Benjamin Franklin Bridge at Franklin Square Mini-Golf

Spring 2021 Staycation

posted in: Personal Essay, Photography | 0

Long before Holly and I knew we were going to get our vaccinations, we had scheduled vacation for the week leading up to the Memorial Day weekend. Although we had made the best of our fall Staycation (Staycation Walk, October 2020 Update, November 2020 Update), we were thrilled when we found out we would be fully vaccinated by the middle of May and could actually do things. We’re not yet ready to travel so we planned for another Staycation but with less stay this time.

Going out to eat is something we really enjoy, so we kicked off our week with brunch at one of our favorite Italian restaurants, Le Virtù. Before the pandemic, we had been there several times for dinner. I’m not exactly sure when they started serving brunch, but it’s a fairly recent addition.

We had actually gone there the week before for brunch and enjoyed it so much that we decided to return. They have a spacious patio which is a little unique for restaurants in that area. We’re also still not ready for indoor dining.

We didn’t enjoy our second visit as much as the first because it was hot out and there was a large bridal party taking place in the main part of the patio. The food and drinks, as usual, were excellent.

Because of the heat, we didn’t do anything else the rest of the weekend, just stayed inside and relaxed.

Back in my Reaching One Year of Self-Isolation post, I reflected on what our transition to post-vaccine life might be like. Back in March, the vaccine rollout had begun so there was reason to be optimistic, but we still had no idea when we could get ours. I speculated about how we might feel re-engaging in different activities. One thing I wrote was:

Getting comfortable with going to museums may take some time. I’m interested in the new Soutine / de Kooning Conversations in Paint exhibit at the Barnes Foundation. It runs through August so it’s encouraging to think that we may actually be able to go.

I’m happy to report that we didn’t have to wait until August to go. We went the Monday of our week off.

The exhibit was all I hoped it would be. I had read the exhibition catalog back in the spring so had a good idea of what to expect. Of course, seeing the works in person is a much different and much better experience. It was the first time I had read an exhibition catalog before seeing an exhibit, and I found learning about it ahead of time made the visit all the more rewarding.

Tickets for the exhibit were timed and limited, so we were willing to try it as our first indoor event. The Soutine / de Kooning exhibit wasn’t too crowded although some people were sloppy with their mask wearing and ignorant of keeping safe distances. Overall, it was a relatively comfortable experience. However, the main exhibit hall was overly crowded so we left since we had seen the main collections a few times before.

I didn’t take any pictures in the exhibit, but I did take some walking around the area near the museum. I used one of my film cameras so I’m not sure when they will be ready to share.

After our museum visit and walk, we decided to stop for a light lunch and some drinks. Since it was Monday, not as many places were opened. Anecdotally, it seems not as many places have been open during the day as before the pandemic.

We ended up at Harper’s Garden. We had been there once before when it first opened and had a so-so experience. We decided to give it another chance since it was open in the afternoon and it has a large patio. It turned out to be the perfect way to spend the afternoon. We arrived after the lunch rush so it wasn’t crowded. Both the vegetable board and the pommes frites we shared were great. The wine selection was also more interesting than we remembered.

Tuesday was our big day out. The weather over the weekend was hot and sunny. The weather on Monday was chilly and gray. Tuesday started out cool and gray but warmed up by the afternoon.

We started the day with our return to Café Lutécia, one of our favorite local restaurants which we went to quite often prior to the pandemic and ordered takeout from before we were vaccinated. Over the years, we’ve gotten friendly with the owners so we wanted to support them the best we could during the past year. The Café is charmingly small and they have always had sidewalk seating.

Although we enjoyed getting takeout from them, it was a thrill being back. I ordered the Omelet Basquaise with a side salad and Holly got the lox and cream cheese on a bagel with the works.

The big excursion for the day was taking the train over the Delaware River to the Camden Waterfront. We had only taken a train to New Jersey once before and had never been to the Waterfront. Of course, we have walked along the Delaware many times from the Philadelphia side so it was fun walking along it on the other side and seeing the Philadelphia skyline from a different direction.

