I had wavered on spending a weekend in Philadelphia, but having not visited Philly since I was young, I figured there was enough to do to keep me occupied for three days. Of course, I planned the trip before the government shutdown closed the main attractions… c’est la vie.
I arrived on Friday night, and given the anticipated rain/snow/cold today, I decided to focus on the outdoor historical attractions yesterday and spend today indoors. I started the day yesterday at Green Eggs Cafe for breakfast. This place made it to the top of my breakfast list because a. it was a short walk from my hotel, and b. Red Velvet pancakes. Yes, you read that right. Massive, square shaped red velvet pancakes layered with mascarpone and topped with Chantilly cream. Yum! I made it through about ½ of them before calling it quits. They weren’t overly sweet, but they were rich. Fortunately, I had spent 45 minutes at the gym beforehand and planned to get around the city on foot for the day.
After breakfast, it was off to Independence Mall. Of course, Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, and other National Park attractions were closed. However, I was able to visit the National Constitution Center, Elfreth’s Alley, the Betsy Ross house, Christ Church, and Carpenter’s Hall (meeting place of the first Continental Congress). Then it was off to the Reading Terminal Market to see what all the hype is about. There were plenty of food vendors (think Quincy Market times 10), but the crowds at midday on a Saturday were certainly off-putting. I made a quick stop at Macy’s to see the massive Wanamaker pipe organ, then it was back to my hotel to rest before a dinner of Steak Frites at Parc on Rittenhouse Square.
Today, I made my way back to Green Eggs Cafe for a savory breakfast of “Philly Benedict”, though it was nowhere near as good as yesterday’s indulgence (there’s always tomorrow…). The rest of my day was spent at Eastern State Penitentiary and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Eastern State was a last-minute addition to the agenda, but it was so worth it. The prison has been left pretty much the way it was when it closed in the 1970s, which means lots of crumbling brick/cement and plenty of character to photograph. I did the 35 minute audio guide to get an overview, then took a tour of the “punishment cells” and the hospital. It was fascinating to learn about the prison that was a model for prisons around the world.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art is the third largest art museum in the country. Though I’ve never considered myself an art connoisseur, I definitely gravitate towards modern art and European design. I was thrilled to see so many artifacts and decorative arts (preserved doorways and columns, for example) that date back to medieval Europe. What surprised me was how impressed I was by the Asian art, especially the preservation of a Japanese Tea House and the Pillared Temple Hall from India.
By the time I left the museum, it had turned mighty cold, and after a brief warm up at the hotel, I enjoyed pizza and cider for dinner nearby. My only plan for tomorrow is a final stop at Green Eggs Cafe (gourmet French toast, anyone?) and some downtime before I have to head back to the airport late morning.