Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Boston in the Fall

Ahhhh…Boston in the Fall.  I’ve mentioned it on Instagram and Facebook but there is a VeggieTales song called “The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything” and in it they sing the line “and we’ve never been to Boston in the Fall”.  I think we got that song primarily for that line, knowing we’d be going to Boston in the Fall, almost a whole year before it happened.  And we sang it a lot.  And since but now it’s “And now we’ve been to Boston in the Fall”.  In case anyone cares to sing along with us.

Unlike our spring trip to New York, Boston wasn’t something we had been planning for years and years with a lot of ideas of what to see and do.  Matt was going for a conference so, of course, Luke and I tagged along for a free hotel room and mini (and cheap) vacation.

I had been to Boston with my family in 1995 as part of our New England vacation so I knew a few things – the Freedom Trail and the John Hancock building, that’s about all I remember.  We probably only spent a day or two in Boston on that trip and even then we camped outside the city so we weren’t downtown for a ton of time.  This time we’d be doing 4 nights in Back Bay – which turned out to be pretty centrally located for everything I wanted to see and do with Luke (although maybe what I picked was just centered around where we stayed…)  It was a much different trip than New York, largely because Matt would be in classes for 2½ days of our almost 5 days there.  But also not picking the destination was different too.  There wasn’t a lot I super wanted to see so our time was a lot more relaxed, much different than the go-go-go we did in New York.  

We stayed at the Boston Marriott at Copley Place.  It where Matt’s conference was and so the hotel his work was covering.  Now, per our bill, this is the most expensive per night place we’ve ever stayed, just under $500 a night after taxes.  That’s a lot.  But we paid ZERO which made it all pretty awesome. 

It had weird elevators where you pressed your floor on a touchpad near the elevators which then told you which elevator to go to.  I suppose this is more efficient, to group together people going near each other but it was SUPER confusing the first time we had to use it.  BUT it was a nice hotel and we got pretty nice views and it was centrally located.  And most importantly, the price was right, so absolutely no complaints from us.  It's not what we would have picked if we were paying (price alone would have knocked it out) but for free it was certainly a-ok.

Saturday, September 24th - day 1
What We Did: Most of our first day was taken up with traveling - something I'll cover in another post tomorrow. 
Luke did get his first taxi ride and we all experienced our first time getting pulled over while in a taxi.  That was incredibly awkward.  And the meter kept running.  Then the driver ranted about it the rest of the drive but he had a thick (not Boston) accent and we could only understand about 25% of it.  We mostly agreed.  It was a good thing Luke slept.  And the driver didn’t get much of a tip.

Then it was just checking into the hotel, Matt checking into his conference, going to Mass in a mall (yes, you read that right, one of the malls connected to our hotel had a chapel with daily and weekend Mass.  That is where we went.)   Supper, beer run, and getting an overly tired 3 year old to sleep in a hotel room, never a fun or pleasant task.  That was the whole day.

What We'd Recommend: Not trying to get a 3 year old to sleep in a hotel room.  Definitely not that.

Sunday, September 25th - day 2
What We Did: Boston Public Garden, Boston Commons, Carousel Ride, Freedom Trail

Matt’s classes started nice and early and Luke was awake before 7.  Yay.  Since Matt had some luncheon this day we were on our own all day.  The one thing I knew I really wanted to do in Boston was walk the Freedom Trail.  It’s a 2.5 marked path (there is a literally a red trail to follow on the ground) that goes past 14 official historical sites, largely pertaining to the American Revolution.   I had walked all or most of it with my family 21 years earlier but didn’t remember all the stops.  The guides I read said to plan about 90 minutes to walk the 2.5 miles.  I gave Luke and myself a whole day because…3 year old.  
Boston Public Gardens
From inside Boston Commons
We walked to breakfast and then to the Public Garden and onto Boston Commons.  I described these to Matt as Boston’s Central Park which feels semi-accurate.  Luke spotted a carousel and I let him ride it because $3 attractions are right up my alley.

Then it was onto the start of the Freedom Trail which is in the Boston Commons.  I just had an app on my phone and a free Boston guide book from the hotel but with the trail very clearly marked it was almost enough, especially considering my companion had very little interest in the history of it all.  You can get guided tours but I knew that wouldn’t be a good idea with Luke and needing to go his speed.  So we set off on our own.

Luke was pretty into following the path at first and I was at least able to read the small parts of my guidebook at each stop.  The first 8ish are fairly close together and I felt pretty productive getting through those pretty quick.  We stopped at Granary Burying Grounds (on the trail) to see the grave of Paul Revere and who everyone believes to be Mother Goose (which I had seen 21 years ago).  It cost money to go in many of the churches and such so we didn’t.  

