from the road

Days 15-16: Brooklyn & Manhattan

I’m starting this post at 6:52pm because we are meeting Sam and Christin, two high school friends (and my fellow senior class officers, aHA!), for dinner at 8:45pm. I am decidedly too old for this city because at 8:45pm, I usually want to be sitting in my “home clothes”–not sitting down to eat. However, for these winners, it is totally worth it.

We’ve spent the last two days walking around Brooklyn and a little bit of Manhattan, mostly people-watching and just taking in the sights. There are so many things to see and do and eat here; it’s quite overwhelming. It’s cliché to say that we’ve “just scratched the surface” but that is, of course, really true.

Neither of us had been to Brooklyn before, so we weren’t sure what to expect. It definitely has a different feel from Manhattan (the only place that we had ever visited), but it is dangerous to try to sum up an entire borough when I haven’t seen most of it. So here are some brownstones.

Brooklyn brownstones

Bagels in Prospect park.
Bergen bagels with strawberry cream cheese

Yesterday, we took Kristen’s suggestion and walked around DUMBO (Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass–so clever!) and admired the Brooklyn Bridge:

Brooklyn Bridge

Also on Kristen’s suggestion, we took an evening stroll around Prospect Park after dinner last night. Since I suffer mightily from Mean World Syndrome (particularly strong in NYC), I would have never done this on my own, but it was quite pleasant. We even saw a runner having a very loud business conversation as she hauled ass through the park. Busy, busy!

 

Grand Army Plaza, arch at night

This morning, we had breakfast at Milk Bar, right around the corner from Kristen’s place. I am astounded (not that I should be) by the number of food establishments within a quarter-mile of any given place. Milk Bar, as the reviews would indicate, did not disappoint and was a somewhat calm way to start our day–though the space was so small that I felt like a giant oaf trying to get out from my seat. (Sorry, man next to me, if my bum grazed your coffee at least twice.)

at Milk Bar

Then we walked to DUMBO again for lunch. On the way, we stopped in a Trader Joe’s because I am always curious about where residents of large cities procure their groceries. Why, in reclaimed awesome buildings, of course!

Atlantic Trader Joes, Brooklyn

After a surprisingly short wait at the much-recommended Grimaldi’s, we got to dig into (with moderation on my part) a delightful New York pizza.

Grimaldi's pizza

And we are not amateurs. We know how this is done!

eating folded pizza eating folded pizza

Having consumed four slices of pizza, Harrison was in need of a walk. What better way to let that pizza-bomb digest than by crossing the mile-long Brooklyn Bridge under relentless sunshine into the smog of downtown Manhattan?

I’m smiling here, but on the inside, I have suffocated.

on the Brooklyn Bridge

Okay, let me just say, that one of my circles of hell would be an endless crossing of the Brooklyn Bridge in summer. Today, it was not only hot, but it was particularly crowded because of bridge construction taking up some of the walkway. And as you may know, I have an unbridled hatred for slow-walkers in cities, and the bridge is, like, 1000000% tourist slow walkers trying and failing to capture the grandeur of the bridge on their cellphones or iPads. (Okay, just do everyone a favor and buy a postcard of the bridge. It will look nicer, and you won’t have my sweaty, contemptuous glare in the background.) But rant over, I digress….

Once across the bridge, we walked onto Wall Street (which I always forget is an actual street) and stared at the outside of the New York Stock Exchange building.

NYSE buildingThen because Battery Park was, by this time, rather close, we said, “Why the hell not?” and walked down there too.

view from Battery ParkHaving reached the bottom of Manhattan, there was nowhere to go (Well, there was because this is New York and there are a crap-jillion things to do at any given moment) but back to Brooklyn. Somehow, we crossed the bridge again and made it all the way back to Kristen’s apartment, only to realize that we had walked a total of 10 miles today. Maybe that’s small change for a native New Yorker. I don’t know.

And now, it is time to leave for dinner, so I shall continue this later….

7am, 6/28 – I am resuming writing this post.

