Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Back in Alaska

On the way back to the island we stopped off in Anchorage to visit with Goldfish's family for a few days. Split between Anchorage and Palmer (about 35 miles apart), her parents, brother and sisters are all wonderful and we enjoyed every minute of our stay - they are an incredibly close-knit bunch and we love them dearly.

I saw a few moose - I sure miss large mammals out here where the biggest thing moving besides the wild horses are foxes - just not as cool as moose, caribou and bears.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas in Maine

Christmas in Maine - what's not to love? From the moment my brother picked us up at the Portland bus station to the time he dropped us back off 10 days later, we had a wonderful time. Goldfish DID notice her stocking - hung by the chimney with care at my brother's house - seemed a bit, shall we say, sparse . . . .

Being nothing if not proactive, she quickly remedied the situation . . . .

My Dad and brother playing one of many cribbage games we enjoyed during our visit.

My nephew and his lovely wife invited us over to dinner at their "starter home" they purchased in 2009.

Their "starter kitchen" . . . . .

Wii golf in the living room . . . .

We had a lobster feed - exercising great self control, I only ate four . . . .

That is one perky backseat passenger as we drive to Bar Harbor to Geddy's, one of our favorite spots to eat on the coast.

I had lobster pizza and a blueberry beer . . . .

This antique store was HUGE, with three floors packed with all sorts of treasures - we found some very cool old cookbooks . . . .

We dragged poor Goldfish to three Christmas parties on three consecutive nights, culminating with Christmas Eve at my Uncle's house. This is his nutcracker tree, one of three Christmas trees on display (there used to be five) . . . .

Three of my very favorite gals - my aunt, my niece and my baby sister - performing the 12 Days of Christmas (they are up to five). You really had to be there to witness this as the 30 folks watching belted out the song along with the performers . . . .

Christmas dinner at my brother's house in his beautiful remodeled kitchen. Ham, turkey and crab, with all the fixings, what a great time!

We are a competitive bunch . . . .

Big family breakfast before Goldfish and I head back down to Portland.

My brother and wife surprised us with tickets to comedian Bob Marly in Portland on our last night in Maine. I couldn't stop laughing!

To kill time before the show we walked along the old waterfront, checking out all the little shops and eating at Flatbread - hand tossed pizza cooked in a huge clay wood-fired oven. I topped mine with lobster . . . .

We spent our last night at the Eastland Park Hotel, courtesy of my brother and family. After the comedy show we headed up to the Top of the East, the nightclub at the top of the hotel with great views of the whole city.
I also posted the pictures from the rest of our Boston visit below . . .

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

I'll be getting my blogging caught up soon - I've been spending precious time with family. On the road, blogging meant I would miss a museum or a show - in Maine, blogging would mean missing a hug or a cribbage game or a conversation with family.

Merry Christmas to all my friends, on-line, on-island, and family! For all you calendar folks, I'll be knocking one out as soon as I get back to the island. All the pictures are taken in the month they appear and December hadn't happened when I left on vacation so I had to wait. Cheers! Steve & Goldfish (and Chico).

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Boston Continued . . .

Washingon DC and New York City were amazing but Boston was the city we were most looking forward to visiting on this vacation. The short version of the background story on this is Goldfish and I have known each other for about 15 years but it was on a long motorcycle ride, from Anchorage, Alaska to my hometown in Maine over the course of 12 weeks or so in 2006 that I started to realize that she was the best female friend I had ever had in those 15 years - lots of time to think on a 14,000 mile motorcycle ride - she was there helping me clean up my house when it burned to the ground, we went to college together for awhile, I had flown out to Unalaska to see her at one point. She was always open, honest, and loyal.

Over the winter in Maine I invited her back east for a visit; we drove along the coast, I showed her why I loved Maine so much, we weathered the Valentine's Day blizzard of 2007, and we went down to Boston on a whim, spending just a few hours there. When we went back to Maine and she flew back to Alaska, we both knew our relationship had changed, and Boston was a part of that transition. We were excited to re-visit those places from our quick visit and see more of the city, a city we both agreed was the only one we could ever imagine living for any length of time.

