our kitchen this morning

The first time Marie and I went to Philly together, in 2015, Elton John’s ‘Philadelphia Freedom’ started playing on the car radio as we were passing over the bridge leaving home! How freakish is that? And how much of a good omen!  We’ve also been on short holidays/vacations there in 2017 and 2019 and love the city.  Below is a write up of those visits; an amalgam of experiences. And, of course, of our restaurant and bar recommendations.

We have always driven from New York (rather than travelled by plane or train). You have to drive through New Jersey to get there. Nearly all the way (through misty rain a lot of the way on our first visit) the landscape was that gritty and industrial teenage wasteland and puzzling traffic loops. When we got into Philly though, it couldn’t have been more of a contrast in the historic heart. Our hotel on visit one was in a beautiful area amongst attractive squares and colonial history. Very close by is the Liberty Bell Centre and Independence Hall. Already we were impressed both by the laid-backness of the centre, and by the greenery, open spaces and historic buildings.

Walking around, we not only loved the rich history of the centre but also the array of eclectic places to eat and drink not far from the hotel. To begin though, we went for a convenient light lunch at the Bourse Food Court as it was handy for the Visitor’s Centre opposite. We shared a Chinese meal. Before heading in to the large visitors and tourist centre, we thought we’d have a look at the Liberty Bell close up. They could easily have put the bell in a museum, but they house it in an open glass area where you simply queue up for a few minutes, and it’s free so a great idea. I posed in front of the bell. It’s an iconic symbol of American Independence, and in the 18th Century rang to call for important meetings and congress, and was believed to be one of the bells rung to chime in the declaration of independence. Problem was that it developed a crack early on and attempts to repair the crack were only temporarily successful. The crack in the bell is now part of its fame and endearment.

photo from bing images

Then to the Visitor’s Centre where we bought tickets for the Big Bus Tour, a two day pass that would allow us to hop on an off whenever we wanted tomorrow and Monday (they run every 45 minutes semi- off season).

We also asked about tickets for Eastern State Penitentiary – which we planned to see on Monday – but we decided to pay when we got there. More on the penitentiary later.

A bit more ambling about, and we sat in an attractive side public garden next to a large bust of Benjamin Franklin made by a sculptor entirely out of keys and pennies found by school children.. We also walked down Elfreth’s Alley. This is the longest continually inhabited street in the USA, a delightful, quiet and unpretentious single street of (now brightly coloured) homes dating from 1702. They range from only 9 feet wide to 16 feet wide, and one or two were on sale for $700,000 – 800,000. We thought that a bargain though! Other, similarly tight houses we’d seen of historical importance in Manhattan and Georgetown (Washington DC) had been on the market for several million dollars.

photo by Adam Hardy

On this first and subsequent two visits in 2017 and 2019, we ate at the British, Victorian Freehouse (’Cask Ale, Pub Fare, Proper Puddings“!). It’s been quiet in there in the day time, but a great casual place. I have fun choosing from the extensive beer list, and Marie sometimes a cider. Now then, if you’re not a vegetarian you have to try the garlic marmite coated wings with stilton sauce! What do you mean, “what’s marmite?” (you must not be British). Or…what do you mean you don’t like marmite!  Briefly, marmite is a spread in a jar, made in the UK from ingredients including yeast extract. It’s very dark brown, appearing black in colour and has an intense beefy taste to it though there is no meat in it.  The advert for marmite plays on the joke that you either love it or hate it, and I remember that in one of the adverts a couple are snogging (that’s “making out” in American speak), and one of the couple pulls out of the kiss because the other has just eaten marmite.  Personally, I love it big style.  Marie enjoys it too, though not quite as much as me. All my siblings like it.  Anyway, the garlic marmite chicken wings works a treat and are sublimely delicious!  We always making a point of going back for more on each Philly trip.

photos by Adam Hardy

The Victorian also does a British style, Sunday roast (which is a sliced hot meat – which can be beef, pork, lamb or chicken – Yorkshire puddings, which are lovable savoury battered sides – and two or three vegetables and rich gravy).

