T and B Do Belfast

Randomly, four years ago, Hockey East and the ECAC decided to get together and play a hockey tournament every Thanksgiving up in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Apparently this is because Belfast and Boston are sister cities (that a whole bunch of BU alums attended because, well, BU runs the world) and BU alums are the head of the Belfast Giants hockey club and they decided to make this a thing at some meeting between the two cities. The tournament became the Friendship Four and BU was finally announced as part of it last year. So, for a full year, we’d been hoping to pull off this trip to Belfast to go because see hockey in (Northern) Ireland? Sign us up!

To make this happen, a lot of things had to fall into place. Finances (did it as on the cheap as possible), the time off (for B), the flights to look okay (because we weren’t going to buy tickets) … and thankfully, everything came together. Mostly. I’ll get there.

Wednesday, November 21:

Our first day was a travel day. We took the first flight out of DEN to JFK because it looked the best … and because not taking the first flight whenever possible breaks non-revving rules. As a result … it meant we got to sit in the Sky Club at JFK for a very, very long time. Which we did, after we got lunch.

11-21travel
We changed spots like three times.

The flight to DUB looked good. No fancy business class pods, but we thought we were going to get a row to ourselves (two of a three row). Unfortunately, some guy joined us (we think he was a row off, but we couldn’t say anything). This made for a slightly more uncomfortable flight … especially when it came to sleeping (or trying to. Especially since the dude in the middle in front of us moved to the aisle in front of me and reclined his seat and moved around a lot making it HARD to sleep. That, and the turbulence from hell that almost made me vomit.).

Still, fairly uneventful flight. No movies watched, partially because there was nothing that struck my fancy and partially because I did want to try to sleep some.

IMG_6461
But we got there, and that was all that mattered!

Thursday, November 22:

We landed in Dublin, cleared customs, and then bought tickets for a bus up to Belfast. I wandered around to maybe get a snack, but nothing caught my eye.

IMG_6465
Except this. This did. None of the donuts did, though. Unfortunately.

I ended up nodding off again on the two hour ride … waking up about a half-hour outside of Belfast and extremely nauseous. How I didn’t actually throw up on that ride I don’t know. I had bile come up two or three times. It was not pleasant. But, we made it, and that’s all that matters. We walked the mile or so to our hotel (Hilton Belfast), checked in … and died. Unintentionally, but a nap definitely happened.

Once we woke up, we decided we needed to go out and get some food. We had heard of a Christmas market at City Hall, so we headed over there.

IMG_6469
Belfast City Hall.

IMG_6476
Cool looking ride that I may have gone on had I not had the close puke call earlier …

IMG_6478
Dutch pancakes being made.

IMG_6480
Dutch pancakes. So good. A bit of a different Thanksgiving dinner, but it worked.

Friday, November 23:

We woke up, grabbed breakfast at the hotel, and then ventured out for the morning. Our destination was the Titanic Museum, as we wanted to get there as close to open as possible. We did stop for a cappuccino first, though.

On our walk, we stopped by the Big Fish (Salmon of Knowledge). I had heard about the Salmon of Knowledge thanks to a Maeve Binchy book I had read ages ago, so when I saw the statue on Google Maps, I knew I had to check it out.

IMG_6493

IMG_6496
Kind of in love.

From there, it was a short walk across the bridge (in the rain) to the Titanic Museum.

11-23belfast4
B successfully sent a message via Morse code!

IMG_6508
Sure, why not?

IMG_6546
On the deck of the ship. Kinda.

11-23belfast7
Lunch the day of the sinking.

IMG_6553
The Nomadic (last White Star Line ship remaining) and I forget what’s in front it. But it’s where they used to dry dock ships. I think.

11-23belfast12
Husband looked like the sculptures outside so I made him pose.

