I returned yesterday from a wonderful visit in Philadelphia where I spoke at the ABA conference on Labor and Employment law. For a constitutional scholar, trips to Philly will always have a certain sacred feel. I never visit without stopping by Independence Hall and walking around that wonderful building. From the great food to the great history, Philly remains a fun city to visit. We often use this blog as a travel blog for our readers who travel on business or fun and I have a few recommendations to share.
Independence Hall remains a favorite for me with the added benefit of the Congress building. It is always a surprise to see how very small the space was for the Founders. I love its simplicity and stark qualities. Do not be deterred by the sign (which seems almost permanent) that states that there are no more tickets for the tour. It is much easier to get tickets (which are free) in advance. However, you can stand in line to see if there is some extra room. I had to wait 50 minutes but finally was allowed in. Unfortunately, you are required to sit through a question and answer session to gain access. It is clearly their way of regulating the number of folks in the buildings. However, quite frankly, I think the Park Service could much improve the Q & A particularly for the many young kids. Our constitutional history is filled with engaging stories that would interest kids. I thought the presentation lacked any real interest or effective delivery for the kids.
After my pilgrimage to Independence Hall, I set out on an equally religious experience to have the famous roast pork sandwich (ranked by one foodie show as the best sandwich in America) at DiNics. I went to the Reading Food Market which is an awesome place with dozens of stands from Amish farmers to wine sellers. Get the roasted pork sandwich with broccoli rabe and sharp provolone. (You have to like the slightly bitter rabe but you can substitute with spinach or other toppings). You will be full for the rest of the day, though that did not stop me from having a Philly “Whoopie” at the Flying Monkey at Reading.
I also had a wonderful lunch on my final day in Philly at the Parc restaurant on 18th Street off of Rittenhouse Square. They had a great farmers market on Sunday and I walked across the square to sit outside at the Parc. They serve an incredible drink that tastes like a Pimm’s Cup but better. It is called Basilic and it is very refreshing. I had Moules Frites and love it. Sitting across from the music school, it was a perfect day as music could be heard through the open windows.
I stayed at the Radisson Blu Warwick hotel (While I am not paying for the room, I actually got a good price on Expedia for the room and they upgraded me when I arrived.) Ironically, after my disaster at the Waldorf Astoria, I had another problem with the room in Philly. It seems that the Gods are intent on my not having a working bathroom. When I arrived there was material in the toilet, which is very odd for a good hotel. However, I actually like the Radisson Blu and shrugged it off as an aberration and went to work out as soon as I arrived. Big mistake. It turns out the toilet was blocked or broken. When I returned, the bathroom floor was soaked. Since I had a business call and it was late, I could not move but they came up and cleaned the bathroom and cleared the toilet. Or so we thought. When I left to work out in the morning, it flooded again. It was not a good position to be in with a speech in an hour and a flooded bathroom, but one works with what fate has left you.
After that encounter, I am sure you would not be surprised by my panning this hotel as I did the Waldorf Astoria. However, I actually think that this is a good hotel and I am willing to believe that this is a freak event. Either the prior guest did something or the toilet has some defect. The fact is that it is a very nice hotel with a great workout room and modern facilities. It does not try to clip guests at every turn, including free and fast Internet. However, the main reason I recommend it is a young man named Adam who was the manager in charge when I checked in. I asked Adam if he knew a great place for a cocktail. I like a really good cocktail and was disappointed recently in New York. Adam suggested a few places and was I grateful. However, after about 30 minutes in my room, I had a knock on the door. It was Adam who had searched the menus of local bars that he recommended and printed out their drink lists. He also printed out a map. It was an incredibly nice thing to do and, even with an over-flowing bathroom, left me with a positive feeling about the hotel. So here is my advice. The hotel can be improved in little respects to complete on the top level. If I were the management, I would just go talk to Adam. He seems to have an innate sense of what it takes to be a world class hotel. I still believe that this is a good option for travelers, particularly business travelers, visiting Philly. Great location (just a few blocks from Reading and walking distance to Independence Hall) and great staff.
All in all, it was a fun visit to Philly. I wish the city would do a bit better job on trash and other aspects but it still retains that old charm and sense of history.