Thursday I flew up to Boston for a Friday meeting for work. Seeing as the airfare was the same Friday afternoon or Monday morning, I was lucky to be able to take advantage of the opportunity to stay through the weekend on my own dime and take a half day off work today.
It should surprise few that once I was spending my money, I was booking a Hostel. There weren’t many options in that category in Boston, but one of the handful had some of the best ratings I’ve seen. The HI Boston Hostel is located in the Back Bay neighborhood of Boston. Fairly typical hostel fare but easily accessible by Subway (or the T as it’s known in Bean Town) or by foot for the ambitious walker. Not the most social place I’ve stayed, but then I was hardly there so maybe I don’t know from where I speak.
While the hostel was typical enough, I had a little fun with room-mates. Nothing that approaches epic proportions, just funny. On day One, I checked in and they assigned not only room but bed as well. Okay, I’ve been to far more hostels that just assigned the room and it was a first come first served thing on which bed you got. Of course, I get up there and once I discern where the # is on the bed, realize that someone has actually already set up camp there… Oh well… one left, I don’t really care. If it had been a top bunk with the walking boot, I MIGHT have had more concern.
Day two, I was first out in the morning. When I meander back in around 9pm, there’s been a complete (save me) turn over of occupants in the room. In fact, at this point, it looks like there’s just two of us in there. I did think it was a little odd that ALL of the beds had been re-made including mine. Not sure what was up with that as typically you dump your linens on the way out and they just bring up fresh ones. Not sure about long term stays… Now, mine was also made up… decidedly not as I had left it. New linens and made up… Odd… The other roomie heads out for awhile and I read and eventually change for bed. Flash forward to 1 or 2am and someone is waking me up… huh.. wha… To inform me I’m in her bed… uhm… Half awake and totally unable to see, I explain that night one someone was in my bed so I had ended up there… She then complained she had “prepared that bed…” Okay… and I’ve slept in it for like 3 hours now… what sane person would want a bed after a complete stranger has slept in it for god knows how many hours?? I didn’t say that part, I just turned over… c’mon… there are four empty beds, tuck the top sheet in, pull up the comforter and go to bed… geezzz… Okay, so my karma points may be in danger… but I didn’t complain when I came in and had to adjust to a different location… goodness…
Never saw the mystery waker-upper after that. I was up bright and early on Sunday and there was a lump in another bed. When I got in at 11:30pm, that lump was gone and I had another new roomie who got maybe a grunt and a wave out of me as I set about to quickly getting my bags prepped, etc. as I had to be up at 4am and the more I did then the less everyone would hate me at 4am…
Of course, it turned out to be a full room the last night. What else would one expect? Probably 12:30am or so, I hear a small group come in and quickly prep for bed. I normally sleep through such things but my brain was preoccupied with listening for my cell phone alarm. So I jerked awake when they came in and, as is the ritual, they tried to imagine that every zipper and velcro sound is more silent if drawn out ten minutes longer by doing it slowly. No worries, I returned the favor a few hours later…
This was a perfect time to visit. I left temperatures hovering around 100 degrees Fahrenheit… Friday it was around the mid 80′s, and everyone described it as hot… hah! As if to delight me even more, the next day, the highs fell into the 70′s and it was super windy! YES! It was like taking a vacation from the season back home. I swear, it was autumn!
On top of the weather (which I might not be so gleeful about, in say January, Boston is just a great place to visit. The core city is easily a walkable place. The first afternoon, I walked, aircast and all, from the Back Bay down into Boston Commons in around an hour or so. And it was a leisurely walk filled with beautiful architecture. I’m sure there are unsavory areas of the city to be found, but the ones that surround the typical out of towner seemed pretty tame.
The first night, I took the T out to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. I had read that they were having a Hopper exhibition and I honestly had no clue who that was until I looked at some of his art and realized that I’d seen his stuff for years and just never connected a name to it. So, I was all set to see that exhibit and the MFA is open late on Fridays. Perfect! Or so I thought… In reality, the exhibit was sold out and the late on Friday thing is for a kind of hoitty toitty arts thing. There was a section of the museum closed off for us interlopers with rock music and people dressed to the nines. Of course, this would be the section with the words “Old world masters” over the top of the door… so I can’t report much on that section of the museum… All told, though, the museum is a credit to the US. The best museum I’ve been to in the states. Pales when compared to the might of the National Portrait Gallery and the British Museum, of course, but what doesn’t?
