In keeping with our usual way of doing things during the Fall of Travel, Friday afternoon I headed from work to the train while Matt drove to the airport. Since we were leaving from the Humphrey Terminal this time, he realized it was actually cheaper to park there for three days than to take a cab either way. We met in the lobby, checked in, got some food, and boarded our Sun Country flight to Boston. It was really strange to not be flying Delta for once.
Sun Country served hot dogs on the flight, so it was basically a huge sausage party. (No, they didn’t have a vegetarian version. Also the entire plane smelled like hot dogs. Eesh.)
We landed in Boston and headed to the rental car center where we met up with Matt’s awesome coworker, Paul, who was riding with us to Worcester. We got on the road there, and ended up at the Hampton Inn (the same place we’d stayed before, and had forgotten about) a little over an hour later. We checked in, then headed out on foot with Paul to get some dinner.
It had been about a week since a huge early snowstorm had been through the area, so there were remnants of it around Worcester. It’s unusual to come from a snowless Minneapolis and see that somewhere else first!
We walked the half mile or so to Armsby Abby, a place that Yelp seemed to think was pretty great. And it was! Though it was after 9pm, the restaurant was packed. We got a table, picked beers from their massive list, and ordered food. Everything was excellent, so I’m glad I had done some research this time… on our last visit, the place we ended up at was basically Applebee’s.
After another round of beers, we headed back to the hotel and went to bed. Matt had to be up very early, as usual.
Bright and early Saturday morning, I hauled our bags out to the car while Matt finished getting ready. In the elevator, I met an old couple from Connecticut who were staying there because they hadn’t had power for a week. (Holy crap.) We met Paul again at the breakfast buffet, then I drove them to the college where their seminar would be. It was a ways out of town, and shared the grounds with a monastery. On the way there, we noticed the huge number of trees down along the road. They were all piled very neatly in stacks lining the highway, waiting to be picked up.
After dropping them off, I consulted my very confusing Google phone-map of Worcester and tried to find my way to the interstate. I ended up lost in downtown, but finally found where I was supposed to be. I headed off in a northeasterly direction, because I was on my way to visit my last two states!
To my annoyance, our stupid green Corolla (which I nicknamed Adam, of course) didn’t have cruise control. (Satellite radio was also out, obviously.) I was able to pick up a vast array of hiphop and metal stations from Boston, though, so at least I had entertaining music along the way.
I reached New Hampshire by 9:30am, and stopped to use the rest area and grab some local maps. I’m glad I checked out the brochures, because I noticed that Stonewall Kitchen‘s headquarters were very nearby. I’ve always liked that place a lot.
As for New Hampshire, the only noteworthy thing along the way is that they have gigantic state-run liquor stores at their own highway exits. It was kind of amazing.
I decided to exit I-95 before the border and take Highway 1 into Maine instead, since I’d recently visited the opposite end of it in Key West. The border crossing happened much sooner than I expected, and I noticed that the sign read “Welcome to Maine: The Way Life Should Be.” I got a little choked up at the idea of being in state #50.
To get the business stuff out of the way first, I stopped in at the Kittery Trading Post. I’d been seeing their billboards for 40 miles, so I was aware that they would have all my tacky Maine souvenirs covered: stuffed lobster, Christmas ornament, snacks for Matt, Maine magnet. I noticed while I was there that everyone looked like a fisherman, which is exactly how I was hoping Maine would be. The accent was fantastic, too.
Following my illustrated Maine-and-Portsmouth-NH tourist map, I headed through Kittery toward the coast. I stopped at the first sight of the ocean:
I then drove up the coast and gasped as I came over a hill and saw Lobster Cove. It was a huge beach lined with cute little vacation cottages and restaurants. Most of it was closed for the season, obviously, but it was still really appealing. As I stood there taking photos, a couple of surfers walked by and said good morning. (It was 35 degrees – they’re hardcore.)
I continued up the tiny winding coastal road until I found my way to Nubble Lighthouse. I loved all the vacation cottages (some of them WAY more than cottages), and noticed that a lot of them were still occupied. I could definitely handle the off-season there. Everything about Maine was incredibly charming.
The seagulls hanging out by the lighthouse were gigantic and bossy. When I took Bally out for a picture, I was worried they were going to fly away with him.
I found my way back to highway 1, and headed over to see the Stonewall Kitchen HQ. It was completely packed with people, and in full swing for the Christmas season. I managed to do quite a bit of holiday and souvenir shopping there, though I wasn’t quite sure how I’d fit it all in our bag for the return trip. Post-shopping, I went to their restaurant and got myself a caprese sandwich for the road.
