Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Aah! Philadelphia! and its Ten Thousand Villages

"Are you a student or a teacher?" he asked.

BLUSH! BLUSH! This winter coat must be slimming and younging- I thought and looked pleased.

"Teacher, but I don't teach here."

"It doesn't matter where...as long as you teach." beamed the kind shop assistant at the J.Crew store as I unzipped my wallet to prise out my credit card to pay for the navy blue wool scarf I'd decided to buy on sale.

My FIRST EVER teacher's discount! WOOHOO!

This happened in Philadelphia in December 2014 and just like that this gorgeous historic city became my:
'Ab Fab' - absolutely favourite US city:)

There are a few other reasons why I  LOVED PHILLY, like:

a) I spent a lot of time with my sister- just like we used to before we both got married etc.

b) I bought two beautiful books here (Bird by Bird and Writing Down the Bones- thanks to Pauline's blog) which lie on my bedside table now and will probably never move from there.

c) A twenty year old asked me if I were a student (ignore the image of mature students...erase that image!)

d) We discovered a shop called  Ten Thousand Villages, and

e) The streets are named after my favourite nuts- walnuts and chestnuts;)

What's not to like?

So here we go...a photo essay of our many many walks up and down Walnut and Chestnut streets.

Independence Hall 

At the Liberty Bell Centre

Graffiti Galore

Lights at night...

One morning, after eating a hearty and  a very reasonably priced but freshly prepared breakfast at Gene's Cafe on Walnut Street, my sister, niece and I wandered into Ten Thousand Villages- a wonderful shop filled with treasures from all over the world.

All my memories of trips seem to blossom from conversations I have with strangers who turn out to be kind and interesting and full of stories. 

The lady who served us at this beautiful shop grew up in Rome, Italy. I don't know how but the conversation veered towards food- the eternal ice breaker. 

She spoke about each item we had picked up with such love and care that it felt like she had crafted them herself. 

I'm sure you've come across people who seem so perfectly matched to the jobs they do that their joy spills over. Watching her wrap our purchases while she enthused about the artisans made my day. The three of us couldn't stop talking about her all day. 

If we do what we do with love, it shows and that positive energy (or whatever you might call it) touches people around us- moments as ordinary as these pitter patter their way like rain drops into the pool of my soul and whenever I am feeling frazzled, I just dip into this cool pool and a comforting Aah! sets me right.

It's wonderful to be human.

As usual, I picked up treasures for my garden....

A well travelled Snail (thanks Danielle;) - created in Bangladesh- sold in the USA and 
currently living in Qatar:)

created by 

A birdhouse bought with the right intentions but it's too pretty to leave outside just yet. I take it out only when there are no sandstorms on the horizon. 
Lately, Doha has been hosting a LOT of sandstorm parties- so sorry birdies...this pretty house is staying indoors for now!

Made in Cameroon

An etched gourd from Peru...

created by

And of course, we had to pick up this Liberty Bell Christmas ornament...

made by

Stepping out with all these goodies felt like we had been to a magical place where artists and artisans created beautiful pieces for ordinary people like me to take home and enjoy. 

 Almost four years ago, I made a conscious decision to seek out local artisans or artists if I were in the mood to buy 'stuff' on my travels. The stories that I get to hear and the people I get to meet because of this seeking turns these souvenirs into treasures- and the birds chirp their complaints when I get too silly and don't let them use their birdhouse- they just have to deal with it!

How can anything bought in a glitzy soulless store ever live up to this magic?

Try it sometime.

Here's the link to the Ten Thousand Villages...

And finally, on the last day...

A long walk down Chestnut Street
without the kids
my sister and I
the blues

A three dimensional mural to trick the senses...

If you are planning to visit Philly, here's a comprehensive guide to the best restaurants.

We enjoyed honest and delicious food prepared and served by the Amish at Dutch Eating Place in the bustling Reading Terminal Market.
This place reminded me of the Borough Market in London on a Saturday morning- AWESOME!

This brings us to the end of the Philly tour folks- 
I hope you enjoyed it:)

Here's a video a friend shared on her fb page recently- this might explain why a discount that saved me less that $3 meant so much...


  1. Enjoyed your "Philly tour", it looks like you and your sister had a wonderful time. The goodies you picked up are unique. As you rightly said, it is important to seek out local artists and artisans. I have been to Philly a couple times before but it was limited to the historic places. Looks like you had more of a feel of the place, makes me want to go there again:) Again loved your pictures...

    1. Thank you Ish:) We definitely had a great time. As this was our second trip to Philly, we explored the city at our pace without rushing to 'see' all the historical landmarks. Walking without an agenda is the best way to explore, I think. xx

    2. Love Ten Thousand Villages Stores! I never pass one by without browsing and usually buying some unique wonder rendered by a hand far away. Always stirs the traveller in me. Now it looks like Philly needs to be added to the list of places to visit. Thanks for the tour. Great pictures! xx

    3. Thank you April:) I would've spent many more hours and money in that store- but luckily, the constraints of international travel baggage allowance helped me to enjoy the city, too. I loved it. xx

  2. I just wrote a comment in the morning but can't see it. This was a wonderful vacation, especially spending time with you and our wonderful walk. I'd totally forgotten abt the mural....it looks beautiful and we were so amazed. Our shopping at Ten Thousand Village was the highlight...it always gives me a smile when I wear the earrings bought from that shop. Your birdhouses are looking simply gorgeous. We need to do this again soon! Thanks for this wonderful memory. Love you sis!

    1. Love you too Seema. Yes, walk and talk and shop...let's do it again. Blogging definitely helps to keep the memories alive, doesn't it? Hugs. xx

  3. Arti, what a fabulous city!! Your photos are so beautiful. Loved every one of them. The graffiti, the high rises, the blue skies, the Ten Thousand Villages treasures (i love that you posted the blurb on each item). I (like you) am a firm believer that when we LOVE what we do (like that woman you met in the shop), that happiness & care finds its way to others. Those bird houses are amazing. Glad you had a great time there with your sister, and that you were able to buy those books i suggested. They are 2 of my favorites - still. Hugs to you my friend! xx

    1. Hugs to you Pauline and lots of love. Thank you for being you and for sharing your reads...if only you knew how helpful those two books have been...or maybe you know:) xx


I would love to hear from you. Please leave your thoughts and comments here.