NJ + Philly + DE

On the evening of October 4, 2016, we hopped in an Uber and made our way to Jersey City, NJ to stay with our friends Marc and Jayne. They invited us to stay the night at their really cool house. They were just back from a trip to Portugal, and were excited to introduce us to some of Portuguese food at a joint just a few blocks from their pad called Broa.

They informed us that it is BYOB, and Niner got super excited because she has never been to a BYOB restaurant before. Our first stop was an awesome liquor store named CoolVines that had a great selection of wine for our hosts M&J and some unique craft beer options for us. Niner chose 3 different local craft brews from their fridge with single bottles. Booze in tow, we were quickly seated at Broa and greeted warmly. Everyone was excited to see M&J and the conversation immediately became all about visiting Portugal!

The menu here is unique because it is based on whatever fresh ingredients are available to them, meaning that it rotates and they have the potential to offer completely different dishes each day. The portions are served tapas or “small plates” style. Niner was the only one at the table that had not been to Portugal, so ordering was left to DB and M&J. We ordered a variety of dishes and everything was fantastic. The dishes that stood out were the cod and shrimp fritters and the Grao with chickpeas and sardines.

The service was outstanding! Perhaps it was because of our charming hosts being regulars, but we are thinking that that is probably how they treat everyone based on the great yelp reviews. When we came in with our beer, they offered to put it in the fridge for us and as each bottle became empty, they came out with the next one! All three of these local beers were good, but since the food out shadowed these brews, we don’t have any notes or details on how these were.

We left that place full and happy! After dinner, we headed back to M&J’s place and Niner and Marc watched baseball, until Marc wasn’t watching baseball anymore.

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Then he got up and did some dishes and shared one of the cookies we got from Milk Bar with Jayne. He then called it a night and the ladies stayed up and drank and talked about all kinds of awesome stuff. This was our first time meeting Jayne IRL and it was great to have the chance to get to know her!

The next morning, we washed up, packed up and Marc took us for a visit to Liberty State Park.

Then, it was time for lunch. We went to the Roman Nose  for some Italian food. For dessert, we went to Torico Ice Cream.

Marc, being the gentleman that he is, drove us to the hotel where Becky was waiting for us and we bid him a fond farewell. Thank you Marc and Jayne for showing us such a great time in Jersey!

Once reunited with Becky, we hit the road for the City of Brotherly Love – Philadelphia. But first, we wanted to see more of the Garden State, and on M&J’s recommendation we made our way to the seaside town of Asbury Park to visit the Silverball Museum. We have a thing for pinball and this place is a pinball fan’s dream come true. It was so cool to play the vintage wooden machines!

We then walked around the seaside area. We love the vintage vibe there!

There was quite a bit of traffic on the way to Philly which wasn’t such a bad thing because it was slow enough for us to pull over and take this great picture.

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When we finally made it to the city the sun was already down. After the long drive, we were starving! Our first order of business was to do what you do in Philly – get some Philly cheesesteak. We made it our mission to see what all the hype is about and try all the popular joints. The first place we tried out was Jim’s Steaks on South Street. The line was pretty long, but it moved efficiently enough. We shared the peper-steak with wiz and it was good. At the time, we didn’t have much to compare it to, but the meat was nice and fatty, the bread was tasty and sturdy but still soft.

We then headed to the Passyunk Square area and did a bit of bar hopping. Even though Niner already had a PA brew in Pittsburgh, she tried Iron City Beer from the Pittsburgh Brewing Company. It was very drinkable yet had a nice flavor without being bitter. Nice quality canned beer for sure.

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Since we were in the neighborhood, we decided to check out another cheesesteak place – Pat’s King of Steaks . The bread was really tasty! The meat had flavor, but not as quite as much as Jim’s. However, the quality of the meat at Pat’s is obviously better than Jim’s.

For this city, we gambled and we were hoping to score a last minute hotel deal, but it was not in the stars for us. Becky was too tall and wouldn’t fit into the parking garages, and the parking lots that could accommodate her were out of our price range.  We ended up getting a cheap room at a ratty motel just on the other side of the PA state line back in NJ.

When we woke up the next day, we headed to the city and were unpleasantly surprised by the toll to get back into the city from our hotel.

First up, we needed lunch so we went to Alyans Restaurant and we took care of a craving for some Mediterranean food. We shared the mixed kabob plate and it was very tasty.

After lunch, we headed to the home of the Liberty Bell at Independence National Park. The line was super long and it moved rather slowly, but it was certainly worth it to see such an icon of American history.

Our next stop in that historic city was the Betsy Ross House. It was so cool to walk the halls of the home where our nation’s flag was created.

Benjamin Franklin’s grave was our next destination. On the walk there, we saw many different monuments in honor of the Founding Father, including a large bust sculpture made of keys collected by local school students.

It was then time for lunch. We went to the famous Reading Terminal Market which is full of unique, high quality dining options. Our goal was to try what is said to be one of the most high-end cheesesteaks in town at Tommy DiNic’s. However, when we got there they had run out of beef. Wow, that told us right there that we had to make sure we got a sandwich there.

We then opted for a salmon curry bowl at Little Thai Market. It was a reasonable price for a good portion. It was freshly prepared and full of flavor and had a perfect kick.

On a recommendation from DB’s cousin Sonia who used to live in Philly, we visited Federal Donuts for a sweet treat. What really stood out about this place was how they are made fresh to order! We got 2 fresh donuts and they were pretty great.

After our donuts, DB snagged this great picture of the downtown architecture just as the sun was starting to set.

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Then we hopped in Becky and drove to the outskirts of town to Tony Luke’s for another cheesesteak. Niner was almost on beef overload – she hardly eats beef, yet, she was determined to find out which cheesesteak is the best. Out of the sandwiches we had so far, Tony Luke’s was the most satisfying. The balance of bread, meat, peppers, and cheese was very nice. It was early on a Thursday night so we didn’t have to wait in a long line or wait too long for our sandwich. All in all a great experience.

After we were finished with our dinner, we decided to head back to our room to do some laundry and get some rest.

The next morning we checked out of our hotel fairly early to get to the National Park Office to get timed tour tickets to Independence Hall where the Declaration of Independence was signed. We snagged some tickets for an early afternoon tour so we were able to do a bit more exploring until then.

We headed to the South Street neighborhood and visited Magic Gardens.

Next it was time to visit one of the most iconic spots in all of Philly – the “Rocky steps” at the Museum of Art. Niner has never seen the movie so DB found the scene that made the steps famous.


Niner found the scene really creepy – boneheaded sweaty dude is running around town and all these kids follow him? Not inspirational, just odd and creep-tastic.

Once again, Philly proved to be the worst for finding parking. We were not able to find a parking spot anywhere near the museum without our wallets getting sad. So, Niner staying in Becky in the loading zone while DB literally ran up the steps to get the real Rocky experience and snap a pic of the famous love sculpture.

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Next, we made our way to Independence Hall for our tour. It was such an incredible experience to be within that building full of history. If you are in Philly, we highly recommend you see where the foundations of our country were made!

After our tour, we made our way back to the Reading Terminal Market to try to get our hands on one of those fancy cheesesteaks from Tommy DiNic’s which the Travel Chanel calls the “best sandwich in America.” With a short wait, we snagged two seats at the small bar. Even though they are known for their roast pork, we ordered the beef brisket sandwich with extra sharp provolone and peppers. It truly isn’t fair for us to compare these to the other sandwiches because the quality at DiNic’s is just out of this world. And that extra sharp provolone was insanely flavorful!

So… what is the final result of our cheesesteak challenge? Our conclusion is that you should not eat 4 cheesesteak sandwiches in the course of 3 days.

