Boston is one of my favorite cities. Having lived in New England a good part of my childhood, many hours were spent visiting its many historical sites, great restaurants and shops, and sports cathedrals. After I moved south, the thing I missed was Boston. On a recent trip to visit family in Maine, I spent about a day and a half in Boston (flights were cheaper, also) and was once again enchanted with the city. And yes, we had perfect weather. I recommend making a visit to Boston, any time of year, and exploring the Cradle of Liberty.
Our flight landed at 1:30 p.m. and we had only carry-on bags so we got a cab directly from Logan to our first stop – The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. A wealthy heiress herself, she married the very successful shipping agent Jack Gardner. After the death of their son Jackie before his second birthday, the couple devoted themselves to philanthropy and art collecting. The pieces are displayed in their home in Back Bay, just as she’d arranged them. The result is impressive, and at times, overwhelming.
The Gardner was also the scene of a major theft in the 1990s. The robbers stole 13 works by Rembrandt, Degas, Manet and others. The museum chose to leave the empty frames hanging and it was very affecting. The loss is felt so acutely when you see the lack of what should be there. The robbery remains unsolved.
It’s tough for me to choose a favorite Sargent, but this is definitely in my top three. I had no idea how large it was and I loved how it was displayed in this cloister. You could almost hear the dancer’s castanets and the jangling of the flamenco guitar.
After we left the museum, we checked in at our hotel, the Boston Park Plaza. Their rack rate is pricey, but I managed to find a great deal. The vintage hotel has a fantastic location near the Boston Public Garden and the Arlington T stop. More on that in a moment. The rooms are small but comfortable. Staff are friendly and welcoming, even if you’re clearly not a fancy person.
Here’s a bit on insider’s advice. The T is Boston’s subway system. It’s clean, comfortable, and safe. Prices are reasonable and it’s MUCH easier than driving in Boston. In fact, don’t drive in Boston. Even if you know where you’re going. It’s not worth it. Walk or ride the T. If you are visiting, try to stay somewhere near a stop on the Green Line. It’s the most versatile of the lines and connects to any other line you may need. You also want to be on the Green Line to the east of its split. Why? If you’re going inbound (towards downtown and the water), it doesn’t matter which Green Line you take. But if you’re going outbound, you can get on the wrong branch (it splits into B, C, D & E) or be stuck waiting for the one you need. If this sounds confusing, check out the map and you’ll see what I mean.
After checking in and getting settled, we met friends for a delicious dinner in Chinatown and drinks on Beacon Hill at Carrie Nation. While walking through Chinatown, on the way to Beacon Hill, we discovered a neighborhood block party. They were showing a movie and serving popcorn in a lovely outdoor park near the iconic Chinatown gate.
The next morning, we grabbed a Charlie Ticket (a day pass good for any and all MBTA transit) and walked down to the waterfront to catch the Charlestown Ferry. Walking is really the best way to get around Boston, if you are able. The Charlestown Ferry is a great way to see the harbor skyline. In fact, some people were just riding it back and forth because the view and the weather were so great. A quick ten-minute ride got us to the Charleston Navy Yard and the USS Constitution.
After a fabulous time aboard the oldest ship in the US Naval fleet. In fact, it is the world’s oldest actively commissioned naval vessel still afloat. We walked through the beautiful neighborhoods of Charlestown to the Warren Tavern. The tavern was built in 1780 and was a hangout of Paul Revere and other Sons of Liberty.
Then we walked up to Bunker Hill, the site of an early battle in the Revolutionary War.
We took a beautiful ride back across the harbor to Boston and walked to Kings Chapel on Tremont St.
Kings Chapel was founded in 1688 on the corner of School and Tremont streets in Boston. The current structure was built in 1754 and was the home parish to many influential Bostonians. Today it is an active Unitarian Universalist church. We took the Bells and Bones tour of the crypt and belfry, and took a walk around the burying ground (famous for being mentioned in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter).
We climbed Beacon Hill, stopped at Emmet’s Pub for a drink and live Irish music, then wandered through Boston Common and Garden back to the hotel.
Our proximity to Chinatown meant we went back for a delicious dinner (we can’t get real Chinese food where we live) at Gourmet China House. It was bright and loud and full of local Chinese residents — always a good sign.
I know it’s always more fun to visit a place than to live there. It can be easy to be taken in, but Boston never fails to enchant. We had an amazing time and we can’t wait to go exploring again. Until next time, Boston!