Tuesday, October 18, 2016

New England part I - Boston, Mass

Jack and I decided this year to make our big vacation Boston.  Jack had wanted to go there for a while and has been deep into the history the American Revolution for a long time now (not to mention our new obsession with Hamilton).  His favorite book is 1776 by David McCullough (He read it over again right before our trip and got me to read it too, though I'm still not through it I'm really loving it).  We booked a flight clear back in February to leave Sept 17th.  We thought it would be fun to rent a car and fly back from New York a week later.  Jack put me in charge of the itinerary and I planned a whole week of stops along the New England coast.  I'm embarrassed at how many hours I spent picking hotels, activities, and restaurants.  I had about ten pages of notes that I condensed into a one-page calendar schedule itinerary haha.  I wanted everything planned because some of our city stays would be short and I would hate the feeling of finding out I missed something that we should have seen there!  Also, Jack and I have a big problem with "throw away meals"...you know, when you're on vacation and you eat somewhere that's just okay and it's frustrating cause you know that the city has so much fantastic food that you could have tried.  Food is a big deal to us.  It's half the fun of a vacation, trying new local places.  Maybe we're weird :)

My mom watched our two older girls most of the time, with help from my little sister, Bee (Brittain), and Jack's sister, Pam.  These three ladies were the ones who made this trip possible for us and we are so grateful for their generosity and sacrifice of time! We took Asher with us because she is still breastfeeding and won't take a bottle (or binky for that matter)....and also to ease the separation anxiety for us in leaving our other two.  It helped to have one with us

Our flight left at 9:40 Saturday morning and Bee showed up bright and early.  The flight went well, Asher took a nap and I had packed plenty of new toys to interest her and some snacks.  We only took carry-on bags so each of us were allowed one suitcase, one backpack, and then they let us take our car seat and stroller right up to the gate and stowed it under so they would both be waiting for us as soon as we stepped off the plane.  Instead of bringing Asher's pack n play, we called each hotel we'd be staying in and they all confirmed that they would have a crib waiting in each of our rooms.  We love flying with Delta and have found them to be very accommodating for families.  We were also able to take as much baby food on as we needed without a liquid limit (they don't have a limit for formula or breastmilk either, which is so nice), and they let us board first to get settled.  Jack had the aisle seat and me the middle, with a girl about my age by the window.  Here's my Instagram post about it:

Asher Grace's first time on a plane and she celebrated by looking like a sneaky old man. Noteworthy moments from the flight: when the lady in front of me (who has twice the leg room in economy comfort seating) decided it would be polite to lay her seat back in my lap while I was holding a baby 😐, when the girl sitting next to me unexpectedly started sobbing uncontrollably and I didn't know what to do so I patted her leg once 😳, and when our plane took eternity to taxi into place and Asher started screaming but we couldn't leave our seats so Jack and I force-fed her crackers, put our headphones in, and watched Meet the Parents. 

We arrived in Boston at 4:37 (the flight was just over four hours, then there was a two-hour time difference between SLC and Boston).  We rented an Infinity QX80 for the trip and really liked it, the navigation and sound systems were great, and there were cameras on all sides for the tricky parking in the big cities.  Plus extra room for all of our bags and baby gear.  

We checked into our hotel in Cambridge, the Kimpton Marlowe, then drove to our dinner reservation at Bostonia Public House (parking at 75 State).  Guys.  It was phenomenal.  The lobster roll on a crusty roll was the best I've had.  Jack got lobster mac n cheese, which was pretty good, and polenta fries were good too, but the other great thing was the baked beans!  We just ordered them just because we wanted to try them authentically, I don't even like Boston baked beans, but these were on a whole other level.  The restaurant was right next to Faneuil Hall marketplace so we walked around and listened to live music and explored the historical block.  We ran right into Ghirardelli and jumped for joy before going in to order a Nob Hill Chill, the best chocolate shake in the whole wide world.  It was reminiscent of Disneyland for us :) We also happened upon Old North Church, but weren't able to go inside it or Faneuil Hall, which was good because they were on our schedule for the next day.  Before heading back to the hotel we walked down to Omni Parker Hotel because they have the city's original Boston cream pie.  It was not good. 

