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Category Archives: The Roving Reporter

Minneapolis and Northern Wisconsin- Day 6

Wed. Aug. 24, 2016:
Minneapolis, MN to Toronto, ON

I woke up around 8am because I was voraciously hungry. Again we had some time before we had to head out, the Mall of America did not open until 10am. Rather than settle for the horrible coffee again, I Googled some nearby places. We walked up the street and into an office building, I was in search of Caribou Coffee. The Turtles latte was way too sweet and rich, I could not finish it. The lemon poppy seed loaf was just enough to hold me over until we got to the mall. In trying to find something to watch I kept flipping channels. I eventually settled on Real Housewives of New York and 16 And Pregnant during commercials. Real Housewives was great, it was just a bunch of women yelling. 16 was just awkward and I could barely watch it.

We got to the Mall of America soon after it opened. As it turned out we had parked by the entrance that was near the Minnesota Sealife Aquarium so we started there. It was surprising how many people were already there and in line. The aquarium was awesome, even though we could not pet the stingrays because some were pregnant. Walking through the shark tunnel was mildly unnerving, you could see the rows of teeth in the shark’s mouth, but their dopey-looking faces are just so endearing and cute. As usual, with every aquarium visit, there were tortoises and they were going at it. It was awkward though because the third tortoise was getting in the way and being a nuisance. In another tank we were looking for the sea turtle and suddenly we saw the loggerhead turtle and he was just enormous, it was incredible how huge and slow he was. He looked exactly like the old one in Finding Nemo. I laughed at the seahorses as they move so inefficiently.

We walked through the Nickelodeon Experience in the middle of the mall. I had been expecting one or two crappy kiddie rides not a full-blown mini theme park. There were rides that made my stomach churn just watching them. I noticed a marshmallow Peeps store that had a Hot Tamale box in the window. We had to go investigate. They had a deal that you could get three boxes of Hot Tamales and/or Mike & Ikes for $8 therefore we had to. We had to try the new wacky flavours we don’t normally see. We also got to try a sample of chocolate covered marshmallow Peep. It was surprisingly good but I got distracted by the Mike & Ikes flavours and forgot to buy those as well.

On the way to the mirror maze we passed by Shake Shack. I had completely forgotten that it had recently opened and we had planned it for lunch. We stopped in because it was not too busy yet and we were already kind of hungry. The SmokeStack with bacon and mayonnaise was delicious and it hit the spot. The mall had Wi-Fi so while we ate I hunted Pokémon. For dessert we had candy. The 10 flavours mix of Mike & Ikes was delicious. I did not try the hot, hotter, hottest box of Hot Tamales as they are gross. We saved the sour Mike & Ikes for our flight home later that day.

The mirror maze was fun but very disorienting. We had to wear plastic gloves so as not to get smudges all over the mirrors. We went through it again, trying to beat our time and assuming we would be faster the second time. We were not, and it was just as disorienting, if not more, the second time around. I had a few near misses where I almost walked into the mirror. At one point Brent had gotten ahead of me and was waiting for me to catch up, only I didn’t know which one was him and which was his reflection, producing a split second feeling of fear. We also heard a kid walk into a mirror with a loud *thwomp*, I guess he did not have his hands out in front of him as I did. To finish off our tour of the Mall of America we went to the LEGO store. It was so satisfying to see bins of bricks all sorted by colour, as long I ignored the one miscellaneous bin that was just a mix of everything. I wish I had planned it better and designed something so I could buy bricks for a project.

After this we split off, I had three hours to myself to go shopping. At first this seemed like not enough time, the mall had so many floors! But I soon realized that the stores repeated. I stopped in at Starbucks for a green tea lemonade to start off. I found my black flower maxi skirt at H&M but it was not in my size. I ended up buying it in dark blue bandana pattern though. I had a pleasant surprise at the register, there is no sales tax on clothing! I was inspired and branched out, going into stores I had never heard of but they were so far off the mark and not my style at all. I was surprised to see so many cops and their police dogs in the mall. I searched through a bunch of stores and their duplicates for some cute patterned Keds but I came up empty handed. I was tempted by a pair of Vans shoes that had flamingos on them but it just wasn’t the same as what I was looking for. I couldn’t resist the temptation and ended up stopping for a snack at the Nestle Tollhouse café. The toffee cookie was just what I needed.

I met up with Brent and we still had some time before we had to head to the airport, which was all of 5 minutes away. We went back to the aquarium one last time. The two tortoises were going at it again, while the other one was napping. The male tortoise kept trying to bite the female’s head. It was amusing to watch people’s reactions to it. the caimans were still fidgety and restless.

We ended up circling the mall trying to find a gas station to fill up the rental before returning it. Thankfully we had Josh and Chuck talking to us about jellyfish to keep us from getting stressed. We returned the car a few minutes late but without any problems. We had literally just missed the shuttle tram by a split second even though we ran. The guy at the information desk laughed and told us there would be another one in less than 60 seconds.

There were no automated kiosks and we had to wait in line to check-in. I was antsy and the 15 minute wait seemed like it took forever. There was barely anyone in line at the security checkpoint, even the guard remarked on how few people there were. The drug sniffing dogs were so cute, I just wanted to smoosh their little faces. Once we were past we had a goal: find the McDonald’s, yet again, I was very hungry bordering on hangry. We tried to use a touch screen map, but the glass was so thick it was slightly distorting and we could not get it to search, it was infuriatingly useless. We gave up and started walking in a direction until we saw a food court with a Burgher King. We turned and went back, knowing McDonald’s would not be there. It was driving me nuts, I had seen it when we arrived, I knew it was somewhere nearby. I briefly considered trying the touch screen map again when I saw printed maps just below it. There was no line at McDonald’s and before long I was sinking my teeth into the buttermilk chicken sandwich. It was ok, I did manage to improve it by cramming some fries into it. Earlier on the kiosk map I had seen that there was a Ben & Jerry’s, so we split a large fries to save room for dessert. As we were eating Brent noticed a sign for an observation deck. We went up there and found a McDonald’s employee enjoying a quiet break. On the floor there were large cushions assembled into a pseudo-bed. Alas, we had bad timing as there were no flights taking off or landing. We were just looking at the gates and the military base across the way. From there were could see that our plane had not even arrived yet.

