So, as it would happen, Takeshi had last Saturday AND Sunday off which is so unusual. So we decided to take advantage of it and go somewhere! It ended up being 2 places where we knew we could drive to (without a 4+ hour trip) and still have time to do things there during the day. We went to Baltimore, MD on Saturday then drove up to Philadelphia, PA that same day, stayed in Philly overnight, next day finished visiting Philly, and then drove back Sunday evening.
All in all it was a good trip, even though we found out that (for us) there's way more stuff to do in Philly than in Baltimore. And second, the trip greatly improved our opinion/view of Philadelphia, since the LAST time we were there, it sucked. That was mostly due to the fact that we were rushing to catch a flight to move to Japan (in 2008-ish?), and I we ended up going to the emergency room at midnight because of my sinuses. Long story short, we wasted about 3 hours, $300, and about a 10-minute visit from a doctor to tell me that they really couldn't give me anything for my misery.
But it's true that we didn't really get to SEE Philly that much, that time. I had also been to Philly a couple of times before on college trips, but those days were spent at the art museum.
In Baltimore we went to the National Aquarium, which I hadn't been to since grade school, and Takeshi had never been to. Even though I have a fondness for the place, Takeshi and I agreed afterwards that the aquarium back in Japan, in Toba is way better. They walruses and penguins there. :) We tried looking for a place to eat lunch at in the area, before we would head off to Philadelphia. We wanted to find somewhere unique to Baltimore that would interest us (and not bankrupt us), but didn't find anything and settled for a Panera Bread. Took a short stroll through Baltimore's "Little Italy" which was very sad-looking and deserted. Kind of a shady area too...
Got to Philly and went to the Reading Terminal Market, an interior market with multiple, different food stands, grocery shops, herb shops, etc. After that, since it was getting later, we decided to search around for a hotel for the night. We wanted to stay in Philly without busting our wallets on the room. Oh the magic of iPhones! We just searched online in the car for 10 minutes, called some places, and finally found one that was decently priced. We ended up getting a "suite" which included a walk-in closet, and a tiny kitchen area, both of which we didn't need to use. The place was older for sure. We could see uneven paint-jobs on the walls and ceiling, and the oven looked dirty. We through our stuff in the room and looked around for a place to eat. Takeshi already had a place in mind, some restaurant he had heard about through the grapevine again, called "LaCroix" located in the Rittenhouse hotel. Talk about a fancy hotel! I felt so out of place sitting the marbled, glistening lobby outside of the restaurant doors. We were dressed in casual clothes, and everyone else was walking around in dresses, suits and ties, and looking very important. Dinner was very good, and a higher price came with it of course...The restaurant had some very good drinks on the menu - I had a blackberry bourbon drink of some kind, and then a very delicious Vanilla Cappuccino martini. I usually take photos of each of the courses whenever we get tasting menus, but after the first drink I pretty much just gave up. Haha. :) Besides the place had lower lighting, so the few photos I did take in the beginning weren't that good.
Left the restaurant at around 10pm-11pm, and walked back to the hotel. Thankfully it was close enough! But Takeshi got turned around a little with the directions (I wasn't the only one having drinks!), and we ended up passing a huge fountain in a vast circle.
The next day, we finished up our trip with first going to a Japanese grocery store I had found online, named "Maido!" located outside of Philly. Cute little place in a cute neighborhood. Small place, with a small counter on one side of the store where people could order affordable dishes, with a small TV attached to the wall airing Japanese TV. Man I miss watching TV back home. I stood there for 5 minutes just watching it. We got some things we probably couldn't find anywhere else in person, beside ordering it online, such as okonomiyaki-ko. The young guy who run us up spoke English very well (made me wonder if he was Japanese-American or a Japanese native). At the end when he finally took a look at Takeshi's card and saw his name, he uttered a small "arigatou gozaimashita". I guess both of them were wondering the whole time if the other one was really Japanese and knew the language! Hehe. :) I wish I could have had TK speak Japanese. I miss hearing it SO much. I like it when he speaks the language, I don't know why.
After that we went to the Little Italy of Philly! Much better. Lots of good tiny shops with yummy merchandise. We went into a small cafe which I had again looked up online and read about, called the "Rim Cafe", owned and run by one very charismatic Renee, from Nice, France. He was a trip! And so was the decor. And his drinks were oh so good. I definitely want to go back there whenever we go back to Philly.