Having read the other reviews on Epinions about this Hyatt, I was feeling a bit trepidacious. I too got a $60 ish room rate from Priceline, but I had been disappointed to hear from other reviewers and StalkerGuy (more on whom later) that the hotel was out of town and cut off from "happening" Philly.
Recommend this product?
Actually, for our purposes (four days of touristing and shopping with my sister) it was perfect. If you are touristing in Philly, I can make a convincing case for the Hyatt being in the best possible location of all:
- It's right next door to the Sea Museum complex: lots of boats and naval exhibits to explore, and has great views of the river (more of which later).
- It's only a short (5-10 minute) walk from Independence Historical Park, which includes all the really famous buildings such as Declaration House (where TJ wrote said Declaration of Independence), Liberty Bell, and the Pennsylvania Colonial State House building, where both the Declaration and Constitution were voted on and signed.
- There is a miraculous purple bus that goes from 2nd Street (just over the road from the Hyatt) all the way to the Museum of Art on the other side of Center City, via all the key tourist stops on the way - for only $1!!
- There are loads of cool eateries and bars and clubs galore around 2nd Street and Chestnut St, only just over the street from the Hyatt. In just one block of Chestnut, I saw Belgian, Cuban, even Afghan cuisines.
- It's just off the interstate, which means very easy access (courtesy of a $30 a day rental car from the Avis desk under the hotel lobby) for Amish country and Franklin Mills outlet shopping.
So location wise, ye naysayers, I had almost no problems with it at all.
Onto the details. So, we arrived at about 1.30pm. Unlike Tom and the Doc, we had a bit of a surly receptionist whose middle name was "no". We were denied a room (unless we wanted a smoking room, which we didn't) and told to come back at 3pm. Then I asked about getting a room overlooking the river, as I had read about people experiencing noise from the interstate and Columbus Boulevard which run right alongside the hotel:
Me: "Could we have a room on the river side please?"
Her: "That will be $25 an night extra."
Me: "Oh. Well, I don't want to pay $100 more. If we have to have a road view room, can we have one on a high floor then, because I had heard they can be a bit noisy."
Her: "Road view? What are you talking about?"
Me: "The rooms that face directly onto the interstate and the four lane freeway?? "
Her: "Oh, you mean the City View. We don't any have road view rooms."
Talk about euphemisms.
Anyway, we went back later, having snaffled a $5.95 lunch special over the road and round the corner at the Pagoda Noodle House and saved ourselves five zillion mega bucks by not eating in the hotel in the process, and dealt with a more genial gentleman who gave us a sort of compromise room. We were on the eleventh floor, facing south: half river view and half road view (I refuse to call it a City View as really the only thing you could see of the City was the Interstate and then Lincoln Financial Field in the far distance away in South Philly). The river view was nice enough. We weren't on the north side, where you can see the Ben Franklin Bridge all lit up at night, but we could see the Camden docks and the green fairy lights on the boats anchored on the Philly side.
The room was clean and nice enough. I haven't got a lot more to add to the Doc and Tom's description. I thought the pillows were fluffy (not foam, anyway) but I only had two on my bed and I like more. I DID ring up and ask for bathrobes, and was told "There are no bathrobes available at this time." At this time? Had they run out? Does that mean they will be available tomorrow? Or that they were available five minutes ago, or last year? I thought that was odd. Most four star hotels have some kind of scrappy bathrobes they will let you have if you ask nicely.
I must divert from the Doc's enthusiastic line on the Portico conditioner, however. We had the same stuff, which in turn was the same stuff as we had last week in The Grand Hyatt in DC. It was AWFUL: weak, white and watery. Like... well, I don't want to offend readers - let us just say it wasn't very pleasant. And it totally didn't work on my long hair.
