Category Archives: travel

An Amish Buggy in Chinatown

On Monday night I was staying overnight in Philadelphia for work. Despite the fact that it was named after me, I don’t actually live there. It became too much trouble fighting off the adoring Phil Factor fans (known as Philistines) every time I left the house. No privacy, couldn’t eat at restaurants without interruption, yadda yadda, you know how that is, right?

I stayed in the Hilton Garden Inn Philadelphia Center City, which, unbeknownst to me, was in the heart of Philadelphia’s “Chinatown.” (Let’s be honest, you were already assuming that there’s lot’s of things unbeknownst to me) If you’d like to read my review of the Hilton Garden Inn on Philliver’s Travels, just click HERE.

At my hotel, the hotel restaurant/bar was closed due to the pandemic. So I did a little Googling and found a sports bar within a block of my hotel. Walking down the street I passed many Chinese shops and restaurants. One thing I didn’t expect to see was an Amish buggy. Here I was in a big city, in Chinatown, and there’s a broken down Amish buggy!

Now we all know that the state of Pennsylvania is well known for it’s Amish population, and the U.S. Amish capital is Lancaster, Pennsylvania, just 90 minutes away. But the abandoned Amish buggy had me curious. Why would any Amish folks be smack dab in the middle of one of the largest cities in the country? And what did they do when their buggy broke down? So here’s my theory of what happened…

I think a couple Amish kids, let’s say Jebediah and Samuel were on Rumspringa.  Jebediah & Samuel took pops buggy for a joy ride into the big city. When it broke down they couldn’t find their AAA card, (Amish Assistance Alliance) and they were shift out of pluck.

They had a few shekels in their pocket and strolled down the street to the Chinese sports bar. (Yes, there actually is a Chinese sports bar in Philadelphia and if you want to see my full review of it, head on over to Philliver’s Travels.) Upon entering the bar they sat down and ordered an extravagant dinner and several drinks. Not knowing the shekel to dollar conversion, they didn’t have enough to pay for their feast.

The waiter understood their predicament and with a sly wink, offered a solution. They could work off the extra they owed by washing dishes, or they could take the money they had and gamble it in hopes of getting what they owed. In the spirit of Rumspringa, they agreed to gamble. The waiter led them down the hall and past the restrooms to a stairway that descended into a darkness beneath the restaurant. They quickly glanced nervously to each other before shrugging their shoulders and following the waiter into what they assumed was Hell. They passed through a doorway that was opened only after the waiter had given the secret knock.

Once inside they were overcome by the noise, activity and a thick fog of cigar smoke. It was a casino, likely illegal and populated by a crowd that probably belonged behind bars, and not the kind of bar they had left upstairs.

They were led to a table where within minutes they had gambled away what little money they had. They feared the worst as two Chinese waiters led them away from the table. They were escorted back up the stairs where they were put in the kitchen to wash dishes until they had paid off their debt. Jebediah and Samual weren’t just any Amish though. They had gotten a taste of the big city and they liked it.

The two plucky Amish lads decided to stay on as dishwashers at the Chinese sports bar (click here for my review of that Chinese sports bar). Fast forward to the year 2025  after they had washed many dishes eventually worked their way up the Chinese sports bar hierarchy to running the illegal casino downstairs and several others throughout the city. As they gained a significant amount of dark influence in Philly, they bring cohorts from their Amish community and by 2025, Philadelphia’s Chinatown will be known as Amishtown. So that’s what happened when an Amish buggy broke down in Chinatown.

Have a great weekend! ~Phil

Do You Want To Learn To Travel The World?

Today’s the day! My travel blog, Philliver’s Travels, launched today with THREE groundbreaking posts you won’t want to miss!

  1. The Drunk That Saved Pittsburgh!– A funny story from my travels
  2. Travel Hacking with The Basic Travel Couple-Learn how to travel without breaking the bank!
  3. An Interview with International Travel Writer Bel Woodhouse– Have you ever wanted to live overseas? Learn what it’s like to live and travel internationally from an expert!

