Saturday, July 2, 2011

Philadelphia Day 2: It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia

 Danny and I both woke up early despite having jet lag. Danny decided to check out one of the local Crossfit gyms. I decided that I didn't want to walk around Philadelphia complaining of soreness all day, so I went for a little jog on the hotel treadmill. The hotel gym was in the basement with little windows that peered up to the city street above. It was kind of fun to stare at people's different shoes walking by without them knowing I was looking. Now that I think of it, that sounds a little creepy.

I can see you!

After sweating up a storm, we cleaned ourselves up and headed off to Sabrina's for breakfast. The clouds were threatening with rain (which turned out to be a promise), but it was warm outside. I decided that the hilarious television show, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, was the perfect title for my slightly sarcastic, rainy day blog.

 Sabrina's Cafe is nothing to brag about on the outside. The inside is a different story. It's the perfect twist of antique charm with modern day funk. Across from where I sat (under the air conditioner unit) was a chalk drawing of The Last Supper. Surrounding the table were various aquatic animals, with the walrus representing Jesus. This led to us Lehr folk singing I am the Walrus (coo coo ca choo).

Sabrina's Cafe

I am the walrus

Our waitress was this funky blonde girl with multiple tattoos. Tattoos have become pretty popular recently, but I'm pretty sure Philadelphians were the original tattoo aficionados. Everyone is tattooed there. I'm talking about real hardcore Philly tattoos, not some lame tribal tattoo around a bicep. (Forgive me, everyone I know who has gone tribal) I'm pretty sure our waitress had a bald eagle holding a snake tattooed on her thigh. 

Anyway, enough tattoo talk. We asked the tattooed waitress what we should get. She recommended the breakfast burrito with a side of guacamole, the lox platter, or the bleu cheese and pancetta frittata with sweet potato fries. My 1/4 Jewish self was tempted to go with the lox platter, but the combination of two of my favorite things (bleu cheese and pancetta (only a 1/4 Jewish folks ) won out. Danny ordered the breakfast burrito and a pancake on the side.

Breakfast burrito boom shakalaca
Perfection on a plate

I don't know if I have had a better frittata in my life. Danny could say the same for his breakfast burrito. The portion sizes were ginormous. I felt like this literally could be my last supper. If you are ever in Philadelphia go to Sabrina's Cafe. Breakfast heaven awaits you.

Next we waddled through the streets of Philadelphia to Washington Square. When William Penn made plans for the city of Philadelphia, he designated 5 squares of park like space for the city. The center square is now city hall.  The open squares allowed for recreating, breathing fresh air, and helped to stop the spread of fire.

Washington Square

Like many American dreams, Penn's original vision for Washington Square didn't quit pan out at first. It became a burial ground for the city's African American community and a place of sorrow. Later during the Revolutionary War, soldiers who died in battle were brought back to Washington Square and laid to rest. To add another layer of sadness to Washington Square, Philadelphians who died from an outbreak of yellow fever were also buried there.

Washington Square has since been restored to Penn's original vision and is a place of beauty, recreation, and reflection. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (from the Revolutionary War) is there and reminds us all to be thankful to those who died for our country. A less serious tid bit about Washington Square is the Moon Tree. The Moon Tree was planted from a seed that traveled to the moon (via rocket ship) in 1975.  While Danny was reading about the Moon Tree, a lady in scrubs walked by and yelled, "The Moon Tree is dead!" She was right, the Moon Tree is dead. I suppose it makes sense for Washington Square to be the final resting place of yet another significant entity in American history.

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

"Beneath this stone rests a soldier of Washington's
 army who died to give you liberty"

Dead Moon Tree

Next it was off to see the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. The best part about these two historical quests is that they are free. I'm pleased that the government hasn't tried to suppress us with monumental fees to see these symbols of our nation's freedom.

The Liberty Bell isn't quite as big as I imagined. It isn't inside Independence Hall anymore and has it's own special (air conditioned) building for viewing. It also does not ring anymore, but it is still a symbol of, "...the American Revolution and it is a symbol of liberties gained and liberties denied." While waiting in line to see the bell, I whispered various bell sayings and songs to Danny like, "Let freedom riiiiiiiiiiiiiiing," and "You can ring my belllllllll, ring my bell!"

