Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Honeymoon Of The Millennium (Part Two)

(The first part [Boston to Philadelphia to Harrisburg to Hershey] may be found HERE.)

We left the Hotel Hershey and reversed the steps we had taken to get there. Our limo took us back to Harrisburg, from which we boarded a train back to Philadelphia. This time, we determined to find the platform for our next train ourselves, rather than trust to possibly nefarious baggage handlers.

The trip from Philadelphia to Wilmington is a short one, thankfully. As much as we were enjoying train travel overall, we were generally exhausted. We just wanted to get to our next destination with as little hassle as possible.

Upon arriving at the Wilmington train station -

- which, as you can see, was another beautiful piece of old architecture - we hopped into the first available taxi and told the driver to take us to the Hotel Christina, where we had reservations.

The cabbie said, "So, where are you folks from?"

MY WIFE replied, "Boston."

"Are you here on business?"

"No. It's our honeymoon!"

"And you came to Wilmington?!?"

That will give you some idea of the high regard even the residents of the city hold for it.


The Hotel Christina was, no kidding, one of the swankest joints I've ever had the pleasure of inhabiting. I'd show you some photos to back up that assertion, but the place seems to have disappeared from the face of the earth. I could find no trace of it anywhere on-line. Too bad. We really enjoyed our stay there.

One of the reasons for our great enjoyment of the place was its quirkiness. The layout of the hotel was slightly bizarre. In order to get to our room, we had to take an elevator, then travel down a corridor, make a left turn, go down a flight of three steps, make another turn, go up a flight of three steps, and then our door was about ten feet away around a slight bend. It was like staying in an Escher painting.

The room itself was spacious; a suite, really. We had a bedroom, a sitting room, gigantic full bath, two televisions - one each in the bedroom and sitting room - and at least one phone in every room, including the crapper. I've never understood how anyone might have a phone call so urgent that they couldn't wait to get off the pot to make it, but perhaps I lead a very dull life.

(In the building where I work, there is a lawyer's office. One of the lawyers constantly makes calls while seated on the throne in the men's room. Not only that, he spreads legal papers on the floor of the stall while doing so. Whenever I go in there and find him doing that, I make an extra effort to pee really loudly. If I have a fart handy, I release it. Then I flush at least twice. I like to imagine the look on his client's faces as they hear such things and come to the realization that the man they have on retainer for hundreds of dollars an hour is taking a dump while he's talking to them.)

The other thing that made our stay there so nice wasn't a thing, but rather a man. We called him Clayhammer. As near as we could figure out, Clayhammer was the butler/chauffeur/factotum for the entire hotel. He apparently never slept. Whenever we needed anything, day or night, Clayhammer came to the rescue.

For instance, on out first night there, we wanted something to eat. We had arrived in town somewhat late at night - extremely late, insofar as Wilmington goes - and room service had shut down. No problem for Clayhammer. He went out and rounded up lovely steak sandwiches and fries for us from some restaurant or other. When we needed a ride anywhere in the city, Clayhammer was ready to take us - and give us a well-versed guided tour in the bargain. He drove us to Winterthur when we wanted to visit it. When we left for Washington, and needed to get back to the train station, Clayhammer toted our bags and gave us the ride. We need some extra pillows? Well... Oh, hello, Clayhammer. A pot of coffee? Let's give Clayhammer a call. What's that? The phone in the hopper is on the fritz? Clayhammer!

Really, he was a wonder. And he was the nicest guy, too. He wasn't at all stiff and formal - he was quick with a little joke or two - but he always treated us with just the right amount of deference and respect. He was also very proud of his city. I made some remark concerning Wilmington's close proximity to Philadelphia, and Clayhammer bristled slightly. He told us that Wilmington was just as good as Philadelphia any day.

"As a matter of fact," he said, "we get some of the same stars in concert here as they have on the HBO!"

