Philadelphia

It’s the first morning of our trip and a wet daybreak in Philly. Our room on the eleventh floor of the Hyatt overlooks almost everything — tall ships on the Delaware River; a tiny park with leaves turning various, fiery shades of red, yellow, and orange; and Columbus Boulevard (a main Philly artery that seems to bustle with traffic 24 hours a day).

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For the budget traveler, Philly offers little in the way of hostels (there are two within city limits) or camping. Since we’ll be camping in DE for half the trip anyway, I figured why not splurge. Hotwire offered the four-star Hyatt for $120/night – a bargain in Philly.

The only wi-fi connection here is a pay-per-view system — likely around $20 a day. When $30-a-night roach motels like the EconoLodge and Motel 6 down the street are giving it away for free, how does a four star, corporate hotel like this charge? I suppose I answered my own question. I mean, if Big Company X is picking up the tab on Joe Hotelguest’s expense account, what does he care what wi-fi costs? Some day it’ll be as expected a room amenity as running water, a toilet, and four walls.

Last night was a great South Street night – perfect fall weather. From Penn’s Landing, our hotel is a quick ten minute walk. South Street is Providence’s Thayer Street (but with more bars). It’s Key West’s Duval Street sans Hemingway look-alikes and all the tourists. It’s Montreal’s Ste. Catherine Street without all the French speaking. Bottom line – there’s no better place in the city to simultaneously bar hop and trinket shop. It’s an ideal mix of souvenir shop here for the ladies, watering hole next door for the gents. Repeat this pattern for what seems like a quarter mile stretch and you’ve got a great recipe for How to Kill a Saturday Without Getting Too Drunk flambé.

A few places we checked out:

Downey’s sits squarely on the east end of South Street – an old Irish style pub with friendly barkeeps, decent pub food, and a variety of happy hours and drink specials throughout the week. Wednesdays see $3.50 bottled lager, a small complimentary buffet of hot wings and pasta, and apparently 2-for-1 drafts (?!?). Two Guinness and two Smithwick’s totaled $10 with tax. Since these are typically $4.50 or more back home, there was obviously a Happy Hour promo on Irish that we weren’t aware of. Nevertheless, we didn’t ask and we weren’t complaining. We make at least one visit here on every Philly visti.

Jon’s has friendly service and various pizzas and other menu items with names like Larry, Moe, and Shemp. Huge flat screens at the bar with sports on tap. A little too glossy for my taste. I like a bar rough around the edges, but a decent haunt nonetheless.

Tattooed Mom. It’s like being sixteen again, in high school, and banging back 40s in a friend’s basement. Pale green walls and thrift store furniture. Pabst – canned and on draft. $8 for four Pabst drafts. Is there a cheaper way to kill a weeknight? Not in Philly there ain’t.

Manny Brown’s. Rogue on draft, proving there is a god. Pub sex trivia night with a final prize awarded to the best named team. Given that we made our entrance right before the last round, Team Cums Too Late seemed appropriate. The quiz-master didn’t agree. No matter. We won’t hold it against her, and we’ll certainly return for (did I mention?) their draft Rogue.

We capped the night with a dip in the hotel pool and sauna. Something about 110 degree heat seems to sober you right up. It doesn’t of course, but it does give you the illusion nonetheless.

Tonight: Mike Doughty and Barenaked Ladies at the Wachovia Spectrum. Boo ya.

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