Victoria’s Diary: Falling in love with my adopted city

With the acquisition of Metro, a daily commuter media outlet in New York and Philadelphia, I had the opportunity to visit the new city we serve.

Last week, I went to the “city of brotherly/sisterly love,” where I met with the mayor and several community leaders. I fell in love!

Our publisher in Philadelphia, Susan Peiffer, arranged for me to meet Democratic Mayor Jim Kenney, the city’s 99th mayor who had just been re-elected to a four year second term. He’s not known as a “smiler,” but I saw a big smile on his face when he talked about children and his announced engagement in that morning’s newspaper to Letitia Santarelli. If he gets married while in office, it will be a first for any mayor in Philadelphia’s rich history.

Sometimes you meet with someone and a friendship just clicks in. That happened over our hour-long meeting in the historic City Hall. We talked about issues of concern from gun control — there are no gun control laws in Pennsylvania, which is a real problem for police enforcement — to the census count, to education and much more.

I offered him the opportunity to write an “Ask the Mayor” column we can regularly publish and he loved the idea.

I hope to visit the beautiful city often, but I invited the mayor to visit New York and have dim sum in Downtown Flushing’s fabulous Chinatown. He said he would be happy to visit, and I look forward to hosting him and his fiancé.

From the mayor’s office, we had lunch steps away from beautiful Rittenhouse Square at “The Love,” a charming new restaurant on South 18th Street created by renowned Philadelphia restaurateurs Aimee Olexy and Stephen Starr.

Aimee’s passion for success and one particular quote from her speaks volumes about why she’s so successful and is something I can relate to:

“I work a lot and I love it. My work is who I am, and that is the only way I know to live.” She has Talula’s Table and Talula’s Garden that have become huge successes also. 

We visited with some powerful business leaders and then I went to the city’s annual tourism event at The Met, a place that had been vacant for 50 years and was recently reinvented as a concert and theatre space, restoring it to its old glory. 

I had the pleasure of hearing the city’s leaders of the Tourism and Hospitality industries talk about their plans for 2020. 

I felt at home as they showed on their big screen the digital billboard the group had bought in New York’s Times Square promoting Philadelphia as the city of brotherly love and then flashes to sisterly love!

It was a jam-packed day, but I loved every minute in my newly adopted city. Head there for a visit and you, too, will fall in love with this bustling beautiful city!

Opera at its best

My kids love music, but haven’t learned to appreciate opera. It’s actually an opportunity to hear the best singers in the world and they can all be heard at the Metropolitan Opera House in Lincoln Center

I had the pleasure of seeing La Traviata starring Polish-born soprano Aleksandra Kurzak in the beleaguered role of Violeta. My good fortune was that my guest Lydia Sarfati, the founder and CEO of Repêchage Professional Skin Care, is best friends with Kurzak. 

After the spellbinding show and endless standing ovations, we made our way backstage and visited with the magnificent performer. 

I was surprised how simple her dressing room looked; I guess that’s because it’s a shared space since Kurzak travels the world performing. But that night, she “owned” the magnificent opera house, with all 3,800 seats filled. 

To make the night even more special we had dinner in the opera house at The Grand Tier restaurant. I sat by the window overlooking the Lincoln Center Plaza on one side and on the other side of my table was the enormous one-story high colorful and brilliant Chagall mural. The setting doesn’t get any better anywhere else and the pre-fixed menu of superb food matches the environment. What a night!

Spend a night at the opera and you will fall in love with the best voices, costumes and sets in the world!

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