For dessert, we took another one of cousin Sonia’s recommendations and got cookies at The Famous 4th Street Cookie Company. Niner is a big fan of snickerdoodle cookies, and if you asked her were to get the best one she would have said Diddy Riese in Westwood by the UCLA campus. Keywords – she would have. From now on, snickerdoodle cookies will have to live up to the impossible standard of texture and flavor of 4th Street’s.

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We had overstayed our own welcome in Philly which left us very little time for our 35th state: Delaware.

The sun was barely out anymore by the time we arrived in the small historic city of New Castle, Delaware and nearly everything was closed. But, that did not stop us from enjoying the colonial buildings and the history everywhere around us.

For dinner, there were only two restaurants open and we chose the one with the shortest wait. We sat at the bar for a Cajun dinner at Nora Lee’s. This place was absolutely packed. The wait for a party of four was an hour and soon they had to start turning people away. Even though the service was insanely slow, we didn’t care because we got an excuse to linger at the bar and watch the Dodger game.

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Niner ordered a couple pints of the local Delaware brew, but unfortunately we did not take note of the name. Apparently, it was unremarkable, but good enough to order two. For dinner we ordered the blackened Salmon dinner and it was okay – it was a bit too salty and the portion was small for the price. Even though our meal and service was subpar, we left happy because our boys in blue won the first game of the NLDS against the Washington Nationals.

We called it a night and headed to our hotel to get some rest. The next morning we woke up and got some free breakfast at the lobby and then we headed for our next destination, Washington DC to stay with DB’s Uncle Bobby.

Stay tuned for our next post about the great time we had in our nation’s capital.

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NYC (New York Part 2)

On the morning of October 1, 2016, we packed up and took the hotel shuttle to the Rahway train station to get to NYC. We had to wait a while on the platform and it was overcast and kind of chilly. When the train finally came, we were shocked with how crowded it already was – it was 9am on a Saturday! DB was able to snag a seat and Niner only was able to get one for the last 2 stops.

Our Airbnb was in Chinatown and we made arrangements with our hostess so we could drop off our luggage as soon as we got into the city rather than having to wait until 4pm at the actual check-in time to do so. After we dropped off our stuff, we walked down the street and had an early lunch at a little spot a block over from our place called Tasty Hand-pulled Noodles. After a fresh, delicious, and super affordable meal, we headed northbound to the Bronx. We stopped for some coffee in Harlem at the Sugar Hill Café.

Once we got our dose of caffeine we hopped back on the subway and made our way to Yankee Stadium to catch a game with our old friend and our favorite Yankee fan Marc (Aka: Cooter &/or Cooties).

We arrived early so we could walk around and check out the beautiful stadium and its unique offerings, including their own butcher shop!

By the time that Marc arrived, we did so much jibber jabbering, we didn’t get a pic with him. After we watched the Yankees beat the Orioles, Marc took the subway with us back to our neighborhood, like a gentleman.

Then it was time for a late dinner. We had a hard time finding a place that wasn’t busy, and everything we passed by was packed! Finally, we decided that if we are going to have to wait, we might as well wait for something with a ton of hype, so we took a number at the famous Joe’s Shanghai with over 4,000 reviews on Yelp .

The wait was rather long and it was sprinkling. When we finally sat down, it was a relief for our tired feet, as we had to stand outside by the curb the entire wait. We ordered their signature “soup dumplings,” xiao long bao. We are by no means Chinese dumpling experts, but of the 4 different places we have had this dish, this was just 2nd place. Don’t take that as a complaint – they were great, just not “wait 45 minutes on a New York curb while it is sprinkling” great.

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When we were done with dinner, we walked the short distance to our room and called it a night.

The next day we slept in and took our time getting ready for another long day roaming around the city. Our first stop was the popular and trendy Asian eatery Momofuku Noodle Bar. Thankfully, since we were there not too long after they opened, we got seated at the bar fairly fast. DB got the ramen and Marlaina got the wings and the lovely little alcoholic peach smoothie. When we went to look out the window to the street, we made eye contact with Aziz Ansari as he was chowing down at the end of the bar.

When we were finished with our lunch, we opted for dessert at the Big Gay Ice Cream Shop. DB went inside to order something to share and 9er sat on a bench outside to rest her back. DB can get overwhelmed by menus she is not familiar with, and this was one of those moments. Luckily, a cute lil gay dude in front of her ordered a  “Bea ArthurA core of vanilla soft-serve that has been injected with velvety dulce de leche. Cover that with crushed Nilla Wafers and you’ve met Bea Arthur. Those golden crumbs, leaving a trail behind (and on) you like one of Maude’s long-in-the-back vests, will have you remembering this ice cream cone until laundry day and beyond.” DB expressed to the dude that his cone looked good and his response was something like, “Get it, girl. It’s worth it.” And so it was.

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Our next stop was the Morgan Library. DB came across photos of this place while on Pinterest and we were unaware that the admission would bust our budget. We walked around the places of the library that did not require admission, thankfully, one of which was the restroom. As we were about to leave, an elderly couple offered us their admission tabs! Ah, the kindness of strangers… and the will of two traveling girls to do something less-than ethical.

The Morgan Library is truly a stunning space and one day when we are both gainfully employed again, we will be sending them a donation in the amount of two admission tabs in order to keep the good work that they do there going!

Coincidentally, we happened to be visiting while they had a special exhibit for one of DB’s favorite authors, Charlotte Brontë.

When we were finished at the Morgan Library, we hopped on the subway and headed to Spanish Harlem to visit DB’s cousin Sonia who had just moved to the city that week to start a new job.

We checked out her new apartment then walked over to D’Amore Winebar & Ristorante  for some drinks, yummy snacks, and catching up.

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After we bid Sonia farewell, we got on the subway again and headed to the Upper West Side for our sushi reservation we made weeks in advance at Sushi Yasaka. At this point in our trip, it felt like we had not had top-notch sushi in ages (which in reality was in Seattle back on August 7th). As usual, the reviewers on Yelp did not let us down and we enjoyed a fantastic yet not overly-priced sushi dinner and it was the perfect fix.

When dinner was over, we decided to get some brews and at the same time visit the home of the gay rights movement the Stonewall Inn. We walked to the monument outside the bar, but the gates were closed. Being that it was pretty early in the evening, it was easy for us to find two seats at the bar. The TVs were playing pop and dance music videos and the speakers were blaring. We ordered two bottles of Sam Adams and with those we were given a big bowl of hot buttered popcorn with M&Ms mixed in, which was a surprisingly awesome combo.

Just as we finished our beers, it started to get busy and we headed back to our place in Chinatown for some much needed rest.

When the next day came, the first order of business was of course, food. We made our way to Freemans, a classy, but funky eatery on the Lower East Side. We shared the brussel sprouts and lamb burger with fries and everything was fantastic.

Next up, was a trip to the bustling Chelsea Market and the unique High Line park.

Changing pace from controversial outdoor sculptures, we went to the world renowned  Metropolitan Museum of Art to take in more traditional artwork and an amazing view of the city.

For dinner, we hopped on the subway to Brooklyn for Jay Z’s favorite pizza at Lucali in the Carroll Gardens neighborhood. But, we didn’t go there on Bae and J’s recommendation, rather, our friends Billy and Julie have been raving about it for ages and we promised them we would check it out. We get there just minutes after it opens and every seat at every table is occupied and there is a line at the door. When it is our turn to see the hostess, she tells us it will be an hour, which we were expecting based on what our friends told us and the Yelp reviews.

We walked down the street to Bar Bruno for a guacamole appetizer and a couple cans of overpriced beer. Just as the waiter brought us our check, we started to get uneasy thinking we didn’t kill enough time, then Lucali called and we closed our tab really fast.

Lucali is small with absurdly dim lighting. The menu is very limited – only pizzas and calzones and each topping is $3 each. We opted for the pepperoni pizza and added the only two free toppings which are garlic and basil.

