Tag Archives: 2019

July 4th Weekend in Boston

Phish summer tour is always something to look forward to after a long winter. Getting out on the road, traveling around America seeing Phish. This is the kind of thing I live for. Moving to the west cost the bands traditional summer tour does not involve coming to this coast. If they wont come to me, I will go to them.

Summer tour was announced with pretty typical venues and what I come to expect. SPAC, Alpine Valley, Bonnaroo, and Merriweather Post for example all included two or more nights. Nothing jumped out at me and for a couple of weeks I didn’t think about it but something changed. I decided summer tour was to good a tradition not to keep it going. Just being on the west coast wouldn’t stop me from my summer tradition.

For some reason I got all excited about going to Chicago. I remember the time coming across the country and having so much fun when I stopped there for a layover. I really got to enjoy some cool stuff so I was excited to go back. Then I remembered where Fenway Park was actually located and that is Boston. Still very excited to visit but some of the luster was now worn off.

As I started planning this trip out things really started to just fall into place. The show was on Friday and Saturday with the Fourth being Thursday. I ended up flying out direct from PDX to BOS early in the morning giving me plenty of time to arrive before the annual fireworks display. I was staying at the W Boston partly because of its proximity to the Charles River. I then stay through Sunday so I could just relax in the city and would fly back home on Monday.

As a first time flier to Boston Logan International I must say it is a pretty bad airport. I found it to be rather cumbersome navigating my way out of the building and finding directions to the metro. I took the longs most backwards way to get there because of poor directions. Eventually I made it to the blue line and into downtown, switching trains once before arriving at my destination. A common theme all weekend was transportation.

Having arriving at a decent hour in the afternoon I was able to check into the hotel and settle in for a few minutes before heading out. I managed to travel a lot around the city that afternoon. At first I headed north via metro but realized the place I wanted to visit was close so that sucked. Then the closest place I found was way south with no direct transit access. I still had to make it to the Charles River for the display. I ended up getting an Uber to make the trip easy and it was the best trip ever. The driver was so cool. We talked the entire drive and opined about various things. Some heady stuff.

I got turkey and brisket.

Thankfully with Michael’s help I was able to get what I needed and make it to the water with plenty of time before the show. I had it in my head to arrive by like 8pm or something but the display didn’t go off till much later then that. Not to worry. I got a good spot under some trees and watched the sunset over the river. It was also some really good people watching to the time flew. Eventually the Boston Symphony Orchestra comes out to do their traditional concert. While I couldn’t see what was going on I certainly could hear the show. All the acts that night were pretty good. I mean this is a PBS special kinda thing but still very entertaining.

Eventually the moment arrive and the fireworks display started. I don’t know why exactly but I love fireworks. I have all my life for a variety of reasons. I can’t tell you how long the display went on for but it seemed like eternity to me. At first I thought I would be to close to the barge but in the end it was a perfect spot. As people left early and I could get from under the trees the display in front of me got even better.

The entire show was timed with the BSO’s performance. At one point they played Louis Armstrong’s What A Wonderful World and I admit it brought a tear to my eye. In time with the lyrics we saw clouds of white and skies of blue. With love we saw read hearts. It was so well done. The entire performance was top notch in my opinion and I have seen a few firework displays. They even used the bridge which was cool. At the time I couldn’t understand why they had it blocked off when I initially approached the waterfront.

It was well into the evening when things finally were over and everyone started dispersing. It was crazy as shit walking down Storrow Dr with hundreds of others as we all just tried to get out. People were everywhere charting their own escapes from the waterfront. I ended up walking down Commonwealth Avenue Mall which is a nice park. It was going against the grain of all the people but still getting me closer to the hotel. The weather all day was hot and muggy but it finally cooled off now that the sun had set for a while.

That night after getting back to the hotel I was hungry as shit. I didn’t have much food when I got into town and started hopping around. Thankfully in my neck of the woods I has several options for late night eateries. First up was New York Pizza. On that first night I really caught them at a good time. Both slices were perfect. They where hot but most importantly the crust was perfect. It was warm and crispy. When I folded the slice in half, it cracked. It held up to the sauce nicely and tasted amazing. I went another night and the pizza was not as good. The second time was also much later so I understand quality suffering late on a weekend.

