Sunday, 1 October 2017

Canada - February 2017

Back in February I headed back to Canada for the fifth time to see Nicole and Tony's wedding. After a few months of having a brief draft of the trip ready to write up, I decided it was time to get back into the swing of writing again with NaNoWriMo coming up, as well as a few big trips abroad, including another Canadian wedding, so a touch belatedly, here we go again.

I actually landed on the 31st of January (pedant alert) and actually had the most pleasant experience I've ever had at Canadian Customs. The last words the official said to me were "enjoy the wedding" - a big change from previous visits. Thanks to the fabulous Union Pearson Express I also managed to get downtown quicker and much cheaper than the previous trip and the taxi debacle. I was checked into the hotel late afternoon and headed upstairs for a lie down...

Rather stupidly, some might say, I'd decided to ignore the inevitable jet lag and had bought a ticket to watch the Toronto Raptors play a home game against the New Orleans Pelicans in the NBA. It was mainly a chance to tick a new sport/league off and I headed to the very back of the Air Canada Centre to get my standing room spot (basically a small walkway with a rail to lean on) and take in the game. I also stumbled upon a craft beer stand on the lower level which saved me from drinking Molson...

The game had been marketed as a special one for Chinese New Year, with various things going on around that. There were quite a few Chinese at the game as well, seemingly a lot of them were at their first game as well and didn't seem used to being in a stadium/arena.  It would be interesting to know how many have been back since. The start time had been brought forward half an hour as well, which also showed when loads of people started piling in at the original time.

The game itself was difficult to follow, although the increasing tiredness may well have had something to do with that. The end to end nature of the game was extremely quick paced and the turnover of possession was at lightning speed a lot of the time. There also seems to be no advantage rule, every foul saw the game stop, even if players had possession in dangerous territory. The atmosphere was aided by a DJ in the middle of the stand behind one end (no, really), cheerleaders and some blokes walking around into each block encouraging people to start the generic chanting.

The arena hosts both ice hockey (more of that later on) and basketball, so the arena's layout changes for each sport, mainly down on the lower tier. Extra courtside seats, which are basically folding seats, are added in for players, coaching staff and celebrity fans. The game itself was an exciting affair, with Toronto pulling level late on in normal time and then winning 108-106, the winning points coming with 4.3 seconds left of overtime. An enjoyable experience, although I was completely lost by the end of it.

The following day started with a gentle walk about the Eaton Centre before heading towards the Harbour Front for a walk through the snow. This was my first experience of Canada in the winter and, by god, it was cold, particularly in the evening. After a bit more of a wander and a look in a few sports shops, I settled in Real Sports Bar and Grill for food and a couple of beers. A superb place that I always make sure I visit whenever I'm in town.

The photo from this time around doesn't do the place justice. Their gallery will give you a better idea - or just go!

From there I jumped on the Go Train to BMO Field, home of local MLS side Toronto FC. It has been expanded since I last visited, so I had a wander around the outside to check out the impressive new stand. The ground itself was built on the site of the old baseball stadium, Exhibition Stadium. In the car park there are stone plaques marking the positions of the plates, although home plate had been removed for repair. Very interesting for a ground nerd like me, though. Next door to BMO Field is the Ricoh Arena, where the Toronto Marlies, the AHL affiliate side of the Toronto Maple Leafs play their home games.

From there I walked across to Fort York, a National Historic Site. After a quick wander around the bits you could get to without paying to get in (I only got there with about 40 minutes left before they closed) I set off walking again to Lamport Stadium, where the Toronto Wolfpack rugby league side where making their home. I can't see them being able to play there if they ever get to Super League, but then again I also can't see where else they could actually, realistically play.

Walking was definitely the activity of the day, as I set off on another leg stretch into the Trinity-Bellwoods area of town. The first stop off was a brief wander through Trinity Bellwoods Park and then onto the main reason for me being out in this part of town - Bellwoods Brewery.

It was a pity that I could only hang around for a couple. A small, quiet, laid back little bar with a large range of different beers on. Their signature Jelly King was a lovely drop and I would have liked to have tried a couple of the other variations of it, but food plans were getting the better of me. After trying a couple of different beers I walked back towards BMO Field and got the Go Train back to Union Station.

