Having made my way successfully down the West Coast, and heading back to my dad’s in New Jersey (via Austin of course) there were very few places left to visit as far as I was concerned. In fact, if it wasn’t for flights being significantly cheaper to Philly, I would’ve flown straight back to Newark – but seeing as the flight was booked, I may as well make the most of my time here and book a night in a hostel. With my flight arriving fairly late back on the East Coast, I got into Philadelphia and made my way to the hostel. In truth, I didn’t expect much from the place – and having got off the public transport in Chinatown, I was pleasantly surprised to see a Chinatown authentic enough to match that in San Francisco, if not reduced in size a little. But making my way over to the hostel, I found myself enamoured with the site of Independence Hall at night – a site that, alongside the Liberty Bell, I had no interest in seeing before I arrived in Philly. However, the beauty of the crisp white under-lighting effect meant I couldn’t help but stop for a moment.
Arriving at the hostel, I was hungry so I went out to find some food. Stupidly I made the decision to research where the closest fast food chain was, but my dignity as someone trying to live the true life of a local was rescued when right on the corner of where I was staying was Sonny’s Famous Steaks. Now, I’d had cheese steaks feigning to be from Philly before this point – but it’s understandable why this place has added “Famous” to its name, as there was a level of quality I had yet to experience from the iconic sandwich.
Stomach lined and pretty keen to make to make the most of my short stay in the city, I decided to head out of Sonny’s and try and find a bar in the surrounding area. I was staying in the beautiful old town, but not only was this place lovely to look at there was also a lovely atmosphere. There was a buzz about the place, which I guess could be put down to the fact it was a Saturday night. Only it wasn’t that overwhelming Saturday night buzz that often would happen in a city, I even managed to seek out a bar who had an all-night happy hour and plenty of space for me to perch at a bar and bother the locals. The perfect combination of exciting and relaxed, Philly offered me a nighttime experience I was yet to experience since leaving Portland. Naturally, the two places were completely different, but they both managed to seem as comfortable as they were exciting in their night lives.
The sun rose and I decided that while I was here I may as well try and do a little bit of sightseeing (even if it was just to kill time before making my way back to New Jersey). I walked around the old town a little bit, and this part of the city was just as beautiful in its sleepy Sunday morning way as it was the previous night. As I stumbled my way through the district I found the Independence Hall once more – only this time it didn’t have the beautiful nighttime lighting to help it along, but rather crowds and crowds of people taking selfies in front of what in truth is a building less beautiful than most in the surrounding areas. I didn’t make my way over to the Liberty Bell either, as if the beautiful building from the night before was disappointing: there was no way that a massive bell wasn’t going to be. Plus, if I wanted to look at a giant bell I’d just turn on Good Morning Britain and look at Piers Morgan…
There were some elements of the more touristy parts of town that I did enjoy though. I made my way over to John F. Kennedy Plaza (or as myself and my fellow skate geeks will know it as LOVE Park). This was a special place for me, and not in the way that it was for the dozen couples queueing up to have their photo taken in front of the sign. Despite its special place in the history of skateboarding, it seemed – unfortunately – to be exactly that: history. One other place of traditional tourism that is also of significance to me was the Philadelphia Museum of Art, or as you may know it the Rockey Steps. While I didn’t bring myself to run up the stairs, there was plenty of people that did – each of whom seemed to be humming the theme to themselves. This was fun, but what I found baffling was Sylvester Stallone’s gift to the city of Philadelphia – a statue of himself. What an ego that man must have to do such a thing. I needed to get another cultural reference in there, one that I really appreciated.
As a huge fan of It’s Always Sunny, it wasn’t just the traditional landmarks that were of interest to me, but also a couple of the bars. Although the show is filmed in a lot in LA (bloody Hollywood!), the city also has a couple of bars themed on the show: Paddy’s Pub and Mac’s Tavern. I first visited Paddy’s Pub, which is a tiny, dirty pub in Philly on which the show is based. The bar had a good stock of beer, real characters working or drinking there, and just felt immediately welcoming. I don’t know if that’s because it reminded me of a pub back home or because I’m a fan of the show. Either way, it was a place I would happily drink again. Mac’s Tavern, however, is a bar owned by the show’s stars Rob McElhenney and Kaitlin Olson and has certainly gone heavier on pushing the links to the show than Paddy’s (despite being able to buy Paddy’s t-shirts from the latter). This place felt a little swankier than Paddy’s but was friendly enough and it was here that was to be my last stop in Philly.
When I first booked a flight to Philly it was out of necessity, I had no real intention of visiting. Having been there, I’m not sure I would like to be a tourist here in the traditional sense – the buildings are keen to stress how the city was once capital and all about an element of history that is of no interest to me. That could be different if you are Amerian, but the history here isn’t really that interesting. That said, the place itself is very relaxed and beautiful – and there is certainly enough going on to keep you occupied. It feels less of somewhere I’d be a tourist, and more of a place I wouldn’t mind living. Not to mention if people were going to buy me drinks at the rate that they had done here, then my bar expenses were going to fall dramatically – which is probably the biggest expense I have.