Takin’ it easy in the Big Easy

by Christina

Once we crossed Lake Pontchartrain and into New Orleans, we made our way to Uptown to find Dan’s sister Rebecca, where we hung out with her and her boyfriend Berhane for the week.

This was our longest stop so far, so we had some solid downtime wherein we did useful things, like buying travel insurance (expect a post on this from Dan in the coming weeks). It also gave us a chance to putter about the neighborhood and check things out, like Bloomin’ Deals, where Christina found a new (to her) bikini for a whopping $4, hot diggity!

The stretch of Freret St near where we were staying has a lot of cool bars and restaurants, including Dat Dog, and the newly opened Beer Room, which has great happy hour deals, as does Cure, where I really enjoyed the Pimm’s Up, their spin on the Pimm’s Cup without the soda.  Dan and I also had great fried chicken and donuts at Freret St Po’boys and Donuts, though I kid you not, we waited a full hour for our food. Not sure why, but the wait got us some free donuts, so, win?

Since it’s New Orleans, and we are tourists, it was inevitable that we would make a pilgrimage to Bourbon St.  We took the street car down Saint Charles St. from Uptown where we disembarked and took a stroll down the iconic NOLA street.

Interesting trivia that I learned is that New Orleans was named after the Duke of Orleans, who was a member of the Bourbon family, and this is the origin of the name, not the booze.  Also, the fluer-de-lis was also used in the Bourbon’s family’s heraldry, and is the likely origin of its use as a New Orleans symbol.  Or so the internets told me.

I was also advised by locals and tourists alike to get a beverage known as a hand grenade, which I did at Tropical Isle .  We didn’t really sample many of the Bourbon St bars, but the people watching was excellent. Beignets are also a local treat, very similar to funnel cake (fried dough buried in powdered sugar but in triangle form), at Cafe Du Monde. Careful, they’re messy. Finally, we ended up at the Riverwalk where we took in the view and listened to some busking musicians, feeling like the montage in a summer movie.

Something that I didn’t realize about NOLA before I got there is that there is no law banning open containers, as there is in most of the US.  It is completely legal to walk down the street with an alcoholic beverage in hand, and a result, there are lot of places were you can get drinks to go (or ask for a to go cup for your drink).  Daiquiris and Bloody Marys are some favorites, which get served in foam cups (sad for the environment, good for keeping your drink cold on a hot day…).  Daiquiris are fairly plentiful, and we were just opportunists when it came to where to get them, but Marie’s Bar is a famous place to get Bloody Marys, and as a newly converted Bloody Mary drinker (shout out to Lindsay!) I was very happy with their offerings.

We also did a run for po-boys (Louisiana style sandwiches) and snowballs (like snow cones), which Dan will discuss in detail in the next post. Other miscellaneous interesting foods includes muffaletta, which is a meat and cheese sandwich, but the essential ingredient is the pickled olive mix that fills the center. The sandwich pictured was purchased in the Quarter at  Verti Marte, which is 24 hours, but doesn’t have its own website? Thumbs up on the food though. NOLA also has its own flavor of Zapp’s potato chips, which are heavy on the garlic and paprika seasoning.  And we got some very tasty donuts from Blue Dot Donuts in Midcity (founded by NOLA police officers), with flavors including Maple Bacon.

One thing we did not manage despite multiple attempts was seeing Nicolas Cage’s pyramid masoleum in the St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. I only did research on the mausoleum, not the cemetery (mistake!) so the first time we showed up the cemetery was closed, and the second time we discovered the $20 per person entrance fee.  So much like Sevelyn Gat, I am just going to exert my control over reality using Photoshop. Here is me bringing Mr. Cage’s empty tomb some flowers. TA-DA!

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On Monday went to a popular local spot called Country Club to have an early lunch and enjoy the pool.  They offer brunch on the weekends, with a $15 cover for the pool, but if you go on a weekday, you get half off the cover if you get something to eat off the lunch menu. Notable menu items were the the fried oysters and boudin.  It was a lovely day out and on a weekday the pool wasn’t too crowded.

