* Just a warning this is an extremely long post, and potentially boring *
Anyone who knows me, would be able to tell you two things about me. One, I am a huge Philadelphia Flyers fan and two, my favorite band is Pearl Jam. So when Pearl Jam announced they would play 4 concerts in Philadelphia to close out the Spectrum, the very arena the Flyers won back to back Stanley cups in, I had to make the trip. It also helped that several friends would also be going, the Flyers were playing 3 games during that time, and I have never been to Philadelphia before.
I arrived into Philadelphia in the early morning on a Sunday. Flying into the city as the sun rose up to kiss the vibrant coloured leaves of autumn was certainly a nice welcome. It was a quick train ride into downtown. My hotel was really close to the city hall where I got off the train, and was impressed that they had a room available for be at 10am. After having a shower and cleaning up after my red eye flight I took to the town to do a bit of touristy activities.
Philadelphia is a really great city to explore on foot, with it’s easy to navigate grid design. The city itself is busting with American history. Being the first capital of the US a lot of major historic events took place there. It was fun to wander the old cobblestone streets, and explore the old historic parts of town. During my walk I eventually made my way to Jim’s on South Street. Jim’s is one of the big name cheese steak places in town, which was evident by the lineup that looped around the block. The line moved pretty quickly, and before long I was chomping down on a hoagie filled with beef, cheese, onions and peppers. After lunch I headed back to the hotel for a nap to rest up for my first ever Flyers home game.
I took the subway down Broad Street (hence the nickname Broad Street Bullies the Flyers were given in the 70’s) all the way to the end where all the stadium’s are. Literally every professional sports team has their stadium at this one location. I got there pretty early so I could wander around the complex and checkout the Wachovia Center. I have been to a lot of hockey arenas and I have to say this is one of the nicest ones I have been in. The building has really wide hallways making it easy to get around even with big crowds. I also really loved how many windows they had on the outside of the building letting a lot of natural light into the main aria. After wandering around I was able to find the Stanley Cup banners, which were hung up in the hallway (odd that they were not in the rafters).
I had great seats to the game. I sprung for lower bowl seats, and it was great to see all the players up close. I have to say Chris Pronger is absolutely massive. He towers over guys, even the ones who are suppose to be the same size as him. Anyway I really enjoyed my first game in Philly. The Flyers ended up losing the game to the San Jose Sharks, however for most of the game they outplayed the Sharks but couldn’t capitalize on their chances. It didn’t help either that Boucher who got the start in net played absolutely horrible. Regardless it was still a fantastic experience.
The next morning I got up at 6am and made my way to the train station. I was off to Washington DC to spend a few days and catch my next Flyers game against the Capitals. It was nice to be on a train, a nice change from the flight the day before. I got into DC in under 2 hours and found my way to my hotel. Again I was impressed that the hotel was able to accommodate me with a room despite arriving so early. After checking in, I jumped straight to work. This trip I planned to work most days as I have been running low on vacation days. During the day I found out that that night the Monday Night Football game was in Washington, and it was against the Philadelphia Eagles. So I decided to check craigslist if there was any tickets available. Sure enough I was able to find a really good lower bowl ticket for only $70. The best part was the guy who was selling it was only a few blocks from my hotel. So after work I ran down and picked up the ticket, got myself a coffee and jumped on the DC subway out to the football stadium.
Fedex Field was a long way out of the city, and took over half an hour on the subway to get out to it. Not only that, once you reached the subway station you had to walk a good 15 minutes to the actual stadium. Once I got to the stadium I was blown away at the sheer size of the building. Fedex Field is said to have a max capacity of over 91,000 people. That is practically the entire population of Kelowna to put things into perspective.
While not a huge football fan, this game was definitely an experience. I felt like I had gone back in time to the Roman ages and was watching a gladiator match. The fans in the stand were ruthless, and all very much drunk. There was fights breaking out left and right, not only between Eagles and Redskins fans, but also fights between fellow Redskins fans. The game was a complete blowout for the Eagles from the opening kickoff. I cheered outwardly for the Redskins, but inwardly was rooting on the Eagles, hoping the Flyers could follow in their footsteps the next day. As the forth quarter was coming to a close I left the game early so that I didn’t have to wait at the subway, and could get back to the hotel a little quicker.
The next day I decided to work a half day in DC. So I took the morning off and did a bit of exploring. My hotel was just a few blocks from the White House, and most of the site of DC, so I decided to walk around and explore. I had been to Washington once before when I was really young, yet don’t remember much from the trip (besides a visit to Ikea, and the Smithsonian). So it was nice to experience everything over again. While the weather wasn’t the best for a day of tourism, it did mean that most of the monuments were deserted, which was nice. I also found it really amazing how beautiful the fall colours were despite the dreary weather.
After checking out the major monuments in the city I decided to goto one of the museums. I decided to goto the Holocaust Memorial Museum, which I had heard good things of. Despite being very somber, I have to say, it told the history of the holocaust extremely well. One thing I found was really well done about the exhibit is that it really showed the human aspect of holocaust through use of photos, videos, and informational panels. I highly recommend going to the museum if ever in DC.
