Tag Archives: Philadelphia

Vacation Recap Part 3: I will miss you, Philly

I feel like I met my match in Philadelphia, or one of my many matches. I fall in love with a lot of places, usually because of the food, culture, things to do, places to see, friendly dogs, and then the people. I like to think that I’m a people person, so when I feel accepted into a new group or community I just smile with delight and fall in love with everyone, unless you are a mean cheese steak vendor. Then we have issues.

Big Friendly Dog on South Street

We met this insanely huge dog and her owners on South Street. She was a real sweetie.

Lindsay and I spent the last day of our trip trying to forget that I’d be going back to Austin and she back to State College the next day. We tried to fill our brains with as much historical knowledge about the city and our Founding Fathers as possible in attempts to forget about the separation that would soon ensue. But we felt we needed to fill our stomachs first.

We found an adorable little bistro called FARMiCiA in Old City. It was glorious watching all the little couples eating their omelets and drinking their perfect Sunday brunch Bloody Marys. We sat by the bar and pondered over the menu for a while. It was full of wholesome, local, and organic ingredients with a variety of sweet and savory breakfast items like grilled brie and assorted cheeses as appetizers; pancakes, grilled cheese, and paninis as griddle dishes; and various omeletes, frittatas, and eggs benedict options for breakfast-like items.

I fought with myself for five minutes before I ordered the brioche French toast with peach compote. Lindsay’s dish was another piece of perfection, the vegan and salty kind: scrambled tofu and vegan chorizo sausage on top of a vegan sopapilla with refried black beans and avocado salsa. I stuck with black coffee because I don’t particularly care for Bloody Marys, but Lindsay had to try one and her only complaint was that it wasn’t spicy enough. But I don’t know how she does it. Vegetables processed into liquid and then mixed with pepper and alcohol just does not sound appealing to me.

FARMiCiA decor consisted of cute Granny Apples.

FARMiCiA decor consisted of cute Granny Smith apples.

Brioche french toast with peach compote. Mmm yea.

Brioche French toast with peach compote. Mmm yea.

After a successful brunch, we made our way to one of the biggest attractions in the city, the Liberty Bell. I can hear bells ringing as I type. Also, it was a lot smaller than anticipated and the entire experience was kind of like a joke because there were hoards of people surrounding the bell trying to have family members or whoever take a photo of them in front of the side with the crack. It seemed silly. I walked the circumference and that was about it. Then we walked by a few more historical sites like the first insurance building, but I think I was more interested in the architecture and the cute cobblestone roads.

The last item on our list was visiting South Street, which is like the hip, bohemian part of town with vintage shops and stellar murals in the alleyways. It reminded me a lot of The Haight in San Francisco, California, and flooded with tourists on the weekends.  The best cheese steak place in Philly is supposed to be on South Street, Jim’s Steaks, and I think word gets around because the line was out the door. We didn’t even stop because enough of our new local friends had already told us that the place was overrated, but maybe they are just bitter because it’s always too packed with tourists to eat there themselves. I pryed for more cheese steak recommendations, but no one seemed completely satisfied with the cheese steak vendors around town. One place had weird bread while another place didn’t use enough cheese, etc. I ended up trying a place called Tony Jr’s because it was nearby and I needed to eat, and because I am a meat eater again I wanted to take full advantage of the authentic Philly cheese steak. All in all, I was disappointed. I had a regular cheese steak with grilled onions and sharp provolone and it was too dry. Big hairy cheese steak vendor skimped on the cheese and I became sad. Most people say to get the famous Cheese Whiz, this disgusting processed cheese goo made by Kraft. Blah, don’t do it.

Waiting outside Jim's Steaks ... we decided to leave after seeing the line inside

Waiting outside Jim's Steaks ... we decided to leave after seeing the line inside

For our final evening rendezvous in Philadelphia, we drank $1 Pabst Blue Ribbon and ended up at a local club called Fast Cheap & Out of Control. We were told Sunday nights at FC&OOC used to be cool, but now not so much, with random ‘80s and new wave music and a sad go-go dancer. She was sad and there weren’t many people there, but we ended up having a lot of fun! Our new Philly friends danced with us and felt embarrassed with us, but it was a damn good time. Six hours later I was back on a plane to Austin to reunite with Kyle and my poodle.

Kyle and Poodle

Kyle and Poodle

Right before I got on the airplane I wrote a message to Philadelphia through a little Facebook update. It was something along the lines of, “Dear Philly, This was fun. Let’s do it again sometime. Love, Jen.”