Afterward, we stopped by the SSE Arena to get tickets for the games (the whole reason we made the trip …) and then grabbed some lunch back near the hotel. I think we ended up napping for a tiny bit (oh, jet lag …) before heading back out to the arena. We skipped the first game (Yale and Union), though.

IMG_6564
Arena.

IMG_6566
The bar inside the entertainment complex next door, Rockies, still had a goalie stick out for Humboldt.

Our friend (and huge BU fan) Cindy, whom I’ve known since college, got us into a pregame alumni reception inside the arena, where we got to hang out and eat some snacks.

IMG_6567
And I continued my trend of mascot selfies. Thanks, Rhett!

11-23belfast13

IMG_6577
Hockey!

BU won their first game, which was awesome. The atmosphere in SSE Arena was actually pretty good. If they don’t sell all the tickets, they give some away to youth groups and the like so we had a giant group of rowdy middle school-aged kids in the front of our section. Holy crap those kids were insane. It was almost more fun watching them than the hockey.

We got out and walked back toward our hotel while waiting to hear about meeting up with other friends there. We grabbed a quick bite at the hotel bar (since we really didn’t eat dinner …) before walking to the Duke of York to say hi to friends. We didn’t stay out too terribly late, but it was fun hanging out in the very, very crowded pub.

Saturday, November 24:

IMG_6589
From breakfast at the hotel.

The one thing I really regret not doing on this trip was heading up to Giant’s Causeway. We didn’t want to rent a car, and all the day tours were full day affairs. Since we had the hockey game … we didn’t want to chance the timing. So instead, we stayed inside the city. Our first stop was to (*sigh*) Starbucks for some coffee … but mainly to get a Northern Ireland coffee mug. We then headed to St. George’s Market – a combination farmer’s market/food hall/Christmas market. We really probably should have gotten some veggies or something there, but oh well.

IMG_6590

From there, we walked to the Belfast peace wall. We had seen a lot of other friends go there earlier in the week and wanted to check it out.

11-24belfast
On the way, in West Belfast.

11-24belfast3

11-24belfast4

11-24belfast5

Sobering yet completely awesome. Also of note: the UK was trying to figure out their Brexit deal and one of the main points of worry was open borders in Ireland since ain’t no one wants to go back to the Troubles.

We headed off back to the Christmas market so B could get some of the Bailey’s hot chocolate everyone had been raving about.

IMG_6606

We didn’t stay long beyond that, though – too many people and my social anxiety kicked in big time. So, instead of finding lunch there, we found a small cafe within a bookstore for a couple of sandwiches. After lunch, more touristy wandering.

IMG_6613

IMG_6618
This awesome alley is right across from the Duke of York (you can see it behind me).

11-24belfast8
Same street.

Before the game, we walked back over to the Titanic Museum to get an ornament (had been mulling it over and decided to buy it). Good thing, too, since the museum looks awesome at night.

IMG_6625

IMG_6632
Also got a shot of the famous Harland and Wolff (shipbuilding) cranes.

Then it was off to the pregame reception once again.

IMG_6633
L to R: Me, Rhett, Cindy.

11-24belfast15
We needed a picture of us!

Unfortunately, BU did not win the Belpot, as they fell to Union that night. Boooooo.

Sunday, November 25:

We didn’t have too early of a wake up Sunday morning, but we did get moving relatively early, since our main goal for the day was to get back down to Dublin.

11-25belfast
Dinosaurs looking out the window one last time.

IMG_6642
Walking to the bus stop.

I took Dramamine for the return trip – just in case – which was probably good. I did end up nodding off again though, which was nice. We got to the airport and then caught a shuttle bus to our hotel – the Holiday Inn Express right near Dublin Airport. Since we were (hopefully) leaving the next day, we didn’t want to do anything too strenuous, besides seriously repack (kind of half-assed it in Belfast). As a result, dinner was also simple at one of the restaurants at the Crowne Plaza next door.

