Thursday, September 26, 2019

July 2019 Trip to Philadelphia

I took a 24-hour trip to my favorite city, Philadelphia from Sunday, July 21, 2019 to Monday, July 22, 2019. It was hot, with feel like temperatures around 100°F, so I did not do as much as usual, but I still managed to have a fantastic time.



Due to renovations, I entered the temporary waiting room at my local train station. Since it was hot in there too, I found a seat closest to an A/C unit, but a few minutes after I arrived, a guy used packaging tape to reconnect and secure a hose, as it was blowing hot air. I think it was cooler outside with the breeze! Plus, the train was delayed too. 

I was so thankful when the train finally arrived! I boarded the train, found a seat and... discovered that the air conditioning was not working. At the first stop, there was a delay for maintenance to work on it, but that attempt failed and a conductor assured that it would be repaired in Philadelphia. It was so hot. I had author Jamie Cat Callan's words stuck in my head, "French women love fans." I made a mental note to buy a cheap one in Philadelphia's Chinatown.

I arrived in Philadelphia a bit later than expected, which is unfortunate on a Sunday when stores close earlier than they do on other days of the week. First, I checked into my hotel, Club Quarters. What I love most about this hotel is its amazing location, close to my favorite places in the city. How about a quick hotel room tour? This is the view of my room from the front door...



This is the artwork that hangs above the bed. It celebrates the city, both old and new.



This is the bathroom...



The shower is on the left.

My first stop was Fine Wine & Good Spirits, where I picked up a bottle of my favorite wine, Banfi Chianti Classico. Their selection and prices are truly amazing, in a different league when compared to the ones back in my suburban hometown. A few doors down, I ordered some diavola and margherita pizza from Alice to go. On the way back to the hotel, I also grabbed two chocolate chunk cookies from Insomnia Cookies.


Yes, I brought my cork screw. I definitely needed wine after dealing with the heat. I keep a cork screw with my travel stuff.



Everything was delicious.

I walked a block up to Gran Caffe L'Aquila and selected a small cup of fondente gelato. This is dark chocolate. It was Gelato Day or National Ice Cream Day that day and I was certainly going to celebrate.


I strolled towards Rittenhouse Square, a lovely park, and finished the last bit of it there. 


Seated on a park bench, there was a juggler in front of me.



It was nice to people watch. In fact, there were so many people out! Since I enjoy walking, I would like to move back to a city. 

I strolled back, going out of the way whenever something caught my eye, taking pictures.


Since the trees had lights, I found myself near City Hall.




I love these fountains and that kids were playing in them.



When I was editing the photo above, I noticed that there is a bride in a white wedding dress and veil in the middle of that hallway of City Hall.



Since stores mostly closed at 6, I returned to my hotel before sunset. I enjoyed simply being out in the city. Hanging out in the park like a local...



This is the floor of the hotel entrance.



Upon my return, I took a quick cool shower and drank plenty of water. Despite the high temperatures, I still considered my first day fantastic.

First thing the next morning, I walked to Di Bruno Bros. for a pain au chocolat and cappuccino.



They were delicious. A coffee and croissant breakfast is one my signature simple pleasures. I absolutely adore it.

In this heat, there were dog water bowls everywhere.



I picked up a book and a pain aux raisins from Shakespeare & Co. which was actually open. The book is a novel called How To Find Love in a Bookshop by Veronica Henry. I savored the delicious pastry on the way to the Reading Terminal Market.


I picked up cranberry pistachio biscotti from Termini Bros. The usual.



Turning around, I bought these milk chocolate kidneys (molds) and edible kidney stones at Mueller Chocolate Co. for my parents. My dad smiled when I gave them to him. My mom unfortunately gets kidney stones all the time including recently and has a sense of humor.

I also purchased chocolate-covered raisins from Sweet as Fudge Candy Shoppe across this indoor market. So early, it was nice that the popular market wasn't busy yet.

Walking past the hotel a bit, I shopped at Di Bruno Bros. I picked up parmigiano reggiano, a jar of the store brand Strawberry & Prosecco Jam (for antipasti), prosciutto classico, and a demi baguette. 

I packed and then checked out of my hotel. The front desk kindly stowed my bag. It was bigger than before...

