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Comerica Park, Detroit

16 Aug

In my 30th year of life, I’m attempting to do 29 new things. Full List Here. All Bucket List Adventures Here.

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Although I’m wildly excited about returning to school in a mere three weeks, it has forced me to make some lifestyle adjustments. I’ve had to cut my spending down by a lot in order to compensate for cutting my work hours and pay for tuition, textbooks, etc. So instead of traveling to far away and exotic places, I’ve been trying to take mini-vacations, like the one I took in June with my sister to Detroit.

I settled on Detroit by looking at the Seattle Mariner’s schedule and seeing where they were playing within flying distance of New York. After seeing Anthony Bourdain’s piece on Detroit in his “Parts Unknown” series, I wanted to experience the city for myself. A lot of people gave me baffled looks when I told them that was where I was spending my vacation, but I’m lucky enough to have a sister who I knew would be game to explore the area.

The biggest draw, not surprisingly, is how cheap everything was. The city has shrunk a considerable amount, and it’s true that there are huge abandoned buildings everywhere you go, but this has also driven a lot of rents and prices down which has started to attract young artists and entrepreneurs. We were never at a loss to find delicious food, trendy bars and random art installations.

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The Hiedelberg Project

But let’s not forget the real reason I flew to Michigan. Baseball. A couple of days before I flew to Detroit, I checked on Stubhub for tickets and was blown away to find seats directly behind home plate for only $40. For reference for those not familiar with major league baseball ticket prices. Similar tickets at Yankee stadium are roughly $700. But that’s just the nature of supply and demand. They were easily the best seats I’ve ever had.

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Around the third inning, a group of middle-aged guys stumbled to the seats next to me. A bunch of Midwesterners who get together to watch their beloved Tigers. In true Midwest style, they were super kind to me, asked all about the Mariners and told me a bunch of anecdotes about a variety of hometown baseball players and about the field itself. Everyone I met in the stadium was kind and welcoming, despite the fact that I was wearing the opposing team’s jersey.

Comerica Park has been open since 2000 and is still beautiful and well kept. The Tigers have an interesting advantage in having a real, concrete mascot. When I started thinking about it, most other teams have abstract names that don’t inspire a solid image. Mariners, Red Sox, Athletics, Yankees, Royals. A tiger is a readily identifiable thing, and so the stadium is dripping with them.

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It’s also bursting with Detroit pride. The Mariners lost the game I attended, but I wasn’t too broken up about it. The fans were so nice to me, and I admire any baseball fan that loves and supports their team that much. Detroit is definitely a struggling city, but the people that live there consider it their home, not a ghost town. And the pride they take in their team and their city made it a great place to visit.

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30 Before 30: Ride a Mechanical Bull

8 Dec

IMG_3103In my 30th year of life, I’m attempting to do 29 new things. Full List Here. All Bucket List Adventures Here.

Every year my alumni group along with the other alumni groups in the Pac-12 athletic conference rent out a bar in Rockefeller Center across the street from the Christmas tree lighting. We get special tickets that get us past the police barricades and our own special stretch of sidewalk to see the lights of the tree go from off to on. This is my fourth year going and for the last two I’ve stayed in the bar when the tree lights up. It is kind of anticlimactic.

You know what’s also anticlimactic? Mechanical bulls. The bar we rent out is called Johnny Utah’s and, as far as I know, is the only bar in the city that has a mechanical bull. After I had enough Bud Lights in me, and I saw my friend Josh do it, I finally decided to give it a go.

The first time I attempted to ride a mechanical bull was actually eight years ago when I lived in Seattle. I went to a Seahawks preseason game and afterwards went to a dive bar with my friends. They wanted me to ride the mechanical bull they had there, but I kept saying I wasn’t drunk enough. So they bought be shots and beers until I decided I had enough liquid courage to go. As I stood in line with my friend Jess, the room started to spin, and I felt ill. I left the line to ride and told my friends I was TOO drunk to ride it. Needless to say, they were disappointed.

