We didn’t mean to spend only 3 hours in Philly, but last weekend was one of those weekends where we tried to be spontaneous – but failed rather spectacularly. Mark and the girls had never been to Philly before, and while I did travel there for business on 2 occasions in the last 18 months, it was a typical business trip in that I spent all day in meetings. I saw the city through the backseat windows of cabs, but remember making mental notes of wanting to stop at all sorts of places.
It’s pretty remarkable that the city is a mere 2 hour drive away from NY. The kids felt a bit disoriented after we got out of the car because we usually step out into the country, the suburbs or small towns after a 2 hour car ride, not another big city with tall buildings and busy streets. The first place we headed after parking the car was Reading Terminal Market because, well, food. The thing about places like the Reading Terminal for me is that I love the bustling liveliness of it all (that’s sort of a nice way of saying, heeeyy long lines and overcrowded aisles), but I’m often completely overwhelmed to the point of being rendered useless in making any kind of food decisions. The appeal of something like the Reading Terminal is that there are so many choices and everyone can satisfy their own particular cravings, but that also potentially means getting on four different lines. The kids have to eat though, so most of the focus is spent on getting food for them. Do you know that feeling when you’re hosting an event and you’re running around making sure that everyone else is happy and taken care of that you just sort of forget to eat, but then regret after it’s over that you didn’t have enough of the amazing food you served? Yeah. Adding to the overall chaos, I was dealing with a pretty bad emergency at work so was pretty much glued to my phone and didn’t end up eating anything at all.
After lunch we headed down to Independence Hall to look at the Liberty Bell. Fifth graders have been studying American History all year, so the girls were pretty into it. Except…we saw this huge line snaking through the park and down the block as we approached the area where the bell is. This is completely the result of my ignorance but I thought the bell was more open and we could simply stroll up to it. In our attempt to be “spontaneous” we did zero research and neglected to find out that there is a security process involved. At the risk of sounding unpatriotic, nobody in our family wanted to wait in line. We did, however, walk to the end of the park and saw most of the bell from a distance through the plexiglass enclosure from the fence.
“What are all those people waiting in line for when you can just walk over here and see the bell through the glass!”, I overheard an older gentleman say. I’m feeling you, man, I’m feeling you.
We continued to meander our way in and out of the historic buildings and gardens surrounding Independence Hall. The girls were complaining about the heat though (it was 80 degrees which was a rather big, sudden jump in temperature) and the long distances we’d been walking so far. Our parking meter was soon up by that time anyway so we made the long walk back to the car to drive and explore a different neighborhood. When the walk took much longer than we anticipated, we split up and Mark sprinted to get to the car in time while I looked for an ice cream shop for the girls.
While waiting to pay for cones at a shop I get a call from Mark. “I got a ticket. For parking 8 inches into a handicap spot. It wasn’t very well marked and there was nothing marking the curb.”
“Ugh,” I say. “How much is the ticket?”
At that point, we were tired and felt defeated and after a quick poll in the car, decided that we all just wanted to go home. As we were driving towards the highway, we drove through the cutest neighborhood and while we wanted to stop and have a coffee in a quaint cafe somewhere and pop into some shops, the thought of trying to find parking and paying the city of Philadelphia any more parking money put us in a decidedly grumpy mood. So we left Philly the way I left during my last trip there – seeing the city through the window of a car.
It took the entire ride home through heavy traffic to shake off the mood we were in. Mark went as far as saying he didn’t know if he wanted to go there again, which is silly of course because we’ll give Philly another try, but I’ll admit it was a relief to drive down our block and be home. Settled in with takeout food from some of our favorite neighborhood joints and big slices of leftover birthday cake, all was well again.