A few weeks ago, my sister, Beth, texted me and asked if I’d like to join her on a road trip with her youngest daughter, Avery, to visit her oldest daughter, Morgan, a third-year college student at Emerson in Boston. It took me less than a second to reply with an enthusiastic, YES! If you are a longtime reader of my blog, you know that I am obsessed with my sister’s three kids and have made it a point to be heavily involved in their lives since the day each of them was born. The way I’d describe myself is as the fun and cool, doting, childfree aunt who has invested heavily in the lives of these kids and I’d like to think my nieces and nephew would describe me the same way. Out of all the roles I play in this world, I’d say this is my favorite second only to being a wife to my husband. Between my sister’s oldest and youngest daughters, she also has a son, Evan, who is currently a freshman at Pace University here in New York, and who often takes breaks from his cramped, sometimes awkward roommate situation at his dorm to park himself on our couch and get fed by us. On his Sunday visits, he, my husband, Frank, and I, pile on our large sectional couch to watch football, eat dinner, and just have fun being together.
While the biggest draw of going to Boston was to get to see Morgan in her element and, certainly, I’d go anywhere to get to spend time with her, Boston has quickly risen to the top as one of my absolute favorite American cities. If my husband came home tomorrow and said he was taking a job in Boston, I’d be in the process of packing before he finished his sentence. I don’t pass up any opportunity to visit this stunning, fun, and historic city…even when it’s freezing. The pride of Boston is palpable, the city is approachable, the history is grand sweeping, and compared to New York where it’s incredibly easy to feel lonely and isolated despite its cramped population, there is a feeling of embrace in Boston even as a tourist. It’s a homey feeling that is hard to resist. Don’t get me wrong, I am and will likely die a New Yorker, but it also reasons why I have always favored cozy brownstone Brooklyn over austere Manhattan. Both Boston and Brooklyn have that slower, more community-driven pace while still being metropolitan and historic.
In planning for the trip, I also realized that my sister and I have never taken a trip alone. We’ve certainly traveled together in recent years, but never just the two of us. Even with her youngest, Avery, in tow, she being 15, it hardly felt like we were traveling with a little kid, and Morgan, her oldest, is 20 and leading a very vibrant, independent life. Instead of it feeling like two adults traveling with kids, the vibe felt more like four girls on the town in Boston. After all the hard work my sister and brother-in-law did to put amazing young adults out into the world, it was nice to reap the benefits of her hard work and to spend time around such wonderful kids that I’d want to know even if I wasn’t related to them.
Before I go on, I am writing this post the day after I returned from my trip and to say I am groggy and in need of a nap would be an understatement. While the trip from NYC to Boston is only about four hours by car, as with most road trips, it’s never smooth sailing and it wound up taking us six hours to get home Sunday. Why are road trips where you basically sit in one place for several hours so exhausting? The weekend was also non-stop with lots of walking and late nights. I definitely need a day to recover but the show must go on.
FOUR HOURS AND ONE SPOTIFY PLAYLIST
Thankfully, my sister, who lives in New Jersey, picked me up in Brooklyn which was a wee bit out of the way. The alternative was me traveling to a halfway point in New Jersey to get picked up. Not ideal. Leading up to the trip, we created a Spotify playlist that Beth, Avery, and I could add to. Not surprisingly, Avery added plenty of Taylor Swift. After four hours of Taylor Swift peppered throughout, have I been converted to a Swifty? Not really, but, hey, props to T Swift’s talent and all the good she does in the world. Once we wound our way out of the city area and made our way on the open road, it was pretty smooth sailing.
Beth, who works for my company part-time in charge of backend operations, wore one of my favorite cardigans, Quince’s oversized cotton cardigan in charcoal, both our favorite, a vintage v-neck tee from J.Crew, a pair of Good American jeans and Nike sneakers with a pink swoosh. As I got in the car, I said to her, “Thank God I didn’t also wear my same Quince cardigan.” I’m the one who turned her onto J.Crew’s tee and now she, like me, she buys them in bulk. Recently, she started wearing Good American jeans and now you would basically have to pry them out of her cold, dead hands. Topping her look, Beth wore a blazing violet Lands’ End coat that she purchased many years ago.
