To celebrate our fourth anniversary, Jenny and I decided to spend the weekend in Philadelphia.
Now I know Philly doesn’t exactly have a reputation as a sexy destination. But Jenny got to know Center City pretty well during her project down there with Cigna, and she wanted to share it with me, and she had the points on her credit card to get us a free night at the DoubleTree, so down we went.
I have to admit that I was thoroughly charmed. Philly is a beautiful city that has preserved much of its colonial architecture and is full of ornate 19th-century confections such as City Hall, not to mention a thoroughly respectable skyline of elegant modern towers. On a beautiful spring day, Jenny and I were able to stroll through much of Center City, and I think we both most enjoyed the narrow, cobbled lanes full of colonial brick row-houses and cherry blossoms. Unlike New York’s Dutch-style homes, Philly’s have no semi-basements, which means there’s no call for the great big stoops so familiar in Brooklyn, which means the houses don’t have to be set back so far from the street. As opposed to Brooklyn’s stately quality, Philly’s old houses, largely free of ornamentation, create an atmosphere of friendly, practical intimacy. Indeed, part of the charm of the historic district is that most of even the oldest buildings are still living homes. Over in the downtown shopping district, we visited the Macy’s, which is home to the Wanamaker Organ, the world’s largest operational organ, which I can now attest puts up a hell of a racket when it’s going full-bore.
Philly has also grown into something of a foody town, and we ate exquisitely at a small Italian restaurant called Mercato. It was a Saturday night, Cinco de Mayo and the finest weather imaginable, so every decent restaurant was packed; we had to wait for a seat, but we sat on a small stoop in the lovely night and took in the passers-by. The Center City crowd seems to be well-healed yuppies, with a strong gay community and a fair number of families raising kids.
On Sunday we went to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, an elegant neoclassical palace on a hill, with excellent holdings in European art from the Middle Ages forward, in Asian art and in American work as well. Distinctive to the Philly Museum is its emphasis on architecture, with room after room of full interiors — a Chinese Buddhist temple, a Medieval cloister, a Parisian interior from the 19th century, a Dutch merchant’s bedroom — giving the art a rich context. Nor are the works themselves anything to sneeze at. Their Medieval collection is excellent, and there’s a rich selection of works by many of the European masters, particularly of the Impressionist and modern periods. And I was pleased to discover that they have devoted some meaningful attention to Korean art in recent years, managing to acquire a number of works that are actually good, including some fine Joseon furniture, pottery and painting and a bit of good contemporary art.
So we had a lovely weekend in Philly, and I now know Center City. As for the sprawling rest of the city, I haven’t the foggiest what goes on there.
I came back home with a brand new cold, unfortunately. I suppose I’ll be a bit of a disease vector when I take this thing out to Phoenix, Arizona, on Wednesday. I’ll be going for a week and a half to celebrate my sister’s graduation from ASU and do some family vacationing around Sedona and the Grand Canyon. So posts will be sparse.