I've certainly made fun of Wilmington, but if I thought for even a fleeting moment that everybody from Wilmington might be as nice as Clayhammer, I'd give serious consideration to moving there.

Well, one thing might give me pause. Clayhammer was a huge fan of Kenny G. We found this out while he was driving us around the city one day. He asked us if we liked Kenny G. I was about to tell him that I thought his music will probably be an integral part of Hell should I somehow wind up there, but then I decided to hold my tongue. I'm glad I did. It turned out that Clayhammer adored the guy, and I wouldn't have wanted to hurt Clayhammer's feelings if somebody told me they'd pay me a thousand dollars for every insult I threw at him.

Clayhammer, in an effort to make our trip as enjoyable as possible - at least in his mind - offered to go home that evening and stock the car full of Kenny G tapes for our ride to Winterthur the next day. We told him that he shouldn't go to that much trouble for us, but he insisted it was no trouble at all. Well, what the heck. He was such a nice guy, and he had the general demeanor of a wide-eyed puppy, so we put up with a couple of hours of whiny sax. To do otherwise would have been evil on our part.

I suppose it's about time I tell you just why in hell we went to Wilmington on our honeymoon. See that picture above? That is Winterthur. That's why we went to Wilmington, to see it. However, we had no idea what it looked like or what was there or anything else about it, really. MY WIFE wanted to see it because she had been getting catalogs in the mail from Winterthur Gifts, and they were nice catalogs, so she figured Winterthur must be nice, too.

Yup. That's why we went to Wilmington on our honeymoon.

Now, please look at that photograph again. It is quite lovely, isn't it? It is the estate of one of the DuPonts, the wealthiest family in Delaware, and it's loaded with scads of antique furnishings and paintings and oddly-placed staircases (something of a Delaware specialty, I guess) and it is surrounded by an air of old money so thick you could cut it with a knife. The gardens are supposed to be breathtaking.

You'll notice I said "supposed to be". See, we were there in Winter. So our tour guide kept saying things like, "If this were Summer, you'd see stunning azaleas here, and over there would be wonderfully colorful daffodils and crocuses. When it's warm out, some of the most beautiful roses in the world grow directly to your right. During the peak of the season, the dogwoods bloom and the entire estate is bathed in a lovely scent of blossoms."

As it was, the place was gray and muddy, and the most outstanding characteristic concerning the grounds was the prodigious amount of goose poop available for soiling one's footwear. However, the buildings were rather nice and we did get to listen to a couple hours of Kenny G during the ride there and back, so the day wasn't a total loss.

(I often think about Clayhammer, and wonder how he's doing. He really was that nice a fellow. Not nice enough for me to actually remember his real name, but still.)


On the morning of our last day in Wilmington, Clayhammer drove us to the train and we boarded AMTRAK for Washington, DC. This was going to be our final destination, where we would spend a week soaking up history and eating eclairs the size of footballs.

(I'm not kidding. Eclairs the size of footballs. If that doesn't bring you back tomorrow, I don't know what will. See you then.)

Go to Part Three


katydidnot said...

staying in an mc escher hotel...that would've been my high school stoner boyfriend's perfect honeymoon.

Buck said... we put up with a couple of hours of whiny sax. To do otherwise would have been evil on our part.

I know you think the world of Clayhammer, but... inflicting one's choice of music on another is evil, in and of itself. You and YOUR WIFE are saints, Jim.

Just sayin'! ;-)

girl-named-fred said...

Any chance it was this hotel:

Suldog said...

Girl-Named-Fred - No, that isn't it, though I thank you very much for trying to help. It was on a city street, not in the countryside. There was (I believe) a Ramada across the street, but I'm afraid I can't recall much else about the pertinent details of its location.

Shrinky said...

Hey, ALL our hotels take a three week camel ride (requiring red cross parcels strapped to your back) to reach your room from the reception area.

I love the logic of your wife - what a perfect way to decide where to spend your honeymoon (give her a high five from me)! Grin.