That Philadelphia Freedom
Traveler had a few unscheduled days. Ahh freedom! So where was Traveler to go? Visitors from abroad always rave about two American cities—Las Vegas, because it's, well, crazy; and Philadelphia, because it's beautiful and its got an old culture imbued with a certain slowness and softness. It’s civilized here. It's a big, small town. And it’s the birthplace of American independence. Where better to celebrate freedom than Philadelphia.
The city was born in 1682. Its founder was English Quaker William Penn. Instead of naming the place after a corporation, as is the habit these days (Staples City? CapitalOneville?), he named it "city of brotherly love." (Only he did it in a sort of Greek.)
Traveler promised himself he would not mention the Rocky steps, the museum's front staircase. Those steps, of course, achieved stardom for the role they played in 1976 film Rocky, and have become a symbol of endurance and achievement. It’s about more than climbing. When you reach the top of the stairs, you’ll see a statue of Rocky, and a splendid view of Philadelphia.
P.S.: The Rodin Museum, located a short walk (or shuttle ride) away from the Philadelphia Museum of Art, is administered by the larger institution. No, you will not find the largest collection of Picassos here; but you will find the largest public collection of Rodin sculptures. And if there were any doubt, you will see the iconic statue “The Thinker” right at the front gate. He’s a decent chap; but excuse him if he doesn’t get up.
For more about the museum, click here
Museums Galore and More
Just how much wonder can you pack into a full square city block? The answer may be found in the Franklin Institute Science Museum. Crammed with exhibits that delight and challenge the mind, this is one rollicking, challenging science education that makes you want to come back for more and more. Exhibits include Space Command, Sir Isaac's Loft: Where Art & Physics Collide, the Franklin Art Show and the Giant Heart (it throbs). For more information call 215.448.1200 or click here
Welcome to the Independence National Historical Park and Liberty Bell. This is the source. This 42-acre park is the home of liberty and the founding principles of the United States of America. It contains several must-sees. . Independence Visitor Center is the portal, in a sense, to both the national Historical Park in particular and the city of Philadelphia in general. A helpful staff, many of who are costumed in colonial period outfits, will direct you to exhibits, videos, kiosks, ticket windows and will give you information about the park and the city. It's all very jolly with lots of state-of-the-art.
Extra Treat: Imagine breaking bread with Ben Franklin. No need to think very hard about this, as a popular Independence Visitor Center fixture is "Breakfast with Ben." Every Saturday morning from 9 AM to 10:30 AM, an actor puts on the clothes, makeup and persona of old Ben and, over breakfast, holds forth on all matters of subjects drawn from "his" life and philosophy. To buy tickets or for information about Breakfast With Ben, click here.
Also in the National Park are
Independence Hall, the very site where the Declaration of Independence was signed.
Liberty Bell Center, which honors the iconic bell and its "song" of freedom.
National Constitution Center. This landmark spot offers a thrilling tour through the highlights of liberty to mark moments of our history. It is filled with interactive multimedia exhibits plus photographs, texts and all sorts of items that document the Constitution
The President's House. This permanent installation on the Liberty Bell Center doorstep honors nine African slaves who toiled at the home of the nation's first Presidents George Washington and John Adams (1790-1800)
For more information about Independence National Park, call 215.965.2305 or click here.
The National Liberty Museum is new, as museums go (It opened in January, 2000 —but it honors freedom an idea that really is as ancient as history (As described in the museum’s mission statement) Among its holdings are over 150 original paintings, bronzes, and glass sculptures. (Equating glass with freedom is an integral part of the museum’s message. Exhibits emphasize essential components of liberty and harmony321 Chestnut St. 215-9253 800 www.libertyMuseum.org
The Kimmel Center is a performing arts hive—home to the Philadelphia Orchestra, Philadanco and eight other groups (Opera Company of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Ballet, Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, American Theater Arts for Youth, Philadelphia Chamber Music Society and Peter Nero and the Philly Pops)—and a work of art unto itself, with its glass roof and curving interiors.
Free tours are available. The theater and building tour, which takes place 1 PM (Tuesday to Sunday) will lead you through the history of the Center, point out the various architectural and construction niceties, and will walk you through the Commonwealth Plaza, Perelman Theater, Verizon Hall, Merck Arts Education Center and the Dorrance H. Hamilton Garden. All in all, the tour takes one hour. On Saturdays at 10:30 AM visitors can take the free Arts and Architecture tour. This also gives an in-depth look at the building's architecture; but it also guides you along the Avenue of the Arts so that you can see how the Center has an architectural conversation with the surrounding area; and it gives you a closer look at the various works of art in the Kimmel's galleries and throughout the building. These tours are offered on a first-come first-served basis for more information call 215.790.5800 or click here kimmelcenter.org.
