Eurotrip Part IIb: London

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September 1, 2015 – 2nd trip to London4ksjdflskjd
On this day, B apparently had an all day medical simulation class at Epsom Hospital, so I decided to visit the Natural History Museum.  I wrote in my notebook, “just utterly disappointing.  A glorified science class.”  Did I miss something?  The T-Rex exhibit was absolutely NOT worth the long, hot line or the annoying kids stepping on my feet.  Not to mention the T-Rex was a crappy robot…I mean, I wasn’t expecting the real thing but something better, at least!  There were so many screaming children, which is just fine if you own one… but I do not and I didn’t think anything was super MUST SEE.  Then again, I did high-tail it out of there before I, myself, started screaming.5jslkdfjsdI did enjoy seeing the fossils and was trying to figure out how to get back to the lab area where the scientists were working!IMG_9533Next door was the Victoria & Albert Museum.  It was MUCH quieter, with far less children…so more like an actual museum.  I should’ve spent more time here, in actuality.  The facades of both buildings were masterpieces in themselves.  They would be nice to study or sketch, while people watching.

September 7, 2015 – 3rd trip to London
B had his surgery shelf exam in London.  We first went to Piccadilly Circus so B could go to Arcteryx.  He was like a kid in a candy story.IMG_96006jkdfksWhile he was testing, I went back to the Kensington area and walked east along Cromwell Road and found Hyde Park Corner and the gates that led to Buckingham Palace.  I decided to wait on B to go to Buckingham and strolled through Hyde Park instead.  It was gorgeous and peaceful, there were people literally playing with the squirrels and their dogs.  Very much like a scene out of a Disney movie.  Of course this day happened to be nice and sunny.  I wish I hadn’t have had to hurry through.  I tried to find the Diana Memorial Fountain and couldn’t.8F23018F-4539-4777-9F48-95E62921CA77E4115F31-5DB0-4726-B6E8-EAD14376E2EE868809D2-3477-4CAC-BE81-77C5ACCEA5F7There are numerous shops and restaurants along the way on Cromwell Rd., including Harrod’s.  Eventually, you’ll run into Kensington Gardens and The Albert Memorial/Royal Albert Hall.  It must’ve been nice to have someone so devoted to you as Victoria was to Albert.6E5A2A29-53E4-48F7-BC41-2CFF9EC7CD8BA32A5653-48A5-4370-9353-8D49BCEC84649C82A1FF-E975-4F42-BD2C-68E8656DDDC8I met back up with B and we went for lunch at Borough Market.  I believe it was a Tuesday and the market was pretty dead.  As a result, the stall with the wild boar sausages was not open, so we settled for venison burgers at a seafood stall.  It was nothing to write home about.  Afterwards, we went to the Southwark Tavern for drinks.  It was to our amazement that they had a beer named after Rooster Cogburn of True Grit…which was set in Fort Smith…literally, where B and I have lived and worked.  They were £5 a can and tasted like absolute shit – sounds about right!  Also notable was the fact that the bartender gave us cups of ice…for our beer?  I mean, we like ice…but for our beer??? No.315D5EF2-EA1E-4AD3-BF25-8501AB2ABD47Finally, we went to Buckingham Palace.  We were too late for the changing of the guards, so, just looking at the palace was rather anticlimactic.  So much so that I didn’t even know what I was looking at initially.  The Victoria Memorial was nice.  Well deserving of the lady named, the “Grandmother of Europe”.1E177FBF-263A-447C-8246-E7D34706EB1855ED8CB5-7D10-406E-8605-E6515ABEB1FC55775DD6-AF86-4E3C-947E-E4BDFCFFD4EFWe walked through The Mall and also went to the gift shop of the Guards Museum.  Went by the Churchill War rooms, found our way to 10 Downing Street and the Household Cavalry Museum.  At the end of the street (if you continue north and slightly west), you’ll find Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery.  The gates to The Mall are nice to check out too.E1686D8E-32E7-48E9-B18A-3006610F8F3AC78961FB-1DA6-4E71-9E65-ACFE563463583BBA068D-94CA-4E4C-9F66-6AF38F18DC0F

