Philadelphia is better than I thought

It’s mid-April in New Jersey and spring is still having um, performance problems. The temperatures have been rising, but only one weekends and then they go back down again during the week. Better than the opposite! Last Saturday we went to Philadelphia.

The Philadelphia art museum – Spanish courtyard

I’d always disliked Philadelphia. I love the museums, mind you! The art museum is so much more than the “rocky steps”. It is arranged in the wonderful progression from West to East, meandering through Italian Renaissance, Turkish, Indian,  Chinese and finally ending with a Japanese tea garden. The Benjamin Franklin Parkway, where the museums are, is well-planned (I hear he envisioned as a new Champs Elysees) but large and spread out. In winter this means a lot of walking and no restaurants nearby.

But this was a warm day, and I finally got it. This city was made for strolling on a warm day! The Parkway is meant for  aimless wandering, like a flaneur out of Proust strolling down the Champs. There isn’t much commerce on the Parkway, but there are lovely parks and fountains and outdoor sculpture. We strolled and strolled and found at least 3 fountains. We got to the City Hall and I was truly impressed. Philadelphia city hall is an old grand building, with this wonderful fountain outside, with jets of water and sidewalks so you could walk in between the jets. It was fun just to walk around the fountain and my daughter and I took our time.

Same scene, as I painted it



Then you can walk under an arch into a courtyard in the center of city hall. There are arches facing the four directions and you are in a beautiful leafy courtyard. This was a place that made me immediately think of Europe. Fountains and plazas may seem old and useless, but they are so important. It’s the difference between being happy to be in a city and just feeling like you are there to take care of things. Between the parks along the Parkway, the flowers, the fountains, and finally ending up in this courtyard, I was in a truly relaxed and happy mood. I love New York. BUT. But unless I am in Central Park, I feel kind of rushed. Philadelphia is a city that allows me to just “be”. I decided this last Saturday.