The original plan was to head out to a curry house that was recommended years ago and I've still not made it out to. But by the time I got back downtown I was starting to feel more than a little tired and rough, so I headed into the Eaton Centre and grabbed an Indian from the food court. It was decent, saved me a trip out on the streetcar and I headed back to get my weary head down.

The next day started with breakfast back in the Eaton Centre, followed by my standing outside the entrance to the Hockey Hall of Fame waiting for it to open. I've talked about this place before in previous Canada write-ups, so there's no need for me to do it again here. I spent a good couple of hours wandering around looking at the various exhibits, with the main focus as always being the Stanley Cup. Maybe one day I'll be able to stand next to it after the Leafs have won it again?

The next place I was visiting was a first time visit to the St. Lawrence Market. A myriad of different food stalls with other craft and souvenir places dotted throughout. The sights and smells were wonderful, although I was a bit surprised that the biggest queue was for fish and chips... I settled for a peameal bacon butty and a box of fabulous brownies. Yes, I was a pig! There was quite a bit more walking to make up for it though, as I headed down through the magnificent Distillery Historic District where I spent an hour or so sampling a few wares at Mill Street Brewery. A cracking line up of beers were on offer, although they didn't advertise percentages for their seasonal beers... One or two caught me out with their strength!

From there it was back out into the cold and yet another walk to the railway museum at Roundhouse Park. As well as looking round at their displays, I also ended up chatting to a fella who'd moved to Toronto around 50 years ago... From Preston! He was completely gobsmacked by the fact that he was talking to someone who was over from his old hometown.

From there I crossed the road and walked past the outside of the CN Tower and then round the outside of Rogers Stadium before resting my legs inside the good old Steam Whistle Brewery for a couple of drinks. After that it was back to the hotel for a rest before the next bit of sport.

My first port of call that evening was the old site of Arena Gardens, which was the first ever arena used by the Toronto Maple Leafs (then called the Toronto Arenas) - opening in 1917. I then carried on up the road for a bit and re-visited Maple Leaf Gardens (the previous, famous old home of the Leafs until 1993), only on this trip I was heading up to the Mattamy Athletics Centre in the roof of the old building to watch a local university ice hockey side, the Ryerson Rams, play a home game. Basically because it's as close as I'm ever going to get to seeing hockey at Maple Leaf Gardens. It was a good night and a good game with the home side running riot. After that I had a wander to Nathan Phillips Square to see the Toronto sign lit up at night, before trudging back in the -7 degree cold to get back to the hotel.

Friday saw my last few hours of staying in Toronto, so after a monster breakfast at Fran's on a recommendation, I headed up to Casa Loma on the subway to have a quick nosey around. It's a lovely old building and it would have been nice to have gone inside, but time was against me, so it was eventually back downtown before heading to St. Paul's Catholic Cathedral and then getting the streetcar back to take in the excellent Amsterdam Brewhouse down by the Front. A few beers were sampled in there alongside a good chat with one of the bat staff about all things beer related before I collected my things from the hotel and boarded the Go Train to Burlington from Union Station.

After meeting up with Nicole and Tony, it was back into St. Catharines and food and drink at the Lazy Lizard before heading home for the night. Saturday saw a real lazy day and Sunday I ended up in Chip 'n' Charlie's bar in Niagara Falls for the Super Bowl (no idea what was going on) before a quiet night at Nic's uncle Bobby's turned into a bloody late finish... It was no surprise, then, that Monday also turned into a day of doing absolutely diddly squat.

Tuesday actually saw me leave the house with all traces of jet lag finally gone. So it was off to the Flying Saucer for a spot of dinner joined by Nic's brother Alan and Theresa and her husband Martin. And my word, is it good. Saucer fries... Just try them if you're ever there, trust me. After Nic did some running around for the wedding and a quick visit to Theresa's house it was back to Nic's for a few beers with her and Tony.

The next day saw the obligatory trip to the Falls themselves. I was on my own for a few hours and with it being out of season, it was nice and quiet with a chance to wander round and take everything in without thousands of tourists getting in the way. I crossed over to the American side for a bit, but as most of it was shut and the temperature was getting towards -10 I decided to go back to Canada and warm up in the fairly new Niagara Brewing Co. - which was a very good idea. The beer was spot on, including an ice wine beer which is one of the best I've ever tasted. The two girls serving were extremely friendly and knowledgeable making it a very nice hour or so in there. After grabbing a burger at Wendy's and having a last wander round I met Tony when he'd finished work and we headed back to St. Catharines, where, as there was now a house full of kids, I moved into the Capri Inn for a couple of nights.

