We are back from our much-anticipated 8-day adventure to New York and Boston, and sad that our vacation is over. But it was fun while it lasted, and we probably couldn’t have afforded to stay any longer anyway. Now that we’ve returned, it seems weird to drive a car again and is weird typing on a keyboard, but I’ll try to detail our trip day by day. (Sorry for the terrible quality of the pictures in this post; I accidentally saved these at a very low resolution for the blog. The hi-res versions will be up on Facebook soon.)

In my opinion, there are trips and there are vacations. When we went to Jamaica and planted our butts on the beach for eight glorious days and did virtually nothing, that was a vacation. On this trip, it was go-go-go until we passed out from exhaustion, seeing everything we possibly could fit in.

For me, and probably Lauren too, the highlight of the trip wasn’t the baseball games, but all the fun restaurants and bars we stumbled into. Lauren is a very good planner, so she had the scoop on the hottest places in town, which is great because I would have just picked places at random and probably wouldn’t have had such good experiences.

Lauren gave in to my request and we headed to the airport fairly early, but that gave us a chance to have breakfast before getting aboard our plane. I’ve now flown over 20 times, and this was the first time I’ve ever been on a really empty plane; everyone was able to move and sit in their own row pretty much. We landed at rainy Laguardia Airport around 12:30 and cabbed it to Hamilton Heights in Harlem, where Lauren’s good friend Elise and her husband Justin live, as they opened their apartment to us for our visit. With the rain pouring down, we spent most of the afternoon catching up with Elise and playing a round of drinking Monopoly. When Justin got home, we went over to CitiField for the Mets/Giants game. We had purchased special tickets that got us an open bar before the game at the McFadden’s bar inside the stadium, and believe me, I took full advantage! The weather for the game was absolutely miserable. It wasn’t quite as bad as the Vikings/Bears Monday Night game in the snow, but it was pretty dang close. The temps were in the 40s and the wind was bitterly cold; CitiField was at best 20% full. CitiField was nothing special, in my opinion. It really lacked the character that Target Field has, with a mostly barren concourse. The section ushers under no circumstances would allow us to move around either, not even to worse sections! The highlight of the game was Tim Lincecum in sharp form, holding the Mets scoreless in a 2-0 Giants win.

Drinking whiskey Cokes on the airplane
Mixed drinks at 10am on the plane? Don't mind if we do!
Mets vs Giants, May 4, 2011
Our seats at the Mets/Giants game Monday night

Truth be told, Lauren and I weren’t feeling so hot after our big first night on the town, but Elise really wanted us to try out her favorite place for a ritzy lunch downtown, so off we went to Jean Georges doing our best to appear to be businesslike, I in my dress pants and tie. Drinking Coke made me feel better until I realized that they were $4.50 apiece with no free refills and I had already had four. The three-course lunch was quite elaborate and expensive, but enjoyable. That afternoon we headed over to Ed Sullivan Theater for a taping of The Late Show with David Letterman. I don’t really watch the show regularly, but I wanted to be in a live audience for something while we were there! We had to stand in several long lines, first to pick up our tickets, then to get into the theater for instructions during taping. We were told to make a ton of noise, and if we didn’t understand a joke, to laugh anyway and think about it later. David Letterman was friendly with the crowd and the taping was a lot of fun… definitely something I’d do again, even though we weren’t easily seen on TV like I had hoped. That night Justin and Elise treated us to a great meal at a Belgian restaurant. I had a steaming pot of 30 mussels, saying I was going to try some more bold and adventurous foods on the trip.

Lauren at the Late Show with David Letterman
Lauren waits for our taping of The Late Show

Lauren and I headed out to explore on our own on Friday, and headed to the Empire State Building where we not only went to the lookout on the 86th floor to explore, but paid extra to go even higher to the 102nd floor. It was cool, but I decided that in the future, when I have the option of looking at a tall building from the outside or paying money and standing in line to go to the top, I’ll just enjoy the view from the bottom. Later that day we wandered the streets, stopping off at the south end of the Island at Ground Zero and Wall Street. When we got thirsty, we visited McGee’s Pub, which is the inspiration for the bar on How I Met Your Mother, one of our favorite shows. At night, we hung out with Justin and Elise and ordered Dinosaur BBQ.

Ryan and Lauren at McGee's Bar, where How I Met Your Mother's bar was based
Visiting McGee's Bar, where the How I Met Your Mother bar is based.

For our last full day in New York, Lauren and I set out to find the Seinfeld diner, but once we got there decided to eat at a better-looking restaurant for breakfast. The weather was picturesque as we sat on the patio and met some fellow Minnesotans. Then we headed downtown and got on a tour boat for a three-hour tour completely around Manhattan Island, which got very close to the Statue of Liberty and went under a lot of interesting bridges. The tour was definitely worth the money, and we were even treated to light sunburns! Afterwards, we tried the famous Gray’s Papaya for lunch, and paid a visit to the Museum of Natural History where I saw my first ever dinosaur amongst other cool exhibits. Somehow we managed to get into the museum without paying… not sure how that worked. At night we got Indian takeout and I was out cold on the couch in no time.

