For all of our issues with New York City, we will admit that it has always known how to dazzle it up for the holiday season. Yet every year, we’re not truly content with our December unless we’ve left to celebrate somewhere else…at least for a few days. So an invitation to join in the Ritz Carlton Philadelphia holiday fete was eagerly accepted.
We checked in, and found ourselves graciously upgraded to a Governors Suite, with parquet floors, beautiful globe chandeliers, and a generous living/dining area, done up with handsome deco style furnishings. Which, naturally, meant sitting back, turning on the impeachment hearings…then immediately turning them off with a mischievous sort of glee. We’ll be having none of that today, thank you.
In fact, the suite’s elegant demeanor and soothing color schemes were like a kind of aesthetic therapy, and we felt ourselves definitively calming from the past year’s stresses, ready to enjoy a bit of holiday magic.
We love this hotel, always have, and always will.
But honestly, all we really wanted for Christmas this year was a leisurely but refined lunch up at the 30th floor Club Lounge, where the wonderfully attentive staff offered us an edification on how to spend our short time in Philadelphia summoning a seasonal spirit that had yet refused to be summoned.
First suggestion? Do not skip the European charms of the Christmas Village for the dazzle of the City Hall Christmas Market. And for sure, there we found Teutonic wooden booths with names like Truffleist, Neob Lavender and Edible Birdhouses. It didn’t matter we didn’t actually buy anything – we just soaked in all the holiday kitsch of it all, and did it with a perpetual grin.
Yet there at the center of all that old-fashionedness was a contemporary public artwork called The Present (was it a double entendre?) – a 27-foot-tall walk-in gift box bedecked with 100,000 lights. (We always wanted to be placed under the tree.) Once inside, one is encouraged to text a donation to a suggested charity; good will towards men (and women and children)…
Back at the hotel, under a festively festooned tent, Ritz Carlton special guests mingled with full time residents from the hotel’s condo building – the perfect antidote to all that self-involved grumpiness back in NYC. We quickly made new friends…just the sort of thing has always endeared us to the City of Brotherly Love. And in synch with our current life philosophy of anti-deprivation, we pretty much made a dinner of gooey holiday treats and winter sangria, while a chorus of singers shared timeless Christmas carols.
But across the way, the City Hall Christmas Market beckoned, with its aforementioned sense of dazzle. We arrived just in time for a particularly stylish light show, projected onto the grandiose 19th Century facade, with all the corresponding oohs and aahs.
Indeed, the prodigious, Second Empire style edifice has never failed to inspire a sense of awe. And arguably, no other American city has captured the spirit of the grand European Christmas market as has Philadelphia – Munich and Dresden might even be jealous. Of course, it being Philly, there had to be a goth booth, tucked away into a corner of the elegant courtyard (we enthusiastically browsed the selection); and while New York City still prudishly bans alcoholic refreshment at its holiday markets, two great local distilleries, Boardroom Spirits and Stoll & Wolfe, were exhibiting, offering blood-warming vodka and bourbon tastings.
We wanted to pull up a bench at the market’s temporary cafe/bar, where we could have a tipple and still watch the skaters merrily zipping about. But the Ritz Carlton always has a way of beckoning us back in. So we ducked inside for celebratory margaritas at the hotel’s Aqimero bar, belonging to Richard Sandoval’s Latin inspired eatery of the same name. And under the lobby’s spectacularly dramatic neo-classical dome, we took in the usual buzzy scene. But glancing upwards, we noticed that said dome had delightful holiday scenes being projected onto it – which honestly entertained us to no end.
Did we mention we love this hotel?
Back upstairs, we kicked back in our stunningly beautiful suite, where our view included another unexpected light show, projected onto the 1338 Chestnut Street building across the way – on which bottom floor corporate types were surely toasting another successful year with a Macallan rocks and medium rare Wagyu at Capital Grille.
It’s amazing how much a hotel can become intertwined with certain important rituals in our lives. And spending time at the Ritz Carlton Philadelphia and the resplendent City Hall Christmas Market just beside it have indeed become an essential part of our own holiday mythology, something we simply could not end the year without.
So, obviously…see you there next December.