From Baltimore to Boston via Amtrak

Old Nov 18th, 2009, 05:30 AM
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From Baltimore to Boston via Amtrak

Thank You! to the Boston Fodorites who helped me with the planning of this trip. yk, you in particular went above and beyond by providing walking maps, tips and information. And if that wasn’t enough you took the time to deliver tourist information and a fare card for the T. I was really touched by your thoughtfulness and the time you took to do this, thank you!

This was my first trip to Boston and I loved it. Clean, easy to get around and friendly. What really impressed me most are the arts, history, architecture and food. I didn’t make time to shop but the opportunities seemed endless and inviting. I hope the feeling I have from my walks down Commonwealth Avenue and through the Public Garden stay with me for a very long time. This was my favorite area to be—here and along the Charles River. One day in the Public Garden there was a lot of fuss going on beneath one of the trees still holding tight to its gold leaves—a beautiful Bard Owl perched high on a branch. What really took me by surprise is the size of the squirrels. Nuclear. Anyone remember the 70’s b-rated horror film, Night of the Lepus? Okay, so they weren’t that bad but did appear large enough to warrant collars and a license, easily lured to the city office with a biscuit, no doubt.

Getting there:

With the recent airfare wars between Baltimore and Boston it would have been less expensive to fly and travel time drastically reduced but I love the train. The Acela is even more expensive with a time savings of only one hour so I took the Northeast Regional from BWI to Boston Back Bay at a rate of $153 round trip. Travel time, a distracting 7 hours. I had never before taken the train beyond New York City and once we hit Connecticut I could not peel my eyes from the windows, the inlets and harbors are so picturesque. All along the route there is so much scenery to take in, good and bad, I like to see it all. Very different from a plane where I usually bury my face in a book or fall asleep listening to music. From Baltimore and Boston, both trains departed and arrived on time. Great experience, time permitting I would take the train again.

Hotel:

Charlesmark Hotel, 655 Boylston Street. Rate of $179 plus $25.87 room tax per night, rate includes continental breakfast.

It was an easy five minute walk from the train station to the hotel located across the street from the Boston Public Library. Upon check in, I am given the key to room 101 and am told elevators are to the right. As I wait I wonder why an elevator is needed for a room on the first floor thinking I’m on the first floor. Expecting to go up, I go down. As I go down my anxiety level goes up. A bit of a claustrophobe the idea of staying in a basement does not set well. Out of curiosity, I decide to take a look-see at the room just in case there’s a surprise ocean view but can’t get the door open. Return to the front desk, explain that I don’t feel comfortable in the basement and am given a room on the fourth floor with a view of an alley and a wee bit of sky.

In addition to the three rooms located in the basement are lockers for employees, workings of the hotel (laundry, cleaning supplies, etc.) as well as a door leading outside. From the vantage point of the back door I can see that any view in that room would include car tires and feet.

My room on the 4th floor looks exactly as depicted on the website and in photographs posted on TripAdvisor. It’s small but loaded with unique storage solutions, a stereo, t.v., great lighting, complimentary bottled water, decent toiletries, etc.. I like that the sheets and towels don’t have the industrial scent to them, instead they smell as though they came out of my home dryer. Pillows and bed are extremely comfortable as is the room, bathroom. I would have preferred a better view but I understand front facing rooms are limited, more expensive and come with street noise. I think the location is terrific for what I came to Boston to see and do.

The only reason I would not stay here again is the noise coming from guests in the room above. It's an old, completely updated, building with wood floors. Normal shuffling about not so bad but a loud stereo between 2:30 a.m. and 4:30 a.m. as well as banging, things dropped on the floor made for a very unpleasant night and had me longing for the Westin. Thankfully, that guest stayed only one night and it sounded as though previous and future guest kept similar hours to my own. Still, I wouldn't chance it, I need my sleep.

