Wanderings: Public art in Philadelphia

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As I mentioned, it was pretty cold and gray while we were in Philadelphia, but one of the things that brightened our visit was all the public art.  Last week, I posted a few photos of us horsing around with the larger than life game piece art installation across from City Hall.  We also spent a chilly afternoon walking up and down South Street, enjoying the way the mid-winter sun shone and sparkled across the dozens of glass and ceramic mural installations by local artist Isaiah Zagar.  We were also pretty delighted with the monster painted trash compactors dotting the sidewalks, which I’ve since learned are called “Litter Critters” and were painted by local artists and students.

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Wanderings: Vintage charm in old Philadelphia

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Growing up in the wide-spread cities and suburbs of the south, I have a particular fascination with the dense old cities of the north.  I like the way the all the buildings are pushed up against one another, the way green spaces are purposefully carved out and preserved, the way the evidence of several centuries of living is all piled up on top of itself and crowded together on single blocks.

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We spent an afternoon meandering around the Old City district of Philadelphia, and though I enjoy the two- and three-hundred-year-old buildings, I couldn’t help but dwell on the sprinkles of 20th century architecture and advertising scattered throughout.  In any other context, these storefronts, signs, and details would seem retro and vintage but here, in old Philadelphia, they felt amazingly modern, despite their crumbling edges and peeling paint.

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Wanderings: A step back in time

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What is your favorite thing about old cities?  For me, it’s usually the houses and shops.  I love the old brickwork and wooden shutters, boot-scrapers and weird door knockers, and colorfully painted doors.

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Philly had a wealth of gorgeous old homes and buildings to swoon over.  As we walked around town, I couldn’t help but pause every few feet to admire an old building, and wonder how long it’s it been there, what did it look like on the inside, how many people have lived or worked there over the years, and what were their lives like.

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Elfreth's Alley is the oldest residential street in the country

Elfreth’s Alley is the oldest residential street in the country

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Hats trimmed free of charge!

Hats trimmed free of charge!

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Wanderings: Under the radar Chinatown

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Traveling is always better when you have friends to show you the places only the locals know.  When making dinner plans with one good friend, he offered us three choices: fancy, real deal, or home cooking.  We had fancy reservations for another night, so we opted for real deal, and were not disappointed.

Our friend took us to a small, unpretentious szechuan eatery in Chinatown—a favorite of his own family—and ordered a variety of dishes for the table, none of which I could name for you and all of which were delicious.  Afterwards, we had drinks at the speakeasy-style Hop Sing Laundromat, where the cocktails are fantastic and photos are not allowed.

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Wanderings: Reading Terminal Market

Reading Terminal Market

Reading Terminal Market

One of the highlights of our stay in Philadelphia was lunch at Reading Terminal Market.  Once the train shed for the former Reading Terminal, the market now houses dozens of lunch counters and vendors selling amazing selections of cured meats, handmade cheeses, roasted coffee, preserves, fresh pretzels, bouquets of flowers and on and on.

The Head Nut

The Head Nut

Old City Coffee

Old City Coffee

Pierogi

Pierogi

Absolutely starving, we wandered around the terminal, sampling pierogi, buying bags of coffee, and hitting the bulk bins for chocolate covered malt balls.  For lunch, we decided to split up and satisfy our divergent cravings.  The Mister indulged in a roast pork sandwich with provolone and broccoli rabe, while I queued up for fancy grilled cheese at MeltKraft.  I’ve already got plans to try to make their melted brie and caramelized onion sandwich at home.  Yum.

Meltcraft Grilled Cheese

Meltcraft Grilled Cheese

Brielle: melted brie on brioche with caramelized onions and cranberry chutney

Brielle: melted brie on brioche with caramelized onions and cranberry chutney

Jams and preserves

Jams and preserves

Fresh pretzels

Fresh pretzels

Peking duck

Peking duck

Pastry counter

Pastry counter

Wanderings: Philadelphia

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January is about the time of year that winter starts to get to me.  At first it’s exciting to cozy up in sweaters and layers, and the sparkle and cheer of the holidays is lovely.  By late January, however, the dreary gray and bitter cold make me feel cooped up and anxious.  Fortunately for me, we recently managed to convert a short last-minute work trip into a weekend getaway in Philadelphia, and, though it was cold and gray there, too, it was a very welcome change of scenery.

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We’ve visited most of the major tourist sites in years past, so it was nice to be able to slow down and enjoy leisurely meals, wander around neighborhoods, and meet up for drinks with friends.  We even spent a few exciting hours wandering around the Mütter Museum, which is completely fascinating if you have the stomach for that sort of thing.

Over the next few days, I’ll be sharing a few favorites from our wanderings around Philly.  Here are a my favorite photos from Center City.

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It was a train that took me away

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What is it about train travel that is so romantic?  Something about the architecture of the grand old stations or maybe the shiny metal cars or sneaking away to stretch your legs and refresh your drink in the lounge car.  Whatever the reason, there always seems to be a little extra glamor to taking a train.

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My office recently sent me to Philadelphia for a few meetings, and here on the east coast that often means train travel.  It was lovely to spend a few hours lingering in beautiful Union Station, and later 30th Street Station, admiring the cavernous terminals and watching people come and go.  I’m already eager to take another train somewhere new.

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