Back to my successful ride last Wednesday, I think my face says it all. I was nervous about getting whiplash or hurting myself (injury-prone lady that I am), so I told them to go easy on me. Alas, I under-estimated myself. I’ve ridden horses through the desert of New Mexico, up steep cliff sides in the south of Spain, along the glaciers of Iceland. This was nothing.  I felt a bit bored and uncomfortable that everyone was watching me. Bull riding also has this weird connotation of being a sexual display which made me feel icky. So after a minute or two, I let myself slip along the side and fall to the mat. Maybe I’d do it again, but I definitely wouldn’t tell them to go easy on me. My inner cowgirl is too strong for that.

29 Before 29: Go Whale Watching

11 Jul

In my 29th year of life, I’m attempting to do 29 new things. Full List HereAll Bucket List Adventures Here.

The SeaWolf II

The SeaWolf II

After the festivities of my friend’s wedding in Monterey, I was lucky enough to stay in California an extra couple of days to have a mini-vacation. My mother was able to drive down from Reno to join me for  West coast Mexican food, the world famous aquarium, and the dramatic events that occurred after I left my wallet on the roof of my car at a gas station and drove away. But let’s not dwell on my poor wallet, which I found in the middle of the road an hour later covered in tread marks with my IDs and cards bent inside. No, let’s focus on our whale watching adventure!

We booked a three-hour tour (going to refrain from making the reference) with a whale watching company on the Monterey Fisherman’s wharf. It was an early morning trip, and we did our best to bundle up although we had brought limited warm weather gear since we were visiting California in June.  As we left the harbor, the captain pointed out the birds, sea lions, and otters that populate a jetty. Little did I know, it was to be my favorite part of the trip.

Web-footed friends.

Web-footed friends.

The first hour was nice enough. We grabbed seats on the side of the boat and stared out at the Pacific Ocean as we headed to areas where the whales are. The smell of the sea and the crisp air somehow lulled me into a brief nap. When I awoke, I had the beginnings of seasickness, an insidious nausea creeping its way through me. At this point, though, we had reached an area where a number of dolphins were swimming by. My mother who loves the sea wanted to talk about the majestic animals, about the spray of sea water. I replied as still as a statue that if I moved or spoke, I might vomit.

From the corners of my eye, I saw my fellow tourists fall one by one, leaning over the side of the boat and releasing their breakfasts into the ocean depths. But I had cemented in my mind that I would not be one of them, so I remained frozen. The sea was angry that day, my friends. The wind picked up causing two things. One, the boat rocked back and forth by what felt like 10 feet. I stared out over the side of the boat to see water, horizon, water, horizon. Two, the sea air cut through the three layers I had managed to scrape together causing a numbing chill. We spent an hour chasing down whales as I looked, blank-eyed, straight ahead. I saw a couple of humpbacks as their bumpy backs surfaced one by one. And at long last I saw a tail fin of a whale come up out of the water. I felt satisfied and retreated to the inner cabin of the boat.

There I found a ragged group of tourists, huddling together, shivering and trying not to spew. I wasn’t in a condition to laugh, but thinking of the way that inner circle looked is comical. Tourists who wanted a sightseeing extravaganza who instead got the 18th century immigrant experience. My mother soon followed me into the cabin since she was also feeling cold. Once we got back to the harbor, we found the nearest cafe that had clam chowder and sourdough bread bowls to warm our chilled bones.

Despite this account, I loved it. I could have done without the choppy water and could have used a sunnier day, but being out on the ocean was nice. I’ve been on boats before and never had a problem, although I suppose most of the boats I’ve been on were small motor boats on mountain lakes in the Sierra Nevadas or large ferry boats floating from harbor to harbor. But isn’t there something about sea legs? About acclimating? My mother was absolutely fine and maybe that’s just because she has more boat experience? I’d definitely go again.

Burnt Well Guest Ranch, New Mexico

19 Feb

In my 29th year of life, I’m attempting to do 29 new things. Full List Here. All Bucket List Adventures Here.

Overlooking the land with Candyman (my horse) and Charlie (right).

Overlooking the land with Candyman (my horse) and Charlie (right).

I found out that I had one vacation day that was going to expire at the end of February. The reasonable thing would have been to have a staycation and catch up on errands. But I felt overdo for an adventure, even a mini one. So I got it set in my mind that I was going to visit a horse ranch in a state I had never been to before (both items on my 29 before 29 list.)

