( #Maine, #Acadia )
For the last 7 months I have been keeping a secret from my wife. A vacation. Logistically I had to tell her when we were going so she could ask for the week off, but no other details. As for the location, my cousin and I planned the trip after I complained about two failed attempts to visit Maine over the last five years. Over the months, we figured out the details and played out the surprise last Friday for hilarious effect (right before we left I told my wife we were going to the Jersey shore much to her disappointment).
The drive to Maine (and specifically Acadia) was long, about 12 hours from Philadelphia. We ended up stopping on the way up, but the next day was smooth sailing. When we got to the house we rented, we were all really happy. It was directly on the bay which gave us daily access to kayaking (which we did). The homeowners had the house perfectly stocked with the things you would need and I would highly recommend staying there (but book early!).
We spent the majority of our time (while not kayaking) in Acadia. So here is a quick rundown of the things we did (in case there is an interest in repeating it).
Ship Harbor Nature Trail:
This was a really easy nice trail that lead to a rocky beach which offered extra challenge because we ditched the trail and just followed the rocks. When playing on wet rocks, you always have to watch your footing. I definitely had concerns about breaking my face open a few times on this trip, but then I would see my cousin’s 10-year-old son sailing over the rocks and I just went with it.
After the trail, we went to Jordon Pond which has a popular restaurant. This place is a bit of an overpriced tourist trap but they offer popovers which are like biscuit muffins that I didn’t see anywhere else. They were worth the trip alone (just order some soup and a bunch of them).
The Bowl/Beehive Trails:
While most of this trip was spend on some kind of trail (and they honestly started to blur together in hindsight), one that will stick out is the Bowl/Beehive. I actually picked the bowl trail out as an activity because it was said to be a little more difficult and had a nice view (I was craving a difficult trail). When we got there, my cousin’s son wanted to do the beehive trail. All I saw was a sign that warned of using mettle rungs and I was out. Somehow my extremely cautious cousin agreed to go on the beehive with his son while we went through the bowl trail. While the bowl was strenuous, the beehive was dangerous:
When we connected with my cousin, he was shaking and really regretted going through it. He said once you hit the tough spots, there is no going back so you have to move forward. Anybody thinking about doing it, take that warning.
Thunder Hole is a rocky section of the park that has a small underground cave system that makes a rumbling noise when the tide comes in. While interesting, the “hole” is one of the most popular spots in the park and there were a ton of people hanging around. The masses ruined it just because the nice part of being at the park is you don’t have to be surrounded by people since there are so many options.
Several people ignored the gates and got close to the water. A few people die each year by rouge waves coming in and sucking people off the rocks. I saw quite a few parents letting their kids go to the edge and it totally bugged me out, I was glad to leave.
After Thunder Hole we went to Hunter’s Beach. It is a small stone beach and nobody was there. The current makes an awesome sound as it sucks in the rocks with each wave pulling back. Easily a favorite find.
My cousin and I cooked almost every night. I am not a seafood guy (please don’t start) but everybody else was. My cousin’s wife managed to find a guy (by following signs) named Rat that had fresh lobsters and clams. My cousin said Rat’s clams were the best he ever had in his life and I believed him. Rat didn’t have 2+ lb lobsters on the day everyone wanted to cook them, so he called a lobster-man buddy and got us what we needed.
The cool thing about Rat is that we just found him, nothing was planned. He was the typical Maine accent and lived on this crazy farm. If it was the end of the world, I would have no doubt that good old Rat would be breathing easy in his house in the middle of nowhere.
We found a gem of a place in Southwest Harbor. It is called Quiet Side Cafe. My cousin and I were walking down the street looking for supplies for dinner when we spotted a blueberry pie cooling on a side window. Like a cartoon we were drawn inside and had a great meal and met some really nice people (I ordered Pizza – in Maine – and they knocked it out of the park). Owner Frances Reed was incredibly welcoming and the place had a great vibe. You must go there if you are in the area.