Triceratops at Museum of Natural History
Checking out a triceratops at the Museum of Natural History

Bright and early Sunday morning, we headed to Penn Station to board the Amtrak train to Boston. It was a chaotic experience as 300 people rushed to board the train as soon as its departure gate was listed. Originally Lauren and I weren’t able to sit next to each other but some nice guy gave up his seat. We passed through Connecticut and Rhode Island before arriving in Massachusetts on an overcast, frigid afternoon. The weather while we were in Boston was very unpredictable—in the shade and wind it was freezing, but in the sun it was hot, so I never knew how to dress. After checking into the surprisingly nice Buckminster Hotel next to Fenway Park, we went on a tour of the U.S.S. Constitution, the mighty war ship which won all 32 battles it was engaged in. I knew so little about US history that I thought we were going to see the actual original US Constitution, like the scroll, so imagine my surprise when we boarded a ship! We walked over to Bunker Hill and saw the monuments, then ate at a wildly popular Italian restaurant called Giacomo’s, which normally has a long line outside to get in. We timed it pretty well and didn’t wait very long for a table. The food was all it was cracked up to be! Afterwards, we saw a swarm of 100 people packing into a bakery at 10pm to buy pastries, so we figured it must be good and got in line too. I’ve never seen such mayhem at 10pm at a bakery… or at any hour, for that matter!

Ryan and Lauren aboard the USS Constitution
Touring the historic war ship, the U.S.S. Constitution, or Old Ironsides

The Freedom Trail is Boston’s best-known tourist attraction, and we got a brief patch of great weather in the morning as we started the trail. I couldn’t tell you all the historic places along the way, but we visited the Massachusetts Statehouse, Faneuil Hall, Granary Burial Grounds, Boston Massacre Site, Old Statehouse, The King’s Chapel, Old North Church, and Paul Revere’s house. Extremely educational and historical and good exercise! Along the way we stopped off at one of the Cheers bars for a couple pints. This Cheers bar was designed to be a replica of the TV set. Of all the times we drank alcoholic beverages on the trip, this was the only time I actually felt tipsy, probably due to going on such an empty stomach. We returned to the hotel and changed into our Twins gear for the big Red Sox/Twins game at Fenway. Our seats were in the first row behind the Red Sox bullpen, making for a very memorable experience! We got there for Twins batting practice and took in all the sights and sounds, and drank a few $8.50 beers. The Twins lost 2-1 in 11 innings, but it was still plenty of fun, and there were many other Twins fans in attendance.

Ryan and Diane Chambers, Cheers bar in Boston
I was able to meet famed bartender Diane Chambers at Cheers!
Sun setting on Fenway Park, May 9, 2011, Red Sox vs Twins
I am proud of this well-timed shot of Fenway Park with the sun setting.

By this point in the trip, we were pretty exhausted. We slept late and then wandered over to Cambridge to check out Harvard’s campus. Lauren was excited to see where real scholars studied and bought some Harvard memorabilia. I was just amused by a toilet in a Harvard building with a handle that flushed different amounts of water depending on the direction it was pushed. We killed a couple hours at the John Harvard’s Bar before heading back downtown. We walked through Boston Gardens and fed a french fry to a duck… big mistake! The park animals now knew we had food and soon a parade of random park animals were after us! Lauren can attest to this, no Ryan exaggerations… We were being followed for a good ten minutes on foot by about 7 ducks, 3 geese, 5 pigeons, 4 songbirds, and a few squirrels. They followed our every move down the path to the point we were getting creeped out. Luckily we found the other Cheers bar across the street and ran inside for cover. That night we went out for dinner at Legal Seafoods (which neither of us really wanted to go to, but due to poor communication chose anyway over the restaurant we both actually wanted to go to) and then found my new favorite bar, Eastern Standard, whose bartenders are trained to be serious mixologists. I tried stumping a bartender by ordering a drink I found online called the Aviation, which calls for the rarely seen creme de violette liquer, and not only did they have the right bottles, but she whipped it up in very fancy fashion in no time!

Lauren being chased by ducks at Boston Gardens
Early on, it was just a few ducks chasing us. Wish I would have taken more pictures of this!

There was time to do more in the morning if we so chose, but we opted to sleep late, relax, and casually get down to the airport. The flight from Boston to Minneapolis took about 2 1/2 hours; roughly the same amount of time it took for us to get from the plane back to our apartment. Sadly, vacation had come to an end, but it was a trip we shan’t soon forget!

Vacation Over, Sad
We were very pouty as we waited for the Light Rail to take us home at the end of our vacation.

Check Facebook soon as I’ll be posting all the photos from the trip. Also check our food blog sometime in the next week, as I’ll have a special rundown of all the restaurants we tried on the entire trip!