Saturday, December 11, 2010

Day 104: The City of Brotherly Love

Photo of the Day: On the Wing

One of the advantages of the East Coast is how proximate cities are. Today I hopped on a bus to for a three-part weekend of catching up with old friends in Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love. I arrived at the beautiful 30th Street Station, the city's central transportation hub, where I enjoyed my first views of the sweeping urban skyline and met up with Jessi, my team leader during last year's AmeriCorps NCCC adventure in California. It was my first seeing her since our term of service ended in July, so it was wonderful to connect and catch up in-person after months of nostalgic, long-distance reminiscing.

Our first stop was one of Philadelphia's biggest attractions: Independence National Historic Park. Jessi is very much a history enthusiast, so she was an ideal companion to visit the iconic sites. The line at the Liberty Bell Center stretched out the door, so we opted instead to stick with a tour of Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were ratified and signed. Much to my dismay, the building is currently undergoing exterior renovations, which means most of the structure is covered in a tacky drop cloth, but the tour of the interior was still immensely interesting, especially led by our sarcastic guide. It was all information I'd probably heard at one point or another in my primary education, but the stories took on new life when you're actually live on-site. We ended right around lunch time but found time to first swing by the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Washington Square.

At lunch, I achieved a second goal: to sample an authentic Philly cheesesteak and if the eponymous city really does offer the best in class. My first stop was the famous Geno's Steaks, which did indeed produce something to admire. My sandwich wasn't as big and sloppy as I'd imagined, but what really made it was the fresh hoagie and thickly and neatly cut slabs of beef. Worth it? I think so.

From the ghetto of South Philly, we walked back into the city center via the artsy Broad Street, lined with funky murals and public art. Our next iconic stop destination was the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which is famous not so much for the art, but rather for its critical role in the film Rocky. I haven't seen the movie myself  (a travesty, I know), but even I know the scene in which Rocky Balboa runs up the steps to the upbeat tune of Gotta Fly Now. We did the obligatory run and poses, and also found the time to desecrate the nearby Washington Monument with mildly obscene photographs. We ended our afternoon at Starbucks, where we called up another one of last year's team members via webcam to chat like old times.

For dinner, we met up with Endri and Tony, two friends from my college days. Endri moved up north around the same time I did and, like me, doesn't really know anyone in his new town. Tony was in Philadelphia for school interviews. On a friend's recommendation, we ate at Chickie's and Pete's, a well-known seafood sports bar, where I enjoyed a decadent lobster cheesesteak. The Philly take on surf-and-turf was brilliant and deliciously mind-blowing. It was probably about a billion calories, but worth every greasy bite.

After saying farewell to Jess, the guys and I went to McGillin's Olde Ale House, which was established in 1860 and is purportedly the oldest continuously operating tavern in Philadelphia. Though the place was packed and ridiculously loud, the beer was cheap, the selection was wide, the music good, and the company was awesome. Plus, the wood-paneled walls were completely decked out in Christmas trimmings. What more could you ask for to end the night?

My first view of Philadelphia from the 30th Street Station.
Jessi in her element.
Independence Hall FAIL.
The courtroom of the Philadelphia State House, better known as Independence Hall.
Jessi is an attentive tour-taker.
Independence Hall's Assembly Room, in which both the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were drafted and signed.
The Rising Sun Armchair, the one and only original piece of furniture in the room.
A nicely curated desk with period artifacts.
The clock on Independence Hall.
A statue of John Barry, Father of the U.S. Navy, in front of Independence Hall.
Jess consults the park map for our next move.
I quietly squealed with amusement every time we passed someone in a period costume. We asked this gentleman for recommendations on good Philly cheesesteaks.
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Washington Square.
A dedication plaque for the Eternal Flame, which burns continuously in honor of soldiers who sacrificed their lives for liberty.
"Beneath this stone rests a soldier of Washington's Army who died to give you liberty."
My first authentic Philly cheesesteak from popular local establishment Geno's Steaks.
Jess chomps into her Philly cheesesteak.
An adorable scene with a dash of Philly attitude.
The Philadelphia skyline from behind the chain-link fences of South Philly.
One of many quirky murals on Broad Street.
Philadelphia City Hall.
An urban Philly streetscape along Broad Street.
A close up on Philadelphia City Hall and the adjacent Ritz-Carlton Hotel.
Philadelphia City Hall from the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
A random church with an attractive red door on Broad Street.
I shot the sniper before he could shoot me.
Chestnuts roasting on an open fire. I discovered the concept is much more appealing than the reality. For my first time eating them, they were disgusting.
A bronze casting of Rodin's The Thinker.
The Washington Monument at Eakins Oval in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Whatcha lookin' at, Jess?
This reminds me of a similar photograph taken in Wyoming, exactly one year and 11 days ago.
Public art can be so scandalous.
Me and Mr. Moose.
Jess and the eagle.
The view down Benjamin Franklin Parkway from Eakins Oval.
The Philly skyline from the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
A statue of General Anthony Wayne in front of Philadelphia Museum of Art.
The Greek-inspired facade of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Jess is scandalized by the male nudity in the North Pediment of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
The plaza in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
A tribute to Rocky's iconic run up the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
The famous Rocky pose at the top of the museum steps.
Jessi saw a bear! A tribute to another memorable photo taken earlier this year.
I couldn't stop humming Gotta Fly Now.
Fun with public art!
You can't help but love the randomness.
I'm sure I can find deep meaning to this photograph and pass it off as art.
My amazing lobster cheesesteak at Chickie's and Pete's.
A great time with old friends at McGillin's Olde Ale House.


  1. Dude!!! I could have given you a tour of this city!!! The Witherspoon Fellows and I went to do a field study here and we studied all the historical sites and places. :) And we ate at the City Tavern! If we ever get a chance, we should go check out Gettysburg, I can show you where the skirmishes happened and where Pickett's Charge was and where the 20th Maine Brigade changed the course of the Civil War. :)

  2. Oh yea. Your camera did a great job in Independence Hall. Did you see the "rising sun" in the chair where Washington sat?

  3. Haha, I'm sure a tour of Philadelphia with you would be history overkill for me. I wanted to go to City Tavern, but I was afraid it would be overpriced! I would also like to see Gettysburg some day, though I'm not as familiar with those other two battles. :P

    Thanks, Daniel! I did see the rising sun chair--it is in two of the pictures in the post....apparently someone didn't read the captions, haha. Our tour guide told us it is the only original artifact left in the entire room.