January 30, 2012

Beantown – Part 3

It was our last full day in Boston and there wasn’t much left on my ‘must see’ list as we had inadvertently touched all the bases on our city wanderings. There was; however, the New England Aquarium. We had hoped that by doing the aquarium early on a Monday morning we could go at our own pace and have however much time we wanted, and we did.

Finding breakfast on an early Monday morning wasn’t that easy and the vendors that served breakfast on the weekend didn’t during the week. There were some vendors open, but seriously, who wants chowder or a burger at 8am? We made do with what we found – microwaved eggs and reheated homefries at one and tolerable coffee at another. We couldn’t wait to leave the building.

We quickly arrived at the aquarium and literally spent hours there. We didn’t leave until after lunchtime. I love waterlife and it was really great to see things one would normally never get to see. Personally, I’m on the fence about aquariums and zoos. I’m not happy about seeing living creatures locked up, especially when they are in such a small area (aka enclosure). But on the other hand, many zoos and aquariums have programs working together with breeding programs and protecting those at risk. I’ve been on the fence for over 20 years, and I’m sure I will continue to be there for the rest of my life.

Harbour seals greeted guest at the entrance. They seemed quite content swimming around or floating along the bottom (making a few of us ask ‘Is he dead?’, of course forgetting that seals can hold their breath for long periods of time).

Once inside, we were impressed by the touch tank, a shallow pool with stingrays and small bonnet sharks. It reminded me of a trip to Brighton, England where the stingrays at the aquarium would take their noses out of the water to smell you. That didn’t happen here, but you could really see some personalities in the fish – some would rub themselves against your palm while some would chicken-out and dart away at the last minute. One of the biologists described their skin as akin to sandpaper, but I found it quite silky and soft.

In the basement were many many jellyfish tanks, some jellyfish were so small that a magnifying glass was needed to see them. While I was happy at the touch tank, The Honey was lost in his thoughts with the jellyfish.

On the main floor were three sections of penguins – African, Rockhopper, and Little Blue Penguins. Overall they were chatty and active (there were employees in the pool with them cleaning the enclosure, then later on doing some feeding). Ironically the Little Blues were the loudest of the bunch. It is always surprising how quickly they can manoeuver in the water.


It also seemed like some were just as intent on watching us as we were of them.

The centre of the aquarium contains a very large fish tank; ginormous may be a better adjective. It is probably 3-4 stories tall and has a very wide ramp wrapped around it. It has perfect viewing of different sea life – fish, turtles, coral, urchins, and a shark. Windows all the way up allow you ample opportunities to watch and look (unfortunately the glass gave off a blue tint for pictures).


While there we also saw employees inside with the fish – an employee here and there cleaning the glass, and the biggest surprise, one feeding all the life around him. At the top you could peer down through the tank and ask a biologist some questions. One that intrigued The Honey was why the carnivorous fish in the tank don’t eat the others. Simple – they are fed so they aren’t hungry or need to eat the other fish.

At every floor there were more smaller tanks with a variety of fish, shellfish and coral.

I have to admit that I don’t have one favourite thing; there were just so many cool things. Every time I saw something ‘cool’ or ‘awesome’ or some other crazy adjective escaped from my mouth. We were enjoying ourselves so much that we didn’t really want to leave. But it was getting busier and our tummies were growling.

For lunch we had planned on going to Legal Seafood, where ‘If it isn’t fresh, it isn’t legal’. It was at the wharf across from the aquarium and although there was a long line, it moved quite quickly. The waiter got me a gluten-free menu which had a nice variety on it. The Honey got a lobster roll and it looked quite interesting. I asked the manager who had delivered our food if The Honey’s lobster roll was gluten-free and a look of panic came over his face. Was The Honey supposed to have a gf meal? I assured him that it was only me and that if it was gf than I could try some of the meat before The Honey bit into his bun. The manager looked so relieved. After a short conversation with the kitchen on his walkie-talkie headset I was given the all-clear to try the lobster meat. Our lunch was really good and so was the service. Legal Seafood has many locations throughout Boston, and while it isn’t cheap, we enjoy having one meal we can splurge on when we’re travelling.

After lunch we took a taxi to the Museum of Fine Arts (taking a subway seemed really complicated as we would have had to make three transfers) because I love art and have some favourite artists. What I thought what was going to be a pleasant excursion turned into a bit of a nightmare. Some rooms were really cold, some were really hot, others had no air circulation (who would have thought I would need my inhaler at a gallery?!). Room after room seemed more like an antique store than an art gallery. There is only so much Colonial furniture I can handle. I finally discovered some art to my liking, unfortunately all of it was only in one room. Fed up and very dehydrated I made my way to the cafĂ© on the main floor to get a tea ($3!!!!) and The Honey couldn’t wait to leave. I was going to drink that tea even if I had to burn my mouth. To make matters worse, we couldn’t find the exit – exit signs that led nowhere, no signs for the entrance. We finally found the entrance after the second set of bad directions we received. The fresh air felt so good, but it didn’t really help our mood.