On the way to our gate we stopped at Ben & Jerry’s. In a small size you can have two different flavours. I had one scoop of Phish Food and one scoop of the lemon sorbet. Never in my life have I ever had something so satisfying and delicious, it hit so many cravings all at once. It was incredible and it is now my new go-to combo whenever I go to a Ben & Jerry’s scoop shop. We settled in at our gate and soon we boarded. It would be good to get back to my book, as I had abandoned it 3 days ago in favour of bad TV. I had plenty of time to catch up on my reading, as we were stuck in tarmac traffic for a good 30 minutes before we even took off.

 
 

Minneapolis and Northern Wisconsin- Day 5

Tues. Aug. 23, 2016:
Minneapolis, MN

I woke up before 9am and I was feeling great. I had slept without a bandage on my ring finger that I had cut a week ago. It was so nice to finally be free of Band-Aids, it was starting to really annoy me: a week straight of 24/7 Band-Aid was driving me nuts. I made myself a cup of in-room coffee and it was truly awful. I distracted myself from it by watching Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and eating smores Pop Tarts. The TV guide had lied, it said that Sabrina The Teenage Witch was on and it had gotten my hopes up. We had time to kill as the Minneapolis Art Institute was only a 5 minute drive away and did not open until 10am. We created lists of the beers and ciders we wanted to try at lunch, as there was an option to do a flight of 4 beers, 4 oz each- we had to plan ahead.

We were pleasantly surprised to find out that the Minneapolis Art Institute does not have an admission charge. They had a great collection but it was a little bit disorganized. We went to the rooms in order. At first each section was broken down geographically and was focused. Halfway through we found ourselves in a room that represented Egypt, Democratic Republic of Congo and a few other African countries and it was from all different time periods. The previous section, Asia, had been broken down by country and time period. This room felt like they had just thrown a bunch of items together.

Once we made it to the European paintings we were stuck near an annoying group of middle-aged ladies who kept talking to the tour guide long after the tour was over. They were talking about selling selfies on eBay and we had to speed-walk to get away from them. They were unbearable. We finished the museum in four hours and drove over to the Walker Art Centre. In trying to figure out if I would be able to see the cherry –spoon statue or not, I found out that to compensate for the sculpture garden being closed, the centre had a wacky rooftop mini golf course. I could not resist.

In paying for the mini-golf we were given free admission to the Walker Art Centre. We had a half hour before our scheduled tee time so we wandered through the various exhibits. It did not take long to get through most of it. There were only a few artworks per room, and the video pieces each got their own room. It would appear that contemporary art takes up way more gallery space than any others. I was not expecting to see so much wacky and head-scratching art. Only a few actually made me smile and were enjoyable. Overall it only further solidified my general disdain with contemporary art.

The highlight of the Walker Art Centre was by far the artsy mini-golf course. One of the courses was called Guess What? Chicken Putt, another one required you to use your golf club as a pool cue. The best one had footprints all over it and invited your competitors to stand in the way of your shot. It was really fun to play. Afterwards we tried to look down into the sculpture garden construction to see if there was a better view of the cherry, alas there was not.  I was very hungry afterwards, alas on our way from one place to the next I had eaten the last Oreo and in the Walker Art Centre parking lot we had finished off the Tostitos. I would have to wait until our late lunch.

Having spent 4+ hours walking we needed a rest break before heading out to lunch and from there to the baseball game, and of course if you’re sitting around the hotel room watching crappy TV, one needs a cider for that. The Shacksbury Farmhouse Craft Cider from Vermont was delicious, far and away better than the Seattle one I had grown to dislike.

I was a bit worried about getting lunch at Republican Bar as we did not have reservations. I was also worried because I thought it was closer to the stadium (turns out it was a 40 minute walk away). Luckily we managed to easily get a table, and during happy hour no less. Even though we had researched what we wanted in our flights, we still debated a little bit as there were a few beers and ciders on the specials board that we had not anticipated. Eventually we were ready to order, each reading off our little piece of paper. We wanted to get food at the game so we split an order of buffalo wings. It was fun to sip the ciders and beers and rank them, eventually I settled on from best to worst: Founder’s Rubaeus Raspberry ale tied with Nektar Zombie Killer mead-cider, Uncle John’s blueberry cider and dead last was Milk & Honey Heirloom cider. At the end of our flights we looked at each other, we were both still a little bit hungry and guacamole and chips were on happy hour special. But if we were getting food, we should probably get another flight each. This time more deliberation took place as we had not anticipated a second flight. Yes we had a few back-ups listed, but very few. We spent quite a while studying the beer menu and specials board, our server had to come back twice before we were ready. Keeping in mind the first flight, we sampled the rest and then it was time to submit a final ranking. From best to worst, it was: Ommegang Cherry Sour (which was easily the best beer I have ever had), Founder’s Rubaeus Raspberry again tied with Nektar Zombie Killer, Uncle John’s, Sweet Orchard’s Cuban Garden Party, Virtue barrel-aged cask which was the cider of the day, Fair State roselle hibiscus and the heirloom cider. How did I keep track of it all? Our server brought us a print out of what was on the flight. Eight 4oz glasses of beer and cider when you have barely eaten anything all day is not the best idea in retrospect- especially if you drank a bottle of cider before leaving the hotel. Needless to say, it was a hilarious drunken walk to the baseball stadium, we were equally drunk. We stopped at a park because there were port-a-potty’s, we were heading back towards our hotel for a pit stop and this saved us some extra walking.

