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NYC Weekend: Hedwig & The Angry Inch

If you forced me at gunpoint to pick my life’s current theme, I’d probably knock you out, take the gun, and demand to see your boss (I may even throw in a cool one-liner like “I ain’t got time to bleed” or some such thing, just to drive home my badassery.)

But if you had the foresight to roofie my drink ahead of time, I’d confidently say: ADAPTATION.

For new readers, let’s recap, shall we? New home. New job. Single… All within a 2 week period. Something like Miley Cyrus came in like a wrecking ball and left me to pick up all the broken pieces. It hasn’t been easy, but all things considered, my life’s been pretty great.

About two weeks ago, I embarked on an adventure to NYC with my main sistah-bros Lillian, Paige, and Casey. Our reason? To catch the Broadway reboot of Hedwig And The Angry Inch, starring Neil Patrick effin’ Harris! (You may have heard of it: it was nominated for some major theater award no one’s ever heard of.)

Photo by Joan Marcus

And involves NPH in drag. Need I say more? 

(Photo by Joan Marcus)


Quick background: Hedwig started as an off-Broadway musical in 1998, became a smash cult film in 2001, and is now the Broadway show your mom’s probably heard about, courtesy of Barney from How I Met Your Mother.

The play is framed as a rock concert. Throughout the band’s “set”, Hedwig tells the story of her former lover that stole her songs and made it big as Tommy Gnosis. (Within the play’s story, Tommy also happens to be playing a much larger show right next door.)


But back to my theme: ADAPTATION. Fitting, since that’s the precise quality that made this show so incredible from the beginning. In 1998, writer/director/star John Cameron Mitchell and songwriter Stephen Trask sought out concert venues in order to legitimize The Angry Inch as a band. Learning the names and histories of each venue and integrating that into the material teased audience expectation even more. Many inevitably scratched their heads asking,  “How much of this is staged?”

In the same way that Hedwig, the character, identified as both male and female, Mitchell’s story fell somewhere between two worlds. Part rock show, part stage play.

So In 2014, director Michael Mayer faced the challenge of maintaining Hedwig’s spirit while introducing it to a more mainstream audience. Leaving purists to ask: how do you gracefully transition from fringe theater “rock show” to BIG Broadway musical? How do you make something feel unpredictable when so many people are watching?

When we arrived, my sister noticed a Playbill for Hurt Locker: The Musical on the floor by her seat. Hmph. Odd. How had I never heard of this? When we looked up, we saw broken-debris set pieces, demolished remnants of brick walls, and a beat-up car centerstage. Then NPH came out in all his glamorous genderfuck glory (courtesy of stylist Arianne Phillips), performed the opening number (“Tear Me Down”), and explained that Hurt Locker: The Musical had been cancelled on its opening night…

But not really. That show was as farcical as Hedwig’s cleavage.

There was a method to that moment of madness: the band never stopped interacting with the “discarded” set. At one point, NPH made a fall you’d swear was unstaged, but beneath his feet was sheet music from the “defunct” fake musical. (The piece turned into a beautiful solo number for Hedwig’s wife Yitzhak, played by the magnetic Lena Hall).

Hedwig is a show that knows its space and audience, and adheres to both. There was even mention of David Belasco, the former owner who allegedly haunts the venue to this day. His possible presence resulted in some entertaining (seemingly off-the-cuff) banter with an audience member (who Paige and I have since dubbed Hottie McHotpants). Seriously, though: Foxy Daddy defined.

carvephoto

Carve Unique Sandwiches & Pizza

The trip’s food highlight was a nifty pizza joint called Carve, which was just minutes from our venue. It was affordable (by Broadway dining standards), delicious, and conveniently open 24 hours. We sort of cheated on this one – Paige had been there just a few months ago when she and her better half saw Mike Nichols’ Betrayal (starring Rachel Weisz and, more importantly, Daniel Craig… Mmmmm… Daniel Craig). We knew it’d be a hit.

The remainder of the trip was dedicated to walks in Central Park, late night fro-yo adventures, bonding, and purchasing Fat Lady street art.

There were downsides to the trip, too. The rain dampened our Empire State plans, the traffic was horrendous, and food and drink was astronomically expensive. But none of that mattered much. For every snag, there was a step back, a new plan, and two steps forward. In a moment of crisis, we’d respond with the ingenuity of NPH, stomping in high heels, groin to the collective face of an unsuspecting audience.

It all worked out because I was with people who reminded me that the world doesn’t need to fall apart when things don’t go as planned. If anything, these fiascos make for a much better show.

Till next week, my lovelies!

PS.

You know the “follow the bouncing ball” sing-a-long trope? Have you ever wondered how to make that into something filthy?

