I have no doubt Philadelphia is an amazing place, but it's never been on my short list for Northeast travel and I'm not really sure why. That sort of changed during my first trip here a few years ago when I came to visit for Made in America. I stayed with my friends in the Old City area of Philadelphia and we weaved through waves of festival attendees in the heart of the Philly. I definitely took notice of the beauty of the city, with the depths of American history visually apparent through all of the landmarks that pepper the city's landscape. But, quite honestly, I was too inebriated and exhausted to really take it all in.
This time around, I was able to see a slightly different side of Philadelphia. Over a very brief two days, I managed to get acquainted (and fall in love) with the city!
I took the train up from Union Station in D.C. to the beautiful 30th Street Station in Philadelphia, situated right next to the Schuylkill River. Lovely Art Deco features are prominent in its decor; and I was giddy walking up to the Pennsylvania Railroad World War II Memorial, Angel of the Resurrection. I have a great deal of admiration for sculpture art, and this piece by Walker Hancock features Saint Michael the Archangel rescuing a fallen soldier from the flames of war in a touching tribute to railroad workers who did not return from World War II.
But what I found most fascinating in 30th Street Station was the Solari board listing train arrivals and departures. I have only seen a few operational ones worldwide (in the Manila, Philippines airport, France, and in the Frankfurt, Germany airport). I think almost everyone in the concourse was mesmerized by the board when it began its iconic "flapping" to announce a schedule change. It was almost as if we were taken back in time. As one of the last places in the U.S. to feature the Solari board, I'm sad to hear that the station will have it replaced soon.
My hotel was a short ride away and the premises were absolutely gorgeous!
I was legitimately starving, so headed out to dinner at Del Frisco's Double Eagle. The restaurant is located inside of a historic landmark that was once First Pennsylvania Bank, so the interior is beautiful, elegant, and glitzy. It was also very, very crowded on account of what I presumed to be a company gathering. A company that evidently only hires hot men.
I enjoyed some oysters and my typical filet medallions. Cocktail of choice- The Plum Rosé.
The group that was keeping me company left the bar after a while in favor of some nightclubbing, so I opted to have dessert back at my hotel.
Someone was thoughtful enough to take me to lunch at the very trendy Buddakan on Friday. The restaurant is the vision of Steven Starr, who obviously designed it as a labor of love. The interior is nice, sunny, and airy during the day; at night I suspect that the decor provides a perfectly hip and seductive lounge atmosphere. A beautiful, gilded Buddha is the centerpiece of the dining area; chairs are outfitted in portraits of men and women (who these people were, my date and I could not figure out). I had a bento box with the Cantonese Shrimp & Chicken Spring Roll, Vegetable Rice, and Garlic Shrimp - all good selections. I would totally recommend!
I was gifted with a few Philadelphia snacks called "Tasty Kakes" which are soooo delicious!
Friday evening, I had the luxury of crossing paths with the truly inimitable Norah Lucille, so we had dinner at a place called Bud & Marilyn's. It's a small restaurant with retro vibes; they serve up American food. Fried Chicken is their trademark dish, but I opted for meatloaf stuffed with Fontina and Shard. Mmmmmmm!
Saturday was my only entirely free day, and I did so much walking! I started near the very impressive City Hall and walked all the way down towards the Delaware River, intentionally making my way to an event going on called "Philly Free Streets". It's a local initiative to carve out time and space for car-free roaming of Philadelphia in all of it's glory.
Admittedly, I got super lost... so the sequence of places I visited isn't as fluid as it should be, which you'll notice if you're familiar with Philadelphia.
I got so lost that I was hungry again and decided to have brunch at Green Eggs Cafe. It's one of my favorite brunch places ever (I visited on my first trip years ago and loved it!), and a stop I will probably have to make anytime in Philly. I ordered Pecan Pie French Toast, bacon, and rosemary potatoes.
Still a little lost and debating on whether I should hop in an uber, but I was close to Reading Terminal Market so I stopped in there to check out what was inside. Answer: there's so, so much. I imagine if I lived in Philly, I would buy all my fresh fruits and veggies here.
A friend had recommended I visit Dinic's for a Philly Cheesesteak or roast pork... but I was still full from Green Eggs. Somehow, I managed to chow down a few bites of Italian sausage. It was good, and packed with flavor. I'm sure the Cheesesteak would've been just as delicious.
I finally oriented myself correctly and ended up at Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. I did a couple of the ranger-led tours of Independence Hall and explored the very rooms where the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were debated and adopted. Then walked down to Penn's landing and sat a moment there...
Penn's Landing is so beautiful, and being by the water was very relaxing. I couldn't help but take a few moments to reflect...
I had seen and done so much that I thought it was later than it was! But I still had a few hours to kill, so I decided I wanted to go up to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. I called a Lyft (as you can imagine, I was tired of walking at this point), and got dropped off at the Rodin Museum to check out this beauty:
I love Auguste Rodin, another sculptor, and have always found his work to be particularly interesting. The Divine Comedy of Dante is also one of my favorite works from the literary canon; naturally, I love Rodin's work on the Gates of Hell and it's most well-known figure, The Thinker.
Then, I walked through The Oval, past the Washington Monument Fountain, and up the iconic Art Museum Steps for these beautiful shots.
I was hungry, and tired again, with a train to catch... so took an uber over to Dalessandro's Steaks, which is supposedly the best place in Philly to get a cheesesteak. It was so crowded there that I knew I had found a local gem the minute I walked in. I had a chicken steak with peppers, provolone, and [marinara] sauce. I certainly didn't order it the classic Philly way, but the lady at the counter did not berate me (in spite of looking annoyed at my uncertainty). You have to be confident when ordering your cheesesteak, apparently!
All in all, I feel one of the most intriguing aspects of Philadelphia is the juxtaposition of the city's character and it's history. The people and culture are so hip and modern in a way that comforts and welcomes. The landmarks, museum, and buildings are beautifully preserved and possess a sort of austerity that demands reverence for traditional values. I only wish I had been able to take more time to explore them!