Day 3: Saturday, 11/26 – Still More Philadelphia

Magic Gardens

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.


 Dan getting tickets. Our Crocker membership worked here, too, so we got in free.


 We started with this pretty cool exhibit/demonstration in this sunken theater with fun visual effects. You were not supposed to take pictures (anywhere in any of the exhibit areas actually) but you know Dan! Sneaky. It was 17 minutes long, interesting and entertaining.



 This was a special exhibit on the process of Presidential elections and the role of the national parties.
Dan was very depressed after leaving this museum. Will just leave it at that 🙂

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.

 South Street, a fun and lively neighborhood, with a very different vibe than Society Hill where we’d just come from.

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.

 I was trying hard to keep up. As usual 🙂

 This was Dan’s favorite sandwich of the whole trip. In addition to sharp Provolone again, it had tomatoes I think, other stuff I don’t remember, and we added a homemade Tabasco-like sauce.
 We learned our lesson the day before and split this one. So Glad we did.
 Because after we went to Anthony’s, a little cafe for coffee and dessert. The tour group was meeting up again at 2pm across the street from here (about where I’m standing to take the photo) and we still had about 20 minutes to relax here.



 A very nice cannoli, which we also split.


Ralph’s is officially the oldest restaurant in the country that’s been in the same family since it opened – in 1900.
 More murals of the same guy.
 One of the couples on the tour offered to take this. And the of course Dan took theirs!

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.



 This sort of took my breath away. I certainly wasn’t expecting it to go down a full level.



 All sorts of nooks and crannies.


 Another lower level.


 This was actually the bathroom!
 As we were heading back across town we came across the backside of Independence Hall (after going through Washington Square again) and couldn’t resist.
 Jewish History museum was next. We spent about and hour here I guess, maybe a little more. Photos were not allowed. Our Crocker pass worked here, too. That’s 3 for today, 4 for this trip. (And although I keep saying Crocker, it’s actually that Crocker is a member of NARM – North American Reciprocal Museum association. So if you’re a member of one, you’re a member of all. Convenient for us.)
A couple of things struck me that I hadn’t known or thought about:
1. That anti-semitism was alive and well in this country in the 20’s and 30’s. Business had “Gentiles Only” and similar signs just like they used to have “Whites Only.” I knew it was like that in Europe before WWII but didn’t know it was that widespread. I don’t get it.
2. That after WWII, there were more Jews in America than any other country in the world. Makes sense but it hadn’t occurred to me. (Because most everyone else was dead, if you missed that…)
3. That Hollywood was pretty much created by Jewish men who struggled to get jobs in “professional careers” and this was something they could do from scratch. I knew the moguls were mostly Jewish back in the day, but hadn’t known how they got there.


 One more of Independence Hall at night as we made our way back to our room.

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.

Doesn’t look like much but this was probably my favorite sandwich: high quality meat and cheese (not sharp this time!) on simple sandwich bread. Very comfort-food-like. And Dan ordered cheese fries with cheese whiz on them – oh so bad and oh so good. 

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.



It was a really long lounge!
My flight was at 8:15 and Dan’s was at 9:30, so we parted after a wonderful three days together. It was a great trip, we LOVED Philadelphia – like we could live here easily – and enjoyed just spending time together. He will come to Sac later in December just before Christmas and we’ll have another 10 days or so, spending half the time here in Sac and the other half in Los Angeles. The next big trip we’re thinking will be late June into early July, and at the moment (this changes from day to day so who knows) it’s 5 nights in Istanbul and 5 nights in Wales. We’ll see how that turns out.


0 thoughts on “Day 3: Saturday, 11/26 – Still More Philadelphia”

  1. Ok I am late to the blog…But let me say how much I LOVE your blog! I had no idea Philly had so much to offer! The mosaic rooms are phenom! you took some amazing pictures there. And the history lesson, the old hospital, the naming of streets (which is relevant across many communities, my home town is trees and numbers too)…great trip! next time skip cheese whiz will ya .

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