Just to make it clear: I really wanted to sleep in to have enough energy for the last evening of the year of 2016. I have no idea why I woke up so early and how I could survive what was about to come. And I’m not speaking about being up so late only, but about actual RUNNING up the Rocky stairs.
After a very pleasant and a little bit sentimental breakfast including honey puffed rice which I haven’t had since I left Czech (the reason for “sentimental”) and after watching two sparrows just hopping around as I waited for my bus, I got on the very first morning “Phlash” bus – a special line going during the holidays only, got all-day pass for $5 and went to the Rocky stairs! Of course. Nobody would forgive me if I didn’t go there, for sure.
I promised not to run up the stairs. To make this clear: running really isn’t my cup of tea in that sense that after only a few meters I’ve got this feeling like if my legs were about to leave the rest of my body and just wait for it to pick them up on the way back. But how could I disappoint so many (ehm… 35 at that time) subscribers on my YouTube channel? So, I ran. Really. I ran up the stairs. Now, it might sound like I’m making this a bigger deal than it actually is, but if you knew me, you would know that combination of me and running is like a sriracha, peanut butter, and a pickle. Put it together it and what appears on your toast is a deadly combination. I would be able to complete and survive the cinnamon challenge rather than running, especially running up the stairs. But I did it! And my reward? A beautiful view over the city. But I saw one thing which made me a little bit more concerned about Americans.
In the fountain, there was a sign: NO SWIMMING. Who could possibly want to swim in the fountain while being sober? And while being drunk – who would care about what is written at the bottom of that perfect swimming pool?
At the stairs, I met a very nice young girl (by coincidence we stayed at the same hostel and we actually met that morning, but only as “random passerby-ers”) called Didi. Together we found the Rocky statue and, of course, took some very original pictures. And yes, I am being sarcastic when saying “very original”.
I don’t know why, but I have a weakness for Japanese gardens. And believe it or not: in Philly they have one too! So, after a short walk by the Boathouse row with old and very beautiful houses together with Didi we decided to go there. I checked how much it costs on their websites (and yes, this is important – for the upcoming events of that day remember, that I actually was on their websites) and we got on our way. Another Phlash ride and soon we got off the bus at the Please Touch Museum (for those with a wild fantasy: it’s a museum for children and totally innocent).
We found our way to the gardens and guess what: IT WAS CLOSED! Do you remember how I told you to remember that I was on their websites? Yes, exactly. I could see there that it’s closed. Unless my “clever” phone couldn’t show me the sidebar of the website. Who invented clever phones which aren’t so clever at all? Why doesn’t it show the sidebar? Never mind. We took at least a sneak peek from the street and a few photos over the fence. And went back. And thanks to the totally crazy traffic that day, when you would be faster walking by foot even if you didn’t know how to walk yet, Didi almost missed her train.
I found a place to have a lunch – and at Mrs K’s I had the best french fries in my whole life. I have never had better french fries. I know – how can I be so super excited about french fries? Honestly, I love food in general and… Those weren’t just ordinary french fries, ok? Those represent the holy grail of all french fries industry. Those were the pinnacle of the french-fries art.
Ok, ok, let’s leave these delicious french fries (no, I probably won’t stop) and move on. With a map under my nose, I went to check out Franklin Square. If I understood well, the oldest carousel is supposed to be there. But because of the winter season, there really wasn’t anything else than the carousel so I left very soon and my steps led through Chinatown to the LOVE sign.
Again. I love food so I’ll serve it here for you on a golden plate: the most intense thing about walking through Chinatown was that AMAZING SMELL of food. It made me hungry instantly even though there wasn’t literally any space left in my stomach because of the delicious french fries I had only about an hour before. So I just admired those little markets hidden behind foil curtains, the culture, the people, the old man sitting on thresholds and smoking some strange kind of pipes and a breathtaking architecture.