I wandered back through Kittery (which was indeed the land of outlet shopping, as one of Matt’s coworkers had mentioned). I wanted to take the little bridge across between Kittery and Portsmouth, but it appeared to be under construction. Instead I had to take the I-95 bridge back to New Hampshire. I wanted to stop in and see the Red Hook Brewery, which I’d also noticed on my tourist map. Note: if you have one of those cutesy illustrated maps, do not rely on them for actual directions. Use Google Maps instead.
After making about 10 U-turns, I finally found the brewery. I didn’t have time to take the tour, but I went in and wandered around, used their bathroom, picked up a 6-pack and souvenirs at the shop, and talked to the Santa-looking guy at the counter for a while. Then I crossed the highway and went to drive around Portsmouth, which was super-cute. It reminded me of Annapolis, with the narrow cobblestone streets and awesome shopping.
It was then time to make my way back to Worcester, so I wouldn’t be late picking Matt up. I actually made it faster than I expected, so I stopped for coffee and gas in Worcester, then drove back to the college (noting how to get back to the freeway this time) and hung out in the car reading a book. He showed up at 4pm, and it was time to head to Boston!
The drive was quick, and we spent much of it debating why the directions to our hotel were so confusing. We were staying a block from Fenway, but Google had us exiting way before that and driving all over the place. Apparently that was the correct route, though, because that’s where all the Fenway signs pointed. We got lost once and ended up circling the actual fen, then found our hotel but missed where we were supposed to park. After a lot of swearing, I finally made it into the parking lot. A man directed us to park downstairs, so we descended the ramp and were immediately greeted with a pair of rats fighting behind a dumpster. We dubbed the parking lot ‘the octagon’, and hurried the hell out of there as fast as possible.
We were staying at Hotel Buckminster, which was a cute old building in a really convenient location. Though we had a car, we figured we would have the option of taking the green line at night if we were out late. We’d also intentionally picked it because of its nearness to Eastern Standard, an awesome restaurant and cocktail bar we wanted to revisit.
The guys at the front desk were awesome, and our room was small but clean. We celebrated our arrival with a couple of beers, which took a while to enjoy since we didn’t actually have an opener with us. Matt managed it with a coat hanger instead!
We headed out to get dinner, and decided to try Eastern Standard. We ended up on the patio, which was enclosed and heated with gigantic heat lamps. (I really want to know why nobody does that in Minneapolis. It’s so awesome.) Our dinner and cocktails were excellent. Afterward, we decided to check out what was around the neighborhood. We’d seen a listing for a whiskey bar called the Citizen that also had Fernet on tap, so obviously we had to check that out.
On the way to the Citizen, walking next to Fenway, we passed two guys obviously from Minnesota: one in a Wild jersey, and one in a Gophers shirt. Funny.
The Citizen was packed. We made our way to the far side of the bar where it was standing room only, and managed to get a couple of spots there. In addition to a massive whiskey list, they had a great beer selection. We ordered drinks and shots of Fernet, which instantly earned us the bartender’s approval. Also, they arrived in skull shotglasses.
After a couple of old fashioneds, we decided to move on. (Particularly after they brought out an ENTIRE roast pig to the table behind us. Matt was excited; I was not.) We walked back toward the hotel and stopped into Cask and Flagon, mostly because we kept joking about going there. It was exactly what you expect of a sports bar across the street from Fenway. We got a couple drinks and sat down to watch the extraordinarily terrible LSU-Bama game. We were also keeping track of the Gophers hockey game on our phones, and were thrilled when they swept the Sioux. After the round of drinks, we decided we’d done our time at Cask and Flagon, and crossed over to Boston Beer Works instead.
The front of the bar seemed to already be shutting down, which was strange (it was close to midnight). We headed to the back and I ordered their blueberry beer, which had blueberries floating in it (and was extremely delicious). We sat around watching more of the terrible football game and celebrating the Gophers win. Then we decided we’d had enough of beer, and went back to visit the bar at Eastern Standard instead. We ended up having a long conversation about god-knows-what with a guy in an Iowa hoodie, and by that point it was time to sleep. After a stop for snacks at the 7-11, of course.
The next morning, we headed into downtown. It was Sunday, which made getting around slightly easier (though not much). We parked the car in a ramp in the middle of town, and walked over to Woodward for brunch. We stood at the server stand for at least five minutes before someone came over. We sat at our table without water or being acknowledged by a server for another ten. Then we got up and left for a place that didn’t suck.
