|Subject: Philadelphia report from October, 2001|
The is a copy of the report of my trip to Philadephia in late October.
I just returned from a very nice trip to Philadelphia from October 30-November 3. Flying was fine both ways and all flight were on time on United! I met my cousin from Florida there and I am from Wisconsin so I thought that the weather was fantastic--in the uppper 60s to the mid 70s! The main reason for the trip was to see the Barnes Collection which is only open on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and by reservation only. We stayed at the Wyndham at Franklin Center which was fine. The services left something to be desired--room not cleaned well each day, concierge was sick and did not show up until 10 a.m. when she is there, couldn't get Bell person when needed, front desk not answering. However, the reservation was made through Hotwire and was only $52/night.
I think that one of the greatest thing that Philly has is the Reading Terminal Market. It reminded me a lot of the market in Florence, Italy. Great produce, cheese, flowers, candy,fish, meat, bakeries,and restaurants with seafood and ethnic food and more. We had breakfast there once, and lunch twice of seafood soups. We also bought snacks and I got porcino cheese to bring back which is hard to get here.
On Wednesday we walked from our hotel to Reading Market for breakfast and walked around the market. We headed east to the Institute of Contemporary Art which is over the Skuykhill (sp?) river on the Drexel University Campus. They had a retrospective of Rudy Geinrich clothing designs from the 60s. We thought that the clothes were great and many looked to be in style right now. From there, we walked back to Rittenhouse Square and people watched, some in costume for Halloween. We had a nice lunch at the Striped Bass on Walnut Street. We shared three appetizers which were quite good. They seemed to be understaffed so the service was not great. They removed the charge for wine from the bill without us complaining!
I remembered the Italian market being exciting when we were there many years ago. It was very quiet at 3:30 in the afternoon, but it was fun seeing cheeses larger than people hanging in the stores. Fantes is a great cooking store with teas, spices, coffee and any kind of cooking gadget you can imagine. Saturday morning, we were told, is the exciting time to go. Not wanting to waste any time, we took a cab to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The museum is open on Wednesday and friday evenings and seems to attract large crowds for music, food, movies, and museum tours as well as the collection. We went to the galleries with modern art as we were saving the Eakins exhibit for Friday evening. We had planned to see a film about Frida Kahlo but it was not very good so we retired to the hotel.
Thursday we took the trolley tour, which we should have done on Wednesday. We both really liked Betsy Ross's house and found it very interesting. We also stopped off at the Philadelphia Academy of Art where Thomas Eakins once taught. (He was released for removing a loin cloth from a male model in a figure drawing class!) The building is absolutely beautiful. In the tour books, it was indicated that the museum has the works of several contemporary painters, but none were on view at this time which was a disappointment. There was a Thomas Eakins to go with that at the Philadelphia Museum of art with many sketches and drawing for paintings. The trolley really covers a great deal and this particular one took us past several of the 300 or so murals around the city. Outstanding were the glass mosaics on buildings by someone with a name like Steve Zager. Someone on the list may know his correct name. These were not on the tour but the trolley driver wanted us to see them. We were told that the EAstern State Penitentiary was interesting but we did not stop. That evening, a friend of my daughter who is getting a Phd in history at Penn and is writing his dissertation on Philadelphia sanitation took us for an informative stroll through the city to the Old Bookbinders where we had a wonderful seafood meal, fabulous cheesecake and found the bathrooms very clean!! In the city newspaper which is free we saw that Camille Paglio, the anti feminist who teaches in Philly was giving a talk on the HBO program, the Sopranos and the Italian American community. The house was full and it was obvious that the crowd was not mostly college students. It is apparant that many Philadelpia Italians think that the show portrays them in a very negative light. Not ever having seen the program, I don't know. Paglia went off on tangents and was quite strident about the program being bad for Italians even if they enjoy it!!
On Friday we headed out on the train to Merion to the Barnes Collection. The foundation is located in a beautiful residential neighborhood on the Mainline. It is about 8/10ths of a mile from the station to the museum. There are many rules at the Barnes. Everything must be checked and put in a locker. Once you leave the museum, you cannot reenter. We rented an audio tour. Most major paintings have a plaque indicating the artist. There are also sheets in each room which show each wall and the titles, artists, and year of the painting. This is an enormous collection. The audio allows you to take an overview tour lasting about an hour and it also allows you to hear about specific paintings that are numbered in the collection. We did the overview first and went back to paintings we wanted to hear about. The collection is predominantly Cezannes and Renoirs with many other artists from other periods and countries. The major paintings are hung with other smaller paintings which Barnes thought helped to bring out the colors, composition, etc of the main painting and to illustrate certain points. I am not clear how the Barnes works as an educational institution, but if you like Impressionist, and Post Impressionist paintings, which I do, it is a must. We spent a most worthwhile 2.5 hours there.
Back to the hotel. In the early evening, we met another friend of my daughter's who is a graduate student at Penn. We went back to the Philadelphia Museum of Art and did the Eakins exhibit. If you plan to go, do see the movie about his methods and use of photography but skip the audio tour. We went to the art gallery area of the city, I think Chestnut and 2nd and many people were on the street, eating, and going to galleries. We found an Indian restaurant, Cafe Spice which was described in Zagat's as very good and it was wonderful. We had a sampler hor d'oerves plate for 4 or more for dinner with a side order of bread. Everything was just delicious and beautifully served. (Cafe Spice, 35 S. Second St.). The galleries are open to the public the first Friday night of the month. I don't know if anyone was buying but the galleries were very full of people. As you can imagine at this point, we were very tired!!
Saturday morning, we left the hotel at a little past 8 a.m. for my 10 a.m. flight which was sufficient time. The long line was at the carry on baggage inspection points.
Philadelphia is a nice city, walkable and interesting, but Boston, Washington, and New York, I think, are more interesting and cleaner! Thank you to everyone who responded to my post a couple of month ago. Your suggestions were great.
Michele Missner Appleton, Wisconsin