historical boston: one minute man

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day!  Although March 17 is synonymous with leprechauns and pots of gold, there’s a secondary celebration in the city of Boston, MA known as Evacuation Day.  This day commemorates the retreat of British troops from the city in 1776 after the Siege of Boston, or the start of the Revolutionary War.  So while you don your shamrocks and drink your green beer, pour one out for those who fought for our freedom to exist as our own nation.

If you’ve read this blog for a while, I think you may be able to tell that I’m a little bit of a nerd.  And I’m proud of it, I like reading, learning things and knowing about history.  And so, traveling around this vast country, I am fascinated by the communities that played vital roles in fabric of American creation and evolution.  We’re not an old country comparatively, but we’re rife with important figures and events.  We have a lot of museums and monuments to preserve this culture (some of it not great but it’s probably important to be familiar with that, too), and these are tools to promote lifelong learning.

Boston is chock full of Revolutionary War history, as the seat of some of the most famous protests and uprisings like Boston Tea Party, Boston Massacre, Paul Revere’s house, and the aforementioned Siege of Boston.  I’ve been through all these sites in the city proper, but on a road trip back into town from the Berkshires, had a chance to visit the outer lying areas where the actual sh*t happened.

Sorry for the language, but when in Boston…

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i believe in nashville

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The hits keep coming, don’t they?  While the world was reeling from the COVID-19 effects, my beloved former home of Nashville suffered one of the most devastating tornadoes in recent past.  Fortunately for me, my friends and colleagues are okay, but there are so many people who were not as lucky.  The scenes of the utter destruction, splintered buildings, razed businesses that were once so lively and vital to this town are heartbreaking.

If there’s something I know about the city of Nashville, it’s that it is resilient.  When I moved there in 2014, they had near completely recouped from the horrible floods in 2010.  I know the community will come together and rebuild and be back better than ever.  If you can, consider donating to cmft.org.

Until then, I believe in you Nashville, and here’s my little love letter to you

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laissez les bon temps rouler

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there is a house in new orleans, they call the rising sun

Well now that the Super Bowl has been won by Kansas City (GO CHIEFS), we can all move on with our lives, and move onto the next party. This is Mardi Gras of course!

Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday is February 25 this year.  This is the Carnival celebration that starts after Three Kings Day and ends the day before Ash Wednesday.  For us non-Christians, this day refers to eating rich, fatty foods before Lent fasting begins.  No one throws a party like the Crescent City, and this bonanza of a holiday is the grandest boum of them all.  No one throws a soiree like New Orleans.

Laissez les bon temps rouler…

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know before you go: STT USVI

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No, that’s not a bunch of f Roman numerals.  STT is the airport code for Cyril King Airport of St. Thomas, one of the main destinations in the US Virgin Islands.  The busiest airport of the islands, many traveling will use it to hop to nearby St. John and the BVI. If you’re like me, and you have always romanticized jetting down to the islands like some New York socialite wearing a caftan and drinking gimlets whilst perched on a Mortician Adams wicker peacock chair, then wintering in the Caribbean is for you!

I mean, what’s not to love about exchanging frigid temperatures and the stress of the holidays for sandy beaches and margaritas?  Beach hair, don’t care.

STT is a tiny airport with one terminal.  There are flights to and from the US quite frequently during this season on American, Delta, Frontier, United and JetBlue.

Remember: ✈️ = Extra virgin to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ =  If you like pina coladas

Convenience to the city:✈️✈️✈️ (3 miles from Charlotte Amalie, downtown)

Ease of navigating through terminals:  ✈️✈️✈️✈️ (it’s not a big airport)

Convenience of check in/security lines:  ✈️✈️✈️✈️ (Customs check so they recommend getting there at least 3 hours ahead)

Dining:✈️✈️ (free shots when you arrive, but not much else)

Restrooms: ✈️✈️✈️ (Small airport, but a lot of stalls)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️ (free wifi available)

Amenities: ✈️✈️ (Did I mention free shots? Also free tote bags from the downtown jewelry stores.  Verrrrry slow baggage claim, so plan accordingly)

Plymouth rocking

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Happy Thanksgiving week everyone!  One of the busiest travel weeks of the year, often coinciding with horrible weather.  What could go wrong? 😉

The juice is often worth the squeeze though, and you get to enjoy a lovely meal and reflect on the things for which you’re grateful.  And I guess you get to spend time with your family (whatever definition you choose), too.  Gather around the hearth y’all, for this short week, here is the story of one of America’s folklore icons, the Plymouth rock.

Everyone’s basically heard of the Pilgrims, right?  They were a group of mostly Puritan separatists who sailed from England in 1620.  They were seeking religious freedom by heading to the New World, and they were trying to get to Virginia, where the first successful settlement of Jamestown was founded in 1607.

Obviously, if you’re ever looked at a map of the U.S., you’ll know that Massachusetts and Virginia are nowhere near each other, so they clearly didn’t reach their intended destination.  Storms forced them to anchor near what is now Provincetown, at the hook of Cape Cod.  This is where there was infighting and almost mutiny, so the Mayflower Compact was devised and signed, creating a new government that still gave sovereignty to the king, while enacting a social agreement wherein everyone would play by the community rules.  This happened around mid-November to December 1620, and thus ’tis the reason for the season.

