No Place Like Home

And we’ve come to the last segment of my vacation recap. The trip to New England was mostly for me. The trip to Charlotte was for Graham, since obviously he wanted to spend time with family & friends before heading to Honduras. 2016-08-09-19-38-57Our first night home, we headed to Pinky’s Westside Grill for a casual dinner. This banana pudding was ridiculous. So good, but that portion size… seriously? My brother-in-law had one bite, Graham and I ate a ton, and then took the rest of it home.
2016-08-09-20-34-44-2The day before we headed to Charlotte, we spent the day at Six Flags New England, which was a let down. So, we decided to make up for it by spending a day at Carowinds. We had SUCH a good time. It was an overcast day, and they were calling for rain, so the place was dead. We didn’t wait in any lines for longer than 5 minutes. We even rode the Fury twice, back to back (with zero waiting).

Unfortunately, on one of the oldest, jerkiest roller coasters, my phone broke. It was in Graham’s pocket, and when he handed it to me after the ride, it looked like that. I was SO upset. WTF is the point of a $70 phone case if it doesn’t actually protect the phone?2016-08-10-11-26-54After Carowinds, we went to Ikea for a bit, and then had dinner with Heather and Stephen at Miguel’s (one of my Charlotte favorites). 2016-08-10-18-14-23We kept dinners pretty simple while we were home. We tried a few places that have been on my list for a while, including Futo Buta. We started with the smoked pork belly buns… 
2016-08-11-18-22-28-2 and then we ate ramen. I felt a little insane eating a hot bowl of soup on an insanely hot summer day, but whatever. It was delicious. 2016-08-11-18-29-22 After dinner we went to Elizabeth Creamery for ice cream before going home to watch the Panthers game & the Olympics. I had ginger ice cream, and it was epic. And the waffle cone was perfection. 2016-08-11-19-08-52-2 One day we headed to South Park for breakfast. I finally realized I could get a half order of pancakes, which made me happy. Their pancakes are so freaking good. 2016-08-12-10-04-37-1 After breakfast, we packed a lunch, packed some supplies, and took Graham’s parent’s boat out for the day. It was such a perfect day! We went out to Mountain Island Lake, and spent the day swimming, bobbing around in the water, and just enjoying our time together. This trip to Charlotte was different from all of our others. Our time wasn’t crammed with social obligations, we had a ton of time together, just doing nothing. And it was really, really nice. 2016-08-12-12-48-13-2We had a date night at Customshop. Customshop had been on my list for a while, and it did not disappoint. We started with the BBQ octopus. I had the tuna. And while their desserts at the table next to us looked appealing, we skipped dessert there and headed to Amelie’s instead.
2016-08-12-21-32-30 Tarts, turnovers, and macarons… We may have gone a little overboard, but it was all worth it!2016-08-12-23-19-15-1We ended our time home with a dinner out with my mom and Graham’s parents (no photos from that dinner for some reason), and donuts and coffee the last morning there with Brittany. It was a perfect trip home, and the end to a really amazing two weeks.

Eating Our Way Through Portland

I know this is surprising, considering how much we love food, and the quality of  the restaurants in Boston, but we didn’t really eat that well while we were there. After days of sightseeing, we usually grabbed something that was convenient, instead of researching and reserving tables at the best restaurants. So, the best food of the trip was, hands down, from our time in Maine with Sav & Elise. Our first night in Maine was dinner at the brewery Sav works at, but our next day we ate and drank our way through Portland. And it was a pretty amazing day.

