I don’t know why, but there is something about Philadelphia that just has me going back. If I had to take a guess, it’d probably be because the city is just filled with so much culture and history– it’s hard to get enough! Don’t even get me started on the Georgian-style homes; I secretly look at listings when I’m out there!

Being in NYC we are lucky that we are just a short 2-hour drive away; with that said, we packed ourselves into the car and drove off to experience the city of brotherly love. No car? No problem! The Amtrak train will get you there in about 1h 30mins. They currently have a promotion going on – check it out! Alternatively, there are also buses that can get you out there; ah, the possibilities :).

Below is a day-trip itinerary we did most recently. Below that? All the fun spots that we recommend from visiting the city a few times; feel free to pick a few things and make the day trip your own! Also, always leave room for uncovering your own hidden gems– you just never know what you’ll find :).

Early Bird: 9AM

It’s tried and true, but still so good. Start with a tour of the iconic Liberty Bell. No tickets are needed. Cross the street for Independence Hall, where you can go into the room where the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution were debated and adopted.

Been there done that? Then try this: 

Pick up a coffee and morning treat at Old City Coffee, located inside Reading Terminal. Take a quick stroll around to see everyone start to prep all the deliciousness for the rest of the day. Head on out.

 

History & Shopping: 10AM

Step inside the historic Wanamaker building, that currently houses Macy’s, and see the world’s largest organ (purchased at one of the World’s Fairs). Maybe even pick up a new pair of shoes while you’re there *puts on halo* O:).

Brunch: 11AM

Get your brunch on at Talula’s Garden. Grab a mimosa or a glass of fresh squeezed carrot juice. Dine outside as you hear birds chirp and feel the warmth of the sun on your cheeks or head inside. Either way, their food is very good and so super fresh. Tip: be sure to make a reservation!

Art & Culture: 2PM

Get your art on by visiting Isaiah Zagar’s well-known Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens. What started as a simple form of art has transcended into an immersive experience, not only at the museum itself, but also throughout the city of Philadelphia. Sign up for a tour and take a stroll around the neighborhood as you’re taught about the works of art and their meanings behind them. You even get to see Isaiah’s home; and, hey, he may even pop out himself– we got the chance to say hi! :).

 

Snack Time: 4PM

I’m sure you’ve built up an appetite strolling around the neighborhood, how about you fix that with one of Philly’s favorites like Blackbird Pizzeria? This place is all vegan, but widely popular (like they-even-have-their-own-t-shirts-for-sale popular). Get your own vegan Philly cheesesteak, or try one of their delicious pizza slices! The place is tiny, but it was voted as the best vegan cheesesteak in Philly and is home to some of the top vegan pizzas in the country!

 

The Wind Down: 6PM

Why not walk off your meal as you make your way back up to Elfreth’s Alley— the nation’s oldest residential street. Continue your walk across the speedway and right under the remarkable Benjamin Franklin Bridge to watch the sun set. After your wonderful evening, make your way back home and relish in the beautiful day out in Philly.


Additional Information/Tips:

History:

  • Benjamin Franklin Printing House: we have him to thank for the US Postal Service today, after all!

Food:

  • Café La Maude: French middle eastern amazingness. Once done (or while waiting for your rezy, check out City Planter next door and don’t forget to pick up some City Spice spices for home!)
  • Cheesesteaks: As I don’t eat beef, this recommend comes from my husband:
    • “When in Rome… definitely try Pat and Gino’s and come to your own conclusion of who has the best for a fun tourist thing to do. When you’re done, head on over to Jim’s; I keep it traditional “One Whiz With” (which translates to one cheesesteak with cheese whiz and onions!)
      For another vegan alternative, I’ve tried a cheesesteak from HipCityVeg – so delicious!
  • Reading Terminal Market: Everything under one roof; with so many options, here are my go-to’s:
    • Kamal’s Middle Eastern Specialties: try their mint and rosewater lemonade and a side of falafel as a snack!
    • The FlyingMonkey is known for their whoopie pies, don’t miss it! For my vegan friends, there is a chocolate cupcake in there that will make you go “MMM MMM MM!”
    • City Coffee: grab a cup from here to pair back with your baked good
  • La Peg: corner dining right by the bridge with a nice big outdoor patio and music to set the fun mood
  • Morgan’s Pier: by the pier and bridge; haven’t been here, but looks good!

