Impressions of Philadelphia

Taken in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in April ...
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Finally got back from our “vacation” in Philly. We stayed in Center City, which one would assume would be a bustling part of the city, but we were constantly taken aback by just how quiet it was. Where are all the people? Are they all on vacation? Why aren’t cars honking at each other? These were some of the questions we asked as we walked the streets.

My observations will naturally be generalized from only the few square miles that we saw there, so I have no idea if this rings true or not. Native Philadelphians, feel free to correct me if necessary. Here are my impressions of Philly:

  • After NYC, Philly feels much less dense
  • But even though it is more spread out, everything we wanted to see was in surprisingly short walking distance
  • It has a nice historical feel to it
  • Though it also has an accompanying air of decay
  • There seems to be an abundance of young, successful (-looking) single women, at least in the places we went out to
  • There’s no shortage of a diversity of quality dining options
  • Philly kind of reminded me of San Francisco, minus the hills and the hippies
  • Which may be because the subway system is very reminiscent of SF’s BART
  • There are some really down and out folks in Philly–the blight of drug abuse is readily evident
  • When we got back to NYC, I speculated that perhaps down-and-outers were just more apparent in Philly than here simply because in NYC they get lost in the crowd
  • If there’s Latinos in Philly, then they must be somewhere other than the City Center
  • The art museums are nice, and it’s cool the way they have a whole “museum row” kind of thing
  • God bless the Amish–those soft pretzels we ate at Reading (why is this pronounced “Redding”? What’s up with East Coast spellings and pronounciations, like Houston? Is this a Dutch thing?) Terminal Market were damn good!
  • We only ate one cheesesteak, and it sucked. I subsequently learned that the City Center is NOT the place to look for cheesesteaks. I’ll thus reserve my judgement on that matter until I actually taste an authentic one
  • Do all the white people drive cars everywhere? What’s wrong with taking public transportation? Maybe it was just the part of town we were in?
  • One complaint that soured our perspective at the end of our visit: you can’t buy just one dang token for the subway! You have to buy at least 2! What the hell?!
  • In NYC, in any given direction you’ll hit a Starbucks, a Rite-Aid, a Duane Reade, and a CVS, not necessarily in that order. We were pleasantly surprised to find that downtown Philly didn’t have the same obsession with franchises and pharmacies that New Yorkers seem to. The franchises were certainly a presence, but they didn’t completely dominate

Overall, I enjoyed Philly, and while it doesn’t exactly call out to me to live there, if I was forced to move there, I wouldn’t complain. It has a neat sense of history, a great selection of culinary offerings, and all the cultural benefits that make a city a city. I like the way the slight decrease in density equates with a slight decrease in aggression. Philly, I’ll be coming back to see what these cheesesteaks are really all about. And to have another couple of your soft pretzels.


Author: manderson

I live in NYC.

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