Like I’ve said before, The Phil Factor isn’t going away, but it will have to share my attention with Philliver’s Travels, and as always, I am very grateful for your reading and support. Have a great weekend! ~Phil

Top Ten Tuesday! Ten Travel Tips You Must Know!

Happy Tuesday everybody. Well, I guess it’s more of a happy Tuesday if you’re getting ready for a trip this weekend. As a prelude to my new travel website and writing venture, Philliver’s Travels, this post is a preview of some of the content you’ll see there.

As we all know, travel is fun and exciting, but it can be a little less than fun when things go wrong. So, to kick things off for my new site, I collaborated with freelance travel writer and International Living magazine/website contributor, Bel Woodhouse , to give you some things to think about before you leave home.

10. Have a “Go-bag” You know who has go-bags? Criminals & smart travelers. (One of those two are my target audience. Which are you?) What I mean by a Go-Bag, is when you travel, don’t take your home phone charger. Don’t take your entire medicine bottle from the cabinet, and for cripes sake, don’t take your toothbrush from home! Buy an extra phone charger, travel toothbrush, tiny tubes of toothpaste, and a weeks worth of your meds. Put them in your suitcase and leave them there! ALL. THE. TIME. That way, you’ll have less things to remember to pack. If you leave things behind at your hotel when you’re heading home, you won’t be out of luck until you can replace those items. As a man that has bought my fair share and your fair share of phone chargers when I get to a destination, having a Go-bag is a smart move.

9. (From Bel) Always have a good old fashioned paper map. Don’t rely on technology. Batteries go flat, coverage gets spotty, phones are stolen. Paper doesn’t let you down. I’ve had one in 30+ countries and have never been lost, mugged or had anything bad happen. EVER.

8. Count your kids: Traveling as a family? This ain’t your local shopping mall. Don’t take your eyes off your little ones. If there’s anything Home Alone taught us, it’s that you need to count your kids wherever you go. MacCaulay Culkin was left home alone and look how he turned out:

7. (From Bel) Know where you are, where you shouldn’t go and how to get back to your hotel, accommodation or nearest taxi.

6. Do the Math! Growing up, I hated mathematics. When you travel, it comes in handy. Just because it seems like you have plenty of time to get to your gate, don’t be fooled. If you show up at the airport Friday-Monday, four days of the week, you need to factor in extra drop off luggage line time and the security line time. On those four days there’s a higher volume of travelers and lines will be longer and slower. Also, if you have connecting flights, book your flights with at least a one hour and ten minute window between the first flight landing and the second flight taking off.  Trust me on that one.

5. (From Bel) Keep the majority of your money on your person, not in your wallet in case someone lifts it.

4. How to tip the housekeeping staff: If you’re staying in a hotel or resort with daily housekeeping, tipping them is customary, but how and when you tip makes a difference. $5 a day American is pretty standard, but should vary depending on the hotel you’re at. Let’s say you’re staying five days, do you dole out that $5 each day or wait until the end of your stay? Don’t wait until the end of the stay. Leave at least a $10 tip the first morning and spread the rest out over the week. My reason? Sometimes if you tip well early, you get better service, like a few extra coffee pods, extra towels, chocolates on the pillow, or just a generally better room cleaning. These folks work hard. Don’t be stingy!

3. (From Bel) Have situational awareness. Take note of what and who is around you. I was in a market in Nicaragua and made eye contact with a guy, then held my camera close until he moved past me only to push over another young woman and steal her camera. Know who and what is around you and keep an eye on your stuff.

2. Talk to the hotel/resort staff before going out: Not every hotel has a concierge, but the staff at every hotel is knowledgeable about the surrounding area and they always have tips and tricks to make your adventures safer, less costly, and more fun. Ask them if there’s some not so well known restaurants that are secret gems.

