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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Belfast City Hall.

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

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Dutch pancakes being made.

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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.

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Kind of in love.

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

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B successfully sent a message via Morse code!

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Sure, why not?

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On the deck of the ship. Kinda.

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Lunch the day of the sinking.

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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.

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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.

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Arena.

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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.

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

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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:

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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.

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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.

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On the way, in West Belfast.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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

Then it was off to the pregame reception once again.

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L to R: Me, Rhett, Cindy.

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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.

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Dinosaurs looking out the window one last time.

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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.

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

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We’re mature.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Tempe Trip 2017

Also known as our yearly trip to Ironman Arizona. Since 2012, we’ve only missed one year (2014). Other than that, we’ve been down every year. Probably will actually skip next year, however. Maybe.

In any case, I’m not going to share anything from the race, but rather the trip surrounding it. I’ve also been apparently forgetting to take pictures with my actual camera half the time (Instagram stories are wicked fun, yo), but I still did get several. Two of the food ones were phone pics, though.

Wednesday, November 15:

A very long day of driving. But! Did see the sun do a cool effect somewhere on I-40/Route 66. Forget whether this was still in New Mexico or the Arizona side of things, though …

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Ate: egg at the house, snack at Starbucks, lunch at Golden Corral (mmm, salad), dinner at Logan’s Roadhouse, various homemade car snacks.

Thursday, November 16:

We stayed at the (really new) Hilton Garden Inn ASU, which was about three miles from Tempe Beach Park (that is, IMAZ ground zero). Alas, no free breakfast, so we went out at a place I found on the interwebs, Matt’s Big Breakfast. Matt’s has a few locations around the area, but we ate one just down Rio Salado. B had The Hog & Chick (their basic meat and eggs and potatoes) while I had the daily special … eggs benedict.

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Menu.

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Hashbrowns were terrible. Eggs Benedict wasn’t bad (although only one of my eggs was poached properly). They also pretty much forgot about B’s toast, which was sad, because it was good homemade sourdough.

After breakfast, a stop for coffee (mmm coffee) and then off to the Desert Botanical Garden, which, yay, FREE with our reciprocal membership. Because, if you know me/us by now, you know we love looking at cactus.

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Chihuly pieces.

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They had a butterfly exhibit. This is just one of many photos I took in there.

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Good to know.

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Building on site.

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Oh look, photo op site.

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(After saguaros,) my favorites – purple prickly pears.

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Poor Lonely George.

After the Gardens, it was off to the spring training home of the Colorado Rockies (okay, and the Arizona Diamondbacks), Salt River Fields.

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I may have brought this sweatshirt solely for a photo op.

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Super cool.

Afterward, we grabbed lunch, went back to the hotel to get a workout in, and then headed off to B’s great aunt and uncle’s house for dinner and conversation.

Ate: Matt’s Big Breakfast, Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf/Starbucks, Sweet Tomatoes, homemade food made with love by family.

Friday, November 17:

We wanted a bit of a lighter breakfast so we headed off to a Whole Foods for their oatmeal bar. Was not nearly as good as the ones ’round these here parts. I had a coffee social with my SMASH teammates, so we headed to Tempe to go FINALLY hike the A mountain (I think?) that’s right on the ASU campus and behind the mill on Mill.

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Dinosaurs enjoying the view.

I really don’t remember much of this day, weirdly. I know I did the coffee social, and I know we checked out the expo … and I know I went back to the Tempe Mission Palms to go to the SMASH warehouse sale … but I think the rest of the day was fairly low-key.

Ate: Whole Foods, Starbucks, random snacks thanks to the coffee social, In-N-Out, Gordon Biersch, Cold Stone.

Saturday, November 18:

We had the Tempe Friends and Family 5K this morning, so we woke up a bit earlier to head down to Mill – not only for a parking spot, but to grab breakfast at NCounter. We’ve eaten there quite a few times before and love it. Some pre-race oatmeal with a side of eggs was perfect.

