Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Philly Love

I am over halfway through my trip down the eastern side of the Atlantic, and am relishing the quietness this morning and anxious to re-enter the blogging world.  It's weird how this blog has taken over a piece of my identity - that if I'm not recording and reflecting and writing, I start to feel like a piece of me is missing, like a part of me will forget the very experiences I'm living and cause a black hole in this small piece of my life.  A little drastic, I know, but evidence of the importance this little hobby has become.

Today, I spend a day in Florida awaiting the rest of my party.  I flew from Philly, to Atlanta, and down to Tallahassee by myself yesterday, the first time I've ever traveled by air solo.  I did it, and the independence I felt was reassuring and invigorating .  Now, I sit in a beautiful suite overlooking an outdoor pool in sunny Tallahassee.  A room to myself, a complimentary snack bar 24 hours a day, and six dreamy pillows just for me.  But, with all the excitement and escape the last five days have brought to my life, my reality is back home, sitting on the floor of the bathroom during bath night, rocking with a blankie and Elmo before bed, and endless, available snuggles from my blonde baby boy.  
Last night, I had a Skype date with Beau and Cruz while Cruz soaked in the tub.  He acted as if everything was completely normal, as if the three of us were crammed in the bathroom like every other night, demanding tricks from Cruz and repeatedly asking him to 'sit down before you slip and fall.'  He still flashed me his devilish grin through the screen, stood up and exposed his birthday suit, and stared straight into my eyes until I finally coerced him to sit.  And when it was time to go, he blew me a kiss goodbye before bed.  Although not the same as snuggling and smelling the top of his head, enough to get me through 'til Thursday.  I ache for them and anxiously await seeing their smiling faces at the airport.
It didn't take me long to fall in love with Philly and am convinced the Cedar Valley could replicate the street-side food carts, fresh produce markets, and endless supply of Philly Cheese Steaks that the city has to offer.  It's exciting to live in the city for a few days, with literally hundreds of food choices at your fingertips and Anthropologie literally across the street.  The people, the busy, and the culture is so exciting, but also exhausting!  By Monday afternoon, I was ready for some Midwest hospitality, although so far, Tallahassee and its palm trees have filled the void quite nicely :)

Top Ten Reasons Philly Fits its Brotherly Love Status...
1.  The history.  To American historians, this is as ancient as it gets.  The cobblestone, brick, and history that lies in and around Independence Hall is fascinating.  We saw Ben Franklin's grave site, the basement of the first White House, and the place where the foundation of our country was formed and signed.  I admired the beauty, the charm, and the color, and felt proud to walk the same streets as our forefathers.

2.  The Philly Cheese Steak.  I could get used to this.  From Jim's on South Street, where I learned exactly what it means to order 'wit whiz,' to the numerous street-side vendors and their delicious smells wafting through the streets, Philly knows how to make a sandwich!  They're proud, too, and could all answer the magic question, Where's the best cheese steak? in a matter of seconds.  I had three cheese steaks in four days, and must say, my sandwich at the Wrap Shack was the best :)

3.  The shopping.  After missing our first flight due to fog, and having to spend three hours 'killing time' at the Mall of America on Friday, I figured the surprise shopping was done.  But when I discovered that our very hotel was connected to a mall, not to mention Philly's most exclusive shopping district just a block from our hotel, I knew my baggage was in trouble!  I got to wander through the racks at Zara, browsed through a number of children's boutiques, and could have spent hours in an old church renovated into an Anthropologie. 

4.  The flowers.  Philly was in bloom, and the colors of Spring were everywhere.  The brick and brightly colored shutters made for the perfect backdrop to the life springing up all over the city.  At one point, while standing near Independence Hall, there were more people taking pictures of this amazing cherry blossom tree than taking pictures of the building itself!  Oh, the wonders of the natural world!

5.  Midtown Restaurant.  We discovered this gem on our way back to the hotel after our presentation, and spent some time discovering the ins and outs of Philly from Uncle Junior himself.  Yes, Tom, or who I like to think of as 'June,' looked EXACTLY like Uncle Junior from The Sopranos.  When I told him of the resemblance, he sort of brushed it off, however, when I asked what he did before he 'retired,' he shot me this grin and said, 'lots of stuff.'  I'm convinced it was him and I think he knew I was on to him.  I wish now I would have asked him if Tony really died in the restaurant during the season finale.  I guess we'll never know...

6.  Reading Terminal Market.  This is a must-see if you're ever in Philly.  An old train station turned into a market, filled with foods and goods from all over the world.  This place was a photographer's dream, although a little overwhelming for a novice.  The four of us spread out and each found something delicious, then sampled each others' in the dining area.  While my pizza and Josh's Italian sausage were good, Jim wins with his jambalaya, fried macaroni, and amazingly sweet corn bread. 

7.  The smells of the numerous street-side vendors and the lines that formed behind each during the noon hour screamed big city and made my waistband thankful for Cedar Falls!  I don't know how these people do it!

8.  The Philly Convention Center.  This was the home of our conference and a truly magnificent place.  I think it took up four city blocks, to which the conference took up most.  I was thankful for the opportunity to network with educators from across the globe, and for the opportunity to share the story of Price Lab with our audience.  The response from our story and the news of our closing made for quite the hook during our presentation, and the reaction and faces of those in our audience was one I won't forget. 

9.  The architecture.  From the magnificent City Hall to the Art Museum, better known as, the Rocky Steps, the character of the setting we were in was awesome.

10.  An ASCD Exhibit Hall that took two hours just to walk through.  Conversations with Promethean and Scholastic, our school on ASCD's Interactive Map, and our pictures on the cover of Ed. Leadership!  Teacher freebies, new ideas, and many, many laughs with colleagues and friends.

That's it!  Philly was good to us, and I'm thankful for the amazing experience.  Gearing up for one final presentation tomorrow and a flight back to my boys next later this week.  In the meantime, I may check out that pool while I wait for my colleagues to arrive :)

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