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View Full Version : Texas may be bigger, but Boston is always older



KevinFromTexas
Dec 18, 2006, 3:23 AM
From the Austin American-Statesman
http://www.statesman.com/life/content/life/stories/travel/12/17/17boston.html

TRAVEL
Texas may be bigger, but Boston is always older

By Pamela LeBlanc
AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF

Sunday, December 17, 2006

BOSTON — So here I am, leaning out the side of a World War II amphibious vehicle, quacking at pedestrians on the street. I should be humiliated, but somehow, I'm not.

This is Boston, and lurching around downtown in one of these "ducks" is practically a requirement for any first-time tourist. You get a quick introduction to the city, basics of the history that unfolded here and a rolling comedy show, all at once. And part of the Boston Duck Tour deal is that you quack when the driver tells you to.

I've come to Boston for a long weekend (my husband is here on business), and I figure the 80-minute tour, which rumbles through downtown and up the Charles River on a vehicle that played an important role in the Normandy invasion, will be a good way to start. It is.

"It drives like a Cadillac, doesn't it, folks?" the top hat-topped guide chuckles as we roll over the finish line of the Boston Marathon and past the grand old homes of Beacon Hill.

The biggest lesson I've learned so far is that Texans aren't the most boastful folks around. In the Lone Star State, everything is bigger. Here in Boston, everything's older.

Consider: Boston is home to the country's oldest publicly funded lending library, its oldest public park, oldest botanical garden, oldest Anglican church, oldest open-air market, oldest public school, oldest continually operating restaurant, oldest newspaper . . .

Yawn.

I am, however, thrilled to see the Parker House Hotel, where Parker House rolls and Boston cream pie were invented, and where Ho Chi Minh and Malcolm X once worked. And to learn that Boston got the nickname Beantown because its original Puritan residents weren't allowed to labor on Sunday, so they cooked beans Saturday and ate them the next day.

Our guide points out that most of Boston's downtown streets are based on horse trails and cow paths, thus their less-than-gridlike layout. Then we plunge into the Charles River, our arms waving over our heads like we're riding a roller coaster. We float past the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Hatch Shell, where the Boston Pops play their annual July 4 concert.

By the time we unload in front of the towering Prudential Center, I have plotted out how to spend the rest of my weekend.

I set out at once, by foot. Boston, you should know, prides itself on being America's Walking City. You can — and should — ditch the car and walk from Bunker Hill to Paul Revere's house to the wharfs and all points in between. Just be sure to pack plenty of fresh socks.

First stop for me: the Public Garden. Willows bend over a football field-sized pond, where the city's famous swan boats glide to and fro. I check out the row of oversized bronze ducks, a tribute to the children's book "Make Way for Ducklings." I hike around the adjacent Boston Commons (once a grazing pasture, now a park), then wander along Newbury Street, dipping into shops so expensive I can almost hear the sucking sound from my wallet.

I reconnect with my husband back at the hotel, and a few hours later we hop a subway to Fenway Park, where the Red Sox are playing. We score tickets from a guy on the street, nab a sack of peanuts and a couple of beers, and settle into our seats in right field. For the next three hours, we scream for crowd-favorite David "Big Papi" Ortiz, shriek when a homer flies over the fabled Green Monster outfield wall, and sing along to "Sweet Caroline" like seasoned fans.

Too bad, the Red Sox lose. We wander back to the hotel, and plop into bed.

History is what Boston is all about, so the next morning we strike out on the 2.5-mile Freedom Trail, which is clearly marked in red paint (or red brick, depending on where you are) on the streets and sidewalks.

We start with John Hancock's grave, move on to the Old State House, where the Declaration of Independence was read in 1776, and pause at Quincy Market, an expansion of the historic Faneuil Hall, where Samuel Adams and his comrades once gathered to protest "taxation without representation." We inhale the aroma of clam chowder and cream puffs, then peer in the window of the ancient-looking Union Oyster House up the street, where Jack Kennedy kicked off his presidential campaign. We push on past a crowded fruit and vegetable market, eager to get to the nearby North End, Boston's famous old Italian neighborhood.

There, we forgo the Freedom Trail and launch our own tour — one that meanders past bakeries and bocce ball courts, garlic-scented Italian restaurants and elderly residents chatting up neighbors on the sidewalk.

This, to me, is the essence of Boston.