One of the things we love about Boston is the history and the architecture.

This is the Old North Church where on the night of April 18, 1775 the signal from Paul Revere shone to warn the country of the British troops' march. It is Boston's oldest standing church building, opened for worship on December 29, 1723 and still used today. When I see this picture I am reminded not of history but of our "North End Death March" to find an Italian restaurant for dinner, walking along the Freedom Trail with me desperately having to pee and Goldfish resolutely indecisive on where she wanted to eat. I knew I was in for real pain when she turned her nose up at a Rachel Ray recommended eatery, open and ready to serve with what I imagined was a fabulous restroom. Ahhhhh, the Death March . . . .

This is the Old State House, built in 1713 and the oldest public building still standing in the eastern United States. Now completely dwarfed by the surrounding skyscrapers, this used to be the the capitol of the colony. On July 18, 1776 Col. Thomas Crafts stood on the balcony and read the Declaration of Independence, a copy of which had just arrived from Philadelphia. This event is commemorated every year on July 4th with a reading of the Declaration. The square immediately below the balcony is the site of the Boston Massacre.

This statue of Benjamin Franklin stands in front of Old City Hall.

The Granary Burying Ground is the final resting place of more famous people than any other small graveyard in America. Within the two acres are the remains of three signers of the Declaration of Independence, nine governors of Massachusetts, the victims of the Boston Massacre, Benjamin Franklin's parents and Paul Revere.

This is the Massachusetts "New" State House, built in 1795. The dome was originally wooden shingles which apparently leaked badly. In 1802 it was clad in copper, painted stone grey for many years and finally gilded after the Civil War. The Boston Common is America's oldest public park and is also the start of the Freedom Trail. It was early evening when Goldfish and I got there; we were entranced by the Christmas tree in the Common.

This picture and the one below are of the outside of the Faneuil Hall Marketplace, and our favorite Christmas tree of all the amazing trees we saw on vacation.

On the afternoon before we left Boston we took the subway to the edge of town and toured the Samuel Adams Brewery. If you blow up the picture above, you can see the bald guy with the big beard that appears in all the Sam Adams commercials, working behind the copper vat directly above the tour guides red hat. The tour was well worth the effort to get there, I recommend it for anyone visiting Boston!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Bye-Bye New York, Hello Boston!

The move from New York to Boston couldn't have gone smoother - we walked out the door with our luggage to find a cab sitting at the curb, waiting for a fare. He dropped us off at Penn Station with time to spare and we even got lucky there; the television screens updating the track assignments wasn't working so they were announcing them right at time of boarding. With no assigned seating on Amtrak and full trains we were going to have to be near the front of the line to sit together and we overheard a gate agent announce the track assignment just before they announced it over the loudspeaker giving us a slight lead - we were one of the first to board so sitting together was no problem.

It was about four and a half hours from New York to Boston. I had planned to spend that time sorting through pictures but I ended up napping the first half and looking out the window with Goldfish the rest of the time, discussing our plans.

We were very excited to revisit Boston, it had been three and a half years since we were here last and it was a very big stepping stone in our relationship. Goldfish once again found a perfect place to stay, the Harborside Inn, just 200 yards from Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market and a block off the Freedom Trail. We got settled in and headed over to Faneuil Hall where there are over 100 stores, 40 eateries and 17 restaurants to choose from - I had seafood chowder in a bread bowl from the Boston Chowda Cafe and Goldfish chose Mexican from El Paso Enchilad. After that we headed over to Dick's Last Resort for brews and the best peanut putter pie on the face of the earth, bar none . . .

Here's a little sneak peak at the holiday look I'm rocking with this season - swwwweeet! After seeing the White House tree, the tree at Rockefeller Plaza, and many other big trees on our vacation, Goldfish and I both agree the tree right in front of Faneuil Hall is the best we have seen this year. It has large ornaments that look great even in the daytime, its big, and it is well lit - the perfect pubic display tree!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

SantaCon, Lower Manhattan & A Cathedral Christmas

When we stepped off the subway in Battery Park, Lower Manhattan, we had no idea we were going to end up in the middle of a huge gathering of Santas - it was the annual SantaCon !

