Today we found the best thing so far, and in other ways, the saddest. We ventured to Winterfest- it’s this area by the water that has transitioned from what could be a dumpy abandoned concrete area under a highway, into this beautiful charming winterized utopia (take note Gardiner Express in Toronto!).
Highlights of Winterfest start immediately- outdoor fires and chairs, warming huts a plenty, and cabins that makeshift as food and drink vendors. It’s on the edge of the Deleware River and the view of the Ben Franklin Bridge is stunning. We stopped by briefly in the day time, and planned to return in the evening. It’s free to enter the village, but costs to go skating, and for refreshments. They have your typical fare of burgers and friends, but I’m most excited about the hot chocolate from Shane Confectionery.
When we return that evening, there’s a ‘friendly chill’ in the air, that reminds me of the charm the cold can bring by bundling up, seeing fog when we breath, and a reminder that winter and snow can be beautiful if we stop complaining about if for a minute. It’s a week night, and when we arrive, it’s not busy at all. Unfortunately, the food and drink stations are already closed (ie- no hot chocolate for me), but the skating rink is just getting Zamboni’ed for a new skate.
As we lace up, I look out at the beautiful sight of Winterfest. I’m a sucker for white lights, log cabins, and the smell of cedar. I smile and think “this is a city I can learn to love”. I look down as I step onto the rink, and catch sight of my mittens- I’m wearing classic Canada Olympic mittens circa 2010. Joining my hands together, an off white maple leaf forms. Just as my head was starting to step into Philadelphia, it drifts back to the rinks of Canada- gliding around Nathan Phillips Square at City Hall in Toronto on cute dates; all the way back to ice dancing on the little pond at my Grandma & Grandpa’s. I dash the sentimental thoughts and toss them into the air like a snowball, as I step onto the ice.
Derrick and I coast around, thankful that skating is something that is locked in our muscle memories, and wishing that we learned how to stop without relying on the side boards (so thankful for those boards!). Closing Time (by Semisonic) is playing, followed by Wonderwall (by Oasis), followed by Wherever You Will Go (by The Calling), and well… it suddenly transported me from the riverside bank to a Norwood High dance. And I feel sad. Frustrated that I’m not in Canada. Lonely, even though Derrick is right beside me. I skate around and try to focus on the moment. It’s really a beautiful, and – as the next song says- a “semi-charmed kind of life” (thank you Third Eye Blind). Derrick grabs my hand, and we giggle as two middle aged women hold on to the sides, praying for their lives as they struggle to find their footing. A figure skating all star flies by, of course going backwards, at record speed. A kid falls down, gets back up, laugh-cries, and tries again. Snow drifts down perfectly, as a group of 30 strangers skate in a uniform circle, around and around. Reflecting, I realize the same people here- the romantics, the middle aged first timers, the showoff, and the laugh-crying kids- exist back home in Canada. Things are so different, but so the same. With my Canadian mitts, I skate a few laps on my own, getting lost in thoughts of home, and of Philly, as Greenday takes me down a Boulevard of Broken Dreams.
I think the key here is that I need to find a balance between what was and what is. It’s okay to miss home, and feel low at times, but I need to try my darnedest to not let sentimental feelings take me away from being in magical moments like this.
As we untie our laces, and enjoy the moment of bliss as circulation comes back into our feet, I look to Derrick. Although I didn’t get my hot chocolate, and I wasn’t back in Canada, tonight was a beautiful evening of getting lost in my thoughts, and finding my way back to this Philadelphia winter wonderland.
In the comments below, share your favourite sentimental winter traditions. Does anyone else rely on the boards when you go skating?
A call out to Groupon (again) for having Winterfest ice skating as a deal! Check this out before it wraps February 28. Then the space transforms to Summerfest in the upcoming months, which I have already put on our list of Must Do’s.
Learn more about Winterfest (and Summerfest) here: http://www.delawareriverwaterfront.com/
Want to try the BEST hot chocolate in the world? (I went another night- it was amazing!!!) Visit Shane’s: http://shanecandies.com/
Song of The Day: Closing Time by Semisonic