Divine Thai

2013-12-28 14.21.12On a cold day, soup is always a source of great warmth for the body, mind and soul. Yesterday, we fed our desire for soup at Divine Thai, with the help of our beautiful waitress who happened to be Spencer’s sister Paige. Divine Thai is owned by Spencer and Paige’s Aunt Aor and Uncle Norman. Aor carries on her family’s tradition of hospitality in the US with great pride. The entire team is tremendous and even when I ask for no sugar and no nuts, the answer is YES and the outcome is always delicious.

Spencer enjoyed the soup pictured above. Duck Noodle Soup: Roasted duck and rice noodles topped with bean sprouts, celery, cilantro, fried garlic, and chopped scallions in a duck broth. $8.95

2013-12-28 14.22.31I enjoyed the Thai Noodle Soup: Chicken and rice noodles with bean sprouts, fried garlic, cilantro, and scallions in a special Thai broth. $7.50

Both were large portions and were filled with meat, sprouts and rice noodles with a natural stock that was carefully prepared. This was not a universal stock that is flavored for the meat choice; the meat was cooked in the same broth that we enjoyed. The noodles were well cooked and very tasty. The chicken stock was not salty and had been reduced well to bring out the best flavors. Duck on the other hand springs out strongly in the first few bites and grew on Spencer, who was a newcomer to duck broth. By the end, he was slurping away with true love. I do think he had to fish out the spoon more than once, but I wasn’t counting. (It was twice!)

We also enjoyed the Four Seasons Spring Rolls and steamed Pork Dumplings. We get these EVERY time! The four seasons spring rolls are fresh, very fresh – did I say FRESH?!- and quite crunchy. They go really well with the moderately spicy, specially-ordered sweet and sour sauce that replaces the usual peanut sauce. The wrapping is never rubbery and always-moist ingredients make it a great starter for every visit. When I hear Divine Thai, I think about these rolls.  The Steamed Dumplings filled with pork and spices are delicious and are accompanied with the most delicate ginger sauce that is gentle on the palate without the sometimes salty puckering that other recipes present elsewhere.

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There was a party of 8 sitting nearby with 4 youngsters and they were really enjoying themselves. I heard a very large order and I’m sure that their experience was just as delightful as ours.

Divine Thai. Go and Enjoy!

Divine Thai can be followed on Facebook: www.facebook.com/DivineThai

3 Fantastic Dog Role Models

Everybody has that one public figure that represents their own pinnacle of perfection. For me, it’s Jim Henson. For AJ, it’s, I dunno, Malcolm Gladwell or Dr. Oz or some shit. Y’all understand – there are people everywhere who go out and achieve big things, and they inspire the rest of us to become giants. So here’s a thought for a couple parents-to-be: what about our canine companions?

AJ and I want a dog that’s gonna be the best ever. Ambitious, loyal, not stupid… Which is why the more fun of its two daddies (Yes, Spencer) will have a few mandatory motion pictures under the Xmas tree. It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, and we’ll be damned if we don’t give our mutt the proper tools for survival. Here are the top role-models we’ll be introducing to our four-legged friend:

1. Arcanine

Arcanine

Yes, the fire dog Pokemon. Not like I should have to explain, but here it is for the uninitiated (ie, folks born before 1985): First, he’s the size of horse, so you can ride the darn thing. Yep, even as an adult. Second, he’s got tiger stripes, and the thought of a tiger/domestic dog hybrid is literally the most perfect thing I could ever think of. Third, and most importantly, this would be a pet so powerful, it would feed and protect us. It produces its own heat, which means we could easily have it live outside guilt-free, which also means we would never have to get up at 5 in the morning to take it out for a tinkle. And when we’re snowed in, he’ll flamethrower our way out. What better ideal for a young mutt to try to live up to? Actually, now that I’m thinking about it, can someone seriously figure out how to bioengineer this thing?

2. Shadow and Chance from Homeward Bound

So these two are very ying-yang, but each represent wonderful qualities that any parent would love. Shadow is wise, even-tempered, and cat-tolerant. Chance is playful, energetic, and boisterous. Together they manage to travel approximately eleventy billion miles to find their family. No compass, no road map, just pure unadulterated instinct. They’ve also mastered the secret art of telepathy, which is nothing to sneeze at. But above all, they manage, even when hungry and desperate, NOT to eat the snooty house cat that follows them around. That right there is a miracle.

3. Hachi

Speaking of miracles, this little trooper’s resilience made it an icon of good dogs. Talk about bending over backwards – this champ returned to a train station to meet his owner every day for 9 years after the poor sap passed away. In the off-chance he would rise from the dead and return, Hachi the adorable Akita would be waiting. He still is, in fact. That story was so moving to so many people, they built a statue in the dog’s honor, which has sat there patiently since 1948. Even Richard Gere took notice and played his ill-fated master in a movie!

