It’s official, I love Boston. Wow, do I love it. Every time I travel to a new city, I ask myself if I would live there. Not only did Boston make the list, but it also jumped to the top. It’s small, highly walkable, diverse, and interesting. It’s a beautiful city that is progressive yet incredibly historic at the same time. There is something so unbelievably cool about being able to immerse yourself in the actual places where so many iconic moments in American history happened. At the same time, Boston doesn’t just sit back and hang its hat on its own history. It’s also a city that looks ahead, continues to evolve, and strives to always be raising its own bar. There seems to be a lot to keep you busy and occupied with the best part being, it’s not super crowded or over-populated.
Frank and I arrived for our Boston weekend and were shocked by just how quiet and uncongested the city was for a mid-morning Friday, especially in October when schools are back in session. Being the quintessential college town, I would imagine the population is at its largest during spring and fall. The entire population of Boston is 687,257. However, with most people living in the greater Boston metro area, the population jumps to 4.9 million. By comparison, New York City has a population that’s nearly 16x larger than the city of Boston but only twice as much space. New York is the country’s most densely populated city with 8.3 million people who live in all 5 boroughs (Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx, and Staten Island), about 1.7 million who live on the teeny-tiny eight-mile island, and the smallest of the boroughs — Manhattan, and a greater metro population of nearly 20 million.
Therefore, it made sense that Boston felt like a ghost town which, for me, was a lovely and refreshing change. I appreciated the slower pace, that I was able to take my time, feel connected, and find my own way through Boston. In New York, it’s incredibly easy to feel lonely despite being surrounded by millions of people, whereas in Boston, everything about it makes you feel immediately embraced and at one with it. Much like our trip to Toronto in June, Boston has that sprawl, open air, green space, and lack of people along with a slow enough pace for it to feel roomy and easy to get to know in a short amount of time. I’d move to Boston tomorrow.
This is not to say there aren’t some things about Boston I don’t find odd or perplexing. Nothing horrible, just things that made me go, “hmm. so that’s how they do it in their city.” Like, okay, here’s one: Boston clearly runs on Dunkin’. When I imagine a Starbucks trying to open a location, all I can envision is some Southie in a Dunkin’ Donuts uniform carrying a baseball bat and driving the new Starbucks out of town. But, apparently, Boston only runs on Dunkin’ until 2 pm, and maybe on the weekends? Um, what? We were blown away and Frank, my miserable-before-coffee husband, almost lost it when our hotel’s coffee shop had a line a million miles long and decided to head next door to the Dunkin’ Donuts to get his coffee only to find out the location wasn’t open on the weekends. Are you kidding?? And, it doesn’t stop with Dunkin’ Donuts. For the most part, the driveways roll up early in Boston everywhere, which was really surprising for a college town. I wanted to grab a bottle of water on an evening walk home from dinner and was shocked that a CVS was closed at 9 pm!! What?! For a major city, a 9 pm close time was shocking.
Doing some very light research, one theory for the general early closing times in Boston had to do with the very small population in the city of Boston vs. how many residents live in the greater Boston area comparatively, and frigid winter temperatures that keep people home in the evenings (has Boston not heard of Instacart, Seamless, UberEats??). The other theories seem to be around the remnants of Boston’s more puritanical roots and a war on nightlife, but this could also be conjecture. Who knows, and now that I’m home I have lost interest, but for anyone who comes from an area where you can get what you want when you want it, this would be a huge adjustment.
Of course, the main objective was to pay my niece, Morgan, a visit. She is in her second year at Emerson College and, I found out, has the geographic advantage in terms of where her campus is located— right in Downtown Boston in the Theater District and just north of Chinatown. I guess I just never bothered to think about where the laundry list of Boston colleges were all located and, for some reason, I imagined them next to each other, kind of like how you imagine all the members of your favorite band living in the same house or all owning homes on the same block; preposterous, but just how your brain organizes things. Morgan’s school is so centrally located downtown, the dorm she lives in is connected to the Paramount Theater.
With a hotel room hard to find and how impossible it was trying to find one that wouldn’t require me cutting off and donating part of my liver to pay for it. We wound up staying at The Hilton Faneuil Hall over in the Financial District. It was just a quick 12-minute walk on Milk Street to get to Morgan’s dorm. I don’t recommend not staying at the Hilton but I can’t say I wouldn’t look around elsewhere either the next time I visit. It was a good hotel, it got the job done and I can’t really come up with any major complaints. However, it wasn’t like when we stayed at the Omni King Edward in Toronto and I asked the front desk if I could just be an adult Eloise and live there forever. Yet, the Hilton was centrally located, easy enough to get to my niece, and absolutely acceptable. Do what you will with that information.
