IrishWombat

Casey Ryan, 44M. From twitter, @IrishWombat is a funny, pithy, witty, happy, gay Irish American foodie, Penn alumnus & traveler in love with Australia, the UK, rugby, politics, Olympics & whiskies to start. dreamtiming.blogspot.com

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Joined Mar 2010
28 Followers 23 Following

10 Loved Places

Listings

  • Cafe Lafitte in Exile French Quarter, New Orleans
  • Sheraton Fisherman's Wharf Hotel Embarcadero, San Francisco
  • Brookshire Suites Downtown, Baltimore
  • Four Points By Sheraton French Quarter French Quarter, New Orleans
  • Wrigley Field Lakeview, Chicago
  • The Tremont Chicago Hotel at Magnificent Mile Gold Coast, Chicago
  • IrishWombat
    IrishWombat reviewed Sheraton Silver Spring Hotel 1 year ago
    Loves it

    A solid Sheraton hotel in suburban Silver Spring
    After spending an evening out in DC, I headed up to Silver Spring to be close to my kin in Tacoma Park for a family function on Sunday morning. Since I knew that I wanted the convenience of being in Maryland, I reserved my room over 8 weeks in advance. While the rest of the family was staying at a nearby hotel, my loyalty to Starwood scored me a $109.65 rate. The Silver Spring Metro is a 10 minute walk away from the hotel. However this particular day, it was very hot and it took closer to 15 minutes to get there. The hotel staff was prepared and made sure that there was a lot of cold water available for guests - three water set ups and chilled bottles of water. It was a simple thing to do, but it was so considerate due to the heat and humidity of the day. I felt welcomed and looked after. Still it’s great to be in walking distance from the Metro station and Union Station is only six stops away on the Red Line. An Uber, by the way, to Downtown DC ran me about $13 each way. When I checked in, I had a nice conversation with the agent and I had commented that the hotel looked very busy. She let me know that they were hosting a wedding as well as having that wedding and another wedding party stay the night, plus there was a large family reunion overnighting there. While a popular location, I didn’t notice any of the activity from my room. I stayed on the club level and had access to the club lounge which included breakfast in the morning and all the cold water and sodas I could want. I would advice anyone who wants to stay there that most of Silver Spring closes before midnight even on the weekends.The area feels very suburban; while there are some good amenities close by, they won’t be open late. For example, the Rite Aid a block away from the Sheraton closes at 10pm every night. Plus, a notable inconvenience was that the lobby Starbucks closed an hour earlier than indicated on Starbucks’ website, but it’s nothing that I would hold against the hotel. It was only a slight disappointment and there was a Starbucks two blocks away. That one was open until 11pm on the weekends. My biggest take away is that this hotel is a great location for being close to my family who live in the Washington metropolitan area, but it’s not my ideal location for an urban adventure in DC. Will I stay here again? Yes, I will have a multitude of family events in this corner of the world and the convenience to the family outweighs my need for city creature comforts. I was happy to find a very comfortable hotel to call home during those visits.

  • IrishWombat
    IrishWombat reviewed Le Méridien Arlington 1 year ago
    Loves it