All of the other restaurants were fine. Order fish. My cousins said they never had a bad meal when it came to the fish. I didn’t have any bad meals myself, but nothing to blog about either 😉
With the weather never breaking 80 degrees (and sometimes getting close to going under 50 at night), Maine it my kind of summer vacation. I did what I wanted, wasn’t on a schedule, and got to romp around in a truly magnificent place for a week. If I had to complain about anything, it would be the mosquitoes – they were merciless, but that still didn’t prevent us from going outside and having a good time.
I would absolutely recommend this trip to friends and any families that don’t want to do the typical Disney boxed vacation – you can be the master of your own destiny.
( #badsex, #hotels )
It was late. We had been in the car for eight hours and my cousin wanted to make sure his kids had a bed to sleep in. We were somewhere in Massachusetts and my phone’s GPS told us to go to a Radisson in Clemsford. They had rooms and the price was right. Off we went.
After a minor issue with an AC unit requiring a room change, my wife, cousin, and I went to the hotel bar for drink. The people at the bar were young and had a redneck vibe about them, but we were north. I then overheard that they were part of a large wedding party staying at the hotel. Two drinks in, I went to bed.
I woke up having slept through what I thought was a pretty uneventful evening. My wife looked like she did not sleep at all. “Ugh… the people next door were having sex all night, the girl was loud.” “Did you say anything” I asked sheepishly. She said that somebody told them to “shut the f**k up” and they apologetically stopped. She then mentioned that the girl asked her lover to “do it again” and “put it back in” several times.
I was somewhat grateful I was able to sleep, but sad I didn’t get to mock my new neighbors, until they started having sex again. My wife was right – it was LOUD. The dude didn’t seem to be making much noise, but she was a peacock in full bloom for the whole world to take notice of.
We walked over to my cousins room to relay the story (in code and quietly so the kids didn’t catch on). There was talk of breakfast, so I went back to the room to grab money when I heard crying next door. I just assumed it was a drunken lover’s quarrel and went on my way. My cousin and I went downstairs to his car and noticed a firetruck, police car, and ambulance pulling up. At first I thought heart attack, but then I mention to my cousin that I would not be surprised if it was our neighbors. He looks at me and says “what the hell could he have done to her?” I didn’t know. I asked the fireman what was going on, he just said “someone got hurt” and kind of smiled.
When we got to the fourth floor, the emergency crew was in front of our neighbors door. As we passed by we heard the girl say “there is so much pressure, I feel like I am giving birth.” I grinned at my cousin as he gave me an admonished look for not having more sympathy. None shall be given. My wife, cousin, his wife, and I stood in the hall as they took the girl out in a stretcher, her lower area on ice. I gave her “Ed-Hardy-shirt” wearing paramour a salute as they took her away, to repair the vagina he destroyed so thoroughly.
As he walked down the hall with a concerned look in his face, I couldn’t help but notice the stride in his step and the acceptance of knowing nods. The girl may have been shamed, but this young man earned himself a reputation and a story that will live on for years to come, at the very least in this little social circle.
NOTE: Having said all that, we all have our suspicions that the girl’s front door was fine and it was indeed that back door that might have inflicted some serious injury. Thoughts to ponder indeed.
NOTE 2: Since this post was published on father’s day, I also want to point out that this woman was some man’s daughter. Doing her best to make daddy proud!
( #Nashville, #ThirdMan, #Hermitage )
Last week I spent a lovely weekend in Nashville. This was my 2nd trip to the city, my first was documented right here. This time we traveled with friends (Rob and Lisa) to see an Avett Brothers concert. We ended up repeating a few things and doing some new stuff. Here is the breakdown.
I knew our friend Lisa would really enjoy the Bellemead (which we visited last year). There didn’t seem to be much damage from the floods and overall was a good experience, but I am not going to re-hash.
We also visited Cheekwood Gardens again to check out the new Chihuly glass exhibits. Last time we were there, we had to rush because they were closing, this time we walked around on a great sunny day.
The grounds were beautiful and worth checking out, but the Chihuly glasswork was “meh”. If you see one, you have seen them all.
Our first night in Nashville we went around the downtown area popping into as many bars as we could to take in all the bands. Most bands did mixes of country and pop tunes to appease the tourists like me. My friend Rob is a huge nerd for country music, so he really enjoyed himself.
