My husband attends a lot of conferences, and sometimes I tag along. For months I'd planned to join him in Philadelphia, and he found out more recently he had a conference in Austin immediately before Philly. Given that my best friend (and my son's godmother) lives in Austin, there was no question that we'd join him in Austin as well.
I loved visiting my bestie, but as I opined back in April Austin does nothing for my cityphile heart. A bartender in my hotel who was new to Austin complained to me that downtown Austin felt "corporate". I couldn't agree more. Given that temps were hovering around 100 degrees the entire time we were there our options were 1) swim or 2) do something inside.
We visited the Texas Capitol, a civic institution I'd never visited despite my many times in Austin. When I lived in Texas we would often go to Cisco's for breakfast after a raucous night on the town. I talked my husband into going, and it was as divey and delicious as I remember.
|Skyline in the background. I love an urban park.|
Austin was also one of the toughest trips we've ever had with our son. At one point I seriously considered canceling the second part of the trip for my son and me and going home. He has never, ever been that challenging, and I wasn't sure I could do more of it.
Thankfully in Philadelphia he was back to his normal easygoing self (with a few exceptions). As much as I love historic east coast cities, Philadelphia has never been on my list. To be honest if it weren't for my husband's conference I don't think I would've gone there at all. I've never heard much about it either positive or negative.
|Someone is not a fan of history.|
Our hotel was across the street from the Reading Terminal Market which is, I will declare, the best public market we've been to. We make it a point to visit markets in cities we visit, and we've been to some fantastic ones. One of the disappointing things about visiting markets as a tourist is that there's usually no way to take advantage of the delicious produce, meats and seafood on display. Many markets have eateries, but Reading Terminal Market took the cake. There were so many different and interesting restaurants. We ate there for breakfast and lunch every day on our trip. I had delicious gumbo, cornbread and sweet iced tea. I had a huge turkey deli sandwich. I had shrimp and grits benedict (insane). The market was extraordinary, and I could visit it every day and not tire of it.
Speaking of extraordinary we wandered over to Rittenhouse Square one day to find a dynamic square with people everywhere. There was a farmers market lining the square on Saturday morning. Kids were running around. People were sunbathing or just reading on one of the many benches. Adjectives fail me to describe how much I loved this park.
|Rittenhouse Square. Amazing.|
We did the obligatory touristy things like see the Liberty Bell and the square where Independence Hall lives (our testy toddler made a tour a bad idea). We stayed right near Philadelphia's city hall which is phenomenal. It's everything a public building should be and more. There was a splash pad outside city hall in Dilworth Park where my son darted through the water with kids from all over the city.
It's not a secret that I don't like cities that have it figured out. Philadelphia is gritty. There's a significant homeless population. It's not extremely clean. But I love that. I love that it's got moxie and personality. It doesn't hide its imperfections but rather lives with them and tries to make them work.
Vacation was a wonderful reset made even more wonderful by my complete adoration for the city. Thank you, Philly, for the parks, the history, and the grit. Thank you, Philly, for being wonderful you.