Music can be good too: Jam, Interpol, Jesus and Mary Chain, Clash etc etc though Marie was most upset the first time when Smiths songs were cut off twice as a girl behind the bar “changed the tape”!

Tour buses:

There is no better way of seeing a place new to you than buying tickets for a tour bus. No, really!  We’re nearly always impressed.  The Philly one is amongst the best ever. The tour lasts around an hour and a half – covering 27 tourist/cultural/practical/culinary destinations so you can hop off at any and the bus picks up every 45 minutes. There are also trolleys run by the same company so you can catch either.

On our tour bus day it was to be St. Patrick’s Day and there were already a lot of green-clad revellers in the city so we braced ourselves for detours (in fact, there really weren’t any detours today or the next day!). Our tour guide – around mid 20s – Tessa was excellent. She’d graduated from one of the many universities or colleges – Temple – at the city centre campus. After the Independence Hall, you pass Betsy Ross’s House, who was said to have made the first American flag, then you pass the United States Mint (a huge, block of a building)…the guide tells you that minting a cent (or penny) costs 3 cents so making 1 cent coins at all makes no sense! You also pass through Chinatown – the third largest in the USA after NY and San Francisco – and the famous Reading Terminal Market where we would be getting off on our second time around. Through City Hall and Love Park next. Love Park is a mostly concrete, central square designed by Edmund Bacon, the actor Kevin Bacon’s dad. Interesting anecdote is that Edmund wanted to encourage skateboarders to have somewhere to skate, so the park was designed with that in mind but the city banned skateboarding. Irate, Bacon himself skated there at age 92 in defiance! I think they since lifted the ban on skateboarding there! It has the original LOVE sculpture, since copied in Manhattan and other cities. Then the bus makes through the wide Avenue Of The Arts, full of prestigious art student colleges, the city orchestra and opera and theatres.

At the other end of the city centre – further from our hotel on this occasion – we passed the hotel I stopped at in 2003 (and its Irish bar/restaurant – Mace‘s Crossing – that I went into a couple of times on my first visit). It lies opposite the St. Peters and Paul Cathedral and large circular fountain (Philly’s ‘fluzzi in the Jacuzzi’). Here you’re at the start of the departure from the big shops and into more open land and a lot of the big museums, galleries and parks that go on for miles. There are some amazing facts about Philly. For a start, Fairmount Park just out of the city centre is ten times the size of Central Park! You pass the Barnes Foundation, a gallery which has the second most Impressionist paintings in the world after Paris, the Rodin Museum, the Eastern State Penitentiary, the zoo, Please Touch Me interactive Museum for kids, Memorial Hall and the start of Fairmount Park. The famous ‘Rocky Steps’ are here next to the main Museum of Art, from the famous scene in which Stallone runs up the steps after winning the boxing match in the 1976 film. Obviously lots of tourists flock here and make the run! We didn’t. Stallone gifted the city his Rocky Statue but the Art Museum insisted on moving the statue a little further away as they didn’t deem it to be true art.

Then past various campuses. The route can vary and we passed through Kelly Drive on our hop-on tomorrow, named after another Philadelphia famous ex-resident, Grace Kelly. Also through beautiful colonial houses in Society Hill and Antiques Row. Then through South Street, with its homes that were adopted by hippies in the 1960s. At that time the street was very cheap, but is now trendy and full of bars and café culture. Then past the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Penns Landing and the Waterfront (there is a fake, tall ship restaurant but also one or two real boat restorations I think) and then the Old Town and Christ Church.

Philadelphia also has the most murals of any city in the world, by the way. It’s partly to deter graffiti but the murals are intricate and fascinating works of art. So you often come across highly creative scenes.

Here are some more photos I took around the city…

photo by Adam Hardy
photo by Adam Hardy

photo by Adam Hardy

We stayed on for the full hour-and-a-half tour, and we would be getting off at Reading Terminal Market on the second journey around.

