In 2009, Delta bought Northwest Airlines, a Minnesota company. My mother had a Northwest Airlines credit card. Delta transferred her points to their own credit card, and also gave her two free round-trip tickets to anywhere in the Lower 48 as a welcome gift. As Mom had never spent much time in New England, and I even less due to a certain car accident that is mentioned in another Boston blog, we decided to do a loop around the region during my college/uni spring break in 2010.
I had an aisle seat on the flight, next to a friend who was also onboard for her own spring break trip. My mother was a few rows back. It was a bit of a bumpy flight, which I never appreciate. As we came in for a landing, I could not see outside very well due to my lack of proximity to the window. At Logan Airport, that is especially...uh, frustrating. The runway is right and I mean right on the water. It looked like we were very calmly crash-landing on the ocean, is what I'm saying. Luckily (and obviously), we did not. Mom and I bade my friend farewell and then headed off to the rental car kiosk.
The rental car process amused me a bit, not because of the process itself but because of the office. Every employee at the kiosk was a youngish man wearing an absurdly sharp suit considering the job (I mean, these outfits were what I would expect in a Fortune 500 meeting, not a rental car kiosk), who were talking to my mother and me as though we were the Queen (so many ma'ams!). And finally, they all had the thickest Boston accents. And as a personal note, and I do apologize for any Bostonians reading this, but I..uh..don't love that accent. It was amusing to watch this little office run in such a weirdly strict level of professionalism while speaking in that abrupt accent.
Unfortunately, we arrived in the middle of a Nor'easter. Strong winds and a whole lot of flooding greeted us as we drove the old, skinny streets of Boston. My mom was the driver and to this day still talks about how stressed out she was on that drive. The rain was so thick it was hard to see out the windshield, the lanes on the roads are narrow, and Boston drivers are more aggressive than she is. It wasn't a great combination.
Our hotel was in Harvard Square, which even in the pouring rain was quaint and adorable. The square is thusly named because the brick building in the background of the picture is Harvard University itself. We stayed at this hotel for two nights, and enjoyed the university atmosphere of the area. We especially enjoyed the Harvard Book Store, which not only had a good book selection but also had a great layout that was exactly what you would expect Harvard's book store to look like.
After we settled into the hotel, we scampered off to the Boston Aquarium, which is supposed to be one of the best in the country. However, it was still raining and the line for tickets was outside. In addition, because it was raining, everyone had their umbrellas up. Most people were doing their best to be careful as to where their umbrella tips were, but unfortunately this was not the case with the Japanese couple in front of us. We were each hit in the face with umbrella wire at least five times. Between being wet and that rudeness, we were not in the best mood by the time we finally got inside. The aquarium was...fine...there was a wall to ceiling tank that was cool, but we weren't in the mood to look at sea life anymore. It's on my list of things to see again the next time I go to Boston (hopefully in the fall!), because I would actually like to enjoy my time there.
After that experience, we decided that instead of walking around the city in the rain, we would sacrifice a day later in the trip to return. We did day trips around Massachusetts and looked at Revolutionary War sites until the rain finally headed out. We had to sacrifice the day we had set aside for New Hampshire in order to do this, but we'd both been there before so it was the "best" option to kill.
Finally, the Nor'easter was gone and we were able to have a sunny day in Boston. Both of us are big into cemeteries and history, so of course our first stop was the 17th century Granary Burying Ground. It's relatively small, but packed with up to 5,000 people, including Paul Revere, Sam Adams, John Hancock, Mary "Mother" Goose, and the five victims of the Boston Massacre.
We decided to take a tour of the cemetery with one of the many costumed interpreters. There were several groups in the cemetery while we were there (which was surprising, given that it was late March, hardly the height of tourism season. How crowded is the burial ground in July??). My personal favorite bit was the guide who was going around with the very historically accurate Starbucks cup.
I love to take photographs, and I went a bit wild in the cemetery. One of my pictures even won a photo contest later in the year, so I'm going to say it's ok that I don't remember what the guide said because I was so focused on my photography (it's not ok but here we are).
The history-focused day continued with an early lunch at America's oldest restaurant, the Union Oyster House. It has been serving food since 1826, though the building itself is from 1704. Prior to its transformation into a restaurant, it also housed a newspaper printer and a dress goods shop.
The food is typical New England fare. Considering that is mostly seafood, my fish-hating mother had to settle for what she called a subpar chicken sandwich that still tasted like fish. I ordered clam chowder, with the mindset of "when in Boston!" The food itself was forgettable, but the atmosphere made the restaurant worth the stop. Both the exterior and interior had maintained the colonial feel of 18th century Boston.
We continued our Colonial day at the nearby Old State House, which is one of America's oldest public buildings. It was built in 1713 and housed the Massachusetts government, first as a colony and then as a state, until 1789. From 1830 - 1841, it served as Boston's City Hall. Now it is a museum dedicated to this history. We did not go inside, but we did admire it from outside. My apologies for the close-up photo, but it was Mom's suggestion - she is a lover of architecture, and she was quite intrigued by the juxtaposition of the Colonial building with its 19th and 20th centuries neighbors.
Nearby was Faneuil Hall, a marketplace that has acted as such since 1743. It also acted as an important meeting hall back in the day, and many passionate speeches were made in argument for independence. While the shops inside now are modern brands, they have maintained the market stalls of yore. Considering the tourist numbers the hall sees, there are also plenty of gift shops catering to the history chasing visitors.
At that point, we had to say farewell to Boston. We were spending the night with family in New Hampshire, and my uncle who works in the city was finished with his day a bit early in order to have more time together. There was still so much history to see, not to mention newer sites, but alas.