A Travellerspoint blog

Snow on St. Patrick's Day


When I looked outside of my hotel room this morning, I saw...snow. Not tons, but quite a bit of it. I already knew that particularly chilly temperatures and snow were predicted for today. So, how did the weather affect my itinerary? Shopping Day!

On most trips that I take, I set aside some time to casually browse some fun stores, and today, I made sure to savor this particular opportunity - I slept in, I had brunch at a cozy cafe down the street, I read a good novel at bookstore while sipping some coffee. I took my time, enjoying the good life at a slower pace for my last full day in Philadelphia.

And then I went shopping. Luckily, a number of hotels in Philadelphia are located on either Walnut Street or Chestnut Street, both of which have great selections of stores nearby. I almost bought an adorable 1960s maude-style dress at Buffalo Exchange. I also particularly enjoyed Joseph Fox Bookshop, which had a great selection of travel-related books that I had never seen at other stores.


As I walked around from shop to shop during the early afternoon, the snow came down pretty heavy. Yet, the streets and sidewalks mostly stayed clear. I saw snow trucks patrolling the roads, and shop owners put salt/sand on the sidewalks. Cars kept driving, and people kept living their lives pretty much as normal. Inches of snow lingered on tree branches, car roofs, grassy areas and building tops, giving these surfaces a nice wintry embellishment. I felt like I was in a Northeastern winter wonderland. In fact, I came across Rittenhouse Square, and this outdoor park looked especially lovely in white.

Funny, according to weather reports, it was 65 degrees at home in Dallas today. Last week was Spring Break in many parts of North Central Texas. Meanwhile, winter still lingers in Philadelphia and the mid-Atlantic. Especially today. That's okay with me. I am happy to celebrate St. Patrick's Day with a mix of celebratory green and glistening white in this lovely city.

Posted by rachwells 20:32 Comments (1)

LOVEing Philly Art


An amazing, beautiful city, I really admire Philadelphia's prevalence of visual art. And it is not just displayed on museum walls. Monumental statues, intricate tile designs, and impressive, large-scale depictions of local culture are found across the city. During my explorations of Center City and Old City, I have seen so many creative embellishments on building facades and additional amazing works of art. And I know there are so many more incredible works of art in the city than what I will have time to visit, but here are some of my favorite pieces that I have seen thus far.


Of course, the famous LOVE statue, located near City Hall, is a popular tourist site. And the statue is a great photo op. Couples embrace, friends take fun group poses and other tourists turn the camera 180 degrees in their hands to take an artsy 'selfie' portrait.


Philadelphia is well-known for its vast number of street murals. During my explorations of Center City and Old City, I have seen numerous, beautiful depictions, and I am glad to see that the city embraces local art in such as prominent way. Again, there is no way I will have time to see all of the great ones, but I am glad to see what I have come across over the past few days during casual strolls. I came across this particular mural (see the photo above) while exploring South Street this afternoon.


Speaking of the city's well-known, lively thoroughfare, I also visited the Philadelphia Magic Gardens on the same path. Mosaic murals on the walls, mosaics on the ground, mosaic stairs and tunnels everywhere. Indoors and an outdoor space. It is absolutely incredible - detailed and intricate, a real labor of immense creativity and craftsmanship.


Did you know that Philadelphia has the fourth largest Chinatown in the United States? The Friendship Gate is a lovely, welcoming archway into this thriving neighborhood. It is a busy area, so you can't stare idly for very long, but I loved viewing the colors and the incredible detailing of its structure.

Posted by rachwells 20:50 Comments (0)

Edgar Allan Poe's Legacy, Evermore


Legendary writer/literary critic Edgar Allan Poe lived in Philadelphia (residing in a few different houses) for six years of his life - some of his most productive years, as a matter of fact. It is here where he published The Tell-Tale Heart, The Fall of the House of Usher and The Murders in the Rue Morgue. There also is speculation that Poe began writing The Raven while staying in Philadelphia (later published when he moved to New York). In fact, the famous poem's namesake has a statue in the yard of the Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site, which is the only remaining of the houses where he and his family lived in Philadelphia.


When I visited the home at the corner of 7th St. and Spring Garden St., I was surprised to see that this preserved home is very different from the residences of other famous, historic persons. There is absolutely no furniture, and the walls have been stripped to their bare, original state. Of course, when you first enter the National Historic Site, the entry looks like an inviting, mini museum of the man and his life's work. You are greeted by very friendly and knowledgeable guides. The entry and museum portion technically are add-ons and what was the neighbor's house (if I understood the guide correctly). I am so glad that they offer free guided tours. You also can do a self-guided walk around, but I really learned a lot by listening to an expert.