Something tells me the owner has yet to make it back, but I’m willing to bet Statued Hachi gets a TON of visitors, some of which are bound to be way cooler than the first guy. That’s gotta count for somethin’. I can only hope that when AJ or I meet our maker in the midst of saving orphans from a house fire or retrieving the survivors of a sinking ship, our dog will do something equally awesome in our honor and get bronzified for it.

We can only hope. Today, we’re continuing our search. In the meantime, our sister Paige beat us to the punch.

gypsy

Say hello to our new niece, Gypsy. Ain’t she the sweetest?

‘Til next week, my lovelies!

Pre-Holiday Panic: Frozen, LeFoyer, and Spencer’s Wishlist

Ok. So, Christmas is really almost here. WTF? Am I the only human who’s yet to buy my gifts? It’s the same deal literally every year – I map out my presents for everybody in September, don’t start shopping till December 23, find about half the things I wanted to get, and settle for cheaper, less amazing options. It’s pathetic.

To be fair though, this year I stretched a bit. Largely influenced by my better half, I’ve done some mall shopping. I did buy one gift, but it was for me. And there’s another that’s actually being handcrafted by a friend of mine for my dearest madre. Not to toot my own horn, but at this rate I should most definitely have perfect gifts obtained, wrapped and under the tree by roughly June. Go me!

In the midst of all of our Holiday chaos, there were a few events that slipped by, many of which deserve a mention on this lil’ blog of ours. So here’s a quick recap of the highlights:

Paige, Lillian, AJ, and I snuck a visit to see Frozen the day before Thanksgiving. Goodies first: excellent production. The visuals and voice-acting were top notch (Idina Menzel’s in it, so obvi). The music was ok, and there were a few instances when the humor fell flat. It needed better pace, and a bit more screen time for the side cast (specifically Olaf, the weird little snowman). In the end, it was far from being “Disney’s best since the Lion King“, but the good news is, we have Tangled for that. Go watch it if you haven’t, it’s seriously wonderful.

Note to self: if I get excited about a teaser trailer, expect to like the final movie approximately half as much.

Note to self: if I get excited about a teaser trailer, I should expect to like the final movie approximately half as much.

What else? Ah, we had a surprise party for my boss this past weekend at a place called LeFoyer Club in Pawtucket, RI. It was pretty amazing getting to meet her boisterous and lovable family (including her adorable boo), and the food was great. Calamari, nachos, sandwich wraps, chicken fingers and wings, it took literally all of my willpower not to get seconds. And that was solely because I needed room for cake. Mmmm… Cake.

Oh, and if anyone is wondering what to get me for Christmas this year, here’s my top 3: A Barnes and Noble Giftcard (to extend my Nook library), a DVD copy of Tangled since I love it, AJ hasn’t seen it and the WRONG version is on Netflix, AND this amazing little doohickey. Ain’t that somethin’?

As for AJ, he desperately wants a dog to pamper with (almost) as much love and affection as yours truly.

Have a safe and restful weekend, my fellow New Englanders. This one’s lookin’ to be a real stick-in-the-mud weather-wise. So allow me to introduce y’all to Bed, your best friend for the next 48 hours.

Philly Weekend

We love getaways. Whether it’s in the form of a fantastic movie or a week-long retreat, we both believe that variety is the spice of life. So whenever we take the long road back home, we always have the same seed of thought: What’s our next adventure? Last year, readers may remember that Spencer extended our mystical Canadia Adventure with two days in Ogunquit, ME. What can we say? Sometimes it’s hard venturing off of the yellow brick road and making our way back home.

2013-11-10 09.20.44Traveling is always on our minds, so we do it frequently. We also make a game of not paying for things that don’t interest us. We love the comfort of a hotel room with glorious linens and 8.3 inches of walking space around the bed more than one with a dining table, full bar or jacuzzi! As frequent travel buddy Sister Paige says, “If it’s got wifi and parking, we’re there!” That said, this trip had a short but mandatory agenda: Museums, City and History. Ultimately, it was the prices and pictures that brought us to find this awesome 44-room hotel in the heart of Philadelphia’s Gayborhood. You heard us, right in the center of Gayville – and we didn’t even plan it!

As a couple, we like to take our time, so we drove the 5 or 6 hours, with pit stops along the way. First stop, sandwiches and snacks at Gene’s Variety in Milford, MA. (They’ll get a full detailed description later, friends.) The long drive was shortened by talk of other grand adventures and AJ’s driving took a few months off of Spencer’s life in the George Washington Bridge Area.