This church is important...but I forget why.
The balcony is where the Declaration of Independence was first read to the people of Boston
We ended up at Faneuil Hall at lunchtime and that was my favorite stop on the trail, and not because of lunch.  We walked through the lower marketplace and used the restrooms and then were about to head outside to Quincy Market for lunch when we walked past a picture of the 2nd floor.  We went up there and that was the really impressive part!  We walked in at the beginning of a short talk about the building that I really enjoyed.  Luke enjoyed blowing raspberries during it (so well behaved) but it was so interesting and beautiful.  I’m really glad we stumbled upon that which really was the main attraction of the building.  (Some important things that have happened here, per Wikipedia)

Then it was onto lunch and more walking.  One of the great things about the trail, other than all the history, is that it takes you through some different neighborhoods, most of which Luke and I wouldn’t have visited otherwise.  The last stops are more spread out and that’s when I really appreciated the different neighborhoods.
along the Greenway
We had a small stop at the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway.  I had noticed on the map that this greenway went right on top of the interstate that is underneath the city.  We later learned on our Duck Tour that the Greenway came to be when they buried the interstate, a project that started in 1991 and the Greenway wasn't opened as a park until 2008.  I don’t remember a huge interstate in the middle of Boston on my last trip (1995) but it must have been there and it’s pretty cool they were able to turn that (probable) eye sore into a beautiful greenspace through the city.  I was very impressed when we learned that.

Paul Revere’s house was in the middle of a very old looking neighborhood.  This is one of the stops I remember from my first visit and even have a (poor) picture of it.  This time Luke and I toured it since it was only $3.50 for me and Luke was free.  Again, Luke was less than impressed but it was nice to go inside and learn a little more.  This is the only stop we paid to enter on the whole trail.  Then it was onto the church where “One if by land, two if by sea” and where Paul Revere began his midnight ride (he did not say “The British are coming” because they all considered themselves British at that point.).  

I had made pretty detailed plans of how to get from the very end of the trail across the Charles River back to the hotel but at that point it was mid-afternoon and Luke and I had been on our feet for much of the last 6 hours.  We were near a T stop so called it quits after doing about 2 miles of the trail.  I was pretty impressed we made it that far!!  It was a lot of walking and stopping and getting around a big city for Luke but I’m very glad we did it.  

We took the T back to the hotel and had some nice lazy time while waiting for Matt to get back from class.  We had little downtime in New York and so this was an extra treat.  I sat and read and had a beer while Luke watched a little DT and did a lot of coloring.  Actually relaxing on vacation!  What a novel idea!!

After supper Matt and Luke tried out the hotel pool while I did my first of two planned treadmill runs of the trip.  My 10k race was a few days away and I knew I should keep running although treadmill running IS THE. WORST.  Seriously.  But the fitness center overlooked the pool and so at least I could watch them in the pool while I ran.  Luke waved at me many times and it was adorable.

What We'd Recommend: Everything we did this day was pretty great besides treadmill running (seriously, stay far away from that).  I'd highly recommend the Freedom Trail and visiting both Boston Commons and the Public Garden!

Monday, September 26th - day 3
What We Did: Saw Fenway Park, visited a playground, swam at the hotel
on our walk to Fenway
I know very little about baseball.  While we go to minor league games here, that’s more for the socializing (and $1 beers) than it is for actually watching the game.  The most major league baseball I’ve ever seen is in the movies Angels in the Outfield and Fever Pitch.  BUT when I found out Fenway Park was only about a mile from our hotel AND near a restaurant I wanted to try, I figured Luke and I could walk over.  So we did.  It was really neat to walk through another historic neighborhood and see all the cool old row houses.

We walked almost all the way around Fenway, taking pictures of the statues of “baseball guys” but neither Luke or I would have known who they were without the plaques.  And even then I think I had heard of one.  Obviously not big sports people here.  But it was cool to see AND they had a piano which we both really enjoyed playing. (Coolest street art ever, right?)

After lunch at the hotel with Matt and a little more relaxing, Luke and I headed back to Boston Commons.  It was about a mile walk from the hotel but also a gorgeous fall day so the best kind of days for long walks.  The finish line for the Boston Marathon was basically on our way so we stopped to see that.  I have a friend running it next spring!

We walked through Copley Square which was pretty but lacking in the playground department.

And stopped to see the Ducks statue in the Public Garden.  The story Make Way for Ducklings takes place in Boston, even mentioning the Public Garden and the island in the pond so of course there is a statue of the ducks there.

The big open green space in the Commons is what reminds us of Central Park - specifically Sheep's Meadow.  

Then it was finally (according to Luke) onto the only playground we had seen in all our walking.  We spent a lovely hour at the playground where Luke ran all over and had a great time.  And I was not so secretly hoping it would wear him out and help him sleep better that night.
Blissful hotel relaxing.  Beer not pictured.
After Luke was semi-worn out (enough to want me to carry him, apparently not enough for him to fall asleep early that night, so the exactly wrong amount), we went back to hotel to meet Matt, go to supper, and then all went to the hotel pool together, my one chance to try it out. It was really cold though so I lasted about 5 minutes before moving to the hot tub. But still better than running.

What We'd Recommend: Fenway would probably be more impressive if you are a baseball or sports fan but Luke and I still enjoyed seeing it.  And the Tadpole Playground in Boston Commons was very nice, kept Luke busy for a long time!

