So back in June (seriously), I marked in my calendar that I would be spending my Labor Day weekend visiting my high school friend Chris in Philadelphia. Four days ago, feeling antsy with unemployment and free time, I thought to myself, "Why don't I go into the city early and check it out?"
I have lived two hours away from Philadelphia for most of my life, but believe it or not, I have only been there once before, to visit Brian when he was studying at UPenn, but we just hung out. For a girl who likes to travel with a brand new camera in hand, I made my BoltBus reservation ($13 per way, dude! That's cheaper than going home to NJ!) to spend the day sightseeing before meeting up with Chris in the evening.
Dan was concerned about me bringing the camera. "I won't be there to make sure you don't lose it or if anything happens." He's been very protective of me every since we went to Argentina. It's kind of cute, but then again, it's like, I am bringing my freakin camera. Why buy a camera like this if I can't bring it anywhere?
The city proved to be a fun testing ground to trying it out. But seriously I have no idea what I am doing. I spent the day taking a lot of pictures (mostly in auto focus, with no flash) just to get used it in my hands. But it was tons of fun, and I snapped nearly 140 shots in two days. Now that I am downloading them, I realize they are mega-huge files. (I am having trouble uploading to Blogger because they are so large, so please check out my edited photo log here until I figure it out).
People in Philadelphia are not used to seeing people walking around with fancy cameras. I guess the tourist flag is up when you have a giant chunk of machinery strunk around your neck, but seriously, I was taunted by all kinds of people on the streets.
"Hey, that picture's going to cost you $25," I heard a man yell at me. I snapped a photo of a record shop for Dan. "That one will cost you $100." What does that mean?
Two kids sitting on the sidewalk perked up when I walked by. "Spare change? Spare camera?" I walked by, ignoring them, as they giggled behind my back. Another man followed me alternating questions about my camera and where I am from to if I could lend him money for a bus ticket.
I have to say, I did feel like the only tourist in town. The city was pretty empty (everyone's down at the Jersey shore, I am sure) and as I took in the famous sights (Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, Ben Franklin's house and grave, South Street and the Italian Market), I felt like it was me and some random families who had nothing to do for Labor Day except educate their kids on their nation's history.
From what I could tell from one day, Philadelphia has an eclectic mix of architecture. For the most part, it was a very red city. Some streets I walked down were brick walls, brick buildings, brick sidewalks. It reminded me of Syracuse, which did not conjure up good feelings. Some buildings were beautiful and old-looking: Greek-looking, marble structures with White House pillars or old, old revolutionary-era get-ups. Then there would be horrible stuff--like huge, tan, rectangular monoliths built in the 60s and 70s--who ever thought this stuff looked good unless you were communist? And then in the middle of all that, you would find nooks of modern and gorgeous shops and spaces infused with art and creativity.
All of the restaurants in Philadelphia are "the best" of something. It seemed that every eating establishment had some kind of sign in the window that declared their superiority of something: cheesesteaks, coffee, pizza, you name it. It made me feel that the selection in Philly must be so small that eventually, some local magazine or newspaper decided at one time or another that this place was the best, and these people just take that and run with it. It all seems a little suspect, and frankly, I am unsure if I can trust any city that doesn't have a cupcake cafe. There appears to be one, and I couldn't locate it on my tourist map so I just didn't bother.
Even though I am not a huge fan, I decided that I ought to try a cheesesteak. But I got so hungry before I got to the cheesecake zones of South Street and the Italian Market, I popped into this cool looking place called Continential (that I later learned from my Lonely Planet book is a hip place to be) and ordered a turkey burger that was topped with that cheesy onioney goodness, and so after having that, I wasn't in the mood anymore. Chris and I opted for some Mexican food instead--and then happened to drive by Capogiro--this gelato place--so we stopped in form some incredible frozen delights that made up for the lack of cupcakes.
Saturday, Chris, her boyfriend George and I hung out with their cats and sat down for a good old-fashioned barbecue. They live outside the city and have the luxury of a big apartment, outdoor space, a barbecue, bikes, a garden of sunflowers and vegetables. Sometimes I wish I lived in the country.
So I didn't see the art museum with the famous Rocky steps (up close at least). The famous Isago Bakery was closed for August. I missed out on one of "the best" cheesesteaks. There's a big chunk on the map I did not see. I would like to see Chris and George again. And so I think there is many reasons to come back to Philadelphia. And when I came home and told Dan I stumbled upon five different record stores without even trying, he asked if we could go next weekend. I don't think so, but soon, my friend, soon.