Oh Philadelphia, you made it hard to fall in love with you

LOVE sculpture in Philadelphia getting dressed for the holidays (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

LOVE sculpture in Philadelphia getting dressed for the holidays. The street in the background is Benjamin Franklin Parkway leading to the Philadelphia Museum of Art and its famous “Rocky” steps (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Sometimes you have places you used to dislike that look better with fresh eyes, and then sometimes there are places that you are all set to like, and they promptly kick you in the teeth as soon as you arrive.

Hello, Philadelphia.

I’d only been there briefly in the distant past. I have friends and colleagues at the Visit Philadelphia tourism bureau. I liked everything I’d heard and read about the town.

My first few hours there contrived to suck all of that enthusiasm out of me, stuff it into a Philly cheesesteak, and throw it down the “Rocky” steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

My very first step into the city was a weird dark stairwell entry from my plane into the airport terminal.

The train system was super-convenient, but the signage at the airport station wasn’t all that great about how to pay (good thing I’m an old lady of 52 and carry cash, because the tickets are paid for onboard the train in cash….hello, it’s almost 2014. Can we get some machines here?)

My determined trek to get out of the downtown train station and explore the nearby Reading Terminal Market food hall was made a lot sweatier by out-of-commission escalators and elevators along the way, which is no biggie unless you’re schlepping a suitcase coming in from the airport – which I was – or are disabled in any way.

Shout-out to the helpful security guard who made up for lack of signage by pointing me toward an exit for the Market “in between the Cinnabon and the Smoothie King, right that way, Ma’am.”

By the time I got past an unhelpful, rather grumpy greeter in the Market (whose whole job is to be helpful and NOT grumpy) I was beginning to wonder if that adjective you often hear about Philly – “gritty” – was simply a euphemism for “metropolis of broken stuff and crabby people.”

Full disclosure: when I’m hungry, which I was that day, I tend to get a little spun up about things.

When you expect to like a city a lot, and it falls short right away, you then have to begin to draw on your traveler’s reserves….of patience, of humor, of perspective, of the memories of people you trust who have said, “No, really, you’ll LOVE it.”

So I did.

Guinness Whoopie Pie at Flying Monkey Bakery Reading Terminal Market Philadelphia (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Guinness Whoopie Pie at Flying Monkey Bakery Reading Terminal Market Philadelphia (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Food always helps, of course, so stumbling on the Flying Monkey Bakery‘s delicious soft Whoopie Pies began to turn my mental tide.

The moment that the hotel front desk person at the Sonesta Philadelphia sweetly fussed at me for not wearing a warm-enough coat as I headed out to explore.

The friendly waitstaff at restaurants Oyster House and Johnny Brenda’s who took care of me as a single diner, made on-target recommendations, and served up delicious locally-sourced food and brews….may I also add that the Oyster House’s Manhattan with house-made sweet vermouth was the best I’ve ever tasted.

The cheerful guy who shared a power plug with me on the subway….also, subway trains that have plugs. Yay!

The eloquent park ranger at Independence Hall who knew so many extraordinary stories about those turbulent days in 1776 and the people who made a Revolution.

The quiet moments thinking along with The Thinker at the Rodin Museum.

A series of less-than-ideal experiences all piled up to give one impression, and I could have let it color my entire view of Philadelphia within a few hours.

I had to be patient, and wait for the follow-on collage of positive moments that managed to erase the bad ones, and ultimately leave me quite fond of the city and eager to return.

Where have you gone that required you to call on those traveler’s reserves? Please share down in the comments….

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  1. Sheri December 5, 2013
    • Sheila Scarborough December 5, 2013

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