The next day started off quite lazy, with a walk up to Montebello Park and back from the hotel and taking the opportunity to try a Bacon Big Mac, purely for the novelty. Later on I wandered back into St. Catharines and, after a quick walk round, got the bus back into Toronto to finally watch the Leafs play. I was stood in the same spot that I did for the Raptors game to watch them take on the St. Louis Blues, ticking the NHL off the leagues list meaning the only major North American league I've not seen a game in now is the NFL.

The game itself started off poorly for the Leafs, but they came back into it and should have won. Instead, 20 seconds into overtime, the Blues won it and I trudged back through Toronto to get the coach back to St. Catharines. It was a late night, but it was worth it, despite the result. I fully enjoyed it and enjoyed the whole experience a lot better than I did for the Raptors game. Knowing the sport in question probably helped with that, though.

The next day I dragged my tired and groggy self back to Nic's house before the drive to Niagara on the Lake, where the wedding was taking place. I was staying at the Best Western, but the wedding itself was at the Pillar and Post. After settling in with a drink at my hotel, I walked across and met Nic for a couple more and the rehearsal. After that, we went for something to eat at the Olde Angel, a British themed pub in NOTL. From there it was back to the hotel, a few presents were dished out and I eventually got back to my own bed for the night.

The wedding wasn't until the afternoon, so after getting up I went for a walk through the snow, taking in the local golf club (you wouldn't have known it was a golf club thanks to the snow), Lake Ontario, a monument to the Battle of Fort George and, after a failed attempt to find what Google Maps had labelled Mississauga Beach, back to the main town, through Simcoe Park to Queens Landing and a spot on the harbour looking across to the USA. After all that I needed food and beer, so I headed back to the Olde Angel for a few halves before the wedding itself.

Not a lot I can say about the wedding itself. I managed to survive doing a reading and the service itself was a lovely, quiet affair and it was really just ace to see Nicole happy. The night descended into the usual with me waking up the next morning with an unfinished beer in the room!

It's safe to say I didn't feel my brightest on Sunday. When checking out of the hotel one of the women on reception saw my name and started going on about Reg from Coronation Street. I just smiled and went along with it... I then attempted to drag a suitcase with a broken wheel through a few inches of snow in the rain... It wasn't going well, until a couple pulled up and asked if I needed a lift. Back home you'd have had people laughing at you as they drove past... I got back to the Pillar and Post in one piece and joined a few others for brunch. There were a few sore heads to say the least. Nic and Tony were staying at the hotel for a few days, so I said my final goodbyes to them and Dave (Tony's best man) and his wife Natalie ran me back to St. Catharines. The day ended with me in front of the telly doing nothing with a pizza...

And so began my last day in Canada. After clearing up quite a bit of poo thanks to an upset dog (I'll let him off though, because I just love him) I spent the last few hours in St. Catharines sat round with Bayleigh and her boyfriend Dryden, with Theresa popping in to say bye as well. Eventually the Airbus came and took me back to the airport, where a bit of duty free shopping and the odd beer killed the time before I flew back to Manchester.

As always it was a top trip and it was good to see so many friends again. After promising I wouldn't leave it as long again before coming back, I didn't quite realise I'd be back in May 2018... Before you know it the next adventure will begin.

The full set of photos can be seen here.

Ireland 2016

I visited Ireland last August for Colm and Maritine's Brigadoon themed wedding in Dingle, which we went to via Dublin. The first time I'd ever set foot in the country. It was a cracking trip, with an unexpected game of football and a trip out to see a local dolphin thrown in. Really enjoyed it, I'll be back.

Full set of photos.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

FC United in America 2016

In one of those "am I dreaming?" moments, FC United of Manchester were invited over to Detroit to play Detroit City FC in a friendly match to mark the grand opening of their redeveloped Keyworth Stadium in Hamtramck, which they had funded through a community share scheme, in the same way FC raised a fair chunk of the cash needed to build Broadhurst Park. So with half a mind to visit NYC this year anyway, I decided it was a good compromise to do this trip with a few other places thrown in. Hursty was up for it as well, so we came up with a plan and jetted off to the US of A for a week.