1. (From Bel) The biggest thing -Always be polite, manners get you everywhere in every country. Show respect. You are a guest and you’re not entitled to everything you want. I have seen many tourists be invited by locals on free tours and into their homes for a meal just by being polite. It opens doors and means the world to people no matter what country you’re in. It is the difference between a traveler and a tourist.

Thank you Bel for visiting #ThePhilFactor and thank you for being part of my Philliver’s Travels blog launch this coming Saturday.

Bel: “I love helping any way I can when someone has the courage to reach for the stars and try to achieve a new dream, project or just have a creative outlet. If you have the courage to try, you can enrich your life in so many ways. I used to be in the Navy, now I’m living my dream life in the Caribbean. Anything is possible when you have the courage to try.”

I couldn’t have been luckier to find Bel on IG (@thetravelbag.guru) and she couldn’t be any nicer. Come back on Saturday for the Philliver’s Travels blog launch and my interview with Bel. Have a great Tuesday! ~Phil

 

My New Adventure: Philliver’s Travels

Good morning and happy Sunday. As many of you have seen on social media, I’m launching a new website on Saturday, May 1, Philliver’s Travels.  The focus will be on travel. Over the last 15 years, because of my job and my desire to get away from the dreary northeast of the United States, I’ve travelled more than most, but not as much as some.

A beach in The Bahamas from my trip three years ago.

Unlike The Phil Factor, which has been all about finding humor in everyday situations, Philliver’s Travels will have travel reviews of locations, attractions and hotels and restaurants, educational information on how to travel hack to take a vacation without having to empty your life’s savings, and of course funny stories about my travel experiences. For all the smart stuff about travelling internationally and travel hacking, I’ll bring in experts for interviews.

Fort Myer’s Beach, Florida, on the Gulf coast

The Phil Factor isn’t going away, but it will remain more of an occasional blog as it has been for the past two years. If you have enjoyed my humor here, I hope that you’ll visit Philliver’s Travels regularly for that same humor applied to travel and the people and places I go. You’ll be able to find me on social media through a new Instagram, @phillivers_travels.

This Tuesday I’ll be giving a preview of some of the content you’ll see on Philliver’s Travels with a brand new Tuesday Top Ten list of travel tips from myself and International Living‘s (IG’s thetravelbag.guru) Bel Woodhouse! Have a great Sunday! ~Phil (or should I say Philliver?)  Btw, how many of you get the Philliver’s Travels reference? I’m thinking that about 50% of you get it and the other half just think it’s weird. Let me know in the comments!

Should I Write a Travel Blog? A Phil Factor Poll?!!?

A beach in The Bahamas

After 16 years of trying to be funny, I’m thinking of branching out. Over the last 15 years I’ve traveled more than most, but not as much as some. I love traveling and I love dreaming of new places that I want to see up close. I’m considering starting a travel blog incorporating reviews of hotels, attractions and restaurants, interviews with real travel experts, and humorous stories about things that have occurred in my travels. Would this be a blog/website you’d want to read? Or are there too many travel writers out there? I’d love your feedback, comments and suggestions. If you were to have only one travel blog/website to read, what would you want to hear about? Please vote on my poll and share your thoughts in the comments.

Ok, I think they’ve removed the poll option from the admin options. I’ve installed a plug-in for polls and I don’t like it already. If you think I should add a travel blog to The Phil Factor portfolio, please hit like and if you’re feeling generous, I’d love comments with suggestions about what you like when you’re reading travel reviews or articles.

Thanks! Have a great day! ~Phil

 

Top Ten Tuesday! Ten Reasons I Want To Live in Hotels Forever!

Admittedly, this is a re-run. But it’s an appropriate one because I’m in a hotel all week this week for work. And, c’mon, seriously, who doesn’t want to live in a hotel? Am I right?

10. No lawn to mow: At hotels I won’t have any yardwork and yet the hedges will always be impeccably trimmed and sometimes in the whimsical shapes of animals. Or should it be the shapes of whimsical animals? Are animals capable of whimsy? I’m not even sure I am.

