Boston 2011: July 4th, beer and baseball, and sun, GLORIOUS SUN!

Published: July 7th 2011
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So for anyone who hasn’t figured it out yet, Greg and I are Red Sox fans (I’m newer, pre reversing the curse enough to not be a bandwagon hopper, but without all the battle scars… Greg has been his whole life). Every year, we’re usually lucky enough to make the trek down to Boston to visit my favourite place in the entire USA… FENWAY PARK!!! So here’s our 2011 Boston adventure... a pretty quick one, but a great one all the same.

July 1st is our national holiday here, and we spent the entire day busting ass to get ready to go away. Saturday morning, we did our normal farmers’ market day, and then immediately hopped in the car and headed off to the states. We stopped for gas on the outskirts of Bangor and grabbed a coffee at the start of the I-295… otherwise, we trucked straight through to Portland and spent the night there at the Courtyard Marriott Portland Airport (paid a bit more than I would have liked, as my laptop died mid booking, and when I came back to it the next morning, the price had doubled… stupid technology). It's in a convenient location though, nice enough, easy to find, free parking, and all that. Popped over to Sebago for tasty supper (mmm Imperial burger)… I’ve been before and like that they locally source at least some of their food… and brew their own beer… and knew that Greg would appreciate both of those things. Popped across the way for a quick bit of shopping (Greg desperately needed new shoes, and we picked up some cars for our nephews)… more coffee and back to the hotel to watch the ballgame.

Up relatively early Sunday morning, hit the iHop for breakfast, and then hopped on the interstate and headed to Nashua to visit our family. Had a nice, but too short, visit with Heather and the boys… grabbed a sandwich (d’Angelo… meh) and back on the interstate to Boston. Got to our hotel (Holiday Inn Somerville) late afternoon… dropped off our stuff, realized we may have had one of the few rooms in the hotel where the wi-fi didn’t reach (FYI to anyone staying here at the far ends of the hotel), and then wandered to the lobby to do some searching about where to go for supper. The staff at this hotel is super helpful, and we decide to check out Union Square in Somerville. The hotel has a shuttle, and the mister (very friendly guy from Somalia, whose name currently escapes me) dropped us down in that area. It was a Sunday night, so not everything was open, but after wandering around some, we decided on a Peruvian place called Machu Picchu. It was filled with Latin people, which is always a good sign. Greg had a seafood dish that I can’t remember the name of… rice with seafood and pickled onions… looked great. I had seco de carne a la norteña – marinated and simmered beef with canary beans and rice. Greg tried an imported Peruvian beer (Cusqueña) and I had a pisco sour with pineapple… they also brought us out some kernel corn with a tasty spicy sauce to start. The food was quite tasty, but the portions were ginormous (much like everything in the states... and I always forget... I ordered a large coffee somewhere and it was bigger than my HEAD!)… but even though we didn’t get through all of our supper, we tried alfajores for dessert (essentially a sandwich cookie with a caramel type filling)… very tasty, but we only managed to eat one each and brought the rest back to the hotel with us. After supper, we walked around a bit more under a few showers and then headed back to the hotel. We watched part of the Deadliest Catch marathon (fun, because in the US, it’s ahead of where we are in Canada) and watched a small fireworks display from our hotel window.

July 4th – We didn’t have time to celebrate Canada Day before we left, so this was a good plan B. Had breakfast at the hotel (not hardly delicious, but not horribly offensive food). The ballgame was an afternoon game, so we took the T to Fenway mid morning, and it was still plenty early when we got there. I suggested we go have a beer at Boston Beer Works… we planned to have a couple, but ended up having about 10 between us… what can I say? They were pretty tasty that day… I stuck with watermelon, and Greg went with the blueberry. We likely should have started a tab, but oh well. Great service there as well… love that place. Across the street to Fenway after that. We sat in a new section of the park for this game – the State Street Pavilion. Kind of a neat area, fairly high up… with limited menu service, bigger seats than the grandstands, and cup holders. We grabbed something from a vendor to soak up some beer, drank lots of water, and roasted in the sun (it was over 30 degrees, with barely a breeze). We were out in the full on sun until about midway through the game, so everyone in the place but Greg was sitting there sweating… I managed to burn a nice pattern on my leg around where my bag was.

