Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Not everyone in Boston knows my name, and it is not always sunny in Philadelphia (but I had fun in both places anyway)

All right then. Spring vacation recap. I promised you one of those, didn't I? Of course, by now, NPW, Noelle, and Lara have it pretty well covered, but I'd feel remiss in not posting my version anyway.

I had a lovely long weekend, and I hope the lovely ladies and gentlemen with whom I spent it did as well. There are those who might say the Internet is not real life, that I'd be insane to plan an overnight visit at the home of a blogger I'd never met in person in real time (or moreover, that said blogger would have to be insane or downright foolish to provide her home address and invite me to fly to her city and stay with her). But as Lara, NPW, Noelle, and I chatted in NPW's living room in our pajamas Friday night, I looked at each one of them and couldn't help saying, "I don't feel at all like I just met any of you tonight!" In our case at least, who we are online translates quite accurately to who we are in real life, and I feel like crying "No fair" because I don't get to hang out with them again any time I like.

I have a hard time summing up the past few days in any sort of coherent narrative, so instead I'll recount the weekend photo essay style, with random and possibly incomplete and incohesive segues in between. Sound fun? I thought so. Let's go.

Lara and her husband Rob picked me up at the Philadelphia airport early Friday afternoon, and I got in their car to drive several hours to Boston with them immediately thereafter. One might think a road trip into New England rush hour might be a surefire way to unravel an Internet friendship in record time, but luckily, we made it to NPW and Chris's house in Boston still excited for the weekend of togetherness ahead. Unfortunately, Aaron bailed on our group dinner plans due to an alleged stomach bug, but the rest of us had a fine time enjoying noodles and ice cream anyway.

Chris and NPW

NPW and Noelle

Rob, Lara, and NPW

The next morning it was off to Harvard for Noelle's swim meet. After my brief visit to that campus, I'm pleased to think about how I can now casually drop the line "Yeah, I went to Harvard. No big deal, really..." into future conversations. Noelle, on the other hand, gets to say she not only went there, but swam there, so I'm very excited about that on her behalf.

Yeah, I went to Harvard.

Go, Christmas Christmas Tree!

We had our eye on lane 6

From there, we commenced our sightseeing adventures, but we didn't make it very far before we realized it was after NOON and we'd not yet had a drink, which, while on vacation is simply not right. So off to John Harvard's Brew Pub we went.

1:09 p.m.

You'll note that I had a cider rather than a beer, which I'm sure is some sort of travesty within spitting distance of Sam Adams's grave. Luckily, Lara and NPW had greeted Sam with a hearty "Thank you, Sam!" moments earlier, so I felt a bit better about betraying Boston with my beverage choice.

Thank you, Sam

Besides that, while Boston may be a notably beer-centric town, it is also home to the Omni Parker House, which, in addition to having invented the Boston Cream Pie, had the ingenuity to bring us the Boston Cream Pie martini as well. Should you make it to Boston at some point, I highly recommend you sample one of these.



Even the rim was tasty.

If you could also try the pumpkin martini and report back to me on your thoughts, that'd be great. We have a tendency to neglect the pumpkin from December through September, and I'd like to do whatever I can to remedy that.

Mmmm. Liquid pumpkin.

When NPW first pointed out the Omni Parker House (hereafter known to me as, simply, "the hotel with the delicious Boston Cream Pie martinis), it was actually too early for a drink. Not too early in our view, mind you (we did have our first drink of the day at 1:09, after all), but those crazy folks at the "the hotel with the delicious martinis" seemed to think a bar need not open until 4:30. To keep ourselves busy in the meantime, we walked to Mike's Pastry for Florentine cannolis--a detour I highly recommend should ever you find yourself in the area (or within reasonable distance of it) yourself. If you've read NPW's and Lara's recent posts, you may think the cannolis have already been well documented to an unnecessarily thorough degree, but you would be wrong, my friend. You know that guy in The Godfather? The guy who says, "Leave the gun; take the cannoli"? If that was a Florentine cannoli from Mike's Pastry, I can say with resolute certainty that he made the right choice.