We walked back to the centre of town to enjoy the sunshine and fresh air. On our way we came upon the public library. Although I love books, I’m not one to tour libraries, but my guidebook said the architecture was stunning. We took a walk inside and were amazed by the carvings and detail. It was beautiful. We found a courtyard (seriously, a courtyard!!!) and took a load off our feet. It was nice sitting there in some serenity while some birds chirped away, but it was getting later in the day and dinner was needed.



Walking further down Boylston was UNO Chicago Grill and Pizza where they made gluten-free pizza and served Redbridge gluten-free beer. Our delicious pizza and drinks made the disappointing afternoon disappear from our minds. Feeling much better we decided to walk back to the hotel. The sun was still shining and the temperature was perfect. On our way I lamented about not getting to the original Cheers. The Honey thought the replica was better since that’s what people saw on the show, even though I wanted to see the inspiration; the start of it all. I didn’t want to say ‘Let’s go again’ because it was a little silly, but The Honey knows me very well and suggested going for a pint. Again, the place was full, but we got two stools at the bar and a Sam Adams and a Woodchuck cider.

The Honey said I couldn’t stop smiling. I didn’t mind because I had a great morning and a nice ending to the first leg of our trip.

January 27, 2012

Beantown – Part 2

Day two started a little rough due to too many ciders at the BlackRose. We walked a few blocks to Mr Dooley’s (another Irish pub located on Broad St) for breakfast and it seemed the longer I was upright the worse I felt. It didn’t help that the orange juice was the most disgusting thing I had ever tasted. I was hoping it would make me feel better. After breakfast arrived The Honey sent me back to the hotel. Apparently I was looking greener by the minute. He was more than happy to eat most of my breakfast and enjoyed eating the huge pile of bacon placed on both our plates (he assured me that my bacon was not the reason he told me to leave).

While I stayed in bed watching TV hoping to feel better quickly, The Honey took a short walk after breakfast then a swim in the hotel pool. When he returned I felt well enough for some fresh air and so we decided to make our way to Tremont St and Boston Common. It was another beautiful and sunny day and thought it would be perfect to wander around a park.


It was so nice walking at a leisurely pace. Being a Saturday there were many people hanging out with friends or their kids, some playing a light game of football. We did more wandering through the Public Gardens past the lake and flower gardens. We continued to enjoy the peace and quiet along the promenade on Commonwealth Ave.

For lunch we popped into Boloco, an inexpensive Mexican place on Newbury Ave (there are locations throughout Boston). 

They had a gf menu, but it was more or less the same just without the tortillas. We ended up getting something small (unknowlingly) because you need to order all your items when you place your order. It is set up a bit like Subway so we assumed that we would tell the person making our food what to put in it (there really isn’t a limit to the number of items you can add to your meal), but it’s not like that. It still worked out since we weren’t weighed down on our walk.

We continued down Newbury then along Boylston, popping into some stores here and there. Hours later we found ourselves back at the Public Gardens so we made our way to the Bull and Finch (aka Cheers) for dinner. 

This was one of my ‘must dos’ in Boston. You see, my sister and I grew up watching Cheers and ironically our names are found in the show so we feel we have a special connection to it. I had contacted the manager a few weeks before our trip and she said that many of their items could be done gluten-free (usually without the bread and buns). I was excited. Unfortunately the ‘original pub’ was full and we were seated upstairs in the replica ‘set pub’. It was exactly like what one saw on TV and The Honey reminded me that the set is what most people wanted to see knowing that I was a little disappointed. 

Our dinner was delicious and the server fully understood my food issues. Funnily enough, the only time she seemed apologetic was when she told me the only cider they had was Woodchuck (I guess Magners really is the cider of Boston) and was taken aback when I was overjoyed in my choice of cider.

After dinner we made our way to the Prudential Centre where we would have great views of Boston on their observation deck. It was a beautiful view as the sun was setting and as the darkness came the city lit up. The nightlights gave us another way of seeing the city. It would have been great seeing it in daylight, but the city lights made some of the buildings and sights shine.

Although it was a fairly short day we got a lot of walking in and spent our time enjoying the sunshine. After wandering around the observation deck it was time to go back to the hotel. The Honey wanted to get a good swim in before the pool closed.

January 25, 2012

Beantown – Part 1

At the end of September The Honey and I took a well-deserved trip to Boston. We were flipping through ideas and settled on Boston because we had heard of so many great things from other people, and we’re glad we went. I picked up a guide book to flip through for ideas and The Honey took to the net. He discovered that Cape Cod wasn’t too far from Boston and so we decided on a few days in both places would be an ideal vacation – the big city and sandy beaches.

We left Ottawa after rush hour and still hit a snarl in Montreal. Thankfully after Hwy 40 it was pretty smooth sailing, including crossing the border in Vermont. It continued like that all the way to Boston. Along the way we could feel the mountains on either side, but due to the dark night we had no idea how big or small they were. Getting a radio station and one that didn’t play country was difficult and often we were stuck listening to music you normally wouldn’t dare catch us listening to. It seemed like the song of the holiday was about someone who could dance like Mick Jagger, and after our drive we heard it everywhere (and I mean everywhere!). We arrived in Boston around 1am and quickly settled into our room. It was tempting to go to the hotel bar for a drink after the six hour drive, but we wanted to get a decent start to our day.