Monday, November 26:

We woke up with enough time to get checked out and grab some breakfast at the hotel before going to the airport. We hit the airport, checked in … and learned we wouldn’t get boarding passes unless they thought we had a chance of making the flight. As a result, we had a few hours to kill before we needed to be back by the counter. Time to play the waiting game. As we checked in with a higher priority, we were able to go past security … but the odds of us getting on did not look to be in our favor.

We went through security and customs as quickly as we could (you clear U.S. Customs in Dublin which is kind of cool … also thank you Global Entry you were worth every penny) and got to the gate to wait … and wait … and learn we were screwed. Dangit. We got escorted back out … got our passports stamped as we “re-entered” Ireland … and then sat for a bit figuring out our next move. We got some food for lunch at the airport, considered going into town … but decided “screw it,” rebooked the Holiday Inn Express, and went back over to the hotel.

We did, however, venture out for a very nice walk at the park across the street.

IMG_6658

IMG_6677
It had been raining that morning … so this rainbow (it was a full arc, too) was nice to see.

11-26dublin3
We’re mature.

11-26dublin7

It was a beautiful way to spend some time. I think we both needed a bit of time with some fresh air in nature.

We hit up an Italian place about a block down for dinner and then back to bed … but not before I contacted my parents to have them please go over to our house and brine the turkey sitting in my fridge so we could cook it on Wednesday to have our very delayed Thanksgiving dinner.

Tuesday, November 27:

Second verse, same as the first … except this time when we checked in, they let us go right through (plane was open enough). The security line was much shorter earlier in the morning which was nice. As we didn’t have a gate that early, we were told to just hang out in the departure lounge (or really just around all the Duty Free shops). B bought some whisky. I almost bought a gorgeous cashmere scarf … but couldn’t justify the money on something I’m not sure I’d use all that much. I did, however, find a pair of dachshund socks for his mom. We also got some coffee at a cafe. When the board told us to go through customs, we dutifully followed and then sat at our gate. Or what we thought was our gate (it changed).

In the gate area, we saw a few of the BU fans Cindy introduced us to that also worked for the same airline. I guess they tried the Sunday flight, didn’t get on … and didn’t even try for Monday. They got on too … and ended up sitting behind us.

IMG_6742
We’re going hoooooome!!

Going back was nice as we got #podlife (as I like to call it). My video screen was being stupid so I didn’t watch a movie, but I did read quite a bit.

IMG_6745
T Schmeg the emotional support dinosaur (kidlet babysitter) hung out like this the entire flight.

We got into JFK and then sat in the club for a while until our Denver flight … which we also happily made and I’m pretty sure I slept some on it, too.

It may have been 26 hours later than planned, but we made it home.

Not the longest or best (Northern) Ireland trip, but it was a lot of fun being able to see my hockey team in another country.

Images of Boston: 2013 Edition

After Ironman, we went to Boston for a few days. Brandon’s team, the University of North Dakota was playing mine, Boston University, in hockey. Since we couldn’t go to Grand Forks last year when BU played up there, we decided to take a few extra days after Arizona and head to Boston.

It was a simple trip – not too much touristy stuff – we mainly walked around a bit on a clam chowder tour of the city – four cups of chowder in two days. But it’s Boston, and we both love the city, so it was worth it.

boston
Thai fried rice at Brown Sugar Café.

boston2
All my time in Boston and I somehow never noticed this in Copley Square. All the names of the marathon winners (male and female, able-bodied and wheelchair) are engraved around it.

boston4
Brandon in the Public Gardens.

boston5
Awesome knotted tree.

boston6
Bobby Orr “Goal” sculpture outside of the new Garden.

boston9
Chowder stop number one: Warren Tavern, in Charlestown.

boston11
Hey look, Paul Revere!

boston12
North End. Right before pastries at Modern.

boston13
Chowder stop number two: Union Oyster House. Cornbread was fantastic alongside it. This was probably ultimately our favorite of the four.

boston14
Outside Union Oyster House.

boston17
BU dino Gustave at Agganis Arena for the first time (for a hockey game).

boston20
Hockey people will know why this scoreboard is a fail.

boston21
Marsh Plaza.

boston23
Gustave in a BU cycling jersey.

boston24
Dinosaur story time.

boston28
Chowder stop number four: Boston Chowda Co. Not pictured: Legal Sea Foods.