PACKING AND WHAT I WORE
As you may remember from my original post here, this is what I planned to pack for my Boston Weekend. I had three capsule options I was considering. While I was leaning hard into my third option, going with packing capsule #2 was decided for me on Thursday when my seamstress, who has been altering my Stella McCartney blazer for months, texted me asking if she could drop it off on Friday, the day I would be leaving for Boston. It’s a long story why this blazer has taken so long to finish, and nobody’s fault why. It’s just been a bunch of situations where our schedules haven’t aligned for fittings, summer came and I knew I wouldn’t wear a wool blazer. Finally, on Wednesday, my seamstress was ready to drop it off finished. There was just one minor fix she needed to correct in the armhole area, which she could do quickly the day before we left. Yet, due to her battles with the remnants of COVID, my seamstress called in sick to her full-time job and was unable to get my blazer before I left. This meant, capsule #2, was decided for me, which was fine. It spared me from needing to make a decision.
THE CAPSULE I ORIGINALLY PLANNED
This is what I originally planned this capsule would look like from my original post last week.
WHAT ACTUALLY GOT PACKED
This is what actually made it into my suitcase. I wound up not finding time to pack or really thinking about it until about 8:30 the night before I left. I was also still dealing with being sidelined again by my plantar fasciitis flare-up which caused my foot to swell pretty badly. It was just sort of a miserable and stressful evening where all I wanted to do was elevate my foot and ice it. Having my blog post from last week to reference really helped in terms of making it easier.
The key differences were I pulled the rugby sweater because it didn’t seem I would need something that warm, I threw in my Saint James Breton Stripe, changed which booties I would pack, and chose my Aquatalia Fuoco booties in tan, and swapped out my Aquatalia loafers for my lug sole M.Gemi olive pair of Elsa loafers (sadly, no longer available in olive) which was a morning-of decision based on how my foot was feeling.
DAY 1 EARLY FLIGHTS, GORGEOUS SIGHTS, COLLEGE LIFE
We had an early 8 am flight. I wore my Frank & Eileen Joedy button-down, Rag & Bone Blazer, and J.Crew’s curvy slim straight jeans with my Elsa loafers. In my Longchamp bag, I had my orange S’ Max Mara scarf. This outfit was a perfect choice. I like dressing for flights and the layers were helpful. Once we landed, it was still raining and I knew we would be walking a decent amount, so I switched out my shoes for my Taos Plim Soul sneakers, traded my blazer for my Max Mara Anorak, and threw my grey cashmere crew from Quince in my bag just in case another layer was required. The plan was to meet up with Morgan at her dorm, get a peek inside and meet her roommates, and tour the area. We visited the Public Garden, got a photo with the ducks, Mrs. Mallard, Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack, and Quack, visited the Boston Common, and had lunch at The Paramount (not to be confused with Morgan’s dorm at The Paramount Theater) on the beautiful Charles Street. We also happened to pass the Cheers location, something I completely forgot about until I saw it. By 3 pm, Morgan had to leave us to work for three hours at her school job and we headed back to our hotel to rest until dinner.
HOT POT, SWOLLEN FEET, AND ODD PROPORTIONS
By the time we arrived back at our hotel, my injured left foot, and lower ankle area had developed this swollen egg-like shape, and, smartly, I packed about 5 small baggies that I planned to fill with ice if I swelled again. We got back, I elevated my legs, surrounded my ankles with baggies of ice, and used my downtime to learn all about the ins and outs of eating hot pot because I’m an incredible nerd who does crap like this.
This was the plan the three of us made for dinner. It was also something not one of us had ever eaten before. However, within our family, the three of us also tend to fall into the more adventurous eaters category, so, of course, we were up for trying something fun and new. Yet not before I did my due diligence, picked the right restaurant, and figured out how to avoid looking like complete bumbling idiots. For the record, if you haven’t tried it, going out for hot pot is not only very tasty, it’s such a fun way to go out to dinner with friends. We had a blast experimentally tossing food into boiling broths to cook and consume it.
My original plan was to wear my Vince high-waisted olive cigarette pants with my cashmere Vince 3/4 sweater under my Rag & Bone blazer but when I put it on the proportion just didn’t work. So I slipped out of my pants, put my jeans back on and it looked fine with my Elsa loafers. By that point, the swelling had pretty much gone down on my foot, I wasn’t in a ton of pain and we took a car the short distance to Morgan’s dorm. The walk to Shabu-Zen for traditional Japanese hot pot was a quick walk and we ended the night walking off dinner (ha, yea right) to then pack on more calories at Insomnia Cookies which I am sure is the college student’s dream snack location. We left Morgan for the evening having walked 9.6 miles that day and with plans to meet up for brunch and another full day of Boston plans.
