We had a great time in Philadelphia. In the past our travel style consisted of structuring activity after activity and jam-packing our itinerary from the time we woke up until we were ready to drop. After our last trip we adopted the philosophy of if we see it, we see it,
if we don't, we don't and hopefully we will get to come back. We wanted to have a more laid back approach and have some sights that were musts, but allow for some things to happen organically.
There were only two absolutes on this trip. We absolutely had to eat an authentic Philly cheesesteak and we had to see the Rocky statue. That left us room to breathe and relax and just take in the city and enjoy any chance encounters or the opportunity to experience any unexpected gems that might be recommended to us. While I thank
everyone that tossed us a suggestion, please forgive us if we didn't get a chance to check it out. It has gone on our list for next time.
As we mentioned before, this was our first time stepping foot in the City of Brotherly Love (I don't count layovers at the airport.) We arrived early the morning of August 24th, on a red-eye that had left LAX the night before, so we were a bit bleary-eyed, but eager to start
checking things out. Since we couldn't check into our AirBnB until later that afternoon, after stowing our bags we headed out to wander the streets of Philadelphia (cue Bruce Springsteen song). I love walking the streets of the east coast, the architecture and layout are obviously very different from the west coast. The streets belonged to us on the early Sunday morning. The Rittenhouse Square area we stayed in was virtually deserted. I highly recommend this area because it is centrally located and offers some great markets, eateries and a quaint park to just sit and enjoy nature or people watch.
A man who happened to be out and about at that early hour, must have seen our uncertainty on where to go, what to do, so he stopped and gave us some information on breakfast spots in the area that were open. We settled on Bluestone Lane, an Aussie inspired, restaurant. It was nice to escape the cold as well since it was only in the low 50's having not reached the high of 66 that was expected. Our brekkie consisted of this wonderful green juice (coconut water, spinach, apple, banana, orange and one other ingredient that I apologize for not remembering or writing down), apple-soaked oats and
their breakfast roll (over easy egg, bacon, spinach, tomato and cheddar and some secret sauce on a brioche bun). It was all very delicious.
After breakfast, we hit the streets again and began our walk to Independence Hall. Along the way we stopped in a park to just do nothing. Our everyday life can be very fast paced and you don't always have time to stop and smell the roses as they say, so it was nice to
sit and just be. Just breathe in, take in our surroundings, sit back and not have to rush off to the next thing on our to-do list.
Once we made it to Independence Hall, there was yet more green space to enjoy while we decided whether to do the tour at Independence Hall first or see Liberty Bell. You have to remember we live in LA, which is considered a concrete jungle. It can be hard to find lush, green spaces.
We ended up seeing Liberty Bell first. While your initial response upon seeing it may be, okay it's just an old bell. There is so much history in that bell, the places it's been, the people that have seen it, touched it, looked to it as a source of hope and freedom. We were seeing a piece of history that had meant and still means so much to so many that flock from all over the world to see it.
Afterward we toured Independence Hall and stood in the room where Washington, Franklin, Hamilton and many other founding fathers sat in attendance at the Constitutional Convention. The guided group tour was informative and lasted about forty-five minutes.
To satisfy our hunger and one of the main goals of our trip we went on a search for the best authentic Philly cheesesteak. Before leaving and even during the trip many people suggested we go to Pat's, Geno's or Frank's, but as we spoke with more and more native Philadelphians the consensus became Jim's Steaks was the must eat steak. So off we went to South Street to wait in line. We watched through the window as the line cook grilled up steak and onions and expertly assembled sandwich after sandwich for drooling and salivating patrons. We took ours to go since finding seating was going to prove futile (plus, we'd just gotten the call that our AirBnB was ready).
Hopefully, we can say this and not get stoned. Please forgive us and know that food is a subjective thing. One man's culinary delight is another man's meh. We thought it was okay. Would we eat there again if we were in town? Probably once we'd sampled some other cheesesteak places, but it wasn't bad by any means. We just require a bit more seasoning to our meat so that is why we didn't fall madly in love with this cheesesteak.
During our travels we often must make time to get some work done so after a quick
nap (our late lunch put us in a food coma), we devoted the rest of the day to that. So
out came the laptops and iPads to answer emails and take care of business.
Our first day in Philly was great. We had accomplished one goal, seen some history and also logged over 11K steps according to our FitBits.
Before heading to bed, we did some research to map out a minor itinerary for the next day. Thankfully, using this great app called Tripomatic we were able to load everything up in there so it could give us the perfect route in which to see everything we wanted to see that day and we wouldn't have to keep looking up addresses.
