Saturday December 8th saw us getting up at an early hour to catch the bus to Philadelphia. By American standards Philly is practically next-door to NYC (a mere 2 hours drive away), and we were taking a day-trip there in order to have lunch with some friends.
The centre of Philadelphia is quite compact, sitting in between the Schuylkill and Delaware rivers. The bus dropped us off by the railway station (naturally), which is on the opposite side of the Schuylkill, and the Delaware is roughly 2km due east.
We began by walking straight across to the Delaware, passing through a range of different neighbourhoods as we did so. First impressions were that Philadelphia was very quiet after New York, and mainly fairly low-rise, though with a smattering of shiny skyscrapers and some imposing civic-looking buildings too. It also had a gritty kind of edge to it, probably because a lot of the buildings are old by American standards – parts of the city reminded me of some of the less salubrious bits of Southampton, and the old city area felt a lot like Greenwich.
We stopped in a cafe and ordered coffee (Tom also had a bagel and was delighted that it came with the eponymous cream cheese) before pressing on to Penn’s Landing. For such a historic location we were somewhat disappointed to find it marked only by a giant concrete arch and a few tatty boards describing William Penn’s life and works, but there was a rather nice riverside walkway, an ice rink, and a collection of three charming but oddly-juxtaposed vessels outside the seaport museum.
Having exhausted the delights of the riverfront we headed back into town, and wandered around the old city some more, before it was time to find the cafe where we had arranged to meet for lunch. We spent much longer chatting than we had anticipated so didn’t have time for a museum or gallery by the time we left the cafe, so we walked across Rittenhouse Square and around some pretty residential streets – surprisingly close to the city centre, before making our way back to to the bus stop via the museum/gallery district on the Schuylkill side of town, and a cheery Christmas market.
Rather excitingly, soon after leaving the cafe we became aware of a disturbance up ahead, with traffic backing up and lights flashing. It turned out that a sinkhole had opened up and cracked a water pipe, and the road was flooding nicely. Apparently sinkholes are a common hazard in Philadelphia, something I had not been aware of beforehand!
All in all it was a rather nice day out. I would have liked to have visited at least one of the many museums and galleries Philly has to offer – I don’t think looking at things from the outside really counts (although we did see the Liberty Bell through the glass wall of its enclosure) – but we can easily go back next year (perhaps when it isn’t quite so cold and gloomy), and probably will.