Friday was day one of a two night run at Fenway but I already felt like I accomplished so much in what little time I already spent in Boston. The day started off slowly with a quick stop for some goodies. This time the line took me forever but it was worth it to stock up. By the the time this side adventure was over it was lunch time and I was hungry. I lucked out and found a BBQ joint right close which was what I was craving.

A quick walk and I was at Magnolia Smokehouse in Brookline. I gotta say the brisket was mighty impressive here. It was flavorful and fatty but not chewie. It was still tender and had some form to it but it melted in your mouth when you ate it. The smoke ring was great and the smoke flavor wasn’t overpowering which was nice. The pork was good and the turkey was…..well turkey. Sides fantastic here too. I was thoroughly impressed with the brisket and recommend stopping here if you are in the neighborhood looking for some good eats.

After such a great meal I needed something sweet to wash it all down with. A good distance from where I was I found Athan’s European Bakery with a great selection of sweets. I got some crazy chocolate mouse dipped in chocolate sauce and nuts that was excellent. I also got a good amount of baklava to take with me. It was something I have been searching for months but unable to source. Everything here was so good.

After stopping back at the hotel one last time it was getting pretty late in the afternoon. I figured it would be busy but it was a big venue with lots of entrances. They handle sellout crowds where regularly so a Phish concert should be easy. I remember arriving wit 30-45 minutes before the show would start. I thought plenty of time to get past security. Unfortunately security was a nightmare for everyone and it took forever.

Security was so bad getting in that first day I didn’t even make it into the venue by the time they band walked on stage. I don’t think it was for several songs before I was finally into the place and could relax. My ticket for Friday was in the upper section so I headed up to the top. When I got there I found a crowded second so headed down to the lower level which had plenty of open seating. Here I found a nice comfortable place to enjoy the rest of the show.

This location was by no means was an ideal one. I could barely see Mike playing. What I could see was the play of lights off the crowd and the venue. I have seen Phish so much now that actually “watching” them is kinda boring. The light show is great but there isn’t much to the band once you seen them play twice or more. What I love is getting the perspective of the band. Seeing the lights play off the crowd and how the crowd reacts to what Phish is playing in real time.

Anyway my seat was covered and pretty high in the lower section. Everyone here had plenty of space to lounge out and enjoy the show how they wanted to. Anther reason I search for remote spots like this, more chill people. We all understand the limited view, it just gives us more room to groove.

Set one started off rather strong I thought but for me it faded as the set progressed. The energy I thought was lost the longer the played. It could have just been my mood as well which has clouded my memory of this first set but I stick by my assessment.

Second set and things really start to pick up. Some really spacey and far out there jams. The song selection again wasn’t the best but I really enjoyed the far out jams during the songs. This past year I think has been highlighted by more of these space noodle jams then in recent memory. It reminds me of the late 90’s in some ways with the jams.

The the curfew the show ended rather early for a typical Phish show. While it was a nightmare getting into the venue it didn’t take nearly as long getting out. I decided to skip metro and just walk home. It was so early and again it was a blazing hot day so with it finally cooling off I wanted to take the opportunity to enjoy Boston while I was there.

Phish Friday, July 5th and Saturday, July 6th 2019 Fenway Park – Boston, MA.

Phish Friday, July 5th 2019
Fenway Park – Boston, MA

Set start at 7:00pm

  1. Free >
  2. Blaze On
  3. 555
  4. Tube
  5. Brian and Robert
  6. Halfway to the Moon
  7. Ocelot >
  8. Rift >
  9. Everything’s Right >
  10. Runaway Jim
    Set over at 8:17pm

Set 2 starts at 8:54pm

  1. Sand >
  2. Axilla
  3. Mercury >
  4. Wading in the Velvet Sea >
  5. Fuego >
  6. Say it to Me S.A.N.T.O.S. >
  7. Character Zero
    Set over at 10:00pm

Encore starts at 10:04pm

  1. Bug
  2. Squirming Coil
    House lights at 10:20pm

Saturday and it was going to be another scorcher of a day. Today there was the added worry. A storm front was moving in which was going to cool things off but it could also produce some wicked summer afternoon thunderstorms. All afternoon I kept an eye on the weather while I was out and about enjoying Boston.