Santas were walking off the Staten Island Ferry, they were arriving via subway, they were hopping out of cabs and arriving on foot. It is hard to capture with a photo what it was like to walk down this street (the gathering point) - there were hundreds of folks in santa outfits.

This kid will need a lot of therapy eventually . . . SantaCon is not the best place for children - there was a fair amount of drinking and carousing going on . . . .

Lower Manhattan was the most visually rich area we visited with incredible architecture and history and a definite feast for a photographer.

Goldfish standing by the Wall Street bull by the NYSE.

I can't remember the name of this building - I'll fill it in later - but I do remember these stone columns are carved from single pieces, not in sections.

Goldfish doing a little subliminal advertising for the holidays . . . .

This is the site (Federal Hall) where George Washington took his oath of office as the first President of the United States in 1782. Another tidbit I had either never learned (or have forgotten) is that Wall Street was actually the northern boundary of the New Amsterdam settlement, with an actual picket wall in place from 1653 to when it was dismantled in 1699.

The New York Stock Exchange.

I love this view of Trinity Church at the end of the street with the two police cars in the foreground.

The mighty "House of Morgan" in this case showing an utter distain for the surrounding area by being only 4 stories high - in an area where real estate is so exorbitantly priced, the ultimate show of wealth is to NOT build a tall building on a prime spot. They did hedge their bets a bit however - the foundation is engineered to support a 40 story building should the need ever arise to build taller.

Cute Panda in front of Trinity Church, posing with tourists for tips.

The inside of Trinity Church, completed in its current configuration in 1846.

I think this is an improvement . . . .

There are graveyards on either side of the church with burials going back into the early 1700's, possibly the 1600's (the headstones on many graves were completely illegible due to weathering of the stone). I've been in a lot of old cemeteries but I think this one beats them all. It acts as a quiet place for office workers on Wall Street to have lunch on one of the many benches.

Remember that cute panda hustling tourists out front? He was back in one of the graveyards and was definitely not so cute with his head off - let this be a lesson for us all, people dressed up as cute animals and posing for tips are probably not what they appear to be . . . .

Alexander Hamilton and several other persons of note are buried in the Trinity graveyards.

This root is from St. Paul's chapel, a branch of the Trinity Church built to deal with an expanding congregation. There are pictures of St. Paul's church further down in this post.

These were very angry protesters by Ground Zero. The gist of her argument (she lost a son in the Tower collapse) is the terrorists responsible should not be tried in a criminal court as what they did was an act of war.

So ironic there is so much blue sky here with those tall buildings fallen. I did not linger, Goldfish especially was upset by the gawking and the "touristy" atmosphere.

I did take pictures of the firemen there for the guys back on the island.

Right across the street from Ground Zero is St. Paul's Chapel, the only remaining Colonial-Era church left on Manhattan. It was a very somber spot to sit and consider the events of 9-11.

The interior of St. Paul's Chapel. It served as a major relief center during the Twin Tower rescue effort with many a firefighter taking a quick break on a pew before heading back into "the pit".

The scottie as very interested in a passing squirrel.

That evening we went back to the big cathedral where we saw the Sting concert for A Cathedral Christmas, a collection of Christmas hymns and the first part of Handel's Messiah, ending with the Hallelujah Chorus. We were only a dozen rows back, so we had a great view. The acoustics were phenomenal with the notes ringing off the stones - sort of like singing in the shower. The venue was certainly fantastic but both Goldfish and I thought we had heard the music done better by the Anchorage Symphony Orchestra (larger orchestra and chorus). Overall a fun night though, culminating a great day of sightseeing.

After the concert we had dinner at the Ben Nash Delicatessen - I had a pizza and Goldfish had the biggest Cobb Salad I have ever seen. Right next door was Fluffy's Cafe, loaded with all manner of things that shouldn't be eaten, baked goods of indescribable excellence, a bakery that has ruined me for all other bakeries . . . we made it to Fluffy's twice while in New York and I still mumble her name in the still of the night . . .