Let freedom ring!

You can ring my belllllllll, ring my bell

Ding dong the witch is dead

Onward we marched to Independence Hall. The outside of Independence Hall was in need of repair thus construction was going on while we were there. Luckily we were still able to tour the inside for free.

Independence Hall under construction

Independence Hall
 The tour started in the West Wing, which brought images of TV political dramas to my head. We then went on to the Federal Courtroom.  Above the judges chair, the British Coat of Arms once hung. When Washington and his army got all riled up about independence, they dragged the coat of arms through the street and burned it.

Federal Courtroom
The courtroom is interesting but let's be real, we all came to see the signing room. This is where both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were signed. Pretty much everything that I could remember from US History came flooding back to me, "No taxation without representation," and "...the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness," were echoing in my head.

2 of the 3 most influential people in American history.

Signing Room or Pennsylvania Assembly Room

 The big chair in the back of the room, that you see pictured above is Washington's original chair. There is a half sun engraved on the chair. Apparently James Madison  recorded everything that was going on during the federal conventions. Ben Franklin said of the chair, "I have often looked at that behind the president without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting. But now I know that it is a rising sun." I like this Benny Franklin guy. He was a double signer...meaning he signed the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. Plus he says things like this:

Wisdom from a forefather
Rising Sun Chair

We then toured Congress Hall which is where the representatives and senators met. Danny and I pretended to be representatives while taking in history.

Representative Lehr and Representative....Lehr
Of the two Representatives pictured,
 whom would you want representing you?

We went on to venture over to the second federal bank in the US. The first one is closed to the public. The second bank now houses an art collection of various revolutionary figures in the US. My favorite picture was of Martha Washington.

Second Bank

I think Martha and I would of gotten along well.

Then it was off to Elfreth's Alley, the oldest residential street in America. It is still occupied today. This was right up my alley (pardon the pun). I love houses. I love old houses. I love cute, old, houses. Elfreth's Alley is literally just an alley surrounded by modern day buildings, but with it's cobble stone street, patriotic shutters, and lush flower boxes, I felt like I was transported back to the 1700s. Since people still live here, you can't go inside (although there is one that has been converted to a museum that is tourable). I was content with just looking at the outside and imagining myself living there.

Elfreth's Alley


From the backyard of the museum
While I was getting really excited about all the cute houses, I had an idea. My idea was for Danny to take a picture of me sitting on the front steps of one of the houses. I felt a little weird doing this, as the home that I chose has people still living in it. However I needed a picture, so that when I am tired of my house and it's suburban ways, I can have something to dream about.  I was all set to go, sitting on the steps, big cheesy smile in place, when my normally not very clumsy husband, broke my brand new camera. 

I was crushed....and the camera was too. How would I document our trip? How would I write a blog without my words are never enough. Of course Danny felt bad so I tried not to let my disappointment show, but when you've known someone as long as we've known each other, it's easy to tell when someone is faking it.

Danny took a picture of me on the steps with his iphone. We then discussed how we really needed  iphone4s because our camera phones don't have flashes.

Faking Bliss
We were headed off to the Masonic Temple when we happened to pass Benjamin Franklin's grave and the Betsy Ross house. For those of you who are historically inept, Betsy Ross made the first American Flag. This is what she looks like in doll form:

Yes, she always has that look on her face
Betsy's house

Beware of men dressed in colonial garb
If you are really desperate to see Benjamin Franklin's grave you can pay $2 to check out his grave and the cemetery. Or you can do like we did and walk past the cemetery, stick your phone through the iron fence posts, and take a picture of his grave. Benny's grave isn't very impressive, no large statue or grandiose tombstone to commemorate this great man. Simple and elegant is how I would describe it, perhaps much like Benjamin himself. We threw a penny on his grave like other's did. I couldn't help but wonder if we should of thrown a 100 dollar bill on his grave rather than a coin with Lincoln's image on it.

Benjamin Franklin's Grave
It's a good thing we didn't throw a Benjamin bill on Franklin's grave, because we then decided to take a detour from soaking in history and buy a new camera. You would think that purchasing a camera of similar quality to that of your new Sony Cybershot would be easy in a large city such as Philadelphia. You thought wrong.