Dinner was a delight. Sam made a reservation at Hudson Clearwater, which he and Christin had been wanting to try for awhile. It was rather tasty (cheese plate recommended!), and they had a delicious Pimms, which, of course, is one of the only alcoholic beverages I will drink willingly.

In the world’s largest coincidence, Kristen was also there eating dinner, and so I take that as a sign that it must be good!

in Hudson Clearwater patio

One thing of note–HC has a “hidden” entrance. Though the stated address is on Hudson St., if you try to enter through the “front” door, you will find it to be locked and inaccessible. Instead, you must go around the corner to a completely unmarked green door which enters into the back patio. I learned this ahead of time from reading reviews, but while we were there, at least two people tried to enter through the front door. This hidden entrance must be a New York thing and was the reason for much eye-rolling on my part last night.

Anyway, seeing Christin and Sam was a delight!

Sam and Christin

 

I had been rather overwhelmed and intimidated by the size and energy of New York, but seeing them helped a lot. Harrison and I remarked that it’s so nice to catch up with Governor’s School (high school) friends because they haven’t changed at all and are just so comfortable with who they are. Sam and Christin seem to be enjoying the city and all that it has to offer, but they haven’t changed into slick city-dwellers or hardened assholes (as I certainly would).

Even Cal, who was busy at a client dinner and then working in his office until 10:30pm, is the same! Bless him, he came out to Lillie’s with us after his normal workday. This is, I’m sure, par for the course, but I know for a fact that this kind of work schedule would kill me. I’m really shocked at how all three of them take their insane hours in stride.

Cal and Sam, Lillie's

So a successful trip to NYC! I was telling Kristen that every time I come to New York, I’m at a different stage in my life and want it to be something different. This was the first time that I had approached it with–honestly–fear and trepidation, but with the right group of friends and fun things to do, we had a good time and saw lots of new and exciting things. Do we want to live here? Absolutely not. Will we visit again? Certainly.

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Quoddy Contest Winner!

I am delighted to announce that we have a winner from our photo identification contest!

Jordan, start-up founder extraordinaire, correctly (albeit a little vaguely) identified the mystery object in the photo:

“It’s a bird! On the log! A Brown bird of some kind that I might now if I had ever read some kind of birding book!”

Yes, my friend, that is generally correct.
grouse identification

However, an honorable mention goes to James for being much more specific, but unfortunately, past the entry deadline:

“what was it? did anyone guess? did you post the answer somewhere?

 
is it a female pheasant sitting on a log?
 
i’m seriously obsessed with this picture now and i have to know…”

Based on what we saw, I think it was a female grouse (My dad has a funny story about being attacked by a grouse.), but it could very well be a young female pheasant.

Congratulations, you excellent bird-identifiers! Jordan, we will bring your prize when we arrive at your doorstep in a few weeks. James, you have the prize of knowing that you can spot well-camouflaged birds, a skill that will surely serve you well in life.

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from the road

Day 14: We drive to New York City!

It was with a heavy heart that I left my new favorite beach town and the hospitality of Casa J. We packed up our duffle bags (the content of which we had somehow managed to lay strewn over every square inch of the guest bedroom) and said good-bye to Fannie with promises to return ASAP. (Yes! Ashley and Kyle, this can and must happen!) Then it was time to get on the road again.

About an hour away, we made it to Rhode Island’s very large and impressive State House.

In front of RI State House

 

But it was quite hot, so we hopped back in the car and sped off to Hartford to see Connecticut’s really beautiful capitol. It really looks like a castle!

CT State Capitol

 

We loved the big park surrounding the capitol, and perhaps more, we loved that food options were available nearby. Harrison remembered that the show Man v. Food had visited Hartford and featured Woody’s, a local hotdog joint.

Woody's sign, Hartford, CT

He was specifically interested in trying the Deputy Dawg: an all-beef hot dog covered with pulled pork barbecue and cheddar cheese.

