Saturday, March 27, 2004

Fine art and family trees

To Boston for March break - it was unseasonably cold with snow but that did not slow us down. We left Toronto saturday lunchtime, by Air Canada Jazz on a BAE 146, which avoided the worst of the holiday crowds and got us to the Hyatt Regency in Boston mid-afternoon. The hotel is in the Financial District which proved to be close to the centre of things - more by luck than judgment.
We strolled down to Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market early evening and had supper at the Bertucci Restaurant, in a side street, on stools up at the bar. We were back at the hotel in time to catch Bobby Weatherbee, billed as One Man Cabaret, at the piano.
On Sunday we went for a stroll on Boston Common and took in part of the Freedom Trail, a canned walk taking in sights from the American Revolution. In the evening we went to the original "Cheers" bar on Beacon Street. This proved to be surprisingly convivial given that it has become something of a tourist trap. On the Monday we went to a flower show in South Boston which was unremarkable but got us into riding the 'T', Boston's transit system which is a mixture of train, tube and tram. We returned via the site of the Boston Tea party, where the visitor centre was shuttered following a fire, and Post Office Park, an elegant part of the Financial District.
In the evening we ventured into Chinatown to Chau Chow City on Essex Street for dumplings and prawns - a part of town best avoided at night if you don't like street life in the raw.
We received a free copy of the Boston Globe at the hotel which had an article about New England genealogy and NEHGS. We trekked over to Newbury Street to check out their headquarters - which turned out to be on six floors and a world-class facility. For $10 each we got a day membership - $5 off with a coupon - so we spent the day researching the Willmett family in North America.
We scurried back to the hotel mid-afternoon as a snowstorm was coming in.
Wednesday we took the Green Line on the 'T' to the Gauguin Tahiti Exhibition at the Museum of Fine Art. If you like Gaugain most of his south-seas work was here along with a pleasant coffee shop and plenty of places to sit when your legs were giving out. In the evening we ventured out to the Elephant and Castle pub to celebrate St Patrick's Day.
Thursday we were ready to shop so to Filene's Basement, a byword for rag-trade bargains, and to Borders bookshop. In the evening we took the 'T' to Cambridge and Harvard University. After a quick raid on the COOP bookstore we went to the Berkman Centre for Dave Winer's Thursday night blogging meeting - about twenty folk gathered to analyse the blogging phenomenon followed by dinner at the Cambridge Tavern.
On Friday we took the 'T" to the north end and strolled to Paul Revere's house. After a quick tour we stopped at Piccolo Venezia for early lunch, good food with quirky service. In the afternoon more bookshop browsing at the Old South Meeting House where we got a copy of Garrison Keilor's "Lake Wobegon Days" for $1 and William Cobbett's "Cottage Economy" for $4. In the evening to "Cheers II" at Faneuil Hall, a reconstruction of the TV series set, which attracts the younger crowd. Not as authentic as the pub on Beacon street nevertheless it is good to see the city centre thriving.
On Saturday, our last day, a stroll on the common and around Beacon Hill followed by a quick trip to Filene's for last minute discount shopping and we're off to Logan Airport on the 'T', two trains and a bus, which is quite strenuous but at $1.25 per head an absolute bargain.
I'd recommend a trip to Boston to anyone particularly if you like history and walking. The deal at the Hyatt was half price at $99 US per night for two. It certainly pays to shop around using coupons at attractions and restaurants and making the most of public transit. Boston would make a good stopover if you are venturing further west but justifies a visit in it's own right.

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