FARMiCiA
15 S. 3rd Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
(215) 627-6274

Liberty Bell Center
526 Market Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106

Tony Jr’s
118 S 18th St
Philadelphia, PA 19103
(215) 568-4630

Fast Cheap & Out of Control
613 S. 4th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19147

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My Trip to Philly Part 2: Art, Chairs, and Tattoos

The thought of visiting such a historical city intrigues me, but most of the time it just bores me. The Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, the First AND Second Banks of the United States, and the building where the very first insurance company started … all this never really gave me the urge to pack up and run to Philadelphia. But then I read about all of the street art, sculptures, and museums the city has to offer.

Philly!

Philly from the top of the Rocky steps!

My traveling gal pal and I spent our first day in Philly completely absorbed by art, but we had to start it off with Dunkin’ Donuts. Some readers may think, “What’s the big deal about Dunkin’?” But we don’t have Dunkin’ Donuts in Texas. Actually, we may have a couple of franchises, but they are few and far between. So I began the first full day of our trip with ice coffee and a bag of assorted Munchkins. Yummo.

Dear Dunkin', I Love You

Dear Dunkin', I Love You

On our way to the museum ... me in front of giant sunflowers in the JFK plaza

On our way to the museum ... me in front of giant sunflowers in the JFK plaza

Museum entrance with giant columns. I am the little person in the front.

Museum entrance with giant columns. I am the little person in the front.

Our main point of interest for the day was the Philadelphia Museum of Art. You might be thinking of Rocky and his incredibly famous sprint up the museum stairs. That’s the same building that houses more than 225,000 objects in more than 200 galleries spanning more than 2,000 years. We saw everything from permanent installations of cathedrals and Japanese temples to the original “Sunflowers” by Van Gogh. We spent probably four hours strolling through the galleries and it would have been even more stellar if we had the time or brain capacity to read about every piece that made us stop for a longer look. But one of the most intriguing exhibitions was of Marcel Duchamp’s Ètant donnès, which has been described as “the strangest work of art in any museum.” It really is. The piece was permanently installed in the museum and revealed to the public in 1969.

Ètant donnès is extremely difficult to describe and the entire exhibition was a series of photographs about the making of each part of the tableau. The piece looks pretty basic and extremely eerie from the outside, consisting of a large wooden door with two peep holes for you to peer through to see a nude woman on her back, face hidden, legs spread, and holding a gas lamp in one hand. There is also a backdrop of a landscape with a moving waterfall and trees. It’s completely freaky at first, but I went back for a second or third glance just because I found the whole concept to be kind of unbelievable. We walked through the rest of the exhibit and learned about how Duchamp used an old wooden door, bricks, velvet, twigs, a female form made of leather, glass, linoleum, and an electric motor to create the piece. He also included instructions on how to assemble and disassemble the entire thing.

The outside of Etant donnes ... not going to reveal what's behind the door ...

The outside of Etant donnes ... but I can't reveal what's behind the door ... just Google it or go visit 🙂

Another one my favorite exhibits was in the annex, or the Perelman Building, which holds even more galleries for more modern collections. We saw an exhibit on Japanese fashion designer Kansai Yamamoto, who designed outrageous clothes along with David Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust” persona, and, my personal favorite, a collection of twentieth-century chairs. I almost sat out from walking through this gallery because I was unbelievably tired and this was the last stop, but I am glad that I didn’t because the design of some of these chairs was so creative and some looked really fun to sit on.

Twentieth-Century Chairs

Twentieth-Century Chairs

More Twentieth-Century Chairs

More Twentieth-Century Chairs

After completing our artistic escapades through time, we checked out and quickly left the museum gift shop ($100 staplers and $75 candy bowls made of melted plastic soldiers, no thank you) and grabbed a falafel before we hit up our favorite Philly bar called Tattooed Moms on South Street. We just sort of ended up there randomly because the posh club with Parisian-themed décor across the street was no fun. I found some fellow tattooed citizens, cheap beer, and dum dums and plastic tops to keep me full and entertained while I sat at the bar. I even ran into an old friend from Austin at Tattooed Moms. He and his boyfriend were busy playing battleship, coloring pictures, and stealing googly eyes that were left over from craft night at the bar.

We saved the historical sights for the last day of the trip. More to come on this final leg of our adventure in Part 3.

Philadelphia Museum of Art
26th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Philadelphia, PA 19130
(215) 763-8100

Tattooed Moms
530 South St
Philadelphia, PA 19147
(215) 238-9880

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My Little Vacay Part 1: It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia!

I haven’t actually seen It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, the American FX sitcom, but I can say that I will probably give it a shot after my weekend visit to the city of brotherly love.

