Boston: the New England experience

img_3001July 2016

What says summer more than shorts, shades, strawberry mojitos and a sizzling summer romance. This month I fell in love.  And the object of my affection?  Boston.

New York City previously held that special place in my heart, I’ve had some amazing experiences in the big apple but alas, it was relegated to second position soon after I landed at Logan Airport.  This was my first ever trip to Boston and I flew in from Aberdeen with a colleague.  Yep, it was a work trip rather than a holiday.  I was presenting at the DMI conference (see my post about that here) but as with any work trip, there is an inherent desire to squeeze as much culture, sights and food as possible.

Boston has all the city delights I love about New York: the cosmopolitan urban expanse, the juxtaposed positioning of cultural quarters and the food, wow.  But it also has something more, a small-town feel that while contradicting the cityscape, makes you feel instantly welcome and safe.  We visited at the end of July, amid a freak heatwave that saw average temperatures of around 30 degrees centigrade.  A treat for a Scot whose annual (blink and you’ll miss it) day of summer peaks around 22 degrees.

After a day of orientation (cue miles of walking), I soon got a handle on the layout of the city centre.  While public transport (MBTA) is quick, clean and efficient (the tram stops are very convenient), I preferred the opportunity to walk and explore.  Boston has some amazing architecture.  Home for the week was The Treehouse Residence Hall at Massachusetts College of Art and Design.  Yes, the single bed dorms were a blast from the past but the central location was fantastic.  Located on Boston’s Avenue of the Arts, Huntington Avenue, the walk into the city centre took me past the Museum of Fine Arts and its collection of outdoor art installations, including Seoul-based artist Choi Jeong Hwa’s 20-foot-wide inflatable moving lotus, entitled ‘Breathing Flower’.

Boston also has some beautiful running trails (or cycling if that’s your thing).  We did some early morning runs the first few days.  When I say we, I mean me (inadequate runner whose perception of personal fitness far exceeds reality); two colleagues who are regular runners and one who is a super-crazy-endurance-distance runner.  To say I was out of my league is an understatement and it was only sheer stubbornness and a big helping of peer pressure that enabled me to go the distance.  Our route saw us on a circuit around Fenway Park but there are many more options, MapMyRun shares a catalogue of 42,170 trails.  How delighted am I that I’ve recorded some runs in Boston, pity that I’ve added none to my record since.

Aside from the conference, which was interesting, we also had some other work meetings and visits planned.  Top of the list was visit across the Charles River to Cambridge and a visit to the MIT Mobile Experience Lab (amazing) before an afternoon at the Boston IDEO studio. Yep, IDEO.  Think amazing spaces, inspirational work and super-engaging designers.  Both visits were much more that I had imagined and everyone was very welcoming.  I love my job.

The culture quota was met with a few hours in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (well worth a visit, you could quite easily spend a day exploring in here);  an unexpected open-air concert (complete with orchestra) accidentally stumbled upon at the Hatch Shell on the Esplanade late one evening; a community arts festival, Figment and an open-air performance at Boston Harbour’s Fan Pier Park, with music performed by students from Berklee College of Music.  Other highlights included following the Freedom Trail, searching for Boston’s famous ducklings (my kids have had the book ‘Make Way for Ducklings’ for a few years so this was a must-visit site) and a look round the Granary Burial Ground: the resting place of the three signers of the Declaration of Independence: Samuel Adams, John Hancock and Robert Treat Paine.  The Boston Public Library is also worth a visit.

And then there was the food.  Boston was culinary heaven for a foodie like me.  Highlights included Legal Seafoods; Tatte Bakery in Cambridge; Max Brenner (chocolate like no other) and Boston Beer Works.

With a couple of days spare at the end of my trip, I went in search of the traditional New England coastline.  Growing up alongside Dawson’s Creek characters Joey, Pacey and Dawson, I wanted to experience the quaint seaside charm for myself.  Swithering between a trip to locations such as Cape Ann, Cape Cod and Gloucester (home to A Perfect Storm), I settled on Rockport.  Located just over an hour’s train journey north (which also passes through Salam should you be in the mood for some witch hunting), Rockport represents the New England coastline at its best.  Rocky beaches, picturesque town houses, an authentic lobster roll at Blue Lobster Grille, streets lined with maker-galleries and the (very photogenic) 150-year-old red fishing shack on Bradley Wharf.

Boston was friendly, fun, welcoming, interesting, engaging and so much more.  The only thing left to do is to plan our relocation (oh yeh, and the small matter of convincing the husband). I fear I may have left it too late.  But there is hope, only six years until eldest child can apply to MIT (nothing wrong with re-living your life through your children is there??).

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