When we got to the stadium we still had 20 minutes before the game but we were too full for food. Plus the food stand Brent had wanted to get dinner at was not open yet. I was surprised to see that the stadium was not even half full. Once again I had been tempted by overpriced ballpark shirts. Around the 2nd inning it started to rain, which sucked given that the stadium did not have a roof. We waited it out until the 3rd inning and went in search of food. There were no water fountains, but they had big orange Gatorade coolers and triangle cups. I stopped at each one as we circled the concourse, they were my saving grace. I was starting to crash and I was not in the mood for food. The Butcher & Boar was still not open, so we went to Kramarczuk and Brent got a Polish sausage piled high with onions and sauerkraut, making it rather unappetizing to me at the time. We also got an order of deep-fried cheese curds. I ate one and it was delicious, but I was paranoid about getting sick.

By the time we were back in our seats, the rain had finally let up. This lasted until halfway through the 6th inning. At this point we had seen a Twin steal a base and another Twin hit a home run resulting in one firework and a lit up sign that had two baseball players (St. Paul and Minneapolis) shake hands. The stadium was really starting to clear out. The rain did not let up and it rained the whole walk back to the hotel. I was so tired by the end of all this, I needed sleep and more Pepto-Bismol, luckily I found some in the bottom of my purse.

 
 

Minneapolis and Northern Wisconsin- Day 4

Mon. Aug. 22, 2016:
Bayfield, WI to Minneapolis, MN

I was awoken early by the loud construction noise outside, well the workers listening to the radio. Oh and by Brent jumping on the bed and air guitaring to the music, which at first had meshed with my dream and seemed totally normal, much to Brent’s bewilderment. I managed to catch some more Pokemon before breakfast. The breakfast was amazing. We started off with a chocolate chip muffin, resulting in me getting chocolate on my face. Brent noticed and told me, I went to wipe it off only to wipe the wrong side and instead I smeared more chocolate on my face. The standout was the warm blueberry cobbler. The pancake of the day had previously been chocolate chip and I was pleasantly surprised to find out that it was now caramel pecan. This time around I had bacon on the side. It was a delicious combination alas it was a little bit too much food and I wound up unable to finish it all.

We drove back to Minneapolis for the final leg of our trip. Again I was getting so sleepy in the car. I opened up a can of Sprite in the hopes of keeping myself awake. I managed to stay awake long enough to cheer Minnesota and see that the first town we entered was Duluth, which I only knew about from Fargo. I had fallen asleep twice at this point. I gave up and turned on one of Brent’s podcasts and nodded off for a short nap. Eventually I awoke because I had to pee, and so we stopped at a McDonald’s. Partly also because I figured this would be a great time to grab a coffee, as I was clearly in need of one. Or two, maybe.

I was starting to get hungry and it was well timed. We were stopping for lunch at the Surly Brewing Company just outside of Minneapolis. They did not have a bottle shop only a souvenir shop. I ordered the Pentagram beer both because it was a sour and it came in a tiny little 4oz size. It was delicious and we ended up ordering the porchetta sausage dish because it came with the option to get a 4oz Pentagram beer, it was perfect! We also split the Hog Frites. I was expecting fries piled high with pork and cheese, not a pile of veggies and something spicy. It was like someone had dumped a salad on a perfectly good plate of fries. The food was only ok, but the beer was the true winner of the meal. It was nice to see the vats of beer being brewed next door through the big glass windows in the dining hall.

We drove to Gold Medal Park and left the car. The plan was to walk through the park and find a path down to the Mississippi River to see the old stone arch bridge. I did not expect to see so many cool abandoned and repurposed old factories along the river’s edge (in retrospect it is quite obvious why). From the bridge we could see St. Anthony’s Falls and the churning water below. It was very hot outside and the sun was super bright. Not helping matters was the fact that yet again, I had to pee. We stopped in at the Visitor’s Centre at the dam by the bridge. We pretended to go looking for information and acted as if we did not have enough time for a tour. All this just so I could use their bathroom.

Even though the Walker Art Centre sculpture garden was closed for renovation we still drove over to see if there was anything to be seen. I had not planned this trip out very well. The main reason for choosing Minneapolis was to see the (famous to me) cherry on a spoon sculpture in the middle of a pond. Unbeknownst to me, this statue was in the aforementioned sculpture garden, not a public park as I had envisioned. The drive was tense, all the moreso because of all the construction. The GPS managed to navigate us instead to the basilica I had also wanted to see. We parked in a nearby garage and headed out on foot. Driving around the Walker Art Centre was impossible. They basilica was gorgeous from the exterior but there was no indication that you could wander in and gawk at it from inside. Plus I was so distracted, would I see the cherry or wouldn’t I???

I thought I recognized a park across the street from the art centre, it had a pond and seemed like the spot where the cherry should be. My heart sank a little, it wasn’t there. But almost immediately Brent exclaimed because he saw the stem!! It was across the street in the middle of the sculpture garden construction behind fencing!!! There was a bridge that normally allowed access to the garden and it was not closed off! Just the access to the garden was. From the bridge I was able to see the cherry on a spoon sculpture in all its tacky glory. The only thing missing was the water spraying from the stem. You see, when it was installed properly in the pond it was a fountain, making it that much cooler. I was so happy to finally see the sculpture. And now I had no reason to ever return to Minneapolis ever again. I was very glad to have seen it. As we passed the park initially I kept seeing flashes of red raising my hopes, which were then quickly dashed when I saw it was just a bench.

