Day 2: Friday, 11/25 – More Philadelphia


Painting by Monet

I managed to sleep 8.5 hours last night, which I haven’t done probably since our last vacation in August. That caught me up a little from the little sleep I got on the red-eye and seemed to fend off  the cold that kept trying to catch Thursday. That and I’m sure the handfuls of chewable Airborne I’ve taken helped. Dan slept well, too, but was up by 5:30, about an hour before me.

We went down for breakfast in the hotel about 7am. I look my laptop with me and finished Thursday’s blog, uploading the photos the night before. We had nixed the idea of going to Harrisburg/Lancaster on Saturday because there’s definitely enough to do here and it would just be more relaxing to not get a car and deal with driving. So we spent some of breakfast planning what we would do Saturday.

I don’t remember what time we left the hotel now but it was early-ish. 9 maybe? It’s Black Friday, biggest shopping day of the year, and we were expecting lots of people out.

 Imagine our surprise when we went into the subway to buy transit tickets and this is what we saw. It felt like something out of a horror movie. Where the heck are all the people? It was bizarre.

Our morning plans were really loose: walk around downtown until lunch at the Reading Terminal Market. So mostly we just meandered.

 JFK Plaza and the Masonic Temple in the background. Built in 1873 or somewhere in there.
 Saints Peter and Paul Catholic cathedral, built 1846.
 Dilworth Park in front of City Hall. There were lots of Christmas vendors out, and in ice skating rink.
 And carolers!
 This was an odd little garden maze in front of City Hall.

 

 I don’t remember exactly where this was other than somewhere downtown. It took us a second to figure out it was a globe done is mosaic. I’m pointing approximately Sacramento.
 We ventured into Macy’s just to see if the light show we’d heard about was running. It wasn’t until later, but it would be about here somehow. We didn’t stick around for it. But, from a shopping perspective, it wasn’t the zoo we anticipated.
We wandered into the Reading Terminal Market about 11am. We love markets like this and wish every city would do one. This had a nice and wide range of goodies – produce, meats, seafood, bakeries, candy, and lots of different food vendors.

 

 The shots above and below were taken from the same spot, and intersection of aisles, at a 90 degree angle.

 

 This was essentially the food court. Remember, it’s only around 11!
 There were lots of Amish vendors as well.
 This is where we stopped for lunch. That’s Dan about to grab a couple of stools opening up. It was a little earlier than we would normally eat, but as soon as we walked into the Market we both got an appetite out of nowhere from the aromas all around us. Plus we had to wait probably 10 minutes for these seats to open up and that would just get worse the longer we put off eating.
 They had essentially one thing on the menu: a sandwich. Your meat choice was beef or pork. One kind of bread. For an extra charge you could add a sharp Provolone cheese (we did), peppers, or greens. That’s it. That was the whole menu. Simple food done well, people will line up. The seat that opened up happened to be right where the staff were preparing the orders. They were fun to watch and friendly. We also noticed it was a very diverse staff, something we’ve noticed in Philadelphia a lot. A lot like California from that perspective. In several places we’ve read about how Pennsylvania was founded by Quakers with a focus on religious freedom and equality, and have seen that theme play out in many ways still.
 There was a to-go line that doubled behind the folks on the stools all around the counter. This was #18 of all restaurants in Philadelphia on TripAdvisor.
 We got one each and split them. Above is the pork with broccoli rabe, below is beef with spinach. We both liked the beef better. And I decided I didn’t care for the sharp provolone. I generally like sharp cheeses – and didn’t know provolone came that way – but this had an edge to it that I didn’t care for. Dan liked it fine.

We left Reading Terminal Market around 12:15 and took a bus to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. This is the #1 thing to do on TripAdvisor’s list. This is an excellent museum and deserves the rating. Although I have a feeling some of the rating has something to do with an item I didn’t know about until I got there, that has nothing to do with art. Do the steps below look familiar to you at all? Made famous in a certain movie in 1976?

