That Was One Fast Sign!
Bethlehem at Christmastime, I had been waiting for this moment for the past few months. What could be better? My friend, Chip and I were a bit concerned on the Friday before we were to leave as we found out there was a possibility that it would snow overnight. If we ended up getting too much snow that would end all hopes of going to Bethlehem. That could not happen! Otherwise my dream of Bethlehem during the holiday season would be dashed until next year; it just isn’t the same if it isn’t Christmas.
When I woke up at the crack of dawn I ran to the window and was pleased to see that the roads were dry, so I bundled up, grabbed my overnight bag and hit the subway to meet Chip in midtown.
After getting off at the Times Square stop I headed towards 11th avenue on 42nd Street, the wind whipped at my face making the temperature around 32 degrees. Yuck! I am not a fan of the cold, but it was December and I had to get in the mood for the season so I ventured forth. By the time I had reached Chip’s car my feet were frozen, stupidly I had worn really thin socks and they were not doing the job.
The ride to Bethlehem was pretty uneventful, the sun had come out to play and we found a Dunkin Donuts right after exiting the Holland Tunnel. Life was good! Or so we thought until we realized an hour and a half out of the Holland Tunnel that we hadn’t found our exit. After checking our map, we found that we had missed our exit about 90 miles back and we were on the Delaware border.
Peeps and I Are Close
Now, I haven’t been to Delaware yet though it is on my list, but now was not the time. Delaware wasn’t the Christmas Mecca like Bethlehem. That and when I saw the Delaware Memorial Bridge I almost had a heart attack. That was one hulking scary bridge; in fact it’s the largest twin suspension bridge in the world! I stared at it in horrified silence! I could swear it was mocking me! I looked at Chip and told him that I didn’t think I would be going to Delaware. I could miss one state, nobody would know, but he informed me he would know and he would remind me daily.
Besides, I had over three months to get into the bridge zone. Yeah, right!
Need I Say More?
So we turned the car around and began our long, long trek back. After 1 and a half hours, we began to see the signs pointing us to Bethlehem! The day was looking up and even my butt was happy for it knew that it would soon be getting relief! As we took the exit my excitement continued to grow and grow, as soon as we pulled up to the hotel, it completely wilted.
This was a flash back to my days of touring! Don’t get me wrong, I love touring, but I don’t love the scary motels that are associated with it. I stayed at places where you wouldn’t even want to use the shower, you were cleaner roughing it for 3 to 4 days and you know what; some did.
We even ended up at an hourly hotel for a week complete with Magic Fingers and plastic wrap on the mattress. That was the longest week of my life due to sleep deprivation.
Someone Looks Jealous...
Chip told me it wasn’t that bad and had gotten decent reviews, I told him it was no big deal I had weathered worse, so we hopped out of the car and tried to find the lobby. It was no where in sight! We asked a few people, but they didn’t speak English, finally after 5 minutes we stumbled upon it, completely unmarked…nice…
After we got our keys we knew it was smooth sailing from here. We were naïve back then, because it took us another five minutes to find our room. We walked upstairs to the second floor and found the plaque that said room 201-235, we were 232.
So we walked up to the door and tried the card 10 times, but it wouldn’t work. My feet were freezing! Remember I was still rockin’ the thin and pathetic socks suited for late spring or summer. Finally Chip realized that we were at the wrong door. There were no evens on this side! What?!? The odds and evens were separate? Laughing hysterically we scampered off like mice into the late afternoon. We crossed the outside walkway and found numbers 200 • 236, this was seriously stupid!
Chip opened the door swiftly and we were greeted with the luscious smell of mildew and sweat socks. It reeked! Chip tried to convince me it wasn’t that bad, but I couldn’t hear a word he was saying as my retinas were being burned by the red and blue psychedelic bedspread and non matching striped curtains.
Well, at least it was warm!