Our hotel was near downtown, if you can call it a downtown, which it barely was. As soon as we got to the room I filled up the ice bucket. It felt so good to down a glass of ice cold Sprite while my cider chilled in the ice bucket in the fridge. I did not want to risk a mini-nap, so rather than writing in bed, I chose to sit in the chair instead. With a foot stool and a side table it was perfect for writing and drinking ice cold cider. Once I had cooled down and rehydrated we headed back out. Brent had found a nearby liquor store and we headed out to stock up one last time. I had one and a half ciders left and ended up grabbing a Vermont farmhouse cider. This was mostly because I had grown to dislike the Seattle cider. It was better on ice, but still not that great.

We had an hour and a half before we had to leave for dinner at Smack Shack. I was all caught up in my notebook but too brain-dead to read. Instead I opted for watching Teen Mom OG on MTV, just like the old days, except with cider instead of Ben & Jerry’s. I was fully in vacation mode.

We had been told that there was a nice outdoor shopping arcade downtown so we left early to walk by and see it. We had been grossly lied to. It was just a regular street with a Macy’s, a Marshalls and a Saks Off Fifth. I was expecting something along the lines of Newbury St. in Boston or the Magnificent Mile in Chicago. It was made all the worse by all the construction. We now had extra time. We happened to walk by the Minneapolis Central Library, which I immediately recognized from a best-of-in-each-state library list. It was a very nice modern looking and inviting building. We tried to see the Audobon bird exhibit but we were way too late and the exhibit room was closed. We took the scary glass elevator back to the main floor.

Dinner at Smack Shack was way better than I had expected. I was anticipating greasy, gimmicky food. Lobster meat stuffed into a burger, named a Juicy Lucy? It sounded like a gargantuan mess of enormous size. I feared that when I would steal a bite from Brent I would not be able to even get all the components in one bite. I was pleasantly surprised to find it was just a little bit of lobster meat stuffed into a regular sized burger of great quality.  The crab cakes I ordered were amazing and it was just the right amount of food given I was not feeling too well. Even the kettle chips on the side of the burger were delicious. Brent wanted a second beer therefore it only made sense to order dessert. I had only ordered an appetizer for dinner anyways. Apparently the key lime pie went really well with Brent’s grapefruit beer.

On the way home I had wanted to stop at Walgreen’s to buy some more Pepto-Bismol but it was closed, and it was not even 9pm yet! I knew this because I had wanted to get back to the hotel around 9pm because that was when the new episodes of Teen Mom OG were airing, 2 hours of uninterrupted trashy TV. Alas, because of the time zone switch we missed the new episode and they were airing one I had watched earlier in the day during the marathon, so we watched Bob’s Burgers instead.

 

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Minneapolis and Northern Wisconsin- Day 3

Sun. Aug. 21, 2016:
Bayfield, WI

I woke up just before the alarm clock, it was still so early, but we had an 8:30am ferry to catch to Stockton Island. Breakfast at the hotel was amazing. We started with warm croissants and a blueberry, granola yogurt parfait. For my main I had the French toast with Wisconsin maple syrup (apparently that is a thing?) and fresh strawberries. It was a good breakfast to start out a day of hiking. Especially given we did not know how long we would be there for, they do not list when the ferry returns. We packed Gatorade, soda and Pop-Tarts for our day trip.

I was honestly expecting a 20 minute boat ride, not an hour long one. Stockton Island had seemed so close. It was worth it, we got to see another bald eagle sitting in a tree. We found out that the return ferry would be boarding at 12:15pm. That would give us about 3 hours on the island. At first this did not seem like a lot of time, we had so many trails we wanted to hike! Once we got there we found out that two of the trails we had wanted to see were closed due to damage from a storm in July. It was all well and good, we would not have had time to do them anyways because they were longer than we had expected. Instead we went on the two shorter trails, taking us along the edge of the island and to the beach. On the island we were met by an adorkable park ranger, he offered to take us on a nature walk but we had to pass. It would have been too awkward to handle. We got to see the rocky shore being splashed by huge waves. We found some wild blueberries that according to Brent were bitter and full of seeds, warranting spitting them out. We walked to the beach where the problem bear had wandered. On the cruise the previous day the captain said that the bear had been shipped to a zoo. He had lied, the bear had been shot and his taxidermied self was now on display in the information centre on the island. As we walked we could see the damage from the storm, there were a lot of uprooted trees. In total we saw two garter snakes, some moths and some birds. We did not see any bears, the closest we came to seeing one was bear poop. We walked by the camp sites and stopped at look-out points.

There was a kid in a group near us on the trail and we kept running into him and his group throughout our trip. Emerson as I will call him, was hilarious. He even had a catch phrase: oh my word! Once we got off the boat his parents were telling him about the plans for the rest of the day, they were going to drive somewhere. Emerson was not having it, what about my nap?, he asked, sounding irate. He was not pleased with the response that he could sleep in the car. This kid was my soulmate.

Three hours was a long time to spend walking around. I was so tired by the time we got back on the boat. We sat downstairs to avoid the high noon sun. Pretty soon I was stretched out on the bench and fast asleep. I awoke to find the captain steering the boat with one foot.

For lunch we drove to Culver’s, a Midwestern fast food place. It was tough to find and I had to use the GPS and Brent’s phone but eventually we got there. The “butter burger” was a greasy buttery burger patty, but I was surprised at how thin it was, I kind of had expected more. It was delicious though. We were in Wisconsin, I had to get the fried cheese curds. On the way out I got a frozen custard concrete, made with Wisconsin dairy of course. I had ordered a small, but of course that size did not exist. What I meant was a mini, instead I got the largest size, a regular. I had gotten the chocolate flavour with peanuts, marshmallow cream and Heath bar. It was heavenly, but no match for the heat. My dessert was melting and fast. By the time we got to the hotel my stomach had started hurting. I had risked it getting the cheese curds but it was still worth it. I distracted myself with Pokemon GO. Our hotel was a Pokestop so I set a lure and spent my time catching Pokemon.

