I’ve been in Philly for over 3 weeks, but I hadn’t felt like a true tourist until this weekend. My parents visited from Seattle, and since they had never been to Philadelphia before, I wanted them to see and do as much as possible. It felt strange to play tourist — it’s not that I feel like a local after only 3 weeks, but I do feel like I am getting to know the city enough that I am more than just a brief visitor. But the more of the city I explored with my parents, the more I realized there’s so much I haven’t seen.
First, we spent several hours at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (AKA the museum with the big steps from Rocky). It was the first Sunday of the month, so that meant it was “pay what you want” — an amazing deal for a world-class art museum. After a couple of hours, we had only seen the first floor of the museum, including the American section, the Modern & Contemporary section, and part of the European section (we didn’t even attempt the second floor). Though I find that I can only look at so much art at a time, I tried to take note of which pieces I was naturally drawn to. Some of my favorites were “Liverpool from Wapping” by John Atkinson Grimshaw, “Estate” by Robert Rauschenberg, and “Bicycle Wheel” by Marcel Duchamp.
My parents also loved exploring Reading Terminal, the nearby indoor market which has a near-endless supply of delicious food, including hand-rolled donuts, amazing grilled cheeses, fresh squeezed juices, and products from nearby Amish farms. We spent another day in South Philly exploring the Italian Market, a several-block stretch of shops and outdoor produce stands. The highlight was DiBruno Brothers, a famous cheese shop with hundreds of cheeses from around the world as well as other rare and delicious imported foods. We spent at least half an hour in the store as one of the employees offered us sample after sample of amazing (and expensive!) cheeses.
We also made a quick stop at Claudio’s, another famous cheese shop, which also makes their own fresh mozzarella. We stopped in for some imported pesto and to admire the over 100 types of pasta on their shelves:
On the final day, we made a trip over to Old City — an area with cobblestone streets and old brick buildings near Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. We walked by the Delaware River and made a stop into the Benjamin Franklin Museum, a small but highly modern and interactive museum dedicated to Franklin’s life and aspects of his personality.
My parents enjoyed their trip, and I felt like they got to see a good variety of the city. But playing tourist with them also made me thankful that I am here for four months, not four days. I just don’t believe that it’s possible to really get to know a city in such a short time. You can get a taste, but for me that’s not enough. And I’m sure that I won’t know the city as well as a local in the short semester that I will be here, but I will get to experience what it’s like to live in Philly — walking the streets day after day, exploring as many neighborhoods as possible, seeing the city change from one season to another. For me, that’s what travel’s really about.