For comfort, I wore my all-time favorite sweater from Vince, their cashmere weekend v-neck which I bought last year in bright orange because, as you know, if it’s orange, I like it. The orange shade is no longer available unless you stalk on Poshmark, but any color in this sweater is amazing, soft, and comfy. I packed one pair of J.Crew 9″ mid-rise vintage slim-straight jeans that are currently sold out and wore one of my comfiest pairs of Aquatalia booties in grey that I’ve had for years. I wore an old camel coat from Uniqlo that I picked up on Poshmark or something on a whim and am actively looking to replace. I packed for my trip using my husband’s suitcase, which I prefer over mine, Travelpro’s Maxlite Air Carry-on Expandable Hardside Spinner that is made from polycarbonate with an interior made from recycled water bottles. It’s super light and flexible while still being a hard-shell suitcase. For the quality, it’s also an incredibly affordable piece of luggage.
Avery, who could clothe herself in a burlap sack and still look gorgeous, wore these jeans, blue denim on day one and black the second, from Amazon, and an adorable cropped turtleneck sweater from ALLSAINTS that she bought resale. She finished her look with Reebok sneakers, which is apparently a thing among young people. I told her that the last time I remember Reebok being trendy was in the late 80’s. My sister and I were also flummoxed by Avery’s choice to wear ripped jeans in cold weather which probably made us both sound decrepit and old to her. Was an eye roll involved when we asked about the holes? Likely.
DAY 1: VEGAN THAI, T RIDES, BOVA’S PASTRIES, AND THE COP SLIDE
On the evening of our arrival Friday, we met Morgan for dinner near her campus at a Thai restaurant called My Thai Vegan Cafe which was incredibly good and I’m not just saying that because we were starving. It was legit tasty. You walk up two questionable flights of stairs to this restaurant that is low on ambiance but high on flavor. After that, we took our maiden T ride (Boston’s subway system) to the famous Bova’s Bakery for dessert in the North End. We ended up at the famous “cop slide” which was named after the video of the cop who got hurt sliding down it went viral.
Is the now-named cop slide dangerous? Not really. We have no idea how this guy shot out of this slide like a greased pig being shot from a canon. In the dark, cold evening, Morgan, Avery, and I decided to give the cop slide a try, and let me tell you, it’s not the slide itself you have to be afraid of, it’s climbing up the labyrinth of ropes and impossible to navigate holes to get to the top of the slide. As my nieces zoomed up it, I was left in their dust not convinced I would make it. But I did and what ensued was hilarious. If you are a member of my Facebook Group you can watch me sliding down the slide here. Make sure you have the sound on.
DAY 2: THE BOSTON OBSERVATORY, CLAM CHOWDER, AND MY NEW HAT
Day two on Saturday was our only full day in Boston. Leaving our hotel, my sister and I posed for this photo to show the difference in how she and I dress. While there is definitely some overlap in our styles— Veronica Beard blazers, the fact that I would buy a moto jacket (not black) in a heartbeat—Beth’s style is definitely edgier than mine. My sister has tattoos up both arms, loves rockabilly things, and has clothes with skulls and cross bones on them. I, on the other hand, tend to go for more classic, timeless, and sometimes preppy looks. I turned Beth onto ALLSAINTS, and now she is obsessed with the brand, as it seems Avery is too. The top she wore on Saturday is a style she scooped up on Poshmark and wore with another pair of Good American jeans. Her moto jacket came from Quince and I couldn’t keep my hands off the super soft buttery leather. For $189, this jacket is a must. Her camouflage combat boots are super old.
I wore my same jeans, my favorite Everlane button-down shirt under Quince’s cotton fisherman sweater in navy. Knowing it would be a big walking day, I wore my go-to comfort sneakers, my Taos Plim Souls. I wouldn’t call these my most stylish sneakers but when you walk nearly 20,000 steps, they’re perfect. I also wore a pair of support socks because I swell and get achy feet easily, in addition to having plantar fasciitis. I was pleasantly surprised to find they really helped me to longer be able to stay on my feet without pain or swelling. Wanting to bring a larger bag, I brought my staple Longchamp Neo nylon bag in bright orange which sadly Longchamp no longer makes. That bag is everything.