9. Housekeeping! Who doesn’t want their room cleaned every day? I imagine though that I’d develop an unhealthy Mom complex with my housekeeper to the point that she asks to be re-assigned to another floor.

8. The hotel bar: If I lived there it would be like Cheers and everyone would know my name and yell “Phil!” when I walk in.

7. Coffee in my room: I love just hopping out of bed, turning on the coffee maker and then hopping back in bed with my fresh cup of joe to watch the morning news.

6. The in room hotel safe: I don’t care if it’s tiny. I still feel cool as hell having a safe to lock things up with my secret code. I feel all Mission Impossible-like when I use the safe. I still can’t find a way to lower myself from the ceiling when I’m pretending to break into my own safe.

5. Fresh towels! Soft, cushy and clean every day. They make me feel like that fabric softener bear in the commercial. And btw, I’m only using them once. Re-using a towel is not going to save the planet. I saw a trash receptacle at my local supermarket that said “179 recycled milk jugs were used to create this trash can.” Are you kidding me? The time, energy and fossil fuel needed to make a giant trash can out of milk jugs probably shortened the life of this planet by a year. Don’t tell me to re-use my towels!

4. Weather: I grew up in upstate New York and I still live here. I’m sick and tired of snow. No, I don’t like the change of seasons. You know who says they like the change of seasons? People who live somewhere warm. Jackasses. Spend your whole life digging your car out of the snow six months a year and see if you like the change of seasons then. When I live in hotels I’ll never have to see snow again if I don’t want to.

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3. If You’re tired of the view you can move: If it’s the view from my room or just the city the hotel is in; if I’ve seen all there is to see I can just go to another hotel somewhere else. At some point you know I’ll be in Snow White’s Castle at Disney World. That will be awkward.

2. The friendly hotel staff: They have to be nice to you whether they like you or not. It’s not that I have any problem with people not liking me, but in real, non-hotel life sometimes other people are having bad days or whatever and are not nice. Within the safe confines of a hotel everyone is friendly and there to help. Who doesn’t enjoy groveling sycophants?

1. Being driven around: If I sold my house and car and lived in hotels I’d never have to drive again. At some point in the distant future my sight and reaction time will decline to the point that it would be unsafe for me to continue driving; but you know what? I’ll still have a driver’s license and no one will stop me. When I live in hotels I’ll just call for a taxi, shuttle bus or town car if I need to go somewhere. Me living in hotels will save lives, so if you would all go buy all of my books to the point that I get that trillion dollars I need, it may even save your life. Who knows? If left to my own devices I could be driving down your street someday and you don’t really want that do you?

As always, if you enjoy #ThePhilFactor feel free to share it by hitting the Facebok or Twitter share buttons below. Also, I’d love your vote for Funniest logger in the Annual Bloggers Bash Awards. You can vote  HERE !

Have a great Tuesday! ~Phil

Throwback Thursday! Speedos, Cigs and Vespas: Why the Europeans are Better Than You

(09/20/2011) Believe it or not, TSA allowed me on a flight to Europe last week. I think they were hoping I only had a one way ticket because I definitely had an easier time getting out of the U.S. than back into it. My job took me to Spain and I managed not to get into a fight with any one from any country. Apparently The Phil Factor is universally adored.

The trip however, was an education.

1. Europeans are not afraid of lung cancer. How cool is that? In the long run that isn’t a bad thing either because it will result in fewer Europeans. Apparently word that cigarettes are bad for you hasn’t reached Europe yet. The Europeans love their cigs just about anytime of day anyplace they are no matter what they’re doing. The world class hotel I stayed in even had an entire floor of rooms set aside for smokers. Fortunately although I am not a smoker, I was graciously placed on the smoking floor so that I could enjoy the wonderful European ambience.

2. Europeans aren’t afraid of skin cancer either. Based on my observations I think  Europeans are in better physical shape than Americans and they are damn proud of it, especially at the beach in front of my hotel where clothing was optional. Unfortunately much of their pride in their bodies was sadly overestimated by the owners of many of those bodies. There needs to be an upper age limit imposed for beach nudity. And the dudes over there seriously love their Speedos. I saw a guy jogging in a Speedo, and he was smoking at the same time.

