Friday, March 4: This morning is quite cold and overcast as Mike and I drive to Philadelphia for a three-day weekend. Our trip is a belated celebration of Mike’s 62nd birthday; his actual birthday was last weekend, February 26. He didn’t feel like going away on his actual birthday because he had gone to Ohio the weekend before that to meet his old high school friends. I think he needed some down time before jumping into another trip. As for me, I’m always ready to go on an adventure!
When we get to the city, it’s too early to check into our hotel. We’re ready for lunch and we’ve read that the Reading Terminal Market, with its 80-some eatery stands, make the market a popular lunchtime destination.
According to Moon Handbooks: Pennsylvania, the Reading Railroad was forced into bankruptcy decades ago, but the terminal has housed a busy farmer’s market since then.
Besides being a regular stop for locals looking for fresh produce, eggs, dairy products, meats, and seafood, there are a staggering array of lunch options, from macaroni and cheese, chicken and dumplings, cheese steaks, roast beef sandwiches, burgers, specialty grilled cheese sandwiches, Cajun fare, Mexican and Indian/Pakistani food and savory crepes. We walk around, our mouths watering, before we settle on a diner that serves chicken and dumplings.
The dumplings in my lunch look more like noodles or spätzle than the typical dumplings I’ve eaten. The meal is just okay, maybe even a little disappointing.
It’s a bustling place with people hollering and bantering and driving hard bargains.
There are even some Easter delights: chocolate bunnies, Easter baskets, and chocolate eggs.
We know we have to try some Philly cheese steaks while here, but we’ll wait till we get a good recommendation for a tried-and-true place.
It’s too bad I find this Grilled Cheese place AFTER we’ve already eaten. I love to eat variations on the good old grilled cheese sandwich.
After lunch and a wander around the market, we have a short time before we have to pick up our car from the garage for a flat $4 rate, so we take a walk around the surrounding area; here we find a world sculpture, City Hall, street murals, a Hard Rock Cafe and the Masonic Temple.
When the construction of City Hall was begun in 1871, it was to be the tallest building in the world. The project dragged on for so long that in the meantime, the Washington Monument and Eiffel Tower were built higher. City Hall had the brief distinction as being the tallest habitable building in the world — at least for a few years.
Today, City Hall’s remaining claims to fame are: “world’s tallest occupied masonry structure, America’s largest (and most expensive) municipal building, and one of the continent’s finest examples of Second Empire architecture” (Moon Handbooks: Pennsylvania).
The Masonic Temple of Philadelphia is just across from City Hall and is often mistaken for a church. Dedicated in 1873, the temple is the mothership of Pennsylvania Masonry. Masonry is considered the world’s oldest fraternal organization with practices shrouded in secrecy.
By the time we walk around a long couple of blocks, it’s time to pick up our car and check into The Independent Hotel; we then head back out to explore more of the city.