Take the cannoli.

No. Seriously. TAKE the cannoli.

Once we started drinking and snacking, I had an even harder time than usual focusing with any sort of reverence on things of historical significance, so instead we just made friends with statues and curbside mascots around Boston.

Pleased to meet you, sir.

Walk with me.

Rumor has it she also licked a subway rail.

After our sightseeing eating and drinking adventures, we were a tad worn out, so we retired back to NPW's house to rest up for dinner. That is, if your definition of "rest up" means cracking open a bottle of wine and playing Wii tennis and bowling. Nothing says "down time" like getting your ass kicked in fake bowling; wouldn't you agree?

I suck at this, but I had fun anyway.

Lara is a ringer.

Even Chris's winning technique couldn't help me.

Eventually, we did tear ourselves away from Chris's giant TV long enough to walk to dinner, where we met up with the hilarious and charming Red of The Cupcake Tent fame (along with her lovely friend Carly) for late-night burritos and drinks. I think a fine time was had by all, even if the restaurant did run out of guacamole before we arrived. Seriously! A Mexican restaurant with no guacamole! I was at least as verklempt about the news as Red was, but no one captured a photo of it in my case.

I just don't know what I'll do with no guacamole.

Luckily, Red's friend Sam was there to soften the blow. And clearly the rest of us managed to cope as well. Lack of guac didn't prevent any of us from enjoying our fine meal.

Sam, Red, Sam


All in all, we had a lovely time together, as evidenced by this post-dinner group photo.

One of these things is not like the other.

(Sing it with me now: "One of these things is not like the oth-er"... Red, perhaps you'll want to invest in some eyewear before you hang out with us again. Obviously in this group, being a four-eyed brunette is the way to go.)

Sunday morning we had a lovely breakfast and said our goodbyes to Noelle, Chris, and NPW, and then Lara, Rob, and I headed off back to Philadelphia. It would be entirely too boring to go straight to Philly, however. Instead, we enjoyed a detour in Marblehead (where I bought a book, saw a lighthouse, and met Rob's mother) and another stop for dinner in Salem--home to the expected witch-related museums and trinket shops but also to a gem of a liquor store named "Bunghole." Seriously, I couldn't make a name like that up. (Or, I could, but I didn't. See?)

Would you drink something from a place called Bunghole??

Hence, we arrived at casa del Guinness Girl and Wilman well after midnight, a fact for which the "high-compliance" Rob (note: his word, not mine) apologized at least 17 times. For the record (even though I know he will not read this): Rob, I absolutely did not mind stopping in Marblehead so you could see your mom and grandfather, and I was not seething that you left me waiting at the airport for an extra 20 minutes earlier in the weekend either. Internets, I assure you: Rob is one of the nicest and most considerate men you will ever meet, but it is a good thing he did not accompany Lara and me on our rainy day adventures in Philly Monday, because I am 100% certain he would have spent the day apologizing for the weather on the city's behalf.


By this point, Lara had already figured out that I generally require little more in terms of a sightseeing plan than "let's just walk around and look at things (oh, and maybe stop for wine and snacks several times)," and she had no problem being my tour guide with that in mind.

I couldn't justify being in Philadelphia and not seeing the Liberty Bell, so we popped over for a quick photo there. In case you haven't heard, it's a big bell with a crack in it. And that's still just about all I know about that.

Yep. It's cracked.

We also tried to go to the U.S. Mint, for no other reason than it was right there and we'd both heard it was a worthwhile tour (and one Lara hadn't yet done). If ever you happen to attempt this yourself, here's a tip for you: the U.S. Mint does not allow cameras or camera phones carried anywhere on your person. The man at the door will be very official and adamant about that rule, but he will offer no solution as to where you might safely stow or check your camera, and he will act as if this is a problem that has never come up or occurred to him before. He will also not do much to sell you on the interestingness of the U.S. Mint tour, though (Us: "Well, what does the tour involve, anyway?" Him: "You see how money gets made."), so you could probably just do what we did, which was say "Screw you, Mint" and go get a Philly-style soft pretzel instead.