More to come.
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Old Nov 18th, 2009, 07:59 AM
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Nice start, keep it coming!!! Thanks
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Old Nov 18th, 2009, 08:39 AM
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Oh what a treat, AnnMarie. I lived on Newbury St. and, like you, treasure the memory of those walks from the Garden. I am not in the least surprised to hear that yk was so gracious...only that she was willing to risk meeting you after PM warned us of the kidney theft......

More, please!
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Old Nov 18th, 2009, 08:48 AM
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AnnMarie, that was so sweet of you to mention me. It was nothing really... I'm glad you enjoyed your trip, even though I heard the weather was horrendous for part of your stay! I look forward to reading the rest of your report.

(cmcfong - I was away during AnnMarie's visit, so I didn't get to meet her. On the positive side, I still have both my kidneys. )
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Old Nov 18th, 2009, 08:53 AM
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LOL!
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Old Nov 18th, 2009, 09:58 AM
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cmcfong, it's all suspicious her running off last minute! ;-) Thanks to P_M, I'm no longer in need of an involuntary kidney donation but I'd be concerned about losing other organs. In fact, I may be in need of a new liver soon!

How fortunate to have lived along Newbury Street. What a special place that area is. I just loved it and could not stay away.

yk, Saturday was pretty miserable with the rain but otherwise weather wasn't so bad. Planned indoor activities accordingly. My biggest fear was the cold but temps were very comfortable while I was there.
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Old Nov 18th, 2009, 10:19 AM
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Where I ate:

In the past, I've been pretty lax about researching restaurants and if I did take the time rarely followed through. This time, however, I made a point to stop at recommended restaurants. Everything was so good it left me wondering about the places I missed.

Legal Seafood, Copley Place - perfectly cooked red fish and an unusual (to me) starter, Irish Spring Rolls filled with yams, blue cheese and shrimp. Yum!

Flour Bakery – I’m sorry the Japanese squash soup wasn’t ready when I placed my order but then again it would have been too much food. Flavorful curried tuna salad with apples, raisins and carrots on thick crusty bread.

Pho Pasteur – great experience sitting at the community table in the middle of the lunch hour rush. Dined with an interesting range of diners and enjoyed great soup, number 20.

Sel de la Terre – It was a Friday night when I went there and learned the upstairs restaurant had been sold out to a private party (the bar tender told me that meant a guaranteed $30K for the restaurant) so I had dinner at the bar and, as it turned out, sat next to one of the creators for the Life Is Good clothing line. Nice guy, very down to earth. Anyway, he was impressed by the restaurants I had visited to date and said I was given great advice on where to go—could not agree more. Food here was wonderful—started with a pumpkin soup accompanied by a lobster slider followed by the Scottish salmon with farro and Swiss chard. Delicious.

Museum of Fine Arts Café – roasted squash soup with spiced pumpkin seeds followed by a lentil salad with pecans, almonds, dried autumn fruits, frissee & mizuna lettuce. Very flavorful, especially the soup!

Atlantic Fish Co. – well prepared sea bass with lobster ravioli on the side. Very good.

Parrish Café – loved this packed café. The sandwich I chose was created by the Pallotta Sisters, owners of Nebo, and appropriately named The Nebo. A baguette filled with Italian tuna, olive tapenade, Mediterranean aioli, lettuce & tomato, hard boiled eggs, fresh basil, a perfect touch of red onion, and a string bean salad on the side. This is a sandwich my dreams are made of and probably my favorite meal.

Shaw’s Supermarket – I intended only to stop in for a look-see but walked out with a loaf of crusty bread, bottle of wine and a yummy container of Italian wedding soup. This supermarket has it all and it was great fun wandering the aisles.

I ate really well in Boston—thanks for all the great recommendations!
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Old Nov 18th, 2009, 02:22 PM
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Activities:

Visited / walked through the Public Garden and Commonwealth Avenue nearly every day. Just a dream to be there made even more memorable one night when I walked through with my cousin Fran as he recited Birches by Robert Frost.

