Buttered pretzels. Roasting chickens. Freshly glazed donuts. Gooey cinnamon rolls. It's Philly's tastiest traffic jam.
We shuffle along in the crowd, heel-to-toe, winter coats brushing against each other in the narrow aisles.
If you've been a tourist in Philly, you know it's all about the food. Cheesesteaks. Water Ice. Chinatown. The Italian Market. Regular stops on the Philly food train.
But if you want it ALL, follow our footsteps at Mile 7,070.
Reading Terminal Market is like a bustling city where the roads are gridlocked with shoppers, and every turn makes your stomach growl.
Mile 7,070 -- a.k.a. The Food Mile -- is my friend Natalie's idea. Reading Terminal Market lies just 10 blocks from my apartment. I've stopped in for fruit, and cheese, and even lunch once in a while, yet I've never traveled behind the scenes.
And guess what? It a step toward #4 on my 19 for 2019 list...
|Being a tourist in my own neighborhood!|
Listen, being a tourist isn't always as easy as it sounds.
If you have mobility issues, you realize that touristy things -- museums and walking tours -- require long stretches of time on your feet. Our Taste of Philly Food Tour promises to be 80 minutes long. And while I'm definitely excited, that's A LOT of standing time.
So I take a few precautions:
Step 1: Don't waste walking. Although the market's close by, I choose to take the bus to get there. No sense wasting precious energy and comfort on my feet. I can always walk home if I've got "leg time" to spare!
Step 2: Don't mess with success. On the bus, I sit down carefully. The plastic seats are awkward. They aggravate my prosthetic socket. It's a good leg day so far, so I try to keep it that way!
Step 3: Never let them see you sweat. Temperature transitions are tough. When we enter the steamy market, I strip off my winter coat faster than you can say What's for lunch? Can't risk sweating out of my socket with the tour just minutes away!
Ok. All aboard...
As the tour starts, I rock from foot to foot, shifting my weight every few seconds. A man rolls by with a walker -- a fancy one with a cushioned bench -- and I wonder, just for a second, if there's some kind of foldable chair I could have brought along.
But eventually, I get swept up in the sights, smells, and flow of traffic...
|...which has its own rules!|
I learn a few things too. For 91 years, the market and the train station operated hand in hand. The Reading Railroad (that's "red-ding" for you out-of-towners!) transported both coal and passengers from Central PA to industrial-age Philly. The coal powered the city; the passengers powered the market. And, as legend goes, black soot covered everything!
|Ellen ponders that a bit.|
Our tour guide, Greg, carries a bottomless tote-bag. He yanks out old photos of the market and station, then paper napkins and plastic spoons, and finally, chocolate -- Wilbur Buds and Goldenberg's Peanut Chews. Philly classics.
If Greg is the engine, we're the train cars trailing behind. As we weave among food stalls, Greg schmoozes with the vendors, scoring samples for us to taste: snapper soup, Jewish apple cake, caramel vanilla ice cream, and of course, scrapple.
It's my first food tour, but not my first rodeo!
The scenery gets better and better. Delis, soups, crepes, produce, pickles, candy. Even spare femur bones!
|As a "transfemoral" amputee,|
I find this "humerus."
Hee hee :)
After the tour, Natalie, Ellen, Jen, and I design a route of our own:
|First stop: Pearl's Oyster Bar|
The trip goes on...
Salmon with Thai curry
Vegan blackbean plantain burger
Soft pretzel stuffed with sausage
Balsamic vinegar in maple, espresso, and dark chocolate
And the stop with the best samples?
|Starring this beauty!|
The last station on our route is Philly's own Bassett's Ice Cream.
|Scooping since 1861!|
Salted Caramel Pretzel is the perfect caboose!
It's been a few thousand miles, but some things haven't changed.
I'll always Walk for Ice Cream. (Remember Mile 380?)
The route of the Food Train is more than a mile. It's actually 3 miles. And more than 3 hours on our feet! It connects friends and food and fun, with a bit of history sprinkled on top.
When the trip ends, we've got more than enough fuel to walk home.