By the whirlpool tub there was a package of complimentary bath salts, I had to have a bath! Plus on the walk back from the harbour we had stopped in at the grocery store and grabbed Wisconsin’s second and third highest rated beers, which both happened to be fruit beers. The New Glarus Raspberry tart (#3 on the list) was incredible and easily one of the best fruit beers I have ever had. I poured a full glass and filled the tub- the tub that was not in the bathroom, but in the bedroom tucked into a corner. I thought nothing of it. That is until I was going to climb in with my book and my glass of beer. It felt weird and I bailed. I couldn’t get the jets to work anyways so either way I would have bailed, just not as soon. I was so tired, I tried to read my book on the couch but instead I ended up falling asleep, nap number two of the day.

We had dinner at the hotel, we split the smoked trout and cheese plate. The best part was the smoked trout. All the cheese plate did was further solidify my growing dislike of cheese plates. There is too much variance and chance of getting bad cheese. I was tricked into eating the goat cheese. I was still too full from lunch to order a main, so instead I ordered the seafood chowder. It was amazing, it had fish from Lake Superior. I briefly considered ordering another bowl but I was so full once I finished it I couldn’t even think about dessert. Brent had ordered the trout sandwich. It came with a side of fries and they were honestly the worst fries I have ever eaten in my life. I did not know that fries could be made that bad! “It was like eating potato slices,” to quote Brent.

With the bill came a postcard that we got to fill out that would be mailed on our behalf. They had done the same thing at breakfast but I had taken it instead as a souvenir. This time I wrote it out to my dad- even though it would arrive after my return.

Back in the room my stomach was hurting again and I started Googling if cheese intolerance is a thing. Then again, I had eaten an incredible amount of cheese over the course of the day, many times more than what I would normally eat. I strongly considered taking a third nap. Instead I thought fresh air might make me feel better- with a side of Pepto-Bismol.

We went for a walk down to the harbour to see the lake. The sun had set and most of the town had cleared out. We saw a bat swooping around catching bugs, it was so cute. We walked along the lake in a small park and out to a fishing dock where we saw the last remnants of the sunset. We tried to walk back through the marina but it dead-ended and we had to turn around. It resulted in me getting to see some adorable dogs, so no complaints here. On the way back we did not see our bat friend, I joked that he was somewhere lying in a food coma.

I felt much better after the walk and the fresh air. We cracked open the second highest rated beer in Wisconsin, also from New Glarus. The Serendipity was labelled as a sour beer with some fruit to it. I was expecting sour ala Cantillon. This was barely sour, it had a strong bold fruit flavour and was thick. It was almost syrup-y actually. It was nowhere near as good as the raspberry one and quite frankly had been mislabelled, it should not have the word sour anywhere on the label. And while I am at it complaining: why did they coat the top of the bottle and the bottle cap in wax? It was annoying to open and then to clean the cap so I could save it. It was nice to sip beer and read my book in bed.

 
 

Middle-of-The-Week-Weekender: Boston Edition Day 2

Wed. July 27, 2016:
Boston, MA flying to Toronto

I had set my alarm for 8:45am, except I snoozed it until 8:50am at which point I changed it to 9:00am. The Boston MFA did not open until 10:00am and the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum did not open until 11:00am, both of which were a half hour walk from the hotel. I was so paranoid about forgetting which room we were in, I had to know it when I said I was checking out. I’m usually the one packing the car while Brent checks out.

My day did not start in earnest until I was reunited with the love of my life: Dunkin’ Donuts coffee. The guy looked at me questioningly when I ordered. I am not sure if it was because I ordered a hot coffee (it was literally 30C outside, without the humidex) or because I wanted blueberry flavour shot in it. I was tempted by the donuts but the damn caloric information on the label is so discouraging. It was nice to be a part of the morning rush and I could totally imagine this being a daily occurrence for me if I lived somewhere with a Dunkin’ Donuts. While I was there I grabbed some ground coffee, even though there were no wacky flavours and I had to settle for hazelnut (it beats not having any coffee). I did not want to risk not being able to find any the rest of the day. I did stop in at CVS and I was right: there was no Dunkin’ Donuts coffee to be found. Not even any wacky Oreos or Skittles.

It was a short walk over to the museum but it was already getting unbearably hot outside and it was just after 10:00am. Before going in I double checked my notebook to verify what I had seen last time. Turns out we had seen more than I remembered; I recognized a few rooms from before. Three of the four special exhibit rooms were closed. I took the extra time to revisit the Impressionists, so beautiful and I could just stare at them all day long.  They evoke a certain calm and peacefulness. It was nice to see a piece by Sam Taylor-Wood that I had studied a long time ago as an art student. On my way out I noticed a sign for a special exhibit on the third floor. I was ready to skip it, we had done the whole third floor. I back-tracked and was really glad I had. The exhibit was about modern art and exceeded my expectations. One room pitted Picasso against Pollock, who overlapped as contemporaries for a short time. They even had two TV screens showing both artists at work, each painting on a pane of glass as if on the camera lens. Never in a million years would I have thought to look at both artists side by side, and yet here it was an entire room dedicated to it. Mind blown.

Through the revolving door into the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum I found myself in a lobby full of people with little semblance of a line. I went in a bit further, to keep from blocking the door and I inadvertently cut the line. No one said anything, no one pointed me to the end of the line. It was only when more people came and in were confused that the situation came to light. It was too late for me now. I had committed to it. Needless to say I felt awkward the whole time I stood in line. The feeling soon passed as I was engrossed with the museum. It was incredible!!!

