The State of Massachusetts – Part 1

Not only a popular Dropkick Murphy’s song but a pretty cool place. Boston, and Massachusetts as a whole, was the final leg of our East Coast Trip and one that we were really looking forward to. Nikki and I figured that we’d enjoy Boston for the history, the food, the walkability and the beer (who would have thought). We also knew that we could not wait to see my family for Patrick and Sarah’s wedding in Topsfield, MA. What we didn’t know was how much we would enjoy Newburyport as it turned out to be one of the major highlights of our trip (Wedding and Newburyport in Part 2).

We arrived in Boston on Thursday around noon after a long train ride from NYC. Hungry and thirsty we set off for our hotel a few blocks away. Immediately we found out the navigating our way through Boston might be difficult. The history of the city is great but maybe…maybe…figure out the road system (whoever the civic planner was DEFINITELY FAILED). After winding our way through a couple alleys and criss-crossing some streets we found our hotel and stayed for long enough to be insulted by the workers and drop our luggage…fun.

Our Boston experience could only go up after that so off we went to Faneuil Hall. We quickly found Cheers (fake Cheers, real Cheers is about 2 miles away) to get out of a brief rainstorm and grab some lunch. The bartender did not know our names but that did not stop him from being excellent and even giving me a nice 1/4 cup free refill on my beer. Lunch and the rain came and went so we were off to the next adventure, Fenway Park. Fenway was the only park we went to and without seeing a game. We stayed long enough for a Sam Adams and some awesome Center Field Views from the Bleacher Bar under the Green Monster.

Nikki was in need of a little afternoon catnap so I took off to explore Boston by foot. I was finally able to gain my bearings after a run through the financial district and up through Boston Commons and back. The run took me past the State House (both old and new), the sight of the Boston Massacre and a very active Boston Commons which was featuring a Shakespeare festival, multiple concerts, an art fare and adult softball games.

The North End and its Italian charm came highly recommended for dinner so we picked Nico’s and were not disappointed. On the way we stopped at the Paul Revere Mall and House. On the way back we saw lines around the block for Mike’s and The Modern cannoli shops. We were full and wanted to get back to the hotel for a nightcap (and neither one of us really like cannoli’s) so we passed this time.

Boston has such a historical charm that makes it easy to fall in love with the city (the 75 degree weather was nice too). Nikki and I wanted more time but knew we were limited so we made the decision to turn in early Thursday night so we could get up and walk the rest of the Freedom Trail up to Bunker Hill early Friday morning. It was a great decision as the walk and Charlestown were really great to explore. We also were greeted with hello’s and good morning’s from strangers along the walk…something that was not expected and stood out as a Boston exclusive.

We left Boston Friday morning with a new favorite city in our list of places we’ve visited. Nikki and I both would rank Boston at the top of the cities we visited on a list of places that we could see ourselves living at some point.

Off to Newburyport and Topsfield for the S&P wedding, detailed in Part 2 of this blog.

Cheers,
Ben and Nikki

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DC and Baltimore

Having more time on the trains between cities, we’ve blogged about our time in Philadelphia and New York. We are playing catch up on the rest of the cities we visited.

To start off the tour de east coast we landed at Reagan National. Nice, easy spot to fly into. Our good friends Alex and Dustin hosted us for our time there and we were lucky to have Dustin have a day off to spend time with us.

The first thing Alex and Dustin asked was “Do you like burgers?” to which we answered (and will always answer) “YES!” They took us to Good Stuff Eatery in Arlington. We each got a burger and split fries. Good burgers for a medium price. Our favorite was the sauces that you can get to dip the fries in. After burgers we went back to their apartment and were able to taste some Oregon vodka, gin and whisky that Dustin’s family makes and sells. Great stuff!

Saturday was tour DC day with Alex and Dustin. Anytime you try to fit this in in one day you won’t get to see it all, but we were able to get the highlights and must do/see. Founding Farmers for brunch in the GW Univ. area was a great way to start our day out…slow service but great food.

National Mall sights:
White House – wouldn’t truly be complete without active protests happening. Israel and Gaza supporters were both passionate about communicating to the President. Or at least the security guards and tourists. There was even a young girl in her twenties standing along the fence reading a book out loud about Israel.
Washington Monument – tall and visible from most other places in DC. There is a patch of grass between the White House and Washington Monument that could use some love and creativity for land use.
– Lincoln Memorial and the Reflecting Pool – Reflecting pool sits between the Washington and Lincoln and is lovely in pictures unless you are walking right by it. Lincoln sits large and proud in his seat. The beard plays.
– Korean Memorial – I love to look at each soldier, as if they are part of a movie and you’re seeing them move right in front of you. Strong statement and both of us have seen this in rain/fog before, which is the best and most eery way to see it.

