Philadelphia USA article from The South African.

Fabulous Philly is full of surprises

Philadelphia may not be the top of everyone’s United States bucket list, but it sure is worth a pit stop. Cannon

Featured Image: Cannon
Other Image Credits: Phensri Rutledge

Most people have heard of Philadelphia in the USA yet it doesn’t seem to rank as high as New York, Los Angeles or San Francisco on most visitors’ lists. That is a pity because this thriving metropolis has many attractions and is full of surprises.

Philadelphia is the largest city in Pennsylvania, the second-most populous city in the eastern part of the United States and the fifth-most populous in the whole country. For visitors, it is ideally situated just 90 minutes from New York City and two hours from Washington, D.C., by train. The city attracted 40 million domestic tourists last year and the number is growing.

First-time visitors immediately notice the picturesque streets of the central area which are lined with parks, rivers, shops, public art, restaurants, and museums. Everything seems to be within walking distance from downtown.

You will quickly become aware that history is big here. In 1682, William Penn founded the city to serve as the capital of the Pennsylvania Colony. A century later this is where the Founding Fathers of the United States signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and the Constitution in 1787. The city then served as temporary U.S. capital while Washington D.C. was under construction.

Philadelphia is home to many national historic sites which are much loved by U.S. citizens but international visitors who know at least something about American history will also be impressed. Independence National Historic Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the centre of these historical landmarks and here Independence Hall, and the Liberty Bell are the famous attractions.

Both are free but timed tickets are issued for Independence Hall so you need to plan ahead. A limited number are released each morning at the Independence Visitors Center but they can also be reserved in advance on-line for a small fee. The line of people wanting to see the Liberty Bell can be very long so perhaps the smart thing to do is view it through the pavilion window without going inside.

The number one most visited attraction in Philadelphia is Reading Terminal Market, the city’s famous indoor foodie paradise that is a one-stop shop for everything from local produce and delicious sandwiches to artisanal cheeses and desserts. This was established in 1892 and is now the nation’s oldest continuously operating farmers’ market.

Phensri Rutledge

My wife and I walked wide-eyed as we explored the 80 or so merchants that trade here. The Amish have several booths with interesting foods and crafts. Don’t miss it!

Elfreth’s Alley is the oldest inhabited street in the United States. The original homes, which are still inhabited, stand beside a narrow cobblestone street. For a million dollars you can become a local and live on the Alley. On the other hand, a visit is free.

Head to Christ Church Burial Ground (located just off Independence Mall) and throw a penny on Benjamin Franklin’s grave, a practice encouraged by Franklin’s motto that “a penny saved is a penny earned” (though the actual phrase was “A penny saved is a penny got.”)

But it’s not only historic locations that attract visitors. The steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art have become known as the “Rocky Steps” as a result of their appearance in the film Rocky and its five sequels. Tourists often mimic Rocky’s famous stair climb, before posing for a photograph at the statue located at the bottom right of the steps. Most don’t set foot in the museum, thus missing out on one of the best museums in the United States.

Boxing enthusiasts now have a new site to visit. A sculpture of the real hometown champion Joe Frazier was unveiled in 2015 in South Philly.

The area’s many universities and colleges make Philadelphia a top international study destination, as the city has evolved into an educational and economic hub. Philadelphia is the third-largest student centre on the East Coast, with over 120,000 college and university students enrolled within the city and nearly 300,000 in the metropolitan area. This makes for a buzzing cultural life.

Until I went there I had no idea that Philadelphia has more outdoor sculptures and murals (4000 and counting) than any other American city, nor that Fairmont Park is the largest landscaped urban park in the world. If this huge park seems intimidating try one of the city’s original green spaces as laid out by William Penn.

Lagan Circle with its beautiful Swann fountain and nice view of City Hall is a good place to start. Then enjoy a mini-tour of Philadelphia as you putt your way through the city’s iconic sites at Philly Mini Golf in Franklin Square, or close your eyes and take a nostalgic ride on the old carousel.

You can’t visit Philadelphia without trying a cheesesteak which was developed by German and Italian immigrants. These savoury sandwiches of chopped steak and a choice of cheeses and/or fried onions on a hoagie roll are definitely the city’s most famous food.