This neighborhood is home of the Old North Church, where Paul Revere spotted two lanterns and galloped off to warn that the British were coming. Just as intriguing, though, are the narrow streets, stuffed with tiny restaurants and delis. We stop for sandwiches — thin slices of prosciutto, tomatoes and cheese on crusty rolls. Later, we stop by Mike's Pastry, where bakery cases full of cookies, from pistachio macaroons to shortbread studded with dried fruit, beckon. I buy a whole boxful to take home.

We pick out a restaurant for dinner later that night. In the meantime, we head back to our hotel to rest up.

Later that night, we pay $1.25 to ride a subway train that disgorges us just a few blocks from the North End. Now that the sun has set, the place is bustling with even more activity. Young hipsters, hand-holding couples, tourists — they're all here.

We duck into Ristorante Villa Francesca. Within its dim, cozy walls, we sip glasses of chianti and peer out the expansive, open windows, watching the world stream by in a parade — there are people toting bakery boxes, people walking dogs, people riding the strangest, four-seated bicycle I've ever seen.

It makes a fascinating backdrop to the food — steamed mussels, freshly made pasta with clams, calimari and the most amazing tiramisu and cannoli ever created.

I lick my lips, settle back in my chair and sigh. Obviously, I'm going to need more time in this city.

If you go . . .

Boston Duck Tours, $26 adult, $23 seniors/students, $16 children 3-11, (617) 267-DUCK, bostonducktours.com.

Boston Park Plaza Hotel & Towers, 64 Arlington St., Boston, (617) 426-2000, bostonparkplaza.com.

Mike's Pastry, 300 Hanover St., Boston, (617) 742-3050, mikespastry.com.

Fenway Park, redsox.mlb.com.

Ristorante Villa Francesca, 150 Richmond St., (617) 367-2948, www.ristorantevillafrancesca.com.

passdoubt
Dec 18, 2006, 7:35 AM
Duck tours are a plague that need to be stopped.

CTroyMathis
Dec 18, 2006, 8:09 AM
^ Ditto.

Swede
Dec 18, 2006, 8:44 AM
So here I am, leaning out the side of a World War II amphibious vehicle, quacking at pedestrians on the street. I should be humiliated, but somehow, I'm not.
Think again. You are.

BnaBreaker
Dec 18, 2006, 5:02 PM
Since when were Ducks tours given that much importance?

Evergrey
Dec 18, 2006, 5:08 PM
a newspaper travel article... fascinating

hauntedheadnc
Dec 18, 2006, 6:17 PM
What a bunch of crabs on here. Shouldn't we be happy when someone truly enjoys our cities?

EtherealMist
Dec 18, 2006, 6:30 PM
That was a cool article, she did a good job covering Boston although I think the title is a little misleading. I was excepting to read more about Texas, maybe even a Texas - Boston comparison, but it was basically a journal about her stay in Boston.

I know where you are comming from about the Duck Tours they are pretty weird, at least stop forcing the tourists to quack like a duck, that is just retarded. Its cool though how they go in the Charles River with them.

KevinFromTexas
Dec 18, 2006, 8:36 PM
I actually posted this yesterday without even reading it. I thought I'd come back to. I didn't care for all the silly touristy talk, or the duck tour stuff, but it was interesting to hear about her experience and reaction to the city.

Austin also has those duck tours in the WWII aquatic vehicles. And yes, they quack. I don't care for them either, it gets people off the street and hauls them around like cattle. And you can't argue that it's to beat the weather since they're open-air. We also have Segway tours here which are atleast a little more street level oriented.

Paul in S.A TX
Dec 21, 2006, 8:04 PM
I guess this columinist forgot or didn't know that San Antonio has the second oldest Park (San Pedro Springs)after the Boston Common and the oldest Cathederal(San Fernando) in America.

mhays
Dec 21, 2006, 9:14 PM
Many cities have duck tours. One goes past my place every 10 minutes all summer. They're going over the edge of a hill, so they're supposed to say "whoooooo!".

I don't like the noise either. They're almost as bad as those dumbshits with loud car stereos. But I want tourists to come to Seattle in big numbers, and enjoy themselves.

glowrock
Dec 21, 2006, 9:41 PM
I guess this columinist forgot or didn't know that San Antonio has the second oldest Park (San Pedro Springs)after the Boston Common and the oldest Cathederal(San Fernando) in America.

Damn, I KNEW you would poke into this thread, Paul! :)

Aaron (Glowrock)

Paul in S.A TX
Dec 22, 2006, 2:30 AM
Hehe, she did kinda overlooked San Antonio history and facts.Don't you agree?

MayorOfChicago
Dec 22, 2006, 2:39 AM
i think she just pulled texas out of her ass, it's just a Boston pitch article