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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Being Back!

Visiting my friends in Philadelphia does usually not feel like going on vacation. It takes a few days, and we feel at home with one another. For the past few days I have done everyday things. Sunday Molly and I went to have brunch at Sabrina's Café which is on Christian St near the Italian market (yes we went back!). Although lots people were queuing outside we got a table in 5 minutes. The food was great. Very tasty and very fresh. The table next to us had an enormous stuffed French Toast that looked like a mini heaven. I had a very good sweet potato polenta with egg, sourcream, and fresh vegetables. Molly got poached eggs with fresh fruit, and home fries.

After brunch we went grocery shopping, and while we walked there we passed the Magic Gardens. These mosaic gardens were made by Isaiah Zagar who is an local Philadelphia born artist. The gardens were stunning in the sunlight with reflections everywhere. Some tiles show images others quotes and phrases. He incorporates glass bottles but also other materials that most people would consider trash like old bicycle wheels. It all comes together and complements each other.

During the week I spent my time with my former Au Pair family. The kids have grown up so much, and are very much fun to be around. Although Rena and Tim had a lot on their plate at the moment they took out time to spend with me. Yesterday night we celebrated Rosh Hashanah together which is the Jewish new year celebration.  I won't be seeing them for the next week but I am very much looking forward to spending more time with them in the near future.

After coming back from them in the evening I got to spend some time with Molly and Dave who both only get back from work late. On Tuesday evening Molly made an amazing Heirloom tomato tart with goat cheese. She will definitely have to give me the recipe for that one!

I really enjoyed the last couple of days. It was nice to be able to spend time with Molly and Dave as well as Rena and Tim and their kids, and not having to choose between them. Now I am off until Tuesday to see my friend Debbie in D.C..

Sunday, September 25, 2011

La grassa vita!

 Saturday morning Molly took me to the Italian Market on 9th Street. As we got off the bus we suddenly found ourselves surrounded by fresh handmade pasta, seafood, cannelloni and a bunch of Italian flags. Even the weather felt Italian as it was humid and warm. The street was full with cars and even more people spilled out from the side streets.

This is Frank Rizzo a former mayor of Philadelphia of Italian descent.
 Next to all the stands on the street they also had some amazing grocery and kitchen supply shops. In one of the shops massive long cheeses were hung from the ceiling, another sold only spices in big glass containers while a guitar player sat in the shop playing music. The atmosphere at the market was really nice. Most people seemed to know one another and you could hear loud chatter everywhere you went. Very similar to Italy.

 At the market we got several delicious treats. For example this amazing pumpkin spice Ice-cream (rather Unitalian), cannelloni (very Italian) and delicious peaches.

We left the Italian Market for a very Philadelphian experience, the cheesesteak! This is a soft Italian bread filled with sliced steak and covered in a cheesy sauce with optional onions on it all covered in glittering fat. There is an ongoing competition between two cheesesteak places which are right opposite one another on a crossing, Geno's and Pat's. I had read in a blog that they preferred Geno's cheese steak so I tried that one. People were queuing for Geno's all the way onto the street and, go figure, most of them were tourists like me. The cheesesteak was a once in a lifetime experience for me as I could feel my risk of an heart attack increasing while eating it. It was not bad but just not great either. Dare I say... it was a bit blend.

There is just no way to make an cheesesteak look appealing.
What is the perfect thing to do after you just had an incredibly fat bomb of carbs? Right, go shopping! Feeling like petite elves, Molly and I walked to Walnut Street to go shopping. We went into American Apparel whose appeal (aside from the sweatshop free!) I cannot understand, Urban Outfitters which I usually like but minus one dress did not find anything I like and Buffalo Exchange were I for some reason always find something. Buffalo exchange is a second hand shop which used to be frequented by punks but has now turned into an late-teenage hipster shop. 

In the evening we went out with friends of Molly and Dave's to a bar called .... where they sold an impressive number of American real ales. Sadly though they had no cider so I had to drink a rum cocktail which name I couldn't catch over the noise. At 2am we went back (8am Central European Time). Needless to say I was a bit exhausted!

I can see you from up in the air!

One of the many nice things about my travel from Berlin to Philadelphia was that I for once did not have to take a Ryanair flight. Yes they are cheap but they are also the least comfortable way to fly! Flying with British Airways was a real treat as was coming in to Heathrow rather than Stansted. As I have been spending lots of my time in England lately, thanks to a certain Englishman, I know the South of England well enough to know where I was flying in. The sky was completely cloudless.  I could see Heybridge Basin,  Maldon and Chelmsford from up in the air all of which I had been at just last week. The best view I got of the inner city of London though. The houses of Parliament, the Tower Bridge, the Gherkin all in perfect sight!

My second flight to Philly was less exciting. Out of the 4 films I saw (!) the worst was Something Borrowed which was morally and socially very doubtful, the best was Senna.  The rest just killed time. After landing at 8pm the last thing I had to do was go through Immigration which seems to get worse every year. This time I not only got asked was the purpose of my visit was but when I answered that I was visiting a friend who's getting married. The immigration officer asked me whether my friend is female or male, how I knew her, and when I answered that I knew her from my time as an Au Pair he asked whether I am staying with her or the family I used to live with. All accompanied by an evil glare. Felt intimidated! Definitely a future goal of mine is to stand confidently in front of an American immigration officer.

All was forgotten though when I saw Molly! Immediatly it felt like no time had passed. Once we got back to hers she made Tortillas and we sat together and talked. It was a good day.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Getting ready!

After more than a year of anticipation I finally leave for the States tomorrow. Friends and food here I come. Starting my trip of in Philly and staying with the wonderful Molly who is going to be my main host for the month (can't believe it ... a month). The next stop is Washington D.C. where Debbie is going to put me up and put up with me for a number of days. Hopefully accompanying me as I set out to taste everything on the insider's list of my friend Tess. The next trip is going to be to NYC. Goal here is to go to the Strand, see the new 9/11 memorial and eat an excellent New York style pizza. Thankfully I found a place to crash there as well with Josh who I haven't seen in 5 years!

Until I leave a have a whole lot of treats and cakes to pack. Beware hosts you might gain weight!