Our trip started earlier than any human should be awake, with a drive to DFW at 4 am. With a short layover in Chicago, we were in Boston in what seemed to be no time. We arrived to our apartment on Temple Street to meet the owner to “check in” and were already loving the neighborhood and noticing immediately that I would probably not be getting any wear out of the heels I packed. Our apartment was at the top of a 4-story building with no elevator; the stairs were steep and small and as Stephen said “probably didn’t pass code.” But it was an adventure nonetheless. The place itself was really cute, small for an apartment but bigger than your typical hotel room, and had all the amenities you would need for a short-term stay (they even had AppleTV which came in handy and lots of Boston books and guides). There was also a rooftop patio which was nice just to check out, but I’m guessing would be much nicer in the spring or fall.
We immediately wanted to walk around Beacon Hill and more importantly, find some food! The journey took us over to the original “Cheers” bar (actually named the Bull & Finch Pub) and of course this was one of the things on our list. The beer was delicious and cold and the food was ok – but we didn’t go for the food, we went for the experience and so that was worth it. To anyone going, I would recommend eating somewhere else and only going to enjoy a pint at the bar…specifically sitting at “Norm’s” spot at the set bar upstairs, that was pretty cool. Did you know that the sun sets at 4:15 pm in Boston in the winter?! Well we found that out the first night, while we journeyed home through Beacon Hill. We stopped at a few shops on Charles Street. After taking a short nap, we ventured back out to the Red Hat, which was literally just around the corner from our place. They were having 10 cent wing night so we took full advantage of that while watching the Celtics play.
Side note: at almost every pub, we had the Sam Adams BostonBrick Red which is only available in Boston/New England. For every pint sold, an additional donation is made to Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream Fund – delicious and socially conscious! Win/Win.
Wednesday began with a journey to the T (Boston’s subway system, and the oldest in America) at Government Center (and a pit-stop at Dunkin’ Donuts, of course). We took the Green Line to Fenway and only got on one wrong train so I would call that a success. We did the Fenway tour and it was amazing. The guys who ran the tour, you could tell were lifelong locals and Red Sox fans and had the most hilariously awful jokes (“they decided to call them the Red Stockings because they needed more runners!” ….see what I mean?). Our guide was Ed and he was so knowledgeable and funny we had a great time. We learned so much about the team and stadium, and that they recently got on the National Historic Registry, so they will never tear down or drastically change the park. That is very awesome. I also got to see the iconic CITGO sign that resides outside of Fenway – it’s quite the sight! I was impressed with how clean and “new” looking it was, seeing as it’s been there since 1965. As a CITGO baby, I had to marvel in all its glory for a few minutes.
After the tour – and a nice little stop in the gift shop – we took the Orange Line to Stony Brook to find the Samuel Adams Brewery. Only a quick detour later (hey, when you’re coming out from underground, it’s easy to get turned around!), we arrived at the Brewery and signed up for the 3 pm tour. Since it was only 1:30, they let us know that the Party Trolley would take us to Doyle’s for a pint and some food if we were so inclined, and that if we ordered a Sam Adams there and showed them our stamp, we would get to keep the pint glass for free (rent the beer, buy the glass, as our trolley driver said). Doyle’s was the very first account for Sam Adams – it was also featured in Mystic River, Celtic Pride and the Boston Common TV show. The beer of course was delicious, but the food, oh my, the food was amazing. Their chowder was the best we had all week, and we had it 4 different times/places. And they had a lobster roll special that day that just blew me away. Maybe I just have never seen that much lobster on a sandwich? Maybe I’ve never seen huge, chunky portions of lobster for under $50? At any rate, I was blown away. Delicious. Back to the brewery on the Party Trolley! (the Trolley driver had I (heart) Southie stickers and played “Sweet Caroline”…it was quite the experience) The tour itself was incredible and I would highly recommend it to anyone. First of all, it’s free, with a suggested $2 donation. Our tour guide Lauren was energetic and hilarious. We got to taste the barley, smell the hops, and later taste a selection of their beers…and keep the tasting glasses!
We met some friends on the tour and ventured back with them to Faneuil Hall area, caught a street performance and grabbed a bite in Quincy Market. After, we went pub hopping to the Purple Shamrock and then to Hennessey’s where they had live band karaoke…of course I had to participate (Me & Bobby McGee, in case you were wondering). We parted ways with our new buds and went back to the Red Hat to enjoy an Angry Orchard cider (also by Sam Adams) before calling it a night.
Today we decided to journey over to Cambridge to see the Harvard campus, particularly the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts building, which was the only building in the United States designed by Le Corbusier. We got to walk around inside and take tons of pictures and Stephen was in awe seeing such a designer that he has admired and studied for so long. Walking around the campus was just amazing. We came across Memorial Hall, which was absolutely breathtaking. The hall commemorates the patriotism of the graduates and students of Harvard who served in the military during the war for the preservation of the Union and upon the tablets inside are inscribed the names of those who died in service. We ventured around the rest of campus and out to Massachusetts Ave. to see the sights and find a bite. After eating lunch at Daedalus in Harvard Square, we walked around the city some more. Eventually we spotted the MIT Museum where we happened upon a postcard with a Frank Gehry-designed building on it – we asked where we could find it and turns out it’s an MIT building only 2 blocks away! Needless to say, we went immediately and spent a lot of time marveling at his incredible design. A pleasant surprise to say the least!