Our first stop was the Boston Observatory at the top of the Prudential Center. As a jaded New Yorker who lives in a city built on granite, I chuckled to myself when Morgan told us it is really high yet the elevator stopped on the 52nd floor, which is a lower floor than some of my friends live on in the city. However, given how low the buildings are in Boston, there really isn’t a need for an observatory that goes any higher. I’ve been to the top of the Empire State Building, the old World Trade Center, Seattle’s Space Needle, and the CN Tower in Toronto. Even though all of those are much taller, the Boston Observatory didn’t disappoint at all. In fact, it was probably the more beautiful out of the bunch and much less of a tourist trap. The observatory was hardly crowded, they played relaxing tranquil music and you could really take your time and explore the city from above. I highly recommend a trip there.
We then stopped at Emmetts Pub and Restaurant on Beacon Street because, dammit, I was going to get some Boston clam chowder and we were delighted by the authenticity of this cozy Irish pub that wasn’t too kitsch or overly done. It was the perfect rest stop to fuel up.
Following that, we meandered over to Faneuil Hall to take in the holiday spirit, do a little browsing and to be a little touristy. My guess is that Faneuil Hall is to Boston what Times Square is to New York. If you don’t want to meet a Bostonian, don’t go to Faneuil Hall, just as you wouldn’t find a New Yorker in Times Square unless they have reason to be there. Yet it was at Faneuil Hall where I stumbled onto my new favorite hat that I found at a random cart. It was getting cold, we had a ghost tour planned for the evening, and I realized I had forgotten my hat. I was shocked by how warm it kept my head.
HOT POT, BONE-CHILLING COLD, AND AN OKAY GHOST TOUR
After some warmth and rest at Jaho Coffee Roaster & Wine Bar, we visited Morgan’s dorm, met up with her bubbly and delightful friend, and headed to my favorite hot pot restaurant in Boston, Shabu Zen. The last time I went to Shabu Zen, I was a total rookie. As my husband, Morgan and I navigated this new world of eating, we quickly got the hang of it. This time around, it was Avery and Beth who initially went into it a bit daunted. However, after just a few minutes, they were tossing various food into the four different flavors of bubbling broth like pros while asking for more food choices to be brought to the table. It was a wonderful feast.
On a full stomach, we headed out to the T to make it over to the meet-up location of the Ghosts & Gravestones Trolley Tour. At this point, we were tired, cold, and had a bit of a sake buzz. My sister and niece, who both have a love for all things paranormal, were both hoping for more scares. While the tour of gravestones along with some ghost stories was interesting, standing with a group of people with temperatures in the upper 20’s in a blackened graveyard while a tour guide dressed in spooky attire shined a flashlight and told you the stories about the people who are buried there gets really tired, really fast. The longer the tour went on, the colder and giddier we got, and when the trolley prepared to finish up by taking us back to its starting point, which was completely across town from where Morgan’s dorm is located, we excused ourselves early and took a shivering walk to drop her home and take a Lyft back to our hotel on the outskirts of Boston. As we piled into the Lyft and the super friendly driver introduced himself and asked us if there was anything we needed to make the ride better, Beth, Avery, and I all shouted out in unison, “Heat!!!”
BOSTON WAS FUN. THE MEMORIES WERE PRICELESS
We all collapsed into our beds at the hotel that night and despite the fact that Beth snores like a chainsaw trying to cut through metal, we all slept like three people dosed with the Michael Jackson drug and were shocked that we all slept through to 9 am the next morning, because who sleeps that soundly in a hotel, especially with a snorer? We got up and set out for home with discussions about where our next girls’ trip with the four of us will be next year.
It was a fantastic trip, a fun, raucous time, and a wonderful way to strengthen the bonds I have with these important women in my life.