We almost didn’t make it to Philadelphia because honestly, we didn’t know much about it. I like a smear of Philadelphia on my bagel and the sweet chilli philly is genius, but that’s hardly a good reason to visit is it? Luckily, as we found out, there are quite a few other reasons especially for those history buffs out there.
America’s city of Brotherly Love has a lot of museums and historical attractions, in fact some might even say a disproportionately large amount. The range was so varied, even those suffering from museum fatigue like us could find something to pique their interest. However, it wasn’t hard to improve on our last museum experience, Havana’s Museo de la Revolution, which sadly housed exhibits worse than my form 1 social studies projects. From the long list of options in Philly, we could have got our culture dose at the National Liberty Museum, National Museum of American Jewish History, United States Mint, Edgar Allan Poe Museum or even the Mutter Museum storing items anatomically strange items, just to name a few. You could spend days visiting them all if you were that way inclined, and also had deep pockets… be warned, entry fees add up.
We happened to arrive during Martin Luther King Jr memorial weekend and Benjamin Franklin’s birthday, so managed to get some extra culture for fewer pennies. We visited the Liberty Bell, which featured in many key moments in American history and one hilarious episode of How I Met Your Mother, before taking a tour of Independence Hall. Then in honour of the man himself, we went to the Benjamin Franklin Museum, and a took in the other glorious old buildings and landmarks around the historic centre.The next day we strolled past majestic City Hall, then along Benjamin Franklin Parkway towards the Philadelphia Museum of Art and its infamous Rocky steps. We didn’t don our running shoes and race up but many others did before taking a snap next to the statue… I’m not even sure half the people who head there bother going into the museum!
We also happened to be there during Philadelphia Restaurant week- this initially excited me, until we were showing up at restaurants and finding them fully booked with ridiculous wait times. This could have been a little blessing in disguise as at that point we were still pretending to get back on track with our travel budget… (in case you’re wondering, we threw that out the window by the next stop). So with most of the top options gone, we just made some random selections…
We had a delicious dinner at Vietnam, indulging in huge dishes of rice paper rolls, fluffy fried tofu, chicken ho fun noodles, and shaking beef. Nothing fancy, but very satisfying compared to the disappointing meal at Penang on another night. We had wandered aimlessly for too long and thought we’d go for a tried and tested option. We should have known things weren’t going to end well when the waiter advised me against the assam laksa ‘because that’s not a commonly ordered dish’ and then asked a certain someone if he’d had fried noodles before… He has, but nothing like the slimy noodle bits he got. My prawn noodles were ok, and the roti was actually made in front of our eyes and passable.
We did one restaurant week menu at Smokin’ Betty, a trendy bar near our hotel offering 4 courses… we started with sticky chicken wings, wontons, beetroot soup, potato salad, both opted for the main of braised ox cheek with spinach spatzle, and finished with black forest brownies and ice cream sammies.
Our Philly dining experience was all in all nice, but rather ho-hum… the only real highlight was having a Philly cheesesteak. After some research we decided on the new-ish kid in town, Sonny’s. We went for a traditional beef cheesesteak- just beef, onions and cheese whiz- a cheese which is usually unappetising but celebrated in this situation. It wasn’t bad, but the cheesesteak hoagie was much better- the extra salad toppings made a positive difference, as did our choice of provolone. Just goes to show- you can’t beat a decent sandwich.
Philadelphia pleasantly surprised us… we almost chose Baltimore instead (I know, what were we thinking?!) but I can safely say we made the right choice! If you’re in the general vicinity and have a few spare days, definitely pop over to Philly and brush up on your American history! Or just run up those steps and pretend you’re Rocky…