I went to the Moakley Courthouse one day to see my cousin’s work on display there. Shameless plug, Curve of the Earth, by Fran Osborn-Blaschke, will be on display through the end of December. Unusual design for a courthouse, the building is beautiful and I love the concave glass wall facing the water.

Chinatown. I went there in search of tea and a particular soy sauce which I found and so much more. Stepped inside several shops but the one store that really transported me was C-Mart on Washington Avenue. The seafood department was a particularly eye opening experience. The happenings there are not something you find in a mainstream grocery store which I find to be a good thing. It’s not for me but I’m glad to know that what I’m assuming to be tradition is upheld.

The Boston Public Library is magnificent – I was astounded by its beauty and the artwork contained within. Currently, there are two exhibits on the third floor that I thoroughly enjoyed. Bound for Success is an exceptional international bookbinding exhibition that includes 177 bindings selected from the 2009 Designer Bookbinders International Competion. The subject is water. The other exhibit is Honore’ Daumier and the Popular Press. I happen to have a book of Daumier’s caricatures so I was thrilled to see his work in person.

Trinity Church and Old South Church. I fell in love with the muted reds, browns and bronzes inside Trinity and fortunate to hear organ practice going on at both churches.

Museum of Fine Arts. The musical instruments room alone is incredible. I could have spent the entire day at this museum but wanted to see the Isabella Gardner Museum, too, so I stayed until 3P, having arrived at 10A.

The Isabella Gardner Museum is extraordinary—I have never before seen anything like it. I didn’t know who Isabella Gardner was before this trip. What a life. I so enjoy American painter John Singer Sargent and here she is friends with him, had her portrait done by him, etc.. I love and admire the life she created for herself. If I were her, I would have been so mad to die and leave such lovely, inspiring surroundings. Like the MFA, this is a place I could go back to time and again, there is so much to take in.

Boston Symphony Orchestra including a pre-concert talk. Fabio Luisi conducted Saturday night. Lise De La Salle’s performance of the Piano Concerto No. 2 in G Minor, Opus 22 was simply amazing. Other performances included Honegger’s Pastorale D Ete, Symphonic Poem and Stravinsky’s Petrushka, Burlesque in Four Scenes. Yes, sirens can be heard inside the Hall and the standing ovations grew tiring! but the performance exceeded my expectations. As I left the Hall two young boys walked out beside me, one of them exclaimed, “Wasn’t that amazing!”. Yes, it was! And I thoroughly enjoyed the pre-concert talk.

The Christian Science Church and Mapparium tour was an enlightening experience knowing so little about the Christian Science faith and Mary Baker Eddy. The Mapparium is so unique—I loved being inside the globe, seeing the layout of the world even if it is the 1935 version.

I enjoyed a terrific tour of the Freedom Trail with a most knowledgeable guide, Michael Szkolka, Historian, dressed in period costume. Mr. Szkolka also is a professor at Quincy College and I felt it was a happy accident he was the guide for the tour I happened upon at the Information Center located inside Boston Common. Knowledgeable and engaging I came away feeling very enlightened about a time taught a little differently in the public school system, at least in my day. Highly recommend. His business card reads, Lessons on Liberty, a non-profit corporation. For more information, www.lessonsonliberty.org ; [email protected]; 857-205-1775.

And last but not least, I could not leave Boston without a walk along the beautiful Charles River and a visit to see The Hatch, the venue for Boston’s televised 4th of July celebration. It’s been a dream of mine to be there for the 4th one day. I was tickled to see the cannon used during Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. What a great venue along the water. It’s difficult to get a sense of the area from the t.v., so it was great to see it in person, put it all in perspective.