Reading Market contains 80 different vendors and is a large space that includes a massive variety of all types of cuisine and many artisan merchandise stalls. We’ve seen the market featured on many tv programmes, and one lauded place to eat great sandwiches is DiNic’s. They’re famous for their sliced, slowly roasted pork sandwich with sharp provolone cheese and broccoli rabe. We made straight for DiNic’s and found a place to sit to devour this infamous sandwich and also a beef brisket sandwich. Both were great, though Marie does feel that broccoli rabe is slightly bitter and takes the edge off it being a really great sandwich for her! We bought a pineapple beeswax candle from the stall close by and wandered around the other stalls, also buying some fresh ground, Brazilian coffee.

Curious onion

photo by Adam Hardy

You can also buy a raw, whole onion covered in chocolate at the market!!  Don’t ask, and we haven’t tried it but we’re impressed that you can get one!  And on our 2019 visit I had a limited time, mushroom ice cream.

There were around 150 or so eclectic restaurants, bars and coffee houses close to our hotel. The main streets in the centre are named after nature (our hotel was in Chestnut Street) and the cross streets are numbered.

The Eastern State Penitentiary

photo from bing images

Philadelphia was founded by William Penn, as was the state of Pennsylvania of course. He was a Quaker, and believed in equality for everyone, and also that a basic goodness is inherent in everyone regardless of sins they’ve committed. So the prison is based on Quaker beliefs and was supposed to be revolutionary when designed in the early part of the 19th century. Each inmate was kept in solitary confinement with only a bible (though they were detained for no more than 8 years; the worst crimes resulted in execution back then). It’s a huge place and was finally closed in 1971, left to be overtaken by vegetation but was recovered by the historic trust in the 1990s and re-opened as a tourist attraction (but a very unspoilt, down-to-earth, fascinating but stark one at that!). It ceased being a penitentiary (based on penitence) and effectively became a modern prison eventually. The ESP has been investigated by ghost-hunting tv programmes many times.

We’ve watched the ghost hunting programmes ourselves and Marie has long wanted to visit there. We ended up spending about two hours there, a fascinating if at times grisly tour. You get a headphone set and narration is by the actor Steve Buscemi. You get to look into cells, and there are art installations, real-life interviews (on the headset) with ex-inmates and ex-guards. It’s obviously hard to heat the place even in modern times and it was pretty chilly in there! We wandered the grounds too.

Al Capone had a luxury cell well away from the others of course, so some money must have greased palms. But what hits you the most is the sense of total isolation in the whole building, of its earlier days as a place of solitary confinement only. It was said that a lot of the inmates went mad instead of re-habilitating. No talking amongst inmates was allowed whatsoever!

We took a lot of photos. They also had a pet dog – Pep – at the prison, and originally the wind-up was that the dog had been imprisoned for killing a cat!! All a ruse though, but the souvenir shop does well in Pepware!

By the 1960s, inmates were able to play baseball and Italian bocce so things weren’t quite so bad later on.

In the 1980s bids were put in to buy the site to build a shopping centre or build luxury apartments, but it’s a really popular tourist site now and definitely worth visiting. We’d earned a sit down in a warm, modern café and our first Philly cheese steak afterwards though!

The bus tour route was quite different going back, as we drove through suburbs like Brewerytown and along Kelly Drive past parks and along avenues. We opted to sit on the bottom deck – it was still cold though almost everyone else sat on the open top. As we got back to the big Art Museum and its ‘Rocky steps’ again there were camera crews. Apparently Sylvester Stallone was in town today, filming Rocky 7!

When we got back close to our hotel we made straight for Sonny’s for a well-earned cheese steak. There are many places that claim to have the best cheese steak. Sonny’s is one you can sit down in and is recommended by the Big Bus Tour. Inside are basic plastic chairs and a couple of long tables.

