Monday, June 1, 2009

Beantown Weekend

There's nothing like escaping the doldrums of suburbia for a long weekend in a new city. A three-day weekend, a best friend's relocation to Boston--a city I had yet to explore--and 50,000 airline miles about to expire lead to the obvious conclusion: it was jet-setting time.

My crash pad for the weekend was a quaint third-floor condo in a converted house in Cambridge. And crash I did, arriving in Boston at 1 a.m. We were up and at 'em by 8 and headed to Sarah's Market and Cafe for breakfast. You can't be shy here. The tables are almost always full so play the game, pick a table and stand behind your desired seat until the other patron either a.) finishes their meal, or b.) scoops their unfinished meal up and stalks off in huff because someone's been looming over them for a touch too long.

A quick tour of my friend's generous employer followed. The grounds are gorgeous; people are jogging and walking their dogs over rolling emerald hills and tree-lined paths. Not many people would recognize McLean's for the psychiatric hospital that it is. Really, the movie Girl, Interrupted took place here.

Next was Chinatown and dim sum at the China Pearl. The doughy BBQ balls were tasty and I nibbled on a chicken foot. It's true, here I am:

Full of dim sum, we headed to the Freedom Trail. Sadly, we did not toast the venerable Samuel Adams in his resting place with his namesake's beverage from the tavern overlooking his headstone, but we dutifully followed the painted red stripe through the streets of Boston.

A quick jaunt past Paul Revere's house and we were in the North End, Boston's version of Little Italy. The fried, cheese-stuffed zucchini flowers on the rooftop of Fiore are a must have.

Mini-trips to Plymouth and Salem filled day number two. Plymouth rock was actually bigger than I expected. I think after witnessing the Liberty Bell in all its diminutive glory I was able to talk myself down from my great expectations of what became the cornerstone of many families' roots in the U.S. I still don't understand why they had to go and stamp 1620 into THE 1880. Was there a sudden tide of concern that washed over Plymouthites? Were they afraid that people would forget the year the pilgrims landed in Plymouth even though that horrible tragedy had been averted year after year for 160 years? We may never know.

We toured the Mayflower II. It's hard to believe the original carried one hundred passengers and their animals and belongings, a crew and provisions for all the passengers and crew. Not exactly standing room only, but can you imagine not being able to bathe or sleep laying down for 66 days? And, we had a little body art done not 20 yards away from the Mother Puritan statue.

Salem is a worthy day trip from Boston. Be sure to stay for an evening ghost tour though. I can recommend the Spellbound Salem Ghost and Vampirism Tour. Spellbound owner Bonnie is quite passionate and outspoken about the hysteria and history of Salem, and Tom was a brilliant tour guide.

We also found an amazing used book store there. I couldn't tell you the name, but it was the kind of place you walk into wondering if any of the floor joists or walls are plumb. The book shelves are all cattywampus and where no shelves exist, books are piled vertically and held together by bungee cords. Transactions take place through a six-inch gap between two seven-foot tall stacks of books.

We ended our whirlwind Beantown weekend with a Duck boat tour. This was a great way to see the highlights of the city by land and by sea. Here's a gem of a photo from the tour: the Old Hancock Building reflected in the glass windows of the New Hancock Building.

We toasted each other, long weekends, cheesy tourist attractions and future fun-filled trips with rose champagne over deathly rich chocolate torte and tiramisu at Finale in Harvard Square to cap off our adventure. Fitting name, don't you think?

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