Friday, 11 May 2012

I'm Shipping Up To Boston - Day Twelve - Wednesday 15 February

Wednesday soon arrived: our only full day in Boston and indeed our last full day of our holiday. Already! There was to be no free breakfast at the Royal Sonesta (or even so much as a complimentary cup of coffee - major points lost there!) so we ventured across the road to CambridgeSide Galleria again and into old faithful, Starbucks. I had my "usual" stateside breakfast (a bagel with cream cheese and a skinny white chocolate mocha), the only difference being that the sign in this Starbucks was advertising "New York style bagels" rather than just, well, bagels. Bless. Just as yummy though!

Suitably fuelled for a busy day ahead, we made our way back to the now-very-familiar Lechmere Station and the green line. This time we emerged at Government Center and went to check out Fanueil Hall and Quincy Market. On the way we stumbled upon Boston's famous Freedom Trail (subtly marked with a bright red line painted down the street), but our interest in early American history was pretty minimal, so we decided to give this "must-do" experience a miss.

Faneuil Hall was an interesting building but we weren't sufficiently intrigued to go inside.

Fanueil Hall Boston

Quincy Market looked much more enticing but I was still burned from my disappointing experience at the Brooklyn Flea and my expectations weren't particularly high.

Quincy Market Boston

Actually though? You've got to go to this place if you're ever in Boston, especially if you're looking for somewhere to grab a bite to eat. They've got every kind of food imaginable! Unfortunately for us we'd only had breakfast half an hour before but we couldn't just try nothing, so we bought cupcakes from a baked goods stall near the exit on the other side and grabbed a seat just outside to enjoy them.

The cupcake was far from the best I'd had on our trip (also a strange, sickly shade of pink because it had been the-day-that-shall-not-be-named the day before) but the birds pecking around our feet in search of crumbs seemed to like it well enough. There was also some kind of love-themed ice sculpture slowly melting in front of us, so it all made for a pretty surreal experience.

Next we decided that since we were now in the vicinity of the harbour it might be a good idea to check out where we needed to go the next day to book our water taxi and leave off our bags (the company offer to hold your baggage for you on your day of departure, which is nice of them). After a rather long (yet scenic) walk around Long Wharf, we discovered no straight-forward way to walk along the harbour from there to Rowe's Wharf, so we gave up, walked back to Atlantic Avenue and along to Rowes Wharf that way.

After what seemed like forever with my poor, sore hip and feet, we eventually got there and spoke to a nice man who told us to drop our bags off at 10.30am the next morning. We're glad we checked because apparently there isn't always someone in their office during the day and if we'd just rocked up at some random time, we might have been stranded with our three cases and two backpacks all day. Yikes!

Minds now at rest about our departure plans, I declared my urgent need for caffeine and we set about finding somewhere for a quick refreshment break. As we walked up back inland we came across an interesting deli type place. They had all sorts of different counters for different types of food and you got a buzzer to come and collect your order when it was ready. It was a bit confusing for a newbie but I think if I worked nearby I'd love going there for lunch. As it was I ordered a coffee and a chicken cutlet marinara sandwich, which was really nice, other than tasting slightly too much of tinned tomatoes.

The next bit of the day is a bit of a blur to me but I believe it involved some dillydallying en route to the Prudential Center. When we finally arrived there, I made my way straight to the nearest bookstore. You see, I had been struggling with what to buy mother dearest as a souvenir from our trip - she's difficult to buy for at the best of times but since she enjoys reading, I thought I would get her a book from one of her favourite authors that had just been released in the States but not yet in the UK.

Except it turns out that these days release dates on both sides of the pond are usually pretty similar, so both of my forerunning options had already been released in the UK. I considered dropping the idea but they had only just been released and I was coming up blank with other ideas, so I chose the one that had been released in the UK most recently, hoping she wouldn't have had the chance to buy it yet. Of course it turned out she'd bought it herself just before we got back! Doh! I wouldn't mind so much but have you seen how much hardback books cost in the USA?! No wonder everyone's jumping aboard the good ship Kindle these days!

Blissfully unaware of the futility of the contents of the bag in my hand, we set off to find the way up to the Top of the Hub. When I'd been researching Boston people kept mentioning Skywalk, which is the observation deck at the Prudential Center, but I'd also read a sneaky tip that you could save your $14pp admission fee for the observation deck and put it towards a nice meal in the restaurant on the floor below, Top of the Hub, which gives pretty much the same views. Bearing in mind that they have a three course set lunch for $22, the latter seemed like the best value for money to me and up we went!

