To get away from D.C. for a weekend, we headed to a city that I didn’t know much about. Rittenhouse Square, two restaurants, a divine boutique hotel, two museums, and a car show later and I can say that Philly can be a lot of fun and full of surprises.
The first stop was a museum for cars and motorcycles. Simeone Foundation Museum which is located on the outskirts of Philadelphia — in a not too beautiful neighborhood but one appropriate for a warehouse full of beautiful cars – contained race cars, and the original American models, and regular cars and motorcycles dating back to the beginning of their production. Dr. Simeone collected all of these beauties personally and one can download his voice on your smart phone and take the tour with him speaking to you directly.
Then we ventured into the Rittenhouse Square area to check out the hotel, Rittenhouse 1715, a boutique hotel around the corner from the square. It’s a quaint small place made of three townhouses put together. They serve breakfast in a small room on the ground floor where continental is included but one can order hot breakfast as well. The service is superb and the rooms are large with modern bathrooms. Definitely a great place to use as a base.
Lunch was on the Square at Parc Restaurant Bistro and Café, owned by Stephen Starr, who also owns Le Diplomat in Washington. I have never been impressed in D.C. at the level of professionalism of the staff, but Parc was perfect. The staff was polite, efficient, and friendly and the food was perfect for a lunch that easily took me back to Parisian bistros. It seemed to be always crowded, so eat at the bar if you don’t want to wait for a table either inside or out.
The next stop on the itinerary was the Barnes Foundation, which had an amazing collection of art from every era. Take a Docent Tour if you really want to understand the philosophy of the collectors’ design and placement of the pieces of art and furniture.
From their website: The Barnes Foundation was established by Albert C. Barnes in 1922 to “promote the advancement of education and the appreciation of the fine arts and horticulture.” The Barnes holds one of the finest collections of Post-Impressionist and early Modern paintings, with extensive works by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Henri Rousseau, Amedeo Modigliani, Chaim Soutine and Giorgio de Chirico, as well as American masters Charles Demuth, William Glackens, Horace Pippin and Maurice Prendergast, Old Master paintings, important examples of African sculpture and Native American ceramics, jewelry and textiles, American paintings and decorative arts and antiquities from the Mediterranean region and Asia. The Barnes Foundation’s Art and Aesthetics programs engage a diverse array of audiences. These programs, occurring at the Philadelphia campus, online, and in Philadelphia communities, advance the mission through progressive, experimental and interdisciplinary teaching and learning.
Although I can appreciate the breadth and depth of the collection intellectually, it is overwhelming the way it is shown. Nothing has changed from the placement that Barnes made himself. Everything is just as it was when he died in 1951. One probably needs at least twenty visits to truly view all the art.
Unlike in many exhibits where individual pieces stand alone so that one can study them individually, Albert Barnes showed his art very differently with different periods hung side-by-side and interspersed with metal designs. Almost every room has irons on the floor which is interesting since they were stand alone – not in a fireplace.
For dinner we went to Il Pittore, which is around the corner from Rittenhouse Square. It was one of the best meals ever! Everything is made there – tiny fennel breadsticks that melt in one’s mouth, pasta that was perfectly cooked and flavored (we tried three – lobster, ragu, and ravioli). The homemade gelato was divine – especially the fresh mint. The wine steward was very knowledgeable and friendly. A must if ever in Philly – but only for dinner.
The last stop the next day was the Radnor Hunt Concours d’Elegance. This is a car show extraordinaire! Porsche, Audi, Ferrari, Lamborghini, BMW, Rolls were all there – old and new. Motorcycles were also well represented, but cars take the show.
Exquisite antique Rolls with the full bar in the back seat, Audis that had won many of the major races around the world, and the 2015 top of the line Porsche and Ferrari. There was a car for everyone. This show is held only once a year at the Radnor Hunt Club so if you are a car lover, make plans for next year! (And for the horse lovers, the Master of the Hounds for the Radnor Hunt did come out and show off the pack of hounds!)