I jumped right in by skipping breakfast and going straight to lunch at a brewery. Not far from the hotel was one I wanted to check out. Unfortunately when I got there the place was smashed and I had little patients to deal with crowds in the growing heat. Not far was Hopsters Brewing Company which really worked out. Here I got a variety of beers and some good food.

Old State House

Next I was on the hunt for something sweet so headed to the Faneuil Hall Marketplace for a variety of sweet shops. This market is rather large with a wide variety of stuff. They had several sweet shops so it wasn’t hard to find something good. I eventually stopped at Carol Ann Bake Shop to get my fix.

By this time it was getting close to the open of the venue. The weather wasn’t looking good either. I could see a line of storms brewing on the radar. I decided that getting to Fenway right when doors open was going to be a good idea because of the weather and my experience the night before. After eating my dessert I headed backed to the hotel for a quick stop. It was about this time I saw the email from the venue saying they where opening early and starting exactly on time because of the weather. They advised everyone to arrive early.

Despite the warning this time around there was not much bustle around the park. Security was still a pain to get through but this early there were just fewer fans and it would seem they had more staff on hand. This night I again didn’t bother with my assigned seat. I was there so early I picked a “good spot” way to the right but under the bleachers. By the time I arrived to the park they already decided to not let anyone on the field because of possible lightning strikes in the area.

The weather really had it in for the show that night. Mother nature did her best to drown out the performance but in the end the show must go on. The rain really started coming down and delayed the show by an hour and half from the scheduled start. The band eventually announced that tonight’s performance would be just one set because of the delayed start. I was saddened and excited all at the same time when I heard the news. I was happy the show would still happen but disappointed in only one set. Because of the curfew I wasn’t expecting anything super late either.

The venue eventually was packed with people all huddled tightly under the bleachers and or sheltering on the ground floor. The weather just kept getting stronger and stronger, heavier and more rain just kept coming. Eventually things passed over and there was a great roar from the crowd as the authorities declared the field open and safe for people. It was already around 8pm or something when this happened so we were all excited for them to get started with the show.

This was another great performance from Phish just like the previous night at Fenway. The song selection was a bit random at times but the one consistency was the spaciness jamming during many of the songs. They where of all energy levels but still posses this weird funkiness to them.

Finally the rain started coming down in bugets and we could see the lightning lite up the sky.

As the night wore on I kept expecting the band to end the show. I thought there were several opportunities to end the show on a great song but they would just bust out another song and keep going. They did this for about 30-40 minutes past what I thought they could. The eventually stopped playing at 10:59pm by my watch.

Myself and the other fans where blown away by the performance that was just laid out for all of us to enjoy. The night started off pretty rocky with the severe weather and extremely late start time for the show. Phish was able to turn this into a great performance and a once in a lifetime kind of event for how things worked out. In the end Phish played for 2:40 minutes was was amazing. They just kept going and playing awesome songs and jams.

By the end of the show I was exhausted from dancing and grooving. I decided to walk down Commonwealth Avenue Mall on the way back to the hotel. The weather was amazing that evening after the rain. Things really cooled off which made it tolerable to be out. I was sweaty from the show so the cool crisp weather felt good. It was crazy humid but it was so cold the humidity made the chill more pronounced.

All this left me very hungry so I stopped for some sushi at Genki Ya which I found was open late a few nights earlier. I got so much sushi and ate it all. The performance was still fresh in my mind and my body was spent from the long day and awesome show. That night I don’t remember what time I finally got back but it was well into the next day. I couldn’t wait for bed. I was completely satisfied with the day and ready to crash.

Phish Saturday, July 6th 2019
Fenway Park – Boston, MA

Set one starts at 8:30pm

  1. Carini >
  2. Possum
  3. Set Your Soul Free >
  4. Thread
  5. Wolfman’s Brother
  6. Reba [1]
  7. Back on the Train
  8. Mound
  9. About to Run
  10. Down with Disease [2] >
  11. Simple >
  12. Backwards Down the Number Line >
  13. Death Don’t Hurt Very Long >
  14. 46 Days >
  15. What’s the Use? >
  16. Mexican Cousin >
  17. 2001 >
  18. Split Open and Melt
  19. Suzzie Greenberg
    Set over at 10:59pm

Encore starts at 11:01pm

  1. Rise/Come Together >
  2. Wilson
    House lights at 11:11pm

Note
[1] No whistling.
[2] Unfinished.
Major thunderstorms caused a huge delay because of the threat of lightning. One long set instead of two shorter ones.