All of the bars are essentially laid out the same in the downtown area – stage by the door, long narrow room, bar close to the stage. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
The next morning, we were all planning on going to the Pancake Pantry for breakfast (another repeat), but the line was around the corner, so we opted for the Loveless Cafe. Allison had found about this place and the famous “Biscuit Lady.” I didn’t think we would have the time to go, but I was pleased that the Pantry was packed because the Loveless was excellent.
We opted to get a sit down all you can eat of breakfast meats, fruits, and of course biscuits. I won’t lie – I ate way too many of the famous biscuits and felt sick for most of the day, but screw it, it was worth it. The cafe is a little commercial, but if that’s what it takes for them to say in business, so be it.
[Third Man Records]
I wasn’t going to Nashville without checking out Jack White’s music store. As we approached, they were setting up the front for a private Halloween party (which sounded like an awesome time from the news I read last week).
Third Man Records was much smaller than I had expected, but it was charming and I am glad it is doing business. I pick up some interesting vinyl while there, which I will review at another time.
Our friend Lisa wanted to check out the historic home of Andrew Jackson. The grounds were spectacular and the staff was friendly. Touring the house and the garden was educational and very interesting.
As I mentioned in my 2009 Epilogue, Nashville struggles with their past as a Southern state with slave history. They use soft super politically correct terms to refer to slaves and they try to make it seem that the slaves lives weren’t so bad. The Hermitage tour incorporate the slaves like they were friendly characters from a book. While it is good that their stories are a main part of the tour, it seems to make their experience less harsh.
We closed out our time in Nashville with an excellent concert (that I already reviewed here). The Ryman was an excellent place to see a show.
We packed in a lot of activities for 2 days, and like any good town, Nashville had me wanting more when I left. Looking forward to the next trip to the city of music, where I might just keep driving to Memphis too.
( #Boston, #Travel )
Our second day of vacation in Boston started with a trip to the local YMCA. This is the second time I have used a YMCA in a major city and both times it has been excellent. Clean, lots of good equipment, and they had a local community basketball that I could watch while I was doing cardio. Great gym experience.
Address: 306 Northern Avenue
( #Boston, #Travel )
I woke up this morning with the sky still dark to embark on my journey to Beantown. I was pleasantly surprised to find the proprietor (Al) of the local transport service pulling up to my house with a stretch limo instead of the usual green towncar (he couldn’t get back home in time to switch cars).
The Philadelphia airport was pretty painless this morning. The line for baggage check-in was around the building, but we only had a small carry-on and did pre-boarding, we got to skip right to security. In the security line, the girl allowed us to jump in a new line and we went through in 10 minutes tops. The flight itself was undersold, so we had plenty of room.
Once in Boston we opted to get a cab; I was not happy about dropping $30 on a 3 mile drive, but we didn’t do any homework on the subways. At the hotel (DoubleTree), we were greeted by a rather rude gentlemen. At 8:45 AM, I had no expectations that I was going to get my room, but he didn’t offer to take our bags (I had to ask) and he looked put out by the whole process. I asked him of a nice local place to grab breakfast and he recommended a diner 20 minutes away. We are in Chinatown and this asshole couldn’t find a dim sum place to recommend. Luckily, Allison did some research.
PS: I will probably do a much bigger rant about this hotel, but they also charge $13 per day for Internet in the room.
[Mike and Patty’s]
Address: 12 Church Street
Website: Mike and Pattys
This little corner shop is TINY. Only one table tiny (the whole place couldn’t be more than 200 sq ft.). But I loved the neighborhood and the food was good. I enjoyed the spunky gal slinging eggs and hash-browns in the kitchen (I could have reached over and cooked my own).
The place got crowded (meaning 6 people in line) fast, so we ate quickly and made room for the next group.
Website: Wiki: Freedom Trail
Since we had time to kill, I thought the fabled Freedom Trail in Boston’s historic district would be nice way to spend a morning. It wasn’t. While the whole area is historic, the trail (which is actually 2.5 miles one way) seemed to run people through stores and restaurants (which were mostly closed in the morning) instead of interesting historic places. For the legit sites, you have to pay to really see the building. I found the whole thing disappointing, but I think it might be better to do it later in the day while the businesses are open, so you can pop in, have a drink or snack.