Parks & Gardens:

  • Shofuso Japanese House & Garden: you take off your shoes before going in; a great cultural experience, plus they have traditional tea time! The gardens are beautiful, too. Great for cherry blossom season!
  • Fairmount Park Horticulture Center: sit back, take in the beauty and see what volunteers are up to!
  • Washington Park
  • Cities Sister Park: AMOR can be found here. LOVE was under renovation, head to LOVE park to see it once it’s back up and running.
  • Rittenhouse Square
  • Fairmount Park
  • Spruce Street Harbor Park: dine on the barge; summertime will be epic with activities galore and hammocks installed for you to relax– what could be better?!

Shopping:

  • Macy’s: See the world’s largest pipe organ that is played every day except Sundays. Call the visitor’s desk and inquire about their tours- super insightful.
  • King of Prussia Mall: I mean, this place just has it all. If you can’t find what you’re looking for here, I’m not sure you will find it anywhere! Wear COMFORTABLE shoes! 😉

Happy Travels!
xx,

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K.

Kennebunkport, Maine: A Look Into My First B&B Stay Ever!

Ah, Maine. Filled with its lobster rolls, trees, beautiful coastal beaches and breathtaking views, it has definitely found a place in my heart!  If you know me, then you know I am always on the hunt for some weekend travels out of NYC, and with a world so beautiful (and a country that I’ve come to learn offers so much, too), I just knew that this was the year I was finally going to make the trip up.

After a long 6.5-hour drive (note: never leave NYC on a Friday!  Thursdays are better!), we just couldn’t wait to get to our new home for the weekend and relax a little bit before grabbing our camera and experiencing all that Kennebunkport had to offer!

We stayed at the Captain Lord Mansion for the weekend and it was mansion alright! Built in 1814, it housed a family with 10 children, to which it was then renovated and, eventually, opened for guests. Friends, this was the first time I was at a B&B; in the past, I’ve shied away because I really didn’t know what to expect and didn’t really know how I’d feel. But, as my friend Lisa so wisely put it, “Staying at a B&B is the best way to experience New England, it’s quintessential!” And guess what? She was so right.

Having never stayed at a B&B before, I didn’t really know what to expect but the innkeepers, Bev and Rick, were very hospitable in answering all of my questions! On our first night the question we received was, “Will you be joining us for breakfast at 8:15am or 9:45am?” I didn’t know that was a thing! It was a nice, pleasant surprise as it really felt like I was immediately part of a family!

The inn felt very warm & welcoming and everyone there put their heart and soul into making sure that your stay is a wonderful one. Each room is uniquely different and decorated by Bev (she hand-made the draperies, bed skirts and almost all of the comforters and pillows!). No detail is missed: from a beside ring holder, to a black towel embroidered with “makeup” in the bathroom (I mean, smart!), down to two luggage racks in the closet (making sure both him and her get one), you can tell that love was put into their craft.

I just want to sidenote for a second and talk about the bed sheets and mattress- they were insanely heavenly! My husband couldn’t stop talking about how wonderful they felt. I thought he was overreacting until I slept in them myself: life. changing.

From family-style breakfasts (they are super good with dietary restrictions), to rooms upgraded with heated floors, jet-stream tubs, fireplaces and A/C control, you can only imagine the luxury we were experiencing! Speaking of luxury, they also have an on-site spa — guys, it can’t get any better than that!

The Captain Lord Mansion is nestled in the middle of a quaint little residential neighborhood (remember, it was an actual home before ;)) and had a garden that made me feel like I lived there all along. Beautiful fresh flowers adorned the brick walkway that had the names of guests who have been at the inn 10 times or more. And in the center? A fountain that commemorated a couple that stayed with the inn one-hundred times – ONE HUNDRED!

