4 min read

Walking in Philadelphia with Helena Jaramillo

On Helena's favorite walking route in Philly, her wonderful project PamPam.city, a serendipitous moment, a cinematic walk in NYC.
Walking in Philadelphia with Helena Jaramillo
Photo by Chris Henry

I met Helena for the first time in Twitter DMs. I was already very much in love with her project PamPam, a tool that enables you to create beautiful maps around the world. Ever since our first conversation, I wanted to ask her a few questions about her walking experience in Philadelphia and I am very happy to share her stories on The Flâneurs Project.

Please tell us a bit about yourself, where do you live now, where have you lived before, and about any creative projects that you are passionate about.

I'm Helena Jaramillo, a software designer currently living in Philadelphia, and the co-founder of a tool called PamPam that helps people make and share maps and guides.

I'm originally from Ecuador and have called many cities home: Syracuse, NYC , San Francisco, Boulder, Zurich, London, Quito and Guayaquil. In the past, I also made a website for wandering called wanderprompts.com.

Helena's Philly on a PamPam map

What is your favorite street / area in the city that you live in and why?

In Philadelphia, my favorite route to walk is to go up from south to north, up the 9th street market, past Queen Village up to Society Hill. 9th street market is a market street with Mexican and Italian vendors, where you'll see every kind of person.

Then, in Queen Village, you can pick up a record, go to a shop or grab a beer. And then up in Society Hill with houses from the 1700s and tiny cobblestone streets. It feels like walking through multiple generations in one afternoon.
landscape photography of urban cityscape during daytime
Photo by Alejandro Barba

What café and restaurant have you visited the most often in your city?

There's a restaurant near my house in Philadelphia that we lovingly call "the home pub". That's not the actual name, but it's a place where you can just be comfortable but also have a great plate of mussels and glass of wine or beer. It's cozy and dark on the inside with old timey Italian American photos, and in the summer time you can sit outside and just relax. It faces this pretty ugly parking lot and supermarket, but it doesn't really matter. It's just unpretentious good food and that's what I need most.

Please share a serendipitous moment from a walk.

When I was a teenager in Boulder, Colorado , I'd walk about a mile to school. There was a pretty large hill going up to the school, and right at the top there was a beautiful view of the mountains and a pond below. I remember once, just as I was arriving at school, a song I liked very much came on, something like "New Slang" by The Shins.

It was very cinematic and I just layed down on the hill in the grass and enjoyed my post-walk moment.
cars parked on side of the road near high rise buildings during daytime
Photo by Andy Arbeit

What city brings you deep joy whilst walking?

My first internship was at a small startup in the West Village in NYC, and anytime I walk back in that neighborhood, I'm transported to being young and hungry. There's something extremely energetic about exiting through the Subway station and coming up to a neighborhood like that, and then strolling over to Washington Square Park - which feels like the world's plaza.

Walking through a street in NYC is an all consuming, 360, technicolor experience, the sounds, the people watching, the small sidewalks, you can't escape it in the best way possible.

What is your personal definition of the flâneur / flâneuse?

For me, being a flâneur is about taking your time. Taking your time to decide to go for a walk, and then being open to being slow, stopping, turning.

The slower your walk, the more disruptions and tangets it has, the closer you are to being a flâneur.
lighted buildings at golden hour
Photo by Master Wen

What part of the city you live in would you like to re-enchant and why?

Like many other cities, Philadelphia gets uncomfortably hot in the summertime, and it desperately needs more places to cool off. It's not a specific part of the city, but I'd love to make sure all the public pools were made available to everyone.

empty alley with buildings on side under blue sky
Photo by Jezael Melgoza

If you could move to another city tomorrow (and have every expense covered, job security, a new home) what city would you choose, if you had to go with your first gut instinct?

Right now, I'll pick Mexico City. I haven't visited yet, but I'd love to go. It looks beautiful, I'm sure the food is amazing, and I'd love to be somewhere where I could speak Spanish again.

Thank you, Helena! I hope to meet you soon in person in Philly!

You can follow Helena on Twitter and create a map of a walking experience with PamPam here.