After checking the motel out some more we were horrified to see that there was no sink in the bathroom. On no! If you wanted to wash your hands, you had to open the door and wash your hands in the main room. Cleanly! This place was first class!
We decided it was best if we hit Bethlehem as soon as possible since we had lost 3 hours on the detour to the wonderful state of Delaware. But first we headed to the Rite Aid to get some socks. None to be found, my friend! They didn’t carry socks, but I did end up getting almonds, cookies and M&MS, I get sidetracked easily. I would have to brave the cold without thicker socks, this was Bethlehem and I was up to the challenge.
Lights in Bethlehem
We headed onto the freeway and were closing in on Christmas City as Bethlehem likes to go by. Everywhere you looked there was the star of Bethlehem and I mean everywhere. They do not take this Bethlehem thing lightly. We found a nice parking spot on Walnut Street and prepared ourselves. As I exited I was greeted by a sight that will not soon leave me. The logo for Bethlehem all blue and all holiday! It was like stumbling upon the Eiffel Tower or the Great Wall of China! Or maybe not.
But it still was pretty sweet, almost like seeing an old friend. An old saccharine, cheesy friend, but one you still are still very fond of!
Historic Moravian Bookshop
The late afternoon was quickly turning into night as the sun sunk behind the hills leaving a beautiful orange glow. Christmas lights were twinkling everywhere and the sidewalks were crowded with people ready for the holiday season.
Our first stop in Bethlehem was the historic Moravian Bookstore. The Moravian Bookstore is the oldest continually run bookstore in the world being founded in 1745. There are two parts to the bookstore, one where they have gifts and gourmet treats and the actual bookstore itself. I had no idea that there were two separate buildings and was confused to find that we couldn’t find any books anywhere.
But I did score a cool shot glass with the Bethlehem star on it! See, I told you they were everywhere!
We decided that this place was too crowded and too crazy. One lady even cut in front of me in line, you know the type, the one who won’t look you in the eye after their evil deed. It was probably best because I was a little perturbed, Chip talked me down telling me she was an idiot just loud enough for her to hear, but we were in Bethlehem. Good point! I bought my glass and was out the door. A few steps later we found the actual bookstore. It wasn’t nearly as crowded, so we stepped inside. It was very neat and organized and very homey. If I lived here I could see myself coming here often, but we had a lot to see including the most popular site, the Christkindlmarkt.
So off we went!
As we walked along the street we came upon what appeared to be a church with a group gathered around it. They had candles in their hands and were bundled up warmly. At first I thought it was a bunch of carolers. I looked around for clues, but only came up with a sign telling us where the Putz Entrance was. Hmm, these people didn’t appear to be putzes, but you never know, I had been fooled before!
Finally Chip asked what was going on to quench our curiosity. It turns out that this was the 48th Annual Peace Walk. Every year people gather for a walk from Bethlehem to Nazareth this takes place rain or shine. I was impressed.
If I wasn’t wearing stupid thin socks, I may have joined in, but I was not equipped. It was a very sweet and touching addition to the evening.
The One and Only
We left the party and headed onto the road that would take us to our destination; the Christkindlmarkt. The night was very brisk and I was freezing! But I soon got distracted by a light display below us as we descended to the markets. It was a beautiful, simple display reflected in the little stream that passed by. I felt a serenity wash over me as I strolled to the front of the marketplace. That is until Chip turned to me and informed me there was a $10 fee to get in. What? That made no sense. You don’t pay to get into Target or Walmart. Heck, you don’t even pay to get into the Union Square Market in NYC and let me tell you NYC is the king of gouging people; nobody does it better! I turned to Chip and told him there was no way we were paying that.
He agreed it was outrageous and he was hesitant to pay as well, but felt that since we came all this way, we should go in. With a sigh I got into line with the other suckers. If anything they should only charge $3-$5. They are turning away business and there really isn’t that much to do that warrants $10.