I made it back to my hotel after lunch to put in my half day of work. I was really excited about going to the hockey game that night as the Capitals are one of the most explosive offenses in the NHL right now. I was also extremely excited to get to watch Ovechkin play, and to see how the Flyers would stalk up against him.
So after work I made my way down to the Verizon Center. The nice thing about the arena in Washington is that it is right downtown. So it was a quick 15 minute walk from my hotel room. As I approach the arena, I couldn’t believe how many caps jerseys I saw. This team had really become a big thing in Washington, largely due of course to the personality (and of course incredible talent) of Ovechkin.
This was now my third game in three nights, but I was still energetic. Actually probably more so for this game than any other. I really had a great time at this game. While the fans in Washington are not the most knowledgeable, they made up for it with their enthusiasm. After tying the game 2 – 2 with the Flyers the arena exploded into cheers, and I hate to admit it, but was a more exciting, and loud venue than what I had experienced in Philadelphia.
As it turns out the Flyers lost again in Washington. The game was a lot of fun though, as the Flyers again outplayed their opponent but were shut down by solid goaltending, and missed opportunities. I have to admit, it was fun to watch Ovechkin score 2 goals!
The next day I was once again up at 6am to catch a train back to Philadelphia. Once again I was impressed by another hotel for having a room ready for me so early in the day. After putting in a full day of work I was really excited, as I was going to meet up with my two favorite Californians, Joe and Kasie. They had arrived into town the day before and would be around for the rest of my stay. I hadn’t seen them in close to a year so it was nice to be able to get together with them. That night we went out for dinner with their friend Susan from Philadelphia who they were staying with. Wednesday was the first game World Series of Baseball game being played in New York against the Philadelphia Phillies, so everyone was dressed in red, and ready to watch the game. I really wanted to experiencing seeing a game in Philly, while Joe and Kasie were more interested in seeing Pearl Jam. So we parted ways, they went off to the show, and I stuck with their friend and who I accompanied to a sports bar to catch the game.
I have to say I am not really a baseball fan, in the very least. With that said, watching the game in a packed bar of 300 people, all rooting on the Phillies was sure fun. Everyone was cheering, and chanting, and clapping, and just overall having a great (albeit suspenseful) time. It helped that the Phillies won the game. The next day after work, I met up with Joe, Kasie and Susan again to catch game 2 of the world series, unfortunately, the Phillies weren’t so lucky and lost the game.
As Friday rolled around it marked the arrival of a lot more friends coming in for the remaining 2 Pearl Jam shows. I had taken the day off so that I could hang out with those who were arriving, and spent some more time with Joe and Kasie. I had a fun day exploring the market in Philadelphia with Vanessa and Tatiana, before meeting up with Jason and the rest of the gang. It became evident very quickly that our hotel room wasn’t going to fit all those who were suppose to stay in it, so I jumped ship to stay with Joe and Kasie. The rest of the day was spent hanging out with everyone and doing some more touristy things.
That night I got to see my first Pearl Jam show at the Spectrum with Vanessa. We had really awesome seats, and it was a lot of fun to rock out with her. The show that night was really excellent, and Pearl Jam played a large number of my favorite songs. It was really exciting too knowing that in that arena the Flyers had won their Stanley Cups. It was sad to think they are going to destroy the building in a few short months.
After the show we partied it up until the wee hours. Despite my urge the next morning to sleep in until the afternoon, I had to get up early once again, as the Flyers were playing an afternoon game. It was also Halloween so I had to get my costume ready. Jason and myself decided to go as Wayne and Garth from Wayne’s World. I was Garth.
We met up at the Wachovia Center at Noon, and were shocked to find so few people dressed up for Halloween. I didn’t let it get my down though. This was my last Flyers game of my trip and I wanted to enjoy it. As the arena filled up we did manage to see a bunch more people dressed up, which made us a little more happy.
So the last Flyers game I caught was a complete blowout by the Flyers. They won 6-2 and completely dominated the game from start to finish. The game was also full of fights which made the Australian Hinn, and Brazilian Tatiana happy. After the game we parted ways, and I met back up with Joe and Kasie. We had a really lovely dinner at this restaurant called Pumpkin, before heading back down to the last ever concert at the Spectrum.
For this show I was sitting with Jason. Our seats were really similar to the seats I had the night before, which was nice. After we got settled we sneaked his friend Sophia down into our section as well. The final show by Pearl Jam was one crazy show. Pearl Jam played for close to 4 hours, and played some songs they hadn’t played in 10-15 years. It was truly a memorable night, and a lovely way to end such a fantastic trip.
The next day I left early for my flight back home and my week long recovery from my week of no sleep. While busy, I really had an amazing time on this trip, and look forward to the next time I can visit Philadelphia and Washington again.
Here are a few final images from my trip.