A Whirlwind Weekend in Philly: Part 1

My next book takes place in Philadelphia so recently my husband and I shot down to Philly for a ‘whirlwind weekend research trip.’ (Whew, say that 4 times fast.) We crammed so much into 3 days that I will have to break it into more manageable parts for this blog.

Friday morning we carried our bags out to my little Honda and discovered a flat tire. So, without missing a beat, we loaded up the truck instead, and headed South. I was a little worried about our 3/4 ton truck in some of those narrow streets in Philly but my husband can maneuver Big Red anywhere.

Being the middle of October, it was peak season to see the trees all in color. Even though we started out with clouds we were soon squinting in the sunshine.



These photos from inside the truck do not do the color justice.

Taking I 80 across PA, we went over the “Highest Peak, East of the Mississippi River.” Sorry I didn’t get a photo of the sign. It came up on us so fast and then my husband refused to stop and back up on the highway (go figure).  But the mountains, as always, were beautiful and breathtaking. Sometimes, when the trees weren’t broken up with houses, farms or buildings it looked like a carpet of color.

Of course, my favorite part of I 80 is the tunnels! I have a love/hate relationship with tunnels through mountains, since I can be claustrophobic at times 🙂 But I can’t resist them. Here is the Lehigh Tunnel.



Once in Philly, we stayed at the Sheraton Philadelphia Downtown Hotel on North 17th Street. We were on the 18th floor and our room overlooked Logan Square and Ben Franklin Parkway which leads up to the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Rocky Steps. We had a great room and kudos to John, our concierge, who helped us with directions/maps of the city and restaurant recommendations. Here is the view from our room looking first left, middle then right.


They were working on the roof of the Academy of Natural Sciences on the lower right side of this photo.


The green dome roof belongs to the Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul. I woke to its bells Saturday morning.


You can see the Museum of Art peeking out of the trees of Fairmount Park.

Friday night we ate dinner at Hipcity Veg on Sansom Street. This was a recommendation from John for my vegetarian request and it was DELICIOUS! I had a spinach BLT salad with smoked tempeh and a carrot, ginger lemonade. Yum! My husband had the Philly Steak Sandwich and sweet potato fries with sriracha aioli. Too bad I couldn’t make it back a second time, there were more things on the menu that I wanted to try. Check out their website here.

After eating, we continued walking around the Rittenhouse Square area for research for my second book before going back to the hotel. It was 67 degrees so there were still people eating at the sidewalk tables of several restaurants/bars. I was comfortable in my sweater.

Saturday morning we set out on our whirlwind route to get as much sightseeing and research as we could squeeze into an 10 hour period. We began at the Free Library of Philadelphia, where I donated a copy of my book, Hong Kong Treasure (if you haven’t heard me toot my own horn about my debut novel, click here for details or here to purchase).

This is a huge library with so much marble and classic architecture you’ll get a kink in your neck from looking up and all around. Working part time at my hometown library (which incidentally could fit inside this library about 4 times) I always love to check out libraries wherever we travel. There is something about a library that welcomes you:) I didn’t take a picture of the front of the building because of major construction barriers.


Marble staircase to the second floor. Also marble columns, marble walls, marble railings – well, you get the picture

Right now, they have a display of old manuscripts of faith in several languages, in the Rare Books Department on the third floor.


They had these old, brass elevators. So cool!

We saw a Torah & prayer-book, a Masoretic Bible from Portugal, the New Testament from the Czech Republic, a Gutenberg Leaf Bible and Bibles of famous people such as Robert Louis Stevenson, William Penn and Mark Twain. The exhibition will be there until January 30, 2016. It is definitely something to see. To read more about this display – click here.

After the library, we headed over to the Rocky Steps. They were setting up a stage and canopies in front of the steps for some event, so I’m skipping those photos.


This is me in front of the Revolutionary War Hero George Washington’s statue – in front of the Museum of Art.

Jim by the Rocky statue. He wouldn't do the Rocky pose :)

Jim by the Rocky statue. He wouldn’t do the Rocky pose 🙂

Then we headed over to tour the old Eastern State Penitentiary on Fairmount Avenue. This prison housed many of America’s most notorious criminals, like Willie Sutton the bank robber and “Scarface” Al Capone.

I love the gargoyles over the door!

I love the gargoyles over the door!

Looking down a cell block

Looking down a cell block

This prison was pretty cool. We took the day tour (with audio) but they have a Terror Behind the Walls haunted house event in the evenings. Having walked these cell blocks in the day time, I can see how they would be fun for a haunted tour.

One of the cell blocks they haven't opened to the public.

One of the cell blocks they haven’t opened to the public.

Al Capone's cell

Al Capone’s cell

There is so much to see you could spend hours wandering around but we were getting hungry for lunch. To learn more about this prison and the Terror Behind the Walls event click here.

Watch for Whirlwind Philly Trip Part 2 on Tuesday, November 10th.

Have you ever visited Philadelphia? Would love to hear your thoughts. Drop me a comment:)



7 thoughts on “A Whirlwind Weekend in Philly: Part 1

  1. My “research” tour of Philly lasted almost 30 years. And I still haven’t seen all of it. So many great stories come from the area and I can only hope yours and mine connect with our readers as well. Though technically the Museum of Art, Philly folks call it “Da Art Moozeum.” And the tunnels are on the PA Turnpike Northeast Extension, AKA I-476. Just throwing in a free pre-edit.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. […] Read about it in my blog post Whirlwind Weekend Research Trip) […]


  3. […] To read part 1 of this trip, which includes Philadelphia’s Free Library, the Rocky Steps and a tour of the Eastern State Penitentiary, click here. […]


  4. […] see and read more of our Philadelphia trip, click Whirlwind Weekend in Philadelphia Part 1 and Whirlwind Weekend in Philadelphia Part […]


  5. […] We really had a good time in Philly, to read my post about our trip click Whirlwind Weekend in Philadelphia Part 1. […]


  6. […] view more of our de-stressing trips, check out Whirlwind Weekend in Philly and Getting Wet at Niagara […]


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