The moment I realized I really arrived in Philadelphia was when the taxi driver zoomed (literally) to our hotel in a split second. Ok, it was more like a few minutes, but the recklessness was as East Coast as it could be. And truthfully, it got me rather psyched about exploring the city again.
It was a beautiful sunny Saturday in Philly. We strolled to the Rittenhouse Square Park nearby and it was just the perfect day to visit. Like the Washington Square Park in New York, the 7-acre space was a busy universe run by freaks, hipsters, lovers, sun bathers, retirees, kids, babies, parents, readers, smokers, tourists, painters, chess players, mumblers, nothing-better-to-doers, dogs, more dogs, and some more dogs.
Everyone was people watching while being watched. It was a photographer’s playground, as my boyfriend put it.
Alma de Cuba
It was a nice surprise that this sexy modern Cuban restaurant was right around the corner of where we were staying. Moody and luscious, Alma de Cuba could easily blind diners with oozing romance.
“What’s the special occasion?” Just visiting. Our bubbly waitress coaxed us into ordering 2 appetizers, Chorizo Sliders and Oysters Rodriguez, which she claimed to be small (but they were certainly not). I bet she knew it would be hard for vacationers to say no.
A round of complimentary mochi-like bread was served before everything else. I was half way full by the time our entrees Sugarcane Tuna and Vaca Frita Fried Cow (crispy skirt steak) arrived. Mi novio loved his steak. I gobbled down my fish and risotto.
What a satisfying way to end our first day.
It’s the R”E”ding Market, Not R”EE”ding
I wish I felt normal and not sick the day we planned to check out the Reading Market. I couldn’t bring myself to try the tempting, chunky Italian pork and Philly cheese steak sandwiches or the Cajun bread pudding and the local Bassetts Ice Cream. I had to settle for a breakfast crepe with egg and ham.
But the French snack actually turned out to be a perfect light lunch. Plus, I was too distracted to focus on eating a big meal anyway. It was more entertaining browsing all the seafood and sausage shops, bakeries, and lines of excited people. I even found a little used bookstore. This hustling, narrow-aisle world of commerce very much reminded me of the traditional markets in Asia.
And yeah, after we left, I smelled like food of all sorts for a long, long time.
The Third-Largest Art Museum in US
The sculpture of Diana, the Roman goddess of the hunt, owns one the most beautiful and endearing female bodies I’ve ever seen. Standing tall on the stairway, she is an elegant welcomer to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
We arrived just in time for a tour of the the most famous Philly painter Thomas Eakins (1844-1916). We were introduced to many of his portraits. While I’m sure they require masterful skills, I’ve never been too interested in still figures. His big showy “The Agnew Clinic” left the most impression to me. It was psychologically grotesque for me to see that a theater of doctors was present to watch a prestigious surgeon performing an operation as if it were some glorious magic show. Interestingly, the painting was also one of his most controversial because he showed a partially nude woman patient observed by men. So scandalous.
While deciding what to see next before the museum closed, we walked into a room displaying medieval armor. Although many of them were cool as heck, could those men really fight efficiently in a clumsy outfit like that?
The Parc across from the Park
It was so lovely out. We got an outdoor table on 18th street facing Rittenhouse Square Park. I desperately needed some beer, especially the tasty Belgian ones.
In came Saison Dupont, Leffe Blonde and Duval. I loved the depth, hidden sweetness and the lasting after taste of these beers. For dinner we ordered our go-to brasserie fare mussels and steak frite. We watched the sun climbed down little by little, and I thought, I could sure use a short nap.
By the time we arrived at R2L, an elegant restaurant/lounge overlooking the city, the bar was asking for the last call. It was fine. All we wanted was one drink. Sipping on our Loree’s Jones and Perfect Manhattan with Philly’s glittering streets in sight, we decided that this lounge would most certainly be one of our weekend hangout spots if we were local. Our love affairs with bars perched atop skyscrapers just never end.
We also love speakeasies. Unfortunately, just like all other ones out there, The Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co took itself way too seriously. A line of us had to wait thirty minutes while it was no where near packed when we entered the room. I suppose it’s all part of the spiel. You wait, you groan and they look cool.
Housed in a long, narrow room, the totally legal alcohol venue offers drinks ranging from easy going to rebellious and “I asked her for water she brought me gasoline.” Mon amour got himself Campari’s Death on Two Legs. I went for the light weight rum drinks Apache Step and the Hazards of Love, even though the names and their contents are oxymoronic.
City of Sunny Love
It was another gorgeous clear-skied day when we were leaving. It must be Philly’s loving way of saying goodbye (Philadelphia means brotherly love in Greek!). In fact, he showed me lots of love over the weekend: cool sites, fun food, delicious cocktails, colorful photos, relaxing pace…
And If you ask me months later what I remember the most about the city, I would probably start with, well, it was so sunny in Philadelphia.