Every 4th of July, for the past 5 years, my tradition has been making a peach cobbler and watching the fireworks from my rooftop with friends. Growing up I didn’t have much tradition, so now I end up fitting it in anywhere I can. This year because the fireworks were moved to the Hudson river, there were rumors that we wouldn’t be able to see much from Brooklyn. My equilibrium was thrown out of whack…should I or shouldn’t I make a peach cobbler, and how can I in good conscience invite anyone over without the promise of an excellent view of the fireworks?
Luckily I didn’t have to spend much time deciding, when a friend proposed a day trip to Philadelphia. What better way to spend the 4th of July than in the City of Brotherly Love?! I had never been to Philly so I made two requests:
1. I must eat a Philly Cheesesteak
2. I must see the Liberty Bell
We stopped at the farmer’s market and picked up a blueberry-cheese danish (July is national blueberry month) for a quick breakfast and then hopped the NJ Transit at Penn Station, bound for Philadelphia. At 2 1/2 hours and only $37.50/round trip from NYC, it really is a great one-day getaway.
A 15-minute walk from the Philly train station will get you to Rittenhouse Square, a beautiful park with lots of shade, small flower gardens, and tons and tons of benches. We wanted a nibble to start our sight-seeing adventure so our first stop was the Metropolitan Bakery, located a short block away from the park. It is a cute, welcoming shop filled with homemade breads and baked goods and a fridge stocked with fancy cheeses–a little taste of Paris in Philadelphia. We decided to share a Sour Cherry-Chocolate Chip-Sea Salt cookie. One of my favorite flavor combinations–the salty and the sweet–this was absolutely divine. The ratio of chocolate chips to sour cherries was about 2-to-1 and the sea salt turned what could have been a good cookie into something extraordinary and one-of-a-kind.
From there we made our way up Walnut Street, the main drag for shopping. The street included everything from H&M to a Coach store. It’s like the 5th Avenue of NYC, only smaller and more manageable. We meandered over to South Street, the place to be if you want a Philly Cheesesteak. Since we hadn’t done any research before coming to Philadelphia, I plugged “Cheesesteak” into UrbanSpoon and was told to make my way to Jim’s Steaks. When we made it there, it looked like UrbanSpoon had told everyone to go to Jim’s Steaks because the line was wrapped around the block. If you’ve ever been to Grimaldi’s in DUMBO on a beautiful Friday evening, you’ve got a good picture of the wait! Neither one of us wanted to spend the long wait in line, so after peering into a few spots nearby, we settled on Johnny Rockets (I know, I know…). But, hey, I got my Philly Cheesesteak, complete with American Cheese (yay, America!) and grilled onions. While it was probably not as good as the one at Jim’s, it satisfied me 100%.
Next stop: Liberty Bell. We walked through the Historic District and I imagined myself living in one of the cute houses on a cobblestone street. The historic houses in Philly are a little different from the brownstones you’ll find in Brooklyn. They’re wider and shorter–usually only 2 stories as opposed to the 3 or 4 stories you’ll find in NYC. And that’s when we discovered Independence Hall, the site of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. I was surprised at myself for getting a little emotional at the sight of it. There were some people walking around in historic costumes and an Abraham Lincoln impersonator was giving some famous speech on the lawn behind the Hall. A Chinese-American band was playing patriotic tunes. This really was the place to be on the 4th of July! Oh, yes, and I did see the Liberty Bell, which made my journey complete.
Before heading back to NYC, we stopped at Parc, a French bistro on Rittenhouse square. The way they set up the chairs was exactly like they do in Paris, next to each other rather than across from each other. I had a glass of white wine and the cheese plate, with apples, almonds, and preserves. It was so peaceful sitting there, watching the passers-by, the dogs and their owners, the friends playing frisbee in the park, and the general small-town feel of this city.
Philadelphia is a city small enough to explore in one day. Pick a few “musts” and then see where your journey takes you.
♦ Buttery B