At the tender age of 6, I had changed my life’s ambition from becoming a princess to becoming a cowgirl, and unlike a lot of other childhood dreams, it never went away. After graduating college with a somewhat useless degree, I began researching dude ranches that might hire me. I wanted to spend my life in the saddle, around animals, embedded in the wilderness. Things didn’t work out that way, but I never stopped dreaming about it.

Marilyn! Their only longhorn cattle.

Marilyn! Their only longhorn cattle.

So when I started looking for a place to visit, I knew I didn’t want a hokey dude ranch. I didn’t want to be taken on trail rides and have Western culture put on display for me like a watered-down version of what ranch life is like. I’m from Nevada, after all. I’ve been to the rodeo. I’ve ridden horses since I was six. I didn’t want or need to be coddled. In my searchings, I found Burnt Well Guest Ranch which is a working cattle ranch run by a small family, the Chessers. To supplement their income, they take in guests and allow them to tag along on their day to day. It’s exactly what I was looking for.

Upon my arrival, Kim (the family patriarch) met me up at the airport in his pick-up truck. He jumped out in his cowboy hat and introduced himself with his country twang. I hopped into the truck and noticed a large, shotgun sitting in the driver’s seat. This was the real deal.

New Mexico sunset with a storm rolling in.

New Mexico sunset with a storm rolling in.

The next couple of days I spent the majority of my day on a horse, either with Kim or his son Tye and sometimes both of them. We rode through the pastures checking on the cattle, especially looking out for heifers that had recently given birth. I was in the saddle so much that all the muscles in my legs were cramping, but I ignored it as much as possible. I was elated to be back on a horse, to feel them break from a trot to a canter, winding their way around cacti. The cowboys told me that the leg pain goes away on day four. It made me want to call my job and quit, just so I could stay in New Mexico and ride until my legs had acclimated to a cowgirl life.

Jonah, my favorite of the three horses I rode.

Jonah, my favorite of the three horses I rode.

At lunch and at dinner, I went into the Chesser home with Kim where his wife, Patricia, made us amazing tex-mex meals using beef from their ranch. We would sit around and trade stories. For as interesting and different their lifestyle seemed to me, they were equally awed and astonished as I told them about life in New York City. As I told stories about dog walkers and animals wearing clothing and shoes, they sat incredulous. The more we talked about it, the more ridiculous I realized it really is. All day, I watched their border collies running alongside the horses, herding animals when need be, but mostly just running along. They’d stop to roll in the dust, chase jack rabbits. It was refreshing to see dogs being…dogs.

Snow in the morning. Melted within the hour.

Snow in the morning. Melted within the hour. Riding on Creed.

On my second day, they let me watch/help as they prepared some calves. They vaccinated them with large gun-like syringes, sprayed them down with dewormers and branded a couple of them. One unfortunate bull got castrated. I stood in awe as they caught it in a large metal chute. Tye roped its legs so it couldn’t kick, and Kim bent down with a knife and a severing tool called an emasculotome (it was on my vet tech exam last month) and castrated the bull in under five minutes. His hands were covered in blood as he tossed the testicles into the dirt and let the border collies eat it. Not for the weak of stomach. I watch castrations all the time at work, but it made me a little dizzy. Kim turned to me and asked if that’s how we do it in the city, I shook my head and laughed.

Lucy, the one-eyed border collie, resting by the branding fire.

Lucy, the one-eyed border collie, resting by the branding fire.

It was everything I wanted it to be. Fresh air, lots of horseback riding, a sample of what a cowboy life looks like, delicious food, a chance to see the stars in the sky at nighttime, fascinating stories from warm-hearted people. I know I’ll be back.

29 Before 29: Visit the United Nations

9 Feb

In my 29th year of life, I’m attempting to do 29 new things. Full List Here. All Bucket List Adventures Here.

General Assembly Hall

General Assembly Hall

This morning, after walking the dog that I’m sitting for and grabbing myself a blueberry smoothie, I left the country. All it took was $20 and an online reservation.  I passed through the security at the United Nations building on the East River in New York City and entered international territory.