DAY 2 CLAM CHOWDER, AMPHIBIAN TOURS, TOURIST TRAPS, AND A PLACE OF SIGNIFICANCE
After meeting up for brunch at State Street Provisions and getting some Clam Chowder, because I was checking local Boston foods I must eat off my list, a Duck Boat tour was on the agenda, which was the smartest thing I scheduled. First, Duck Boat Tours are amazing. They are these amphibian tour buses that travel on land and on water. They aren’t exclusive to Boston and actually originated in Wisconsin, and can be found in a few cities around the world. The vehicles themselves are modeled after a World War II amphibious vehicle and are essentially 2.5-ton trucks shaped like boats, with an airtight body and a propeller for maritime propulsion.
In Boston, these tours take you on an 80-minute tour narrated by bearably corny guides with funny names, ours was named Dr. Ima Duck, who not only know their Boston history but who know those lovable fun facts we all can’t get enough of. For example, I learned that the steaming tea kettle at 63 Court Street in Boston that originally hung outside the Oriental Tea Company in 1870 and now hangs above a Starbucks, is an example of what was commonly used in lieu of written signs back then to accurately represent a company’s wares across all language barriers of immigrants living in Boston. Yup, I learned that on the Duck Tour. Another thing I learned: clearly we were a lot more sensitive to the needs of newcomers to our country back then, I guess. Anyway, It was such an enjoyable way to see so much of Boston in a short amount of time and with my foot not up for long walking excursions, the perfect way to do it.
It didn’t even occur to me until the Duck Tour people made Morgan, Frank, and I pose in front of one of those round lifesaver raft before boarding the bus/boat, I was wearing the perfect thing: my nautical Saint James Breton with my J. Crew curvy slim straight jeans, my Taos Plim Souls, and used my bright Longchamp bag to carry my grey cashmere sweater and orange scarf which I used to wrap myself in when it got cold on the tour.
After the tour ended, Frank and I felt the need to head over to Quincy Market and Faneuil Hall, where Morgan and I forced Frank to try on a tri-corner hat which, once he gave in, he clearly got into. We didn’t even notice the Declaration of Independence was behind him. This whole area feels obligatory and it’s sort of fun but also feels like every other tourist trap. The only difference about this one is the layer of Boston-, patriot-y, New England-y vibe. If you lean in and let go, it’s fun.
Lastly, we wound up at The King’s Chapel which, for me, was a place I wanted to make sure I got to. I didn’t go in for a tour but even standing in front of it felt significant for me because while it is a popular destination on The Freedom Trail, it’s also the first Unitarian Church in the United States, which was pretty amazing to stand in front of as an actual Unitarian.
My historic Unitarian Universalist church in Brooklyn (Unitarianism and Universalism merged in 1961) was built in 1844 and has had congregants like Walt Whitman, ordained the first female Unitarian minister, Celia Burleigh, in 1871, and also had Samuel Longfellow, brother of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, as one of its ministers, it doesn’t hold a candle to the King’s Chapel which beyond its historic history, had people like Ben Franklin, George Washington, John Hancock, Louisa May Alcott, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Paul Revere attend services. In fact, the last bell made by Paul Revere, who was a silversmith and bellfounder, was the one he recast for the King’s Chapel which still hangs and rings today. I was glad I stopped by.
DINNER: THE NORTH END. LIKE LITTLE ITALY, ONLY BIGGER AND PRETTIER
As a New Yorker, I had a hard time wrapping my brain around eating in an Italian district of Boston called The North End. Not that Boston didn’t have its fair share of Italian immigrants or doesn’t have an Italian heritage to be proud of but, come on! I live in Brooklyn, for goodness’ sake. Am I really going to head all the way to Boston to eat Italian food? But, all I kept hearing was if I came back and didn’t eat in North End I basically didn’t go to Boston. And, I realized I was being a bit arrogant about the whole New York Italian food thing and nobody would ever be able to prove which is better anyway because it’s far too subjective. And, really, did it matter? I was starting to get tired, even mediocre Italian food is good, and all I wanted to do was curl up in a corner with a big, warm bowl of whatever fatty and carby pasta I could get my hands on. So off to the North End we went which is this stunningly beautiful, albeit packed district of Boston where all the Italian eateries seem to be located. So that’s where all the people are!
Not that there aren’t Italian restaurants in other parts of Boston, but the difference, it seems, is in New York, you really can’t rely wholly on Little Italy for a good Italian Dinner because with every passing year that neighborhood shrinks smaller and smaller as Chinatown creeps in a little bit more. What was once 50 blocks, Little Italy in NYC now barely covers three. The North End of Boston, which is the city’s oldest residential community, is less than 1/2 a mile in size but boasts nearly 100 establishments, 87 of which are different restaurants according to my research. The North End is robust, vibrant, and very much alive.
