Saturday, 20 July 2013

Philly's Old School Charms

Beckoning us to come to the Museum
Culturally there's a lot Philadelphia has to offer, starting with our boutique hotel called Rittenhouse 1715 A Boutique Hotel. Located on a side street, it was formerly a carriage house, to store horse-drawn carriages.

Depicting Irish immigrants coming to the United States
Inside the place is very traditional decor with only 23 rooms on three floors. The basement has a small cafe for complimentary Continental breakfast, and there's a sitting area where hotel guests can have wine and cheese at 5pm.

At the hotel's advice, we took the Phlash bus, which is basically like a "hop on, hop off" bus, but without the commentary for $5 each. So that's what we did.

It goes in a long circular route, many of the stops that are parallel to each other, so if you missed a stop, you don't have to loop around the entire circuit.

This City Hall is the grandest one we've seen to date
One of the stops was Penn's Landing, and there is the Irish Memorial, a large bronze sculpture. It is dedicated to the more than 1 million people who died from 1845-50 because of the potato famine, and to the those Irish immigrants to managed to make it to the United States to establish new lives.

We also saw City Hall, the world's tallest masonry structure and the country's largest municipal building in Second Empire style. It was designed by Scottish-born architect John McArthur Jr and built from 1871-1901 for $24 million. The original aim was to be the world's tallest building, but by the time it was completed, City Hall was surpassed by the Washington Monument and the Eiffel Tower.

Nevertheless, it's still an impressive and grand building... makes you wonder how many municipal staff are needed to run the place...

On the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art
We were impressed by the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The size of the building should give an indication of how big its collection is. The foyer is grand inside and people friendly.

And then all you do is wander inside and become immersed in all the items it has on display. There's lots of American antiques from furniture to silverware, paintings and photographs, then wander off and step into a dimly lit room where there's a fantastic collection of Chinese artifacts, large wardrobes covered with fiery dragons, and even an imperial dog cage decorated with jade bracelets.

Inside one of the rooms that looks like a temple
There's also rooms filled with sculptures of Indian gods and goddesses, Persian pieces and even a Japanese tea house you can peer into. The museum also holds paintings by Peter Paul Rubens, Paul Cezanne, and Edgar Degas.

We only managed to finish part of this museum and missed out on checking out the nearby Ruth and Raymond Perelman Building with more exhibitions as well as the Rodin Museum. Next time I guess.

While waiting for the others, I browsed through a big thick blue soft-cover book called Let's Make Some Great Art by Marion Deuchars. The author encourages children of all ages to create art and she breaks it down so it's not so hard or intimidating, from how to draw a person's face to how to create a Cubist work (draw a portrait, cut it up into pieces and then rearrange them -- why didn't I think of that!).

An octopus dish with a fresh playful presentation
Not only that but she explains different art movements as well as talk about famous artists from Leonardo da Vinci to Vincent van Gogh to Jackson Pollock. It was too heavy a book to lug for the rest of the afternoon but I'm pleased to say I easily found copies in the book store. It should be given to any aspiring artist young and old.

Finally we had a memorable meal at Pumpkin Restaurant and Market. My brother and sister-in-law found it online after reading through reviews. We went there on a Sunday evening and it turns out it was a prix fix menu for $40. While this threw us off, we looked at the five-course menu and were thoroughly impressed by the presentation of the dishes, freshness of the ingredients and how they all combined to create a cornucopia of flavours.

Goat cheese cheesecake with blueberries and lemon curd
We all fell in love with the chilled beet soup that was served table side, while the octopus appetizer was like a crazy palette of items on the plate. Our mains were delicious, and the extra creamy cheese made locally was a treat. Finally the goat cheese cheesecake was too intriguing not to try and was soft and creamy paired with blueberries and lemon curd.


  1. Oooh, you stayed in the Rittenhouse Square area -- ritzy!

    Re City Hall: from your photo, it looks like it was cleaned up since I was in Philly. BTW, I've been in City Hall a couple of times to attend a trial -- yes, they have courts in that complex! ;b

    1. I'm not surprised it's used as a court because it's so huge the rooms need to be occupied somehow!

      Re: Rittenhouse Square... my sister-in-law picked it! The rooms were spacious and quaint.