    Virginia is close enough for DC
    I visit DC frequently and, as I often admit, I’m a loyal member of the Starwood Preferred Guest program. I'm faithful to the brand and I love the 4:00pm check out that I get as a Gold member. I was planning a weekend trip to DC to be in town on Sunday for a family function in Tacoma Park. So I wanted to take advantage of my summer Fridays off and visit DC early - see friends and hit some sights. However, I waited until the last minute to book my room for a Friday night stay and I was hoping to get a room in Washington proper for a reasonable price. That wasn’t going to happen - rooms were close to $200 before taxes. I am Metro savvy and decided that I was going to buck my habit and get a room in Virginia for save some money. I like the Le Méridien brand and the brand’s history. It was established in 1972 by Air France and has been a Starwood bread since 2005. Also I’ve stayed at the first brand’s first property in Paris. There is an international feel to the hotels – a subtle sophistication, which reinforces the feeling of being a jetsetter when I stay there. The same was true here in Arlington. The location is perfect – about a 5-minute walk from the Metro. The Rosslyn Station is handy for anyone taking Amtrak from Baltimore and points North – you can debark at New Carrollton and ride the Orange Line for 35 minutes and be at Rosslyn Station versus having to go into Union Station, take the Red Line to Metro Center and switching to a Vienna bound Orange. The hotel was going through some renovations while I was there and the new palate for the individual rooms was on display. I was already pleased with what I saw – butter and tans with sleek, minimal lines in the furniture and the same tones mimicked in an abstract pattern in carpet. It was still in good condition, but the update was probably due. Also, my room also had a great view of the Washington Monument. Back to the hotel being at a great location, I could slip easily through DC and its environs on the Metro. I traveled to Shaw, Downtown, Tacoma and even to Silver Spring from my Arlington based HQ. The staff were out going and friendly. Everyone I interacted with was in a good humor. The hotel also shares the building with the Waterview Condominiums. I think that it was the presence of people who call this building home that led to the area having a Safeway, Target and other amenities, which I always find to be a great convenience. My room was rate $122.55, which was pre-paid (which I happened to pay at 2am the morning of my check in) but I’ve seen pre-paid rates as low as $94. For a weekend visit to Washington, Le Méridien was ideal!

  • IrishWombat
    IrishWombat reviewed Aloft Manhattan Downtown - Financial District Over a year ago
    Loves it

    Try a Stay in Lower Manhattan
    I earned a free night award in a Starwood property to use by the end of April or it would expire. To claim my award, I had to call SPG at talk to an agent. After searching the available rooms, the agent found me a room at the Aloft in the Financial District. I was intrigued for I hadn't stayed in Lower Manhattan before; I usually stay in Midtown. I took it to be an adventure. Since I was visiting New York on a weekend, the MTA had a different schedule. The A & C train were not running to Fulton Street, only the 2 or 3 trains were. (I suggest downloading the MTA Weekender app to help negotiate the service stoppages for visiting NYC on the weekend.) I didn't realize that the A train was diverted to the F tracks until I noticed that the station stops I was passing through didn't match the ones on the map. I didn't panic, but I got off the train at the next stop and called an uber. The approach to the hotel in the uber seemed somewhat desolate. Ann Street wasn't busy at all. At the time of my visit, there was a lot of scaffolding around. The streets are narrow and I stayed aware of my surroundings. I felt safe but I was aware how alone I felt. When I arrived, the service at the front desk was great. I was greeted as I entered and I told the clerk that I had tried to check in via the SPG app with SPG keyless. He took my information and told me that it was probably because it was an award reservation that caused me to have an issue. He showed me how to use the SPG keyless and let me head to my room. It was the first time that I used the SPG keyless and I'll admit I loved using my phone to unlock my room. The room is the typical Aloft room - a contemporary style, dark gray featured (carpet and wallpaper), pixelated pops of color and space saving designs. The room was small, too. It's New York; this isn't a complaint, it's a fact. The sleep area was slightly larger than the king size bed and slender desk and chair. There was a small vestibule space at the intersection of the sleeping area and the sink and shower-toilet area which help make the room feel bigger. The space for the sink, shower and toilet were ample enough. Yet it could be difficult to share this space with another. The location had its advantages. The subway is about a block and a half away and to my pleasure there is a 24-hour CVS a block away. Though it's the Financial District, there are still people who live there. There were a lot of conveniences: coffee stores, restaurants, sundries and more. The price was right since it was an award night. However the agent who help me book the room told me warned me that, should I not cancel and not show at the hotel, my credit card would be charged for over $400. The cost of New York keeps be from visiting often but I was fortunate to have a nice weekend in NYC.

