We arrived in Philly around 7pm on Friday night, and went to get the train to take us downtown. We were kind of charmed at the fact that you just pay the ticket-taker on the train, and he attaches your tickets to your seat. (The train was pretty oldschool, too, like the Amtrak.) We hopped off at Center City, consulted Google Maps to figure out what direction we were heading, and rolled our suitcase the few blocks under the convention center to the Sheraton Four Points.
(“Don’t Forget Me When I’m Gone” was playing in the lobby when we got there, and we had a long talk about how it was not Wham! but Glass Tiger. For some reason, I will never forget that.)
We unpacked, at least as much as people unpack when they’re only staying for a night, then headed toward the Franklin Mortgage and Investment Company. It was a little over a mile from our hotel, and took us past city hall. We noticed that the entirety of city hall was barricaded, and there were cops standing around looking bored. We didn’t realize til the next day that that was part of the Occupy movement.
The Franklin would’ve been hard to find if we hadn’t known it was in a basement. Also, the doorman looked like a doorman outside an awesome cocktail bar should. He took us to the last round-booth-style table that was open, and reserved a seat for Matt’s coworker, Paul, who was on his way to meet us.
The cocktail menu was great, and even had several ingredients we didn’t recognize. It was probably a good thing that Paul was there with us, otherwise we would’ve stayed all night. But they had to be up before very early for the conference, so we headed out shortly after 11pm. The three of us walked back to the hotel, and Matt and I requested room service breakfast at 7am the next morning.
We were up at 6:45, and breakfast arrived promptly at 7. We ate, and Matt got dressed and went to meet his coworkers in the lobby. I felt a little guilty about it, but I went back to bed for another couple of hours. (The Mutter Museum didn’t open til 10, after all!) I got up about 8:45, watched some sports and showered, then checked out of the hotel and left the bags with the front desk. I was on my way to see some skeleton babies from hell.
It was about a mile and a half walk to the Mutter Museum, so I got there a little early and hung out with the other nerds in the courtyard. When I got inside, I was informed that they didn’t allow photography. Well, that was disappointing; that means I can’t post a million photos of midget skeletons, 70-pound cysts, or deformed fetuses preserved in jars. (You’re welcome.) Oh, or the mega-colon. Yeah. It was amazing.
I was there for an hour and a half or so, freaking myself out with the medical oddities. It was the best collection I’ve seen, and that’s saying a lot considering there’s the National Museum of Health and Medicine at Walter Reed. They had a pretty interesting exhibition on presidential assassinations and the art of dead people, too.
I stopped at the shop for a shotglass, because I didn’t really want plates decorated with fetus skeletons, or shirts with flayed bodies on them. I like that stuff, but not that much. I then got a photo of the outside, just because it was the only one I could take there.
I’d planned to spend the rest of the day checking out some of the historic sites in Philly. I’d been there before as a kid, but don’t have much recollection of it. I headed off that direction, and decided to get lunch first, since breakfast had happened so early. I went with Orsi’s recommendation, Eulogy Belgian Tavern. It was on the other side of Independence Hall, about two miles away.
Walking across town, I definitely noted that while Philadelphia is obviously a pretty large city, it seems to be still somewhat lacking in the civic pride. It was, well… dirty. I don’t even remember New York being that unkempt.
Eulogy was packed full of people arriving for a breast cancer fundraising pub crawl, which was pretty awesome. I grabbed a table and ordered a grilled cheese and beer from their gigantic menu. (When you don’t recognize 3/4 of what’s on the tap list on the wall, you know you’re in a good bar.) One of the pub crawlers asked if she could join me for lunch, so we sat and talked about what to see in Philly. By the time I was done eating, the place was completely packed, so I decided to go partake in some history.
I saw Carpenter’s Hall, home of the first continental congress. There leading a tour was the first of many men I would see dressed as Ben Franklin. Then I went over to get in line for the Liberty Bell. Almost everyone waiting seemed to be European, which was pretty interesting. I’ve seen the bell before, but the line moves quickly and it’s free, so I figured I should probably go say hi again. (I was probably 13 last time I was in Philly, and mostly what I remember is my brother being a jerk and refusing to go into Independence Hall.)
The free tickets for Independence Hall tours were sold out for the day, which was fine with me. (Much to Matt and Colleen’s chagrin, I’m just not that into American History. I was a Russian major for a reason.) Also, the building had scaffolding all over it. What the hell, America?
I saw Ben Franklin’s grave, at which point I’d encountered a total of four guys dressed as the man himself. (There are other founding fathers, you know.) I walked by Betsy Ross’ house, too, but the courtyard was packed full of a busload of tourists, so I kept going. I found Paddy’s Bar, of ‘Always Sunny in Philadelphia’ fame, and took a picture.