Most of the photos I took there were with a film camera. I’ll post those later when I get them developed and scanned. I did take a few with my Samsung Galaxy S9+.

On our walk back to the train, we stumbled upon the Walt Whitman House.

Walt Whitman House
Walt Whitman House

Once we got back to Philadelphia, we went to Franklin Square to play mini-golf. Franklin Square isn’t that close to us so we don’t get there often, but we did take a walk to there a few weeks ago. When we saw the mini-golf, we made a note to ourselves to keep that in mind for our week off.

I guess because it was a Tuesday afternoon while schools were still in session, the mini-golf was not only not crowded, but we were actually the only people playing which was rather nice. Neither of us had played in ages.

Most of the holes feature something Philadelphia-related.

We wound up walking a lot on Tuesday, and I was exhausted the next day so we had another lazy, relaxing day. We didn’t even go out to eat but did call out for a pizza from 20th Street Pizza which has become our go-to pizza place recently. Neither of us follow a strictly vegan diet, but we have been working in some vegan meals for health reasons. Despite what some of my pictures show, we normally eat fairly healthily. 20th Street Pizza is vegan and might serve one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had. We’ve been getting one that comes with organic tomato sauce, cashew mozzarella, California olive oil, and basil and then add hot peppers, vegan sausage, mushrooms, and spinach.

Grandma Pizza with Hot Peppers, Mushrooms, Vegan Sausage, and Spinach
Grandma Pizza with Hot Peppers, Mushrooms, Vegan Sausage, and Spinach

I was feeling better on Thursday, and the weather was back to being nice, so we ventured out again. In the morning, we tried a new place, The Breakfast Den. They were actually scheduled to open in April 2020 but that got delayed because of the pandemic. I don’t remember exactly when they opened, but I’m glad they survived. We liked the place it replaced, Little Spoon, so we were happy that we enjoyed our first meal there. I had a sausage, egg, and cheese sandwich, and Holly had a rice and vegetable bowl with crispy fried tofu.

Our big outing for the day was our trip to Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens. That was fascinating enough to deserve its own post. After our visit there, we went to Hawthornes Beer Café for beer and a pierogi snack.

After over-exerting ourselves on Tuesday, we knew it was best to just head home and relax for a while before dinner.

For dinner, we went to Charley Dove which is a new version of a pre-existing restaurant, Audrey Claire, which we were big fans of. The ownership had changed a while ago but kept the same name and same concept. It was taken over by someone who had long been involved with the original owner so not much had changed until recently with a new name and a slightly different approach. The new menu offers a similar selection of Mediterranean options. We were pleased with our meal and happy that the new version gave us a similar experience to the one we had known and loved.

Staycation wound down after that mainly due to the weather. We didn’t have much in the way of plans for Friday other than a leisurely lunch somewhere. One place on our list to get back to was American Sardine Bar which had become one of our go-to brunch places. They are also another place with proper outdoor seating.

The forecast for the weekend was for rain starting Friday afternoon. American Sardine Bar opened at 2:00 and the rain wasn’t supposed to start until 4:00 so we figured we had time for a late lunch. However, it actually started raining more like 2:30. Luckily, it was light and intermittent so we were still able to enjoy our lunch. We did get rained on on our walk home.

The main thing we were looking forward to over the Memorial Day weekend was seeing my brother for the first time in over a year. Initially, we wanted to go up to his place on Saturday. But as the weekend approached, we saw that it was going to rain all day Saturday so we moved our visit to Sunday. Then it was supposed to rain all day Sunday so we moved it again to Monday which finally worked out. I guess after not seeing each other for 14 months, what were a couple additional days?

I’m glad we waited the extra days because the weather was ideal on Monday.

We took the train to my brother’s, wheeling a suitcase full of food. He picked us up at the train station where we had an emotional reunion. Crazy to think we hadn’t seen each other in over 14 months!

He has a nice yard and a grill so we spent most of the afternoon outside. We had a tasty but fairly simple dinner of BBQ chicken, grilled asparagus, baked beans, and vegan mac-n-cheese.

Our visit was a great way to end an enjoyable week. Time off from work always goes by too quickly to say the least.

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