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Day #3: NH, ME

After waking up on this fine Labor Day, we checked out of our hotel and headed into downtown Concord for breakfast: coffee and bagels.

From there, we drove north to the Lakes Region on New Hampshire, which I understand is a popular destination for vacationers / weekend homes. We started our exploration in Laconia, a surprisingly big town given its seeming remoteness. We then moved on to the village of Weirs Beach, which felt the most obviously touristy of areas in the Lakes Region.


Weirs Beach, NH

From Weirs Beach, we had a pleasant drive around the southern shoreline of Lake Winnipesaukee to Wolfeboro, which is a lovely town that seemed a bit more refined than Weirs Beach.


Wolfeboro, NH

After strolling the town, we drove north toward the White Moutains and then hung a right for Portland, ME. We reached Portland around 2pm, dropped off our car, and headed to the Portland Museum of Art (which is just down the street from my Portland office at RxAnte). While it’s recognized as one of New England’s best museums, I found its collection a bit uneven and not especially strong in our interests.

After the museum, we headed to Novare Res Bier Cafe for a drink and snack before exploring the quaint shops in Old Port. For dinner, we thought about going go Duck Fat, but the wait was too long and we didn’t like the scene (share tables) generally. Instead we went to Zapoteca, which is one of my favorite Mexican restaurants anywhere. It also makes awesome cocktails, including fruit and habanero-infused margaritas. Ole!


Wasting away again in Portland…


Awesome salsa trio…

 Today’s box score: +1 state (ME).

Day #2: CT, MA, VT, NH

We started our day with coffees and pastries from the hotel’s Starbucks before heading to the Wadsworth Atheneum for its opening at 10am. 

The Wadsworth has an outstanding collection of works and represents a leading and innovative institution. Having visited there before and owning a good portion of their 1964 portfolio Ten Works by Ten Painters, I feel a connection to the place. Today’s visit was especially enjoyable because Libby and I literally never saw another patron during our time at the museum. The highlight for me today was discovering an artist, Ana Mendiata, who’s thought provoking work and premature death (some believe at the hands of famed minimalist sculptor Carl Andre) make for fascinating subjects.


Op Art

After the Wadsworth, we drove to Amherst, MA to see the UMASS campus and visit the Emily Dickinson home. UMASS Amherst exists in a bucolic setting of seemingly small-ish farms. Despite the rural location, the town of Amherst seems very livable thanks to the university’s influence (note to self: consider buying summer home in college town).

The Emily Dickinson Muesum is located in town on Main St. While not especially large by the standards of today’s McMansions, the houses would have been quite grand in their day. Emily’s life and work–which I must confess I hadn’t contemplated since high school–made for a fascinating subject, especially as we once again were by ourselves on a “group tour” of the home. 


Emily Dickinson’s home

From Amherst, we drove north to Vermont to visit the town of Brattleboro, a bastion of aging hippies and alternative hipsters. Brattleboro is located in a fantastic setting and has an interesting downtown filled with an electric mix of antique shops, art galleries, and cafés. We did a little shopping here (window and otherwise) before moving on to our hotel about an hour away in Concord, NH. Though we only spent a couple of hours in southeastern Vermont, we really liked it and want to come back to this state (even the visitor’s center was spectacular). 


Downtown Brattleboro, VT

Concord, despite being the capital of NH, feels like a pretty small town (imagine Tallahassee without FSU). So, by 7 o’clock or so on a Sunday night most of downtown was closed. Fortunately, Dos Amigos Burritos was still open on Main St. And turned out to be a great choice for a quick, tasty dinner of unusual burritos (loco chili and buffalo chicken, respectively). For desert, we had donuts from Rao’s that we’d bought back in Amherst. 

Today’s box score: +2 states (VT, NH)

Day #1: MA, RI, CT

A while ago, Libby and I figured out that we could get the 157×50 project done by age 40, but we’re horribly deficient in our state count. We’re now on a quest to do this and have three (maybe four) remaining trips to make it happen. 

This weekend we’re visiting New England. All of it. 

Today we flew on JetBlue from Tampa to Boston, leaving around 11am — a late departure but the best we could do for a direct flight. We rented a car at Logan and drove down to Rhode Island to visit the RISD (Rhode Island School of Design) Museum. The collection on display isn’t huge, but it’s reasonably encyclopedic and rather interesting (such as an early, small-scale Pollock drip painting).


RISD Museum

After our visit to the museum and RISD campus, we walked around the neighborhood and also checked out Brown University, which is located just up the hill. It was actually a really fun weekend to visit both schools as classes are just getting ready to start: lots of energy on campus with proud parents depositing their precocious offspring. 