Our camera search started at a mall located downtown. It might have been called Liberty Mall? or Independence Shopping Mall....something to that patriotic effect. We found a K Mart and started the camera search. Apparently cameras are a hot commodity in Philadelphia because every single one that we picked out were sold out. Frustrated with K Mart, we left and went to Radio Shack.

A nice lady at Radio Shack assisted us on our camera hunt. She had Flo Jo like finger nails, but handled the cameras with ease.
Flo Jo

We finally decided on a camera so the lady with the long fingernails went to see if they had it in stock. She came back asking us if we wanted the good news or the bad news first. We chose bad. The camera we had picked out was out of stock. Good news? They had the same camera....only in a different Being a female, I don't care what color my camera is, as long as it takes pictures. Danny surprisingly did not want a pink camera. I was shocked, my Danny cared about the color of the camera? My secure-in-his-manhood, silly, goofy, confident Danny is embarrassed to carry around a pink camera? Sadly, he is folks. In a fit of frustration, (I was missing out on history here people) I said fine we can get this other more expensive red camera. The long nailed lady described it as "red hot!" It ended up not having some feature that Danny wanted so... off we went.

I came across a Staples and quickly texted my favorite Staples Copy Center employee, Melisa Gries, and asked if they sold cameras. They did. Of course Staples was sold out of the camera that we wanted. I picked out a Canon with similar capabilites to our broken one and with a little convincing from the nice man at Staples, Danny said okay to the red (Red Hot!) Canon.  With a camera in hand and oodles of history/cheesesteaks awaiting, we were back to our pleasant selves.

First picture with new non pink- however Red Hot, camera
 With the camera debacle behind us, we decided to go to Tria: A beer, wine, and cheese bar that is conveniently located right across from the Alexander Inn. It was happy hour and that meant only one thing: an inexpensive beer for me, wine for Danny (again...he really couldn't handle the pink camera?), and some fancy brie like cheese with cherries and bread.


A little note about Tria. Everything was great but there are more waitresses than there are tables in this place. To make the waitress/waiter situation even more puzzling, all the staff are wearing everyday the customers. I didn't know who was coming or going, ordering or taking orders, serving or being served.

Nothing says classy like fancy cheese and dried cherries
 A brief pit stop at our hotel room and we were off to Jim's for cheesesteaks. Jim's was recommended to us by our Penn State medical student friend, Todd. He told us that Gino's and Pat's (the two cheesesteakeries that claim to be the original makers of the Philadelphia classic) were for tourists. I researched cheesesteaks before heading to Jim's and discovered that the classic Philadelphia style cheesesteak has thinly sliced beef, cooked onions, and melted cheese on a roll.  The cheese can either be provolone or Cheese Whiz. While Cheese Whiz has not been around since the dawn of cheesesteaks, it is now considered by many Philadelphians to be the only way to go. I learned that when ordering at Jim's you need to know what you were having before you make it up to the counter where the cheesesteak maker is impatiently waiting for you to order. I also learned that when ordering a cheesteak with Cheese Whiz, you simply say, "Cheese steak wit whiz." No not, "with whiz," leave off the "h" or you will be taken for a fool.

While eating my first classic cheesesteak, my thoughts were of deliciousness and how despite the questionableness of cheese that is squirted out of a can, ordering wit whiz was definitely the way to go. The cheesesteak can be a representation for all that is good and evil in America. It's innovation, tastiness, simplicity, and its ability to be made quickly and cheaply earn it credits in my foodie mind. However, it's high demand leads for rude and impatient employees. Its tastiness combined with cheapness comes at the price of whatever harmful carcinogens are bottled up in a can of Cheese Whiz. If eaten every day or every other day the cheesesteak will add to America's growing waistline.  The cheesesteak may symbolize America more accurately than the Liberty Bell itself.

He added unamerican

All American Girl
 By now you are probably tired of reading about our first full day in Philadelphia...try living it. After Jim's it was time for a stroll to the river and back to the Alexander Inn for some much needed rest and digestion.

Stay tuned for day 3.........

1 comment:

  1. That Flo Jo appears to actually be Gail Devers