Next, I bought two items on my list at the nearby Sephora. That was close to Nordstrom Rack where I purchased two sets of earrings. I browsed at H&M, Ann Taylor, and Talbot's, but I actually didn't purchase any clothing. I also picked up the eco-friendly refill bag of my Almond Shower Oil at L'Occitane



After some shopping, I had my nails done at my favorite salon, Nail Spa Bar.


The color I chose is Lacquered Up by Essie.


After my gel manicure, I headed over to West Elm and bought this polished nickel frame with a white mat for my Paris photograph by Rebecca Plotnick.

In that neighborhood, I tried a new place for lunch, BareBurger. I ordered the grass-fed beef burger on brioche with organic ketchup and dill pickles as well as a side of fries. The sodas were real sugar and I am still picky, so I just stuck with water. It was delicious. 




The decor uses a lot of wood and is quirky overall. This wall decor was behind my table.



The white frame holds a mirror to show the eclectic decor of a booth on the other side. 

After lunch, I tried a nearby Mexican restaurant called El Vez for their frozen blood orange margarita with salt. After seeing a photo online, I wasn't expecting it to be small. It was delicious though. And refreshing.




I ordered chips and salsa. For four, apparently... Oops! That was a mistake.



This was above the bar.



I walked across town to try a pastry place called The Bakeshop on Twentieth. This is the chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich.




It was delicious and ice cream was much needed. 

This bakery was a small place. Cute. I adore the sign and black and white striped awning.



I also grabbed this brookie to go. 



This brownie and chocolate chip cookie combination was enjoyed back at home as a dessert following dinner Tuesday evening. 



I picked up my bag from the hotel, hopped on the subway and arrived at the train station. It was so hot and the heat was getting to me so much that I had to sit down on a bench before I could go sit down with a (medium, read: bucket of) coke in Wendy's. Then, and only then, could I visit the ladies' room to pull myself together. I did read my book, which was so good. A novel was a nice change. I read more on the trip home.



I had such a great time! I hit my favorites first and then tried a few new things. Thank you so much for coming along with me! I have another 24-hour getaway coming up soon, so please follow me on Instagram @theitaliagal to join me again!



Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Birthday Trip to Philadelphia: Day 3

To celebrate my April 15th birthday this year, I took a three-day trip to Philadelphia from the 14th to the 16th. In this third and final part of the three post series, I share my morning and afternoon of my last day, including finally visiting an attraction I had been wanting to see for over ten years!

Check out my first day and my second day of this particular trip to Philadelphia if you have not already.



I walked the block from my hotel, Club Quarters, to Di Bruno Bros. for breakfast. So convenient!




At its coffee bar, I ordered a cappuccino and pain au chocolat. Both were delicious! I adore a coffee and croissant breakfast.



This is the back left corner of the European-style grocery store. It is very gourmet.



At Di Bruno Bros., I usually pick up prosciutto from the deli, parmigiano reggiano from the cheese cave in the back, a demi baguette, and something new to try on a cutting board of antipasti. Sometimes more, sometimes less. This was my haul...


The prosciutto is amazing and I savor it for aperitivo at home.

Once the doors opened, I discovered that I had some time to kill before my guided tour started. In my strolling around the city, I wanted a selfie with these beautiful beds of pink tulips beside City Hall.


This is across the street from the LOVE sculpture by Robert Indiana.


I wandered around the glorious indoor market, Reading Terminal Market. It wasn't crowded yet, so I took a plethora of pictures.


Even though Termini Bros. is well known for their cannoli, I prefer their cranberry pistachio biscotti and this mini chocolate mousse cake.


Across the hall is Mueller Chocolate Co. My sister adores their dark chocolate vanilla buttercreams. I love chocolate, so sometimes I try an item or pick up a unique gift. Definitely check out their website to see what I mean!


That case full of all those decadent chocolate truffles, unobstructed by a long line of customers, is a sight to see! Looking at this photo, I may have to try those dark champagne truffles at the bottom right corner next time!

This is Metropolitan Bakery, which I should patronize more!



I should try their flourless chocolate cake. Maybe next time...


This is one of the many stands in the Amish or Pennsylvania Dutch corner, Beiler's Bakery.