We started with breakfast in a local spot, The Hub, where I had an excellent order of French toast.2016-08-06-10-48-09 After breakfast, they drove us around their new home before we headed to Portland. The lake they took us to was especially beautiful. The water was crystal clear, and it was absolutely gorgeous. 2016-08-06-11-18-02-2Our plan for the day was to eat and drink our way through Portland. And we started almost immediately. Our first stop of the day was Mash Tun, a fun, “beer centric” hang out. We ordered beer, cocktails, Brussels sprouts, and cheese fries and since we had seats at the bar, we grilled the bartender for info about the secret bar we were on the hunt for.
2016-08-06-14-09-59Our second stop was donuts at the holy donut, which was disappointing. They were out of everything except for chocolate sea salt. The four of us shared one, and it was just okay. While the flavor was good, the donuts are made from potatoes, which gives them a different texture than what I’m used to. Give me a strawberry glazed doughnut from Duck Donuts, or an Apple Fritter from Glazed any day! 2016-08-06-14-53-42-1Stop #3 was by far the best stop: The Honey Paw. We ordered 5- 6 dishes to share, and everything was amazing. We started with the fry bread and uni butter…
2016-08-06-15-44-15Somen noodles, ginger, pork… this was fantastic! 2016-08-06-15-50-02-1And my favorite dish of the day: fried shisito peppers with ponzu aioli. These were absolutely phenomenal.
2016-08-06-15-48-49-1Both couples ended the meal with a serving of caramelized honey soft serve with honeycomb and magic shell. This was good, but not mind blowing.
2016-08-06-16-17-57-2Our 4th stop was Lincolns, which was the coolest stop of the day. A speakeasy with a menu where everything was $5. The search for this place was so much fun! It’s cash only, so come prepared (although there is an ATM right outside…). Inside, it’s dark and cozy, with Lincoln posters all over the walls. But the best part: everything is $5 They don’t have exciting cocktails or anything, but  the have a good variety of liquor + mixers, beer, and wine – all for $5. Definitely worth searching for if you’re in Portland. Ask around – people will give you clues, but no one will actually tell you where it is. All four of us even bought $5 Lincolns t-shirts. 2016-08-06-17-36-402016-08-06-17-41-20Our final stop of the day was for poutine at Duckfat. (There was a spot in between Lincolns and Duckfat, but we’re not going to talk about that one…) This was so delicious and it makes me so angry that poutine (or just regular gravy fries) aren’t a thing in the south! These were fairly simple, with just gravy, cheese curds and chives, 2016-08-06-07-35-37It was such a delicious day, and a great way to spend a day with friends. I’m sure I gained at least 5 pounds, but it was well worth it. This was such a fun way to explore a new city. Or even a city we know well – like Charlotte. I definitely want to plan a day like this with friends on one of our next visits home.

Moving on to Maine

In April, two of our favorite Virginians packed up their lives and moved to Maine. Their part of Maine is only a few hours from Boston, so on that Friday, we checked out of our hotel and headed up to Maine.

We did make a few stops before we left Massachusetts. Our first stop was at the Rebecca Nurse homestead, but it was cash only to take the tour, so we passed on that (note to self: start carrying SOME cash on vacation).  But, we did stop by the Witch Trials memorial in Danvers. 2016-08-04-22-46-08 2016-08-04-22-45-55After that, we headed to the Crane Estate on Castle Hill. Y’all. This place was AMAZING. We stumbled upon it earlier in our trip, but it was closed, so we made a note to come back.

This was the photo from their website: estate-bSeriously. This place was AMAZING. The mansion was built in 1928, and is absolutely breathtaking. Seriously, give me this over the Biltmore Estate ANY day.
2016-08-05-12-24-01One of the things that was the most interesting about the house was the detailed woodwork. Apparently the house was built when the aristocracy in England were losing money and selling their estates. So, the Crane Family purchased a lot of the ornate carvings from England. 2016-08-05-12-20-592016-08-05-12-17-522016-08-04-23-32-14The house is gorgeous, but the real stay of the show is the “backyard”. Lots of rolling hills that eventually lead to this view. 2016-08-05-12-42-402016-08-05-12-47-25After making our way back up to the house, we stopped at the gardens before heading to the car. The gardens were really pretty. Graham was getting attacked by bugs, so he went on to get the car, while I hung out and played with my camera. 2016-08-05-12-59-592016-08-05-13-00-512016-08-05-00-22-292016-08-05-00-23-162016-08-05-00-21-48After leaving the estate, we headed to Maine. It took us FOREVER to get there, but we had enough time to stop in Kennebunkport for ice cream before heading to see Sav & Elise. We had stopped for ice cream here on our last trip to Maine, and had been looking forward to this for the whole trip. 2016-08-05-16-36-05-1On to middle of nowhere Maine! Our plan was to meet for dinner at the brewery that Sav works at, and then all four of us would head back to their place. The brewery (Norway Brewing Company) is fairly new and super cute. The design of the place was so perfect and well thought out. The dining area was bright and cheerful, the garden on the patio was a nice touch, and (most importantly), they had REAL hand soap in the bathroom, not the foam crap that most places have. I don’t drink beer, so I’m useless when it comes to telling you if the beer was good or bad. Graham ordered a flight and then another regular sized beer. The food however… the food was amazing!
2016-08-05-19-52-18-12016-08-05-19-05-41-1After an amazing dinner, we went back to their place and planned our day trip to Portland. SO much good food, SO much alcohol. Stay tuned =)