The weather was on our side until our last day – warm sunny days. It was no longer summer, but it was the perfect temperature for getting around. I had my list of things I wanted to see and after our first day the majority had been ticked off. It isn’t because I’m a crazy tourist, Boston is just so easy to get around and most of the places happened to be on our trek.

We set off looking for breakfast at Quincy Market, at the suggestion of the concierge at our hotel. It was supposed to be a quick walk as our hotel (the Langham) was in the financial district. Unfortunately we got turned around a few times due to some filming of a Ryan Reynolds movie and none of the streets are grid-like. Seriously, they go in every direction, turning here and there. Finally we figured it out and found Quincy Market – a happening place due to some dance tryouts and being a Saturday. Since it was so busy we settled in at the first place we came to – Cheers, where we were able to get a decent breakfast. We planned on going to Cheers (aka the Bull and Finch), but not so soon and I wanted to go to the original – no replicas for me thank you.

We continued around the market then moved into the financial district where we came across the Rose Kennedy Greenway, a park-like area that runs between two streets. With the greenery, tables and chairs, and fountains it was a calming spot within the city.

At the end we crossed over to the wharf and took our time taking in the peace and quiet. It was nice walking along the waterside looking at the architecture and boats. When we came to the Aquarium (a place on my list) we saw the huge line and decided to return on Monday when it would be much less busy. 

Further along the wharf was Christopher Columbus Park and eventually Little Italy and Paul Revere Mall. 

We continued on our walk and found ourselves back at the top of Atlantic Ave. We needed some lunch and on the corner of Atlantic and Salem was a little pub called Goody Glovers. There was a nice little patio where we could people watch and look out over the park. The beers were cold, the food was good and the shining sun was warm (no problem with good cold cider and knowing about gluten-free food). 

After lunch we found ourselves at Congress St and a huge market. It was one of the most amazing things I’ve seen and found myself continually smiling (The Honey on the other hand was overwhelmed). There was stand after stand of fruit, vegetables, and fresh fish and seafood. It looked all so beautiful. Fresh fish sitting on packed ice and mussels being shucked right there for people to eat.


To The Honey’s relief we finally made our way out of the hustle and bustle and back towards Faneuil Hall. It wasn’t long before we saw a crowd around a group of buskers dancing and with a routine. They really got the crowd going and had a great sense of humour (even poking fun at themselves). These guys would have been good enough for the Busker Festival here in Ottawa (if you enjoy their show, don’t forget to support them with some cash!).

We still had energy so we walked down to Washington St to see what the shopping was like. On our way we began hearing bagpipes. Thinking we were hearing things we continued on our way, but the sound got louder and louder. Then we saw them. Was it a parade? Were they a band? Were they more buskers? We weren’t sure what it was, but it was pretty cool (found out later it was the Bunker Hill Pipe Band’s pub crawl to mark halfway to Paddy’s Day). We watched them pass and make their way down the streets, developing some followers like us, and stop at the Irish Famine monument on Washington St. And when they finished their song, they continued on their way. I couldn’t help but think of the old Labatt Blue commercials of the ‘90s where ‘Anything could happen out of the blue’.

Once we started a little shopping The Honey’s energy quickly disappeared (shopping does that to him) and so we made our way back to the hotel. Unfortunately we came upon the film shoot again and were detoured. Knowing we’d get lost again we ducked into an Elephant & Castle pub for a pint hoping that the movie would wrap up by the time we were done. The beer and cider gave us enough energy to find our way amongst the detours and once in our room The Honey quickly fell asleep. That man can nap anywhere.

Thankfully his stomach growling seemed to wake him up as I was getting hungry for dinner too. We remembered a pub near Quincy Market that was having a party to mark the halfway to St Patrick’s Day so we ventured there for dinner and some entertainment. We arrived at the Black Rose (on State St) with many people who had the same idea. We got a drink from the bar while we waited for a table. The Honey was falling in love with the seasonal Sam Adams beer while I was stuck with Magners. Being a big Irish village Magners was the cider in the majority of Boston pubs. It’s not my favourite, but everyone drinks it over ice which makes it taste a bit better. The server and the kitchen helped me with some gluten-free choices and so we had a nice worry-free meal.

Not long after dinner the U2 tribute band started up (The Joshua Tree Band). They helped create a celebratory atmosphere with high energy and great music (they are really good). The Honey knows I like U2 so he did his best to enjoy himself (he’s not that familiar with them), but the night had to end sometime.

We had great seats, good service and good drinks and closing time had to roll around eventually. It had been a long time since we closed down a bar (we must be getting old!).

Throughout the evening we talked about our day. I was impressed that we hadn’t planned one aspect and we encountered one moment of enjoyment after another – plus many surprises. I normally plan because I don’t want to miss anything and here I hadn’t planned a thing and we felt we still hadn’t missed anything.  We walked back to our hotel with smiles on our faces. One wonderful day down, 3 more to go.