I’m a planner, so most of our adventures are planned out – after all, we usually have only 4 hours to explore, but sometimes we let fate guide us. Today was one of those days.Find #1: The Philadelphia Horticultural Society Library. Who can resist an poster for “Two Herbals: Picturing Nature from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance”? Not me (although Tobey says that she can… easily). Currently on display at the library are two of their oldest books – a Medieval Herbal (from 1517 – the oldest book in their collection) and a Renaissance Herbal (from 1542). In addition to these, they have a computer showing artwork from other herbals of the period. As Harry Potter fans, we enjoyed the images of the mandrake plant:
Find #2: The Octopus Food Truck. The long line and delicious smell led us to this unique culinary adventure. During our 45 minute wait, we had plenty of time to learn the proper protocol (leading to many comparisons on the Yelp site to the “Soup Nazi” from Seinfeld):
*No ordering. Gus prepares one meal and that’s what you get.
*No napkins or utensils or bag. Bring your own or stop by the Starbucks on the corner.
*One meal per person. No exceptions.
*No chit-chat. Unless Gus initiates the conversation.
*Serving starts at 12:00 and continues until mid-afternoon when the food runs out.
There is a reason people come from all over the city and use up their entire lunch hour waiting in line – the food is fantastic. All prepared (using wood charcoal) while you wait, using the freshest ingredients, each meal usually includes a few falafels and grilled chicken – after that, the menu changes daily. Our lunch included: char-grilled brussel sprouts, greens, blueberries, honey dew/mint, rice, sauce and a spicy grilled pepper. We have now been initiated into the club and will join the rest of the fans who happily spend their lunch hour waiting in line for the best $10 lunch in the city. Yum. Yum. Yum!
Philly’s only Victorian museum and garden, the lavishly decorated interiors (the subject of an upcoming post) at the Ebenezer Maxwell Mansion are an atmospheric setting for Victorian Theater. In addition to full length productions, the museum also hosts Victorian inspired murder mysteries – like the Sweeney Todd inspired version we participated in last week – one of us actually correctly identified the murderer (it was the understudy who was having an affair with the leading man!)
Built in 1815, the waterworks provided water to Center City Philadelphia until 1909. The steam-powered technology, the gorgeous neoclassical architecture, and the landscaped gardens (one of the largest urban parks in America at the time) made the waterworks a famous 19th century tourist destination – Charles Dickens and Mark Twain were both impressed during (separate) visits to Philadelphia in the mid-1800s. Originally steam powered, the engines were replaced by much cheaper (and much more primitive) water wheels (later turbines) after an explosion that killed 3 workers. By the 1890’s the water in the Schuylkill had become so polluted that outbreaks of cholera and typhoid led to closing of the waterworks in 1909.
Today, the original pump house contains a FREE museum with a movie highlighting the history of the waterworks and hands-on exhibits focusing on the water cycle and watersheds. My favorite is a display of video highlights of animals using the fish ladder, including a turtle, snake and an otter.
WAY off the beaten path (down a small staircase to the left of the Waterworks), hidden down at river-level, is a sculpture garden focusing on the history of the Schuylkill River – from a source of food for the natives Lenape, and resource utilized by colonists, through its emergence as a manufacturing hub during the Industrial Revolution – and its return to health as a fishery and public resource.
Another off-the-beaten path adventure – this time to the Philadelphia Photo Arts Center to see construction of the world’s largest pop-up book by Philadelphia artist, Tao Hua Yuan Ji:
Since 80 degrees in October doesn’t happen too often, we decided to hit up Whole Foods for a picnic: Bellavitano Rum Runner Cheese with Apricot Chardonnay preserves, raspberries and a most delicious chocolate caramel cupcake:
We finished with a walk to the top of the “stairs to nowhere” at the corner of Kelly Drive & Sedgley Drive:
At the top, hidden behind the trees is the gorgeous, neoclassical Lemon Hill Mansion.
Built in 1800 (except for the porches – those are a later, Victorian addition), it was the first property purchased by the City to protect the watershed of the Schuylkill River (today Fairmount Park). It’s open Thursdays-Sundays from April – mid-December. 10:00 am – 4:00 pm. $8/adult and $5/student. The tour includes interior views of the beautiful Palladian window and unique oval rooms – 3 levels with curved doors and windows.