The next morning we hopped up and stopped by Union Square Donuts for some fresh, homemade yeast doughnuts.  They were super unique and delicious.  

Boston is an amazing city because of how historically significant it is, how well the historical buildings and sites are preserved, and how well the city integrates the old with the new.  My red-brick-loving-soul was so happy there, and Jack and I wanted to take this vacation to live in the American Revolutionary period for a week and Boston sure allowed that for us!  Boston has something called the Freedom Trail.  It's a red brick trail through the city that, if you stay on it, will take you to most of the historical sites.  Jack and I bought tickets with a tour guide for the downtown end (not south end, the south end in Boston is a different area), but started at the top of the North end to walk that side ourselves.  

Our first stop was Bunker Hill.  The Battle of Bunker Hill was one of the earliest in the Revolutionary War, and occurred as the British were trying to take the hills for control of Boston Harbor.  The British won the battle, but at such an immense cost to them (career militia and many officers) in the number of casualties at the hands of amateur colonists and farmers that General Nathanael Greene (Jack's second favorite historical figure of this time, next to John Adams) was quoted as saying, "I wish we could sell them another hill at the same price!"  There is a monument at Bunker hill that you can go up into and looks much like the Washington Monument.  At the door Jack turned to me and said "It has 294 stairs!"  "I'm not going up there," I said.  He laughed and started up, Asher in his arms. I was being serious, but felt stupid that he thought I was joking so I just trudged after him.  Literally my calves were sore the entire rest of the vacation.  What a view though!

 Also, don't you love how the streetlamp are gas-lit?  So cool

Next stop on our walking tour was the USS Constitution.  It's a ship, known as "Old Ironsides" because of its impenetrable sides, it was named by George Washington, launched in 1797, and is the oldest commissioned warship in the world that is still afloat.

Old North Church is the oldest standing church in Boston.  It was here that Paul Revere met with Sexton Robert Newman and told him to hang lanterns in the top window as a warning: "one if by land, two if by sea." Inside was cool to me because the pews were each shut into their own little boxes with doors.
Many prominent members of the town had their own personal booths marked off.  Betsy Ross, Paul Revere, and Ben Franklin (when he was in town) were all marked on different pews.

The Paul Revere house is, obviously, where he lived.  It's the oldest building in downtown Boston and contains the furniture from that time. Boston is definitely Paul Revere's city.  His influence and likenesses are prominent everywhere and it is evident he is a much beloved resident of that city.

We went back to our car at this point and drove down to South Boston to see the Dorchester Heights Monument (which isn't on the Freedom Trail).  The story of the Battle at Dorchester Heights is just so cool and is one of Jack's favorites so, in order to get all of the details, you should just look it up and read everything.  

Boston is home to Mike's Pastry and they live up to every good thing said online.  It has glass displays full of delicious pastries and is alway crowded.  There is no line, you have to step up and shout your order to one of the many employees, who gets your goods, puts them in a box, and then grabs the end of one of the spools of string hanging from the ceiling and ties up your box.  You hand over cash only.  Their star player is supposed to be their original chocolate chip cannoli, which was awesome, but honestly I thought their pistachio cannoli was just out. of. this. world.  I wish I would have gotten 5 of them.  Their Boston Cream Pie also made up for the lackluster one we had tried the night before.

We went back to Faneuil Hall Marketplace for lunch and to continue on the downtown portion of the trail.  I hadn't really planned this location for lunch, so we just picked a place.  Anthem Kitchen and Bar.  Jack loved the steak and potato flatbread and I thought it was alright.  The clam chowder was better. In hindsight we probably should have eaten at the Cheers bar across the walkway because even if it hadn't have been great food, it would have been culturally significant.