A Perfect Day on Martha’s Vineyard

On day four of our vacation, we woke up, and made the drive to Woods Hole, to catch the ferry to Martha’s Vineyard. We made it JUST IN TIME to board the 12:00 ferry, and were on our way to the Island.

On the way there, the sea gulls kept everyone entertained. They were flying right up to the railing, and taking food from peoples hands. 2016-08-04-12-39-43It was an absolutely GORGEOUS day. I had been to the Vineyard once before, in October. And while Salem is more fun to visit in the fall, Martha’s Vineyard is definitely more enjoyable in the summer.

Once we got off of the ferry, we went to get a rental car. There was one right across the street, and all they had left was this Jeep. It was $200 to rent, so Graham wanted to look elsewhere. We walked about 5 feet before I decided we needed to go back and get it. After all, it was only about $30 more than the cheaper cars, and I didn’t want to spend the whole day driving around, looking for a rental. I’m SO glad we went with the Jeep, because it was the perfect way to spend the day sightseeing. 2016-08-04-14-57-48Once we left the rental agency, we drove around for a little while, before stopping in Edgartown for lunch. We ate at a really cute place, Among the Flowers, and the food was excellent. I also had a raspberry muffin, since I knew this low carb lunch wouldn’t hold me over for long. This salad was so good though. I need to do seared tuna with pineapple more often at home. 2016-08-04-14-10-292016-08-04-01-58-262016-08-04-02-05-012016-08-04-02-13-482016-08-04-02-09-27You know what’s sad? This dog totally has a better life than either of us.
2016-08-04-02-08-24After lunch and a little walking around, we got back in the Jeep and headed to Aquinnah, to see the Gay Head Cliffs and lighthouse. We saw a lot of gorgeous spots on our vacation, but this just took my breath away. We weren’t able to go into the lighthouse, since we didn’t have cash, but even without the extra height, the view was just bonkers beautiful. 2016-08-04-15-55-292016-08-04-15-55-52-12016-08-04-03-11-502016-08-04-03-04-54We spent the rest of the day driving around, getting lost, and enjoying each other’s company. W had dinner at Nancy’s (only to find out the next day that Sasha Obama worked there, and had been there earlier that day!) and then we had ice cream while walking on the beach. 2016-08-04-07-06-512016-08-04-19-52-35-12016-08-04-07-32-072016-08-04-07-28-072016-08-04-07-21-02Other than a momentary freak-out, when there was a chance we might miss the ferry back, the day was beyond perfect. 2016-08-04-07-38-32

I left my heart in Salem.

As much as I LOVE Boston, I also love the smaller towns and cities around Boston. So, on day 3 of our trip, we spent the day exploring some of these small areas.

First, was Lexington. The first time I visited Massachusetts, I fell in love with Lexington. It’s so charming. And so historically relevant. George Washington wrote in his diary: “It was here, on the morning of April 19, 1775, that “the first blood was spilt in the dispute with Great Britain.”