If you really want to know how the race went, you can pop on over to the tri blog.

Post-race, we got coffee and checked out the expo, buying some general Ironman merch (as well as IMAZ stuff sans-date, since we have done it before).

As we’ve picked up curling this year, B wanted to go see the curling club … so we did that.

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Yes, we’re nerds.

We technically got invited back to curl on Sunday … but ended up passing on the offer.

Lunch was at a little teriyaki place at Tempe Marketplace which was pretty tasty. We were trying to keep it a little low key as that night was date night!

We needed to figure out a November date night and I figured this trip would be a perfect time to do it, so we found a nice place in Scottsdale called Olive and Ivy. When researching the trip, this place kept popping up a lot as well as everyone saying “eat on the patio,” so we decided sure, let’s eat here … and get reservations on the patio. Totally worth it.

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Art on the river outside. If you look to the left and see the bistro lights, that’s Olive and Ivy.

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Menu.

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View from our table.

We split some bruschetta.

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We tried:
Prosciutto: fig preserve, port salut
Mushroom: roasted garlic, crescenza
Brussels Sprout: whipped goat cheese, crisp prosciutto, sherry gastrique

The Prosciutto had too much arugula on it, but otherwise it was pretty good. The Brussels Sprout was missing … something, and the Mushroom would have been better had it been warm (but it was still my favorite. Despite our server trying to tell me it was terrible).

For dinner, B had the Veal and Spinach Ravioli (parmesan, mizuna), while I had the Sea Scallops (creamy polenta, roasted brussels sprout, bacon gastrique).

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It. Was. Delicious.

Ate: NCounter, Starbucks, Yogi’s Grill, Olive and Ivy.

Sunday, November 19:

Entirely a day of cheering on athletes. I had 14 people I was tracking. Two made it to Kona and, unfortunately, two didn’t finish.

Of note, though, was our “dinner.” My friend Katie said we had to go to Culinary Dropout, as it is her favorite restaurant in Tempe. As we basically grazed and snacked all day, we didn’t eat a full meal; rather, we each got a salad and split two appetizers.

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Soft pretzels and provolone fondue. SO GOOD.

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Cheddar and potato pierogies. Also quite delicious.

It was pretty tasty. Not sure if it’s my *favorite* place in Tempe, but was quite delicious.

Ate: hotel breakfast buffet, Starbucks, Cabin Tempe (not recommended), ice cream from the Baked Bear, Culinary Dropout.

Monday, November 20:

I dropped B off early to Sky Harbor as he had a trip that started Tuesday … but given the drive and flights and blahblahblah … he had to leave that morning. I grabbed some coffee and headed down to Tucson so I could pick up some tamales. As I got there before the tamale place opened, I took some photos around town.

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Some of my favorite street art in Tucson. Off 6th.

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Lost Barrio.

Tamales picked up, I started the drive back, stopping in Las Vegas, N.M., for the night.

Ate: Starbucks, random snacks from gas stops, Cracker Barrel.

Tuesday, November 21:

A short day – even with a weather/accident delay outside of Larkspur (and a stop at the grocery store), I was still home by noon. Hooray.

Ate: hotel breakfast, Starbucks, home cooked goodness.

Retirement Trip

Also known as Boston and L.A. May 2017.

But wait, retirement, you might say?

Yep. Thanks to B getting a job with an ACTUAL airline (a mainline carrier as opposed to a regional), he let me quit my soul-sucking barista job so I could finally free myself from customer service hell. My CS shelf life? Waaaaay overdue.

Cinco de Mayo was officially my last day with the company and while it was bittersweet in some respects, I have no regrets about leaving. None.

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My farewell cake.

I was in theory supposed to do a race that weekend, but since I had taken a good chunk of the spring off due to mental health AND B had a Boston overnight … I decided to join him in Boston instead and then go back to L.A. with him to play for a day. Since I could now do such crazy things.