It’s also stunningly beautiful with its narrow cobblestone streets, old-world charm, buzzing atmosphere, and, actual nightlife. There are lines out the doors of most establishments, a mix of what seems like locals, college students, and tourists, all who are out with the same mission, to enjoy a good meal and then roll home in a food coma haze, but not before choosing which bakery to stop at Bova’s Bakery or Mike’s Pastry. According to Morgan, this is a highly contested debate. For the record, she is team Bova’s.
For the evening, I finally got to wear my Vince high-rise cigarette pants which I wish I got to wear more because they are super comfortable. I threw on my grey Quince Cashmere sweater, my very trusted olive Elsa loafers, Max Mara anorak, and my orange scarf. It was a perfect weight, the perfect level of comfort, and not too dressy or fussy. At this point, I just wanted to be comfortable. Plus, if I’m honest, the amount of water I was retaining at this point was rivaling the Hoover Dam. I was literally watching what looked like an inner tube forming around my midsection.
After some walking around, we settled on this restaurant called Euno which was chosen by the menu and lack of line out the door. It was a lovely dinner. We sat at a table on their basement level at a cozy table lit by candlelight and shoved more wonderful food into our mouths. My first course was a delicious salad because my body was craving anything that grew out of the dirt. We finished the night and headed over to Bova’s to find out if Morgan was right, that Bova was as good as she said it was when, while on the line, we all looked at each other and realized not one of us was hungry for dessert. I looked in the window and noticed that all the pastries looked nearly exact to the ones I can buy at a bakery that is all of 35 steps from my apartment in Brooklyn, and I realized I probably wasn’t going to miss out on much. We saved giving Bova’s pastries a taste for another visit.
We walked to the intersection where Morgan hugged us goodbye to continue her evening with friends and Frank and I went back to our hotel to basically collapse on our bed like two overfed seals who broke into the fish pail at the zoo. We both cringed when we set our alarm to leave for the airport early the next morning.
BOS>LGA: IT TAKES ME LONGER TO GET TO THE UPPER WEST SIDE
We flew to Boston because the cost of tickets on the Acela wound up being egregious and the total flying time in the air is all of 30 minutes. I threw on my grey cashmere sweater over a grey vintage J.Crew v-neck, jeans, blazer, and loafers for the flight home. We were in our apartment by 11 am. and by mid-afternoon, I woke up to a dumb movie being over on my TV screen that I remembered falling asleep to about 15 minutes after I started watching it. We were exhausted but happy. I loved that we took some time out to visit and explore Boston, but most of all, I loved that we got to go and visit my niece and that we have the life that allowed us to be the aunt and uncle that I have always committed to being for my two nieces and nephew. It’s the thing I love most about my role in their lives. We are ancillary figures and I’ve made it a point to never overstep or push in where it wasn’t appropriate. My job has always just been to be part of the village and to be there to provide some extra love, guidance, care, a different perspective, and attention. Frank and I do love Morgan, her sister, and her brother like they are our own children but what we love most of all is how we get to love them, as their aunt and uncle. I, for one, believe that aunts and uncles, particularly ones who are childfree, can be the best allies parents can have. In a million years, I wouldn’t trade being an aunt for being a mom. It’s truly one of the greatest blessings of my life and it’s my hope that all women who are childfree by choice or by circumstance also realize that this role is one of the best-kept secrets out there that doesn’t require blood relation to play the part. You can be an aunt to any child.
ASSESSING WHAT I PACKED
In the end, what I packed worked. I threw in that grey Quince cotton cardigan and wound up not needing it. It took up a lot of space, so that sort of bugged me. I love it so much and wear it so often, I sort of doubted that I wouldn’t need it. But, whatevs. I didn’t wear the booties simply because I found what worked and didn’t want to risk anything given how particular my feet were being. C’est la vie. I didn’t wear the puffer because the weather never got cool enough, but I am glad I packed it. It took up very little room.
I do wish I packed the striped rugby sweater. It would have given me more to wear with my Vince pants. I should have tested the Vince pants with the blazer before I left. Ah well. Lastly, the biggest MVP of the trip. My M.Gemi Elsa loafers. M.Gemi for the win, as always. Those loafers really came through and while my Plim Souls were a great buy, they didn’t work for all my plans and I am really happy I brought these along. Feet also love when you change up your shoes if you are going to be on your feet a lot, so I liked changing having two pairs to switch into.
All in all, it was a great trip, and I have my niece Morgan and the great city of Boston to thank! I can’t wait to return!