The trip to Philadelphia wasn’t terribly bad… for a Friday afternoon… in the summer… on I-95. There is a place, about halfway through New Jersey, where the four roadway Turnpike becomes the two roadway Turnpike. At the point (or actually a few miles before it) the traffic slows to a crawl.
We made Philadelphia by mid-afternoon. The hotel was easy to find (considering Helaine had grown up here and I lived here for five years, we should know where things are) and nicely located.
We’re on the Delaware River. When I was here, this area was industrial and well into an era of hard times. It’s been reclaimed now as an entertainment area with restaurants and hotels.
Just across the way, and over an expressway, is the main body of the city. The streets in Philadelphia are numbered – so we’re ‘below’ First Street.
After we checked in, we decided to walk north, along the river, and ended up at Dave and Buster’s. D&B is a national chain of arcades on steroids… with a bar!
I found a flight simulator and attempted to takeoff and land without killing any of my passengers. No sweat. Next it was a boxing simulator. I’ve never played an arcade game that took so much out of me. There was even a readout with the number of calories you burned!
While I was playing games, Steffie and Helaine were working the ticket dispensing machines. What were they looking to get? Who knows? They were acquiring tickets as its own end.
I settled in next to them on a machine that tosses a coin onto platform. Small ‘sweepers’ push the coins forward. Hopefully, if your coin ends up in the right place, it will dislodge other coins causing them to fall in a tray, getting you tickets.
By the time we were done, Steffie had a dragon. It’s actually quite cute.
We went back to the hotel to wash up and get ready for dinner. Then, we headed to Society Hill and Old City. The latter name comes from the fact that this was the colonial center of Philadelphia. This is where Benjamin Franklin and Betsy Ross lived… though not together.
It was in Society Hill where the beginning of Philadelphia’s in-town gentrification began with the Society Hill Towers, two luxury apartment buildings. As I remember, they’re condos now.
We walked past Bookbinders and up Chestnut Street. This part of Philadelphia is an amazing mix of old and new. There are glass box office buildings and historical sites. Some streets are paved with cobblestones.
Philadelphia has a system of streets and alleyways. In some ways, that makes its downtown similar to Boston’s. Some of these alleys are just wide enough for a car – barely.
We went hunting for a restaurant to have dinner. Steffie and Helaine read the menus posted near the doors. We finally settled on an Italian place, Amici Noi, at 3rd and Market.
Good choice. The food was excellent and the portions large.
Surprisingly, all the restaurants we look at were fairly empty. Maybe Philadelphia isn’t the tourist city it should be. Certainly, on a hot Friday night, plenty of locals would be headed to the Jersey Shore.
It’s a shame, because this is such a beautiful and livable city.
After dinner I decided to head to South Street, knowing Steffie especially would like it. First, a detour. I wanted to see Independence Hall.
I remember, back when I lived here, how cool I thought it was to just drive by the Liberty Bell or Independence Hall. It’s no different now. There’s something very impressive knowing these icons of American history are right in the middle of modern life.
We walked down 4th Street past some beautiful neighborhoods of very expensive, very small homes. I can only shudder to think how these places have appreciated since I left 25 years ago this month.
How to describe South Street? Eclectic. Bohemian. Over the top. Very much like Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles.
South Street is where you find stores… like Condom Kingdom!
We walked and Steffie darted into some stores looking at clothing. We also stopped at Rita’s so Steffie and Helaine could get ‘water ice’ and I could get some custard. Perfect.
Meanwhile, South Street was packed with cars and cops and parking enforcement officers. I have never seen tow trucks move as quickly and deftly to get cars off the street! Something tells me this is a very expensive way to get unwanted valet parking.
We headed back to our hotel. We were, to understate it, tired. In fact, I went to bed a good seven hours before my normal bedtime!
Today, we head to the Vet¹ for the Phillies versus San Diego Padres. I’m psyched.
¹ – The Phillies play in Citizens Bank Park. I know that. I still want to say they play at the Vet… and it is, after all, my blog.