Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


Episode 285 Travel: (part 3) Boston

How long has it been since someone shushed you? Just a few weeks for me. From Penn Station in New York we took Amtrak to Boston. We choose to sit in the "Quiet Car". I was talking in a low tone to my wife when a very small, older woman stood up in the row in front of us and put her finger to her lips and said it, "Shush". Then she smiled just a bit and disappeared behind the seat back. I guess quiet meant silent to her. For the remainder of the ride we were silent.

This is Retirement Talk. I'm Del Lowery.

We emerged from South Station into rain and wind storm. It was cold. We had only three blocks to go for our home exchange but we were soaked when we got there. We were staying in the Harbor Towers a beautiful location. It is right on the edge of the harbor and close to Downtown, the Rose Kennedy Garden, and a good bike trail.

Our place was on the twenty-fifth floor looking out over the Harbor. It was all done in white. It looked like some modernistic movie set. We were so lucky with these home exchanges. Hotels just seem like such a remote choice for pleasurable and comfortable lodging.

Biking played a big role in our Boston visit. They have a bike system - Hubway - where very nice bikes are stationed around the city in high tech docks. You enter you credit card and select a time period for your ride - 30 minutes is the basic limit. Then you punch in a number on a key board, remove your bike and ride away. You can return it to any other dock in the city. Then you can take another if you wish. We got a three day card which allowed us to do this any amount of times during the three days for twelve dollars. We then biked at least twice a day.

Everything is tied to your phone. You can look at your screen and find where there are more hubway stations, you can find out how many bikes are now available or if there are docks there for you to leave you bike. If you don't find satisfaction in one you can easily scroll to the next nearest location and get or take a bike there. These things amazed us.

Boston has lots of history: the Freedom Trail, the Old North Church, Paul Revere's house, a cemetery filled with founding luminaries, the Boston Commons, the Constitution or Old Ironsides, etc. etc. We didn't really seek these out on purpose but we stumbled upon many as we explored different neighborhoods. I was more interested in the North End or The Back Bay. We biked and walked neighborhoods.

Two places we did seek out were the Institute of Contemporary Art and Fenway Park. We loved them both. The ICA as it is called is an amazing bit of architecture. We spent time there looking at the art work but even more closely just looking at the building. It is a work of art. We especially loved the creative talent that designed this place. They do show a film of the architects and their thought process as they went about their work. It was worth the 30 minutes. We lingered. By the way - we biked out there; docked our bikes and then took two different bikes back.

Fenway Park was also on our list of must sees. We are not baseball fans. We hardly know one team from another. But we have heard of the Boston Red Sox and Fenway Park. It just seemed like if this team and place has endured for one hundred years that we should see it if we could. We bought the best seats we could get before we left home. They were way out along third base line. I guess all the games sell out and we were lucky to just get in the door.

We boarded a crowded subway around 5 in the evening and then made one more change into an even more crowded train. There was no question about which way to walk. The crowd flowed like a massive river in just one direction. And then we heard the hawkers selling hats, programs, tickets, etc. Sidewalks were lined with shops selling baseball jerseys, t-shirts, sweat shirts, hats, pennants, etc. Then there were the bars selling beer, burgers and pizza. The noise level increased with each step.

The stadium is celebrating it's hundredth year this year. It was fun to see it and the people. The Baltimore Oriels were the opposition. The Red Sox were ahead six to nothing when we left. One more run scored in the game. We lasted four innings. Not that it wasn't a good game but we got hungry and we found the stadium selling stuff we don't eat.

They sold hot dogs, mediocre pizza, peanuts and popcorn. And for beer it was Bud light everywhere I looked. It was fun to think back to our other trip to a baseball game in Seattle last year when the Mariners played these same Red Sox. We had not been to a game in 10 to15 years. But an invitation from a couple of good friends convinced us to give it another go. Seattle built a new stadium a few years ago. It is a state of the art type of thing. And the food; suchii, and Itchii roll, micro brew beer and Starbucks coffee. Quiet a different world.

We did walk down Newberry Street out in the Back Bay neighborhood. Very nice. Artistic, buildings on a human scale and a genuine place for upscale shopping. We bought a lunch.  We loved the Boston City Library that is in that neighborhood and the park that is just across from the entrance. A farmers market was in progress and street buskers entertained. We again hopped on a bike and rode back to our place.

We did eat some great seafood in Boston and some great Italian food. The North End is filled with little narrow streets and great Italian restaurants. And the Canolii; well the Soprano family would kill for some of these wonderful, decadent deserts. Impossible to avoid.

My only criticism of Boston, and I guess also Chicago, would be the lack of people living downtown. We did not see elementary schools and major grocery stores. We were on foot and rode bikes in both cities so we didn't get a sense of automobile life. I suspect the cities really sprawl. I do know they do not have densely populated downtown. They sort of empty out at night and on weekends. I prefer my cities to be highly concentrated with people that live and work there. New York has that. So does Vancouver, Canada.

Boston is a great, manageable and friendly city. We took time to find good coffee, good food and colorful neighborhoods.  We found it pedestrian and bike friendly. We enjoyed our days there. But we had a train to catch - a train ride from coast to coast was to end our tour. We boarded at noon.

This is Retirement Talk. I'm Del Lowery.

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