My trip to Boston was exactly what I needed, looking for, hoping to find. I had hopes of going to Europe this fall but couldn’t make it work. Didn’t need to. Boston had everything I needed—art, history, beautiful and diverse architecture, great food. All is right with my world again.
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Old Nov 18th, 2009, 02:42 PM
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Glad you had fun! It sounds like you have an amazing attitude and really made the most of your trip.
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Old Nov 18th, 2009, 03:47 PM
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AnnMarie, I'm simply amazed by how much you did, you saw, and you ate in 4 (?) days! You write so well and so eloquently! Many of the things you did/saw are ones that I still haven't gotten around to do! I will go see your cousin's exhibit at the courthouse sometime before it ends, and thanks for the info on the current BPL exhibition.

It's really refreshing to see "my" city through the eyes of a visitor. Even though I love this city, your wonderful description reminds me NOT to take this city for granted!

I attended a so-so symphony concert while in Barcelona last week. It made me realize how lucky I am to have the BSO here. Again, I took the BSO for granted and didn't recognize how great it is until I heard a 3rd rate symphony orchestra.
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Old Nov 18th, 2009, 04:19 PM
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And I was hoping to get to Boston this year but couldn't make it work. Bless you, AnnMarie, I enjoyed every minute of this trip. So familiar and so loved!
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Old Nov 19th, 2009, 03:34 AM
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Thanks, everyone! Boston is a great city and I barely scratched the surface. I look forward to a return trip one day.

Following is a link to a few of my photos,

http://preview.tinyurl.com/ykez4mt

yk, I was really quite tired by the time I came home(!) but glad I was able to fit in as much as I did. The symphony was so incredible I seriously thought about ditching my plans for Sunday to hear the Berlin Philharmonic. You are so fortunate to live where you do. One thing I wanted to ask you about, you've spent a lot of time in London (if I remember correctly)--the bridges at Seaport Blvd, and in particular Congress Street, reminded me of London Bridge which I think is adjacent to Tower Bridge--do you ever get the sense of being in London when you're in that area?
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Old Nov 19th, 2009, 04:54 AM
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GREAT trip report AnnMarie! It sounds like a wonderful adventure. I'm amazed too by all you did...more than I ever did (granted, although DH worked in Cambridge, we lived in the boonies outside Framingham), and now I want to go back and see more!

Did you do all this alone??
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Old Nov 19th, 2009, 04:56 AM
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AnnMarie...

Great report...now I want to go back to Boston!

Your description of the train ride brought back such great memories. I went to college in Rhode Island and frequently took the train between RI and my parent's home in NJ...there is some spectacular scenery in that part of the country!
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Old Nov 19th, 2009, 05:04 AM
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Hi OO, solo mio! Great experience exploring a city for the first time by myself.

Hi LCI, love the train! How beautiful the bits of Rhode Island and Connecticut are that I saw, grateful for the moments the train slowed to a crawl.
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Old Nov 19th, 2009, 05:05 AM
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Your first hotel room sounds downright scary AnnMarie. I'm so glad you were able to change! It's incomprehensible that they'd even try to sell one in that location. Usually those areas are turned into offices, not guest space!!
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Old Nov 19th, 2009, 08:00 AM
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Love all the photos, esp the one of you with the hat!

I don't get the "London feeling" while in Boston, but I do love my city and its old buildings.

My husband RAVED about the Berlin Philharmonic concert. He said it was the best concert he's ever heard.
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Old Nov 19th, 2009, 10:14 AM
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Thanks for the report and the great pictures. So glad you experienced the great city right here in the USA.
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Old Nov 19th, 2009, 12:41 PM
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OO, I found it odd, too. The owners are really making the most of their space is all I can think but it was weird. Didn't see any mention of it on TA, but there will be.

yk, I've been to London only once, back in '03, so safe to say memory is not serving me well.

Thanks, emalloy!
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Old Nov 19th, 2009, 01:48 PM
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Really wonderful. You went to so many of the places I hope to see. Sargent is my art hero!

My mother lived and worked in Boston from 1930-1946 (in a bank!). I have 50 years of her diaries including her comments about single life in Boston. Although I was born there, I've never visited as an adult. Italy got in the way!

Am bookmarking this as required reading for getting up there in this lifetime.
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