We ended up at Scholars Boston Bistro instead. They were serving brunch and happened to have Kona Pipeline Porter on tap, so I was thrilled. We ate, then walked down to the harbor to wait for the ferry to the U.S.S. Constitution. While we’d visited the national park before, we’d been there too late to take the tour of the ship. It was time to fix that.
I love the ferry service. It costs only $1.70 a person to ride across Boston Harbor, and the view is excellent.
We got in line at the Constitution with a ton of students, just in time for the last tour. The ship was pretty amazing, and in great condition.
They took us belowdecks and explained how the sailors lived. That’s where we learned about the origin of the word ‘scuttlebutt’, because it was a place where the sailors gathered to get their water and rum rations, and therefore had a chance to gossip.
After the tour, we stopped in at the museum and gift shop(s) for souvenirs, then went back to the ferry just in time for sunset.
We walked through Faneuil Marketplace, and the hall full of food vendors was like torture. (I’m not sure why we didn’t stop to eat anything, we just didn’t.)
We headed over to the Omni Parker House hotel to go to their awesome bar (where we’d had martinis and warm nuts last time), but it was apparently closed on Sundays. We stood around trying to figure out where to go, and then remembered the existence of Marliave. We’d had a marginal time there on our previous visit (mostly due to a bartender who really cared what glass water was served in), but this time was way better.
After a couple of drinks there, we decided we’d go to dinner in Cambridge. Matt really wanted to visit Craigie on Main, another well-regarded cocktail bar, so we headed that direction. The place was really busy, but we only had to wait 10 minutes or so for seats at the bar. I’m glad we did, because everything there was fantastic. We had a couple of small plates (his involved squid ink, which I tried without realizing it – I guess it’s technically vegetarian, like eggs, right?) and drinks.
We ended up talking to the bartender about where we were staying, and he told us we should visit Eastern Standard. We were of course very familiar with that place, and he pointed out a guy sitting down the bar, saying that he’d designed the cocktail program there. (Cocktail nerd alert!! Very exciting!) We asked him where he was working now, and he told us to stop into Island Creek Oyster Bar, which was conveniently located right next to Eastern Standard. We made a note to stop in later.
We decided to go elsewhere for a full meal, because we’d be broke dining at Craigie. I searched in Foursquare for nearby restaurants, and we decided on Cambridge Brewing Company, less than a mile away. It took us forever to find it because it was tucked inside the courtyard of a building, but it was worth it: it’s a giant brewpub with a good beer selection and delicious pizza. We were also seated next to a table of MIT students drinking from the beer tower of power. Awesome.
After dinner, we went back to the hotel, left the car in the octagon, and walked over to Island Creek. It was a very stylish place that was surprisingly empty at that time of night. We got seats at the bar and ordered drinks. After a round, we were pretty sleepy, so we asked the bartender for our check. Before we left, he made us another sample cocktail containing our good old friend Fernet. Seriously, there is no getting away from it. (The other bartenders were doing shots of it behind the bar, of course.)
We got up Monday morning, checked out of the hotel, and drove over to Prudential Center. It’s a massive complex a couple miles away from Fenway, and has an observatory at the very top. We found our way there, and the view was totally worth it with the perfect weather.
From there, we drove over to the seaport, where the docks and the cruise ship terminals are. It’s a fascinating and kind of confusing part of town: it was really busy over the lunch hour, but we couldn’t quite figure out where all the people were coming from. We drove around looking for parking, and finally realized it wasn’t going to happen on the street: we’d have to take one of the really expensive ramps. We did that, then went out onto Northern Avenue to look for some lunch. We saw a Mexican place across the street called Temazcal Cantina, so that was our decision.
We got seats at the bar and were handed iPad menus, which was a pretty great novelty. Their food was surprisingly good, too… I was expecting something a lot more chain-y. We liked that it looked out on the harbor, too.
After lunch, we walked down to the Marine Industrial Park to the Harpoon Brewery. Bally met a lobster along the way.
They didn’t have tours on Mondays, but they did have an hour-long tasting. Having toured many breweries before, we were totally fine with that.
We sampled many many beers, and the girls working there were great. We of course picked up some souvenirs to go, and then it was finally time to head to the airport.
Our return flight on AirTran took us through Milwaukee. (Silly, but ridiculously cheap.) We hadn’t had any issues with the Boston-Milwaukee leg, but the second one was not great. They decided to leave early, but didn’t make any announcements about it. When we got to the gate half an hour before the flight, they bitched at us because we weren’t there the prescribed 40 minutes early. (You know who boards 40 minutes early? First class, and only rarely when the flight is on time.) The flight attendants were miserable, and the plane looked like it was built in 1960. We decided right then that we will never fly AirTran again.