Boston: Cradle Of Liberty & Cultural Melting Pot (New England)
10 Oct 2012 - “Oh man, that woman’s voice is like a jackhammer to my brain!”, Peter moaned from our seat at the back of the trolley.
Hi folks, we are in the city of Boston, one of the oldest cities in the United States. As we only had the day to acquaint ourselves with this historic city, and momentarily escape the annoying Autumn drizzle, we invested $42 each on a Boston Trolley Tour. With a Hop-on Hop-off option at any of the 18 stops as often as you like, it is the easiest way to get around this town. Except for Peter, who was finding our trolley guide, Patty’s high-pitched nasal monologue-without-drawing-breath a strain on his sanity. In case you haven’t guessed, Peter has a major issue with loud and incessant noise.
So let’s talk about Boston for a minute, and in particular it’s long and fascinating history. It was Puritan colonists from England that founded the city in 1630 on the Shawmut Peninsula. During the late 18th century, Boston was the location of several major events during the American Revolution, including the Boston Massacre and the Boston Tea Party. Several early battles of the American Revolution occurred within the city and surrounding areas, leading to Boston earning its nickname “Cradle of Liberty.” After American independence was attained Boston became a major shipping port and manufacturing center. Today, it is its rich history that attracts a multitude of tourists from all over the world.
So what’s Boston like? In a word, compact. The city has an area of 48.4 square miles (125.4 km 2 ) of land and 41.2 square miles (106.7 km 2 ) of water. This means that you can walk from one end of the city to the other in about 30 minutes. Boston also evokes a distinct European feel, evident in the city's culture and architecture. A plethora of historical buildings, parks and cemeteries make up Boston’s national landmarks, and the city boasts the birthplaces of many famous patriots, presidents and politicians. The city's over abundance of architectural treasures include magnificent brownstones with exquisite pocket gardens out the front, charming cobblestone streets and ancient looking gas-lamps that light the way in many neighborhoods.
Back to our trolley tour... After an hour, I had to drag Peter off the trolley and away from Patty for fear I could be charged with aiding and abetting the second Boston Strangler. With Peter’s brain in a scramble and blood pressure raised from our guide’s verbal diarrhea, I grabbed his arm and directed him to an area that I knew he would enjoy, Faneuil Hall Marketplace (also known as Quincy Market).
Attracting 20 million visitors every year, Faneuil Hall Marketplace is actually four great places in one location - Faneuil Hall, Quincy Market, North Market and South Market, all set around a cobblestone promenade where jugglers, magicians and musicians entertain shoppers and passers-by. With the unique and burgeoning array of shops and restaurants, Peter’s equilibrium was restored in no time. We spent hours ducking in and out of shops and sampling various delicacies from the thriving hub of the food hall.
The College Club In Boston: A Historic Gem
En route from Chatham to Boston, Peter posed the question, “Where have you got us staying in Boston?”
“It’s a place called The College Club of Boston, the oldest women's college club in the US.”
“What? Is there like a curfew for men staying over or something?”
“No, silly. It’s an eleven-room B&B in Boston's Back Bay area, which is a lovely neighborhood. You’ll like it.”
But inside I had mixed feelings. We were being charged only US$269 for Double Occupancy with a private bathroom in the middle of a supposedly upscale area, continental breakfast included, while hotels and other Boston B&B’s were charging double that. How mediocre would this joint be?
Because Peter and I travel for 3 months out of every year, we need to pace ourselves with our accommodation spending. So we look for accommodation that will strike a balance between reasonable pricing and more than reasonable levels of comfort, as well as one that will enhance our cultural experience of the area that we’re visiting. This is why we try to stick to B&B’s and inns rather than chain hotels. However, while we have no problems finding B&B’s and inns in smaller towns, our choices in larger cities tend to be more limited.
“Do they have parking at this place?”, Peter asked.
“Of course they do!”, I said with confidence.
“Did you ask?”, he continued. My conscience replied in the negative so I let the question hang. “Oh well, if it ends up being disastrous, it will only be for two nights”, I justified to myself.
My anxiety melted, however, as our GPS voiced our arrival at our destination, a magnificent Victorian brownstone in tree-lined Commonwealth Avenue. Getting down from the car and pressing the button on the intercom, I wondered if there would be anyone there to show us in. Suddenly, the buzzer signaled our entry to the foyer.
While the foyer was nothing fancy, a delightful Hungarian lady named Edith welcomed us warmly.
“Hi Edith.” I said, glancing at her name tag. “We have a lot of luggage so is there anywhere where we can park our car?”
“Oh no, we don’t have any parking.” Uh oh, Peter wouldn't be thrilled... “But you can double park out the front until you unload your luggage and park your car by the park on Charles Street one block away and walk through the park to get back here. It’s only $28 for the whole day.”
That was definitely good news. The hotels were charging $40 per day for parking. After explaining the deal to Peter, unloading the car and leaving our luggage with Edith at reception, we drove to the Parking Station at Charles Street where we would leave the car for 2 days. Cutting through the Public Park to get back to our accommodation was a joy after being in the car for an hour and a half. We glimpsed Romeo and Juliet, the resident swans gliding gracefully across the pond in all their glory, accompanied by a raft of ducks ducking their heads in and out of the water surface. Squirrels scampered across the velvet lawns as buskers entertained passers by with their music. It was a glorious time to be introduced to Boston.
But the best surprise of all was seeing our room at the College Club of Boston. Our room on the third floor, called Connecticut, was absolutely huge. Complete with sitting area and high ceilings, King-sized bed and period antiques and reproductions, the ambience was charming and more than comfortable for our two-night stay. So the bathroom was a little old, the shower pressure was a little weak and the bed creaked a tad. It was quiet, clean, extremely spacious, had a charming ambience and it was located in a superb neighborhood. But the best bit of all was that it had an elevator to get us to the third floor. All in all, we did more than okay at The College Club of Boston.
The College Club of Boston 44 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston. Ph: 617 536 9510 http://www.thecollegeclubofboston.com
Dining in Boston:
Why don’t you..... splash out on Deuxave on 371 Commonwealth Street. More than just another neighborhood restaurant, think understated chic and a creative menu with flavors to die for. The dishes are strongly rooted in the nouvelle techniques of contemporary French cuisine, married with the splendor of American ingredients in a refined, but casual setting. High quality foods. High value. Memorable. http://deuxave.com
Why don’t you.... take the time to check out Boston’s North End, a mecca for Italian restaurants and caffes. Known as Little Italy, we recommend Carmen (an Italian eatery on Paul Revere Square), Neptune Oyster (best seafood restaurant bar none), Giacommo’s (another popular eatery) and Prezza (closed for renovations until Nov 15, 2012). But don’t think that you can just show up at 6:30 and be shown to a table. Tiny and crowded, these local restaurants have a local following that is off the Richter scale, considering that these “joints” are supposedly off the grid. Either show up real early or real late. Otherwise, we prepared to wait for a couple of hours.