We had a tourist from Tempe last week — Shira, our older daughter, came to visit Boston for the first time during her Spring Break from Arizona State University. Shira is what I call weather-perverse — she likes cold, cloudy weather, the wetter the better. Having grown up in SoCal, and now going to school just outside Phoenix, Shira hasn’t had much experience in the way of winter, and she was really looking forward to the cold, snowy Boston climate. Luckily, she wasn’t disappointed!
We really acted like the tourist that we are while Shira was here. Some of the highlights:
The Boston Tea Party Museum: A very well done, interactive experience that explains why the Colonials did what they did on the night of December 16, 1773. Complete with period actors, holograms, talking portraits, and a fine movie at the end that depicted how the British marched on Concord and “the shot heard ’round the world,” this museum immersed us in the thoughts, feelings, and actions of the participants. Despite our initial reluctances to go here (“It’ll be cheesy tourist trap”), we were quite pleased and impressed with how well the subject was covered…and I liked the tea tasting at the end.
Visiting the USS Constitution (Old Ironsides): Launched in 1797, served with distinction in the War of 1812, this oldest still-commissioned ship in the US Navy is as impressive as you would think. Our tour guide took us on- and below-decks to see how the sailors lived and worked on board. It’s eerie, cramped and low, and I’m grateful to the men that served on board her to protect us (cue “The Star Spangled Banner” here…)
Touring the Sam Adams Brewery: Shira was interested in touring a local brewery (well, she is my daughter after all), and we found that the Sam Adams Brewery was not far off the T in Jamaica Plains. After learning how beer is made, they ushered us into the tasting room for some free samples, and we got to keep the tasting glasses. We learned how to taste beer (not dissimilar from wine tasting, just not as “snobby”), and met 3 wonderful women, one from Texas (Ruby, a genetics grad student), one from Florida (Courtney, a nurse getting her Master’s to be a Nurse Anesthetist), and the last from nearby Cambridge (Nikki, an newlywed Occupational Therapist). These women were lovely, funny, interesting, and all so smart! At the tasting, the tour guide suggested we go to nearby pub, Doyle’s Cafe, where we could buy a pint and keep the larger Sam Adams glasses (for less than the cost of the glasses at the brewery). Doyle’s is where several movies with classic pub scenes have been shot, including “Mystic River” from 2003 (or so I’ve been told, I didn’t see the movie; check out their website at http://www.doylescafeboston.com/Home_Page.html). Anyway, we all decided to have lunch together, so we walked from the brewery to the pub (in very cold, clear weather), and got along so well that I ended up giving these lovely ladies my cards so that they could read this blog. After lunch, we all walked back to the T station (Courtney & Nikki went back to the brewery to get their car) when I realized I forgot the bag with all the our glasses in it. So…Shira & I trudged back to the pub to get more glasses (hey, they were cool glasses!), and we ran into Courtney & Nikki, who had lost my card and were trying to retrace their steps! Laughing, we exchanged numbers and thanked G-d and serendipity that our paths had crossed again. They even drove us back to the T station. Ladies, it was a fun day, and I hope you keep in touch!
State Hopping: We decided to get out of the Massachusetts and show Shira some of the neighboring states, so we went to New Hampshire and Maine. Being from CA, it’s odd to think that here you can go to other states in the time it usually takes us to travel from our home in South OC to LAX (about an hour). Either CA is really big, or these states are really small — it all depends on your perspective, I guess. In deciding where to go, I found the State of New Hampshire’s blog — yes, there is a blog for the entire state (http://www.nh.com) that lists upcoming activities and events. We settled on visiting the Nature’s Sweet Secret Sugar House in Goffstown, NH, just outside of Manchester (http://www.naturessweetsecret.com). It’s delightful place an hour out of Boston run by a friendly family that makes maple syrup on their property. They have over 1500 tapped trees, with lines running down to the sugar house leading to their evaporator equipment, and a cute shop where we tasted and bought maple syrup, maple cream, and other maple-flavored items. It was quite interesting to see how the clear tree sap gets reduced into caramelized goodness! We were lucky that the sap was running that day — the very cold weather has made the syrup season iffy this year. After having lunch in Manchester, we decided to drive to the coast and up to Portland, Maine, just because we could. It took about 2 hours, but the drive was pretty (aside from all the tolls), and the town was very quaint, with cobblestone streets and brick buildings right on the coast. We got to Old Port at about 4:30pm, just enough time to shop and have dinner at another Irish pub, Bull Finney’s (honestly, we really did eat in other restaurants during Shira’s visit besides pubs!). We also happened to have visited Maine on their 194th anniversary of statehood, not that there was any celebration that we saw. Just an interesting factoid.
The St. Patrick’s Day Parade: So this is a quintessential part of Boston life. The controversy leading up to the parade was in the newspaper for weeks (i.e. should gays allowed to march in the parade, yes or no; will the Mayor march, yes or no, etc.). My own political feelings aside, we all had mixed feelings about attending, mainly because it would be cold and crowded, but interesting and fun. It turned out that we were right on all counts. We were able to get a fairly good spot to see the parade, but we were about 2-3 people back from the railing. I really enjoyed the Clydesdales, the bagpipe bands (will someone please tell me how a Scottish instrument is in an Irish parade?), and the first-responder marchers (the police, fire, and the medics who treated the Marathon-bombing victims). There were also the Revolutionary War and Civil War re-enactors (cool), the Star Wars-themed unit (it was weird to see Darth Vader waving from a convertible), and a whole group of Ghost-busters (huh?). We almost didn’t get down to the parade as the T was very crowded and we almost gave up altogether after 3 trains went by, and getting back again we had to walk to the end of the parade (about a mile away) to get to the open T station. Overall, I’m glad we went, but I probably wouldn’t do that again (lots of college students carrying cups containing “water” or “coffee”).
Prudential Tower Skywalk: Again, this was a touristy thing that I wasn’t sure was worth the price, but again I was pleasantly surprised and quite wrong. We went up on a clear day, and saw forever, or at least to New Hampshire. What was nice was that since we’ve been living here for about a 1-1/2 months now, we were fairly familiar with the layout of Boston that we were seeing from high above (on the 50th floor, to be exact).
So that’s some of the highlights of our visit with Shira. We did lots more stuff, like shopping on Newbury Street (beautiful brownstones with cute shops); touring Fenway Park; visiting the Museum of Fine Arts (see my previous post); having our traditional birthday High Tea at the Boston Public Library’s Courtyard Cafe; eating cannolis in the North End at Mike’s Pastry after touring Harvard with Joey (Arielle’s boyfriend who goes there), pretzels at Solas, and single-sourced Hot Chocolate at L.A. Burdicks (yummmm…it turns to pudding when you chill it). We basically celebrated Shira’s birthday for the whole time she was with us (I personally like to celebrate as long as possible!). Shira loved the snow and cold and Boston itself (she told me so, you can ask her). I hope she gets to come back again later in the Spring after her graduation from ASU. Until then…