I didn’t have to worry about leaving town on Sunday and took full advantage of the situation. I stayed up way late on Saturday, slept in late on Sunday and generally got a slow start to the day. I cleaned up while watching Sunday Morning and then I was off. At 11am the US Woman’s soccer team was taking on Sweden in the FIFA 2019 World Cup. I had been following coverage especially the last two weeks and was excited to see them play. I wanted to drink beer during the game and that was more difficult then I expected.

Alcohol laws are different in every state. I think here they are pretty strict like Virginia is so it was hard finding places open in time for me to watch the game and grab a bear. I found a cafe that was open so headed downtown. As I was walking there I saw Beerworks Brewing Co. was open and immediately dove in. The doors were open and the bartender said they where serving beer. Oddly enough they didn’t have any coffee.

USS Constitution

I spent several hours here at the bar drinking beer, eating food and writing letters. The game was also amazing. The entire first period I was on pins and needles things were so tight. Finally in the second period Lindsey Horan scored in the 3rd minute and I was a little more relaxed. That goal really shifted the game in the US’s favor. They started playing better and the Sweds you could tell were crushed.

It was so awesome drinking at Beerworks Brewing Co. in downtown while watching the US team win their fourth world title. As the morning went on the bar started to fill up as well so that by the second half a decent crowd was there. Hearing everyone react to the same thing was pretty cool.

I just decided to wing it all day and walk around. Being this downtown I decided to just keep going and crossed North Washington Street Bridge to Boston National Historic Park. I didn’t walk into any of the buildings or ships, just walked around. I found a good spot to sit at the Charleston Navy Shipyard Park that overlooked the rest of the park and the harbor. The weather was absolutely gorgeous that morning and afternoon.

From here I walked and trained back to Boston Common. I found a relatively high spot that over looked a large portion of the park and allowed me to watch the sunset over the park and city. I did so much writing while I was here. In fact I did so much I had to walk back to the hotel to stock up on additional supplies and go back to complete all my writing.

Soldiers and Sailors Monument

The day in the park was absolutely what I needed at that moment. The day was filled with perfect weather. Cool temperatures and clear skies with a slight cooling breeze. I spent hours in both parks and just wanted to spend all day there. Eventually as night feel I started to get hungry. Pho Pasteur was near the hotel and offered up some pretty good pho. It was a good broth with tender noodles just like it should be. It certainly hit the spot for comfort food while traveling.

After this entire experience I have a bit of a rant. Boston was a pretty amazing city and I would love to come back for another event. The train system here totally sucks. Honestly the problem is its so old, never been upgraded and no one wants to pay for it now. So the people suffer with a system that is difficult to use. The stations are not linked so often you can’t cross from one side to another. They are loud, small and cramped. The stations don’t have AC and few of the trains did so when its hot you bake. Event the train schedule just seemed wrong. I felt like I had to wait longer then I should have in a major city. It at least pasted the sniff test of having direct access to downtown from the airport via metro.

Phish Merriweather Post Pavilion Saturday, June 22nd 2019

Somethings just have a crazy way of working out. When Phish announced this years summer tour it was a typical east coast only summer tour. I like the new format of hitting one city but doing two or three shows in a row. When it was announced they would play Merriweather again over a weekend I thought about it but in the end decided to skip it because it was to close to my Montreal trip and I just wouldn’t have the money. Well I switched jobs and guess what, they flew me out to Fairfax, VA for two weeks which coincided with Phish playing Merriweather Post Pavilion. My home venue on a show I wanted to see but couldn’t initially and with a little luck I was now going to see.

Saturday morning I headed down to Fredericksburg to visit my mother and her husband. It took forever getting south so I left with what I thought was plenty of time to get to the venue. Traffic was a little better then I thought but it still took a while to get there. In the end I think it took just over 3 hours to arrive. By the time I parked and got through security it was only a few minutes before lights out. With such a long trip I hit the restroom first and wouldn’t you know it they came out while I was waiting.

