My brother, J.B., came to town over the holiday weekend. I always find that when out-of-town guests visit for a few days, we all get the chance to be tourists. We’ve lived in Philly for seven years, and for the first time this weekend, we had the opportunity to be utterly charmed by New Hope and Lambertville, two towns that hug the Pennsylvania and New Jersey sides of the Delaware River.
New Hope seems to suffer from an identity crisis in some ways. Is it a sleepy little B&B getaway? A patchouli-scented hippie village? A biker hub? An overtly-friendly LGBT town? Yes it is. J.B., Virginia, and I drove up on Labor Day and landed in New Hope right around lunch time. The sidewalks teemed with tourists, but we had our pick of restaurants and cafes. Like New Hope’s tendency toward multiple personalities, the restaurants aimed to please most palates, which was a good thing for us—two adults and a kid often require a menu with variety. After a bowl of fettuccine with clam sauce, a heart-stopping salad with steak and cheese, and a mediocre burger, the three of us were off to explore. Most of the boutique windows featured cheesy gifts like fancy soaps shaped like purple fortune cookies and women’s tunics detailed with gold trim. We passed a leather goods store, a cards and gifts store, and too many vintage clothing stores, none of which tempted us to go in. A nice walk, but I wondered how those places managed to stay alive on what appeared to be a high-rent street.
We crossed the Delaware River, stopping for a photo midway that featured Virginia and me straddling Pennsylvania and New Jersey, declaring on Facebook “Two states at once!” Lambertville was just across the river, but tonally wholly different from New Hope. The sidewalks were wider and more accommodating. Benches welcomed tired tourists with a place to sit and sip iced coffee. As a result of poor shoe choice, Virginia was working on two painful blisters, which could have cut our day short. But at Lambertville Trading Company, a quirky coffee shop, two baristas with hearts of gold came to our rescue with a few bandages to help with VA’s feet. They did the trick, and for the remainder of our afternoon, we stopped off at antique shops and a pet accessories place. We even met a couple who were out walking their pet pig.
By the end of the day, we were ready to cross back over the river for some New Hope ice-cream before getting back into the car for our hour-long drive back into Philly. I always love hosting my family when they visit, and the added bonus is that through day trips like these, we get to forget that we’re locals and embrace the opportunity to view the area with new eyes as well. Lucky us.