Slowhands sold me on the trip to Philadelphia this past weekend by promising that we could couchsurf. Sold. As keeners we contacted potential hosts a month in advance (exceptionally early in the CS world) and waited for confirmation. We found one host for the first night and another for the second and third nights. Both were great experiences.
The first was an apartment in North Philly where the neighbourhoods changed around each corner. Boarded up windows and rotten pumpkins on one block, turn the corner to half-million-dollar turn-of-the-century townhomes. The first host was actually two geology masters students at Temple. When we hung out in the evening with them and their friend playing the didgeridoo and introducing them to Dutch Blitz one of the hosts literally completed her thesis while we were there and sent it in. Celebrate! They showed me around their department the next day and I learned all about rocks, minerals and trilobites. I even sat in on a lecture about pottery and joined them at the campus pub. After re-connecting with Slowhands we cabbed over to a party* in South Philly (invited by the CS hosts). Win. This is the way to see a city and meet great people. Everyone was welcoming, we watched some hiphop and story reading. Spotting a hoola hoop on the party-host’s wall we found out that she was in to hooping and we were able to “show off” our new skills. We spent the evening in front of the house taking turns with the hoop and having a competition to determine who could run the furthest while hoopin’. For the record: I won. I’m a total natural.
Experience two: the second host seemed fairly busy at first and not necessarily the happiest to have guests. But we had a free, safe place to stay and a set of keys so we couldn’t complain. He also had the cutest kittens ever (see Exhibits A & B). This showed us another side to our host since he had taken in a preggo stray four months earlier and was still dealing with the adorable consequences. The next night he ended up chilling with us, munching on Froot Loops (thanks, Slowhands!). And when his plans to head to New York to deliver the last two cats he spent the day hanging out, drove us to our various attractions, offered some insight into the city and took part in our touristy-antics without complaint. The day started with a big breakfast** followed by a trip to Elfreth Alley where he kindly treated to a tour of one of the homes. Elfreth is the longest continually inhabited street in the US (the oldest house was built in 1728). We shopped for cheesy souvenirs and headed to the Frankling Institute where he played along by taking pictures of us doing ridiculous things and walking through a gigantic model of the heart (you get to follow the path of blood being oxygenated!). He then took us to the Rocky Steps to fulfill the most common request that any tourist in Philly has and we felt we should do to appease everyone who asked us if we were going to “run up the Rocky steps”. Yes, we did. We even looked like tools doing so. I still can’t get over his hospitality but he insisted on taking us to the Philly cheese steak place then drove around looking for a Ben n Jerry’s to satisfy a craving. Win! They had a flavour called Peanut Butter Cookie Dough. Um, what? Why did this take so long to become a reality? And yes, we ate Philly cheese steaks and THEN had ice cream. We were on a roll.
*We picked up a 6 pack of beer to contribute to the party and stood at the trolley stop in West Philly. Apparently we stood out like a mennonite at technology conference because he somehow figured out we weren’t locals. Within a few minutes we had the beer in our purses (instead of sitting out in the open on a newspaper stand) and were taking a cab from the city centre instead of walking through South Philly. Thanks friendly dude.
**Slowhands: What is scrapple?
Me: Oh god! No, not that!
Host: Haha, well it is corn meal with little bits of organs and pig ears.
Me: Only in the US would they put that between two waffles. Uh, sorry if anyone actually wants to eat scrapple.
Host: Thanks for pointing it out, I would have missed it. [yes, he then ordered the scrapple and ate the entire thing….foot in mouth] Foot in mouth would be better than scrapple in mouth though.