People first started living on Elfreth's Alley in 1702, and people still dwell there—which makes it, according to city guides, “the oldest continuously occupied residential street in the country.” The Elfreth's Alley Museum, a center for tours and exhibits is located near Second Street between Arch and Race Streets. For more information call 215.574.0560, or click here.
Open for occupancy in 1829 as a (for that era) humane prison, the aforementioned Eastern State Penitentiary is now in aforementioned ruins. Traveler considers it bad luck to walk into prisons and so did not visit. Apparently this is a popular tourist site. For more information call 215.236.3300 or click here www.easternstate.org)
The Bourse is a retail/office complex planted inside a fabulous building. It’s definitely worth a five-minute peek inside. The retail consists mostly of souvenir items and a food court— Sbarro, China Express, Salad Works, etc. — a quick predictable lunch time fuel stop. Sometimes that's just enough. The Bourse 111 S. Independence Mall East, *between Market and Chestnut streets. 215.625.0300
Reading Terminal Market is a foodie’s dream. Better yet, it’s real. In this garden of delights, you’ll find shoofly pies, apple fritters and all sorts of Pennsylvania Dutch baked goods at Beiler’s Bakery; Delilah’s at the Terminal, which evokes hearty visions of a Southern cafeteria (its mac and cheese was named “Best Macaroni & Cheese in the country by Oprah Winfrey in 2003); antipasti, imported cheeses and stuffed Italian sandwiches at Salumeria;. vegeburgers, tofu turkey, faux tuna fish and other vegetarian highlights at Basic Four Vegetarian Bar. Spice Terminal stays true to its name with its candied violets and rose petals, Komodo dragon coffee, and Russian Caravan tea. Here’s the spot to take you on a trip around the world, on the wings of taste and smell.
And for a cup of Joe, head over to the Old City Coffee stand. In addition to the head-clearing array of familiar elixirs, it offers seasonal specials. Each of these is available for one week. Spring and summer brews might include Red Sea Blend, Burrito Brew, Bollywood Blend, and French Quarter Mélange. Another reason to stop at Old City Coffee is to get a chance to talk with Keith Rodemer. In addition to his advanced mastery of the art and science of Java he is an accomplished guide and regularly runs walking tours in Philadelphia. He happily shares tidbits and advice about Philadelphia, while dispensing coffee to those who ask. If you don't see him at the market you can reach him through his website www.feeladelphiatours.com. For more information about Old City Coffee, call 215-592-1897, or click here. . For more information about the Reading Market, click here
Located in the city’s Chinatown and looking like a generic Chinese restaurant (green wallpaper, artificial vines in the window, green prints on the wall, pink tablecloths), New Harmony is a Philadelphia treasure. It is a Chinese all-vegetarian restaurant. Whether you crave orange beef, sweet and sour pork or moo shu chicken, they’re all here; except they’re made the ethical way–without beef, pork or chicken or carne of any sort.
The diced chicken with cashew nuts comes with plenty of vegetables—zucchini, broccoli, carrot, baby corn—and makes you want to eat all your vegetables. This is high praise from a vegetarian. Traveler thought there might have been a nice touch of garlic in the “chicken” but was told it was prepared sans garlic. Either way, mm-hmm! Also on the table were a tingling hot and sour soup and a nicely balanced sweet and sour pork. Check out the menu here. (At Cherry St) For more information, call 215.627.4520
Oh Doctor! I keep having this dream. I'm in a strange city. I walk down a street I've never been on before. Something makes me cross the street and turn the corner, and then I see it—an Indian restaurant, the Palace At The Ben. I want to enter but I'm afraid. My tongue has been burned before. But I can't help myself. I must go in. I enter from the street and discover an exquisitely designed oasis, The restaurant actually is ensconced in a cherished Philadelphia Building, Benjamin Franklin House (affectionately known as “the Ben”). The magnificent art deco building opened its doors as the Benjamin Franklin Hotel in 1925, and, after a renovation some time in the ‘80s, reemerged as a mixed-use (offices and 412 apartments) building. The Palace not only occupies a retail space but also runs the lounge in the Ben’s lobby. The restaurant setting is beautiful. Dominant colors are red and cream. Then they bring in the food. A creamy navratan korma, a rich vegetable biryani with basmati rice, loaded with cashews and golden sultanas; and a sublime baigan bhartha. Prepare yourself for heavenly food, thoughtful service and a lush setting. Nothing more need be said than a deeply felt shukria. To see the lunch menu, click here. (At S 9th St.) For more information, call 267.232.5600 or click here.
