Spoiler Alert: No monkeys this trip, unless you count the RedSox fans at Fenway. Booyah! (Total hack joke, and not even true, as I went to Harvard’s Natural History Museum which has many rooms of creepy taxidermy, including many primate species)
My smartypants sister Reagan has an internship at MIT this summer. I’ve never been anywhere in New England. This seemed the perfect excuse for squeezing in a new travel adventure. My biggest priority was in somehow convincing my sports averse sister to attend a Red Sox game with me, as I really wanted to see a game at Fenway. A few days before my arrival, she calls to say she has a lot of homework and so, although we only have Fri night through Sun night, she will need several hours both Sat and Sun to do some coding project and some reading. I asked if she could do the reading sitting next to me at a ballgame, and she un-enthusiastically agreed. So I bought tickets right away and did a tiny happy dance at work.
The red eye flight wasn’t the most brutal experience, as I managed to sleep a few of the 6 hours. Small miracles. And the clouds as we chased the sunset to land at Logan were some of the very best I’ve ever seen. Truly stunning. Still, groggy and disoriented, I stumble out of the airport and make my way over to Cambridge. I’d booked a room at the Hotel Marlowe because Kimpton Hotels have ridiculously great customer service, and boy did they not disappoint. I’d called ahead to say I was arriving 7:30am, so any check-in earlier than the standard 4pm would be amazing. Well, the front desk became my new best friend when they had a room available already at my super early arrival time. MAGICAL getting to take a shower right away, rather than the normal post-red-eye morning of wandering in a fugue state for many hours. After a two hour nap, I felt like a human again and went off to explore Cambridge on foot, strolling along the Charles River for a few miles. Lovely. Reagan met up with me, and a pal of mine from high school who now lives in Boston, at a lovely little pub. Their appetizer of fried pickles (which I still can’t believe Reagan chose, as she’s normally quite selective about food. Note: “selective” is a nice way of saying “picky eater”) was a surprise when it was pickles wrapped in ham and swiss cheese and then deep fried. Super delicious, but a vegetarian and vegan nightmare when the menu just says “fried pickles.” Happily, those were not our concerns. Much laughter and a few pints of beer later, we wander into the still very hot evening air.
The MIT dorms do not have air conditioning. My fancy hotel room does, and it has a King bed. So Reagan packed a weekend bag, I apologized to her roommate that there wasn’t room to also rescue the roommate from the heat. Back at Hotel Marlowe and front desk gives us Limoncello nightcap. AND there was a bottle of wine waiting in the room because I’d tweeted my excitement to stay with them again. I’ve only had an unprotected twitter account for a month now, and it still sort of freaks me out, all this unfiltered sharing with the world. But this was definitely a lovely prize. And it’s always more fun drinking wine wearing one of their animal print robes.
Saturday was stoopid-hot. And it was a SLOW start to the morning. Pretty sure it was Reagan’s first good night sleep in several days. I luxuriated in sleeping-in and reading my book for as long as I could, but finally made her get started around 11am. It’s Boston. Let us go find HISTORY!! Because they have so much of it, compared to Seattle, where folks have only been building with stone for the last 100 years or so *smile* Boston is a VERY walkable city (it’s so FLAT!! As a Pacific Northwest girl, I still can’t get over the things called “mountains” on the east coast. And it’s relatively compact, having started way before “urban sprawl” was a thing). This is how we arrived at the Bunker Hill monument in the heat of mid-day, having walked the mile from our hotel, and planning to now walk the 3.5 miles of the Freedom Trail. Went through the museum, read some historical signage, and then we both quickly decided that, rather than climb the tower (Me: I’ve been in tall buildings before and seen the view. Reagan: I’ve been in AIRPLANES before and seen the view), we should get frozen confections from the ice cream truck nearby. Strong regional accents always entertain me (and I’m often unsure whether they are real or someone playing around. Reagan’s pretty sure these were authentic, but so so broad, I’d have to hide a smile). As I enjoyed my popsicle and Reagan her TMNT icecream treat, we wandered off towards the USS Constitution. The whole Freedom Trail thing is very clever, as you literally just follow the colored brick path in the sidewalk and you’ll end up walking by the majority of the historical revolutionary era sites. http://www.thefreedomtrail.org/
