The Epic Summer Road Trip - The Arts in Philadelphia: Day 2

Monday, July 6th

When we started figuring out this trip, it came together pretty organically.  We knew there was all of the history in Philadelphia.  And we knew there was "other."  We just had to figure out how the two would meld together.

Today, we visited the "other."

We are staying at the Hilton Penn's Landing.  This was a Hotwire deal that was very much worth the price (though did not cover parking - parking was $32-ish per night, which seemed reasonable considering the parking everywhere else.  Plus, there isn't really another option when you're trying to stow your car on a road trip, so suck it up).  Penn's Landing is right on the river separating Pennsylvania from New Jersey.  And it is very walkable to the Old Town, which is where the history lives.  

Because we had a Hotwire deal, we didn't have a free breakfast with our room (Boo!!).  So we did what anyone without a free breakfast would do.  We went to Starbucks.  

This Starbucks run was good for us, mostly because it started to give us a sense of the city.  Not just the streets and their cobblestone nature.  But the aspect of the city.  How far away is one thing from another??  Where were we going to go later and how does that work with where we are now??  In general, while consuming our Starbucks, we found the city to be very walkable.  The furthest place we were going was the Philadelphia Museum of Art (complete with the Rocky statue).  So we decided to start there and work our way backwards.

That plan didn't entirely work as I'd have hoped.

We kept having small detours.  Because they just happen.  I had taken a map from the hotel that showed the city and the sights.  That's just what tourists do.  You grab a map from the hotel.  Yes, I had everything on my cell phone as well, but I have very much learned that relying too much in technology will burn you in the end.  Plus, I did need some battery to be left in the phone for emergencies.

Our first detour landed us in a square to view the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.   The second detour was when I realized we were near Love Park.  Love Park is officially named JFK Park, but is commonly known by Love Park, named for the statue that was installed in 1976 for the Bicentennial.  This park did elude us for a bit ("I'm gonna find that f-ing statue").  We went through City Hall first, then found the park.  Which...I know the statue.  I don't think I really ever thought about it being in a park before.  But I was under the impression that the statue was much bigger than what it was.  It wasn't very large at all.  It was cool, but just not very large.

Obviously, this is a tourist location.  People are taking pictures all day long.  As Elias and I took a selfie, we watched as a group of women were taking their pictures around the statue.  There are people around, because of course there are.  One of the picture taking ladies asked people who were seated on the steps in the park (minding their own business) if they could move while she had her picture taken.  Because obviously she didn't want any random people in her shot.  I never would have thought to do that.  And honestly, I'd be slightly offended if someone asked me to move.  I mean, I will always wait while someone takes a picture of something.  You know, not walking in between the picture taker and the picture takee (within get one, maybe two shots.  Life is not a photo shoot).  But to have someone actually ask bystanders to get out of their shot??  Ballsy.  The people did move, which proves they are better people than me.

Notice the lady in the background.  I didn't want to tell her to move.
We didn't stay in the park for long.  We had more sights to see.  And there was always the chance that the lady would ask us to move because we were in her way.

We could see the art museum in the distance and knew there would be a long walk to get there.  But we had legs.  We could do it.  So we started on our way.  

I don't think I've mentioned the factor that we didn't entirely anticipate.  It's summer.  I mean, I know summer as a concept at this point in the year.  In reality though, Chicago has had a horrible summer.  It's been chilly and rainy and grey almost exclusively.  So to come to Philly and walk in this heat and humidity (the kind that feels like you're walking in soup)...we were mentally ill-prepared.

This was dreadful.  I mean, we were a mess almost immediately.  My face had melted away from my face.  Elias was wearing a black t-shirt (not realizing).  My legs had inflated and were a bit snug inside of my jeans (this is a normal thing with heat...just not enthusiastic about it today).  We just felt like the weather chose this exact moment to beat us up.

I bring this all up because we didn't get to the art museum.  We were walking towards the museum and couldn't stand the humidity.  So we ended up at the Barnes Foundation to get our art appreciation there.  Let's be honest, this stop was always going to happen on our trip, but it just happened earlier in the day than what we expected.

Barnes Foundation
The Barnes Foundation is the largest privately owned collection of art in the world, focusing on Post-Impressionism and early Modern paintings by the names you know.  There were a TON of paintings by Renoir, Cezanne, Seurat, Matisse, and Picasso.  The building was very modern on the outside and the lobby of the inside, but once you made your way to the paintings, it felt like you were in someone's home, looking at their private art collection.  Which, I guess is what they were going for.

After cooling down and appreciating fine art, we left the museum, talking about what we were going to do next.  The rain, which had been threatening us for a while now, picked just the right moment to make itself known.  The moment we walked out of the Barnes Foundation.  Awesome.  So, Elias and I decided to scurry across the street, again bypassing the art museum and Rocky.  This time, we made it into the Franklin Institute.

Our morning was pretty open for whatever.  Our afternoon, less so.  Going into the Franklin Institute was all about timing.  We had a food tour scheduled at 130p and we had a concert at 6p.  It was 11a when we got to the museum.  So unfortunately, we didn't have a ton of time to run around learning science.  We had one particular exhibit we were there to see.  The Art of the Brick.

Artist Nathan Sawaya creates pieces of art, both original and reproductions, out of Legos.  And it's pretty darn cool.  You wander through many rooms, looking at the pieces and wondering "How does he do that??"  I would very much recommend seeing this show (especially with kids) if it comes to town.

I'm seriously disappointed we didn't have more time at the Franklin Institute.  I do love a good science museum.  But something more important was happening.  We were off to a food tour.  But that is going to be its own story.  You'll see it soon.  I promise.

When we returned to the hotel after the food tour, we had walked nearly 8 miles.  We were sticky and tired and exhausted.  But our day was not over yet.  Nope.  We had tickets to see a concert.  And it was going to be something neither Elias nor I had seen before.  We were going to see the Foo Fighters.

Our friend Blaise picked us up at the hotel and the three of us headed across the river to Camden, NJ. There, we made our way into the Susquehanna Bank Center's amphitheater, hoping to still find some lawn seats that weren't super far away.

It was seriously a perfect night.  The rain from this afternoon was gone.  The humidity decreased.  The temperature had dropped.  Everyone was ready for a great concert.  And the Foo Fighters delivered.  Dave Grohl came out in an insane throne thing because he had broken his leg several weeks before.  He went into the story about the leg.  Let's just say the crowd felt his pain.  We even saw video of him as he went down.  What the three of us didn't know when they started performing was that the Foo Fighters put on a Springsteen-like show.  They play until they feel like they are done.  Apparently it could be two hours.  It could be more.  They played for almost three hours on Monday night.  It was awesome.

Crutches can be used for punctuation.
But playing for three hours plus getting back to the hotel takes time.  We didn't get home until almost 1a.  And this was only our first day in town!!  How in the world were we going to top that?? a story for Day 3.


  1. I've been to Philly in the summer. I feel your pain! And from now on I am stealing the "walking in soup" reference whenever I talk about humidity!


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