Vacation Adventures 2013: D.C. and Boston
I hadn't actually seen Holly in over a decade so you can imagine my surprise when, last year, my old friend emailed me to ask if I would be in her wedding in Washington D.C. during Memorial Day Weekend 2013. Holly was always the smart one in our group and her current endeavors, working towards her PhD. at Cornell, hadn't left much time to make close girl friends. I gladly accepted at the prospect of seeing my good friend and having a new adventure.
Jason and I haven't done as much traveling as we'd both like. We were born and raised in Oregon, and have visited much of the west coast including Las Vegas, San Diego and San Francisco but that's pretty much it. We had both been to Washington D.C. prior to meeting one another and had seen most of the monuments as well as a handful of other tourist attractions so we decided to pick another city on the east coast that we've both NEVER been to and explore. It was difficult to choose between New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Boston but we settled on Boston since we knew someone there and it has a ton of history (Jason and I love history).
Then, a little over a month before we leave, the Boston Marathon Bombing happened. I was glued to my computer for hours looking at photo after photo after photo. I read countless news stories and watched several interviews. Of course, most events such as this strike me but for some reason I was so captivated by this one. Not just the suffering and the photos featuring bright red streaks of blood but the heroic actions that immediately and instantly followed. This was definitely a special city and I couldn't wait to see it myself.
Finally, we zoomed off. For most of the Thursday before the wedding, we were in the air or in an airport. We made the most of it though. Jason and I had never taken such a large trip with just the two of us before and it was a blast. Our flight touched down in D.C. at 10:15pm and by 11, we were in our hotel room in Arlington. After 14 hours of travel and airport food, we wanted nothing more than to get dinner and go to bed. The air in D.C. was warm and extremely humid. After throwing our suitcases in our room and changing clothes, we stepped outside to a MASSIVE downpour! I'm used to rain, but this was unlike any rain I've ever experienced. We only went across the street to a Ruby Tuesday's and we were soaked by the time we got there. Now I know where the saying "When it rains, it pours" comes from:)
The next day, my uncle and cousin met us for lunch at the hotel. I had never met my little cousin, Rebecca, and boy is she cute! We had so much fun taking photos on my phone:) After they left, Jason and I explored the immediate area. Unfortunately, there wasn't much to do since we were in the business district so we mainly ventured through some parks and buildings as well as sampled the local beer before heading to another hotel for the rehearsal dinner.
The Embassy Suites in Potomoc, MD was where the wedding would take place. It's a beautiful hotel with a giant, glass ceiling several floors up. The rehearsal and dinner was a fun experience between seeing Holly and her family again for the first time in years, and meeting the other ladies and gents I'd be walking the aisle with. Afterwards, all the bridesmaids took Holly and her little sister, Amy, to another bridesmaid's house for a drink. Jason and I ended the evening at Chadwick's, talking to locals and enjoying the time away from work.
The next day was the day of the wedding. I have to admit, I've only been in one other wedding in my life and the ceremony is always a bit nerve-racking, especially for a clumsy gal such as myself. I was so incredibly nervous but everything went perfectly, it was a beautiful ceremony:) The reception was at an Italian restaurant called Maggiano's and it was one of the most gorgeous receptions I have ever seen! Beautiful purple light illuminated the room while small tree branches wrapped in flower vines and decorated with tea lights graced the tables. They had a live band which made things incredibly fun and interactive. Towards the end of the evening, I played Superbowl MVP receiver and caught the bouquet! Since I couldn't bring it with me (we weren't going to be back in Oregon for several days), I gave it to the adorable flower girl, Samantha. She was so excited:) We ended the night by dancing with our new friends and laughing til our sides hurt.
Sunday was a bittersweet day. We got up, had breakfast at the hotel, and said goodbye to Holly, her new husband and her family. I hadn't realized how much I missed them. By 1:30pm, we were on our way to Boston.
