Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Trip to Boston

We recently went on a last minute trip to Boston. We had a wedding to attend and I was unwilling to travel so far or incur the expense. However I caved in after the seventh "fare sale" email my wife forwarded me from an airline.

All in all, it was a great trip. It helped cap an uneventful summer, but it helped in giving us a break away from home and day care.

Boston is a fun place to visit. We stayed at the Hampton Inn in Cambridge, Ma. I chose this based on the price and the fact that I could use points to pay for our stay. Also, most of the reviews in Tripadvisor seemed positive.

The reviews were accurate. It is indeed a pleasant, budget hotel in Cambridge with a good breakfast and free parking - a rarity in the Boston area. I was a little apprehensive of the neighborhood since I only planned to use the rental car to travel to the wedding but do most of the sight seeing using the T which is the Boston subway.

However, the neighborhood was just fine. Actually the subway - Lechmere station on the Green line - is only diagonally across from the hotel though it appears farther when viewed in Google Street View. So all in all, it was a very convenient location.

The great thing about travelling via subway is (for those who have not done so before) is that since the stops, lines, interconnections are so well mapped, it is very easy to figure out what trains to get on, where to go and when to change trains. I had borrowed a great guide book that listed sight seeing locations with mapped to T stops and so planning an itinerary was easy.

A couple of words of advise - if travelling on the green line, it splits into 3 destinations - so always know which branch to take. The trains are well labeled. Also, be aware of the rougher parts of town, though for the touristy things, chances are you won't have to stray so far.

Since we only had a couple of days to sight see, on day 1, we went over to the Aquarium stop after transferring to the Blue line from the Green line at the Govt. Center station. We took a water taxi (just $1.75) from Long Wharf which is a very short walk from the station to the USS Constitution
in Charlestown. This way the kids got to experience a ferry ride. Also you get a chance to take some photos of the Boston waterfront. You can spend a couple of hours there looking at both the ship and the museum. We skipped most of the museums in the trip because our kids are not at the age where they have patience for these things :-( . Because this is an active duty USN ship, admission is free and tours are conducted every half hour.

After returning to Long Wharf, we trundled down to Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market for some lunch and to wander around looking at street performers. It is pretty entertaining with a lot of crowds especially during lunch time.

Later on, we took the T to the Prudential building which offers a 50 story high view of the city. It is a little pricey at around $15 but it gives you a birds eye view so to speak.

That evening we did not do much since we had to visit some friends but the following day, we visited Boston Common (the Arlington stop on the Green Line) and went for a Swan Boat ride. After wandering around the garden for a while we walked around some of the neighborhoods which are really pretty (and expensive). There was a really old church but we couldn't find a way to get in which was a shame.

We then used the T to transfer to the red line and visited Harvard. The unofficial tour of Harvard is given by actual students and it is free but for a tip at the end. It is supposed to be entertaining but again, with small kids, we opted to just walk around. I was fortunate enough to happen upon Henry Moore's sculpture in the yard - so that was my little encounter with world class art in this trip. However there appears to be more art scattered about in plain sight if you are more curious and have the time. Of course there are several great Harvard museums in proximity which I would have liked to visit but maybe next time.

A quick word on museums - the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston is free on Wednesday afternoons for those who would like to visit. Obviously the website will provide more up to date information. Also the Go Boston card might be worth considering as it may offer savings on ticket prices. I did not research this fully since I didn't plan to buy one.

After lunch at Harvard square - plenty of restaurants - we opted for a taxi to the hotel and the friendly cabbie took us past MIT and pointed out various sights. This was a plus.

That unfortunately was the extent of our sight-seeing, though with more time we would have done the Paul Revere house, the Boston Tea Party and perhaps the Minuteman park in Concord which is about an hour away.

Again with more time, we might have opted for a day trip to Cape Cod as well.

All in all, it was a fun break and Boston being a compact city, it is easy to get around. I would advise not to drive, but to use its public transit system. The 1 day Charlie card gives you 24 hour access to the T and is about $9. And, as in any American city, food is not a problem. There are plenty of restaurants.

The front desk of the Hampton Inn provided us with a bunch of restaurant menus for local restaurants that delivered, and the Cambridgeshire Mall was a short drive away and it had some pretty good restaurants along with a decent food court. While there is a parking charge, we didn't find it excessive.

Also, we found the souvenir carts on Long Wharf offered the best price for caps, t-shirts and other memorabilia though I rued not having purchased it here and ended up paying more.

No comments: