A trip to Philadelphia, PA
The day was finally here to have another Philly cheasesteak. We purchased round trip bus tickets about a month in advance for 10$ a person. The entire time I kept wondering how they managed to make a profit. Tania and I rose really early and headed for the bus depot at 41st and 8th avenue. We were there an hour early in an attempt to grab the front two seats in the double-decked bus. Luckily, everything went as planned. At 6:30 the bus arrived at the terminal and we where one of the firsts to get our seats. After one of the employees yelled “you’ve got all 28” to the bus driver, we were off to Philadelphia. The ride was calm and seemed faster than expected. I guess we were now accustomed to long vehicle rides (thanks to our trip to Lake George). We entered the city from the east by crossing the Benjamin Franklin bridge. We were in the streets of Philadelphia at 9am. To our disadvantage, the weather was estimated to be at a scorching 98°, but we “beat the system” by staying in the shade and refilling our water bottle with ice at several Wawa’s.
Our trip began by heading towards city hall. I wanted to show this building to Tania for its royal architecture. Next on our stop was Reading Terminal Market. This place was unlike any market I had been to. There were several shops inside catering to different nutritional needs. We decided to grab some breakfast from an Amish stand. As stayed cool as we ate and continued our trip by heading over to the National Constitution Center. I had a wedding there last year and thought the surrounding area was historic and of the type which Tania liked. Next on our list was Elfreth’s alley. It is one of the oldest and therefore most historic streets in the United States. We stopped by a gift store to grab to grab some souvenirs and check out the digging going on out back. Apparently, they were mining out artifacts from the locations richly historic soil. It was now getting closer and closer to noon. This meant that the temperature was approaching the warmest of the day. We decided to head towards Jim’s Steak and stop by a Wawa on the way. Wawa’s are like the the 7-11′ of Philadelphia. We each got a cold Slurpee and decided to sit in the shade to enjoy it. As we were cooling off, Tania and I decided it would be nice to check out Philadelphia’s penitentiary. From what I read online, it was one of the oldest prison systems in the nation. But before we went there we had to eat some cheasesteaks. The walk to Jim’s took about 15 minutes. And luckily we did not find a long line before us. We ordered “One Philly Cheasesteak with Wiz”. Im sure they knew we were outsiders since most of the other customers simply said “Wit wiz”. We enjoyed 1/2 a cheasesteak each and decided we needed to try more.
Our next stop was Pat’s King of Steak. This place was about a 20 minute walk, in which we met some of Philly’s strangest people. From our observations it seemed as though Philadelphia had a lot more homeless people. Above all, most of the homeless population seemed to use serious street drugs. There was one pedestrian in particular which had been following us for some blocks. He was talking to himself and seemed to be looking for something. He was also topless and sweating from the intense heat. We had to cross the street several times in order to avoid a possible conflict.
We arrived to Pat’s in one piece. We noticed Geno’s steak across the street. Considering that both places were in a suburban area, I figured that they must have been good. We walked to the place which sold only cheasesteaks and and ordered another “Philly cheasesteak”. I have to admit, nothing’s like the original. Pat’s was a lot more juicy. The only downside to Pat’s and Geno’s was that the had a shaded outside seating area (no air conditioning). We sat to cool off for a bit and then headed to the penitentiary. We passed through a street-market district and saw some murals and poultry shops. We decided to stop by love park which was on our way. We saw many people wetting their feet and we decided to join in. I have to admit that it was very refreshing. My body seemed to cool off as our feet experienced a drop in temperature. After about 30 minutes we found ourselves at the penitentiary. The building was big and old. Upon entry we noticed that the walls were falling apart and the internal structure of the building was exposed. After getting past the admission booth we found ourselves literally in a prison yard. We started by walking to Al Capone’s jail cell. We walked to general population cells and were even able to talk into them. Compared to today’s systems, the cells seemed more forgiving. Each inmate had a cell to himself or another roommate. Another difference was the size of the place. It seemed a lot smaller than today’s jail cell system. For some reason I assume that most of the inmates knew each other. Al Capone’s cell was located right in the center of the place. It was nice to see that his cell was restored to the state it was in during his attendance. Due to his infamous status, he had many luxuries which the other inmates lacked. Our next stop was the housing place of inmates on death row. It was a small room with about 6 cells in it. Most of the penitentiary was not fully restored, and we were running out of time. Nevertheless we were able to see about 80 percent of what was available to us.
Our bus back was scheduled for 6:30. We still had about an hour to get through before then. I decided our last stop should be at Philadelphia waterworks. The waterworks is shaped as a dam. I’m not too sure what it’s purpose was, but hey, at least we got to see it. I was also fortunate to be there while there were rowers on the water. Since Tania has a history with crew, I’m sure she enjoyed it just as much (or even more) than I did. We quickly made our way past the Spring Street garden bridge and through Drextel University. We were probably had 30 people in front of us, but we still managed to make it to the upper deck of the bus. I slept through most of the ride back to NY and kept Tania close. Arriving in NY was not as depressing as I thought it would be. We got onto the subway and made our way back to Queens. On the ride we met some interesting tourists.