I’m currently staying with a pug, Ellie Mae, and her cat brother, Lucas. They are regulars of mine and happen to live about a block away from the United Nations. So when me and their owner set up a couple of days for me to stay with them this February, I made sure to also set up a UN tour for myself.

Glass mural representing a world of peaceful collaboration.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

It was only an hour long, and I was the only American in my group of about 20. It was great though. We got to see all of the assembly halls, including one that had a session going on. We got to see a number of different gifts to the UN from member countries. I found it fascinating and wished that I had studied International Affairs in college so that maybe I could somehow work there. They do a lot of interesting work, and it’s amazing that 193 countries come together and try to make the world a better place.

I was particularly moved by a display by a Brazilian artist of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Declaration was drafted by a committee in 1948 headed by Eleanor Roosevelt and enumerates the basic rights that every human being is entitled to. It was sad to read some of them, such as the right to education or the right to be free from torture and know that many people in our world are denied these rights.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

It was a fun diversion on a bitter February day. I also learned about the website Free Rice which I learned about in college. It was created by the UN as a simple education tool. It has trivia and for every correct question, they use the money from the ad sponsors to donate 10 grains of rice to countries in need. Finally, a way to waste time on the Internet and not feel guilty.

29 Before 29

15 Sep
Birthday girls

Birthday girls

I happen to share my birth date with one of my closest friends in New York, Quincey. A while back the two of us were talking about possible ideas for our birthday. We laughed and said we should do a week-long celebration dedicated to the amazingness that is us. But the more we talked about it, the more it made complete sense.

Our birth date happens to be marred by a national tragedy which over time has affected celebrations negatively. In addition to that, we both moved a lot as kids and spent many childhood birthdays in a new town without friends. So this was the year to make up for it. Cabaret, Karaoke, Softball, $1 beers, Ice Cream Cake, Cupcakes, Shake Shack, Happy Hour, Czech Beer Garden, Dancing. This was a week-long celebration for the ages, and my liver, stomach, legs, vocal chords are still recovering.

Now that life is slipping into normalcy, it’s time to embrace the new year’s list. I dropped some things that just weren’t happening. I brought back some recurring standards. And as far as new items go, I went big and small. Some overly ambitious and some devastatingly simple.

THE STANDARDS

1. Visit a new state- 13 down, 37 to go!

2. Visit a new country- Due to my supposed risk averse nature, I was unable to travel last year. But this year my goal is somewhere in Central America. I have to break in that new passport.

3. Visit a new baseball stadium- I’m so close to so many stadiums, it’s a crying shame that my number is so low. 7/30.

4. Read Catch-22– Every year I dedicate myself to reading one classic that I’m embarrassed about not having read.

5. Make Jambalaya- My new recipe challenge for the year.

6. Eat Ox Tail- My new adventurous food choice of the year.

7. Eat Ethiopian- You really can’t have too many adventurous food options. I’d be happy with doing an entire list of food.

LEFTOVERS FROM LISTS OF YESTERYEAR

8. Be an extra in a TV show or movie***

9. Go Scuba Diving***

10. Go Sailing***

11. Go to a Gun Range***

12. Do a Juice Cleanse**

13. Go to a Dog Show**

14. Visit a Whiskey Distillery**

15. Go to a Live Taping*- My new goal for this is to see “Last Week Tonight” with John Oliver. I have such a nerd crush on him.

16. Ride a Mechanical Bull*

17. Take a Trapeze Class*

18. Eat at Serendipity*

19. Go to a Monster Truck Show*

THE NEW LIST

20. Sing at Live Band Karaoke- I love singing karaoke. Some might even call it a passion. A week ago, I delivered a drunken, impassioned performance of “All That Jazz.” I’m ready to step up my karaoke game.

Duet with Quincey

Duet with Quincey

21. Paint Nite- I know this is suburban and faux-creative, but I want to do it. I want to somehow paint a pretty picture and pretend I’m an artiste.

22. Go sky diving- I hesitated putting this on the list. I’ve hesitated putting it on for years. I’m concerned I might pee myself or have a similar humiliating experience.

