I Was a Tourist in my Own City
I've lived in Philadelphia for the better part of 8 years, and yet I haven't visited most of the "tourist attractions." I suppose this happens when you live somewhere, you not only try to avoid tourists, but you take the things you have for granted. Or you figure you're there, and you'll get to it "someday." Being that I will be leaving the City of Brotherly Love soon, I figure I should probably make "someday" sooner rather than later, or I'll totally miss the boat on the cultural and historical things I've been putting off.
So, since yesterday seemed like the first lovely Sunday in what seems like forever, I decided to get a newspaper and check the listings of free attractions around the city that I've been missing out on. My first point of interest was the Rodin Museum (free/"suggested donation box" $3).
I'd promised an ex that I'd wait to go there with him, but realized he's STILL an ex, and therefore what was I waiting for? I walked over to the Museum Mile, and was greeted by Rodin's "The Thinker" infront of the adorned gates into the museum. Once inside the gates, I found a tranquil garden complete with flowering trees, benches, a fountain (not on yet) and stupid couples in love and making out.
A replica of the famous piece "The Gates of Hell" sit outside the entrance to the museum building. The museum itself is tiny, a main hall with several tiny galleries off of it. Most of the work was cast from Rodin's models in 1925, after his death. The giftshop was closed, which is better anyway since I was trying to make the day a "free" day. (I did donate $3 into the donation box- support the arts!)
After the museum, I walked over to an Alexander Calder (a Philadelphia native) mobile that has recently been installed on Ben Franklin Parkway (the Museum Mile.) There were talks of a Calder family museum, but I don't think funding went through, so there are some of his "stabiles" and a mobile in a grassy area in between the Art Museum and Logan Square.
I headed back down the Parkway toward Swann Fountain at Logan Square. Its a gorgeous giant fountain, that at night you can secretly swim in (just ignore the bums and pretend the water CAN'T be diseased). Logan Square is one of the original five squares in Philadelphia, and like the others was once used as a burial ground. I don't think most visitors, or Philly natives at that, realize that our parks are over former graveyards! Totally creepy. The last public execution was actually held at Logan Square, and now ironically it is one of the most beautiful spots in the city. The Swann Fountain is another Alexander Calder great. It reminds me of my first year in Philadelphia, where everything seemed so far away...and now the city seems the size of a shoebox!
I headed over to Old(e) City to wander around the alleyways of Colonial homes that I always walk past.
I passed the Corn Exchange, which has famously become the site of the home of the nerds on MTV's The Real World Philadelphia- probably the most boring of all Real Worlds, EVER... Seriously, what a bunch of lame dorks. Right beside the house is Betsy Ross's house. It was closed, which is just as well as I didn't feel like paying to get in anyway. Poor thing has to cower in the shadow of an MTV Landmark.
Elfreth's Alley is the oldest street in Philadelphia. It has been consistently occupied since the early 1700s. And I had never seen it!The houses are TINY, and go for at least $1 million (and I am sure haunted!) Some of them were part of the Underground Railroad, and have 2 or 3 sub basements, which I find really interesting.
The street is tucked away amidst busy streets, and really give a feeling of what Colonial life may have been like. You can take tours, but this was Sunday evening, and like I said, I'm broke.
Headed back toward South Street, I come across Headhouse Square. I probably walk under this daily, but decided to stop and read the signs infront of it. The building is mainly a large tower, with extended covered walkway. It served as the city's main marketplace area, where farmers could hawk their fruits, veggies, meats and other wares. Today its still used as a marketplace for crappy artisans that your mom would probably LOVE. I wonder what the building part is used for, I've never actually seen anyone go in it or the lights on or anything. I'd love to see what is up there.
Almost home and eager to meet my friends for a drink, I turn around to take a good look at Modernism amongst the Colonial architecture- The Society Hill Towers, designed by I.M. Pei. Pei also designed the "pyramid" entranceway at the Louvre in Paris. Alone, I'm not a big fan of the structures. They kind of look like a dorm to me, but set behind the Colonial backdrop, I see what Pei was striving for. They seem to emerge from the rowhomes as completely foreign bodies, yet their texture echoes the cobblestone streets below.
My tourist day cost me $3
, the donation I gave to the Rodin Museum, and approximately 5000 sneezes, as the pollen was a blowing, and trying to kill me.