Philadelphia, A City Of 12 Firsts – How Many Did You Know?

I love the City of Brotherly Love, Birthplace of America, The City That Loves You Back — Philadelphia, PA.

Philly, PA

That’s probably why my next book takes place in Philadelphia (more about this later).

     Philadelphia’s Firsts:

  1. Benjamin Franklin started the first library in 1731.

  2. The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, that opened in 1805, is the country’s first art museum and school.
  3. The Philadelphia Packet and Daily Advertiser is the first daily newspaper, begun in 1784.
  4. Benjamin Franklin and Dr. Thomas Bond started the nation’s first hospital, Pennsylvania Hospital.
  5. The first university in the nation, The University of Pennsylvania, began the first medical school in 1756 and the first business college, the Wharton School of Business, in 1881.

  6. The Philadelphia Zoo was the first ever American zoo, opening in 1874. Philly Zoo
  7. The first organized protest against slavery was the Germantown Quaker Petition, drafted in 1688.
  8. Mother Bethal A.M.E. Church is the first African American church established in 1794.
  9. First Thanksgiving Day Parade was held in Philly in 1920.
  10. The Philadelphia Naval Yard was the first naval shipyard in the nation, 1801.
  11. Johann Behrent built the first piano in America in 1775.
  12. The Philadelphia Stock Exchange was the first stock exchange, founded in 1790.

Have you ever visited Philadelphia? What do you like the best?

For more fun facts about Philadelphia, check out the following sites:



Weekly Photo Challenge: Philadelphia in Half-Light

This week’s Daily Post weekly photo challenge is called Half-Light.



This photo is from our Philadelphia trip last October. Looking East out the hotel window one evening, the sun could still reach some buildings but not the ones in the shadow of our Center City Sheraton Hotel.

I thought this was a pretty good example of “half-light.”

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

Anyone else love Philadelphia?

Weekly Photo Challenge: I Love Circles

This week’s Daily Post photo challenge is about circles.

This photo was taken out our Sheraton hotel’s window of the green dome roof of the Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.



We went to Philadelphia this past October.

Here are some of the other places we visited.

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

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

I love the gargoyles over the door!

I love the gargoyles over the door!

To see and read more of our Philadelphia trip, click Whirlwind Weekend in Philadelphia Part 1 and Whirlwind Weekend in Philadelphia Part 2.

I love Philadelphia and can’t wait to go back. There is so much to do that we could have spent 10 more days and not seen it all.

Have you ever visited the City of Brotherly Love?

I Spy With My Little Eye…

This week’s photo challenge from the Daily Post is Eye Spy. It reminded me of the car game, “I spy with my little eye…” where you pick something out and the others have to ask questions about it until they guess correctly.

So, here are some things I spied with my little eye over the past year:

Stone staircase

Stone staircase on hiking trail at Niagara Falls. Can’t you just feel the coolness?

Baby burrowing owl

The cutest little baby Burrowing Owl at Pittsburgh’s National Aviary.

cell block

Looking down a cell block in the old Eastern Penitentiary, Philadelphia.

Chinatown Friendship Gate

Chinatown Friendship Gate in Philadelphia.

Which one is your favorite? I love them all!

Click here to see last week’s photo challenge: Sunset Transition.

Whirlwind Weekend in Philly: Part 2

A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I spent a whirlwind weekend in Philadelphia. It was part research for my next book and part vacation trip.

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.

I love the gargoyles over the door!

I love the gargoyles over the door!

After touring the Eastern State Penitentiary, we hopped onto the purple Phlash Bus. This bus travels around tourist & historical places in Center City, Philadelphia. It’s $2 for a single ride or $5 for an all day pass. We picked it up outside the prison and bought all day passes, figuring this would save us a few steps as we made our way around the city.



We rode the bus to the Reading Terminal Market, one of the biggest and oldest market in America, opening February 23, 1892. It stretches between 11th & 12th street and Filbert & Arch streets. We saw produce markets, meat markets, seafood markets, and cheese, nut and baked goods stores with craft and cookware vendors scattered between them. So much for the eye to take in, my mind was reeling.

Reading Terminal Market

Reading Terminal Market

I bought some In-Flu-ential tea at the Herbiary which is a blend of elderberry, hibiscus flowers and thyme to help my sinuses. (Check out her website here.) For lunch, my husband had a Kamikaze Philly Cheesesteak sandwich (Pepper Jack cheese & hot peppers) from Carmen’s Famous Hoagies & Cheesesteaks. He said it was delicious and spicy, which I could tell by his watering eyes 🙂 I chose a Naked Veggie Burrito from the 12th Street Cantina. If you’re wondering what a naked burrito is, it is everything that goes into a burrito but in a bowl rather than a wrap. Great for people avoiding or eliminating wheat.

You can read all about the Reading Terminal Market here. Be sure to check out the History page. Very interesting!

Leaving through the doors to Arch Street we headed east a few blocks to Chinatown!

Chinatown Friendship Gate

Chinatown Friendship Gate

Friendship Gate Up close

Friendship Gate Up close

Loved this gate!


Architecture still present of a more prosperous era.


There was even these cool dragons next to a parking lot. Love dragons!

I shopped at a few different shops to pick up T-shirts, Buddhas, fans and a nice parasol for my book fair table display. ( My first book, Hong Kong Treasure, is set in Hong Kong & China.)

Reluctantly leaving Chinatown, we walked 7 0r 8 blocks over to the Liberty Bell Center. Unfortunately, by this time it was after 5 pm and the guard at the door told us they were on winter hours so they closed at 5. So, my husband missed seeing the Liberty Bell 😦 Guess we will have to make another trip back.

Liberty Bell - morgue, compressed

We hopped on the Phlash bus which drove us back over to our hotel, the Sheraton Center City Hotel. After depositing our, or more accurately my packages, in our room we went down and asked our favorite concierge, John, for a restaurant recommendation for some place close. My hips and legs were reminding me I’m not twenty any more. He sent us to Con Murphy’s Irish Pub two blocks from the hotel. I ordered a large salad and my husband had the bacon wrapped, meatloaf dinner with fries instead of mashed potatoes because I was hungry for french fries 🙂 The food was delicious. We weren’t brave enough to sit outside, but those that were, huddled around the heater set up.

Sunday morning we had a leisurely breakfast in our room then we headed back home. I so wish we could have stayed a couple more days. There was so much more to see! But work schedules would not permit it.

On the way home, up on top of the mountains, it was trying to snow but I ignored it. Winter comes entirely too fast for me.


However, I couldn’t ignore the snow around Oil City and Titusville.


Luckily when we got home to North East, the snow was gone. They had a slight covering that morning but it soon melted.

Have you traveled to the City of Brotherly Love? What was your favorite part?




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:)


Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge: Extraordinary

Here is my entry for the Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge: Extraordinary.


I saw this sign on our recent trip to Philadelphia (on Fairmount Avenue). This really takes away any excuses people may think of: “But officer, I didn’t step on the plants, I only tiptoed on them.” Way to go, Philly! 🙂

To see my last week’s entry click here.