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nothing says america quite like “gift shops”

After exploring the area and having some ill-advised encounters with the native peoples (likely stealing the indigenous peoples’ food and stores), they settled in Plymouth.  This area had been inhabited by the Wampanoag people, however this particular area had been devastated by smallpox (brought over by…you guessed it, previous European explorers/colonizers), and thus made a convenient place to stop.

The Pilgrims success was aided by the Wamponoags, whose prominent leaders, Chief Massasoit and ambassador Squanto, saved their weary butts.  Squanto helped teach the settlers how to eel/fish and cultivate corn before he too succumbed to the plague.  Interestingly enough, Squanto had avoided the previous death wave that killed many of his people as he had been captured as a slave and was in Europe being converted to Christianity at the time.  The more you know, folks.

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Anyway, this was the site of their Plymouth Colony, which by the next year had a successful harvest season.  And what comes before Pilgrim Part B?  Pilgrim Part-A.  And that’s how we got the first Pilgrim Thanksgiving.  Attended by the 50 or so remaining settlers and 90 Native Americans, they ate corn and wild turkey and now so do we.

 

Nowadays, the small town of Plymouth, Massachusetts (40 miles from Boston) is still very keen on their history pertaining to these early settlers.  “America’s Hometown” has the Pilgrim Historical State Park, which has reproduction ship called the Mayflower II that sits in the bay, Plimoth Plantation (living history museum), and of course, the famed Plymouth rock.

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You’ll note that I haven’t mentioned this famed monolith yet.  That’s because the pilgrims didn’t mention it either.  This boulder merely represents the site where the Pilgrims first disembarked, a stepping stone if you will.

Anyway, it is the cornerstone of the Pilgrim State Park, and sits under a very fancy neoclassical portico.  A true American icon, representing strength and resiliency, we’re all truly like a rock.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

i heart hartford

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Hartford, Connecticut is an elder statesmen of cities in America.  The well-preserved grandeur of many of its old buildings alludes to its history as one of the former richest cities in the country.  Home to the oldest art museum in the U.S. and a very beautiful, sprawling central park, Hartford has firmly written itself into the fabric of American history by being home to many of our nation’s greatest literary minds.

Mark Twain once said of Hartford, “Of all the beautiful towns it has been my fortune to see, this is the chief. ”

He hearted Hartford, and so will you…

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the road not taken: vermont version

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Vermont, known for Ben & Jerry’s, the Green Mountains, Bernie Sanders, and so much more, is arguably the most beautiful state in the US to enjoy fall foliage (I will probably say this about each state I visited).

You may have noticed that I was gone for a few weeks (or maybe you didn’t and in that case, my feelings are hurt); I was on an epic cultural roadtrip through New England, and I definitely forgot to schedule posts (smort). But I’m back, baby, and ready to share some pictures of autumn with y’all.

Trust me, when you get older, you will be thrilled by simple notions such as leaves turning different colors.

nothing gold can stay

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hoosier daddy: indy day trippin’

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Indianapolis is a place you hear about constantly if you’re a sports fan.  From the Indy 500 to Larry Bird (Reggie Miller, if you’re in my age group) and Peyton Manning SB team of 2007, the “Hoosier State” capital is hallowed sports ground.  It has been the bullseye of the news cycle lately, notably for the retirement of Colts QB Andrew Luck.

I can honestly say beyond sports, I didn’t know much about this city, other than the fact that it seems like I know a million people from there.  Impossible, since it is the 17th most populous metro area in the country with about 2 million in population, but their residents certainly infiltrate everywhere else in the Midwest.  Indy is about the size of Kansas City, and similar in many ways.  There are great neighborhoods, a friendly sense of community and an unmistakable pride in their hometown.

Gentlemen (and gentle ladies), start your engines…

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know before you go: MIA

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One of the few times the blog post title actually makes sense because chances are, during a weekend in Miami, there’s a high probability of actually going MIA.

Miami International (formerly Wilcox Airport) is one of the busiest airports in volume and is a main gateway to Latin America.  This place is always bustling.  Located about 8 miles from Downtown, it serves the entire metropolitan area of Miami/Dade County.

Like everything else in this city, the set up is a little confusing, with three terminals: North, Central and South. North houses the largest Concourse, D, which is the main home of American and takes the bulk of passengers both domestic and international.  Central Terminal has Concourses E, F, and G serving OneWorld, international carriers and domestics, respectively.  South Terminal has Concourses H and J, which serves Delta/SkyTeam and Star Alliance with a few One World carriers as well.  In total, there are 131 gates.