My friend, Julia, picked Jason and I up at the airport where the sun was desperately trying to shine and the wind was relentless. She then whisked us around the city in her little Ford Escape showing us everything from the theatre district where she works at the Berklee College of Music to the navy yard to Fenway Park. It was so incredibly nice for us to get a tour through the city from someone who knew it well. It really helped us get our bearings and was a great opportunity for me to snap some photos! I think this was when I started to fall for Boston:)
That evening, Julia and her husband, Danny, took us to a bar called Drink. Sounds pretty obvious right? Wrong, it was such an interesting experience! Drink is an upscale, cocktail bar in the Fort Point neighborhood of Boston that offers specialty drinks. How special you ask? Well, you are more than welcome to ask for a specific drink, which will be carefully crafted with very particular steps, but the fun thing to do is have them custom make something for you! For example, I specified rum and asked that they make something that wasn't too sweet. Jason asked for vodka and something that was sweet and tart. The bartenders have hundreds of recipes stored in their head and make something for you based on the preferences you've stated. Needless to say, the drinks were amazing but prices forced us to move on after two:)
We went to No Name Restaurant for dinner which boasted views of the water and delicious seafood. Jason, Danny and I also got the Sam Adams Brick Red, their specialty brew only brewed in Boston, with dinner. Everything was amazing and by the end we were all stuffed.
On Memorial Day, Danny and Julia had papers to write for school so they dropped us off at the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) and told us to call when we were done. Jason and I spent a good three hours wandering through the rooms of the MFA and didn't even see half of it! My favorite part was the gigantic paintings by famous U.S. painters while Jason loved the ancient Egyptian mummies. We could've spent the entire day in there but opted to venture into the city a bit more.
We walked through a park and over the Muddy River in search of Fenway. In the park, we found a beautiful war memorial dedicated to the men and women of Boston who had lost their lives in battle. It only seemed appropriate to stop, touch the wall, read some of the names and take a few photos.
Instead of finding Fenway Park, we wandered a mile or so up to downtown where we found Copley Square and the Boston Marathon Memorial. Julia mentioned that they moved the memorial after many of the items were destroyed by rain and too many items were taking up room on the sidewalk. They moved the memorial about a half block away from the actual bombing sites and finish line to Copley Square. I've never seen so many running shoes in my life.
We also found and paused at both bombing sites, one of the buildings looked untouched with just a piece of plywood over a window towards the top of the building, while the other is still closed for renovations. Despite the new memorial site, flowers and signs could still be found in front of Forum, the first bombing site which is still closed.
After our busy day and lots of walking, Jason and I decided to find a place to have a beer and wait for Julia and Danny to pick us up for dinner. We picked a little, old bar called Whiskey's on Newbury Street that oozed character. Jason and I had so much fun talking about everything we had experienced so far while we sipped on our Sam Adams' Summer Ales.
A little bit later, Julia and Danny picked us up and took us to an Italian restaurant called Panza. Panza was in the north end of town which is also referred to as Little Italy. This was definitely one of our favorite parts of the city, and, of course, one of the more expensive places to live. The freedom trail goes through Little Italy and the streets narrow into little cobblestone roads the size of alley ways. All the restaurants and stores glowed in the evening light. Panza, was a beautiful, little restaurant who's smells had our stomachs grumbling from the moment we walked in. After sipping on homemade sangria, we tucked in to amazing dishes of pasta and sauce and chatted about our lives. Afterwards, we were all so uncomfortably stuffed that we decided to walk through Little Italy a bit. Julia showed us Paul Revere's house and we stopped at a little store for homemade cannolis. All-in-all it was my favorite night in Boston:)
The next day, Julia and Danny had to work but that didn't stop them from setting us up for an amazing day. Julia took us to The Paris Creperie for breakfast and then drove us into the city. She parked near her work and gave us her subway card as well as a tutorial on how to ride the subway successfully. Then we were off:) We started at Copley Square again so we could go into the Boston Public Library (it was closed the day before for Memorial Day) and it did not disappoint. Between the gigantic wall paintings, tall and detailed ceilings and small, antique-smelling rooms I was in heaven. I absolutely loved the architecture and history each room told. I was very envious of those who got to go there whenever they wanted.