The restaurant was pretty empty when we got there, with only a few other tables of diners around, but the views were indeed amazing. I'm happy to report that the food was also absolutely wonderful! We started with a lobster bisque with brie, which was really nice and came with a selection of delicious, warm breads. Next we had a chicken pasta dish, the flavours of which went perfectly with each other. Finally we had a crème brulée, which although not jaw-dropping was still as good as any other crème brulée I've ever tasted, with just the right combination of smooth custard and burnt caramel. Also, it was huge! The food and the views were both well worth the price and I would recommend it highly for anyone visiting Boston.

View from Top of the Hub Restaurant Boston

The only dampener on the experience was after our meal when I went to the back of the restaurant to look out of the windows there - just to see what was on the other side really - when a snooty member of staff rocked up and snapped that "this area is closed for the views" and stared at us until we left. Um, ok… I can't imagine how looking out of a window for a few seconds could do any harm whatsoever, especially when we'd already just given the restaurant our custom and a pretty big tip, but it just goes to show how one person with a bad attitude can tarnish an otherwise wonderful experience.

Back on terra firma we made our way up to Newbury Street. Our original plan had been to walk the full length of the street, which is famous for its shopping, but we were pretty tired and pretty much all shopped out, so we headed straight for the bus across the river and on to our next stop of the day… the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

This had been on the Yorkshireman's bucket list for our trip. He'd read about an exhibit they had about holograms, which had made his inner geek giddy, so on the list it went. The only problem was that, since it had been one of "his" activities, I hadn't bothered to research where, other than "MIT", we needed to go when we got off the bus. Unfortunately neither had he, probably assuming that the itinerary queen had it under control. In his defence it was odd that I didn't.

But anyway, a bit flummoxed by the many buildings around us, we stared at the campus map for quite a while and then the Yorkshireman decided we would head to the MIT Museum building. Google Maps had been telling us that the place we wanted (with the holograms) was not the same place as the museum, but when we reached the point it had marked it turned out to be a warehouse, so I suspect they were a bit off with that one! Onwards to the museum.

Thankfully it was indeed the museum we wanted. We paid our admission and made our way up to the second floor (Museum Visiting 101, lesson number one: start at the top and work down). It was a small museum but it was actually really interesting!

Plasma Ball at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

I really enjoyed learning all about the various robotic technology that had been developed, not to mention the awesome kinetic sculpture displays (I really don't know how else to describe those but they're really cool) and, of course, the holograms.

Holograms Exhibition at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

I also enjoyed doing a spot of artwork where the challenge was to draw what you would like robots to do for you in the future.

The Great Wall of Ideas Robot Technology Art at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Our visit ended downstairs where I sucked at, and was insulted by, a video game, which was ok because that was the point of the experiment.

By then I was pretty tired and my hip was starting to get sore, but the Yorkshireman declared that there was no need to get a bus or a subway back to the hotel - it was only a short walk. Well. A two mile walk might have been short for him but with my crutch it felt like an eternity and by the end of it I was spitting feathers. Again he had been misled by Google Maps (or rather the scale it showed) so he wasn't entirely to blame, but by the time we'd limped up through the hotel lobby and back to our room I was nearly in tears. The only plus point had been the nice views as we walked along the river but it was little solace by then.

View of Boston over Charles River Basin

View of Boston at night over Charles River Basin

Back at the hotel we decided now would be the ideal time to try out the spa. If a jacuzzi couldn't help soothe my aches, pains and temper, I didn't know what would. Luckily it was straight-forward enough to use the spa as a hotel guest and before I knew it I was sitting in the hot, bubbly water with the water jets massaging my tired feet. Bliss. After a while I even felt brave enough to try a little swimming in the pool and managed about 25 lengths before retiring to the jacuzzi again.

We made our way back to our room to get showered and changed and then headed across the road to the California Pizza Kitchen for dinner, where we enjoyed pizza with several pints of Sam Adams lager. Man did I need both by that point. The dessert menu didn't appetise me so I stopped by The Cheesecake Factory on the way back to the hotel and picked up a slice of Pineapple Upside Down cheesecake to eat in our room. Oh it was soooo yummy!

Now absolutely shattered and with the longest of days ahead of us, we retired to bed once again after The Daily Show and Colbert Report. Our last full day of our trip had been a mixed success but there were still a few activities left on our itinerary that we were looking forward to taking on before we flew home.

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