We love being in a new city, wherever in the world it happens to be. If we’ve only got a couple of days, then it helps if we speak the language so we had at least one thing on our side.
Thankfully, my Hero has a great sense of direction, because without him here, I’d be lost. For some reason my mental compass has gone completely awry here in Philadelphia and though I know that the tree streets go East-West and the numbered ones North-South, that grid just won’t fix in my brain. Perhaps one reason is that I’m too busy looking up and around me, at these wonderful architectural landscapes which come into view when we turn a corner.
That’s City Hall, with William Penn high up there overlooking the goings on, and though we’d have loved to have stepped inside and taken a look around, sadly it’s closed on weekends. Maybe Monday or Tuesday?
We’d set off early this morning. We were both awake and ready to go well before 7.30am, so off we went in the direction of the Reading Terminal Market where we hoped to find some breakfast. But along the way, we enjoyed stopping to notice small details we might well have overlooked had the streets been busier.
The last time I recall standing in the middle of a street to take a photo was in Paris, on the Champs Elysees on Bastille Day! I was quick with this one, because somehow when there’s less traffic, the vehicles seize the opportunity to go for it – and I didn’t want to be “it”.
Anyway, we were soon here and beating the door down to the “Down Home Diner”, where the menu had one or two interesting items to be explained.
The Corned Beef Hash fan was happy, though it was a new way of describing the eggs for sure. I thought I’d choose the healthy option and go for a “7 grain flapjack with blueberries”.
We enjoyed looking round the market, taking a close look at the goods on sale and the people selling them and as always, wishing we had such an interesting selection of foodstuffs on sale at home. (We probably have, but the grass is always greener, isn’t it!?)
Time to move on, though – because it was gone 8.30am and we couldn’t waste the day hanging around!
Turning off the main thoroughfares was interesting, because as in many cities, the smart buildings soon became small shabby ones where people were having to work that bit harder to make a living.
A glimpse down a side street revealed all kinds of grand facades, however, and throughout the day, we enjoyed seeing these fine old buildings put to use in modern shops and offices.
There was the occasional little gem too, sitting there amongst the large stone blocks, looking comfortable and grounded there in the same spot as it’s been standing for a hundred and fifty years.
Then, just as if we needed reminding that we were going around in circles, there was old William Penn again, a welcome landmark for me, still having trouble getting my bearings.
Actually we didn’t need to wait until 9am to step inside the Wanamaker Building, because it’s now Macy’s department store and today, they were opening their doors from 8am until 10pm. Oh my word… Some people have serious shopping to do. Thankfully, we could simply look on and watch the crowds gather for the traditional Christmas light show. We had no idea of what to expect, so stood with everyone else and awaited the hour. You can watch it yourself here. Suffice to say that like many charming traditions of the season, it was pretty much wasted on the majority of the children who had been brought by their parents and grandparents to see it, for it was simple and rather gentle; the music was fairly soft and the story quietly told and the children around us spent most of the time crying and wriggling around, looking anywhere but the light show regardless of their parents’ encouragement! Here, there were clearly great expectations of both children and their parents – there was the Christmas Village to view, Santa to visit, the lights to watch…and l-o-n-g queues for each. Discussions of what is fair and what is not fair were overheard, together with stamped feet and impatient wails.
It wasn’t even 10.15am!
We enjoyed mooching around the city, appreciating the little panels with historical interest fixed on bus stops, like this one (sorry about the reflection!) We called in one or two shops and left a few dollars behind, before deciding that it was time for a break.
Au Pain Quotidien offered the perfect seasonal refreshment – spiced apple cider. Though quite how my Hero could drink that sweet little face is beyond me!
Exploring the Farmers’ Market in the sunshine of the square was fun, though we were starting to flag a little and our feet were making themselves noticed, for sure.
The perfect antidote to aching feet was on the corner, however, in one of those grand old buildings I mentioned earlier. The Anthropologie visual merchandisers had been working their usual magic and created a very exciting space here.
There was a shelf full of “snow globes” – perhaps they got the idea from The One Show, do you think?
Their small vignettes were perfectly placed and cleverly staged
and as usual, there was skilful use of very simple materials too.
Jordi, look at their windows! (I’m thinking they might have my studio bugged?!)
Though sore feet are soon forgotten amongst such pretty things, when a certain place comes into view, little hunger pangs begin and simply have to be satisfied.
By now, we were really on our knees. It was mid afternoon, the sun was going down and the air was getting chilly. Much as we hate calling it a day when there are places still to see and light left to see them by, we had been walking almost non stop since 7.30am this morning. We felt we’d earned an hour’s rest.
We returned to the hotel and relaxed for an hour before gathering ourselves together again and heading out to the Kimmel Center, because we’d got tickets to hear the Philadelphia Orchestra play this evening. It’s a marvellous venue, remarkably similar to our Symphony Hall in style and we had great seats from which we could see nearly everything.
We’d actually heard Lars Vogt before, in Antwerp, and on that occasion we were none too impressed. What a difference a few years make, because tonight he was on top form, playing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No 1 superbly. I giggled to myself as he waited for the coughs to stop before beginning the quiet second movement – it took some time and if felt rather like one of those embarrassing classroom situations where the teacher is waiting for something – someone – and there’s a slightly awkward shuffle in the room in spite of everyone doing their best to be quiet. Well, it was worth waiting for – eventually people did stop clearing their throats and he began what was for me, the most sublime of the movements, finishing the third and final movement to rapturous and well deserved applause.
After the interval, we heard five pieces of Wagner which left both of us utterly stunned. Neither of us had heard these pieces played live by such a huge orchestra and the conductor, Donald Runnicles was truly magnificent. We walked back to the hotel having forgotten all about achy feet and the fact that it was some peculiar time of the night in another part of the world…we sat and enjoyed a nightcap to try to extend the memory of such a wonderful evening of music.
And yes, here we are, gone midnight and I’m even awake enough to blog.