The people in front of us must have felt our pain because they turned to us and offered us a coupon for $1 off for each of us. They had an extra and didn’t want to waste it. Good people! So we sucked it up, paid the piper and were on our way. As we opened the door we were greeted by warmth and more warmth, that and a lot of little booths. Chip and I walked up and down the aisle browsing the goods. There were all kinds of things ranging in jewelry, gloves and scarves, ornaments and even salsa! Yes, salsa!
We crossed into an outdoor section where we found a few food booths and a guy making ice sculptures.
At first I thought they were plastic, but plastic isn’t cold when you touch it. This guy was pretty cool!
Christmas Display in Bethlehem
We went into the next building where there were even more booths and a band playing old school music. I found it odd that they weren’t playing any holiday music. But soon I got distracted by a booth with cool dichroic glass jewelry. I am a huge fan of this medium and am even thinking of taking a class in the spring. I ended up buying a silver ring from the laid back owner of the booth. I have to say, I have gotten a lot of compliments on the ring so far. I wish I had gotten this guy’s card, I think they would make great gifts. If anyone knows this guy, drop me a line, seriously! Your rings rock!
After we had finished our shopping, Chip and I decided we wanted to see the light display that we had seen from the road, that and their new addition to the market, the Liquid Lights! I mean how great are Liquid Lights? I didn’t know what they were, but they had to be good! Or did they? It turns out the Liquid Light display is a bunch of water being squirted into the air with Christmas music and strategically placed colorful lights behind the streams of water.
Yep, that is it. I saw a show much like this in Oregon when I was a kid. I remember thinking it an odd thing for people to be sitting down to watch water fly into the air with music blaring. I wasn’t impressed then and I sure wasn’t now. Chip and I went into a laughing fit and excused ourselves. It was just strange!
No Smoking And They Mean It!
We decided we had pretty much tapped out the market and decided to get dinner, Bethlehem style. Let me tell you something about Bethlehem and eating. Pretty much from what I could tell the only place to get food after 8PM is the pub, oh and the pub. Not exactly what I had in mind.
We continued walking in search of food for about 15 minutes. We were pretty annoyed when we found nothing over and over, but decided it was completely worth it when we came upon a sign declaring No Smoking, yet there was a big ashtray in front of the door. Bethlehem truly was a magical place!
Peeps Dig Red Robin
Sadly we decided that we would have to hit the Red Robin by our motel even though it was technically in Allentown. I am not a fan of Red Robin, but it was close by and it was still pretty early, 10PM. I tried to figure out what people did at this time of night in these parts. After a few Nuclear Ice Teas, I had answered my own question. At least it put me to bed quickly when I got back. We had a full day the next day!
The next morning we woke bright and early, said goodbye to our beloved motel room, grabbed a coffee and headed over to the Just Born Factory.
Yes, the Just Born Factory! The one that makes the beloved Peeps that are made of sugar and more sugar! One bite will rot your teeth out within 5 minutes! I could hardly contain myself. I hate these things, they make me sick to my stomach. But I had gotten a box while I was in Boring, Oregon for a $1 and had brought one of the Peeps back with me so he could see his home once more.
Home of the Peeps!
When we got there, the bright sign declaring Just Born welcomed us! Everything was closed, it was Sunday and we knew that would be the case. We got out of the car and I did a little happy dance and showed the Peep the home of his birth. We all got a little teary eyed, more because of the blistering cold and the humor of it all more than anything else, but still it was a great moment.
We had originally wanted to do a tour, but they don’t have one sadly, though they do have a virtual one on their website. Not the same, they really need to add a tour. When they do, I will be back, but only at Christmas as that is when Bethlehem shines!
All in all, I had a great time! I loved this little town and the nice people who lived here. I even pondered the possibility of living here. But Chip reminded me that I was a city girl and I would be bored within the first two weeks. Sadly, he was right. But still, I could see myself coming back in the future, but only if they throw in a Peeps Tour…