My sister's family was picking up my nephew at magic camp at Bryn Mawr, so I met them in Philadelphia. Joel had a great time - but why is magic so male (there were about 100 boys and 9 girls there)? We stayed at the Sofitel, scene of our first post-Sundance "Wordplay" event. This time I was in a regular room instead of a suite, and they still don't have drawers for storage. The shower worked, though it wasn't the greatest; and there was no scale in the bathroom.
I took Amtrak down Saturday afternoon, a short 1.5 hour trip even on the non-Acela train. We had dinner at Pod, an Asian fusion place near the Penn campus, where I had chicken/macadamia stir-fry. Afterward, we walked around Penn a bit, and I remembered almost nothing from my 3 visits to see M in the 70s. The campus seemed nicer than I recalled. We went to the bookstore, which had the "Wordplay" book (my sister always pulls it out to be more prominent). They had tons of Harry Potters, but my b-in-law and younger nephew had gotten it at midnight. The big chains had waiting lists, so they got a full-price copy from an independent bookseller.
We took a cab back, although the driver warned us it's illegal to have 4 in the back seat (Philadelphia police, come arrest us now!). Linda and I hung out with the boys for a while, and then I went back up. I had requested a room near them, but the hotel's idea of near was the same room 6 floors up (was I supposed to travel by rope?). I also was never certain if my room was really non-smoking, as it had a smell which could have been smoke - but no ash trays so it probably was OK.
We had Independence Hall reservations at 11, but when I got to the lobby found the boys didn't want to go. When you're in a city with historical sites, you're supposed to see them, not stay in the room reading Harry Potter! They finally came down reluctantly and we just missed the Phlash bus and took another illegal cab to get there in time. But the rangers at the info desk didn't have the reservation (we assumed the hotel screwed up, but the concierge insisted the rangers screwed up). So we made another one for 4 pm. We just missed the beginning of a movie on the Constitution, but the big Constitution exhibit didn't open until noon so we went in to the movie anyway. It reminded me of the musical "1776" without the music.
Then we headed to the Constitution exhibit, where I treated since they always take me out for meals. Linda and I sang "Philadelphia Freedom," making everyone else pretend they didn't know us. First was a live presentation with an actor, and then many interactive exhibits. We adults found it interesting (my b-in-law is a lawyer), and they even highlighted "Gideon's Trumpet" which I read in 12th grade social studies.
Lunch was at the Bourse food court, where I had some mediocre Sbarro's ziti (the boys had pizza, which seemed a lot better). We still had some time to kill, so wandered in to what eventually will be the National Museum of American Jewish History but is now very limited. We had a nice talk with the guy at the desk (Mark's family lived in Philadelphia before going to South Florida), who was reading Harry Potter just like Jeffy. I always feel at home among my Jews.
Then it was time for the Independence Hall tour. Joel was busy practicing his coin tricks, but I found the lectures interesting. The old stairs are very steep, and they don't let you up into the tower. We saw the rooms where the Constitutional Convention was held, historic documents signed, and where Congress first met when Philadelphia was the capital. I didn't realize that in the early post-Revolution days, the states were autonomous and even had their own currency. The Constitution changed all that. Last, we headed for the Liberty Bell, skipping the exhibits and going right to the bell. It's a bell. With a crack in it. I remember it being in the park with the brick buildings when I visited in the 70s, but it's now in another site in the mall.
After the long day, we took a Phlash bus home, taking it further than we needed so we could see the museums (from the outside, anyway). We gulped down soda and I belatedly realized that last weekend I had taken a diet ginger ale from the hospitality suite, put it in my refrigerator and forgot all about it. Too late now. We had dinner at an oyster house near the hotel. They were out of oysters, which didn't bother me. I had some great lobster bisque and a mixed seafood entree though grilled bluefish might have been better. We hung out with the boys some more and then I went back up.
Luxuriating in the hotel room, reading in the comfy bed, I envisioned going on short trips to stay in hotels, be a tourist, and do nothing but relax. Or even stay in hotels in New York over a weekend sometime. A little extravagant, and I don't really like to travel, but worth exploring for its pure escapism. I need to make my apartment more like a nice hotel, and sitting out on the terrace tonight was a start.
On Monday morning, we took 2 cabs to the station avoiding the illegality of 5 people in a cab and ensuring that all the luggage would fit. They rented a car and I got on a train for home. This week they're looking at colleges for Joel: Ursinus, Muhlenberg (which has a magician/professor who lectured at the camp), Goucher and McDaniel. Joel's been paying more attention to his magic than his studies, but he still has junior year to bolster his academics. He'd like a cozy atmosphere like Bryn Mawr (but he'd need a sex change).
In the course of the trip, I finished Trip's "Sit & Solve Crosswords 5" (fun) and Karen Brichoux's "Coffee and Kung Fu." This novel's relating events to kung fu movies was a little contrived. The best part of the book was its painfully accurate depiction of the heroine's bad relationship, though it took the whole book for her to appreciate the good guy right under her nose.