I love a croissant breakfast, so this is the corner display of Market Bakery.



Chocolate chip and sometimes black & white cookies are often picked up from Famous 4th Street Cookie Co.


Visiting this impressive building in the middle of Center City was the highlight of my day.


On this trip, I finally took a guided tour of the Masonic Temple! I have walked past this building that looks like a cathedral so many times and have wanted to see the inside since I lived in the city back in 2008 and 2009. The only thing I knew was that different halls were spectacularly decorated around different themes: geographic areas.


The exterior was awe-inspiring too. I love how these columns on this portal are embellished! The beaded one is my favorite.




We waited for the tour to begin in a museum room where artifacts were kept behind glass.


Symbols fascinate me and this secret society certainly uses them. 

Among portraits, this mustache section was fun.


Our tour guide, a freemason himself, announced the name of the meeting room before we entered it. The names included: Gothic, Ionic, Corinthian, Egyptian, and Renaissance. Each room was ornately decorated from floor to ceiling around that theme. Our tour guide basically explained the room's decoration, inspiration, and function. He did not elaborate about the secret society. Some of the people in our group asked about them though. Anyway, everything inside the building was a complete surprise to me. In fact, I hesitate to share (one-third of) my pictures here as it may spoil it for my readers who are inspired by this post to visit in the future. You may actually want to skip the rest of this blog post! Whatever you choose to do, I encourage you to see this amazing place in person. My tour cost $15.

I love that this room was inspired by the Alhambra in Granada, Spain.


This is the ceiling...


My favorite shape is the quatrefoil, so I loved these benches in the Gothic Room.



The next two images are from the Egyptian Room.



I love that this design was inspired by an illuminated manuscript like the Book of Kells.



This was the starry night sky on the ceiling of a hallway.


The rose window depicts symbols of masonry. The symbol that looks like the Star of David is the Seal of Solomon. It is everywhere. The main panel of stained glass is a scene of Moses and the Burning Bush. 


The four figures below represent four virtues: Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence, and Justice.


Many US presidents were freemasons. Including George Washington...


...and Benjamin Franklin.





"Fiat lux" means something like, "Let there be light."

Here is a sculpture of Ben Franklin, Philadelphia's founding father, who remains ubiquitous in the city today.


I highly recommend a guided tour of the Masonic Temple in Philadelphia.

After my fantastic tour, I returned to the nearby Reading Terminal Market for lunch. However, I did wander around the indoor market first. I found these Beethoven bust kitchen timers at the fun kitchen supply store called Amy's Place.


I had a cheesesteak at my favorite Tommy DiNic's. When in Philly...


Specifically, I ordered a plain roast beef sandwich and a coke.


It was delicious. They are actually known for their roast pork though. If you are in town for a cheesesteak, then I recommend this place over the famous Pat's or Geno's around the Italian Market in South Philly.

After lunch, I wandered around the city. One of these Voluspa Bourbon Vanille candles at Anthropologie came home with me.


It was time for another gelato and I love Gran Caffe L'Aquila for this.


Since I savored fondente (dark chocolate) on the first day of my trip, I opted for baci (chocolate hazelnut) this time.


I wandered around the beautiful Art Museum neighborhood. I amor this sculpture too...


I decided to have a drink before catching my 3:30 PM train home. I returned to Gran Caffe L'Aquila for a refreshing spritz, a well known cocktail in Italy.


I do not tend to drink without also eating at least a little something, so I ordered bruschetta.



Delicious. After this nice last stop, I picked up my luggage stored at the hotel, hopped on the subway, and headed into the train station to depart.

It was an amazing trip to my city. The perfect way to celebrate my birthday. On this trip, I am happy that I mixed trying new things or at least visiting places that I haven't been to in years with hitting all my favorite places. Having made new favorites, I definitely look forward to returning to Barcelona Wine Bar.

If you liked this post, then please stay tuned for more! On the blog, I will write about my two-day, one-night trip to Philadelphia in July. On my Instagram (@theitaliagal) first and then my blog later, I will post about yet another upcoming 24-hour Philly getaway that I have booked. You may have noticed by now, that this is true love and I am so excited to be reunited! This will be my fourth trip of the year. I am incredibly grateful. Also, thank you so much for coming along with me!