Day 7 – drive to Philadelphia and some Culture!
We got up around 10am on this Sunday, ate the free breakfast at Comfort Suites (they had Biscuits and Gravy, and it was decent!), and headed on our way to Philly.
It was beautiful driving weather, and we had no trouble following the directions this time. We had pre-decided that we would bypass Dorney/Allentown, and go directly to Philly, with Sunday being our “day off” to rest before driving back to Allentown on Monday for Dorney. (For us, it’s only a distance as if we were driving from our home to Six Flags Fiesta Tx in San Antonio, so it made sense).
Some online friends had given me some good suggestions for a Brunch place in nearby Bethlehem, but as it was Father’s Day?. .didn’t even want to mess with it.
We stopped off at the Allentown Service Area so we could take a potty/medication break (and to pick up Sunoco stickers for Nascar fan, Nick ). I also took advantage of the stop to call my Dad and wish him Happy Father’s Day – something I know he appreciated, since he wasn’t expecting a call, as we were on vacation.
As we were pulling back onto the toll-way, I noticed the lift hill of Steel Force visible off in the distance. I pointed it out to Nick and he said.. “oh hell no, I’m not riding that” and we laughed and continued on our way to Philadelphia.
Although there was a LOT of road construction going on on the tollway, as it was Sunday, there wasn’t any work going on. So we made really good time – until we took the exit towards downtown Philly. And traffic just slowed to a crawl. Seriously, 7 miles on this road towards downtown, going ~10 miles per hour. And it turned out it was like this the next day on the way back from Dorney too! I don’t know how folks deal with this. It would make me crazy! And I only had to deal with it twice (and as a passenger at that).
Once we FINALLY got to our exit, the Google directions became worthless, as downtown Philly is all 1 way streets (seemingly going against you), and they are all narrow and crazy. We were staying at the Downtown Marriott – literally across the street from City Hall and on Market Street. But when we went by, there was no place to pull in, and all the streets were one way against us. After doing a lot of wrong turns, it eventually brought us back behind the Marriott, and THAT’S where the parking and main entrance is (on the street opposite Market Street). There is no option to self-park, so we had to Valet, something I was expecting. (I wasn’t expecting the parking fee to be $40/day + $8 tax/day. . so we ended up paying ~ $150 just to park the car at the hotel we were staying at!).
I mentioned when getting out of the car how hard it was to find the front entrance/parking for the hotel, and the valet said they hear that a lot (so how about a sign or SOMETHING on the Market Street side of the hotel????). They then asked if we were sure we were supposed to be at the Marriott Downtown (since there are two other, mid level Marriott’s on the next block that are attached, and apparently they often get folks going to the wrong hotel). But nope, we were at the right place.
I went to check in and Nick dealt with the bags. The very nice lady at check in offered me my choice of rooms, and I said “whichever has the best view”, since we’d never been to Philadelphia before. So she asked me if I’d like the 23rd floor, even tho it had two twins, instead of a King. As Nick had been complaining my snoring was keeping him up (oops). . .I said, sure, we can do the separate beds for our stay. She told me it was a corner room and to let her know if I had any issues. I didn’t know that the 23rd floor was the top floor of the Hotel, so we ended up with a room that was right next to the Elevator Lobby in front of us, and also had the Concierge Lounge two doors to our right. BUT it wasn’t a corner room – it was the room next to the corner room, so we ended up with a view of the building across the street from us. I was OK with that, since the hall just outside if we stepped to the left, had a nice corner window we could take some pics of.
It was just at 2pm, so we decided that we would go ahead and do a little sight-seeing, not realizing that everything in Philly shuts down between 5-5:30. Really. We were staying across the street from the famous Reading Terminal Market, and never got to go in They closed at 5:30 every day, and we were never back at the hotel early enough from the day’s excursion to make it in to even see it. I really do regret that, as I would have loved to sample some of the foods available.
Anyways, I stopped by Concierge desk to pick up brochures ask about the “Rocky Steps” – I knew they were in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, but wanted to know if we should take the car from Valet, or cab it. The Concierge suggested walking, as it’s a beautiful 20 minute walk, but since it was after 2, and the Museum closed at 5, I didn’t want to waste the time. . so we headed out to grab a cab.
Passing by the front desk, the lady at reception who had checked me in asked what I thought of the room. I told her it was great, but mentioned that it wasn’t a corner room, like she thought. She frowned and looked it up, said “oh shoot” and apologized profusely. I assured it it was OK, and we headed out (I didn’t know right then, but she had gone ahead and comped us Concierge Lounge access. . so that ended up being *great*. . especially since it was only two doors down from us. .so we got the advantages of Concierge Suite without having to pay for it )
The hotel got us a cab, and we drove up the beautiful Museum Drive section of Philadelphia and got to the front of the Philly Museum of Art only $7 later.