  • IrishWombat
    IrishWombat reviewed Brookshire Suites Over a year ago
    Loves it

    I broke away from my chain hotels in Baltimore
    I was going to the APhA convention for work and I was looking into booking at the host hotel or the Sheraton, because I am a proud SPG member. Since there was a convention in town, the rates were over $200 a night. I found a Home2 Suites for $175 and I was ok with that. I’ll be frank though, it’s Baltimore, in winter: $175 is a lot. Thanks to Travelzoo, I decided to try a boutique hotel in Baltimore. There was a special for the weekend that I was going for $79 for one bedroom Suite King. As I always do, I hopped on trip advisor and read up on the Brookshire Suites. The hotel was number 20 of 61 with a rating of 4.5 out of 5 with 312 reviews. I felt that these were great odds and I booked the deal. I took Amtrak to the city and I’m always so happy to be able to travel on the train. There is something about being able to travel from roughly downtown “West Philadelphia” to roughly downtown “Midtown” that you can’t get from air flight. I hopped in a cab and gave the address 120 E Lombard. Well, I was happily surprised with this contemporary hotel located in the heart of Baltimore. I was only a 6-block walk from the host hotel for the convention and only a 3-block walk from the convention center. The Inner Harbor was yards from the front door and public transportation options were ample in a 5-block radius. Though, I opted to walk or über this weekend more than busing or metroing. The front desk clerk, whose name I didn’t get, was outgoing and warm. She took my information and asked me what had brought me to town. While chatting, she was happy to let me know that there was indeed a room available for my early arrival and quickly sent me on my way. The suite was huge. I didn’t really measure but my guess is that the bedroom area has at least 250 sq. ft. and was complete with king-sized bed, television and chair. The carpet of the room was a charcoal gray and the curtains and head board matched in hue. An accent wall in similarly colored wallpaper also held the stylized black and white piece of art splashed with soft canary yellow. The other room of the suite had a desk, chair, television and sofa, and pulled in the design elements from the bedroom – this time an accent wall of the yellow with another wall of the gray wallpaper. This ran through into the small kitchen alcove with refrigerator, microwave and coffee machine. It was the perfect set up for entertaining – great for group travel. The amenities were Zero Percent by Glichrist & Soames, a perennial favorite company of mine. However the bathroom could have used a little more love. There were some cosmetic issues that I noticed but nothing that hindered any of the proper functions of the room. The vents were a little dented and there was some rust on the hinges; I mean bathrooms do get steamy. All in all, these minor issues didn’t take away from my stay. (If these issues were at the host hotel and I was being charged over $200, I would be irate; I know it’s all perspective.) I learned as a friend of mine drove me back to the hotel after catching up over cocktails that the opera singers for the Baltimore Opera stay in the hotel while they are in town. I think that’s a good match of hotel with clientele. Lastly, there’s a well-stocked Royal Farms, a block away for most of your munchie cravings, but it recently started to close at midnight. Brookshire Suites charges a daily fee that they call a Destination Fee of $9.95. Per their webpage, it includes “Continental Breakfast Buffet, 24- Hour Wellness Center, Local and Domestic Long Distance Calls, [and] Two Complimentary Bottles of Water upon Check-in.” I couldn’t care less about the phone calls. I think that “resort fees” for wellness centers are ridiculous. The continental breakfast was the usual: eggs, sausage (one morning) and bacon (the other), bagels, croissants, yogurt, coffee, some fruit and juices; it was ample and it satiated me. Also, it was on their top floor, a.k.a, the Cloud Level, and the views of the Inner Harbor were excellent. The water was a nice touch. Finally, they advertise the WiFi as complimentary and not part of this fee. Yet, in short, I didn’t mind being charged ten extra bucks a day to enjoy some creature comforts. I think that a reasonable flat rate for some amenities is just that, reasonable. When I return to Baltimore, I will be looking into staying here again.

  • IrishWombat
    IrishWombat reviewed The Westin Philadelphia Over a year ago
    Loves it

    Splurge on a room in this hotel. It's such a luxury.