It was difficult not to be smitten with Providence: 

Providence, RI


We left Providence around 5:30 and headed to Hartford, CT. It was a pleasant drive through small towns. Driving along, we found some evidence (confederate flags, aggressively pro firearm signs) of an underbelly of white nationalism / militia-types, which surprised us a bit outside of the South. Indeed, one of the towns seemed to have a small controversy brewing involving a proposed “para-military” / firearms training facility with many residents and businesses voicing their opposition in copious yard signs. 

We arrived at the Marriott in downtown Hartford around 7pm. I’ve stayed here numerous time during my days at IVANS, given Hartford’s prominence in the insurance industry. 

We had dinner at Bear’s Smokehouse, a local southern BBQ joint, that was nearby. They served very respectable, high quality ‘cue and sides in sizable portions: only problem was limited availability of meat selections having sold out earlier in the day. Dessert was awesome: a chocolate, genache-filled, maple syrup, bacon cupcake. 

Bacon on my cupcake!

All in all, a good day!

Today’s box score: +3 states (MA, RI, CT)

Our departure from the Kensington Marriott was uneventful and despite the Gatwick Express running a little less than express-like, we arrived at Gatwick with plenty of time to check-in, get Emerson “brunch” (since she’s skeptical of the airline food), and pick up some additional snacks for the transatlantic journey. 

I’m writing this once again on Virgin Atlantic waiting for takeoff. I’ve come to really not like VA and/or this route. Too damn many British holiday-makers making the pilgrimage to the holy land of corporate entertainment: Walt Disney World. The kids across the aisle from us are already screeching like howler monkeys. So, wish us luck for the next 8 hours and 37 minutes.

Will update more later…

It’s now (much) later (finally updated in September with the “rest of the story”)…

The kids across the aisle remained annoying (so much so that Emerson–a 5 year old–asked me to make them stop). Not entirely sure I’d do the Orlando — London route again. Virgin is no longer a prize, especially as this route is like a flying circus.

In any case, we rented a car in Orlando to drive home (no car keys, remember) that I returned the next day and picked up the GL. Lots of time, fuel, and money wasted. But, not a crisis. 

In other news, the universe confirmed my faith in it: my backpack was found and all of the valuable items were returned to me.  The process–especially dealing with US customs–was a bit tedious, but the lost luggage service at London Victoria was brilliant. Had we been in London, I could have just picked it up on Monday (note to self: a further argument for even longer vacations).

I’m also heartbroken by news of increasing violence in Turkey, the worsening Syrian refugee crisis (having been to Bodrum and the nearby Greek island of Kos), and the associated cruise cancellations. Having been there now, I can empathize more — Turkey is no longer “just some other, distant place.” 

Day #16: London

Woke up early, popped out to the Cafe Nero for a coffee and breakfast, and bought a phone charger at a local newsstand. 

We then headed to the Natural History Museum for its opening (tip: use the queue free side entrance if the main lined up down the block). We managed to get in and through the dinosaur exhibits without any hassle or delays. Most importantly, Emerson was able to visit her beloved Diplodocus in the Great Hall:

We then had lunch at NHM, which serves up a mighty fine pizza.

From there, we hopped on the Underground to Southwark to visit the Tate Modern. This was a “must do” for me, as the Tate had just opened an Agnes Martin retrospective. It did not disappoint! Indeed, I found the exhibition to be revelatory, as I came to understand her artistic practice much more. Far from being a minimalist, she has a very painterly and nuanced approached. 

This is something you can’t appreciate from reproductions in art books. It’s also something that is likely to be overlooked–unless you pay very close attention–when viewing a single work of hers hung amongst other spare, geometric, abstract works. But, in this dedicated environment, you are drawn  to get close to the canvasses to really examine her marks and use of color up close. Indeed, as evidence of what I mean, people get setting off the proximity alarms as they leaned in for a better look. This doesn’t happen with artists like Donald Judd, Sol Lewitt, or Ellsworth Kelly… nor does it with abstract expressionists like Pollack or Rothko. Martin’s work are sort of singular in this way form: a form of “minimalist” abstraction that are oddly magnetic / intimate rather than just atmospheric / immersive. Her paintings draw you closer; it doesn’t just surround you. 

After the museum, we headed over to Green Park for some shopping (window and otherwise) and wandering in Mayfair. Libby bought a new purse (shocking, I know) , and Emerson enjoyed Hamley’s, the venerable toy wonderland. 

Dinner was at Nando’s back in Kensington. 

All in all, a very good day but all too short of a stay in London! Tomorrow we fly home from Gatwick. 

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