Sunday, June 18, 2006

Surprise Trip to Philly!

This weekend instead of the usual grind of spending my Sunday working at Crate & Barrel, I took the whole weekend off to accommodate a friend who was coming into town to stay with us. But then at the last minute we learned that my friend was not going to stay with us after all. That meant road trip!!!

We decided to go to Philly, because I'd never spent any time there before (we drove through Philly on I-95 a couple months ago when we went to Maryland, but that doesn't count), and plus it's really not that far away - only a couple hours drive. So we got up bright and early Saturday morning, had breakfast along the way at a diner near the Menlo Park Mall down by Woodbridge, New Jersey, and made it to Philly well before noon.

On our way into downtown Philly, we took this photo of the traffic light. It just worked out that City Hall happened to be right behind it.

Since it was so last minute, we didn't have much of a selection of bed and breakfasts to choose from. We ended up staying at The Inn Between, which is in the University City district of Philly. The inn is one half of a pretty amazing duplex built in 1903. The owner has only been operating it as an inn since January, so I think she has quite a ways to go in getting her business up to the standard of the other B&Bs we've stayed at before. It really just felt like staying over night at some old house. The furniture was a mish-mash of styles that looked fresh from local yard sales and flea markets. Cleanliness would not pass the quintessential mother-in-law test. And breakfast was ho-hum - nothing I wouldn't be able to fix for myself. The innkeeper was pleasant to talk to though, and she had a lot of good info about things to do in Philly to impart verbally; however, she didn't have many of the free brochures or maps available that many B&Bs offer for the convenience of their guests.

One of our main objectives for this trip was to catch the Phillies' game against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. So our first order of business upon arriving in Philly was go to the stadium and pick up a pair of tickets. Who knew I would fall victim to the giant black and white ghost of former Phillies pitching great Robin Roberts. I don't think he actually meant to smack me on the head, but he really oughtta watch out during his follow-through.

After securing our tickets for the Saturday night game, we headed back into the heart of Philly in our terribly hot, un-air-conditioned car. We bit the bullet and spent $7 on flat-fee parking in a garage near Chestnut Street and 7th. We were glad to have the car parked in the shade instead of on the street where it could just bake and bake and bake some more. So that we ourselves wouldn't keep baking while exploring central Philly, we ducked into a museum where Kenji met up with the venerable Ben Franklin (and some air conditioning).

I have to say that Ben's aged pretty well for a 300 year old guy, don't you think?

Next we tried to visit Independence Hall, but not unexpectedly, all tickets for entry were already sold out for the day. But that didn't stop us from wandering around and peeking into free places like the Quaker Meeting House and the Independence Hall/Liberety Bell Visitors Center, where Kenji was able to get his face on the $10 bill!

We were too cheap to go or do anything that might cost more than $20 apiece, but before we knew it we were hungry. Of course you know what that means...

...Philly Chesesteaks!

Yes, we made the trek all the way from central Philly down the Federal and 9th where the famous Pat's and Geno's cheesesteak sandwich rivalry happens all day, every day (and night).

This of course is Geno's, the flamboyant cheesesteak place. It was for that reason we decided to just take a picture of Geno's, and actualy eat at Pat's, a more simple and down-to-earth cheesesteak place, instead. Pat's doesn't use any bright colors or Hummers to attract it's customers. However their ordering process is a bit like the Sienfeld Soup Nazi. Very stressful.

After lunch, we wandered back to our car and made our way over to the Inn Between to get ourselves checked in and take a nap before going to the game. I forgot to bring my camera to the game, so sorry no pictures of Philly's version of the green monster for you.

Sunday morning we followed the advice of our hostess, and made a visit to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. On Sundays it's pay-what-you-want-to-pay day. So we paid a little bit, but not anywhere near what the normal entrance fee is. When Mochi Kids!™ takes off someday we'll go back and overpay

The museum of course is huge and even though we spent four hours there, we still didn't see everything. I can never remember the names of artists or works that I see when I go to museums, so suffice it to say there's a lot of cool stuff there. Besides, I wouldn't want to ruin it for anyone would I?

Naturally we had some photo fun outside the museum, with me trying to bring some shady releif to this statue:

And I took this picture of Kenji because he likes the color blue, and the top of the buiding behind him has blue behind all the figures, but you can't really tell from the photo:

And wherever there is a giant spider, naturally I want to be there:

After we finished with the museum, it was time for another cheesesteak. This time we drove down the south Philly to check out a place called Tony Luke's, recommended to us by my friend, Steven, who lived in Philly for a few years some time ago. I thought the bread was better than the bread at Pat's, but the meat was a whole lot more greasy. Sorry to say, but my favorite cheesesteak ever so far I got in Hilo, Hawaii of all places. I don't know why that cheesesteak tasted so darn good that time... maybe I was just super-hungry? I don't know. I would tell you what the the name of the place is but unfortunately I can't remember. I think it's in the little strip mall that is kinda-sorta near the mall in Hilo that is on the road that you take to go visit the volcanos.

Oh well, anyway I guess I'll conclude this post by saying that although the cheesesteaks didn't live up to my very elevated expectations, I though Philly was a wonderful city. It was so easy to get around and figure out how to go places that I feel like I sort of know the city already. I also enjoyed that they have a lot of buildings with crazy murals painted on the sides... two of which we managed to snap photos of here:

There was another really cool mural of some of Philly's famous musicians/singers that should be here as well. After all, it was on the wall of the building facing me while I was eating my Pat's cheesesteak. I must have been so hungry I forgot to take a picture. Oh well.

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