Order of preference?
1. Union Oyster House
2. Legal Sea Foods
3. Warren Tavern
4. Boston Chowda Co.

boston29
Lone remaining Boston Marathon bombing memorial in Copley Square.

On Jack Parker …

… and a bit on my own hockey background.

With Boston University coach Jack Parker coaching his last game last night (a 1-0 loss to the University of Massachusetts-Lowell), I wanted to write a few words, but I really don’t know why. Maybe it’s just due to my journalistic training.

*********

I was an NHL fan and had just started learning how to play hockey when I started my college search and I knew that the school had to have hockey (or be very near a team) and, preferably, a way that I could keep playing.

The search came down to the University of Denver and Boston University. A school that gave me some money or a school that gave me none. Staying at home or going far away. Going to school with a friend (and a few acquaintances) and being near my family or going to a place starting completely fresh, knowing only my brother (who also attended BU). I ultimately chose the fresh start.

Being the hockey nerd that I was (I’m arguably more of a tri nerd now, though the hockey nerdiness still lingers), I soon started learning about the men’s varsity program. Signing up for WTBU, the student radio station (ideally for future career experience) and working a few games in studio helped a lot with that as well.  I signed up for the women’s club team* and thus hung out a lot in Walter Brown Arena, at that time, home to both the men’s and women’s teams. Our practices were right after the men’s a few days a week. At that point, I knew who Jack Parker was.

I first truly interacted with him in the Spring of 2002, my freshman year. I was in COM201 (communication writing) and chose, perhaps poorly, given that particular professor, to do a profile on him. When I first called to set up the interview, I was scared shitless. A former smoker, Parker has that gravelly smoker’s voice and combined with a thick Boston accent, was extremely intimidating over the phone. I dreaded doing the interview, but once I was there, it went well (besides my recorder dying on me without my knowledge and me not taking many notes. learning experience, that whole situation, for good and bad). That was when I first learned how much he cared for his players and how his favorite moments in (then) 20-some years of coaching were when Travis Roy’s parents made their first return to WBA after their son’s accident and when J.P. McKersie played in his first game back after a horrific car accident – not the BC games, not the Beanpots, not the National Championships (although I’m sure those are up there).

I forgot about those relationships until he made his retirement announcement late this season, his 40th of coaching at BU (almost his 50th at the university, between playing and being an assistant). Twitter came alive with scores of former players singing his praises, saying how vital Parker was in their development, how many of them still keep in touch. Parker himself said that he had two daughters and then 300+ sons, all from coaching.

*********

That 2002 interview was not my only interaction with JackPa, though. In either my junior or senior year (I think senior), we decided to try and do the 50/50 raffle at the men’s games as a way to fundraise. For whatever reason, we had to set that up through Parker and as team secretary, that was my job. He had no problems in letting us do it – in part because we held the most successful 50/50 raffle they’d ever seen, which aided his decision to let us do it again once the team made the switch to Agganis Arena. He also knew me by sight  since I basically lived at Walter Brown – not only by being a part of the women’s team, but by being there in a lot of my spare time, too. I lived either on top of the arena or just up the street my four years, and I used WBA as one of my favorite study spots (no internet meant no easy distractions). We then were reintroduced in December 2008, when I covered BU in Denver at the annual Denver Cup tournament and I had to interview him for a game recap.