The cheese steak hoagies went down very smoothly indeed and were quite light. Marie had hers with cheese ‘wizz’ (like melted processed cheese), peppers and onions and mayo, and I had mine with provolone and onions.

We could easily have taken down a second. Then we bought some chocolates – just enough for a snack – from a fancy, hand-made shop nearby. After that, we thought we’d go inside our first Philadelphia church. The humble, bright Christ Church is open and friendly, with a couple of young guides offering to answer questions. One also gave a talk to a group of school children who wandered in. It’s a beautiful, colonial church not dissimilar to one we went into in Boston years ago, where there are numbered pew sections that were hired out or given to individuals in the community, and two of the pews were those of George Washington and Benjamin Franklin! There’s no roping off or fussing about though, and anyone can sit in them (there are small plaques). I took a photo of Marie in Washington’s (which was a tad larger space for he and his family) and Marie of me in Franklin’s.

This is where I stopped making notes in my journal so I need to recount the remaining half a day and morning from memory. It’s pretty simple though. We went back to the hotel for another rest-up, then we’d reserved our most fine-dining meal at Alma de Cuba for 7.30.  The restaurant is in the new part of the city – nearer my 2003 hotel – and nestled in-between some of the fashionable, glitzy and expensive shops near Rittenhouse Square. Marie had bought us bus tokens and we quickly and easily caught a 42 bus across town.  Alma de Cuba is modern and popular and pretty large with three floors, as we were shown up about fifty stairs by a hostess. Marie had already decided to have the ‘Vaca Frita’ – pan seared skirt steak, black beans, white rice and tomato escabeche and myself the ‘Lechon Asado’ – crispy roasted pork, congri rice and sour orange mojo. No starters, we would save ourselves for dessert. The meals were great and I loved my extra crispy pork crackling as well as the meat, and there was a lot of it! This would be a bit of a ‘blow-out’ but worth it. We also had two cocktails each, Marie a couple of Black Cherry Caipirinhas ‘infused Leblon’ (a rum-like Brazilian beverage – I looked it up – in fact the restaurant seems to be a Cuban-Brazilian fusion, as some of the menu is in Portuguese), and I had a rum punch and a mojito, strong and a good minty palate cleanser. And we shared their signature dessert, a chocolate Cuban cigar and marshmallow matches which they light!

Alma de Cuba is “temporarily closed” during covid.

Our 2019 visit

Marie had found us a great boutique hotel near Rittenhouse Square at a special deal, and it turned out to be perfectly located, on Chestnut Street next to shops and spots we know from previous visits.  Our room at Club Quarters would do nicely.

Some clothes shopping at Uniqlo, then on to Reading Terminal Market again which I’ll just briefly sum up by saying it was teeming with all kinds of casual eateries including some Amish ones that were open today.  There was some kind of food festival going on, and the market by far the most crowded we’ve ever seen it.  We were able to maneuver though, just about, and Marie chose us soft Amish style pretzels from Miller’s Twist: one filled with turkey cheese sausage, the other filled with Philly cheese steak and they were both yummy. Then Marie bought us cinnamon sticky buns from an Amish stall at the corner of the market, to take home in the car tomorrow. 

I had that mushroom ice cream I mentioned, from Kennett’s, and after exiting the market Marie wanted ice cream too, but chose Little Baby’s outside of the market back on the streets. We’d tried a Little Baby on a previous Philly visit.  They do funky flavours too.  The one we tried in the past was in a sketchy ‘hood, but of course this was central. Marie had a tasty, soft serve chocolate mint scoop, and because my sample scoop at the market had been so tiny, I also had a small soft serve espresso.  They did a few strange concoctions, and Marie did try a sample of everything bagel ice cream!

Then a regroup at our hotel, before heading out on a fair walk to a very different kind of museum visit for us; to the Mutter Museum.  This is a very old, historic anatomical museum. We had seen some tv shows in the past involving stories about real life, bizarre cases of humans who’d had very rare afflictions showcased at the museum.  It would be gory perhaps, but interesting, and what other tourists would think to go to such a site? Well, everyone it seemed because the place was packed and there was even a sign at the entrance saying that every Saturday would be busy all day long.