Next we went to Newbury Comics so Jason could look at comic books. We purchased a few and headed towards the freedom trail. The freedom trail is a trail designated by a red, brick line in the middle of the sidewalk that winds through the city and has designated historical markers. It starts in the Boston Public Park in front of the new State House and explores the city's history for two miles! We jumped on it at the Old State House where the Constitution of the United States was first read to citizens after the revolution. I LOVED that it's this unchanged, beautiful landmark surrounded by tall, modern glass skyscrapers. It was quite a sight. This is also where the Boston Massacre occurred in 1770.
The freedom trail then took us to Quincy Square and Feneuil Hall where a bustling market and live street performances were taking place. Jason and I ducked in a store so I could buy a Boston Strong shirt who's funds go to support The One Fund, a fund used to assist family and victims of the Boston Marathon bombings. Boston Strong shirts could be spotted all over the city. From there we stopped at the Holocaust Memorial which consists of seven large glass boxes that represent the seven concentration camps. Thousands and thousands of numbers were etched into the glass representing all who had perished there. Gut-wrenching quotes decorated the inside of the structures with heart-breaking detail. I am rather fascinated by the Holocaust but this got to both of us and resonated deeply. Afterwards, we stopped into The Green Dragon for a pint and a chat with the friendly Boston bartender behind the counter.
A little ways down the freedom trail and we, once again, found ourselves in Little Italy. This time we explored the Old North Church, Boston's oldest church building, and Copp's Hill Burying Ground, the second oldest burial ground in the city. Since we were too tired to finish out the trail and climb to Bunker Hill, we opted to take the subway back to the beginning of the freedom trail and find the Granary Burying Ground which we had missed by going straight to the Old State House.
The subway was fairly easy to navigate, although I could NOT believe how LOUD it was! I've never been on a subway and those things are NOISY! No one else seemed to notice:) Still, it was very efficient and got us everywhere we needed to go. We came out on Park Street which is right by the new State House and the Boston Public Gardens. We walked all over trying to find the Granary to no avail. When we ended up back at the park, I asked a street vendor where I could find the Granary, he told us how (we were so close) and then said, "I can see why you missed it, it's dead up there!" We had a good chuckle:)
On our way into the Granary, a man handed us a guide and simply asked that it be returned when we were finished. The grounds were beautiful. Smack dab in the middle of the city and yet, they were well kept, quiet and there was an aura of peace on the whole area. We saw the graves for the Boston Massacre victims, James Otis, John Hancock, Mary (Mother) Goose, Paul Revere, Sam Adams and Ben Franklin. The thing I was most curious about was how they fit all those bodies into such a small area, the guide said 5,000 people were buried there but the whole space isn't all that big. Turns out there are about 20 people in some graves according to my research.
We finished our afternoon off back at Whiskey's for a pint before meeting Julia at her work so we could go to dinner. Julia took us over a river to Kendall Square where MIT is located. We ate at a restaurant called Hungry Mother which is owned by a friend of Julia's where we dined on oddities such as sweet breads and green tomato pie. Needless to say, we were exhausted but also didn't want to leave this beautiful new city we had discovered.
Boston had it all: beautiful architecture, polite yet blunt citizens, huge amounts of history and plenty of great food. Jason and I absolutely loved exploring this new territory for us together and became much closer because of our time there. We owe so much of our amazing experience in Boston to our friends, Julia and Danny who opened their home to us and spent time and money showing us all there was to see (we still didn't see it all). We are so very grateful to have met them and we hope to visit again soon. The next day, we flew home and were greeted by a very excited puppy and an indifferent cat. Getting back to reality is never easy but I read an article about beating the vacation blues that mentioned "not being sad that it's over but being happy that it happened." This made me smile, as I remembered the sights, smells and noises of Boston so vividly, I was incredibly happy that we went and that we went together.
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