things to do in philly, part I

also included: things not to do in philly [noted at the end]. 

In case you've been living under a rock, I am a travel nurse and my first assignment has been Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love. It has been a culture shock full of good and bad. For the first several weeks, I've been getting my feet on the ground and getting used to travel nursing. This weekend, Oscar came up and we actually got to enjoy the city. In case you ever visit, I wanted to share all of these things, for good and for bad, as well as document our journey. So here goes.

A year ago Oscar went to Philly for a conference. He didn't get much free time but snuck away to meet up with me and a friend. We checked out the Mutter Museum and I loved it. Please consider, I'm a nurse that's generally attracted to anything that someone might cringe at. I hear 'ewwww' and my neck snaps to attention. So if you're easily queasy, I'd skip this one. If you have teenage sons, drop them off. 

It's a small museum and $15 for entry for adults. You can pay $26 though and get into the Penn Museum of archaeology and anthropology. I wish I would've known this then! It was really cool but I was disappointed with how small it was and how quickly I went through the building. I did like that it was self guided and their gift shop was definitely geared to the quirky within me. 

We then walked down to the Eastern State Penitentionary for $14. I didn't know what to expect and was pushed by my friend to go. I loved it. The tour guides were great and the stories were better. I also love to see semi-abandoned places and this hit the spot. They do a haunted house in October that I heard is really well done if you're into that!

As for this trip... It started Friday night after I got off of work. Oscar and I walked into InRiva around 8. It was packed. I never really thought of reservations but unless you're willing to wait, it would be wise to call ahead. Luckily, we only waited about 15 minutes at the bar until a table opened up. I had seen this restaurant originally when I went running along the river in Fairmount park. It has an amazing atmosphere and I loved their design [not to mention the food]. It was very industrial but warm at the same time. Sorry- I had my iphone and the lighting was mood friendly but not phone friendly. 


The walls were cinder block  The trim around the windows was a bright red and many of the walls were in black chalkboard paint. The wooden beam above the table in the photo above had all kinds of industrial lighting on it. There were edison bulbs. And the same barstools that YHL got. I was a kid in a candy store. And then we ate and I died of happiness.


Instead of bread, we were greeted with roasted chickpeas that were herby and crunchy. I actually attempted a dish like this not long after moving it but it was a disaster. They popped in the oven and some didn't seem to firm up. I'm thinking I had the oven too high and am now set on trying it again to recreate our dinner there. The appetizer was amazing. I know I annoyed Oscar because I talked about it for two days straight. I'm still thinking about it. It was small oven roasted potatoes sitting on top of fonduta [think a soft cream cheese with a lighter taste and texture] and bacon jam on top. Need I say more? And our pizzas were tasty and served on top of oversized tomato cans. I finished my meal off with nutella gelato [a no brainer] and Oscar enjoyed an espresso. 

The next morning we went to Trolley Car Cafe. It's right beside InRiva so we were pleased we knew how to get there. Parking was $1 an hour. Breakfast was pretty standard but the atmosphere is what we really liked. Inside was fun and modern but we ate out on the patio and it was really relaxing. There was a garden out back and everyone brought their pups which I liked [they even got a puppy friendly salad]. 

We then went downtown to the Reading Terminal Market. I wish we could say that we were brilliant when it came to parking and getting around downtown but that's not the case, and we paid for it. The first day we parked at my hospital for $10/day. It was a place I was familiar with and felt comfortable with. We had to pay to get on the metro which can add up though [it's $2.25 a person each way- the same for the bus]. If I remember correctly, we took the metro to get to the market. 

The market was amazing. I didn't realize how much more food it would contain than anything else. There was thai, japanese, dutch, mexican, italian, crepes, pizza, seafood, and more. It was insane. I enjoyed a nutella crepe and a coffee. There were only a few shops that had things besides food and that was a bit of a disappointment. But I would give anything to live close to a place like this. You could  pick up fresh ingredients or if you're feeling lazy you could have someone make you dinner. It had everything. The only thing I didn't like was how busy it was. I can get a little claustrophobic and crazy in crowds and after an hour or so, I was done. 


Next, we traveled to Antique Row. I quickly realized that we couldn't even afford to walk into those shops and became a bit discouraged. Luckily, magic was just around the corner. The magical gardens. Cool and weird. My cup of tea. 

