Philadelphia Review

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Philadelphia Miniaturia
 Crowne Plaza Hotel , Cherry Hill N.J. Nov.3,4, 5th 2006

Expedition Diary:

Following three weeks of hysteria, re-pricing all stock (in dollars) and packing everything to fly, buying ready meals for the boys, cleaning out all the animals, doing the ironing, doing the Halloween pumpkin………..

Wednesday  1st November.

Amber and I got up at 4am and set off in the car. Stopping at Stanstead services for coffee, we arrived at Heathrow at approx. 7.45am and managed to find our pre-booked car park space. Five minutes on the shuttle bus and we were there.
We did the quick check in thing via the computer touch screens, which was really easy. But had our seats changed at the baggage drop point though so we could sit together (as we have different surnames the computer didn’t think we were talking or something!). Security was very straight forward too.
As we were technically going to be working in America, I treated us to the executive lounge to wait our three hours. Very pleasant with complimentary drinks etc. (and comfy chairs)
We flew British Airways and had window seats on the way out. Fascinating spotting stuff on the way. Very comfy, very good food and seat back screens. Had wine with my lunch and watched about four films on the way over (nice to have a rest after the last few weeks!)


             
Outskirts of London                                                Little fluffy clouds...

 
Hey, look it's America!

Security at Philadelphia Airport was very courteous (including electronic fingerprinting and retinal scans) and we had no problems with customs either (transporting our trade samples!).
The luggage managed to arrive safely so we went out and caught our first American Cab to the hotel. We didn’t realise until later that the apparently grotty interior was actually of quite a high standard (only a couple of bits of gaffer tape holding the seat together, and only one strange clunking sound from the suspension!)
                                                                                   Yellow cab (poster on back of driver's seat)

The Crowne Plaza is one of  a big chain (just to confuse us it was actually a Hilton Hotel when I booked, but it changed hands), but with pretty high standards of décor and service (look, we are used to UK Travelodges, so we are probably easily impressed, but even so we felt very welcome right away).
I had posted a couple of boxes of stock out and they were waiting for me in reception, as I went back down to collect them a slightly jet-lagged looking Tony Knott was just arriving.

             
Crowne Plaza Hotel                                              ....Reception!         

We had a room service meal that evening and tried to stay up as late as possible to beat the jet-lag. We managed until about 9.30pm (so we had been up for around 22 hours at that point!)

        
First sunset                                                   Room Service
 

Thursday 2nd.

Woke up at about 4am (surprise, surprise), managed to stay in bed till 7.30 and then had pre-ordered room service breakfast  (fruit, Danish and coffee…mmmm…could really get used to this!)
We had a quick explore round the hotel and a peek at some of the workshops taking place.( I am hoping to do a workshop next year, just need to work out what to do about an oven…spotted  James Carrington walking round with one under his arm at one point, I’ll have to pick his brains)
We then took a taxi (er, Cab) into the Museum district of Philadelphia (more gaffer tape and clunking noises) and managed to explain to the driver where we wanted to go using single words and sign language.
Nearly made it to the Philadelphia Museum of Art  (well the Science Museum was only about half a mile away and it was a very pleasant walk!).

        
      Science Museum                                            The Streets of Philadelphia

Spotted a lot of places on the way that we shall try and get to next year, but finally found those famous steps (as featured in the first Rocky movie apparently).

             
Intellectual Tourist                                  Real American school bus!       


                  
                   Moose!                                                           Statue (?)        

Unfortunately as it was officially the start of winter all the fountains about the town were dry, the displays of Autumn leaves made up for it though. We spent the day in the museum, including a lunch break in the café (the food is so good, and seemed so cheap to us, not so keen on the coffee though! And as for tea…. Well I did do the English thing and took teabags with me to make tea in the room…and yes, you can make tea in a coffee percolator…..). Amber is doing History of Art at the moment, so I had my own guide round a lot of the exhibits!

              
                   Cultural highlight                                              Cultural jelly (jello)       

Gave up due to exhaustion in the end and picked up a cab outside the back of the museum. This driver spoke quite good  American  English (although it wasn't his first language), but unfortunately didn’t know the way to the hotel!! Had quite a scenic tour around the back streets of  Cherry Hill! We got back eventually though, despite at one point going past it in the wrong direction on a dual carriageway !  He didn’t charge us what was on the meter and was very polite and profusely apologetic so we didn’t mind too much. It was quite nice to see real houses and people!
We managed to get down to the restaurant for our evening meal (we ate for about £10 each) and then crashed in our room watching more junk American TV!
 

Friday 3rd.

Yes I woke at 4am again, but managed to get back sleep for a while. Had a late breakfast in the restaurant (must have eaten the equivalent of a whole melon from the buffet!) then dragged everything downstairs to set up the stall (actually we used the lift, as we were on the fifth floor!).

          
                          Setting up                               Finished stall (with charming lampshades)  

I borrowed some amazing slot-together card display stands from Sue Thwaite (Ladybug) and we managed to put together a fairly presentable display. I also borrowed some light bulbs from the hotel maintenance department (of the correct rating for the US electrical system) and some foil from the catering department to make some very attractive lampshade extensions to shield them (something I shall have to sort out properly before I go back!). Our block of tables had a lot of problems with the lights going out (no it wasn’t my fault!), but this was sorted out before the preview opened.
We were in a very attractive pavilion room, set off from the side of the hotel. The light during the day was fabulous, but unfortunately the very ornate chandeliers didn’t really pass muster in the evening (I was very glad of my oversized bulbs!).

