Part of the reason why I had never visited Philadelphia or NYC before is that I’ve always preferred to use my free time off work to go somewhere outdoorsy. Plus, big cities are always places I figured I’d “end up there eventually.” However, once I found out I would be leaving the East coast, it felt like it was time to make it a little bit more of a priority to get to some of these iconic American cities.
So, when I found a one-way flight to Philly that I was able to get for $5 due to the points on my Chase Sapphire credit card, I booked it without a second thought. From there I bought a $10 Megabus ticket to get me from Philly to NYC. I left my return plans to North Carolina open ended while I tried to figure out if I could make Boston happen as well.
My good friend Rachel is in Philly for grad school so I was able to stay with her the whole time. Since I was coming up mid-week, I was excited to have some time exploring the city by myself and being shown around by her. To be honest, I really had no interest in seeing the Liberty Bell or really visiting any museums that had to do with the American Revolution or inception of the country. Maybe I should have been more patriotic given it was the weekend before Fourth of July but that seemed to be even more of a reason to avoid those places to me. I’ve had my fill of learning about that period of history and just don’t care too much for it; In high school, my AP US history teacher spent about 75% of our year long class dedicated to the American Revolution and crammed the next 200 years of U.S. history into the last month of class – despite the fact that there only ended up being 2 questions on the exam about it (I’m not still bitter, what are you talking about?).
So instead, I wandered around for hours each day on the cobblestone streets of Philly admiring the architecture of the older houses. I also have a thing about going running on picturesque college campuses whenever they’re around, so I made time to go run on the beautiful U. Penn campus. Walking and running aimlessly for over 10 miles each day might not be everyone’s thing for touring a city but it is one of my favorite ways to get to know a place.
The other thing I really like doing in cities is checking out coffee shops! The first day I hung out at La Va for a while doing some nerdy programming projects (yes, this is what I like to do during my free time). It was a cool vibe but I actually ended up having to throw away my iced coffee because it tasted so burnt which is essentially unheard of for me. I also went to Chapterhouse which I liked a lot better and would more than likely be my work spot if I lived in Philly. I did kind of feel like I wasn’t hip or tattooed enough for the barista dude to give me a smile though. I also went to OFC which didn’t have much of atmosphere but made a decent iced latte. The last day I grabbed my coffee from Fitzwater Street Bagels. I wasn’t a fan of their iced coffee either but I guess I was mostly there for the Bagels anyways. I’m not a coffee snob at all….
When Rachel was off work the real fun began! The first night, we took a long walk with some froyo down on the greenway by Schuylkill River to the Art Museum (Aka where the famous Rocky steps are). The next evening we ended up having a slightly rambunctious night with some of her friends in Fishtown. I think she meant to take me to more than one bar but whoops…what can I say? It was a fun place!
Friday…. took me a while to get going. Rachel took the day off so once I finally got going we did a long bike ride on the greenway to Wissahickon Valley Park. Well, it felt long with an insufferable headache and on the heavy commuter bike I was borrowing. When we finally got to the park, I was surprised at how beautiful and large it seemed considering we were so close to the city. There were a lot of people with nice mountain bikes around so I’m assuming there are some cool single track trails tucked away as well! We finished off the evening with a stunning fireworks show over the Deleware River…. plus some froyo for the third day in a row (this is a major reason why I miss her).
Saturday, we woke up well rested and went on another ride. Philadelphia actually closes down MLK, a major road out of the city for recreational use. Super cool!!! I was really surprised (and loved) how active the city is. As we were biking on the road along the river, there was apparently a big sculling meet (race?) going on too. Rowing is something I’ve always wanted to give a try mainly because I feel like I need to start doing something with my arms at some point and seeing the meet helped to reinspire that desire.
Once back, we cleaned up and set out to walk more of the city. We ate ice cream number 4 (who’s counting?) at the Franklin Fountain. Really good but also expensive and extremely popular (lines out the door). From there we walked through City Hall and to Reading Terminal Market. Rachel said she wished she could have brought me there during the week because there is a lot of cool food and sweets inside. But since it was a weekend, I got a little overwhelmed by the crowds and didn’t care to spend too much time in there. So we left to eat lunch at the famous Sarcone’s deli which was AMAZING. I’m always skeptical about sandwiches being worthwhile to buy out but this one certainly was. From there we headed to a block party not too far away from Rachel’s house. It had some good music and beers going on but we were both super pooped from the heat so we didn’t stay for too long.
We decided to watch a movie that evening and head to bed early even though it was my last night in Philly. However, we made the mistake of choosing to watch Fatal Attraction because, being a psych Ph.D., Rachel was interested because a professor had told her it was a good portrayal of Borderline Personality Disorder. Possibly one of THE most STRESSFUL movies EVER! After finishing it, we looked at each other and both immediately said “I need a drink,” so out we went at 10 pm.
I’m glad I didn’t miss out on one of her favorite dive bars though. We went to Bob and Barbara’s which is famous for their “cheap beer and a shot” special of $3. What I really liked about this place though was the funk band that plays there every Saturday night. They were SO much fun! There were some pretty interesting characters there. One middle-aged guy is apparently there just shredding up the dance floor by himself every weekend. We met a pair of Sweedish guys who one of them had been on the Sweedish version of America’s Got Talent (Sweeden’s Got Talent?) as a child for dancing like Michael Jackson. He had the moves and his friend had the youtube video to back it up too! I also met a girl who was from Long Island and seemed really surprised I had heard of Long Island…which was extremely confusing for me (what planet did she think I lived on?). It was an incredibly fun evening and of course, we had to finish it off with some ice cream from 7/11 on our walk home.
I’m fairly certain this is the Sweedish boy…
I hopped on my Megabus Sunday morning really happy with the time I spent in Philly. I can’t emphasize enough how much I enjoyed the city which I wasn’t expecting. It also made me feel better about moving to Seattle in a weird way. One of my biggest concerns has been how I will like living in a big city after living in a small college town for so long. But the way I explored Philly made me feel like I could actually live there which I hope is the same way I will feel about Seattle which has the added benefit of being so close to the mountains. One and a half weeks away from the roll out date! Another note was that I managed to keep my expenses pretty low in Philadelphia which always makes me happy. It’s an extremely walkable city so I never had to take public transportation and I found all of my food to be pretty affordable (this also may have something to do with still commiserating with Rachel and the grad student mindset of frugality).
Up next, I’ll recount my adventures on a bike in NYC!