Friday, October 10, 2008
Now I've had some sleep and am a little more coherant I'll give you the run down on the trip.
The journey down to Heathrow was pretty smooth and we flew from Treminal 5 which we thought was amazing - very James Bond with all the technology. We landed in Philly mid afternoon and the view of the city as we landed was stunning. It really is a very beautiful city with the rivers and the glitzy skyscrappers of the busness area but with the older Chelsea style houses and the historic centre still intact.
We were a bit amused and slightly baffled by discovering all the taxi drivers we encountered were asian immigrants and the taxi's were very tatty - no leg room, slashed and damaged upholstery. I think we'd kind of expected Robert De Niro or Danny DeVito to be driving lol.
The hotel for the conference was in Cherry Hill which involved a trip over a stunningly gorgeous bridge and through the toll into New Jersey or, as the natives pronounced it, Noo Joisey.
We had a few problems with the hotel in that for a international chain they had no clue about international guests. They managed to mess up all the payments for our booking and even got my credit card blocked by keying it too many times. The rooms were nice though, lovely comfy beds. However my room had a problem with a lack of hot water and the bath didn't have a plug.
We decided that American TV is dire - no international news at all, and the quality of the programmes and lack of definition between the adverts left you feeling dizzy.
Our first full day there was spent on fact finding trips. Tim, visited Farmadelphia, a collection of food growing projects in an urban setting, which he found very interesting especially the hydroponic lettuce production.
I visited Rodale, an institution that researches climate change and organic growing methods. This was less satisfactory - partly because we didn't get as much time as I would have liked to tour the farm and also there was a strange feel about the place. The work they were doing was interesting and it was a worthwhile visit in many respects but I was left with a niggly - something missing - feeling.
Sunday evening was also the welcome reception for the conference. This was very cool and we met some interesting people who were working on some cool projects including film making and work on Native American reservations.
Philadelphia has very good cheese - not just the well-known brand - and the company was good.
For me, a big disappointment was the coffee - everyone had warned us that the tea was bad but I had high hopes of the coffee. Sadly, everywhere we went we found the coffee to be lukewarm - it is never it seems served hot - and burned tasting where it's been over brewed. The bread was also universally bad - hard and shiny almost plasticated on the outside and chewy and tasteless on the inside. The fresh producxe was lovely however and the organic beef was to die for, it was so yummy. Even Tim who isn't normally a beef eater really enjoyed it.
Back tomorrow with part two - the workshops and how we did in a quiz in an Irish pub in Philly.