courtesy of the Palace at the Ben )
The Tuscany Café on 725 Walnut St. was a cheerful refuge from a brief shower. (Yes, it does rain sometimes in Philadelphia.) It has a goodly assortment of coffees and teas together with its delicious sandwiches and salads. We had the Milano sandwich (roasted red pepper, tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese, leaf lettuce and sun-dried tomato pesto) and the frog salad (baby spinach blue cheese, walnuts, diced apples, raisins and sweet red onion with honey mustard dressing.). For more information, call 215.625.3666
Starving, but unwilling to settle? If you're trolling for amusing
restaurants in Center City, gracious, historic Old Town, with its
charming streets and alleyways, serious taverns, ice cream shops,
confectioners and unexpectedly delightful, quirky little restaurants,
may be one of the most delightful and compact city walks on the Eastern
Starving, but unwilling to settle? If you're trolling for amusing restaurants in Center City, gracious, historic Old Town, with its charming streets and alleyways, serious taverns, ice cream shops, confectioners and unexpectedly delightful, quirky little restaurants, may be one of the most delightful and compact city walks on the Eastern seaboard.
Ben Franklin's house. A rock'n'roll tavern that
serves onion rings, mac'n'cheese and vegan barbeque pulled pork with
sides of vegan cole slaw (pretty good), The Chemical Heritage
Museum. A hot-stuff tapas restaurant. Penns Landing by the big
baby blue bridge to Camden on the river. Free concerts. Drummers
drumming, walking along Market Street.
Ben Franklin's house. A rock'n'roll tavern that serves onion rings, mac'n'cheese and vegan barbeque pulled pork with sides of vegan cole slaw (pretty good), The Chemical Heritage Museum. A hot-stuff tapas restaurant. Penns Landing by the big baby blue bridge to Camden on the river. Free concerts. Drummers drumming, walking along Market Street.
Fudge made the old-fashioned way. Nighttime comes and the
flickering of the lamps welcome all the ghosts who laboured to make this
beautiful old city the living time-travelling machine it has always
been. Unbearably romantic, with something a little extra: a feeling of
respect for the industry and intelligence for those who came before us,
and a peaceful feeling, Gratitude.
Fudge made the old-fashioned way. Nighttime comes and the flickering of the lamps welcome all the ghosts who laboured to make this beautiful old city the living time-travelling machine it has always been. Unbearably romantic, with something a little extra: a feeling of respect for the industry and intelligence for those who came before us, and a peaceful feeling, Gratitude.
And then we stumbled across this magical little Afghani restaurant,
And then we stumbled across this magical little Afghani restaurant, Kabul.
The waiter brings two deliciously dressed little salads. We'd only
ordered one. "On the house," the waiter says. Unusual? Anywhere else,
definitely. But this is Kabul. Afghan hospitality is legendary and
second to none.
The waiter brings two deliciously dressed little salads. We'd only ordered one. "On the house," the waiter says. Unusual? Anywhere else, definitely. But this is Kabul. Afghan hospitality is legendary and second to none.
First thing, absolutely: you must requisition a pumpkin dish. It
will light a candle in your mouth and make you smile. Pumpy arrives in a
sauce sweet, subtle and divine.
First thing, absolutely: you must requisition a pumpkin dish. It will light a candle in your mouth and make you smile. Pumpy arrives in a sauce sweet, subtle and divine.
Then of course, you'd be mad not to have an eggplant thingy – there
are many varieties – but perhaps have the one where a shy and sneaky
eggplant hides beneath a glorious, fluffy and fragrant dome of sunny
saffron rice laced with oranges, pistachios and heaven knows what else.
Then of course, you'd be mad not to have an eggplant thingy – there are many varieties – but perhaps have the one where a shy and sneaky eggplant hides beneath a glorious, fluffy and fragrant dome of sunny saffron rice laced with oranges, pistachios and heaven knows what else.
You will return tomorrow. When you're hooked on Afghani, that's how
it goes, ferengi.
You will return tomorrow. When you're hooked on Afghani, that's how it goes, ferengi.