And this comparison is appropriate because the MFA combines these. You can see Egyptian sarcophagi, Roman statues, and a flock of Monet’s all in the same building. The exhibits are really and truly that varied. That’s why it’s so impressive. All this under one roof. And even though I am miffed at missing the Hopper exhibit and seeing a section of the Museum, that they are making it an active and alive place is to the credit of MFA Boston. A must visit in my opinion.
Boston is, as said, a walkable city, but given the walking boot thing, I figured if I was going to take it all in on a compressed schedule, I was going to have to check out alternatives. There are a number of trolley tour companies, but I ended up going with Old Town Trolleys. While fairly typical, it’s a tried and true business plan, which is why there are so many. The trolley has a tour guide. You can ride the loop and listen to one guide, or you can hop off at your convenience and take in a site and then hop on another trolley coming to pre-determined stops every 15 minutes. There were plenty of stops I skipped getting off as seeing them from the trolley was more than enough. My first actual stop was for my Harbor Cruise, which cost a whole $7 extra! And being on the first boat out meant that it was not at all crowded.
I also spent time touring the U.S.S. Constitution, oldest “active” military warship in the world. Also being early, I was able to get through the line and take the full tour pretty much as quickly as one could expect. Old Ironsides is free to the public and a true must see if you have any interest in history and/or sailing ships.
Also took in Paul Revere’s house… okay, it’s interesting as it’s the oldest wooden structure in Boston, built in the 1680′s . But honestly, I’m not sure the $3 was worth it… Granted that’s not much, but $3 seemed a lot to be mashed into such small quarters with throngs of tourists and what seemed more than anyone’s fair share of children who are at the age they’ve mastered speech but not the art of not speaking… I skipped the last room and just darted for the exit. I’d seen and been hemmed in enough!
Also sat in and listened to the history of Old North Church which was much like the old church at Colonial Williamsburg. I also saw Trinity Church, which I would scarcely have recognized as a church. The park in front of it was the only place I saw that reminded me of Atlanta as the benches all seemed to have been taken by the homeless. Interesting contrast in front of an ornate old church and the tallest building in New England… At least the homeless in Boston were not as aggressive as Atlanta’s on the panhandling. The second night ended in the market surrounding Faneuil Hall – very lively and touristy and just plain fun.
Having seen all the key points in Boston, I had to do my shtick where I find something more touristy and less history on a given trip. I got up bright and early to catch a Ferry out to the Boston Harbor Islands. I only ended up visiting two, Georges Island and Lovells Island. I had hoped to get out to another, but after a couple hours on each, I would have had to have waited two hours to get on a boat from Georges out to one of the smaller ones, plus travel time, plus time on the island, etc. Anyway, I was already sun burned and wind burned and just plain burned out. The Islands are beautiful, but I think I was expecting something a little more like Georgia’s barrier islands. Instead, I found, decaying old forts and rocky beaches. I think I had more fun just ferrying about on the boats part of the day, honestly. I suspect in the right season they are probably incredible places, or I was too tuckered out to enjoy it.
The rest of my last day, I spent wandering the harbor and the old North End. Boston’s north end has been one time home to most of the city’s ethnic minorities at one point or another. The last wave was the Italians, and it still has a decent sized Italian population. And, I happened to be visiting on feast weekend. Much fun! I had some great pizza (better than what I had in Sorrento!) and some gelato! YAYY!! Then I did my sunset and dusk photos of the city skyline that are probably nothing new or unique but they are my take on the city without having seen any skyline photos before.
The last thing on the agenda was a ghost tour. Not a serious ghost tour, a hokey fun filled horror fest. Black trolleys with tattered old curtains, music from horror and horror comedy movies, and the guides were dressed up as spooky characters. The one for my tour was a demon who was paying penance for writing a story about Unicorns by working with tourists. The tour was also from Old Town Trolleys and was a total riot. Macabre tales on the trolley were combined with more ghoulish tales while visiting the old city burying grounds in the dark. Part of the proceeds go towards the preservation of those sites.
I slept most of the flight to Atlanta. Not the norm for me, but combined with little sleep and a great weekend, it was no surprise. It was happenstance that I got to go, but it’s a trip I’d happily make again, and we all know my predilection is not towards seeing the U.S.