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Philadelphia City Tour - 30 MAY 08

We arrived in Philadelphia on 29 May 08 by Amtrek train. It was my first train ride ever in a foreign country. It was nice experience. US stations are quite different from the Indian ones, especially the large ones and those present in major US cities. They work just like airports. You do not wait on the platforms. You wait in large central halls, with your luggage, that double up as waiting rooms. The platforms, and in the case of the Pen (Pennsylvania) station in NY even the main central hall, are all underground.

When the empty train enters the platform, they announce the train departure and the gate through which you have go through (just like at the airports) and you descend onto the platform in a queue and board the train. After the departure is announced, the train leaves in just about 10 to 15 minutes. Everything happens in clock-work precision. I didn't like one thing though, they do not have a separate rack on the floor near the entrance to put our large luggage; I had a hard time mounting my very large suitcase in the overhead rack. Seating is free. And punctuality, unlike in India, is religion. Even if the train is late by 2 minutes, they make an announcement!
Anyways, the best part of going to Philly was to meet Khushru and Tanaz; I was meeting them after a year and half after they got married and went off to States in January 2007. Their Philly home is as Indian as it can get; a Godrej storewell, chairs and tables imported from India, a Living Room sofa-cum-bed, a small table in bedroom with hair brushes and various other toiletries like the one you'll find in apro middle-class Parsi bedroom in a Parsi colony in Bombay.

Today, we took a city tour of Philly. The city is quite unlike New York or any hustling, bustling type. It's mostly an industrial town and is Blacks are a majority here. Its one of the oldest towns in the US, so most of the localities we went through, had very old and humble homes with very average middle class American families. We took the train from Primos station to the 30th Street station (one of the three downtown stations) and took a Trolley tour for the city sights - a single-decker bus that is specially built for tourism and looks very heritagy in appearance. We checked out the Bell Franklin Museum and Museum of Natural Sciences, which took most of our time. Both these places weren't half as interesting as the ones we had visited in NY. It was like a lesson in Science, history and geography and I wasn't much keen for that. Plus the human heart - a giant replica of the human heart at the BF museum (a star attraction) through which you walk to understand how and what the human heart looks like - was no way near to Bodies...The Exhibition. But the natural sciences museum had many dinosaur fossils that was an interesting bit. The main road in Philly - at the heart of the town - is the only decent place to be if you're right there smack in the middle of the town. It looks nice as the road is lined up flags on both sides. These flags are of those countries with whom Philly engages in trade and commerce. Our last stop of the day was the Liberty Bell.

All in all, a day's tour in Philly was a lesson in history, geography and science. I can make my peace with geography and science and I can also learn a bit of history of the places that I visit, but unless you are an American, you don't really appreciate or rather, relate, to their history. The bright spot was that I saw yet another American city and also I get to look forward for an evening with khushru and Tanaz.


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