3. 9 o’clock is the new 4 o’clock: I think I figured out why the Europeans are in better shape than we are. They eat at weird times. They don’t lunch until about 2 pm and dinner until 9 or 10 pm. If I had to wait until 10 pm for my dinner, most days I would either pass out from low blood sugar or just plain fall asleep and miss the meal altogether.

4. The Euro rocks: The American dollar may buy less and less these days, but the Euro is awesome. One Euro is like $40 American! Do you know how many Speedos you can buy with a Euro? Me neither. I swear.  Apparently all the Europeans spend their Euro’s on Speedos, cigs and Vespas.

If you enjoy my nonsense and want to travel to far away exotic lands through the power of reading you can subscribe to The Phil Factor on your Amazon Kindle and follow me on Twitter @ThePhil Factor.

TBT! My Name is Inigo Montoya…Prepare To Fly?

Since I’m in Florda as you read this I thought I’d pull out this classic Phil Factor from April of 2013 to pay homage to the great state of Florida. Considering that the movie Patriot’s Day just came out, the second line is kind of eerie

fire-swamp

(04/20/2013) Wow it’s been a weird week hasn’t it? From the tragedy in Boston to the explosion in Texas to the nutjob sending poison-filled letters to politicians to American Airlines grounding a days worth of flights because of a computer ‘glitch’.  That is a lot of big news and unusual events. At the end of it all, I have to travel for work. Tomorrow I am taking my talents, such as they are, to Miami. You might think that with all the crazy events this week I would be nervous about flying. If you think that you’re wrong.

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I’m nervous though. I’m nervous about going to Florida. You’re probably saying to yourself, but Phil, why would you be nervous about going to the Sunshine State? First off it’s weird that you said ‘but Phil‘ when you spoke to yourself. Secondly, you might wonder how any state with Disney World, aka the costliest happiest place on Earth, could be a scary place? How could I not be nervous about Florida? I’m not sure how, but Florida has seriously pissed off Mother Nature. There may not be a more cursed place in the world.

The entire state is like the Fire Swamp from the movie The Princess Bride. Remember The Fire Swamp scene in The Princess Bride? Westley and Buttercup had to battle a myriad of unseen dangers to get through. Florida is a lot like that.

Much like the lightning sand in the Fire Swamp, Florida has sinkholes. It’s like the entire state was built on Swiss cheese. Just like you’ve seen in a million movies where someone steps into quicksand, you could just be walking along happily and the ground apparently just decides on it’s own to open up and swallow people. That’s crazy. Why would you live somewhere that’s a possibility on any given day?

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The Fire Swamp had the R.O.U.S.’s, aka the Rodents of Unusual Size. Florida has  I.O.U.S. Insects of Unusual Size. In my research for this Phil Factor I came across two news articles. One referenced a Florida infestation of “giant mosquitoes” called gallinippers that are “20 times the size of normal mosquitoes.” Their bite is described as “being stabbed or having a hot nail driven into your skin.” Delightful huh? But it doesn’t end with mosquitoes. There are also giant, “rat-sized, tire puncturing” African snails invading Florida. That’s got to be all kinds of fun when you step out in your bare feet to pick up the morning paper.  And seriously remember the R.O.U.S.’s in the movie? Tell me those didn’t look and walk like alligators!

I know that this is a Throwback Thursday post, but I’m adding new material today. See that video above, that was actually filmed on Monday in a Florida town that I drove through.

In the immortal words of Prince Humperdinck, “I always think everything could be a trap…which is why I’m still alive.”  Wish me luck this week. If I survive the Fire Swamp known as Florida I’ll probably have some good material for next weeks Phil Factor. As always, if you like what you read here please hit the Facebook Share button and feel free to follow me on Facebook by clicking the ‘Like’ button up there on the top right. I’m adding this later, but just for fun, how about if everyone who reads this puts their favorite Princess Bride quote in the comments section?

