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Boston Trip Report - 4 days in America's birthplace!

Boston Trip Report - 4 days in America's birthplace!

Oct 16th, 2012, 09:02 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 5,740
Boston Trip Report - 4 days in America's birthplace!

Thanks to all my fellow Fodorites for the Boston info! We left DFW early on Thursday and arrived Boston midday. Departed on Monday at midday, arriving home at rush hour Monday.

We were only in Boston for 4 days, so I thought I’d list the pluses and minuses:

Jet Blue: Plus- Small airline, very friendly staff, great free entertainment, snacks. Minus- My TV was broken on the way home. Plus – I had my Kindle and Jet Blue offered me a $15 voucher for next trip.

Boston Public Transportation System: Plus- Easy to use for anyone (color coded), clean, well-maintained and inexpensive ($18.00 for unlimited 7-day rides within the city). Minus- No train directly to airport. Plus- Train gets very close and you hop a free bus from there. Took 5 minutes to the terminal.

Walking Boston: Plus- A very walkable city; get off the T anywhere and go. Loved it. We probably walked 10 miles over 4 days. (And, subsequently, kept the ibuprofen market in business). Oh, my knees and ankles! It’s a happy kind of pain.

Boston Commons/Boston Public Gardens: Plus- Beautiful, walkable, safe, plenty of places to sit. Minus- Nothing.

Faneuil Hall: Plus- Huge. If you can’t find what you need here, you maybe haven’t looked hard enough! Every possible food and snack. I was strong- I did not eat here, but saved my appetite for the North End. Minus- Nothing. Loved reading about the history of the Hall.

The North End: Plus- Everything. Small, walkable, historic, smells great, excellent food. Easily accessible from either the North Station T stop or the Haymarket T stop. Minus- nothing.

Weather: Plus and Minus- Good and bad. Sun and rain. Wind and cold. We didn’t let the cold or rain stop us.

Sam Adams Brewery: Plus- Easy walk from the T, small place, quick tour, free, smells wonderful (surprisingly, not like beer, but as my DD stated, “Smells not quite like bread.”) Exactly! Free beer and free glass to take home. Lots of fun. Minus- I’m not a beer drinker! (My DD is.) But had fun anyway!

Boston Food Tours: Plus- free samples. Minus- I saw such good reviews on this tour company (Michele Topor’s), so was quite disappointed in our tour and guide. The guide's name was Chris. She seemed to be unsure of some of the information she was providing. I don’t want to say she wasn’t knowledgeable. Just would have expected her to be more so in the role of guide. She spoke very slowly, and we seemed to be an imposition (the tour group) to some of the business owners on the tour. This was also much more of a “standing” tour than a “walking” tour. If you can’t stand for 20-30 minutes in one spot, for 3 hours, don’t book this tour. We had a list of places we thought we were going to go to, but we spent so much time at the first couple of stops, we only got to 5 places in the 3 hours. Also, if you’ve been to Italy more than once and/or eaten a lot of Italian food, you will probably learn nothing new on this tour. Trust me, this area is so small, you’d have much more fun just browsing through all the food shops on your own! There was just a short 10-15 minutes at the beginning of the tour related to the history of the North End. Also, it seemed there was a hidden agenda to “push” certain businesses/restaurants in the area. I’m happy for those who’ve taken the tour and enjoyed it. But, frankly, I am sorry I wasted my money.

Chinatown: Plus- Close to our hotel and an incredible variety of places to eat from dim sum to seafood to dumpling houses. Has its own T stop on the Orange line. Minus- (See”EATS”, below.)

Doubletree Downtown(821 Washington) (right next to Tufts Medical Center): Plus- Location. We were right next to the Tufts Medical Center Orange line T station. Hotwire special got us about a $233/night rate. The room windows open! Fresh air, yes! Multiple business centers worked fine-we needed to print off our tour ticket. Starbucks right next door (with an entrance directly from the hotel). Minus- Hotel lobby and stairs were under renovation upon arrival. Some confusion about our reservation (worked out quickly with our res # handy). Slowest elevator in civilization. Ridiculous rates for a glass of wine ($12.50) (I paid that at Legal Seafood, I sure as heck didn’t think I’d have to pay that at a bar that sat 10 people in this dumpy hotel.) Hotel is OLD--- do NOT expect to get the same thing you’d get at other Doubletrees. Our dirty dishes sat in the hallway outside our door for 3 days! (Still there when we left!) (Must say that despite being worn and plain, we did feel the room was clean and linens clean. And since we only slept and showered there, the rate was probably worth the stay.)