Last trip to London
Of course we had to go back to Borough Market for those dang wild boar sausages.  I opted for something I’ve never had before – Ethiopian food!  I was not disappointed!  For £6, I got the large (I was so hungry, though) beef combo.  This included delicious, curry flavored meat, stewed butternut squash, cabbage/carrot side, rice, and spongy Ethiopian bread (not a fan of the bread).  IMG_0279We spent the rest of the day shopping for souvenirs around Oxford Circus/Regent St. and wrapping up our time in London.  We found that Primark is the best (and cheapest) place to get UK themed gifts.  I bought several Union Jack canvas totes for friends for about £1 and Harry Potter socks for my sisters.  It was very similar to an H&M…which was everywhere!  IMG_0288We had dinner at Chipotle because we thought it would be cheap.  It was not.  It was very expensive for fast food.  We paid about £30 for 2 burritos, chips & guac, and no drinks.  Currently, £30 is about $43…for fast food.  Yikes.  From there, we briefly walked down Baker St. and then headed to our last stop of the night.  King’s Cross Station!  I HAD to get a photo at Platform 9 3/4!

Eurotrip Part IIa: London

londonmapWe spent a lot of time going back and forth from Epsom to London, as it was only about a 30 minute train ride.  It’s been awhile since then and I couldn’t be more glad that I remembered to document what we did!

August 27, 2015 – My first trip to London.  
“Took the National Rail from Epsom to London Waterloo, then took the tube to London Bridge Station.”  I remember stepping into the main area of Waterloo Station and thinking, “wow, I feel like Harry Potter” at the Ministry of Magic.  Very overwhelming and fast paced, not the best place to rubberneck, like I was doing.5A6EF480-AAC5-4270-A816-0675D29495F61dflksdjfFrom London Bridge Station, we walked to London Bridge, stopped by the HMS Belfast, then made our way towards the iconic Tower Bridge.  From the Tower Bridge, you could see the Tower of London from across the way.  I don’t know why, but whenever I think of the Tower of London, I always think about poor Anne Boleyn, even though there were quite a few other famous people killed at the Tower (some of the other wives of King Henry VIII).B44E8E24-77D3-4C0E-B018-EF655509EB8BWe stopped at a little bar under the Tower Bridge which overlooked the river called The Vault.  B had a pint and I tried my first Pimm’s Cup.  LOVED IT.85C1D1CA-9887-4451-90A1-A8022425D36A0D3DC80C-6E5F-4D0D-8475-5FF524084019From the Thames, we walked to Borough Market.  “LOVE this place” was the first thing I wrote about it!  It was sensory overload-didn’t know where to start, couldn’t decide what to get…in a good way.  Items available at the Market ranged from prepared foods, charcuterie, cheese, fresh meat and seafood from local vendors, veggies, cider and honey mead (I approve), and desserts!  B and I ate a huge subpar lunch in Epsom prior to our trip, so we weren’t hungry; instead we got drinks at a stall called New Forest Cider.  B had medium dry cider and I tried the honey mead.  It was very medieval and delicious.  I also had fresh juice (apple + pomegranate), which you can find at multiple stalls.2kjdklfjdF43532B6-341E-457A-8496-491BE354CB9C2DDE8979-6F11-4B14-9061-2BD77293B6C8A24AA0AF-A9B3-4AC9-893D-79CA863C0E30Our next stop was back towards the River to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre (because I love literature) and the Millennium Bridge (because Harry Potter).  I was waiting for a Death Eater to come find me, but that was a no-go.  Across the way was St. Paul’s Cathedral.  Unfortunately, I never made it there.  Sadface.C233C5A7-8589-4255-B79E-F89C20F13BD52897B146-3144-4E67-9EAC-6BE763A1BD12We had dinner at Gourmet Burger Kitchen.  It was very good, we both had blue cheese burgers – one with sauce and one with melted gorgonzola.  I think we preferred the melted sauce over straight melted gorgonzola.  We also had the sweet potato fries, which were very good.  They were served with a sauce that we liked very much.  I recall B saying that he thought “it tastes like something,” but he could never put his finger on it.  Now that I’m reviewing the menu, I see that it is BACONNAISE.  BACONNAISE.  I once spent something like 4 whole dollars on a tub of this stuff and hated it, yet somehow I manage to like it when it’s served with a gourmet burger and essentially, a $6 order of fries (£3.95).  Sigh.IMG_9426154295E2-B606-4599-85F1-E1622865CD5CAfter dinner, we took the tube to Piccadilly Circus – London’s teensier version of Time’s Square.  It started to rain, so we didn’t stay long.  There’s an overwhelming amount of shopping here – B was disappointed the Arcteryx store had not opened.  It was also very hard to get a decent photo amongst the hustle and bustle.F51A3E82-33C8-4F33-A2D9-50794E146F99F962B1B1-F2BA-4E85-AA41-AEF2651711E7The last stop of this trip was to the London Eye, Westminster Palace, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey.  The London Aquarium was also nearby; I love that the building was so not obviously an aquarium!  The sun was setting and it all seemed rather surreal to be looking at Big Ben and the Parliament building.  Up til that point, I don’t I’ve ever seen anything that ornate.  The Abbey’s facade was undergoing construction, it was very disappointing and a result, underwhelming.  I think it was also closed at that point, though I had really wanted to see the old guys buried there!
*FUN FACT:  Anyone who isn’t a UK citizen cannot go up to Big Ben…big bummer more like!17212365-E535-49A7-AE0E-01F7B3F5F62A