Harrison with deputy dawg

 

His verdict? “As good as I expected, but not better.” (I opted for a veggie wrap from a nearby restaurant that served pizza, wraps, panini, deli sandwiches, frozen yogurt, chicken parmesan, hot bar, cold salad bar, burritos, coffee, and pastries. It was a real life incarnation of Seinfeld’s Dream Café.)

Refueled, we headed down the highway through Connecticut, where, for the first time in his life, Harrison did not get stuck in a snarl of traffic.

However, once outside of New York City, traffic snarls are inevitable. Meanwhile, I choked over what is apparently considered a “cheap” bridge toll:

NYC toll, White Stone BridgeWe’re staying with my friend and former TA Kristen, who has a fabulous apartment in Brooklyn (More on Kristen later!). While she was commuting home, we spent a good 30 minutes driving around her block looking for street parking. We finally managed to nab a prime spot and were so proud of this accomplishment, we did a victory dance (probably to the amusement of the guys hot-boxing down the street).

parking space victory

Parking deserves chocolate cookies!

We also celebrated to the much recommended Ample Hills Creamery just down the street. Seriously. This place closed within four days of opening because it sold out of ice cream. WHAT!

Breakfast trash at Ample Hills CreameryI see a second trip to Ample Hills during our short stay in Brooklyn.

But now, off to explore!

 

 

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from the road

Days 12-13: Cambridge & Hull

Phew, it has been hot in the Boston area these past few days. Yesterday, we took the ferry and T to Cambridge to visit some of Harrison’s favorite college haunts. On the way, we passed by one of Hull’s two wind turbines.

in front of Hull wind turbine

For lunch, we went to Darwin’s Ltd., where we miraculously found a seat to eat the tasty sandwiches. Harrison likes the Story with prosciutto, mozzarella, pesto, tomatoes, lettuce, and vinaigrette.

Eating Darwin's Sandwich, CambridgeI’m a fan of the Hubbard Park: hummus, lettuce, tomato, carrots, apple, sprouts, avocado, and honey mustard.

Hubbard Park at Darwin's

Harvard Yard in the summer is full of people:

summer Harvard Yard

And this girl’s shorts were full of cheek, so much so that it is spilling out the bottom.

short shortsWe snuck into Kirkland to see Harrison’s second-year dorm room…door. Another illustrious former resident of H33? Mark Zuckerberg.

Kirkland H33Harrison’s friend Raj is still in the area, doing a PhD in bioinformatics and enjoying the Boston area. It was great to see him and catch up after five years.

Harrison & RajIt was actually much too hot to walk around much in Cambridge, unfortunately. We poked in a few shops in Harvard Square and spent an hour or so in the Co-op looking at books. For dinner, we made a bee-line to our most favorite Indian restaurant, Tanjore. Mmm, vindaloo, I missed you!

Vindaloo at Tanjore

After a short walk along the Charles at sunset, we headed back to Long Wharf to pick up the ferry back to Quincy where we had parked the car. The company that runs the ferry system will apparently lose their contract with MBTA at the end of the month, so it comes as no surprise that their service is winding down. While the ferry was slated to depart from Long Wharf for Quincy at 9:35pm, it arrived closer to 10:30pm.

The upside of waiting for a very long ferry? We commiserated with the other ferry-hopefuls, including this very brusque man. At one point, he called the company and demanded to know when the ferry would arrive: “Is it going to be five to ten minutes or 20-30? Don’t lie to me! I live up the street from you guys. I know where you work!”

After he hung up, he announced/muttered to himself, “I hope the guy who told me five to ten is on this ferry. Ima’ punch him in his fuckin’ face!”

Can’t make this shit up!

Ferry passenger

Today, we laid low in Hull, keeping cool with Fannie on the porch as the temperatures soared into the 90’s. For dinner, they ordered pizza, and we pulled a wagon to the beach for a picnic!

pulling beach wagon

Okay, Tim helped with wagon-pulling…a little! (Just kidding, a lot once we got to the beach!)