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum: Plus- Close to a T stop. Beautiful courtyard. Lovely of Mrs. Gardner to leave her collection for the public to see. Minus- Her collections were not re-arranged after her passing (per her directive); unfortunately, this makes it very difficult to see the kinds of works you’d like to hone in on, if you don’t have a lot of time to see the entire museum. Rooms can have art from 10 different countries and 10 different periods. It is all mixed together. Italian 18th century furniture sharing space with Asian pottery from the 3rd century. Funky, eclectic. Very dark and I found it very difficult to read the museum guide handed out with our entrance ticket. If you go, there are “wall guides” in each large room that indicate what is on each wall. Much easier to use those.

EATS: We ate at the “New Jumbo Seafood Restaurant” in Chinatown, and it did not live up to the 4-star expectation we found on TripAdvisor. Fried soft crabs were greasy, shrimp with walnuts was just ok.

Had to get to at least 2 “Triple D” spots on this trip (my DD is hooked). We were thrilled to see that Sam Lagrassa’s deli was a very short walk from the Downtown Crossing stop on the Orange line T. We ate lunch there on Friday and it was 5 stars. Delicious! And amazingly fast for the line that ran out the door. We were seated and eating within 10 minutes. Highly recommend this spot!

DD really wanted to get to the “Lobster Shanty” in Salem for a Lobster-tini. But seeing that she was not interested in anything else in Salem, we opted for another Triple D spot for Sunday breakfast. It was a bit of a hike (1/4 mile?) from the Massachusettes Avenue T stop (Orange line) to “Mike’s City Diner”. But, again, it turned out to be an excellent spot for breakfast and I didn’t mind the walk in the rain to get there. Our timing was perfect and while the line seemed long, there were two spots at the counter and we grabbed them as soon as we saw them. Breakfast was plentiful (the corned beef hash was killer) and hot. Would certainly do Mike’s again!

SIP Wine Bar/Cafe- This new (3 mos) cafe is on Washington and the edge of Chinatown. We decided to dine here on Friday night, based on a "new" dining recommendation in the Boston magazine. It did not disappoint. We happened to hit a lucky spot and got seated within 5 minutes, which was great because this place was hopping! We really liked the variety of the menu; lots of small plates to share, as well as full entrees. DD and I shared a bottle of wine, some perfectly-grilled blackened sea scallops, and a better-than-expected cheese tray ($13) that had 3 large pieces of cheese (we thought a brie, a pecorino and a wonderful blue cheese), grapes, honey, nuts, olives and perfectly-toasted crostini. DD then had one of the most beautiful sushi dishes I'd ever seen! Tuna and salmon were combined and the rolls were huge. DD could barely get a whole one into her mouth. The combination of sauces on the plate were artfully put down, making the entire thing look somewhat like an art-deco dragon. DD said it was 7 on a scale of 10. Pretty good for a sushi connoisseur. Would definitely recommend this place! Most fun for a girls night out! The drink menu was extensive with some house-concocted martinis that looked delish!

Legal Seafood (Harborside Floor 1): Plus- Beautiful views of the harbor and Logan airport. We had 8pm reservation on Sunday night. Were seated on time. Waiter was very friendly and knowledgeable. (Thanks Nick!) Prices are not cheap, but we still decided to have the lobster. DD had four raw oysters as appetizer and thought they were excellent. Overall, a very lovely and satisfying evening. Next trip, we’d like to try the wine/sushi bar on 3rd floor. Minus- Were seated at a table with “bench” style seating. Not good for folks with back issues. They should really ask before seating you there instead of at a table with chairs.

Artu: We ate at this Italian restaurant for lunch on Saturday, at the recommendation of an employee in a wine store around the corner. We said we’d like soup and paninis. They had both and meal was delicious. Can certainly recommend lunch at this spot if you’re in the North End. Wait staff friendly and competent.

Jacob Wirth: This real Boston bar/eatery has been at its’ location since the late 1800’s. The service was friendly and efficient. Food was very good. DD had chicken wrap, I had spinach salad. DD really enjoyed her Shipyard Pumpkin Ale. Can recommend this if you’re looking for a lunch spot near Tufts Medical Center.

Saving the best for last… Lo Conte’s Italian restaurant in the North End. Food was authentic and delicious. The chicken with artichokes and mushrooms was identical to a meal I had in Florence not long ago. Everyone cleaned their plates. Dinner for four, with one appetizer and a $48 bottle of wine came to $200+tip. Worth every penny. Only minus was that the tables are very, very close together. Tight squeeze and very loud. I don’t get why they had a TV on in the small dining room on the top floor where we were seated. It was very distracting to us and to the wait staff! Otherwise, great night. We finished up the evening by then walking a few doors down to Bova’s Bakery (said to be open 24 hrs) and we each picked out some delicious Italian pastries for dessert. )

Also visited Fenway Park (just a block off the T stop), the Charles River Esplanade (lovely), Trinity Cathedral, the Old South Church (Copley Square), the Old North Church (goosebumps! Where “WE” were born!), Paul Revere’s house, a few old cemeteries, and assorted other spots.