Here is a bit of blurb from the website…

Mutter Museum

America’s finest museum of medical history, the Mütter Museum displays its beautifully preserved collections of anatomical specimens, models, and medical instruments in a 19th-century “cabinet museum” setting. The museum helps the public understand the mysteries and beauty of the human body and to appreciate the history of diagnosis and treatment of disease.

Today, the Museum enjoys a steadily rising reputation with annual attendance exceeding 130,000 visitors. Enjoying international popularity, the Museum has been featured on countless TV programs and specials and is the subject of two best-selling books.

Features of the collection:
• Soap Lady
• Dr. Joseph Hyrtl’s human skull collection
• Plaster cast and conjoined liver of “Siamese twins” Chang & Eng
• Specimen from John Wilkes Booth’s vertebra
• Jaw tumor of President Grover Cleveland
• Rotating exhibits of photographic art and illustrations
• Tallest skeleton on display in North America
• Einstein’s brain

We paid our $18 each to go in. Marie and I had imagined it would be a large museum, with spacious marble floors etc. and lifts/elevators like most museums. Instead it was really just two rooms. Very antique rooms, wooden panels and Victorian glass cases full of wax models, and pickled bodies or body parts of course but also some unexpected exhibits like a large case with many lines of skulls from those who had died of particular diseases: “____, Borneo tribesman, died of meningitis 1742”, that sort of thing. The case of skulls had been on permanent, unchanged exhibit since the 1870s at the museum!

In truth, we were almost done with the Mutter after about twenty minutes, having looked at a few bodily organs and Siamese twins we sat on a bench in one of the rooms. It was a) too crowded and b) a little disappointing, and seemed rather steep at $18 each to get in.  But that’s not to say that anyone reading this might not wish to spend hours here.  We got a second wind, and did kind of enjoy another half an hour. It is a great institution, and deserves support for its rich history and uniqueness. A lot of the visitors were young adults, and many probably studying medicine. In fact, it looked a far more youthful and trendier bunch of visitors that you’d get at most museums in spite of the fact it was full of stuffy old squeamish exhibits. 

The Einstein’s brain exhibit was really just sample parts of this brain, and written details on how nothing conclusive has been found on why he had a higher intelligence, although one part of his brain was abnormally big (but this didn’t explain his advanced mental faculties either).

An interesting museum visit, but not as good as we thought it would have been.

Next, to find a cocktail bar!

By the way, it got to 94 degrees today! Plenty of hot, Spanish-style sun beating down.  It looked like it might rain soon though.

We had passed an intriguing Mexican place on the way to the Mutter, called El Rey. The name was an old cinema style board above the small restaurant/bar.  It mentioned cocktails on the window.  Directly across the street is an all-out, drinks only cocktail lounge called 1 Tippling Place, so we chose to try Tippling. It wasn’t open until 5 though. It was only around 4.00 I think. So we gave El Rey a go. We loved it!  Amazing tiling and eccentric décor. We sat at the bar (the restaurant was within, with lots of colourful, eclectic overhead lights but an atmospheric subtly lit atmosphere.  The barmaid was very friendly and helpful, and explained some of the margaritas. Marie had a jalapeno pineapple margarita; myself a tamarind and both of our glasses were traditionally rimmed with rock salt. Both drinks excellent.  I said to Marie, “this place reminds me a bit of Titty Twisters” (the fictitious bar in the outlandish vampire film ‘From Dusk Til Dawn’).  Then we asked the barmaid more about the décor, she told us “it’s based on Mexican dive bars like the one in ‘From Dusk Til Dawn’”!  We decided not to open a tab, and even said to her that we planned to try the Tippling Place across the street, and she said it’s a great cocktail bar.  But she also informed us that there is a speakeasy lounge at El Rey that opens at 6, and just to go past the kitchen staff to the “secret” downstairs room. We said we might, but firstly we headed over to Tippling, only catching a few spots of rain.

