Thursday, September 8, 2011

Running the Athens of America

I love Boston. I know, I know, I fall in love with lots of cities; it's an occupational hazard. I'm also extremely critical of a lot of cities, and my only criticism of Boston is that I don't live there. After my first visit I am completely, head-over-heels in love. Let's discuss.

Boston Public Garden with downtown in the background

I've heard great things about Boston, and it did not fail to impress. We stayed at the Boston Park Plaza in an absolutely fantastic location. It was close to the public garden, Boston Common, the Freedom Trail, and fabulous shopping and eateries on Newbury Street. Soon after we arrived we ventured down Newbury Street for late afternoon snacks and cocktails. Delicious. 

Outside our hotel
Late on our first evening we headed to the North End for delicious Italian food at Bricco. This meal was exquisite. I don't know if I've ever used that word before, but it applies here. We shared a great bottle of wine recommended by our server, and I would highly recommend the pumpkin tortellini. I am hungry just thinking about it.

Restaurants and shops in the North End
The Bricco dinner made it a necessity to run our first morning in Boston. Boston is definitely a city for runners. Aside from being home to one of the world's most famous marathons, it's got lots of runner friendly green space and excellent running stores. We woke up early on our first morning and ran through the Public Garden, Boston Common and on the quaint streets around our hotel. It's hillier in Boston than I'd imagined, but it was such a great run with city views. 

An early run in downtown Boston
Following our run we ambled around the city visiting some of the neighborhoods including the Louisburg Square in the notorious Beacon Hill neighborhood. The homes on the Square have (or have had) famous owners including Louisa May Alcott and Sen. John Kerry.

Louisburg Square
The afternoon involved a walk to Fenway Park for a Red Sox game.  Fenway will celebrate its 100th birthday in 2012, and the park is just like Boston itself - full of character and history.  My favorite part was opening the park into the alleys around Fenway for food vendors and entertainment. It felt like a carnival. The atmosphere at the park was entertaining despite a Red Sox loss to the Texas Rangers. 

Outside Fenway
The next morning we set off on the Freedom Trail to explore the history of Boston. The Athens of America nickname is perfect - I couldn't get over the perfect mix of historical preservation and modern convenience. Boston has managed to preserve its history beautifully while evolving into a trendy American city.

The Old State House in downtown Boston dwarfed by new buildings
We headed to the North End for lunch again where the mission was to find lobster rolls. Mission accomplished, we continued on the Freedom Trail to visit the Old North Church before taking the T to Cambridge for a little stroll around Harvard's campus.  

Statue of John Harvard on Harvard's campus
Shopping ensued after visiting Cambridge. As a runner I fell in love with Boston's running stores - particularly City Sports and Marathon Sports right at the finish line for the Boston Marathon on Boylston Street. The clearance deals at both stores were top notch, and my suitcase was bulging with new running clothes on the return trip. I was most excited to snag a Skirt Sports capri skirt on clearance. It's just like one featured in Runner's World

The Boston Marathon finish line on Boylston Street
As state capitol afficionados, no visit to Boston was complete without a visit to the Massachusetts State House. My husband and I were graciously taken onto the floor of the House of Representatives by the Chief Sergeant and given a chance to stand at the rostrum. It was the capstone to a wonderful weekend.

Acting Speaker Harkins in the Massachusetts House of Representatives
Boston had a very intimate feel as opposed to some of the larger cities I've visited like New York or Chicago. The streets are narrow, the buildings close together, and it's extremely walkable. There is tons of green space, a user friendly public transit system, and leveraging of cultural and high education institutions. 

Quincy Market downtown Boston
I really did fall in love with Boston. However a quick peak at real estate prices in Beacon Hill and the North End made me realize moving there is a fantasy. But I can't wait to go back sometime to visit all the attractions I didn't get to see. And who knows, with some speed work maybe one of these days I can REALLY run Boston. (It's a long shot...but a girl can dream, right?)

At the Boston Marathon Memorial in Copley Square

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