We watched the dough get hand kneaded, rolled, and tossed. Each pizza is placed into an epic stone oven. Needless to say, in addition to simply waiting for a table, you get to wait for your pizza as well. It is a suburb, high quality pizza: if you have time and patience it is well worth it.

Once our all-night quest for epic pizza was complete, we headed back to our room for some sleep.

In the morning, we packed up, ate our left-over pizza, and checked out of the Airbnb. Our first stop was a chain pastry shop called Tous Les Jous for a little pastry and some coffee.

When we were done there, we strolled along to take in the sights of Chinatown.

Then we decided to be rebels and ruin our lunch by having dessert first. Actually, it was more of a logistical route based decision… we went to Frozen Sweet  to try the Thai rolled ice cream that was a viral sensation on social media at the time. We ordered the Thai tea and lychee, which was fantastic! So cute and so tasty!

Lunch was at a little joint in Hell’s Kitchen called Pure Thai Cookhouse . The place is very small, but they were so nice about finding a place for us to sit with our big backpacks. We ordered the wok basil with ground chicken and the jungle rice; both were so flavorful! Some of the best Thai food we have ever had. To drink, Niner got herself the NY brewed Mermaid Pilsner by Coney Island Brewing Co. It was served super cold and was very refreshing because our food had a spicy kick to it.

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Our next stop was the beautiful and historic NY Public Library Main Branch at Bryant Park. Being that the musical Hamilton was all the rage (at this point in time, it still is) there was an exhibit on the Founding Father. We also checked out the Map Division, which is one of the largest collections of maps in the world.

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DB was in the mood for another sweet treat so we paid a visit to the Momofuku Milk Bar. We bought some of their delicious cookies to give as gifts and DB got herself the cereal milk soft serve.

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Then, it was time for us to leave the Big Apple and head for the Garden State, New Jersey to stay with our friend Marc and his lovely wife Jayne.

Our next post will be about our adventures in New Jersey, Philadelphia, and Delaware.

Connecticut

We left Woods Hole, MA on the rainy afternoon of September 28, 2016 and headed for Mystic, Connecticut. When we punched in the address for our hotel, we realized that our route would be passing through a town with a Newport Creamery. This meant that we could get another Awful Awful! So, that is just what we did! We had our dinner at Newport Creamery in Fall River, MA and we had another coffee Awful Awful! Fueled up, we made the 2 ½ hour drive to Mystic, Connecticut.

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We checked into our hotel and stayed there! We chilled and watched some TV and got some sleep.

The next morning, we took part in the free breakfast at the hotel lobby and then did some exploring of the adorable seaport town.

Our first stop was Olde Historic Mystic. We roamed around the courtyard that was full of really cute ducks. There were several cute shops, but we only browsed.

Then we had lunch at the site that inspired Niner’s favorite chick flick, “Mystic Pizza”, which is also called Mystic Pizza.

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We ordered a salad and the Seafood Delight pizza which were both great. The crust had a great texture, it was a bit crispy on the outside and had a lovely yeasty flavor. You know when the crust is good when DB eats it! Niner usually gets DB’s pizza crusts, but not this time.

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Niner ordered a local brew, the Mystic Bridge IPA by Cottrell Brewing in Pawcatuck, CT. It was on tap and perfectly cold. Great flavor without being too bitter or heavy and it was a great match for the pizza.

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While we ate, the movie, “Mystic Pizza” played on a loop on several TV’s throughout the restaurant.

After we were done eating, we walked through the cute downtown area to the incredible Mystic River Bascule Bridge.

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Thankfully, we were able to see it in action, but we were at an angle where it wouldn’t have been filmed well. To see this counterweighted marvel in action, check out this video we found on youtube: Mystic River Bascule Bridge.

Right next to the bridge is an ice cream parlor aptly named Mystic Drawbridge Ice-Cream. The variety of flavors is pretty extensive. However, the prices were steep, so we decided to share. Choosing a flavor took us a while, as we have differing ice cream preferences. We settled on the “Sticky Fractured Finger” which is a caramel ice cream with little bits of Butterfinger candy bar. Despite the creepy name, it was delicious.

We then left Mystic’s main street and drove to the Mystic Seaport.

Once we were finished in Mystic, we headed to the Historic Captain’s Cove Marina in Bridgeport.

Then it was time to head to our hotel in the heart of downtown Bridgeport. We got a great deal on Priceline for a nice hotel suited for business travelers. There was a fancy restaurant and bar in the lobby and a multi-level parking structure that poor Becky did not fit in. They had to open up a special gate and Becky had to be with some industrial trucks for the night.

We walked around the downtown area which was not a happening place at all. It seemed like it was mostly office buildings. We did visit an historic building called the Arcade Mall. It was beautiful inside, however, most of the store fronts were empty or closed for the day and the sun wasn’t even down yet.

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Next to the arcade mall we came across an incredible art supply store called Artist & Craftsman Supply. This is the art and crafts store of our dreams. When we walked in, we were drawn to a display of foam animal face masks. DB decided that these masks would make perfect Halloween costumes while we are in New Orleans. We chose a theme – viciousness. Then we each chose a vicious animal face to wear.

Down the street from the Arcade Mall is the Fairfield County Courthouse where an historic bell made in the mid 1800’s sits.

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We then walked back to our hotel and did laundry and took advantage of the decent WIFI.

In the morning, we checked out of the hotel, released Becky from the gated parking lot, and had nice and fresh breakfast at a cute little place called Leisha’s Bakeria.

Next it was time to leave the “Constitution State”  and head to New Jersey. But, hold on, we aren’t going to count NJ yet, because all we are doing is parking our car there so we can spend some time in the Big Apple – NYC.

Once again, we used the site http://www.parksleepfly.com/ to book a hotel room with free long term parking. Only this time, we weren’t flying, but taking the train into NYC because there is no way in the universe that we would drive Becky into one of the craziest cities in the USA. Truthfully, it really had only a little to do with Becky, we just know that driving in NYC are bonkers.

The drive from Bridgeport to our hotel in Carteret, NJ was supposed to take just over 2 hours. However, due to the rain (it wasn’t even heavy rain!) and an unbelievable number of cars on the road, our trip took nearly 5 hours!

Four and half hours into our trek, we were famished and Niner got off the turnpike and we stumbled upon Tumi International Restaurant. It was raining so we ran in, and found a nearly empty restaurant with blaring Peruvian music. We were excited that we found a Peruvian place; Niner has a thing for Peruvian pollo a la brass (rotisserie chicken). Considering how hungry we were, we managed not to over-order. We shared a ½ chicken plate with rice and a salad and ordered a side of yucca frita. It was the perfect amount of food and it was very tasty and came at a very fair price. Too bad the service was so slow, otherwise we would highly recommend this place.

After we were done eating, we got back on the road and finally made it to our hotel. We found a nice spot for Becky near the front entrance in a well-lit area of the parking lot. We took hot showers and relaxed the rest of the night watching baseball.

The next morning we headed to NYC – one of our favorite cities! Check out our next post to read about all the awesome stuff we check out and all the amazing food we eat in the Big Apple!

NH + RI + MA (again)

On September 25, 2016, we left Boston, MA and arrived in Londonderry, NH. We checked into our hotel and got settled. After staying in an Airbnb, sharing just one bathroom in a house with 2 residents and 4 other Airbnb guests, having our own space felt like a luxury!

Once we were ready for some dinner we headed to the Strange Brew Tavern in the downtown area of Manchester. The bar was rather empty, but it was early on a Sunday night. We ordered the Mediterranean Salad with grilled chicken and it was very tasty. Niner savored the flavor of New Hampshire with 603 Brewing Company’s Winni Amber Ale  which was bold yet easy to drink.