My original plan was to take a red-eye from DEN to JFK Friday night and then catch an early flight from JFK to BOS Saturday morning. Well, all of the latter flights filled up for whatever reason and then my red-eye got delayed … so I left the next day and connected through MSP. Whatever.

I landed in Boston, dumped off my bag at B’s hotel (he wasn’t getting in until much later that night), and immediately met up with one of my old college roommates, Courtney. We hung out for a while before parting ways. I headed down into the city and had quite possibly the worst lobster roll ever (somewhere in Quincy Market. I don’t even recall which stand).

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No lobster roll picture, but found this in City Hall Plaza.

I felt so gross afterward that I headed back to the hotel to sit and read for a little while. My stomach settled enough around 7ish that I felt comfortable heading back out for some dinner. Nostalgia directed me straight back to campus.

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Heh. My kind of graffiti.

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I can fully believe that Target can be the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.

Thai fried rice (and a glass of wine) at Brown Sugar Cafe was awesome on my nearly empty stomach (hadn’t eaten much all day). I felt enough belly space to hop across the street to T. Anthony’s for a slice – where my boy Paul STILL recognizes me, 12 years post-graduation – and then a few doors down to Angora for the best fro-yo on the planet.

That took up enough time for me to get back to the hotel and read a bit more before B’s flight got in. He got in and I got to finally get some WONDERFUL SLEEP.

(I hadn’t gotten a lot of sleep the few days previous.)

Sunday morning, we tried breakfast at some place on Boylston – I don’t recall the name – that had apparently just started a breakfast service. They need to improve on it, for it was highly mediocre. We were considering going for a run after that, but since it was gorgeous out – that weekend was the one sunny spot in Boston in like two weeks – we decided to just put on our shoes and walk around the city.

I took him down through Fenway to the Back Bay Fens, part of the Emerald Necklace. I’d talked about going down there back in school, but had never taken him there, so we did that. We then stopped at the BU Bookstore just because and obviously I walked out of there with some stuff! I found a pair of capris on clearance (workout capris for $30? Yes please!) and a wonderful comfy new Under Armour hoodie while B found a new pair of workout shorts. After that, we strolled downtown where I got to redeem my lobster roll disaster from the previous day at James Hook and Co.

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We were hoping to meet up with our friend Ann at some point, but unfortunately, it was not meant to be. So, we went back to the hotel to shower and pack up. I decided to leave before B and get to the airport a bit earlier just in case.

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Hi husband doing his walkaround!

Unfortunately, the BOS-LAX flight he was flying was oversold, so guess who got to stay behind?

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Airport life. Featuring: new hoodie!

B offered to get me a hotel, but I just didn’t want to deal with it. I treated myself to a ridiculously expensive dinner at the Legal’s Test Kitchen in the airport (chowder, a glass of Pinot Noir, and one of my top-three lobster rolls) before attempting to settle in for the night.

Except apparently Logan doesn’t let you sleep in the concourses; no, it kicks you out pre-security. I went from a quiet, cozy, carpeted corner to a cold, noisy, tiled floor that was being cleaned for seriously two hours. Or so it felt like. Needless to say, I didn’t get much sleep. I managed an hour before I got booted out, maybe another broken 90 minutes on the tile, and then about 75 minutes at what I thought was going to be my gate once I went back through security at 4:15am.

Luckily, I made the morning LAX flight just fine, watching “Moana” and “Hidden Figures” on the way, being crowded in my middle seat by two manspreaders stealing the armrests.

B had rented a car, so he picked me up at LAX and took me to see his crash pad there (also so I could change). I inadvertently passed out for about an hour while he booked us a hotel room for the night. I woke up, changed, we headed off to our hotel, and then went to the Strand and rented cruiser bikes.

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B biking the Strand.

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Wall of succulents.

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Toes in the sand.

We went back home the next morning. Although it included not a lot of sleep and had a lot of stress, it was a wonderful mini trip to celebrate my “retirement” from coffee slinging.