TIPS:

  • For travel within London, we purchased a Day Travelcard at the rail station, which included trips on the National Rail and within certain zones within London.  We always tried to buy them during Off-peak hours (as in, not rush hour – I believe after 9:30am) as they were cheaper.  Plus, trying to get on/off the rail during rush hour is hellacious, especially, if you have luggage.  *Sometimes people are nice and will give you their Day Travelcard once they’re done using them.
  • Most of London’s top museums are free–so research and check them out!
  • Use google.com/mymaps to map out each destination within a city and calculate time/distance on your laptop or computer to make your trip more efficient.
  • London is very walkable and it’s sort of fun trying to figure out the Tube system, but bring comfy shoes.  I keep telling myself this and in lieu of comfy shoes, I go for the “cute” ones…always a bad idea. ALWAYS.
  • APPS
    • If you’re walking within London, use the app maps.me to get around- it’s offline [doesn’t use data] as long as you download the map for the region you need when you have wifi.  It’s also pretty detailed and allows you to pin drop locations and get directions to and fro.  I would have literally been lost without this app in Europe.
    • Citymapper app to help with the navigation on the Rail/Tube.  You can also view the time of the next train/bus/rail etc., in addition to calculating the easiest/fastest route from one destination to the other.  This app was extremely helpful when trying to figure out the best way to get from Epsom to London’s airports.  Mostly, we used it to get from place to place via the Tube.

Odds & Ends

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fried pickles

hot and spicy fried chicken

Gus’s Fried Chicken – Little Rock, AR
Fried pickles. Fried chicken.
Hot & Spicy. Made-to-order.  Sign me up!

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Visit Post Winery ,in Altus, for a delicious wine tasting.
Favorites included the Pinot Grigio, Cynthiana, & Strawberry Fields.

judge parker's court

Fort Smith National Historic Site.
Site of Judge Parker’s Courthouse & Hell on the Border jail.

IMG_6440bomb Blackberry margarita at Chuy’s in Little Rock

Autumn in Arkansas & a Pumpkin Roll

It’s mid-October and the air is brisk, but the leaves have yet to fully change to those gorgeous red, orange, and yellow hues.  Nevertheless, the Boyfriend thought it would be fun to explore the outdoors.  These are shots from Fern, AR; Ozark National Forest.

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Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetB’s new [to him] whip.

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Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetArkansas flora
Purple Beautyberry & a mushroom
Beautyberries can be made into wine, jelly, and used for mosquito repellant.
I love it even more now.