We explored a new part of town this week – the University of Pennsylvania campus area. U-Penn was established by Ben Franklin in 1751. The current campus dates to the Victorian era, and has a great example of Philadelphia architect, Frank Furness’s work – the Fisher Memorial Library:
In addition to the gorgeous library, the building also houses a (free) art museum, where we saw “A View of One’s Own” – photos of Rome by 3 women photographers from the 1910’s, 1950’s and 2000’s:
Walking campus, we saw the cutest little dog:
And my mom’s old dormitory – the fortress-like Hill College House, designed by Finnish-born modernist architect Eero Saarinen (who also designed the Gateway Arch in St. Louis):
Lunch was at Dana Mandi, one of local food critic Craig LaBan’s Best Philly Values – and an experience in itself: walk to the back of the Indian grocery store, go behind a curtain to the seating area, write your order on a scrap of paper and leave it on the counter. Like magic, delicious, cheap (the parathas were amazing) Indian food comes out on styrofoam trays, served in to-go containers.
No adventure is complete without dessert, so our final stop was the Sugar food truck (38th St. between Walnut & Sansom St.) for Tobey’s favorite – macrons:
I enjoy the gizmos of modern science museums, but I really love good, old fashioned natural history museums, and Philly has two terrific examples.
The Academy of Natural Sciences:
Founded in 1812, The Academy is the oldest natural science institution in the western hemisphere. It houses Thomas Jefferson’s fossils, Lewis and Clark’s plants, and many of the birds collected by John James Audubon (plus a copy of one of the large books of Audubon prints – they have a page turning each day at 3:15). But, the best part are the dioramas, many of which were constructed in the 1920s and 30s. They have an exhibit and video showing how the dioramas were created.
The Wagner Free Institute:
The museum building was completed in 1865 and houses a huge collection of specimens including: mounted birds and mammals, fossils, rocks and minerals, insects, shells, dinosaur bones, and the first American saber-toothed tiger. The collections are still displayed in the cherry-wood and glass cabinets built in the 1880s. They are displayed in their original “systematic” scheme, providing a rare view of a Victorian science museum. Plus, it’s FREE!
Yoga in a studio is one thing, but yoga in a sculpture garden overlooking the river is a different experience.
During the summer the Philadelphia Art Museum offers free yoga on Wednesday evenings (during the winter it takes place in the museum and you need (free) tickets). Wednesdays are “pay what you wish” at the museum and there are lots of events inside the museum, including music, tours and art-making.
After yoga, we treated ourselves to a fresh juice at the Whole Foods (Green Goodness for Tobey & Tumeric-aid for me) and a popsicle from the Lil’ Pop Shop truck at Eakins Oval (because you can’t be too healthy….):
First Friday in Old City is always busy-especially during the warmer months. August’s adventures included: free pot throwing at the Clay Studio:
A demonstration at the Chemical Heritage Foundation on the electromedical experiments that influenced Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein.”
A sighting of the cutest little Chihuahua in the Impact Imports store window (she has her own Instagram account @tiny_lasi):
Plus, interesting art,:
Shopping at small, independent stores (Tobey’s refurbished picture frame mirror from Jules Goldman Books and Antiques- 29 N. 2nd St.),:
AND French pastries from the tiny, walk-up bakery, Tartes (212 Arch St.):
Tobey really only likes museums if there is something to DO. The new Wild exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (through 9/17/17) was a hit with both of us. There is the main exhibit with its incredible photographs (Tobey’s favorite):
Plus, a kid-friendly audio-guide and a video, showing the backstory of several shots. There is also a scavenger hunt for another 11 photographs located throughout the museum – the challenge is to find the relationship between the photos and artworks they are displayed with:
Hint: both show hunters/hunting equipment
AND, Splash Studio is located right next to the exhibit, where kids (and grown-ups) can create their own Wild inspired artwork.
Tobey & Kathy’s jungle masterpiece
Wild and Splash Studio are free with museum admission.
A cheese steak, burger and fries from the museum’s food truck, A-Burger. Great view and plenty of entertainment watching folks do their Rocky thing.
http://philamuseum.org/exhibitions/856.html (through 9/17/17)
100 years ago, Marcel Duchamp’s “Fountain” scandalized the art world. An exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (which, thanks to a relationship between Duchamp and a previous director of the museum, has one of the world’s best collections of Duchamp’s work) highlights the importance of this event. I came across this photo-op by accident (luckily, not literally):
“Fountain” in the first floor women’s room
It’s located in the women’s room on the first floor of the museum. No idea if there are others located in the museum – or how long it will be around. But, for the moment, anyone with access to the women’s room can create their own “Fountain” photo.
Duchamp’s Fountain on display in the galleries
http://philamuseum.org/exhibitions/855.html (through 12/3/17)