One good thing: there was a mini fridge in the room, complete with a note announcing that all rooms would have mini fridges as of March 25, 2005. Best of all, it was not filled up with all that minibar crap you usually get. So you could stash away your own snacks - in our case, smoked gouda cheese from the Amish farm stall at Reading Terminal Market - without having to perform extreme Jenga tricks rearranging the cans of mini bar tomato juice and ginger ale to make room. Before you all get too carried away though, and start planning on shipping in your own drinks cabinet from home, there was a very pointed note in the guest services directory warning DIY barmen that the Hyatt charges $55 a bottle corkage on all drink brought in by guests. I thought this was rather harsh. Philadelphia is meant to be a mecca of BYOB (and corkage free) drinking but the Hyatt seems to have missed the call to prayer.
What else to say? Well, I did check out the fitness center.
The pool is big enough, not massive. Didn't go in, it was full of small children every time I put my head round the door. Locker room not luxurious or big. Sauna is mixed. Saw people (men) in there, not looking particularly happy or sad. I really went for the gym. It was nice, roomy, smelt OK, and had three TVs and extremely flash LifeFitness running machines, some exercise bikes, freeweights and a couple of weight machines. The gym and pool were on the fourth floor directly below our room, so as one ran or swam one could admire the river view and the interstate. There is a apparently a sun deck up there but I couldn't work out how to access it.
We avoided eating in the hotel, but I did have a double vanilla vodka martini in the hotel bar before I went off on my blind date with StalkerGuy. Wouldn't say the bar was madly sophisticated, either in decor or clientele, but felt I needed Dutch courage and I got it.
I got a cab from the hotel to the place where I was meeting StalkerGuy, the Irish Pub on 13th and Walnut. On a less cold night, minus the rain and wind, I would've probably walked it (it was maybe eleven or twelve blocks away) but it was cold and rainy and cabs in Philly are ridiculously cheap. I think this ride was $4 or $5.
StalkerGuy (a business contact who I'd only ever spoken to on the phone and via email, who'd been pestering me to meet up socially in person whenever I next came to Philly) seemed like a good idea at the time, but turned out to be a big disappointment. He's the sort of guy who swallows Dale Carnegie without bothering to chew. The barman's eyebrows, as he eavesdropped our "conversation", were raised so high they disappeared into his hairline. Having failed to impress me with his non stop barrage of personal questions into every aspect of my life, it turned out, as it always does in these cases, that StalkerGuy had no wit and humor to fall back on, so he reverted to the time and tested tactic of trying to get me paralytically drunk. He almost managed it, only I started chatting to a guy at the jukebox about U2 while the SG was settling the tab and when I turned around the SG had vanished, vamoosed, disparu. While mad as hell at having been abandoned in the middle of Philadelphia, I must confess to being Quite Relieved. And so I sat down with JukeBox and his friends, and had a really good evening, thus proving the Lonely Planet Philadelphia right when they say that Philadelphian bar patrons are unusually friendly to strangers....
The next morning, I had a hangover the size of a house. My sister, by now recovered from her jetlag, was dispatched downstairs to search for Tylenol, water and carbohydrates. She came back about 45 minutes later (by which time I was beginning to think she'd fallen into the Delaware River) and $15 poorer. Housekeeping had been unable to provide paracetamol or aspirin or anything, so she'd paid a small fortune to procure a small pot of Tylenol from the hotel shop. The hotel shop is so small that it doesn't have it's own cashier, you have to queue up and pay at reception. The receptionist was good enough to tell her, however, that she could save 50 cents by not paying $4 for a tiny bottle of water from the shop, but buying it instead from a vending machine. What with a cranberry muffin and a bagel from the lobby, she'd almost had to take out a second mortgage, poor girl.
There isn't a lot more to say about the Hyatt. It was pleasant and serviceable, excellent location, and a great price on Priceline. It does have a certain intimate feel to it, perhaps because the lobby isn't enormous and the conference parts are all out of sight on the third floor. Other odds and ends: Valet car parking is $20 a night. Self park is about $12. Large vanilla vodka martini is $8.50. Airport shuttle $8 (bookable through concierge). You get a copy of the Philly Inquirer every morning outside your door, and all the staff wear large badges with GOT NAME? written on them in blue. When asked what this meant, the receptionist said they were supposed to make sure they were using guests's names. In that case, I thought it would be more logical to make the guests wear the badges, but it seemed foolhardy to say so. Over and out from Relieved of Charlottesville... until next time.
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