A real treat was reconnecting with Ian, a friend of mine who I hadn’t seen since band camp seventeen years ago! He was MC at the Cajun-Zydeco Festival that was going on in the Louis Armstrong Park, and we stopped by to say hello. Other fun destinations included the City Park, where we watched people feed and nearly be attacked by geese… then keep feeding the geese… and the Frenchman Art Market, where there was a lot of great art, including things like jewelry, photography, and embroidered clothes (and I made light paintings of the art market, I am soooo meta).

So after eight days enjoying NOLA in all its glory, we said good-bye to Rebecca and Berhane, packed up, and headed west for Texas!

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Heading south: Raleigh & Gainesville

by Christina

From Philadelphia, we hopped back in the car and headed down to spend a few nights with Casey, another one of our crew from scientist school. He and his wife Sarah (who was sadly out of town, but was evidently having an epic time at a work sponsored event) live in Raleigh, NC in a house they’ve been doing serious renovations on, including this gorgeous pergola that they designed and constructed entirely themselves. I kind of fell in love with it and took too many pictures of it (including light painting it. don’t judge).

In the morning we discovered the power was out, and, gasp, this meant that with an electric stove we had no way to make COFFEE! AIEEEE! But, in classic Casey-style problem solving, the Keurig was put in the back of the 4Runner and plugged in there, and we got our coffee, power outage be damned!

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After breakfast we went mountain biking, the first outing of this kind for Dan and me. I’m pretty sure that nearly all of my saddle soreness was created in the last 20 min of the ride when my legs got tired and I stopped holding myself out of the saddle. From there we headed home and chilled on the lawn with some beers and played on the slackline.

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As Casey explained to us, most of the breweries in the Raleigh area have weekly running club events. Beer and running, you say?

The basic format is that people just show up to the brewery and run along the same route (bridge shot pictured above), but independently and at their own pace, which suited me just fine given the speedy company I was keeping. We went to the Big Boss Brewing running club where I put in a whole four miles before getting a strawberry gose (evidently I was pronouncing gose wrong for a long time, it’s “Goes-uh” not “Go-say” TIL). For dinner we got our sweaty selves cleaned up and went to The Pit to have some NC style BBQ, which is a vinegar based BBQ and quite delicious.

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The next day after breakfast (on the deck, under the pergola, of course), we kept moving south down the Gainesville, FL, where we caught up with my friend and fellow nerd Alek, who I know from Camp Nerd Fitness #campmagic, and we got to hang out with him, his wife Katie, and their adorbs toddler Cole.

We went and hiked some trails nearby, our first one being a trail in San Felasco State Park. Unfortunately, due to the extensive amount of rain during the past week the trail was flooded, and we really didn’t realize how far down hill we’d gone when we ran into a massive mosquito infested swamp where the trail had been. After wading around in confusion for a little while we were forced to turn back.

Our other hike was at La Chua Trail and Alachua Sink. It was beautiful, and absolutely roasting, and we got to see several alligators. One of them even hung out to pose for us, while Cole stomped and growled at it from the safety of the boardwalk (it’s not making noise!  make it make noise!).

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We spent a few nights out and about in Gainesville, including Main Street Bar & Billiards  and Arcade Bar, where I totally owned Alek at skee ball. He’ll tell you he won about half the time, but its a dirty dirty lie.  Jk jk.  But I won the last (and thus most important) game.

One night we played a truly epic game of Jenga at First Magnitude Brewing Company, where we ended up accidentally captivating the entirety of the seating area. We played well past the point any one of us thought possible, until literally the only legal move left to Alek was to try and pull a block from the stack fast enough that the tower dropped a level without toppling.  Spoiler: it toppled.  But we got a round of applause anyway (and the crowd goes wild!). Tasty beers all around too, and I continued my sour trend with a Saltwater Intrusion gose.

For my pizza fiend, no stop in Gainesville is complete without a visit to Satchel’s which has some of Dan’s favorite pizza crust. As Dan says “the crust makes the pizza, don’t knock the hustle.  Please don’t post that, it makes no sense”.