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After dinner, we drove around downtown Manchester and it was very quiet and nothing was going on. Which was fine with us because we were pooped from our action-packed visit to Boston, so we were happy to just go back to our hotel room and catch some ZZZzzzs.

The next day we slept in and took our sweet time packing up and we checked out of our hotel at the last minute.

We decided that we were due for some shopping. It was starting to get colder and Niner needed another jacket. We drove over to the Merrimack Outlets. The first order of business was lunch and we ended up at Qdoba. Then we did some shopping and Niner found herself great deal on a jacket from Converse.

Next, we took in some history at the Minute Man National Historical Park , home of the first battle of the Revolutionary War.

After our visit at the park, it was time to leave New Hampshire, the “granite state” and we headed for Rhode Island, the smallest state in the union.

We had been to RI before, and during that trip we became obsessed with the Coffee Awful-Awful from Newport Creamery . This milkshake-esque concoction is “Awful big and Awful good.” Naturally, our first destination in Rhode Island was Newport Creamery in Providence, the state capital. We entered the address into our NeNe and hit the road to Rhode.

Our trip to Newport Creamery was a success! We shared a turkey burger with fries and got ourselves a coffee Awful Awful and it was glorious!

Next, we went to the Federal Hill neighborhood and walked around and checked out an amazing Italian market called Venda Ravioli.

For dinner we stopped at Providence Oyster Bar for their happy hour. We ordered a dozen fresh oysters and the lobster wontons. Surprisingly, they did not have any RI beers on tap, so Niner had to settle for a canned beer. Just as surprisingly, that can of beer was super impressive. Easily the best canned beer we have ever had. If you have the chance, check out Foolproof Brewing’s Backyahd IPA. No, that is not a misspelling – think regional pronunciation!

When we were finished in the Federal Hill neighborhood, we headed to Target to stock up on some essentials, then we checked in to our hotel and called it a night since we were waking up really early to head to the Massachusetts island, Martha’s Vineyard.

The drive to the ferry terminal in Woods Hole, MA was gloomy and rainy – not the ideal weather for a trip to an island. We parked Becky in the overnight parking lot and took the shuttle to the Steamship Authority terminal. The ferry ride was very smooth and fairly quick. We disembarked on the area of the island called Vineyard Haven. From the harbor, we walked to Waterside Market for a latte.

Then we walked over to the Black Dog Tavern for an early lunch . When we sat down, a waitress walked by with a beautiful salad topped with an epic pile of lobster. Well, obviously, we ordered that and we got a cup of the clam chowder as well. Right after we ordered our Airbnb hostess called us and offered to pick us up after we finished eating – excellent!

The salad came and we couldn’t help but notice that our pile of lobster was not nearly as epic as the one at the next table. We came to the conclusion that the other table must have received the local’s hook up. As for the clam chowder, it was good, but what gave it the wow factor were those croutons. Never, have we ever, had croutons like those! They were perfectly crunchy, the bread had a great flavor, and the seasonings were so flavorful. The Black Dog Tavern has changed our perspective on croutons forever!

Once we were finished with our meal, our hostess picked us up and showed us around her cozy home. She told us about the bus system and gave us directions to the nearest bus stop and made some restaurant recommendations.

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We settled in and rested for a bit then headed out in the gloominess to catch the bus. While walking to the bus stop, we saw a small flock of wild turkeys. We took the bus to Edgartown. We walked around, checked out some shops, the shoreline, and Joseph Sylvia State Beach .

Next, we took the bus to the gorgeous Oak Bluffs neighborhood to check out the famous “gingerbread cottages” at the Oak Bluffs campground .

Then we walked over to Washington Park to check out the views of the amazing houses and Oak Bluffs Harbor.

For dinner, we took our hostess recommendation and hit up the very popular Off Shore Ale Company. Given how busy it was, our wait was reasonable. The place has a cool rustic feel, but was super noisy. Our server was very nice and helped us navigate the menu. We decided to share the Portuguese Fisherman’s Stew. Niner got the Das Pils, a nice malty pilsner which went perfectly with the stew.

Portuguese Fisherman’s Stew: “Littleneck clams, calamata olives,
chorizo sausage, mussels and fresh Atlantic Cod simmered in a
light tomato-fennel broth and served over turnip puree with
grilled baguette spears”

When we finished our meal, we took an Uber back to our room. We washed up and went to sleep.

The next day, our hostess made us a pot of coffee and set out fresh bread with butter, jams, and some fruit. We had a nice conversation with her about the island and then we checked out.

We took the bus to the West Tisbury area and checked out Grange Hall, The First Congressional Church, Alley’s General Store.

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Then we got back on the bus and visited the Aquinnah Cliffs and the Gay Head Lighthouse.

Next, we took the bus to Chilmark harbor, where we had our lunch at Larsen’s Fish Market. This place is a little shack type joint that does not have indoor seating. There was a small seating area on the side that faces the water. It was cold, a bit rainy, and windy that day and we were shivering, but it was okay because we were eating some amazing New England seafood delicacies!

Finally, we took the bus to Vineyard Haven and had to jog to board one of the last ferries on time!

When we arrived at Woods Hole, it was raining. We boarded the shuttle, which was standing room only at that point, and we ran to Becky as soon as we got dropped off at the parking lot.

We then loaded up and headed out to our 33rd state, Connecticut.

Our next blog post will be about our adventures in the Nutmeg or Constitution State!

Boston

We arrived in Boston, Massachusetts in the evening on September 21, 2016. When we reached the Airbnb we had to empty a bunch of our gear from Becky into the closet in our room to make some space for our friends Judie (our friend who we stayed with in Michigan) and our friend Yanira.

The next morning, Yanira landed at Logan airport first. We scooped her up and had some breakfast at B.W.’s Grill. When we were finished eating we then headed back to the airport and picked up Judie.

Our car full of lady band geeks drove out to the Jamaica Plain neighborhood to visit the only man Niner has ever loved – Samuel Adams. We decided to get the party started early and we did a brewery tour and tasting at the Samuel Adams Brewery.

As if getting all the beer you can drink for free isn’t great enough, turns out that there was a free trolley to an historic bar named Doyle’s, the first bar to serve Sam Adams on tap. We took the free trolley and it was driven by a character named Jason. He gave us a very enthusiastic rundown of the Doyle’s menu. He even did a Doyle’s cheer with Yanira.

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Niner was so incredibly excited to get some Boston Brick Red on tap. That Sam Adams brew is only brewed and served in the city of Boston.

We ordered their famous lobstah roll sandwiches, clam chowdah, and waffle fries. Yanira, wanting to experience authentic Boston, decided to put her dislike for seafood aside and she ate lobster for the first time in her life. She said, “It wasn’t terrible.”

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When we were done eating we hopped back on the trolley to the brewery and headed to our Aribnb so Judie and Yanira could unpacked and get settled. We made it maybe 3 blocks when Niner realized she was talking and only DB was listening.

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Judie and Yanira got settled in the small room we were all sharing and we all decided that nap time was in order.

After a good nap time, we got dressed and headed to downtown Boston. For dinner, we stopped at Niner and DB’s (and Mindy Kaling’s) favorite pizza place, Regina Pizzeria. Niner and DB had been craving the #29 pizza ever since we had it back during our Boston visit in 2014. J & Y put their faith in us, and we ordered the #29 and a pitcher of Narragansett, a cheap local lager that was very refreshing and goes well with heavy food.

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#29 Prosciutto Con Spinaci “A classic combination of Regina sauce and Ricotta cheese, fresh spinach, prosciutto, cherry tomatoes and Mozzarella cheese. Accented with Romano cheese and fresh basil”

Our server was a lovely, friendly lady with tons of energy. She brought over a huge bottle of their spicy seasoned oil to go with our pie which was awesome. Quite happily, the four of us devoured that pizza!