Welcome to the Gayborhood!

When we arrived, there were a few things that really tickled us. We saw street signs adorned with the rainbow colors of equality, architecture that transported us to days long past and to AJ’s relief, there was a Starbucks on the corner. After we put our things in the room, we were off – on foot – to explore. Rhonda, our adorable desk agent, welcomed us like passing by was a daily routine.

2013-11-09 23.36.452013-11-09 23.37.25First stop was the Tavern on Camac after about an hour of seeing and being seen. The Tavern, like many establishments in the area is a multi-level entertainment complex. The main floor is a piano lounge that had a max-capacity crowd wailing with the pianist. You’d swear they were waiting for Liza and Billy Stritch. Downstairs is a beautiful restaurant, where we met Angela, who may be aptly described as the charming soul-twin of Elaine Benes. She became a huge factor in our complete enjoyment of our stay, from her sunny disposition to her wonderful night-life guidance. Our food selections for the evening?  A delicious dinner of Duck Pot Pie (Special) and Grilled Free Bird Chicken Breast Sandwich ($12 Fontal cheese, cremini mushrooms, pickled onions, crispy brussel sprouts, truffle aioli.) with the Grilled Asparagus appetizer ($6 Served with Lamb Chopper cheese, poached egg, black pepper, served with grilled bread). Each bite was notable. The Duck Pot Pie was baked into a crock that was completely lined with the buttery crust. The sandwich was topped with individually separated and crisped brussel sprout leaves. Our appetizer was the show stopper. Who would think to top some grilled asparagus with a poached egg and some delicious shaved cheese? None other than, Winner of the 2010 season of “Chopped” Chef Mackenzie Hilton. Our compliments!

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Go Ask Alice, I Think She’ll Know

2013-11-10 10.50.082013-11-10 10.50.28Our walk to the Mütter took less time than anticipated, so we decided on some breakfast. We walked around the adjacent business district finding several national staples, all closed for business. Here, the barristers and the baristas don’t work weekends. We nearly gave up, untilwe saw two of Philly’s Golden Girls, struttin’ their stuff – on the way to Trader Joe’s. Alice, Blanche’s cousin and Sophia’s classmate Ruthie. First, they didn’t hear, then once they understood, Alice was fist pumping the heavens insisting that we go to day by day at 21st and Sansom. We were on the hunt! and O. M. G! We found a killer spot.

Breakfast offerings A-Z with any substitution, etc. etc. AJ had the Scrambler of the day: Applewood Bacon, Kale and Cheddar. Spencer opted for the delicious and satisfying Chorizo Breakfast Burrito. You may notice that the plates had some digging already. We were so excited the whole trip, that we kept forgetting to take photos of our plates as they were delivered. It got pretty bad. Spencer literally refused to put down the other half of the burrito for this photo shoot.

Mütter Museum

One might think that for two gay men, the draw of the City of Brotherly Love would be, ya know, the Brotherly Love. In the end, that’s why we’ll be going back, but it was the Mütter Museum that originally put Philadelphia under our radar.

Close friend Lillian first identified this unusual gem as the Museum of Medical Oddities a few years back. Elaborate Googling promised a handful of bizarre exhibits. Things like: top-heavy cephalic skulls, twins conjoined at the butt, a wall of eye infections, and a dude (who turned out to be lady) with an 11-inch horn protruding from hir forehead. Sold!

And the best part? For $15, we got much more than that. The skeletal specimens (of which there were a TON) included the full body of a 7’6” man, the compact rib-cage of a corset-donning harlot, and lots of battle-wounded bones. Elsewhere, we discovered the scary tools they used to birth-out babies back-in-the-day and a case devoted to the study of Albert Einstein’s freakish brain. Question: Is it better or worse when even SCIENCE points at you and calls you a weirdo? Discuss!

Be jealous.

Be jealous.

Another point of interest: there was an entire segment devoted to civil war atrocities, with an underlying theme of doctors-did-not-know-what-the-hell-they-doing-back-then. Seriously, there was a display of a medical emergency book that was written 9 days before the war! There was also a really cool interactive video projection that simulated and described what happened when those soldiers got shot. I’ll give you a hint: Hello gangrene! Bye-Bye appendages! AJ did it, but Spencer got scared (the room was dark)!

In the gift shop, Spencer feebly attempted to gather some souvenirs for his friend that he’ll totally invite next time. And he treated himself to a rockin’ tee.

Who’s Got the Crack?

We were back in the Gayborhood, and our weekend was winding down. Exhausted from a full day of exploration, the senior citizen of the group decided to re-enact his club kid days and insisted we muscle through the evening. There were about 47 gay spots left to see, so we were off.

