Empty Nesters Go to Philadelphia

Our youngest daughter left for college last week. Despite the sometimes sappy nostalgia, and sad sense of the fleeting nature of time, there was also a sneaking sense of a new freedom and liberty. She has it, why not us?

So, on Labor Day weekend, we decided to take the same action as our Founding Fathers when they needed to puzzle out the true meaning of Liberty.

We went to Philadelphia.

Our intent was to focus on the historical sites associated with the city’s spectacular history. Instead, we were waylaid by the Philly Fringe Festival, which continues until September 18th, so get your tickets immediately

The New York Fringe Festival was a week ago. I spent a last-time-before-college day with my daughter seeing shows. When we saw the Philly Fringe offerings, my husband and I decided that this was the way to fill the empty holiday weekend.

If you have never been to a Fringe in Edinburgh, Scotland, the granddaddy of them all, rush to Philly. You get hundreds of shows (some world class, some decidedly amateur) that cover dance, music performance art, and fine arts. My favorite Philly venue, the Eastern Penitentiary, has an original film of Al Capone leaving prison and jazz in the prison yard. We saw the “The Real Housewives of Philadelphia” by the Waitstaff Group, as well as Felon Fiercely: Live at the Apocalypse, a satire reminiscent of both Tom Leara, and the movie “Superbad”.

In the midst of all this culture vulturing we needed to eat. Choosing where to eat in Philadelphia can be a real food challenge as prices are fair and quality is high. We started at Reading Terminal Market for breakfast, but ended up with the best Chinese dumplings we ever had, and Hershel’s Pastrami and Corned Beef.

The highlight of our many food experiences was a real Italian find, Roma on South Street, a great street to people watch and eat. Roma allows sharing and splits their big portions. Coming from New Jersey, it’s hard to find better Italian food outside of Tuscany. At Roma, truly great food is served with comfortably priced wines, and we approved. Start with the special salad, go on to the clams in linguini, and then the pompano, de-boned at the table.

After another fringe offering, we ended the evening at the Alhambra (next to O’Neal’s on South 3rd Street), a hookah, chai, and coffee bar run by a Palestinian who told us he works for fun. “Money is not an issue.” True to his philosophy, he has created a soothing and exotic atmosphere in a tiny coffee shop.

If you long for a high-end style restaurant near top shops that offers a classy brunch menu choose Parc, a French bistro with 5 star brunches at 3 star prices. Head to Rittenhouse Square and you can’t miss it on 18th and Locust. Bring your dog; you may feel left out if you don’t.

We gave it a shot, this new empty nesters freedom. While we still wonder if we held our little girl’s hand enough, praised her enough, cuddled her enough; while we still see visions of ourselves in our youth and wonder where it all went, we are now adult enough to allow ourselves to have some simple, ordinary day to day fun wherever we find it. 

Time flies, but we still can soar.