106 Chestnut Street, bet. 2nd and Front Streets in the Old Town district
Philadelphia PA 19106 tel 215 922 3676
As New World cities go, Philadelphia is very, very old. You can see it as you walk and there‘s a lot of walking to be done. In fact, meandering along Pine Street one evening, Traveler passed a group engaged in a walking (and gawking) tour. They too were noting the wooden row houses tilting this way and that — pink and cheery and brown and white —and the cobblestoned streets and brick sidewalks of the old city and Society Hill and the Greek Revival palaces we all passed. As you stroll the peaceful evening streets, it is not hard to imagine Benjamin Franklin, himself, poking around in search of a scrapple and egg sandwich.
One particularly popular amble is along South Street. The under-25ers flock to South Street for 21 kinds of beer in one pub and Philly cheese steaks and more. South Street is sweetly tacky in a retro kind of way with tattoo parlors, hair braiding shops, lots of old-fashioned frozen custard joints, pizza stops, pink wigs in store windows and the Living Theatre (Liz Phair was on that evening that night).
If you're over 25 you'll probably prefer the part where South Street crosses 2nd to 3rd St. and the cafés get a bit more upmarket. Much of the culinary fare down here is fair to passable—if you’re in the mood for fast pizza and plastic fries. That’s like knocking the culinary aesthetics of Atlantic City . . . hardly the point. South Street is not and should not be exactly a dining destination; but it's fun if you're looking for a quick fuel stop. Apparently someone bothered to do a count and we can say with some degree of certainty that there are 300 shops along South Street most of which are locally owned clothing stores and there are 60 restaurants where you can have a bite or wet your beak and there’s a good mix of theaters and live music joints.
There are loads of good shopping venues all over the place. Here are just a few of the many interesting shops.
The Joan Shepp boutique occupies a salon with 22-foot-high ceilings near Rittenhouse Square (a urban oasis, dating back to William Penn). The founder Joan Shepp declares, “Fashion is supposed to be fun.” And her offerings include stuff from Balenciaga, Yohji Yamamoto, Rick Owens, Ann Demeulemeester, Christian Louboutin, Marni, and D&G. 1616 Walnut Street, (215) 735-2666, joanshepp.com
Also near Rittenhouse Square is Leehe Fai, a boutique that specializes in both formal frocks and everyday wear from the likes of Trina Turk, Nanette Lepore, and Rebecca Taylor. 133 S. 18th Street, (215) 564-6111, leehefai.com
The Bus Stop Boutique is an intimate (as in small) buzzy boutique on 4th Street owned by Elena Brennan. It is a tres, tres au courant emporium. Its fashions come from Lovely People, Farylrobin, F-Troupe, Corso Como, Kork Ease and Terra Plana. 750 S. 4th Street, (215) 627-2357, busstopboutique.com.
pioneered the offering of indie clothing and yarns on Old City’s
North 3rd Street. The pioneering continues with the
latest fashions from Twinkle by Wenlan, Anzevino and Florence, and
Built by Wendy. Also on sale are vintage garments and jewelry—as
well as items from co-owner Megan Murphy’s line, City of Brotherly
Love and co-owner Mary Clark’s Stellapop line. Vagabond Boutique,
37 N. 3rd Street, (267) 671-0737,
Matthew Izzo, located in Old City, offers art (including works by owner Izzo); modern furniture (including works by owner Izzo); men’s and women’s wear Nudie Jeans, Nicole Farhi, Surface to Air and Acne Jeans. Other items include costume and artisan jewelry; and his fun handmade candles. 151 N. 3rd Street, (215) 829-0606, matthewizzo.com
Also, you’ll find the antiques district along Pine Street between 9th and 12th streets. There's a great mix of European and colonial objects and furniture as well as Oriental rugs rare books and other desired products. For more information, click here.
Another way to get a logistical leg up is to use the Philadelphia City Pass booklet, which costs $54, offers handy discounts to the National Constitution Center, Philadelphia Zoo, Franklin Institute and sells planetarium, Adventure Aquarium, Philadelphia Trolley Works double-decker bus tour and either the Academy of Natural Sciences or Eastern State Penitentiary. Furthermore, you get a bunch of discount coupons for use in places like Bookbinders Restaurant, Reading Terminal Market and Riverbank Ferry. City Pass also helps you to avoid most entrance lines. For more information, click here.
Totally refreshed by Philadelphia’s respect for freedom, science and history, Traveler proceeded to ye olde Amtrak station. Separation anxiety was eased by the knowledge that Traveler would return