Fine print: No cameras allowed.

Apparently it did not occur to me to photodocument this until the very last bite.

From there, we went to the Mutter Museum, at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Although they did not confiscate our cameras nor force us to leave them on the street for a vagrant or hoodlum to walk off with, they also do not allow photography within the museum, so this is the most I can show you of our visit there.

Hello, Mutter.

Disturbing indeed.

Suffice it to say that "Disturbingly Informative" is an entirely apt tagline. I made it through the conjoined twins, the wall of skulls, the wax model samples of encephalitis and other infections, and the rows upon rows of babies in jars, but when we got to the tumors and skin diseases, Lara and I both agreed we'd seen about enough. Oh, and also, surprisingly, we said, "I'm hungry. How about lunch?" and we headed off for a cheesesteak at Jim's.

Don't worry; there is Cheese Whiz hidden on there.


Are you tired of my lengthy play-by-play yet? Don't worry. I assure you; I am almost done. Most of the rest of the afternoon was spent posing as and near statues and public art, because I am apparently six years old and that sort of thing is still amusing to me. Luckily Lara is still six years old as well, so we had great fun with it, obviously.

All you need is.






I don't know how to play chess either, Lara.

Games people play

Rocky and me

That last one, of course, is the Rocky statue outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where I had to run the steps just like Rocky did. There are 72 of them, in case you are curious. Perhaps that will help you out in a game of bar trivia some day.

It doesn't look like it, but I promise I am running. It was the most exercise I got all day.

We finished off the day with a tasty Thai meal in Lara and Rob's neighborhood and then retired to their gorgeous old house in Manyunk, where I nearly died when I forgot Rob's warning that the bathroom is the BROWN door, not the GREEN one. "Be sure you don't open the green door!" he stressed when they first gave me the tour around their house. I thought maybe they just didn't want me to see that their basement was haunted (or possibly is where they store illicit substances), but it turns out it's just an abrupt and unexpected pit of death. So. Should ever you visit Rob and Lara, word to the wise: BROWN door, not green. Remember that.

Pick a door, any door (but beware the door on the left)

Pit of death

After my luckily not-fatal fall, we had some more wine and played some more games, which is when I discovered that Lara is not only a Wii bowling savant but an unbeatable Boggle pro as well. People, I swear to you, I am tremendous at Boggle. I think most of my real-life friends will attest to that. But Lara could beat Peggy Hill in Boggle tournament play. It was a humbling experience that was good for me, I suppose ("This must be what it's like for other people when they play Boggle with me," I said), but not so secretly I'm actually a little glad Lara lives so far away, so I don't have to face her as competition again any time soon.

And that about wraps up the trip, I think. I had a fantastic time meeting everybody and like I said, I am sad that I can't go hang out with them again next week. I very much hope this blogger meet-up was not the last. Meanwhile, I'll be brushing up on my skillz with my electronic Boggle and killing time reading all the books I acquired from my generous and bookwormy friends. When I left on Friday, I had one book with me (the one that's been in my sidebar entirely longer than it should be). When I returned yesterday, I had crammed ten more in my luggage and carry-on. I'd better get reading, hadn't I?

Good thing I checked my luggage on the return trip.

Thanks, Noelle and Lara, for giving me ten more reasons to stay up too late. Thank you NPW, Chris, Lara, and Rob for your generous hospitality in your fair cities. And thanks to all of you plus Red for being just as awesome in person as I'd hoped.


Lizzie said...

Wait, I know I'm not very good at keeping up with blogs, but did you ever mention you were coming to Boston/Cambridge? Based on my sleuthing in your flickr set, it looks like you were RIGHT IN MY NEIGHBORHOOD. (I live pretty much exactly halfway between Harvard Square and Sound Bites.) I totally could have wandered the streets, creepily looking for you.

And, as an ice cream connoisseur, I believe I can identify your ice cream stop as Lizzy's. However, I'm a bit disappointed. I don't even think that's the best ice cream in Harvard Square, let alone in the Boston area. Despite sharing a name with a different spelling. Next time you visit, you'll need to try some other options. ;)

Aaron said...

