When I returned to the US last year, I made a little promise to myself that I would go visit more cities in my own country that I hadn't yet made it to. While I lived overseas people asked me which places in the states I'd visited and I always ended up saying I hadn't been to the places they asked about. Boston was a place I'd been wanting to go for a while, and I had the opportunity for a couple extended layovers there on my way to the UK.
While I wish I'd had more time there, I also wish I'd gone a little more towards the spring months, considering my camera stopped focusing because of the cold, and I ended up stopping at six different stores before I found a pair of gloves to protect my hands from the wind.
I booked a night at HI Hostel, which was as risky a decision as it was good. I was right by Chinatown, extremely close to Boston Common and really everything I had a mind to check out. I will say, however, that the first thing I saw when I walked in the hostel to check in was a man with no pants on. This being my first real experience in American hostels (besides Asheville's Sweet Peas, to which no hostel can come close), all I could do was laugh. Asian hostels differ greatly, and my suspicions of that fact were confirmed throughout the night. I met some lovely ladies who shared my bunk room, and I was up and out before the sun got too high and before I could see too many people, but those people saw me in my rawest, most embellish-less form and that doesn't even happen for my neighbors.
One thing I try to do when I travel is see the city as a local. Some close friends of mine connected me with Zak, who was just about the best version of a local I could have asked to meet. Zak has been in Boston for about a year as a dentist, learning the ins and outs of getting around and getting the most (or the best) out of a few things the city has to offer. Due to his expert directions, my first experiences with Boston's public transit (affectionately named the "T") were uneventful and full of seamless transfers. We met up my first morning (at Thinking Cup) in town to chat about where I should go, and I'm also thankful we seem to be at least 80% the same type of person, so when he suggested I spend the majority of my day in the library and walking streets full of brownstones, that's exactly what happened and I have zero regrets.
Like I mentioned, I spent a little time wandering around. I passed through Boston Common with it's gumdrop trees and this is when I first noticed my camera starting to act up. I found that I could take a few pictures every few minutes if I put my camera inside my coat after every couple snaps. Hence the lack of pictures for the entire five days I spent in Boston. Every single day was 8 degrees and no I am not exaggerating.
Boston's Public Library was stunning to say the least. Inside, outside, all of it. I spent at least two hours wandering and learning about the history/goings on before I finally sat down in the more modern portion and found a book to start. I ended up reading the first four chapters and then in Edinburgh (my next stop) I found the book (Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go) at a used bookstore and read the rest of it while I traveled, finishing it in Boston on the way home.
I got back on the T without any directions and then followed a man who'd obviously traveled through time to a part of town a little bit away to visit the Public Market where I was introduced, well––forced, to try apple cider donuts. I wasn't expecting much, but I'm obviously hooked. If you've ever tried them, you understand. Red Apple Farm's booth was right at the front of the market, so I didn't waste much time getting a few donuts (they're mini, okay!) and wandering the rest of the vendors and shops.
Besides finding a local guide, the other thing I consider a must in every city I visit, is to find a good Thai place. Usually this involves recommendations, but since I didn't know many folks who frequented Boston, I went to my backup plan: Google. Or, looking at the storefronts of Thai restaurants on Google Maps and deciding which look more hole-in-the-wall (and therefore delicious) than others.
I settled on Rod-Dee 2 Thai Cuisine in Fenway. The girls who ran the place were from Chaing Mai and it was so fun seeing the mashup Thai vibe the place had. I also had the best bowl of Khao Soi I've had in the western hemisphere, so I'd say it was a winner.
So I basically got on my flight to the UK immediately after that Thai food and a quick target run (a two-story Target, I might add, that had a very European air to it). Since my first little layover had for sure whet my appetite for Boston (read: apple cider donuts), I was happy for a full weekend to see the rest. Be warned, I took about four pictures of this portion of the trip because my camera lens kept sticking just like it had the time before, but also because I was having such a dang good time that taking pictures didn't really matter? I don't know that I've ever said that.
Upon arrival, I got to my Airbnb, which ended up being in a sort of boarding house in the heart of Cambridge. Honestly it was me and a bunch of Korean tourists, which was super fun, and I met some sweet gals around the place and laughed a little at the noodles that were set out for breakfast beside oatmeal and Special K.
Zak and I reconvened at Harpoon Brewery, which was a slippery obstacle course to get to considering the plentiful snow falling from the sky (insert rolling eyes emoji). We ordered pretzels and a couple drinks before heading to Little Italy in the North End. We ate a delicious dinner and at Panza, where I ordered the butternut squash ravioli. Google labels Panza as a "snug eatery with Italian specialties." There is no better description, especially snug, the place was so cute and felt like a world of its own. Dinner was followed by cannolis at Mike's Pastry, apparently a Boston tradition. I'd never had a cannoli, so it was quite the experience as Mike's pastries are not small. Just go prepared to look like you're stuffing your face no matter what. It's practically unavoidable.
After experiencing some more snow on my walk home from the T, I slept in for the first time since I'd left for this trip and it was absolutely glorious. I'm convinced that the sun is three times brighter when it snows, and there was no exception when I was blinded by the white blanket of ice on everything when I left my little room late that morning.
While doing some research for this trip (read: looking for good coffee shops to visit) I read a review for Loyal Nine calling it "reminiscent of the open-air coffee shops in Chiang Mai." If you know me at all, you know that after reading that, there isn't a force in this world that could hace kept me from visiting that shop. It did not disappoint, and I knocked out several chapters in the book I'd bought in Edinburgh. It was the perfect peaceful morning, and afterwards the day was filled with getting lost at the MFA with Zak and maybe once or twice poking fun at a few of the exhibits but mostly enjoying them.
For lunch we hit up Beantown Pub, which I learned is the only place you can "have a cold Sam Adams while looking at a cold Sam Adams." Fun fact: the pub is located on the Freedom Trail across the street from Sam Adams grave. Although I deemed it too cold to walk the trail in its entirety, Zak showed me a couple of his favorite spots, including the Boston Athenæum, an independent library founded in 1807. The library has a pretty sizable portion of George Washington's personal library, some busts of some very important people, and also a few South Carolina books of an incredibly specific nature.
As any proper Gilmore girl would, I had to see Harvard University in all it's snowy glory. We wandered around Harvard Yard and the surrounding areas and visiting the King Bhumibol Adulyadej Square per my nagging. As any pair of nerds might, we wasted time by browsing the Harvard Bookstore. I'd imagined that I'd feel overwhelmed by Harvard, thought I'd be so aware of my lack of smarts, but I actually felt like I got smarter by visiting. Only time will tell if it had any effect. I could also just have been incredibly jet lagged, and honestly that's more likely, because I'm pretty sure I hit the most solid wall there ever was right after our stop for coffee just off campus.
While taking the T that evening, we ran into "Keytar Bear" a local musician haunting the underground. True local flavor, here. And in true me fashion, I later found butternut squash soup at a local shop and just took it home and ate it in bed while I stared at my suitcase not wanting to leave.
Because you never leave a place without brunch, we chose Worden Hall (the brunch spot of my dreams) to close out the weekend. I ate another cider donut (as if I hadn't had enough) and an omelette the size of my head while I booked last minute flights to South Carolina and gushed over how much I would love Boston if the weather were just ten degrees warmer.
Moral of the story: take gloves to New England in the winter.