I am writing this Sunday evening from home in Sacramento. We had a great day in Philadelphia yesterday and just decided to enjoy the evening and relax a little. The blog is “a thing” every night – minimum two hours – and I just didn’t feel like it last night. So there 🙂
This was the day we put together ad hoc; the original plan was to go to Harrisburg then Lancaster. We are Really Glad we did this instead. We loved everything about Philadelphia and were happy to get more of it, plus it just made it more relaxing not having to deal with getting a car, etc.
We had breakfast in the hotel of course and headed out about 9:15. Our first stop was the US Constitution Center, a modern building across the mall (park) from Independence Hall.
We came across Washington Square for the first time on this trip, and then encountered it like 2 or 3 other times as we went through our day. If you see the emblem in the top right of the plaque below, it indicates which of the 5 primary squares this is relative to the rest of Center City (what they call downtown). In William Penn’s original city design for Philadelphia, much if it still in tact, it’s a grid where the north/south streets are numbered, and the east/west streets are named for trees. There were 5 squares designated as public spaces: City Hall in the center square, and then what has become Logan Circle, Franklin Square, Washington Square, and Rittenhouse Square (which we were at Friday night but I forgot to mention. It was raining; it was quick!). The emblem is not facing north for some reason; since most maps have north orientations, Washington Square is actually in the southeast corner; here’s it looks like southwest.
Meet Jenn, a tour guide we signed up with via “Free Tours by Foot.” It’s a “name your own price” service; no cost to participate per se, but they ask you pay what you can at the end. (We paid $40 and it was well worth it). This tour was 4.5 hours; we ducked out on the last hour of it for reasons I’ll get to later. There are similar options available in other cities so we will definitely look for it again. Jenn was energetic, knowledgeable, a great story teller, and kept us moving at a nice pace. Also did a decent job of trying to keep us out of the wind where she could; it was a tab bit cold.
She gave us lots of very detailed explanations of things at every stop. In fact, our first stop was Washington Square – we had Just been there! – and much of what I wrote above I actually got from her. This stop was a discussion about an architectural design called Federalist, the first “American” architecture, designed to drift away from Georgian (after King Georgian) and incorporate lifestyles that had shifted as less people were building homes with shops on the first level.
This is a 250+ year old church with lots of history, including regular visits from George and Martha. Washington that is. We couldn’t get in but it may be the only church left where the communion area is on one side and the pulpit on the other, to emphasize preaching over the sacrament. The photos on the plaque outside will have to do.
A cemetery at the church above, and a carriage ride going by us while we were standing there below.
Pennsylvania Hospital, the first one in the US, established 1751 by, guess who? Ben Franklin and a Dr. Thomas Bond. Still in operation. Across the street were nice homes, more in the Federalist style. One of them was for sale: 3000 square feet for $1mil. That’s cheap by California standards.
A little residential square we stopped at so she could explain Philadelphia’s art program. This shows the whole group, about 15 folks I guess, from literally all over the world: US, Spain, Germany, Uruguay, Australia from what I recall.
Starting in 1959, construction projects had to include 1% of the total amount reserved for art in the area of the construction, and it usually took the form of sculpture of some kind. This explained why we’d seen so much of it, something we noticed right away.
There are also murals all over the city – something like 4000 of them – and on this walk we came across a particular artist who did them in mosaic in seemingly random places just to brighten things up. More about him a bit later, too.
We made our way to the Italian Market – or 9th Street – which is 1.5 miles of shops and restaurants. We stopped here for lunch, and Jenn made more than a handful of recommendation of places to go to cater to a wide variety of tastes and budgets. As soon as she said “Paesano’s – and it gets crowded so if you’re going to go you should go soon” we took off. Dan had been studying “best of Philly” sandwich lists and this was on most of them. But we had to bob and weave through the locals on the way.
Same artist, only now – WOW – this was something else all together. The artist that did the other mosaics we passed – Isaiah Zagar – turned the vacant lot next to his art studio into this over the course of several years. When the owner learned of it he was going to dismantle and sell it – until the neighborhood stopped in and bought it. It now operates as a nonprofit called Magic Gardens. Like nothing we’ve ever seen. The tour stopped at the wall above to sort of peek inside, but you really needed to go in to get the full effect. Dan checked with the guy handling the line outside, and our Crocker pass would get us in here, too. When he learned it was just the two of us, he said we could go right in. That was when we left the tour. She had only about 45 minutes left and it included City Hall and Reading Terminal which we’d already done.
The photos above is just the room off the ticket area where Dan is standing two photos above. The photo below is the first full area of the garden.
We only stayed at the hotel about 45 minutes before heading out again for our last sandwich. This time it was Steve’s Prince of Steaks, just about a 10 minute walk from the hotel. It was on one of Dan’s lists and Jenn the tour guide said she hadn’t been yet but several of her friends liked it a lot.
We went back to our room and just relaxed the rest of the evening. We decided to watch Rocky because it kept coming up on this trip, Dan hadn’t seen it in awhile and I’d actually never seen it. It was just OK 🙂 But at least now I can say I’ve seen it.
Sunday morning, on our way out, I remembered to take photos of the room. Dan’s status got us a suite which was nice, but it was hard to get to – you had to take the lobby elevators up to 5, then get off, walk through to another building, then a different set up elevators up to 8.
We left about 6:15 and took Uber to the airport. We went to the lounge and had a bite to eat, just yogurt and a bagel.