Anyway, I thought I'd resurrect my Ode to Philadelphia series now that I am a real live resident at last. Let's get the bad stuff out of the way first, so we can end on a good note!
The Ugly: As easy as it is to get complacent once you are used to your environment, every once in awhile you get a reminder that no matter where you are, you have to be smart about safety. There was an attempted rape about 3 blocks from my apartment the other night. A woman was returning home from a party alone, late at night, and a man followed her. Normally, this is a really safe area, so of course people are very upset and police are warning us to be smart and careful. I think the important takeaways are: 1) Never get lazy about safety. Women shouldn't walk home alone late at night in ANY city (or any town or rural college campus for that matter). No matter how safe it seems to be, there can be crazy people anywhere. Cabs are plentiful - it's worth the $5! 2) In a weird way, this actually makes me feel better about the neighborhood. Let me explain: this wouldn't be getting so much attention if it were not so rare of an occurrence in this area. All evidence points to an isolated incident, so I'm going to take precautions and not worry about it.
Some of the typical city stuff - sirens, honking horns, etc. Although I'm pretty much used to those by now.
Philly is an old city, and much like New York or any city in Europe, it can be kinda smelly. Not everywhere, mind you. But every once in awhile you are reminded that you just walked near a sewer grate. Especially in the summer. I won't elaborate.
Also an old city thing - the roads are narrow. Trying to get around by car (and even by bike) is difficult and frustrating. Rush hour is to be avoided at all costs!
The sidewalks are kind of a mess. I mean, they are solid and certainly adequate. But they tend to slant in different directions in different spots, which is a nightmare for someone trying to walk in heels. My husband has not noticed this, by the way.
The ~4% wage tax! This doesn't affect students, obviously. But for those of us with working spouses, this is a really tough expense to swallow. This tax applies to anyone living in Philadelphia, even if you work outside of the city, like my husband.
Ok, Now the Good:
Fabulous Restaurants! There are so many within walking distance (and so many more within a short cab distance) that I want to try. From Five Guys Burgers and Fries to Le Bec Fin, pretty much any taste and budget can be satisfied here. I've mentioned it before, but it's worth telling you again that BYOBs are a fantastic way to save money on a night out.
Bars! There are so many great ones. I'm looking forward to the Wharton social life.
Shopping! Well I can't really afford to do it now, but there are plenty of interesting places to spend your money along Walnut and Chestnuts streets. I can't wait until I have my internship salary ;)
Center City Sips. This is a summer thing in Center City. Restaurants and bars all around CC have really cheap drink and appetizers for happy hour on Wednesday night. It's a great way to try out an expensive place, like Brasserie Perrier, without spending a lot of money. Student friendly!
Walking to Everything I Need: The bank, the library, the post office, the grocery store. Everything is within walking distance, and many things are even just within a block's walk. I love it!
The Atmosphere. I'll just give you an example. Last night, when Hubby arrived home, we started hearing curious sounds outside. We opened the windows to listen, and determined that there must be a concert somewhere. We decided to take a walk and check it out. We got downstairs and started strolling. There were people everywhere, walking along with shopping bags, sitting outside at bars and restaurants, walking their dogs, etc. We walked over to Rita's Water Ice to get a little dessert, and noticed that across the street there was a small group of teenagers playing jazz music in between two casual restaurants where people were sitting outside. We decided this wasn't what we heard from our window. We headed toward Broad Street. We noticed a band playing in the lobby of the Kimmel Center. We kept going and finally found our source. It was a pre-4th of July event. At least 3 bands were playing on different blocks along Broad Street, and various food and arts and crafts tent lined the sidewalk. We took it all in, then headed back to Rittenhouse Square. The park was loaded with a diverse range of people and dogs enjoying the lovely night. A bit reluctantly, we returned home to attend to our mundane evening chores.
So yeah, I'm really loving our new digs. It's tough to have a small apartment, and I'm kinda missing my garden a little. But it's so much fun to be here in the middle of all the excitement of the city. I really recommend that anyone who is thinking they might not like living here for two years just give it one visit. I believe you'll be pleasantly surprised!