I will be honest from the television and web posting I expected Philadelphia to be insane. I was worried about getting a cab or on the train to get into the center city area. Way over-hyped!!!!! To be safe I had reserved a car service to take us into town. Usually I am all about the train but I just did not know how busy it would be and they had this whole three day ticket thing and some stations closed. It was too much on short notice to figure all out.
Corporate Sedan Service met us at the very quiet airport. Yup, quiet… I will put their information here because they were very good at what they do. Quick to get me a quote and very prompt on pick ups. As someone who was done wrong before by car companies I know how hard it is to find a good one! I get nothing from them, they just did a good job for me! http://www.philadelphia-limo-services.com
Our very nice sedan made the quick drive to center city on empty roads. Everyone had to have their car parked elsewhere several days in advance. It seemed that most local people left town, it was eerie quiet!
Daughter and I had a little time to kill so we took a walk around where we needed to be for Saturday’s Pope speech. This was security to the max. On each intersection a couple of national guard soldiers were stationed. Do the math on that… 3 days, most roads, two per intersection. Lots of bored people drinking coffee! Add in the state troopers and the local Philadelphia police force. We could not have been in a safer place! Throw in some roaming ambulances, police cars, national guard trucks and the random radiation detector. Golf carts, small emergency vehicles the fire department used and no traffic. They might have been having a little fun Friday before it was down to business on Saturday. Miles of fencing and more screening than the airport has ever thrown at me. Oy! We had a bit of fun walking around looking at everything going on.
Then we got to Independence Hall to see them setting up the stage. We quickly realized this was not going to be the show up an hour before hand and be alright kind of event. Unless you were in the front couple of rows your viewing was going to be on the large screens due to bleachers set up on either side for the press. Sigh! Yup, came from Michigan to be blocked by bleachers. The viewing area is long and narrow, split by a road. We knew we would never be there in time to make front row, I was not camping out all night when I paid for a bed.
We slept in a little until 7:30 Saturday and then went in search of some breakfast. We were not in any real hurry after seeing the layout yesterday of the Independence Hall area. Hoping we could take in some drinks and food we shopped at the Wawa on the walk over. Now our way was blocked by a huge fence and we had to meander around to 3rd street to come up into the Independence Hall area. It was 10:30 and many people were in line already for security. Metal detector, bag check, cell phone check and twenty minutes later we were in.
Now I know 10:30 is really early for a speech that begins at 4:30. We found our spot on the grass and settled in for the day. People were napping. Kids were grouping up and running around having a great time. It was almost like a giant picnic in the park with 40,000 others. The time really did not drag too badly. Around noon they started with speakers, singers and dancers until around 4pm.
People had started to line the street around 2pm for the Pope and when people realized he was coming it was a mad house! I stayed back quite a bit and enjoyed the show. Daughter was up close and in the bustle but I am happy to watch from the sidelines. People were disappointed he was not walking but that would have taken him forever to get all the way around the square.
The Pope spoke for a long time about history and religious freedom. Everyone was cheering and waving their little Vatican flags that people had been selling on the walk in. We all deserve human dignity and respect, it was a serious speech but very good.
Here is a copy if you would like to listen in English. Pope Independence Hall
People were crying and jumping while cheering. It was very festive! His speech lasted a little over half an hour and we all had to wait in the square until he was gone in his car. Then the police opened the barricades and let us out of the area we were in.
So Friday was very quiet! Saturday afternoon was busy for those with tickets at Independence Hall but not for others. After hearing the Pope we headed back to some cute shops we had seen the day before. They were very quiet and getting no foot traffic. We bought a couple of souvenir T-shirts and walked around for a few blocks before heading back to the apartment for the night. Getting off our feet and enjoying a Philly Cheese-steak was the order of the night!