As you might remember, I had big plans for my milestone birthday. I also promised to document the adventure on this blog. I’ve been sadly negligent of this blog, partly due to the busyness that falls upon all of us during the month of December and partly due to the laziness that falls upon me after said busyness is over and I am home for a nice long break. As my time home nears an end (*sob*), I decided to spend part of this nice snowy day blogging.
My birthday adventure included three states and two major cities, and it began with a lovely day in Philadelphia. My friend Megan picked me up at the airport bright and early (I flew out as early as I could – it always seems like a good idea when I buy the ticket, but then the night before when I’m at the Ryman Auditorium at a concert and still need to go home and pack, I wonder what I was thinking. But I never really regret it — as you’ll see in the following post, when having to choose between sleep and once-in-a-lifetime moments, I generally choose the latter.)
Megan picked me up and we headed straight downtown to make the noon Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul. The daily Mass is in a side chapel (about the size of a small church) and then after Mass we went into the main part of the cathedral to have a look around. I hadn’t been there since I was in high school and didn’t remember much, so it was nice to be back.
The neat thing about this altar to St. Katherine Drexel is that when she was living, she and her sisters gave the money to build the altar in memory of their parents. Now it’s an altar dedicated to her. Pretty awesome.
After visiting the Cathedral, it was a hop, skip and a jump over to Love Park for the annual Christmas Village. When I was little, it was kind of annoying at times to have a birthday so close to Christmas. But now I love it and wouldn’t want it any other way. It’s almost as if the whole world is celebrating your birthday with you. (And then you realize they’re celebrating the birthday of Someone far more important. Whoops.)
The Christmas Village is a traditional German Christmas market with lots of little vendors and a big Christmas shop with wooden ornaments and Christmas chachka. We ate some free samples of delicious bacon jam and wandered through the little booths. It was past lunch time, so when we saw the apple strudel booth, we didn’t really think twice.
They also had “Nutella on a stick,” and as tempting as that was, we were in a German Christmas market, and so we both went for types of strudel. The first of many food adventures to come.
Documented for posterity, of course:
After the Christmas market, we continued to walk around the downtown area, just taking in the city and enjoying the lack of schedule and responsibilities. That was one of the unexpected joys of the whole weekend for me. I often take trips with a purpose – which is good and wonderful, and this isn’t a complaint against that- and yet this whole weekend’s only purpose was to have fun. Maybe that is the norm for some people, but since it isn’t for me, it was really quite a joy.
Megan glanced at her watch and realized that the famous light show at Wanamaker’s was starting in ten minutes. (It’s really Macy’s now, but I like calling it Wanamaker’s, so I will.) The famous organ only plays at noon, so we didn’t get to hear that, but when the light show is up in December, it runs on every even hour. The show is narrated by Julie Andrews and was really cute — it definitely took you back to a simpler time, when this technology would have been incredible.
Then we went upstairs to the Dickens Village- also famous, supposedly, but pretty creepy- where you walk through the Christmas Carol while audio-animatronics act out the different scenes. Santa is at the end, although he’s in another room so you can’t even see him unless you wait in line to sit on his lap. Lame.
My tummy was rumbling and cheesesteaks were waiting, so we headed back to the car and drove to South Philly. On the way we stopped at the national shrine of St. Rita, where there was Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and beautiful art by Anthony Visco, a local artist. I told St. Rita that I hoped it wasn’t a ‘hopeless cause,’ but if it was, could she please intercede for us the following day for good (at least “passable”) weather?
A few holy pilgrimage sites, and now a Epicurean one. Pat’s and Gino’s are both known for their authentic cheesesteaks — a friend had advised me to go to Pat’s, and Megan concurred. I was perhaps too excited for this adventure, but I wasn’t disappointed in the least. Between the proper way to order (“whiz, wit”) and the personality of the guys at the window (they were like something out of a movie … and not even trying), I really felt like I was getting the whole experience. I didn’t realize it was a walk-up place, but even eating outside in 20 degree weather was just part of the experience.
I was going to get provolone, but Megan’s Cheez Wiz looked delicious (strangely enough) and so I chose the same.
I want one right now. We polished them off without trouble.
Then it was time to head home and save our energy for tomorrow’s adventure. In the spirit of our first president we crossed the Delaware, although we headed for Merchantville instead of Trenton. After stopping at Target for some essentials (chapstick, boot spray to protect our footwear against the impending snow and slush), we arrived at Megan’s cute little apartment to veg and await the arrival of the rest of our party, Marisa and Trena, who were driving up from D.C. When they arrived, we knew we should head to bed to prepare for our early wakeup call… but, as you might expect, four college friends reuniting meant we stayed up and talked and laughed and enjoyed being together for awhile before we hit the sack.
After a few nervous glances at the impending winter storm, a worried email to my friend John (“Do trains go in the snow? Are we going to get stuck in the city tomorrow!?”), and a reassuring phone call from John, we pushed our fears behind us and embraced the coming adventure.