Friday, June 18, 2010

48 Hours: Philadelphia Edition

Welcome to Finance Foodie Travels. This new series showcases journeys to various locals around the world. Because, yes, there is a lovely life to be had outside of New York and Boston…

by: Anne M. Raso

This correspondent for recently got invited to check out what's new and hot in the City Of Brotherly Love, and I admit I couldn't resist checking out the Liberty Bell (moved twice since my sixth grade field trip in 1971) - which is smack dab in the center of town in the Liberty Bell Center. I took in some eats (natch!) as well as some spa and artistic treats!


Philadelphia has over 3,000 wall murals, so it's well worth checking out the Philadelphia Mural Arts Trolley Tour which leaves directly across the street from the Liberty Bell Center (and yes, there are several Philly cheesesteak carts in the 'hood around here). The tour takes an hour and 45 minutes and features volunteer guides - including a few whom are local celebs from the national networks' news affiliates.  The murals are done as part of a public arts program that grant artists two to four grand for the completion of each mural. Most murals take about two months to complete and use one or two main artists with up to 20 assistants, so that money does not go far (the price of supplies is deducted as well). The guides can't show you all 3,000 murals in one tour - which is too bad because many of them make statements about newsworthy events and social programs in P-Town and utilize images of local students and workers.


Now on to my favorite topic - food, of course! My hip eatery picks are Parc (which is very much reminiscent of the modem bistro atmosphere and cuisine of New York's Balthazar and Pastis) and Buddakan (yes, it's indeed the original for all you disbelieving New Yorkers)! Buddakan's edamame ravioli might be the "hot dish" (especially with vegans) but our personal top pick is the green tea smoked ribs. The family style service and the way waiters bring dishes out as soon as each is cooked - without regard for the traditional timing of courses - hits a home run for me. Parc is my brunch pick - its pastry basket which includes all the French classics like brioche and croissants mixed in with American classic like blueberry muffins is one of the finest I've ever had (it's one big butter-rama though, so don't get on the scale the next morning). The Vietnamese Cafe Latte (served either hot or cold) is also an outstanding as well as an unique beverage option. 


Hotel-wise, the tres chic pick of the moment is Hotel Palomar in Center City. While it has the trendiness inspired by the Ian Schrager family of hotels, it also has all the nice details and marble foyers of a more traditional luxury hotel. I would tell you that I was impressed by three things: 1) the hipster atmospheres without the hipster 'tude, 2) the gorgeous XL-size marble spa tubs in each room overlooking a city view and, 3) the way it is smack dab in the center of town but still extremely close to the colorful Rittenhouse neighborhood. Did I fail to say that the minibar is stocked with mainly "healthy" gluten-free versions of cookies/snacks - which included handmade potato chips that were simply divine? No? Well just did now! Oh, and I loved the complimentary truffle popcorn in the lobby from 5 to 6pm that gets many guests downstairs early for a pre-evening snack!


No weekend trip is complete without a relaxing spa visit and I fell in love with the homey Spa East in the trendy Northern Liberties neighborhood. If you feel like you need a little extra in the massage department, try the 4-Hand Massage. The price is $200 for 75 minutes but the feeling of having four hands working out all those shoulder blade "kinks" and lower back pain is priceless. (New York ladies who know the damage done by carrying around heavy shoulder bags all day and not switching sides can sympathize with me on the level of pain this causes). Spa East also has all the extras like the uber-chic metallic Minx process for the nails (Minx mani is $40 while a pedi is $55) and five types of semi-permanent eyelash extensions that start at $30.

Check out for more info on where to go and what to do besides the official " Presents: A New Yorker's Hot Picks" guide here!  And FYI New Yorkers: it is only $47 to $67 each way to Philly from Penn Station on the Amtrak - and the train ride is an ultra-fast 90 minutes. (Heck, that is faster than getting out to the Hamptons or doing to the Jersey Shore!) [Ed Note: another even more affordable option for the cash strapped is the Bolt Bus - $30 round trip with free Wi-Fi!]

[Promotional consideration provided by: Philly3560. Photos: Philly360, Buddakan - B. Krist for GPTMC]

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