Tuesday, September 27th - day 4
What We Did: Charles River Esplanade, Boston Public Library, walked along the Harbor, Duck Tour

We had walked to the East of the hotel (Boston Commons, Freedom Trail), to the West (Fenway) but hadn't made it to the river yet so that's what Luke and I did on our last morning as a duo.  It was about a mile walk from breakfast, so pretty similar to what we had been walking daily anyways.  It was our first really overcast day but at least we didn't get rained on (yet).  The river was pretty and the Esplanade that ran along it was pretty nice.  We got passed by a lot of joggers and bikers,

When we had found out a year earlier that we'd likely be in Boston this fall I started to get really excited about some good New England fall foliage.  According to my Instagram followings...the beautiful colors showed up about a week after we left.  But at least everything was still green and the trees weren't bare.  That would have been worse.

After walking along parts of the Esplanade we had to head back to the hotel to meet Matt who would be done before lunch.  Doing this walk to and from the river took us through new neighborhoods and just like our previous walks I really enjoyed seeing all the different places and types of homes.  How people actually live in other places always fascinates me, even from the outside.

Per Matt's recommendation (passed on from others at his conference), Luke and I made a short detour to the Boston Public Library on our way back to the hotel.  It was super close to the hotel, Luke's Lobster (which we could see out the window of the library), and the finish line for the Boston Marathon.   I found it almost painful to be around that many books without the potential for checking any out but Luke did enjoy a little bit of playtime in the children's section.  And the library was impressively huge.

We met up with Matt, had lunch, and then took the T back towards the river.  We took him to Faneuil Hall to show him my favorite place on the Freedom Trail.  He was not as impressed as I was but he also missed the good talk Luke and I got. 

We hadn't seen the harbor yet in all our walking so that was our next destination.  Sidetracked by another free piano.  Can we get these in every city please?

We walked along the waterfront, checking out the boats we will never afford, nor have a place for. 

Our purpose for being at the waterfront was also because our Duck Tour would be leaving near there.  My Dad had traveled to the Boston area multiple times for business and when I asked him for suggestions he recommended the harbor tour.  I checked those our and really wanted to do one (they were cheaper for one thing) but the times didn't line up with when Matt was free from class.  At least if we wanted to make our flight home (which we did).  So a Duck Tour it was.

It was a little cheesy and Luke almost instantly fell asleep (why only in moving vehicles, dear son?  Why not in your comfy hotel bed?) but it was very educational. 

A lot of the places we drove past were Freedom Trail sites that Luke and I had already visited but we got some extra information from the guide and did see other parts of Boston too.  Like this piece of the actual Berlin Wall.  Who knew a piece was in Boston?

Being a Duck BOAT it also took us on the river.  I was not a huge fan of this part because it seems like a vehicle that can drive on land shouldn't also be so equiped to drive in the water but we survived and nobody drowned.  These Duck Boats are vintage from World War II so I guess if they have safely transported people for that long we should be fine.  Luke also slept through the entire boat ride.

The Duck tour was expensive, maybe the most expensive vacation thing we've done since Luke but it was really interesting and a great way for Matt to see a lot of things he wouldn't have had much time for. It would have been better at the start of the trip, to help sort of lay down a mental map of the city but scheduling didn't work out like that and it was still worth the time and money.

Supper, shopping for the next morning's breakfast, the most of a sunset we saw the whole trip, and taking the T back to the hotel.

In less than 6 months we've hit subways in two major cities.  Luke is getting to be quite the expert.

What We'd Recommend: The Duck Tour, walking the Esplanade, checking out the harbor

Wednesday, September 28th - day 5
What We Did: Boston Common with Matt, flew home

We walked back down to the Public Gardens and Boston Commons to show Matt the playground Luke loved.  It was sprinkling/misting when we set out so not the best weather to explore Boston as a family but we didn't have much time so we made do. 

After navigating Boston with Luke for 2½ days it was so wonderful to have Matt along too.  I'm rather amazed Luke and I did all our exploring without getting lost, run over, and still managed to have fun and take pictures.  It was a lot to juggle at times but it all worked out rather well.  Still, having Matt along was super wonderful.  I could relax a bit more with someone else to help wrangle the 3 year old!
We played at the Tadpole Playground, showed Dad the duck statue, and then headed back to our hotel to finish our drinks and cheesecake, check out, and take a taxi to the airport (luckily, nobody was pulled over...this driver got a bigger tip). 

Tomorrow's post will be the last one Boston related.  Namely, how flying went with a kid.  It was our first flights in 4 years (since Europe!) and so obviously Luke's first time flying.  Turns out flying with a kid doesn't need to be dreaded!

For handy dandy reference.  Here's a map (Boston Map!) with the highlights of the places we saw, ate, and stayed during our 5 days!  I feel like Luke and I did pretty well exploring the area around the hotel!  Now we've been to Boston in the fall. 

No comments: