After having a splendid Saturday in Philadelphia with our friend Faith that included visiting the Barnes Foundation for the first time and dinner at our favorite restaurant in the city, all we had to do on Sunday was get up and do it all over again. Did we have as good a day Sunday as the day before? Well, if we didn’t, we came mighty close. It all started with a trudge over to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where the first thing that we confronted was the Amor sculpture by Robert Indiana.
The last time we were in Philadelphia, we had taken a selfie in front of this sculpture’s sister (brother?) sculpture in the nearby aptly-renamed Love Park. So I had to take a stab at getting another selfie. As you can see from above, I didn’t do a very good job. There was a tourist who offered to take our picture in front of the sculpture, but I was gritting my teeth, saying under my breath “MUST… TAKE… SELFIE!” Oh well, you get the idea.
Now, we’ve been to the Philadelphia Museum of Art a couple of times together, so we didn’t need to do the grand tour of the whole museum – no Medieval and Renaissance art this time, no Impressionists. We decided instead to focus on two areas: East Asian art, and American art (including furniture). In the latter area, this museum has quite a lot of amazing holdings. For example, they have quite a collection of butter prints, wooden molds that were used to make your blocks of butter look beautiful. And they have some incredible face jugs, ceramic jugs made with people’s faces on them – the sort of grotesque ugly thing that is so homely that it’s beautiful.
In their east Asian wing, the thing that really impresses me are the rooms that are recreations of whole sections of ancient Asian palaces. For example, the Chinese Reception Hall, an entire large room with beautiful painted woodwork all around and overhead – truly an awesome setting. Therese was especially keen on seeing the museum’s Japanese Teahouse, a large room with the buildings of a traditional teahouse set inside of it. Not only is it historically intriguing, but they have tea ceremonies in it regularly. You can look through various windows and feel like you are eavesdropping on a sublime moment that is being done just as it would have been centuries ago.
Now we all know that culture-immersion is hungry (and thirsty) work. After enjoying these two sections of this extraordinary museum, we were ready for some lunch. So we took a taxi over to the Reading Terminal Market, with its plethora of food options. Not that I needed to hunt around to decide what sort of cuisine I wanted for my lunch: it was German sausage for me, my friends, served up by our friends at Wursthaus Schmitz.
Bratwurst, crispy fried onions, cole slaw and sweet German mustard on a bun, supreme yumminess! I got a container of curry ketchup, thinking I might want to spread some of that on the bun as well, but it didn’t need it. There was already a lot going on flavor-wise, and I was fortunate to take it all in.
Our purpose for visiting the market was two-fold: to eat lunch and also to get some food to take with us on our evening train back to NYC for our dinner. For the latter, I chose to get duck lo-mein from Sang Kee Peking Duck, one of the Market’s great Chinese food vendors. Of course, I couldn’t forget dessert – once again, I visited Flying Monkey Bakery for its vegan whoopie pie. On this occasion, that came in a lemon poppy seed variety, kind of a head-scratcher – shouldn’t whoopie pies be chocolate? – but I did not look my gift horse in the mouth, my friends, I just enjoyed it.
Our ride home accompanied by slurpy noodles and duck breast slices and good vegan dessert, we experienced that rare feeling of contentment that comes of the perfect balance between deep experience of culture, wonderful food and sharing it all with good people. Oh Philadelphia, we will see you again soon!