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Of course with the onset of fall, one must consume pumpkin treats.  My bestie, A, has been making pumpkin rolls for years and I finally decided to try my hand at it.  It worked really well for me, surprisingly!  No cracks!!!  And it was delicious.  I deviated from her filling recipe somewhat, with the addition of whipped cream and orange zest (and reduction of sugar!).  I like to think the whipped cream lightens the filling and the orange zest brightens the flavor.  Love it.

pumpkinrollPumpkin Roll
3 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2/3 heaping cup of canned pumpkin
1 tsp lemon juice
3/4 cup AP flour
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup chopped pecans

Filling
1 cup whipping or heavy cream
1 cup powdered sugar
1 8oz package cream cheese, room temp
1 stick butter, room temp
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp orange zest

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease & flour a 17.5 x 12.5 inch jelly roll pan — I used a 17 x 12 and it was fine.

Beat eggs, granulated sugar, pumpkin and lemon juice until smooth.

In a separate bowl, sift together flour, ground ginger, salt, baking powder, and cinnamon.  Add this mixture to the wet ingredients until well combined.

Spread the batter in the jelly roll pan.  Sprinkle with chopped pecans.

Bake 14 minutes.

Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes, then invert the cake onto a wire rack.

On a large tea towel, sprinkle some confectioner’s sugar, then transfer the warm cake to the towel.  Wrap the towel over the cake, and carefully roll the cake up in the towel and cool in the fridge for 45 minutes.

To make the filling, first whip the cream until you get stiff peaks.

In a separate bowl, beat together powdered sugar, cream cheese, butter, vanilla, and orange zest.  Fold in whipped cream.

After 45 minutes, carefully unroll cake and spread filling on top of cake (the side with the pecans).

Re-roll cake and refrigerate until ready to serve.  Dust with powdered sugar prior to serving.

Enjoy!

Odds & Ends – Boston edition


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Beautiful weather &
a row of homes on Commonwealth Ave.,
where we stayed

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Pavement Coffee 
Voted some of the best coffee in the US!
(proof)
Surprisingly inexpensive.

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Historic Burrage House
Literally situated on the same row of homes where we stayed!
Tom Brady & Giselle used to live here!
Can I live here, too?
Read about it here, here, & here.

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The North End.
Very far left:  unremarkable brown house was Paul Revere’s.
love the cobblestones ❤

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Cannoli’s from Mike’s Bakery, North End.
Harvard Book Store, Cambridge.
Where I could’ve met:

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I’m not especially patient enough to be the 333rd person in line.
For anything!!!

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So character.  Such charm.  Much vintage.
shops on Newbury St.

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stairways at Boston Public Library/an entrance at Old South Church,
Copley Square

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IMG_5730Granary Burying Grounds
RIP:
Samuel Adams, Paul Revere, John Hancock & Crispus Attucks
FYI:  Benjamin Franklin is not actually buried here!

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Building at Harvard.

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Back Bay at night.

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Massachusetts State House

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pretty spot at Northeastern Univ.

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Commonwealth Ave. Mall,
right in front of the apartment ❤

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Trinity Church, Copley Square

Some Tips for Boston:

Apps I Recommend:

  • If you’ve never been to Boston, I would highly recommend downloading the EMBARK BOS App to get around and to navigate the city with public transportation (mostly the subway). In addition to mapping out your subway route, it also shows you the nearest T station to you.
  • ProximiT app to get train times if you are frequenting the red, blue, or orange line.
  • If you’re only in for a few nights and didn’t have time to plan, the Hotel Tonight app had some great deals.
  • Another great app, especially for food truck enthusiasts is Street Food Boston.  This app shows you food truck schedules and also, maps their current or prospective location(s).
  • Yelp and Urbanspoon are both essential to restaurant reviews.

Where I stayed:

  • I needed to stay in Back Bay, close enough to my university so I wouldn’t have to take a cab to graduation.  Hotels are insanely expensive in this area.  I used AirBnB to book a completely awesome apartment for a week.  I saved $1000+ and the apartment was super nice.  It didn’t have concierge, house keeping, or a continental breakfast but that didn’t matter to me–I saved over a thousand dollars!  Our place was relatively quiet (except for the traffic and constant honking, I mean, what is with that?!), extremely comfortable and soooo cozy!  The kitchen was stocked with everything we needed (fridge, microwave, full sized oven/stove, dishwasher, dishes/cups, wine bottle opener–important!, etc) and we had access to free laundry services, free wifi (fast) and the roof.  Additionally, the apartment was only a block away from the T station and proximal to Newbury and Boylston Streets.  Score!