Given the fact that he knew who I was led me to my favorite Jack Parker moment/memory. I worked as the WCHA columnist for USCHO.com for several years which meant that I got the opportunity to work several Frozen Fours … including 2009, when BU last made it. Thanks to going out to D.C. mostly on my own dime, I didn’t have to work much during the tourney, which meant that I could attempt to be a fan and sit next to my then-boyfriend (now husband) during the games. Working hockey had made it hard for me to be a fan (still is, if I’m being honest with myself), but BU helped change that, if only for a weekend. Watching that title game against Miami University made me a nervous wreck and sitting two sections over from the BU students (led by veteran Section 8ers) brought everything back – all the cheers, all the emotion … everything.

(it also helped Brandon realize that the Dog Pound, the BU student section is AWESOME and one of the best, if not THE best, student sections in the country.)

When BU won in overtime – which, if you know hockey,  you know they probably shouldn’t have; Parker was triple-shifting his top line, but Enrico Blasi just wasn’t pressing as much as he should have and simply got out-coached by a veteran – off a play that made me truly feel for the Miami defenseman (I am a defenseman; I have that empathy), I … I don’t even remember my emotion right now. Stunned, shocked, ecstatic. I hugged Brandon, probably kissed him, tossed my jersey in my bag and high-tailed it down to the basement. I had my media credential and though I didn’t have to write a piece on game, I wanted to congratulate both SID Brian Kelley and Parker himself.

I was able to run down Parker in the hallway after the press conference on his way back to the locker room. I got his attention, he saw me, gave me a huge hug and asked how I was doing (he, predictably, was doing quite well).

I would say that he may have hugged me regardless because he was so happy, but I know that to be false. I also congratulated University of Minnesota-Duluth coach Scott Sandelin (with whom I had a working relationship) after his team won the 2011 Frozen Four, my last game as a reporter, and I got no hug.

*********

There are probably still a few people out there who don’t like Jack Parker (fellow Hockey East fans) and are probably glad he’s gone, given his “reputation” of having the officials in his pocket, but, and this may be my bias talking, I don’t think you can’t not respect him and what he’s done. A few friends on Facebook said that he put BU on the map and I agree with them. Parker was considering retirement last year, but given the rape scandals, decided to stay on – partially because he knew it would have looked bad if he left, but mostly because he knew that’s when his team needed him the most. I admire that decision.

So thanks, Coach. I’m proud to have known you and I hope you show your face at a few games – the husband would like to meet you in November when his team, the University of North Dakota, plays at BU. Otherwise, enjoy retirement and may you always have smooth sailing on your likely new home, your boat.

* The women’s club team is now the women’s varsity team and playing the ridiculously undefeated University of Minnesota for the championship in the women’s Frozen Four today. I am so proud of how far that team has come in the few short years it’s been D-I. Go BU!

On April’s Boston Trip

Ooooh boy did I get behind in writing this damn blog.

I did have a good reason for a while; mainly, I crashed my bike (link takes you to the triathlon blog I share with my hubby and includes the gory photos). This put me out of commission the week before we went to Boston and then … well, the boring parts of life get in the way and not happens in terms of fun exploration.

Ha. That was cheesy, I know. I’m sorry.

In any case, back in mid-April, we went to Boston to watch our friend Kris run the marathon. For me, it was also a homecoming of sorts, as that’s where I went to school and spent four years of my life. I also got the chance to show Brandon my version of Boston, much like he showed me his Grand Forks in April 2011.

The city was both the same and different, much as I expected it to be. 95% of the food I remembered was outstanding with very little of it disappointing. It’s really funny to see how much campus has changed and how much of it hasn’t. Of course, things changed drastically over the four years I was there; colleges and universities are constantly evolving. Brandon thought it hysterical how the both the evening and morning staff at one of my local college haunts, T. Anthony’s, still remembered me even though I hadn’t been back on campus in five years. Granted, I spent enough money in the place for them to remember me, but y’know.

Going back was also nice in that it reminded me that, as much as I love Boston and I loved my time there, I really have no desire to move back. I am a Colorado girl, born and bred, and there isn’t anything that’s going to change that. The lack of humidity out here doesn’t hurt, either, though.