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Sunday morning we got up early and bid farewell to Alek, Katie, and Cole, who were off for Father’s Day celebrations and then Ultimate practice. Once we got packed up we went to our final Gainesville destination Bagels & Noodles which had a very extensive menu that took deep consideration, and was very tasty.

Then, our bellies full, we hopped in the car and headed off to New Orleans!

 

Romping in Boston, then it all goes south

by Christina

After our visit with Mark and Lindsay we headed up to spend a few nights in Boston with Peter, an old friend of mine from high school (for the record, I’m not calling Peter old, he’s 6 months younger than me and teases me for being old, kids these days! Stop throwing rocks at my house!).

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In the evenings the three of us did things like eat (Indian! East Asian fusion! Pizza!), go for a nice evening run around the city, work out at the Hahhhvahd club, and just generally hang out and catch up. One night Peter took us to Red Lantern which was delicious and in a really cool space. Peter even ordered us a round of flaming sake bombs, which sadly, as it turned out, were not actually on fire, but were a fun and tasty mess anyway.

During the days Dan and I spent a lot of time at the Boston public library, doing our various unfinished to do’s related to the move and travel.  The BPL is gorgeous, and we enjoyed the reading room on the classic side of the building best.  We knocked about the Common, and paid Chinatown a few visits for some delicious lunch specials, and of course the fantastic Chinese bakeries, as Dan waxes fondly about in his post.

On Thursday we got up early to take advantage of the lovely weather and ate breakfast out on the deck.  Once we saw Peter off to work, Dan and I headed off to the Sam Adams Brewery as Dan describes in his post. My favorite is Harpoon, but since I’d hauled Dan there before, we did something new!

That night we headed south of Boston to stay with my college friend Hilaire and her family, including Marina, a new addition I hadn’t seen since Hilaire’s baby shower two and a half years ago (okay, so technically, I’d never seen her before, but Marina probably heard my laugh from within the womb, so there’s that). Friday we got a tour of Hilaire’s lab and hung out for lab happy hour, and that night Quentin cooked us dinner (Quentin is such a good cook).

Then on Saturday the whole famoo (Hilaire, Quentin, Marina, Darius and his friend Sawyer, Dan and I) went to Plymouth, where we walked the jetty, saw mating horse shoe crabs on the beach (this looked very uneventful for the crabs themselves), and had a seafood feast at Wood’s Seafood.  Dan and I had never had steamers (New England style steamed clams) before, and you can see how focused we were on the consumption process.

Sunday morning Hilaire cooked us a big breakfast (chocolate chip and blueberry pancakes!) before we packed up and headed south (this is where it all goes literally, not figuratively, south.  Did I have you worried?).  We stopped by Hastings-on-Hudson to get some tacos (Tacos on Hudson) with our former-Florida-crew friends Diane and Andrew, and took a nice walk around the neighborhood.

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We made it to Philadelphia that night, and spent the evening with our friend Cecilia, also from our Florida days.  She and her husband are living in the historic “Man full of trouble” tavern (not “full of troubles” as Cecilia points out, which is what Google mistakes it for, and its an important distinction!  Is he sad, or is he up to no good?).  We also took a walk in the Spruce Street Harbor park where I did a bit of light painting (long exposure time and intentionally moving the camera).

Next stop: Raleigh, NC!

Finding cheap food in Boston

by Dan

Boston is a city where you have to be strategic if you’re traveling on a budget. Being able to stay with friends really helped us in that regard, but we still had to keep an eye on our meals and transportation costs. In terms of finding cheap food, there are plenty of chain restaurants, but that’s not really the most exciting way to feed yourself. (We did discover that splitting a burrito bowl at Chipotle can carry two people pretty far if you ask for tortilla on the side, both types of beans, and all the toppings. I don’t even like Chipotle so that’s kind of a depressing discovery.)