Philadelphia boasts a number of cheesesteak establishments, however, two locations in South Philadelphia are perhaps the most famous among tourists. Pat’s King of Steaks, and Geno’s Steaks are opposite each other and both open 24/7.

Just about everywhere I have mentioned is walkable from downtown but the Indego bike share program may appeal to some. The Philly Phlash is a quick, easy and inexpensive bus connection to key Philadelphia attractions that has 22 stops on its loop. Buses run every 15 minutes and cost $2 per ride or $5 for an all-day pass. During summer these operate every day but for the rest of the year, there are reduced times.


South Africans need a travel visa to visit the United States. These are obtainable from the U.S. Embassy.

Philadelphia International Airport was the 15th busiest airport in the world measured by traffic movements last year. There are daily direct connections from London on British Airways, American, and Delta.

For more travel inspiration from Len, visit his website or download one of his travel guides.

The original of this article appeared at

Istanbul article in Pique News Magazine (Canada)


Where nothing is as you expect



A minaret-dotted skyline, bustling bazaars, fabulous food and monumental museums provide a compelling invitation to visit Istanbul, that gargantuan metropolis connecting Europe to Asia.

Istanbul deserves at least a week of your time as there are opportunities for memorable experiences which you will talk about for months. Many of these will be found in the backstreets and on the waterways of this intriguing city where nothing is exactly as you might expect.

Istanbul’s 14 million residents occupy an area that has been a world-city for two millennia. While many lead a thoroughly modern lifestyle, there are ever-present reminders of the city’s Ottoman, Byzantine and Roman past. No visitor should ignore the wonderful churches, mosques, museums, palaces and other remnants from the past, but equally you need to visit the ultra-modern shopping centres, the amazing bars and clubs, and the picturesque wealthy villages along the Bosphorus.

I like to start my day with a visit to the area adjacent to the historic Galata Bridge. As the morning mist rises the seagulls, fishermen and morning commuters are revealed. Street hawkers offer freshly baked bread rings while the Imam’s call to prayer from the New Mosque drifts past. Walk uphill to Gülhane Park and find a seat in the terraced tea garden with its lovely view of the Bosphorus, order a tea, and be content.

Many of the major attractions of the Old City are near here and you can spend a day or more exploring the Hagia Sophia, the greatest church in the world for 1,000 years; the Blue Mosque with its instantly recognized exterior and its six minarets; the Great Palace Mosaic Museum; Topkapi Palace where the ruling Ottoman sultans lived for 400 years; the wonderful Basilica Cistern and so much more.

The New City across the Golden Horn is a huge area. Probably the most interesting part is along the shore of the Bosphorus so I suggest you take a bus to Bebek or Emirgan. These are two of the wealthiest areas of the city and are fascinating to walk around. In fact, the walk from here back towards Ortaköy along the coast provides wonderful vistas, some nice museums and places to stop for a drink or snack. A visit to these quaint seaside neighbourhoods is a must for those who want to catch a glimpse of how Istanbul’s young and well-to-do spend their days.

Ortaköy itself is an artsy neighborhood dominated by the baroque Ortaköy Mosque and the First Bosphorus Bridge. The charming waterfront hides a lattice of narrow cobbled streets filled with nice cafés and trendy small clothing boutiques. When the sun goes down, this becomes a hotspot for Istanbul’s young and trendy set.

Nearby Galatasaray Islet is a small island on the Bosphorus owned by the Galatasaray Sports Club. It has an Olympic-size saltwater swimming pool, expensive restaurants, great parties and fantastic views. You can spend a day relaxing by the pool, and then treat yourself to a romantic sunset dinner. There’s a free boat service to the island from Kuruçe¸sme.

Another place in the New City that cannot be missed is Istiklal Caddesi, one of the most important streets in the city. This is also the original diplomatic district when Istanbul was the capital of the Ottoman Empire. See the antique red trams, the lively bookshop-cafes and a couple of beautifully restored arcades. I particularly like to walk up and down this pedestrian street on a weekend evening simply people watching and enjoying the atmosphere, but there are many bars to drop in on if you feel so inclined.

So far we have stayed in Europe but now it is time to visit Asia where there are vast suburbs generally ignored by visitors. This is perhaps not a surprise because there are few grand tourist attractions here but the whole area is different and more conservative compared to much of the European shore.

