Monday, August 24, 2015


I've had the chance to visit a good number of cities this summer. In fact, in just the last month I've been to six. By the end of this week, I'll have visited a seventh. Some ruminations about these cities follow.

Boston (late July) 

I like it. It's grown on me, a lot. This was my fourth trip to the city, and my longest. It's a bewildering town. In fact, I didn't even know where Copley Square was until my final full day in the city when my cousin, Ted, gave us a driving tour of the town. Even as late as the last day, I found myself locked in an orbit of just thinking left-right-left-right off of the GPS rather than seeing where I was going. I don't know how anyone navigated it before the era of the GPS.

The bewildering street layout is actually a charming aspect of Boston, so please don't take the previous paragraph as a complaint. My one complaint of the town concerns the disappointing beer options. I know it's the home of Sam Adams, New England's Yuengling. But I think being able to claim that brand has made the town somewhat lazy in cultivating such a culture.

This history of the city appeals most strongly to me. Being there is like watching a familiar movie in which my mind is humming with details and abstractions about the Revolutionary Era. This is despite the fact that a lot of modern construction interrupts the revolutionary era sites.

Our Boston home, the finest vacation home we've yet rented. 
In front of the presidents' home. 
The presidents' home.  
John Adams's birthplace.
Looking out west from Skydeck in Boston. 

And to the East.
Portland, Maine (early August) 

This is a city that has clearly figured out its beer scene as well as its dining.

It's been a while since we had such a good photo taken of the two of us. 
So, this muddy rudder at the SeaDogs was good but . . . 

. . . words fail me describing this ice cream sandwich.
We did a few goofy things in Portland with an old friend of mine, Rob. First, we visited the DeLorme store, home to Eartha, the world's largest globe.

Trusting elementary school kids with photography.


Obligatory selfie with Eartha.
We also hit a series of lighthouses so Sherry could get some more stamps in the book.

And, we took in some minor league baseball. Best beer at any ballpark I've visited. Again, this city has the beer scene figured out.
Caroline enjoys late-inning minor league baseball
Hartford, Conn. (early August) 

We didn't get to see the city's best sites in this quick visit. But we did an outstanding job with the dining. First, we visited a hot dog joint that was out of this world, Woody's. Sherry was brilliant in finding this hole in the wall, a place that provided our most fun meal of the summer.

New favorite photo of Sam and I.
The whole meal. Note the Moxie. The proprietor wanted to make sure I knew what I was ordering when I asked for one. 
For dinner we found an excellent brewpub inside an even more awesome building. Seriously, it was a department store I had studied in my undergrad historical architecture course.

Washington, D.C. (early August) 

I'm so fortunate I have family living here. I love all the things one can do in our nation's capital. Sam and I did get to the Spy Museum on this trip, which he enjoyed. Otherwise, I am coming to appreciate what there is to do in neighboring Alexandria. Next time, I'll get to an apothecary museum as the next spot on my obscure historical hit parade.

Pittsburgh, Penn. (late August) 

My fourth trip to this city was my favorite. I've never been to the city with the same configuration of people more than once: In 1993 with my mom, in 1996 (?) with a college ensemble, in 2005 with Sherry, and now in 2015 with my friend, Ken. I'm ashamed that it took me until my fourth trip to actually get into the downtown area. That city's downtown might be one of my favorites. The topography means there's a ridiculously compact concentration of high-rises. It's easy to walk the whole downtown in one stretch.

I guess what appeals to me most about the downtown of Pittsburgh is what it says about the brash, powerful young country that made it. Many of the buildings are relics of our great industrial era, and in that way it reminds me of Chicago. The numerous bridges crossing the rivers seem to brag, "Oh, yes, we have the steel for that."

Not exactly a spectacular view of PNC Park. It's nothing compared to the view one gets from inside of it. 
From Point State Park looking up the Allegheny. 
I'm not sure if PNC park was as splendid a ballpark as I had expected. It seemed a bit smaller than I would have liked. I prefer Citizens Bank to it just from the standpoint of architecture and seating. But the view of the city from the field is spectacular. And it's proximity to the downtown (we walked back to our downtown hotel in twenty minutes, or perhaps less) makes one realize the Philly might have really missed something big putting Citizens Bank Park in South Philly.

Richmond, Vir. (end of August) 

to be continued

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