After a decent flight from Tampa to Pittsburgh (empty so row per person), I landed and had a fairly short journey to my hotel which was sandwiched between the Baseball and American Football stadiums.
I had arrived pretty late and it was starting to snow, so I didn’t venture too far out, just going for food in the strip just by my hotel. As far as I could tell from looking online etc, there wasn’t really a whole load to see in Pittsburgh which suited me, so I could just wander about downtown doing my own thing before the hockey.
In the morning, I did go up the Duquesne Incline which is a funicular car thingy. It was pretty cool to be honest and the view was great up Mt. Washington. After wandering about at the top I headed back down and downtown. I had been told about these famous Primanti Brothers sandwiches places.
Basically, in Pittsburgh they have this thing about putting chips and everything into huge sandwiches. I headed to the original Primanti Bros sandwich shop in the Strip District near the big Heinz factory (home of the ketchup). I had a pastrami sandwich and I can confirm they do stack everything in the sandwich which makes it pretty difficult to eat. I am usually mocked for using a knife and fork to eat everything, and I had to concede defeat on this one, it was definitely an eating with your hands jobby!
I did a bit of shopping for some Christmas bits and bobs then popped back to the hotel to drop stuff off before heading over to the PPG Paints Arena. Another impressive arena and we managed to scrape a point here but then lost in overtime. I got the customary puck from the shop as I am trying to get to all 31 arenas in the NHL to see the Islanders play. I will be on 7 by the time this trip finishes but then 2 more in January so not doing that badly so far!
When I got back to the hotel, I went to a pub nearby to watch some sports, few ciders and some food. Was a nice way to finish up in Pittsburgh and I have been reading Boston is expecting snow big time so I was bracing myself for even more snow and cold tomorrow.
The flight to Boston was again great, and when I arrived the hotel was not far away. I was staying in a Yotel premium room for the first time and I absolutely loved it. All ultra modern, electric bed, all white gloss stuff and modern monsoon showers. It even had hue-esque lighting with controls so it was proper good and I’ll be looking out for Yotel’s anywhere else I travel.
When I got to Boston it was bucketing down with snow so I didn’t venture far, I went to an amazing BBQ Smokehouse behind the hotel and had an amazing dinner. After that I headed back to the warmth of the hotel to watch some series’ been downloading. I also had a parcel for my Godson’s Christmas present delivered to the hotel a week before… I didn’t anticipate how big the thing would be so I was panicking about how I was going to get that home!
The next day, I intended to do all the sightseeing but the snow was coming down so hard. I wandered around taking in some of the main sights and did some more Christmas shopping. The only place I could find selling bags big enough to take this present back for Christmas was Primark. So my idea was to get my backback in my suitcase and carry this ginormous Primark bag as hand-luggage with the present and my laptop etc in.
I do love an American breakfast but did it for lunch this time. I went to a place called South Street diner as it looked like the kind of place I love. The food was great to be honest but the waitress had a conversation with me which pretty much went like this;
Her: Oh wow, where are you from?
Me: The UK
Her: Yeah, where in the UK?
Her: Oh right, sorry to hear that
Me: Uhh, why do you say that?
Her: Uhhh, my friend lived there once and she said it is shitty
Me: *Death Stare* She’s wrong
Now in the US they expect tip as standard, at least 15% and upwards if great service. I was particularly looking forward to giving this mess of a woman absolutely nothing. Worst still, she had a Bruins shirt on and I had my Isles hat and she said
‘Mr Wales, I guess we are versing each other tonight’ – she insults my country when she has never visited and then she massacres the Queen’s tongue right in front of me. She got $0 which would have probably given her PTSD in the US but I felt good about it.
Anyway, the game… given the horrific conditions I got a taxi (it was quite far so would have had to anyway). I had been using Lyft religiously (along with Uber) and both had been amazing. Unfortunately, my Lyft driver hadn’t a Scooby this time! Firstly, he tried to drop me off 3 minutes away from my hotel and I had to point out to him that this was not my drop-off but his software is telling him he’s picking somebody else up as part of the pool. After that, he couldn’t find the TD Garden so I just told him to drop me off and I had to battle back over this bridge in a snow storm to get to the arena.
We lost 3-1 and the performance from the Islanders was shocking, I was particularly miffed because the Bruins ticket prices were absolutely disgusting so to not show up was annoying. I got my puck though and my taxi back was much more successful.
When I got back it was the painful packing for home tomorrow as I had an early flight. I was praying BA would be nice to me and let me take this huge bag on carry luggage.
In the morning the check-in etc went very smoothly with no delays. I looked like a total dick carrying the massive Primark bag but still, it served a purpose. The flight was very quick too but as we approach an hour left an announcement came saying they’d closed Heathrow and we would have to land in Belfast. The pilot seemed confused given the conditions were not meant to be bad at Heathrow but it turns out they had around 4,500 people at immigration.
We landed in Belfast but they did not get us off, they were attempting still to get us to Heathrow. We were on that runway for nearly 5 hours (5 hours!). We hadn’t eaten for 13 hours and I was climbing the walls. Belfast couldn’t accommodate a full 747 for hotels etc so I have no idea why they took us there. In the end the pilot managed to convince Heathrow to take us and we got back at around 3am.
When we got off they said as there were no staff we would not get our bags and they would be sent by post. There were thousands of bags lying around so I was a bit worried but I got the baggage report in early as hoped it would mean getting it back sooner.
So after a nice 6.5 hour flight, a 5 hour runway stint in Belfast, an hour flight to Heathrow and then a taxi to Park Inn, I was in my car ready for a nice 2 hour drive home. Thankfully, the snow held off until about 30 minutes from my place so the drive was pretty great.
I got in at 5:05am and my parking space was snowed in so I had to park up, go upstairs, get a broom and clear it which was an absolute chore at that time to be honest. So it was a completely exhausting day and now I had to battle with jet lag and body clock too.
Despite the terrible ending, the trip was great and a strange contrast in weather from the start of the trip and the end. I am already looking forward to Christmas and then heading to New York City for some more hockey in early January.