For those of you not in the USA - we had a three day weekend courtesy of Labor Day. Labor Day marks the end of summer ("no white after Labor day") and celebrates the efforts of the American workforce. In order to make the most of the three days, I took a trip to Philadelphia with a couple of the girls on my programme to explore a new city in the US of A.
We had been planning the trip since last week and managed to find some cheap deals/student discounts. On Friday my office let me go a little bit early so I dashed back to New Jersey to grab my things for the weekend. We took the Greyhound bus from Port Authority to Philly which only took a couple of hours, and walked the 10 minutes to our hotel. We stayed in the BIGGEST hotel I have ever been in (Marriott) - we got lost for ages trying to find our room and went across the road to a Hard Rock Café for some dinner (see my photos page - all we had was a starter!).
The first day in Philly we went to the Eastern State Penitentiary - a famous derelict prison where Al Capone himself was once incarcerated. The audio tour was narrated by actor Steve Buscemi, and it was really interesting to learn about the famous inmates and prison life over the years Look out for my next cultural post on this topic! Here are a few of my favourite facts:
1. When the prison opened, most inmates were incarcerated for crimes like robbery, theft (especially horsetheft) - it was rare to find muderers or other more serious criminals.
2. Prisoners who fought in wars and died are remembered on a memorial plaque. They are not listed by name but by their prison number (very Les Miserables).
3. To enforce the silence within the prison, guards wore muffled boots so that prisoners couldn't hear them patrolling.
4. A dog named "Pep" was incarcerated in 1924 for "murdering the Governor's cat" - a fake story but a fun way of introducing a prison dog for the inmates.
My favourite part of the prison was an art installation by Jess Perlitz called "Chorus". She asked 84 current incarcerated persons "if you could sing one song, and have it heard, what would it be?" and recorded what they sang. The songs ranged from Bohemian Rhapsody to Amazing Grace, If I Die Young to Imagine. They were incredibly moving and a beautiful way of giving voice to the voiceless.
After the prison we wandered over to the Philadelphia Museum of Art where the famous "Rocky steps" are. Sadly due to the Made in America festival we couldn't see them so it was a bit disappointing. During our walk over to the museum it started raining and none of us had coats so we took an Über to Iskabibble II - a great place to get a famous Philadelphia Cheese Steak. It was absolutely delicious! Afterwards we went to see the Liberty Bell - which was originally used to call the founding fathers to the State House for meetings. Having been out in torrential rain all day with no coats we went to a cute café to grab some coffees to keep us warm while we walked back to the hotel.
We were all quite tired by the time we got back to the hotel, so we had a little nap before going out to a few bars to test the Philadelphia night life. Our first stop: Charlie was a sinner. This bar had some amazing cocktails - I didn't even know what half of the ingredients were but the ones we tried were delicious (especially the Pisco Sour)! After that we went to Howl at the Moon which I can honestly say had the BEST LIVE BAND I have ever seen. If you're ever in Philly I would 150% recommend going to hear them play.
On Sunday the brunch place we wanted to go to was really busy so we had a two hour wait wandering around the centre of Philly. I found the most gorgeous Kate Spade bag in the sale at Macy's but still couldn't afford it (*insert sob*). Finally we got a table at Green Eggs Café where I got the Mexican Benedict - cheese quesadilla, braised chicken, chipotle hollandaise and poached eggs with rosemary potatoes. So good!
Again, having eaten far too much of a good thing, we wandered around Washington Square park and listened to some of the storytellers from the Once Upon a Nation series all about the American Revolution. It was fun to here some of the lesser known (I didn't know a lot to begin with) facts about the revolution. We also saw the Betsy Ross house (the woman who sewed the first American flag), walked down Elfreth Alley (the oldest consistently residential street in the US), popped into the Museum of the American Revolution and relaxed in the Spruce Street Harbour Park.
All in all we had a lovely weekend. We went to some great places, had some fantastic food, and it was really nice to spend some time with the girls from my programme (Hannah, Evie, Alice and Pranika). I would definitely recommend Philly and only wish we had spent more time there!