By the time we got to the USS Constitution, my feet were beat. We took a cab to Boston Common because my wife wanted to take a picture at the duck statues at Boston Common. Funny thing happened in the cab – we had the same driver from the airport – totally random! We walked around the park for a half-hour and then back to the subway so we could check in at the hotel.
On an up note, Bostonians are a friendly people. A gentlemen stopped us in the street because we had a map and asked us if we needed help. His name is Arnie Marcus and he runs a gift shop in Faneuil Hall called “Greetings from Boston” (website). Go over there and buy some postcards because he is a really nice guy.
[The Green Dragon Tavern]
Address: 1 Marshall Street
Website: Green Dragon Tavern
At the hotel we met up with our friend Jess and then headed out for a late lunch at The Green Dragon Tavern. Typical bar food, nothing outstanding, but nothing wrong with it. For some reason people took a lot of pictures of paintings in the bar. I finally asked someone about it and they said, it was historic, but didn’t know why.
I will have to dig up more about that.
Address: 181 Newbury Street
Website: Joe’s Tavern
We met up with Allison’s cousin Pat on Newbury street and had a light dinner after walking around window shopping. Newbury street is a very nice area to walk around, commercial, but very ncie. The food was good (but I don’t think a salad is representative of a restaurant). After a nice chat and dinner, we headed back to the hotel.
Crappy hotel aside, we had a very nice first day in Boston and I am looking forward to tomorrow’s adventure (it’s actually tomorrow – but whatever…).
I would be doing you a disservice if I didn’t finish up my Chicago summary with a review of our hotel.
The Hotel Palomar: Chicago
Location: 505 North State Street
This recently completed hotel is planted in a perfect location. Right next to the red line giving you easy access to everything (and not having to carry luggage for several blocks after a flight), the hotel is perfectly positioned for people who want to experience the what the city has to offer and want to be tucked a few blocks away from the “Mag Mile” tourism.
Unlike other Palomar/Kimpton Hotels we have stayed out, this room was not the typical shoe-box space (big enough for a bed and a tv and nothing else). We had enough room for a real desk and an extra lounge chair. It was the perfect size. The hotel’s amenities included an indoor pool, a decent gym, outdoor lounge, and a nightly wine tasting.
This hotel enhanced our stay in Chicago, the staff was friendly, and the location was perfect. I highly recommend it.
After an even later start than the previous day (thanks to a very late night enjoying Second City), we didn’t get moving until Noon. We did register for our flights and get a work out in, but the morning defiantly moved slow. Since it was already lunch time, we decided to skip breakfast and an insane idea popped into our heads…
Allison and I could not decide if we should go to Big Al’s Italian Beef or Portillo’s Hog Dogs. I came up with a solution, get both…
Location: 100 West Ontario Street
Our second day in Chicago started slowly. We took our time getting up, then I hit the hotel gym. By the time we were ready to get breakfast, it was 10:30 AM. We planned on eating at the hotel, but they stopped serving at 10 AM. The hostess suggested a place a few blocks away and off we went…
Location: 35 W. Ontario
About 5 blocks from our hotel, Eggspereince Cafe was a great way to start our morning. Even though it was light and open, Eggsperience was packed with people. Since I knew I was going to be eating terrible the rest of the day, I decided oatmeal and egg whites were in order. Even with the less-than-exciting ingredients, my meal was delicious. Allison’s vegetable crapes were too much for her to handle. Our service was extremely quick and we were in and out in 30 minutes.
After our breakfast, we walked over to the tourism office to see if they had tickets for Second City again. They didn’t. They girl gave us a phone number to call and Allison managed to snag tickets to the 11 PM show (I was going to have so much fun trying to stay up). We headed back to the hotel area and I run into a used book store to get something to read on the flight home.
After buy a few books, we freshened up at the hotel and headed back to the “Red Line” to take us to Wrigley Field.