Watching the marathon was a whole new experience from when I was in college. I truly didn’t get into the Marathon Monday experience until my senior year (and the year after when I came back for it), what with all the drinking and partying in South Campus (marathon comes right through south). The only running I did back then was when the hockey team forced me to for dryland or I had some crazy urge to go knock out a mile or two.

Now, I’m a part of that community. I’m nowhere near fast enough to Boston-qual, but I’m a triathlete. I run regularly and have completed two half-marathons. I now know what work it takes to get into a marathon like that, the dedication in either training to be fast enough or raising the amount of money you need to for charity to earn one of those spots. It’s something that I honestly don’t know if I’ll ever be able to do. The Ironman World Championships in Kona are similar, and yet I feel like that’s more in reach than Boston is. Of course, that’s part of the Boston mystique.

But this trip wasn’t about running (we had hoped to run a 5K, but me literally breaking my face the week before nipped that thought in the bud). It was about cheering Kris (and Mark, in the BAA 5K) on. It was about seeing old friends. It was about food. It was about reconnecting with a place I had fallen in love with in September 2001 and sharing that love (and food) with my husband.

I’m going to share the rest of my experience through pictures, but I’ll mention the foooood first.

Friday night: nothing. Got in too late to enjoy anything
Saturday: Breakfast: Some little place in Allston with my best friend from college, Brian. I honestly forget the name of it. Lunch: Boston Chowda Co., in the Prudential Center. Dinner: T. Anthony’s. Still the best chicken parm on the planet. Followed by frozen yogurt at Angora Cafe, which is not replicated ANYWHERE out here and it makes us both very sad.
Sunday: Breakfast: Hotel. Mmm, free crappy breakfast sammich. Lunch: Brown Sugar Cafe and that Thai fried rice I’ve been trying to replicate. Followed by ice cream at J.P. Licks with Brian and his fiancee, Phelan. Preceded by cannolis from Mike’s Pastry. Dinner: Fire and Ice. The one truly disappointing meal. Fire and Ice has gone way downhill the past few years.
Monday: Breakfast: Dunkin’ Donuts/T. Anthony’s. The latter was definitely better. Lunch: T’s Pub on campus after our Agganis Arena tour. Dinner: Legal Harborside. Not as good as one of the regular Legal Sea Foods’ restaurants (in my opinion), but it’s one of their more concept-type restaurants.
Tuesday: Breakfast: Free hotel food. Lunch: UBurger. A new burger joint that’s popped up on campus and around the city, and came highly recommended by Brian. Also had poodle fries with cheese from Spike’s Hot Dogs, which are some of the best cheese fries out there. Dinner: Sunset Grill and Tap. Mark wanted a place with lots of beer and this fit the bill. It also served as a great trip culmination, with Brian and Phelan as well as my old roommate (and bridesmaid) Courtney joining Brandon, Kris, Mark and myself. Followed by more Angora. Mmm.

Now, photos:

bpg
Boston Public Garden.

bpg3
Swan boats in action.

downtown
Paramount Theater in the theatre district.

granary5
Granary Burying Ground.

faneuil3
One of the many food cases in Quincy Market.

mikes_cannolis
Cannoli from Mike’s Pastry.

marathon
Runners in the Boston Common waiting for the buses to take them to Hopkinton, Mass., to start the marathon.

paradise
Paradise Rock Lounge, a Boston fixture (located handily on the BU campus).

bu_campus3
The best part of Agganis Arena, hands down. BU/Hockey East people know why.

marathon6
Kris with a mile to go, running through Kenmore Square.

bu_campus5
Brown Sugar Cafe. Favorite Thai place ever.

downtown14
Playing with a lobster at Union Oyster House.

bpg4
The “Make Way for Ducklings” statue (with dinosaurs).

bpg13
Swan boats.

bpg14
More swan boats.