Marie at El Rey

Tippling could not have been more of a contrast to El Rey.  It was a beautiful space, don’t get me wrong, but a little too formal for us. We really enjoyed two great cocktails though, as we sat on parker knolls listening to 1950s and 60s ballads and classic jazz scats.  We both had cocktails with egg whites in them in Manhattan-style glasses, Marie’s was a Cavendish Flip, with a whiskey and cherry liquor I believe (I can’t find the full menu of their website) and myself a Heather On The Hill, a more gentlemanly, boozy style citrusy one.    It felt like you were in the lounge of a high class hotel, and even had a bit of a library feel.

Back to the hotel.  We were doing a lot of walking. Marie wears a pedometer watch. We were to walk over 20,000 steps both today and tomorrow (about 8 miles each day!). 

Then out for a dinner reservation at Indieblue, Indian restaurant.  It was beautifully decked out, and we loved the food!  Even the menu was heavy and exquisite in glittery copper.   The nice waitress was all-American, but of course most staff Indian.  We chose to share a crab dosa to start, and a bosting lamb curry with paratha and one the best rice we’ve ever had (cashew lemon). I had a tall glass, oyster infused pale ale. A great place!

Another good walk afterwards, and we ended up with a last bite as we bought a large and small cookie (chocolate chunk, and dark chocolate mint) at Insomnia Cookies which is a chain that opens until about 4am! To take back to the hotel.

Sunday –

We started back at Reading Terminal Market for breakfast at about half-eight, and as we’d hoped the market was far less crowded this morning. It was decidedly pleasant.  We shared an alligator sausage po’boy! From Becks. We found a table and really enjoyed this giant sloppy but delicious mess of a sandwich with runny yoke and cheese. And with it a Café de Monde chicory coffee and an orange juice.

Then back out in the strong sun, we walked a decent distance to the Visitors Centre near the Liberty Bell. Marie had the perfect suggestion for today. We’d done the tourist, open-top bus on our first visit in 2015, and just walked in 2017, but Marie found out about the Phlash bus. It covers the same route as the tourist bus, but only costs $5 a person for a day (or $8 for two days) and you can also hop on and off wherever you want until 5pm.  Having got our tickets, we got the Phlash back to the hotel to rest a bit. We watched the classic Seinfeld cock-fighting and prison-dating episode.

We discussed what to do. Another museum perhaps.  We thought we’d try the area around the Eastern State Penitentiary, Fairmount, because we’d really liked the look of it when we’d been there in 2015.  One of the main stops on the Phlash is the penitentiary.  We did indeed really enjoy Fairmount. A lovely part of the Philly, with a lot of people-watching cafes, bars and restaurants.  We got a blood orange and pear iced tea and sat at a pavement table on a corner opposite the penitentiary (the penitentiary flanks several blocks).    

in Fairmount, photo by Adam Hardy (the penitentiary in the background)

Then we wanted to find somewhere for a glass of white wine each to toast mum on her birthday.  We chose a large patio outside an old-fashioned Greek diner, at the base of a large block of apartments very much like the Bay Club in Bayside near home. It was a beautiful space to have a snack and a glass of chardonnay each. In a weird way, the older folk and Mediterranean style outdoor parasols under a strong sun reminded me of Benidorm!

Across the street were very beautiful town houses. We were just one block from the giant art museum too, and five minutes’ drive from the centre of town.  One was for sale, and we looked up the listing and photos. 4 bedrooms, 3 bedrooms, pretty much like a brownstone and immaculately done out. A dream home really. The same house a block from a big museum and in a leafy area like this in Manhattan would mean the house would cost multiple millions.  Here in Fairmount….just $629,000!! 

