Over the past month, I have taken several long road trips with DH. 325 miles to Boston. 511 miles to Ohio. Even Cape May is about 80 miles away from my front door. However, sometimes the best trips require very little driving. Last night I had an an amazing experience, a mere 8.9 miles from my home.
A friend visiting from out of town and I began our night by visiting a new restaurant. We had been craving pho, and thought to satisfy our stomachs’ cravings. For those of you who have not experienced pho, it is a Vietnamese noodle soup that includes rice noodles, vegetables, seasoning, meat, and broth. Upon the recommendation of Yelp, we tried Lemongrass, a Vietnamese-French fusion restaurant. We arrived for an early dinner and had the entire restaurant to ourselves for much of our meal, the kindly staff waiting on us attentively. As good as our service was, the meal was even better. The lobster roll appetizer was delightful, the pho was excellent, and the staff even surprised us with a complimentary dessert of Vietnamese flan and ice cream. If you live in the South Jersey area, give Lemongrass a try!
After dinner, our tummies full and our minds open to a new adventure, we drove across the Ben Franklin Bridge into Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to attend the Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival in Franklin Square. The Lantern Festival is a Chinese holiday, and draws the Chinese New Year celebrations to a close (Yuanxiao Festival). While this festival in Philadelphia occurs several months after the actual holiday, it is an attempt to share the culture of China with a larger audience.
Franklin Square had been transformed from a small park in Philadelphia into an island of Chinese culture. It was easy to lose yourself among the displays and colorful lanterns. Several vendors had set up stalls and tents where they sold their wares, local artisans who offered their hand-crafted products. While we waited for sunset, we were also treated to a live performance of jugglers, plate spinning, a Chinese clown, and most impressively, face changing. Known as bian lian, face changing is a part of Sichuan opera, where performers rapidly change a series of masks during their performance. No description with words can capture the magic of this act. Perhaps this video can better describe it.
Once the sun sank beneath the horizon and darkness spread over the city, Franklin Square came alive with vivid colors and beautiful scenes that can not be described adequately with words. I will let the photographs paint the picture for you.
When we emerged from the park several hours later, we were quiet, taking in all that we had seen. The beautiful displays had kept us spellbound for hours, each of us running around like little kids, wanting to see each and every display. The Chinese Lantern Festival runs through June 12, 6:00 pm – 10:00 pm Sunday through Thursday, and 6:00 pm – 11:00 pm Friday and Saturday. You can purchase tickets online or at the door, but I would strongly recommend you purchase them in advance. If you live in or near Philadelphia, this festival is a wonderful way to learn about a new culture and spend a beautiful night in late spring.
‘Til next time.