Monday, May 20, 2019

Birthday Trip to Philadelphia: Day 1

I celebrated my birthday with a trip to Philadelphia, a city where I once lived and still absolutely adore. Having 48 hours in the city, I arrived at 3:15 PM on Sunday, April 14, 2019 and departed at 3:30 PM on Tuesday, April 16, 2019. My birthday is April 15th, so I got to spend the whole day in my favorite US city. I had a fantastic time! My plan is to share about the three days of my trip over three blog posts as one overview would have simply been too long.

I left for my trip after lunch on Sunday. The Amtrak train was packed, but I was grateful that I finally found a seat. I arrived at 30th Street Station, where I noticed a change, the departures board was a gigantic screen, not the old-school yet charming black and white board with the spinning numbers and words. I suppose the TV is more efficient though.

Coming out of the station, it was sprinkling. I hopped on the subway to ride until the next stop, 15th Street, to arrive downtown, or "Center City." First, I checked into my hotel, Club Quarters Hotel Philadelphia. This is the first time I have stayed in this hotel. I picked it for its amazing location on Chestnut Street, just steps away from a few of my favorite places to dine and shop, plus its great rates. 

I took an elevator to the lobby and later, another elevator to my floor, where you needed your key card. My room resembled a long hall that opens up around the bed. It was definitely good and clean for a couple of nights in an exciting destination. 

There was a wall-mounted flat screen TV at the foot of the bed and a Keurig coffee station next to a table with chairs.

The work of art above the bed was cool. It was made of vertical strips of photographs of old and modern Philadelphia juxtaposed.

The tall window in a recessed area near the bed had this city view along Chestnut Street.

The utilitarian bathroom was on the left when you first entered the hotel room, opposite a little closet. This was the left side...

The shower was on the right.

Second, I got a manicure at my favorite salon in Philadelphia, Nail Spa Bar, nearby. I brought my own color, my current favorite, OPI Dutch Tulips. I confided in my manicurist that I had to have my favorite color for my birthday manicure. Then, all of a sudden, the lights were turned off and I was presented with a lit birthday candle on a heart-shaped ashtray on top of a saucer while the birthday song was playing on the salon's music player. I blew out the candle, making a wish. They gave me a birthday gift of this body olive oil too. It was sweet.

After my professional manicure and relaxing experience, I walked down Chestnut Street, ready for some shopping. I stopped into Nordstrom Rack for a look at their earrings as usual, but actually walked out empty-handed. Next, across Broad Street, I stopped into West Elm and asked a sales associate for a specific item and then checked out immediately. I purchased this Square Lacquer Tray in Metallic Silver for my coffee station (a new project I recently completed). I did spot a white espresso cup and saucer that looked like a miniature cappuccino cup and saucer in the store from afar. Cute. As a minimalist, I don't need any more of those, but it did catch my eye...

On my way to Marshalls, I walked down Market Street and there was a new TJMaxx! I had no idea... I checked out its home department. After that, I perused the home department at Marshalls as well. I love home decor. I strolled a little more down Market Street, and then turned left to explore Chinatown. This is the magnificent gate...

While wandering the streets, I browsed a small souvenir shop and then chose a place for dinner. I opted to carry out my beef and broccoli with sticky rice. It was fantastic to explore a neighborhood that I do not tend to cram into my usual day trip, a cultural one at that. 

Walking back towards my hotel, I stopped at Walgreens for a caffeine-free soda. As I am sensitive to caffeine, it would not have been a good idea to have after 2 PM. Unfortunately, they did not have a cold bottle of Caffeine-Free Coca-Cola, so instead, I got a root beer, most of which do not contain caffeine. I also grabbed a cold bottle of water. Another stop was Insomnia Cookies, a place that I had heard about awhile ago and decided to try on this trip when I discovered that it was located just around the corner from my hotel. It was a tiny store and the line was out the door. I ordered two chocolate chunk cookies.

In my hotel room, I ate my beef and broccoli dinner. It was okay. I finished the main dish, but, honestly, it was a bit underwhelming. Kind of plain, there was not enough sauce, flavor, or something to marry the two main ingredients.

The cookies were absolutely delicious though. I will definitely return.

I spontaneously decided to go back out for some better food. My favorite Italian restaurant in the city, Gran Caffe L'Aquila, was just a block away from my hotel. I took a seat at the upstairs bar and ordered a glass of Montepulciano d'Abruzzo (the wine of the region where I studied abroad in 2005. Also, L'Aquila is the capital of this Abruzzo region and also where the owners had a cafe prior to a major earthquake). The striking thing about this wine was its velvety feel.

From the menu, I also selected tomato and basil bruschetta. Besides having little to no basil, this was well done in every other way. So delicious!

After paying the bill, I went downstairs and ordered fondente (dark chocolate) gelato to go.

This was amazing too! I savored this decadent treat while strolling up and down just a couple blocks of Chestnut Street. At night. Even on a Sunday night around 8, long after the stores closed at like 6, there were still so many people out and about, walking. I would never consider walking alone in my hometown or so many places in this country after sunset. I am happy that I went back out, even with blisters on my feet. I swear that I walk in these exact shoes, a pair of black ballet flats, all the time at home. I did walk a lot though.

I went to bed happy as well as excited for the next day, my full day in the city on this particular trip and my birthday. Definitely stay tuned for that upcoming blog post!