Korean Memorial 8.2.14
– MLK Jr. Memorial – New to both Ben and I. We thought this was a great setup for him. His figure chiseled out of a large slab, with a quote on the side “Out of a mountain of despair, a stone of hope”. The rest of the area detailed the historic and profound statements he made including my favorite: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

MLK Jr Memorial 8.2.14
– FDR Memorial – New to Ben. I remember taking pictures with my friends by every fountain/water exhibit in this memorial on my 8th grade trip. Very serene feel and welcomed shade in this area. Best quote: “I have seen war. I have seen war on land and seas. I have seen blood running from the wounded. I have seen the dead in the mud. I have seen cities destroyed…I have seen children starving. I have seen the agony of mothers and wives. I hate war.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt
– Jefferson Memorial – Full figure memorial with a “power stance” and full robe/jacket. Did they call them robes back then or am I just thinking of Harry Potter? Forgive my ignorance. Although I am now having a good picture of our early presidents partaking in the Harry Potter saga. Let’s see if Ben edits this out! Jefferson quotes chosen were wordy but in his time were the right things to help shape our nation. Bummed to not have time to show Ben Monticello, but alas, we move on.
– Natural History Museum – Way too crowded in here to take full advantage but very cool exhibits on genetics, full skeleton exhibits of hundreds of mammals, and of course the Hope Diamond.

That evening we were able to cross another ballpark off the list by attending the Washington Nationals vs. Philadelphia Phillies game. The stadium is great and not too far of a train ride located at the Washington Navy Yard. We were able to get some Tacos and put away a few beers at Agua 301 before heading into the game. Beautiful night and cool stadium. They clearly market to the younger crowd by offering a $5 beer before the start of the game. Nationals shut out the Phillies 11-0.

Nationals vs. Phillies 8.2.14

 

 

Best photo from this city: Ben Lucas, Commander in Chief

Ben Commander in Chief

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BALTIMORE
Next day we were off the Baltimore on the train (thanks Alex for taking us all the way there). Arrived at Baltimore Penn Station and then took the light rail to downtown. Our hotel room wasn’t ready so we checked our bags and walked to Camden Yards. What a great place. Picturesque setup with so many things to see and take your attention away from the game. Our seats were in right field foul ball territory but we were in the covered area.

We were able to have Casey and Wes (friends that we met in Fresno and have recently moved to the east coast off of Chesapeake Bay) drive up and meet us at the game. It was both Wes and I’s first Orioles versus Seattle Mariners game. It was an exciting game to start with a solo home run in the 1st inning but pretty slow after that. Even better to allow us to catch up with Casey and Wes, people watch and take in the atmosphere. Orioles won 1-0.

 

Camden Yards 8.3.14

 

Electric Slugger

The “Electric Slugger” — You play it like a violin and it sounds like an electric guitar and is made out of a Louisville Slugger!

Post game we went to a local brewery and had some good beers! Also got to witness BronyCon 2014 in person. If you don’t know what that is, google it. It’s as weird as it sounds. After dinner Casey and Wes went home (thanks again for coming to see us!!), Ben and I walked to the Inner Harbor. Loved being able to see this. It’s post card beautiful and has so much character. Definitely has some touristy spots there but a different vibe there then where our hotel was. We got back to the hotel just in time before a torrential downpour. Great views of the storm from our room and a good time to make sure we didn’t miss our Sunday night TV show ritual (thanks HBO GO and surprisingly strong WiFi).

Will definitely visit both cities again to see more, eat more and drink more.

Cheers,
Nikki and Ben

In a New York Minute

We were there…now we’re gone…good thing we fit as much in as possible.

Tuesday our train got in at 12:15 which left us just about enough time to meet up with Patrick and get a quick bite to eat before he had to leave to teach his last final. I can’t remember the name of it but we enjoyed the view from the 39th floor and some pretty good Korean food and then we were off.

Our first stop was the Empire State Building to take in the observation deck. We couldn’t have found a better way to see a 360 degree view of all of NYC. Nikki has been to the Top of the Rock at night so seeing the city during the day was a treat. After being bogged down by lines and crowds we finally made our way out of the tower to happily find Heartland Brewery at the main floor. Shocker, we stopped to have a quick beer. Nikki enjoyed a Cornhusker Lager and I had the Indiana Pale.

We moved uptown a little bit to see Grand Central Station and the New York Public Library (on the way we stopped to get a hot dog, because, why not, we’re in New York). Both are very historic and we enjoyed taking time to go into both and experience them.

Patrick met us at the Library and we were all on the same page…time for some pizza and beer. We took the subway over to the NYU area and enjoyed some Ray’s Pizza and Victory Prima Pils. Our next stop was right around the corner at the oldest bar in New York, McSorley’s. This place dripped history out of every corner, booth, wall and table and smelled like stale beer from 1857 mixed with onions and about 40 New Yorkers who just got off work…so pretty much the definition of a great dive bar. The three of us enjoyed some ‘Light’ and ‘Dark’ beers and took it all in.

After making it out to Brooklyn we found a pub and finally closed the night with a little Sake and Arrested Development…pretty standard.

