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Larry Olmsted’s Book Tour

My new book Getting Into Guinness, was released by Harper Collins on September 16th, and ever since, my life has been a frenzy of radio interviews, plus the occasional book signing and television appearance. This activity, in turn has taken me places I might never otherwise go– like Philadelphia!

Philly is a great tourist town, and I can’t say why I haven’t been in about 15 years, other than that I grew up in New York and went to school in Washington, D.C., and always just sort of took it for granted. But its attractions are many, and packed into a very user friendly pedestrian downtown. From one of the world’s greatest art museums (and for film fans, the steps Sylvester Stallone ran up while training as Rocky) to an American Icon, the Liberty Bell, downtown is full of tourist sights worth seeing.

Philly also has a surprisingly good restaurant scene, if you can make it past the city’s must-eat food specialty, the cheesesteak, which is served many great ways at many great places, but the two classic landmarks of this sandwich are Gino’s and Pat & Tony’s. Less well known is the city’s penchant for BYOB restaurants, more than I have ever seen anywhere else, of all ethnicities, meaning you can still have a great night out with wonderful food and wine without breaking the bank, more important then ever these days. Downtown also has a great assortment of hotels, namely the Sofitel, Rittenhouse, and Loews, all just steps from the action.

In Boston I did a book signing at Borders on Boylston Street, which is in the heart of the city’s most prime residential and shopping district, the Back Bay. This is decadent strolling at its best, and you have to watch your wallet carefully given all the high-end stores. Back Bay is also full of outdoor cafes and great restaurants, and abuts Boston Common, the city’s most famous park. Like Philadelphia, Boston is full of American History, and you can take a number of self-guided walking tours full of spots made famous by folks like Ben Franklin and Paul Revere. Or if you really want to feel like a tourist, jump on one of the amphibious buses that carry you in and out of the water, known as Duck Tours. Now suddenly popular in cities everywhere, this particular brand of sightseeing was invented in Boston. One reason Boston is such a great walking city is that it is such a lousy driving city, and you are almost always better off on foot.

Unfortunately, the same night I was doing my signing, actor Alec Baldwin was doing his own book signing at a nearby bookstore, stealing most of my thunder. After finding out about this I was disappointed, but you can imagine my surprise the next morning when I went to check out of the Omni Parmer House and found the very same Alec Baldwin standing next to me at the front desk, also checking out. In this case, my brush with celebrity was double-edged sword!

Having taken in all the great sights of the American Revolution, form Old North Church to the site of the Boston Tea Party, it seems fitting that my next stop is where our country really got started, on the other side of the pond, in London, where my book was just released for distribution throughout the British Commonwealth. One of the few silver linings in the current economic situation is that the pound recently hit its lowest point in years against the dollar, making pricey London suddenly much more affordable. This means I will be able to revisit my favorite London destinations, including Nahm, the only Michelin-starred Thai restaurant in the world, in the Halkin Hotel; The Eagle, the original gastro-pub and the one that started the global trend; and a fast food pastie or two from the Great Cornwall Pastie Company, with shops serving hot filled pastries, the English version of calzones or empanadas, all throughout London. I will wash it all down with a few pints at one of the city’s many atmospheric pubs, and life will be grand. I can’t wait!

Larry Olmsted is a well published travel journalist who has written more than 3,000 newspaper and magazine articles. He writes a weekly column for USA Today, America’s largest newspaper, and is the author of Getting Into Guinness (HarperCollins, $24.95), released on Tuesday, September 16, 2008.

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