At the suggestion of our newest friend Angela, we ventured to the Venture Inn for a bite to eat. Spencer had a drink and we shared an appetizer platter. It was a mix and match: We picked the beef and cheddar spring rolls, pot stickers and BBQ boneless wings. Each were tasty and the BBQ Sauce had a good kick.

After chatting up an adorable bartender, we were surprised to see none other than our Philadelphia bestie Angie step into the room, accompanied by her equally lovable friend Andrea. Here, she gave us yet another phenomenal recommendation. Seriously, this woman definitely became the Dear Abby of our vacation plans.

Knowing us all too well, she sent us to the Tabu Lounge and Sports Bar for a drag show. This was a unique joint, in that the first floor functions as a sports bar with an eclectic mix of gay and straight patrons, while the divas performed upstairs. When we walked in, AJ instantly played six degrees of separation with an even more adorable bartender and we snatched a table for some additional appetizers.

Another order of kickin’ wings and the house nachos that are prepped in a sheet pan so most every chip is treated equally 🙂 and then served on a wicker tray. Very good nachos.

We LOVED the atmosphere. The staff was super-friendly and the cheers of enthusiastic sports fans created an all around warm vibe. Try as we might, we’ll never understand how many home-runs it takes to win a football game, but the spectators’ excitement was absolutely contagious.

With our bellies widened and anticipation sky-rocketing, we elevated to the 2nd story. Here we met a bartender who didn’t snuff our water order (seriously, that guy may never know how much we appreciated his sweetness), and got a front row seat to the last-minute pre-show planning.

Fatigue was setting in and our old man bodies were slowly shutting down. But no! We’re no quitters! So we stuck it out. And the party to end all Philadelphia parties commenced.

The show was part of a weekly series called Sinful Sundays hosted by local mega-talent The Goddess Isis. She was recently dubbed by Philadelphia Gay News as the city’s #1 Drag Queen, and it’s no wonder why. Her presentation was impeccable. The gestures and over the top facial contortions were perfect (especially when accompanied by an equally ridiculous live recording of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” performed by Patti LaBelle). And Isis even showed off her chops as a trained singer herself (her college vocal coach was actually in the audience that evening). The unending showmanship was evidenced by her quick response-time to unexpected hiccups in the show. She never stopped being entertaining on stage and off. We loved her.

Her co-stars weren’t too shabby either. “Japanese Singing Sensation” Satine Harlow provided 1/2 of some fantastic odd-couple banter with the show’s host throughout the night (beginning and ending with the protest that she is in fact NOT a Japanese Singing Sensation). Her lip-sync of Miley’s “Wrecking Ball” was a highlight, and she showed some tremendous gratitude to her audience throughout the performance. Then there was Ann Artist. A tall, fit, perhaps criminally insane punk-rock queen who seems to have mastered the art of controlled chaos. She was introduced with a jittering uptempo rendition of Lorde’s smash hit “Royals”. It was great, but came in second to her scarily appropriate follow-up: The Moldy Peaches’ “Who’s Got the Crack?” It is absolutely relevant to include that Ann fiended for those dollar bills. Girl knows how to work.

The jolt that hour gave us cannot be understated. We loved every second of it. Each lady put on a stellar performance, and we can’t wait to go back. But, like all good things, it came to an end. By about 1am we were back in our beds and dreaming to stay another week.

Independence and Sweet Sorrow

The next day brought us through the the Independence District for a view of what we will see on our return visit. Souvenir shopping and lunching on Philly Cheese Steaks rounded out our weekend of fond memories and wicked awesome weather.

Until Next Time Philly, Keep Loving!

The Call

Logline

An empathetic 911 dispatcher gets a second chance to capture a crazed child abductor when she receives a phone call from his latest victim.

Why we went

It was a night in for myself and Paige. We’ve been wanting to see this since March, and I’ve been theater-deprived. So we boldly went where 35,000 other IMDB users had gone before.

Why it worked…?

The Call may be ridiculous. Its character’s may act questionably and the cinematography may feel like an elaborate episode of NCIS. These things I expected. What surprised me was a movie as consistently fun as this one turned out to be.

Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine) owns it as a totally terrified blonde girl from the ‘burbs. When she comes to in her captor’s car trunk, she finds the perfect pitch and consistently sustains it. Thanks to strong casting, ours is a teenage victim we’d prefer get home safe.

Which is why we also take a liking to her potential rescuer, Halle Berry. Her performance is wonderful. I could stare at that woman for hours on end. But that’s probably just because she’s unrealistically perfect, even beneath her Kyle Broflovski jew-weave.