The museum had been established in the early 20th century and featured grand architecture, a gorgeous courtyard and so many lush and wonderful plants. Alas, the second floor was closed for renovation and only a few items had been displayed in the new space above the visitor entrance. The top highlights were definitely the books. One still had a chain attached and two had heavy wooden covers with latches and pedestals for resting the book open (they elevated the cover so that it would be easy to close and it prevented fingers from getting smashed if the cover fell open). I must admit, I really wanted to touch the books and flip the parchment pages.

I finished both museums in far less time than I had budgeted for the day. What was I to do now? At the Boston MFA there was wi-fi and I had looked up how far the Primark was from our hotel (where we were meeting after Brent’s meeting finished). It was an hour long walk from the museums though. On the way I stopped at Au Bon Pain for a late breakfast and some more coffee. Sitting on the patio in the shade, I had a chance to catch up writing in my notebook. The breakfast bagel I had ordered was a total fail. It had egg instead of egg whites, and little to no discernible cheese. The outside of the bagel was somehow greasy. It was a disaster.

The heat was becoming unbearable, people were playing in the fountains outside the Christian science place we had walked by last time. As I approached the Prudential Centre mall I saw Marble Slab and it was like an oasis off in the distance- except it sparked a memory instead of providing a cool treat. There was a Ben & Jerry’s around the other corner from our hotel (see? Our hotel was awesome). I went into the mall both to cool down and to do some shopping. I was tempted by the banana-themed wares at Kate Spade but I could not justify replacing my hedgehog wallet (I get too many compliments on it) and $68USD for a t-shirt seemed ludicrous. The Aritizia sale proved to be just as disappointing. I came away empty handed. At least I had used the wi-fi and found an H&M just down the street from the Primark. There was still hope for the shirt I had been hunting back when we were in England.

It may have taken me on a one-block detour but it was so worth it to have ice cream from Ben & Jerry’s. There is nothing better on a +30C degree day than a scoop of Phish Food ice cream- even if it had started melting before I even left the shop. I was tempted to change it up and get a different flavour, I sampled the Bourbon Brown Butter but it just was not as good. Phish Food is a staple.

As I walked I saw an H&M, stupid Google Maps had totally missed this one. Alas, there was no sign of my shirt. I did find the black maxi skirt with flowers that I wanted but it wasn’t in my size. I left mildly heartbroken and drowned my sorrows next door in PINK. Finally my shopping trip was starting to turn around. I found a nice coral bandeau, the last one and in my size too!

I was following screen shots of maps and written directions in trying to get from our hotel to Primark. I knew it was just south of Boston Commons. I got confused when I saw a cemetery where I expected to see the park. I could see the park on the next street over, but my directions appeared to be sending me in that direction so I continued. Somehow I wound up in Chinatown. Thankfully I remembered seeing it on the map as being directly south of where I was trying to go. As I headed up a street I saw a familiar landmark, the theatre I had been staring at last time while waiting for Brent on the corner. I managed to get to my destination in the end! Success!

I stopped in at Macy’s and found a few dresses. I also learned that American Rag clothes are not designed for normal body types. Nothing fit me, it was just awful. By the jewellery counter I was tempted by Kate Spade jewellery but once again I could not justify it. I was tempted to get Levi’s jeans because they were on sale. But the idea of trying to squeeze into jeans put me off.

I was filled with hope as I approached Primark. But just like in England, everything was either polyester or it fit horribly. I did end up finding one shirt and a cute bucket purse. What I have learned is that Primark is really only good for cheap purses. Even the cashier commented on how cute the purse is. She said she could not use a purse that small and that she carries too much stuff. I laughed and pointed at my travel bag and my pink Kate Spade purse. I looked like a camel loaded down with my baggage. Once again H&M did not have either the shirt or the dress. This time I have truly given up.

Walking back was exhausting. I was going at a snail’s pace. My bags were getting heavy and I was walking facing the sun and it was unbearably hot. I was so dehydrated and my legs were dead. I wanted to walk through the park but there was a lady sitting on a bench yelling at people so I stuck to the street. She was calling everyone zombies. A block away from the hotel I stopped at a bar to see the menu, but there were no interesting ciders on tap. I went into 7Eleven to check out the candy selection. And then when I got to the hotel I regretted not having gotten a Slurpee. I lasted maybe 5 minutes waitng outside the hotel. I looked at my clock and realized we were meeting between 5:00pm and 5:15pm. I went to Dunkin’ Donuts to get their version of a Slurpee. Their version of TimBits looked so sad and pathetic. Standing by the hotel, sipping my bright blue drink I was exhausted. I had walked 19.36km. Halfway through the drink I regretted having gotten it. It was so sweet and so big, I no longer cared that they did not have the sour apple flavour and that I had to settle for blue raspberry. I half-regretted not having gotten the Heath bar iced coffee. What would that even entail?

It suddenly occurred to me that I was standing outside the hotel, still within range of the wi-fi. Boredom solved. As soon as I got Pokemon Go to work Brent showed up. Our hotel was a pokestop but it had been geo-tagged on the other corner, diagonally away from where I was standing, as in too far away to register. We walked back to where Brent had his meeting because there were cabs queued up there. When we got there we could not find a cab, so we walked to a nearby hotel and finally I got to sit down in the cab. My legs were throbbing at this point.  For a while we were stuck in traffic but I was too tired to care.

We got to the airport and there was no line-up at the ticket agent and only a short line at security. We did not have a lot of time before boarding, only about 30 minutes. We went to the only food option, a sit-down restaurant for dinner. We got a large table, assuming that Brent’s business people would see us and join us. They did not see us and sat elsewhere. I had the Boston Tea Party Cocktail with iced tea. It was so refreshing after a long day in the heat. I also finally got my clam chowder fix. The service was slow. When Brent asked for the cheque I went ahead to the bathroom and we would meet by the gate. I got to the gate and they started general boarding. Pretty soon the lounge was empty. I started to wonder if Brent had boarded without me? Then the rest of his co-workers showed up- and also waited. I was about ready to get on the plane and he got there just in time, as they were about to do a final boarding call. On the flight they said it was raining in Toronto. How was I supposed to hunt Pokemon?! When we landed there was a giant puddle, almost a small lake, on the tarmac. Apparently it had rained really hard before we landed. We had to wait almost 30 minutes on the plane as a previous flight had been delayed and only arrived when we did.