Of course, it couldn't start smoothly, and trying to get through the American Airlines check in at terminal 3 was an absolute ballache. An apparent blockage in the baggage system, despite every other check in desk working perfectly... But 2 hours later we were finally through security with just enough time to queue up at the gate. The flight itself was okay, but dragged a bit, particularly towards the end. But then just when you thought you were past the worst, the queue at Chicago O'Hare to clear customs was ridiculous, moved from one line to another, then another, then another. Eventually we got through after chatting with a fella from Denver who was due to miss his flight because of the security queue and got the metro to the hotel.

It was a fairly late arrival and we were both knackered, so after faffing around with the fact that the hotel had booked us in a room with one bed rather than two (perils of using Hotwire) we decided to walk round to a nearby pizza place, because y'know, when in Chicago... However, it had started bouncing down with possibly the longest lasting thunderstorm I've ever known. But still, we made it, soaked, had the largest, most filling pizza I've ever had, then walked back again through the still raging storm, via a brief respite stop in a late opening Barnes and Nobel.

The next morning we wandered down to the Oak Street Beach on the shore of Lake Michigan and followed the Lakeshore trail for a while, cutting off into Millenium Park and stumbling across the sculpture Cloud Gate, otherwise known as the bean, a reflective, bean shaped structure that really had to be seen to be believed. In itself, it's nothing spectacular, but through in the reflective qualities and the visual effects of it were stunning.

After marvelling at that and wandering through back off the park and into the city, we grabbed a cab back to the hotel before getting the metro out to Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs baseball team, for a tour. As a part-time baseball fan second and a groundhopper first, this was a very enjoyable experience as we wandered around with a tour guide who was a dead ringer for Alistair Cook. A place to go back to for a game if the chance arises.

From there we went straight to US Cellular Field, the home of the more successful Chicago White Sox. No tour and the cold, corporate exterior and surroundings left a lot to be desired. After an unsuccessful attempt to find a view into the stadium we gave up and headed to the neighbourhood of Pilsen and got food at Carnitas Uruapan, a Mexican restaurant that deals solely in carnitas. It was superb meal and the owner told us he'd been there for 41 years. Not the sign of a bad gaff...

After a wander round a Mexican supermarket so Hursty could get some supplies, we headed back to hotel via a proper stop off at Barnes and Nobel. From there we met an Irish United fan, Don, who's lived in Chicago for over 20 years, in Hub 51. After a few beers and chewing the fat for a while, we headed to Sunda for sushi. The food was superb and a special mention to our server, Bree, who was brilliant, friendly and had a good knowledge of Manchester music. We left her a few extra recommendations before we headed back to the hotel for a quick nightcap.

There was a slightly more delayed start than planned on Friday, but we headed to Hash House a Go Go for a delayed breakfast before check out and a final wander. We had a mooch down the Magnificent Mile and ended up in the John Hancock Center, getting the lift up to the 96th floor and the Signature Lounge Bar. We stopped for a couple of drinks and, whilst it was $9 a drink, one trip up to the observation deck was $18, so after a couple of drinks and a free nosey at the view we were actually even, although considering we got ale in there, we were really in profit. The original plan was to have one drink, take in the view, then carry on wandering. However, when one massive storm came across the city, we decided to have one more to ride it out. Once we were able to make a break for it, we headed back to pick up the bags and then onto Union Station for the train to Detroit.

We hit another storm on the way to the station, but we got through relatively unscathed and settled in for the 5 hour train journey. We eventually got off at Dearborn as it was closer to the hotel, after a pretty decent train ride. The train passed through Indiana before hitting Michigan, adding another state to the trip. Memorable highlights include stopping at Kalamazoo and passing Martin Luther King Jr memorial park. There also decent meal deal and ale options on the train that put the offerings in the UK to shame.

After arriving at Dearborn we got an Uber to the hotel. A top fella, it turns out he was a Beatles fan and was asking us loads of questions about Manchester, Liverpool and the band, eventually we arrived at the hotel in Romulus and settled in for the evening

We got up the following morning and after watching the planes come into the airport, which was literally across the road, we got another friendly Uber driver (a surfing volleyball player) who dropped us at Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers baseball team. We had a nosey around the outside of the ground, with a good view inside, and had a bit of a nosey at the outside of Ford Field next door, home to the Detroit Lions NFL side. After that, we had a nosey down through the small, urban Grand Circus Park and then had a good meander around the Downtown.