This monument? The oldest war memorial in the country (completed in 1799). In the 1800’s, 7 of the 8 minutemen who were killed in that first battle were moved from the local cemetery and re-interred here.
2016-08-02 21.57.14 2016-08-02 22.06.42After the Lexington Battle Green, we headed to the Minute Man National Park. Being here made me a little sad. This would be such a great place to walk Hermione. We walked for a few miles, before heading back. There is lots to see on this walk, including the site where Paul Revere was captured…
2016-08-02 23.50.10One of the oldest homes in the area (dating back to around 1692), and once owned by William Smith, the brother of Abigal Adams (I’m an Adams fangirl, so this was exciting to stumble upon).
2016-08-03 00.03.36 This structure was infuriating and fascinating at the same time. It’s fascinating, because of that huge fireplace. It’s infuriating because the building burnt down in the 1960’s. 2016-08-03 00.13.28 2016-08-03 00.15.23 2016-08-03 00.22.32 After leaving the park, we headed to Walden Pond. Not because I’m a big fan of Thoreau, but because of Frasier. Yes, I’m a dork. Thoreau lived in the woods, on a piece of land owned by Ralph Waldo Emerson. In 1922, the Emerson family gifted the land to Massachusetts, with the stipulation of “preserving the Walden of Emerson and Thoreau, its shores and nearby woodlands for the public who wish to enjoy the pond, the woods, and nature, including bathing, boating, fishing and picnicking.”2016-08-03 02.53.15-2 2016-08-03 02.55.44 2016-08-03 02.56.11 2016-08-03 02.57.18 After leaving Walden Pond, we finally headed to Salem – my favorite. Before this trip, I had visited Salem twice, both times in October. And while Salem in August isn’t nearly as fun as Salem in October, it’s such a charming area, and just oozes history (both good and bad). 2016-08-03 05.07.42 More Creepy cemeteries…2016-08-03 05.31.43 2016-08-03 05.32.44 Then on to the Salem Witch Trials Memorial. There are no actual grave sites for the 20 people who were murdered during the witch trials. Legend has it that three of the bodies were exhumed from the burial site by their families and buried elsewhere. There are a few memorials, but this one is my favorite. The others just lump all off the victims together.2016-08-03 05.39.37 2016-08-03 05.40.40 After that, we just walked around and enjoyed the beautiful day. 2016-08-03 05.44.112016-08-03 18.50.052016-08-03 06.07.30 2016-08-03 06.31.422016-08-03 06.28.07While Salem is famous for their negative past, I love Salem for the whole history of the area. So many of the houses have these plaques on them, and I love that. Being from Charlotte, an area that has no problem tearing down historically significant structures, it makes my heart happy so see so much history preserved.
2016-08-03 06.37.16 2016-08-03 06.41.05 2016-08-03 06.51.03 2016-08-03 06.53.09-2 More creepy cemeteries at the end of the day. 2016-08-03 07.01.00 2016-08-03 07.02.40 This guy is such a good sport. We walked about 12-14 miles a day around these cities, and he never once complained. 2016-08-03 07.04.11 2016-08-03 07.11.46 2016-08-03 07.12.25 Fun fact: Salem calls itself Witch City, but the the Witch House is the only structure there that has any connection to the Witch Trials (if you’re into this, be sure to check out Danvers. It was once part of Salem Village, and has more connections to the site, including the Rebecca Nurse homestead).2016-08-03 07.26.09 2016-08-03 07.26.142016-08-03 07.28.082016-08-03 07.23.54

Oh Boston… I love you.

I’m more than a little depressed right now. We still don’t have an exact date for G’s departure, but based on his report by date, I know we’re within two weeks. Last night he started packing.

I just cried. I’ve been crying pretty munch nonstop for about a week now, and I don’t see that ending anytime soon. So, I figured I would lose myself in some happier memories for a while. Our time in Boston was really happy. It’s such an amazing city with an amazing history, and I just wanted to stay there forever.

