Last weekend Rich and I went to Boston, to see the city and visit his brother, James, and his fiance Kelsey. We enjoyed a peaceful drive in by way of the Mass. Pike- or ‘The Pike,’ as it’s called here. Upon exiting, we immediately found ourselves sandwiched between a multiplicity of cars, with drivers dashing into every which lane. We navigated through this spaghetti of traffic until we came upon Harvard Square. I haven’t been through the Cambridge area for about 5 years, so it was fun to see the myriad of street vendors, the large, iron gates of Harvard, and urban professionals and students who make up this lively urban scene.
We arrived at James’ apartment, which is situated on a friendly, tree-lined street. It was great After settling in, we took a tour of their place and were surprised by their bonus room, which was brimming with a veritable army of small figurines called WarHammer. Apparently you can paint these figures with a level of detail that astounds even me.
James and Kelsey have endless boxes of these tiny warriors, and I was happy to see Rich sit down and paint with his brother. I’ve seen him build many websites, and as an artist, it’s fun for me to see him paint, too. Kelsey is also an artist, and she sat nearby sketching fish and other marine characters. After several hours, we headed out for burritos at a popular, local Mexican place in Porter Square.
It was great fun walking around the city, as we’ve never been to Porter Square. When you haven’t been to the city for awhile you forget just how much variety of food, entertainment and nightlife is packed within a short distance! Energized, we walked on through the stately Harvard Yard, where the grounds are filled with an impressive array of dignified-looking buildings. Harvard University was founded in 1636, which makes it the oldest institution of higher learning in the U.S.
During our brisk walk, we stopped at a great little coffee shop, which was practically hidden in a basement. The tasty, foamy lattes and coffee, topped with cinnamon warmed us on a slightly chilly night.
The next morning we walked down to the Ball Square Cafe & Coffee Shop, a locally-celebrated breakfast joint. There we happily stood outside in line for an hour, as James told that it’s worth the wait. Later, dining on yummy dishes like the garlic mashed potatoes and Spanish omelets, we agreed that it IS worth the wait! Plus it was entertaining to watch the Italian owner, Mike, greeting his guests with excitement. You can tell he has a passion for his business and his customers.
Later in the day, we connected with Rich’s sister, Hannah, who was visiting her friend Melissa. We walked her dog, Toby, around for awhile, then headed back to James’ place, to hang out for the afternoon. After saying goodbye in the evening, we stayed one more night, watching movies with them.
The next morning Rich and I packed up and promptly walked down to Ball Street Cafe again, since we loved the breakfast so much we just had go back! Besides, we had a day of walking into Boston planned, so we’d walk it off.
Afterward, we took the Subway, or ‘The T’ as it’s called, into Boston. Our first stop was Northeastern University, which Rich attended several years ago. Its’ campus is at once sprawling and compact, and it is tucked away near an area called The Fens, which is an urban wetland and park, which was designed by the famous architect, Frederick Law Olmstead.
After visiting the school for awhile, we walked across the way to the Christian Science Center. Its’ heart is the Romanesque style Church of Christ Science, which is anchored by a long reflecting pool. We enjoyed a peaceful stroll through it and walked toward Copley Place. Copley is Boston’s most distinctive shopping mall, which boasts a glass atrium-like ceiling and 75 prestigious shops and restaurants, including the famous Legal Seafood.
From there we trekked over to Newbury Street, which is sometimes referred to as the Rodeo Drive of the East. This elegant street is in the ‘Back Bay’, an area that was once literally part of the Boston Harbor. In the 1850’s land was brought in from other hilly regions around the city, and used to fill in this street. Then, in the 1860’s and 70’s, rows of opulent homes were built upon it. Today these buildings house a mix of upscale retail boutiques on the lower floors, and high-end apartments or condos on the upper stories.
It rained off and on throughout the day, but we were well prepared with rain gear, so we continued to the end of Newbury Street and into Boston”s Public Gardens. An iron gate and gilded sign welcomed is into the park, which contains a nice pond and Swan Boats, a bridge, gardens, statues, benches and great spots for picniking. There’s really nothing quite like it, and the view around the city from the park is like an urban theater – with Capital Hill flanking one side, the opulent Four Seasons Hotel on another, and Newbury Street at its’ feet.B
By this time we were getting tired, but remained determined to complete our walk to the North End. To get there, we passed through Downtown Crossing, a well-known retail center where Filene’s Basement used to be located. We arrived at Faneuil Hall Marketplace, where we stopped for some classic Boston chowder in the old Quincy Hall. This place markets itself as the ‘seat of American History and one of Bostons most famous shopping and dining experiences.
Warmed up by our chowder, we walked about another 10 minutes to the North End, which is Boston’s Italian neighborhood You see, you can’t go to Boston and not stop at a place there called Mike’s Pastry’s!! Their storefront has the original 1970’s style sign, and they have the best canolli around. So as the sun began to sink low in the sky, we went in and bought the most wonderful chocolate chip canollis to carry home.
On our way out, we walked past the Old North Church and a few other historic sites that we were too tired to take in. In those intimate streets, the brick row houses with warmly lit windows beckon you. You can feel the close-knit neighbors, as they walk and holler to one another on the cobblestone streets.
Then as we turned the corner we were viewed our final destination – the glowing Boston Garden sign. There is a T stop, and we crossed a beautiful, modern bridge to get over to it in the dusky air. By the time we got to our Element, it was almost dark, and we drove into the night back to our home base in Western MA.
Boston is a city filled with tradition and heritage, history and great architecture. It is known for its many universities, its theater, fine cuisine, and ethnic neighborhoods. It is a thriving Eastern city, and Rich and I enjoyed going there together today, as we’d both been there separately before moving to CA. While our walking tour barely scratched the surface, we felt connected to Boston again today in an entirely new way!
Until next time, happy trekking.