My Heart in Philly

Thirty-six hours in Philly. Blue skies. Good friends. Steady flow of food. Familiar faces. Old routes. Streets that are alive.

Sunday at 10am, El Compadre/Barbacoa was packed full, some eaters standing, throwing back their tacos before going on with their day. Most of the restaurant was speaking Spanish. The server laid before us–us and our dear neighbors– a feast of barbacoa lamb and pork, handmade tortillas, and all the accompaniments. I can think of worse breakfasts. I contemplated returning the next day.

We walked the city like old times, trying to get hungry again after gorging ourselves. We hurried to the farmers’ market at Headhouse Square, eager to see my favorite farmers, where we waved and hugged like no time had passed. (Hi, Ben! Hi, Judy! Hi, Ed!) We sipped coffee at Green Street Coffee then walked to Rittenhouse Square and Fitler Square before making our journey south for dinner at Hardena, a little Indonesian plate lunch-type place that feeds you in more way than one. There are four tables or so and a little counter, and all were filled. I had my plate piled high and spooned it clean. By the time we left the rain poured as we started our couple of mile walk back to the car. A pretty perfect reunion.

For the next couple of days, I spent my evenings with my dear friend and her sweet son and days taking an early morning train into town and reacquainting myself with my city and a few other friends… a long coffee date with one and lunch (Goldie’s) in Rittenhouse Square with another, feeling like no time has passed. Boy, do I miss them.

All in all, I did a lot of walking and a lot of eating. I spent most of my time in our old neighborhood and the Italian Market, soaking it all up: Gracia’s Spice Shop, Giordano’s Produce, Fante’s, Claudio’s, Tortilleria San Roman, John’s Water Ice. Moments where I found myself rushing I slowed down and let it sink in that I was really there. If only it didn’t go so fast.

On the last afternoon, after eating my water ice on a bench I always used to rest at when I’d carry my tens of pounds of produce home, I made my way to Old City to meet Luke and his parents before heading up to Fishtown to try out Suraya (a lovely place, by the way. Get the babaganoush and the grape leaves). Early, I found a perfect sunny spot with just the right amount of shade from the magnolia tree above, laid down my bags, laid back and closed my eyes. A sweet moment of peace in the center of it all; I love a good center city oasis.

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