Monday, May 21, 2007: City Views, Art, and Reading Terminal Market
Monday was SM’s last day. Her flight was leaving in the early evening, but that still gave us enough time to visit a few last sites in Center City. First on our list was City Hall. Fortunately for us, one of the bus routes near me stops a City Hall, so we wouldn’t have to deal with paying to park downtown on a weekday (much less even find a spot to park).
City Hall is the tallest all masonry building in the world. No steel infrastructure, just stone. You can take a free tour up to the tower observation deck for some incredible 360 degree views of the city. The trips to the observation deck are limited to 4 people at a time, and you have to get a timed ticket from the visitors’ office on the first floor. It can be difficult in the mornings to get a ticket due to school groups, but SM and I got lucky and got a 10:45am ticket. It takes about 10 minutes to get up to the 7th floor where the elevator to the tower is located, so we knew we needed to be on our way there by 10:30am. This gave us some time (about 30 minutes) to walk outside and get some photos of the building. And go in search of some morning caffeine. SM is a Diet Dr. Pepper fan and I’m an admitted coffee addict. So we walked up Market Street to feed our respective caffeine needs.
We still got to the 7th floor landing with time to spare and look at the information about City Hall and the tower itself. Apparently the statue on top, William Penn, is hollow and there’s a child sized hatch in his hat to the outside. Not that visitors are allowed up there, but it’s still a fascinating fact. The other two people going to the observation deck with us were a nice couple visiting the woman’s childhood home. They now live in my PCOR, where SM lives currently. What a small world. They also apparently had been at the Poe Historic Site after us on Sunday and had seen SM’s signature in the guest book, and wondered who she was. I do love the randomness of life sometimes. Of all the people in the world we could have met up with for the tour, we met up with them. They were wonderful company, and up in the tower it was neat to hear the woman point things out to her husband in the landscape and tell him all about what it was like when she was growing up and how much it had all changed.
We got some great photos of the city, and the only direction our view was even slightly obstructed was to the west, where there are several skyscrapers taller than City Hall.
After City Hall, we went in search of lunch at the Reading Terminal Market, figuring we’d beat the noon rush and have some time to wander around. We had delicious crepes from Profi’s Creperie, I had a fantastic cup of very strong coffee (just how I like it) from Old City Coffee, Inc., and we enjoyed just looking at all the shops. Oh, and I had a cupcake from Flying Monkey. I just can’t resist their pound cake cupcakes with butter cream icing! We also had the opportunity to play a rousing game of “spot the librarian” as the Medical Library Association was having their Annual Meeting at the nearby Convention Center.
Note to conference goers everywhere: REMOVE YOUR BADGE WHEN YOU LEAVE THE CONVENTION CENTER AND VENTURE INTO PUBLIC. Wearing your conference name tag/badge in public makes you and easy mark; it’s safer to put it away unless you’re in a meeting space. Both SM and I noted that when ALA holds their Midwinter Meeting here in Philly in January 2008, the Reading Terminal Market will be a very popular place.
As the Reading Terminal Market got busier, we headed out towards the bus stop, via a couple of plazas to see some of the art we saw from the City Hall observation deck up close. First was the “Your Move” art installation in Thomas Paine Plaza. A whole set of giant game pieces spread about the plaza that surrounds the Municipal building. Brilliant! There were bingo tiles, dominoes, Monopoly pieces, checkers, chess men and Sorry!/Parchisi game pieces. Talk about a trip back to childhood. You can see pictures here.
We left the game pieces and walked across the street to JFK Plaza, also known as LOVE Park. It’s home to one of the LOVE sculptures in the city, fitting for the “City of Brotherly Love.” I say one because I know there is another one on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania. Apparently the park was one of the best skateboarding parks in the world until the city cracked down and enforced a skateboarding ban in 2002. At any rate, you can view the LOVE sculpture by Robert Indiana with the beautiful background of a fountain. We took some pictures of SM in front of the sculpture to appease her mother, who complains that her daughter is never in any pictures. Hm. I guess that’s because like myself, SM is usually the one behind the camera taking the photos.
Once pictures were taken, we walked to the bus stop just in time to see the bus we needed pull away. Oh well. Fortunately, we had plenty of time. This became even more fortunate when the next bus that came along broke down after only 4 blocks. The back door was jammed, so we all had to get off, get transfer tickets, and wait for the next one. What should have been a 30 minute trip home was rapidly becoming over an hour. The next bus finally arrived, and we all squeezed on. Thankfully, the rest of the bus ride was uneventful. We made it home in plenty of time for SM to gather herself and to get to the train station with time to spare.
Overall, we had a fabulous time. We saw a lot of history, and the weather was beautiful so we were able to see all the outdoor sites. SM will be back in Philly for the ALA Midwinter Meeting (Jan. 2008), along with several other friends and colleagues, and I’m looking forward to her return visit. There will be more food adventures and since it will be January, we’ll visit some of the indoor sites like the abundance of museums all over the city. I better start some research and planning so I’ll have a list of possibilities ready for the visit!