Instagram feed

19 November 2010

A Full Day in Philly

When traveling, it is completely natural to compare each new place you visit to places more familiar to you. This comparison of what's different in each culture is exactly where the beauty of travel lies - in learning how and why things are done a different way, you can't help also thinking how and why things are done the way there are at home. In thinking about the very things you have taken for granted, your mind is broadened and you grow as a person. And even in Philadelphia, the birthplace of the United States, I was able to learn a bit more about myself not just as an American, but as a Californian.

It was Sunday morning and my second day in Philadelphia. Alisa, Leslie, and I walked to the train station and caught the train into the city. The train was about 15 minutes late, but we were able to pass our time by playing more 20 questions, which we continued playing on the train (we couldn't guess "avocado" but a nearby passenger chimed in to get it!). Laura joined us on the train.

My transportation for the day was covered by the "Independence Pass" - a one-day ticket that provides unlimited transportation on trains, buses, and the subway in Philadelphia. For $11 it was a no-brainer (our one-way tickets on the train would be $7 each).

We began our day with Sunday dim sum in Chinatown, which is right next to the 15th street station in the center of the city. The dim sum was not the kind I was used to, with carts full of dishes being pushed around the restaurant, but instead a small restaurant selling Shanghai-style dim sum. The food was delicious, despite my burning my tongue eating a "soup dumpling." We then walked around Chinatown, which was just like any other Chinatown, but which I felt was incogruously located in the center of the "Birthplace of America." Alisa embarked on a quest of her own to find a specific type of coconut bun, which led us to peek inside several Chinese bakeries before finding the right one.

I trudged ahead toward the train station, where I had to exchange the paper ticket I bought on the train for an actual Independence Pass card. There I approached the information desk.

"Hello. I have this Indepen--"

"Just go to the desk," the man at the counter barked at me. Without even looking up, as if barely acknowledging my presence!

I scoffed at his audacity and nearly proclaimed "Well I never!" in the most pompous voice I could muster. But now was not a time for pompousness; it was a time for practicality.

While waiting in line, I couldn't help but notice three girls waiting behind me. The shrill eagerness of their voices suggested that they were about 19. I struck up some small talk and soon was able to get each of them to give me not a high-five, but a high-ten, inspired by today's date: 10-10-10. BOOM. Done.

Upon departing the train station, Leslie, Alisa, Laura, and I headed toward 12th street to meet Vy, who was hanging out at a cafe where there was a big party/parade going on.

It was actually really gay.

Gay, as in a gay pride parade and block party. The streets were packed with vendors and plenty of people, some dressed in outrageously loud costumes or activist t-shirts. We found Vy, and she was willing to walk with us. We passed by many interesting characters, a stage with a large Diana Ross drag performer, and a dunk tank. The people at this gay pride event were fascinatingly colorful (as one would expect) but also had a different vibe from the California gays in WeHo or SF's Castro.

Vy gave us a mini walking tour of central Philly, taking us past a cool chocolate cafe, stores on Walnut Avenue, City Hall, and finally to Love Park, home to that iconic Philadelphia sculpture:

After taking our pictures, we parted ways with Vy, who had studying to catch up with. The three girls and I saw the Philadelphia Art Museum looming impressively in the distance, challenging us to visit it. Instead of standing around waiting for the right bus, I played "bus roulette" and got onto the first bus that stopped. It got us close to the museum, and we walked along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, passing the Rodin museum (where, of course, we took turns posing as "the thinker").

Time for a confession. I hadn't seen any of the Rocky movies. (Neither had any of the girls with me, I think.) But nevertheless, I at least knew that as a visitor to the Philadelphia Art Museum, I would have to run up the stairs and throw my hands up triumphantly. Alisa knew this too, and did me one better: She got "Eye of the Tiger" to play on her phone's speaker as we approached the museum. We got really pumped. And we were off, at least Alisa and I, charging up the stairs at full blast. "Rising up to the challenge of our rival"... Oh my goodness it was amazing. And the fact that other people on the staircase started cheering and laughing as we passed them only added to the EPICNESS of the moment.

Not only was the run up the stairs inspiring, the view from the top was truly spectacular. In the clear October afternoon light, downtown Philadelphia glowed like a gem placed right in front of you.

Anyway, it was already 5:25, and we were to meet Christian near old town at 5:30. Checking the bus schedule, we saw that we had just missed the last bus, and would need to wait 45 minutes. Well, just as we got up and crossed the street to try to get to another bus line, the bus came. We all screamed and felt like idiots. Luckily, the other bus came to the other stop within 10 minutes, and we weren't that late after all. We met Christian and had some gourmet appetizers at Morimoto, the restaurant opened by the famous (Iron) chef Masaharu Morimoto. We came during "specialty hour" which had plates of appetizers and drinks at a discount. The chicken was succulent, the tofu perfectly spiced, the lobster skewers luxurious, and the kobe beef egg rolls simply magnificent.

We were exhausted, but far from done with our day. We topped our food off with a cocktail, and after having some time to sit around and freshen up, we headed out to meet Alvaro (who will visit me in LA) at Dave & Buster's. We took a bus to Penn's Landing, right on the shore of the Delaware River, from which I could see into New Jersey. The Dave & Busters is on a pier jutting into the river, and it's huge! Some of us played games, I chose to sit back and watch the game (the Phillies were playing in the MLB playoffs) with a beer. Alvaro soon arrived and we were introduced. We ordered some food, a burger for me, and a couple beers. Stuffed and exhausted, we felt saved when Alvaro offered to drive us home. What a great day.

No comments:

Post a Comment