I went to visit my lovely friend Lindsay who is a graduate student at Penn State in State College, Pennsylvania, a small college town in the middle of the nowhere. I had been telling her for almost a year that I would come up and visit her, but I was always a little apprehensive about going to the boonies for a weekend. Plus, the cost to fly there was twice the price of going somewhere else and nearby, like Philly. So she met me there and we played turistas for a long weekend.

Before I even got there, I could only think about how much everyone told me they disliked the city. They would all ask, “Why are you going to Filthy-delphia?” Well, everyone, I will have you know that Philadelphia is not that filthy and looks and feels like any big city with more than five million people: nice parts of town, check; dirty and scary pockets of town, check; homeless people, check; not homeless people, check. And yes, some parts smell like a giant toilet. However, everyone we bumped into, tourist or Philadelphian, was extremely friendly and nice. We did happen to run into a few hairy cheese steak vendors, but I think they were pretty harmless. Overall, Lindsay and I saw a lot of great art, ate a lot of delicious food, and made some new friends. Before I get into everything, know that all parts of this weekend review are mostly positive and I will definitely be making future visits to Philly.

We stayed in the Radisson Plaza Warwick Hotel, a historic yet modern downtown Philly hotel just off Rittenhouse Square, which is kind of a fancy shmancy area of town with a lot of shops, fancy bistros, and cafés. The lobby was probably the most beautiful thing about the hotel with mod furniture and huge chandeliers. The room was also nice, but I never would have paid the price on the hotel Web site. We booked our room through Travel Zoo for about a third of the price and it was well worth it due to the location. The staff was perfectly nice as well.

The Lovely Radisson Warwick

The Lovely Radisson Warwick

Radisson Warwick Water with Natural Berry Flavors

Radisson Warwick Water with Natural Berry Flavors

We spent the first evening getting settled in and familiar with our surroundings. I haven’t spent much time in the northeast, so the narrow and busy city streets always put me in a state of disbelief, especially when they do not have crosswalk signs and people jaywalk like crazy. These fools would get arrested in Germany.

We took a nice walk and spotted some of the fancy bistros that my travel book mentioned for eating around Rittenhouse Square, but we settled on a mid-range vegetarian restaurant called Mi Lah Vegetarian. We kind of splurged for our first night in the city (entrees ranged from $13 to $17), but the portions were very generous and completely vegan. It was a tough decision, but Lindsay settled on the Thai yellow curry with tomatoes, fingerling potatoes, green beans, and seitan, also known as wheat gluten. They also gave her these delicious fried bread triangles that were flaky and melted perfectly in your mouth after dipping them in the curry. I feasted on the African peanut stew with chickpeas, sweet potatoes, and carrots with brown rice. My dish was extremely orange and filling, but I quickly became tired of the sweet potato taste. There was just a lot of food and, sadly, half had to go to waste because I absolutely could not eat anymore and our hotel didn’t have a mini-fridge. Maybe that’s just a Texas thing.

The Mi Lah Vegetarian ... yum

The Mi Lah Vegetarian ... yum

Photographing our food.

Photographing our food and trying to be polite about it.

African Peanut Stew

African Peanut Stew

After napping off the food babies, we decided to check out a local bar for some cocktails. We passed the Continental Mid-Town during our walk and the giant green olive on the roof made the place look fun and intriguing. We decided to check it out and luckily we even got in because the bouncer almost denied me due to my Texas ID, but I gave him one of those “you’ve got to be kidding me” looks and he let us in. The place was packed, mostly small-to-medium-sized groups of young men and women who looked like they were attending girls’ night out or bachelor/bachelorette parties. It was also extremely cute with really modern furniture and bamboo swings on the second floor. But drinks were priced out the whazoo, especially coming from Texas – we ordered two gin and tonics for $18.50. I later found out from some punks (I mean like punk rockers, not like obnoxious punk kids) at a dive bar called Tattooed Moms that the Continental is probably the most expensive bar in town and anything around Rittenhouse Square isn’t far behind. Thus, we decided to stick with the dive bar the rest of the weekend. The punks were more fun anyway.

I’ll get more into the city sights in Part 2. I know you can’t wait.

Oh, and this is Lindsay, by the way, smiling pretty in front of a carpet wall hanging at the Continental.

My Lindsay

My Lindsay

Radisson Plaza Warwick Hotel
1701 Locust Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
(215) 735-6000

Mi Lah Vegetarian
218 S. 16th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19102
(215) 732-8888

Continental Mid-Town
1801 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
(215) 567-1800

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