The best way to start exploring the Asian side of Istanbul is by taking a ferry to Kadköy. This is a lively place with a local feel. I never tire of watching the scene from the back of the boat with a glass of hot tea and Turkish-style bagel in hand. There are the seagulls, the call to prayer coming from a distant minaret, and the whistle of other boats to listen to, and just being out on the water produces a feeling of peace.

There are several alternative ways to go once you leave the ferry. One option is to turn right, then start walking the boardwalk. This lines the entire neighborhood, is several kilometers long and has some neat bazaars, antique shops, and restaurants along its length. If you happen to be in town on a Tuesday, then you should head to the famous Tuesday market.

Undoubtedly the most famous street on the Asian side is Bagdat Caddesi, a brand-name shopping destination. If you thought of Asian Istanbul being behind the times, come here and be amazed. It easily ranks with London, Paris and New York for sophisticated shopping. Elsewhere there are tiny villages along the Bosphorus and some of the city’s most expensive waterside homes.

Getting around has been made much easier by the construction of the undersea rail tunnel connecting Asia and Europe and various tram and train extensions that fit in with this new development. Buy an Istanbulkart and it becomes even easier because you don’t have to buy individual tickets. It can be used as a ticket on buses, trams, suburban trains, metro and even the cross-Bosphorus ferries.

I particularly recommend the modern air-conditioned trams that operate in both the New and Old City by crossing Galata Bridge. They are comfortable and frequent and go close to many of the major attractions of the city. If you stay in a hotel near this route it makes sightseeing so much easier.


There are no direct flights to Istanbul from the Canadian West Coast, however, there are numerous one-stop services. The fastest are KLM via Amsterdam, Lufthansa via Munich and Swiss via Zurich. Air Canada flies via Toronto and British Airways via London.

Information on Istanbul is available at

The latest edition of my Istanbul guide book, Experience Istanbul 2016 is available as an e-book or paperback

The original article appeared at

All books now available

This is just a reminder that the eight 2016 editions of Experience Guides are available as e-books and paperbacks. Probably the easiest way to find them is to go to then type Len Rutledge into the search bar. All the books in both formats should then appear. Amazon allows about 10% of the book to be read free for those who are interested.

Experience Guides books pics

Four more Experience Guide titles available in 2016 editions

Experience Istanbul, Experience India’s Golden Triangle, Experience Ireland and Experience Singapore are all now available in new 2016 editions. Each has been extensively rewritten with additional information, maps and images to make them better than ever. Each is available as an e-book from at a cost of US$4.95.

Go to, type len rutledge in the search box, and the whole range of Experience Guides will come up. Please take a look.

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New listings on Amazon

Amazon has changed its way of identifying books. This is how to find these four Experience Guides.

Experience Thailand e-book;

Experience Norway e-book;

Experience Norway paperback;

Experience Northern Italy e-book;

Experience Northern Italy paperback;

Experience Myanmar (Burma) e-book;

Experience Myanmar (Burma) paperback;

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Experience Northern Italy 2016

The next book in the Experience Guide series to be completely updated for 2016 is Experience Northern Italy 2016. It is available as a hard copy or e-book at

This covers the most popular visitor centres of Florence, Venice, Milan, Pisa, Turin, Verona, Tuscany, Trieste and much more. Go to the amazon site for a sneek pre-view.Book cover-best

Experience Myanmar (Burma) 2016

Myanmar is rapidly opening up to tourists and business people but there is still a lack of reliable information on the country. Experience Myarmar (Burma) 2016 helps fill this gap and it is now available as an e-book or in hard copy from For an outlay of less than $5 you can potentially save hundreds by using the information in this book,so check it out. We provide a free read for you so that you can confirm if it is suitable for you.Myanmar 2016

Experience Thailand 2016

It is that time of the year again when new editions of the various Experience Guides start appearing. Experience Thailand 2016 is the first cab off the rank in Kindle format for computers, tablets and smartphones. It is larger and contains more photographs and maps than the last edition and has been brought right up to date with all the latest happenings in south-east Asia’s most popular country.

If you are planning a trip involving any part of Thailand this is a valuable resourse both before and during your trip. Check it out at

Thailand 2016