A Great American Road Trip – Boston and Quincy, Massachusetts

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Looking out the window this evening, I realise that I missed the seasons change. During August’s last week, I left a green, relatively warm and sunny Ireland to spend just over three amazing weeks exploring the States; returning at the end of September.
It was great to have the opportunity to spend close to an entire month stateside; made possible due to the fact that I was there partly for work. I had lots of meetings with research groups and spent plenty of time working on my laptop in coffee shops but I won’t bore you with those details! Late August was the perfect time to go and the weather was just as dazzling as the trip. It’s not every day as an Irishwoman that you can say you wore shorts and tank tops mid September, unless you’re one of the crazy brave (or just crazy?) ones who consider summer wear as the standard Saturday night Harcourt Street uniform.

Anyway, back to the trip (Did you notice I tend to trail off a lot in my posts and a good ‘anyway‘ in italics always brings us right back? Something I have to work on. Probably.)
This story begins just like many other travel diaries of its kind; at everyone’s favourite place…the airport! I actually love Dublin Airport, as far as one’s love of airports can go. Boston’s airport; Logan International Airport wasn’t too shabby either, but again, we’re not here to discuss overpriced packaged ‘food’ and the promise of free WiFi access for five whole minutes if you hand over your first born. And so off went, on a 7 hour flight to Uncle Sam.

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We arrived into Boston on a Thursday evening, where we would spend the next two days. Exciting! Not wanting to burn out on the first evening, we took it easy – a trip to The Cheesecake Factory for burgers, tacos and margaritas marked the beginning of my (just as important) Great American Road Trip eatathon.

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Look at this bar we found on the way back to our hotel the first night. I love how Americans do things like this; big, bold, or better yet; super-sized! Impressive screens like this would be really handy here at home, don’t you agree? No ones head would be in your way, you wouldn’t be waiting outside the pub from 11am to secure yourself a seat (knowing all too well that you’ll be incoherent by the time broadcasting starts) and we’d all see the final. Vote for me! For President!

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Day two – Cambridge and Boston

A bright Friday morning was our first full day for exploration, and time was on our side. We all woke up around 7am, ready for breakfast and ready for whatever Boston has to offer. It’s good to discover new things on holidays…new cultures, new experiences…new times of the day. 7am isn’t a time I experience very often (so very, very early) so I was particularly energetic. Imagine a spritely morning person on steroids, that presumably everyone hates passionately. That was definitely me. A mood I chose to intensify (to everyone’s detriment) with a large cup of Pibb Xtra to accompany my waffles, bacon and syrup. I refilled it three times. I’m really not used to self service soda machines. That stuff blows my mind. I think we should have access to help ourselves here too, with the exclusion of Nandos, who are already on the self service bandwagon. Vote for me, for President!

A trip in the car in the glorious sunshine and soon we were in Cambridge; home of Harvard University. The first word that comes to mind? SWOON. What a gorgeous area; beautiful buildings, super clean streets lined with super green trees and clusters of cute little cafés.

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This place is so neat, it even has it’s very own Grafton Street!

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And a book store. Everyone everywhere loves those.

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The college campus itself is so serene, and it was lovely to see students sitting on the cute coloured chairs reading books under the shade of the trees. If those students were on the debate team, maybe Harvard wouldn’t have lost to those darn New York inmates! There’s always next time. The campus reminds me very much of the campus at Trinity College here in Dublin; but alas, they are not sisters. Trinity College Dublin’s sister college is Saint John’s in Cambridge, United Kingdom. The more you know.

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Here’s another fact for you; Cambridge (the Massachusetts one!) is home to the world’s only Curious George store, which is located at Harvard Square.

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We wandered the streets as the morning sun rose higher in the sky, stopping for a coffee with the college in view. Despite being parallel to a busy street with people to-ing and fro-ing, the only noticeable sound was two guys playing speed chess nearby, something I had only experienced before watching T.V. and movies. It was mesmerising to watch how fast they could commit to a move without hesitation, in real life, right there, in front of me! I should have taken a sneaky pic to show you all.

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Following a very enjoyable morning in Cambridge, we left the college life behind and hit the city. Look at that skyline! And that odd but pretty looking oversized butterfly net is Janet Echelman’s aerial sculpture, ‘As If It Were Already Here.’

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With a plan to have lunch in Cheers, we walked parts of Boston’s Freedom Trail which is a red lined route that takes you along 16 historical sites in the city. It’s easily found and there are maps everywhere! It’s worth following if you don’t have a specific plan for exploration but want to come across Boston’s famous landmarks.

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By the time we got to Cheers, the heat was intense. We didn’t eat a whole lot; as one never can when they’re feeling the warm weather. Cheers offers standard good old tasty American food with a few specials, and lots of dishes are named after the characters on the show. You can also purchase the pint glass pictured above for $10, and some of the proceeds  go to a children’s charity. The Cheer’s theme song plays continuously when you walk in the front door (but not loud enough to drive you crazy and it won’t chime over your table!) and the bars got a lot of character, good beer and nice staff. There’s a gift shop too, for all your Cheers needs. I love a good gift shop.

