I don’t even remember exactly the last time I was in Philadelphia so I figured now was a good a time as any to reacquaint myself with the City of Brotherly Love. Philly has changed over the years. It’s gotten cleaner, more sophisticated, and has since enhanced its cultural mark beyond that of its historic sites.
The Real Philadelphia
My day in Philadelphia started around 9 a.m. I parked my car in the parking garage near the meeting point of the walking tour I was scheduled to attend at 11 a.m. Since I had some free time, I decided to check out the visitors’ center for Independence National Historic Park and go from there. I took some brochures, spoke with a ranger about programs available and grabbed a map. Afterwards, I decided to go the US Mint a couple of blocks north from the visitors’ center. The one in Philly is only one of the two in the country that actually makes coins but since it was a Saturday, the floor level was not in operation. The exhibits were still pretty cool though and I would highly recommend it for anyone who’s looking for something unique to see.
Just a little after I finished the tour at the US Mint, I headed towards the meeting point to meet Jenn, the bubbly tour guide from Free Tours by Foot Philadelphia who took me and a whole lot of other folks on a four and a half hour tour of the real Philadelphia, which basically meant everything about the city minus the Independence Hall area. I thought the tour was good. She started off telling us about the layout of the city and explaining why Philadelphia, unlike many colonial cities, was built with stone and brick. We stopped by Pennsylvania Hospital, whose façade looked more like a manor house, a neighborhood called Society Hill, walked along South Street, and stopped inside St. Peter’s Church where most of the Founding Fathers used to come to attend Sunday church services. Midway through the tour, we stopped at the Italian Market for lunch where I headed over to Paesano’s, a well-known sandwich shop in South Philly. As I walked along the streets of the country’s oldest open market, I was shocked to see how inexpensive fruits and vegetables were. It made me wish I was living closer.
When I got to Paesano’s, I couldn’t believe my luck since there wasn’t a queue. The place was still packed however, so I decided to get my sandwich to go. Fortunately, some tables opened just as I was about to get my sandwich, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise because it would have been rather difficult to eat the sandwich I ordered while browsing around on foot. After gobbling the first half of my sandwich, I went over to Anthony’s Italian Coffee and Chocolate to get a cannoli. Jenn said they made pretty good ones and she was spot on. Their cannoli had a light and crispy shell and a filling that was creamy but not overly sweet.
After lunch, she told us a bit of information about the Italian Market and then showed us around the artistic side of real Philadelphia. We passed by an alley filled with mosaic tiles and explored a bit of the arts district where she explained how the Mural Arts Program was born. We strolled along Philly’s own artist Walk of Fame and learned a couple of interesting stories about the Metropolitan Opera House before arriving in City Center. We stepped inside the City Hall compound and discovered why the statue of William Penn faces northeast and saw a man proposed to his girlfriend at LOVE Park. Jenn tackled a couple more stops and ended the tour at Reading Terminal Market at around 4 p.m. I was slightly winded down but pleased with the tour since I learned a number of things about real Philadelphia I otherwise wouldn’t have known.
I walked past the Arts District back to the car to rest my feet and stayed there for a good half an hour before heading out again. Since I already missed my appointment to visit Independence Hall, I decided to visit the Liberty Bell exhibit instead. After that, I headed back to South Philly to meet up with a friend who lives in the city for dinner. He suggested we go to a German restaurant called Brauhaus Schmitz. The idea of a nice cold beer was a welcomed thought especially after the day I’ve had so I agreed. We chatted and caught up with each other’s lives while we ate. I only ordered a tomato salad and a side of speckle since I wasn’t all that hungry though I did entertain the idea a roasted pork shoulder after seeing the platter at the table in front of us. Needless to say, I didn’t and after an hour, we headed towards Penn’s Landing. Parking was a bit of a hassle but I was glad to have visited. It was a bit crowded for my liking but since it was a nice night, I didn’t mind as much. It was getting late so we headed back to the car only after half an hour and bid each other farewell since I still had to drive across the river to Jersey.
It was just pass 10 p.m. when I arrived at my uncle’s house. I felt tired. I drove across five states and walked over 12 miles that day. No wonder.