Thursday, October 24, 2013

Road trip!

This past Sunday, Hubby and I were driving through Upper State New York, down the I-85, on our way to Philadelphia to see Pearl Jam play back-to-back shows at the Wells-Fargo Centre.

I know that you are surprised that I travel to concerts that don't feature the E-Street band. But I do it for love. Hubby is a HUGE PJ fan. It is his all time favourite band. Which explains all those awful law school pictures of him with long, scraggly hair, Doc Martins, and plaid shirts... And since Hubby followed me all the way to Europe to see Bruce, I figured it was only fair that I tag along for this ride. Besides, Eddie Vedder's got some serious cred with me. He and the Boss are tight! He gave this moving tribute to Springsteen when the latter was inducted into the Kennedy Centre. Plus he performed a few songs with Bruce at the Wrigley show in 2012 (I was there - I saw it with my very own eyes!). If he is good enough for Bruce, he is good enough for me!

And he is good enough for Bruce, who left the swamps of Jersey to come to the concert. See:

Confirmed sighting of Springsteen at the Philly Pearl Jam concert on October 22, 2013
Photo credit: @PJ_Updates (Twitter)

(I went weak in the knees just knowing that the Boss and I were in the same building, watching the same concert.)

Anyway, I'd never been to Philly, so this road trip seemed like a doubly good idea. Make Hubby happy by seeing his beloved Pearl Jam (once from the Pit and once from the nose-bleed section), and add another push pin to my map of visited U.S. cities. Win-win!

Yes, we were that close - First night from the Pit,
second row behind the rail. Eddie still looks good.
A different view on the second night...

With two of our evenings eaten up by hanging out with 20,000-or-so plaid-clad grungers, there was not a lot of opportunity to explore the Philadelphia night life or food scene. But our days were free to wander around and add to our knowledge about this city.

Here's what I knew about Philly before this week:
  • there's a movie featuring a Bruce Springsteen song (you knew I was going to work that in somehow);
  • the Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Rocky are from Philly;
  • the Philly cheese steak is the city's most famous dish; 
  • there's a big ole bell.

Thanks to our trip, I now know a few more things. For instance:

Philadelphians love their Rocky: Or at least they love that tourists love their Rocky. From postcards to tee-shirts to desk-sized bronze statues to books about how the famous Rocky steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art have inspired millions to believe in their ability to do anything they put their minds to (including kitchily running the stairs), there is no shortage of Rocky in Philly.

And frankly, who am I to argue with a decades-old tradition of visiting the museum and running the stairs:

(There's a video of me doing it too, but Hubby wouldn't sing the theme song while I did it, so it's not as entertaining. He can be a jerk like that. At least he snapped some pictures of me jumping up and down victoriously after I smoked him all the way to the top.)

I still have no idea what a Philly cheese steak tastes like: I couldn't bring myself to eat one. Something about that gooey, processed cheese makes my stomach threaten outright rebellion. Instead, Hubby and I made our way to Reading Terminal Market, which we were told is the oldest covered farmer's market in the U.S., and got ourselves a roasted pork and provolone sandwich from DiNics. It was incredible. And the best part is that after running the Rocky steps, I had absolutely no guilt for having consumed all those delicious calories!

Love Park at JFK Plaza
Philadelphia literally means "brotherly love": I always knew that Philly was called the City of Brotherly Love, but I had no idea why. Are Philadelphians a particularly friendly lot? Is the city full of good Samaritans? It's true that I found everyone I met to be quite friendly and helpful. But it turns out that the word "Philadelphia" is derived from two Greek words - "philos" (love) and "adelphos" (brotherly). Thank you to the kind gentleman running around the Old City dressed like a colonial town crier for giving me the answer to this trivia question! And Sir, I hope you were an actual tour guide of some kind. Otherwise, you were just a touch creepy.

It is an incredibly charming city: Maybe it is because we stayed in the Old City, where narrow cobblestone streets are lined with beautiful old brown-stones. Maybe it's because of the history - Philly being the cradle of the American revolution - that seeps out of its every pore. Maybe it's because not one, but two rivers run through it. Maybe it's because of the multitude of universities. Or maybe it's because the city has taken great care to preserve its greatest relics and buildings. Whatever the reason, Philly stands out in my mind as the most charming American city I've been to thus far. (Sorry Boston. You had that title right up until this week. At least your baseball team is in the World Series.)

Nestled in among a block of skyscrapers

Residential street in the Old City

The tomb of many unknown soldiers - British and American - from the War of American Independence

The big 'ole bell has a big 'ole crack in it: Why? Apparently, because it was shoddily made. The crack rendered it unusable. Still, millions flock to stand before it and revel in its emanating aura of freedom. Having stood in front of the remnants of the Berlin Wall, Hubby wonders if perhaps the Liberty Bell's hype is exaggerated. Especially since, at the time that it rang through the streets of Philadelphia, the Founding Fathers all kept slaves. Nonetheless, the Liberty Bell - crack and all - remains an enduring symbol of independence and freedom, and an important part of the American psyche.

Like my Yuengling moustache?
Good American beer does exist: Canadians are known for being beer snobs. For good reason. We make good beer. While our American friends make that 4%-alcohol-crap that tastes vaguely like water. So yes, we enjoy haughtily making fun of Budweiser and Coors while we sip on our vast selection of microbrews and the like.

But it turns out that there is some pretty good beer local to Philadelphia. Like that from the hipster-iffic Nodding Head Brew House. Or Yuengling, from the oldest brewery in the United States. And unlike Budweiser, these beers are good. Like really good. I know because I had a few pints. A girl gets thirsty for a good lager when wandering the streets of Philadelphia.

I'm sure that I could have tried a few more local lagers at any number of breweries or Irish Pubs. And I would have liked to make it over to University City to explore the University of Pennsylvania campus (because I like to make myself feel old by hanging out with college kids). And there is a vibrant museum scene that would have been pretty cool to check out. And it would have been truly awesome to see a football game in Philly. But alas, Hubby and I only had a couple of days off before we had to make the 720km trek back to our everyday lives. And so it could be but a short road trip.

But we're already looking for our next concert destination. Any ideas?

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Singing autumnal praises

I love Thanksgiving. Mostly because I love turkey, that glorious and tasty fowl that takes centre stage during the harvest season. And pumpkin. I love pumpkin, probably because it gets made into things like pumpkin pie, and pumpkin cheese cake, and pumpkin loaf, and my absolute favourite, pumpkin ice cream.

Sneaking the last of the pumpkin ice cream at Thanksgiving dinner
But mostly, I love Thanksgiving because it falls right smack dab in the middle of my favourite time of year. Fall. 

Some people fear Fall as a sign of what is to come - a long, cold and harsh Canadian winter. But to me, the Fall is a time of beauty. Cool, crisp mornings followed by sunny, brilliant afternoons, wrapped up with evenings lit up with harvest moons. It is a stunning time of year.

But don't take my word for it. Feast your eyes instead on these beautiful photos of my favourite time of year - Fall.

Sunrise over Ottawa - early Fall

Parliament Hill shrouded in mist on an early morning run 

What is more autumnal than football?

It might be fall, but it's still warm enough for a swim in the New Edinburgh Pond

Running through the leaves at the Arboretum

Leaves, leaves, and more leaves

The turning of the leaves in the Arboretum

Taking a stroll down an autumn path

Fall at Dow's Lake

Happy Thanksgiving, all!