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