Story-wise, it works and it doesn’t. The beats make for a speedy play-by-play. We get into each scene late and leave early. Never was I bored. But the events don’t exactly unfold in a sensible way. Half the time, we question the actions of the characters on-screen. Really, you’re gonna go down that dark hallway unaccompanied with no cell phone service?! I’m not convinced, but do carry on. It’s a perfect example of that moment where you can see the puppet strings.

I took major issue with the stuttering camerawork too. Shaky faux-handheld needs to die, please. It ruined The Hunger Games for me and it totally peeled me away from some of The Call’s more suspenseful moments. Not always, but enough to annoy.

There’s a school of thought that says, “All’s well that ends well.” If you prescribe to this belief, you have 1 of 2 options: 1. Turn the movie off at about the 93 minute mark, or 2. Just don’t bother at all. Seriously. Its about as satisfying as a rice cake.

Bottom Line

You will have fun as its happening, but those seeking a satisfying, logically sound story will find that The Call flatlines.

Canadian Road Trip

June 21 through June 30 was my (AJ) first complete vacation, in a very long while. I have taken several long weekend trips, where I would add a Friday and a Monday or a few days to a weekend and bring technology to take calls and check emails along the way. Last Summer’s birthday weekend to Martha’s Vineyard was dampened by a conference call, on the ferry home, and began a time in my life where working and playing at the same time will not be happening. This vacation, was a true vacation, including plans made by Spencer and his sister Paige, driving by me, music by Paige, Spencer and Steven Dorsey and fun and thrills enjoyed by ALL! When I say vacation, I mean it. We started our group vacation with a pre-vacation dinner at Ciao Bella in Worcester, team shopping at Walmart and a sleep over at Stanley Kunitz’s house.

As is my usual flair, I’ll help you through the itinerary one bite at a time. Ciao Bella, in Worcester, MA on Grove Street, does not disappoint. The food was delicious, the service was on par and Steven and Paige’s first experience left a great taste in their mouths. Paige had a wrap that she handled with the greatest of ease (LOL!) while its overflowing ingredients lived up to their name. Photo Jun 21, 7 38 17 PMSteven ordered buffalo tenders, which were amply supplied, so much so that they were a snack (almost half the served portion) for Spencer, Paige and himself while we waited to cross the Canadian Border, the next day. Spencer had a salad that, was impressive in size and flavor, with plenty of feta, which he adores. My dinner was a Salmon special with Dijon topping and wild rice; it was a seafood tarantella on the taste buds!! We intended on stopping for iced cream later, but we were pleasantly filled by the delicious meal. This picture shows the “take home” portion of buffalo tenders.

So then, we hit the road for our three part journey north, west and then south… promptly at 8:00am or so, the next morning.

First stop, the AAA office in New Hampshire to load some cash onto our “AAA AMEX cards,” affording us no charge and no fee purchasing as well as roadside assistance throughout Canada. Thank you, AAA and the MAMAs!

Got Money and Time, now we’re off!!

Next on our itinerary was New Brunswick, Canada to experience Sussex, Moncton, and Hopewell Rocks with a small side trip to Parlee Beach/Wharf for some swimming. Sussex served up a quaint village with little stimulation beyond painted buildings/murals [it’s the Mural Capital of Atlantic Canada] and our first introductory class of “Speaking Canadian: 101” we learned “soareee” and “a-boot”. Our instructor was also a waitress at Maple Avenue Restobar  where the menu included everything from ~$20 entrees to a Friday night pizza and pitcher special. We chanced some BOGO apps and took our exit. Paige had a bit of a pinch that night, as we learned that in order to be an adult in New Brunswick, one must be 19. This became a point of laughter for the remainder of our adventure. “You have to be 19 for that…” was a common conversation starter, or better, a segue into a new conversation.

We were kindly and generously accommodated by Amsterdam Inn & Suites  with a beautiful, clean and Photo Jun 22, 5 30 38 PMcomfortable room and a breakfast buffet which included delicious toast, bagels and English muffins, a variety of cereals, fruit, muffins, juices, teas, hard boiled eggs in a crock pot and coffee. Canadian coffee was good throughout the trip.  In final discussions, we rate this our second favorite ‘place to stay.’

Photo Jun 23, 10 53 29 AMThe first full day in New Brunswick took us to Hopewell Rock, part of the Canadian National Parks, to see not only the Bay of Fundy, where the tide rises so high and fast that the ocean floor is 6 or 7 flights  down and when the tide is out, you can walk right out onto the ocean floor. When the tide comes in, the “Chocolate River” is filled with highly agitated brown water. Like night and day, a very impressive experience. It was freaky to stand at the middle of a stairway with waves crashing at my feet on a perfectly clear day. This video will help you with the WOW-factor of Hopewell Rocks and the Bay of Fundy.

