Monday, November 16, 2015

Adventures in the City of LOVE!

“Do you mind taking my picture?” I asked.

As I stood in line, and yes there was an actual line, to take a picture in front of the famous “LOVE” sign in downtown Philadelphia, I smiled to myself.  I did it! I went on my first official “solo-cation” aka solo vacation.

I was initially asked to substitute for a friend for a fashion show in Philadelphia on a Friday night. I’d never been to Philly and took the opportunity to make it a short weekend getaway. It was fantastic! The Friday night show was awesome, and Saturday I was an official tourist of the city!

In a previous blog post, I shared my true sentiments on women going on dates with themselves. Still not a fan, but the concept of spending time with yourself is a must, particularly traveling by yourself!

I booked a hotel in downtown Center City and I was one with Kristin. The room was small but just enough space with a bed and pillow from heaven! I slept like a baby!  I lounged in the bed the next morning, simply taking in the day that I did not have to work, run errands, or hear the demands of other people. It was my day to do exactly what I wanted to do in a city I’d never been in, and I was excited. I googled touristy spots in the area and I embarked on the day!

Now, in traveling by yourself you learn a few things that are essential in this process. It was me and the people of “brotherly love, and sisterly affection.” And they were truly just that! So here are few things I learned and experienced along the way:

1) Embrace the city and culture from a tourist standpoint.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to appreciate travel, not just for the simple getaway, but to also embrace another culture and history.  Many folks simply want to ask the locals and go wherever everyone else from the city goes. That’s fine and dandy, but I’ve learned that most locals don’t even know the history of the place they call home. They couldn't tell you any significant facts about the buildings and statues they pass on an everyday basis, and in a city like Philadelphia, the history is so rich and valuable.

As I made my own tour of significant places I knew about Philly, I decided to hop on the Sightseeing double decker bus and get all I could from Sheniqua! Yes, my tour guide's name was Sheniqua, and she did a fabulous job!  From the Liberty Bell to the 72 steps of the Philadelphia Art museum where Sylvester Stallone ran up in the movie Rocky, the history was overwhelming.  The statues of Benjamin Franklin, the Free Library, and the amazing architecture had me in awe.

2) Always keep your phone/camera charged and bring a selfie stick!

Can I just say that my phone is simply on the bootleg side and doesn’t hold a charge to save its life! Being a solo tourist requires a legitimate phone or camera for frequent picture taking and use of Google maps to locate particular stops.  I missed many memorable pictures because my phone was dying a quick and untimely death. In an attempt to preserve what battery I had left, I experienced a few embarrassing moments as I hustled and maneuvered to locate a plug to charge my phone. The struggle was real!

Attempting to take selfies that were impossible without a stick was frustrating. Every now and again most people were generous enough to take my picture, in particular, this one handsome gentleman with a beautiful smile and a British accent. Once he finished taking my picture, he simply said, “Cheers.” I melted and looked up to God, “I’ll take one of those, please!” I think I heard God say move to Philly. I’ll have to get back to you on that, though! LOL

3) Take your best walking shoes

Although the cab rides weren't expensive, it's nothing like walking the city and encountering the people.  I had the bright idea of walking to the famous Geno’s Cheesesteak spot from downtown Center City.  Google maps said it was a 15-minute walk, but as it recalculated at least 5 times, I realized I had been walking for about 25 minutes. I stopped and asked about 3 different people for directions and finally made it to my destination after another 20-minute walk. After I cooled off from my unintended marathon walk, I really did enjoy the journey. I walked through various neighborhoods and encountered a nice market spot that had live music and unique and eclectic vendors. I was having a ball!

Now my only complaint would be that when I finally made it to Geno’s, I was highly disappointed. As famous as cheesesteaks are known to be in Philly, I was not impressed with my hoagie bread, a slab of steak and a slither of melted cheese. I’m learning touristy doesn't always mean best, but I was put on to two other spots that I will definitely try when I go back! At first you don't succeed, try again at a different spot! LOL

4) Reflect and Celebrate!

At 30 years old, life is great, and yes, even in my singleness!  The fact that I was able to pick up and spend a weekend in Philadelphia by myself was awesome. I didn't have to check in with anyone, well, except for my mother, and that's only because she would have blown my phone up a million times if I didn't answer! I didn't have to run my agenda past anyone, and I was able to do exactly what I wanted to do on my own time. I was in a financial place to afford a nice hotel and splurge on myself a bit around the city. I met great people, acquired a wealth of knowledge and history, and was able to truly relax! In that moment, I simply basked in my singleness.

Would the vacation have been better if I had a significant other to share that time with, possibly.  But what I’ve gathered from my married friends is that it’s best to take advantage of these opportunities now, for they may be few and far between once you have a family and kids. Note taken! So right now I'm just going to LOVE and splurge on me! I’ll be planning a few more mini vacations in the near future. Look out world, Kristin is about to come through! I'm thinking Boston is next, before the the blizzards take over!