The most significant piece of architecture in Chinatown is definitely the gate. I tried really hard to capture it on the picture so it would be as magnificent as it actually is but without any success. And when I wanted to give it up and was already about to walk through the gate and leave, I suddenly felt this urge to just grab my camera and take a random picture. Where there was no chance of getting a good shot, somehow a great picture appeared on my camera. At least I love it, maybe you will too. 🙂
The LOVE sign. While getting there I spent a good 30 minutes just watching a group of about 20 young men practicing their skateboard tricks. You can think whatever you want to, but I think that even this is art in some way. At the LOVE sign was an unbelievable long line of people waiting to take a picture while standing under it. No, I didn’t wait and took one “like a selfie pro” from the place where I stood, hiding all the people behind my head. JFK Plaza is actually a very nice place with an opportunity to have a cup of tea or coffee, something small to eat and during the winter time even to skate.
The Benjamin Franklin Parkway is lined all the way from Logan Square to Ekins Oval with flags of all countries around the world. Ehm… With “all”. I tried really hard but didn’t find the Czech flag! How’s it possible? I hope it was because of the road works and you should too, Philadelphia whatever-are-you-called-who-is-in-the-city-management!
Really, really tired and with almost non-working legs I got back to the hostel to take a little rest before the biggest event of that day: the fireworks at the river. And what happened there? I met Luisa from Italy. And what did we do? Oh no, we didn’t go out, for God’s sake! No, we played chess (I won!). And then we went out, but only for a dinner at Mrs K’s, which is only about 200 meters away from the hostel. And we tried scrapple, what I was told is a local specialty (but apparently it’s a “local” specialty of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia, it was originally an ethnic food of the Dutch living in Pennsylvania), which was originally called Pannhaas. It was in fact very good and I definitely wouldn’t expect it to taste like this. If you expect me to describe the taste: I’m sorry, I can’t. It’s just so exceptional (both, the taste and the texture) that it cannot be compared to anything.
By the time we got back to the hostel, the New Year’s Eve party including cheese, wine, and some champagne had already started so we joined. So many new people, so many solo travelers, so much motivation to travel more! People from Germany, New Jersey, California, Philippines, Italy, Australia, I know I forgot so many other countries and, of course, Czech (me, who doesn’t know). Everybody with his/her own amazing story to tell. It was one great evening we spent together talking, laughing, playing games, eating a really scary amount of cheese and drinking, surprisingly, not so much scary amount of vine.
The highlight of the evening was the time I tried to teach one American, one Italian, one Filipino, two Germans and one Australian those beautiful Czech words as “řeřicha”. And When I said maybe the best known Czech tongue-twister “Tři sta třicet tři stříbrných stříkaček stříkalo přes tři sta třicet tři stříbrných střech” (yes, I wrote it here on purpose so you can have fun trying to say it – or so I can have fun imagining how you are trying to say it), they all just looked at me like if I was from totally different galaxy than ours. Honestly, I didn’t blame them.
With Sarah from Australia, we spent some time by trying to play Call of Duty. Sarah won with no doubt. To be honest, I then just started to ask her so many questions about her traveling and Aussie and everything like if I was someone on those phone surveys. Everybody enjoyed following conservation about how speaking English is easy, but super crazy because of different words used in different parts of the world. Even so normal and innocent word as “napkin” can be understood totally different in Australia. And the difference between the British and American English! I was learning British English at school so even I had stories to tell. (Yes, you may have already heard some of them on my YouTube channel.)
The fireworks were something else. I have never seen so huge firework show. My senses were overwhelmed by the lights and the crowd cheering and everything seemed like if I watched it from somewhere far away even though I was straight by the water so all the colourful explosions were mirrored in the river and I had that feeling like if I could touch them.
Our huge group then split – Sarah and me, we went to have some after-midnight snack and the rest decided to find a bar where they could drink to celebrate the year of 2017 being born. Because the restaurant, which was supposed to be opened until 2am, was closed by the time we came there (and no, we weren’t late, it was something around 1am when we came), we chose to go back to the hostel, leave everything we didn’t need there and go to one store not far away to buy some chocolate. At the hostel, we met Luisa and Mario who joined us. So at the same moment all the other people have already decided about their New Year’s resolutions including “being healthy” and “exercise more”, we were enjoying a pizza, then went to the store, bought a bucket of ice-cream each and spent until around 3am talking in the lounge of the hostel and enjoying this guilty pleasure.
I couldn’t wish this New Year’s Eve to be better. I spent it with wonderful people, in a wonderful city, I saw wonderful fireworks and had a wonderful time. And yes, I used the word “wonderful” so many times on purpose.
– to be continued –
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And have a wonderful day! 🙂