Of Brotherly Love: A Weekend in Philadelphia

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Thursday, November 14, 2013

I was fortunate enough to be able to spend last weekend in Philadelphia following the completion of my second half marathon in 2 weeks. I’ve been on the hunt for bigger cities to which I might have the interest of moving in the next few years. The reason? My sister has fled the Ohio valley for the lovely plains of Dallas. My parents are retiring to Florida in a few years and have already purchased their retirement property. So where does that leave me? It leaves me hating the heat of Texas and ill-equipped (being a ginger) for the beaches of Florida. I’ve been looking for cities with good public transit, temperate climates and bustling city centers. Enter Philadelphia.

Philadelphia is one of the oldest cities in the states, and boasts subway/local train system that is simple enough that even I can navigate it. With a population of just over 1.5 million people, it’s a big city without being over whelming. The City of Brotherly Love holds a never-ending flow of things to do: the trifecta of professional sports teams (76ers, Phillies, Eagles), also other professional sports teams (MLS:Union and NHL:Flyers), a steady stream of major concerts as well as more independent acts, and loads of history to learn in the many museums and galleries. Philadelphia is also easy to travel to and from: major international airport, Amtrak and Greyhound (bleh, I know). Enough knowledge! Let me tell you what I did while I was there!

See? I'm a big girl!

See? I’m a big girl!

I got in on Thursday afternoon and took the train into the city. Coming from a girl who has grown up in a city without actual public transit: I killed it. Yep, didn’t even get turned around! I must confess, not having Martha around to steer me intimidated me to death, but we kids have to grow up eventually. I arrived at the Apple Hostel on Bank St. in Old Town to be checked in by the receptionist. This guy was super cool in a beard growing, music following hipster kind of way. I actually felt that way about all of the staff that I encountered, right up to the owner. (As an aside: if you are in Philadelphia, you NEED to spend at least one night here. The place is swell and the staff know all sorts of cool places for you to go explore!)

Yep. Stole this image from the website.

Yep. Stole this image from the website.

The hostel was hosting a pub crawl that night, so we all met in the lobby at 8 for drinks and to get to know each other. Our group was filled with Brits, Aussies, Germans and a few Yanks (such as myself). We headed out to the standard pub crawl shenanigans, and danced well into the night. I camped out in the alley where the hostel is located, eating from the food services table of the movie set next door, and waited for Richard Gere to walk past. Which he did. And he waved. I was forbidden to take any photos, but I was pleased as punch, regardless.

This photo pretty much sums up the evening.

This photo pretty much sums up the evening.

I forgot to pack any kind of sleepwear, so I was reduced to walking around in my unders in a dorm room with about a million other girls. God bless them all for  tolerating my frighteningly white tush parading around like it was my house.

Friday, November 15, 2013

After a bit of a slow morning, I headed out solo to the Mütter Museum. This establishment is associated with the College of Physicians of Philadelphia and is quite the educational (if a bit shock and awe) experience if you aren’t squeamish. I’d share my photos with you, but photography was not permitted in the museum. When I was leaving the museum I got a text from Greg, whom I had met while on Contiki in the summer, saying that he had arrived at the hostel. Greg is from Boston and happened to be free for the weekend, so he ventured down for a reunion. I walked back to the hostel (a quick 20 blocks) to meet him and do a bit of exploring. I did sneak a peek at town hall and Independence Hall on the way back:

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Feeling independent?

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The biggest city hall in the country!

 I dropped off my coat in my dorm and Greg and I took off to see some stuff: Washington Square, Franklin Square, the Federal Reserve, Liberty Bell, Independence Hall 2.0, Friendship Gate at Chinatown, the statues outside the municipal building, and the Love Statue at JFK Plaza. Street falafel topped off the evening of exploring followed by wine and a movie (where we both couldn’t stay awake) at the hostel.

My favorite shot from that afternoon.

My favorite shot from that afternoon.

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Saturday, November 16, 2013

Since we both passed out pretty early during movie night, we got a pretty good start to the morning. We headed out to the museum area that is centered around the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Greg and I headed to the Please Touch Museum to start. I was thinking it would be more like an interactive science museum. In actuality, it’s a super cool children’s museum, intended for people with families. Didn’t stop us from being children!

The piano is regular sized... Greg is just exceptionally tall.

The piano is regular sized… Greg is just exceptionally tall.

I am also exceptionally tall.

I am also exceptionally tall.

Next stop, some picture time at the Rocky steps and checking out the start and finish setup for the 20th anniversary Philadelphia Marathon, set to take place the next day. I think it made Greg uncomfortable that I was walking around in an area where we most likely weren’t supposed to be, and touching all of the metals… doing the sorts of things that I do. I won’t call it YOLO, because I think that is stupid. I prefer to think that the amount of confidence you exude when doing things, even if you’re not supposed to be doing them, greatly reduces the amount of people who question your actions. Also, clipboards and glasses convince everyone that you’re important.

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WInners! (Read: participants)

WInners! (Read: participants)

We went to the Franklin Institute when we left the marathon start. The museum itself is really cool and had a lot of opportunities to interact with stuff but we were a bit limited on time. If I went back to Philadelphia anytime soon, I would definitely go back and spend more time there. I got electrocuted by everything that I touched and used my body to conduct a current and operate machines. We walked through a giant heart and lung and even did some mildly interesting physiological testing. Annnnd: there was a photo booth.  >.<

That last one is for contiki... Hashtag: No Regrets!

That last one is for contiki… Hashtag: No Regrets!

When we left the Franklin Museum, we went straight back to the hostel, since Greg had to drive all the way back to Boston to work… bummer, right? I won’t complain because it was not only great to have a friend to explore with for a day, but also to have another Contiki reunion. It was sad to see him go, but it was great while it lasted!

I decided to have a poke around the city and visit some of the neighborhoods around the hostel. Found some really lovely homes in Society Hill also the historical street Elfreth’s Alley. Elfreth’s Alley is the street in the city that has been continuously inhabited  for the most years and the brownstones there are so charming, you want to sit and eat a picnic there. I did a bit of shopping in some thrift stores and then headed back to the hostel for a slice of pizza and movie night. Hostels are always reliable for meeting the coolest people.

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The top floor of one of the homes was for lease and I came home ready to pack up and move there!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

On Sunday, my plan was to go out to the South St neighborhood to see Philadephia’s Magic Garden. PMG is a massive mosaic art work of Isaiah Zagar. The inside of the building (which is COMPLETELY mosaic-ed, floor to ceiling) serves as a sort of museum and gallery for upcoming local artists with no formal training. I loved PMG, which I can only describe as a pottery store, a glass factory, a cement truck and a book of poetry vomiting onto a vacant lot, but my favorite part of the morning was the walk to South St. The thing is, it took Isaiah 14 years to complete PMG, which means that he lived in the area for a good bit of time. The result is  random mosaics that are just littered around the entire area, waiting to pop out of some random alley and make your day. If I were to move to Philly, this is the neighborhood I would be likely to choose.

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1470314_10100645457227447_1501524891_nThe rest of my day was spent wandering around this incredible area: picking through thrift stores, checking out boutiques, getting some fresh breakfast from the farmer’s market.

If you find yourself in Philadelphia and love cool stuff, awesome people and not wasting your money, check out Scout Salvage and Vintage Rescue on N 3rd. Amazing finds for 1/3 of the price you would pay anywhere else. I rented a moving truck and cleaned them out(I also may be exaggerating. I bought one bag, but I was limited on room to bring stuff back), but I’m sure they’ve restocked by now!

Next Trip? Austin in January! Adios!

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