To me I didn’t miss the start of the show but it made getting a spot on the lawn difficult. I ended up way in the back but at least I made it in time to hear the first notes. The venue has been improving since the last time I was hear. The wings are now complete and people are occupying all levels of the redesigned seating areas. I remember seeing my first show in ’98 and how low the ceiling was and how awful the view from the lawn was. The acoustics have also improved all over. You can actually hear what is going on from the lawn now. It doesn’t sound all muddled and distant.

The weather that night was hot and humid. It was not till the sun started to set that thing event began to cool off. While the show might not have been sold out, it was pretty damn close. That meant a lot of hot sweaty bodies on the lawn. All dancing around going crazy during the show.

As for the music it was a decent show. Honestly nothing in the setlist really blew me away. It was a rather predicable setlist with some classics and a few new songs. No bust outs or anything that hasn’t been played in a long time, nothing like that. While the show might have lacked a really good setlist the version played of all the songs where pretty damn good.

I found things to be much deeper and groovier if that makes sense. They took traditional songs from this tour but turned it up a notch on the jams. As a long time fan the actual setlist has become less and less important to me. Even for me the sets are generally the same after all these years. What I love now are the people, the scene, and the jams. They played some really kick ass jams that night that blew me away.

First set overall was pretty decent. A good mix with some good jams, typical. Second set was a little disappointing with the song selection but again they played some really good versions of those songs. Highlight for me was getting a Harry Hood. I don’t know the exact number but I have seen this song done here numerous times. Even the encore was honestly a no-brainier kinda thing. Still well done but no thought into what to play.

Even the worst day seeing Phish bets any other day hands down. Missing a show is better then not having the opportunity to go. It was great coming back home and seeing them play on Saturday. I had a ticket for Sunday but skipped it to hangout with a friend. Looking over Sunday’s setlist it was a little better but I don’t regret skipping Sunday. I know, never miss a Sunday but still…..

Phish Saturday, June 22nd 2019
Merriweather Post Pavilion – Columbia, MD

Set 1 starts at 7:30pm start

  1. Undermine
  2. Tube
  3. Funky Bitch
  4. Steam >
  5. My Sweet One >
  6. NICU
  7. Friend
  8. No Men In No Man’s Land*
  9. Horse >
  10. Silent in the Morning
  11. David Bowie
  12. Squirming Coil
    Set over at 8:53pm

Set 2 starts at 9:19pm

  1. Ghost >
  2. Axilla >
  3. Set Your Soul Free >
  4. What’s the Use >
  5. Billy Breathes
  6. Death Don’t Hurt Very Long >
  7. Backwards Down the Number Line >
  8. Harry Hood >
  9. Rise/Come Together >
  10. Golgi Apparatus
    Set over at 10:37

Encore starts at 10:40pm

  1. Bug >
  2. Character Zero
    House lights at 10:54

Note:
* with Blister in the Sun tease

Canadian Grand Prix June 7th-9th 2019

Copyright Mads Brag 2019

I have been watching Formula 1 for I don’t even know how many years. Over those years I have attended the United States Grand Prix four times. Two back at Indianapolis (2006 and 2007) and then two in Austin (inaugural event in 2012 and 2016). The contract was not renewed for Indy so after 2007 and until Austin in 2012 there was no United States Grand Prix. Being a huge fan seeing a Formula 1 race in a foreign country has been on my bucket list for a while. It is a global phenomenon that I just have to see one in a different country. What do they always say: location, location, location.

It didn’t take much convincing for Jeremy to commit and so we decided Canada would be a good first race outside the US. While not far, it is technical another country. Being relatively close to the US would help keep costs down which was a bonus. Any fan will also know that the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is a pretty spectacular track. The super long front straight, the ultra tight turn 10 and the wall of champions just to name a few highlights. Not to mention some pretty incredible races and if you throw in a little rain, watch out. Things can get crazy. Visiting Montreal has also been on my list for a while so double win on that.

