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Category Archives: The Roving Reporter

Carnaval 2017- Day 4

Mon. Feb. 6, 2016:
Quebec City to Toronto

I woke up at around 8am and assumed that because Brent was not in bed, he must therefore be at the gym. I rolled over and got scared when I saw him sitting at the desk. I told him to wake me up when it was time to go. I also told him that the best way to do that is to bring me a latte from the Starbucks downstairs. All my attempts (you know what would be: romantic, manly, efficient) failed.

We were going to walk to a bakery for breakfast but when Brent was looking up the walking directions he noticed that Google Maps said it was closed. Maybe it doesn’t open until 10am I thought? As it turns out the bakery is not open on Mondays. We found another bakery and lucky for us, in the -14C weather, it was twice as close! We only had to spend 15 minutes outside in the cold.

Apparently we had walked right by Panetier Baluchon on Saturday on our way to Pain Gruel. The bakery had a small café area. I stole a bite of Brent’s club sandwich, it was so good! And I don’t even like club sandwiches! I had a warmed up chocolate croissant and coffee. Easily one of the best breakfasts I’ve ever had. Once again, I could not help myself and I also ordered a macaron, it was pink and heart-shaped. I had to. It was better than the ones at Paillard but still not as good as Nadege. There was a nice girl working at the bakery, who brought us a bonus pastry to enjoy. Alas we were too full, luckily it was already packaged to go.

We walked over to Bonhomme’s ice palace both because we had more time now that we had gone to a closer bakery and also to have one last look. Only the snow sculpture site was open, it was still a bit early in the day. It was nice to now see all the completed statues. Some of the best ones were a ship in a bottle, a bear with a fish and an axe in a city skyline.

We had one last look at the river and the town below. I had never noticed that beyond the town, on the horizon there were mountains off in the distance. I had been so distracted by the town below and the ice floes in the river.

We ate our pastry in the hotel room, migawd it was amazing. It was a slice of chocolate cake but it so light and fluffy and not overly sweet. We tried to check out of our hotel room via the TV but it wasn’t working. Brent tried to check out via email until I noticed it said Tremblant in the email address. In the end he checked out via the phone.

It was a short cab ride to the airport, but still it was enough to almost lull me to sleep. Because it was a small airport and we were flying Porter, there were no express check-in kiosks and we had to wait in line. From the security check line I was tempted by Tim Hortons but I was certain there would be another one past the checkpoint. This was a Canadian airport after all. There was not. It was a truly tiny airport but it did have nice views of mountains which I guess sort of made up for it? There was also not much Pokemon action going on either. The important thing is that we did not miss our flight home.

 

Carnaval 2017- Day 3

Sun. Feb. 5, 2016:
Quebec City

I woke up at 9am to the temptation of Doritos and the thought of getting a latte from the Starbucks downstairs. The smoked butterscotch latte was only ok, but definitely better than the in-room coffee. There was nothing on TV except for the newest iteration of Scooby-Doo, and Brent was still at the gym running. Meanwhile outside looked like a snow globe.

We started the day out at Paillard bakery. On the way there the church bells were ringing and echoing off the buildings, combined with the snow it was a very nice effect. Paillard was a similar chain to Panera Bread but a thousand times better. There were two separate lines for sandwiches and for pastries so we split up. Brent had wanted a chocolate croissant, but I could not see everything in the display cases so I got him the first chocolate pastry I saw, a chocolate pastry braid. I had a pastry with raspberry jam. At the last minute I could not resist ordering macarons, besides there was a maple flavoured one. I had to. The macarons were good but a little bit dense for my liking. The pastry was fresh and delicious. I couldn’t open the screw-off top on my Boylan’s soda so I put it in my purse for drinking later in the hotel when I could pry it off with a bottle opener.

We walked back to Bonhomme’s Ice Palace because the brochure said he would there for a photo op. We cut through the kiddie section of Carnaval and via the passageway through the fortification wall to get there. There were lots of people milling about, but the ice bar was surprisingly not that busy- probably because it was just before noon. We caught a glimpse of Bonhomme but it turns out you had to line up to get a photo with him and they were winding down. I had always pictured it as Bonhomme just wandering around the various Carnaval sites and waving to people, not a 30 minute appearance behind a velvet rope. It was a bit disappointing.

Our timing could not have been more perfect. The ice canoe race was at 12:30 and we had just enough time to walk over to the site. I was not enjoying going down the steep hills and stairs, they were icy and scary. I slowly inched my way down a steep curving hill, desperately holding onto the handrail. Apparently a lady with a cane and a child passed me but I paid them no mind, I was not about to wipe out on ice. On the way we noticed a small alley on the side with lots of little shops and we noted it for later on our way back. We also passed by one of the other pubs that we had found on Google and we added it to our afternoon plans.