Then I walked a few blocks to Art in the Age, the makers of local liqueurs Root and Snap. Matt had looked up the shop online and figured I might like it, but it was so hipsterish it was embarrassing. The people working there were blank and unfriendly, and the patrons were worse. I decided to buy those items elsewhere.
I was really tired of walking at that point, but I was not about to stop then! I researched to see where there was a liquor store along the way back toward the hotel, and headed back up Market Street. On the way, I met a huge crowd of protesters marching. It was pretty impressive.
I stopped at the liquor store (the kind where hobos are buying travelers of vodka with dimes and nickels) for Root and Snap, then walked over to the Reading Terminal Market to see what that was about. (It’s basically a giant Midtown Exchange.) It was complete packed, and at least half the people there were hovering around devouring gigantic sandwiches. I think that must be a thing in Philly.
About an hour before Matt was due to be back at the hotel, I was so tired of walking that I went and plopped down at the awesome bar at the Marriott to wait. The bartender and I got talking about the various huge events that were going on there (they have over 2,000 rooms), and he said the main one was surrounding the anniversary of the Million Man March. Right as he mentioned it, he told me to turn around and check out the elevator bay, where a big part of Louis Farrakhan’s entourage was just walking past. Holy crap! Between that and the Occupy movement camping at city hall a block away, there was a lot going on in that neighborhood.
Matt texted to say they would be at the hotel soon, so I shoved the bottles of booze into my shoulder bag and headed that direction. Putting them in the bag turned out to be a huge mistake, because it made it insanely heavy. I got to the hotel before they arrived, apologized to the guy at the front desk for losing my claim tag, got our suitcase, and sat there in the lobby disassembling it, and trying to fit the bottles in there. I also changed shoes. I don’t think the people working there appreciated it at all, especially when we asked to re-check the bag with them so we could go have dinner before leaving town.
When Matt got there, we headed back over to the neighborhood we’d been in the previous night, and had happy hour at Rum Bar. It was awesome, and good at tiki drinks. I was really sore from walking, too, but having switched to flipflops helped. We then tried to get into El Vez for dinner, but there was a long wait. We crossed the street to Sampan and ended up at the chef’s counter, which was an excellent decision. The food was amazing, so I’m really glad we ended up there.
We got our check and rushed toward the hotel for our bag. The airport train only runs every half-hour, and we only had about ten minutes. Despite our best efforts, we got to the train in time to watch it leaving the station. We went upstairs and hailed a cab to the airport instead. (At a set rate of $28, and the fact that it was much faster and took us right to the rental place, it was a pretty great deal.)
Because I’m a Dollar Express member, we didn’t even have to go to the rental counter… the car was parked outside with the keys in it. We headed to Atlantic City, and got there within an hour (for the low price of $3.75 on the expressway). We checked in around 10pm. Our hotel was right on the boardwalk, with an awesome view of the beach, and a Jacuzzi with a window looking out on a rotating TV. How much porn has been watched from there, I don’t even want to know.
We got coffee at Dunkin Donuts and headed down the boardwalk. I’d expected it to be really trashy, but it wasn’t anywhere near that bad. Tacky, yes, but in a really entertaining way. We checked out the Trump and Caesar’s, but our favorite casino ended up being Wild Wild West, which is part of the Bally’s complex. There was a bar offering 24/7 happy hour, a 90s-era cover band, a fake coal train running overhead, and a pai gow dealer who know every word to every song coming from both the cover band and the DJ at the bar.
We played for a long time, and got to witness a $750 fortune bonus win, which I had doubted was even possible (the guy had a royal flush – with a joker, but it still counts). I didn’t do that well, but Matt did. We crossed over to Bally’s just to experience the novelty of ordering a drink via an extensive menu on the video poker machine, and then it was time to head back to the hotel. After a stop for some giant, flat east-coast pizza slices on the boardwalk, of course.
We checked out the next morning, and walked up and down the boardwalk again to see it during the daytime. It was still way nicer there than I expected, and we didn’t see a single needle washed up on the beach! The only thing I noticed was high-security purse storage systems in the bathrooms, to prevent thieves from grabbing them while you’re in there.
(There are also adult strollers in Atlantic City. Seriously, you can pay another human to PUSH your lazy ass around.)
We got on the road back to Philly around noon. We were unprepared for the toll on the Ben Franklin bridge, which resulted in Matt paying the $5 fee with $100 bill (though the lady working didn’t seem to care). We took Bally to see the Palestra at the University of Pennsylvania, then had lunch at Resurrection Ale House before heading to the airport.
Our return flight took us through Atlanta, which meant that we got to have breakfast in New Jersey, lunch in Pennsylvania, and dinner in Georgia. Not confusing at all!