It wasn’t super-crowded, which surprised me – I thought it WOULD be, since it was a beautiful day, Sunday afternoon, and Father’s Day. But as you can see from the pics, not bad at all.
Nick didn’t want a pic of the Rocky statue at the bottom right of the steps, so we headed up, and took some pics of downtown, and of the footprint plaque.
We had compromised that I would not argue going to the Rocky steps, as long as we got to go into the museum (heh – I had just enjoyed the works at the Art Institute of Chicago, so I wanted to check out the Picasso’s, Mattisse’s, Renoir’s, Toulouse-Lautrec’s, Dali’s, Hieronymus Bosch, and Van Goh’s here), so into the Museum we went.
The cashier told us that admission to the Museum of Art was a two day ticket, that also included admission to the Rodin Museum back down the parkway http://www.rodinmuseum.org/
which has the largest collection of his work outside of the Paris museum. The timing was screwy, both museums were open on Sunday, but on Monday the Museum of Art would be closed, and on Tuesday (our next day in Philly) the Rodin museum would be closed. So really our only option to see Rodin was today, and there just happened to be a shuttle from the Museum of Art to the Rodin Museum at 2:45 (in about 3 minutes). Needless to say, we went thru the main hallway of the Museum of Art, out the back doors, and caught the shuttle which then brought us back up the Benjamin Franklin Parkway to the Rodin museum.
It’s a small museum, but well worth it – just to see the casts of “the Thinker” and “Gates of Hell” – arguably his two best known works.
We spent about 25 minutes at the Museum looking at the sculptures, but I really wanted to see the Modern and Renaissance art at the Museum of Art. It didn’t make sense to wait 35 minutes for the shuttle to come back, so instead we walked back down the Ben Franklin Parkway to the Museum of Art, and climbed the Rocky steps (again), and went back in.
Fantastic Museum, even tho we were only able to see about 1/4th of the works due to it closing in about an hour.
We skipped the Armor, and Religious Art (I had seen so much of that in Chicago anyways), and stuck to the Masters and Modern art.
We were pretty much the only folks browsing these galleries, and so we got to look up close at Picasso’s “Three Musicians”, Dali’s stunning “SoftConstructionWithBeans”, and best of all, Van Goh’s “Sunflowers”
By the time we finished browsing the Museum was closing up. I found out there was one last shuttle going back to the Rodin Museum, so we hopped on that (hey, it saved at lest 4 blocks of walking!), and we headed back to our hotel on foot – while looking for a place to eat. Nothing really caught our eye, tho we marveled at the beautiful carved stone of the Franklin Institute (Science Museum), the old Mason Churches, the fountains, and the famous “Love” sculpture – in a packed JFK square with tons of kids playing in the fountain, and homeless folks passed out on pretty much every available flat surfice! (yeah, it got a bit “sketchy” as we got closer to downtown and our hotel.
No idea what to eat, so we went up to the room to change shoes (after finding out that Reading Market Terminal was closed already) planning that we’d head across the street to “Chili’s” – I know, I know. .but we were exhausted from walking, we were hungry, and were tired. I decided I’d try to see if I could get into concierge, and the door was locked, but when I tried my key, it opened! (that’s when I found out the front desk had comped us concierge). So in we went for a cup of coffee, and I started chatting with the two folks working in the suite.
The older concierge guy (who really was a little creepy/clingy/hands-on, but I think he was just so happy to see some “family” when he typically deals with business travelers at the Marriott) recommended that we walk up 13th street (right behind the hotel) and we’d find some great little bistro restaurants.
It turned out he sent us to the area of down-town that had been nick-named “the Gayborhood”. .with cute little rainbow flags hanging on all the lampposts. We ended up at a restaurant called “El Vez” with the cutest and dumbest lil blonde waiter – he “explained” to us that the name of the place was kinda a pun. . “if you say it fast, it’s like Elvis. . .heh heh” (yep, Nick and I just stared at each other and tried not to laugh). I didn’t take any pics, so I’ll just say the food was good and reasonably priced, and when we got back to our room, the Concierge guy saw us (remember, we were just two doors down from the glass doors to the suite) and asked where we went. I told him and he was floored that we hadn’t pre-planned anything, since apparently “El Vez” is one of the hottest restaurants in town, and one of the go-to places.
Good trip karma still working!
We were wiped from an afternoon at the museums and all the walking, so showered, and just spent the rest of the night in the room watching TV and relaxing.
We were getting up early in the morning for our trip to Dorney!