Traci and I are back home from a whirlwind week in Philadelphia and Philcon
in Cherry Hill, NJ. This report covers the tourist side of our trip, in the days before Philcon. The next report will be the Philcon experience. Without further ado, some highlights!
WIZ WIT: We arrived in Philly three days before Philcon. It was our first visit to the City of Brotherly Love so we wanted tourist time. First stop: Pat's King of Steaks
to sample the local cuisine. So much hype about Philly's legendary cheesesteak sandwiches. So much said that it wasn't a genuine Philly experience unless you ordered it "wiz wit", which means with Cheez Whiz and with onions. So I did. Verdict: pretty good, but I still wasn't quite sure about Philly's love affair with Cheez Whiz. So I did the natural thing when unsure about cheesesteaks wiz wit, and after just exploding my daily cholesterol count -- I finished it and went to Jim's Steaks
(visiting bookstores along the way) and ordered another cheesesteak wiz wit. Verdict: Pat's was good. I like Jim's better. Tastier onions. Better balance between all the flavors. Current cholesterol count after two Philly cheesesteaks in one afternoon: off the charts. Epilogue: we later talked to lots of native Philadelphians about cheesesteaks and not a single native liked Cheez Whiz, or would even go near the stuff. Go figure.
Traci abstained from the whole cheesesteak thing and we decided later that evening to hit the Continental Midtown
which was fabulous. Crazy 50's moderne decor, basket chair-pods hanging from ceiling chains, huge calamari salads, lobster mac & cheese, and yummy sidecar drinks. After a long dinner, we had a nightcap up on their roof deck and it was the end of a great first day.
WORLD-CLASS: Maybe Cheez Whiz wasn't such a big hit for us, but the Philadelphia Museum of Art
sure was. I expected it to be pretty good, but it was truly one of the best museums I've seen. Good Picassos, Braques, Bocklins, Dalis....great ones by Degas, Toulouse-Latrec, Turner, Van Gogh, and Rubens. The only disappointment was Duchamp's NUDE DESCENDING A STAIRCASE was loaned to Paris and wasn't there. Definitely one of the ones I wanted to see, but overall, what a great museum. We managed to hit an exhibition of Frank Gehry's design process over at the Perelman
, and later, the Rodin Museum
, which was tremendous -- especially THE GATES OF HELL
(detail photo seen above).
LIFE IN THE SHIRE: We spent time with Joe McCabe (editor of FearNet.com
) and his photographer wife Sophia Quach
. Joe will be moving to LA next year because of his job, but he loves Philly. He said he feels like living in and around the town is like "living in the Shire." Personally, I can see why, when urban murals like the one above are part of the everyday scenery. This wasn't what Joe was talking about when he made the comment, but I've never seen a better piece of urban mural than this one (created by Meg Saligman). Just part of everyday life in Philly.
MORE URBAN MAGIC: Philly's Chestnut Park reminds me of Paley Park in NYC -- a secluded green oasis in an urban jungle. Love this gate designed by Christopher Ray, and the funky animal sculptures sprinked throughout. This wasn't a planned destination, but just surprised us out of nowhere.
STRANGE BIRD: Loved this bird, which is a detail from the same gate (seen in the upper right corner of the sculpture).
WEDNESDAY WITH WYETHS: I'm a huge admirer of the work of N.C. Wyeth, Howard Pyle, Harvey Dunn and Dean Cornwell. Really, you can't go wrong with any of the Brandywine artists, or with Andrew Wyeth. So Joe and Sophia took us out to Chadds Ford, and the Brandywine compound, where we visited the Brandywine Museum
. The museum has a little beeper that sounds off when visitors get too close to the paintings. I set the beeper off a lot when I saw paintings like the TREASURE ISLAND one above. Didn't care either. I've stared at these in books for years, so seeing the originals up-close was a huge experience. We visited N.C. Wyeth's house and studio as well, and it made me want to fly home right there and get back to work. So inspiring.
BE AFRAID: Had to show these. Joe works in the Comcast Center which dominates Philly's skyline and downtown. That's currently where Fearnet.com's corporate offices are. This is their bathroom signage.
LIBERTY & INDEPENDENCE: Our last tourist day in Philly was largely spent visiting the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall (the Hall seen in background here behind the Bell). In previous days, we'd had several meals at Reading Terminal Market
, and we did another lunch there (DiNic's and Bassett's). For the most part, I hate formal tours, but we did a brief one for Independence Hall, and it was well worth it. All and all, Philly's a tremendous town! Philcon Report in the next blog entry...