 

Cats, Cathedrals and Ciders: The South of England: Day 18

Sun. May 29, 2016:
London to Toronto

I woke up and my joints were sore, I was starting to get old. On the plus side I did not have a hangover. I had to pack, and everything was a mess. The plan was to leave our bags with the hotel concierge and get in a half day of activities as our flight was not until the late afternoon.

We transited to the Tower of London. We got off at Bank Station, where you really do have to “mind the gap” as there was about two feet between the subway door and the platform. It is amazing that they have not fixed that, how has no one fallen in?! We got to the Tower of London via the empty financial district. As it turned out everyone was visiting that museum. There was a huge line-up to buy tickets and then above the ticket booth on the marquee sign it said that it was an approximately 40 minute wait to see the Crown Jewels, the main attraction. Forget that! Having to wait in line and then wait to see stuff, all for £25?! Not worth it.

Instead we walked down to the Tate Modern, on the way we passed the ugly bridge again and this time I saw that it was labelled underneath: London Bridge. The Tate Modern was still super busy but much more manageable. We could actually get inside and move freely. My purse was uncomfortably heavy as I had brought my iPad with me, not wanting to leave it with the concierge. I did not want to risk checking it at the museum, and I did not have £2 anyway. For the map I only had 10p, so that was what I threw in. Turns out it was not even worth that. The map was all wrong because the museum was undergoing major renovations. This also helped us with the time crunch. There were only two floors of exhibitions open to the public. We finished it in under two hours. In amongst the head-scratchers and weird stuff were some gems: Picasso, Braque, Dali, and Magritte. Rothko just made me mad.

It would have taken us too long to walk to Westminster Abbey so instead we just headed back to the hotel. On the subway there were drunken soccer hooligans, it was not even 2pm yet. We grabbed our bags and started walking towards Paddington Station, we needed to be on the Piccadilly Line to get to the airport. We stopped at The Victoria Pub for lunch. I had one last Sunday roast dinner. This time it was pork loin with some crackling, it was incredible. I developed a love affair with the dough crunch side, the so-called Yorkshire pudding. It was a brilliant idea for a dinner: meat and a pastry puff and potatoes. No room for veggies though, that makes it too much food. The only cider they had on draught was the Stowford Press which I had already had before. I had a bottle of Cornish Orchards pear cider instead. The subway to the airport slowly rocked me to sleep, all around me people were people with luggage falling asleep.

It was a struggle, but I had to stay awake as we would be landing in Toronto at 9pm. we breezed through security. The London-themed bottle opener key chain that we bought on our first night in London did not cause any trouble thankfully. The info board said that the gate info would not be posted until 5pm, for the time being we had no idea which end of the airport to hang out. I wandered around and did a lap of the top floor. I was tempted to buy a rooster mug but it was £10 which seemed really expensive for a mug. I bought some Haribo starmix gummies and one last Double-decker and Irn Bru. We found out our gate number 20 minutes before boarding but the sign said it takes 15 minutes to get there from our spot. Why would they do that? We barely had to wait to board the plane. It was a long wait once we got on the plane though. Making matters worse, the entertainment system was not working and had to be rebooted. Things turned around once we were up in the air and the TVs were working. I watched Hateful Eight, Sisters and Zoolander 2 and then a few episodes of New Girl. The icing on the cake was that the bar service was free, we weren’t even flying Porter, this was Air Canada! I briefly considered having a third serving of wine but thought better of it. The vacation was amazing, but I arrived home exhausted and with dead legs and a newfound appreciation of cider and love affair with Yorkshire puddings and Sunday roasts.

 

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Cats, Cathedrals and Ciders: The South of England: Day 17

Sat. May 28, 2016:
London

Brent had to wake me up, it was time to get ready to head back out. We transited to Oxford Circus. Our first stop was Crosstown Donuts. I had seen it on Buzzfeed and now I needed to eat one of their fancy donuts. The crème brulee was pretty good and the Lambington chocolate donut with coconut glaze and jam was only ok. Neither donut was outstanding though. That was ok, we were headed to breakfast at Sketch anyways. This one I had seen on Instagram, I knew that the interior was wacky and fantastical and that the bathrooms were a must-see apparently. We walked in and found ourselves in a forest full of flowers, it had been decorated for the Chelsea Flower show I guessed. The menus on the table were partly underneath books. It was nice to drink a cappuccino out of a fancy porcelain cup while gawking at all the wacky décor around us. I had ordered the scrambled eggs with chorizo and peppers. The chorizo and peppers were amazing, the eggs were good but after a while it was too much. I can only eat so many eggs! We did not trade halfway, as the pancakes Brent had ordered were topped with grapefruit jelly. I did try a bite, but I just hate grapefruit so much. When I asked where the bathroom was, I was first directed to the basement, then she corrected herself and told me to go up one floor. I climbed the red velvet stairs, lit in black light. I was looking for a red door. The bathroom did not disappoint. The toilet paper hung on a crystal trapeze, Alice in Wonderland style music was playing, and everything was glittery and reflecting in the dimly lit room. Every surface was mirrored or sparkly.

