When I think of Philly, a diverse flash of images and memories come to mind. The transit centre where I waited for a lift and listened with glee to the charming “hello sir, how-do-you-dos?” from the lady at Auntie Annie’s, the symbolic Philadelphia ‘stoop‘, Rocky, dodgy neighbourhood vibes, an ice-cream truck, this glorious vehicle, coffee on-tap, and Divine Lorraine Hotel.
This is where I started my American road trip, with a friend I met in Thailand years ago, in a tiny, Bob-Marley-esque bar, accessed only via a small rickety staircase. She and I have since kept in touch for years through letters – of the handwritten variety. (I had woken up one morning with the strong urge to secure a “pen pal”, and she was the person I wanted to get to know, in such a faraway land).
She drove eight hours from North Carolina to pick me up. Because she is a gem. The chillest of spirits, ready for adventure. Thanks Sarah.
The first night we stayed with her friend in town, and after the slap-dashed-ness of New York, this quiet, peaceful apartment was incredibly inviting to me. I fell asleep on the couch to the sounds of her friend’s conversation with a passer-by on her stoop, toasty, under the softest quilt made of old t-shirts she didn’t want to part with. That feeling of home comforts is invaluable.
When I met Sarah in Thailand, she was with Saleem – whose photos thread together deep and wonderful stories of home, travel and family (seriously, great). Saleem lives in Philly, in Fishtown. So I met a bunch of Saleem and Sarah’s friends, sipping beer in a cosy, brick courtyard, riddled with just the right amount of greenery, and made magical with fairy lights. There were conversation lulls, and I got cold, having left our AirBnB in sandals. I borrowed a jacket from Saleem, sipped more beer, chatted some more, and at some point, hung out with the dog. There was talk of Tame Impala – who seem to be well known in the US.
Next day’s tunes did feature them for a time (there doesn’t seem to be a time when they aren’t appropriate), before moving to Chance the Rapper in Saleem’s truck, as we took a driving tour around Philly.
We rolled by Wharton at my request, we passed Temple University, and some of the old haunts they knew (“the The Bar” or “The El Bar”). At some point I had a vegan “BLT” that involved smoked coconut which really almost did taste like bacon. 100% memorable. 100% delicious. I might say, better than bacon. This was at Memphis Taproom, and I’ve since done some research and smoked coconut really seems to be a thing right now in the US, but I can’t say I’ve heard of it on home soil yet.
Fishtown really was greatness on every corner (again, very Fitzroy, Melbourne). Sarah had lived here years ago when studying, and she was kinda in awe at how much it had changed, how “hip” it had become. (I think the fact that I use the word hip to describe places means that I am not too hip myself…). In fact, Sarah wrote all about Philly and places to check out in Fishtown – you should check it out.
One of my favourite places in Fishtown was La Colombe. The “hip” vibe got hipper as we ordered, because these guys have coffee on tap. I got a Pure Black, which looked like a stout with a good head. With a dash of almond milk, I was pretty pleased. The decor in this little haven is the kind I wish my whole house was, all rustic and wooden, boasting warm coffee and croissant smells. They also have a bean blend that pays homage to the town – “Fishtown Seasonal Blend” ya’ll.