Our second day in Philly found us sleeping in, so we got a slightly later start. Stepping outside we found the weather was a bit warmer than yesterday. First things first we had to grab breakfast. In our research the night before we'd found a cute bagel spot nearby: Chestnut Philly Bagels. We sat out in a park and ate our bagel sandwiches.
Afterward, we took an Uber to Eastern State Penitentiary. One of the oldest U.S. penitentiaries, dating back to the late 1700's. It was also known, because Al Capone had done a stint here. It was remarkable to see this aged stone monstrosity sitting in the middle of the city that had grown up around it. We paid $14 each for a self-guided tour via headset that lasted about an hour. Longer if you wanted to go off and do some more exploring of your own. And what a pleasant surprise when you start the recording to hear Steve Buscemi's voice taking you on the journey of learning about Eastern State.
Walking through the halls and cellblocks I couldn't imagine being an inmate and having to call this place home. The 8x12 cell once held only one prisoner in the windowless cell. The solitary, claustrophobic feeling you start to experience as you stand in the now dilapidated cell is suffocating. It's easy to imagine the brutality and fear this place bred as you walked around, especially when you read about gangs that cropped up such as The Four Horseman in the 1930s, when the warden thought it would be a good idea to let the inmates govern themselves. The recorded tour also consisted of accounts from former
guards and inmates that are still living (the prison didn't close its doors until sometime in the 1970s.) After the self-guided tour you can check out Al Capone's cell, which was larger than over inmates cells and was not behind the locked gate in the main cellblock area. It was long held that he received special treatment, especially when you see his
re-created cell boasting other amenities not seen in other cells.
The next stop was only an eight-minute walk away. We were about to knock goal number two off our list, that's right, the Rocky Statue. We both love the 'Rocky' films and just the character of Rocky and what he represents. We were getting giddy about seeing it and the iconic Rocky stairs aka Philadelphia Museum of Art. We were able to get some
pictures with the statue and some photos of the statue solo, which has now been moved from the top of the steps to the bottom right hand corner. We both chickened out of running up the steps and playing the music or humming it as we went, but it was fun to watch other people, namely kids, do this. We even caught a newly married couple taking
some photos at the sight. One of our Instagram photos captured the happy couple.
While we were resting here and enjoying the day we were approached by a transplant to the city who had been hoping to visit the museum. (Note to travelers, many museums in the city are closed on Monday.) He sat down and talked with us and after thirty minutes we decided to spend the day time, continuing seeing the city together since he was new to the city as well. Many people often tell me I've never met a stranger I didn't like. I never have a problem talking to new people. I'm sure that has a lot to do with growing up in a military family where we moved a lot and you had to adapt to new environments, people and places. Plus, we weren't getting any serial killer vibes from him. Desi has an even keener, sharper sense of someone's ill intent than I do and if she wasn't raising a red flag in warning then we were okay. So off we went with our newfound friend.
Philadelphia's Magic Gardens was our next destination. Isaiah Zagar is the artist responsible for the art installations that consists of tiles, bottles, bits of china and other things that make up this preserved landmark. He began this huge art project in 1994. In 2002, the landowner was going to sell the land and have it all torn down and the locals stepped up and saved it. It was like walking through a land of whimsy. What dedication and love Mr. Zagar had to have for what he was doing to spend day after day, year after year creating all of this.
that were still owned by the original families and been passed down from one generation to another. Once we finished our tasty sandwiches we continued to peruse the market and stopped to get fresh squeezed juices from a Kamal's Middle Eastern Specialties. They were very refreshing. We'd come to the market towards the end of the day and many places had begun to close up so we knew this was some place we'd have to visit again on another trip.
the showtime. We found ourselves at North Bowl Philly. Not to brag *no humble brag here* LOL, forgive me I'm a bit competitive, and I'm a decent bowler. He called himself being a gentleman, but he wasn't able to win any of the games we played. I've got the scores to prove it. Either I beat him or Desi beat him. It was an end to a good day.
Our Uber driver to the airport was an older gentleman, we always like to engage people in conversation as I've stated before and he was no exception. This man had been all over the world. He'd traveled the world on cruise ships and with bands as a musician. He is a bass guitar player. I loved that he said no riches in the world could equal the memories and experience he'd gained in traveling and seeing the world. I couldn't agree more.
And now here we sit in the airport, our Philly trip at an end, and the richer for the experience. It always nice to get out and see more of this great country we live in. If you’ve never visited before check out www.visitphilly.com.