The guide took us through Poe's house itself, and again, the rooms were very bare, except for a few visual aides, which were references to his work and personal life. Like the orangutan stuffed animal, which is a reference to one of Poe's writings. In another room, the guide showed us a photograph of Poe's wife. Nearby, we saw a large illustration over the windowsill, which demonstrated what his neighborhood would have looked like at the time that he resided there.


A particularly interesting thing that we got to see during the guided tour was the basement, which served as inspiration for The Black Cat. Appropriately, a stuffed animal of a black cat sits among the exposed bricks. The guide actually told us the story of Poe's The Black Cat while we were looking around in the basement. So surreal to stand in the place that inspired the story and to imagine the creepy details as you hear the tale.


Poe was definitely eccentric, but he also wrote intriguing poems and stories, which still are read to this day and served as inspiration for other famous storytellers like Alfred Hitchcock, Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, Jules Verne and many more. And hopefully his complex, mysterious legacy will carry on many years into the future...evermore.

Posted by rachwells 22:32 Comments (1)

Celebrating Women's History in Old City


While looking around at the Liberty Bell Center, a park ranger invited visitors to hear a mini-presentation about leaders of the women's suffrage movement. I am glad that I stuck around for the talk, which is part of promoting March 2014 as Women's History Month.

My favorite story: The park ranger told us the 1876 Centennial celebration at Independence Hall when Susan B. Anthony and another women's rights advocate interrupted the festivities by giving the Vice President the "Declaration of Rights for Women". Not wanting to seem rude, he accepted the document. Next thing you know, "the Declaration was well received by the Vice President". Nice. And that happened at a site that I visited this morning. Being here in Philly, I appreciate and understand American history in a different way. It's not just written in the history books - real people, real women worked very hard and put themselves on the line for the benefit of future generations.


This afternoon, I also visited the Betsy Ross House where the famous seamstress made the first American flag. A widow (several times), a mother of seven and an upholstery shop owner (until age 70), Betsy Ross suffered great personal hardship, but she also went on to become a great inspiration. Again, I learned so much more than I ever knew about the woman by visiting where she actually sewed the Stars and Stripes.

Walking around the rest of the Old City section of Philadelphia today, I was amazed to see so many historic, significant sites within a few block radius. And I am glad that they are there to remind us - and better inform us - of the bravery of not only our Founding Fathers, but also of the courageous women in our nation's history.

Posted by rachwells 21:16 Comments (0)

Night Skies in Philadelphia

20 °F


Looking at Jupiter through one of the telescopes, I did not care about the 20 degree temperature. It was a great way to kick-off my week-long adventure in Philadelphia - on the fourth floor rooftop of The Franklin Institute, admiring the amazing city skyline and looking up at the mysterious planets, the Moon and distant stars. I felt exhilarated.

I was lucky that my stay in Philly coincides with the second Thursday of the month, when The Franklin Institute presents "Night Skies", an evening opportunity for the public to look through the telescopes at the Observatory, go to the Planetarium, hear a guest speaker and see the space exhibit.

On this particular night, a separate private event was taking place by the Benjamin Franklin National Memorial (a huge statue of the man, himself) at the Institute's main entrance, so we were directed to a side door to access the Planetarium and the Observatory. I had visited the main attractions at the Institute earlier in the day, so it was neat to see the place in a different perspective, almost like a behind the scenes look.

In addition to looking at Jupiter, another telescope gave a closer look at the Moon - craters and all. The museum staff were great about answering questions and helping explain what you were viewing. Even after I got to look through each of the telescopes, I stayed on the rooftop a few minutes longer in order to savor the moment (yes, even in spite of the bitter cold).

Downstairs in the Planetarium, a guest speaker gave an interesting talk about the future of...wait for it...commercial space travel. Apparently, the first sub-orbit space flight might possibly happen by the end of this year (and more in the next 1-3 years). Of course, as the speaker explained, we are still in the very early stages at this point. I definitely can't afford space travel (a major understatement, of course). But hey, maybe some day it will become more common place for the average person to travel higher than 35,000 feet above the ground. Until then, I am content to admire all the stars and planets from the fourth floor rooftop.

Posted by rachwells 21:26 Comments (1)

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