Momma Told Me: Vacation Files 2: Philadelphia Chinatown and Reading Terminal Market

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Friday, July 27, 2012

Vacation Files 2: Philadelphia Chinatown and Reading Terminal Market

Day 2 of our 7 day trip to Philadelphia began much smoother than the end of the prior. After several hours of 'scouting' potential room and board options, we had settled on the Philadelphia Airport Courtyard Marriott. As the name would suggest, this 4 story hotel is build to wrap around an appealing courtyard for guests to lounge in. If you'll recall, we had been left 'homeless', so to say by my prepaid reservations at a nearby Sheraton who had overbooked. In the end, we ended up paying a significant chunk more to book this particular hotel; that had won us over with their impeccably clean property and modern design. Their sleek and trendy lobby featured a 24/7 snack bar called The Market, complimentary high speed internet/print stations/airline check in assistance, and a posh (overpriced) breakfast and dinner bistro.`
The rooms were fairly ordinary, with a King bed, balcony (complete with it's own wasps nest), mini fridge, and fairly spacious full bathroom. I wish I could say we actually used the indoor pool/hot tub during our stay, but both times we visited the enclosure was more humid than the 98F/34% humidity outside. It was pretty unbearable, in my opinion. At least the staff was friendly, despite the oddly lacking room service and pay per view movies. For our first full day in Philly I decided to don my Wendy's "Where's The Beef?" tee, jeans, and my (not weather appropriate) Green leather jacket. I think the jacket survived to the train station- before becoming a casualty of Philadelphia humidity and heat.
When we had planned the vacation Momma had only been able to steal away 3 days (from Ohio), already driving almost 10 hours to our meeting point. Well, when I fork over $1000 for plane tickets, I'm getting my vacay's worth, so I had decided to add 3 days onto the end for the other half and I to explore Philly. Mind you, we had opted to forgo a rental car, having watched ample episodes of Parking Wars, we knew better than to mess with the infamous Philadelphia Parking Authority. This meant that we would be relying on public transportation, solely, once Momma returned home- a scary thought, I'll admit. So, I was glad to find that Momma had decided to spend the first half of our first day taking the train into downtown Philadelphia. The process actually was a lot more simple, and affordable, than I'd anticipated. In fact, visitors to Philly can enjoy a day pass for just $11, which enables them to hop on and off most major transit modes for 24 hours (buses, trolleys, trains, etc). We learned quickly that Philadelphia is HUGE, so I highly recommend bringing the provided maps, and a backup cell phone battery (just in case you get lost).


While we already had plans for that evening (to come in the next post), we had about 4 hours to kill wandering down Chinatown, grabbing a bite, then exploring the famous Reading Terminal Market. I never realized 2 things about Philadelphia prior to my visit; 1.) It is full of the arts, 2.) The architecture is gorgeous. One spot, in particular, the Philadelphia Friendship Gate, marks the beginning of almost 8 blocks of the Chinatown district. This unique, and stunning, structure is one of the first of it's kind in the United States; and represents the unity of all walks of life, supporting one another in Philly. Talented architect Sabrina Soong designed this work of wonders as a unique stacked structure that actually balances within itself, lacking traditional nails or bolts; through a unique Chinese practice of stacking interlocking pieces. Ironically enough, Philadelphia is also home to the first 'skyscraper' designed by a woman in the US- a piece of architecture known for it's functionality of even lighting, rather than it's visual appeal.

For lunch we chose a well reviewed little Chinese restaurant on the corner, at the end of the Friendship Gate. I ordered my traditional Orange Chicken, shown above, which seemed just as authentic as my favorite locale back home. Momma can be seen in the edge of this photo, likely grilling the (new to her) boyfriend of mine. From there we walked about 3 blocks, around the Reading Terminal Mall to the Reading Terminal Marketplace, featured in countless films and on numerous Foodie favorite TV shows. Inside the overwhelming marketplace are hundreds of unique vendors selling specialty, fresh, foods, ingredients, and gifts. I have to say I am officially jealous of the locals who live there! We happened to discover a wonderful Amish Cheese vendor, the candy shop where Bizarre Foods featured Chocolate Covered Onions, and By George's Famous Cheesesteaks and Brick Oven Pizza. I daresay I could spend a year eating there every day and never duplicate a meal!

I'm surprised I walked out with my pocketbook in tact- I had to pick up some Wasabi Coated Peanuts and Soybeans for Pop, and some Strawberry Champagne Cheese for moi, though. And that Amish cheese- well, outside of enjoying it with a glass of champagne, it was delectable. Slightly sweet, and candied bits of real strawberries in this soft, creamy cheese, brick. Luckily, we were still stuffed from our Chinese lunch, or I'd been buying everything in sight. I can only imagine what it would be like to travel into town and stock up on ingredients to cook with. My amateur chef's heart flutters at the thought, and my doctor shudders, equally.
Before we left downtown Philadelphia, to catch our train in time for our evening plans on the other side of the city, we had a chance to take one more walk around Reading Terminal. The architecture, again, is stunning- something I was glad to delve more into further in our trip. On the corner, we passed by a Hard Rock Cafe, and inside the actual terminal was some gorgeous artwork in the form of tile mosaics and hand painted murals. I wonder how often they fresh those murals up, as the painting was wonderfully clear, and vibrantly realistic. Yes, the first half of this day was much more enjoyable than the previous, and our evening brought even more interesting sights as we set sail on a 3 hour cruise with singing waitresses'. Dont' miss our next entry!

7 comments:

  1. Loved this post. Thank you for sharing the trip...only way I will ever get to go there!

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  2. Thanks for the post of your trip, I would have never thought of Philadelphia as a place to visit but it seems like it has it's charms here and there. That orange chicken and the strawberry champagne cheese made my mouth water! If I ever visit Philly I'll be sure to visit chinatown!

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  3. I agree with Jon. I've never heard anything positive about Philadelphia unless you're a history buff but you have me intrigued!

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  4. I certainly am enjoying this series. Your writing makes me feel like I am there!

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  5. Great photos. Philadelphia is a place I've always wanted to visit. I have to agree with Shelley, your writing is brilliant.

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  6. Looks like tons of fun!! I have never been there but now I am thinking I should look into it!

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  7. Glad to hear this part of your vacation went better than the hotel debacle. The hotel you ended up staying in looks rather nice. All those unique and different foods you talked about makes me want to go there someday. Hope the rest of your vacation is wonderful!

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