Thursday, July 28, 2011


We went to Philadelphia as a mini vacation this week. It was just an over-night kind of dealio but it was fun and we did a lot.

Everyone who is a fan of things-in-jars knows about the Mutter Museum. Part of the The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, it's a collection of medical oddities including: a gangrenous hand in a jar, Siamese Twins, fetal abnormalities, mis-shapen skulls, and so on.

Entrance to the museum. The banner says, "Disturbing and Informative" or something like that.

Unfortunately they don't allow photography in the museum. Not only are the specimens really interesting, but the exhibit itself is really cool. It's set up like a Victorian Era collector's cabinet, with massive dark wood frames, giant panes of glass, drawers full of bizarre treasure, and velvet lined boxes with shiny instruments.

A light, by the building sign.

Some of my favorite things:
  • A side exhibit of "Exquisite Skulls" of different animals (included horses), with mirrors under the skulls so you can see beneath them.
  • Black cabinets with red-orange back panels.
  • Labels with scrolly work and hand-painted numbers.
  • Drawers of things removed from inside of people including pins, small metal toys, and such.
  • Square glass jars with ghostly dyed hearts.
  • A black framed fetal skeleton artfully arranged.
  • An "exploded" skull on an ornate stand.
  • A wall of skulls with labels noting features and personal information.
  • Shiny tools with ornately detailed handles.
There was also a gift shop and I wanted to buy ALL THE THINGS. They had original monotypes of skeletons and other prints (skulls! absinthe!) and some other art like painted dolls and skull coasters.

But I ended up purchasing this thing-in-a-jar:

...containing rubber tree flowers (at home).

Next to the Museum was a medicinal herb garden. Whenever we come across secret little places like this we refer to them as "magical lands"--something that I aspire to have one day.

The garden, next to a stony church.

It was quite big and welcoming despite being enclosed by a pointy wrought-iron fence. There were plants everywhere, sectioned off in cozy little beds surrounded by rock paths.

Benches in a circle.

The plants were are labeled with their names, and the ailments and symptoms which they were (or are!) used to treat.

Bee balm, for nausea, vomiting and fevers.

There was also a rather helpful looking statue of a little girl offering a dish of water. There were also little plastic pans of water for birds and bugs and I imagine whoever else needed a drink.

Statues: another mark of a magical land.

It was quite hot and humid out, but overcast all the same. And we were getting hungry so we piled back in the car and drove off to out hotel. After a little downtime we decided to wander around the neighborhood and soon found The Continental.

Sam had actually been here before and it was a good lunch place for sure. It was kind of 1950s diner-tastic, but significantly classed-up. The decor was a great martini theme with red, green and tan colors. But my favorite part was the skewered olive lights:

Complete with red "pimento" bulbs.

The place also had a massive bar selection. But since it was 3pm we didn't have any libations! The food was excellent on its own.

After lunch we wandered around some more including walking up and down South Street which we deemed "The Haight of Philly." There were massive amounts of headshops there, and some nerdy design/art-kid stores. There was also a healthy dose of music-centric shops including one that sold band shirts and was run by a woman who had her daughter playing on a leopard-print rug. It was pretty adorable.

Philly, over all, struck me as a pretty pet-friendly place. There were people walking dogs everywhere. We even met a couple of shop-pets include a Sheltie and this guy:

Black shop cat.

...who, appropriately, lived in a witchy-looking place that had statues of dragons and crystals and amber jewelry and fossils in a back room.

Closer to our hotel, we visited some historic cemeteries. There were also a lot of other historic landmarks, but we didn't visit any of those. We joked about how morbid our vacations turn out to be. But, hey--the cemetery was quiet and shady and nice.

And of course had some cool tombstones and coffins.

I was happy to see that their cemeteries were not uptight and at least one even welcomed pets. When we were in Boston there were some sort of strict rules, like staying on the walking paths. But this one, at least, let you go where-ever AND allowed dogs.

The rules.

There was even a dog bowl.

After a while we went back to the hotel to relax until we were hungry again. I should also mention that it was kind of drizzly the entire time we were there. But it was an inoffensive/non-committal kind of rain that wasn't too much of a bother.

We had dinner at a Spanish tapas place called Amada which is run by a celebrity chef (or something like that). The ambiance was quite nice and really, you can't go wrong with tapas.

They also had a list of entertaining sounding cocktails so I got one. I thought about having something with absinthe in it, but I wanted to save that experience for the Edgar Allen Poe bar in Baltimore! Instead, I had a vodka, lemon, rosemary concoction that was rather tasty.

After dinner we decided to try some of the other restaurants by bar hopping. We were in a great location for that, since all the places we visited were in easy walking distance of our hotel.

Sam's choice was a tequila bar next to Amada. He had a variety of tequila on the rocks that he had never tasted before. And I had a dirty martini. It was pretty quiet when we got there, which was nice. But we only stayed for one drink before visiting the next place.

My choice was National Mechanics.

It's in an impressive building that looks like it could've been some old state house or bank or something. Inside its quirky personality shines through. This is a little dark, but maybe you can spy the stained glass window and the things-in-jars:

And here is the foam model for a taxidermy fox(?) repurposed into a strange light fixture:

And right next to me by the bar, what looks like medicinal bottles made into small, weird chandeliers:

It was open mic night and pretty active for a Monday night. The acts were nothing to write home about, but they were at least entertaining nerd-music. We had a few ciders before calling it night.

After our late night out we decided to sleep in a bunch. Which turned out to be good, because our breakfast/lunch location of choice didn't open until 11:30.

Farmica was another great place to eat. Since we showed up soon after it opened it was quiet but got busier. Its focus is locally grown, sustainable fare which I always appreciate.

Sam had a mexican cheesesteak, and I ordered a salmon and egg salad sandwich with fennel salad but they were out of salmon :( All the same it was pretty delicious. We also drank copious amounts of water!

We putzed around the neighborhood a little while longer before jumping back in the car for the ride home. It was a nice little visit!

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