Wordless Wednesday! The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow…

I took this with my iPhone on Fort Myers Beach, Florida last Friday. Have a great Wednesday! ~Phil

Top Ten Tuesday! Top Ten Things I Learned in London and Paris

This will come in handy for anyone traveling to the U.K. or France. I just didn’t have the time to create a new list this week, so here’s a classic from two years ago.

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10. It’s just a ten minute walk: If you ask anyone in London directions to anywhere they’ll tell you it’s just a ten minute walk. Me: “Excuse me sir, I’d like to visit the Swiss Alps. How do I get there?” English doorman: “Oh that’s easy. Just go to the corner, turn left, walk a bit and then go right at the sign. It’s about a ten minute walk.”

9. The English are terrible at giving directions: No offense to my English friends, but some of your countrymen are completely barmy when giving directions. I don’t know, maybe they were just screwing with tourists for fun. When I’d ask for directions I always needed to ask directions two more times along the way.

8. It’s time to spruce up your money: The queen is on every piece of money. It’s confusing. You’re a country that’s been around forever and only one person is worthy of being on your money? How about Elton John, David Beckham, Dr. Who or the Monty Python guys?

7. Every building is important: I took a guided tour of the city in the open top of a double-decker bus with a tour guide giving information over the P.A. system. Every frickin’ building in London is at least a thousand years old and used to be something important. Tour guide: “The building on your right may be a McDonald’s now, but in the year 1237 it was the McDonald’s where William Shakespeare wrote all of his plays while noshing on a McRib.”

6. The English don’t learn: About 500 years ago half of London’s population was wiped out by a plague transmitted by fleas from rats. The English were saved when Bennie Hill accidentally knocked over a lantern in Mrs. O’Leary’s barn and the whole city burned down, killing the rats and their fleas. Last week it was a very pleasant day as I strolled through a park and saw many, many English happily feeding squirrels out of their hands. Yes, the same squirrels that we in America regard as nothing more than rats with fluffy tails. Hello? Has it occurred to the English that squirrels can carry fleas? When there’s another plague in London I won’t be surprised.

5. The French are nice: Contrary to their reputation I found the French to be very friendly. Of course I only spent a day there and I was spending money in their shops and restaurants, but whenever I entered anywhere I was greeted with a cheerful “Bon jour!” and when I left a just as friendly “Au revoir!”  Definitely nicer than going into stores in the States.  The picture below is me on the second observation deck of the Eiffel Tower.

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4. If you’re lactose intolerant France is not your friend: I ate at two small restaurants on the day I was there. Every item on both menus included cheese.

3. The English know how to start the day: Big breakfasts full of ham and sausage and eggs. I miss those. The English don’t stop there though. They add eggs to all kinds of sandwiches all day long too. They also eat a lot of duck. Duck eggs, I’m not sure about.

2. The American Champagne: In conversation with me an Englishman joked that Coke is “The American Champagne.” Um, yeah, so what? You want to start a war over it? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

1. Bicycle, Bicycle! I want to ride my bicycle…: In England the cyclists are suicidal. The cyclists share the roads with cars, and there is no designated bicycle lane. London streets are not straight. They’re mostly curvy and the taxis, cars and buses fly around as if they’re in a Grand Prix race. The cyclists, without helmets as well, weave in and out of traffic with aplomb. What’s nice is that since cars are on the opposite side of the road over there, at most crosswalks they painted “Look right” or “Look left” for the pedestrians. I only almost got clipped by a taxi once.

1A. Hyde Park is good for jogging and snogging: London’s Hyde Park, which is akin to New York’s Central Park is good for “jogging and snogging” as my sarcastic tour guide put it. I’m not sure if the jogging and snogging are simultaneous or occur on separate trips, but it’s nice they’ve put up a sign and designated an area of the park for it.

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As always, if you enjoy #ThePhilFactor please share by hitting a social media button or two below. Have a great Tuesday! Au Revoir!