 

 These are the steps that Sylvester Stallone ran up at the end of the famous theme during the movie Rocky. There’s a statue of him to the right of the museum commemorating that. And people literally line up to take their picture with it, as seen below.

 

 It’s also apparently a thing to mimic the movie and run up the stairs, throwing your arms up in victory when you get to the top. LOTS of people were doing this. And we noticed later, that many of those folks never made it into the museum. Lots more people around the top of the steps than there were walking into the museum, or so it seemed. (We passed on the running.)
 There is a great view from the top, including City Hall dead center. That’s Benjamin Franklin Parkway that connects this to City Hall.
 Where did they all go?
 The view was even better from the top of the museum steps with the Christmas tree worked in. That’s me walking up on the bottom right. I had just taken the photo below, of Dan about to take this shot. He’s standing next to the fourth column from the left .

 

 The special exhibit was on Mexican artists from the early 20th century, with a focus on the Mexican Revolution. This was Frida Kahlo’s first self-portrait, and generally understood to be the one that launched her professionally.
This is a piece by Diego Rivera. (Diego and Frida were married from 1929-1939.)
This is Frida’s representation of the clash between tradition and modernity, which she framed based on her experience in the US and a clash between indigenous and industrial cultures. The US is to the right, Mexico to the left, with her standing between each
This is her more scathing version of American modernity, with symbols of industrialized production, waste, misery, and an oppressed populace. Note that this was from the early 30’s, so during the Depression.
We left the Mexican exhibit and went into the hall on American art. Somehow, neither one of us took many photos although we enjoyed it. There were portraits of famous people and American scenes, but also a lot of furniture and silver, which we appreciate but are never moved to photograph for some reason. Just the one photo of the flowers from this exhibit.
The Grand Stairs in between the two wings.
We passed on Asian art, and European art from 1100-1500. We know both of those well enough to know we didn’t need to see anymore. We were going to pass on European art all together, but had to walk through a section to get to the Modern section. (Which I was ready to pass on but Dan decided we needed the amusement, and there was a lot of it.) As we were walking quickly through the main hallway, something caught our eye on the right.

 

We were like “uh, this is a Monet, what is this doing here?” I don’t know why I wasn’t expecting to see this; what surprised me most of all were how many there were. LOTS of Monet’s, in fact I don’t think I’ve seen this many in one place since the d’Orsay in Paris. As well as some Cezanne, Renoir, Gauguin, and Manet.
Renoir
More Monet
And more Monet. He’s always been my favorite.
We walked into this room which was a complete reproduction of a side altar from this period, which I correctly guessed was from Antwerp. We’ve seen a bunch of this stuff over the years, but usually it’s just the altar piece as below.

 

Guess who? Richmond was all about Thomas Jefferson; Venice all about Mozart; London all about Churchill; Paris all about Napoleon. This town is crazy for Ben.
While it didn’t show well in this photo, the colored wreath over the monotone background had a 3d effect that was trippy.
Van Gogh
We have entered the Modern section and will start with a few that we liked. The above artist is Wolfgang Paalen from Austria. Combat of the Saturnian Princess II. Dan liked the morbid and depressed sense of it. This was a painting of nightmarish conflict the artist completed just before leaving Europe on the eve of World War II.
This is one of the first items we saw in this section, a piece by Kandinsky, an artist Dan likes.
Dali. Both Dan and I separately took photos of this so we must’ve liked it.

 

This is called Devil in the Church, by an artist named David Alfaro Siqueiros.
And now we enter the amusing portion of our tour. If you’ve been following us, you know we have this love/hate relationship with modern art. Above was the love. Now we get into the hate.
We walked into this room and literally both started laughing. This represents everything we hate about this particular brand of modern art, which Dan describes as “if I can do it, it doesn’t belong in a museum.” Dan’s expression is even “on no, here we go…”
See the video here in order to see the next room. When we first walked into this room we thought “oh no, not again” and thought it was the now famous (well, infamous to us anyway) room we encountered in The Hague, Netherlands, that was full of nothing but plastic wrap strung up from the ceiling. This wasn’t quite as bad, but just as pretentious. It’s what we perceive as the pretentiousness of it all that gets us. This was essentially a study of movement of the human form, all videos of the artist, loftily described as similar to the poses and counter poses that ancient Greek artists used in their sculptures. Yea, sorry, not even close.
“With objects.” So no attempt to even connect the specifics with the art. What’s the point?

