All around the towns, one last time

On the front page of Real Estate this week is the 215th and final entry in the "Town by Town" sweepstakes.

In honor of this milestone, I've decided to look back at more than four years of visits to come up with a list like the ones that seem to do very well on websites.

The easiest: Haddonfield, because all I did was roll out of bed.

My favorite: Narberth, hands down, thanks to Realtor John Duffy, who walked me around the borough and introduced me to everyone.

The first: Collingswood, which involved an interview with a llama at the Saturday farmers' market.

Best doughnut: A tough choice between Suzy Jo's in Bridgeport and the Warrington Pastry Shop in Warrington.

Best lunch: Monalisia in Williamstown, Gloucester County, hands down.

Hottest: East Falls. I was there in mid-July, when it was 90 degrees, and I drank four bottles of water.

Second hottest: Glenolden. It was 89. Water fountain at the library.

Coldest: Burlington City, Jan. 2, 2013. Never stand by the Delaware River when it's 30 degrees and the wind is blowing.

Nicest park: This is a toughie, but I think the ones in Lansdale, New Britain Borough, and Glenolden are at the top of my list.

Faultiest memories: People who grew up in South Jersey towns, left them forever, then dispute the recollections of people who never moved.

Favorite city neighborhoods: Fourth and Tasker Streets, Mount Airy, Port Richmond, Kensington, and Northern Liberties.

Most civilian help: Peter Fey, who wrote an essay about growing up in Upper Darby and assisted me with Phoenixville, where he now lives.

Most surprising: A tie between Media and Doylestown. I didn't believe how far Media had come since my previous visits. I also never again went anywhere without an umbrella. I got caught in a downpour and dripped all the way on the Media-Elwyn line back to Philadelphia. Doylestown, too, was surprising in its positive changes, although it was a sunny and warm January day. Both benefit from their roles as county seats, as does West Chester. All three are places to watch.

Best place to reconnect with old roommates: West Chester, where Chuck Ulmann, Hobart College, Class of 1970, was my tour guide. I bought him lunch.

Longest travel time: Riegelsville, Bucks County.

The biggest harvest: The border of Bucks and Montgomery Counties around Sellersville and Souderton, where I visited six communities in a day, including the very cool Telford Borough, which sits in both counties.

Good prospects for investors: Lansdowne (the theater will bring 1,400 people downtown nightly), Haddon Township (massive multifamily development, foot traffic, and train), Williamstown (positive business attitude), Sellersville, Perkasie, Souderton, Telford, Ambler, and Lansdale.

"Town by Town" is ending today, not because we've run out of towns, but the Inquirer has finally run out of Al Heavens.

I've actually been gone since Dec. 15, ending 50 years as a newspaper reporter, 36 years and 5 months as an Inquirer employee, and 28 years writing about real estate here.

I'm not retiring. Among other endeavors, I'll be selling real estate with a broker to be announced. I'll be busier, most likely.

Then, after a few years, I'll finish my Ph.D. in history, sewing up a loose end.

Please welcome Caitlin McCabe and show her the same kindness you've shown me over the years.

I'll miss you all.

Real Estate Tools
Looking for a new home? Search Philadelphia real estate »
Browse Recent Home Sales »
Compare Philadelphia mortgage rates »