Monday, August 10, 2009

A Day in Philly

Our adventure this weekend was in Philadelphia. We (foolishly?) decided to just spend the day there on Saturday, getting up early in the morning to make the 3 hour drive before traffic got bad, and then returning home that night. We had good reasons for this decision, though in hindsight, maybe not such a good idea. We just figured that traveling with a toddler is difficult, and we've learned not to plan too much, or he'll get cranky. So maybe just one day would be fine, while 2 might be overdoing it. I mean, there is so much to see in Philly, we knew we'd go back another time. Plus, we'd have to be back in a hotel by 8:00 for his bedtime, why not just be in the car by 8:00, let him sleep, and we'd be home by 11:00. That was the plan.

I won't bore you with the details of the drive, except to say, as emphatically as I can...I hate I-95, and hope to avoid it as much as possible in the future. Yes, this may curtail a return trip to Philly, but really, it was just awful. It's a moving parking lot, and sometimes just a non-moving parking lot, too many cars, too many crazy drivers, too many on and off ramps, stupid stupid signage (thank goodness we had our GPS). Of course, I'm a nervous passenger, and Marty's a, uhm, easily frustrated driver. Let's add it up: 3.5 hours down, and then 4+ hours back...not so good in one day. Lesson learned. Next time: train, or take the highway that takes longer but for good's not near NYC.

But I'm going to try and forget all of that, because we really did have a great time while we were in Philly.

Our first stop was actually in Camden, New Jersey, just across the river, at Adventure Aquarium. As you may have noticed from earlier posts, Oliver loves fish. One day, trying to calm him down, I found this video on YouTube, which I'll share with you because it really is beautiful and relaxing. It is now his favorite and we watch it several times a day. He makes kissy sounds for the fish, calls the sting rays "turtles," and loves the sharks. He also puts his arms up in the air like the guy in the lower right during the beginning of the video, lol! So we decided another aquarium visit was the perfect thing. Oliver's favorite part--the Shark Tunnel:

And, of course, the ducks:

I'm including this photo, because it's one of the few where I can really see that he does look like me, as everyone says he does. Excuse the quality, it's from Marty's camera phone. Taking photos in the aquarium is hard, because they keep all the rooms dark. So, the aquarium was a big hit! It even had a huge tank like the one in that video, of course, not quite as big, but still very impressive.

It was a gorgeous day, so we walked around the promenade that looks over the river to the city (see that first picture of Oliver and Marty above). Philadelphia really is a beautiful city. Then we headed towards Philly to get lunch at this famous cheese steak joint that we wanted to try. Unfortunately, we couldn't get a parking spot anywhere near it, and it was packed, so we headed on towards our next stop and just ate there. We went to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which I'd only been to once before when I lived in NYC. Here are my boys on the famous steps looking out on the city:

Our favorite works of art? Well, Oliver liked the Jasper Johns work, Painting with Two Balls, 1960. Of course he did, because he loves balls (word #1), any kind of ball...sigh, boys and their balls. As you can see here, he is contemplating the work's significance for modern art:

He also liked Paul Klee's Fish Magic, 1925. Seriously, I did not make this up. The two paintings he really noticed were of balls and a fish. Hey, at least he's focused! He also liked a sculpture in one of the special exhibitions, I forget the artist, but it was early Modern American, a bronze bust of a woman that looked like she was blowing a kiss. He blew kisses back to her.

Marty loved the Asian Art Collections. He is entranced by everything Asian, especially Japanese art and architecture. He desperately wants to move to Japan, but I said no. Visit? Sure. Live? No. He knows this, so he's settled for using Asian elements in the design of our future Dream House That We'll Never Have. They had several rooms re-created in the museum; he liked the Chinese Scholar's Study and the Japanese Tea House. And throw in a little Medieval Cloister. I also really liked the Medieval and Asian galleries, they are so peaceful. Oliver thought so too, as you can see here in the Japanese Tea House and Garden room:

My favorite? It's so hard to choose. That's the problem with being an art historian. It's like children, you can't have favorites. Philadelphia has a great Cezanne and some of his landscapes, and a nice collection of 19th and 20th century art. There were some works by George Ault (early 20th century American) in one of the special exhibitions that I hadn't seen before that were interesting. I was disappointed that the rooms with the works by Marcel Duchamp were closed because of an upcoming special exhibition on his work. Philadelphia has the best collection of his works, and I've seen them before, but really wanted to see Marty's reaction to Dada in the museum setting. They had a lot of Picassos (who doesn't?), and actually, some pretty good ones, but I am so burned out on Picasso (the class I taught last semester) that it hurt just to walk into the room. So I think I'll be a wimp and say I just really enjoyed the museum. It is a beautiful building, and walking through it reminds me of the Met in NYC. Oliver did pretty well. He did babble his way through the Modern collections, I think he liked how his voice echoed in the big rooms the louder he got. I'm sure the other patrons enjoyed that too. But then he snoozed the rest of the time, which we all needed!

We made the mistake of not really researching restaurants for dinner before we left, and discovered there aren't a lot near the museum. So we got in the car and stopped at Cherry Hill Mall at Maggiano's Little Italy. Yes, it was a chain restaurant in a mall, but we were starving, and with a toddler, so there wasn't a lot of options. I had lobster fettuccine, and it was delish! Then the long trip home that I really don't care to re-live right now. I think we'll be doing a low key, local weekend next. No more driving!


  1. Oh, she said in a *blog* we're not going to Japan. So that settles it.

  2. I was born and raised in Philly and my entire family is still there. M and I were actually there this weekend too! Next time you go a) take the train and b) let me know in advance and I will get you some restaurant recommendations :-)