Photo Jun 22, 8 14 14 PMPhoto Jun 23, 12 45 48 PMPhoto Jun 23, 12 48 21 PM

The afternoon was spent walking,  shopping and lunching in downtown Moncton. The Old Triangle was our lunch spot, after two places enforced the dreaded “19 rule.” Paige had the Belfast Burger and Spencer had the JD Steak Wrap. I had the 40 Shades of Green Salad with grilled chicken and Steven had the Lemon Basil Spaghettini, a deliciously spicy dish that he battled triumphantly.

Photo Jun 23, 4 18 40 PMOur remarkable side trip to Parlee Beach Wharf for a swim was a chance to experience a young boy’s attempt to overcome the approximate 10 foot jump off the stone wharf into the water. He quietly deliberated, sought silent encouragement from his mother and teetered back and forth revving himself for the challenge. Surrounding adults were captivated by the scene. All the while, child peers casually plunged in, over and over. Once he did take the giant leap and returned to the top off the wall, he was met with hearty applause.

There were a few slightly older children splashing about, as well.

New Brunswick was an enjoyable way to start out this vacation. We enjoyed hanging out, good sleep and great sights. PrudenceMooseNot an adventure course for city lovers, but for those who enjoy miles of farmland, beautiful riverside vistas and plenty of Moose cautions.

 We developed many sketch improvisations about Prudence, the moose, and her risque lifestyle.

The second leg of our trip was to Quebec City – Old Quebec, for some – where we had much much fun! We started our adventure at Les Trois Garcons where we met Annabel, 2013-06-24 19.19.05the sweetest and most beautiful waitress we experienced during our travels. The food was just as good as the service. We sat inside the open front wall of the restaurant and enjoyed hamburgers, bison, salmon, hand cut fries and delicious harvest salads. Spencer’s Tartare 1084 was the headliner of this eating experience. We not only found ourselves in awe with spectacular plating, but we found our taste buds in a frenzy. We forced ourselves not to go the next night. I certainly know what I would have ordered, well one of three that tickled my taste buds.

Photo Jun 24, 4 31 11 PMThe Hotel Ambassadeur, Beauport – just across the river (The Saint Lawrence River) had a gorgeous interior garden and pool with hot  tub and very comfortable seating and relaxing area, in addition to a comfortable room for us.

The next day was Cora for breakfast and Spag & Tini for dinner. We simply didn’t have room for lunch, in our schedules or stomachs. We did a lot of walking and shopping all around the hills, cobble stoned streets and excitingly gorgeous shoppes. The days in Quebec City were a buffet of color for all senses. Up. Down. Left. Right. Historic. Waterfront. People. Stairs. Fantasy. Reality. These are some photos, or as some would say, a few thousand words framed for your understanding.

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Chez Cora offered Eggs Benedict, french crepes filled with eggs, meat and/or fresh fruit. Either healthy or straight-out dessert, it was all available.

Photo Jun 25, 7 34 57 PMSpag & Tini, known for terrace dining was delicious and beautiful. Situated at the foot of the embankment topped by Le Château Frontenac and surrounded by fairy tale streets and shops, the dining was a full sensory experience. I’m a huge fan of Beet and Chevre salads and the equal portion of beets, chevre and greens made this meal the stand out star!!

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This window display (photo at right) is suspect, but while the business was closed, the shop window entertained well.

The area of Old Quebec continually, as mentioned, WOWed all of us. We definitely will be returning to visit, as Spencer and I have added it to our list of places we could live. My sincere thanks to the people of Quebec City for preserving a beautiful jewel of tourism and life, which maintains and instilled in this traveler that joie de vivre usually only dreamed.

The next leg of our trip was to Montreal, where we enjoyed some team stress management, fast, on our feet decision making and hotel swapping direct from the scariest-psycho-movie-horror-motel HMotel (sic) I’ve seen in my life. The property was dilapidated at best and the clientele was truly undesirable. I did not leave the car and the reports from my companions included dirt, smell and disgust…just the keywords. I truly hope that the management takes some time to refurbish their property because it was frightening and gross. The 89.99 per night was a sincere overcharge. We landed at the Hotel Le Cantlie Suites, downtown Montreal, thanks to Steven’s quick work on www.expedia.ca and I posted this review the other night.

LeCantlie_Feedback_expedia_dot_ca

We enjoyed walking all over the area and took in the sights at the Museum of Fine Arts, Cabaret Mado and Eaton Center, all within a 5-15 minute walk. We were four twirling tourists gawking, snapping photos, pointing, stopping and rushing ahead. Everywhere we looked, there was something for our eyes to soak up.

