Photos: Gotta Love Philly

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  1. A gangster's palace

    The preserved prison cell of America's best known gangster, Al Capone at Eastern State Penitentiary. A leading symbol of illegal activities in Chicago during the Porhibition Era, Capone spent eight months on a weapons charge 1929. Eastern State Penitentiary, now a museum, was built in 1829 and closed in 1971. (Jacqueline Larma / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Living history

    Cyndi Janzen displays the United Stats Flag as she plays the part of Betsy Ross at the Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia. (Matt Rourke / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Paving the way

    Visitors admire a Porsche 917, left, on display in the "pit road" section at the Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum in Philadelphia. (Tom Mihalek / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Getting a feel for the city

    A life-sized replica of the Statue of Liberty's Arm & Torch, a sculpture built of toys and found objects by Philadelphia artist Leo Sewell, greets visitors in the Please Touch Museum's Great Hall. (Michael Branscom / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Tourist magnet

    Visitors view the high-definition LED screen in the main lobby of the Comcast Center in Philadelphia. This city best known to tourists for its historical sites and museums has a surprise new high-tech hit that began to develop into a must-see attraction in 2008. (Justin Maxon / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Freedom rings

    Visitors listen to a Park Service guide's presentation about the Liberty Bell - an international icon of freedom. ) (Tom Mihalek / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. A walk of art

    Andrew Wyeth's 1951 painting 'Trodden Weed,' displayed at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, one of the largest museums in the United States. (Matt Rourke / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Benjamin in Philly

    Philadelphia's bronze sculpture, titled Benjamin Franklin Craftsman. The statue shows a young Franklin in the process of printing on a hand press. The Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania commissioned the work and presented it to the City on June 24, 1981. (Joseph Kaczmarek / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. A walk in the heart

    Schoolchildren stand in line next to a giant two-story papier mache-on-metal heart as they wait to walk through the Philadelphia icon at the Franklin Institute. The giant heart is one of the Philadelphia area's best-known icons, and a rite of passage for school groups across the region. (Jacqueline Larma / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Nation's birthplace

    Independence National Historical Park where the Liberty Bell, an international symbol of freedom is hung. The park's World Heritage Site, includes Independence Hall, where both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were created. (MPI via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Musical magic

    The cello-shaped 2,500-seat auditorium of the Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. It was the first major concert hall to open in the 21st Century, and is one of the world's best performance venues. (Coke Whitworth / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Eagle eye

    Lincoln Financial Field, front, home stadium of the National Football League's Philadelphia Eagles. Other sports complex buildings shown include the Veterans Stadium, the Eagles' former home, and Citizens Bank Park, right. (George Widman / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Immortalized master

    A bronze bust of musical great Gustav Mahler, conceived in 1909 by French sculptor Auguste Rodin, exhibited next to other busts in the Rodin Museum in Philadelphia. (Jacqueline Larma / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Love in the middle

    Behind the fountain in JFK Plaza, Philadelphia's century-old City Hall is illuminated at night. (George Widman / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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By John Frenaye Travel columnist
updated 2/9/2007 11:39:39 AM ET 2007-02-09T16:39:39

I recently took a short trip down Memory Lane. How I got the idea is kind of a long story — part bet, part reunion, part midlife crisis — but in the end, the plot was hatched: With the help of three friends, a minivan and one designated driver, I set out to revisit my college days at Temple University in Philadelphia. I don’t mean Main Campus and Psych 101. I mean the cheese steak, the bars and the bands.

With less than 24 hours door to door, we had our work cut out for us, but we summoned that old college try. Safely back home in Annapolis, I am happy to report that while the names have changed a bit, the food, the fun and the music of Philadelphia remain much as they were in 1985. Come along with me for the ride.

First stop. Pat’s King of Steaks, or just “Pat’s.” A cold winter wind was whipping around the corner of 9th and Passyunk, and the line was probably 50 deep, but weather and crowds never deter the faithful from seeking the city’s iconic food: the Philly Cheese Steak. This combination of rib-eye steak and soya-bean oil on a fresh-baked Italian roll is an experience not to be missed. (My favorite version: the “wiz wit-out.”) No matter where you travel, some hoagie shop will profess to make an “original” Philly cheese steak. Don’t believe it. They are liars! Pat’s is the cheese steak, and has been dishing it up for 77 years.

Pat’s King of Steaks, 9th & Passyunk, Philadelphia, 215-468-1546; open 24 hours a day, 361 days a year.