Whenever my sister’s spirits would lag (or rather, melt in this heat) I’d shout “HISTORY!!” in an attempt to inspire her. She was long-suffering but a good sport about the whole thing. The fact that Paul Revere’s house was almost 100 years old when HE first bought it kind of broke my brain. (Surely not. Nobody was ALIVE back then). It’s only $3 to tour inside, and the interior tour guides are very nice and informative, but I just can’t work up that much enthusiasm for period furniture (a nice mix of original and replica pieces, if you care). Still, just a few dollars, and they have some rudimentary AC running, so worth it on this hot day. Had lovely Italian lunch in the North End, checking yelp to help decide, because I’m suspicious of any place too near major tourist destinations. After stuffing our faces, and still having leftovers to take away, we went to Mike’s Pastry for the apparently obligatory cannoli. It’s very overwhelming, and there are so many choices. And just a mob of people approaching the cash only L-shaped counter. No lines at all, just a mob, and as you made your way near the counter, you finally placed your order. The innately polite Seattle side of my personality initially balked at the chaos and the inherent unfairness, as people wouldn’t be going in order and the pushier personalities would be rewarded. But I got over this pretty quickly and we soon had delicious baked goods to go. (just please don’t ask me to “jaywalk.” Let’s just wait for the traffic signal to change first, okay? If I’d rented a car, you might have talked me into honking, Boston, but Jaywalking is a bridge too far!!).
And now, a photograph of Hancock’s Erection, or at least, an Erection in honor of Hancock. Because sometimes I’m twelve years old, apparently. Actually, no, I take that back. This isn’t just about wordplay with the word erection, because, just LOOK AT IT!!! This was designed and paid for and carved and installed and not a single person thought to question the shape/outline?!? They’re just begging for dick jokes about a guy who already has cock in his name!! Low hanging fruit!
The Granary Burying Ground (established in the 1660’s) was super cool. I’d never encountered the death-head tombstone carvings before, and there was lots of fascinating things to learn. Made all the more enjoyable because of the travel guide given to us by Jimmy Tangent, full of factoids and jokes and great historical tidbits. There is even a full blow-by-blow accounting of one scene from one episode of the old Spencer For Hire tv show that was filmed in this graveyard. You can see the whole guide here. Worth it! http://jimmytangent.com/granary.htm He’s not always outside handing out his guide for free, so if you’re going, download this on your phone. It turned a random stop into one of our favorite parts of the trip. We rested in the Boston Commons in the late afternoon heat, as Reagan did some homework. And then we went to see a movie (Mad Max: Fury Road), having had enough heat and walking, and finding a cineplex nearby. Oh, sweet sweet air conditioning!
We slept in again on Sunday. This is NOT my normal travel routine, but it is for Reagan, and she needed the sleep, and ostensibly this trip was about visiting her as well as seeing Boston. Plus, we were going to FENWAY PARK today after her begrudging agreement to my “do your homework in the stands next to me” plan. So I didn’t want to push my luck. It was great. Loved all the excitement around the stadium. And hoo boy, do the RedSox have a much greater variety and selection of merchandise than the Mariners. Guess that comes from 100+ years of history, national recognition, and having won the World Series a few times. And I was thrilled to find a Fenway Park Green Monster ballcap, as I wanted swag but I was really there for the stadium, not the team (RedSox fans in Seattle are the worst). Reagan was delighted to learn Toronto Bluejays were playing, as they’ve been her favorite team for decades (ever since Mariners’ traded Jose Cruz Jr to them, and they had “the prettiest baseball cards”). We’re smart enough to know to keep fact that we’re rooting for Bluejays a secret, Redsox are having a rough season, and the Boston fans turned on their players right quick, as the game was a blowout (10-0 at one point). When a rally brought the score to 10-5, the stadium sound played “Woah, we’re halfway there, woah, livin’ on a prayer,” which still cracks me up. Final score 13-5. Two home runs (one over the Green Monster). Two drunk guys jump the railing, running around field, and eventually tackled by security. Lots of action that even a non-sports person (like my sister) could find entertaining. Plus she got a lot of homework done, too. After dinner, back to our hotel room as she finishes her homework and I finished my book (fantastic!! “Fangirl” by Rainbow Rowell).