23. Fencing Lesson- I took an archery lesson a couple of months ago. If the place wasn’t so far from me, I would have considered going back. Something so fun about medieval weaponry.

24. Learn to play the ukelele- I learned that my paternal grandfather used to play the ukelele. It’s a family tradition I’d like to carry on.

25. Go whale watching- I didn’t realize how much I wanted to do this until I missed an opportunity last week. I want to experience the majesty of those mammals.

26. Do a knitting donation project- I took down my “Pay for someone’s meal” item, because I’m just too shy. But I wanted to replace it with something charitable.

27. Go white water rafting- I fear this will go the way of my go scuba diving item. It’ll never happen.

28. Visit a horse ranch- I’ve recently started working with horses, and I forgot how deep my love for them runs.

29. Visit the United Nations- I had to add one New York touristy option.

 

 

28 Before 28: Visit a New Baseball Stadium

10 Sep

In my 28th year of life, I’m attempting to do 28 new things. Full list here.

Citizen's Bank Park

Citizen’s Bank Park

My, oh, my, the Mariner’s this year! I’ve been an avid fan since 2007 and have witnessed dismal seasons. But as I write this, they are in the second wild card spot for the American League and only one game behind Oakland. AHHH!! Back in February when the Seahawks won the Super Bowl, I joked that the Mariner’s were also going to win the World Series. It’s still a long shot, but it’s possible! We COULD do it.

So I was browsing their schedule a couple of weeks ago to see which teams we’d be facing in this epic playoff berth. The day I checked happened to be the first day they were playing the Phillies in Philadelphia for a three game series. I had the following day off and wanting to escape some personal drama, I made a last minute decision to hop a morning bus to Philadelphia the next day to spend the day there. I convinced my friend Quincey to go with me, and we were off!

Citizens Bank Park is beautiful! The people are so nice! I’m used to going to Mariner games at Yankee stadium where I’m harassed at least a couple of times by obnoxious Yankee fans. But the city of brotherly love lived up to its name. This is how a typical conversation with a Phillie fan went:

“You’re a Seattle fan?”
“Yeah, I went to college in Seattle and have been a fan ever since,” I say with hesitation, waiting to be berated.
“That’s great! Beautiful city! You sure have a great team this year.”
“It’s about time we have a good season!”
“Yeah, I wish the Phillies were playing that well. Enjoy the game!”
“Why thank you! You too!”

How nice is that?! Sometimes spending enough time in New York makes one forget that there is the possibility for human kindness and compassion in the world. But it’s out there.

One Mariner fan and one Mariner/Met fan.

One Mariner fan and one Mariner/Met fan.

It was a fun day trip. We ate Philly cheesesteaks north of the stadium before we arrived so I didn’t get a chance to try any of the ballpark food. But I loved the game there. Best part was the Phillie Phanatic. What a great mascot! He had an ATV that he drove around the field with abandon and even got into a play-verbal argument with the Mariner dugout. The Phillies might have a disappointing lineup this year, but they’ll always have the phanatic.

28 Before 28: Visit the Statue of Liberty

27 May

In my 28th year of life, I’m attempting to do 28 new things. Full list here.

20140527-123909-45549125.jpg I continue my bucket list of touristy things to do in New York with this classic gem.

In making the journey out to Liberty Island, I wanted full access to the statue which has been closed on and off since 9/11. Access to the crown has become limited, and they only allow 200 people up per day. Lucky for me, my boyfriend knew about this, and we went online to buy tickets…in February. The demand for crown access includes about a three month waiting period.

Finally our day arrived. It was a perfect May day to spend out on the water and in the sunlight. The boat was, of course, packed with tourists, as was the island itself. The park is spread out and there is plenty of space to enjoy the nice weather and the views.

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View of Manhattan from the base of the statue.

We made our way through security and handed the park ranger our tickets.

“Wow, crown access!” he said, pulling us aside. We weren’t allowed to bring anything with us except for our phones in our pockets. I was nervous about the stairs to the top, so I insisted on taking the elevator to the pedestal. The 360 views from the pedestal are impressive, but we were anxious to get up to the crown. We went to the park ranger guarding the staircase to the crown and handed him our tickets.