  • IrishWombat
    IrishWombat reviewed The Tremont Chicago Hotel at Magnificent Mile Over a year ago
    Loves it

    Good quirky history off the Magnificent Mile
    I took an über from where I was staying in the Loop up to this hotel on the Mag Mile, which was only four blocks from the Red line. Knowing where my public transportation is is very important to me, plus there were ample bus routes within a 3-block walk. Thanks to Google Maps, I learned how very well located and networked this location was. I recall the Magnificent Mile as the location of the Omni Hotel, where “guests of the Oprah Winfrey Show stay.” It’s so much more than that. I’m sure that Second City may shrug at this comparison, but Michigan Avenue feels like New York’s Fifth Avenue with a lot more breathing room. A wide boulevard with high end shopping – the Burberry store, for example, is clad with an onyx cage interpretation of its hallmark tartan – and tourists and Chicagoan bustling alike. There was a 24-hour Walgreens about three blocks from my hotel. The area was always busy and the Tremont is so close to many Chicago landmarks and points of interest. The room was cozy and as a Starwood Preferred Guest member, I was on one of the SPG floors. The Tremont is an older building that just saw a “$3 million renovation project, including a floor-to-ceiling transformation of all 135 guest rooms and suites, and the redesign of its entryway and lobby.” (from the March 9, 2015 press release.) It was obvious that there was some love placed into the hotel. Yet as an older building, there always remain some idiosyncrasies. The queen sized bed dominated my room but I would say there was enough room for two people to share the space and not be on top of one another. Yet just be aware there were some minor quirks that would make you go tilt your head. (In my room there was some plastic track cover to hide the wires of the TV. It was supposed to make things look neat and crisp. However whomever did the work, looked they just phoned that task in.) You’ll accept the quirk and it will be fine (especially when you hear the rate I paid). The bathroom was still dated. The light and heat light were still in the bath area and they looked like that hadn’t been touched in the renovation. However there was a tub and I enjoyed a very good, long, hot soak in that tub to bring my equilibrium back to level after my first full night back to drinking (from a Dry January). There was a separate room for bath area; enter the bathroom and the first alcove is for the sink and just beyond that sink is a door to the tub and toilet for the rest of the room. Should you be sharing a room with someone, that set up would be quite useful. My tastes are varied. I like the look and feel of the hotel with its contemporary décor in an older framework; I felt at home in my room. There were two windows in my room and I threw the roman shade up to get some light in. The north-facing window over looked a parking out. I drew up the shade of the east-facing window and I felt like I was on “Let’s Make a Deal” picking door number 3 which was the new car, I had a view of the Mag Mile and the John Hancock Center in front of me. I was so thrilled. Just know that it wasn’t perfect, but the pros outweighed the cons. I spent some time in the lobby and enjoyed it as a place to center myself. It was a warm combination of rustic and current styles, using discrete portions of burgundy, pale blue and orange against greys, silvers, black and wood – a masculine yet very modern feel. (Probably in balance with the traditionally masculine Ditka’s that is the hotel’s restaurant; think steak house, with white table cloths, milk chocolate leather upholstery and mahogany wood everyone.) I could sit there all day and play Candy Crush Jelly Saga. The sleeping area of the room got the most love in the renovations and some peculiarities remain in the room. Plus, there was a church or something nearby that tolled its bells at least twice on Sunday morning – around 9:30 am and 11:00 am. I was already up, but bring your ear plugs just in case. That said Starwood is the brand I am most loyal to. The location, the value, the design and the total convenience were still there for me. Plus, I took the bus everywhere from here up to Andersonville; it was more convenient than the L. I enjoyed myself at the Tremont. January in Chicago is a very affordable time to go there. My pre-paid rate was $93.99. However weather-wise, it can be it or miss. The only time I felt 40 below was in Chicago and that is rough. This time, it was a lovely 45 degree weekend. Yet no matter what the weather, museums, restaurants and bar are always open and you’ll have fun.

