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Trip Report Boston North End Market Tour - trip report

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This is something others have mentioned here and on my list of things to do - even though I live here. Run by Michele topor's company - they also do a Chinatown food tour.

My 19 year old daughter (fellow foodie) and I bought tickets on-line for a Wednesday (7/14) 10 AM tour - $50 each plus the usual silly service charge.. Indicated on website that tour goes on regardless of weather - which was threatening. Took MBTA into Boston Haymarket stop and walked about a block to meeting place. Total of 14 on tour - and at 10 AM sharp when 2 had not arrived tour guide called their cell phone and left message at tour office of our route - a nice touch both to call and to start tour on-time.

North End is tiny - about 6 blocks square - area and he said there are over 100 food establishments within this area. We visited 7 - about half of which I was familiar with, but I learned something in each one. First Maria's pastry shop - where we learned ingredients and history of perhaps 6 different pastry types - and tasted each one. Then on to several general Italian specialty markets, a cheese shop, sausage/meat shop and onto a liquor store. All involved tasting of some products. This did not feel like they were advertising various stores or products - learned about variations in olives, olive oil, types of cheeses, etc. as well as some tiny regional differences in food in various regions of Italy.

Some real positives - we were told tour company pays something to each of the shops to cover cost of tasted items - and to avoid bias in their recommendations. We also received some handouts - including map, list of various specialty shops and restaurants. So we were not scribbling down things as we walked. Ground rules were clearly explained both on website and at start of tour - very limited bathroom facilities on tour, shop after the tour so as not to delay everyone else, and we were told where to stand in the tiny shops so as not to interfere with normal business.

Attendees were all from out of town and a mix of couples, a few teens. This is not a tour I would take kids under age of perhaps 13 or so on. No strollers allowed in shops - and would be inappropriate for a baby or bored toddler - stores are too crowded with perched merchandise and small enough so there would be little room to deal with squawking kid. Walking distance is less than a mile - all flat, although sidewalks in North End are narrow and sometimes uneven. Pace is slow enough so if you are not a fast walker it is fine. Many shops had 1 or 2 steps to enter. Nearest parking and MBTA station is maybe 1/8 mile away - there is essentially no street parking for non-residents in North End and you will get a ticket. if you try Even if weather is bad, you are outside for only short periods of time (it rained on and off while we were on tour), so even in winter it would be OK.

Since we live here it will be a great resource since I now know new places I can return to shop - but even if we did not, the knowledge gained would be useful in any specialty Italian market in your own city. Highly recommend - worth the $50 fee. Take the AM tour and then shop and stay for lunch.

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