I have to say, it usually takes me about a night or two to get used to my surrounding area and bed, as it is different from back home; however, the level of comfort and peacefulness I experienced during our stay here was immediate. I remember turning to my husband and saying, “Wow, what a great job they have done here.” From dashing up and down the spiraling staircases, to chatting with Sue the chef, we felt like we really were part of a family. The staff were all aunts, uncles and cousins, just waiting to share some of their local restaurant picks, as well as educating us on what heat lightning was!

From mini golf, to patio chairs, swings, a hammock, a reading room, a gift shop, beautiful paintings in the hallways, bikes at your disposal and a location so beautifully quaint and tranquil, this definitely will be where we will stay again next time we are in Kennebunkport (we can see how families come and stay 10+ times!).  My husband and I were joking about who’s name would be first on our brick in the garden walkway- it would be mine, obviously ;).

You can get a bottle of wine from their cellar and enjoy it in the garden en plein air. That’s where we spent our first night, just talking about our plans for the weekend. The best part? The inn is so close to downtown. Everything is within walking distance, like the wonderful sailboat excursion we took, as well as some of the cutest nautical shops around and restaurants offering all the lobster dishes you could think of (more on that in my next post ;)). Thanks for following! Keep staying tuned!

Special thanks to The Captain Lord Mansion for partnering with me on this post.  All opinions are my own.

 

Outfit details:
Tote: BP. | Shoes: Nine West | Top: TWO by Vince Camuto | Bottom: Tinsel, similar | Sunnies: Urban Outfitters

xx,
Loren.

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T.

Tokyo: 3-Day Travel Guide!

Ah, Tokyo <3. Admittedly, it wasn’t at the top of my travel list, but all it took was one visit for me to absolutely fall in love with its energy, cuteness, order, and all-around awesomeness!! Tokyo has stolen my curious little heart, allowed for me to feel like a giant kid in a really cool (read: advanced) playground and just, honestly, live. I grew addicted to the little capsule machines, got into my element gaming at the Sega Arcade, and had some of the most fresh fish ever! Though we were there for just a few short days, I have gathered below what we did cover + absolutely loved the most.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Robata Sho Tokyo (for the love of authentic + all things grilled)

We stumbled upon this place (and what great luck!) because it was one of the highlights of our trip. Located under ground of a pretty empty Tokyo street, this izakaya (Japanese Gastropub) is where locals (and the tourists who can find it) come for some authentic dining. It was very much like “Cheers” where everyone feels so welcomed and like it’s home!

The restaurant is lively with people sitting near each other, the chef in the center grilling all of your orders, and laughs with clinks of beer and sake with the staff (if you ask) is frequent! Food notes: the sashimi platter was the freshest fish I’ve ever had; be sure to order their potato salad (thank me later) and order the whole fish for a super delicious, omega-3 filled delight! Prices are very fair and it’s served “tapas” style, so pair with your drink + share :).

Reservations HIGHLY recommended as there are only 42 seats (we were lucky that there happened to be a cancelation when we walked in), but make sure to make a rezy to make things way easier.

Genki Sushi (for the love of fresh, cheap sushi + tech)

Locals go crazy over this spot! This was our first self-service, tech-loving conveyer belt experience in Tokyo with some super fresh sushi for an amazing price! Enter into the store and they give you a seat number, you walk down the aisles to your seat where you’re greeted with your own touch-screen waiter. The sushi (and ramen or whatever else you’d like to order) will arrive right in front of you; with a tap of a green button on the screen, the serving platter will head back to the kitchen where the chef will prepare your next dish! Complimentary green tea is at your fingertips and, don’t say I didn’t warn you, ordering can get pretty addicting! But, for about $8 USD I ate like a queen and all of the interactiveness made me feel like a kid in a candy store!

Directions/Note: As of the publishing of this post, Genki Sushi is currently undergoing renovations, but you can check out their temporary spot (the one we went to!) at Uobei Dogenzeke (click here for the google map link). Tip: if going for dinner, get there between 5-6pm; after that, you will have a bit of a wait!