“No more access to the crown today,” he said before his mouth broke into a smile and he started laughing. “Just joking with you! The question IS who wants to stare at whose heiney?” I offered to go first.

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View of the staircase up to the crown.

The staircase is narrow, and being the weak sloth I am, I was nervous about making it all the way up. But it really wasn’t too bad! I had been told it was 300+ stairs to the crown, but that count must include the stairs to the pedestal, since I only counted around 200. It went by quickly, and we found ourselves in the crown. The nice thing about the limited access is that we had the entire crown to ourselves and two park rangers who were happy to give us information, show us where to take the best pictures, and take pictures of us.

In the crown

In the crown

It’s rare to have a touristy experience without being smothered by other people, their cameras, and their crying children. But this felt like an amazing opportunity. It was a fun day and I’m glad I did it. My favorite picture of the day is from one of the windows of the crown, looking out at Manhattan, one of the spikes of her crown pointing the way.

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28 Before 28: Do a Circle Line Cruise

19 May
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In line to board the boat.

In my 28th year of life, I’m attempting to do 28 new things. Full list here.

I love having friends and family come visit me in New York, because it gives me an excuse to do all the touristy things I have never done. The circle line cruise is one of the most touristy things to do in New York, other than those obnoxious double decker buses. My parents were in town and wanted to see the sights. It was a gorgeous May day, not too hot or cold, and no clouds to be seen after what felt like weeks of heavy rains.

View of Lower Manhattan

View of Lower Manhattan

The views were spectacular, and I enjoyed being able to see the city from the water. The guide on the boat provided a steady amount of commentary on what we were seeing and fun facts about the city. To his credit, he tried to warn everyone to stay seated and not rush from one side of the boat to the other, as this would block other people’s views. However, tourists are tourists and once a couple of people started doing it, everyone started doing it. I’d like to say no one in my party was guilty of this, but my father insisted on getting up a couple of times.

Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge

There are a couple of different options for the cruise, and we opted for the 2.5 hour, full island cruise which makes a circle around the entire island of Manhattan. If I had to do it over again, I would have opted for one of the shorter cruises. The northern tip of Manhattan doesn’t have all that much to see or note other than Yankee Stadium (barf) and the tree-filled hillsides of New Jersey. Oh, and this giant “C” painted by students from Columbia.

C for Chrissy

C for Chrissy

I had a blast on the cruise, but I attribute a lot of that to the fact that it was a beautiful day to sit in the sun with my loved ones and cruise along a river, admiring the incredible city I’m so lucky to call home. I also managed to acquire my first sunburn of 2014. Due to the jacket I was wearing and the way I was sitting, I was only burnt on my right hand. The newest in my collection of awkward burns I’ve acquired in my life.

First sunburn of 2014.

First sunburn of 2014.

 

Tourist Tuesday: Lillie’s Victorian Bar and Restaurant

25 Mar
The back area

The back area

Just when I think I’ve found my favorite bar in New York, I find another gem. I just finished reading “The Poisoner’s Handbook” by Deborah Blum which is about Jazz Age New York. It focuses on Prohibition and how it affected the city. I have spent the last couple of days fantasizing about the old speakeasies, the mysterious drinks that were shipped by bootleggers, the secrecy and dangerous nature of drinking. I love living in a city soaked in so much history.

Back-lit wall decorations

Back-lit wall decorations

The theme of this bar predates the Jazz Age but still provoked in me a nostalgia for different times. Modern, trendy bars are a dime a dozen, and I prefer something spacious and cozy. The large, weathered glass behind the bar, the velvet lampshades, the crystal chandeliers.

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I was obsessed with these vintage mirrors that were everywhere.

A friend and I ended up hanging out here for a good 4-5 hours in the afternoon, sipping on beer, sharing a spinach and artichoke dip. In my late twenties, I’ve found that I appreciate a bar that isn’t too crowded, is well lit, and doesn’t have music pumping so loud it causes my earrings to vibrate against my earlobes. This was perfect. I do have to mention that we were there in the late afternoon, and it did seem to get a bit more crowded as the after-work set began to show up. But, nonetheless, it’s a charming bar at which to while away the hours.