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USA | Wednesday, 29 June 2011 | Views [407]

View of Back Bay from Prudential Tower, Boston

View of Back Bay from Prudential Tower, Boston

Another beautiful day in Boston. I started out today in a good mood because everyone I encountered this morning was just plain old nice. I headed out my hotel room and housekeeping was servicing the room directly across the hall and wished me a good morning. This random guest I passed in the hall told me good morning. This other housekeeping guy I passed right by the elevators wished me a good morning. The barista at Starbucks told me the flowers painted on my shirt were awesome, wasn't my name the name of a goddess – of the hunt and twin of Apollo, and if the drink he made for me sucked he would fix it for me. I could get used to this hospitality! And I've been able to avoid the somewhat high numbers of homeless people and petitioners on the street for the most part so it's all good. (My sunglasses get part of the credit).

I scarfed down a bagel for breakfast and then went on the Boston Duck Tour. A lot of big cities have these amphibious vehicle tours (I did one in Austin a few years back), but in Boston these seem to be a major part of touring the city and highly recommended. I was on the Charlie River DUKW, and it was actually built in WW2, as opposed to most of the other ducks that now run on biodiesel. The “conDUCKtor” (a.k.a. the driver) of my tour came up wearing a toga and olive branch and said his name was Jason (of the Argonauts). They certainly didn't do that in Austin. All the people that lead the tours have wildly different personalities. Dorky, yes, but somehow it works. He was a pretty entertaining and friendly tour guide, and the ride through Boston was very nice. It was great weather and the breeze was great, and because Boston is small we got to drive past a lot of neighborhoods and famous landmarks, and getting a history lesson at the same time. Near the end we of course plunged into the Charles River. Then while we were on the water Jason asked who wanted to drive and I thought, “I do!” but he was mainly asking the kids. Sigh. So kids from Germany, India, Italy and the U.S. All got a chance at the wheel (some days I wish I were a kid again).

Afterwards I was hungry so I headed to Faneuil Hall (pronounced “fan-YOOL”) Marketplace, which was very crowded but I loved it. There were 3 main buildings for food and shopping (North, South, and Quincy Hall) and it was arcade-style slightly chaotic. It was like a combination of Conventry Garden in London and Pike Place Market in Seattle, except definitely more restaurant-oriented, which I enjoyed. There were at least 30 food options walking down Quincy Hall and all very varied, but I was scoping out the places where the lines were longest so I know which places the locals like. I got food from mmMac N' Cheese and had the Boston special, which had crab, shrimp and lobster. The seafood wasn't of the highest quality but the actual macaroni was so it wasn't a bad meal. You watch them prepare it right in front of you. Then I had a passion pina coloda from Monkey Bar, which was very refreshing. I'm not sure if it's because the weather is warmer and sunny here and/or because I spend most of my day walking around, but I'm buying a ridiculous number of fruity drinks because I'm so thirsty during the day, even when I'm constantly refilling my water bottle too. Boston must have perfect lemonade weather. Now that I'm typing this I'm already getting thirsty again.

After lunch I took the inner harbor ferry to Charleston Navy Yard, home of the USS Constitution – the oldest floating commissioned warship in the world. The ship is also known as “Old Ironsides.” The hull is made of 3 layers of wood, with white oak on the outside layers, and live oak, which only grows in Georgia and is 5 times denser than white oak, in between. So during the War of 1812, when the Constitution was engaged in a battle with the British HMS Guerriere, the Guerriere's cannonballs bounced off the side of the Constitution, and the British exclaimed, “Huzza! Her sides must be made of iron!” and the nickname was born. There's your history lesson for this 4th of July! The ship was pretty fascinating; you get to walk down 2 levels below deck and see the guns and the sleeping barracks and get a little history lesson on what life was like back then. The tours are led by actual sailors and it's not a museum so you don't pay to enter, which is nice since it means I only had to pay for the $3.40 roundtrip ferry ride. It also means you have to go through a security check and metal detector but when I went the lines weren't bad at all. And the ferry ride is pretty nice too; you get great views of Boston and Charleston.

Once I got back, yes, I was really thirsty again, and I passed by this sign that said, “Best Smoothies in Boston,” so of course I had to try it out. It was a place called Emack and Bolios, and I had this orange/mango/strawberry/sparkling water smoothie which I drained within a few blocks. Then the weather was so nice that when I walked through the Public Gardens again I just had to find a bench to sit down and enjoy the sunshine and cool breeze in front of the lagoon. I was going to stay longer but then I realized it'd probably be great views of Boston from up high, so I went to the Prudential Tower to see the 360 degree view of Boston (the only such building in New England). It's on the 50th floor of the tower, and for $13 you get windowed views from every side of the building plus a free audio tour. The views over Back Bay were amazing because the afternoon sun was shining directly on it. There were also a few exhibits on immigration and minorities in Boston on the walls. It's one of the better towers that I've been in since you have the straight glass windows all around and there are no bars to block your views. You might get some reflection light in your photos if the sun happens to be shining there but otherwise it had a lot better views that I was expecting.

For dinner I ate at Legal Sea Foods. I thought I'd save that for my last night here, but I was tired and there's a restaurant right in the Prudential Center so I went for it. And got the “lobster lovers” special, which was basically a bundled up package of a cup of clam chowder, 1.25 lb lobster plus 2 sides ( I picked green beans and french fries), and then a strawberry shortcake with fresh strawberries for dessert. I wasn't expecting there to be that much food, but it was actually a gut-busting meal. Oh how I've missed that while traveling outside the U.S.! There was a woman at the table next to me telling me that she wouldn't eat for a week now after eating here. I was expecting a puny lobster but it was a fair size and fresh, and I think I did a really good job of prying all the meat out from the shell. So that plus a Coke totaled out to be $40, which is not bad at all. This is where not drinking alcohol really pays off since a glass of wine would have added $10 already. I walked back to my hotel around 9:30 and it was dark outside(!), which felt great because the weather was cool and it really feels like an end to the day. Oh nighttime is definitely a good thing.

I'm not sure what I'm doing tomorrow yet. There are some 4th of July activities I wanted to check out but then there are also neighborhood walks I wanted to do and touring specific buildings. But then the Pru has a farmer's market tomorrow from 11-6 and that sounds delicious already. I'm really starting to like Boston; I was walking around today and there was that stupid grin on my face again. I had arranged my whole vacation around Iceland and then London, and then Boston was kind of an afterthought. Icelandair flew direct here and I had never been to Boston so I was always going to visit here, but I didn't really focus on the number of days here. Now I find I really like the city and I wish I had an extra day here. Oh well. Tomorrow is my last day to explore and then on Friday I head to NYC.

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