Philadelphia as Seen from Bartram's Garden

Staycation 2017

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The Beauty of Staycation


Less than a year after we moved to Philadelphia, Holly and I began a tradition of a yearly Staycation.

We started this tradition when Holly agreed to teach an online class in addition to her regular full-time job. Knowing she would be busy throughout the fall, we decided to take a long weekend in August just to relax and do some fun things around the city.

For the first three years, we had our Staycation in August. In 2015, I started a new job in June and initially did not have much vacation time so taking time off in August was difficult.

I knew I would be taking time off in October for the Philadelphia Film Festival (another tradition since moving to Philadelphia), and we decided to combine Staycation with the festival.

I am a huge movie fan and have gone to at least one film festival every year since 2003. I feel lucky to live in a city that hosts a yearly festival. I have traveled to Toronto on a couple of occasions for their festival but, obviously, it is easier and less expensive to take advantage of a hometown festival.

Although Holly was still teaching, Staycation in October worked well. She would have time to keep current with her class while I was at the movies. Normally, Holly does go to a few movies with me, but I like to go to multiple movies most days of the festival.

We had time together in the mornings and again in the evenings for going out mostly to try new (at least to us) restaurants. We both enjoy eating and drinking and have a hard time keeping up with all the new and exciting places we want to get to. Philadelphia has a dynamic and sometimes overwhelming food scene. Taking a week off to focus on trying new places is always fun and rewarding.

One of the benefits of moving Staycation to the same week and the film festival is that now we take off the entire week rather than just a long weekend. Another benefit is that August is rather hot and humid in Philadelphia and the usually cool autumn weather is much more conducive to walking around town.

As much as Staycation is about specific restaurants we try and movies we see, it is more a celebration of the urban lifestyle we have adopted.

One of the things we wanted when we moved to Philadelphia was to locate ourselves in a part of town where we could try a car-free lifestyle. We were able to do so and have been without cars for six years and love it.

Neither of us misses having a car and get around on foot or by public transportation. I had been interested in life without a car for many years and was thrilled when I found the right place and, more importantly, the right person for this adventure. When I lived in Philadelphia before, I had interest in moving into center city to live such a life, but, alas, the person I was with was not amenable to the idea of giving up our cars.

We love our immediate neighborhood and enjoy many of the nearby restaurants and bars. I have always wanted to live somewhere with interesting places in walking distance which we go to frequently enough that we feel like, and get treated like, regulars. We have made friends with many of the people who go to or work at these local establishments. We enjoy our immediate neighborhood so much that going anywhere else feels like an effort even when considering places within a couple mile radius.

Staycation is always a good opportunity to expand our horizons and get to neighborhoods we don’t normally get to. It helps that the theaters for the film festival are in a different part of town. It also helps that we are off from work when laziness and inertia conspire to keep us close to home.


Staycation 2017


This year, Staycation was better because Holly did not teach and could enjoy all Staycation 2017 had to offer.

We unofficially kicked off Staycation with a Thursday night trip to one of our newer favorite places, Friday, Saturday, Sunday. I say “unofficially” because I was off the following Friday, but Holly was not. We are especially fond of their cocktail program and enjoyed a couple before heading home where we called out for a Mexican pizza from Rosario’s Pizzeria.

After a day of three movies for me (the best of which was Naomi Kawase’s Radiance), Staycation got its official start with dinner at Dante & Luigi’s which is a longtime fixture in the city. I had been there once before many years ago and remember very little about that visit. Holly had never been there, and we had decided to make Italian restaurants a minor theme for our week off.

There are many Italian restaurants, and it is one of our favorite cuisines. We felt like we needed to catch up on some of the places on our wish list. We also found our way to Monsu and Melograno which have been on our list since moving here. We also went to Trattoria Carina which is a very new Italian place close to home.

We had two rainy days during Staycation and made the best of them by taking a break from gallivanting around the city and staying closer to home. On that rainy Tuesday, was also went to Dan Dan for lunch which was a stellar choice since we were both a little under the weather. Spicy soups were perfect for a rainy day and for our stuffy noses. That was the night we tried Trattoria Carina.

Of the other new to Philadelphia restaurants, we went for dinner to Barcelona Wine Bar and Root (since renamed R&D).

Breakfast is always a big part of Staycation and everywhere we went was new to us: Cuba Libre (Holly had been there once for dinner but never brunch), Walnut Street Cafe, Sam’s Morning Glory Diner, On Point Bistro, Hawthorne’s Beer Cafe, El Compadre, and Blue Duck on Broad.

The last day of Staycation was the other rainy day. So rainy, in fact, that I opted to skip the movies I had planned on seeing. We decided to stick close to home and went to a couple reliable places: Rex1516 for brunch and Pumpkin for dinner.

We don’t have a lot of photos from our dining experiences. I guess one of the downsides to Staycation in October is that it gets dark early, and we don’t often have good lighting. I also think I am getting more particular about the quality of my photos and don’t often like the results from my phone camera.

Although our focus is on trying new restaurants and now the film festival, we always try to include some museums or other non-movie, non-food outings. The highlight this year was a boat trip across the Schuylkill River to Bartram’s Garden which my brother joined us for. None of us had been to Bartram’s Garden before, and we all thoroughly enjoyed the visit. It also was the best opportunity of the week for taking pictures. I brought my digital Rebel EOS T3 with me.

This year’s Philadelphia Film Fest was good but not great. I didn’t see anything that I would rave about, but I did see a number of very good movies including the aforementioned Radiance, Shady Srour’s Holy Air, Ana Asensio’s Most Beautiful Island, Philippe Van Leeuw’s In Syria, Joachim Trier’s Thelma, and Laurent Cantet’s The Workshop.



During the week, I also carried my film camera with me and found a few opportunities in-between movies to take some photos. Since getting my film camera, I had only shot color. I recently bought a couple rolls of black and white to experiment with. I finished a roll of Ilford HP5 Plus 400 and began a roll of Kodak Tri-X 400TX.

Here are some of the shots from the first roll (not all from Staycation).

As always, Staycation was wonderful. As always, it goes by too quickly! We already started a list of possible things to do for Staycation 2018.

Another nice thing about taking Staycation in October is by the time we get back to work, the Thanksgiving break is around the corner and winter break soon after that. It’s a good time of year for not being at work and enjoying our hobbies.

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