Fannie & Tim with wagon

The tide was way out, and the sun was low. We ate pizza and chips and looked out over a calm ocean. Really! It’s the best! I love Hull!

Our idyllic meal was suddenly interrupted by the arrival of a very audacious seagull. He boldly walked right over our picnic blanket, snatched the remaining three slices of meat pizza with his beak, and flapped away (albeit weighed down by the purloined pie), while we yelled, laughed, and stared incredulously.

seagull with pizzaIt wasn’t long until we had attracted a large percentage of Hull’s seagull population:

seagulls fighting over pizzaIt was more funny than distressing. We considered calling the Hull Police department. I’m sure it would make good fodder for the weekly police report.

Harrison with empty pizza box

Don’t worry too much–really. We got ice cream afterwards at this local establishment that is open “7” days a week.

"7" days a week

It has been a great weekend+ in Hull. This is the greatest little town, and Tim and Fannie have been fun and gracious hosts! I will be sad to leave tomorrow morning. I hope we can come see them again soon (with Ashley and Kyle, too!!!!).

On the porch with Tim and FannieBut now, the Blackhawks vs. Bruins game is on. I better go watch fall asleep!

Tomorrow, we head to Brooklyn. No stop ’till Brooklyn!

 

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from the road

Days 10-11: Go to Hull (& also, Boston)!

Hey! Did you enter our photo identification contest? If not, you should!

I’m writing from the most adorable beach cottage/house ever! My friend Ashley’s parents, Tim and Fannie, moved from Midlothian, VA to Hull, MA a few years ago. When they heard we were coming to the Boston area on WVT, they generously offered to host us for a few days.

Hull beach house front

They even put up a message in nautical flags!

Hull is a small town across the harbor from Boston, so I expected it to look something like Baltimore–on the water, but mostly docks and no beach. Instead, it’s an adorable, quaint beach town, but not one of those ritzy, only-boat-shoes-and-madras-print towns; it’s very real, as if people actually live here (which they do). There are small streets, lined with unique New England beach cottages, some of which are summer homes and some of which are year-round homes.

When we arrived Friday evening, we got a tour de Hull courtesy of Tim and Fannie:

Tim driving

It has a view of the Boston skyline. Tim’s commute to downtown Boston is a 20-minute ferry ride. He even has “ferry friends” with the other regular commuters!
Boston skyline from Hull

This is my first time experiencing a New England beach town. The boardwalk on Nantasket beach has several ice cream and fried dough establishments, as well as Fascination, which is like Skee-ball.
Fascination, Hull, MA

This particular arcade has been in operation since 1914, according to Tim.Fascination, Hull, MA

 

Hull is such a great little town; I love it! There’s a sandy rock beach on one side and the bay on the other. Fannie walks on the beach every day, and their house has tons of cool treasures that washed up on shore.

Bay view, Hull, MA

One of their favorite pastimes is scanning the weekly “Police Report” section of the Hull Times, where all of the weeks major crimes are reported. I was stunned to see that Hull is such a dangerous and crime-ridden area:
Hull police report

 

On Saturday afternoon, after a leisurely walk on the beach, we took the ferry into Boston.

Quincy Ferry photo op

 

We walked around Boston Common, where I was very excited to see some ducklings:

Boston common ducks

These kids were having a great time swimming in the fountain, but a park attendant put a damper on their fun.

kids playing in Boston Common fountain

We looked at the very old tombstones in the Granary Burying Ground, which dates back to the 1660’s!

Granary Burying ground, Boston, MA

And for dinner, we walked around the North End and went to one of our favorite restaurants, Rabia’s. There was an awesome narwhal chalk mural behind our table.

Narwhal chalk mural, Rabias, Boston

Harrison realized that though (or perhaps) because he went to school in Cambridge, he has never been to Boston in the summer months. It has a different feel: a lot more tourists and lots of people outside, enjoying the common spaces in the warm weather.