 

“The Fountain.” Yea, no, I don’t think so….

 

This at least made us laugh. Hard. This door in the wall was in an empty side room all by itself. Somehow you could see the holes in it and were drawn to look to see what was on the other side. When you got to it, you were treated to the image below. Consider yourself warned.

 

As we were going through this section we were keeping score of the number of phallic symbols but eventually lost count. This one on the left took the prize though for most obvious. It’s title? “Princess X.” Hmmm.
But the funniest thing of all was this guy, drawing the object to the left of the above Princess X. Everything about him screamed “you are everything we hate about modern art.” Definitely not the dude we want to get stuck with at a party.
The Grand Stairs from the top as we headed out. We spent about 2.5 hours here.
Overall we were very impressed with this museum. And were thrilled that they honored our Crocker membership as part of their museum reciprocal, although at first it didn’t look like they would. That got us out of a $20/each ticket cost. Score! It would still have been worth it to pay it though. That ticket also got us into several other things that were part of the Philadelphia Museum of Art system. We could have gone to the Rodin on the same ticket but passed since we’ve been to that museum in Paris. Instead we went to a little house that’s been preserved from the mid 1700’s on the north side of town. It was about a 15 minute bus ride away.
The house is located in Fairmount Park, which is huge. This is a Civil War Memorial in the park.

The house is called Cedar Grove. It belonged to the same family for 5 generations. The last owner bequeathed it to the city on the condition that it be moved to a location that would keep it away from the bustle of city life, and that it would be open to the public. We didn’t get any photos inside because it was sort of dark and we just weren’t thinking of it. But it was fun to see how folks lived 250 years ago in this country, something you don’t get to see very often. We were there around 30 minutes, then took the bus back into town.

 

City Hall has a couple of hallways lined with historical photos as shown below. Above is one of the statue of William Penn that sits at the top of the clock tower.
The square in the center of City Hall was thriving at about 4:30pm. We went back to the hotel to rest up for a bit before we headed out for dinner again around 5:40. We went to Ristorante Pesto, listed as #1 in Restaurants on TripAdvisor. So high expectations and they were met. LOTS of food, reasonably priced, great service, cozy ambiance.
Bread, and carrots marinated in balsamic vinegar.
This was the appetizer we ordered, which had avocado, cucumber, onion, other stuff, and of course “crammy.” When the waiter was going over the specials, he wasn’t pausing sufficiently between each (and there were a bunch) so it was difficult to discern when one stopped and the other started. But everyone seemed to have “crammy” in it. So at the end of his monologue we finally asked “uh, what’s crammy?” “Crab Meat.” OH. Then we made him repeat a few of them.
This was a manicotti they gave us on the house. The tomato sauce was amazing.
Dan ordered the linguine with lobster and shrimp above, I had a lightly breaded veal with “crammy” in a butter and lemon sauce. It was amazing, despite Dan ribbing me about the slaughter of baby cows. Oh well. I’d do it again.

 

We were So Stuffed at the end we passed on dessert, fully planning to go for a walk and get dessert at another place in town. (This was about a 10 minute bus ride away.) But we nixed those plans when they brought us this cheesecake on the house. The owner stopped by and asked how everything was; we said it would have been great anyway but now with all the free stuff we can barely walk. She said she never wants anyone to go away hungry. No chance of that. Completely family run, this cheesecake was her mother’s recipe, baked by her husband. Photo of the dining room below, that’s Dan’s back to you left center, and our waiter on the far left.

A successful day in Philadelphia. Looking forward to one more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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