We spent the day walking the city on the Freedom Trail path. The map is a little hard to see (but you can check out the Freedom Trail Website if you’re actually interested. Now, the actual red line is supposedly 2.5 miles, so roundtrip around 5. But that doesn’t count all of the distance you’ll cover actually exploring the spots on the trail, and of course the fun stuff that is off the trail. I no longer have a Fit Bit, but I had my phone one me all day, and according to the Apple Health app, we walked about 13 miles in Boston. And I was FEELING it. We actually got back to our hotel after dinner and immediately jumped in the hot tub. Freedom Trail
My favorite children’s book is Make Way for Ducklings, so we started in the Boston Public Garden. 2016-08-01 21.17.18 Whenever one of my animals yawns, I like to stick my finger in their mouth (yes, I’m a weirdo). So, naturally I stuck my finger in the duck’s mouth. 2016-08-01 21.17.48-2 2016-08-01 21.18.05-2We made our way to the first creepy cemetery of the trip: the Granary Burying Ground. This spot is the final resting place for a number of prominent citizens, including Benjamin Franklin’s parents, John Hancock, Paul Revere, Samuel Adams & the men who died in the Boston Massacre.
2016-08-01 22.03.17While I love the history of these buildings, I also love the architecture of them. The Old City Hall is one of my favorite buildings.
2016-08-01 22.17.302016-08-01 22.16.18Continuing our walk, we stopped in the Old South Meeting House, and were greeted by this guy. I was mildly annoyed, because it took away from the beauty of the space, but it was kind of cool. 2016-08-01 23.00.32The Old State House is one of my favorites, and one of the best stops on the trail. (It’s also free for military!) There are tons of artifacts and displays inside, and the rooms upstairs are so beautiful. I would seriously give anything to step out onto the balcony – the site where the Declaration of Independence was read to the people of Boston for the first time. 2016-08-01 23.26.56Just steps away from the Old State House… 2016-08-01 23.43.47And this guy. If I carried cash with me, I would have given him every dollar in my wallet.2016-08-01 23.44.31This view is actually one of my favorites in Boston. I think it perfectly describes this amazing city. It’s the perfect mix of history & modernity, and I can’t think of any place better. 2016-08-01 23.46.19Later in the day when we were heading back to the car, the sun had finally come out and view (from the other side of the building) was even more beautiful. 2016-08-02 03.42.37-2Continuing on, you have the Paul Revere statue right before you get to the Old North Church, which is my favorite church on the tour. 2016-08-02 00.36.51This church is amazing. The light in here is just gorgeous. I’m especially obsessed with the windows and the light fixtures. 2016-08-02 00.46.512016-08-02 00.48.08More old cemeteries.The only way I’d ever want to be buried (I’d rather be cremated), is if I could end up in a cemetery that’s AT LEAST 300 years old…2016-08-02 01.00.44Last time we were here, we didn’t get to go on the USS Constitution because of the government shutdown. This was the one thing Graham wanted to do, so we finally made it. The ship wasn’t as impressive as it should have been, since it was being repaired, but it’s still insanely cool to stand on a warship that is almost as old as the country. 2016-08-02 14.47.35-2Now, onto the food in Boston… We stopped at B.Good for a quick lunch. G LOVED his burger (the El Guapo) and the spicy avocado & lime bowl was delicious, but ridiculous. I had it topped with chicken, and I ate maybe 1/3 of it. This was SO much food. 2016-08-02 11.19.292016-08-02 11.19.46Once we saw the USS Constitution and finished the trail, we turned around and headed back. On the way back, we stopped at Mike’s Cannoli. We stopped here on our last trip to Boston, and were both excited to stop in again. These were just as good as we remembered. 2016-08-02 15.42.03We had exciting plans for dinner, but we were both exhausted and hungry. We wanted Italian food, but most of the Italian places were REALLY far from where we parked, and since we didn’t want to pay for parking twice, we ended up at a local chain, Papa Razzi. The food wasn’t mind blowing, but it was delicious. We started with the antipasto board, and I had the gnocci (and again added chicken). I loved the gnocchi. The sauce was rich, and the chicken was delicious.
2016-08-02 18.29.292016-08-02 18.46.49

It’s been a while…

So, it’s been over a month since my last post. Oops. I was on vacation for 2ish weeks, so at least a good chunk of that is accounted for, but still. My bad.

