Fun In Philly

Dateline: November 13-14. Philadelphia, PA

(Why have I started to do the dateline thing? Not totally sure myself. First it makes it seem like a news report. Second I am no longer blogging in real-time and this sets a time frame. May be a fad.)

Headed to Philly for Justin’s wedding. Justin is Tom’s son. Tom and I go back about 20 years. What a great excuse to get out of Chi-town and into one of my top half-dozen cities to visit. My wife and I have needed and wanted some alone, away time.

Our flight leaves at a comfortable early morning hour on Saturday. Upgraded to first class. Nice. Take the train into downtown Philly and somehow manage to navigate the four blocks to our hotel.

Not just a hotel. The Ritz-Carlton. Have I mentioned before that I love this hotel line? The Philly Ritz is a gorgeous hotel with skylight rotunda. Lots of marble. Airy, spacious.

This Ritz had THE BEST service people I have encountered. We are greeted just inside the door by a friendly (just shy of too perky but on the right side of the line) young woman who escorts us to the front desk. The front desk woman is friendly, accommodating and efficient. The greeter woman has returned with champagne. Nice. Our room is not ready but they take our bags and we head out. Before continuing this tale I want to finish the point about the people of the Philly Ritz. The concierge not only gave us great ideas and perfect directions but he was fun and funny in a way that made you smile. The wedding was in the Ritz. Every single person serving provided whatever we asked for, sometimes things that were doable but inconvenient, and did so while being gracious. Even the bellman who stored our luggage made sure he carried them as far as he could short of walking us to the train station. When I am stupefying wealthy I am moving permanently into the Ritz.

On with the weekend.

Philly is an easy town to walk and walk we did. First stop was a restaurant my wife had seen on the Food Network the night before we left. The Good Dog. Our food was good to very good. A large pile of fries, a combo of regular and sweet potato fries…heaven. We then walked off our meal.

First we walked to  Rittenhouse Square. Every big city needs a several square block park like Rittenhouse where people can just be out doing whatever crazy thing they want. Semi-organized dancing, playing musical instruments or taking professionally posed pictures of a young woman looking very serious. Rittenhouse Square has a long and storied history going back to before the U.S.A became the U.S.A.

On one edge of the park was a small farmers market. We walked the stalls and came upon another treat. Fresh baked gluten-free breads.

I am supposed to be gluten-free meaning eating nothing made from wheat or the many other grains containing gluten. The most common remaining grains or starches are rice, corn and potato. Being gluten-free eliminates virtually all baked goods and pasta, at least the delicious kinds. Gluten free stuff is made out of rice, corn or potato. Even the best gluten-free goods tend to pale in comparison to the best wheat flour goods. The stuff available at chains stores such as Whole Foods is expensive and mediocre.

But here at the Rittenhouse Square farmers market was a young lass with three types of bread, plus flat bread and a slices of angel food cake. Arriving at the end of the selling session everything was half price. So I took one of everything. (As gluten-free goes – excellent.)

By now the Ritz called to tell us our room was ready and we were happy to drop off our packages and hang up our clothes for the wedding. One of us really wanted to take a nap but the smart one prevailed and we went out walking again. You can guess which one of us was smart.

I haven’t mentioned it yet but even Mother Nature contributed to this weekend. The temps were in the mid 60s (in November) and the sun shone. Being outside would have been a chore in normal November weather.

From the hotel we walked to the Reading Terminal Market. A ginormous indoor market with stalls of every type of food you could want. It is part butcher shop, deli, grocery store, bakery, farmers’ market and food court…and there is a used book store for good measure. We took in the sights, sounds and smells more than we shopped.  Aisle after aisle and the place was packed. Great people watching.

With time running out until the wedding we squeezed in a short visit to the historical district. We stood in line behind a large group of Chinese tourists to get in to see the Liberty Bell. Worth the wait. My first time being with the Liberty Bell.

That left no time to stroll through the other sites so we motored back to the hotel. We made one stop. The stop was a typical big city experience with low rent and luxury only a few short blocks apart. We needed a few sundries and walked into place that looked like a cross between a dollar store and a Woolworth. Tables with a vast array of inexpensive and cheap merchandise in almost random fashion. The prices were good because the place lost its lease and was closing within days. This was a place that provided items of value to those with little cash. We bought what we needed and left. The Ritz was 2 1/2 blocks away.

We dressed for the black tie event and attended a fabulous wedding. I will save the wedding description for another time. It is a story of its own.

The next day we strolled up the a block to the antiques district which had a number of cute shops and restaurants. We bought a couple of tchatzkies in a small art shop. We passed a cemetery with some graves from the 1700s. On the way back we passed a lovely synagogue and an odd-looking old woman dressed in colorful clothes with flower socks sitting on her steps smoking a cigarette.

The rest of the afternoon was spent with my friend Frank. Frank is a former work colleague, now business owner (along with his partner Sarah –hi Sarah) and one of the most interesting guys going. He came in from the Philly burbs to hang with us. We ended up spending a joyful couple of hours sitting outside at a restaurant across from Rittenhouse Square enjoying the food the people watching and the company. I had not seen Frank in over a year and it is worth a trip to Philly for no other reason than to spend some time with him. Next time I hope to have Sarah join us as well.

Some day I will try to put into words well what makes time with Frank such a great way to spend a part of your life. I am not yet up to the challenge but I am working on it.

Eventually back to the airport. We run into a friend from home. I turn down the last first class seat to spend the flight next to my wife. We return home.

All in all a fabulous weekend.

 

Liberty Bell 11/13/2010

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