Kikanbo (for the love of ramen, juicy pork + testing your spice level)

Our friends Rachel + Nick recommended Kikanbo Ramen and what a treat this was! The experience starts outside, as you approach the ordering ‘vending machine’ of sorts and place your order (it’s where you also pay). You then take your ticket inside, sit down, and pass it to the chef who comes to confirm your order and ask you for your spice level. note: this place is known for their “devil spice” and my husband ordered “high” spice– it was love (and tears of heat) at first slurp (I ordered medium)! The décor, matched with the music of drums, helps set the tone for when your giant bowl of fresh cooked ramen arrives. It’s delicious. It’s super flavorful. And at around $10 for a bowl, you will certainly not leave hungry with the portion they give you!

tips: definitely use the little round container of spices found at your seat (next to the water). Add it to the ramen and make the experience EXTRA magical (they actually sell this stuff at the restaurant (so popular)) // there can be quite a line to stand on around 11:30am when they open; so we went for a later lunch (around 1:30pm) and there was no line! 🙂 // you may feel silly, but use the bibs they provide (!!) — those juicy slurps don’t just go anywhere ;).

Robot Restaurant ()

TONS of colorful lights, loud music and people controlling GIANT robots with remote controls; what can get more TOKYO than this?! It may seem super touristy (note: it is), but tourists and locals alike love this place for its super funky feeling. The show is separated into a few parts that includes a pre-show performance (hello men dressed in robot costumes on the sick guitars and drums!) and goes into some more amazing percussion music, a Power Rangers-like live performance, laser show, and a full-out dance performance on the floor with remote-controlled cars. As touristy as it may have seemed, we honestly had such a fun time!

note: we read reviews that the food here wasn’t exactly the tastiest, so we opted out of having dinner here, but did order a drink (though pricey) for the show because, well, why not! (I had bubble milk tea — alcoholic drinks available for purchase, too).

Tokyo Metro: as a foreigner, you are allowed to purchase (with proof of passport) an unlimited subway card (BUY IT AT THE AIRPORT NEAR THE METRO)– it gives you access to both the Toei and Tokyo Metro lines. I cannot stress enough how much this was useful because as you enter/leave stations/switch lines, you will have to enter your ticket into the machines, and if you don’t have the correct ticket, you’ll have to purchase new ones a few times; it can get pretty confusing, so eliminate it with an unlimited card! Available for 24/48/ or 72 hours, it’s honestly the easiest way to get around Tokyo! (Also, at first glance of the Tokyo Metro map, you may start to feel uneasy, but TRUST; after an hour or two, you’ll be a PRO! And it becomes to easy and FUN!)

pro tip: station names are great, but utilize the station numbers (ex: C11, T02, S01)– so much more easy! And, when you’re unsure which platform to board the train on, the platform walls will tell you the direction of the train by noting what the next number is! (ex: you are at C12 and you need to get to C8: the wall will say C12->C11 (which means it’s decreasing, so C8 is in this direction; board this platform) voilà! // Follow the lines and stand in line when waiting for train + when boarding (Japanese are super organized and it’s polite!!)

Rubbish Bins: you won’t really find any in Japan! So, if you make garbage, you’re supposed to take it with you and dispose of it at your home/hotel (and recycle!). While it’s a very conscious effort on reducing public waste, let me let you in on the-more-you-know: back in 1995 there was a sarin gas attack that left thousands injured (the gas capsules were hidden in the rubbish bins) and locals pleaded for rubbish bins to be removed for their safety. Since then, they’re pretty much been gone! But it’s so crazy to know that even with no rubbish bins around, the streets and metro are so clean!!!

Basic Japanese Language: we don’t speak Japanese, but these very basic phrases were always appreciated when used– and we got by just fine! (ps: don’t expect everyone to know English; it’s taught in school, but Japanese is their official language, afterall!)

Kon’nichiwa – Hello – pronounced CUN-KNEE-CHEW-AH!

Arigato – Thank You – pronounced AH-RI (roll that “R”!)-GAH-TOE!

Arigato Sai Mas – Thank You Very Much – pronounced Ah-RI (roll that “R”!)-GAH-TOE-SIGH-MOSS

 

Body Language: a smile goes a long way and so does a bow. When greeting and thanking, always bow. When in doubt, smile and bow. // when handing anything over (money, a postcard you want to purchase, sushi bento box, etc.) always use two hands and give a little bow; handing things over with one hand is considered rude! Don’t be that person :). Impress them!!

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