Well, it looks like you had a blast, and that's the important thing. Nice job running the Rocky steps, btw. And while I am pissed that I missed the chance to meet you and Noelle, at least my "fake" illness has provided sure-to-be endless fodder.

Seriously, though, looks like a hella fun time. Good for you.

3carnations said...

Sounds like a great time. I love the larger than life sized game pieces.

Those basement steps...If I had those, I would probably keep a sign on that door, too. Just to be safe. :)

nancypearlwannabe said...

I like how in the picture of Wii playing Lara is already turning away from yet ANOTHER bowling strike. She's all, "whatevs, here's the wiimote".

Those pictures also make me hungry for a Philly cheesesteak and it is only 9 a.m.

So, you're coming over this weekend, right?

Lara said...

Hee! I loved this photo-description of the weekend. So, I'll pick you up at 2:00 tomorrow at the airport for Round 2 of Boston-Philly Adventure Time, right?

lizgwiz said...

That looks/sounds like way too much fun. More fun than my weekend of back strain and sciatica onset? Hell to the yes!

Hey, where's my "My 'blends' went to Blogger Bogglefest 2008 and all I got was this lousy t-shirt" t-shirt? ;)

Jess said...

I LOVE reading these posts from all of your different perspectives. Though each post makes me increasingly jealous that I didn't get to join in on the fun.

Noelle said...

Is your electric boggle working again? And what are you doing this weekend? I should be free on Sunday so we can make up for all the time that I was at Harvard.

Poppy Cede said...

I have a theme song running through my head. I believe it's... yes... it's Laverne & Shirley.

L Sass said...

SO fun!!! I am dying for one of those boston cream martinis now.

Red said...

Great post! And thanks so much for including me. Why is it that thus far the blogfriends I've met have been just as great as I expected, and internet dates never are???

Kelley said...

Just delurking to say: Bel Canto is the best book ever written on the face of the earth. Enjoy it.

Stefanie said...

Lizzie--I think I mentioned it, but I might not have been entirely precise about the location... The good news is, I stayed with NPW, so she's still there, meaning you can still wander the streets creepily looking for HER! (Hee. Look out, NPW!)

Aaron--I'm still disappointed you had such an ill-timed stomach issue, but I'm glad to hear you're on the mend.

3Cs--Ha. I suggested a sign, and Wilman won't hear of it.

NPW--Yeah, she's totally like, "Yeah, it's a strike; what'd you expect?" I still don't get it. She's a ringer, that Lara. And I would LOVE to come over again this weekend. Sadly, airfare still isn't free, so I don't think that'll happen.

Lara--See my comment to NPW regarding airfare. I do hope we have another meetup again someday, though!

Liz--Aw, you missed the Boggle fun AND you have a sore back! That's just not fair. Is this what I have to look forward to in the year following the year I dub "MY year"?? (If so, I'd like to relinquish the title right now. It's not really panning out for me anyway.)

Jess--I'm glad you liked it. When I sat down to write it, it seemed a bit redundant. And yet I still spent more time than I want to admit getting all those damn pictures in there anyway.

Noelle--Yes! It is! Silly me; all I had to do was press the Reset button. (I didn't even realize it HAD a Reset button.)

Poppy--And now I have it there, too. Thank you for that.

L Sass--I could pretty much go for one of those any time now. Damn, they were tasty. I can't believe I took a picture of the caipirinha and pumpkin drink ingredients but not the Boston Cream Pie one. How am I supposed to replicate it at home now??

Red--That is a very, very good question, my friend.

Kelley--Lara raved about that one, too. Guess I should make it next on my list! (Also, thanks for delurking! Welcome.) :-)

Mickey said...

For the record, I think your weekend wrap-up was the best. I really enjoyed all the pictures. If only I could find a decent cheesesteak in TN!

Carrie said...

I'm not surprised you had such a good time. All of you (except for Red, of course) look like a happy incarnation of the same person.

Hey, that's a nice stack of books! How on earth did you make off with 9 new books?