It is a warm but grey and drizzly day here at the Chateau Working Stiff and it is hard to feel motivated to work on that to-do list! Last week and last weekend though, was mostly made up of flawless spring days that hovered around 70 degrees. On Saturday, we did a spur-of-the-moment thing and took the train down into Philadelphia for an easy afternoon of lunch and strolling. Many people clearly had the same idea because the train was fairly busy and the touristy areas of the city were very much so.
We live about 20 miles north of downtown Philly as the crow flies, and driving in is not a terrible ordeal, but we figure if we are just going to walk around a certain area and have some lunch, maybe some light shopping, it makes more sense to just take the train and not worry about the car. We typically don’t buy anything much larger than some baked goods at the Rittenhouse Square farmer’s market or gourmet treats from De Bruno Bros., so a backpack is fine to carry stuff around.
The cost is about the same, with gas and expensive city parking vs. the cost of the train ride. And the timing is similar – about 45 minutes from home to downtown with either method. What was funny this time is that on the way down into the city, no conductor ever came around to sell us a ticket! (It seemed like they were just understaffed.) So we got over any guilt about that without too much trouble and just looked at it as though the regional rail system bought us our first glass of wine at Moriarty’s Pub on Walnut Street! Cheers!
We got off the train at Suburban Station, which is a large sprawling station roughly under the city hall area at the center of the city. Knowing that the Rittenhouse Square farmers market packs up in the early afternoon we walked the few blocks over to the square and browsed around the stalls there. We stocked up on a few pastries for the next morning and an enormous oatmeal raison cookie for RIGHT NOW. Man that cookie was good! There were two left and I bought one, eating some of it as we strolled. As soon as I realized how good it was I doubled back and grabbed the last one. (Note that we don’t generally stock cookies back home at the chateau, so it really is an occasional treat for me.)
In Philadelphia, Rittenhouse Square and the surrounding area, including several blocks east along Walnut Street, is where much of the high-end ritzy shopping is. Around there is where you’ll find Tiffany’s, Williams-Sonoma, and the Polo store. You could equate that area with the fancy shopping along North Michigan Avenue in Chicago or Fifth Avenue in New York, though of course on a much smaller scale than in those two huge cities.
After the farmers market we had a very nice lunch at a favorite Irish pub on Walnut Street. Moriarty’s is always warm and inviting, with a vast collection of “whiskey jugs” hung all over the ceiling and sitting along shelves. These small pitchers, holding maybe a quart, have historically been standard barware in pubs throughout the UK. They would be filled with water and set out on the bar to allow patrons to add however much water they pleased to their whiskey. Moriarty’s is always great for lunch and this time was no exception. I actually had a “philly cheesesteak”, which for me is (and should be) a rare thing. Between that and the giant cookie – yikes! Both delicious though.
The Chinese Lantern Festival just started yesterday and will be going on through May in Franklin Square, so we will be making a point to go down into the city again for that. We will try to take some good pictures and I plan to experiment with a movie camera as well. I will certainly plan a blog entry for that occasion and if all goes well technically maybe it will be the first ever Working Stiff video. Mark your calendars one and all!
In other exciting news, our local squirrels have figured out how to steal the bird-seed bells that I’ve been hanging from a branch of the tree right in front of the house. These seed bells, about the size of a grapefruit but in a classic bell shape, are made up of a bird-seed mix with some sort of binder that is formed around a simple plastic frame. The tip of that frame protrudes form the top and has a hole through it which allows you to hang the thing up with a wire or string. I use a length of green garden wire to hang it from a branch at what I hope is the right height so that squirrels can’t reach it from the ground or grab it by hanging down from the branch. (I should add that I don’t hate the squirrels and I don’t mind feeding them some, but I don’t want them stealing the whole thing away from the birds. They don’t share very well.) Well, at least one of the neighborhood squirrels has learned to grab the wire and actually wrap it at least once around the branch, thereby bringing the bell nearer so he can break it apart and steal part or all of it! We went outside last week to find that the fairly new bell was gone – and I mean gone – and there was the bell-less wire wrapped around the branch. Those furry fiends! We like to help take care of the local birds but our seed bells serve another purpose as well – Cat-ertainment. Yes, our cats Starla and Phaedra love to sit at the window and watch the birds swarm around the bell. They do also get really excited when they see a squirrel out there, probably plotting the next assault on the seed bell.
The Working Stiff