After heading home to rest our feet, we decided that we’d eat at the Upper Crust Pizzeria in Beacon Hill, where I had purchased a LivingSocial deal for some weeks before. Walking to the restaurant was nice and very pretty along the Boston Common. After arriving and ordering, I began to feel faint and my heart was racing. Instead of eating there (it was a cute, very small place, where the staff were not friendly but the food smelled delicious), I asked if we could take it to go and head back to the apartment. Nearly 2 hours later I felt horrible…so bad, in fact, that – after seeing the fear in Stephen’s eyes at how bad I can only imagine I looked – I decided that I would need to go to the hospital. Luckily our apartment was just a block or so away from Boston General Hospital. We took a cab there and rushed into the emergency room. (I should mention I have high blood pressure, so that prompted me to take the speeding pulse, swelling hands and feet, and extreme nausea, seriously.) As it turns out, my heart rate and blood pressure were through the roof. I waited in at least 4 rooms and my nurse, Barbara, was incredibly helpful in calming me down. As we found out (4.5 hours later), an over the counter decongestant reacted badly with my blood pressure meds and caused my heart to race and basically I went into a panic, causing everything else to spiral out of control. What fun! And really, what’s a better way to get to know a city than to have a panic-stricken trip to the local hospital? We got home about 2:30 a.m., I heated up our pizza, which ended up being delicious, and went straight to bed. I believe Stephen stayed up and had a beer or two :)
Well nothing quite gets you back feeling better like IV fluids, so I felt much improved from the night before and we headed out to see the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum near the UMASS campus. It was a very beautiful venue overlooking the Old Harbor with lots of interesting stories and artifacts to view. The entire design and content of the museum was overseen by Jackie and Caroline, which explains why there were no mentions of his philandering, the Bay of Pigs, or any other indiscretions…as one of the guides noted, they “protected him completely and fiercely.” Still there was much history to be seen. I especially enjoyed learning about the inception of the Peace Corps, the Kennedy family life, and all of the incredible gifts that world leaders presented to them.
We walked along part of the Freedom Trail, viewing the site of the Boston Massacre, over to Faneuil Hall to grab a bite at the BostonChowda Co. (another LivingSocial find!) The chowder was pretty good, the lobster roll was really good, but the best thing was the lobster bisque, yum! The hall was so incredibly crowded so we ate and left to explore elsewhere. We found the Union Oyster House, Boston’s (therefore the country’s) oldest restaurant. We had a pint of Sam Adams Colonial Ale, which is brewed ONLY for the Oyster House, and it was delicious. We then wandered the streets and came across what seemed to be a farmer’s market that they have set up in that area on Fridays and Saturdays…then we saw guys who had fresh clams and oysters. We ordered some oysters, they shucked them, and we ate them right in the streets with their homemade cilantro pico de gallo. It was incredible!! Then we continued our trek over to the North End (after admiring the Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge) and headed through the Italian neighborhood streets to find the prized cannelloni, as so many others were trying to do as well. We decided on Modern Pastry over Mike’s, although both had lines out the door. Modern was tiny but had an incredible selection. We got the plain cannelloni with ricotta filling and chocolate dipped cannelloni with vanilla cream filling – both were amazing. We headed back through the farmer’s market for more oysters (yes, they were THAT good) and then went to the Bell in Hand Tavern for another pint before heading home. The Bell in Hand is the oldest tavern in the U.S., so it was fun to see more of this history.
That night, we had reservations at Grotto, a tiny, romantic, Italian restaurant just around the corner. We met the general manager, Matt, at the Red Hat a couple of nights before and he promised an unforgettable experience. Matt did not let us down. Grotto was amazing. We had the most delicious mussels I’ve ever had in my life, Stephen had the butter poached lobster with linguini in spicy tomato sauce, I had the pan roasted diver scallops “ravioli,” and we topped it off with the melting chocolate cake, which was nothing short of mouth-watering. The service was excellent (he even sat us with a server from Austin!), and their prices are good especially for the quality and size of the dishes. We finished the night off at our “place,” the Red Hat, where we had become quite comfy with the regulars and the bartender Christy. I also had a lively argument with a gentleman about why the Saints and Drew Brees are the best in the NFL, not Tom “Pretty Boy” Brady and whatever that team is, can’t seem to remember the name (yes i do realize the irony5…. All in good fun... What a night!
Well our time had come to an end. We packed our bags, walked to Whole Foods for a spot of breakfast, took pictures of our adorable apartment and street, and headed for the T to take us to the airport. One final Boston experience: we decided to hop into Legal Seafood at Boston Logan for a cup of chowder, under suggestion of many people, just to make sure we weren’t missing out on something special…and we weren’t, Doyle’s was still the best.
With some good travel luck, we made it back to Dallas in time to celebrate New Year’s with our friends.
It was a memorable trip to say the least, so much history, so many things to see…so many we DIDN’T see, therefore I believe we will be going back (probably more than once!). We loved Boston, and although I’ve heard some people say that it can be a “mean city” I found nothing of the sort. The people we met were nice, and other than the ER visit, we didn’t have a single bad experience! (And even then, Barbara made that experience not so horrid after all.)