Today we're exploring Philadelphia, Pennsylvania through the eyes of Sarah Beaver, whom we admire not only for the gorgeous and unique accessories she creates as WENVRSLEEP, but for the endlessly captivating Instagram feed in which she documents her work as a trained art conservator. Need we even mention her excellent shoe collection? Naturally, we knew Sarah's voice was a perfect fit for Loti Journal, and we hope you'll enjoy a glimpse of her Philly.
I've only been a permanent resident of Philadelphia for just over a year, but I've developed a genuine fondness for this city in that relatively short amount of time. Philadelphia lives in the enormous shadow of New York City, which is, admittedly, a mere two hours and ten dollars via Chinatown bus from us. And while it may never live up to the magnitude of New York, I appreciate the smaller-scale offerings of Philadelphia. This guide, as some of you may notice, isn't for the standard historical tourist attractions. I'm not suggesting that Founder's Hall or the Liberty Bell aren't worthy of a visit — they are perfectly respectable historic attractions. Any and every guide book is going to name them as imperative stops on the Philadelphia double-decker tour bus. However, Philadelphia is a collection of very distinct neighborhoods, beyond the well-trodden, founding-of-this-great-nation path, each with their own draw.
I'm a bit biased in suggesting that you visit Eastern State Penitentiary in Fairmount. I spent several months last year working with a team of art conservators on the murals painted by inmate Lester Smith in 1956. We completed the conservation of these paintings in September 2014 and they are now visible to the public for the first time since the building was shuttered in 1971. Aside from the murals, the choice to keep the structure of ESP in state of partial disrepair (the site was abandoned for almost 30 years) provides for a lot of visual complexity while touring the site. (So much so that it has been the site of several films and music videos in the years since it reopened in 2001. Ever heard of a little film called Transformers 2? Yeah, it's Michael Bay-approved.) If you are like me in that you want to see evidence of the passage of time in the form of weathering and age on a building, then the penitentiary is the perfect historic place to visit in Philadelphia.
Full disclosure: I love noodles in all of their incarnations: pho, ramen, bun, you name it — I want to eat it. My number-one spot for ramen in Philadelphia? Cheu Noodle in Graduate Hospital. It never, ever disappoints. Their menu is tidy, but consistently great. There are somewhat limited options without meat, so if you are a vegetarian or vegan then I'd suggest Stock. Though relatively new to Fishtown (my neighborhood!), they have a delicious vegan pho with a mushroom-based broth. Their limited menu continues to expand and lately they've been creating vegan dessert options like coconut rice pudding with pawpaw custard and Vietnamese cinnamon.
I like art. And there is a pretty damn impressive collection currently on display at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, including a room in which you can be surrounded by Cy Twombly, which is never a bad position to be in, in my humble opinion. Also, your ticket gains you admittance to the Rodin Museum, which is essentially an entire building in which you can be surrounded by Rodin sculptures. Also never an unpleasant experience. Unless, of course, you don't like art. In which case, I probably shouldn't be guiding you.
By this time, you may be tired of looking at things, but no woman is ever too tired to casually browse well-curated clothing and accessories (from designers like Rachel Comey, Ilana Kohn, Dusen Dusen, and Kathleen Whitaker). For that I'd suggest ending your day in Old City at Vagabond, which is hands-down my favorite shop. Take it from someone who loves fashion maybe a little too much: this is the best boutique for old and new in Philadelphia. Their vintage section is particularly good and the pricing is always fair. Your significant other is exhausted and entirely adverse to standing around while you paw at silk dresses? Bonus! Less than two blocks away is the Art in the Age storefront, which is not only a purveyor of particularly good spirits like Sage and Root, but also menswear brands like Ebbets Field Flannels, Gitman, and (Philadelphia-based denim company) Norman Porter.