Food:

  • I thought I was going to spend a fortune in Boston, but that was not the case at all!  There are affordable options everywhere, even in Back Bay, an affluent neighborhood.  I felt like a lot of money was wasted ordering in and paying the delivery fee for food [for my parents].  If it were just me, I could have easily made do with food truck meals, banh mis, or a burger.  In fact,  McGreevy’s on Boylston St. has $1 burgers on Tuesdays and $1 build your own 10″ pizzas on Thursdays, both after 4 pm!
  • See my post on what I ate in Boston.
  • Online order & delivery sites:  Foodler, Eat24

Helpful Links:

Etcetera:

  • For us country bumpkins who aren’t used to walking everywhere:  comfortable shoes!!!  I didn’t have any and I must say, I was not Boston strong.
  • Pack a light rain jacket.  I checked the weather prior to my flight and didn’t see rain on the forecast, so I was unpleasantly surprised when it was cold and rainy for a couple days!  In June!!!  “That’s New England weather for ya!” said a friend of mine.  Luckily, I packed this rain jacket and this light fleece. Both of these items are light and can be easily packed in a tote.
  • Don’t be a fool; buy a Charlie Ticket for public transportation! Especially if you are staying for a few days.

Boston Eats


 

I’m. SO. Hungry.

boston eatsSo, let us recap what I ate in Boston: clam chowder, Banh Mi, and lobster rolls. That is all…pretty much. There was beer and wine also! It was all “wicked” good!

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The first thing I ate in Boston was clam chowder at Jacob Wirth, in the Chinatown area. The chowder had a great flavor, the clams were nice and big, but there were too many potatoes for my taste and it was too thick. Supposedly, there is a huge difference in cup to bowl size with only a $1 difference in price! Get the bowl! Also, on Tuesdays (not sure if there was a time range) there were 25-cent hot dogs!

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Word on the streets (internet) was that Boston boasted some of the best banh mi’s EVER. I did some Googlin’ and found Banh Mi House. It took me about 15 minutes of wandering around Winter Street to finally find it…Situated in an enclosed sort of alley way, next to a sketchy looking electronics repair…hole? Even so, it was far from disappointing. A place I’d refer to as “dank,” except it totally doesn’t mean that, per Urban Dictionary.  Anyhow, my parents, who are super critical of Asian food, even liked it. “It is better than Fort Smith, but not as good as Laos.” Like, duh. We had the classic (because I love paté) and the grilled beef. Mmm. I can’t stop thinking about it. I ate here twice during my short stay!
Pros: The mayonnaise was authentic and there were no pickled daikon radishes (ew) and they give you free water as a “new” customer. I got free water twice ;). Also, they add green onions and Maggi sauce, which gives the sandwich a greater depth of flavor and elicits much more mouth watering. It’s located across the street from Boston Commons, where you can take your sandwich and free water and people watch!
Cons: They were out of pork meatball every time I went.  Though from the photos/description on their site, I’m glad I was so fortunate as to miss out.

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My parents, for whatever reason (the rain, the cold, the walking, maybe?), did NOT want to leave the apartment. Not even for food. They only wanted Chinese/Asian food and wanted me to take the train all the way to Chinatown, from Back Bay, to retrieve food. Um, no. Then, they wanted to order pizza, which was unacceptable to me. Luckily, my friend Karen suggested Thai Basil on Newbury Street, who thankfully delivered. Again, my hypercritical parents loved it. My dad was feigning for some duck, which they happened to offer in a variety of dishes. He ordered the Siam Duck—duck breast in tamarind sauce with broccoli and carrots. Mmm. He said it hit the spot. I ordered a duck dish also, the Duck Choo Chee, which was essentially Duck phat phet or curry stir-fry. ‘Twas also really delicious. The duck in both meals was really tender and plentiful. My mom ordered Seafood Basil Lo Mein. Mmm. That was really yummy and aromatic. They didn’t skimp on the seafood either! B ordered the Seafood Madness, which I liked. It reminded me of my mom’s cooking. Again, the seafood was plentiful and cooked really well. I really liked Thai Basil due to their originality. They had quite a few dishes that you wouldn’t normally find on any standard Thai menu, yet they still maintained their authenticity. A+. P.S., no pictures, too busy inhaling my food.