Monday morning, Reagan’s off to work and I’m off to explore. Only, it’s raining!! While I’m quite familiar with rain, I did not PACK for rain, as rain was not listed on the accuweather forecast (not very “accu” of them, now was it?!?). Happily the hotel had complimentary umbrellas to borrow, and I’d bought a clearance Brazil World Cup tshirt at Newbury Comics, so I had a tshirt to wear (instead of the tanktops and overshirts I’d packed), and I had my one pair of jeans (along with the shorts I’d packed). It was a bit soggy at times, and still muggy/warm, but the umbrella sure helped. That morning it was an adventure getting to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, but SO WORTH IT! This was my favorite part of the weekend. (And it’s only $5 for students, so I hope Reagan will make the journey this summer). http://www.gardnermuseum.org/home Really fascinating, lots to see. I love the idea of a wealthy person requiring that the layout never be changed, so you’re seeing all the pieces as she had them arranged (including the complete lack of signage). There are helpful laminated sheets in each room, so you can match up each piece with artist and title, and each sheet provides a more in-depth discussion of one selected piece on the back side. I kind of loved the lack of immediate “famous” markers. Found it best to explore each room, examine each piece, and see what personally spoke to me on its own merits. Then I’d look through the laminated sheets and do some learning. Although a dark and rainy morning, this was a magical time spent exploring here.
Had lunch at an Ethiopian cafe. Owner was very sweet, and ethiopian cuisine must not be very common here. There were placards on each table explaining how to eat the food, and the owner kept coming over asking, “isn’t it a fun experience?” After telling him, a few times before and during my meal, that I was very familiar with and loved Ethiopian food, I just gave up and would thank him. This would definitely be a great beginner place, as there’s so much helpful information, the injera is served in cut strips, and the dishes were on a fancy plate with dividers, so nothing was touching. (But, but, what about a bottom layer of injera with dishes piled on top, so that it soaks up all the goodness and flavors?!? Ah well). If I were ever able to get my dad to try it, THIS would be the type of place to take him.
Harvard Natural History Museum was okay. Way less dinosaurs and fossils than I’d expected (but I was able to take a selfie with my beloved Ground Sloth!! Scheming with fossils!). And almost 150 years of creepy taxidermy creatures. The taxidermied great apes were particularly upsetting. Just too human-like. And so much sad historical baggage attached. I was thrilled by the great ape skeletons (check out the saggital crest on this gorilla skeleton below), but the horrible old taxidermy…*shudder* The charms of the minerals room were mostly lost on me (oh look, more rocks!), but I could tell that many folks were loving it. The glass flowers room was jaw-droppingly cool. People kept saying I had to see the glass flowers and I just didn’t understand why. But instead of some art festival trinkets, these are amazingly lifelike botany creations. The majority of which it is very hard to tell they are not real plants. So fascinating and delicate and amazing. I spent way more time in this room than I’d ever have thought I would. http://hmnh.harvard.edu/glass-flowers I had been worried arriving at the museum at 3pm (they close at 5pm), but I was still completely done in 1.5 hours. Sadly the museum shop was closed for inventory, because I’m a complete sucker for Natural History Museum GiftShops.
Met up with Reagan for dinner, and then ice cream at Toscanini’s, where employees were playing the Evita cast recording and singing along. Definitely my kind of place. On Tuesday, I had the morning to myself before my afternoon flight. Wandered around downtown. Happened upon King’s Chapel, which has free concerts Tuesdays during lunchtime. Gorgeous historical church, and lovely music. Then it was time to fly home. Just managed to scratch the surface of the city, and never had any time to explore surrounding areas. Still, great fun to see what we did, and my sister proved a lovely exploring partner (I think she was on her best behavior because she wanted to keep sharing my hotel room’s air conditioning, but hey, whatever the reason, we had fun!)