Next up, it was time for dessert. Once again, we were eager to share our previous experience in bean town and we wanted our friends to have some epic cannoli at the legendary Mike’s Pastry.

Flashback to 2014: All over the interwebs, folks were raving about the cannoli at Mike’s Pastry. We were not that wild about cannoli. We decided not to go out of our way to get one during our trip to Boston. Then, we just happened to pass it by, the line wasn’t too long, so we figured we would give it a shot. Then, we ordered, and then we saw the lady fill the canolli with the beautiful cream filling, and then we took a bite and our lives were forever altered. Mike’s Pastry is the platinum standard for canolli!

This time around, there was a rather daunting line, but we were with good company so it moved efficiently.

Despite our best advice, Judie got a brownie that she was not pleased with. However, those of us with canollis were very pleased.

With our pastries in tow, we made our way to the historic Green Dragon Tavern. We got ourselves some more fresh Samuel Adams beer and jibber jabbered. We didn’t stay out too long because we had a field trip early the next day.

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Way before the sunrise the next morning, we got dressed up in jewel tones and hit the road for Stamford, Connecticut, home of the Maury Show. Yanira, being the fan of daytime TV that she is, made her middle school dreams come true and set us all up with tickets to the free taping. Niner, being the trooper that she is, did the 3 hour drive while everyone snoozed.

For those of you that think that those shows are full of fake people with made-up lives, you are wrong. Those are real people, telling their real stories. However, the staff does make efforts to work them up and get the audience riled up as well. All four of us have plenty to say about our experience, but this blog is not about our opinions on talk shows. So, instead of going into it, here is the video of one of the shows we witnessed.

 

The picture below is DB & Niner during a break in the taping. The “photobomber” is the girlfriend of one of the show guests. This lady’s boyfriend was on stage with two other ladies claiming he was the baby-daddy to their respective kids. Maury said “you are not the father” only once.

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After the taping, we sweet talked one of the production assistants into letting us pose for these pictures after he had already put everything away.

Some lunch was in order before we made the drive back to Boston. We did a bit of walking around downtown Stamford and found ourselves at some burger place with terrible service. It was so lame we don’t even remember the name of the place.

After our lame meal we walked across the street to check out these statues before heading back to the parking lot to get Becky and head back to Boston.

One thing that we really like about driving around the east coast is the existence of service plazas. As they say in Connecticut, service plazas are “so much more than a rest stop.” For those of you not familiar, a service plaza is a rest stop type area, were you don’t really leave the highway. Basically, it’s a mini, mini-mall area with shops, restaurants, and restrooms right on the highway. Niner explained the concept of this to Judie and Yanira and they were fascinated, so when it was time to fuel up and get some snacks for the road, we didn’t exit the highway… we visited a service plaza! Becky got her gas and the rest of us got some Dunkin Donuts coffee.

We made one more pit stop at a CVS and picked up some drinking water and nail polish. Then we finally made it back to the Airbnb. The sun was already down, and we were all pretty pooped since we started the day at 4am. We chilled in our room for a bit then we walked down to a very local joint named Backwoods Pizza. DB and I shared a turkey sub and J & Y got a calzone.

The next day started off with some sight-seeing in the heart of downtown Boston. Our first destination was the iconic Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox. Once again, timing was not in our favor when it came to baseball, so we didn’t get to see the BoSox in action. However, our tour was excellent and the views were enhanced with the clouds.

We just happened to be in town for CollegeFest and several streets were blocked off for the event which made it difficult to find a place to eat. We ended up at a yuppy tourist trap called Max and Leo’s. The food was fine, but the music was loud, the service was slow, and everything was seriously overpriced.

After lunch we walked to the Boston Public Garden, Boston Common, and the Granary Burying Ground  to pay our respects to some of our nation’s founders, including Niner’s boyfriend, Samuel Adams. We then headed to Harvard Yard, and contrary to legend, there isn’t any parking there. None.

For dinner, we met up with another one of Niner’s friends from her high school speech team, Nassira. As predicted, Judie and Nassira got along famously talking about all sorts of crocheting stuff. We all had a lovely fancy meal and handcrafted cocktails at PARK  in Cambridge.

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We made it back to our Airbnb and decided that we didn’t want the evening to end quite yet. DB drove us to a fancy liquor store that had way too many options. We spent a lot of time in there considering we only bought 3 tall boys.

Back in our room equipped with some brews and Niner’s subscription to the Dodgers on MLB TV, we all watched the boys in blue crush it 14-0 against the Rockies.

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The next morning we got Y & J all packed up and bid them farewell. It was our first trip together and certainly won’t be our last! Thanks for being great travel pals, Judie and Yanira!

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After we dropped of the ladies at the airport, we came back to the room to load up all of our gear back into Becky. While we were packing, DB got an alert from her ESPN app announcing that star pitcher for the Miami Marlins, Jose Fernandez died during a boating accident. We were both shocked and the sadness lingered for a while, especially as more details about the tragedy were discovered.

We left the Airbnb and headed to our last stop in bean town, the JFK Presidential Library.

Then we hit the road for our next destination, New Hampshire. On our way out of bean town we crossed over this beautiful suspension bridge.

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Then, it was lunch time. On our way out of the Boston area, we discovered that our beloved Regina Pizza was served at a place called Polcari’s in Woburn, MA. When we walked in we were greeted by a lady with hair out of 1983 and a super thick Massachusetts accent. Then she asked Niner if she wanted a child’s menu for DB. In our 20+ year relationship, that was a first! Haha!

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We decided to try something different and we got the #16 Capricciosa – Sliced prosciutto, fresh mushrooms, Ricotta, Parmesan and Mozzarella cheese with tomato sauce. It was good, but somehow it just wasn’t as good as the original in the heart of Boston’s North End.

Once we were finished eating we, bid farewell to Mass, for the time being.

Our next post will be about our time in New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Martha’s Vineyard.

Maine

We left Vermont and headed for our 29th state, Maine, the “Pine Tree State” on September 19, 2016.

Getting to Maine from southern Vermont meant that we had to drive all the way across the state of New Hampshire. Even though we entered New Hampshire, we did not count it as visited at that time. Passing through does not cut it for #50infive!  Our route would be taking us to another area of the state later in the trip.

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Not too long after we left New Hampshire and passed the Maine state line, we crossed over the Androscoggin River and saw an old-fashioned truss bridge. We pulled over and found ourselves in the small town of Bethel. We walked along the river and enjoyed the views for a bit.

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Once the sunset the highway became cold, pitch dark, and foggy. It was so foggy, that we drove right past our motel and had to drive nearly a mile to a place where it was safe to do a u-turn.

We checked into the family run motel and were greeted by a friendly man with a big smile and a small dog with a big growl. The owner of the dog (and the motel) told Fufu to go away. Niner was kind of bummed because she was ready to attempt to win little grumpy Fufu over. She was willing to take the risk if it meant she could get some doggy snuggles.

Our room was the last unit at the absolute back of the property – our entrance door was the only one that didn’t face the highway. The room was very dated, but everything was clean and we were thankful for the peace and quiet.

The next morning, we headed for the town of Bar Harbor. We had just snagged a great parking spot right on the main street, when we were approached by an elderly gentleman. He noticed our California plates and asked us where we were from. We said Los Angeles. He then said that his daughter lives in Chatsworth. No way! That’s where Niner’s mom lives. Small world!

Our tummies were asking for lunch. We decided since we were in Maine, we were going to indulge and get what Maine is famous for – lobstah!

We went to the very popular West Street Café. Everything on the menu sounded amazing. Not just because we were very hungry, but also because we are huge fans of New England seafood.