For months I had been waiting for this trip to come. It was going to be a seven day, six night trip to Montreal. We decided that if we are going this far lets bookend the race with some free time in Montreal and really get to know the city. We flew out on Wednesday and would fly back the following Wednesday. Race events happened Friday through Sunday so that meant two full days doing whatever we wanted.

Before the fun could start we had to get there. My flight from Portland was routed through Newark and then onto Montreal. Some freak weather in Newark early in the evening delayed my flight from Portland and cancelled the flight to Montreal. Thankfully I didn’t leave my house before all this went down so a quick call to United and I was routed through Calgary via Air Canada. I was very thankful everything worked out. The one downside was I arrived just after midnight.

It was such a long day of travel getting to Montreal but I was so happy to get there. Jeremy beat my by a good margin and was already checked into the hotel. That night we caught up for several hours before we went to bed. This was going to be a fun trip and it had only just started.

The next morning was a free day and we both agreed, lets just wake up and figure it out tomorrow. That evening I just didn’t have the brain power to come up with a plan. All I could think about when I got there was sleep.

After some fuel for the body we headed out to experience the city. We started by just walking around. It was a work day and mid-afternoon so the streets where packed with workers and tourists alike. A very metropolitan and diverse city which was really great to see. When I see a lot of diversity like Montreal has it makes me feel good. We need more diversity, not less. Our first stop was to the cannabis store. Canada recently legalized cannabis so I was interested in seeing what they had.

Cliffs at Pouville by Claude Monet

Next objective was to come up with a plan for the rest of the day. We decided on the Musee des beaux-arts de Montreal and the opportunity for a little culture. There is something about art museums I love. The fine art museum is really a bunch of smaller buildings with different themes that are all interconnected. During out visit they had several special events going on. You could tell that because Formula 1 was in town lots of money had followed and all over town everyone was trying to grab a bit of that freely spending cash.

The most memorable exhibit was the one on coutur fashion. Anyone that knows me knows I have no sense of fashion. I can appreciate it, I just choose to spend my money on different things. This exhibit has several famous works of clothing. Often I would recognize the outfit and then Jeremy and I would try to remember what it was from. A pretty decent exhibit and something I would not have expected to see in an art museum. But then again this is one reason I love art museums. Anything and everything is and can be art.

We spent the rest of the afternoon simply exploring the city and seeing as much of it as we could. There was just something about mingling among all the people that was just great. I really felt welcomed by the city. Walking around is something I do a lot of in Portland and I was happy it easily transferred to Montreal. That night we walked around till we found La Maison Bulgogi for dinner. Really good stuff and it was cheap as crap. We went with the full experience and cooked our own meat.

Finally the day has arrived. It is Friday and that means the start of practice. We got an early start to make sure we didn’t miss anything and took the metro right to the doorstep of the track. Everything was super organized and the flow of people was very well controlled that morning and in fact all weekend. I was very impressed with the use of soft power to control and direct the crowds. You could tell this was not their first large event and ran like a well oiled machine.

Anyways once we got to the track we did our typical day one stuff, we walked the track. We quickly found there was no way to walk completely around the track. Being on an island, and a public park as well, there just isn’t enough space. The track guides visitors pretty well and limits what you can see. We couldn’t walk around the entire track but we managed to explore every place we could till someone told us to stop. We also found that the general viewing areas are pretty limited. Mostly because of the limited space but also because of all the trees. So many trees.

We got a good look at the track that first day. We walked around the lake and relaxed for a while. We both agreed that a trip to the park in summer would be a good trip. The casino in the middle of the park is pretty interesting. Lots of fan zones and places for people to congregate. Along the back straight they still have in place the rowing venue. We even managed to find a nice shady spot near our grand stand to hang out.

All day we walked around to get different vantage points of the track from the support races and F1 practice. The track is know for all the trees and I will admit that it makes seeing the cars with a general admission ticket pretty difficult. We found a good spot around turn three. Also along the back straight before turn 10 is a nice grassy knoll with some shade. Typical race track vantage points but again, not a lot of GA spots to watch the action.

Time at the track that first day was pretty limited but it was nice to get a feel for the layout and where everything was for the weekend. We headed back to town and started looking for food. We decided on tacos and Burrito Borracho not far from our hotel hit the spot. Surprisingly we didn’t have a problem getting a table even thought it was in the fan zone. The taco’s where pretty amazing. We got an order and split it. As soon as the first plate was delivered I ordered second set of tacos and glad I did because it was all so good.

