zebra-stripe leaves

We’re back from the City of Brotherly Love and our third vacation weekend of the year. We started our weekend in Delaware at the Chadds Ford winery for a Pinot Noir tasting and class, which was given by a very nice man who knew a lot about wine. We sampled a flight of seven bottles, ranging from Tazmanian to French, plus two local wines. After getting on a respectable midmorning buzz, we drove up the street to Longwood Gardens to walk the grounds and enjoy the fresh air.


As with our last two visits to the area, the sky was cloudy and overcast, but there was a light breeze blowing and low humidity. I brought the TLR setup and embarassed myself by walking around with a black and blue cardboard box, pointing it at flowers and attempting to get some good pictures, until I got tired of being a dork. There wasn’t enough control over the light metering or the focus to get consistent results.

Arboretum 2

We walked the entire length of the gardens and through the conservatory until evening, and then stopped in at the Terrace restaurant for a light dinner and a bottle of wine.

Longwood fountain light show

After dinner, at 9pm on Saturdays, there’s a fountain light show set to music that lasts for a half hour, which was a beautiful way to cap off the evening.

Sunday, we drove into Philly and checked into our hotel, then went for a walk through the Rittenhouse Square area, where a bench called out to us. Heeding the bench’s call, we sat and listened to the city around us, peoplewatching and enjoying the afternoon. I had read an article online about the Rosenbach Museum and Library, where the original manuscript of Joyce’s Ulysses lives, as well as an entire floor’s worth of rare and priceless first-edition books. (Jen wrote her senior english seminar on Ulysses, so I figured this was a slam-dunk.) We were shown in by a dour woman, paid a small fee, and got an hour’s tour of the museum by a big man who knew a lot about books, antiques, and art. The book collection is immense; we could have spent hours ogling the bindings and titles on display. (besides Joyce, there’s Shakespeare, Conrad, Melville, Milton, and a hundred other famous names I can’t remember now.) We were, however, somewhat disappointed with the selection of Ulysses on display—two chapter title pages and a pair of envelopes. Later, we made reservations for one of Philadelphia’s many BYO restaurants, and we were delighted with our choice: Twenty Manning, an upscale asian-flavored bistro a few blocks off Rittenhouse Square. The food was delicious, our waiter didn’t sneer at our hoopty wine, and after closing the restaurant down, we walked halfway home in a light rain (before better judgement kicked in and we hailed a cab.)

National building facade 1

Monday, we made like good tourists and drove down Market Street to Old City, and followed the crowds to the Liberty Bell (where Jen did not get in trouble for getting inside, like she did in 1976), and after being turned away by the screeners at Independence Hall for my Leatherman, which I’d left in my messenger bag, we walked over Ben Franklin’s house, through Christ Church, Betsy Ross’s house, and down Elfreth’s Alley. Before leaving, we capped off our walk with a light meal at a quiet Afghan restaurant by Penn’s Landing, which made us both sleepy and sated.

My impression of Philadelphia is a lot more favorable than the last time I’d visited; the vibe is young and lively, and there’s a ton of history there to be had (and not just revoutionary history.) The city is full of architecture, old signage, and excellent food, and we’re already talking about going back for a photo expedition when Jen gets her digital SLR.

Date posted: August 28, 2006 | Filed under travel | Comments Off on Philadelphia Freedom.

Comments are closed.