Luckily though, Boston has a fantastic Chinatown where you can find cheap, interesting, and delicious food. While we didn’t explore Chinatown extensively, the restaurants are generally moderately priced and we discovered a few highlights. New Golden Gate has a sweet $4.95 lunch deal where you can get a cup of soup, a side of rice, and one of 60+ different dishes. That decision was a bit overwhelming for me. Alternatively, some of the nicer places do similar lunch specials for around $9, and the quality scales with the price. We stopped by one of these places before we heard about the ultimate cheapness of Golden Gate. The ever adventurous Christina decided to order pig intestine and peppers at Gourmet Dumpling House. Below is the evidence. I tried it even. It was ok, but it was mentally difficult for both of us. I just thought of calamari instead.

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But the best value we found is at the Chinese bakeries (Christina’s favorite place from her college days is Hin Shin). They have all sorts of lovely things for around a dollar. It’s almost as exciting for me as a Dollar Tree. How do they do it? I don’t know but it makes me happy.

There’s all sorts of things in the bakery case which I can’t identify and we didn’t have the time to explore all the different options. We generally stuck to the bun type items, which are Christina’s favorite. They are big balls of some variety of dough and tucked into each of the balls is a filling: either sweet based or meat based. Since I have no clue what I’m doing, I’ve found that there’s not really much point in asking what is inside any given item because would I end up asking way too many questions. Rather, my approach is to just guess based on what the outside looks like and how I’m feeling in the moment. In this way I derive the same satisfaction as when I buy a mystery pack of toys/trading cards/beer.

I have found that the one certainty at a Chinese bakery is the egg tart. It’s easy to pick out and obviously the best thing to order. In the picture you can see Christina enjoying a mystery bao and delighting in the discovery of a pork filling, but there are also two perfectly wonderful egg tarts… Buy these every time no matter what. And the best part is that all of these delicacies were $1 a piece. Savings are delicious.

Finally, since beer is also food, Sam Adam’s definitely tastes when better when free. The brewery tour just asks for a $2 donation to one of several local charities that they support, and the round trip T fare is $4.50. The brewery tours itself was unimpressive as brewery tours go, but the tasting was nice. All in all Sam Adams is alright by me and it’s a worthwhile excursion if you are looking for a bit more than a pint of beer. Here is Christina utilizing the power of beer to play on some cool looking, but ultimately kind of boring playground equipment.

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And the rubber hits the road.

by Christina

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At approximately noon on Friday, June 2, 2017, we officially set off on our journey with a car packed full of too many things (see our backseat).   Fortunately the “too many” are items to be shipped to friends and family, donated at the end of the road trip, or be consumed along the way (there will be chili eaten cold directly from the can on this trip, yes, there will).

Our first stop was Hartford, CT to visit our friends Mark and Lindsay.  We know them from back in our Florida days, and they’ve been living in Hartford for a few years now. It was an absolute delight to see them, and they spoiled us absolutely rotten with delicious food and drinks the whole weekend.

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Saturday the weather cooperated (that’s understating it, it was gorgeous) and we went to Talcott Mountain State Park and hiked the Heublein Tower Trail.

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After that we visited Firefly Hollow Brewing (loved their patio area, limited seating and industrial but I dug it) and Hog River Brewing (the Dad Bod Gose was pretty rad). Then for dinner we partook of a famous local dish: clam pizza from Pepe’s Pizzeria. The consensus was that Pepe’s makes great pizza, and that the clam pizza (white sauce) was interesting and tasty, but wouldn’t be our go to pie.

At Firefly, Mark and I found an Orlando Brewing sticker, where we volunteered together back in the day (it’s the otherwise illegible sticker that says ‘15.5’).  How well do you know your friends until you’ve scrubbed out the inside of a mash tun with them?

The next day we went to see Wonder Woman (Yay! But no post-credit scenes?  DC, what are you thinking?) and went to J. Timothy’s Taverne for the BEST WINGS EVAR!!1 (that’s the claim, paraphrasing and all caps are mine).  They were pretty darn tasty (they are fried, dipped in sauce, fried and then dipped again.  yum.), but the physicist in me abhors statements in absolute terms.  Also, the old house and funky decorations vibe of the place itself was pretty cool, as was the beer selection.

So today, after breakfasting heartily, we bid our gracious hosts a fond farewell (thank you guys!!!), and we are off to Boston!