  • IrishWombat
    IrishWombat reviewed Sheraton Fisherman's Wharf Hotel Over a year ago
    Loves it

    An early Christmas gift surprise for me
    First I do feel that some areas of the hotel are dated especially with its beach ball mural in the elevator vestibule on the 4th floor and some of the Miami-Vice shaded furniture in my room. The room décor seemed out of place. It was whimsical for a Caribbean Resort and not for a hotel in a sophisticated city. However outside of those few minor cosmetic things, this was a solid hotel in San Francisco. Most of my time in San Francisco does not include visiting Fisherman’s Wharf; I visit SoMa, Castro, Outer Sunset or the Mission. So socially, I was out of my element, preferring to stay in the greater Union Square area. However there are a number of conveniences around the hotel that helped me not to notice that I wasn’t in my usual neighborhood. Trader Joe’s, Safeway, Ross: Dress for Less and Cost Plus World Market were all within two blocks from my hotel. So many conveniences were in the area that I nestled in and got cozy. I ended up scratching last minute Christmas gifts off my list and I found plenty of wonderful California wine to bring over for the holiday dinner. I started this review with some of the areas that could be improved, but the lobby and the ground floor common areas of the hotel are contemporary and comfortable to lounge in. There are fire pits to relax by. The hotel is designed to encourage congregating in. It makes the atmosphere welcoming. Plus, a Sheraton bed is always a good one! The staff was lovely, polite and engaging. I was warmly greeted and quickly given the key to my room. They were so professional and personable that I felt at ease in staying here. The F-Market and Wharves trolley line runs on the street north of the hotel. This is my lifeline to my usual life in San Francisco; it takes me through SoMa and into the Castro as well as dropping me off for the BART to get to the Mission or over to Oakland (where I had to go this time.) There are about 5 bus routes that are within two blocks of the city to connect you throughout San Francisco. It was a wonderful stay.

  • IrishWombat
    IrishWombat reviewed Cafe Lafitte in Exile Over a year ago
    Loves it

    My home bar away from home.
    I have a lot of bars that I would call my home bar away from home and this is mine in New Orleans. Sundays I go for the Famous Napkin Toss! It always puts a smile on my face. They call it Trash Disco at it starts at 4:00pm on Sunday. At some point in the evening, you'll see that barbacks handing out wads of cocktail napkins and the glee and enthusiasm becomes palpable. The intro starts - the stutter beat - and eyes get wide. John Paul Young's voice reaches your ears and it's recognizable that the song is "Love Is In The Air." When I first made the connection between the napkins and the lyrics, a childish excitement pulsed through me. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight! Love and napkins are in the air! The bartender are friendly, outgoing and efficient, which is a task with the numbers of client in the bar for the Napkin Toss. It's an idea place to set up one's drinking headquarters while visiting the Big Easy.

  • IrishWombat
    IrishWombat reviewed Four Points By Sheraton French Quarter Over a year ago
    Loves it

    An ideal stay in the Vieux Carré
    I felt welcomed when I arrived at the front desk. I was greeted with a smile by the doormen and the clerk. While I’m a Gold Preferred Guest, I am confident that they would have given every guest that level of warm welcome. It’s New Orleans. It’s the South. It’s how it’s done. My room was cozy. The style was current. I knew that I wasn’t going to be in the room for long so I didn’t need a lot of space. I was there for a conference and to visit as much of the area as I could in my short visit. The room worked well and the Wi-fi was strong enough to stay in touch with the office. Also, as someone who is linked inseparably with his technology I felt there were ample outlets in very convenient places throughout the room to charge a phone, a computer and a tablet. I had a balcony room on Toulouse and I was surprised how quiet it seemed at night. I really couldn’t hear Bourbon Street from my room – and I wasn’t too far from the corner. In fact the location of the room provided me all of the charm of being the Vieux Carré without any of the grief. I even took the opportunity to sip some coffee outside on the balcony on my last morning there. I stopped at the bar for my complimentary drink and I was happy that they had a seasonal Abita on draft. I don’t usually lounge in my hotel bar because I like to go out and interact with locals. I hit Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop Bar, Café Lafitte's in Exile, Good Friends and Bourbon Pub and Parade. However, it was nice to start my evening out with a drink at the hotel. I was a little nervous about being smack dab in the center of it, but it was a wonderful stay. One more tip, über is not permitted to pick up passengers on Bourbon Street. Walk either a block up to Dauphine or down to Royal to call for an über.