All day I had wanted a cigar so I treated us to some at La Casa del Habano. I got an cappuccino to go along with mine and it was a damn tasty combo. We had the NBA finals in the background that night. Raptors at Golden State and the Raptors won 105 to 92. They ended up taking the championship. While the cigars might be over priced it was totally worth it to just hanging out smoking cigars with Jeremy. We even met a really cool dude named Ramie who was a local. He gave us some tips on a good Montreal pastrami place and a poutine place.

Saturday and things started to heat up. It was go fast day. The hotel was full of race fans that morning at breakfast. Getting to the track was a little busier with more people crowding the track to see the cars. But just like Friday the weather was a perfect late spring day in Montreal. A fine day to push cars to the limit and go the fastest.

Because we couldn’t really walk around the track and there are limited viewing areas we caught FP3 from the side lines but went to our seats for qualifying. Waiting for qualifying we went to the Casino Montréal so I could give away my money. That turned into a cluster fuck but we didn’t really know it at the time. We apparently came in from the back exit. The guy at the gate didn’t speak English and of course we don’t speak French. He kept trying to tell us something but eventually gave up and let us through with a stamp on our inside wrist. Come to find out that was crucial to us getting back into the track. I also went back with more then then I walked in with. Oh happy day.

Typical casino like you find all over the world. Bag check and security to get in. A few race cars before the security to help lure people in. Nothing but slots on the first floor. We went to the second and immediately turned around because it was all table games. At the end of our time at the casino I found a Flintstones double seater slot machine and out in CA$20. Because qualifying was getting close and I had money left I started making big bets. Well one paid out so instead of loosing twenty I walked away with 60. I poured that back into the local economy like any good tourist.

Our seats from the casino were pretty far and we still hadn’t had lunch. We eventually stopped for some hot dogs and got shit service from the teenagers working the stand. We actually missed the start of quals because they just didn’t give a shit. I was pretty hot after our mishap, causing us to miss the green flag. I just wanted to get to our seats and sit down.

When we finally got to our stand I didn’t have much hope for good seats. While I did buy them as early as I could I ran into delays purchasing the ticket. When we got to the top of the stairs I looked down at the steps as they had the letters of each row. We where X. What I saw in front of me was MM and below me was GG so that meant we had to go up. And boy did we go up. Circuit Gilles Villeneuve does it backwards meaning single letters are higher so Z is the top row. We arrived late because of the food snafu so we just sat in the middle of the stairs. I was not about to fight crowds and all I wanted to do was sit down and eat my hotdog.

Getting back to downtown was rather easy considering the size of the crowd that night. Based on Ramie’s suggested we headed north from our hotel to Schwartz’s Deli and the home made pastrami. We didn’t know it but all of Boul Saint-Laurent was closed for a street festival. Just a mass of people out in the street perusing the vendors on what turned out to be a gorgeous Saturday night. When we finally got to Schwartz’s the line was well out the door. It wasn’t good enough for us to stand in line so we went to Restaurant Jano. A Portuguese restaurant specializing in grilled meat. Not the best I have had but certainly a good inexpensive meal that hit the spot for comfort food.

Finally race day was here and we were super excited. We made a super earlier start getting to the track that morning. At breakfast the place was packed with fans doing the same thing. Sunday was certainly the largest all week but the flow as pretty good. The use of soft power by the police really helped with crowd control I must say. We got to our seats with plenty of time to catch the start and not missing anything which made me happy. We had packed a bunch of food along with water so we also didn’t need a reason to leave our seats during the race.

Vettel started poll and lead the entire race. About two thirds of the way through the race he made an off track mistake. When he corrected to get back on track he impeded Hamilton as he was about to pass. The stewards declared this an unsafe return and penalized Vettel 5 seconds. Hamilton all day was right behind Vettel but never with enough power or breaking to pass him. This penalty however gave Hamilton the win and you could see the frustration on Vettel’s face after the race.

