Wow, long time no blog! I didn’t expect to take a break, but I also didn’t expect September to kick my butt! It’s usually one of the busiest months of the year for me, but this time around it was extra because Pope Francis came to Philadelphia. Talk about being hashtag-blessed.
My college friends Juliane and Katie made the trip down to Philadelphia to see the Pope with me. Even though Francis made appearances in D.C. and New York, the main event (for once!) was Philadelphia. The downside was that this led to a lot of drama in the press between city and federal officials concerning safety measures. The end result was that Philadelphia was basically shut down, except for where the Pope was making appearances. It was a couple of the most surreal days of my life.
At the last minute, the three of us somehow snagged tickets to the Festival of Families concert. Ten thousand tickets were distributed for free, so we were able to get to a secure area closer to the Pope. Since this wasn’t the main mass, we (correctly) guessed that it we would have time to spare before heading to the Parkway. (The nearly deserted El on the way to the city was also good confirmation.)
Our first stop was closing weekend at Spruce Street Harbor Park. It is one of my favorite places in the city, and it is super popular. Saturday though it was basically empty. Kind of creepy, but we bought drinks and snagged a hammock right on the barge looking at the Delaware. Yes, it was windy. Oh, and we also had the excellent fried chicken sandwiches from Federal Donuts for lunch. I’m still dreaming of it. And we saw this cutie of a dog.
Our next stop was also food-related, because eating is what we do best. Also, we had a lot of walking ahead! One of the best ice cream places in the city, Franklin Fountain, had a ridiculous-sounding Pope special: a dulce de leche cake topped with caramelized banana ice cream, the same that Pope Francis himself requested. I mean, you guys:
After we filled up on ice cream, we made the walk from Old City to the Parkway. Usually it’s a lengthy, but straightforward walk. This weekend was a little crazy because sidewalks were just randomly barricaded. A lot of the law enforcement came from out of the city, so they were not the most helpful in terms of directions around the barricades (but they were nice!). We finally made it through security and found a good spot right near the Rodin Museum and the Pope’s procession. Then it was time for a break, and to enjoy the perfect weather.
After what felt like forever (a few hours for sure) and a few performances on the main stage, it started getting dark and the papal parade began. We were on the north side of Eakins Oval and the parade started at the south end, so we had to wait even longer to see the Popemobile. But then something magical happened:
THE POPE WAVED AT US. Highlight of the weekend/month/year for sure.
Unfortunately the rest of the night was kind of a dud. There were some brief performances by Aretha Franklin, The Fray and others, along with speeches by Catholic families around the world. As someone who isn’t particularly religious, but a fan of Pope Francis nonetheless, this part of the night dragged. I really really wanted to see Juanes, the Colombian rock star perform. He was the first person I ever saw in concert, and as a Colombian-American, it felt huge that Juanes was performing for the Pope at such a visible event. He ended up closing the show, but this was well after we left. Thanks to YouTube though, I know he did an amazing job.
We finished the weekend with Sunday brunch at Devil’s Alley with one of my Philadelphia friends. Everything was delicious, and the fact that it wasn’t crowded was icing (well, as patrons — local businesses were not pleased by the lack of crowds). It really was an unforgettable weekend, and I’m glad that Philadelphia got to be in the spotlight for a generally positive reason. I wish so many locals hadn’t been scared off, but I’m grateful I got to experience it.
Anyone else have any Popedelphia stories?