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

One Fine Day

Friday was my third and last day in Philly. I had been on a thousand client calls, given a speech and managed to have dinner with friends. I had needed to stay over an extra night for work because they had a client reception Thursday night and wanted our conference speakers to attend. And yet, I would have found some excuse to stay. On Friday I got to hang out with Sarah, Frank and Charlie at the world-wide headquarters of iFractal.

Sarah and Frank are the founding partners of this HR/communications consultancy. They run it differently than a big corporation. One of the things that makes them and their business special.

On Frank’s blog he often spoke of biking that he and Charlie would do. Often to Falls Bridge or further to the trendy Philly neighborhood of Manayunk. Given my love of biking I had wished for the opportunity to join them. On Friday, the fairy godmother granted me my wish. Here is how I spent one fine day.

Woke up at 8 a.m. How luxurious. packed showered and grabbed a cab across town. The day was sunny and as warm as most any day so far this year in Chicago.

Sarah and Shawn were just leaving for the firm’s favorite breakfast place, Frank was waiting on me. We start to gear up when Charlie walks in. I had heard about Charlie but other than a 5 second introduction the night before , we had never met. He decided he would join us which required going the few blocks back home. In the relaxed way of this day there was no clock to watch or schedule to keep. We rode when we were ready to ride.

The bike path out to Manayunk was beautiful. It follows the river. Unlike Chicago, there is topography that rises from the ground. The path itself was not hilly but some of the scenery surrounding it was. 8 miles out, a leisurely stop for a latte at what I am told is the best coffee place in Philly. It certainly was good. Just before we stopped i got to visit The Wall. This is a street that rises steeply and goes on for a few blocks. I made it maybe 30%-40% of the was before my legs gave out and my lungs began to cry. There is a professional bike race each year in which 10 loops of 12 miles are done and each loop includes The wall. Amazing.

Back to iFractal, a quick shower, some down time and then on to lunch. We went to a place–I think a current or former art  gallery. We sat outside in the sun and enjoyed a very fine buffet. A truly lovely setting. One of the best parts is that they knew Frank and Sarah by name. I need to find and frequent a place where they know me. I would like that.

The next couple of hours we hung out. That is where and when the look of 48Facets changes. It will change again. Watch for it. Unfortunately even the best days end. At 4 o’clock I headed to the airport and my Philadelphia adventure came to a close. But what a fine finish.

Lost In Philadelphia

lost. (n.d.). Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1). Retrieved May 26, 2008, from Dictionary.com website

1. no longer possessed or retained: lost friends.
2. no longer to be found: lost articles.
3. having gone astray or missed the way; bewildered as to place, direction, etc.: lost children.
4. not used to good purpose, as opportunities, time, or labor; wasted: a lost advantage.
5. being something that someone has failed to win: a lost prize.
6. ending in or attended with defeat: a lost battle.
7. destroyed or ruined: lost ships.
8. preoccupied; rapt: He seems lost in thought.
9. distracted; distraught; desperate; hopeless: the lost look of a man trapped and afraid.

I had not pondered the many definitions of the word “lost” until the other night in Philadelphia, though only two of the above applied to that evening. It started as Shelly and I left a reception at a hotel and walked our way to Rouge, a restaurant on Rittenhouse Square

Walking with Shelly was like having a tour guide, only better. She noted the points of interest along the way and those that were elsewhere that I should make time to see.  For those unfamiliar with Philadelphia, there are the great historical sights from our country’s fomative moments, places of new culture (i.e. Art Museum) as well as sections of the city where they intertwine.  

We met our friends Frank and Sarah at Rouge. The four of us go back to a former employer. Though they were all in Philly and I in Chicago we had many overlapping interests and got to do some things together that bind you for life around those moments. Dinner as always was great food, great stories and great company.

So back to lost. Definition #8 applied to both my thoughts about Philly as a city as well as my time with my friends. For the evening I stepped out of my usual world and became lost in thought, preoccupied, rapt.  It makes for an exquisite evening.

Then came definitions #3. The weather was pleasant and I chose to walk back to my hotel. It was supposed to be a 15 minute walk, just like the tour with Gilligan and the Skipper was supposed to be 3 hours. Simple instructions. Walk to the corner, Walnut St. Turn right. Follow that to Broad St. Turn left. Find hotel. Somehow I missed Broad St. Earlier in the evening I had been told that Broad was 14th. All the other streets were numbered. Therefore when I started to see numbers in the single digits that would have been my clue except for one thing–I have no short term memory any more. I did not remember that Broad was 14th.

My hotel was across the street from city hall– a massive and ornate building with a statue of William Penn on the top. Hard to miss– for most.  I kind of knew that when I hit the building with the Liberty Bell that I was most likely in the wrong place.  But I forged ahead. At one point I mad it to water. It was time to turn around. Being a guy I chose to figure this out myself rather than ask for directions. I not only made it back but walked through several sections of town I would like to go back and visit. At no time did I feel unsafe.

My 15 minute walk took well over an hour. I went 12 blocks past Broad and 12 blocks back. Finally I was no longer lost.