We got to the river and it was already so crowded but we were not even near the official start site. As we got closer the crowds grew bigger. We stopped to look at the ice floes but they were moving so fast it actually made me nauseous. As got closer to the start site we could now hear the announcer. We had no idea what he was saying but the excitement was growing, the race was starting soon. I was more excited by all the dogs I was seeing, it was a great day for dog-watching. Even Bonhomme was there, albeit in the announcer’s booth, to kick off the race. We had mistakenly thought that the race was down river, making the crowds on the other side of the river look like idiots. Turns out we were wrong, the race was across the river, oops. It was ridiculous to watch as the canoes plowed into the ice and the racers had to get out and push the canoe along the ice until they got to a clear spot. All the while the current was pushing them downriver. It was crazy. In the end we had no idea who won. It was however less ridiculous than I had imagined. I linked the words ice and canoe in my head and I was picturing people racing in canoes made of ice.

After the second race set off we left, it was much the same as the first and again we had no idea who was winning. We walked around some of the pretty little side streets of the lower half of the city. Eventually we made our way back to the little promenade we had walked by earlier. On our way to Uncle Antoine’s pub we stopped at a mystery doors booth which was part of the Comedy Festival site. I was not amused. One door was an upside down bathroom, one was a wall and one had a funhouse mirror. I didn’t get it at all. Brent was tempted to have a fireside beer, but the thinking went that the beer selection at the bar would be better. On the way to the pub we stopped in at a cider store. It was my kind of heaven, I ended up getting a small bottle of Le Pedneault cherry flavoured cider, made in Quebec, of course.

The pub was a small former cellar, with an arched ceiling. It was very cozy and we had seats right by the fireplace. I did not know this until we had sat down, because as soon as we entered my glasses fogged up. I had wanted to order a locally brewed wheat beer with elderflower and raspberry but it was all sold out, so I settled for a mulled wine instead. The service at the pub ended up being unbelievably slow. It was a good thing we did not have anything else planned for the day. Needless to say, we only stayed for one drink. The ladies at the table next to our finished up around the same time, on the way out the door they warned the group coming in that the service was slow- it was that bad. They were nice ladies, one of them complimented Brent’s Blue Jays hat.

On the way back to the hotel we stopped at the beer shack and Brent had a fireside beer. We had a nice spot by the firepit- that is until the wind changed direction and blew smoke all over me. We stopped at Mary’s Popcorn, I was convinced that this was a Canadian version of Garrett’s Popcorn and there was no way I was going to pass up a chance to try it. At the last second I opted for the maple pecan popcorn over the caramel popcorn. It had maple, I had to. I kind of wish I had paid more attention to the prices. Ah well.

It was nice to chill in the hotel, drinking cider and soda and eating popcorn and Doritos. As we were watching The People Vs. OJ on a streaming site, I could not believe the commercial. It said it was 10 second long, but it went on for at least a minute of just a message on the screen.

For dinner we headed out to Bar L’Inox. The plan was to stay and watch a bit of Superbowl 51 as well. The weather was horrible, everything was slushy and melting because it was only -1C. As we walked it started to dawn on us that the bar might be full, we were cutting it close. On the way we passed through another Carnaval site but it was closing down for the day. We did get to see a kid in a giant inflated bubble roll down a hill and try to knock some pins down.

The bar was not super busy and we managed to get a table with a great view of the TV. We ended up staying until half-time. The service was great and we had great seats. The whole while I nursed a giant pint of cider, meanwhile Brent enjoyed four pints. All I could think of was taking an Advil, my knees and hips were hurting. The hotdog I ordered was far better than I had expected. It was called “European,” so I assumed it would be a higher quality meat. Instead it was baked into a French baguette. It was very convenient and not messy. My only complaint is that there was not enough whisky cheddar. I also regretted eating the chips on the side. I had forgotten my Invisalign containers and toothbrush back in the hotel and the chips were sticking in my teeth.

Across from us there was a reserved table of millennial couples and their kids. Some of them were quite drunk and one started slow-dancing with her husband, blocking our view of the game. She was more into the half-time show, singing along with Lady Gaga, than the game itself. I too was not much into the game, but I did not make a fool of myself. I was content with being entertained by the commercials and saying things like “he’s running up the pitch” from The IT Crowd. The best commercial by far was the one with Justin Timberlake and Christopher Walken. There was also a promo for the upcoming TV adaption of The Handmaids Tale. I was all excited until I realized it was on Hulu, meaning it would not be airing in Canada. The half-time show was really weird. Lady Gag was flying around, and she ended it with a mic drop. At least by then the annoyingly loud and obnoxious guys were gone.  They were ridiculous. All their team had done was walk onto the field and they started cheering like crazy.

On the walk back I had Pokemon Go open and I was narrating the walk. There was one stop that claimed to be a 400 year old cannonball that a tree had grown around. I took a picture of it and we would look it up once we were back in the hotel. We walked over to the Dufferin Terrace by the hotel for one last look at the St. Lawrence River and the lower part of the town. It looked so pretty all lit up and with snow swirling around. Even the trolley that transports people between the upper and lower halves of the town was lit up. From the other end of the terrace we had a great view of our hotel and the wall and the town below.

Back in the hotel room I snuggled up with my book and a cup of Honey Lullaby tea under the covers and some popcorn. Brent had the football on in the background but I was over it by then. Even though it had taken a dramatic turn, I had checked out. I tried to read my book but I kept getting distracted by Pokemon. An hour later, all caught up in my notebook and having run out of Pokemon to catch, I was ready to settle down with my book. The football was still going, it was now in overtime.

 

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.

 
 
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