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After my graduation, my parents ordered in, AGAIN. B and I trekked to Yankee Lobster, Co. in Southie, because it was vital for me to have a lobster roll. And it was soooo good. I let him finish my lobster roll so I could order some fried whole bellied clams. They say you should always order whole bellied clams. “More flavor!” It DID have more flavor, albeit an interesting one. B also had the soft-shelled crab sandwich and we both had stuffed clams and clam chowder.  It was my favorite clam chowder (sorry no photo)!  Sufficient amount of potatoes, lots of clams, and the broth was not overly thick..or thick at all, which I prefer.  Everything was so fresh, considering their fish market is in operation out back. I especially noticed a huge difference in the soft-shelled crab. It was more like…crab, instead of like the crunchy fried cardboard served in sushi back home. I wish this was closer to our apartment so I could’ve tried more of the menu, but it was exhausting getting there and trying to figure out how to leave. #n00b

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On Saturday, our friend, Andy, B and I toured the Samuel Adams Brewery in Jamaica Plain. Our tour guide was hilarious and I actually learned a lot about the processes involved. Also, free beer. Of the beer we tasted, my favorite was the Black Lager.  Our tour guide was a hoot!  His name was Kyle and I would highly recommend going on his tour!

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After the tour, we took a trolley to Doyle’s Cafe, driven by an eccentric gentleman who played weird Irish, heavy metal music? And was also a Doyle’s enthusiast. Apparently, several major films have been filmed at Doyle’s (21, the Departed, etc). Aside from that, Doyle’s was the first place to sell Samuel Adams beer, so with your tour ticket you can go to Doyle’s, get a Sam Adams and have a free glass. So we did. And we ate more lobster rolls. The interior was old and interesting and unchanged. Great atmosphere. We had a lot of fun here.

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One day for lunch, B and I ate at Lir on Boylston Street.  Not sure why I didn’t take any photos of our food here, but it was pretty good.  The atmosphere was nice, very Irish mob, which insatiated B’s obsession with all mafias.  We shared their clam chowder (my second favorite) and it was excellent.  I’m starting to think there is no such thing as bad clam chowder in Boston.  I believe Brando had the steak tip sandwich, paired with a Guinness, and I had a cheeseburger with caramelized onions, paired with local Sea Dog Wild Blueberry beer.  Blueberry beer was pretty prevalent here and I was very OKAY with this.

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Cheers!  I really fell in love with Boston and am hoping to go back many, many times and very, very soon!  So many things I didn’t get a chance to see!

Odds & Ends


Self explanatory…

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A small stretch of Orient Bay back in February.
It was a breezy day and the water was slightly frigid.
(Ok, it wasn’t frigid, but SO cold!)
But the sun was out and the people followed.

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Baie aux Prunes or Plum Bay.
Overcast.  Rainy.  More frigid water.
Totally secluded.
Rocky terrain, with beautiful clear water.

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More from Happy Bay.

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Some docks at Great Bay in Philipsburg.
Amazing turquoise water.
High traffic area and it sorta grosses me out.

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Arkansas boys at Karakter’s, Simpson Bay.

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Back in Arkansas.
The “Shiblings”:  Effy and Fitzroy

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Me & the cat.
Fredra Beatrix.
“Fred”

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Pretty.
All the way from France.

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Crown-of-Thorns.
tye-dye!

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OBSESSED with reds from the Cote du Rhone region of France.

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UNPASTEURIZED.
Goat cheese from the Poitou-Charentes region, France.
Wow. So. Amaze.
Which Kirby and I put on this…

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Homemade wheat crust
Onion Jam
Garlic
Spinach
Mushrooms
Goat Cheese
Charcuterie I cannot pronounce/spell

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B always picks the best dinners.
“Farmer Combination”
Filet, flank, and duck breast
From Stone, located in the Simpson Bay Resort.