Now that we had eaten donuts and a full breakfast we were ready for the big one: the British Museum. It killed my legs, but we saw all the free exhibits. All of them. We started out in the room that showed what the museum would have looked like when it was first founded, with everything in cabinets. It reminded me of a library. Apparently I had walked right by the Elgin Marbles, looked at them, and not even recognized them. Why was there no sign explaining the significance? Is the British Museum still so embarrassed? The mummies were pretty cool but way too popular, it was hard to get a good look. The one unwrapped mummy chilled me to my core. I had always wondered what it looked like under there, thinking it’d be cool to see one. Turns out I was very wrong. By far the coolest was the Syrian relief sculptures. The amount of detail and craftsmanship was incredible. There were more than a few irritating moments, watching people touch stuff as if they had no idea how to behave in a museum. It was great to see one kid get yelled at by his mom. The collection was great, but it was also plunder. The only part that aggravated me was the porcelain, I am so sick of looking at porcelain. Towards the end I needed a break. We sat down at the upstairs café for 5 minutes and I recharged with a lemonade. We got it all done in about four and a half hours.

Now it was on to the National Gallery. First we stopped at a convenience store. I was getting hangry and in need of snacks fast. It was a 30 minute walk to the gallery, therefore I needed Jelly Babies, a cherry Coke and a strawberry Cornetto (this time it was fresh). We sat outside the gallery on the steps, looking onto the crowded plaza and drinking the Coke and eating Jelly Babies. Our peace was short-lived, an annoying busker behind us ruined it all by trying to draw a crowd. The National Gallery was amazing. They had an incredible collection ranging from Reubens and Michelangelo to Monet, Seurat and Toulouse-Lautrec. We saw the famous painting The Ambassadors. I had expected the perspective-shifted skull effect to be much more pronounced but it was still cool to see the actual painting. We only missed seeing the early Renaissance room because we ran out of time. My love of Impressionism was only further solidified.

I could not find the email that confirmed our reservation at The Lamb Pub but we decided to walk there anyways. If it was too busy we could go elsewhere. On the way we stopped in at Craft Beer Co., a pub Brent had looked up. It was super busy and we were about to leave but we found two stools by the wall. Thankfully I stayed back and held the chairs while Brent went and ordered. I just knew I would screw up ordering a half pint of the Pheasant Plucker and would mix up the name. It was delicious. As we drank we looked at the menu and saw that they also sold bottles to go. And they had our beloved Cantillon! We would be fools not to get a bottle of Cantillon Rose de Gambrinus! Only when Brent ordered it, she did not hear him say to go and she opened it. It was a big bottle, of course I had to help by drinking half of it.

The Lamb Pub was not busy at all so it did not matter if I had a reservation or not. We ordered the “banger’s plate” to split, we had three sausages each and fries. It was the perfect dinner. The half pint of Henry Weston’s Still Country pear cider tasted like juice and I downed it in no time. Brent was still working on his pint, so I ordered a half pint of Flat Tyre, which was a cloudy rhubarb cider, further confirming how wrong I had been about rhubarb. We had just eaten a greasy meal, we were already at pub number 2 and there were plenty more pubs from my list nearby- so began the “last night in England pub crawl.”

We got to the Cittie of York pub and found out that it was owned by the Samuel Smith brewing company and that it was on the list of heritage pubs. It had a nice interior and we sat in a secluded booth. Everything on tap was brewed by the company, lucky for me this was not limited to beer. They had Cider Reserve on tap, a nice refreshing cider. I had to try a sip of the beer Brent had ordered. The S.S. Bitter was brewed using oak casks and water from a well that had been tapped in 1758. It tasted a little nutty.

Walking to The Ship Tavern we passed Bar Polski. I made a note of it, as we would be passing it on the way to the subway if we were still up for it. Alas, The Ship Tavern did not appear to have any ciders on tap. Instead I tried a third flavour of Old Mout, apple and passionfruit. There was an adorable mutt of a dog in the bar, he was so well behaved. It was here that Brent had switched to half pints, which worked out great because we were able to make it to Bar Polski as the final stop of the night. Brent had a half pint of Żywiec meanwhile I had switched to doing shots of cherry liqueur (Soplica Wisniowka). The bar tender was Polish and very nice. As I was trying to decide on my second shot, he gave me a list of everything he had available. The list was huge, I had never seen that many different Polish liquors and liqueurs. I settled on the UV Siedlice Raspberry vodka just because it was bright blue. Migawd it was smooth and went down easily. We were in a Polish bar, with so many Polish alcohols available, on our last night of vacation… why not have one last shot I thought? I had the Valentine honey and berry liqueur on its own not over ice this time, partly because this one was only 29% whereas the others were 40%.

We had a great night of barhopping but we had killed Brent’s phone battery. Thankfully I knew the way back to the subway and to the nearby McDonald’s (it was the same one from two nights ago) and so I led the way. There were some drunk people across the street clapping, so Brent clapped back and they all cheered. We were complaining about how expensive England was and a guy ahead of us chimed in and said we were right. He then told us that Coquitlam in British Columbia is gorgeous and we should go see the forests there. We walked in and it was the same manager, except as soon as he saw us he went on break. Odd, I thought. The Crunchie McFlurry was just what I needed, it had little bite-sized pieces of chocolate covered toffee. Inside the station we stopped to grab a bag of sour Haribo gummies. At the hotel I realized I had been given a chicken bacon wrap, not the chicken snack wrap. Brent went downstairs to the bar to get a corkscrew, the Cantillon he had bought a few days ago had a pop off bottle cap and a cork underneath. On the way back he reported that it sounded like our hotel neighbours were watching a dirty movie. I stuck my head out into the hallway, indeed it did seem so.

It was tough to catch up writing in my notebook after being out at museums all day and then doing an evening of barhopping. We had been way too tired to visit the Tate Modern after dinner at The Lamb Pub. My only regret was not ordering the custard dessert at the Lamb. I had assumed another bar on our hop would also be serving a custard dessert.

 

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