Overall, we really enjoyed getting to see Boston and getting another US City under our belt! I highly recommend Boston for a great 4-day weekend!
sarge56 is offline  
Oct 17th, 2012, 02:08 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Sorry the food tour was a disappointment. I've been on both the North End and Chinatown tours but guess I had much better tour guides. Great trip report. Always fun to read what others do in the same city.
dfrostnh is offline  
Oct 17th, 2012, 04:32 AM
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Nice report, nice that you discovered Artu. It doesn't look like much from the outside, but I have never had a bad meal there. I always have the fusilli with sausage and rapini, but I get to eat some of my wife's veal parmigiana, the lightest I have ever eaten.
Ackislander is offline  
Oct 17th, 2012, 04:36 AM
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Sounds like a great trip and you packed so much in your four days. I gained five pounds just reading your food reviews.

Thanks for reporting.
emalloy is online now  
Oct 17th, 2012, 09:11 AM
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Thanks for your report. It's always fun to read the experiences people have in "our" town.

The bench seats at Legal's were an issue for my dining companion a few weeks ago and we requested a table with chairs, and they accommodated us.

I guess I should start watching DDD. I'm always interested in the places visitors find that are not well-known to myself and friends. Guy Fieri has certainly made places famous.

I think you made the right call about Salem, especially since there weren't other things you wanted to do. But it is a nice day trip--fabulous architecture and the Peabody Essex Museum (and all the witch stuff for people who want that).

Glad the iffy weather didn't slow you down, and I loved reading your restaurant reviews. Thanks.
cw is offline  
Oct 17th, 2012, 02:27 PM
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Thanks for your report, sarge! You and your DD did A LOT in 4 days.

I agree the Gardner Museum is very dark (esp if you visit on a cloudy day). The reason behind it is that b/c the paintings/drawings can never be moved (ie, cannot be stored or conserved), they have to keep the lighting very low so the artwork won't deteriorate.
yk is offline  
Oct 17th, 2012, 09:01 PM
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cw- I've only been to two other Triple D-recommended establishments. One in Austin and one in Georgetown (right outside of Austin). Both lived up to their reputations. So, now, 4 for 4. Pretty good!
sarge56 is offline  
Oct 18th, 2012, 07:24 AM
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sarge, you're on a roll! Thanks again for your detailed report.
cw is offline  
Oct 26th, 2012, 06:12 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
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Great report! We went on the Chinatown (Michele Topor’s) food tour over the summer and absolutely loved it! We were considering going back to do the North End tour (even though we have been to the North End many times)...now that I read your review I am not sure that we should go....
adnil1962 is offline  
Oct 26th, 2012, 10:05 AM
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GREAT trip report. Hubby and I hope to go to Boston, maybe next spring. Your report will be such a help! Thanks.
propita is offline  
Oct 26th, 2012, 05:37 PM
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I cannot believe what you did in 4 days! We have lived here 40 years and have done less!
socialworker is offline  
Nov 1st, 2012, 07:33 AM
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Just now signing back on (and back in Boston area after Sandy)...sarge56, you did cover a good deal of territory as socialworker says. Good tips.
Ozarksbill is offline  
Nov 1st, 2012, 07:43 PM
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socialworker- ain't it the truth? You tend to discover all the hidden gems in your own town only when you have out-of-town visitors coming!

My cousin recently came to spend a few days with me in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. I have been to the Fort Worth Botanic Garden many times, and so took my cousin. (She loved it.)

But I flew her in specifically for the Dale Chihuly exhibit at the Dallas Arboretum. I'd never been! The Arboretum itself would have been worth the price of the ticket! Just an incredibly beautiful place. And decorated for Halloween, it was just magical!

Oh, and the Chihuly's were stunning!!
sarge56 is offline  
Nov 1st, 2012, 08:34 PM
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You went to more places than most Bostonians do(same for Parisians) I wish we could have met.
cigalechanta is offline  
Nov 1st, 2012, 09:32 PM
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cig, I thought about asking the locals to meet up one night, but I saw there was already a GTG for a week before or after our trip. And because we were only going to be there for a short time...

Next trip! (Or you can stop by my Rome apartment next year!)
sarge56 is offline  
Nov 2nd, 2012, 08:13 AM
Join Date: Jan 2005
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I really enjoyed reading your trip report! You make me love Boston even more and I live here! Thanks for writing.
bostonallison is offline  
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