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Post lunch, we strayed a bit from the Freedom Trail, moving further out from the centre of the city. We visited the Museum of Science, where we spent the rest of the day, and still didn’t manage to cover every part of the museum! If you find yourself in Boston, the Museum of Science is a must see. Entry is $20, and there is so much to do, it’ll make your head spin. Some exhibitions you have to pay for, so we paid $26 each to include the Pixar exhibition – but obviously these extras aren’t essential. Other exhibitions that cost an extra $6 are those in the Planetarium, 4-D theatre, 360 degree spinning roller coaster simulator and the Butterfly Garden. Otherwise, $20 gets you three floors and two different zones consisting of areas including The Hall of Human Life, conservation, models, renewable energy, dinosaurs and micro robotics. The entire list of exhibitions can be found here.

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Day three – Quincy

Day three was just perfect; the stuff dreams are made of! Stirring not too long after sunrise, we spent the morning in Barnes & Noble, browsing through all sorts of genres, magazines, music and stationery. It’s so hard not to go bananas in the stationery section. I had to practise restraint, knowing full well I have an entire drawer of untouched cutesy notebooks waiting to be filled at home. I miss giant bookstore-coffee shop hybrids so much at home, ever since Borders closed. It’s the perfect way to spend a few hours, and something I always insist we do when we visit The States.
I took all the time in the world (as you do on holiday) settling on a book to read (The Intellectual Devotional, if you’re curious) all smiles in a quiet corner with a coffee the size of my head that a lady with very cool purple and turquoise mermaid hair made especially for me. I sure do wish we had a Barnes & Noble equivalent at home. I’d be there every weekend, readin’ and caffeinein’ (technical term) although my pile of ‘purchased books I have yet to read’ would increase at some rate, as would my level of guilt. I’ll get through them all one day…

After spending quite some time at B&N, it was no longer ridiculous o’ clock on a Saturday morning, and we felt it was time to head for Quincy. Quincy shares a border with Boston and is known as the ‘City of Presidents’, as Quincy is the birthplace of John Adams and his son John Quincy Adams, who served as the 2nd and 6th Presidents of the United States.
A very much loved (and legendary) family friend took us to Quincy, where we had plans to spend the entire day on his new boat, ‘Sláinte’ to lap up the sunshine and see the city from a different perspective.

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We walked down the boardwalk past busy bars and restaurants overlooking the harbour where Sláinte was waiting for us, with music playing, beers on ice and plenty of comfort and a fridge full of surprises below deck. Before you could say ‘sailor’, Ray had made my sister, my Mam and I ‘Boat cocktails’; a tasty mix of club soda, lemonade and plenty of orange vodka that Ray’s wife Kristin (who would join us later, along with my workaholic Dad who scheduled a Saturday meeting…weirdo) created for this very kind of weekend boat excursion. They were served in red cups too…squeal! Just like in American movies!

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Our day on the boat was one for the books. The weather was beautiful, Ray was the perfect host and tour guide and everyone was in the best mood! I never got tired of waving to people partying on other boats, or lying on the brow chatting with my sis and drinking way too much prosecco. Damn you Ray, your generosity and kindness has created more than a few post-party fuzzy heads over the years.

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We had sandwiches for lunch on the boat that Ray ordered in from a local deli (I had a spicy beef sub which was delicious!) and it wasn’t long when we finished that the Boston skyline was in sight. Ray parked the boat at Boston Harbour’s Fort Point Channel where the famous Boston Tea Party took place in 1773 and we took to land to grab a pint at The Barking Crab, an outdoor restaurant overlooking the harbour that featured on Man v. Food.

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I really liked the Barking Crab. It’s such a casual spot with a no frills, good food dive bar feel about it. We didn’t eat there but the food (and the size of the crowds) spoke for itself really. Trays and trays of seafood were manoeuvred around the bar. Orders of whole lobsters with butter, clam chowder, oysters, crab and lobster rolls stuffed generously passed by us many times heading to the long banquet-style tables where hungry diners on long wooden benches waited patiently for their seafood fix.

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We figured if you can’t eat ’em, join ’em.

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Back on the boat and we’re Quincy bound. Ray told us plenty more facts about the city (he’s the best tour guide) and on our way back we passed the USS Cassin Young at Boston’s Navy Yard. The USS Cassin Young sails but once a year, sailing to the outer harbour and back again.

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Soon we were back at Quincy harbour where Kristin hopped aboard, and our hardworking sailor could now have a drink. Lots of people were partying in their boats along the dock (what a life) and Ray (the cool guy that he is) is happy when others are happy; so he very thoughtfully made cocktails for all his boat neighbours.

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All that drinking and chatting worked up quite an appetite, so Captain Fishbones was our next stop for dinner, where we spent the rest of the night catching up and discussing our plans for the next three weeks.
I had the surf and turf and a brownie sundae; and Ray asked could he order for my Mam. She of course obliged, and out came the most delicious looking lobster with clarified butter. Definitely not something she would ever order herself, she ate every bit of meat she could get and really enjoyed her new experience to top off the day at sea.

We had such an amazing few days in Massachusetts and a day with Ray pushed things right up to the top on the SuperFunScale™ (patent pending.) Leaving Quincy that night and packing up to leave Boston, we wondered how the next few weeks would compare.

Next stop, New York City.

  ♥ ♥ ♥

  • Catharine

    Great post about Boston. Delighted to see Ray and Kristin in your post, he is always the best host (Ray is one of my oldest friends!)

    • Emma Helen

      Hi Catharine! Thank you, I loved every minute there! Ray is an absolute gem, it’s always great to catch up with him. Nice to here you’ve been pals so long, maybe I’ll meet you one day x

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