All in all not a very exciting race but a beautiful day to be outside enjoying some world class driving. After the race we hung out down by the water under the shade in a place we spotted the first day. Nothing was going on after the race either so eventually we just left. Sunday took longer to get out but we did eventually make it back to the hotel. We had reservations to La Queue de Cheval Steakhouse & Raw Bar that night and I didn’t want to be late.

Last time in Austin we had a great steak dinner and I wanted to do that again in Montreal. Unfortunately this place was not the place I hoped it would be. The waiter was rather boring and didn’t have a personality. You could tell that he had given the same speech over and over again and had lost the emotion behind it. It was more routine then anything else and was rather annoying. The steak was also not as good as I had hoped for the price. It was poorly season and even for a rib eye it was to fatty. The sides where good but way to small which was disappointing. If I knew that I would have gotten more. Just not what I was hoping for the price I paid for that meal. Live and learn and when we go back to Montreal we will be certain to pick another place for steak.

lavender

The saving grace to the day was another cigar at La Casa del Habano. This was a given considering the steak meal we had and the perfect night cap to the end of race day. Vettel lead all day but managed to come in second, the steak was pretty terrible but at least we had fine cigars. I got another cappuccino to savoir with my cigar and good company. Eventually three gentlemen from New Jersey sit who are also here for the race. One in particular was really knowledgeable about F1 and he was a joy to talk to.

Monday thankfully was not a travel day for us. We didn’t have to rush out of town like many thousands of others. We got another full day in the city to explore and check things out. This also included sleeping to whenever the hell we wanted which was nice.

We explored and visited new neighborhoods and saw a totally different side of the city. Our first stop of the day was The Biosphere. This is an environmental museum which was pretty interesting. Skip the video, we gave up after about 15 minutes of just plan weird stuff. Lots of small exhibits but nothing that will blow your doors off. The observation deck is one of the coolest things about this place besides just being inside this giant sphere.

I wanted to hit a brewery and get some food so to start our culinary adventure we headed to Brasserie Dieu du Ciel again north of us. The brewery was a few blocks from the metro station so we got to see what this neighborhood was like. Rather nice place to walk through with not only a lot of homes but small shop as well. More on that later.

The food was rather good her and the beer was pretty adventurous I must say. Nothing that really blew my doors off but some good weird ales which was a nice change of pace. It was great to see how majorly different the styles are in Montreal compared to here in Portland or even to northern Virginia. The food was pretty simple but flavorful and a nice touch for a brewery. The place inside is a lot of exposed wood and tables. Small brewery operation is in the corner. They actually have a basement which had additional brewing operations which is interesting.

While in the neighborhood I did a search for stationary and found two places. The first one isn’t worth mentioning, such a disappointment. The second was Au Papier Japonais which was a way better store. They had all sorts of things imported from Japan or inspired by Japan in their shop. Some stationary but what I fell in love with was the paper. I found this super thin sheets of paper with Japanese maple leaves pressed into it. I have been looking for something like this for a while so I was excited to stumble across this place. The cleric carefully wrapped it since I had to carry it with me on the plane.

From here we headed down to the water front. We decided to just hang out in a park along the water. From the metro stop the piers are not that far. We ended up on a grassy knoll overlooking the channel. It was pretty peaceful with a handful of others just relaxing in the park like we were. I took this opportunity to get a little writing done and simply enjoy the world around me.

Not making it to Schwartz’s Deli on Saturday we decided to try again on Monday and hope for better luck. This time Boul Saint-Laurent was still closed but no line out the door. The sandwich was pretty good I must say. The pastrami was all done up in Montreal seasoning which was a little different but in a good way. It didn’t work on the steak but the pastrami was a different story. Cash only at this place but they do accept American money which is convenient.

After that satisfying meal we headed back to the metro station with a long stop at Square Saint-Louie. This is a very nice tree lined park with a big fountain in the middle. Tons of benches so we took the opportunity to take a load off and have a smoke before getting back to the hotel. It was another relaxing evening in Montreal that night.

And this too must end. It was great visiting Montreal. They certainly know how to put on a large event with efficiency. The race could have been better but it was a great time at the track. All the support races where great. The food was simply amazing all week and the cultural events were hard to beat. It is a very walk able city and you throw in the great metro system you can get anywhere quickly. The people are nice with a diverse mix of cultures. A really great city and I look forward to coming back.