 Wednesday morning we found a nice Greek diner for a really good (and Cheap) breakfast before sending Patrick off to Massachusetts and exploring more of Manhattan. Nikki and I took off from our hotel to explore Radio City Music Hall and Rockefeller Center (I could have spent hours in the Lego store). From there we walked up 5th Avenue to Central Park. The biggest surprise for me was seeing the massive rock outcroppings throughout the southern part of the park. Our journey to the Park had to make a pit stop at the Wollman Ice Skating Rink for Nikki to show me where her favorite scene of one of her favorite movies (Serendipity) takes place. Unfortunately there was a Fair taking place (one of Nikki’s least favorite things) so to make the Universe right we donated $1 to a local YMCA youth basketball team, Karma is in our favor.

After the park we found Three Monkeys Tavern for a break to get off our feet (we’ve been walking A LOT). We both enjoyed some beer (Yonkers Lager, Three Monkeys IPA and Radiant Pig) with some good sliders and chicken sandwich before hitting up Times Square on the way back to our hotel. We both needed a little down time before attempting our first subway ride without help and the Yankees game last night.

The Subway was a success and far less intimidating than the first time through (thank you Google Maps!). Yankee Stadium was a sight to be seen and pretty much had anything that you could have wanted at a stadium. We picked up our $11 Bud Lights (yep…) and got to our seats in the Bleachers just in time to see Miss USA, Miss Teen USA and Miss Universe in the section next to us and to join in with the Bleacher Creatures in their pre-game rituals (all very cool). Even though it is a new stadium you could feel history all over the place and it retained a very intimate feel. A couple more $12 beers and some Nathan’s Hot Dogs helped wrap up our entire Yankee Stadium experience. We had to stop one more time at Times Square at night. times squre

New York came and went but we enjoyed every minute of it…we’re 30 minutes outside of Boston and a new adventure will begin soon.

 

Cheers

Ben and Nikki

Flip, Flip, Flipadelphia

We were sad to be in Philadelphia and miss Claytie and Fletcher. Hope you have safe travels Claytie and Fletch we are thinking of you in your recovery!

Luckily, we got the run down prior to our visit of what to squeeze in our quick stop in Philly.

Jim’s Steaks on South St.
After a 15-minute wait, we were able to enjoy our Pepper Steak with provolone (sorry for all the people who said you have to get the cheese whiz, we just couldn’t do it) paired with two delicious Yuenglings.

Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell
Ben and I aren’t big wait in line people unless that line ends with a beer or food. It was good enough for us to be outside and see. Plus you can see the bell through the window. Cool parts of history.

Betsy Ross house
Our quick break for some A/C…and Nikki wanted to buy all the cool things in the gift store. Love the courtyard in front of her house.

Elfreths Alley
The oldest steet in America. Very tiny and has cute houses along it. Looks like the immediate area is going through a revitalization with some new businesses opening.

Christ Church
Our favorite of things we saw. We love living out west but one thing that you notice and appreciate is who old everything is on the east coast. Just so much more national history. We enjoyed sitting where George Washington, Ben Franklin, William Penn, John Adams, Robert Morris, and others sat for church each Sunday.

City Tavern
After Christ Church the plan was to head back to the hotel. But then our walk took us past the City Tavern. Very likely a touristy place, but hey, it’s where Ben Franklin had a beer once! Ben and I both enjoyed water and beers here. More details about that below.

The Coffee Bar
Ben’s mom and Nikki have been dreaming up a future business: coffee shop/beer/wine bar that is also a book exchange. This place was a good example of the combo of coffee house/chill bar. We had beers here detailed below

The Dandelion
Fletch said we had to go here for dinner. And we did and we enjoyed! We had House made ricotta to start. Ben got the Lamb shepherds pie and Nikki got crab risotto for dinner. Dessert was Pana cotta with lemon/basil sorbet, shortbread and strawberries. It was really different but we enjoyed it.

Beer
And now what you’ve been waiting for!
Nikki got Poor Richard’s Tavern Spruce which is a Ben Franklin recipe inspired by his time in France. Reminded of a Christmas Ale named Jubilee.
Ben got Alexander Hamilton’s Federalist Ale.
Nikki got OtterCreek Fresh Slice from Vermont. Unfiltered, delicious, clementine white IPA. So, so, so good!
Ben got Dogfish Head 60 minute IPA
Nikki got Blanche du Bruxulles – 16oz can, not a bad way to enjoy this one.
Ben got Sierra Nevada and Victory collaboration (Sierra Nevada Beer Camp, german style ale)

Philadelphia Art Museum (Rocky Steps and Statue)
This was Ben’s last request before leaving Philadelphia…he had to run up the stairs and take a picture with the Rocky Statue. It was warm and out of the way before leaving but it was worth it.

We are on the way to New York now…keep an eye out for our recaps of Washington DC and Baltimore shortly.

Cheers
Nikki and Ben