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"Just be who you are, calm and clear and bright." - Richard Bach, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

The Backyard Tourist

The Betsy Ross House at 239 Arch Street.

I’m from a town only twenty minutes or so outside Philadelphia, but I don’t know the city as well as I should. My dad took us on family outings (the Art Museum, City Hall, the holiday light show at Wanamaker’s, etc.), concerts in high school and college with Anjuli, and there was the occasional field trip to the Franklin Institute or where have you…so usually somebody else is doing the navigating.Kate and Elliot were home last weekend, and we decided to have a mini-adventure in the city on Sunday afternoon. We didn’t have much time, so we decided on the Betsy Ross House–we’d never been there before (surprising given that my dad’s a history buff), and a visit only takes half an hour or so.

It was really neat to tour an unrenovated 18th-century house, and until you go you don’t realize just how little you knew about the lady who designed and sewed the first American flag. I don’t remember ever learning in school that she ran an upholstery shop, and that was why she was chosen for the job. Betsy Ross was an incredibly resilient woman: giving birth to seven daughters, widowed three times (twice before the age of thirty!!!), running her own business and surviving wartime Philadelphia and continual economic hardship.

Just around the corner is Elfreth’s Alley, the oldest continuously inhabited street in the city (and it very well could be the oldest in the country). All the townhouses on this quaint little street were erected between 1728 and 1836. It’s a magical place—very much like a mews I invented for Petty Magic.

And afterwards we went to Marra’s, a South Philly institution. Marra’s pizza is far and away the best I’ve ever had. The service is indifferent, but the atmosphere is wonderfully old-school Italian-American. Our dad used to take us here when we were kids.

(Best to get a plain pie though–the veggies are okay, but it’s the plain pizza that’s really excellent.)

3 Comments to The Backyard Tourist

  1. Pare's Gravatar Pare
    March 19, 2010 at 11:01 pm | Permalink

    1. Have you seen the HBO miniseries on John Adams? It's amazing. (So if you liked the Betsey Ross stuff…)

    2. Are you related to Elliott? I missed something along the way somewhere.a

  2. Camille's Gravatar Camille
    March 19, 2010 at 11:48 pm | Permalink

    Oops, I should have clarified on here at some point or other—Elliot is Kate's boyfriend, not our brother (Well, he can be my sorta-brother, but certainly not hers…)

  3. Kate's Gravatar Kate
    March 22, 2010 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

    1) Maybe someone will listen to me now when I say it's not worth $7 for half of a vegi pizza. 2) We were just talking about the married couple in England who found out that they were brother and sister…awwwkward! 3) One of the best three hour adventures ever.

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Hi! I'm Camille. I only write stories that could never ever happen in real life, though I do believe in real-life magic. If we were in the same room I'd fix you a cup of tea, but for now we'll have to settle for a virtual connection. I'm really glad you're here.