Second stop. The Grape Street Pub, in Manayunk. Why the Grape Street? Flashback to the 80s. Ah, yes, the old River Deck — now I remember: a great little spot for live music overlooking the Schuylkill River, decent admission price, reasonably priced drinks and a great wait staff. But the real reason we went was for the band, Beru Revue. Beru was one of the most popular Philadelphia bands of the 80s, along with The Hooters, The Daves, Dynagroove and Tommy Conwell & the Young Rumblers. Sadly, after a falling out with their management, the band members went their separate ways. But the music was not forgotten, and after a hiatus of more than 15 years, the band bowed to pressure from a small but loyal group of fans and put on a reunion gig.

Beru’s music is unique — a bit heavy, perhaps a little folksy, definitely original, with lots of costumes, props and over-the-top energy. Most decidedly, politically incorrect. The current band (sadly two members, Johnny Sacks and Jerry Healy, have passed away) is made up of Bob McCafferty (aka Bob Beru), Greg Davis (guitar player extraordinaire), Tommy Pinto (drums), Buzz Barkley (keyboards), Jerry Getz (bass) and Mark Julian Teague (guitar). They’re still just as wonderful as I remember from the 80s. But don’t take my word for it, sample the music and check out some snaps from their recent show on the official Beru Revue Web site. Rumor has it that the band might play three or four shows per year.

The Grape Street Pub, 4100 Main St., Manayunk, 215-483-7084.

Slideshow: Around the World

Third stop. Well, apparently some things have changed since 1985, because we were given the heave-ho from the Grape Street at 11 p.m. to make way for another live act taking the stage. Since the night was still young (just like us!), we decided to check out the nightclub scene. Back in my day, the college radio station, WXPN, played newcomers like Melissa Etheridge, Cowboy Junkies and Paul Westerbrook on a local program called “Live at the World Cafe.” Today, that little station has its own nightclub called World Cafe Live (apparently it was a stretch coming up with the name). Like its namesake radio show, the place has a coffeehouse vibe to it; it features top-rate concerts on the first floor and local and regional acts on the more casual and intimate second floor. Just a couple of years old, this newcomer is a welcome addition to the scene.

World Cafe Live, 3025 Walnut St., Philadelphia, 215-222-1400.

Fourth stop. The Khyber has always been the place to stop for live, new, fresh, indie music. The small club, which dates back to the 19th century, has hosted many local and national acts such as Broken Social Scene, Rye Coalition, Scissor Sisters, Iggy Pop, Pete Yorn and The Hellacopters. Back in the 80s, most of the local Philly bands could be seen jammin’ on their small stage as well.

The Khyber, 56 S. Second St., Philadelphia, 215-238-5888.

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Fifth stop. By this time, age was taking its toll, and we figured we weren’t going to make it to last call. So instead of club hopping on South Street, we decided to cruise the nightspots in our minivan and leave the wild times to the youngsters. As expected, we found that many of the old clubs were gone, but the Theater of Living Arts (TLA) remains and so does Zipperhead, though it is now called Crash Bang Boom. Also new is a store called Condom Kingdom, which has tiny spermatozoa painted on the sidewalk. All in all, I’d say the nightlife is just as vibrant as ever.

Sixth stop. OK, so we were tired. But after a night of revisiting the old stomping grounds, we were also hungry, so we made a run back to Pat’s. Remember, it’s open 24 hours a day; see “First stop.”

Seventh stop. Time for some aspirin and some shuteye, so we headed back to the hotel, a Fairfield Inn by Marriott, located down by the airport. This was perfect for us as it was on the way home, and at $100 a night, the price was right (it happens that there was a giant crafts show in Philadelphia that weekend, and downtown rooms were going for $400, which we thought was better spent on beer). The Fairfield Inn was undergoing a renovation, but the rooms were very comfortable, the continental breakfast was welcome, and the pool looked very nice. But I’m still not sure about the elevator button that displayed a horizontal arrow. Go figure.

Fairfield Inn, 8800 Bartram Ave., Philadelphia, 215-365-2254.

Eighth stop. Well, apparently that continental breakfast was not enough. See “First stop.”

Slideshow: Around the World No matter how old you are, no matter where you grew up or went to school, a trip down Memory Lane is always a fun time. Reconnect with the past, embrace the present, and experience firsthand how the more things change, the more they really do stay the same. As for me, my mind is still buzzing with memories of 1985, and they bring a smile to my face. The CD I made of Beru is still playing in my car, and I can practically smell the intoxicating aroma of a Pat’s steak.

Life is good! Till next time — altogether now: Whoop! Whoop!

John Frenaye is the president of JVE Group, Inc., a diversified company based in Annapolis, Md. With nearly ten years as a senior executive in the retail travel industry and a background in business management, he writes about the travel industry as an insider with an outsider's perspective. E-mail him or visit his Web site . Want to sound off about one of his columns? Try visiting Frenaye's forum.


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