Our vacation was completely wonderful. Especially the New England part of it. The weather was AMAZING. Like, mid 70’s to low 80’s. Such a nice break from the 106 degree days we’d been having in Virginia. And it’s just so damned pretty up north. Our first (real) day of vacation (our first actual day was spent in the car) started with breakfast in Rhode Island, and then on to Quincy, MA. Quincy was actually one of the places I was most excited to visit. Last time we were in New England was during the government shutdown in 2013, and since Adams National Historic Park is part of the National Park Service, they were closed.

The tours were timed, so we bought our tickets, and then explored the nearby church (where both President Adams’ and their wives are buried) until it was time. John Adams is my favorite founding father (although if I were picking a founding father for the same purpose that Emily Gilmore and her DAR friends did, it would absolutely be Thomas Jefferson…) so I absolutely LOVED being in Quincy. I’ve read DavidMcCullough’s very comprehensive John Adams biography, so I knew most of what I learned about him, but I enjoyed it anyways. I especially enjoyed learning about John Quincy Adams & his wife Louisa. 2016-08-01 14.27.302016-08-01 11.51.302016-08-01 11.30.282016-08-01 11.28.202016-08-01 11.28.08-22016-08-01 11.44.432016-08-01 11.42.49Once we left the church, we boarded the trolley that would take us to the three Adams’ homes that make make up Adams National Park. I’m going to be completely honest here: the first two were a total waste of time. 2016-08-01 13.00.41Birthplace of John Adams2016-08-01 13.00.48Birthplace of John Quincy Adams

Once upon a time, these homes were on hundreds of acres of farmland. Now they both sit on a tiny little plot of land, in the middle of a city. You got to see 2-3 rooms of each home (the rooms downstairs), and they had very little furnishings, and nothing that actually belonged to the family. Also, the tour guide wasn’t informed, and spent more time asking the kids in the group pointless questions then actually telling use about the family and the home. So, I was a little discouraged… and then we got to Peacefield. 2016-08-01 01.25.272016-08-01 01.26.41 2016-08-01 01.25.47This home was everything I had hoped it would be. The house was gorgeous, and the gardens were so, so beautiful. And Jesus Christ… the artifacts… I was dying. Apparently in 1946, the Adams family just gave the house, and all of its contents, to the United States. Well… almost all of the contents. At the beginning of their relationship. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams had busts made of one another. I asked about the Jefferson bust, and this tour guide (VERY informative and so passionate about the house and the family), told us that the bust was the one artifact that the family kept in their possession.

Peacefield also included the most beautiful library I’ve ever seen, Stone Library. It houses 14,000 volumes that mostly belonged to John Quincy and his son & grandson (some volumes belonged to John Adams, but he gifted most of his library to the United States). The library is made of stone to make it fireproof, and includes John Adams copy of George Washington’s farewell address and the Mendi Bible that was gifted to John Quincy after the Armistad trial. 2016-08-01 14.05.24-22016-08-01 01.24.32 2016-08-01 01.22.35-2 2016-08-01 01.20.10After Peacefield, we boarded the trolley to head back to the visitors center, and went to see the first creepy cemetery of our trip. This cemetery originally contained John & Abigail’s remains, until John Quincy had his parents moved to the church. The cemetery also houses the remains of John Adams ancestors, including the first Adams to come here. His grandfather’s tomb made me smile, since it mentioned that he was the grandfather of the lawyer John Adams. 2016-08-01 14.29.092016-08-01 14.34.062016-08-01 14.39.24After Quincy, we headed to Boston, first stopping for lunch at Waterclub. The food was good. Overpriced, but to be expected. Graham had a buffalo chicken wrap, and I had a lobster BLT. Both were excellent, and portion sizes were insane.2016-08-01 15.31.13 2016-08-01 15.19.06After lunch, we headed to our hotel. We were staying in Peabody. We weren’t wanting to head into Boston that day, so we explored some of the nearby areas. Graham found a castle that we wanted to explore, but they had closed for the day. So we headed to Rockport instead.

Coastal New England towns are pretty much the most charming towns ever. We walked around, enjoyed ice cream, and just enjoyed the cool evening. 2016-08-01 06.42.10 2016-08-01 06.43.17 2016-08-01 19.04.01-2

And with that, day one of our trip was complete 🙂 I’ll be back later in the week with day 2!