Niner got herself the lovely Leaf Peeping Red Ale from Atlantic Brewing Company. For food, we ordered the lobster roll, the clam chowder, and the lobster meal. The lobster roll was full of tender chunks of lobster. The clam chowder had a great consistency, but was not very flavorful. The full lobster was incredibly fresh and was perfectly cooked. Our meal came with fresh fries and some amazing drawn butter. The meal also came with desert and we had the blueberry pie a la mode and it was delicious, warm, and gooey!

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Totally stuffed, we walked around the harbor to take in the sites.

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Then we headed to the incredible Acadia National Park . We checked out Sand Beach and Newport Cove. Then, we saw the Thunder Hole. Our next stop was Otter Cliff where we took a short walk along the hiking path.

According to the many sources we consulted with, no trip to Acadia NP is complete without a visit to Jordan Pond and the historic Jordan Pond House. First, we took a long walk along the pond’s waterfront. The path was full of trees and foliage. It felt like we were eons away from civilization. What was the most stunning was how incredibly still the pond was!

Then we sat down in the restaurant within the Jordan Pond House for some of their famous popovers. The popovers were delightfully warm and fluffy with a perfectly crunchy crust on the outside. The perfect snack!

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To watch the sunset, we headed to Cadillac Mountain. Unfortunately, it was crazy windy and foggy so we didn’t get to take in the picturesque sunset we were hoping for. However, DB was able to capture some pretty nice pictures when the fog would clear for a moment. We even got a peek of Bar Island, one of the many small islands of Acadia NP!

Once the sunset, we headed back to our motel room and Niner made us some ramen noodles and we watched the Dodger game on TV.

We started early the next day and our first stop was the Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse.

For lunch, we decided that we needed to get some more fresh Maine lobstah and we ended up at the Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound. We selected a big lobster that was just plucked out of the ocean early that morning. Then they took our catch outside where they have a system of pots with boiling sea water to cook the seafood.

First, we had a bowl of their clam chowder which was tasty considering it was rather thin and had butter in it. Then our enormous lobster came out with some fresh baked rolls and drawn butter. It was the best lobster we have ever had! So fresh, so tender, so huge!

Our next move was to say bye bye to Maine and we headed to bean town… Boston! Our next post will be packed with tons of good times in our favorite east coast city.

 

NY Part 1 + Vermont

Because of the shape and size of the states on the East Coast, some of the blog posts will end up being disjointed due to our road trip route. While this post is about NY state, it only showcases a small portion of our time in the state as we end up in NYC on the opposite end of the state later in our journey.

We left Ontario Canada and crossed back into the USA in Niagara Falls, NY on September 16, 2016.

Our next destination is something that DB discovered on Pinterest. We arrived at Watkins Glen State Park located within the small town of Watkins Glen, NY. In the parking lot of the park, we changed into our hiking boots and hooked ourselves up with some bug spray.

The Gorge Trail did not disappoint! We were amazed with the scenery!

Unfortunately, Niner’s back was starting to get achy, so we were not able to do the long hike in we had planned. Plus, we were running a bit short on daylight. So, we left the park and made our way to the main street of the town. There, we decided to dine at the Wildflower Café. We had the crab and gouda dip and the kale Caesar salad. The dip was perfectly piping hot and ultra yummy. The salad was really heavy on the dressing, so we asked for some extra kale which was a generous portion and they only charged us $2.

Full and ready for some rest, it was time to make our way to our hotel in East Syracuse. We checked in, washed up, and knocked out.

The next morning we got up early and headed to the nearest drive-thru oil change place. We arrived just as they raised the garage entrance. Becky got her fluids and got a clean bill of health. Then we hit the road for Cooperstown, the home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

When we arrived in the small town of Cooperstown, the first thing we noticed was just how small it is! If it wasn’t for the fable of baseball being created by Abner Doubleday in that town, it certainly would not see as many tourists as it does!

First we opted for an early lunch at the Doubleday Café. We had the minestrone soup and the hummus veggie wrap with fries. It was a filling and reasonably priced meal and we loved all the baseball themed décor.

Then it was time for us to soak in all of the glorious history of America’s favorite pastime!

The museum is full of interesting artifacts, history, and information, but it was not easy for us to navigate. The building has 3 stories and we felt that the way the exhibits are arranged didn’t flow properly. Despite that, we did enjoy the massive amounts of memorabilia and the epic hall of fame with the beautiful plaques for each inducted player.

We left the museum and walked down the main street and checked out all of the baseball themed souvenir stores. DB got herself a shirt at the basballism store.

Then it was time to hit the road for Vermont. Our Airbnb was located in a remote area, but our Garmin navigation unit (named Nene, pronounced “nay nay”) got us there with no problems. It was pitch dark when we got there. Our hostess was very nice and was eager to chat with us about our travels. She let us do laundry and when we were done folding our clothes we knocked out.

The next day we were greeted with freshly made coffee and some yogurt, fruit, and granola for breakfast. We chatted with our hostess a bit more, and then bid farewell to her and her adorable home to get our tour of Vermont started.

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We drove into the town of Wilmington to start our way up the 100 Highway scenic route. Our first stop was the Vermont Country Store. This place is amazing! We sampled all sorts of delicious snacks and roamed around the grounds.

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Next, it was time for some lunch. We walked to the building next door to the huge country store and ate at the Bryant House Restaurant. To start off we had a bowl of clam chowder, which was nothing special, but nice because it was kind of cold outside. DB ordered the pot pie and Niner got the white cheddar grilled cheese. We were both very happy with our meals.

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As we made our way north up the scenic byway, we stopped to view the scenic-ness along the way.

While walking back to the car after viewing the lake, Niner spotted a huge dead spider on the ground. She stared at it too hard and ended up with a migraine. DB took over driving and we headed to the town of Waterbury to the Ben & Jerry headquarters.

Niner had a decent nap and a good prescription in her system, so we were ready to indulge in some ice cream with clever names. We went on the tour and our tour guide was young and goofy. Unfortunately, we were there during factory down time and we didn’t get to see the machinery in action. At the end of the tour we were given a free sample of…  vanilla. It was surprising and honestly a bit disappointing that the brand of ice cream known for their unique flavors would hand out plain old vanilla to the folks that travel all the way to visit their factory.

After the tour and after finishing our kiddie scoops of vanilla ice cream, we visited the gift shop. Then we were ready for some serious ice cream. Lastly, we visited the Ben & Jerry’s “Flavor Graveyard” where all of the flavors they no longer make are laid to rest.

Just down the road from the factory we saw a bunch of farm animals behind a wooden fence in front of a store. We pulled over and hung out with some sheep, llamas, and goats for a while.

Our next stop was the town of Stowe. We went to the downtown area to find that most of the restaurants and all the shops were already closed, even though the sun had not set yet. The restaurants that were open, were fancy and/or expensive. So, for dinner we found ourselves at an upscale convenience store where we purchased an Alfredo pasta bowl and a pre-packed salad with grilled chicken. Then we headed to our Airbnb which was a huge house full of other Airbnb guests.

We ate our dinner in the kitchen, washed up, and went to sleep.

When we woke up the next day we were surprised to find amazing views surrounding the house. We had arrived in the pitch dark, so we had no idea what was around us. Right behind the house was a Christmas tree farm.

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We checked out and headed to the city of Burlington. When we arrived, not much was open as it was early on a Monday morning. We found a bagel place with free Wi-Fi and relaxed a bit while we shared a lox sandwich. Then we roamed around the downtown area and happened upon the original site of the first Ben and Jerry’s ice cream shop which is now a lovely parking lot.

Even though it was barely approaching lunch time, Niner was determined to get Vermont beer. We came across Leunigs Lounge. We sat at the bar and Niner ordered a very tasty lager from the Von Trapp Brewery.