2013-06-26 17.59.26Before I get into the sights, my job is to share with you the bites. On our first night, after rejoicing and doing many happy dances all over our room, we walked left from our hotel’s grand lobby to the Le Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal. The exterior exhibits were enough for us to jointly and immediately decide to spend the next morning viewing the permanent collection. Upon exiting the reception and information area of the museum, we stopped for some local culture information from a kind lady who was brimming will welcoming smiles.

We had a few questions:
1. How is English introduced to Canadians, in that most flip back and forth between French and English, in the way that we breathe.
2. Which were her favorite restaurants in the area?
3. Did she want to join us?

2013-06-26 17.56.24#3 was politely declined, as she was escorting notable and tardy friends through the Chihuly exhibit. #1 yielded a kind explanation that was beautifully detailed with small tidbits about her parents and life in Montreal. “It’s just that in order to make it, you have to do it.” #2 provided us with a list of restaurants, 2-3 in the mid range and high range and it took our best efforts to find most of them. First, we had dinner at m:brgr. I had the Seared Tuna Salad, which was delicious and fresh, very fresh. My three companions built their own burgers and shared the Fry basket. There was brief debate, but no one opted for the $100 brgr.  We headed to Ste Catherine Street for the show at Cabaret Mado. Photo Jun 26, 9 50 26 PM Photo Jun 26, 10 24 16 PMThis was Paige and Steven’s first drag show. We were sitting on the corner of stage left and when the Mistress of Ceremonies, Miss Butterfly, was informed that we spoke English, she snapped right into our understanding and had us in stitches. The incredible show included American pop songs and a pair of talented, bodacious dancers.

2013-06-27 10.55.42The next day began with breakfast at Universel Peel Street where we were inundated by the smell of freshly pressed oranges, a menu that created an inner struggle and a server who genuinely was happy to have us visit. The space is heavily mirrored and very creatively lit. I felt as though we were sitting outside when looking left and right, but inside an art deco, glimmering palace in other directions. I had a breakfast burrito that was made entirely of fresh ingredients, Spencer enjoyed poached egg and smoked salmon, Paige Benedict sampled more hollandaise and Steven had a Belgian waffle that was gone in just about one minute of slight moans and small shouts of delicious joy!

The day was packed by a morning visit to the Musée des beaux-arts, a nap break, a walk through Ste Laurent’s shopping district, another visit to Ste Catherine Street and a subway ride to Eaton Center. Eaton Center is a huge underground shopping center that literally runs laps around itself. If you are in Montreal, go to there! Very interesting, great shops and much to do and see. Weather turned a little cool and we physically outdid ourselves, so we chose to return to Universel for dinner. Pizza for Spencer and me, with salad, a burger for Paige and Steven had Fettucine Alfredo.

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Notes about Canada:

  • Nearly every restaurant, happily, asked if we wanted one bill or four. Almost always expecting to present separated bills.

  • If you are pleasant and try to help the french speaker, you will get miles along with kindness.

  • Carrying fruit over the border is a big deal.

  • It seems, based on our experience, that most of Canada accepts American Currency. Some charge a small surcharge, like the Starbucks at Chateau Frontenac.

  • There’s an apartment for rent in Quebec City, a short walk from the Fudgerie, for just $880 CAD/month.

  • Canadians do not eat ice cream, only gelato.2013-06-24 20.21.01

    • (I made it 36 years thinking gelato was Italian.)

    • Gelato is never sugar-free or no sugar added.

    • On that note, the one chocolatier who had sugar free options, used whole nuts to distract from the sugarlessness. (AJ is allergic to sugar and nuts.)

We split the trip home by stopping over at the family run Black Bear Inn in Bolton Valley, VT and a lunch cruise on Lake Champlain out of Burlington’s Waterfront district. On our way to the Inn, we treated ourselves to the Factory Tour at Ben and Jerry’sPhoto Jun 28, 3 00 14 PM in Waterbury. Photo Jun 28, 2 59 51 PMOur room at Black Bear was an end room with a balcony overlooking the outdoor pool and hot tub with a backdrop of the picturesque Green Mountains. Our last morning together was kicked off with a full breakfast included in our stay at the Inn – more delicious coffee and toast –  and then off to shop and cruise the historic Burlington/Lake Champlain area. Our afternoon in Burlington ended with a street performance by a acrobatic juggler, who had us bent over laughing while we anticipated the downpour thunderstorm that ushered us, promptly, to the car.

Just 10 minutes down the road, sunshine and blue skies returned to accompany us for our drive home.

Photo Credits: Apple, Inc, Paige Hensel, Steven Dorsey and Ilia I. Phone.
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