Green space, downtown Boston

Dessert was a lobster claw (or at least, part of it!) at Caffé Vittoria. It really is as big as it looks.

lobster claw & mocha, Caffe Vittoria

After walking around and choking over real estate prices (We found a condo for $5.5 million. Anyone want to go halfsies?), we headed back on the ferry…

evening ferry, Boston

…which is nice because you can see the Boston skyline, all lit-up at night.

Boston skyline at twilight

Having lived in government subsidized housing on grad student salaries for the past five years, I am always shocked to encounter the displays of wealth in a large city. I don’t begrudge these people; I’m just amazed that people can not only afford million dollar yachts, but also moor them in prime harbor real estate right off the North End. Money, man.

Tim gave us another example. Two tandem parking spaces in Beacon Hill just went to auction and were sold for $560,000. Two homeowners apparently got in a bidding war over them. Geeeeez.

Now, we’re off to explore Cambridge for the afternoon! ❤ Boston ❤

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from the road

Days 8-9: Camping in Maine + a Contest!

Hello there! Did you miss me? I was in the depths of the wilderness, fighting off predatory bears with my bare hands and rubbing sticks together to make fire.

Actually, I was just away from cellphone service while we camped in Cobscook and Acadia National Parks in Maine.

After leaving St. John, we crossed back into the US and arrived in the tiny town of Lubec, Maine, which is right outside Quoddy Head State Park. Lubec is a tiny town (with five restaurants!), but with tons of charm and the essentials (ice cream). It is hosting its first International Marathon tomorrow–I may have to consider this in the future.

About four miles outside the town, you can visit the adorable candy-striped West Quoddy lighthouse, situated on the easternmost point of the United States.

West Quoddy Lighthouse

 

Harrison visited Quoddy Head State Park fifteen years ago. My last visit to Lubec was also a long time ago.

Quoddy State Park

There is a rock beach with lots of seaweed and a “violent” surf that thunders in against the rock cliffs. It’s pretty impressive.

Harrison on Quoddy Head State park cliffs

 

We had fun poking around at low-ish tide:

Harrison with seaweed, Quoddy Head State Park Mica with seaweed, Quoddy Head STate Park

 

I would not recommend swimming in late June at Quoddy Head State Park. The water in the Bay of Fundy is frickin’ cold!

feet in sea waterI’m a sucker for nostalgia, so visiting Quoddy Head State Park was a real treat. I ran up and down the paths, alternating between saying, “I LOVE THIS! IT’S SO BEAUTIFUL!” and taking in large lungfuls of sea air mixed with the scent of balsam fir trees.

Then…

View from cliffs, Quoddy Head State Park

Now…

 

Quoddy Head State Park I even insisted that we visit the rare Arctic bog in the middle of the park. I was so overcome with feelings of nostalgia (from visiting this with my parents) that I took an ironic bog selfie:

Bog selfieWhen I’d had my fill of nostalgia coastal memories, we headed to Cobscook State Park, where my dad claims to have had the best camping of his life.

We finally got to camp, and I am delighted to report that we survived our first camping adventure with minimal issue. We even made a fire “from scratch” (=We got a pack of free matches at the Lubec IGA.).

Whatever, no judgment. Indulge Harrison in his feelings of manliness.

Harrison with campfire

You can’t see from the picture, but our campsite overlooked Cobscook Bay, which also has a rock beach and seaweed, as well as mudflats where campers can dig for clams. (I enthusiastically proclaimed that I wanted to dig my own peck of clams, only to realize that I have no idea what to do with said claims once they are unearthed.) At least we went to sleep in our extremely cozy two-person tent to the smell of salt air.

I was very proud of our ability to pitch a basically fool-proof tent outside of my mom’s living room. “This is easy,” I thought, “How have I not gone camping more? I did so much camping with my family when I was younger.”

Oh right. Bugs (and also spiders). I hate them. HATE THEM. Mosquitoes think I taste delicious, and I swell up a lot when I get bitten. (Also, like a four-year-old, I cannot stop itching any bites once I get them. I had very scabby legs as a child.)  Fortunately, my dad let us borrow these “mesh covers” (=mesh drawstring bags) to keep out bugs. In addition to keeping out the monstrous mosquitos and no-see-ums, it also did a good job keeping my sandwich out of my mouth…until I got creative.