From there we walked to the Motor City Casino, an absolute behemoth of a place on the outskirts of downtown which was where the FC team were being put up. Whilst there was no one about, we had a walk around and grabbed some food at the Assembly Line all you can eat buffet restaurant inside. After far too much food (well, for me anyway) we got an Uber into Hamtramck, towards the Fowling Warehouse. After the odd detour due to the policing having roads blocked off, we got out and joined the Detroit supporters, with a few FC add ons, taking part in a march to the ground. It was a bit mental and nothing like we're used to!

We made it into the ground for the match and plotted up with Ste and Jane, trying to keep out of the 35 degree heat as much as possible. The game, or at least my recollection if it, was pretty inconsequential. 6,245 people saw a 3-3 draw, where FC came from behind twice to lead 3-2, before late substitute Nick Culkin forgot how to catch a ball and the hosts gained a 94th minute equaliser. But it didn't really matter and, after a quick stop off at Ste and Jane's hotel (them to get changed, me and Hursty to grab a drink), we headed to the Hopcat for the post match party. Everyone was mingling freely and it was good to catch up with people and take the whole atmosphere in. We had a good chat with Dale Johnson in there as well, before being told people were moving to the Old Shillelagh (yes, an Irish bar...) so obviously we joined them.

The rest of the evening is a bit of a blur. It started going downhill when the band who were on played Country Roads, there was a bit of a sing-a-long for 500 Miles ("Kevin Elvin, Kevin Elvin, Kevin Elvin, Kevin Elvin...") but it was Dirty Old Town that stopped the show. A good few minutes of "This Is Our Club" at the end turned into fans and then players singing away to themselves whilst the band decided to take a break. Eventually the players left to go back to the hotel and a few of us hung around until it just became too much. We shared yet another Uber back with Neil and Des and the promise of an early evening in readiness for the drive in the morning had long gone out of the window.

The next day, or later the same day if you're a pedant we drove to Cleveland. There was a brief detour via Toledo so Hursty could have a brief nosey at Fifth Third Field, a Triple-A baseball ground that's home to the wonderfully named Toledo Mud Hens. From there it was into Cleveland and we eventually got sorted and checked into the Hyatt Regency, which is probably the swankiest gaff I've stayed in. They don't normally allow the likes of us through the door...

After a brief meander towards the FirstEnergy Stadium, home of NFL side Cleveland Browns, and realising we couldn't get there quickly due to construction work, we went straight over to Progressive Field where the Cleveland Indians were playing the Baltimore Orioles in the MLB. We passed the Quicken Loans Arena, where Cleveland Cavaliers fans were queuing for miles for a special NBA Finals hat. As a follower of Toronto sports teams in North American leagues, I wasn't impressed... After getting through the airport-esque security we saw the Indians fall short and headed for a nosey at Champs Sports shop in Tower City Center.

We got back to the hotel and found a wedding going on in the arcade that the hotel is based in. We skirted round and went back out for a walk around the place, including a further mooch around the outside of Progressive Field. We then tried a couple of local bars which were either shut or dead, before attempting to go back to Harry Buffalo for food and ale, although we arrived to be told the kitchen was closed. So we ended up in a Mexican gaff, Zocalo, where any plans to have a further walk back to HB or anywhere else were cut short by another bloody storm. After hanging on as much as we could, we legged it back to the hotel where the wedding was still going strong.

The following morning we set off on the long drive to NY. I should mention the fact that, due to numbnuts here not having a clue what to do behind the wheel of a car, Hursty did all the driving. On the way down we did a bit of number plate spotting, with us managing to spot 36 different US states and 3 Canadian provinces. There was also a load of roadkill knocking about, deer and other large animals making a mockery of the squirrels and pigeons you get in the UK. Not to mention the rather large mosquito that made a mess of the windscreen!

We diverted into State College for a brief stop to look at Beaver Stadium, which is the college football stadium for Penn University. At a capacity of around 106,572 it is the second biggest in the US behind Michigan State, the second largest in the western hemisphere and the third largest in the world... We also had a nosey around Medlar Field baseball stadium next door as well.