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Next, we left Burlington and on our way out of Vermont, we stopped at the state capital in Montpellier  – the country’s smallest capital city.

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With our last stop in Vermont taken care of, we hit the road for our next state of the union – Maine.

Pennsylvania + Niagara Falls

Officially on our second half of the trip, we arrived in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania (state 26) on September 13, 2017, just before the sunset. We checked into our Airbnb which was a studio unit attached to a single-story home. It was so nice to have our own space for such a great price! However, while we were physically close to downtown, because we were across the point where the Ohio, Allegheny, and fascinated rivers meet, it was a bothersome commute – so many bridges!

When we were finished getting settled in our space, we drove to visit the Grandview neighborhood. The area is aptly named – the view is grand!

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We took in the grand view at the Thomas J. Gallaher Overlook and then we walked along Shiloh Street. Our first stop was the Grandview Bakery. The store was large and had an impressive variety of pastries. We picked out a couple of muffins for the next day’s breakfast. Then dinner time came around, and we walked down the street to find Redbird’s Bar & Grill playing the Dodger game. We ordered some wings and Niner got the beer she craves when she is on the East Coast, Yuengling, brewed in Pennsylvania at the oldest brewery in the USA.

Once our meal was finished, we headed back to our room to get some much-needed sleep after our long day that started in Cleveland.

The next day we started things off with a tour of PNC Park, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Unfortunately, while we were in town the Pirates were on a road trip, so instead of seeing a game at the amazing stadium, we had to settle for the tour, if you want to call it settling.

Up to this point in our lives, we had watched baseball games at Petco Park in San Diego, Chase Field in Phoenix, Kaufman Stadium in Kansas City, Target Field in Minneapolis, and of course, “blue heaven on Earth,” Dodger Stadium. PNC park, nestled in the heart of Pittsburgh is simply amazing.  As much as we are both true blue Dodger fans, we have to admit, that PNC park has incredible city views, aesthetics, and design.

The Pirates are a team full of history and our tour was guided by a spunky Pittsburgh native and lifelong Pirates fan that just happened to have her friends from high school on the tour with us. It was so much fun to hear them talk about their love of baseball and the Pirates while walking around the Park.

When our tour was done, we asked the group of ladies what we needed to eat while visiting the Steel City. They all looked at each other, smiled and said in unison, “Primanti Brothers!” During our travels thus far, this was the first time there was resounding agreement amongst the locals when we posed that question. It was perfect, because we already had that famous sandwich shop on our radar because of a recommendation from DB’s former coworker, a former Pittsburgher.

After the tour, we walked around the outside of the stadium to see and stand on the iconic Roberto Clemente Bridge which is always showcased so nicely on TV during games at PNC Park.

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We then made our way to Market Square to get ourselves some lunch at Primanti Brothers. When we were seated, we saw some titanic sandwiches get delivered to the table next to us. At our first glance at the menu, we were impressed by the low prices considering the huge portions. We briefly discussed sharing, but DB wanted to get the most popular sandwich, the pastrami and Niner does not do pastrami (no, not even at the world famous Katz Deli in NYC – during our 2015 visit, she ordered a bagel). Niner ordered the cajun chicken and we were both super pleased with our impossibly large sandwiches.

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Right before we finished our meal, an unexpected downpour trapped us in the sandwich shop for a few minutes. It seemingly caught everyone in the square unaware – nearly everyone was without an umbrella and scrambling for shelter. Once there was a break in the deluge, we scurried to Becky and drove back to our room. We relaxed there for a while until the rain cleared up.

Our next stop was a colorful place called Randyland. A painter named Randy has transformed his house into a super funky work of art. The gate to the house is kept open during the day and the public is invited to walk the property to see all of his creations. Randy enthusiastically greeted us and the other visitors and he introduced us to his cat.

Then we drove to the Strip District, only to find that most of the shops were already closed for the day, even though the sun had not set yet.

Looking for somewhere to hang out with free parking or even reasonably priced parking that could accommodate Becky’s height was not possible. So, we ended up back at Market Square and hit up a joint called the Yard Gastropub.  We were not all that hungry due to our large lunch, so we shared a side salad and the shrimp lettuce wraps. Our meal was flavorful and it was perfectly portioned for a light dinner.

The next morning we left our room pretty early and hit the road for Niagara Falls. However, this does not conclude our time in PA – our trip will take us to the other side of the state later on to visit Philadelphia, the “city of brotherly love.”

We arrived on the US side of the epic falls before noon. Equipped with our rain jackets we walked along the trails that hugged the falls around the park. Then we paid a very small entrance fee to the Observation Tower. Very hesitantly, we admitted to each other that the falls were not as impressive as we expected them to be.

Our next move was to pull out our passports and take this road trip north of the boarder to Canada. We decided to splurge and we booked a room at the Raddison Hotel & Suites Fallsview. As we drove to the hotel, we saw the majestic views we had been anticipating. Wow, wow, and more wow! The view of the falls from Canada is outstanding and the US view pales in comparison!

Opening the door to our room we were treated to a view of the falls right from our window! While it was not a completely unobstructed view, it was very special and we both agree that springing for the room was a good use of our funds.

After taking in the view from our room for a while, we headed to the waterfront area to get closer to the night time views. We took the falls Incline Railway down to the fenced pathway right along the waterfront.

Hunger then set in and we headed to a place just across the street from our hotel for a burger and of course some poutine. The Big Sizzle Burger is a small place that serves big burgers with options for unique toppings. We shared a spicy goat cheese burger and a poutine. It was a lot of food! The food is prepared fresh to order so it took longer than you would expect for “fast food.” While the meal was tasty, everything was greasy and left our tummies a bit achy afterwards.

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We then went back to our room to enjoy the views and get some rest.

The next morning we packed up our stuff and put it in Becky and took advantage of the hotel parking we had. We walked down to the riverfront and took some more pictures.

Next we kept walking and arrived at the dock for the Hornblower cruise. This boat ride gets you up close and personal with the powerful falls! Thank goodness for those ponchos, or else we would have been soaked.

After the cruise, we walked back to the car and then decided to stop at the duty free to check out ice wine. A friend of ours (who you will be introduced to when we visit Texas) recommended we try some ice wine while in Canada.  DB opted for a complementary ice wine tasting and bought a small bottle.

It was then time to return to the USA. When we got to the customs booth the agent asked us to open our trunk. Her gaze changed once she laid eyes on all our gear and she asked us how long we had been traveling and we told her over three months. She was impressed, yet maintained her professionalism and kept our conversation brief and before we knew it we were back in the state of New York!

Our next blog post will be all about our adventures in western New York and Vermont.

Ohio

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We arrived in Cincinnati, the “Queen City” in the afternoon on September 11, 2016. The room we rented from Airbnb for the night was located on a very hilly street. The multi-level house was very nicely decorated and had a great view of downtown from the kitchen.

Once we got our things settled in the room, we decided to roam the city. DB was able to get hold of a friend she used to work with and we made plans to meet her for drinks later. Meanwhile, it was time for the two of us to eat. We found a cool Asian fusion spot on the “Over the Rhine” neighborhood. Luckily for us, we rolled in to Kaze right in the middle of happy hour. Everything we ordered was yummy and the deals on the food were happy indeed.

Then it was time to walk over to the Eagle to meet DB’s friend. The Eagle is a gastropub that used to be a Post Office. The place has an extensive craft beer list and a southern inspired menu, which included the sweet potato skillet we ordered.  Niner was very happy that she was able to get a beer brewed in Ohio as well as Kentucky, as she wasn’t able to spot one when we were in KY before. It was really nice for DB to catch up with Erika. Erika had a very cool co-worker meet us up and we all had a great time enjoying some brews and chatting.