Remember: ✈️ = miami vice to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ =  welcome to miami

Convenience to the city: ✈️✈️✈️ (8 miles from downtown, there is a MetroRail, Amtrak, buses and buses)

Ease of navigating through terminals:  ✈️✈️✈️ (it’s a large airport, so at least there’s the MIAmover to take you between terminals and to the rental car facility.  It’s a little bit of a hike to get there though)

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️✈️ (Where MIA achieves success is having a lot of dining options that explore local flavors.  There’s a lot of Cuban food in this airport, like a lot, a lot.  From the famed Cafe Versailles to the modern Ku Va, if you have a hankering for some Cubano treats, you’ve got it.  There’s also the normal Pizza Hut, Starbucks, Dunkin, McD’s, KFC, Sbarro, TGIFriday’s, Taco Bell, Burger King, Nathan’s fare.)

Bathrooms: ✈️✈️✈️ (Terminal D is very well lit, clean, could have more locations)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️✈️ (free wifi, decent amount of charging)

Amenities: ✈️✈️✈️✈️ (hotel on the premises, yoga room, Military Hospitality, multiple American Admiral’s clubs, VIP lounge by LATAM, Delta Sky Club, Avianca/Star Alliance, and even a Consular lounge for foreign dignitaries, which is kind of cool.  MIA also fancies itself as a mall, and there are the typical brands like Michael Kors, Coach, MAC, Bijoux Terner, Sunglass Hut and Hudson.  There’s also some specialty shops that are hella random shops like RonJon, Penguin and Johnnie Walker to keep it interesting.  Great place to people watch, saw the Chainsmokers at the gate last time I was here.)

 

 

 

day trip to Louisville: Derby time!

Derby City has a long, illustrious history of horse farms, and of course, the Kentucky Derby, but there’s so much more to the city.  It’s the hometown of the Greatest, Muhammad Ali, Louisville Slugger and great southern eats like Kentucky Fried Chicken. Come on, you know you love those 13 spices.

I only got to drive through this city, but the roadtrip through this part of the country is serene and beautiful.  There’s fields of bluegrass for as far as the eye can see and pastoral scenes of horse farms and billboards advertising bourbon distilleries and caves.  It does not get more southern than this.  If you’re coming from the South, you will pass Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace, too.  Louisville sits on the banks of the Ohio river and for that, was/is considered the gateway to the South.  And in fact, if you cross the river, you’ll be in Indiana.

Louisville, even though steeped in Southern history, seems very vibrant and young, maybe in part due to the college atmosphere.  There are a lot of trendy coffeeshops, I really liked Quills and local chain Sunergos.

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My first must see in the River City was the Muhammad Ali Center, a cultural museum dedicated to Cassius Clay, the man who would become the greatest American boxer of all time.  This center has interactive displays, movies and even a boxing ring.

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There’s tons of paintings and art featuring him, including this gorgeous piece by LeRoy Neiman.

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It’s not for profit, and celebrates the life of a man who inspired so many.

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The center sits on Louisville’s waterfront, which features a large lawn and green area, with playgrounds, paths and an outdoor event venue.

Louisville’s downtown is actually larger than I expected, with the center being the KFC YUM Center, where the Louisville Cardinal NCAA team plays basketball.  You are in Bourbon country, so there is a Woodford Reserve Club in the arena, and just down the street is one of the distilleries on the Bourbon Trail, Evan Williams.

The buildings in the West Main District and Whiskey Row have facades in the cast iron revivalist style, similar to those in SoHo in NYC.  There are tons of art galleries and museums, hotels in this walkable area.  It’s also home to the arts district of Louisville, with the Center of the Performing Arts and Actors Theatre.  Inside the Actors Theatre is MilkWood, one of severeal Top Chef allum Ed Lee’s dining experiences in the city.  I wanted to try this place so badly, but it was closed when I was passing through.  Louisville has a ton of high end dining options: maybe you’ll run into Tom Brady at Decca or the Fat Lamb, you never know.

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Behind that large gold replica of Michelangelo’s David (not sure the reason for that), lies Proof, a funkily decorated dining room that features everything from catfish dip to bourbon pie.  And of course, they’ve got juleps, which you’ve got to try when you’re in Kentucky.

Just a few blocks down is the Louisville Slugger museum.  You can’t miss it, it’s the one with the 120 foot tall baseball bat in front of it.

IMG_7115.JPGThis museum also serves as an active factory and you can take a 20 minute tour where they show you from start to finish how the bats are made.  Everyone gets a free mini-bat, but just remember not to put it in your carry on if you’re flying (it will be confiscated).  There’s a wall of famous “slugger” autographs and batting cages, of course.  There’s also famous bats that you can hold.  It’s kitschy, but I’m into baseball, so I liked it.

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This was a super quick trip, but that’s a good starting point to your Derby weekend.  Even though Churchill Downs is the main event, don’t forget to explore the other amazing attractions this city has to offer.

Famous Louisvillians: Muhammad Ali, Tom Cruise, Jennifer Lawrence, Hunter S. Thompson, Diane Sawyer, and Rajon Rondo (a motley crew if there ever was one)

Listen to: Nicole Scherzinger, My Morning Jacket, Patty Loveless and Bryson Tiller (Louisville gets more and more interesting as this list goes on)

Souvenirs: umm, Bourbon and a Louisville Sluggers — that should make for a fun night?