We set off again, the drive enhanced by finding Road Trip Radio throwing out some belting tunes, before a food stop off at Curt's Smokin' Ribs in Lamar PA. After raiding a nearby Maccies for their WiFi (and drink supplies) it was off again, just as it started belting it down once more. A real corking storm which seriously reduced visibility on the drive...  We also became aware of an accident and large hold-up, so we took a diversion through Pocono. Seemed a decent enough place, with a horse racing track and a decent looking school sports ground. There were a few Donald Trump signs around though, the largest of which (and it was bloody big) getting flipped off on the way past.

Eventually we hit New Jersey and dropped the car at Newark airport before getting the Airtrain to the main Airport railway station and then NJ transit over into NY Penn Station. The subway from there took us, eventually, to our hotel where we got settled and then headed over to meet Alok. It was a belting night, taking in Alphabet City Beer Co.,7B Horseshoe Bar, Doc Holliday's and finally Bull McCabe's back near our hotel. Alok headed off, seeing as he had to work in the morning, we hung around and then got a bit of falafel from Mamoun's across the road. After that it was time to hit the hay.

The following morning, as a first-timer in NY, I went for a wander on my own. I had a walk down Broadway, but I was heading in the direction of somewhere I've been waiting to visit for nigh on 30 years... The fire station for Hook & Ladder 8, slightly more famous for being used for the external shots of the Ghostbusters HQ. Of course, this being me, I wandered onto the street it's located on to find it surrounded by scaffolding as part of a major revamp! Oh well...

From there I took in the World Trade Center and the 9/11 memorial at Ground Zero. Not a lot I can say about that, it was a surreal and moving experience to walk around. I then headed to Battery Park, had a long distance nosey at Lady Liberty, spotted someone in a Leicester shirt and then the Staten Island ferry terminal. After a brief bite to eat, I wandered along the various piers towards Brooklyn Bridge before hopping on the subway up to the Flatiron building. After a quick break on Madison Square Park I walked up 5th Avenue past the Empire State Building, down to Madison Square Garden and up to Times Square, which was pretty disorientating on the first visit. The plethora of roadworks around the place didn't help! From there it was up to the much more sedate surroundings of Central Park.

As much as CP is a NY institution in its own right, I had my own reasons for being here. More Ghosbusters reasons. I found Tavern On The Green, where Louis Tully had tried to escape from a Terror Dog, before marvelling at Dana Barrett's apartment building across the road, with the church that Stay Puft stepped on next door. I was grinning from ear to ear, even trying to pinpoint the spot on the park boundary where Louis fell over the wall...

From there I walked to Strawberry Fields, back on the park, where the area for quiet contemplation (park signs, not my own thoughts) was taken over by buskers singing Beatles/John Lennon songs. After a brief rest around there, I walked back across the park and got the subway back to the hotel via a slice of pizza a couple of doors down.

In the evening we went over to Citi Field to watch more baseball, the NY Mets against, ironically, the Chicago White Sox. We didn't stay to the end as we were heading towards the Fulton Center to meet Alok again. After visiting his gaff and trying some mega expensive whisky (I'm no aficionado, I've no idea what it was) we went on another little bar run. Again, the evening is a tad hazy, but a friendly welcome and shots to go with the ale in the Fish Market, more ale in Jim Brady's where Alok once again shit out on us due to the excuse of work in the morning before we headed to Jimmy's No. 43 near the hotel. More food was obtained from a nearby Taco gaff before retiring for the evening.

The following day was our last, so we left the bags at the hotel and went for a mooch. We got the Staten Island ferry, which has to be the biggest bargain in NYC. It's free, you're on it for about 15 minutes either way and you go right past Lady Liberty. After a quick, from a distance look at another minor league ground, the Ballpark at St. George, we got the next ferry straight back over. We had another wander to Times Square and got more books at yet another Barnes and Nobel. After returning to the hotel for the bags we headed back to the airport, checked in and indulged in a Chinese after security. After that there wasn't a lot to report, aside from the flight home being pretty awful due to a terrible plane with shit legroom. Just couldn't get comfy. Still, we landed back at Manchester and I got a rather uneventful train back to Preston.

It was a belting trip, Chicago was great, Detroit was a pleasant surprise after everything we'd been told about it, Cleveland seemed decent and NYC was, well, NYC. A few places there on the list to go back and spend more time in. I wonder if we could wangle any more international friendlies?!