Italian section of the city, made famous in the Rocky films. Here visitors will find outdoor stalls as well as shops selling all things Italian. This is also where the famous "Philly Cheese Steak" sandwich originated.
Philadelphia’s City Hall should certainly be seen, with its statue of William Penn atop its tower. The best view is from top of the stairs of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, , looking back down flag-lined Ben Franklin Parkway toward the downtown.
From Philly, we traveled west to Lancaster, PA, to sample Amish country. Here the theme is "back-to-basics", focusing on a culture which refuses to adopt modern conveniences. We were amazed by the efficiency of their farms and the quality of their products. There are numerous attractions which profess to offer a glimpse inside the world of the Amish. Driving through the countryside from unusual-named village to unusual-named village, stopping whenever and wherever the spirit is moved is probably the best way to sample this culture.
From Lancaster, we headed southwest and into Virginia. We picked up the beautiful Skyline Drive in Front Royal and admired the scenery as well headed south through Shenandoah National Park, stopping at overlooks and walking an occasional trail.
Near Waynesboro, we exited the drive and headed east to Charlottesville, our next destination. Here we spent a morning at Monticello, a monument, in a sense, to its owner and designer, Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson loved this estate and spent considerable time here on his various and sundry projects. He happens to be my favorite president so I was enthralled and entertained by his eclectic tastes and interests. We then spent the remainder of the day touring the University of Virginia, Jefferson’s other masterpiece.
The following day we traveled west into my home state of West Virginia. I had decided on this trip to revisit several places which I remembered from my childhood. Our first stop was Seneca Rocks, an unusual notch in an exposed rocky ridge (probably impressive when I was a child but not particularly inspiring now). Then we headed further west to Black Water Falls State Park. The large waterfall I remembered as a child looked so much smaller now (I guess Thomas Wolfe was right), but was still interesting and a worthwhile stop.
Next it was on to the reunion and immersion all things family.