After lunch (and another Nob Hill Chill :P) we decided to ditch out on our guided tour because we were enjoying seeing the sites at our own pace and having ability to go inside each one, and the red brick trail made it so easy and navigable, so we scrapped our tickets and headed out again on our own.  We crossed the street to the site of the Boston Massacre and the Old State House.  the OSH is, essentially, where the founding fathers met and decided to form an independent nation.  It's balcony is where Col. Crafts read the Declaration of Independence for the first time to the people of Massachusetts. Also on display at the Old State House are the red velvet suit that John Hancock is believed to have worn when he was sworn in as the governor of Massachusetts, a vial of tea saved from the Boston Tea Party, a lantern hung to signal meetings of the Sons of Liberty, silver by Paul Revere, a musket used at the Battle of Lexington, and a drum from the Battle of Bunker Hill.

 Faneuil Hall has been a marketplace and meetinghouse since 1743 and was gifted to the city by Peter Faneuil.  Many speeches were given here in promoting liberty during the revolution.  

I really love cemeteries.  I think they are just so cool and spooky and interesting, so I had planned to see a few cemeteries on this trip.  The Granary Burying Ground was really neat because it is so old, holds 2,300 graves, and is the resting place of John Hancock, Paul Revere, James Otis, Samuel Adams, Benjamin Franklin's parents, and the victims of the Boston Massacre, as well as an Infant's Tomb that holds hundreds of children. I'd imagine that back in that day when infant mortality and childhood illness were much higher than today, a family could not or would not spend the money on a tombstone for a child or baby so this was the solution?  Just a guess. 

 I'm laughing in this picture because Jack has something we call his "9/11 memorial face."  It's his attempt to look reverent/respectful/slightly sad at places that call for such sentiment.  It started, obviously at the 9/11 memorial and he pulls it out sometimes at places like cemeteries or battle grounds.  I'm laughing even now looking at it :) because we are not generally very reverent people ;)

We ended our Freedom Trail at the Boston Common (a large lawn, reminiscent of the Mall in DC) and the Boston State Hosue, with it's beautiful gold dome.  The Boston Common was super gross to me, the lawn unkempt, vendors everywhere, and homeless people sleeping on the sides of the paths.  So I'm glad we did the reverse tour and ended there instead of that being my first impression of the Freedom Trail.  Asher was an absolute dream the whole day, just so content in her new stroller and loving being outside and seeing all of the people, birds, and going into the buildings.

For dinner we drove to Boston Burger Co. and Jack spent half an hour trying to find a place to park.  It has been featured on Diners Drive-ins and Dives not the Food Network, as well as a few other shows.  Jack got the famous Mac n Cheese burger and I got a mushroom and swiss deal.  Asher was beside herself.

We went back to our hotel to freshen up and reset for a while before jumping on the subway (I think locals just call it the 'train') for our game.  Something of note: people on subways love babies :)  Asher always got so much attention when we took her on the subways in Boston and NYC.  Honestly, people in big cities love babies.  I guess they aren't as commonplace there as here in Utah because everyone was just so sweet to her.  She had grizzled old men and Wall Street-types playing peek-a-boo with her and people asking to take pictures of her.

We knew that while we were in Boston we wanted to see Fenway Park, and there happened to be a game that night so we were able to see the Red Sox play the Yankees!  I wouldn't say that Jack and I are huge baseball fans or anything, but we know the game and can appreciate the opportunity to get to see these two great teams play, especially in Ortiz's last season, and let me just say it was AWESOME.  I had ordered us Red Sox shirts from Walmart.com a few weeks before the trip, but they never showed up because Walmart is a bag of crap as usual, so two days before our trip I just grabbed some tee shirts from a craft store and screen printed some logos on them :) We had seats behind home plate and the people, the hot dogs, the frozen lemonade, the humid summer night, and the game were all just such an unforgettable experience.  I was so glad we did it and Asher even fell asleep on Jack so we could enjoy the game without her getting bored and fussy.

After tucking Ash into her crib, we snuggled in bed and watched a movie.  I couldn't believe how much we had fit into our day in Boston, we managed to hit everything on my itinerary, plus all of my alternative things for in case we had time.  The city had exceeded all of my expectations for sure!

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