[Cubs vs. Pirates]
Like our last trip, Wrigley Field is always an interesting experience. IT WAS PACKED. PACKED doesn’t do it justice. After navigating our way through the sea of people, we managed to get to our seats, and I was pleased with our location: right behind home plate. The people around us were great, the weather was awesome. We decided to leave a little early to enjoy the weather/city and the Cubs were in the lead.
I checked the score later and they lost 10-7. Busted.
Location: 539 N. State St.
Website: Weber’s Grill
After walking around the city and enjoying a wine reception at our hotel, we headed over to the Weber Grill for dinner. Since the weather was mild (and they had outdoor heaters) my wife requested outdoor seating. While the weather was nice, the seats were TERRIBLE. They really impacted my enjoyment of the meal.
Seating aside, the food was very good. It wasn’t mind blowing. I don’t know if red meat at a restaurant will ever blow my mind since my old man is the king of steak. My brisket was cooked well, but I think it should have been taken off the grill a little sooner (and that would make sense since it took a long time for the main course to come out).
Overall, it was a good experience, not great.
After a “itis”-induced rest thanks to Webers, we headed over to Wells Street. Second City is one of the few places there isn’t easy public transportation to, but a $7 dollar cab right isn’t going to break the bank. Earlier in the day, the teller recommended getting there early since our general admission tickets could put us anywhere. We arrived at 10:20 PM and ended up getting great seats a few rows back from the stage.
The show was very much in the same template as the Stud Turkel show we saw last May. I was pleased to recognize some of the same cast as well. The show was funny, took shots at the city of Chicago, the nation, the state of the economy, education and whatever else they came up with.
The cast seemed to be having a lot of fun as they “broke character” a few times and actually laughed during the skits. I always like when that happens on SNL. My wife hoped there were more interactive parts like the Turkel Show, but I can see how that’s a gamble if you pick a lame duck in the audience. I had a great time and managed to stay awake during the show.
We got back to the hotel around 1:30 AM and I was exhausted. I am curious what tomorrow (actually today) brings since we don’t have tickets, plans, or an agenda. Free form vacation day in Chicago, tune in tomorrow to find out what happens.
Click on the link to read: Day 3
“It is hopeless for the occasional visitor to try to keep up with Chicago-she outgrows his prophecies faster than he can make them. She is always a novelty; for she is never the Chicago you saw when you passed through the last time.”
~ Mark Twain “Life On The Mississippi,” 1883
People asked me “why go back to Chicago? You were there last September!” I think Mark Twain’s quote sums my thoughts up about that matter quite well. It also helps that my wife and I scored awesome flight and hotel deals, we couldn’t say no. I went into this trip less planned and organized than the last. We saw all of the typical things you might want to see in the city last time, to me this trip was more about relaxing and seeing what the city offers.
We arrived in Chicago around 10 AM local time. No real issues on the flight, but Southwest was BUSY in Philadelphia. This was the first time we had a line going outside to check in luggage (make note of that if you are traveling out Philadelphia using Southwest). We easily found our way to the city’s public transportation in the airport and off we went. Our hotel is basically located right at the subway exit which was great, since I didn’t have to carry our luggage several blocks like last time.
We were able to immediately check into the hotel (we didn’t ask, they offered). So far, our hotel has been great (I will do a full review at the end of the vacation). After freshening up and answering some work emails (I know I am a sucker), we went to lunch. I spotted a Thai restaurant that we both wanted to try.
[Star of Siam]
Name: Star of Siam
Location: 11 E. Illinois St.
We didn’t read about this place before, we just saw it and walked in – and I was glad we did. The food was very good. I will always rate Thai cuisine based on Somsak (Voorhees, NJ) and I thought Star of Siam was very close in quality, but the food was different, more Chinese in sauces, but the combination of ingredients was very Thai.
The service was excellent, the decor was open and inviting. Great experience.
[River Tour: Chicago’s First Lady Architecture Tour]
Location: 112 E. Wacker Street
After lunch we walked over to the tourist center to see if there were any tickets for shows during our stay. Slim pickings for the weekend as we were told weekend tickets get released on Friday morning. I saw a adaption of a