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After we left the Eagle, Erika offered to drive the two of us around town to see the views of the city lights. Our first stop was Fountain Square in the heart of downtown. Then we drove to Great American Ball Park home of the Cincinnati Reds. Erika then drove us over the Taylor Southgate Bridge and once again we were in Kentucky. She took us to the parking lot of the Newport Aquarium where the views of the Ohio River and the Queen City are rather impressive. After our tour of the city was over, Erika drove us back to our car and we headed to our room to get some rest. Erika, thanks for showing us a great time in Cinci!

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The next morning, we woke up a bit early to get a load of laundry in before we checked out of the Airbnb. Being able to do laundry at a place that is not a laundry mat is always a huge plus.

When we were chatting with the girls the night before at the bar, we asked what signature foods of Cincinnati we needed to try and they both agreed that we had to get some Grippo’s chips and a chess pie from Graeter’s Ice Cream. Challenge accepted. But, first we needed lunch.

DB had been craving pho (Vietnamese soup) and she found a well rated place just down the street from where we were staying. The restaurant was in a cute and funky market place in a literally colorful neighborhood.

Pho Lang Thang is a small place with a small menu. DB got the beef pho, and even though Niner is not a fan of pho, she got herself a bowl of the chicken soup. Just as expected, only one of us was pleased with the meal, and Niner finally learned that she shouldn’t ever order pho again.

After lunch, we started our mission to get the signature Cinci snacks. We went to Graeter’s and had some ice cream. We got the hazlenut ice cream in a cone. It was very tasty, creamy, and reasonably priced. Much to our surprise, getting an entire chess pie was a reasonable deal as well… an entire pie for $6!

Next, we drove around the city and visited the Smale Riverfront Park, drove past the Reds’ ballpark again, and crossed a bit of the Roebling Singing Suspension Bridge.

Now it was time to find those Grippo’s chips. Erika told us to go to a UDF, which is basically an upscale convenience store. We came across one when were on the outskirts of downtown and found an entire row dedicated to the varieties of Grippos. Erika said that the kind in the black and red bag have the most unique seasoning, so we got one of those and Niner also selected a bag of the wavy cheddar and horseradish.

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With our signature Cinci snacks in hand, it was time for us to hit the road and head to Cleveland. We arrived in Cleveland in the late afternoon and headed straight to our hotel in the Olmstead suburbs. Our first stop was the Great Northern Mall that is just across the street from where we were staying. Then we drove downtown and spent some time at the Bicentennial Park to check out the waterfront and the views of downtown.

Before we headed back to the hotel, we went to Walmart to grab some groceries and watched some baseball on TV. While we enjoyed chilling in our room we sliced into the chess pie we brought from Cincinnatti – it was amazing!

The next morning, we headed to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Our plan was to stay there for 2 hours – what were we thinking??!!!?! Being big time music fans, we LOVED every inch of that place. The 2 hours passed and we decided to grab lunch and to give ourselves another two hours. Our next destination, Pittsburg, would just have to wait.

We had a nice lunch at a classy modern Mexican place behind the museum on the waterfront, right next to the famous Cleveland sign. Nuevo’s chips and salsa were excellent and we both enjoyed the burrito we shared.

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Back to the Museum! We did our best to cover as much ground with the time we had, but it feels like we barely made a dent. There is a very big chance that we will find ourselves in Cleveland again so we can spend more time at the birthplace of rock and roll!

After we left the hall of fame, we made our way to the “A Christmas Story” House. We were able to squeeze our way into one of the last tours for the day. Being able to see the sets and props from that classic movie was really cool. The staff members worked really hard to make the tours special and we were very happy to be able to dress up in the bunny suits and pose with the props.

When we were finished with our tour we were ready to say farewell to Ohio and say hello to Pennsylvania – state 26 of 50!

Tennessee

We arrived in Nashville, TN on September 9, 2016, just before sunset. DB was quite tired from having to do all of the driving for the day and Niner’s migraine had her feeling miserable. Before seeing what “Music City” has to offer, we both agreed that some much needed nap time was in order.

After our nap, we were ready to have some dinner and we decided to get Nashville’s signature dish – hot chicken. We made our way to Hattie B’s. It was a Friday night and the midtown area of Nashville was pretty lively. Thankfully, we managed to find some street parking just a couple blocks from the restaurant.

There were many young, trendy, Nashville newcomers in the line in front of Hattie B’s – in the group ahead of us and the one behind us we heard at least 5 different people saying something like, “I moved here about 2 weeks ago.” The line wasn’t too long, but it moved pretty slow. When we finally got to the front we ordered the mild 1/2 chicken plate with southern greens and macaroni and cheese. For drinks we got the lemonade and the localy brewed Chicken Scratch pilsner from their funky tap.

The chicken was juicy, crunchy on the outside, and quite spicy considering we ordered the mild. We were grateful for our cold beverages to help deal with the spicy heat! The greens were very good, but the mac was only okay. All in all, a great meal. However, if returning to Nashville, I’m sure we would not return to Hattie B’s but instead, make the trek to the original Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack on the outskirts of town.

After our meal, we were pleasantly surprised that a little breeze was rolling through and we enjoyed a slow walk back to our car and heard live bands jamming out as we walked past several venues. Too full and too tired, we opted for our dingy hotel room for some TV, AC, and Zzzzzzs.

The next morning we got our free hotel breakfast and our first stop was Centennial Park and the Parthenon, a full scale replica of Athens Greece original. Even though we made sure to start our day early, it was obnoxiously hot and we became weary from our time outdoors very quickly.

In search of refuge from the heat we headed to the Opry Mills Mall, which sits right next to the legendary Grand Ole Opry. First, we needed sustenance, and good ole TGI Fridays did the trick. Once refueled, we wandered around the mall and enjoyed the AC and free wifi. Then we braved the heat once more and walked across the parking lot to Opryland to check out the indoor atrium.

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Unable to stand the heat anymore, we headed back to the motel and rested up. Once the sun started to set, the temps lowered and we ventured out to the trendy 12 South neighborhood.

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For dinner we ended up at a stylish Mexican eatery named Bartaco.  The place was packed, but somehow we managed to snag two nice seats at the bar. We ordered the guacamole to start and it was surprisingly legit. The tacos we chose were: duck, chicken, pork belly, and portobello. Everything tasted fresh and was well flavored. The portions were fair for the price and the service was good even though they were outrageously busy.

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Our dinner was strategically small to ensure we were prepared for some dessert. Our stop for sweet treats was the Five Daughters Bakery. This place’s take on the Cronut craze is called the “100 layer donut.” Niner got the vanilla bean and DB got the Salted Caramel. Those things were huge in size and huge on sweetness as well. Sadly, they were also oily.

After our sweet treat cravings were put to rest, Niner was craving a whiskey sour and we found ourselves at a cabin themed bar called Embers Ski Lodge. Considering how crowded the neighborhood was, and how cute the bar is, we were both surprised and grateful that there was hardly anyone there. It was nice to relax and chat with drinks without having to raise our voices.

We woke up the next morning and packed our bags. We made a couple last minute tourist stops before we left Nashville: downtown, music row and the State Capital.

Then we hit the road and headed to Cincinatti Ohio. The route to the “Queen City” lead us through Louisville, Kentucky, home of the Louisville Slugger factory that produces legendary wooden baseball bats. Pressed for time, we did not do a museum tour. We walked around, visted the gift shop, and put in some BP at the cages. DB opted for the smallest slugger, which was Brandon Philips’ signature bat and Marlaina chose Jackie Robinson’s.

Just down the street from all the baseball bats is the Muhamed Ali museum. Since it was so close, we decided to walk over just to check out the building and the riverfront.

And that completed our pit stop in Louisville and we got back on the road to Cincinnati. Our next blog post will be all about our time in Ohio – Cincinnati and Cleveland!