Mica wearing gnat bagI have to say, Cobscook was a little too “rustic” for my taste–or, at least, a little too “real camping”-like after living a non-nature-filled life for the past ten years. For one thing, on my trip to the toilet (a toilet seat over a hole), I was terrified that a predatory bear was stalking behind me. To ward off any bears, I swung my flashlight around erratically and hummed pop songs loudly until I reached the safety of the bathroom, which is to a say a stall in the middle of the woods. (There I found a very large spider guarding the stall handle.)

After surviving that harrowing experience (I kid!), I was happy to break camp and head off to Acadia National Park. First, we made a stop in Bar Harbor, ME, where we were certainly underdressed. Even this moose statue (not $25,000) was full of judgement:

Moose statue in Bar Harbor, ME

 

We did a short hike in Acadia to look out over the water [Unfortunately, those pictures are on my DSLR, the cord for which I left at home. If you have a USB cord that connects to a Nikon port, I might need to borrow it.] and then headed to the smaller of the two Acadian peninsulas to set up camp at Seawall Campground.

Seawall Campground is, shockingly, located right off the natural seawall:

Seawall view, MaineI highly recommend this campground. The bathrooms are pristine, and there is a nice, smooth paved road around all the loops. It was great for taking an after-dinner hike to spy on see the other campers, many of whom were taking family vacations with pop-up trailers and kids on bikes (Nostalgia alert!!!). The only downside is that the campground has no working showers. You can pay for hot showers at the nearby camp store.

And, of course, we engaged in the most time-honored of camping traditions: Making s’mores!

S'mores at Seawall Campground[Dad, you will be proud that I remembered our long-standing tradition of foraging for firewood in other people’s abandoned campsites. I had accumulated quite a bit of “reclaimed” wood, only to find that the rangers had already chopped up tons of wood, left out free for the taking. We made a huge-ass fire, that’s fo’ sho’!]

So, okay, maybe we’re not the most daring and rustic of campers, but I think we did an okay job. We didn’t burn the campsite to the ground, and we successfully built and broke camp twice.

Finally, we thought we would spice things up on the blog by adding a small contest. There is something hidden/camouflaged in this picture we took at Quoddy Head State Park. What is it? 

What is hiding?

What is hiding here? [Click to enlarge.]

E-mail your guess to info[at]weddingvictorytour.com with the subject line “Quoddy Contest” by Sunday, 6/23, at 10:00pm EST. The person with the most specific and accurate guess will be awarded a cool prize (something yet to be determined–a souvenir from our travels)!

[Sorry, only US residents and non-family members eligible.]

Now, I’m writing from the adorable beach town of Hull, MA, just outside of Boston, where we are staying with my dear friend Ashley’s parents. But this post is getting long already.

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from the road

Day 7: Driving to Saint John, NB

I don’t have much exciting news to share today. We spent most of the day in the car, driving along the Ceilidh trail on Cape Breton on our way to Saint John, NB. We’re stopping here for the night before heading back to the US for a camping adventure.

Check out the assortment of proffered condiments at breakfast:

Canadian condiments

Top row: Cheez Whiz, Raspberry & Strawberry Jams
Bottom row: PB, Honey, Orange marmalade

Remember how I said that Chéticamp is Cape Breton’s largest Francophone enclave? Well, that seems to be true. We encountered a lot of Francophones in our 16 hours in Chéticamp, including this charming group of women having a breakfast chat. I tried to be sneaky and take a picture of them.

SO SNEAKY.

SO SNEAKY.

When I asked them if I could have some sugar, they did not understand my French. Eventually, they figured it out and responded all in English. Lesson of the day: Don’t take foreign languages. Even if you study for a crap-jillion years, no one will understand you. Just give up. [I kid. Sort of. I made myself feel better by saying that I have a different accent, but HAHAHAHAHA.]

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