Basically, this guy spent 14 years creating a 'home' out of trash and concrete. He carefully laid every piece and made sure there were no sharp edges. Check it out:

Pictures don't do it justice. But that didn't keep me from trying! It was fascinating. It cost $7 for adults. There's a small bookshelf full of books and funky art you can take home too. This was one of our favorites by far. 

Next up? Oh. It gets good. This is your reward for sticking with me thus far. Wanna know how we capped the day off? We took a cab to the ghetto. Yup. I paid $20 for a cab to take us to the bad part of town in search of H4H's Restore. I promise, I looked at the reviews and they were good. Nobody mentioned that I may be murdered in search of a deal. Or that my marriage would be on the line. That I would have to beg for forgiveness, only after checking my body for bullet holes. It was like a deodorant commercial. 

You think I'm kidding. We took a cab and the first red flag should've been when the driver didn't recognize the address and whipped out his gps. As we drove along there were good parts and bad parts but I've noticed that Philly is like that and can go from one end to the next in a heartbeat. I was still confident. And then we were dropped off. I should've just told the guy to turn around but I had my pride to be concerned about. And I was thinking of all those deals I could find. And I just paid a fortune to get there. Never take a cab. Never. Walk until your feet fall off. Hop onto a passerby's car. Push someone off of a stupid segway and ride off. 

We went around. I pointed out some good finds on the cheap only to be met with glaring eyes, a shaking head, and "yeah but how would we get it home. we don't even have a car right now." Okay. Point one goes to Oscar. We wanted to leave. I tried to call a cab on the phone [there were none in the area and we didn't want to hang out on the street]. Through the crappy connection I was told they didn't pick up in that area. Red flag two. 

After using google's CRAPPY maps we determined we weren't far from the metro station. This is the point, that if I didn't have Oscar with me, I would've locked myself in the Restore bathroom and cried until they kicked me out. Then I would've done something ridiculous like call 911 with snot running down my face, explaining I just wanted to go home. 

I'm not sure how Oscar got us to the metro station. Because trust me, those maps sucked and there were no signs. But he found it. He held my hand as we passed by angry looking people on stoops, nasty sounding dogs held back by meager looking fences, a nine year old with really inappropriate clothing choices [a shirt that announced his love by cats, but not the cats I love], people I'm sure were gang members and prostitutes. We passed a XXX movie store with a creepy fella by the door, people who were obviously high [not on life, or even marijuana for that matter], oh... and a syringe. I may be naive but my eyes were open that day. I've never seen things like that before and I don't plan on seeing them again. 

I don't know how we weren't assaulted. We were the nicest dressed couple for miles with a f#^$@ing shopping bag in tow. I'm not trying to sound like we're better than anyone else or that I'm judging anyone there. But we practically had 'rob us' written on our foreheads and I know I looked petrified. I've never felt so unsafe in my life. I've seen bad parts of town but this was a new level. I'm not sure if this is common for every city and I've had my head in a hole for a long time [very possible], but it's not something I recommend anyone to go through. 

There were a lot of glances between us, some tight hand holding, and a lot of tear holding backing. Even once we were on a metro there was a man going around screaming and asking for a dollar. I'm not sure how he skipped over us but it took a long time for me to sigh a breath of relief. I've never felt so stupid for putting ourselves into that situation. So let  it be a lesson for you too. Research, research, research. Especially if you are unfamiliar with neighborhoods like myself. 

After forgiving each other for things said and unsaid, we ended up going back home, napping for two hours and going out for dinner. Pura Vida was a huge disappointment. We were the only ones there and out of three waitresses, our service was deplorable. The appetizer was good but my dinner was really disappointing and possibly undercooked. I ended up eating only part of the chicken and leaving the shrimp alone [it must've been cooked twice and was really rubbery]. It was cash only and byob [a common thing in Philly]. That was when we decided not to go off of my carefully researched list and just to go to something nearby that looks decent. The reviews and research I did ahead of time was a real disappointment. 

I know this is getting super long so I'll just have to break this down into a few parts! Hope you don't mind and enjoyed my close to death experience. Live and learn I suppose!

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