So for July 4th at Fenway, they did a couple of things… there was a giant American flag that completely covered the Green Monster, and they had some jets fly over before the game started. They also brought out the family of a lady that is serving overseas and played a message from her on the big screen. And then she came walking out onto the field, surprising all of them. I’m not generally a sap, and I have generally unpopular opinions on the military in general, but it was a pretty touching moment. The Sox lost this one, we left sunburnt, but still fun. Greg was on the big screen at one point, likely because we were sitting beside a family with little kids where funny July 4th themed hats. When the little guy realized he was on the big screen, he threw his soda or whatever he was eating up in the air in surprise and showered everyone around him... pretty funny!

Back to the T and over to Cambridge. The word on the internet was that Cambridge was a better spot to watch the fireworks from… that part was right. Everything also said to get there early because it would be ridiculously packed – that part, not so much. If you wanted to bring a whole outdoor patio set, or claim some perfectly ideal spot, then maybe you should get there early. Otherwise, getting there right when the fireworks start at 10:30 would be fine. We just explored a bit, got a tasty pulled pork sandwich from Soulfire BBQ and some ice cream, and waited. We could hear the free Boston Pops concert, but it was taking place on the other side of the river… and it was likely a lot more packed over there. After dark, waiting for the fireworks became more annoying… simply because they started to nationally televise things about 30-45 minutes before, which left us at the mercy of stupid things like commercial breaks. The fireworks were pretty amazing – much more spectacular than we would get around here, and lasted at least 30 minutes. They were set to music, so that was neat to see as well. After 10:30, the T was free… so back to the hotel we went... and 500000+ people leaving the fireworks wasn't nearly the chaos one would expect. Leaving the Red Sox games are easily worse.

On Tuesday, our game wasn’t until evening, so we took some time to explore some parts of Boston we haven’t seen before… which is quite a lot of it, since we mostly come down for ball or concerts or something. We took the T out to Davis Square and walked over to Kickass Cupcakes on Highland Ave… yum. I saw this spot on Kid in a Candy store on the Food Network, and thought we might as well check it out. I tried a pink grapefruit cupcake – the cupcake was very tasty, but the icing was too sweet for me… but I’m not a big icing fan anyways. Greg tried a cinnamon pecan type. Lots of variety there, all natural. Wandered around a bit more, Chipotle for lunch (YUM!!! I have no interest in fast food, but I’ll make an exception for Chipotle)… had a tasty burrito bowl, ate too much, and back to the T.

We decided to go and walk around Boston Common for a bit. It was beautiful (and hot) again, and Boston Common is a nice place. But if you don’t live in a big city, and already have access to lots of green space, it’s not really an interesting tourist attraction or anything. There’s a wading pool there, a ball field, lots of paths and benches, a carousel, and loads of food vendors. Seems pretty popular with the locals. Then back to the hotel again to have a rest before the game.

We didn’t really rush to get to the ballpark, so we ate something overpriced when we got there. We had seats up on the Monster for this game… row 3. It was also Nova Scotia night at Fenway, so I suspect there was a fair few Canadians there... all Red Sox fans instead of Jays fans. We're actually closer to Boston than Ontario, so makes sense to me.... plus the Jays are BORING!!!

Lester was great but left with an injury in the 4th. Youk was still out from the day before. There’s always good people watching up there, and it’s a nice view of the park… except that you can only see park of the big screen and can’t see anything that happens deep in right or center field. Red Sox had the lead up until the 9th, until they brought out Paps to possibly muck it up. We ended up with an exciting (yet controversial) win when Tek tagged out the runner at home to win the game. Speedy exit from the park and back to the hotel. Threw our stuff in the suitcase and off to bed. OH!! And we likely were on tv or something, because we were sitting right above where Bautista hit one.

The most dreaded part of a Boston trip is the drive home - though sports radio keeps us amused at least part of the way (though wtf is up with all the advertising directed at clones... I am not a clone, lemming, or anything of the like, so I certainly wouldn't appreciate hearing that constantly!). We ate some breakfast at the hotel (glad to be done with that) and hit the road. We stopped in Portland to hit the Whole Foods (I like that store and we don’t have it here). Picked up a few things, including a wee grapefruit and honey ale beer kit for Greg to try. Stopped again in Bangor for lunch (Uno Chicago Grill… hate chain restaurants, but it was quick and easy, and the pizza was decent). Grabbed a few things at Bangor Mall, coffee again, and back onto the road. One further stop for gas about 90 mins from home. Crossing the border, we got the first Canadian border guard ever with a personality, and we had a chat with him about the ballgame. He thought the Jays should have won the night before. I haven’t seen the replay, but Greg said we likely got a call there. Border to home was uneventful. Grabbed something to throw on the BBQ and relaxed in the sun for a while… and now vacation is over again… until next month, when we chase the Red Sox to Seattle.

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