We don’t rule out Philly as a place to possibly live one day.   The only slight downside in the centre is the homeless problem.  You can’t walk down one of the centre streets without being asked for money every twenty feet.  It’s good to give something, but we’d rather give voluntarily. It can be a little much at times.

Anyway, we enjoyed our Greek trio: salad, pita and spreads snack and the wine.

We next walked over to Fairmount Park and the grounds of the art museum (photos I took below)…

  We made it up quite a steep path to a gazebo and then a lookout with beautiful views over the Schuylkill River and the Fairmount Dam. 

Near the museum we stopped to pay respects to Mister Softee by trying some of his wares: Marie a chocolate cherry dip and I had a (unintendedly giant) hot butterscotch sundae, some of which melted all over me.

Next we walked around to the very famous Rocky steps up to the art museum. We didn’t run up them, as many tourists did in honour of Rocky, but we did walk up them and to the large fountain outside. I took lots of photos. 

photo by Adam Hardy
photo by Marie Hardy

We wanted to look in the gallery shop and use the toilets without actually going in on this occasion, but it seemed you couldn’t do either without buying a ticket.

Back on the Phlash again, we alighted at Penn’s Landing.  We used the toilets and watched roller skaters and the Ferris wheel. We even thought about going on the wheel, at Marie’s suggestion which I was surprised about because she’s afraid of heights. I was up for it, but due to hay fever my eye was streaming.  We opted out for now, but we may well do a Ferris wheel soon.

photo by Adam Hardy

Then to the British-run Victoria freehouse again.  Nuff’ said! The  marmite garlic chicken wings there are out-of-this-world, and we want to try to replicate the recipe at home!   We were also coming for Sunday roast, though they didn’t start serving the roast until 5pm, not 4pm as listed on the website. No worries, as we’d just share the wings and have a drink then order the roast when it was close to 5.00.  I enjoyed an imperial pint of caramel-y, very British speckled hen.  The Sunday roast was mostly good, except the beef which was – as a friends calls it when Brits overcook meat – cooked “to within an inch of its life”.  There wasn’t much gravy and it was way overcooked and tough. Really it was more steak than beef. We’ll stick to our favourite Sunday roast this side of the Atlantic, the one at Churchills in Manhattan where the beef is tender and they give you a boat of rich gravy.

At around 4.40, we were the only ones in there apart from one couple, who had just left. I joked to Marie that as soon as the Roast started a tour bus would turn up. I was partly correct because a small beer tour group flooded in a few minutes later!    Back to the hotel, and then Marie drove us to Essington – a suburb near the airport – where we picked up Stromboli’s to take home from Romano’s, as we had in 2017.  They’re possibly the best sandwich I’ve ever had in America. We got three par-cooked ones (they’re giant): hot (and sweet) sausage, one meatball and one cheesesteak one.

I skipped writing up our 2017 visit, but that was wonderful too. On that occasion we went to an ear-splitting gig at Kung Fu Necktie featuring Woven Hand, and we had ice cream from the classic Franklin Fountain.

You can make your own fun in the city, which may be a little harder right now during covid times. But, as I say, it’s way overlooked.  I feel that it’s come a long way since I first went there, on a two or three day stayover in late 2003 on a solo visit. My first ever trip to the USA at that point. All my senses really awakened to the city when I went with Marie and we try to go most years now. And sometimes we have Stromboli delivered, freeze-packed in dry ice, to New York!

Toasting what would have been my mom’s 80th birthday with a chardonnay in Fairmount…

Published by heathgrip

An Englishman in New York for around 15 years, I met a wonderful, beautiful, cannily smart and talented girl from Flushing, Queens whilst I was living in Manchester, UK, through the internet in 2005 and we married in Spring 2006! We both have a passion for travel, restaurants, history, music, all kinds of fun events. Who doesn't? I'm an artist and photographer, and also love to write. Anything creative really (you can keep your science and technology!). I've sent journals back home to family and friends for many years and they've often suggested I start a blog with writings pasted from my journals. So here it is!

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