Tuesday, April 7, 2015

An Underrated City

     It's the fifth largest city in the United States, the sixth largest metropolitan area. It has more colleges than Boston, and more history than Washington, DC -- and for ten years it actually was the capital of the United States.

Street scene in Chestnut Hill

     I'm talking about Philadelphia . . . land of Philly cheese steaks, the hoagie, the Phillies, the Flyers, the Eagles. Okay, maybe the sports teams aren't underrated. Philadelphia hasn't been in the Superbowl or World Series anytime in modern recorded history.

This storefront "proves" there's a hip Philadelphia

     But we spent the weekend in Philadelphia and were awestruck by the historic district, with its 2080-pound Liberty Bell, as well as Independence Hall and a number of other 18th-century sites. If you cup your hands around your eyes to blot out the skyscrapers, you might think you're still in Colonial America.

Not a greenhouse; a breakfast place

     Philadelphia is also home to many college students and young people. Boston has Harvard, MIT, BU, BC, Tufts, Northeastern. But Philadelphia has the University of Pennsylvania, Temple, Drexel, Swarthmore, Haverford, Bryn Mawr, Villanova, and a whole equation of others.

A local food co-op

     Of course the city has its many urban problems both racial and economic. But we found at least one peaceful, prosperous, racially mixed middle-class community in Mt. Airy. And Philadelphia can also boast a few young, hip neighborhoods like Fishtown, Fitler Square, Manayunk.

Our hotel
     I'm no expert on Philadelphia, just a tourist. We stayed in an area on the northwest corner of the city called Chestnut Hill, which is kind of "hip" but for an older crowd. There are lots of restaurants and coffee shops and antique stores and gift shops, as well as a food co-op and a couple of bed-and-breakfasts.

It's an old city. But there's new construction as well

     We ate at the Flying Fish restaurant and met the owner, who chatted us up and told us he's been running restaurants in Chestnut Hill for 40 years, ever since he graduated from Penn. I had celery root soup -- which I'd never tasted before, and it was really good -- and an entree of crab-filled pasta. B had brisket, and judging from all the slurping and moaning going on across the table I'd say she enjoyed it quite well.

The Flying Fish restaurant

     His daughter runs another restaurant up the street that serves breakfast and lunch. We wanted to stop by for a bite but ran out of time. So we're going to have to go back to Philadelphia . . . if for no other reason than we didn't get a chance to try all the restaurants!

The reason we have to go back


Bob Lowry said...

I was born in the Drexel Hill area of Philadelphia. We lived in a row house, similar to any major eastern city, in a neighborhood full of different kinds of people, stores, and activities.

To tell you the truth, that nice mix of cultures, sights, and sounds is something I miss in sterile Phoenix.

Tabor said...

I love Philadelphia an do not get to that city often enough. It is about 2 hours from my house. I love the central market which has changed a lot over the years. The crepe stall there is the best! I have gone during the famous flower show which gets a little crazy.

Anonymous said...

I have never been to Philadelphia so these photos were a treat.

Stephen Hayes said...

I've never made it to Philadelphia but I'd like to visit one day. I've never had a reeeaaaaly good cheese steak sandwich.

Olga Hebert said...

I have been to Philadelphia twice in my life. The first time I don't remember because I was very little. My parents told me I was there. The second time I was traveling with my first husband and we were lost, which was, of course, my fault. It was not such a long stay as much as extremely unpleasant.

Anonymous said...

Hunky Husband spent the last two years of his profession in the Philadelphia area; but, we never got around to sight-seeing during my infrequent visits. I cannot recall the name of the suburb in which he had his apartment. (He retired in 1993, long enough ago for me to have forgotten!)
Cop Car

Janette said...

I'll be coming back to this post once I am in Delaware. Philly is a short hop from my new house! Thank you for the suggestions!

DJan said...

I was in Philadelphia for a meeting once a long time ago. I remember going to the roof of the hotel and gazing out at the view, but I remember very little else about the place. It was interesting to see what I missed! :-)

Anonymous said...

Phillies did win the 1980 and 2008 World Series. But yes, the Eagles often seem good at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. :)

Anonymous said...

I love Philly. Made many trips there in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. My second husband was a Temple grad, and my ex-Beau, a Jewish boy from NYC earned his PhD at Penn.

A great place with many old restored houses. When I worked for Bell, we had headquarters offices in Philly, and I made hundreds of trips there for one thing or another, mostly meetings. Verizon has its headquarters there today, I think.

My favorite place is the archeology museum at Penn. The university sponsored many archeological digs and trips to Mesopotamia, and brought back many artifacts from those expeditions. Just as well, because ISIS is destroying what's left.

David was held up at gunpoint in Philly, and worked strike duty on another occasion. He also lived in Norwich (?) for several years with his first wife. He doesn't think so highly of Philly, sadly.

Darkseas said...


Wow! Factual inaccuracy week? As another reader pointed out, the Phillies were in the World Series twice and won both. The Eagles were in the Superbowl in 1980 and 2004, but lost both times.

As for colleges, you missed St. Joseph's University. But I'm afraid that Swarthmore and Haverford would be horrified to be counted as being in Philadelphia. Both are in towns of the same name in Delaware County, PA. Same for Bryn Mawr, but in Montgomery County.

Next time you go back, if you didn't see them on this visit, you might want to visit the two big art museums, the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra, Penn's Landing, Society Hill, the U.S. Mint, and the Franklin Institute (the latter particularly if you have grandkids with you).

Tom Sightings said...

Okay, you got me. I exaggerated for effect. So maybe 2008 ... but don't tell me 1980 is in "modern recorded history," and if you don't believe me, just ask your kids. Also, Swarthmore and the others are in Philadelphia every bit as much as Harvard and MIT (which are actually in Cambridge) are in Boston. Anyway, thanks for the museum tips -- I've heard the Barnes is a great place to go -- and so now I've got a reason to go back.

Dick Klade said...

Nice mini-tour of one of the few metro areas in the U.S. I've never visited. Thanks for the trip and interesting commentary.

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

I visied the city years ago and my kids wanted to see the zoo so we did. It has a frech quarter that has a historical significance.