        
The lovely Pavilion ...                                       ...and inside           

             
                            Loads of space...                         ...very dim, but attractive, lights   

What we didn’t realise at the time was, that this room had not been used before and the organisers had real trouble getting people to come down to see us over the weekend.
The preview evening ran from 6 till 9pm. There was a buffet and drinks in the main area which we didn’t see much, if anything, of and at the end of the evening there were people peering in at us as we were packing up for the night saying ‘oh, we didn’t know you were down here’.
At the time I wasn’t too bothered as I don’t think I could have dealt with too many people as by the time we finished my body thought it was 3 am!! I did take as much money that evening as I would hope to during a moderate weekend fair in the UK, but that was mainly due to one customer collecting a load of reserved and commissioned items. Ho,hum…time for bed said Zebedee !
 

Saturday 4th.

Managed to sleep until 4.30am!! Phoned home (at vast expense, but what the heck!), everyone seemed to be surviving without us! Opened up the stall at 10 am (very civilised ) More people found us during the day (due to extra signage) but still pretty quiet.
Had a very good day though. Met up with a few familiar faces and loads of new ones. Seemed to go down very well, with everyone ‘getting’ the humour. Sold a few biggish pieces , but I was glad I had made all the extra little things (fossils, rats in tin cans, hatching baby dragons, etc) as I sold a lot of these. Handed out cards all day too, so hopefully there will be some follow up.
I had put one of my mouse infested chairs in the charity auction and late in the afternoon a lady ran into the room and asked if I had got another one as she just missed out in the auction and was desperate!! Luckily I had thought to make another one the same for this reason and she went away happy!
I was told that I should look out for a particular advert on the TV with the tag-line ‘Your Dreams miss you…’, I spotted it later that evening, it’s for sleeping tablets and consists of a man in his kitchen talking to Abe Lincoln with a chess set, a talking beaver eating bacon at the table and ignoring a man wandering about in a deep sea diving suit in the background!!! I think I go for the comparison, but I am not entirely sure……
There was a social event for traders in the evening, but we felt a bit out of place and as there appeared to be someone having a wedding party (I think it was one of the traders, but we never did find out) in the same room as well, we decided to retreat back to our room in exhausted confusion!
 

Sunday 5th.

OK this was the quietest day I have ever had at a fair!! I made exactly three sales!!! Though one was my large dragon, so that helped.
The stall holders were virtually having their own party, the group behind us had sent out for a vast amount of sushi and seemed to be having a good time (they also had a kettle and were making tea I noticed!) There was a great deal of muttering about the room being too out of the way, so I think I did OK compared to some. One trader admitted to only taking 20% of what he took the year before!!! (so I could have come home rich!!)
Packing up was rather stressful due to the low light levels and the extreme cold due to people loading directly to cars outside! Managed to get everything up to the room and then re-packed the cases in a more sensible fashion.
Room service saved the day again and we felt pretty good by the time we went to bed.
 

Monday 6th.

Managed to have a bit of a lay-in, then finished packing after breakfast. Checked out of the hotel at mid-day, then left the bags in storage and went out for a walk round the adjacent lake.

      
   
Amber floating on the lake                          Rather startled looking tourist

The really beautiful autumn trees (apparently we were lucky to see them as the season was later than usual this year), made us feel like tourists briefly.

      
    
Real Autumn colours (sorry, colors)                Er, we were not quite sure about this     

             
                                
...or this..                                       Though this speaks for itself!
                                                                                     (click to enlarge)

               
 Native American                                   Teenage tourist

We bought a takeout lunch at the hotel and went outside to eat it in the sun as we watched some sort of eagle (that we had previously seen over the lake) soaring in the thermals above the hotel, which seemed to be a good ending for our stay.
Finally we bought a few things from the hotel shop for the boys and then got a taxi back to the airport. (Only one major clunking noise in the boot this time) The driver had spent the morning ferrying miniaturists, so we had good chat with him about the business. He confirmed a rumour that I had heard over the weekend, that, yes one trader did get all his goods held up in customs, only to arrive in the hotel on the Monday morning, just in time to take them home again (perhaps our show wasn’t too bad after all!).
Ours was the only BA flight out that evening, so security etc was very quick (though we did get our shoes x-rayed this time) and we had to do our own finger print and retina scans at a sort of self-service booth (to prove we had left the country!). We had to wait a while which was OK apart from the fact that the airport was so hot that I wasn’t sure if we would survive!
Amber got her seat upgraded to Business class on the way back due to a grumpy man with very large knees in the seat behind her!! (I was allowed to visit through the curtain during the flight!)
We both slept for most of the way home and were woken at 6am UK time for breakfast (bleh!)
The only hold up was waiting for the luggage which was delayed due some malfunctioning equipment (I imagine that one of my suitcases got jammed in the works or run over at some point judging by the large split in it!- no I haven’t checked all the contents yet but on first glance everything seems to be remarkably intact)
Got back to the car to find that I had left the lights on!! Ha,ha! Actually the AA were there within 20 minutes so we were not delayed long. We had to stop at Stanstead again so that I could have a brief sleep. Other than that the journey was fine and we arrived home at 12.30pm.
There was already an order waiting on the computer for me when I looked and only one credit card payment wouldn’t process through the system, as this was from a friend (and very good customer) I wasn’t too concerned and she has since sorted it out with her card company. This can happen when the card is being used in the US at the same time as a payment is being processed in the UK (something to do with the card company not believing that you can be in two places at once!!)
Other than that, although the fair was not the financial extravaganza it could have been, we covered all our costs, with some over and had a really good time. We can’t wait to go back and are certainly looking forward to going to Chicago in March (and not just because some new found friends have promised to take us out to a Greek restaurant while we are there!)

As a final thought, there were a few organisational problems this year, but our thoughts are with the mainstay of the fair, Pat Bauder, and her family, as she copes with the effects of a brain tumour. It was good to see her there and we hope all her wonderful plans become reality in the future.

 

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