After getting my fill of NYC all week (as editor of Where and IN New York), I love nothing better than hopping into my car from Cranbury, New Jersey, for the 45-minute drive west to Philadelphia. Philly, a town that continually reinvents itself at the same time its historic currency as the city of the American Revolution grows more valuable with time, I find there are always old and new gems ripe for exploration.
And speaking of new, this time, I decided to make a weekend out of it, with a night at the new hotel, The Study, in University City, an area of Philly (so-called because it is home to both Drexel University and University of Pennsylvania) I was not all that familiar with. The hotel impressed immediately: clean, bright and modern, its concept, to mimic the details of a luxe college dormitory (is there such a thing?) did not go unnoticed. The hotel lobby had been transformed into a combination library and “student union,” with handsome blond wood bookcases filled with coffee table books and fine literature; comfy chairs and couches in soft blues, greys and orange; and writing tables, complete with stationary, postcards and pens for guests to use.
That night, I had dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, the Co-op Restaurant & Lounge. Consistent with the initial feel of the hotel, the restaurnat, too, exuded a clean, modern feel with warm, caramel-colored leather banquettes and handsome dark wood tables. A Caesar salad was brightened with a lemon finish, croutons crumbled throught the greens as opposed to popped on top. A seared scallops ceviche was spicy and spectacular, and ricotta replaced mayonnaise to lighten up an addictive spinach dip and potato bread, encased in a pretzel-like crust, and topped with coarse salt.
Well-fed, a restful night of sleep was easy in the quiet, comfortable room but in the morning, I couldn't wait to get exploring. I walked the five or so blocks from the hotel to the Penn Museum, a fantastic time to go, since their new Middle East Galleries had recently opened. Jewelry from a Mesopotamian queen, more than 4,500 years old; a baby’s rattle; ancient spreadsheets that showed how these communties kept inventory, along with a rather creepy “map” of where 68 upperclass women from the City of Ur (also known as Mesopotamia) were standing during a ceremonial party given before they were all bludgeoned to death, possibly willingly, so that they had the honor of a royal after-life, were all fascinating and sobering.
Wandering around the area afterward, I was impressed with how much punch is packed into this one neighborhood, bordered by University Avenue to the south, Market Street to the north, 30th street to the East and 38th Street to the west. Besides the Penn Museum, there is the Institute of Contemporary Art; The Palestra, an historic arena and home to the University of Pennsylvania Quakers men’s and women’s basketball teams; and a wide variety of ethnic restaurants, from Korean to Japanese to Mexican and more.
Philadelphia always manages to show me something I have never seen, no matter how many times I cross over the New Jersey state line to visit.